Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A modern witness to the baby born in Bethlehem

(by Daniel Peterson 12-18-14)

Tuesday, Dec. 23, will be the 209th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Appropriately, this year as every year, that anniversary will be vastly overshadowed by celebrations of Christmas, the traditional birthday of the master he sought to serve.

Nevertheless, I want to say something here about Joseph, who is important not only as the inaugurator, like Abraham and Moses, of a new dispensation — the final dispensation, in fact, the dispensation of the fullness of times, in which all things are restored — but, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul, as a prophetic witness of Jesus Christ.

“I honor and revere the name of Joseph Smith,” said his friend and successor, Brigham Young. “I delight to hear it; I love it. I love his doctrine. I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up. I am bold to say that, Jesus Christ excepted, no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth. I am his witness” (see "Discourses of Brigham Young," p. 456).

And so, to the best of my ability, am I.

Joseph was told by the angel Moroni “that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (Joseph Smith — History 1:33). And this prediction has certainly proved accurate. Although born an obscure farm boy on the American frontier, his name is known around the world, and he remains as controversial today as ever he was in life.

I’ve been disheartened in recent years to hear negative comments about Joseph even among certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and perhaps especially from my own tribe: There’s a temptation among academics, particularly among biographers and maybe scholars generally, to condescend somewhat toward the people whom they study, to view them as limited by their time and imperfections, forgetting that we, too, are constrained by our times and our perhaps much more significant flaws and incapacities.

Believing Latter-day Saints should always remember that it was Joseph who was divinely called and “blessed to open the last dispensation.” We weren’t, and that fact might actually be significant.

He wasn’t perfect and never claimed to be, but he also wasn’t evil. He was a good man. “No one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins,” he reflected in 1838. “A disposition to commit such was never in my nature” (Joseph Smith-History 1:28).

For those who wish to deepen their acquaintance with this good and divinely selected man, many books might be recommended. Among them, in this context, I suggest “They Knew the Prophet,” by Hyrum and Helen Mae Andrus, as well as their “Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith” and Mark McConkie’s impressive collection, “Remembering Joseph.

I don’t advocate idolizing him, but I do hope that the Saints will continue to appreciate him.
Joseph Smith gave us more pages of revealed scripture than any other prophet in history. And those pages are suffused throughout with testimonies of Jesus Christ, affirming his deity, his atoning sacrifice and his victory over death.

The Restoration began in the Sacred Grove with the ringing declaration of the Father, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith — History 1:17). The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that book to have been written “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.” And one of its principal functions, referring, among other things, to the biblical accounts of Christ, is “proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:11). And then, of course, there’s the familiar but still powerful early 1832 witness of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-23). (Many of the Prophet’s revelatory experiences, besides this one, were shared with others as shared in a previous column in 2011 titled "Many of Prophet's revelations were shared experiences.")

Joseph was a sincere and devout man who went to his death affirming his testimony. It’s no coincidence that the Greek word “martyr” also means “witness.”


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas without Jesus

(by Taylor Halverson 12-19-14)

Christmas is about Jesus.

But not always. More now than ever before, it seems, Christmas is not about Jesus.

Our society is celebrating Christmas without Jesus.

Recently, I attended a Christmas celebration. I was amazed that during the entire performance there was not one mention of the name Jesus. The word Christmas was used several times. But the name of Jesus, the reason for the season, was unquestioningly absent. And when I say unquestioningly, I mean that I didn’t hear anyone question his absence from the celebration.

We are not avoiding the name of Jesus at Christmas for reverential reasons.

There have been times in the past that the personal name of God was not spoken in order to treat his name with more dignity and respect, as we see explained in Doctrine and Covenants 107:4. In the Old Testament, the name of God has been combined with his title “Lord” to reverence him. When you see “LORD” in all capitals in the Old Testament, the underlying Hebrew root word is YHWH, the name of God.

Many scholars think that this name would be pronounced as Yahweh. But we are not entirely certain because the pronunciation of the name YHWH is not given in the Bible. Why? In order to show respect for the name of God and avoid the too frequent use of his name, ancient biblical scribes removed, or never included, the original vowels to the name YHWH and added instead the vowels from the Hebrew word “adonai” (which means “Lord” in English).

This scribal mannerism was meant to alert readers that when they saw the name YHWH in the text, they were to say “adonai” instead of Yahweh. This would allow those who loved and honored God to refer to him with respect instead of blasphemy. Incidentally, the word Jehovah was invented by the King James translators by combining the Hebrew letters YHWH (or JHVH) with the vowels from “adonai.” Thus you get “Jahova” or “Jehovah.”

Even the Jewish Dead Sea Scroll community, who were reading and copying biblical texts around the time of Jesus, sought to reverence the name of God by omitting his name from some of their text. In place of the four letters of God’s name, YHWH, the scribes would insert four dots.

Later, Greek-speaking Christians called the name of God the “tetragrammaton,” which literally means “four letters.” This provided a sesquipedalian and fancy way to talk about and honor the name of God without ever saying his name.

But these years of speaking reverentially of Jesus have long slipped from memory.

Why does our society avoid the name Jesus during Christmas? Likely because society sees the name of Jesus as inconvenient, unpopular, or seemingly intolerant or divisive. And yet, the same society that takes offense at hearing the name of Jesus during the season we celebrate his birth is the same society that rushes to include the foul misuse of the name Jesus in most popular media.

The name Jesus is not spoken in popular media to remember him for his loving kindnesses and acts of salvific grace. Rather, popular media uses the name of Jesus when anger, curses and foulness are topics. This is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s warning, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

The name Jesus means “salvation” in Hebrew. What better name could the author of salvation have?

Why would we not want to declare his name at all times, especially at the special season commemorating his birth? Why would we avoid talking of salvation? What do we gain by avoiding Jesus?

Perhaps during this Christmas season, we can celebrate and remember Jesus by naming him just as the angel of the Lord commanded Joseph of Nazareth to do.

“The angel of the Lord appeared unto (Joseph) in a dream, saying … (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins …. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him … and he called his name JESUS” (Matthew 1:20, 24-25).

Jesus is so named because he is salvation. And that knowledge is the joy of the season.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Articles of Faith 20: Geoff Biddulph – Why Didn’t The Church Teach Me This Stuff?

( 11-14-14)

Geoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times. He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade. He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Articles of Faith 13: Russell Stevenson FairMormon Conference Follow Up – Coming to Grips With Brigham Young and Race

( 8-18-14)

That Brigham Young struggled with and eventually succumbed to racial insensitivities is an undisputed matter of the historical record. From the perspective of not a few nineteenth-century Americans, not to mention most anyone born in the last 50 years, Brigham Young peddled in racial rhetoric and promoted policies that bode poorly not only with our sensibilities but also with the spirit of the Book of Mormon: “All are alike unto God, both black and white, bond and free,” a vision established for the Saints in 1830, not 1978.

Best of Fair 14: Sharon Eubank – This is a Woman’s Church”

( 8-12-14)

Best of Fair Podcast episodes feature great presentations from FairMormon conferences, and Sharon Eubank’s presentation is no exception. We are grateful for her comments and perspective. This audio comes from her presentation at the 2014 FairMormon conference entitled, “This is a Woman’s Church.”

Articles of Faith 12: David L. Paulsen: A Mother There – A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother In Heaven

( 8-3-14)

David L. Paulsen received an associates degree from Snow College in English in 1957, a bachelors degree from BYU in Political Science in 1961 (in which he was BYU’s valedictorian), a JD from the University of Chicago Law School in 1964, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1975, with emphasis in the philosophy of religion. His doctoral dissertation, entitled The Comparative Coherency of Mormon (Finitistic) and Classical Theism, was said by two philosophers critical of LDS theology to be “by far the most detailed and comprehensive defense of Mormon theism.”

He is the author of an article in BYU Studies entitled: “A Mother There” A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven. Paulsen is married to Audrey Lucille Leer and has six children and eleven grandchildren. Recently returned from a mission with his wife to Iceland, welcome David L. Paulsen.

Article of Faith 11: Neal Rappleye – “War of Words and Tumult of Opinions”: The Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography

( 7-28-14)

Neal Rappleye is a student at Utah Valley University working toward a BA in History with a minor in Political Science. He is a volunteer with FairMormon, an Editorial Consultant with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, and co-recipient of the 2013 John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award. His main research interests are the foundational events in early Latter-day Saint history and the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon. He blogs about Latter-day Saint topics at

Here is a link to Neal Rappleye’s article in the Interpreter, click here.

Some of the questions addressed in this podcast:

Why does the geographic location of the Book of Mormon matter?

Articles of Faith 5: Kevin Christensen on Inevitable Consequences of the Different Investigative Approaches of Jeremy Runells and Jeff Lindsay

( 6-2-14)

Kevin Christensen has been a technical writer since 1984, He has a Bachelors in English from San Jose State University.  He has published articles in Dialogue, Sunstone, the FARMS Review of Books, the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Insights, the Meridian Magazine, including his article in the Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture entitled Eye of the Beholder, Law of the Harvest: Observations on the Inevitable Consequences of the Different Investigative Approaches of Jeremy Runells and Jeff Lindsay. Kevin comes to us today by phone to discuss that article. (The article is not yet public-visit The Interpreter website to find the text when available.)

Articles of Faith 3: Craig L. Foster on Polygamy and its relationship to the LDS Church

( 5-19-14)

Prior to graduating from BYU, Craig L. Foster served as a missionary in Belguim and France. Craig L. Foster earned a Bachelors degree in history and MLIS (or Masters of Library and Information Science) at BYU. He is also an accredited genealogist and works as a research consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. He has published books and articles on various aspects of Mormon History. Some of his writings on Mormon History discuss the history and theology of plural marriage within the context of Mormonism. Craig is also on the editorial board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. Craig is the author of the article: Separated but not Divorced: The LDS Church’s Uncomfortable Relationship with its Polygamous Past found in the Interpreter: Journal of Mormon Scripture

KSL's Religion Today - April 7th, 2013

What does it mean to be a “Christian?” Does a Christian believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus? Does a Christian believe in prophets? Do Christians believe everything that is in the Bible? What if they believe things that are not in the Bible? Do Christians believe that one must repent in order to be saved? These questions are addressed in this episode of Religion Today, with Martin Tanner, which originally aired on KSL Radio on April 7, 2013.

Mormon Fair-Cast 203: Odds are you are Going to be Exalted

( 2-27-14)

Many Latter-day Saints worry whether they’re capable of reaching the celestial kingdom. Are these anxieties born of a sense of unworthiness, or is it that we just don’t think we can “do it all?” Author Alonzo L. Gaskill believes that such pessimism results from misunderstanding God’s great plan of happiness and what it is that the Lord actually requires of us. In this hope-filled book, he reviews the teachings of the scriptures and modern prophets to instill in readers a greater sense of God’s unfailing love and mercy and of His power and desire to exalt His children. Exaltation may be not only possible but probable!

Monday, December 1, 2014

FairMormon Frameworks 6: Russell Stevenson and “Elijah Ables”

( 10-16-13)

Russell discusses with us today his his research into the life of the first black priesthood holder in this dispensation, Elijah Ables. We also extend to talking about the Priesthood ban, it’s history and implications, and what it means for one struggling today.

FairMormon Frameworks 4: Brian Hales Polygamy

( 9-25-13)

We sit down with Brian Hales, LDS author of “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy.”  We ask him the hard questions fast and furious and he does a great job answering them.  We discuss polygamy, polyandry, and Joseph’s withholding the knowledge of the practice from the public and even the general membership.  Brian handles every question that is thrown at him. This is a must listen for every person who struggles with polygamy and polyandry.

KSL's Religion Today - June 2nd, 2013

In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on June 2, 2013, Martin Tanner analyzes the methodology used by those who write anti-Mormon literature, and directs listeners to sources for answering attacks against the Church.

FAIR Examination 9: Joseph Smith’s Polygamy-Responding to the Tough Questions

( 8-7-13)

When people first learn that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage, many jump to the conclusion that this is another example of someone who used religion for power and sex. In this podcast interview with Dr. Brian Hales, author of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Dr. Greg Smith asks Dr. Hales some of the most difficult questions that are ever posed regarding polygamy. Smith asks, what do we know about why plural marriage was instituted? What did Emma know, and when did she know it?
 What was her reaction to plural marriage? How can we begin to understand polyandry, or instances in which Joseph married women who were married to other men? Is it possible that polyandrous marriages were not consummated? Even though there’s no good evidence for consummation of polyandrous relationships, what do we know about sexuality in the other marriages to single women? How can we begin to understand why Joseph married several women who were under the age of eighteen, including two brides that were likely 14 years old? Did Joseph send men on missions to “steal their wives” or marry them? Did Joseph threaten or manipulate women into being married to him? Could and did women refuse him? What were the consequences of doing so?

Best of FAIR 15: The Temple as a Place of Ascent to God

( 7-10-13)

Aside from what Joseph Smith taught, is there evidence that modern temples represent a restoration of ancient practices and beliefs? In this address from the 2009 FAIR Conference, Dr. Daniel Peterson discusses ascension motifs from around the world and talks about the temple as a place of ascent to God, as a model of reality, and as a reality of things to come. He notes that “the temple represents a model, which itself represents a cosmic reality, a reality that involves access to divine mysteries, access to the waters of life, access to cleansing and ascension, access to the presence of God. [The temple provides] a symbolic representation of admission into the presence of God, an endowment of power that goes with that, with the ultimate culmination of a blessing of exaltation in the presence of God.”

KSL's Religion Today - March 31st, 2013

Was Jesus really resurrected? Or was his resurrection merely a trick, an illusion or the result of an incorrect conclusion drawn by followers who looked in the wrong tomb? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on March 31, 2013, Martin Tanner discusses evidence for the resurrection and the nature of the resurrection.

KSL's Religion Today - April 14th, 2013

One of the primary reasons evangelicals give when they say that Mormons are not Christians is that Mormons believe in “a different Jesus.” They claim that the Jesus of Mormonism is not Biblical. In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on April 14, 2013, Martin Tanner discusses the physical and spiritual natures of God.

KSL's Religion Today - March 20th, 2013

Most of the eleven official witnesses to the gold plates later left the Church. Is this evidence that the Church is not true? Or do these circumstances actually help strengthen the claim that the gold plates actually existed? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on March 20, 2013, Martin Tanner addresses these and other questions.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

KSL's Religion Today - January 13th, 2013

What did it mean in the Book of Commandments to say that Oliver Cowdery had the gift of working with the “rod of nature.” What is the “gift of Aaron?” Are there other examples of physical objects being used to receive revelation? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on January 13, 2013, Martin Tanner responds to this question and discusses many of the anti-Mormon attacks.

KSL's Religion Today - December 9th, 2012

What were the Kinderhook Plates? Were they real or a forgery? Was Joseph Smith fooled by them? Who was Zelph? Do Joseph Smith’s comments regarding Zelph prove that the Book of Mormon events occurred in North America? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on December 9, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses these questions.

KSL's Religion Today - February 3rd, 2013

What can you do if you have friends or family members who are leaving the Church because of anti-Mormon attacks? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on February 3, 2013, Martin Tanner responds to this question and discusses many of the anti-Mormon attacks.

KSL's Religion Today - October 28th, 2012

Where did the events of the Book of Mormon take place? What evidence is there that the events took place in Mesoamerica? What evidence is there that these events did not take place in the heartland of the United States? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on October 28, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses these questions.

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KSL's Religion Today - January 27th, 2013

Now that we have some of the papyrus that was in the possession of Joseph Smith when he translated the Book of Abraham, can it be demonstrated that Joseph Smith is a fraud? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on January 27, 2013, Martin Tanner responds to this question and discusses some of the ways in which the Book of Abraham actually provides evidence of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.

KSL's Religion Today - July 15th, 2012

What is the Anthon transcript? Can we rely on what Martin Harris said about his encounter with Proffessor Charles Anthon? How long did it take Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on July 15, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses these issues.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 132: The Book of Mormon and New World DNA

( 3-6-13)

Miraculous claims surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon are an evidence of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. Critics intent on discrediting the Restoration point to DNA studies on indigenous American peoples in an attempt to expose Joseph, the Book of Mormon, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as frauds. Claiming that scientific evidence excludes any possibility that Middle Eastern or ancient Jewish travelers came to the Americas in antiquity, such critics attempt to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths concerning the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient religious text.

Are these studies credible? Do the data actually show what the critics claim? Do they discredit the Book of Mormon, or is there biological and other scientific evidence that supports the claims that it is indeed an ancient record of a people that once inhabited the Americas?

 The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) interviews scholars and scientists to answer these important questions and reveals the faith-affirming truth that not only are the critics’ conclusions and methods flawed, but that there is credible scientific evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon as an ancient religious text.

KSL's Religion Today - August 19th, 2012

What is an “apostasy?” Are there any scriptures that say there was an apostasy that required a restoration? Do we know when the apostasy occurred? Does that matter? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on August 19, 2012, Martin Tanner responds to claims that an apostasy did not occur.

KSL's Religion Today - May 29th, 2011

Why does the Book of Mormon say Christ was born in Jerusalem? Why does a French word appear in the text of the Book of Mormon? Didn’t Joseph Smith simply borrow Book of Mormon names from the Bible? Why was the Book of Mormon written in Reformed Egyptian? Are there any other instances of such writing? How can one believe the Book of Mormon when so many of the Book of Mormon witnesses left the Church? Why did Nephites build temples outside of Jerusalem? Isn’t the mention of coins in the Book of Mormon an anachronism? Why do the words “church,” “synogogue,” “book,” and “Jesus Christ” appear in the Book of Mormon? Did crucifixions and crosses exist before Lehi left Jerusalem? Wasn’t Joseph Smith fooled by the Kinderhook Plates? Did Elder B.H. Roberts lose his faith? Why haven’t Book of Mormon cities been found? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on May 29, 2011, Martin Tanner responds to these questions.

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KSL's Religion Today - March 27th, 2011

Do Mormons believe they will become gods? Is this belief supported in the Bible? Are there other Christian religions that have similar beliefs? In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on March 27, 2011, Martin Tanner discusses the concept of deification, or theosis, and the way in which it has been discussed in the Bible, by early Christians, and by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

KSL's Religion Today - June 3rd, 2012

Is the Bible the complete, inerrant, inspired, infallible word of God? Is it a book that has errors in it now, but that did not have errors in the original? Have changes in the Bible been made? If so, why and what were some of those changes? These questions and others are discussed in this episode of Religion Today, with Martin Tanner, which originally aired on KSL Radio on June 3, 2012.

KSL's Religion Today - August 12th, 2012

How much Native American DNA has actually been tested? Has any of the testing revealed a connection to the Middle East? If so, what conclusions can we draw from this? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on August 12, 2012, Martin Tanner follows up on his interview with Dr. Ugo A. Perego regarding DNA research.

KSL's Religion Today - May 29th, 2011

In a movie entitled “The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon,” the Living Hope Ministries levels a set of common attacks against the Book of Mormon. In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on May 29, 2011, Martin Tanner discusses various arguments against the Book of Mormon and provides responses to these criticisms.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 107: Mesoamerican Connections to the Book of Mormon

( 9-19-12)

Professor Mark Alan Wright reflects on a number of Mesoamerican practices and their possible connection with the Book of Mormon, including “day-keepers,” Shamanism and divine investiture, taking the countenance of a god by wearing deity masks, and the Maya calendar system and prophecy.

Mark Alan Wright earned his BA in Anthropology at UCLA and his MA and PhD in Anthropology (with a subfield of specialization in Mesoamerican Archaeology) from UC Riverside. His dissertation is entitled “A Study of Classic Maya Rulership.” He regularly conducts research in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Dr. Wright is Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University.

KSL's Religion Today - July 22nd, 2012

In 1967, an ancient form of Hebrew poetry, called “chiasmus,” was discovered by a young Mormon missionary named John Welch, while he was serving in Germany. When Hugh Nibley learned of the discovery, he told Welch, “Young man, I think you have made the first significant discovery to come out of the BYU.” In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on July 22, 2012, Martin Tanner talks with FARMS founder John Welch about what chiasmus is, how he discovered it in the Book of Mormon and some of the implications of that discovery.

John W. Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, where teaches courses on tax exempt organizations, ancient laws in the Bible and Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith and the law. He was educated at Brigham Young University with a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Classical Languages. He served a mission in South Germany (during which he discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon), studied Greek philosophy at Oxford University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, earned his law degree at Duke University, and practiced law in the Los Angeles firm of O’Melveny and Myers.

He is well known as the founder of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) and since 1991 he has served as the editor-in-chief of BYU Studies Quarterly. He also was a Director of Special Projects for the BYU Religious Studies Center, the general editor of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, a member of the board of editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and on the steering committee of the Biblical Law Section of the Society of Biblical Literature.

A number of his recent publications presenting striking discoveries concerning Joseph Smith and the law, the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Trial of Jesus, King Benjamin’s speech, the Book of Mormon as a handbook of Church administration, and the nature and roles of evidence in law, science, and the nurturing of faith.

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Mormon FAIR-Cast 97: Building the Nauvoo Temple

( 7-17-12)

The Nauvoo Temple was both the second and the 113th temple constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The temple has remained close to the hearts of members of the Church ever since the time the Saints in Nauvoo had to leave the temple behind when they fled the city and moved West. Once the temple burned to the ground in 1848, it seemed lost to history. Yet, with its iconic Sunstones, it remained an integral part of the panorama of American religious history. So in 1999, it was with great excitement that the news was received that the temple would be rebuilt.

Steve Goodwin was the project architect on the Nauvoo Temple. In this interview, he shares his experiences researching the original design of the temple and seeing the project through to its magnificent finish. He also shares his insights regarding symbolic aspects of the temple and the way in which modern temple architects approach symbolism in their designs.

KSL's Religion Today - February 12th, 2012

Martin Tanner discuss the reasons why some say that Mormons are not Christian and provides a response to these contentions in this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on February 12, 2012.

KSL's Religion Today - March 4th, 2012

In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on March 4, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses some of the evidences for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

KSL's Religion Today - September 4th, 2011

Martin Tanner discusses various mesoamerican evidences for the historicity of the Book of Mormon in this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on September 4, 2011.

KSL's Religion Today - February 26th, 2012

What is the connection between some of the modern polygamist groups and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on February 26, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses the arguments used by some fundamentalist groups to justify their practice of polygamy, and why these arguments are inconsistent with the modern doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Evidences for The Book of Mormon

KSL's Religion Today - March 18th, 2012

In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on March 18, 2012, Martin Tanner and Steve Densley, Jr. of FAIR discuss the recent controversy regarding the practice of baptisms for the dead as practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How did this controversy arise? Why do Mormons perform this ordinance? Were baptisms for the dead really practiced in the ancient Church? These and other topics are discussed.

FAIR Issues 32: A Lutheran bishop’s perspective on Mormon baptism for the dead

( 3-1-12)

The Mormon practice of baptism for the dead has been the subject of heated discussion of late by many who seem to not understand the practice. Suprisingly, one of the most sympathetic views of this ancient practice come from an eminent New Testament scholar named Krister Stendahl. Professor Stendahl served as chaplain and dean of Harvard Divinity School and as the Lutheran bishop of Stockholm (i.e., effectively, as the head of the state church of Sweden). Professor Daniel Peterson shares how Professor Stendahl became the author of the article on baptism for the dead in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FAIR Examination 9: Polygamy as an Abrahamic Sacrifice–Dr. Valerie Hudson

( 2-15-12)

The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy, and calls it abominable. Modern leaders of the Church have condemned the practice. In light of this, what are we to make of the ancient practice of polygamy and of the practice of polygamy by early Mormons? Does the Book of Mormon contradict the Doctrine & Covenants? What of polygamy in the next life? Is polygamy necessary to exaltation? If polygamy is legalized in the United States, will the Church reinstitute polygamy? In this episode of FAIR Examination, Dr. Valerie M. Hudson shares her thoughts on these and other questions.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 62: “A Most Remarkable Book”

( 11-27-11)

In this KSL Radio interview, Religion Today host, Martin Tanner, talks with Tyler Livingston, Stephen Smoot and Mike Ash, some of the producers of the recently released DVD on the Book of Abraham called “A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Abraham”

Best of FAIR 12: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage* (*but were afraid to ask)

( 10-19-14)

Greg Smith examines the anti-Mormon charge raised against Joseph Smith that he was lecherous from an early age and that this is somehow the psychological or psychiatric or pathological background to plural marriage.

Best of FAIR 6: Adam in Ancient Texts and the Restoration

( 6-29-11)

In the address from the 2006 FAIR Conference, Matthew Roper states: “Critics of Latter-day Saint Scripture and teachings have generally paid very little attention to the Book of Moses. Those who have condescended to comment on it have generally dismissed it as a shallow plagiarism of New Testament doctrines and themes if they do not ignore it altogether. Such dismissals show an unawareness on the part of these commentators of the often striking convergences between the Latter-day Saint scripture and the ancient world. Critics, skeptics and the disaffected have in my view greatly underestimated the revelations of Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, so have many members of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

FAIR Podcast, Episode 4: Richard L. Bushman p.2

( 10-24-10)

 “Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction,” and other subjects including temples, the LDS sacraments, Mormon cosmology, and Zion

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gospel Topic Updates

Here are two more gospel topic updates that I had missed previously.

The total number of gospel topic updates that have been done since late last year is 11.

Becoming Like God

Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mormon creator of 'Battlestar Galactica' dared to produce something profound

(by Jim Bennett 11-21-14)

So Glen A. Larson has passed away.

If that name means nothing to you, then you weren’t a kid in the '70s and '80s. But it just so happens that I was such a kid, and during my childhood, it was impossible to turn on the television and not see Glen Larson’s name on just about every TV show that mattered to me.

But there was one occasion when I got to see some of Mr. Larson’s work live and in person.
I grew up in sunny southern California, and back in the day, our Cub Scout pack took a field trip to the special effects studio doing work for Larson’s series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” This was the pre-CGI era, so all we saw was some tedious stop motion photography. But the real excitement came when one of the technicians took us to a storage room where the models for the canceled series “Battlestar Galactica” had been mothballed. He cracked open one very large crate, and all of us got a good look at the Galactica herself.

That may well have been the greatest moment of my pre-pubescent life.

“Battlestar Galactica” — the original, not the nihilistic, joyless reboot of the series that aired on the SyFy Network around the turn of the century — wasn’t Larson’s most successful series, but it was arguably the most personal to him. It was launched in the wake of “Star Wars” mania, and it spurred a lawsuit from George Lucas for copyright infringement. Lucas lost that battle, and rightly so. Yes, there are superficial similarities between the two space operas, but “Galactica” offered a premise that was actually something much deeper and richer than the “Star Wars” universe.

“Battlestar Galactica,” in essence, was Mormons in space.

Glen Larson, himself a Latter-day Saint, had infused his series mythology with too many Mormon references to ignore. His Twelve Colonies of Man were essentially the Lost Tribes of Israel whose history began at Kobol, an obvious anagram for Kolob, which, in Mormon theology, is the star nearest to the throne of God. The colonies were led by a "Quorum of 12," and marriages were referred to as “sealings” that extended beyond mortality and “through all the eternities.” The show never shied away from religious themes, and, at one point, the characters encounter a group of angels who paraphrase LDS Church President Lorenzo Snow.

“As you are, we once were,” the angels tell the Galactica crew. “As we are, you may become.”
Sound familiar? It certainly did to me.

I was thrilled to see Mormon themes woven into pop culture, but not everyone shared my enthusiasm. My mother thought it was a light-minded approach to sacred things, and I have to concede that time has provided some evidence for that point of view. Critics of my faith take Mormon precepts and present them with a Galactica-esque spin to make them sound kooky and bizarre. An anti-Mormon film in the 1980s sneeringly referred to the LDS concept of heaven as “Starbase Kolob,” and during the so-called “Mormon Moment,” I sensed “Galactica’s” influence in the media reports about Mormons “getting their own planet” after they die.

So if “Battlestar Galactica” is your only context for what Mormons believe, you can be forgiven for thinking that we Mormons are a whole lot less boring than we really are.

But I don’t think Larson’s intent was to mock things he held sacred. I think he was trying to make them accessible to a wider audience. Those kinds of themes were missing from 1970s television, and they’re still missing from much of television today. In a medium celebrated for its vapidity, Glen A. Larson dared to produce something profound.

He will be sorely missed.


Friday, November 14, 2014

How Nephi understood the Tree of Life (and why the Book of Mormon is an ancient record)

(by Daniel Peterson 10-14-10)

Nephi's vision of the tree of life, among the best-known passages in the Book of Mormon, expands upon the vision received earlier by his father, Lehi.

"And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

"And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

"And he said unto me: What desirest thou?

"And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof" (1 Nephi 11:8-11).

Because Nephi wanted to know the meaning of the tree that his father had seen and that he himself now saw, we would expect "the Spirit" to answer Nephi's question. But, instead, Nephi is first shown a young virgin and then, after an interval, sees the same virgin holding a child in her arms. And he is told that she is "the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh" (1 Nephi 11:18).

Then "the Spirit" asks Nephi the question that Nephi himself had posed only a few verses before: "Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?" (1 Nephi 11:21).

Strikingly, though the vision of Mary seems irrelevant to Nephi's question — for the tree is nowhere mentioned in the angelic guide's response — Nephi himself now replies that, yes, he knows the answer (1 Nephi 11:22-23).

How has Nephi come to this understanding? Clearly, the answer to his question about the meaning of the tree lies in the virgin mother with her child. It seems, in fact, that the virgin actually is the tree, in some sense. Even the language used to describe her echoes that used for the tree. Just as she was "exceedingly fair and white," "most beautiful and fair above all other virgins," so was the tree's beauty "far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow." Significantly, though, only when she appeared with a baby and was identified as "the mother of the Son of God" did Nephi grasp the tree's meaning.

Why would Nephi see a connection between a tree and the virginal mother of a divine child? His vision seems to reflect a meaning of the "sacred tree" that is unique to the ancient Near East and, in Israelite history, specifically to the period before the Babylonian captivity — Nephi's era. This can only be fully appreciated when the ancient Canaanite and Israelite associations of that tree are borne in mind.

Recent scholarship, including archaeological finds, has demonstrated that the goddess Asherah, worshipped among Israel's Canaanite neighbors as the wife of the supreme god, El, was also revered by many Israelites as the consort of El(ohim) and the (in some accounts, virginal) mother of his children. She was symbolized by a tree, and, in fact, a representation of such a tree stood within the temple at Jerusalem during the time of Lehi.

Asherah's worship had become associated with fertility rites and immorality, though. Prophets had long condemned it and, by the time of Israel's return from Babylonian exile, Jewish opposition to Asherah was universal. And so Asherah was expunged from the history of Judaism. In our text of the Bible, filtered and reshaped as it appears to have been by reforming Deuteronomist priests around 600 B.C., hints of the goddess remain, but little survives to give us a detailed understanding of her character or nature. An early Hebrew like Nephi, however, would immediately have understood the representation, by a tree, of a virginal mother of a divine son.

The inclusion in 1 Nephi of an authentically pre-exilic religious symbol that could scarcely have been derived by a New York farm boy from his Bible strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon is, indeed, an ancient historical record in the Semitic tradition.

For a much more detailed examination of this topic, see Daniel C. Peterson, "Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8-23," online at, or the shorter (and, to its author, less adequate) version of the article online at


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poor English, but good Hebrew — a divine hint of Book of Mormon truth?

(by Daniel Peterson 10-28-10)

Professor Royal Skousen's path-breaking work on the textual history of the Book of Mormon has yielded many important results. I've already mentioned his edition of "The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text" (Yale, 2009), and the large, meticulously produced volumes he has published on the subject with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS, now part of BYU's Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship) should not be overlooked. Here, though, I would like to examine one specific discovery that has emerged from his research:

In grammar, "conditional sentences" are sentences that discuss hypothetical situations and their consequences. Languages use a variety of constructions and verb forms to form such sentences.

Conditional sentences typically contain two clauses: One is the condition clause, or "protasis," and the other is the consequence or result clause, the "apodosis." So, for example, we say, "If you cook it (condition), (then) I'll eat it (result)." Syntactically (for those who worry about such things), the condition is the subordinate clause, whatever its position in the sentence, while the result is the main clause.

A very common form of conditional sentence is the "if/then" construction, with the word "then" being optional: "If the newspaper keeps publishing Peterson's columns, I'll scream." What is absolutely not a common conditional form — in any period or dialect of English — is an "if/and" construction.

Native speakers simply don't use it. We never say things like, "If the newspaper keeps publishing Peterson's columns, and I'll scream" or "If you cook it, and I'll eat it." Yet, although it never survives into English Bible translations, this construction is common in biblical Hebrew.

That is why it is significant to find "if/and" conditionals in the earliest English Book of Mormon, which presents itself as the translation of a record written by ancient Hebrews and their descendants. Joseph Smith would not have seen the Hebrew "if/and" conditional sentence in the King James Bible.

Yet, in the original dictation manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 17:50 reads "if he should command me that I should say unto this water be thou earth and it shall be earth." That "and" was removed when Oliver Cowdery produced the so-called "Printer's Manuscript," but similar constructions — too many to dismiss as coincidental — appeared in the 1830 first edition. Consider these specimens, from Helaman 12:13-21:

"yea and if he saith unto the earth move and it is moved"

"yea if he say unto the earth thou shalt go back that it lengthen out the day for many hours and it is done …"

"and behold also if he saith unto the waters of the great deep be thou dried up and it is done"

"behold if he saith unto this mountain be thou raised up and come over and fall upon that city that it be buried up and behold it is done"

"and if the Lord shall say be thou accursed that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever and behold no man getteth it henceforth and forever"

"and behold if the Lord shall say unto a man because of thine iniquities thou shalt be accursed forever and it shall be done"

"and if the Lord shall say because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence and he will cause that it shall be so"
And notice how the very familiar passage recorded at Moroni 10:4 reads in the original printing:
"And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart with real intent having faith in Christ and he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost."

Such expressions — poor English, but good Hebrew — were eliminated by Joseph Smith himself in the second printing of the Book of Mormon. Though an unlettered man, he was a native speaker of English; he knew that these constructions were "wrong." What we see in them, I think, is "language contamination," leakage from the text's original language into the translation language — much the way Spanish/English interpreters sometimes slip into "Spanglish." But why would such things appear in "the most correct book?" Perhaps as a subtle divine hint that the original language of the Book of Mormon wasn't English.


Former 3-star general says LDS Church has developed 'a culture of preparedness'

(by Steve Eaton 11-11-14)

In 2005, Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré was faced with leading the military rescue effort in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina, a fierce storm that hit near New Orleans and took the lives of more than 1,800 people and caught thousands unprepared.

Last month, the former three-star general, who was once dubbed the “Category 5 General” and the “John Wayne Dude,” saw firsthand how an organization prepares so it can be ready when such disasters strike. Lonny and Susan Gleed, missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave him a tour of the LDS Bishops’ Central Storehouse, Welfare Square and Temple Square.

Honoré, who now spends much of his time teaching organizations and people how to be prepared, called what he saw “absolutely phenomenal.”

For many, their first exposure to Honoré, the commanding general of the 1st U.S. Army, was when he was assigned to lead the Department of Defense’s Joint Task-Force Katrina. He was given the mission to head up the military’s rescue efforts late in the evening on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005, the day after Katrina hit the southeast Louisiana coast. When he arrived the next morning, hundreds of people were waiting for help on rooftops and in attics. More than 16,000 people were stranded at New Orleans' Superdome along with a similar number at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. By Saturday, thousands of victims had been moved to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport so they could be evacuated, Honoré said.

The storm caused, by some estimates, $100 billion in damages, in part because levees failed, flooding 80 percent of the city. According to FEMA, it was the “single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history.”

The New Orleans mayor at the time, Ray Nagin, was pleased with Honoré's unconventional, take-charge style and called him this “John Wayne Dude,” and the Washington Post dubbed him the “Category 5 General.” CNN cameras caught Honoré defusing tensions by angrily ordering National Guard troops to lower their weapons when he arrived on the scene. He is still considered by many in New Orleans to be a hero because his direct approach that cut through red tape, accomplishing his mission’s objectives.

Honoré has since retired and now spends much of his time speaking to groups about preparedness. He has authored two books, “Leadership in the New Normal” and “Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family From Disasters.”

He was in Salt Lake City as a guest of Logan, Utah-based company Muscle Wall, which makes hollow flood barriers that can be moved, locked together and filled with water to protect communities. Honoré serves as a consultant for the firm.

Honoré said that he was impressed with the global reach of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ humanitarian efforts, the comprehensive nature of its preparedness work and the commitment of the church to be good Samaritans.

“For a long time I have talked about being individually prepared,” he said. “I have talked about community preparedness and government preparedness because we know on any given day Mother Nature can break anything built by man. I think what the church has demonstrated and what it continues to demonstrate is what happens when you create a culture of preparedness within an organization.”

Honoré said that when disasters hit it is the poor and vulnerable who often suffer because they have a tendency to live in less-secure shelters. He cited a quote he saw mounted on the wall in Welfare Square from the Prophet Joseph Smith that reads:

We are “to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or any other, or no church at all.”

Honoré said he was impressed to see the commitment of the church to serving the poor with, not a “hand out,” but instead a “hand up.” He said seeing the church’s operation on television would be nothing compared to seeing it in person.

“This is real,” he said. “This is the commitment of a people who know how to grow the food, process it, can it, distribute it and put it in the hands of the people who need it. This is phenomenal.”

He said the depth and breadth of the operation and the church’s “commitment to excellence in transportation” was “most impressive.”

“I’ve been to many a factory where food and personal things are kept,” he said. “The cleanliness was beyond anything I’d ever seen before. You’ve got people dusting in warehouses; I’ve never seen that before.”

Honoré, who also had a role in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, said that he witnessed the help the LDS Church offered hurricane victims and how it worked through a Catholic relief organization to offer assistance for those in need. He said he wanted to visit the church facilities in Salt Lake City so he could personally thank them for the donations and the work church members did for the victims of those storms.


LDS Church responds to national media coverage of Gospel Topics pages

( 11-13-14)

Amidst a flurry of national news coverage about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' transparency in discussing its early history, including such controversial subjects as plural marriage, the LDS Church released a statement today shedding light on its purpose for releasing nearly a dozen in-depth essays on topics of special public interest.

These essays, according to the statement, "are meant as a personal resource for members as they study and teach about the history and doctrine" of the LDS Church. In addition, the church acknowledges that "we live in a world where there is so much information available on every topic.

And particularly in the age of the Internet, there are both good and bad sources of information. As a church, it's important for us to research and provide official, reputable, historically accurate information about our history and doctrine."

The statement also provides specific context for its essays on the long discontinued practice of polygamy or plural marriage, some of the most discussed essays in other news outlets. It notes the recent essays gather what has been "known among long-term and well-read members, historians and Church leaders ... into a single location as a convenient means of placing these resources in the hands of all members."

In total, the LDS Church has released 11 essays on history and doctrine over the past year, each addressing LDS topics that have generated some scholarly debate and online polemics.

Read the LDS Church's complete response on


Friday, November 7, 2014

Emma Josepha Smith

First child of Joseph Smith III and Emmeline Griswold, grandchild of Joseph and Emma.

Born - Nauvoo IL, 1857
Died - Lamoni, IA, 1940

(I assume she was the first grandchild to Joseph and Emma seeing as she was the first child of the oldest Smith brothers but I haven't been able to look it up yet to be sure.)

LDS leader to join Vatican conference on 'complementary union of man and woman'

(by Tad Walch 11-3-14)

An LDS Church leader will join Pope Francis and other faith leaders this month at an interreligious Vatican conference that seeks to "support and reinvigorate" marriage between a man and a woman.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be one of more than 30 speakers at "The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium."

Pope Francis, who last year said "It is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society," will give the opening address at the three-day conference Nov. 17-19.
Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus are among those representing 14 faith traditions from 23 countries.

President Eyring will be accompanied at the conference by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric, according to an LDS Church news release.

The LDS Church also issued a statement about the interfaith conference:

"At this time of rapidly declining moral values and the challenges to traditional family structures and relationships throughout the world, we are pleased to unite with the Catholic Church, other fellow Christian denominations and other world religions in standing firm and speaking clearly about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman."

President Eyring is one of 16 people who will speak for 15-30 minutes each over the first two days of the colloquium.

The conference's website said "Witnesses will draw from
 the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman."

Other witnesses include The Rev. Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He wrote about the conference Monday on his blog under the headline, "Why I'm going to the Vatican."

“I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled."

Rev. Moore also wrote that he "has been charitably (I hope) critical of Pope Francis," including last month during the widely publicized Vatican Synod on the Family, held Oct. 5-19.

That conference sparked media reports that the Catholic Church was softening its teachings on gays and lesbians, but the final synod report pulled back on that language.

Helen Alvaré, a family law professor at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, said Cardinal Gerhard Müller presented the idea for the upcoming conference to Pope Francis a year ago.

"Considering that you can look at the law, the culture, the news coming out of almost any country, and marriage is experiencing considerable difficulty, this (conference) is a good start," Alvaré told the Deseret News. "There's a lot of conversation in the world and the media about men and women but not a lot to enlighten and support."

Alvaré said much of that conversation is "sensational," as opposed to "helping billions of people to find their way to the institution that becomes a make-or-break component of happiness for themselves and their communities."

She hopes the Vatican event "will move people in a positive direction."

President Eyring will speak on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 18, after a presentation by The Rev. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Rev. Warren urged last month's synod on the family to defend traditional marriage, in an open letter to Pope Francis also signed by 47 other Christian ministers and scholars.

One suggestion in the letter was to support efforts to "restore legal provisions that protect marriage as a conjugal union of one man and one woman."

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, will make a presentation. Dr. Janne Haaland Matláry, the former Secretary of State of Norway, will give a presentation titled, "The Family – Still the Basic Unit of Society."

Another American participant in the upcoming Vatican event said he hopes the conference will help change the tone of discussions about the nature of marriage and the male-female relationship.

Supporters of marriage from different faith traditions "are talking past each other in some ways," said Luis Tellez, president of the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, "but we need to pay attention to what each one brings to the table, and this has been lost in the conversation we have been having in recent times."

The colloquium will include the premiere of six short films about men and women and marriage around the world, including "The Destiny of Humanity: On the Meaning of Marriage" and "A Hidden Sweetness: The Power of Marriage Against Hardship."

Film subjects "range from the beauty of the union between the man and the woman to the loss of confidence in marital permanence to the cultural and economic woes that follow upon the disappearance of marriage," the LDS release said.

Archbishop Charles Chaput will make a presentation on the 2015 World Meeting of Families, a Catholic event, scheduled Sept. 22-27 in Philadelphia.

The colloquium will close with the presentation of a declaration on marriage.


LDS Church confirms women's meeting now part of general conference

(by Tad Walch 10-30-14)

The LDS Church's semiannual General Women's Meeting is now an official session of the faith's semiannual general conferences.

“The First Presidency has decided that the General Women’s Meeting will be designated as the General Women’s Session of general conference," said Jessica Moody, spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Moody confirmed the decision after the new issue of the church's monthly magazine, the "Ensign," referred to the meeting as the "General Women's Session."

LDS general conferences, usually held each year in early April and early October, traditionally have had five sessions, three on Saturday and two on Sunday.

The General Women's Meeting is held a week before, on a Saturday night. The addition means each conference now will have six sessions.

This is the second major development for meetings for women and girls in the church in the past year.

Nearly a year ago, the church announced it was consolidating the annual Young Women meeting previously held in March a week before general conference and the annual Relief Society meeting held in September a week before October general conference into one meeting, the General Women's Meeting, to be held a week before conference each spring and fall.

The first General Women's Meeting was held in March. During the second meeting, on Sept. 27, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency described the meeting as the opening session of general conference.

"My beloved sisters, my dear friends and blessed disciples of Jesus Christ, I am honored to have this opportunity to be with you as we open another general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the coming week the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles will meet with all the General Authorities and general auxiliary leaders, and the remaining sessions of our worldwide general conference will follow on the coming Saturday and Sunday."

However, a week later in the Saturday morning session of general conference, two church leaders referred to that meeting as the first session of conference.

Some confusion followed on social media and in other channels about whether the General Women's Meeting actually was a session or not.

With the publication of the "Ensign," an official LDS publication, the change is now official.
The May issue of the magazine, which traditionally carries all the conference talks as well as those from the meeting the weekend before, included the talks from the women's meeting under the heading, "General Women's Meeting."

The November edition of the magazine, now available at Deseret Book, uses a new heading, "General Women's Session."

The change is also apparent at, where the women's session is also now a part of the online listing of all the October conference talks.


Church Responds to Supreme Court Announcement

Court Chooses Not to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

( 10-6-14)

The succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God. In prizing freedom of conscience and Constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices.

Nevertheless, respectful coexistence is possible with those with differing values. As far as the civil law is concerned, the courts have spoken. Church leaders will continue to encourage our people to be persons of good will toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief, and differences in sexual orientation.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book of Abraham, 3: 17-18

Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.
Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Day for the Book of Mormon

Nicely done.

When the criticisms of the Book of Mormon can't be taken seriously

(by Daniel Peterson 10-16-14)

A set of arguments commonly advanced by Latter-day Saints seeking to commend and defend their beliefs cites things that Joseph Smith got right about the ancient world where, humanly speaking, he should probably have been wrong, or forgotten ancient doctrines that somehow reappeared in his revelations or teachings. Such arguments then ask, "How could he have known this?"

A common response from critics to this type of argument is to show, or at least claim, that a roughly contemporary book or source from which he could have derived the particular idea under discussion existed somewhere.

The question then becomes whether the suggested source was part of Joseph’s actual “information environment.” Did he really know about it? Could he reasonably have known?

For example, the notorious “Spalding Manuscript theory” of Book of Mormon authorship fails this test (and would scarcely account for the Book of Mormon even if it didn’t).

Another example: More than 20 years ago, two critics suggested that the cosmological ideas in the Book of Abraham derive from a 1728 entry in Benjamin Franklin’s unpublished personal papers and from an obscure 1755 work by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant that was barely noticed in Germany and wasn’t published in English until 1900.

Other claims are more credible — superficially, anyway: Some critics allege that 1 Nephi’s Nahom, a place name that we now know existed in Arabia during Lehi’s time, could have been taken from Dartmouth College’s copy of Carsten Neibuhr’s late-18th-century map of Arabia, which shows it. After all, the Smith family lived in New Hampshire, not far from Dartmouth, between 1811 and late 1813 — when Joseph Smith was nearing 8 years of age! But, as it turns out, Dartmouth first acquired the map in December 1937, somewhat too late for the 1830 Book of Mormon. (The Library of Congress acquired its copy in 1951.)

Usually, the proposed sources aren’t so manifestly implausible. Still, taken together, they pose a different but equally imposing problem: They seem to demand an impossibly large library for Joseph Smith, whom his mother described as having been, of all her young boys, the least inclined to read. Furthermore, we know what was in the tiny Manchester New York Library in Joseph’s day, and that it charged a membership fee that the Smiths couldn’t afford and didn’t pay.

Sometimes, an efficient response to certain criticisms is simply a good laugh. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have understood this from their earliest beginnings, as demonstrated, for instance, by Parley Pratt’s 1844 “Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil” and the 19th-century satirical journal “Keep-A-Pitchinin,” written by, among many others, such luminaries as Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and edited by the eldest son of President John Taylor.

My colleague William Hamblin and I have long toyed with writing a humorous article titled “Joseph Smith: The Cambridge Years,” in which we would demonstrate that, while conventional historians imagine that Joseph spent his youth working on small farms in the northeastern United States, he was actually studying at the finest universities of England and the Continent, gathering materials for his proposed Book of Mormon. And the incomparable Jeff Lindsay, whose “Cult Master 2000” software package is also not to be missed, has actually written a brief script titled “A Day in the Life of Joseph Smith, Translator Extraordinaire” that makes the weaknesses in many critics’ proposals hilariously obvious.

Explanations for Joseph Smith and, particularly, for the Book of Mormon, have varied widely over the years. (See " 'In the Hope that Something Would Stick': Changing Explanations for the Book of Mormon" online at

At first, confident that the forthcoming book would be absurd nonsense, critics assumed that “Joe Smith,” a frontier rube, was the author. When the book proved to be surprisingly rich and complex, though, they were forced to invoke various co-authors (Solomon Spalding, for example, and Sidney Rigdon or Oliver Cowdery). But there’s no evidence whatever for such collusion or conspiracy (see Myth, Memory, and "Manuscript Found" and "Examining a Misapplication of Nearest Shrunken Centroid Classification to Investigate Book of Mormon Authorship" both online at, and critics were again obliged to fall back on Joseph Smith as sole author.

However, no explanation that adequately and consistently accounts for the entirety of Joseph’s testimony and revelations has yet been proposed. The hypothetical explanation offered for X seldom also covers Y. Indeed, sometimes it flatly contradicts proposed explanations for Y. Thus, we get clashing portraits of Joseph Smith as ignorant scholar, sincere deceiver and brilliant fool.
For most Latter-day Saints, probably, the best response remains to laugh — and then to get on with living and building the kingdom.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

October's Feast of Tabernacles

(by Daniel Peterson 10-2-14)

Arguably, the two most significant annual festivals of ancient Israel were Passover, which occurred in March/April, and “Sukkot” (typically translated as “Tabernacles” or “Booths”), which was celebrated in September/October. Along with “Shavuot” (“Pentecost” or “Weeks”), which fell 50 days after Passover, they constituted the three “pilgrimage festivals” for which all faithful Israelite males living in Palestine were to gather at the temple in Jerusalem.

This year, in 2014, Passover extended from April 14-22, while the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated Oct. 8-15. The similarity to the modern Mormon general conference calendar probably isn’t entirely coincidental: Both the ancient festivals and our modern conferences originated in societies dominated by the agricultural cycles of seedtime and harvest.

As we enter into October conference season of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it’s perhaps appropriate to remember John Tvedtnes’s 1990 article on “King Benjamin and the Feast of Tabernacles,” although this brief column cannot possibly do justice to its detailed argument.

Tvedtnes, for many years a senior resident scholar at BYU’s now defunct Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, or FARMS, contends that “The biblical Sukkot celebration is closely paralleled by the account of King Benjamin's assembly recorded in Mosiah 1:1-6.”

The Feast of Tabernacles is named for the fact that, as part of its celebration, Israelites were to construct temporary shelters or “sukkot” (“tabernacles” or “booths”) and to spend at least some time in them, in order “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (see Leviticus 23:43).

Several elements of the first six chapters of Mosiah seem to imply an observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. The gathering of the Nephites “up to the temple” (see Mosiah 2:1), for example, suggests a pilgrimage festival. Additionally, since more sacrifices are connected with Sukkot than with any other Hebrew festival, it’s noteworthy that the Nephites make offerings “according to the law of Moses” at Mosiah 2:3.

Likewise, the tower that King Benjamin caused to be erected, and from which he spoke, recalls the wooden “pulpit” (or, better, the “tower,” Hebrew “migdal”) traditionally constructed for the king at the Feast of Tabernacles (see the 1995 FARMS article “Upon the Tower of Benjamin”; also Nehemiah 8:4, where, the Israelite monarchy being extinct, Ezra speaks from such a “pulpit”). Benjamin’s reference to the blood of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 3:11) may also be Sukkot-related, reminiscent of the blood of the covenant that Moses sprinkled on the people during the first Sukkot (see Exodus 24:8).

Most noticeably, the Nephites pitched their “tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them” (see Mosiah 2:5-6). As already mentioned, Sukkot memorializes the Exodus of Israel from Egypt — during which the traveling Camp of Israel set up its tents facing its priesthood shrine (see Exodus 33:8-10).

Themes of atonement and of God as creator permeate both King Benjamin’s speech and Ezra’s Sukkot remarks (see Nehemiah 8:13-18). Moreover, Ezra explicitly addressed “those that could understand” (see Nehemiah 8:3), and “every one having knowledge, and having understanding," took an oath before him (see Nehemiah 10:28-29). King Benjamin too spoke only to those “who (could) understand (his) words” (see Mosiah 2:40).

Deeply moved, King Benjamin’s people fell to the ground, repented of their sins and invoked divine atonement upon themselves (see Mosiah 4:1-2, 6-7), as all Israelites were expected to do for the Day of Atonement (which almost immediately precedes Sukkot). Following this, King Benjamin recorded “the names of all those who had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandments” (see Mosiah 6:1-3).

The Jews in Jerusalem, stirred by Ezra’s remarks, likewise “entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law” (see Nehemiah 10:29). They, too, fell to the ground; their names were also recorded (Nehemiah 8:6, 9:38).

Biblical descriptions of Sukkot are scattered and fragmentary. Moreover, Lucy Mack Smith wrote that, of all her children, Joseph was the least inclined to read and that, prior to 1830, he’d never read the Bible through. Still, Mosiah 1-6 seems to reflect a specialist’s knowledge of the ancient Hebrew festival. Yet it’s implicit, not explicit, and Joseph Smith may never have noticed it. Nor did anybody else before Tvedtnes. But he was a longtime student of the Old Testament, fluent in Hebrew, doing graduate work in ancient studies in Jerusalem.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Mormon St. Peter's in Rome

A new Latter-day Saints temple looms large on the Roman horizon, and the Vatican’s prelates, truth to tell, are not too enthusiastic about what they see.

(by Barbie Latza Nadeau 9-28-14)

ROME, Italy — On the outskirts of Rome along the ancient Catholic pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena and not far from a giant shopping center featuring a massive IKEA and the French do-it-yourself Mecca called Leroy Merlin, cranes are hoisting giant spires onto the top of a Baroque-revival-style church. But unlike most of the religious edifices erected in Catholic Rome, this Roman temple is being built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) of Italy to accommodate a congregation that has grown from 9,000 to nearly 30,000 followers in less than 30 years.

The Rome Temple Complex of the LDS sits on 15 acres and will feature lush gardens, and a 40,000-square-foot temple with floor and ceiling designs to mimic Michelangelo’s Capitoline Hill plaza overlooking the Roman forum. Marble from Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Brazil is being used to decorate the interior and exterior spaces. The grounds will also include a stake center meeting house (a stake being roughly similar to a Catholic diocese), a visitor center, a family history library and a special Mormon-only hotel for workers and worshippers.

The temple, which is expected to be inaugurated sometime next year, is the 12th temple built in Europe and the first ever in Italy, and it is one of 15 new temples currently being built worldwide by the growing Mormon church. Organizers say that while it is under construction the Roman temple will be open briefly to the public for guided tours to help encourage understanding, then it will be closed to all but church members except under special circumstances.

The temple is serving a demand by Italian Mormons, according to local Rome Stake President Massimo De Feo, who says worshippers currently travel to the nearest temple in Bern, Switzerland, if they wish to do temple work which is an integral component of Mormon worship. The cost of the temple is a tightly held secret. “We have paid for it out of our pocket, with no help from Italy,” LDS Rome spokesman Alessandro Dini Ciacci says. “We don’t divulge the specific costs of our operations.”

Italy has 103 Latter-day Saints congregations under 10 stakes, divided into missions based in Milan and Rome, with the highest concentration in the north of Italy, where 53 percent of Mormons live, compared to 29 percent in southern Italy and 18 percent in the central regions. Sicily alone has 3,052 members of the church; the region around Rome has 2,117, according to the LDS Italy archives. There are more female Mormons (53 percent) than men (47 percent) in the country. According to De Feo, the Italy church has seen a surge in requests for baptisms for the living and the dead, and for celestial marriage ceremonies and family sealing ceremonies which officially bind couples or families together for eternity once the temple is ready. He also predicts that many Italians who have moved away because of inadequate ways to practice their faith will move back now that there is a temple in Italy.

The growth of the LDS church in Italy may be moving fast, but not without opposition. Shortly after the first Mormons were baptized in Italy in 1850, the Catholic Church demanded that members of the congregation emigrate to Salt Lake City. The Italian government refused to allow the LDS church to formally gather until 1951. By 1964, there were just 230 members who were allowed to do missionary work in the country, and it took until July 30, 2012, for Italy’s government to finally legally recognize LDS as a religion in Italy and full “partner of the state.”

According to Massimo De Feo, president of the Rome stake, the construction of the temple is nothing short of a miracle, not least of because of the way the project, which will be the largest in Europe, has raised eyebrows in Catholic circles.

“Certainly the Mormon Church is very rich and they have substantial resources that come from the United States,” said Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, emeritus president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a close adviser to the last three popes, at a recent public forum on interreligious dialogue. “It is not a sin to have economic resources, but for an ecumenism, this new Mormon center, the largest in Europe, will certainly be a problem.”

“The good news is certainly the fact that the construction of this new temple has created new jobs, and this is a good that comes from their wealth,” said Sgreccia. “As for ecumenism, dialogue and the search for unity among all Christians, their presence in Rome is not necessarily an uplifting factor. We shall wait and see.”

Mormons aren’t dangerous to the Catholic faith, says Monsignor Enrico Feroci, head of Rome’s Caritas. “Everyone has the right to make their own choices of faith and take the necessary measures, from building their headquarters to professsing their faith,” he says. “But for Catholics, this does not mean renouncing its principles and pillars upon which rests the 2,000 years from their faith in Christ, Son of God, who died and rose again for the salvation of humanity. I have a lot of respect for Mormons in Rome, but they certainly do not share the Gospel with us because their concepts and the way they operate in society differ so greatly to Catholics.”

The Mormon religion is the 10th-largest in Italy after Catholicism, well behind Islam (the fourth after Catholicism) and Judaism (the sixth-largest), but it is the fastest growing, and the construction of the new house of worship will surely draw many whose faith guides them to live close to a temple. “This is a day of thanksgiving,” De Feo said when Thomas S. Monson, the head of the universal church, broke ground in Rome in 2010.  “I think this is the most beautiful temple in the world.”