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.

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critics suggested that the cosmological ideas in the Book of Abraham derive from a 1728 entry in Benjamin Franklin’s unpublished personal papers and from an obscure 1755 work by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant that was barely noticed in Germany and wasn’t published in English until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.”