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.