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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

At BYU, Catholic archbishop seeks friends, says U.S. liberty depends on moral people

(by Tad Walch 1-23-15)

Most days, Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput watches the construction of the LDS temple in Philadelphia from his office window.

That led the Mormon historian who introduced him at BYU on Friday to joke that the archbishop of Philadelphia soon will be able to enjoy his morning coffee in the company of the Angel Moroni.

The banter was mutual — Archbishop Chaput mentioned that BYU occasionally beats Notre Dame — and a sign of the tangible, once-unlikely but growing friendship between Catholic leaders and those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I'm sure that my predecessors 30 years ago would be astonished that I'd be invited to Brigham Young University to speak to you," Archbishop Chaput said during a question-and-answer session after delivering a lecture in the Varsity Theater.

"They just wouldn't have thought it possible. We have reached a point of friendliness, I think we've kind of been forced to it by circumstances. If we don't hang together, we'll hang alone, individually."

Toughness needed

Those circumstances imperil both religious liberty and the American experiment, he said during his lecture.

"The greatest danger to our liberty today is not religious extremism. It’s a culture of narcissism that cocoons us in vulgarity, distraction and noise, while excluding God from the human imagination."

He called on Latter-day Saints, Catholics and all believing people to renew and live their faith and develop "mental toughness" so they can live as examples and engage confidently in the public debate about religious liberty.

"As the Founders knew, and we forget at our peril, the American project of ordered liberty can’t work without the support of a moral people — a people formed by a living faith in a loving God. Religion is to democracy as a bridle is to a horse. And only religious faith can guide and moderate democracy because it appeals to an Authority higher than democracy itself."

The archbishop's noon lecture in Provo fell between meetings Friday with LDS Church apostles.
"The differences in our doctrine and practice are obvious," he said. "Ignoring them wouldn’t serve the truth. But that doesn’t preclude friendship. It doesn’t preclude working together.

"And it doesn’t obscure the fact that we face many of the same problems and share many of the same convictions about marriage and family, the nature of our sexuality, the sanctity of human life and the urgency of religious liberty. That’s a lot of common ground rooted in the natural law. We can’t afford to concede it to people and ideas very different from the beliefs we cherish."

Strengthening ties

Archbishop Chaput met in the morning with President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the LDS First Presidency, and Elders Dallin H. Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Eyring, Archbishop Chaput and Pope Francis all spoke at the Vatican in November at a conference on "the complementarity of man and woman in marriage." President Eyring called for a renaissance of happy marriages.

An LDS Church spokesman confirmed Friday that Elder Christofferson will speak in Philadelphia in September at the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic conference held every three years that will be hosted by Archbishop Chaput and attended by Pope Francis.

Elder Christofferson is scheduled to speak Sept. 24 about "Living Our Heavenly Father’s Plan: Techniques for Family Unity from Mormon Homes," according to the World Meeting's agenda.

Archbishop Chaput mentioned Elder Christofferson's upcoming talk in a recent interview. "We have a Mormon leader who is talking about how Mormons keep families together," he said, "because they have a great reputation when it comes to family life... ."

Archbishop Chaput was scheduled to attend a dinner meeting Friday night with Elders L. Tom Perry and David A. Bednar, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

After the lecture, the archbishop also praised the Most Rev. John C. Wester, the Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City who attended the lecture, for doing "a great job in Utah" building relationships with LDS leaders.

Another example of the budding friendship came in 2010, when Cardinal Francis George spoke at BYU about the need for both Catholics and Mormons to stand together to protect the ability of individuals and groups to practice their religion in the public square.

Pertinent history

As Catholics have assimilated into U.S. culture over the past 100 years, many Catholic institutions have done so at the expense of their religious identity, Archbishop Chaput said.

He warned Latter-day Saints to avoid the same problem.

"The Mormons need to learn from the Catholic experience. We Catholics believe that our vocation is to be leaven in society. But there’s a fine line between being leaven in society, and being digested by society."

For example, he said, "Brigham Young is an extraordinary university, not just because of its academic excellence — or the fact that it occasionally beats Notre Dame — but because it’s a center of learning enriched by its religious identity. Never lose that."

The core of his argument Friday was that the Magna Carta, which turns 800 this year, still matters in America today because it introduced concepts of civil society and religious freedom, declaring “The English Church shall be free and enjoy her rights in their integrity and her liberties untouched.”

"In the American model," Archbishop Chaput said, "the state is meant to be modest in scope. It’s constrained by checks and balances. Mediating institutions like the family, churches and fraternal organizations feed the life of the civic community. They stand between the individual and the state. And when they decline, the state fills the vacuum they leave."

Protecting these "mediating institutions" is vital to freedom, he said.

"The state rarely fears individuals. Alone, individuals have little power. They can be isolated or ignored. But organized communities — including communities of faith — are a different matter. They can resist. They can’t be ignored. And that’s why they pose a problem for social engineers and an expanding state."

Be involved

That's why it's urgent that believers get involved politically, vote and elect the best public leaders to create policy and appoint judges, he said.

"Democracies depend for their survival on people of conviction fighting for what they believe in the public square," the archbishop said, "legally and peacefully, but zealously and without apologies. That includes all of us."

Believers should begin with themselves, through prayer and internal renewal.

"I want to stress again the importance of really living what we claim to believe. That needs to be a priority — not just in our personal and family lives but in our churches, our political choices, our business dealings, our treatment of the poor; in other words, in everything we do. Nothing is more powerful than personal witness, except an entire community committed to that same witness of justice, charity and truth."

They also should work to maintain virtue and truth as a grounding for American politics, he said.

"Acting on our faith, of course, presumes that we have the mental toughness and moral integrity to make action possible."

Neither side should have to apologize for their views, he said.

"Neither they nor we should feel bad about fighting for our convictions. Democracy thrives on the struggle of competing ideas. We steal from ourselves and from our fellow citizens if we try to avoid that struggle."

Archbishop Chaput's lecture was part of the BYU Faith, Family and Society lecture series that has brought other major religious leaders to visit LDS leaders and speak on campus in the past 15 months.

The first speakers in the lecture series visited campus in September and October 2013, when BYU hosted evangelical leaders Richard Land and Albert Mohler, and George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

All three men found common ground between their faiths and Mormons.

"When it comes to religious freedom," Land said, "we all hang together or we all hang separately. We are common targets in this."

Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made headlines by saying Mormons and evangelicals may go to jail together defending their beliefs.

"I don't necessarily mean going to prison together," he said afterward, "but I think we're going to suffer the coercive power of the secular state together."

Another evangelical leader, Ravi Zacharias, visited BYU in January 2014 and lamented that “the great loss in our time has been the loss of definitions — of good, evil, humanity, sacredness of sexuality, family, and home.”

Archbishop Chaput joined the Capuchin Franciscan order in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1970. A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, he became the first Native American archbishop in 1988 in Rapid City. In 1997, he became the archbishop of Denver before taking the same role in Philadelphia in 2011.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

KSL's Religion Today for November, 2014

November 2nd - The Trinity and the Nicene Creed

November 9th - the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible

November 16th - the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hamadi library

November 23rd - Illuminating stones

November 30th - the libraries at the Vatican and St Catherine's monastary

Thursday, January 15, 2015



The evidence for Jesus is early and powerful

(by Daniel Peterson 1-8-15)

On Christmas morning, I published a column here that discussed, among other things, whether Jesus really existed. But Christmas mornings are busy, and that column seems to have gone largely unnoticed. So I’m revisiting the topic. It’s urgently important — not only because Jesus is fundamental to the New Testament (on which Latter-day Saint Sunday schools around the world will focus this year) but because the question “What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42) is altogether central to this life.

As the great Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan (d. 2006) remarked, “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen — nothing else matters.”

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ,” wrote the apostle Paul, “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

So whether Jesus even existed in the first place is vitally significant.

However, as I’ve observed before, although the notion that Jesus might be merely fictional has become fashionable (through the miracle of the Web) among some aggressive atheists, it was, until recently, almost exclusively the domain of fringe cranks. And — how I can I put this gently? — it still has no real, serious merit.

In addition to the items that I’ve mentioned in previous columns (see "An agnostic's argument that Jesus did exist," for example), I would like to call readers’ attention to an article appearing in the current (January/February 2015) issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review.

In “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible,” Lawrence Mykytiuk, who holds a doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic studies and serves as the history librarian at Purdue University, examines the most important extra-biblical evidence — classical and Jewish writings — regarding the question.

First he looks at Tacitus, perhaps the greatest of all Roman historians, whose “Annals,” written around A.D. 116-117, discuss Nero’s attempt to blame the Christians for the great fire that ravaged Rome in A.D. 64. Tacitus, a very careful writer who, during earlier service as Roman proconsul of Asia, had probably presided over trials in which Christians were interrogated, knows the title “Christus,” though he mistakenly considers it a personal name. He knows that “Christus” founded the Christian movement, which derives its name from him. He’s aware that “Christus” was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, whom he identifies as Pontius Pilate.

Mykytiuk also carefully considers the writings of the important first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, whose “Antiquities of the Jews” mentions Jesus in two distinct passages, both of which appear to be authentic despite some later Christian insertions in the first of them. From Josephus and Tacitus, Mykytiuk argues, we have ancient non-biblical evidence that Jesus really lived, that he was called “Christ” in addition to his personal name of “Jesus” and that his brother was named “James” (“Jacob”). The sources also show that, while Jesus won disciples among both Jews and “Greeks,” the Jewish leadership of his day disliked him. He was, say the sources, crucified by the authority of Pilate while Pilate served as Roman proconsul in Judea.

That's quite a bit of detail, and it was recorded at a very early period. There seems to have been little time for a fictional Jesus to become accepted as a real person by two of the ancient world’s most important historians.

Mykytiuk briefly discusses some other classical and Jewish sources, and I recommend his article to those who might be interested in this topic.

In closing, though, I wish to call attention to a very astute observation made by the award-winning British writer Francis Spufford in his “Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense” (HarperOne, 2013). (Incidentally: Notwithstanding its occasional foul language and my several major theological and political disagreements with it, this book, in which the author “outs” himself as a committed believer, offers a remarkable and fresh defense of Christian faith.)

It’s sometimes suggested that Jesus was merely a simple preacher who became “divine” only as time passed and his legend grew. (Happily, this view at least acknowledges that there was a real historical Jesus!) But Spufford points out that the divine Jesus is already plainly present in the very earliest Christian documents that we have — the letters of Paul, which predate the gospels. They were written as early as the A.D. 50s, when many still remembered Jesus clearly.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Nephi the scribe

(by Taylor Halverson 1-10-15)

Readers of the Book of Mormon often take for granted that it was written at all. In our modern age where literacy rates are high, it is almost inconceivable to imagine a society where perhaps a mere 10 percent of the population are literate (such as in ancient Israel).

It is therefore stunning that Nephi was not only capable of reading and writing, he also was a brilliantly competent writer who created some of the finest literary beauty and artistry that the world has ever known.

The fact that Nephi was literate might initially seem improbable in ancient Israel, where many people lived hand to mouth, eking out a subsistence lifestyle based on what they could farm or herd. Reading and writing would be a luxury. What would be the purpose of literacy? So that one could enjoy fine literary pursuits as a past-time after a long day of work? Unlikely.

Why did Nephi know how to read and write?

Being a scribe was an entirely viable profession for the youngest son in a wealthy or elite family.
For example, one of the great Neo-Assyrian kings, Ashurbanipal (668 B.C. to 627 B.C.), himself the youngest son and therefore least likely to inherit the throne, was trained in the scribal arts of writing, reading and other educational pursuits. In fact, Ashurbanipal was so capable in and fond of beautiful and important literature that once he became king of the Assyrian Empire he collected one of the greatest libraries in the ancient world, the library of Nineveh. A significant portion of what we know of the ancient Middle East is due to Ashurbanipal’s literary preservation effort.

Similarly, without Nephi’s literary and cultural training, the words we so deeply appreciate in the Book of Mormon would likely never have been written.

So just what did it mean to be a scribe? Scribes often practiced their craft by impressing characters on wet clay with a reed stylus. Or they might use a form of ink to compose their texts on papyrus.

(Incidentally, our modern word “paper” derives from the word “papyrus”) As they practiced writing, Israelite scribes typically were taught and fully immersed in the principles found in the ancient wisdom tradition, copying passages from wisdom literature as a way to learn not only the language but the moral and cultural values as well. The Old Testament Book of Proverbs is a good example of the types of wisdom principles scribes would be expected to write, copy, know and live.

One piece of evidence in favor of Nephi’s training as a scribe in the ancient Near Eastern wisdom tradition is this: Nephi says that he writes his record with “knowledge” (1 Nephi 1:3).

In Hebrew, the word “knowledge” is expressed as daat. This is a key word in the wisdom literature section of the Old Testament (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon). There are some 89 occurrences of daat in the entirety of the Old Testament, and about 70 percent of these occur in the wisdom literature section. Nephi’s claim to draw upon “knowledge” may be influenced by his scribal training in the wisdom literature tradition.

Another brilliant but subtle example of Nephi’s training as a scribe occurs when Nephi was building the boat. His brothers refused to help and instead threatened to harm Nephi. In commanding faith, Nephi declared:

“In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him” (1 Nephi 17:48; emphasis added).

Nephi would know of dry reeds since they were used to inscribe tablets. Even more compelling and potentially significant is this: In the ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, humans were poetically identified with cane reeds that wither, fall and die. As a trained scribe who may have had familiarity with such ancient Near Eastern scribal poetic expressions, Nephi could not have found a more striking, poetic and ultimately contextually appropriate metaphor for what would happen to his brothers if they touched him.

As intriguing as these details are, perhaps the most important question to ask is, why did Nephi write? Nephi’s response?

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

If Nephi was in fact a scribe, he used his professional training to bless the lives of millions.
More on this topic can be found in an article written by Brant Gardner called "Nephi as Scribe," published in the 2011 Mormon Studies Review from the Maxwell Institute at BYU.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Homesite of King Follett

(by Kenneth Mays 1-7-15)

This commemorative, traditional-looking well was constructed on property once owned by a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints named King Follett.

Follett was born in Vermont in 1788. By 1831, he had moved to northern Ohio and been baptized into the Church of Christ, later The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several years later, he and his family had moved with most of the Saints to Missouri.

About the time that the Prophet Joseph Smith was released from Liberty Jail, Follett was imprisoned in the jail at Columbia, Missouri, with Parley P. Pratt and several others. He wasn’t released until October 1839. Soon after his release from jail, he acquired property in Nauvoo, Illinois, and built a log home.

While digging a well in March 1844, Follett was killed when struck by falling stones that were being used to line the inside of the well. When Joseph Smith addressed the Saints in early April 1844, he made several references to the passing of Follett, and that address, now known as the King Follett Sermon, has been associated with him ever since. Four brethren attempted to record what the Prophet spoke, but not all of what he said that day was recorded.