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 29, 2015

The Articles of Faith

In 1842, in response to a specific request from John Wentworth (editor of the Chicago Democrat ), Joseph Smith sent a succinct overview of his own religious experiences and the History of the Church over which he presided (see Wentworth Letter). At the end of the historical sketch, he appended a list summarizing the "faith of the Latter-day Saints." Later titled "Articles of Faith," these thirteen items were first published in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons in March 1842 and were later included in the 1851 British Mission pamphlet The Pearl of Great Price, compiled by Elder Franklin D. Richards. That pamphlet was revised in 1878 and again in 1880. In 1880, a general conference of the Church voted to add the Pearl of Great Price to the standard works of the Church, thus including the thirteen articles. The Articles of Faith do not constitute a summation of all LDS beliefs, and they are not a creed in the traditional Christian sense, but they do provide a useful authoritative summary of fundamental LDS scriptures and beliefs.

For more info see

Thursday, December 24, 2015

We needed Christ to become one of us

(by Daniel Peterson 12-24-15)

As I write, I’ve just returned from a funeral. Snow covers the ground; the trees are barren, seemingly dead. It’s the season described by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73:

“When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

“Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

“Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

The holidays are a terrible time to associate with the death of a loved one. And yet, in some ways, it’s the best possible time because Christmas reminds us of the One who put an end to death.

Before his advent, death was a grim, hopeless inevitability. In the 11th book of Homer’s “Odyssey,” for example, the hero Odysseus describes his perilous journey to the underworld, to Hades, where he converses with the spirits of the dead. He entices them with the blood of a sacrificed animal, something earthly and physical that they crave.

Among those he meets is the great warrior Achilles, an old friend. Odysseus praises Achilles for his past glory and great deeds, but Achilles responds that earthly status means nothing to him now: “I’d rather serve as another man’s laborer,” he says bitterly, “as a poor landless peasant, and be alive on Earth, than be lord of all the lifeless dead.”

The dead, for the ancient Greeks, did live on, but only as “shades,” dwelling in literally Stygian darkness. (The term “Stygian” derives from the River Styx, which formed the boundary, in their conception, between the underworld and the land of the living.)

Even the Hebrews often saw little, if anything, hopeful after death. Their appeals to God were continually for this-worldly salvation: “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth” (Isaiah 38:18); “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalm 6:5); “Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88:10-12).

President Joseph F. Smith, too, who saw the spirit world in a marvelous October 1918 vision, explained that, before Christ’s arrival there, “the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:50).

And, for many today, the prospects are even bleaker. To them, only nothingness awaits us after death. The dead have ceased to exist, and all of us will soon follow them. Bertrand Russell, perhaps the most articulate and visible atheist of the 20th century, strikingly expressed this viewpoint in his 1903 essay “The Free Man’s Worship”:

“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system; and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

For Christians, however, the advent of Christ marked the beginning of the end of death’s dominion. Of all good news, this is the best news possible: Because of God’s Word, death doesn’t get the last word. Because he lived, we will live.

Easter couldn’t have happened without Christmas. On our own, we could never have overcome death. God himself needed to come among us, to become one of us, to burst through the prison gates of death as the first of our kind, before the reign of sin and mortality could end. And he did it. (See Clayton Christensen’s eloquent words at

As it turns out, God does show wonders and declare his lovingkindness to the dead.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Day Elvis Presley Attended Early Morning Seminary

(by Danielle Beckstrom 1-28-15)

Elvis didn't relish his title of King.  As he said, “there is only one King,” and that was Jesus Christ (Brother Paul’s Mormon Bathroom Reader, Paul B. Skousen, 2005).

Deeply religious and a heavy reader of spiritual topics, Elvis showed considerable interest in the LDS Church and maintained many close connections with Mormons.  In fact, after his death, a copy of the Book of Mormon was found in his room with the message, “Priscilla needs to read this” written within the well-worn cover (Brother Paul’s Mormon Bathroom Reader, Paul B. Skousen, 2005).

Elvis received his first Book of Mormon through the gates of Graceland, his home in Memphis.  A young LDS woman and ardent Elvis fan, Cricket Butler, often sat vigilantly outside his home or hotel—coming early in the morning and staying late in the night—waiting for a chance to speak with her idol.  Butler’s persistence finally paid off when late one evening Elvis walked out to his gates to visit with Butler.  During their conversation on life and its purpose, Butler handed him a copy of the Book of Mormon. Found in his room after his death, this ordinary 1976 version of the Book of Mormon took quite the journey, passing from the hands of Cricket Butler to Alan Osmond before finally ending up at Church headquarters (“Elvis Almost LDS?” Lynn Arave).

Inside this well-traveled Book of Mormon were a series of hand-written notations reportedly made by Elvis.  During an interview for a 2007 documentary entitled “Tears of a King,” Butler claims she became good friends with Elvis following their late night discussion, and even sat in on missionary discussions at Graceland.  In fact, Butler claims to know the date Elvis planned on being baptized (“Elvis Almost LDS?” Lynn Arave ).

Whether Elvis’ baptismal date is fact or fantasy, there is no doubt that Elvis had many close ties with LDS families.

Elvis’ good relationship with Mormons was due in large part to Latter-day Saint and martial arts expert Ed Parker.  After training Elvis in self-defense, Parker became Elvis’ personal body guard.  Knowing Elvis’ affinity towards religion, Parker gave Elvis a series of LDS books, one of which is still on display at Elvis’ Graceland home.  Elvis read these books avidly, asking Parker all kinds of questions on limo drives to and from concerts.

One night, after giving Parker a brand new Cadillac, Elvis drove with his body guard from Las Vegas to Pasadena--who knows what kind of conversations the two men shared along the long drive.  Elvis and Parker arrived in California early in the morning, and Parker invited Elvis to meet his two girls who were attending early morning seminary. Elvis met with and embraced Parker’s daughters outside the seminary building.  Then, he surprised everyone with his own request: could he speak with their whole seminary class?  Elvis complimented these young faithful Saints for taking the time to learn more about the one, true King and provided his own witness of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

While Latter-day Saints like Butler and Parker influenced Elvis’ beliefs and understanding of the Church, Elvis also had a significant impact on the young members in Pasadena.  After the early morning witness Elvis gave during seminary, the attendance record for seminary classes remained at 100 percent for years, aided no doubt by rumors that Elvis might return for another visit.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Why We Fear Mormons

(by J. Spencer Fluhman 6-3-12)

Mockery of Mormonism comes easily for many Americans.

Commentators have offered many reasons, but even they have found it difficult to turn their gaze from Mormon peculiarities. As a result, they have missed a critical function of American anti-Mormonism: the faith has been oddly reassuring to Americans. As a recent example, the Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon” lampoons the religion’s naïveté on racial issues, which is striking given that the most biting criticisms have focused on the show’s representations of Africans and blackness.

As a Mormon and a scholar of religious history, I am unsurprised by the juxtaposition of Mormon mocking and racial insensitivity. Anti-Mormonism has long masked America’s contradictions and soothed American self-doubt. In the 19th century, antagonists charged that Mormon men were tyrannical patriarchs, that Mormon women were virtual slaves and that Mormons diabolically blurred church and state. These accusations all contained some truth, though the selfsame accusers denied women the vote, bolstered racist patriarchy and enthroned mainstream Protestantism as something of a state religion.
Despite internal division, persecution and periods of rampant defection, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued to grow, even though it continues to make Americans uneasy. The political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell found that Mormonism ranked with Islam near the bottom of the list of Americans’ “most respected” religions.
Making Mormons look bad helps others feel good. By imagining Mormons as intolerant rubes, or as heretical deviants, Americans from left and right can imagine they are, by contrast, tolerant, rational and truly Christian. Mitt Romney’s candidacy is only the latest opportunity for such stereotypes to be aired.
Contemporary anti-Mormonism tends to emerge either from the secular left or from the evangelical Protestant right. For the left, Mormonism often functions as a stand-in for discomfort over religion generally. Mormon religious practice offers a lot of really, well, religious religion: ritual underclothing, baptism for the dead, secret temple rites and “clannishness” (a term invoked in the past in attacks on Catholics and Jews). Any religion looks weird from the outside, but the image of Mormonism seems caught somewhere between perpetual strangeness and strait-laced blandness.
When a perceived oddity is backed by Mormon money or growing political clout, the left gets jumpy. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and HBO’s Bill Maher have resorted to caricature, stereotyping and hyperbole in their anti-Mormon attacks. Liberals were outraged by Mormon financing of Proposition 8, the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage in California. They scoff at Mormonism’s all-male priesthood and ask why church leaders have yet to fully repudiate the racist teachings of previous authorities.
For the right, Mormonism figures in even more complicated ways. The Mormon road to respectability has often led, as it did for Mr. Romney, through Harvard Business School; pro-business Republicans have found ready friends among well-placed Mormons. But many rank-and-file evangelical Protestants call Mormonism a cult — as the pastor Robert Jeffress did last fall — or a “non-Christian religion.” Indeed, evangelical hatred has been the driving force behind national anti-Mormonism.
Anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals have betrayed anxiety over the divisions in their movement and their slipping cultural authority as arbiters of religious authenticity. Some big-hearted evangelicals have recently reached out to Mormons with genuine understanding, but they must now fend off charges of getting too cozy with Satan’s minions. Because evangelicals are hard pressed for unity to begin with, and because they have defined themselves less and less in terms of historic Christian creeds, their objections to Mormonism might carry less and less cultural weight.
Many conservatives, in fact, seem more concerned with Mr. Obama’s political heresies than with Mr. Romney’s religious ones. It may be that Mr. Obama’s unpopularity will prove a key factor in Mormonism’s continued mainstreaming. With politics and religion so inextricably linked in our culture, a Romney presidency would entail lasting effects for Mormonism and its image. Segments of the religious right might finally make peace with, if not quite accept, Mormonism’s various heterodoxies. The left may struggle to comprehend a steadily diversifying faith that has increasingly global reach.
This election, regardless of outcome, unquestionably pushes the United States onto new political terrain because neither candidate represents the religious old guard. But until Americans work through our contradictory impulses regarding faith, diversity and freedom, there is no reason to believe anti-Mormonism will go away anytime soon.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sociologist shares how the world may be more religious today than ever before in 'The Triumph of Faith'

(by Daniel Peterson 12-17-15)

Several generations of sociologists and anthropologists have confidently predicted the fading of religious belief from the modern world. And very recently, some prominently reported survey numbers have seemed to confirm that the world is becoming more secular. Christianity is shrinking, and the ranks of the religious “nones” are swelling rapidly — to the dismay of believers and the delight of unbelievers.

But now along comes a book by Rodney Stark, one of the most prominent, respected and consistently insightful sociologists of religion in the business. In “The Triumph of Faith: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever” (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, $24.95), Stark draws upon a wealth of survey data from around the planet to contend that “Contrary to the constant predictions that religion is doomed, there is abundant evidence of an ongoing worldwide religious awakening.

“The conventional wisdom about secularization,” he says flatly, is “unfounded nonsense.”

While, for example, he points to how not very long ago there were virtually no Protestants in Latin America, they now number in the millions. But has this come at the simple expense of Catholicism and Catholic numbers? No. “Latin American Catholics are far more religious” today than ever in the past, he writes.

Across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Islamic belief is more fervent than at perhaps any time in recent centuries, he writes, and from small beginnings in the relatively recent past, there are now more church-going Christians in Africa than anywhere else on Earth.

“Hinduism has never been stronger” than it is today, he writes, and pilgrims to sacred Hindu sites are straining the resources of the administrators of those sites and of the Indian transportation systems that serve them.

China is experiencing an unprecedented surge in its number of Christians, and tens of thousands of traditional temples have been rebuilt since the days of Mao.

Regarding “Religious America,” as he terms it, Stark argues that many commonly accepted notions simply can’t be justified by the actual data: Young people aren’t leaving churches in droves. Young evangelicals aren’t becoming more liberal. Church attendance isn’t in decline. The number of American atheists isn’t increasing. American Jewry is becoming more faithful and more Orthodox. Even the “nones,” by a large majority, believe and act in ways that can only be described as religious. For example, “the overwhelming majority of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation pray and believe in angels.”

Stark discusses in detail the decline of the churches that once rather smugly described themselves as the American religious “mainstream,” correlating the rise of “modernist” theologies — focused not on traditional Christian doctrine but on often-socialist politics — with the mass exodus of their membership to more conservative denominations in a free marketplace of religious options. People seeking the bread of hope and meaning in their lives here on earth and the promise of life beyond the grave simply weren’t satisfied with the stone of secularism that liberal theology too often offered in its place.

It’s true that churches are still rather empty in parts of Europe — long the model representative of the supposedly godless world in which all of us will soon live — but this isn’t, Stark argues, “the reliable sign of secularization it has long been said to be.” Complacent and often unbelieving religious functionaries working for state churches in an uncompetitive religious marketplace have simply failed to serve their congregations, and as a result, those congregations have opted out, he writes. Europe, he says, quoting another scholar, is a continent full of not unbelievers but “believing non-belongers.”

“The world,” Stark writes, “is more religious than it has ever been.” In fact, among all of the globe’s great religious traditions, only Buddhism may not be growing. People naturally resist attempts to reduce their lives to brief and cosmically meaningless episodes on a pointless planet in a blindly purposeless cosmos, Starks writes.

The Soviet Union leaders aggressively pushed atheism not only through relentless propaganda but also through the often ruthless persecution of believers. Nonetheless, after more than 60 years of this intense crusade, a 1990 survey found that just 6.6 percent of Russians described themselves as atheists, a figure only slightly higher than the roughly 4 percent reported for America since the mid-1940s.

I enthusiastically recommend this stimulating book to religious leaders and to those generally interested in what’s going on in the minds of people around the world. It has much to offer, not only for understanding but also, in my judgment, for action.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

'Not written in this book'

(by Daniel Petersen 12-10-15)

" And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25).

So ends the gospel of John, forthrightly acknowledging that it has omitted a very great deal of information about Jesus. And the gospel’s previous chapter closes with a similar sentiment:

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31).

In other words, John’s gospel itself admits that it represents only a selection of Jesus’ miracles and deeds.

We also know that some teachings of Jesus were excluded from the four gospels. The apostle Paul, for example, reminded the leaders of the Christian church at Ephesus, among other things, that disciples of Christ “... ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

This is a very famous teaching of Jesus, yet it appears nowhere in any of the four Gospels — which probably hadn’t been written by the time Paul met with those Ephesian leaders, anyway. Plainly, Paul knew of at least one saying from the Savior that didn’t find its way into the Gospels. And there seems no good reason to assume that it’s the only such omission. (Moreover, only Luke 23:43 includes Jesus’ promise to the penitent thief on the cross that “... To day you will be with me in paradise”; the other three Gospels fail to mention it.)

Neither the New Testament Gospels nor, for that matter, the other books of the New Testament contain everything that Jesus taught or that we would like to know.

The apostle Paul’s tantalizing account of his visit to “paradise” and “the third heaven” (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4), for instance, leaves us wanting very much more, but it informs us only that he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Jesus himself shows similar reticence at John 16:12: “I have yet many things to say unto you,” he tells his disciples the night before his trial and crucifixion, “but ye cannot bear them now.”

So when would they be ready? When would he tell them? One possibility is that he taught those things to them after his resurrection. After all, Acts 1:3 records of Christ and the apostles that “after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God” (New International Version).

But the New Testament tells us nothing about what he taught during that 40-day span.

Another possibility, perhaps more helpful, can be found in John 16, where the Savior explains (in verses 13-14) that after his departure, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears ... He will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you” (NIV).

Put another way, after the departure of Jesus, the church will be led by revelation through the Holy Ghost — revelation that will include information not taught by the Savior during his mortal ministry. This is why the apostle Paul, probably writing from Rome to the Ephesian saints in the early A.D. 60s, after his departure from Miletus, encouraged them to seek revelation, praying “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Ongoing revelation is clearly the biblical way to run a church, not mere dependence on finite and incomplete written texts — however useful, important, sacred and inspired those texts may be. The demonstrable incompleteness of the ancient written record makes the cry of so many — predicted by the Book of Mormon at 2 Nephi 29:3 — rather puzzling: “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”

To devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, any new information about him would, one would expect, be a desirable treasure of infinite value.


Monday, December 14, 2015

The Sacrament—a Renewal for the Soul

(by Cheryl A. Esplin 12-12-15)

"The more we ponder the significance of the sacrament, the more sacred and meaningful it becomes to us. This was what a 96-year-old father expressed when his son asked, 'Dad, why do you go to church? You can’t see, you can’t hear, it’s hard for you to get around. Why do you go to church?'

The father replied, 'It’s the sacrament. I go to partake of the sacrament.'

 May each of us come to sacrament meeting prepared to have 'a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for [our] soul.'"


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Why There’s No Such Thing As A Same-Sex Mormon Family

Since Mormons have led political compromises between religious liberty and LGBT demands, their refusal to condone homosexual behavior has surprised some. It shouldn’t.

(by Merina Smith 12-8-15)

The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—the Mormons—recently revised their handbook. This may not sound like dramatic news, yet it has caused great weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth among some members and nonmembers alike, because the church has made it clear there is no such thing as a same-sex Mormon family.
For Mormons, the handbook serves a similar purpose to a synod. It explicates beliefs and procedures that guide local leaders in a worldwide church. The handbook changes indicate that members who enter into same-sex unions, whether through marriage or cohabitation, will be subject to church discipline, which could mean loss of membership. Children whose primary residence is with a same-sex couple will not be baptized at age eight, as most Mormon children are, without special permission. Such children will be required to wait until age 18 for baptism, but then only if they accept church doctrine regarding marriage, which is that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.

Mormons Aren’t Contradicting Themselves

The new policy may seem to contradict Mormon church leaders’ recent moves that were widely regarded as gay friendly, such as church support for legislation that protects gay housing and employment rights in Utah, and a recent statement by Mormon leader and legal scholar Dallin Oaks, who sided against Kim Davis’s protest about issuing licenses for gay marriages. These actions had led many to believe the church was softening its stance against legalized marriage redefinition.

About 1,000 church members were so upset by the handbook changes that they staged a dramatic show in Salt Lake City in November, journeying there to hold a rally and tender letters of resignation to church authorities. In spite of the protests, however, the changes are in keeping with longstanding church policies toward children of polygamous families, whose minor children cannot be baptized. Out of deference to parental authority, the church also refuses to baptize other minor children without parental permission.

Mormons are law-abiding folks who nevertheless maintain community though shared belief and close-knit, faithful families. The Mormon Articles of Faith, a kind of Mormon creed, state that “we believe in honoring, sustaining and obeying the law,” while still maintaining, as most religious people do, that God’s law is different than man’s law.

Like many Christians, Mormons try to live in the world while not being of the world. Oaks’ pronouncement on Kim Davis’ protest helps members understand how to live in the world while rejecting much of what the world approves. In essence, the message is that church members should do their job, understanding that doing so does not sanction a behavior that is not compatible with church teachings. The changes to the handbook send a clear message that the Mormon understanding of marriage within the church has not changed.

Why Marriage Is So Central to Mormonism

Marriage has been central to Mormon theology from the earliest days, even before it instituted polygamy. Shortly after it was organized, the church delineated which marriages—those sanctioned by the church and performed by its priesthood bearers—were valid in the sight of God.

Some may think it is ironic that Mormons are unwilling to embrace a new understanding of marriage in light of their church’s unorthodox polygamous past. Polygamy, however, was not a new form of marriage, but rather an ancient one found in the Old Testament, which led within Mormonism to an older form of cultural and physical reproduction and regeneration.

Early Mormon leader Brigham Young, husband to over 50 wives, said, “The whole subject of the marriage relationship is not within my reach or in any other man’s reach on this earth….it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity.” Even after polygamy was abandoned at the end of the nineteenth century, Mormons maintained a reliance on family structure and connection as central to its theology.
In light of the importance of marriage to Mormon theology, it is not surprising that Mormons have totally rejected the sexual revolution. Faithful Mormons do not live together before marriage, and reserve sex for marriage.
While the Mormon divorce rate has unfortunately followed the arc of the national rate, couples married in the Mormon temple see themselves as sealed together for time and eternity, along with any children born to them. Adopted children are sealed to parents in Mormon temples so that they also participate in eternal family connections.
Far from accepting the ethos of no-fault divorce, temple divorces require special permission from leaders in Salt Lake. If redefined marriage can be seen as part of a trajectory the sexual revolution initiated, it should surprise no one that Mormons reject it, because they have rejected the entire “revolution.”

Mormons’ Holistic Beliefs about Family

The upshot of the centrality of marriage to Mormon belief and culture is that Mormons maintain a holistic theology about marriage and family. The process of meeting, falling in love, marrying, having children, raising and caring for those children, and children caring for their parents in old age are all essential aspects of an intertwined plan that leads to family and individual salvation and exaltation, while giving people a blueprint for life on earth.

Mormons believe that children need a mother and father, that their identity stems from their family and faith, that children benefit from knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and that beyond this they should also know about their ancestors. Mormons believe that contemporary innovations like third-party reproduction do not help give children a strong sense of identity and the values to live by that are so essential to their well-being.

The new handbook policies have struck some as unfair to children, as a form of punishing children for their parents’ behavior. Remember, however, that the policy serves to save children from an uncomfortable disconnect between home and church until they are old enough to figure out what path they want to follow in their own lives. It also prevents the church from drifting away from its beliefs and principles when compassion for the plight of children of same-sex attracted members would tempt adherents to compromise a belief system that is incompatible with redefined marriage.
Love and compassion are necessary to life. Jesus displayed these qualities in abundance, yet when he encountered the woman taken in sin and the woman at the well, he sought to convert them instead of condoning their sins. All through time, believers have conformed themselves to the gospel instead of conforming the gospel to the shifting sands of human desire. The gospel would not have survived without this kind of determination.
In 1995, when redefined marriage was only a blip on the horizon, the Mormon First Presidency issued “The Family, A Proclamation to the World,” in which they “solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” It goes on to reiterate the importance of family to Mormon theology and to lay out parental duties and responsibilities toward children. The proclamation has since been adopted into Mormon scripture.
In light of this, the new handbook policy should surprise no one, yet we must adhere to it with love and compassion toward all, recognizing that we are all works in progress and sinners with struggles to overcome.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Literally hard facts at the beginning of Mormonism

(by Daniel Peterson 12-3-15)

One way of explaining the Book of Mormon, if Joseph Smith’s own explanation is rejected, is to regard it as merely the product of Joseph’s subjective imagination — whether that imagination is judged to have been sincerely deceived or, for whatever motives, deceptive and dishonest.

The historical evidence, though, seems lethal to such theories. And it’s instructive to note that, while modern skeptics commonly assume that the golden plates never existed, many of Joseph’s very earliest persecutions came because some of his neighbors were completely convinced that he had them.

“These records,” Joseph later wrote, “were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness.”

Why, if he were merely pretending, go into such detail? Wouldn’t it have been easier simply to have claimed inspiration, without manufacturing ancient civilizations or claiming to possess tangible ancient artifacts? After all, as Anthony Sweat observes in his excellent chapter in the new book “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,” edited by Dennis Largey, Andrew Hedges, John Hilton III and Kerry Hull, this was how most of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received:

“Joseph Smith did not describe the coming forth of the Book of Mormon the way he described many of his revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants: as inspired words of the Lord that came to his mind and that he then dictated to a scribe. No, Joseph said the Book of Mormon came forth from a nearby hill, by removing dirt, using a lever to lift a large stone, and removing actual engraved plates and sacred interpreters for the translation of its inscriptions. The Book of Mormon didn’t just pass through Joseph’s trance-induced revelatory mind: its palpable relics passed through a clothing frock, hollowed log, cooper’s shop, linen napkin, wooden chest, fireplace hearth, and barrel of beans.”

Sweat’s article lays out some of the salient evidence by examining “multiple historical accounts of persons who interacted with actual, physical, tangible objects” that, “taken collectively,” “provide compelling evidence to the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s account of the Book of Mormon’s ancient origins.”

Such accounts don’t prove the Book of Mormon ancient, divine, or even correctly translated — no single piece or type of historical evidence can cover everything — but what Sweat terms the “indisputable physicality” of the plates and related relics goes a very long way toward establishing the plausibility of Joseph’s overall story and claim.

For example, Sweat considers the stone box in which the artifacts of the Book of Mormon were preserved on the side of the Hill Cumorah. Several witnesses, both believers and nonbelievers, apparently knew the place where it had been, and some may even have seen it. Lucy Mack Smith reported that she had seen and held both the Urim and Thummim and the breast-plate found in the box, describing both of them in strikingly concrete detail. And, if there were no “actual relics hefted and handled, touched and transported, from one place to another and by one person to another,” all the stories about such things, and about the great efforts expended to protect the plates from people seeking to steal them, represent nothing more than a charade.

Looking at the same sorts of evidence, Mormon scholar Terryl Givens has remarked of Joseph Smith, “This continual, extensive, and prolonged engagement with a tangible, grounding artifact is not compatible with a theory that makes him an inspired writer reworking the stuff of his own dreams into a product worthy of the name scripture.”

If the “keystone” of Mormonism was delivered wrapped in fabrications, regarding it as nevertheless somehow “true” becomes — to put it mildly — much more difficult. Like the bodily resurrection of Christ from death, the physicality of the Book of Mormon — recovered from a dead pre-Columbian civilization — resists attempts to treat it as merely symbol or metaphor. It forthrightly demands to be understood as literally, tangibly true. It virtually forces a sharp decision.

I strongly suggest Sweat’s summary of the available evidence to any who might be interested in pursuing this subject. Believers can be heartened, and honest skeptics should find themselves challenged.