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, October 23, 2016

The inspired plans for the Kirtland Temple

(by Daniel Peterson 10-20-16)

Doctrine and Covenants 95, a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 1, 1833, contains directions on the building of a house of worship and instruction at Kirtland, Ohio. Eventually these would result in the construction of the first temple of this dispensation, which was dedicated on March 27, 1836.

“Now here is wisdom,” it reads, “and the mind of the Lord — let the house be built, not after the manner of the world, for I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world; therefore, let it be built after the manner which I shall show unto three of you, whom ye shall appoint and ordain unto this power” (Doctrine and Covenants 95:13-14).
And,in fact, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams — who, at that time, constituted the First Presidency of what would shortly thereafter be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — saw the temple prior to its construction, in a remarkable vision. Some years afterward, when the temple was actually complete, Williams recounted what he had experienced:

“Joseph received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors Williams and Rigdon and come before the Lord, and he would show them the plan or model of the house to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance: I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us, and the makeup of this hall seems to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia.”

The journal of Truman O. Angell, who, decades later, served as the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, is our source for Williams’ reminiscence. He also mentioned it in a March 11, 1885, letter to President John Taylor:

“F. G. Williams came into the temple about the time the main hall 1st floor was ready for dedication. He was asked, how does the house look to you. He answered that it looked to him like the model he had seen. He said President Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and himself were called to come before the Lord and the model was shown them. He said the vision of the temple was thus shown them and he could not see the difference between it and the house as built” (see “The Revelations of Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants," edited by Lyndon W. Cook, Deseret Book, 1981).

A roughly contemporary non-Mormon source, otherwise rather disdainful of the design of what it called “a huge misshapen edifice,” confirms the essence of the story, as well: A letter in the Ohio Atlas newspaper, dated March 16, 1836, reports that “The pattern … was given by direct revelation from Heaven, and given to those individuals separately.”

This relatively little-known story about the Kirtland Temple is significant for at least two reasons:

First, it seems to represent a modern repetition of the experience of Moses, who, according to Exodus 25-31, 35-40, knew by revelation exactly what the Tabernacle was to look like and how it was to be built. Similar accounts have been given of subsequent temples such as the ones in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Salt Lake City, and President Gordon B. Hinckley reported a revelation on the construction of small temples that he received while driving back to the United States from the Latter-day Saint settlement at Colonia Juarez, Mexico (see "Inspiration came for smaller temples on trip to Mexico" in the LDS Church News, Aug. 1, 1998).

Second, as with so very many of Joseph Smith’s revelations, there were co-witnesses; he wasn’t alone (see "Many of Prophet's revelations were shared experiences," published on Feb. 24, 2011).

In my judgment, this fact represents a substantial challenge to critics who would dismiss Joseph Smith’s prophetic claims. Simply brushing him aside as mad or dishonest isn’t enough when other people — and more than just a few of them —corroborate his prophetic experiences.

Some critics, responding creatively if not very persuasively, have suggested that Joseph’s fellow witnesses, in their supposedly fanatical enthusiasm and because they were expected to do so, followed Joseph’s prompts and, thus, “saw” what he claimed to be seeing. In that light, it’s important to note that, according to Truman Angell’s account, Frederick G. Williams reported that he himself was the first among the members of the First Presidency to see that three-dimensional image of the future Kirtland Temple suspended above them.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hyrum Smith is an impressive witness

(by Daniel Peterson 9-29-16)

Joseph Smith’s elder brother Hyrum was clearly well regarded by his Palmyra neighbors — at least until the Smith family’s involvement in the Book of Mormon and related matters put it beyond the pale of respectability.

For instance, they elected him a school trustee in 1828. In this capacity, he and two others administered local educational affairs, managed school funds and hired teachers. At least as early as 1828, he was also a member in good standing of Mount Moriah Masonic Lodge No. 112, signifying that he had been nominated and unanimously approved by prior lodge members as someone whose good character would reflect well upon the organization, according to Richard Lloyd Anderson’s 1981 book “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses.”

A year after his election as school trustee, this respected resident became a witness to the Book of Mormon. Thereafter, his testimony and his loyalty to his younger brother were impressively consistent. For example, perhaps responding to suggestions that the experience of the Eight Witnesses was merely “spiritual” and visionary, Hyrum insisted during an 1838 speech on its literal reality (see “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses”).

“He said that he had but two hands and two eyes,” Sally Parker remembered in a letter written in August 1838 and it included in “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses.”. “He said he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands.”

And, in December 1839, Hyrum himself wrote of his sufferings in Missouri, where he had been arrested in the fall of 1838 and then imprisoned in the ironically named Liberty Jail from early December to April: “I had been abused and thrust into a dungeon, and confined for months on account of my faith, and the ‘testimony of Jesus Christ.’ However I thank God that I felt a determination to die rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast. And I can assure my beloved brethren that I was enabled to bear as strong a testimony, when nothing but death presented itself, as ever I did in my life” (see “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses”).

And his private statements to family were consistent, too. For example, Hyrum’s brother-in-law, Joseph Fielding, reported in an 1841 letter, also included in “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” that “My sister bears testimony that her husband has seen and handled the plates.”

Finally, in June 1844, Hyrum Smith sealed his testimony at Carthage Jail with his blood.

(Significantly, the Greek word “martyr” means “witness.”) On the morning Hyrum left for Carthage, he expected to die. And, with that expectation, he turned for comfort to Ether 12:36-38 in the Book of Mormon, which states:

“And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments are clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I … bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.”

According to those who were in the prison with Joseph and Hyrum just before their martyrdom, “During the evening the Patriarch Hyrum Smith read and commented upon extracts from the Book of Mormon, on the imprisonments and deliverance of the servants of God for the Gospel’s sake. Joseph bore a powerful testimony to the guards of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Gospel, the administration of angels, and that the kingdom of God was again established upon the earth” (see “History of the Church,” vol. 6:600).

On the morning of their murder, June 27, 1844, “Both Joseph and Hyrum bore a faithful testimony to the Latter-day work, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon” (see “History of the Church,” vol. 6:610.)

Before sunset that evening, the mob had done its work. “The testators are now dead,” wrote John Taylor, announcing their martyrdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:4-5), “and their testament is in force.”

Given his excellent reputation, his consistency even under great trials, his obvious sincerity and his faithfulness unto death, Hyrum Smith is a very credible witness.


Monday, October 3, 2016

What pioneers wrote of their impressions of the Prophet Joseph Smith

(by Susan Evans McCloud 9-29-16)

Those who were privileged to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith in the flesh were universal in their responses to the experience.

President Lorenzo Snow, who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man in Kirtland, Ohio, was just one witness.

“I heard the Prophet (Joseph Smith) discourse upon the grandest of subjects,” he said, which was recorded in “Remembering Joseph,” by Mark L. McConkie. “At times he was filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking as with the voice of an archangel, and filled with the power of God; his whole person shone and his face was lightened until it appeared as the whiteness of the driven snow.”

George Spilsbury was baptized in England and later became a member of the Nauvoo Legion, seeming to expand on this same theme.

“In his preaching I have heard him (Joseph) quote scriptures in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and German," he said (see "Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith," by Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus). "He was a great man — a statesman philosopher, also a revealer of many things in philosophy and astronomy.”

Bathsheba W. Smith, a convert from West Virginia, married the Prophet’s cousin, George A. Smith, and became the fourth general president of the Relief Society.

She left a lively description of Joseph. “The Prophet was a handsome man — splendid looking, a large man, tall and fair," she wrote (see “They Knew the Prophet,” compiled by Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus). "He had a nice complexion. His eyes were blue, and his hair a golden brown, and very pretty.

“My first impressions were that he was an extraordinary man, a man of great penetration; was different from any other man I ever saw; had the most heavenly countenance; was genial, affable and kind; and looked the soul of honor and integrity.”

Elizabeth B. Pratt crossed the ocean from England as a young girl, arriving in Nauvoo in November 1841.

“When I was first introduced to the Prophet, he held my hand and said, 'God bless you.' There was such an influence with his words I wondered how anyone could doubt his being a prophet,” she wrote in an article in 1890 in “The Young Women’s Journal” that was published in "Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith."

Perhaps Joseph knew this young convert would need that word of blessing, for Elizabeth wrote, “My father only stayed nine weeks in the church. He apostatized and moved away to Warsaw with the family. … I stayed on the ship Zion which has brought me safely thus far on my journey.”

She added, “We would meet to worship on the Sabbath in a large bowery where he (Joseph) sometimes addressed the assembly for two to three hours. The Saints were rapt in profound attention by the words of inspiration that fell from his lips.”

Every time Joseph Smith spoke — to individuals or to the Saints as a whole — he taught something. Every act of his, every word, was a blessing to others — for so hundreds of the people who knew him testified.

“He was visited constantly by angels, he had vision after vision … that he might comprehend the great and holy calling that God had bestowed upon him. In this respect he stands unique. Think of what he passed through! Think of his afflictions, and think of his dauntless character!” said George Q. Cannon, who knew Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and was later first counselor in the First Presidency to President John Taylor, President Wilford Woodruff and President Snow (see "Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith"). “He was filled with integrity to God, with such integrity as was not known among men. He was like an angel of God among them.”

“The Prophet’s voice was like the thunders of heaven, yet his language was meek and his instructions edified much,” wrote Joseph Lee Robinson in “The Journal of Joseph Lee Robinson.” “There was a power and majesty that attended his words that we never beheld in any man before.”

People heard him talk to God in prayer. They received blessings under his hand. They heard him preach and prophesy. They saw him teach, inspire and support women. They saw him play tenderly with their children, they saw him direct and defend their youth; upon many occasions they saw him weep. And with the power of his own humility and goodness, many times the Saints saw the Prophet forgive.

After years of faithful service and the blessings of a personal relationship with the Prophet, Parley P. Pratt fell victim to the raging spirit of apostasy that swept through Kirtland following the dedication of the temple there.

He records in “Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt": “It seemed as if the very powers of darkness which war against the Saints were let loose upon me.”

When Parley criticized the Prophet to John Taylor — whom he had helped teach the gospel — his friend’s reply had the power to awaken his senses. “If the work was true six months ago, it is true today," said President Taylor in “John Taylor,” by Francis M. Gibbon. "If Joseph Smith was then a prophet, he is now a prophet.”

"I went to brother Joseph Smith in tears, and, with a broken heart and contrite spirit," Pratt recorded. "He frankly forgave me — prayed for me — and blessed me.”

Gilbert Belnap, a convert from Canada, who later served as a bishop in Utah, wrote this of Joseph Smith: “While I was standing before his penetrating gaze, he seemed to read the very recesses of my heart — I gazed with wonder at his person and listened with delight to the sound of his voice. My very destiny seemed to be interwoven with his” (see “Autobiography of Gilbert Belnap").

Today, as ever, the gospel will go forward. As George Q. Cannon testified: “It is indestructible, for it is the work of God. And knowing that it is the eternal work of God, we know that Joseph Smith, who established it, was a Prophet holy and pure” (see “Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet”).