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.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

What does John 20 reveal about why John wrote his Gospel?

(by Taylor Halverson 6-27-19)

Like the other New Testament Gospels, which were written as ancient biographies of Jesus, John devotes the majority of his text to the words, deeds and events of Jesus’ life leading to his crucifixion and stunningly unexpected resurrection.

John 20 records that Jesus appeared to his disciples giving them peace, assurance and knowledge that he truly had returned. He calmed the tears of beloved Mary. He showed himself to the disciples, breathing the Holy Ghost to them. And he empowered them with undeniable knowledge of his resurrection when he let them touch his resurrected body. Thomas, speaking for all, declared in grateful humility, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

For the millions and billions of us not blessed with the opportunity to be in the intimate group of disciples who saw Jesus soon after his resurrection, Jesus reassuringly says to all of us, through his words to Thomas, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

How can we believe when we have not seen?

This is the why of John’s Gospel!

After recording these glorious episodes of Jesus’ post-resurrection interactions with his disciples, John reveals why he wrote his Gospel: that we too might believe.

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these (signs) are written (i.e., the Gospel of John), 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, emphasis added).

If you were writing, what would you write about? Would you choose to write to convince people that Jesus is the Christ? That is why John wrote. John wanted his readers to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

If you were trying to convince someone, through your writing, that Jesus is the Christ, how would you do it? Of all the things that Jesus said, which specific words of Jesus would you record and why? Of all the things that Jesus did, which deeds would you put to paper to endure in the memory of readers across the ages? What signs, symbols or tokens would you make use of to point someone to the reality that Jesus is the Christ?

What is a sign?

The underlying Greek word for “sign” is semeion, which is a sign, symbol, token, message, miracle or wonder. A “sign” or semeion is something that stands in place of a larger reality. A “sign” or semeion points to truths greater than itself. A “sign” or semeion is a token that represents something else, that draws the mind to see anew.

I’ve emphasized the word “signs” in the quote at the beginning of this article because of its significance to why John wrote his Gospel.

John used “signs” to unmistakably point the way to Jesus.

John used “signs” to unmistakably signal that Jesus is the Way.

What is a token?
Let’s pause for a moment on the word token. I love this word. So beautiful and simple. Recently I learned that the word token comes from the same root word as teacher. Both teacher and token mean “to show, to present, to point out, to explain, to demonstrate, to declare (to make clear).”

What does a teacher do? They point and signal to greater realities. A teacher lifts the sights and perspectives of learners. A teacher delivers tokens, or symbols, to learners of greater things yet to come, of more beautiful realities to experience.

So the signs we see in the Gospel of John are teachers to us, tokens that beckon us forward to taste of the fruit of God’s love, much like Lehi did in his dream of the tree of life. Lehi was a teacher, who pointed the way, who showed the way, who gave signs of the love of God so that people could know for themselves that Jesus is their Savior.

If we explore the rest of the Gospel of John looking for signs, or tokens, that Jesus is the Son of God, we find in abundance.

Signs in the Gospel of John

John guides us by using the word semeion (“sign”) on seven occasions in his Gospel.
Sign 1: Changing the water to wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11)
Sign 2: Healing the government official’s son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54)
Sign 3: Healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15)
Sign 4: Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:5-14)
Sign 5: Jesus miraculously walking on water on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-24)
Sign 6: Jesus heals the blind man (John 9:1-7)
Sign 7: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45)
If we read the Gospel of John through the lens of “How does this Gospel make the case that Jesus is the Son of God?” (whether or not John used the Greek word semeion in the passage) we would find a multitude of witnesses. And we know that John could have shared many more signs of who Jesus is, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this (Gospel)” (John 20:30, emphasis added).
Here are some additional signs from the Gospel of John that I think of as witnesses that Jesus is the Christ:
  • John the Baptist witnesses that Jesus is the Messiah (John 3:27-30).
  • Jesus is compared to John the Baptist, who never did any signs but was considered a true man of God (John 10:40-42).
  • Jesus is crucified on the cross (John 19:16-30).
  • Jesus is resurrected (John 20:1-17).
  • Jesus helps the disciples miraculously catch a large quantity of fish (John 21:1-8)
What should we do?

All the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are beautiful witnesses for Jesus Christ. What makes John’s Gospel so compelling is that he clearly tells us his purpose in writing “But these (signs and tokens) are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31). I see John’s thesis statement as an invitation for us to read again more closely, to look for the clues and evidence that John has shared in his Gospel. And most importantly, I see John inviting all of us to look for signs all around us that Jesus is the Christ.
So …
When you read John’s Gospel, what signs or tokens do you see that Jesus is the Christ?
And when you reflect on your life and the world around you, what are the signs or tokens you see that witness of Jesus?


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain

A couple of bulls from the Jose Escolar ranch running in Pamplona, Spain, July 9th, 2019

Check out the guy in the upper left hand corner of the photo wearing a University of Utah t-shirt.

This isn't the first time I've seen photos or videos of someone with a University or Utah t-shirt in Pamplona, I imagine there is probably a good number of former missionaries that served in Spain that make the trek to Pamplona every year.

However, what I would like to know is if there have been missionaries that have ran with the bulls while on their mission.....

Now that would be a tale to tell.

Jeffrey R. Holland quote

Not everything in life is so black and white, but the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and its keystone role in our religion seem to be exactly that. Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, a prophet who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from Moroni’s lips, and eventually received at his hands a set of ancient gold plates that he then translated by the gift and power of God, or else he did not. And if he did not, he would not be entitled to the reputation of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, nor would he be entitled to be considered a great teacher, a quintessential American religious leader, or the creator of great devotional literature. If he had lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he would certainly be none of these. . . .  If Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient origin, then I would move heaven and earth to meet the “real” nineteenth-century author. After one hundred and fifty years, no one can come up with a credible alternative candidate, but if the book were false, surely there must be someone willing to step forward — if no one else, at least the descendants of the “real” author — claiming credit for such a remarkable document and all that has transpired in its wake. After all, a writer that can move millions can make millions. Shouldn’t someone have come forth then or now to cashier the whole phenomenon?

“Exceedingly white and strange”

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog0

Oliver B. Huntington (1823-1907), who was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1836, doesn’t always strike me as a completely reliable source.  I know of other accounts, however, that parallel the Oliver Huntington reminiscences below, which are included in Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2009):

I conversed with one old lady, 88 years old, who had lived with David Whitmer when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were translating the Book of Mormon in an upper room of the house.  She was only a girl and saw them coming down from the translating room several times when they looked so exceedingly white and strange that she inquired of Mrs. Whitmer the cause of their unusual appearance.  But Mrs. Whitmer was unwilling to tell the hired girl the true cause, as it was a sacred holy event connected with a holy sacred work which was opposed and persecuted by nearly everyone who heard of it.

The girl felt so strangely as seeing so strange and unusual appearances, she finally told Mrs. Whitmer that she would not stay with her unless she knew the cause of the strange looks of those men.  Sister Whitmer than told her what the men were doing in the room above, and that the power of God was so great in the room that they could hardly endure it.  At times angels were in the room in their glory which nearly consumed them.
This satisfied the girl and opened the way to embracing the gospel.  She is the mother of Stephen Bunnel, and the Bunnel family of Provo.  (121-122)
I know of at least one other source for this basic story — although, so far as I’m aware, neither it nor any other source mentions an almost unendurable “power of God . . . in the room” or the presence in the room of consuming “angels . . . in their glory.”  Those details may be historically accurate, of course, but there’s also a good chance that they represent the ever-more-spectacular growth of an oral legend or even Oliver Huntington’s own conscious or unconscious embroidering of the tale.

However, I’ve accumulated a considerable number of independent personal reminiscences from a variety self-described eyewitnesses that describe the Prophet Joseph Smith’s face as “glowing” or “luminous” or “transparent” at or near times of revelation.  Weird, yes.  But that’s what they say.

And, if they’re accurate, that alone would serve to take Joseph’s revelation out of the realm of the quotidian and the mundane.


On the Freedom of Religion

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

In the vigorous debates that followed the writing of the proposed Constitution of the United States of America, it rapidly became apparent that, unless there were clear written limitations on the power of the federal government, the document might not be ratified.  This is why the so-called “Bill of Rights” — made up of the first ten amendments to the Constitution — was added to the document.

Here is the full text of the very first of the ten amendments that form the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Please note that the very first topic mentioned in the very first amendment is religious liberty.  That, I suspect, was no chance or coincidental matter.


(other links about religious freedom as well)

Communications from the Dead?

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

Other accounts speak of knowledge being conveyed that only the dead person could have known.  One of the Guggenheims’ informants, for instance, relates a story in which her deceased husband told her the location of some badly needed cash.[1]  The ancient Roman statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (d. 43 B.C.) recounts an anecdote about a murder that was solved when the victim appeared during the dream of a friend and supplied the details of the crime.[2]  A very interesting subcategory of such narratives involves a deceased friend or family member warning of danger or of an unrecognized health threat.[3]  A friend at the university where I teach tells, for example, of her two-years-dead mother (whom I also knew) coming to her in a dream—the only time she has ever dreamed of her mother—and telling her “You have cancer.”  Although my friend had recently been tested and found to be fine, new tests confirmed the diagnosis, and early detection saved her life.[4]  A remarkable instance of much the same thing was related to Osis and Haraldsson.  According to the account given to them, a seven-year-old boy had been hospitalized in critical condition with a mastoid infection.  Unfortunately, he was rebellious.  He refused to take the necessary medications, and resisted the nurses at every turn.  Suddenly, though, he had an experience, as he believed, with his deceased uncle, who had worked as a physician on that very hospital floor and to whom he had been close.
The boy insisted that Uncle Charlie came, sat beside him, and told him to take his medicine.  He also told the boy that he would get well.  The boy was very sure that Uncle Charlie had sat in the chair and told him these things.  After this experience, the patient was cooperative.  He was not excited, and he took the deceased doctor’s “visit” as a matter of course.  The next morning, the boy was much better—a dramatic change had occurred in his condition.[5]
The phenomenon of “after-death communications” is surprisingly widespread, even among unbelievers and skeptics.[6]  
According to a survey conducted by the prominent priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley under the auspices of the National Opinion Research Center, 42% of American adults claim to have been in contact, in some way or another, with someone who has died.  The figures are even higher in certain subcategories of the population.  Studies suggest that somewhere between 50% and 74.4% of widows claim to have had some such experience.[7]  A lower but still significant figure has been found in surveys of the general European population, many of whom claim to have been fully awake during their encounter, unaffected by drugs, and, sometimes, not alone in their perception of the presence of a deceased person.[8]  Such results cannot simply be waved aside.

Still, despite their commonness, and despite the fact that many stories of after-death communication involve multiple witnesses, they remain anecdotal.[9] 


David O. McKay quote

From a letter written by President David O. McKay to BYU’s president at the time, Ernest L. Wilkinson:

It is a part of our “Mormon” theology that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired; that our Republic came into existence through wise men raised up for that very purpose. We believe it is the duty of the members of the Church to see that this Republic is not subverted either by any sudden or constant erosion of those principles which gave this Nation its birth.

In these days when there is a special trend among certain groups, including members of faculties of universities, to challenge the principles upon which our country has been founded and the philosophy of our Founding Fathers, I hope that Brigham Young University will stand as a bulwark in support of the principles of government as vouchsafed to us by our Constitutional Fathers.


What made the first apostles such fearless preachers?

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

Later this morning, I’ll be teaching a Gospel Doctrine lesson on Acts 1-5.  In that context, a column that I published in the Deseret News back on 17 November 2011 is directly relevant:

Virtually all historians, of all religious opinions, agree that Jesus was crucified. The New Testament says that he died just prior to Passover.

One of his inner circle of 12 apostles betrayed him, nine fled at his arrest, and another — Peter — pretended not to know him. The last, John, seems to have watched events unfold from a safe distance (Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27). Thereafter, as prominent followers of a convicted and executed “criminal,” they went into hiding.

Only a few weeks later, though, the 11 surviving apostles were transformed. They even appointed a willing replacement for Judas.

What happened?

According to Acts 1:2-9, the risen Jesus trained his apostles for 40 days during a series of post-resurrection appearances and then ascended into heaven. Less than two weeks later, they began their first public preaching in connection with the feast of Pentecost, seven weeks after Passover and Easter Sunday (Acts 2).
The content of their first preaching is significant. Boldly speaking for the other apostles, Peter flatly identified the residents of Jerusalem as the killers of Jesus, testifying that God had raised Jesus from the dead and identifying himself and his colleagues as witnesses to these claims (Acts 2:23-24, 32). At this point, if Peter’s assertion were false, critics could easily have exhumed Jesus’ body and ended the nonsense. But, in fact, Luke tells us that mass conversions followed the apostles’ testimony (2:41, 47).

A few days later, Peter and John were in the courtyard of the temple, again openly accusing the people of Jerusalem of having murdered Jesus (3:13-15), testifying that God had raised Jesus from the dead (3:15, 26), and identifying themselves as “witnesses” to these facts (3:15).
The chief priests and Sadducees were understandably threatened by these public challenges, and, so, the two apostles were arrested and brought before Annas, Caiaphas and other members of the city’s elite (4:1-7) — the very men who, less than two months before, had engineered the execution of Jesus.

Without hesitation, Peter testified of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Uncertain how to respond to this fearless defiance, the chief priests decided to “threaten” Peter and John, and to order them to speak no further about Jesus (4:17-18) — to which the two apostles replied that they would not obey the order (4:19-20). Baffled as to what to do next, Annas and Caiaphas and the others simply threatened them again and let them go (4:21).

But the little Christian movement continued its public preaching to the extent that, exasperated and “filled with indignation,” the high priest and the Sadducees had the apostles arrested and jailed. However, they were miraculously delivered from prison, and immediately proceeded to the temple to preach still more (5:17-25).

So they were arrested yet again and hauled once more before the high priest and his council, where they were reminded that they had been ordered not to teach about Jesus (5:26-28).
And, yet again, the apostles were defiant and unintimidated. “We ought to obey God rather than men,” explained Peter (5:29). You killed Jesus, he said, but God raised him from the dead “and we are his witnesses of these things” (see 5:30-32).

At this point, according to Acts, the council considered killing them. But a prominent rabbi named Gamaliel stood up and strongly advised against that. So the council had them beaten yet again, and ordered them, yet again, to be quiet about Jesus (see 5:33-40).

“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (5:41-42).

Some will argue that this account is fiction, inspiring but wholly mythical. But its author, the evangelist Luke, seems to have been a well-educated and careful historian who based his narrative upon eyewitness interviews (Luke 1:1-4). And the New Testament doesn’t shrink from casting early church leaders in a negative light when appropriate; it feels no apparent need to glorify them by falsifying history. Furthermore, given the remarkable and well-documented growth of earliest Christianity, something very like what Luke reports must necessarily have happened.
So what transformed the fearful, cowering apostles of Passover weekend into fearless preachers of Christ’s resurrection less than two months later? There is a very obvious possible answer. Everything hinges on it.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

The martyrdom of the Prophet and the patriarch

June 27 marks the 175th anniversary of the day when the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, the church patriarch, were killed at the Carthage Jail in 1844. A statue situated immediately to the west of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple commemorates the journey they took to Carthage. The Prophet stayed at the Hamilton House hotel in Carthage the night of June 24-25. The next two nights were spent in the jail.

Along with the jail itself, several documents and artifacts from that event are still extant. These include the Prophet’s hymnal which, according to tradition, was used by Elder John Taylor when he sang a hymn in the jail that day. A copy of the Book of Mormon, presumably belonging to Hyrum, was used by the Prophet shortly before the attack at the jail (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:4-5).

A watch carried by Elder Taylor and a cane owned by Stephen Markham have also survived since that day. There is a surviving bill for services rendered, dated June 27, 1844, and signed by the Prophet’s wife, Emma Hale Smith. Evidently, this statement was issued on behalf of the Nauvoo House for the party accompanying Illinois Gov. Thomas Ford who visited Nauvoo the day of the martyrdom.

For many years, the shirt Hyrum was wearing when he was killed was held and displayed by Elder Eldred G. Smith, patriarch to the church.

In 1903, the Carthage Jail was acquired by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum, the patriarch who died there. It is now a historic site owned and operated by the church. Visitors are welcome, and admission is free.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

From the Reign of Judges Facebook page

The Book of Mormon, which Reign of Judges is based on, is a fantastically unique piece of literature for many reasons worth mentioning but for two reasons worth emphasizing. First, the Book obviously exists so its realty invites sincere, honest inquisition. Second, although It must be confessed the Book of Mormon’s authenticity cannot be fully proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it also cannot be fully disproven applying the same standa...rd. For every negative challenge brought against it there exist several stubborn facts that frankly seem to support it. Hence, the Book of Mormon inadvertently becomes the perfect object to test one’s faith—to discover, through faith and total reliance on the God of truth, whether it is or is not authentic. And because of what the Book of Mormon purports to be—“Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, “the most correct of any book on earth”, and a book that will even judge the world (together with the Bible and other sacred records had among the nations)—because of these audacious claims, whether founded of unfounded, the test of the Book of Mormon’s authenticity should rank among the most important pursuits of all humanity. For, if the Book of Mormon is authentic, it logically follows (as hard as this pill, for some, may be to swallow) that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet called by Almighty God who saw what he said he saw. And if that is true, then what does it say about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? So, I put it to you, have you yet read and prayerfully studied the Book of Mormon? If not, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. After all, it is the fourth most influential book in American literature.

Come on, your at least a little curious.

Back the first North American (Book of Mormon) war epic set in the Pre-Columbian New World:

Watch our concept short film online:

Read the Book of Mormon free online:…/scrip…/bofm/title-page

Monday, June 17, 2019

Why did Jesus suffer in an olive garden called Gethsemane?

(by Taylor Halverson 6-12-19)

The four New Testament Gospels focus the bulk of their narratives of the life of Jesus on the last week of his life, often called the Passion Week. As I have written previously (here and here), the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke were all written following the pattern of ancient biography.

In an ancient biography, writers were most concerned with portraying the key emulatable, laudable and representative characteristics of the life of the hero. Ancient biographies typically did not narrate the details of the hero’s life, but rather focused on a few key representative life events, especially on the events leading up to the death of the hero.

The New Testament Gospels follow this pattern, particularly Mark, Matthew and Luke. The majority of their words are focused on the last week of Jesus' life, with special attention to how he died and his unexpected and triumphant resurrection.

Each of the four Gospels records that Jesus suffered excruciating pain in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why did he suffer so in that location? What can we learn about Jesus and his love for us by his choice in where he suffered?

Why suffer in a garden?

When God created the world and pronounced everything good, He placed Adam and Eve in a garden with a command to care for it and to avoid eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 1-3). As is well-known, Adam and Eve, beguiled by the devil, ate of the forbidden fruit and were cast out of God’s presence, removed from the garden, and sent to toil and suffer in a fallen world.

The word “beguiled” means “to be fully deceived.” Adam and Eve were like innocent children tricked into disobedience. For another example of the use of “beguiled” in the Old Testament, see the story of Patriarch Jacob, who was unknowingly tricked and beguiled by his father-in-law Laban in Genesis 29:25.

After the Fall, God made covenants with his prophets (such as Abraham) and with his chosen people (the children of Israel) to prepare them and the world for redemption from the effects of losing God’s presence in the holy garden. These Godly covenants were often enacted or re-enacted on mountain tops (symbolic temples) or in temples (symbolic gardens) to represent returning to the garden-like state God had created in the beginning.

Since on our own we could never return to God’s garden, we needed a mediator, a bridge builder, a garden keeper with the key to the door of the garden, to bring us to the garden and let us in.

Jesus suffered in a garden so that he could bring us all back into the garden of God’s presence.

Why Gethsemane?

Of all the gardens that Jesus could have suffered in, and there were many surrounding Jerusalem and in the land of Israel, why did Jesus choose Gethsemane?

There are many beautiful and symbolic reasons. I’ll discuss a few below.

First, we know that Jesus would descend below all things.

The Garden of Gethsemane was at the bottom of the valley between the holy city of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives from where Jesus later ascended into heaven. Symbolically, the Garden of Gethsemane was a low spot near Jerusalem.
Second, the Kidron brook ran nearby.

This brook helped wash away the blood of sacrificial animals from the temple (one of the drains from the temple may have run down to this spot). Jesus, as the true sacrificial lamb, may have had some of his blood washed away at the Kidron brook near the Garden of Gethsemane. During Passover, thousands of lambs would have been sacrificed at the temple. The blood and water that ran down from the temple would have created a dark, murky brook. In fact, the word “Kidron” means “to be dark,” possibly because of the sacrificial blood that ran in its course.

Third, the meaning of Gethsemane is “oil press,” which is highly significant and symbolic of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

The Garden of Gethsemane is where olives were pressed into oil. Olive oil, in my opinion, is the best material symbol to represent the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was pressed with the extreme pressure of his suffering for all of us that his olive oil, that is, his blood, oozed from his pores. When pressed with extreme pressure, olive oil oozes out of the pores of olives in blood-red droplets.

I first experienced this stunning fact when I was a student at the BYU Jerusalem Center some years ago. We had harvested olives from the center’s olive trees and prepared to make oil that we could consecrate for priesthood purposes.

The day of pressing the olives to extract the oil, I walked to the pressing station. The olives were being put under tremendous pressure between a pressure screw and the beautiful white Jerusalem limestone. As I drew near, my breath was taken away. I thought I saw blood pouring over the white limestone rock, as if a sacrificial victim was giving its life away. I was so surprised. I had no idea that olive oil initially emerges from the olive blood-red before it turns the beautiful golden green we are so familiar with.

Gethsemane is Jesus' oil press

In an instant, the symbolic reality of olive oil seared into my soul. I understood why kings and queens, prophets and prophetesses, priests and priestesses anciently (and today) were anointed with oil. More significantly, I immediately understood why we use olive oil in priesthood blessings: we have faith in the atoning blood of Jesus to heal us spiritually and physically. The symbol of his atoning blood is placed on our bodies as a real, present, physical reminder and invitation to trust him and to trust his saving blood.

Jesus could have suffered anywhere. But he chose the beautiful and symbolically significant garden of the oil press, Gethsemane, to invite us, and prepare the way for us, to return to God’s heavenly kingdom.

For more on olive tree horticulture and the making of olive oil anciently, together with fabulous visual images, see this website by BYU-Idaho Religion Professor Bruce Satterfield, Olive Tree Horticulture online at


What does it mean that 'only he who now letteth will let'?

(by Daniel Peterson 6-13-19)

Among the scriptural verses that Latter-day Saints often cite in order to explain their belief in a universal apostasy from the ancient Christian church is a passage that, in the King James Bible, is frankly rather obscure:

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
But what does it mean to say that “only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way”?
The problem in understanding those words derives from the complex history of the English verb “to let.” (Its association with “leases” and “letting” apartments is an entirely different subject.)

In common contemporary English usage, “to let” means “to permit” or “to allow.” We “let” a worker take a day off, for example. We “let” someone into our house, or “let” somebody “get away with it.”
This has evidently been a common use of the verb since the 10th century.

However, the verb “to let” has also been used since even earlier, in the ninth century, to mean exactly the opposite: “to hinder.” “By heaven,” says Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet, drawing his sword when friends attempt to prevent him from following after what seems to be his father’s ghost (Hamlet I.iv.90), “I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me.” We might, today, misread this as “I’ll kill whoever permits me to do so,” but what he’s really saying is “I’ll kill whoever tries to stop me.”

This meaning of the term is rare in modern English, but it can still be found in certain contexts. The sometimes odd and archaic vocabulary of tennis, for instance, uses the word “let” when the tennis ball hits the net during a serve.

And in legal language, which often preserves Latin and other linguistic fossils, the term continues to be employed in this old sense. Since perhaps the 16th century, for example, people have been said to enjoy the use of a possession or of the right to vote “without let or hindrance.” (The phrase also occurs in Mark Twain’s 1881 novel “The Prince and the Pauper,” which deliberately seeks to employ archaic language appropriate to its setting in the mid-16th century.)

How is it possible that “to let” can mean both “to permit” and “to hinder”? The explanation is to be found in the word’s medieval roots. Our modern verb “to let” comes to us from two quite distinct Anglo-Saxon verbs: “laetan” meant “to permit,” while “lettan” meant “to prevent.” The fact that they both came to be spelled “let” is a confusing coincidence.

It is, however, in the second and more archaic of these meanings that the term is used in 2 Thessalonians, as is plainly illustrated in the Revised Standard Version translation:

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition. … Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 5-8).

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reading of the passage would suggest that Paul recognized that the apostasy was already underway. Moreover, he knew that the force restraining it — inspired prophetic and apostolic leadership — would not remain on earth forever. Once the apostles were gone, apostasy would continue unrestrained until the Savior’s second coming. Properly understood, Paul’s comment affirms both a looming apostasy and the vital importance of apostolic authority.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

How the dedication of the Fortaleza Brazil Temple by Elder Soares became a historic event

Truman Madsen passage about temple worship

Truman Madsen, who died in 2009 and whom I greatly miss, changed the direction of my life at a crucial stage, when I was a high school student in California.  I probably would not have attended Brigham Young University absent a particular encounter with him.  Eventually, he became a faculty colleague, and then a friend.  In the first half of 1993, when I taught for nearly six months on the faculty of BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, Truman was serving there as the Center’s director.

Here are two passages from a devotional address titled “Foundations of Temple Worship” that Truman Madsen delivered at the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University in October 2004

President McKay . . . spoke about the temple. I’ll spare you the details except for the core statement that I have cherished, and which bent, as it were, the twig in me, which has grown and grown ever since.

He said, “Brothers and sisters, I believe there are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the eternal presence. If our young people could only glimpse it, it would be the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives.” I resolved that day, because of what happened in my heart, always to raise my voice in testifying of the temple and never of criticizing it, to carry out as best I could my dream of finding a queen who would share in me the total conviction that the temple is ours, made for us and prepared for us, and that out of that could come a family who would love the Lord Jesus Christ as nothing else in the universe.

The fulness of truth, and the fulness of the Holy Ghost, and the fulness of the priesthood, and the fulness of the glory of the Father are all phrases that are ocurrent in connection with the temple, and cannot be received anywhere else, nowhere else on the planet. You cannot receive the fulness that the Lord has for you without coming through the temple and having the temple come through you. 


Returning, yet again, to the 1832 acount of the First Vision

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

Once more, on the First Vision

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog0

I just arrived this afternoon from Tel Aviv and Paris, and have, frankly, spent too much time since then in a state of profound but very pleasant unconsciousness.  But it seems that I’m under vigorous attack somewhere as having lied (in the 31 May 2018 Deseret News column that I just now reposted) about accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

In the demonology of certain critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — especially of a relative handful of embittered apostates, who cheer each other on in such things — accusations of dishonesty are commonly the weapon of first resort; disagreement with their view of disputed topics must rest, ultimately, on either ignorance or, where a claim of ignorance is implausible, on deliberate deception.  I suppose that I should be flattered that I typically fall into the latter category.  (The very first email that I received upon landing at the Salt Lake City airport today announced that my integrity is now in doubt because of my stance on the First Vision — as if, in such circles, I had ever been considered to possess a shred of integrity in the first place.)

My (latest) crime against decency, honesty, and truth is my assertion, in that year-old column for the Deseret News, that believing Latter-day Saint scholars and leaders have known about, and have openly spoken and written about, the various First Vision accounts for at least fifty years.

However, I stand by that assertion, and here are just four examples of the evidence on which I would rely to defend it:

Paul R. Cheesman, “An analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith’s Early Visions” (Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University 1965).
This thesis contained the first publication of the 1832 account.

James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ’First Vision’ in Mormon Thought.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 1 No. 3 (1966): 29–46.

Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. 9 (Spring 1969): 275-94.
This article contains the text of the 1832, Cowdery 1834, Nov. 9,1835, November 14, 1835, 1838, and 1842 (Wentworth) versions.

James B. Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. What do we learn from them?” Improvement Era 73.4 (April 1970): 4-13.

In addition to the article itself, a chart appears comparing the following versions: 1832, 1835, 1838, Pratt 1840, Hyde 1842, Wentworth, NY Spectator 1843, Neibaur 1843.

Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision. The First Vision in its Historical Context (Bookcraft 1971; 2nd edition, revised and enlarged 1980)

For further information, see

LDS-authored publications (1910-1968)”
LDS-authored publications (1910-1968)”

I’m also being branded a liar because of my declaration, in that 31 May 2018 Deseret News column, that there’s been no scandal and no suppression of the variant accounts of the First Vision.

I stand by that statement, as well — and particularly when referring to the past fifty years.

Is it possible that Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who headed up the then very small and non-professional office of the Church Historian and Recorder from 1921-1970 — a position that never in those days entailed the production of academic historiography — “sat on” one or more unpublished First Vision accounts?  Yes, it is.  I’ve heard some assertions to that effect, but I no longer recall the details, such as they were, and I would need to research a bit to be sure of the facts (if, indeed, it is possible to be so).  Since the mid- to late 1960s, however — which is to say, just as I said, for the past fifty years — there can be no serious, plausible claim that the Church has suppressed the non-canonical accounts of the First Vision.

The background is important:  Really solid academic historical writing in the Church can only really be said to have begun to flourish with the rapid expansion of Brigham Young University following World War Two and with the founding of BYU Studies in 1959, of the Mormon History Association in 1965, and of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 1966.  Younger people today probably don’t realize how sparse the venues were, and how rare the relevant scholars were, in the much smaller and more rural and poorer Church of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.  Once trained scholars were available and outlets existed for sharing their research, things began to take off.

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

I think it appropriate to share, again, a column that I first published in the 9 February 2012 edition of the Deseret News:

Decades ago, I attended a gathering where the late Stanley Kimball, a professor of history at Southern Illinois University and president of the Mormon History Association, spoke. His remarks have stuck in my mind ever since. (If anybody out there knows where a written version of the speech can be found, I would be delighted to see it.)Kimball explained what he called the “three levels” of Mormon history, which he termed Levels A, B, and C. (Given my own background in philosophy, I might have chosen Hegel’s terminology instead: “thesis,” “antithesis” and “synthesis.”)

Level A, he said, is the Sunday School version of the church and its history. Virtually everything connected with the church on Level A is obviously good and true and harmonious. Members occasionally make mistakes, perhaps, but leaders seldom, if ever, do. It’s difficult for somebody on Level A to imagine why everybody out there doesn’t immediately recognize the obvious truth of the gospel, and opposition to the church seems flatly satanic.

Level B — what I call the “antithesis” to Level A’s “thesis” — is perhaps most clearly seen in anti-Mormon versions of church history. According to many hostile commentators, everything that Level A says is good and true and harmonious turns out actually to be evil and false and chaotic. Leaders are deceitful and evil, the church’s account of its own story is a lie, and, some extreme anti-Mormons say, even the general membership often (typically?) misbehaves very badly.

But one doesn’t need to read anti-Mormon propaganda in order to be exposed to elements of Level B that can’t quite be squared with an idealized portrait of the Restoration. Whether new converts or born in the covenant, maturing members of the church will inevitably discover, sooner or later, that other Saints, including leaders, are fallible and sometimes even disappointing mortals. There are areas of ambiguity, even unresolved problems, in church history; there have been disagreements about certain doctrines; some questions don’t have immediately satisfying answers. 

Eliza Snow sought to caution new converts against starry-eyed naiveté back in the 19th century:

Think not when you gather to Zion,
Your troubles and trials are through,
That nothing but comfort and pleasure
Are waiting in Zion for you:
No, no, ’tis designed as a furnace,

All substance, all textures to try,
To burn all the “wood, hay, and stubble,”
The gold from the dross purify.
Think not when you gather to Zion,
That all will be holy and pure;
That fraud and deception are banished,
And confidence wholly secure:
No, no, for the Lord our Redeemer
Has said that the tares with the wheat
Must grow till the great day of burning
Shall render the harvest complete.

Kimball remarked that the church isn’t eager to expose its members to such problems. Why? Because souls can be and are lost on Level B. And, anyway, the church isn’t some sort of floating seminar in historiography. Regrettably, perhaps, most Latter-day Saints — many of them far better people than I — aren’t deeply interested in history, and, more importantly, many other very important priorities demand attention, including training the youth and giving service. Were he in a leadership position, Kimball said, he would probably make the same decision.

But he argued that once members of the church have been exposed to Level B, their best hope is to press on to the richer but more complicated version of history (or to the more realistic view of humanity) that is to be found on Level C. Very importantly, he contended (and I agree) that Level C — what I call the “synthesis” — turns out to be essentially, and profoundly, like Level A. The gospel is, in fact, true. Church leaders at all levels have, overwhelmingly, been good and sincere people, doing the best that they can with imperfect human materials (including themselves) under often very difficult circumstances. 

But charity and context are all-important. Life would be much easier if we could find a church composed of perfect leaders and flawless members. Unfortunately, at least in my case, the glaringly obvious problem is that such a church would never admit me to membership.
The claims of the Restoration do, in fact, stand up to historical examination, although (very likely by divine design) their truth is neither so blazingly obvious nor so indisputable as to compel acceptance — least of all from people disinclined to accept them.


Friday, June 7, 2019

The Trinity: Where the Disagreement Really Lies

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

I published the article below in the Deseret News on 19 April 2018:

A fundamental disagreement between Latter-day Saint Christianity and mainstream Christianity concerns the doctrine of the Trinity. Both outsiders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints themselves commonly say Mormons reject the doctrine.

But this isn’t quite true, and it’s important to be precise about where the actual disagreement lies.
Traditional mainstream Trinitarianism rests upon five propositions:
1. The Father is God.
2. The Son is God.
3. The Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) is God.
4. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost is not the Father.
5. There is one God, and only one God.

Both mainstream Christians and Latter-day Saints accept all five statements. They have little alternative, since all five are clearly scriptural. Take No. 5, for example: “Hear, O Israel,” commands Deuteronomy 6:4, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Compare Isaiah 44:646:9Mark 12:29James 2:19.) In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 8:6 also plainly teaches that there is only one God, though it actually seems to distinguish Jesus Christ as the “Lord” from that “one God, the Father” — a formulation that seems more congenial to the Latter-day Saint view than to “orthodox” Trinitarianism. (Compare 1 Timothy 2:5Moses 1:6.)

Significantly, perhaps the clearest scriptural statements of the oneness of Father, Son and Holy Ghost occur in distinctively Mormon texts (e.g., at 2 Nephi 31:21Alma 11:28-29, 44Mormon 7:7Ether 2:8Doctrine and Covenants 20:19, 28; compare “The Testimony of Three Witnesses”). Thus, Latter-day Saint scripture declares there is one and only one God.

Neither traditional Christians nor Latter-day Saints deny the deity of the Father, and both proclaim the divinity of the Son of God. (See, for example, 2 Nephi 11:7.) Moreover, the divinity of the Holy Ghost, which is affirmed in virtually every mainstream Christian creed, is also repeatedly declared in the distinctively Latter-day Saint scriptural passages cited above.

Latter-day Saints and other Christians agree, too, with No. 4, asserting the Father isn’t the Son, the Son isn’t the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost isn’t the Father. The so-called Athanasian Creed — a document actually dating to the late fifth or early sixth century after Christ and, accordingly, not written by St. Athanasius of Alexandria (d. A.D. 373) — supplies the standard Western theological language for this when it speaks of worshiping Father, Son and Holy Ghost as one God while, at the same time, not “confounding the persons.”

But surely nobody can accuse Latter-day Saints of “confounding” them. During his 1820 First Vision, Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son as distinct individuals. “When the light rested upon me,” he recalled in Joseph Smith — History 1:17, “I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other — This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s,” Joseph taught in April 1843, “the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).

“I have always,” he said on June 16, 1844, less than two weeks before his assassination, “declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods” (History of the Church 6:74).

So how is it that mainstream Christians and Latter-day Saints both accept the five propositions that ground the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity, yet Latter-day Saints reject that traditional doctrine? Clearly, the difference comes down to exactly what each group understands when it asserts, as both groups do, that there is one and only one God.

Joseph Smith’s use of the phrase “three Gods” in his statement from June 1844 is important here. Latter-day Saints and mainstream Christians use the term “one” in dramatically different ways. Mormons insist on perfect divine unity in mind and will; traditional Trinitarianism, drawing a concept from ancient Greek philosophy, adds to that a unity of “substance.” In an important sense, there is truly only one God. But Father, Son and Holy Ghost are distinct individuals, and Joseph was therefore not afraid, in another sense, to term them three “Gods.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Some related links

“The Māori Latter-day Saint Historical Narrative: Additions and Amendments”

From a significant region for the Church

News from the global Church, and from beyond this planet

We have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.  But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren.  (2 Nephi 10:20-21)

A Latter-day Saint presence in the Holy Land

(by Daniel Peterson 5-30-19)

The global ministry tours recently undertaken by President Russell M. Nelson — to say nothing of his announcement of temples in such far-flung places as India, Cambodia, Guam and Cabo Verde — plainly illustrate the universal mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But that worldwide scope was already apparent from at least 1837, when (to his astonishment) Elder Heber C. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was called to take the gospel to England from Kirtland, Ohio.

Congregations of Latter-day Saints flourished in the British Isles and — as President Nelson recently reminded a Tahitian audience — in French Polynesia before any members of the church had entered the Salt Lake Valley.

The initial Latter-day Saint encounter with the Holy Land came, likewise, before the arrival of the pioneers in the Great Basin. Elder Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles traveled to Jerusalem under very difficult circumstances and, in October 1841, dedicated the land of Palestine “for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy prophets … and for rearing a temple in honor of (God’s) name.”

The first more or less permanent Latter-day Saint presence in the Holy Land, however, began when Jacob Spori landed in August 1886. (A Swiss convert, he would later found what eventually became Ricks College and then Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus.)

Elder Spori had been assigned to the picturesque port city of Haifa — then, like much of the rest of the Middle East, a part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, based in Istanbul — with the mission of introducing the Restoration to several hundred German immigrants there and of establishing the church among them. Their organization, called the “Tempelgesellschaft” or “Temple Society,” had begun in Germany but had now established a settlement in Palestine in order to help make the land fruitful again via righteous hard work and thus to prepare for the Lord’s Second Coming.

Not long after Elder Spori’s arrival, a member of the Temple Society named Georg Grau accepted baptism, becoming the first Latter-day Saint convert in the Holy Land. (His wife, Magdalena, also joined shortly thereafter.)

Eventually, roughly 20 members of the Temple Society received the gospel. Most emigrated to Utah, but four — including Georg and Magdalena Grau — are buried in the German cemetery in Haifa. Sadly, they were joined there by two missionaries: Elder Adolf Haag (from Stuttgart, Germany, via Payson, Utah), who died of typhus in 1892, and Elder John A. Clark (of Farmington, Utah), who died of smallpox in 1895.

At one point, leaders of the church even considered the possibility of sending colonists from the by-now flourishing “Zion” in the American West to Palestine, where they would have been assigned to put their hard-won pioneering skills to work in that still rather underdeveloped and decayed region.

Late in 1897, the First Presidency called Elder Anthon H. Lund of the Council of the Twelve to accompany Ferdinand F. Hintze, the first president of the Turkish Mission, on a tour of the area to determine whether land for a Latter-day Saint colony could be secured. They did indeed find suitable land in the fertile Jezreel Valley, along the banks of the Kis­hon River. Unfortunately, the church was in a precarious financial condition by 1898 and simply had no money with which to pursue the project. So the dream had to be deferred. (This was the same financial crisis that led to President Lorenzo Snow's famous 1899 revelation on tith­ing, received in the tabernacle at St. George.)

But the dream has now, perhaps, been fulfilled in a different way than that originally imagined, not in the form of an agricultural colony but as an educational institution. Since 1968, Brigham Young University students have come to Jerusalem for formal, organized coursework. In 1979, at the invitation of Jerusalem’s longtime mayor Teddy Kollek, who was seeking ways to beautify his city, President Spencer W. Kimball dedicated the 5.5-acre Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on the slope of the Mount of Olives. But it had also become apparent that BYU’s program in Israel needed better and more permanent facilities. Accordingly, also in 1979, President Kimball announced that BYU would construct a student center on the Mount of Olives. Opened for use in May 1988, the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies commands a magnificent view of the Old City and the Temple Mount — and, in turn, is itself prominently visible from much of the Holy City.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Why Latter-day Saints loom large in the history of religious freedom law

A new book examines what it took to truly protect religious freedom in the United States

(by Kelsey Dallas 5-19-19)

America would be a more violent place without religious freedom protections, but it hasn't exactly been a peaceful place with them, according to Steven Waldman, a religion expert and author.

In his new book, "Sacred Liberty: America's Long, Bloody and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom," Waldman outlines countless attacks on people of faith throughout the country's history and interreligious tension that persists to this day.

"It's the nature of religious belief that you feel like you've found the one truth. If you've found the truth, it can be quite difficult to be tolerant of someone else who hasn't," he told the Deseret News.

Despite tough conclusions like this, Waldman isn't arguing that America's religious freedom laws are worthless. Instead, he hopes to help people see why this right is worth fighting for.

Waldman, who previously served as national editor of U.S. News and World Report and a national correspondent for Newsweek, celebrates America's faith-related efforts, even as he exposes their dark side.

"The genius of the American system is you don't have to accept the validity of someone else's religion," he said. You do, however, have to let people be wrong.

(for the full article follow the link)


Sunday, May 19, 2019

One of the greatest legislative threats religious liberty has ever faced in the United States?

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

I received an email flyer just a short while ago from Brian S. Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage.  For some reason, I’m on their mailing list.  I don’t really follow them, but they’ve been attacked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, so I figure that they must be a reasonably good group.

I hope that neither Brian Brown nor NOM will mind my quoting from his open letter, which touches on a subject that I mentioned in my immediately preceding entry on this blog, entitled “Religious Freedom and Homosexuality”:

This week, the US House of Representatives could pass one of the greatest legislative threats we’ve ever faced, the grossly misnamed Equality Act (HR 5). . . .

How bad is HR 5, the Equality Act?

It’s the most pernicious attack we’ve ever faced. HR 5 is a sweeping assault on the religious liberty rights of people of faith while simultaneously enacting powerful special legal rights for the LGBT community. Perhaps even worse, the legislation effectively makes showing support for traditional marriage to be illegal discrimination under federal law. We’ve never seen such a sweeping, damaging proposed law.

Under the Equality Act, an individual exercising his or her constitutional right to decline to personally participate in an LGBT ceremony that violates their religious beliefs would nonetheless be open to charges of illegal discrimination. That’s because the bill declares the belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman to be a “sex stereotype” under federal law. Further, the bill makes discrimination on the basis of a sex stereotype illegal. This means that any tangible step to refuse participation in a gay ‘wedding’ would be illegal discrimination under this legislation.

Even non-religious people should be concerned at encroachments upon religious liberty or, to put it more broadly, upon freedom of conscience.

In this context, it seems appropriate, once again, to quote the famous passage from the German Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), a prisoner between 1937 and 1945 at the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, one by one, group after group.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.