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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus"

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog 10-20-19)

As I’ve already mentioned here, I was recently released from my latest stint as a Gospel Doctrine teacher.  My time in this most recent Church assignment lasted something on the order of eight years, but I was sad to see it come to an end.  Gospel Doctrine class is my absolute favorite calling in the Church; the only one that could possibly compete would be “adjunct apostle,” an ecclesiastical office that I have designed myself and in which, according to that careful design, I would get to hear all of the interesting news before its announcement, and could perhaps participate in certain discussions, but would otherwise have no other duties or responsibilities.

Anyway, we somehow managed to keep the job in the family, as my wife was called to replace me.

Today, the discussion covered the epistles to the Philippians and to the Colossians.  As I read the chapters prior to class, my attention was caught by Philippians 2:5-11.  This is how the passage reads in the King James Version:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

English-speaking Latter-day Saints have sometimes used this passage, and especially 2:5-6, to argue that it is not wrong for us to teach the doctrine of exaltation, to entertain thoughts of the deification of the human faithful.  I’m not at all sure, however, that this is how the passage should be understood or applied.

Here, for example, is how 2:5-7 is rendered in the Revised Standard Version:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And here are those same verses in the translation by J. B. Phillips:

Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. 

In these understandings, Philippians 2:5-7 is speaking about what the Book of Mormon calls “the condescension of God” (at 1 Nephi 11:16), referring to Christ’s voluntary relinquishing of his divine and heavenly status in order to come to earth as an ordinary human being and live and suffer and die among us.

to be continued


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scriptural Mormonism blogpost on Infant Baptism

In her poorly researched volume, Protestant apologist Christina Darlington wrote that:

There is not a single doctrine revealed in the Book of Mormon that is not already mentioned in the Bible. (Christina R. Darlington, Misguided by Mormonism But Redeemed by God’s Grace: Leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Biblical Christianity [2d ed.; 2019], 206, emphasis in original removed)

This is simply false. Firstly, in the Book of Mormon addresses explicitly a practice that has divided Protestantism and other faiths for centuries but one that is not addressed at all by the Bible—infant baptism:

For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children. And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle. For immediately after I had learned these things of you I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying: Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me. And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children. Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach-- repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children. And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins. But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism! Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell. Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell. For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism. Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear. And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation. For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity. Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ. For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing--But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works. (Moroni 8:5-23; cf. my blog post The Dispute about Infant Baptism among the Nephites: Evidence of 19th century origins for the Book of Mormon?)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Pontius Pilate’s Name Is Found on 2,000-Year-Old Ring

(by Palko Karasz 11-30-18)

The name of Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who ordered the killing of Jesus, according to the Gospel, is mentioned in thousands of sermons every year and is familiar to countless people, but little is known about his life and work.
To the very short list of clues about Pilate as a historical figure, archaeologists have added one more: a 2,000-year-old copper alloy ring bearing his name.
The ring was discovered in the late 1960s, one of thousands of artifacts found in the excavation of Herodium, an ancient fortress and palace south of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. But it was not until recently that researchers, analyzing those objects with advanced photography, were able to decipher the ring’s inscription.
It reads “of Pilates,” in Greek letters set around a picture of a wine vessel known as a krater, and is said by archaeologists to be only the second artifact from his time ever found with his name. Kraters are a common image in artifacts of that time and place.
The findings were published last week in the Israel Exploration Journal, an archaeological review in Israel.
Pilate was the prefect, or governor, of the province of Judea, on the eastern fringes of the Roman Empire, roughly from A.D. 26 to 36.
The report says it is unlikely that the ring belonged to Pilate, in part because such simple rings usually belonged to soldiers and lesser officials, not to someone as wealthy and powerful as a prefect.
“We think it implausible that a prefect would have used a simple, all-metal, copper-alloy personal sealing ring with a motif that was already a well-known Jewish motif in Judea before and during his rule,” it says.
“But in practice, we have a ring inscribed with the name Pilate and the personal connection just cries out,” Roi Porat, one of the authors of the report told The Times of Israel. The name Pilate was not common in the region at the time.
The New Testament story of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to an angry crowd with the words “behold the man” — “ecce homo” in Latin — was a central theme of religious art for centuries.
Beyond the Gospel, most of what little is known about Pilate comes from the surviving work of the ancient historians Flavius Josephus, a Jew, and Tacitus, a Roman.
Herodium, where the ring was found, was built by Herod the Great, a client king of the Roman Empire, and is the site of his tomb. (One of his sons, also named Herod, was king in Jesus’ time.) The site is controlled by Israel and is claimed by Palestinians.
The ring was found in a room filled with bits of glass, shards of pottery, arrowheads, coins and other items.
The language of the ring’s inscription is Greek, which Roman officials used to communicate with the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean. It could have been used for official correspondence by Pilate himself and his officials who had to sign his name.
The first archaeological find in Judea that mentioned Pilate was a fragment of carved stone, discovered in 1961, in the ancient port city of Caesarea. It is known as the Pilate stone and is kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
“It solved the problem of what actual title he had,” said Jonathan Price, professor of classics and ancient history at Tel Aviv University.
According to Mr. Price, for historians of the Roman period, Pilate was just one of a string of Roman officials who were sent to Judea to govern and keep the peace. Were it not for his biblical role, “he would be remembered as a Roman official who didn’t do so well,” he said.
During his decade-long tenure, which was longer than usual, Pilate displayed hostility to local residents and nearly provoked two uprisings.
“He was called back and called to account for what seemed to be a lack of competence,” Mr. Price said. “And after that we don’t really hear about him.”
(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog 10-23-19)

A veteran of World War Two, my father had served with the 11th Armored Division in General George Patton’s U.S. Third Army.  One of his pivotal, life-changing experiences was his involvement in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Mauthausen, Austria.  It affected him for life, and he wanted me to know about it and to remember it.  I have.

Tragically, the death camp (as exemplified at locations like Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Mauthausen, the Cambodian “killing fields,” Vietnamese “reeducation camps,” the Soviet “Gulag,” and various institutions throughout Communist China) ranks among the major creations of the twentieth century—not quite novel but certainly taken to a massively higher level.  In these infamous places, modern managerial techniques and, often, cutting-edge industrial technology were employed to murder scores of millions of people.
We are sadly all too familiar with sterile-sounding terms like “liquidation,” “Final Solution,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “unperson.”  The point of such exercises was to utterly erase entire ethnicities and social classes.  Those who presided over the camps saw their victims not as individuals but merely as representatives of a hated human type, as what the National Socialists called “Untermenschen”— the Jews, for example, or the Ukrainian kulaks, the bourgeoisie, the Slavs, or the Roma.  In Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, one large hall is devoted to towns and villages that were completely obliterated by the Nazis, leaving not a single individual behind.  Everybody was killed.  No descendants survived to continue their lines or to remember them.  No records remain to confirm that they ever existed.

Quietly and without fanfare, though, an effort that directly contradicts these totalitarian attempts at liquidation and erasure has been gathering steam since the first half of the nineteenth century.  In the family history research fostered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an attempt is underway to identify every individual human person who has ever lived and to recover and reconstruct the family relationships that link us all together.  It’s not coincidental that the words “genocide” and “genealogy” share the same Greek root, “genos,” meaning (among other things) “race” or “lineage.”

Virtually every day in the Church’s dedicated temples worldwide, tens of thousands of men, women, and children act on behalf of those who are gone.  Moreover, these ordinances, these acts of remembrance, are carried out individually, not en masse.  In many cases, the names of these individuals are being uttered, even remembered, for the first time in generations.

Baptisms for the dead began to be performed by followers of the Prophet Joseph Smith during the 1840s in Nauvoo, Illinois.  “Upon his church,” remarked his unbelieving biographer Fawn Brodie, “now rested the burden of freeing the billions of spirits who had never heard the law of the Lord. Nauvoo had become the center not only of the world, but also of the universe.”

Brodie presumably intended her comment ironically and with condescension.  For once, though, she was right.  But Nauvoo didn’t conclude the development of doctrines and practices associated with the redemption of the dead.  (That development plainly continues still.)  The required ordinances beyond baptism were first performed on behalf of the dead in the St. George Utah Temple.  “It is hard,” comments historian Richard Bennett, “to overemphasize the importance of what happened for the first time in the St. George Temple in January 1877.”
In a real sense, temples are the polar opposite to extermination camps, a divine response to the dehumanizing demonic forces behind those places of unspeakable horror.  Temple service constitutes a radical rejection of Satan’s attempt at what C. S. Lewis, in another context, called “the abolition of man.”  It embodies the Lord’s concern for his “lost sheep” (Luke 15:1-10); it demonstrates the truth of the claim that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).

We aren’t mere interchangeable exemplars of a class or set.  Each human person is of infinite and eternal intrinsic value, of inestimable worth, with unimaginable potential.

“What is gold or silver in comparison to the redemption of our dead?” asked Wilford Woodruff, who served as the first president of the temple in St. George.  “Nothing.”

Temples affirm human dignity in a war in which the Adversary has scored painful victories but in which the Lord, his faithful Saints, and, indeed, all of God’s children will ultimately triumph.

See Richard E. Bennett, Temples Rising: A Heritage of Sacrifice (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2019).

President Oaks’ comments on gender and identity

(by Geoff B. 10-3-19)

President Oaks made the following comments regarding the Proclamation on the Family, sexuality and gender identity on Wednesday:
President Dallin H. Oaks
In a continuation of the teaching given two weeks ago by President Nelson at Brigham Young University, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, offered remarks about the eternal nature of God’s children, His plan for them and the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors.
“While God’s commandments forbid all unchaste behavior and reaffirm the importance of marriage between a man and a woman, the Church and its faithful members should reach out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same sex or whose sexual orientation or gender identity is inconsistent with their sex at birth,” President Oaks taught. “We do not know why same-sex attraction and confusion about sexual identity occur,” he continued. “They are among the challenges that persons can experience in mortality, which is only a tiny fraction of our eternal existence.”

President Oaks spoke of three fundamental doctrinal truths that God has revealed:
First, … that God created ‘male and female,’” and that this “binary creation is essential to the plan of salvation.”
Second, modern revelation teaches that eternal life, the greatest gift of God to His children, is only possible through the creative powers inherent in the combination of male and female joined in an eternal marriage (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19). That is why the law of chastity is so important.”
Finally, the long-standing doctrinal statements reaffirmed in [The Family: A Proclamation to the World] 23 years ago will not change. They may be clarified as directed by inspiration.” For example, “the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth.”
“When counseling with any members experiencing challenges related to their sexual orientation, Church leaders should affirm that God loves all His children, including those dealing with confusion about their sexual identity or other LGBT feelings,” President Oaks said. “Such members and their families have unique challenges. They should be offered hope and be ministered to as directed by the Spirit according to their true needs, remembering the admonition of Alma to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (see Mosiah 18:9).”
“Because we love God and understand His great plan of salvation and the significance of His commandments, we manifest our love for our neighbors by helping them come unto Christ, repent, and keep His commandments. This is part of bearing one another’s burdens that they may be light.”
(I added the bolded emphasis above).

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover

(by Stephen D. Ricks)

A brief note in the History of the Church under the date of Sunday, 3 April 1836, records the appearance of the Lord, Moses, Elias, and Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. Subsequent writers have noted that this date corresponds to the Jewish Passover, during which the arrival of Elijah is traditionally awaited. A parenthetical note in the Missionary Training Manual: For Use in the Jewish Proselyting Program states the correlation of the two events emphatically. There we are informed that Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple "at about the same hour that the Jewish families in that time zone would have been preparing to begin their feast of the Passover." These statements, although correct in their identification of the Jewish Passover with the ritual expectation of Elijah and in their connecting the time of the appearance of Elijah in the Kirtland Temple with the Passover season, warrant further elucidation and modest chronological correction.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Elder Holland gives an inside look to miracles that made the BYU Jerusalem Center possible

(by Sydney Walker 10-14-19)

At 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 14, 1985, President Gordon B. Hinckley, chairman of the Executive Committee of the BYU Board of Trustees, received an urgent phone call from then-BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland.

President Holland had received a series of phone calls through the night about trouble in Jerusalem regarding the construction of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Tensions were high in Israel for a variety of reasons and talk of war was in the air.

Politically there was a 60-60 deadlock between two halves of a coalition in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. A small political party had said it was willing to break the deadlock by giving its four votes in parliament to either competing prime minister and party who would “move the Mormons off Mount Scopus.”

It was a full year after the construction of the BYU Jerusalem Center had started. President Holland knew the very controversial center could be a factor in “bringing down the tenuous Israeli government.”

President Holland explained the situation to President Hinckley and desperately asked, “What do we do if we are a factor in an Israeli war with its neighbors?” President Hinckley took the issue to the temple meeting held with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple later that morning.

Following the discussion that ensued, President Ezra Taft Benson, the Church’s 13th president who was not physically strong at the time, asked if he could be the voice for the prayer that day. Though President Holland was not in attendance in that temple meeting, he said some of the Brethren described President Benson as “praying at length with increasing strength.” By the end, “he was declaring … He wasn’t praying as much as he was testifying.”

President Hinckley called President Holland after the meeting and said they had done all they could. They were to wait and see what would happen.

Then a miracle occurred. One party offered an apology to the other. Political forgiveness was granted. The offer of swing votes was declined, and tensions in the Knesset were eased for the time being.

“Many commented that a political miracle had happened,” recounted Elder Holland, now a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “I also say a miracle happened, but it wasn’t technically a political one and it didn’t come from Jerusalem. It didn’t come from London. It didn’t come from Washington D.C. or New York City.

“The miracle that morning came from the fourth floor of the Salt Lake Temple where a prophet, seer and revelator prayed safety and protection down upon something the Lord wanted done in that land.”

“That was one of 33 miracles, large or small, that happened to make the BYU Jerusalem Center possible,” Elder Holland said during the 30th anniversary of the dedication on Oct. 11. Former students and faculty who attended the Jerusalem Center were present at the event, which was held on the campus of BYU in Provo, Utah.

Elder Holland noted the contributions of those who helped acquire the land and obtain permission to build the BYU Jerusalem Center. He highlighted the leadership of then-Elders Howard W. Hunter and James E. Faust, who “gave their heart and soul to this project” under the direction of the First Presidency of the Church.

Explaining some of the pivotal moments in the history of the BYU Jerusalem Center, Elder Holland began by telling of President Harold B. Lee’s visit to Jerusalem in September 1972 — the first visit to the Holy Land by a prophet in nearly 2,000 years.

He then spoke of President N. Eldon Tanner’s mandate in 1979 to acquire what seemed to be an impossible property on Mount Scopus — the location where the BYU Jerusalem Center currently stands, overlooking the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley and the Old City. (President Tanner was then a counselor in the First Presidency.)

While the Church was successful in acquiring the land and a building permit, “every possible opponent came out against the project” over the next several years, Elder Holland said.

One such battle occurred when the Israeli government required a non-proselytizing agreement to continue construction. During a special meeting on July 31, 1985, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled on how to move forward. One of the Brethren read from Mormon 3:16, noting that earlier prophets had been forbidden to preach the gospel and asking if the Church was again willing “to stand as an idle witness” in Jerusalem.

“It seemed to be a message from heaven itself,” Elder Holland said, and the Brethren signed the agreement. All students, travel visitors and local members have loyally abided by its non-proselytizing restrictions for more than 30 years.

Following that meeting, President Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, traveled to Jerusalem to deliver the agreement. At the airport, they were met by several hundred Yeshiva students shouting and protesting. They carried signs that read “Jeff, Go Home.” and “Jeffrey, stop your missionary work before we retaliate.” (For years some of the Brethren in Salt Lake City teased Elder Holland that he was obviously friendly enough to be on a first name basis with his opponents.)

This encounter started a campaign of around-the-clock interview requests with media outlets from Israel, Europe, the United States and elsewhere. In light of this extensive international coverage of his peace-keeping visit to Jerusalem, Elder Holland said he worked non-stop to “turn the tide” and make it clear to everyone that neither the Church nor the university was  building a missionary center.

The Israeli government ruled in 1986 that BYU was within legal rights to build the center, and construction continued. The BYU Jerusalem Center was dedicated on May 16, 1989, by Elder Howard W. Hunter, later to be the 14th President of the Church.

At the end of his address, Elder Holland emphasized four of the many lessons he learned from the miracles of the BYU Jerusalem Center. “And I don’t use the word ‘miracle’ lightly,” he said.

  1. The Lord can do His own work. “He would like us to help. Very often He needs us to help. But I testify in this case and many others, the Lord can do His own work. He did His own work there.”
  2. People were in the right place at the right time to bring about this large miracle. “It’s not the glass or teak wood or stone I think about most when I think of the Jerusalem Center. It is the people then and now, there and here, who through their faith and good works made it happen. That is what I think about when I consider this special place.”
  3. In the work of the Lord, press forward with courage. “When you start something in the great cause of the kingdom, don’t stop voluntarily. … We were moving dirt in August 1984, but we were acting on sheer faith because we did not yet have a clear green light to do so. If we had not started in faith and persisted while we prayed, we would not be at that center today.”
  4. The full potential of the BYU Jerusalem Center is still unrealized. “I don’t know what it will mean a generation after we’re gone or what future purposes the Lord will have for it, but I hope students from all over the world can be blessed by it. My testimony to you is that the Lord wanted that center built and has it there for great purposes that we now see only dimly.”
Elisa Seely, who studied at the BYU Jerusalem Center in the fall of 1996, attended the 30th anniversary event in Provo on Oct. 11. As a student in Jerusalem, she didn’t realize all that went into the construction of the center.

“The BYU Jerusalem Center is a modern-day miracle in a city in a land of so many miracles, and that being the Savior, the Savior’s birth, His Atonement, and to have such a beautiful building,” Seely said. “It’s holy ground.”

Seely’s younger brother, Riley Cooney, studied at the BYU Jerusalem Center in the winter of 2014. Cooney said the part of Elder Holland’s message that touched him the most was the potential of the Jerusalem Center.

“When I left (Jerusalem), I wanted everyone I knew to attend and to have the experience. I want others to have it who weren’t born in America or who weren’t able to go to a Church university. I would love when I have children for them to go there with people from other countries.”


Friday, October 11, 2019

These supposed “parallels” are quite bogus

From time to time, some triumphant atheist or other challenges me with a list of supposed parallels between the biblical depiction of Jesus and the stories of other important religious figures (mythical or historical), such as Krishna, Tammuz, the Buddha, Muhammad, Mithra, Cadmus, Osiris and Baal.

The biographies of these characters are said to resemble each other right down to minute details: They commonly if not always came into the world via a virgin’s immaculate conception; were born on Dec. 25; were adored as infants by angels, shepherds and visiting sages; performed miracles; taught New Testament doctrines; were regarded as divine; were crucified; atoned for human sin; descended into hell; rose again from the dead; and ascended into heaven.

The point of the list, of course, is to suggest that the story of Jesus is merely fictional, probably derived from myths about the death of vegetation in the winter and its miraculous rebirth in the spring.
It’s a very impressive catalog of parallels.

It’s also utterly bogus.

The ultimate source for the list seems to be an 1875 book by an American atheist writer named Kersey Graves, titled “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Christianity Before Christ.”  And I’m being accurate when I describe the Graves book as the “ultimate source” for these ideas, since Graves supplies no references from ancient documents to back up his assertions. He simply announces them and then moves on as if he’s proved them true. But they’re nonsense.

Space permits only a hasty comparative analysis, and, since I’m the author of a biography of the founder of Islam, who is one of the figures identified by Graves as an exact parallel to Christ, perhaps I can be forgiven for focusing on Muhammad.

As a preliminary note, though, I need to say that the versions of this list that I’ve seen often confuse the Immaculate Conception — traditionally, Mary’s coming into the world as the daughter of Joachim and Anna (according to the second century “Protoevangelium of James”) without the taint of “Original Sin” — with the Virgin Birth, which is Mary’s conception of Jesus without an earthly father.
But now on to business:
No Islamic text of which I’m aware claims that Muhammad’s mother was a virgin at his birth.  Muhammad’s father is known in Muslim sources as ‘Abd Allah, and he, in turn, was the son of ‘Abd al-Mutallib.

Muhammad wasn’t born on Dec. 25, but most likely near the end of April. Some relatively late legends surround his birth with miraculous events and have him working mighty wonders, but these folkloric tales probably arose out of competition with Christians, and neither the Qur’an nor the earliest, most reputable Islamic historical materials say anything about them. Muhammad himself explained that the reception of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, was his only (though sufficient) miracle.

Many of Muhammad’s doctrines are comparable to those of the New Testament. But this is scarcely surprising, since he claimed to be a prophet in the tradition of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Still, many of his doctrines are quite distinctive.

Islam has never taught that Muhammad was divine, nor even a son of God. “God does not beget,” says Qur’an 112:3, “nor is he begotten.” To suggest otherwise, Muslims believe, is “shirk” or polytheism, the worst possible theological error.
Muhammad was most definitely not crucified, atones for nobody’s sins and did not rise from the dead.

Early stories exist of Muhammad ascending into heaven, and, on that same journey, seeing some of the sufferings of the damned in hell. But these stories don’t appear clearly in the Qur’an, they’re always placed years before Muhammad’s death, and they play no role in his life or in Islamic theology that’s even remotely comparable to the function that the “harrowing of hell” and Christ’s post-resurrection ascent have served in Christian lore and thought.

It’s simply false to say that Muhammad’s life precisely parallels that of Jesus. The differences are fundamental and far too numerous to be listed here. (Read my biography!) And when the same claim is actually examined with regard to Baal, Osiris, Krishna and the like, it fares no better.
If you’re ever confronted with Graves’ list or something like it, demand to see supporting references.
Or, if you’re pressed for time, just go ahead and laugh. It’s not to be taken seriously.

Policy Expertise and Baptism at Age Eight

We baptize children at the age of eight because we consider it “the age of accountability,” when children are capable of simple, basic moral perceptions, of distinguishing in simple ways between good and evil.  They usually know, by eight, that stealing and lying are wrong, that kindness is better than cruelty, and so forth.
We don’t view baptism as the outward symbol of an inward judgment regarding the validity of chiasmus as evidence for the Book of Mormon, or the credibility of the testimony of Oliver Cowdery, or whether Brigham Young bears responsibility for the massacre at Mountain Meadows.

It is, as we see it, symbolic of a decision to try to follow Jesus and to live the life that he lived and advocated.  We believe that, obviously on a child’s level, children can and do try to live such a life.

This is nothing remotely like asking a child’s view of carbon emissions standards or federal tax policy.

And, in practical fact — I’m a veteran of several Church disciplinary councils, and have seen this at first hand — we hold people who have made specific temple covenants (necessarily at a later age and with greater maturity) to a much stricter standard than we do those who were merely baptized at eight.

"Peterson’s Rule"

Years ago, while a graduate student in Egypt, I was introduced by a friend to a chemistry professor at the University of Cairo.  After a pleasant conversation, the professor asked what an American was doing in Egypt, studying Arabic and Islam.  “Are you a Muslim?” he inquired.  When he was told no, he asked, “Why not?”

Such a question is, of course, a bit sensitive and difficult for anyone to answer who hopes to avoid offense or argument.  So the answer was, simply, “I’m a Christian.”

“Really?” replied the professor.  “You believe that God has a son (which, of course, everybody knows is completely impossible), and that he sent his son to earth and arranged to have him killed in order to buy himself off?”  I replied that, while that was not exactly how I would have phrased it, I do in fact believe something along those lines.  “Amazing!” exclaimed the Muslim professor.  “How can any intelligent person possibly believe anything so obviously crazy?”

Now a professor myself, I’ve reflected on that experience many times since.  The fact is that, however strange it may appear to a Muslim scientist (or to any other outsider), many people of extraordinary intelligence have been, and continue to be, believing Christians.  Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, Kierkegaard, and C. S. Lewis are just a few who come to mind.  And this is true of other faiths, as well.  Brilliant men and women can be counted among the writers and thinkers of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and all the great religions of human history.

Undoubtedly, of course, there are also stupid, thoughtless, and ignorant people in every movement, people who believe on the basis of bad reasons or of no real reasons at all.  But, while certain insignificant movements have drawn their ranks largely from the unbalanced or uninformed, every religious or ideological group that has appealed to large numbers over extended periods of time has contained elements that satisfied and seemed plausible to sensitive, intelligent, sane men and women.  Otherwise, it is simply inconceivable that such groups could have survived for any lengthy period.

This leads to an insight:  If you encounter a religious group or an ideology or even an atheistic position that has attracted many people of diverse backgrounds for a considerable length of time, and you cannot see “how any intelligent person can possibly believe anything so manifestly crazy,” the problem is probably in you — at least as much as it is in the other person.  You don’t know or understand enough to make a judgment, for intelligent people undoubtedly do believe it.  So long as you imagine that no “intelligent” person could honestly fall for such nonsense, you dehumanize those you disagree with, or you assume (and this is very common) that they are all, somehow, dishonest.

It isn’t necessary, in considering another system of beliefs, to accept it.  But it is necessary, if you truly want to understand it, to try to imagine how someone else could believe it, could find it emotionally appealing and intellectually satisfying.

Critics often publicly wonder how any honest, intelligent person can believe in the Book of Mormon, the visitation of God and angels to Joseph Smith, or the divine potential of humankind.  Yet, although their honesty and intelligence are frequently questioned by anti-Mormon crusaders, many such people do exist, some of them quite well-informed.  On the other side, not a few Latter-day Saints vocally marvel that anybody who knows anything could be a Catholic, and cannot see how sane, intelligent people can possibly swallow doctrines like the Trinity.  But the fact is indisputable:  Many of the most brilliant thinkers in the history of Western civilization have been devout Roman Catholics, and, of these, many have written on precisely the issue of the Trinity.

In the interreligous discussions and, yes, arguments that, for various reasons, are very likely to arise as Mormonism becomes more and more of a public issue in the next few months and years, it would help if each side could grant the other to be, on the whole, sincere, honest, intelligent, and sane.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The eyewitness testimony of Newel Knight

The recent publication of the journals and histories of Newel Knight in “The Rise of the Latter-day Saints: The Journals and Histories of Newel Knight” offers readers a fresh glimpse into the earliest history of the Restoration

(by Daniel Peterson 10-3-19)

The recent publication of the journals and histories of Newel Knight in “The Rise of the Latter-day Saints: The Journals and Histories of Newel Knight” offers readers a fresh glimpse into the earliest history of the Restoration. Newel was the third of seven children born to Joseph and Polly Knight; the Knights were among the first outside the Smith family itself to hear and to accept the claims of the Restoration.

By 1826, when he hired the 20-year-old Joseph Smith, Joseph Knight Sr. had settled in Colesville (today’s Nineveh), New York, roughly 150 miles from Palmyra. Along with his farm, Father Knight owned a gristmill and a carding machine, a device for processing wool and other fibers.

“He was not rich,” Newel recalls, “yet possessed enough of this worlds goods to secure to him Self and family the necessaries and Comforts of life.” (I retain Newel’s original spelling, punctuation and capitalization.) “My Father was a Sober, honest man, generally beloved and respected by his neighbors and acquaintances.”

Among the valuable elements of Newel Knight’s account are his firsthand perceptions of the young Joseph Smith, and eventually of Joseph’s older brother Hyrum, gathered over years of close personal relationship.

“Oweing to the business my Father was engaged in he often had hired help. Among the many he from time to time hired was a young man by the name of Joseph Smith Junior. To him I was particularly attached: his noble deportment, his faithfulness, his kind address, could not fail to gain the esteem of those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. One thing in particular I will mention seemed to be peculiar Characteristic with him. In all his boyish sports or amusements. I never knew any one to gain advantage over him, and yet he was allways kind and kept the good will of his playmates.”

When Joseph and Hyrum Smith were assassinated on June 27, 1844, Newel’s grief was almost inconsolable.

“O,” he wrote in his journal, “how I loved those men, and rejoiced under their teachings! It seems as if all is gone, and as if my very heart strings will break; and were it not for my beloved wife and dear children I feel as if I have nothing to live for, and would rejoice to be with them in the Courts of Glory.”

He had been close to Joseph Smith, at least, for very nearly two decades, since well before the translation of the Book of Mormon and the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I have known them from boyhood, — have been associated with Joseph from the time before he received the first revelation until the present, and Hyrum has been his constant companion since the Church has been organized.

“I have shared in the blessings of the Gospel which they have enjoyed, and been a partaker of the sorrows and troubles, and fierce persecutions which they have endured. I have seen them at home and abroad, — in the discharge of their religious duties; and I have known them as the founders of a great City, and seen their administration of its government. In every circumstance of life they have ever been true men of God, — humane, upright and just in all their dealings; they loved righteousness and taught it to their followers; their friends loved them for the good they did, and their enemies hated them, because they reproved their sins and wickedness. They died as they had ever lived — faithful and true to that God who has used them as his servants to build up the Church and Kingdom of the Last Days. In the hour of prosperity they taught the people humility and meekness; in the hour of persecution, they practiced these virtues ... and their names will ever be held in honorable remembrance by all lovers of truth, virtue, integrity, justice and righteousness.”

After all these years spent with them, Newel Knight still regarded Joseph and Hyrum Smith as “two of the best men that ever lived.”

Newel left Nauvoo, Illinois, with his family for the west in 1846. He died in 1847, in what is today northern Nebraska. Seven months later, his widow, Lydia, bore his ninth child, Jesse Knight. The family finally arrived in Salt Lake City in 1850.

“The Rise of the Latter-day Saints: The Journals and Histories of Newel Knight” is edited by Michael Hubbard MacKay and William G. Hartley and published by Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book.

New Young Women's Theme

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ancient Christian manuscripts digitized at monastery beneath Mount Sinai

(by Mohamed Zaki 4-17-19)

At St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Egypt’s Mount Sinai, the silence in the library is broken only by low electrical humming, as an early manuscript is bathed in green light.

A team from Greece are photographing thousands of fragile manuscripts, including some of the earliest copies of the Christian gospels, using a complex process that includes taking images in red, green and blue light and merging them with computer software to create a single high-quality color picture.

There is a tangible sense of urgency to the mission.

Although the monastery has survived centuries of warfare, it lies in a region where Islamist militants have destroyed countless cultural artifacts and documents in Syria and Iraq. Egypt’s Christian churches have also been targeted by an Islamist insurgency in the rugged and thinly populated northern Sinai.

‘The Holy Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai’ - which is part of the Eastern Orthodox church - lies in the safer southern half of the Sinai Peninsula. But in 2017, Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a nearby Egyptian police checkpoint, in which one officer was killed.

“The upheaval of our times requires a rapid completion of this project,” Archbishop Damianos of Sinai, Faran and Raitho, and Abbot of St. Catherine’s Monastery, told Reuters by email.

The aim is to create the first digital archive of all 4,500 manuscripts in the library, starting with around 1,100 in the Syriac and Arabic languages, which are particularly rare.

The task could take more than a decade, using digital cameras and computer arrays alongside sophisticated cradles designed to support the more fragile manuscripts.

The project began last year and is being undertaken by the non-profit research organization Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL), in collaboration with the monastery and the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles. UCLA Library said it will start publishing the manuscripts online, in full color, from the fall of 2019.

“This library is an archive of the history of Christianity and its neighbors in the Mediterranean world, and therefore is of interest to communities all over the world who find their history here,” Michael Phelps, Director of the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, told Reuters.

Where Moses Trod

The monastery lies at the foot of Mount Sinai, by tradition the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

UNESCO has listed the area as a World Heritage site, citing its sacred status in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It says St. Catherine’s was founded in the 6th century, and is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its original function.

The most famous manuscript in the library is the 4th century ‘Codex Sinaiticus’ - a Greek manuscript of the Bible which contains the oldest surviving complete New Testament. Its pages are divided between several institutions.

Another is the Codex Syriacus, an ancient copy of the Gospels in Syriac. Other manuscripts cover science, medicine and the Greek classics.

The digitization of the first stage alone, the Syriac-Arabic manuscripts, will take around three years and cost a projected $2.75 million, said Phelps.

“Throughout the centuries, monks have lived here in prayer, in dedication to spiritual goals, a witness to God’s revelation to mankind... in that sense especially, the Sinai Monastery is an ark, a spiritual ark in the wilderness,” said Father Justin of Sinai, the monastery’s librarian.

The project will provide a more complete record than partial microfilming carried out decades ago by the U.S Library of Congress, and also by the National Library of Israel. The two institutions are making their records available to the new digitization effort, the project organizers said.


A very calming song

If you need something to calm you down at the end of a long day this one will do it.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Brother Brigham

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

It’s fashionable in some (usually politically and theologically leftish) Mormon, fringe-Mormon, and ex-Mormon circles to despise Brigham Young.  He’s routinely denounced as a misogynist and a racist, as if — even if those epithets were accurate — that would count as a more or less exhaustive description of the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And, even among some still-believing Latter-day Saints, there’s occasional deep discomfort with him.

So I would like to recommend two books that, in my judgment, will serve to counter the hostile caricatures of him that I encounter with some frequency these days:

  • Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints (also available for free online, here)
  • Eugene England, Brother Brigham

I think it’s helpful to note, in this case, that both Hugh Nibley and Eugene England were men of the political Left.  (I knew them both.)

And, while we’re at it, Hugh Nibley’s Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young is also quite relevant.  Moreover, it’s often uproariously funny.


The Mysterious Newspaper that led to a Temple Miracle

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

If it’s accurately reported, I can think of absolutely no natural explanation for what happened.  But why would there be divine intervention in such a matter, when other cases seem more pressing and more grave?  I don’t know.  Perhaps we simply need little reminders from time to time, non-coercive reminders that help us to recall that there is more to life than naturalism and the mundane.  (I’ve had a few, personally.)  Perhaps it was to provide a sign to those who received it and to those of us who read about it generations later, that the work of redeeming the dead is of supreme importance.  I can only speculate.  But, again, if the account is true, it’s extraordinarily significant.

A financial report from the Church, and a financial report about the Church

Boastful? Arrogant? No, he wasn’t.

(by Dan Peterson sic et non blog)

I saw this issue bubble up again the other day, so it seemed apropos to me to call attention, again, to a column that I published in the Deseret News back on 4 September 2014:

Some critics like to use a quotation attributed to Joseph Smith as a weapon against him:

“I have more to boast of,” he’s reported to have said, “than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. … Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet” (History of the Church,” 6:408-409).

The comment seems arrogant, lacking the humility appropriate to a prophet or even an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But at least four points should be remembered when evaluating it. Much of what follows is taken from a personal message I wrote that became the basis of a FairMormon wiki post on the subject.
First, the context: Joseph was applying a passage from the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11-12) to his own perilous situation. The idea of “boasting” wasn’t Joseph’s; it was Paul’s. The critics typically forget that.

Second, Joseph seems actually to be praising his followers’ faithfulness, not himself.
Third, Joseph didn’t write the quotation; it was reconstructed after his death. Thus, it almost certainly doesn’t represent his precise words. Even “History of the Church” (often called the “Documentary History”) says that it rests upon a “synopsis” by Thomas Bullock.
Joseph delivered the sermon on May 26, 1844. A month later, he was dead. So did he supervise or approve this entry? No. Entries in the “History of the Church” for at least his last five years were actually made by others, after his assassination. Like other chroniclers of the period, they reconstructed his speeches from the notes and memories of those who’d heard them. (There were no recordings.) His well-intentioned scribes admired and missed him enormously, and they worked as accurately as they could, but it’s unreasonable to expect verbal exactness from their method.

This is vitally important to recall when trying to assess Joseph’s character, his moral and spiritual quality, via “History of the Church.” Even when he seems to be speaking in the first person, it may or may not be his actual voice.

Dean Jessee’s preface to his collection of “The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith” specifically addresses the seeming egotism that entered into Joseph’s later statements — an attitude quite foreign to the historical man himself. He didn’t suddenly become egotistical; the later voice is no longer his: it’s the work of disciples who felt comfortable “praising” Joseph, after his death, in ways he might not have endorsed.
Given the manner of its composition, the nuances, tone and details of “History of the Church” should be treated with caution. Curiously, though, at least in this case, Joseph’s critics insist that the overall narrative of the “History” is incorrect (e.g. divine intervention, revelation, Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, etc.) while expecting us to accept as precisely accurate its details of tone and mood — at least when those details seem to cast the Prophet in a bad light.

Fourth, Joseph’s authenticated personal statements plainly reveal him to have been a humble and sincere man, struggling to do the will of God as he understood it — and this particular statement should be placed in the context of his overall life and behavior. (See Mark McConkie’s “Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith.”)
Consider, for example, the following excerpt from a private letter Joseph wrote to his wife, Emma, in June 1832: “I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me (except) to do his will.”
These are scarcely the words of a man who believed himself better than Christ. Nor are these, which are taken from “History of the Church” (5:401):

“I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else. … I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not.”
Joseph Smith saw himself as an instrument in the hands of God — no less, but also definitely no more.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

A note regarding complaints about LDS humanitarian efforts

Some quotes warning about apostasy

“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”  (History of the Church, 3:385; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on 2 July 1839, in Montrose, Iowa; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards.)

“I will give you a key which Brother Joseph Smith used to give in Nauvoo. He said that the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy.”  (Heber C. Kimball, Deseret News [2 April 1856], 26; spelling and capitalization modernized.)

“In order to conduct the affairs of the Kingdom in righteousness, it is all important that the most perfect harmony, kind feeling, good understanding, and confidence should exist in the hearts of all the brethren; and that true charity, love one towards another, should characterize all their proceedings. If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride, arrogance and envy will soon be manifested; confusion must inevitably prevail, and the authorities of the Church set at naught.”  (History of the Church, 4:165–66; from a July 1840 letter from Joseph Smith to Oliver Granger, written from Nauvoo, Illinois.)

How a sewer leak led to another important archaeological discovery in Jerusalem

Pre-Columbian Horses in the Americas, Again?

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.