Did Joseph Smith Lie About the First Vision?


One of the foundational claims of the L-dS Church is that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to a young Joseph Smith, in a sacred grove. This First Vision of Joseph’s, opened a new era of God’s work among mankind. It is proof that God once again calls prophets who speak for God and that God has a living prophet among us today.

This is the narrative that has been presented to investigators and members of the L-dS Church for decades.

However, there is a problem. There isn’t only one first vision; or rather there isn’t only one telling of it. Both Joseph Smith and others recounted the vision several times; and each account is a bit different. But waits? If Joseph has such an amazing experience as God the Father appearing to him, should he have every detail right every time he told it? Wouldn’t every excruciating detail be burned into his memory with such strength that he would have no problem recalling everything?

For me, it’s not enough to just take what I read online at face value. I need to look at original source material. That’s why the other day I decided to take another look at the different account of the first vision given by Joseph Smith. I did so a few years ago and so I thought it was time to refresh my memory.

To give you a list here are the accounts that Joseph directly had a part in telling:

1832 – This version is the first known version of the First Vision.

1835 November 9th – This is an entry in Joseph Smith’s journal about him retelling the event to someone who asked.

1835 November 14th – This is also a journal entry when Joseph Smith’s told the first vision to someone who asked him.

1838 (official) – It is my understanding that this version was started in 1838, but was published in Times and Seasons (Volume 3 Number 11) in 1842.

1842 – This version was included in the Wentworth letter and was also published in Times and Seasons (Volume 3 Number 9) in 1842.

1844 – This version is that same as what was published in the Wentworth letter.

There are differences in each of these accounts. For example in the 1832 account Joseph Smith says that is was because he mourned for his sins that he went and prayed in the sacred grove. But in the 1838 account he says it was because he wanted to know which church was correct.

This news has been devastating to many members of the church. Why are there these differences? If Joseph Smith was recalling an actual event shouldn’t he be able to keep his story straight? Maybe he just made it up later to support his claims. Do these differing accounts prove Joseph Smith was a liar?!

To examine these questions we first need to look at some of our fundamental assumptions. These assumptions stem from how the L-dS Church has presented the First Vision.

First, the L-dS Church seems to overstate the importance of the first Vision has to, not only the Church, but also to Joseph Smith. The first vision is presented as an essential first step in “restoring the Church.”

See this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley: “Our  whole  strength  rests  on  the  validity  of  that  [First]  vision.  It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”

If the First Vision was that important you would think that it would have played a more significant role in Joseph’s life. But it seems clear from the evidence that it wasn’t as significant to Joseph as we make it out to be.

As pointed out by MormonThink, visions of God or Jesus were common in the 1800’s. Things that are common, tend to not be that significant. We can catch a glimpse of how Joseph may have viewed this vision in the document “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” written in 1830. This account is given as a preface for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It states:

“For after that it truly was manifested unto the first elder that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled a gain in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness…”

Here we see that Joseph (the First Elder) had a manifestation that he had received a remission of his sins prior to the Book of Mormon coming forth. This is very vague, just hinting at something. I don’t know what Joseph was thinking, but to me it’s as if he views this visionary experience that happened tenish years ago as a preface to the actual work, rather than the beginning. Almost as if he was saying, “oh yeah, there was that vision thing I had where my sins were forgiven.”

I think we do a huge disservice to ourselves and other by ascribing more significance to the First Vision that it apparently had to Joseph. In making it the ultimate first step, without which everything is false, we are the ones making the mistake.

Second, the L-dS Church presents the First Vision as a physical occurrence. According to the L-dS narrative God the Father and Jesus both literally appeared before Joseph Smith. They were physically present. There is a reason for this. The L-dS Church teaches that God the Father is a person of flesh and bone. Him appearing physically is used as a point of evidence for this teaching. Having God appear to Joseph as a vision rather than a literal being decreases the points of evidence for this teaching.

The problem with this is that is misrepresents the nature of visions. According to my understanding visions are like dreams. They occur mentally, not physically. I believe that anyone walking into the woods at that time would have only seen a young Joseph staring up at the trees. They would not have seen God or Jesus. Just a boy, in the woods, by himself. Joseph on the other hand would have been seeing his vision. That’s because the vision was happening in his mind.

Let’s look a bit more at the differences presented in these accounts. I’m sure many of you have seen this little infographic.

Look at all the contradictions, it’s so damning. And to top it off this is only a small sample. There are 10 versions that evolved over time!

But let’s look at this a little closer. Of the ten versions mentioned, there are six that Joseph Smith was directly involved in. I listed these earlier. Two of them were identical and excluding the 1830 “inkling”; that leaves five versions of the First vision that joseph was directly involved in telling.

There’s one more version I want to throw out. Look at the 1835 account(the November 14th Journal entry). According to this inforgraphic Joseph smith didn’t see any personages, there was no pillar of fire, no sins forgiven, nothing. Just a bunch of angels. Joseph Smith must really have been making up the whole thing to get the story that wrong. Let’s look at the text of this account:

“A Gentleman called this afternoon by the name of Erastus Holmes of Newbury, Clermont Co. Ohio, he called to make inquiry about the establishment of the Church of the latter-day Saints and to be instructed more perfectly in our doctrine &c I commenced and gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from 6, years old up to the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years old and also the visitations that I received afterward, concerning the book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church, up to this, date he listened very attentively and seemed highly gratified, and intends to unite with the Church he is a very candid man indeed and I am much pleased with him.”

Wait…where was it? Where was this damning contradictory First Vision account that Joseph Smith the liar made up? Let me point it out to you:

“the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years”

That’s it?! That’s only seventeen words, there’s hardly any information there. That’s because, for those of you who don’t know, this is something called a summary. What’s a summary you ask? Why it’s when you take many words and make them into few words while still conveying the same general meaning. You see, when Joseph Smith said he told about the time he received the first visitation of angels; he wasn’t saying he only saw angels he was summarizing what he has told the man.

Why was he summarizing when he could have included the entire experience in excruciating detail for 21st century netizens? Because Joseph had already written the first vision fourteen pages earlier in this same journal. Even if we take these seventeen words as a definitive description (meaning Joseph told different version of the story that didn’t allow for pillars of light/fire, personages, etc. and ONLY allowed angels, as suggested in the infographic); it defies logic that Joseph couldn’t keep that story straight with one he told only five days earlier on November 9th! Even I can recall some of the details of impromptu bedtime stories I tell my daughters a week later. To believe that the Nov 9th 1835 account suggests a completely different version is laughable.

But this infographic makes it look like it was a completely different contradictory version. Why? Because it looks more damning with all those red x’s.

Since one of the five versions of the first vision is a one line summary lets exclude it too. That leaves us with four firsthand accounts: the 1832, the 1835(Nov 9th), the 1838 (official), and the 1842 (Wentworth).

So let’s look at some of the details

Motivations

1832 – Concerned with welfare of his soul, studies the scriptures, found denominations were not agreeable to the scriptures, concerned with contentions of the world, found that mankind has apostatized from the faith, mourned for his sins and the sins of the world.

1835 – Wondering about the subject of religion, who was right and who was wrong,.

1838 – Excitement about religion, confusion and strife among denominations, wondering who was right and who was wrong.

1842 – Societies(groups) had different plans, didn’t think God could be the author of so much confusion.

I don’t know about you, but all of those motivations sound very similar. They are certainly expressed in different ways, but pretty much center around the concept of, concern for standing before God motivated by confusion about religion.

Personages

1832 – “The Lord”

1835 – Two personages. First one personage, then another shortly after the first appeared. Many angels.

1838 – Two personages, one identified that other saying, “this is my beloved Son, hear him.”

1842 – Two identical personages

Again, none of these are really contradictory. The 1832 certainly says, “the Lord.” But it doesn’t say ONLY the Lord. And if the personages in the other accounts are the same and there is no indication they are not, they we could reasonably conclude that they are God the Father and the Son. If they are, couldn’t the descriptor, “the Lord” apply as well in the other three accounts? I think so.

Pillar

1832 – Pillar of light.

1835 – Pillar of fire/flame.

1838 – Pillar of light.

1842 – Surrounded by a brilliant light.

I’m going to be honest. I think you’re just nitpicking if you think these things are describe something different each time.

Communications

1832 – Sins are forgiven, keep my commandments, I am the Lord, world has turned from the gospel, they draw near with lips but hearts are far, anger kindled against the inhabitants of the earth, bring to pass that which has been spoken of by the prophets.

1835 – Sins forgiven, testified that Jesus is the Son of god.

1838 – Told that one of the personages is “my beloved Son,” told not to join the churches, their creeds are an abomination, their professors are all corrupt, they draw near with lips but hearts are far, many other things.

1842 – All religious denominations are believing incorrect doctrines, none of them are acknowledged by God, commanded to “go not after them,” the fullness of the gospel should be made known in the future.

Again with these accounts there seems to be a common thread running through them. And there is no case where there is any direct contradiction. You can only find contradiction if you assume that each account contains all that was said and nothing more. The 1835 account does stand out. However is should be noted that this part of the account is only seventeen words long. So it is clearly a summarization.

Hopefully, by now you will agree with me that the infographic was made in such a way as to play up the differences. I think it is clear that these much disparaged “differences” are not anything that can’t be attributed to retelling the same event in different ways at different times.

With all this information in hand I’m going to ask you, have you ever told something that happened to you, but summarized it, or left out parts based on who you are talking to?

I have. When people ask how my wife and I met on my mission and later got married I will usually tell them this:

“I was serving in the Sto. Domingo branch and [my would-be wife] was serving in the District Relief society presidency in another city. One day she came to visit our branch and that was when I first saw her. I only saw her occasionally after that. However, before I went home a member gave me her phone number. After a few months I called her, and the rest is history.”

Even if you asked if I had any spiritual experiences about her I might still only tell you the version above. But I would tell a different version of the story depending on if I thought I should share it with you. That version would go something like this:

“I was serving in the Sto. Domingo branch and [my would-be wife] was serving in the District Relief society presidency in another city. One day she came to visit our branch and that was when I first saw her. It was so weird because at the moment I first saw her, I heard a voice behind me say that she’s the one I’m supposed to marry. I looked behind me thinking it was my companion playing a joke, but nobody was there. I only saw her occasionally after that. However, before I went home I asked a member for her phone number. After a few months I called her, and the rest is history.”

Would you really need to draw up charts with little checkmarks; saying that in one story I said I asked for the phone number, in the other he said it was the member who gave it to him. Or that in one said I had a spiritual experience and the other is didn’t. Of course not, that’s just dumb. We all would understand that I’m just telling different parts of the story based on what I think should be included.

So how come we are willing to give any regular person a pass for summarizing and not sharing all the details every time, but not Joseph Smith?

The truth of the matter is that there aren’t nearly as many contradictions in the first vision accounts as people want you to think. In fact, if we allow the accounts to inform each other, they flow together very well. There really aren’t any major contradictions. There are only contradictions if you view what Joseph told in each account as exactly what was in Joseph’s mind every time. I think human experience tells us that that is not the way we tell and retell stories.

To experiment with this, I set out to make a unified version of the First vision. I gathered all the firsthand accounts and meshed them created one account. My criteria was that I wanted to use as much original wording as possible, I wanted to keep the order of things intact, and I wanted things to make sense as a story. The biggest issue is that some accounts are told in different narrative styles. In one account Joseph may reflect on something which is mentioned earlier in another account. Despite this, the accounts seem to follow each other and mesh very well. I was surprised how easy it actually was. I didn’t need to leave out any details. The story doesn’t require fantastic rationalizations, like Judas hanging himself and then the rope breaking so he fell and burst asunder. It actually flows pretty well. The only issue I didn’t check for was theological correctness. For example, if God the Father would say, “Joseph my son.”

So without further adieu here is my version of the complete first vision:

(I’ve corrected spelling and text I’ve added is bold)

At about the age of twelve years, my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness respecting the subject of religion, and became seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns for the well fare of my immortal Soul; which led me to searching the scriptures. Believing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God. Thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my Soul.

Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind; the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind. But though my feelings were deep and often pungent, still I kept myself aloof from all those parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit, looking at the different systems taught the children of men. But in process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them.

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon inquiring the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; because so great was the confusion and strife among the different denominations that it was impossible for a person young as I was and so unacquainted with men and things to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong.

If I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.

My mind at different times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult was so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists, and Methodists, and used all their powers of either reason, or sophistry to prove their errors, or at least to make the people think they were in error: on the other hand the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous to establish their own tenets, and disprove all others.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, what is to be done? Who of all these parties are right? Or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right which is it, and how shall I know it? I knew not who was right or who was wrong, and considering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; my mind become exceedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord, but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament, and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God.

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties, caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth unto all men liberally and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.” Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God I did, for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I had would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God,’ concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

Being thus perplexed in mind and in accordance with this my determination, to ask of God, I retired to a secret place in a silent grove to make the attempt; under a realizing sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find,” and again believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James. Information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it I retired to the woods.

It was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. For I had looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also upon which I stood, and the beast of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth, in majesty and in the strength of beauty. Whose power and intelligence in governing the things, which are so exceeding great and marvelous, even in the likeness of him who created them. And when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed, “well hath the wise man said, ‘it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God.’“ My heart exclaimed, “all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power. A being who maketh Laws, and decreeth, and bindeth all things in their bounds; who filleth Eternity. Who was, and is, and will be from all Eternity to Eternity.” And when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth, therefore I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated, or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray.

It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally. After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me and finding myself alone, I bowed down before the Lord and began to to call upon the Lord and offer up the desires of my heart to God.

I had scarcely done so when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcome me, and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue, so that I could not speak. For my tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth.

I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, I strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking.

Thick darkness gathered around me and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction, not to any imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world who had such a marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being, I kneeled again, my mouth was opened and my tongue liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, and therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness.

Just at this moment of great alarm, while fervently engaged in calling upon the Lord, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision:

I saw a pillar of light, as if fire, above the brightness of the sun at noon day, had appeared exactly above my head and descended gradually from above until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light had presently rested upon my head, I was filled with joy unspeakable through the spirit of God; and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord. For a personage appeared in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, and another personage soon appeared like unto the first, and I saw many Angels. I saw these two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day(whose brightness and glory defy all description), standing above me in the air.

One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” He testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; and said, (pointing to the other,) “This is my beloved Son, hear him.”

And he said unto me, “Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.”

Now my object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know, ‘which of all the sects was right? That I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong,) and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt. He said, “Behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good, no not one. They have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to their ungodliness, and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles. Behold and lo I come quickly, as it is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.”

They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me. And many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time.

When I came to myself again I found myself laying on my back, looking up into heaven. My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but could find none that would believe the heavenly vision, nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart but after many days I fell into transgressions, was entangled again in the vanities of the world, and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul. And there were many things which transpired that cannot be written.

 

As a follow up to this I will be posting an analysis showing where I drew from each account and how much.

Some questions answered:

Why are there multiple versions of the First Vision?

Because Joseph Smith told the account multiple times.

Why do some of the accounts differ?

Probably because Joseph Smith told it slightly differently each time. He may have included and excluded pieces depending on who he was talking to.

Doesn’t that prove he was lying and couldn’t keep his story straight?

Not any more than it proves you lie when you tell a story differently and may or may not include certain details depending on who you’re talking to.

Are there any firsthand accounts that directly contradict each other?

No. Some accounts may leave out elements or state things in a different way, but that is not the same as a contradiction.

But didn’t Joseph say he saw only the Lord in one account and two personages (God and Jesus) in another account?

He didn’t say he ONLY saw the Lord. He just said he saw the Lord. I would say that seeing God, or Jesus, or both would qualify as having seen “the Lord.” Perhaps, he decided to exclude some of the details in that account, just like he did many others.

Isn’t it a contradiction when Joseph Smith said, “Who of all these parties are right? Or, are they all wrong together?” then later said “for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong” in the same document, not to mention in other accounts he had already concluded that the other churches had apostatized?!

Possibly, people make mistakes all the time. However to me it reads as if Joseph Smith is waxing philosophical or just basing things on his own studies in his statements pre-vision. Then later he is saying something like, “Woah, it’s really official, t are all wrong.” I know that explanation won’t satisfy everybody. But to be honest I don’t have an issue with either keeping that parenthetical or chalking it up to an authorship issue and throwing it out. Is this possible error proof that Joseph Smith lied? Hardly.

Why didn’t you talk about Joseph’s age? It’s all over the place in the different accounts.

The accounts don’t really differ that much. The age is cited as between a range of fourteen and sixteen. You’re assuming this event was much more significant to Joseph Smith then the evidence indicates it was. Ten years later he probably had a hard time remembering exactly what year it was.

Why did Joseph Smith join the Methodist Church in 1828 after he was told not to in the vision?

I don’t know Joseph Smith’s motivations so I can’t answer why. Though this would not be inconsistent with the first vision account, because Joseph Smith himself admitted that he fell into transgressions, was entangled in the vanities of the world, and sinned in many things. It would be folly to assume Joseph Smith perfectly kept all of God’s commandments when the man himself admitted that he didn’t.

Doesn’t the fact that there are no records of the first vision until ten or twelve years after it supposedly happened mean that Joseph Smith made it up?

Not necessarily, it just may mean that this vision wasn’t as significant to Joseph Smith as the L-dS Church makes it out to be. Evidence indicates that the vision prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was much more significant to him.

You’re just ignoring that facts and twisting things to support your own conclusions!

Not any more than you are.

Joseph Smith was a filthy liar, scumbag, pedophile; I just know it!

Boo hoo, go cry in your pillow.

Posted in Joseph SMith, Vision | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is It Enough To Be A Good Mormon?


I want to thank everyone who took the time and read my previous post about President Monson’s amazing new revelation during general conference. I admit it was a bit out there, but that was intentional. It was with that post I wanted to comment on the current Mormon understanding of modern revelation and doctrine.

Yes, I agree that I made some monumental logical leaps, but isn’t that what our understanding as a Church of modern revelation requires us to do as well? If President Monson’s words that Section 89 is the Word of Wisdom (which allows the interpretation that I can abide by everything set forth in section 89 and still keep the Word of Wisdom) aren’t revelation then what is? If a prophet’s words can only be considered revelation if they agree with the institution, then what use is a prophet?

The thing is that most members of the Church have a very loose definition of what constitutes revelation. We use generic phrases like, “guided by revelation.” But what does that mean exactly? We use it to mean that a talk, while may not be a revelation revelation, it was inspired and thus pretty much the same thing as revelation. We also say things like a manual (written by various authors, then organized by a committee, then published with the Church’s name on it) is pretty much revelation too because “the prophet approved it.” In either case both of these positions contain just as huge leaps of logic as my previous post did. We spread the definition of revelation so thin that anything could be revelation; it just depends on how many people support it.

All of this tradition and institutional policy is built up as a defense that allows members of the Church to still claim modern revelation, while avoiding that fact that no revelations, like Joseph Smith received, have been published in over 125 years. What that boils down to in ground level terms is that it makes it impossible to analyze the truth claims of continuing revelation because any statement by a church leader or Church publication is simultaneously both revelation and not revelation. It becomes one or the other depending solely upon whatever the Church headquarters says it is at any given time.

I’ve asked the question of other members of the Church, “If the Prophet said something that contradicted the handbook what should we follow?” The most common answer is that we should follow whatever the prophet said most recently. However, the response to my previous post proved that it doesn’t really matter to most members of the Church what the Prophet actually said most recently. The only reason President Monson’s talk wasn’t regarded as revelation is because, contrary to rhetoric, most members of the Church don’t actually look to the President of the Church for revelation, we look to the institution. We expect that there will be new manuals, new policies, press conferences, the whole shebang. Just look at the change in missionary age. This is widely regarded as revelation, though it was never actually stated to be such. There were just all the institutional trappings that come with what we claim to be revelation, so BAM it was revelation.

i-can-t-i-m-mormon-mormons-332318_400_400We as members of the Church often repeat the phrase “Follow the Prophet,” but we don’t actually mean that. What we actually mean is, listen to what comes out of the Church Office Building and Church culture and do that. In other words the phrase “Follow the Prophet” actually means, be a good Mormon. Thus if there is anything that makes you do something other than what a good Mormon should do, even if the Prophet says it, don’t do it. Just be a good Mormon!

For an excellent example of following the Church over prophets we need only look at how Hastening the Work became a major Mormon teaching; even though President Monson never started it. To read the entire history of this click here; but for this post I’ll quote the main point:

Over and over we heard that President Monson told us it’s time to hasten the work. I was actually assigned to teach the topic to my Elder’s Quorum [in 2014], so I set about tracking down the original quote from President Monson about hastening the work. I wanted to read to my brethren the call from the prophet himself.

Except he never said it.

I went through every General Conference address, and every other speaking gig President Monson did since the age change, and I couldn’t find even a single instance of him speaking of hastening the work. Not one.

And yet, in the April, 2014 General Conference, no fewer than FIVE speakers spoke on the “hastening,” often tying it in some way to President Monson, and thus putting words he never said, squarely in his mouth.

Incidentally, President Monson has since written about hastening the work. It was in a First Presidency Message in the Ensign in June of this [2014]. And it was about family history work. Confused? Predictably, the message has been adjusted and we are now hearing about hastening the work of salvation–among the living and the dead. No problem.

This is yet again proof that we prefer institutional policy over revelation. The doctrine of Hastening the Work appeared out of our culture, was adopted by leaders of the Church, then only after all that did President Monson speak about the topic. If Hastening the Work was a doctrine that came from culture, not from revelation; then what other Mormon teachings are? What other teachings have we gotten over the pulpit that first came from opinions and then were promoted enough until they finally became doctrine? What are things we claim as revelation that are actually just teachings our leaders grew up believing?

This is why I can’t just accept at face value what the Church teaches and go on “being a good Mormon.” What if what the Church currently teaches is wrong? Most members of the Church would say that it can’t be because “the prophet will never lead us astray.” The problem with that is first of all, people aren’t listening to the prophet, they are listening to the institution. Second, where did that teaching come from? What if that teaching is a false doctrine too?

intersect41Those questions are why I HAVE TO examine the history and progression of Mormon theology. That is why I can’t just accept what is taught TODAY as truth. Instead, I have to seek out where teachings came from and see if what is taught today came from God or men.

In the classic epic poem the Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus and his crew are sailing past the island of the Sirens. The call of the sirens was such that it would make a man go mad and lead to his death. So Odysseus ordered his men to put wax in their ears. But Odysseus wanted to hear the call of the sirens So he told his men to tie him to the mast. After entering range of the siren’s call Odysseus begged and pleaded to be set free. But his men refused and they safely sailed past the island.

waterhouse27If Odysseus’ crew had taken the current orders and more important than the previous ones; then Odysseus’ men should have untied him and let him swim to his doom. That is, after all, what he was telling them at that time.

But Odysseus had given them orders to disregard anything that contradicted his will at that time. His men recognized that his present desires were contradicting he previous orders. They stuck with what he had previously ordered and made it through safely.

What if right now the church is metaphorically sailing past the island of the sirens. What if those at the helm of the Good Ship Zion are contradicting the orders of the Captain Himself? We can’t know unless we compare it with what God said in the past. The scriptures teach that pondering is important to understanding God’s truth. How many of us actually study these things and ponder them? And how many of us just keep doing what we’ve always done because that’s what we’ve been taught from day one? Are we too busy trying to get right the teachings we were raised in that we are neglecting to get right the teachings of God?

Is there anything in the scriptures where Odysseus-like commands are given? In fact there are. In multiple places we are taught to disregard things that conflict with what was established at the time.

Paul in Galatians 1:8, 9 warned:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Again in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 we learn:

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

With these warnings we can used the scriptures as our measuring stick for any teaching we come across. This doesn’t mean that we reject new teachings from God through revelation. Nor does it mean that we must be stuck in the 1800’s. Instead it means that when people, regardless of their position, come to us and claim something is God’s Word, we can judge if it truly is. And if it is we accept it and if it is not then we don’t.

I don’t believe we must reject leaders of the Church. But I do believe it is our duty to examine our teachings, and if they are found to be false we should reject those teachings and replace them with correct ones. When we say we sustain Church leaders we teach it doesn’t mean we blindly follow them. But do we really believe that? Like the story of Uzzah who was struck dead when he put his hand forth to steady and support the ark in its improper method of being carried. So too we will not stand blameless for supporting incorrect teachings. Sometimes sustaining Church leaders means to not support false teachings we heard over the pulpit.

wrong-wayI fully believe that the President of the Church cannot lead this people astray. That’s because if we as a people know and support God’s true teachings; then if leaders, any leader or even just a random blogger, teach something that is incorrect, we cannot be lead astray by it.

In my journey I observed several places where what we as Mormons practice seemed to conflict with what God taught in the scriptures. Noticing this apparent contradiction I began to study. The result of my study is that I found many of the things I had been taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders was not correct. Faced with this realization I must either accept additional light and knowledge or remain in darkness and lose what light I possessed. What would you do?

Posted in Church, revelation, Scriptures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Huge Revelation That Many Mormons Missed


2014-10-1010-president-thomas-s-monson-590x331-ldsorg-articleOne of the central tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God reveals His will through living prophets, this is called Modern Revelation.  As an extension of that principle, Latter-day Saints believe it is essential to follow what the Living Prophet says. Twice a year, members of the Church have the opportunity to listen to talks from Church leaders during a semi-annual General Conference. These talks include addresses from the Church’s Prophet. In our day this is President Thomas S. Monson.

Now, if you are a Mormon, like me, you may have noticed that there is a growing number of what are referred to as “cafeteria Mormons.” These are members of the Church who pick and choose what they want to believe. When it comes to following to the Prophet , I find that many of these Mormons want to put words in the Prophet’s mouth rather than listen to what has actually come out of it. When they hear the Prophet speak they excuse themselves from following what he said and instead follow what they wish he said.

I fear that this is why many members of the Church didn’t notice the ground breaking modern revelation that came through President Monson at this latest general conference. If we believe that whatever the Prophet has most recently spoken about a subject is God’s will revealed through modern revelation, then I can only conclude that too many of these “cafeteria Mormons” are stuck in their own traditions and not willing to follow the Prophet.

So just what did the Prophet say most recently that was an amazing revelation? This last weekend(as of this writing) Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at General Conference.  He gave two talks, both of which I will talk about here. In his second talk on Sunday morning he said:

 “Essential to the plan is Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice all would be lost. It’s not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission; we need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them.”

Wow, isn’t that incredible! Unfortunately too many members of the Church will simply gloss over his words or ignore them and continue on doing what they’ve always been doing. They will say, “He didn’t actually mean what he said he really meant(insert-favorite-false-teaching-here).” Others, if you ask them what the Prophet’s most recent message was they will probably draw a blank, so I will reemphasize the crux of what he said:

“We need to know God’s laws and live them.”

What is it President Monson reminded us to know and live? God’s Laws. Notice anything missing? I’m willing to bet those cafeteria Mormons didn’t. But for the sake of clarity I’ll point it out what you probably already know. If you listen to President Monson’s talk you’ll notice he told us to know and keep God’s Laws, yet he never mentioned knowing and keeping Church culture or tradition. He also didn’t mention knowing and keeping Church policies and handbooks. He said, “We need to know GOD’S LAWS and LIVE THEM.

Yet, there are some spurious groups of Church members, including unfortunately, some leaders; that completely missed this modern revelation and continue to take President Monson’s words out of context. God, through President Monson’s most recent words just changed the entire landscape of the Church.

Ok, ok, maybe I’m over reacting a bit. Maybe when he spoke he implied the handbook and other policies even though he didn’t actually say it. But, as you know, implication doesn’t count as modern revelation. However, just to make sure I’m not going crazy here, and to avoid standing on a shaky foundation let’s look at His talk during the Priesthood session of this same Conference.

During this talk President Monson spoke about the Word of Wisdom. At the end of his talk he reaffirmed the importance of observing it by saying:

“May we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of wisdom; a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do.”

words-of-wisdom-clip-art-3v3rw6-clipartSo let’s have a quick look at the Word of Wisdom. Looking at the actual text of Section 89 we notice that the revelation contains stuff that is slightly different than what is contained in the modern Church policy and tradition version. That’s not really a problem if you believe that God uses modern revelation through living Prophets to tell us what His will for us NOW is.

Modern Church policy and tradition holds that the Word of Wisdom contains the following provisions, to name a few:

– That that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment.

– That all alcohol use is forbidden.

– That caffeine is forbidden.

– That the don’ts are more important than the dos.

However, the actual text of the Section 89 is somewhat different than what we think of when we hear the phrase “Word of Wisdom.” These differences include:

– It is explicitly stated that it is not to go by way of commandment.

– Wine can be used for the sacrament.

– “Hot drinks,” not explicitly tea and coffee, are forbidden.

– Caffeine is never mentioned.

– “Do’s” such as eating meat sparingly; and that herbs, fruit and meat are to be used with thanksgiving.

– Barley based “mild drinks,” not excluding beer, are acceptable.

It is believed in the Church that modern revelation trumps past revelation. So if the current President of the Church says that we should not drink alcohol even though Section 89 says wine and beer are ok, then we should follow what the living prophet says NOW. I believe most Mormons would agree with this.

So what did President Monson most recently say about the Word of Wisdom? Less than two days(at the time of this writing) ago at the beginning of his Priesthood session talk President Monson said:

“In 1833 the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the plan for healthy living. That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom. It gives specific direction regarding the food we eat and it prohibits the use of substances that are harmful to our bodies. Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commandments and who faithfully observe the Word of Wisdom are promised particular blessings among which are good health and added physical stamina.”

Did you catch what President Monson said? He said first that, “the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the plan for healthy living.” So he is confirming that the Lord’s plan for healthy living was reveal to Joseph Smith. Then he told us that “That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom.” Here President Monson specifically tells is what he means when he refers to the Word of Wisdom. He specifically stated that he is referring to section 89 when he referred to the Word of Wisdom in his talk. He did NOT say the handbook, Church website, policies, and/or traditions were the correct definition. So I’m not crazy. That is two talks where he told us to obey God’s laws and gave no mention of the handbook, manuals, and policies. He also directly contradicted the Church website and manuals in one talk.

Why isn’t this in the news?! This is huge. President Monson just told us that the Word of Wisdom is the actual text of Section 89 and did not include what the handbook or Church website says about it.

This is seriously a mind blowing change for any Mormon who believes we should Follow the Prophet.

Now I’m sure there are some segments of Mormonism who are probably screaming, “We’ll he may not have said it, but he meant that we should follow the Church’s teachings about the Word of Wisdom and other things.”

But these people are clearly ignoring the doctrine of Modern Revelation. President Monson clearly stated that we need to know and live God’s Laws and that the Word of Wisdom is found in section 89. These members of the Church would rather stick with what was said in the past than what has been said RIGHT NOW. These are the same people who would have stoned the ancient prophets for saying anything other than what they wanted to hear.

Just what are God’s Laws as President Monson mentioned? Well in his second talk he clearly referenced section 89. So maybe the scriptures are a good place to start. As a point of fact the handbook itself says it is not scripture:

17.1.1  Scriptures

The standard works of the Church are the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In many languages, the Church has approved one edition of the Bible to be used in Church meetings and classes. Likewise, the latest authorized edition of the other three books of Latter-day Saint scriptures should be used. No other works are to be promoted or used in the Church as scripture.

Fortunately the scriptures in the standard works are readily available to us. Just crack them open and read. But, to save you some time I’ll summarize a few of God’s Laws here and how this emphasis on God’s Laws, by a modern prophet, will affect us.

Tithing

surplusIn Section 119 God revealed that tithing consists of each person giving their initial surplus to the Bishop. Then yearly for every year after that they are to give 10% of their interest.

This means that unless you give that initial surplus as commanded in Section 119 you cannot be a full tithe payer. After you have done that, only 10% of your interest is required for tithing. Additionally, tithing need not be money only.

Missionary Work

Missionaries are to be guided by God’s Laws in Section 84 and other commandments, which state that they are to go forth without purse or scrip, neither staff nor two coats. They are to receive their subsistence from the generosity of those they encounter. This is so that God may judge the people of that city through their actions(how willing they are to help the poor). Missionaries are also commanded that if they receive money and they have families they need to send it home to them. Or if they don’t have families they should send the money to the bishop.

This means that the missionary program of the Church is going to need a complete overhaul. Any missionaries out there take your white handbook and throw it in the garbage. Any families of missionaries, stop paying into the missionary fund. There is to be no missionary fund. Missionaries will receive their food, clothing, housing, etc. from the generosity of those around them

Divorce

Christ declared in Matthew 5:32 that any man who divorces his wife, except in cases of fornication, and she remarries is causing her and her new husband to commit adultery. We are then under the command given in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that if a man and woman separate(not divorce) then she is to remain unmarried while he is to receive her if she comes back. We should see a lot fewer divorces.

Adultery and Fornication

We are to understand the scriptural meaning of adultery and fornication. That is, adultery is when a man has sexual relations with another man’s wife. This definition does not include a single or married man having sexual relations with a woman who is single. (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 22:22)

Note: Just to clarify, I’m not saying that a single or married man having sexual relations with a single woman outside of marriage not a sin, nor am I advocating such behavior. I’m just saying that according to the scriptural definition it is not adultery. In fact the required act of repentance for such an action is given in the scriptures.

As for fornication we are to understand that it is a broad term referring to sexual sin and not specifically unmarried persons having sex. (Matthew 15:19; Jacob 3:12)

Sacrament

86439859The church will kneel together when the sacrament is blessed. While water may be used for the sacrament wine is also allowed. Priests will only administer the sacrament when and elder is not present. (Section 20:40, 46, 50, 58, 76; Section 27:1-5;

Elders

As contained in Section 20 elders are to administer the bread and wine in the sacrament. Additionally they are to take the lead of all meetings. Elder are also to travel to preach the gospel. (Section 20:38-45, 66; Section 124:139, 140)

This means that Bishops will not be the presiding authority at Church meetings, though they will still be in charge of the temporal needs of members in Wards.

Priests

First of all Priests will not be limited to a certain age group. It will now become common for grown men to be priests. Additionally, when elders are present they are NOT allowed to administer the Sacrament. But when elders are not present they may take the lead of meetings. Priests are also to assist elders in travelling and preaching the gospel. (Section 20:46-52)

Teachers and Deacons

Teachers will watch over the church and make sure the church gathers to meet. Teachers will not be involved in administering the sacrament. But they will take the lea d of meetings when neither an elder nor priest are present. (Section 20:53-58)

Deacons will not participate in administering the sacrament. (Section 20:58)

Word of Wisdom

I already touched on this but I’ll summarized again here. To start off the Word of Wisdom is no longer to be considered a commandment. Additionally wine is acceptable for use in the sacrament(a much better symbol than water by the way). Third you can drink barley based “mild drinks,” not excluding beer, and still say you keep the word of wisdom. Eating meat sparingly and fruit in season with thanksgiving is on equal footing with all of the “don’ts.”

Gathering to Zion

We can now give up the so-called “spiritual gathering,” where members are called to gather and build Zion where they are. We must prepare to physically gather to Zion and the Lord will prepare the way for this to happen (Section 101:67-69).

I don’t think I need to go on much more. I’m sure you think I’m coo-coo-bananas at this point. But you have the scriptures, you can read for yourself. This is a very interesting time in Mormonism. President Monson has just given us modern revelation that we are to know and live God’s Laws. At the same time  he did not emphasize the need to follow the handbook, when he could have. Thus in light of President Monson’s most recent words we can surmise that in cases where the Laws of God conflict with the handbook, policies, and culture; we should follow God’s Laws.  As I showed earlier proof of this view was given in his Priesthood Session talk where he did not use the Church’s website reference to abstaining from all alcohol, and instead used Section 89 which allows wine for sacrament and beer.

businessman_at_crossroadsMembers of the church now stand at a cross roads. Do we say President Monson implied something that he never said, or do we listen to what he actually said? Do we continue to follow the traditions and policies of the Church the conflict with God’s laws, or are we going to Follow the Prophet?

Preach My Gospel says this:

“Those who listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles will not go astray. The teachings of living prophets provide an anchor of eternal truth in a world of shifting values and help us avoid misery and sorrow. The confusion and strife of the world will not overwhelm us, and we can enjoy the assurance of being in harmony with God’s will.”

Are you willing to listen to what the Prophet, President Monson, has said most recently? Or are you still stuck in the past. For me I will stand with President Monson. No matter what my fellow members say about me, or what discipline I may face from Church Leaders, at least I can stand firm and solemnly declare I was not being led astray, because I was willing to Follow the Prophet.

“May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.” – President Monson, October 2011

Dare to be a Mormon;

Dare to stand alone.

Dare to have a purpose firm;

Dare to make it known.

Posted in Church, Commandments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Two Perspectives


Or Why I Frequently Disagree With Other Mormons.

14492469I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in disagreements with other Mormons. And I’ve found this really all boils down to a difference in perspective. There are two type of perspectives I wish to discuss. These are what I call the Looking Back and Looking Forward perspectives.

For someone with a Looking Back perspective they look at where they are now and reconcile the past with that. What this means is a Mormon will start from what the know today; and believing that to be correct, will regard past decisions as necessary to get us where we are. Their understanding comes from the now and looking back into the past.

Someone with a Looking Forward perspective looks from the past and reconciles the past as it flowed into the future. From this perspective a Mormon will believe some point in the past was correct, and as time flowed any decisions may have been good or bad depending on if they maintained the integrity of that past. Where we are now might not be correct if past decisions are found to be in error.

Let’s look at some examples:

  Looking Back Looking Forward
Pioneers God wanted the Pioneers to travel across the plains to establish Salt Lake City so the Gospel could flourish and go to all the earth. The Saints were cast out of Nauvoo because they failed to listen to God’s commandments. We are currently under condemnation.
President of the Church There is a clear line of succession traced back to Joseph Smith. There was no clear successor after Joseph’s death. Modern leaders are probably not true successors.
Section 89 (Word of Wisdom)  The Word of Wisdom is now a commandment and we are forbidden from drinking alcohol. Section 89 says it is not a commandment and allows wine for the sacrament and mild barley based drinks.
Church Administration Bishops are to lead congregations, Priests bless the sacrament, teachers hold the doors, and Deacons pass the sacrament. Bishops are to oversee the temporal needs, while Elders are spiritual leaders. Priest may only administer sacrament if and elder in not present. Neither teachers nor deacons may administer the sacrament.

 

Those are just a few examples. But I think you get my meaning. Now I’ll give you a practical example. Just recently I was conversing with another Mormon and he stated that a sacrament I participated in was not real because it was not authorized by a Bishop. I asked where it is stated that a bishop must authorize a sacrament. The other member said it was in the handbook. Yes, but the handbook is not scripture, I replied. This member said, No, but it was authorized by the Prophet.

Do you see the two perspectives here? Get into any discussion with an L-DS Mormon and it will inevitably come down to the President of the Church. Do you believe Thomas S. Monson to be a prophet? In other words, do you believe that where we are now is correct? Because if where we are now is correct, then it doesn’t matter how things used to be.

Whereas my perspective in the discussion was that the past was correct and any changes from that were incorrect. So from my perspective it doesn’t matter if President Monson authorized the handbook or not, because if that Handbook contradicts God’s revelations, it is not true.

For many the Looking Back perspective works; and if it works for you, that’s great. But it doesn’t work for me. Why? Because, no offense, it doesn’t seem rational. Time does not flow backward, it flows forward. Past events were not done with our current arbitrary position in mind as the inevitable goal.

Let’s say that 100 years ago at point A God revealed that we should paint our doors black. Then 50 years ago at Point B someone said, hey we don’t have any black paint, let’s use grey. Then today at point C someone says God wants all our doors to be grey. Yes I know it’s a silly example but bear with me.

Someone Looking Back would say, yes God originally wanted our doors black, but it was changed and now He wants our doors grey.

Someone Looking Forward would say our current practice is wrong. God still wants our doors black, because he never told us he wanted them grey, that was just something somebody used in an extraneous circumstance.

Both of these perspectives require that some point be viewed as correct. To me it makes more sense to look at the past because we can more easily examine it. The Lord said the saints would be cast out if they didn’t finished the Nauvoo Temple in time. They didn’t and they were. We can look at history and see it unfolding. The Looking Back perspective requires us to assume that whatever we are taught today is true. There really is no other basis than he said, she said. To me it seems a very weak foundation to have.

This is the big difference that seems to be the root of all my disagreements with other Mormons. Because it always seems to boil down to, “Do you believe President Monson is a Prophet or not?” I’m not sure how to really address this, because no matter what the answer it shuts the discussion down.

So, which perspective do you espouse? What point do you view as correct? What are the advantages of your perspective?

Posted in Church, Prophets | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Abraham’s Toxic Polygamy


All references are to the Joseph Smith Translation.

250px-Sarah-HagarThe story of Sarah giving Hagar to Abraham is commonly used by pro-polygamists to bolster their position of polygyny being approved by God. However, others point out that the only reason Sarah did this was because she didn’t have enough faith that God would give her a son. Meaning that it was only through Sarah’s lack of faith that Abraham committed polygyny to begin with. In this article I will look deeper into this issue and expound this a bit more.

 

The Lord first give a promise to Abram in Genesis Chapter 12. In verse 2 God promises that he will make of Abram a great nation and that in him the nations of the earth will be blessed. In verse 6 the Lord promises the land to Abram’s seed. So far there is just a general promise of becoming a great nation and his seed possessing the land. There has been no indication from the Lord that these promises must be fulfilled through Abram’s literal descendants. As far as anyone knows Abram’s house qualifies for fulfilling these promises.

 

We learn later in Chapter 15, when the Lord comes again to talk with Abram, that Abram has already arranged an heir. That heir is Eliezer, a man who was born of Abram’s house. In verse 2-6 the Lord clarifies that it will be a literal descendant of Abram who will be his heir. This is important in understanding what comes next.

 

In Chapter 16 we get into the situation with Sarai and Hagar. Before giving Hagar to Abram, and Abram consequently becoming polygynous, Sarai recognizes that she is barren. At this point in time Sarai is about 75 years old. Abram and Sarai have been married for some time now and it is pretty clear that not only was she barren in their youth, but she has long past the age of child bearing. It is important to note that Sarai says that “the Lord hath restrained me from bearing”. Now, considering the fact that she truly was barren, I think it would be accurate of her to say that the Lord has restrained her. Certainly if the Lord wanted her to have a child, He would have caused it to happen.

It is because of this that Sarai decides to give her handmaid(servant) Hagar to Abram as a wife so that through her Sarai might have children. It is here that Sarai lacked faith in the Lord, or so people say. But let’s look carefully at what is going on.

– First, the Lord promised Abraham seed (plural).

– Second, one of these seed that would be his heir, would be a literal descendant of him.

– Third, Sarai was barren and there was no indication that the Lord had not caused it.*

The assumption behind the Sarai lacking faith theory is that they say Sarai knew that it must be through her that the heir was born. And that she did not have enough faith that the Lord would open her womb. The problem with this is that nowhere in the text does it state that the heir would come through Sarai. Up until this point there has been no indication that the heir has anything to do with Sarai. We only know that it must be through Abram.

Based on the information given, Sarai arrived at the logical conclusion that, since she couldn’t have children herself, they must have to come through someone else. I would say that the decision to give Hagar to Abraham as a wife was not a result of lacking faith; instead it was driven by faith.

Now we start getting into problems when Hagar conceives. When this happens Hagar becomes very prideful. She despised Sarai. Now, imagine that one moment you are a servant girl, and the next you are the mother of the heir to everything. For me it is easy to see why Hagar would be prideful. However, this was not a good thing, Sarai tells Abram of Hagar’s attitude. Sarai realized that perhaps Hagar was not the best choice to have given to be Abram’s wife. Some people look at verse 5 of Chapter 16 and think this is proof that Sarai knew giving Hagar to Abraham was the wrong thing. But again, looking at the evidence; Sarai had no indication that the heir and other seed would come through her. All she knew was that Abram must have seed. If Sarai thought that giving Abram a second wife was wrong, she only could have thought that condemning Abram to having no children was a better option. This a clearly absurd. Sarai’s statement of her “wrong” must have been about her regretted giving the prideful Hagar, as opposed to some other woman, to Abram.

 

After this, Abram tells Sarai that she should take care of it because Sarai is still Hagar’s mistress. Sarai then dealt hardly with Hagar, and Hagar flees. People using the story of Sarai and Hagar to show how bad polygamy is point to this incident and say, “See look how toxic polygamy is.” But what is going on here has little to do with polygyny and more to do with Hagar’s pride. Meaning, there is nothing inherent in polygyny that caused Hagar’s reaction. Her reaction came because of her perceived status change in becoming the mother of the heir.

 

While in the wilderness an angel comes to Hagar. The angel tells Hagar to go back and submit herself to Sarai, after all Sarai was Hagar’s mistress. The angel also blesses Hagar’s child. Something interesting to note here is that the Angel doesn’t say that Ishmael will be the heir, but also doesn’t say he won’t be either. So still no one in this account has any reason to think that Ishmael is not the heir. My personal thought is that it was Hagar’s despising of Sarai that may have lost it for Ishmael.

 

36481_all_09-02-AbrahamHagar returns and Ishmael is born. Thirteen years later and Chapter 17 starts. That’s over thirteen years for the Lord to say that Sarai would have a son, but He didn’t. It is safe to assume that Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael, and everyone else believed that Ishmael was the heir. It is here when the Lord comes and changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah. Also in verse 22 is the first mention of Sarah being the one to bear the heir. This reaffirms that, unlike what detractors claim, Sarai’s actions in promoting polygyny were done with faith, not without it.

 

In verse 22, the Lord says that it will be Sarah who will bear the heir of Abraham. Abraham goes on to rejoice. But he doesn’t rejoice because it will be Sarah who will bear the heir, as some suppose; but that two people as old as they are will have a son. Immediately after this though, Abraham prays for Ishmael. The Lord then confirms that it is Isaac who will be the heir.

 

Later in Chapter 18 three angels as men came to visit Abraham. They confirm to him that Sarah will bear a son. Sarah overhears this and laughs. She has a hard time believing that a she and Abraham, in their old age, could have a son together. If there was any part of the story where it could be said that Sarah lacked faith it would be here. But after a short discussion with the angel Sarah accepts what will happen.

 

ishmael-and-hagarLastly in Chapter 21 Isaac is born. At the great feast in celebration of Isaac’s weaning, Ishmael mocks him. Here we see that Ishmael perhaps has inherited his mother’s prideful tendencies. It is also possible that Ishmael is hurt due to the fact that he knows he used to be the heir but now Isaac is. But Ishmael’s mockings of Sarah’s son are too much for her. She tells Abraham to cast out Ishmael and Hagar. With Hagar still being the servant of Sarah the Lord, in verse 10 recognized that she had the right to do that. Abraham was upset because of this, but the Lord comforted him. He then sent Hagar and Ishamel away with provisions. While there in the wilderness the Lord provided for Hagar and Ishmael.

 

Opponents of polygyny like to point to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar as an example of why polygyny is bad. They say that Sarai lacked faith in giving Hagar to Abram. They also point to Sarah and Hagar’s relationship and say that polygamy is toxic and a stumbling block. However, I have shown that by looking at the actual text, neither of these views are correct. When Sarai gave Hagar to her husband she had no indication from the Lord that she would literally bear Abram’s heir. Thus she cannot be viewed as lacking faith. The first conflict was between Hagar and Sarai was because of how Hagar treated Sarai, rather than anything inherent in polygyny. The second most influential of the two conflicts had nothing to do with Hagar at all. It was a conflict between Sarah and Ishmael. Again, nothing to do with polygyny. It is clear that this story is not anti-polygyny at all; and that those who use it as such have no basis for their argument. Instead they rely on weak recollection of the story and excessive summarization rather than the actual text.

 

*It is my assumption that this would be a common belief that divine power closed the wombs of women. Whether Sarai’s barrenness was the Lord’s doing or not, the Lord had given them no indication either way.

Posted in Plural Marriage, Prophets, Scriptures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Crowdfunding Zion


nauvoo-temple-front-elevation-ms-11500-2

I’ve had an idea floating around in my head for a while and I want to post it here and see where it goes.

In my interaction with others in the so-called “Remnant” movement or even in the unification movement there has been talk of having a unified place of worship. A temple, that could be accessed by all, regardless of which Church™ (or lack thereof) the associate with.

Additionally in building Zion Joseph Smith revealed several gathering places (stakes) which the Saints could come together and received their inheritance. The central feature of these stakes was a temple. In the case of the plans for Kirtland and New Jerusalem, several temples.

One of these places was called Zarahemla:

Doctrine and Covenants 125
1 What is the will of the Lord concerning the saints in the Territory of Iowa?
2 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I say unto you, if those who call themselves by my name and are essaying to be my saints, if they will do my will and keep my commandments concerning them, let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name, that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come.
3 Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it.
4 And let all those who come from the east, and the west, and the north, and the south, that have desires to dwell therein, take up their inheritance in the same, as well as in the city of Nashville, or in the city of Nauvoo, and in all the stakes which I have appointed, saith the Lord.

Zarahemla is located right across the river from Nauvoo. And it seems like this could be a fitting place to build a city. My idea is to start a crowd funding campaign in Indiegogo to buy land and materials. We each possess limited resources but working together we might be able to accomplish something.

The early saints were able to accomplish amazing things with limited resources. What’s stopping us from doing the same?
I’m sure many might be asking why build a temple? Why waste money on a useless structure when there are hungry mouths to feed and children who need educations.

The answer is simple. Temples are not only buildings for religious ceremonies for the dead, they are centers of the community. This is the role temples played in the early church. Look at was the Kirtland temple was used for:
– A school
– A dance hall
– City offices
– Meeting house
– Community gathering place
– Oh yeah, and they occasionally did some sacred rituals on the top floor.

A temple would be useful 100% of the time as it is both literally and figuratively the center of the community.

In building a stake of Zion the money needed to build a temple would be worth it, as the structure is a benefit to the living, not only the dead. A temple would help people here and now.

So what are your thoughts? Is there really a desire to gather to Zion and build stakes? Is there a desire for a temple? Could there be enough involvement to crowd fund something like this?

Posted in Temples | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From the Dust: Filipino Record, Part 2


fromdustfilipinoAbout four years ago (has it really been four years?) I wrote a post about a possible ancient Filipino text concerning a visit of Christ to the Philippines. I had heard of this text from one of the missionaries I served with. At the time I wrote that post I didn’t think I would write about this subject again until I had that text in hand. However, I recently discovered another, or the same, text online. It seems there is a movement in the Philippines centered around a text entitled, “Ang Aklatan.” This title is Tagalog for “the library.” It seems that this Ang Aklatan is a record of Christ visiting the Philippines and God’s work there. I’m not sure if this is the same text the I heard about on my mission or not. In this post I will be introducing you to the Aklatan.

The History of the Aklatan

In 1986 a Filipino man named Elisha Enoc had a vision of copper plates hidden in a cave. Later he had an encounter with an American man named Oleeha. This man was to help Elisha in translating the copper plates he had seen in the vision. The next year in 1987 Oleeha returned and brought the copper plates with him. He showed Elisha how to translate, and they spent hours translating the text. But when Elisha woke up he realized it was all a dream. He then wrote down the translation that had occurred in his dream. This method of translating continued for eight months. After it was completed Oleeha told him that he needed to wait twenty years before publishing the text.

The Purpose of the Aklatan

The purpose of the Aklatan is given during a vision Elisha had of Christ. In this vision Christ says:

“Now I give unto you a mission. And the mission I have brought for you is that you should prepare the way for the people of Isles of the Sea to become a great and prosperous people. For I have made a covenant with those people in ancient times and my Father hath commanded me to bring them again to a remembrance of that covenant. And I covenanted that they should become a mighty people. I will cause that a kingdom should be established in these islands. And you should gather people through the book which I will cause you to write. And you shall preach the gospel from the Bible, and all my Holy Words.”

This seems very specific and is more about rebuilding Filipino culture and bringing them to Christ rather than a gospel message for the whole world.

Contents of the Aklatan

The Aklatan is as its name suggests, a library. It is a collection of books and other texts compiled into one book. It is important to note that not all of the book in the Aklatan have been published. It seems that initially only specific portions of the text were published. The rest are being held back until certain goals are reached in the movement to establish the kingdom.

This is the complete list of Book in the Aklatan with a short description:

The Book of Visions – This book was written by Elisha. It is basically a journal of the events the led up to the translation of the Aklatan.

Selections from Ezekiel – This is a portion of the Bible copied and inserted into the Aklatan. This was done at the command of Christ in the Book of Visions. The portion of the Bible that was copied is Ezekiel’s vision of the third temple.

The Life of Suran – This book is a summary of the life of a prophet Suran. It also contains the history of how God’s people was reestablish among the ancient Filipino people. This book also contains some prophecies of Suran.

The Great Scroll of Suran – This book has not been published. Based on clues in the published text this book is probably the source of the Life of Suran summary. It may be the complete record written by Suran.

The History of the Ophir – This book has not yet been published.

The Book of Ahkman – This book contains the writings of one of Suran’s sons, Ahkman. It contains a history of the expansion of God’s people. There is also a description of the temple built by these people. This book contains some of the laws of their society. This book ends with a prophecy call the “Book of the Lords”

The Book Arakim – Not all of this book has been published yet. It starts with the story of Ahkman and his son Arakim traveling into the south. They preach to some people and Ahkman is killed. Arakim escapes and returns home. The people begin to divide because

The Journeys of Gubir and Jaresh – Jaresh, one of Arakim’s sons; and Gubir, a prophesied person from the Book of Ahkman; travel to preach the word of God.

The Book of Kimesh – This book has not yet been published.

The Gospel Written by Angulu – This is an account of Angulu who would later be appointed by Christ. In the beginning of this book he married a woman. Then they travelled to a place were other of God’s people are gathered. He speaks to a man named Bodan. Bodan recounts traveling for many years to Bethlehem and seeing Christ as a child. Through Bodan’s account, Mary(as in the mother of Jesus) tells the story of Christ’s conception and birth. The end of this book has several sayings of Christ.

The Gospel Written by Taletan – This book has not yet been published.

The Lesser Gospel Written by Buka – This book starts with great destruction and darkness similar to the Book of Mormon account. The believers in Christ are gathered. Other people think the destruction came because of the believers so they start to hunt them down and kill them. Some people rose up to defend the believers. Later, Christ comes and he preaches among the people. His lessons are pretty much the same as in the Bible and Book of Mormon. Christ appoints twelve of the warriors that defended the people to be his disciples. He later travels with the disciples around the land and preaches his Gospel. Christ also appoints twelve women to preach His Gospel as well.

A Record of the Twelve Women – This book has not yet been published.

Prophecy of the Prophetess Liwan – One of the twelve women Christ appointed prophesies about twelve women who will come in the future and help to establish the kingdom.

The Book of the Strangers – A group of people from the pacific ocean arrive in the Philippines. They join with the followers of Christ.

The Prophecies of Telemek – This book has not yet been published.

The Song of Banali – A poem(song) about God.

The Book of Datara – This book has not yet been published.

The Book of Kilinga – This book has not yet been published.

The Preserved Record of Algapo – This book has not yet been published.

The Book of Namwaran – Not all of this book has been published yet. With the numbers of the believers in Christ decreasing Namwaran goes to help defend them. He teaches his nephew, Ruman, in the ways of Christ. The chief of the land wants to reward Namwaran for his service so one of the chief’s advisers offers his daughter. Namwaran eventually marries her. Toward the end of this book he begins to gather the records of the believers.

The Book of Ruman – Ruman begins writing the book that was prophesied would go to future generations. It seems similar to the Book of Mormon, in that he complies the records that were gathered. He writes this record on copper plates. John(the one who did not taste death) visits Ruman. He explains his vision that is contained in the Book of Revelation. Paul then appears and accepts Ruman’s words as his own.

The Rock of Ruman – In another vision Elisha sees a rock that has some writings of Ruman engraved on it. In it Ruman prophesies about the coming forth of te Aklatan.

The Record of the Ancients – This book has not yet been published.

Now, this is just my summary of these books. I highly suggest you visit their website where you can read them for yourself. If you’re a book lover like me, they offer a hardcopy of the Aklatan for sale. For me it speaks volumes as to the sincerity of someone who offers their work for free at the same time they are selling it.

Discussions About the Aklatan

One of the best analysis of the Aklatan is the one on going on the blog hiddentolight.blogspot.com. The proprietor of that blog actually goes through and does a chapter by chapter analysis of the Aklatan. Only the first part of the Life of Suran has been wriiten about so it is still a work in progress.

Another blog that pops up when searching for the Aklatan is newmormonscripture.wordpress.com. This blog purports to be written by a member of the Church. He gives a basic analysis of the Aklatan. He also shares some encounters he claims to have had with church leadership. He claims to have spoken with a Seventy; and this seventy is reported as saying things such as:

“There is a special purpose this book is supposed to fulfill. The Church can’t give any official support for this book until after that time.”

“President Monson has read the book”

“Nothing that has happened in the Philippines has been an accident or by chance. All the work in the Philippines has been done according to the will of God.”

Now I’m not quite sure of the veracity of this bloggers claims. It just seems so out of character for a general authority to say some of the things this seventy is purported as having said. But there is one thing that was interesting to me. It is this part:

“The General Authority said that he has also heard a member of the Quorum of the Twelve talk about a manuscript that will soon be made into a book that will put down all the doubts about the the Church. I had never heard anything about this so I asked him what he meant. He said that there are a lot of people who are reading anti-Mormon things and finding fault with the Church. But there is a document that will fix all of these problems.”

briefcaseThis doesn’t seem like much in the context of the whole blog post. But when I read that I remembered something that was mentioned in a podcast I listened to. The podcast was a Mormon Stories interview with Hans Mattsson who was an Area Seventy and later left the Church. Mattson mentioned having a discussion with a very high leader of the church. He said this:

“He[(the general authority)] told us that he had in his brief case a document that will be a book; and in that document they will prove them[(the anti-mormons)] all wrong, what they said about the church and the church history.”

This can be found at the 5:39 mark on part 4 of the Hans Mattsson Mormon Stories podcast. The similarity of these claims stood out to me. I suppose this may gives some veracity to the newmormonscripture blog entry. Having two Church leaders mention this mysterious book seems more than coincidence. But, I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. That blog is a bit too TBM for me.

Finally, I was surprised to find that there is a FAIR article about the Aklatan. It is under the title Forgeries Related to the Book of Mormon. This page basically says that there is a high degree of correlation between Christ’s words in the Book of Mormon and in the Aklatan. They interpret this mean that the Aklatan is a modern fake. The issue though I have with FAIR’s article is that if the shoe was on the other foot, and the Aklatan had come from Church leadership; they would work just as hard to prove it is correct. They would probably say that the high degree of correlation between the texts is evidence of its divinity.

Things That I find Interesting

The Aklatan seems to answer a lot of modern questions about marriage, homosexuality and the like. This could be evidence that it is a modern fake. It could also be evidence that it was divinely inspired for the text to come out now, when we need these answers.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have to say that I love the Gospel Written by Angulu. If it is not historic, it is still an awesome story. If it is historic it is an amazing look into the past. The main part of this book is an account of Bodan who was one of the wise men who visited Christ. Apparently some people from the Philippines left, and went west. They met up with other groups at they traveled to Bethlehem. There in Bethlehem they met Mary. After giving gifts to the child they ask Mary about the the birth of Christ and Mary tells them the story. This a fascinating account. Where else do we have an account of the birth of Christ from the mother of Christ herself?

Another part I like is in the Lesser Gospel Written by Buka Chapter 12 says this:

“Now behold Christ did gather all the women of the people together. And there were many among them who had begun to follow Christ during his travels. And he called forth twelve of the women. And he did ordain them unto the Holy Order of God. This that they might be established as an order of women. And he caused that the twelve women should walk among the crowd and bring forth those women who were righteous, and upstanding, and trustworthy. And they did so and those which were brought forward He did cause them to be appointed as Teachers and Priestesses unto the people, and also servants. And there were many prophetesses who did prophesy. Now these are the names of the twelve women: Seliam, and Liwan, and Torun, and Sugo, and Noriyu, and Nolo, and Mejaya, and Kejave, and Venaji, and Nagariwa, and Doyu, and also Moturo.”

urduja_amorsoloThere is such a strong female presence in this book. It really shows the power of women and their importance. I can only imagine what is contained in the Record of the Twelve Women. If this text is genuine it would support Joseph Smith’s creation of the Relief Society as a Priestesshood. The feminist crowd would have a field day with this book.

I also like the description of the temple in the Book of Ahkman. I just love imagining structures described in ancient text. I guess it just fuels my imagination.

Laguna_Copperplate_Inscription_by_NordenxLastly, what really intrigues me is the Book of Namwaran. In 1989 a strange artifact was discovered in the Philippines. It is called the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. It is kingly proclamation absolving a man named Namwaran and his descendents of a debt. This was found two years after the Aklatan was translated and supports, at least, one part of the Aklatan.

A Response to Objections From Mormons

If it doesn’t come from the prophet, then it’s not scripture.

From what I’ve read this seems to be a very common objection. However, I have never heard any president of the church declare that all scripture must come from him. Rather we find that new scripture is approved through common consent.

From the LDS.org entry on Common Consent:

“Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints (see D&C 26:2).”

In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 we read:

“38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

This verse doesn’t say by the voice of my Church leaders. No, it says by the voice of my servants. Certainly a Church leader can qualify as one of the Lord’s servants. But to be a servant of the Lord doesn’t require one to hold a leadership position.

If the Lord called this man Elisha to perform a work, then he would be considered is one of the Lord’s servants.

A person can only receive revelation within the bounds of his or her respective stewardship.

In the Book of Visions the Lord says:

“I have come to call you to a special mission. For you shall be like unto Paul who was called as an apostle unto the gentiles. Wherefore he was not called to stand with my twelve Apostles but was called to stand in his own appointed place. So it shall be with you. Wherefore you shall preach and serve among my people among the isles of the sea, who have been prepared and preserved for a great and special purpose. Do not claim more authority than thou hast been given and beware of pride.”

I think this is in clear support of the principles of stewardship. Elisha hasn’t claimed to be a prophet for the whole world. Nor has he tried to start his own church. It is clear from Elisha’s statements, and the text of the Aklatan, that this work is limited in scope, to a specific area. I don’t see the Aklatan violating this edict.

Elisha doesn’t have authority to do this.

Chapter 4 of the Book of Visions gives an interesting account. Here Elisha is baptized and is given priesthood authority. This is all fine and well as anyone can CLAIM baptism or CLAIM to have received priesthood authority. But is it really valid? I believe the key lies in figuring out who gave him these things.

Elisha recalls the following:

“As I was walking down to the edge of the Abra river to take a rest, three men approached me. They were much taller than me. One of the three men asked me who I was. I told them my name and asked their names. They said they could not tell me their names. But they told me that God has sent them to find me.”

 

Here we have some people who baptized and ordained Elisha. Let’s look at what we know about them:

– There were three of them.

– They were taller than Elisha, a Filipino man.

– They could not tell him their names.

– The had been sent by God.

3_nephitesSomething sticks out to me about this. It is that the three man can’t tell Elisha their names. Now where have we heard about three men who were called of God whose names cannot be written? Hint: it’s in 3 Nephi 28:25:

25 Behold, I was about to write the names of those who were never to taste of death, but the Lord forbade; therefore I write them not, for they are hid from the world.

This verse is Mormon writing about the three Nephites. I know for many this may seem outlandish. However, I ask you, if it was the three Nephites that baptized and ordained Elisha, wouldn’t his baptism and ordination be valid?

Joseph Smith never used a pseudonym, and neither has any other prophet. Why should this guy?

Actually Joseph Smith did use pseudonyms. Many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants originally used these pseudonyms rather than the given names of people. These pseudonyms have since been replaced with given names in the modern publications of the Doctrine and Covenants.

In Conclusion

The Philippines holds a special place in my heart. I think it will be really interesting to see if the Aklatan can accomplish its purpose. The book itself is fascinating and well worth the read. It gives answers to some questions I’ve had, but also brings up many more questions. Is the Aklatan a genuine text from God? I’m still on the fence as this point. The more I search the more I find texts that are show God’s hand in all the world. I suppose I will do with the Aklatan what I do with anything else I come across. I’ll take the good that I find and leave the rest.

Posted in Prophets, Scriptures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments