Friday, November 5, 2010

It is Truly Better to Give than to Receive

With all the shocking news stories we read every day, it's refreshing to read an article that touches us. It's refreshing to know that there still are good and decent people throughout the world.

The elderly couple pictured above is Canadian natives Allen and Violet Large. They recently won over $11M in the lottery of Nova Scotia back in July of this year and then went about giving every penny of it away. You can read the full article here.

The husband, Allen, stated that "the money that we won was nothing. We have each other." Such a statement is telling of the type of people they are. We need more people like that today.

The Savior taught his apostles that "freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt 10:8). Truly, "[i]t is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). It seems that so many of us today are money-driven, and just trying to get ahead. May we all live each day like the Allen and Violet Large, and focus on what really matters.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"[B]ecause of iniquity, the love of many shall wax cold"

One of the more understated prophesies of the last days is that the love towards our brothers and sisters will drastically diminish in the last days. See JSM 1:10, 30; Matt. 24:12; D&C 45:27. In a most poignant example of this, a fourth teenager from Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio has recently committed suicide as a result of peer bullying in the school. Wouldn't you think that after the third student suicide that was related to bullying occurred, the school would step in and do something? The article can be found here.

If it weren't enough that Sladjana Vidovic was brought to the pitiful state of self-immolation by the acts of her peers, as the mourning family watched a few of the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to her casket — and laughed. Sladjana was laid in her casket wearing a pink dress that she planned to wear to the prom, and the scoffing girls were apparently mocking the way their deceased schoolmate was dressed and looked.

Wow! Talk about cold-hearted.

As indicated by the Savior in the scriptures cited above, it is because iniquity abounds in the last days that the love of man is quenched. Today there are innumerable sources of iniquity in our world, some that are becoming increasingly accessible, such as pornography in all its forms. I believe that with the influx of a tidal wave of pornography since the late 1990's, we have steadily become more desensitized and cold to the human emotion. Is it any wonder that Alma urged his son Shiblon to “bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love" (Alma 38:12)? This counsel applies equally to all of us. The more our society indulges in iniquity, in any form, and accepts it as normal, the colder we become.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apparently Mormons Know Religion

A survey recently conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life concluded, among other things, that Mormons generally know the tenets of their own faith and those of other faiths better than most Christian denominations. The participants were asked 32 questions varying in difficulty and including questions such as whether they could name the Islamic holy book, the first book of the Bible, or indicate what century the Mormon religion was founded. Here's a link to the Pew Forum survey, which includes more information.

Interestingly enough, it was the atheists and agnostics that scored the highest in the survey with an average of 21 correct answers. Jews and Mormons followed with around 20 accurate responses, Protestants averaged 16 correct answers, and Catholics followed with a score of about 15. Mormons scored the highest on general questions about Christianity, with an average of about 8 correct answers out of 12.

How do you explain these results? Why do you think atheists and agnostics tested better than actual believers? Why do members of the LDS Church test better than other Christian denominations? Although I tend to agree with Dave Banack's conclusion that our Sunday School Gospel Doctrine manuals need a major overhaul, they have arguably helped our members become more knowledgable and served a valuable purpose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scientific Study Explains Parting of Red Sea (sort of)

A new study released by Our Amazing Planet attempts to explain the parting of the Red Sea as a natural phenomenon caused, at least in part, by strong winds. Briefly, the study concluded that a strong east wind of around 65mph, blowing overnight, could have swept water off a bend where an ancient river is believed to have merged with a coastal lagoon along the Mediterranean Sea.

Whether this wind explanation is what actually happened or not, I don't care. In fact, like other "miracles" or seemingly impossible stories in the scriptures, if your testimony is rooted in their undeniable occurrence, then I believe your testimony may be ill-placed. For instance, what if conclusive scientific evidence emerges someday that incontestably proves that the flood could not have been a universal occurrence as attested in the Biblical account, but was only reported locally as Noah observed. Would that shake your testimony?

Unlike some Christian denominations, the LDS Church welcomes the advent of scientific advances. In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism under "Science and Religion," we are taught that "[b]ecause of belief in the ultimate compatibility of all truth and in the eternal character of human knowledge, Latter-day Saints tend to take a more positive approach to science than do some people in other religious traditions who also claim a strong foundation in scripture.” Someday all truth will be made known and I believe we will all be surprised at how interrelated science and religion really are.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pray Always, lest ye be Disfellowshipped?

And a commandment I give unto them—that he that observeth not his prayers before the Lord in the season thereof, let him be had in remembrance before the judge of my people” (D&C 68:33) (emphasis added).

The phrase “had in remembrance” is similarly used in D&C 68:30, where we are taught that the “idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord,” or in other words, will be judged of the Lord. The "judge of my people" refers to the bishop or other duly appointed Judge in Israel. However, I'm not exactly sure what "the season" refers to, nor could I locate any commentary on it. Nonetheless, we are continually commanded to pray always, so "the season" appears to connote our regular course of prayer.

Consequently, according to this scripture, if we don’t continue to pray we can potentially be brought before our Ward Bishop or Branch President to answer for ourselves and explain why we haven’t kept up on our prayers. Notice that this is a direct "commandment" from the Lord, and the Lord follows this commandment up by declaring that "[t]hese sayings are true and faithful; wherefore, transgress them not, neither take therefrom" (D&C 68:34).

Joseph Fielding Smith briefly commented on D&C 68:33 in the October 1918 General Conference: “[W]e ought to be a praying people, and if there are in Zion those who do not observe their prayers in the season thereof, they are amenable to the law of the Church and may be brought before the judge, or in other words, the bishop, and he can try them for their fellowship, because the Lord himself has declared it in these words which I have read unto you” (Conference Report, October 1918, 57).

I wonder if any Bishop or Branch President has ever used this scripture in dealing with a member of their congregation. It seems like something that would likely have been brought up by the early Saints.

Does anyone know anything more about this scripture, or have any commentary that could shed some light on it?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reflections on Pioneer Day - July 24

I'll admit it, I like our modern conveniences. I like having the Internet, HD DVR service, a car with a turbo installed on it, air conditioning, and the list goes on and on. I've often wondered if it would be hard for me to live as the pioneers did. I think I could have done it but, again, I love our modern conveniences.

That said, I have profound respect for those that have passed on before us that have given us a great heritage. I am in awe at the distances people traveled by foot just to hear a living Prophet's voice, to unite themselves with fellow believers, or to flee religious persecution. Most of all, I'm grateful that there were so many righteous souls placed at the appropriate time and location so that they would be instrumental in laying the foundation of our faith.

Truly, the prophetic words of Joseph Smith have now come to fruition:

"The blessings of the Most High will rest upon our tabernacles, and our name will be handed down to future ages; our children will rise up and call us blessed; and generations yet unborn will dwell with peculiar delight upon the scenes that we have passed through, the privations that we have endured; the untiring zeal that we have manifested; the all but insurmountable difficulties that we have overcome in laying the foundation of a work that brought about the glory and blessing which they will realize; a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets; a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.232) (emphasis added).

Happy Pioneer Day from Houston, TX!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shaking the Dust from your Feet

On my mission, I fortunately picked up the Spanish language fairly quickly. In fact, within about 2 months in the field I was fairly conversational and had acquired an accent that made some inquire as to whether I was Ecuadorian. Other missionaries can pass through the entirety of their mission without really grasping a foreign language; and such was the case with one of my companions. Even though I was only in the field about 2 months, and my companion had less than 3 months left on his mission, I clearly had a better understanding of the Spanish language. I honestly felt bad and knew it had to be tough for him to be a senior companion and have his junior companion lead discussions.

On one occasion we were engaged in a discussion with a large family. After each time my companion spoke, the family looked to me and asked me to interpret what he had just said. This clearly offended my companion who at one point refused to let me explain what he had just taught and insisted that it was clear enough. He became so infuriated that as we left the family’s home he actually began to dust off his shoes a short distance down the street as a testimony against the inhabitants of the home. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he likely didn’t understand how that ordinance worked.

The following is a summary of dusting one's feet as a testimony against others, as I understand it.

There are two priesthood ordinances involving the feet; one involving the washing of the feet as described in John 13 and D&C 88:139, and the other involving shaking off the dust from the feet. The former being an ordinance of blessing, the latter an ordinance of cursing. As an ordinance, consequently, neither is to be performed except through the Lord’s duly appointed and authorized servants.

Shaking off the dust from the feet is an action of disapproval and condemnation. To Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the Lord commanded that “in whatsoever place ye shall enter, and they receive you not in my name, ye shall leave a cursing instead of a blessing, by casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony, and cleansing your feet by the wayside” (D&C 24:15). However, not just anyone can undertake this ordinance, and the authority to do so has not been given to missionaries generally. Elder McConkie stated that “[n]o curse should ever be decreed except by direct revelation from the Lord commanding such to be done” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:123). This is probably because testifying against anyone is a frightening responsibility which mortals cannot fully comprehend without the guidance of the Spirit.

Elder James E. Talmadge summarized this ordinance as follows:

To ceremonially shake the dust from one's feet as a testimony against another was understood by the Jews to symbolize a cessation of fellowship and a renunciation of all responsibility for consequences that might follow. It became an ordinance of accusation and testimony by the Lord's instructions to His apostles as cited in the text [of the New Testament]. In the current dispensation, the Lord has similarly directed His authorized servants to so testify against those who wilfully and maliciously oppose the truth when authoritatively presented. The responsibility of testifying before the Lord by this accusing symbol is so great that the means may be employed only under unusual and extreme conditions, as the Spirit of the Lord may direct” (Elder James E. Talmadge, Jesus the Christ, p.345)(emphasis added).

Interestingly, the Lord cautions those performing this ordinance that it should not to be done in the presence of those they are testifying against “lest thou provoke them, but in secret: and wash thy feet, as a testimony against them in the day of judgment” (D&C 60:15). The Prophet’s brother, Samuel Smith, performed this ordinance at least once while preaching the gospel, as reported by the Prophet’s mother:

On the 30th of June, Samuel started on the mission to which he had been set apart by Joseph, and in traveling 25 miles, which was his first day’s journey, he stopped at a number of places in order to sell his books, but was turned out of doors as soon as he declared his principles. When evening came on, he was faint and almost discouraged, but coming to an inn, which was surrounded with every appearance of plenty, he called to see if the landlord would buy one of his books. On going in, Samuel inquired of him, if he did not wish to purchase a history of the origin of the Indians.

‘I do not know,’ replied the host; ‘how did you get hold of it?’ ‘It was translated,’ rejoined Samuel, ‘by my brother, from some gold plates that he found buried in the earth.’ ‘You liar!’ cried the landlord. ‘Get out of my house-you shan’t stay one minute with your books.

Samuel was sick at heart, for this was the 5th time he had been turned out of doors that day. He left the house and traveled a short distance and washed his feet in a small brook, as a testimony against the man. He then proceeded five miles further on his journey, and seeing an apple tree a short distance from the road, he concluded to pass the night under it; and here he lay all night upon the cold, damp ground. In the morning, he arose from his comfortless bed, and observing a small cottage at no great distance, he drew near, hoping to get a little refreshment…. He…proceeded to Bloomington, which was 8 miles further.

Here he stopped at the house of John P. Greene, who was a Methodist preacher and was at that time about starting on a preaching mission. He, like the others, did not wish to make a purchase of what he considered at that time to be a nonsensical fable; however, he said that he would take a subscription paper, and if he found anyone on his route who was disposed to purchase, he would take his name, and in two weeks Samuel might call again and he would let him know what the prospect was of selling. After making this arrangement, Samuel left one of his books with him, and returned home. At the time appointed, Samuel started again for the Reverend John P. Greene’s, in order to learn the success which this gentleman had met with in finding sale for the Book of Mormon. This time, Mr. Smith and myself accompanied him, and it was our intention to have passed near the tavern where Samuel was so abusively treated a fortnight previous, but just before we came to the house, a sign of smallpox intercepted us. We turned aside, and meeting a citizen of the place, we inquired of him, to what extent this disease prevailed. He answered that the tavern keeper and two of his family had died with it not long since, but he did not know that anyone else had caught the disease, and that it was brought into the neighborhood by a traveler who stopped at the tavern overnight” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp.225-226) (emphasis added).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bold World Cup Predictions

I admit it, I like soccer. A lot. Actually that is nothing to hide because I always have and have played a lot of it since I was walking. For soccer fans like us, this is the best time of every four years.

The World Cup(TM) is one of the most exciting events in sports and it can easily draw you in. My first experience was as a 9-year old at Italia 90 when my dad and I watched West Germany defeat England on penalties in Turin during the semi final. A week later we watched Germany win the finals with friends in a small German town. To this day, I have always loved the thrill of the tournament.

I hope that my fellow Seer Stone authors will not be upset if I make this brief post about my predictions for the World Cup(TM). The Seer Stone is intended to have doctrinal posts as well as random thoughts. File this one under random thoughts.

Without further adieu, here is my team by team prediction. I am trying to be somewhat bold by not going with the obvious choices.

Group A

South Africa

Prediction: Mexico (1st), France (2nd), Uruguay (3rd), and S. Africa (4th).
Comments: France has sucked recently and qualified on a hand ball. Mexico has tacos and I like tacos, so there you go. I wouldn't be surprised if Uruguay advances if Diego Forlan plays well.

Group B

South Korea

Prediction: Argentina (1st), Greece (2nd), South Korea (3rd), Nigeria (4th).
Comments: You may have not of heard of a guy named Messi and a coach named Diego. Greece play too defensive but will probably get by on draws. Korea and Nigeria will cancel each other out.

Group C


Prediction: England (1st), Algeria (2nd), USA (3rd), Slovenia (4th).
Comments: I think the US could easily go in second place in this group, but there is too much hype around them as if they will automatically advance. Algeria can be lethal or it can be hit or miss. Slovenia is also a wild card because they have no business being there, but beat out a good Russia to qualify.

Group D


Prediction: Germany (1st), Serbia (2nd), Australia (3rd), Ghana (4th).
Comments: Germany will go far, but not win the tournament. Serbia are very, very good, don't count them out as a favorite. Ghana lost their best player to injury. Don't waste your time.

Group E


Predictions: Netherlands (1st), Denmark (2nd), Cameroon (3rd), Japan (4th).
Comments: The Dutch will go far, but won't win it. Other than that, this is kind of a "meh" group.

Group F

New Zealand

Prediction: Italy (1st), Paraguay (2nd), Slovakia (3rd), and New Zealand (4th).
Comment: Italy have to be favored, but Paraguay could surprise. Italy have gotten older since it won the last World Cup.

Group G

Ivory Coast
North Korea

Prediction: Brazil (1st), Portugal (2nd), Ivory Coast (3rd), North Korea (4th).
Comments: This is a brutal group. Ivory Coast has the Toure brothers, Salomon Kalou and Dider Drogba. But despite Portugal's bad form, I see them going through.

Group H


Prediction: Spain (1st), Chile (2nd), Honduras (3rd), and Switzerland (4th).
Comment: Spain looks good but don't look past their choker status. Chile is a wild card in the tournament as they qualified strongly out of South America.

I will return to my predictions in a few days to see how they stand up to the real results and I will plan out my prediction for the knockout rounds.

Receiving Revelation without Realizing It

When I was in the MTC, one of our language instructors said something that changed my life. We were reviewing the Joseph Smith story and practicing how to teach it to investigators when he explained that it would be close to impossible to teach this lesson unless you knew it to be true for yourself. He continued by explaining that the Spirit will not accompany one’s testimony unless he has received such a testimony for himself.

I contemplated that for a moment and came to the stark realization that I had never prayed about Joseph Smith and his prophetic calling. In fact, I had never specifically prayed about anything with regards to the Church. I grew up in the Church and kind of accepted things to be true by the testimony of others. But now, I realized that I had to boldly declare to strangers in a foreign land for the next 2 years that I knew something to be true for myself. Could I do that and have the Spirit testify to what I was saying? At that point, I didn’t know for sure.

So I prayed. I prayed for a while, in fact. It was one of those Enos prayers that lasted for hours. Now, there was no theophany or any audible voices or manifestations, but I received a distinct confirmation of what I was asking about. Interestingly, however, my prayer was answered more in the form of, “You already know this to be true, why are you asking me now?” At that point it hit me, I had known these truths for years, I just never knew that I knew it. Through countless temple trips, testimony meetings, scripture studies, prayers, family home evenings, etc, I realized that I had been receiving revelation of truth all along without being aware of it.

I feel this happens to many of us quite often, members and non-members alike. To Oliver Cowdery, the Lord explained that “for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time” (D&C 6:14) (emphasis added). It's often the case that only as we grow in the things of the Spirit are we able to look back on our lives and realize how completely our course was actually directed by the Divine.

The Lord continued to Oliver, “Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth” (D&C 6:15) (emphasis added). In other words, the Lord verified that Oliver had in fact been receiving revelation all along, and that his prayers had been consistently answered.

Those of us who are maturing spiritually commonly have comparable experiences. For example, the two disciples of Christ did not realize who taught them on the road to Emmaus until the day’s end and Christ ultimately departed from them: “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Even more remarkable is the account of the Lamanites who, after their conversion, “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20) (emphasis added).

Though he didn’t realize it, Oliver Cowdery was led by the Divine to Palmyra to teach school and eventually take up lodging with the Prophet’s family. Responding to this same Spirit, he was eventually guided to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he became the Prophet’s scribe.

In my case, my experience in the MTC made me realize that I was also prepared and directed through the Spirit via countless revelatory experiences to eventually become a missionary. As I eventually discovered for myself, one of the keys to becoming conversant in the language of the Spirit is to learn to recognize the feelings of peace and comfort that accompany revelation. These feelings can be had on a daily basis if we are prepared to receive them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

“The Only True and Living Church”

When I was a missionary we were still using the 6 discussion program, where the apostasy and restoration were taught in the 3rd discussion. After explaining the restoration of the Church through Joseph Smith, the discussion directed us missionaries to read D&C 1:30 where it stresses that the LDS Church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.”

Was it just me, or did this make anyone else cringe a little when we read this to investigators? I mean, much of the time we barely knew the investigator, and then we essentially denounce their religion as false by referring to a scripture unique to our faith. It’s akin to a Jehovah’s Witness declaring Charles Taze Russell as a prophet of God by quoting one of Mr. Russell’s numerous written works.

While I agree entirely with the text of D&C 1:30, and there are no doubt occasions where this scripture could be effectively used in a missionary setting, I always thought background details, history, and common sense reasoning could have proffered a more tactful and gentle approach. Such an approach can be found in “Revelations of the Restoration,” by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler. In the following text, the authors delineate a glaring salvific disconnect between Catholicism and Protestantism. I took the liberty of highlighting a few of the points I thought to be of most interest:

Catholicism is founded on the idea that authority is necessary to represent God and that certain ordinances are essential to salvation. Those principles in turn dictate that there can be but one true church, meaning one church that has the right to speak for God and perform the ordinances of salvation. Protestantism, on the other hand, in breaking with the mother church, takes the only remaining position–rejecting the need for authority and ordinances. Having done so, Protestantism must of necessity argue that neither ordinances nor church membership is a tenet of salvation and that ‘the one true church doctrine’ is narrow minded, bigoted, and even unchristian. This, of course, is what Protestantism does. Out of this chain of thought grows the popularized notion that it is not what you believe but how you believe that counts and the attendant idea that somehow all churches, even though they teach contradictory doctrines, are true–assuming, of course, that they are Protestant Churches.

The idea that all churches are true, though satisfying to those who seek salvation on their own terms, defies every principle of truth and logic known to humankind. Let us briefly consider some of the ways it does so.

First, the essence of Christianity centers on the idea that salvation is in Christ. That being the case, everyone who truly embraces the Christian faith must at the same time embrace the idea that it is only in and through Christ that salvation comes. Christ himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The doctrine of all the holy prophets has been that there is “none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; see also D&C 18:23; 2 Nephi 25:20; 31:21). Within the ranks of those professing to be Christians may be differences on the requirements of salvation, but all must agree on the acceptance of Christ as the source of salvation. At issue here is not whether a line must be drawn between the believer and the nonbeliever but simply where that line should be drawn. Historically Protestants do not hesitate to draw that line in such a manner as to exclude Catholics, Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah Witnesses. In practice, then, it becomes a Christian duty for Protestants to draw that line, doing so in such a manner as to exclude all who dare disagree with them. It only becomes an unchristian practice when someone suggests that they are on the wrong side of the line.

Second, to argue that the power of salvation rests in the Protestant world is to argue that a live branch can be cut from a dead tree…. Protestants claim to have rejected corrupt Catholic traditions in a return to Bible religion. This argument raises two great difficulties. The first is that they simply do not do it. They have retained as foundational to their faith the most corrupting traditions of the old mother church, namely her creeds. The second great difficulty is that Bible religion is itself unbiblical because no one within the covers of the Bible ever had a Bible. Their religion was one of prophets, apostles, and continuous revelation. Never in Bible times was the Church and kingdom of God governed by a book. Now it is important to get our history straight. Christian existence predates the Bible by more than three centuries. The great Christian creeds, the very foundation upon which Protestantism’s whole concept of Deity rests, are Bible free. Their creation predates that of the Bible. Protestantism holds fast to these creeds, refusing to acknowledge that they are part of the Catholic tradition that they claim to have rejected. It is allegiance to these creeds that predetermines the manner in which they interpret the Bible. At the same time they claim the Bible to be the last word on all things. Thus traditions rooted in historical creeds rather than the Bible have been retained as the guiding revelations of the Protestant faith.

Third, the notion that salvation can be found in any of a host of contradictory doctrines defies reason and argues that God’s kingdom is one of chaos and disorder. We are being asked to believe that if a dozen people add a column of figures and each arrives at a different sum, we must accept each of them as right. It is not the sum that you come to that matters but the zeal with which you add the figures that counts. Similarly, this notion argues that all men, women, and children who receive a prescription from a doctor are entitled to go to the pharmacists and concoct their own mixture of drugs….

To maintain that all churches are true—meaning that they possess the power of salvation and the authority to act as the agent of God—may have some resemblance to Christian tolerance. But upon examination such a notion reveals itself to be a deceptive ploy lulling people into the belief that it is for them to dictate the terms of salvation and to determine the nature and character of God. In such a god we have no interest” (pp. 53-55) (emphasis added).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hyrum Strikes Back! Thank You For Helping Me Break My Writing Cramp, Namelka!

I haven’t posted anything for a long time. I guess I chalk this up to changing jobs and moving from Texas to the Garden State. (In case you were wondering, New Jersey is surprisingly nice. In most places, at least.) Now that I am settled and mostly unpacked, I have wanted to post something as Jeremy had been steering the ship for awhile. Lo and behold, Christopher Namelka made my job easier for me, at least I think he did.

Some of you may have read our previous posts on the coming forth of the Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates. You will probably know through the comments that The Prophet Christopher Namelka, hereinafter The Prophet, claims to have translated these into the Last Testament of Jesus Christ from the Gold Plates. There was some delightful banter in the comments.

Earlier today I found a link to “Without Disclosing My True Identity -
The Authorized and Official Biography of the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.” Apparently, the resurrected Prophet (Joseph) appeared to someone named Christopher, no last name give, and dictated his life story. From the publisher’s website, here are some of the highlights:

“…With his own testimony, Joseph Smith has outlined the official and ONLY authorized manner in which truth can be established upon this earth. In order for real truth to be established, a fully resurrected being must return to the earth and initiate its establishment. Without following this protocol, no other work can be deemed official and authorized.”

"Ironically, since Joseph Smith, not even one of the mainstream Mormon/LDS leaders has claimed to have been visited by a resurrected human being and received instruction face-to-face from an advanced and eternal resurrected being. There have been some spurious and unscrupulous men and women who have made the claim, but with an honest and sincere investigation into what the fruits of their claim have produced, their lies and imaginations are quickly discounted.”

“During Joseph Smith’s tenure as a true messenger of God upon the earth, he was instructed NOT to disclose his true identity, as the LDS Temple endowment teaches. His brother Hyrum, who is now Christopher, was instructed TO disclose his true identity and to do what Joseph was not allowed to do.”

“And because the resurrected Joseph instructed and oversaw the publication of SACRED not SECRET, the book can appropriately and legally be entitled, “The OFFICIAL Guide.”
For the same reason, this book is the ONLY authorized and official biography of Joseph Smith Jr.”

I really don’t have my sources with me now, but I was under the impression that Lorenzo Snow claimed to have seen Jesus at the Salt Lake Temple and spoke to him face-to-face. Are the spurious and unscrupulous men supposed to be said LDS leaders? If so, I see the statement as a logical fallacy. The wording says that LDS leaders haven’t claimed to see resurrected beings. Lorenzo Snow said he did, no?

The real question is whether Christopher/Hyrum is really Namelka. My guess is that Blair Hodges will confirm that he is. So, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below about this game changer in the Joseph Smith book market. Had Bushman known, I think he would have saved his time writing his magnum opus and instead interviewed Hyrum. I will make a good bet that Namelka, I mean Christopher, I mean Hyrum’s followers will find this as they troll the web for places to promote the work and will share testimony. This is fine with me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Repentance “Nigh Unto Death”

It has been my experience from teaching in various organizations of the Church, and from my limited understanding of the Atonement while growing up, that many in the Church falsely assume that Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane and at Golgotha replaces any suffering on the part of the repentant sinner beyond what is deemed godly sorrow. These same individuals will often quote from D&C 19:16 and conclude that Christ has already “suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent.” The purpose of my remarks below is to show that this simply is not the case.

Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah made it a habit of going about “seeking to destroy the church” when “the angel of the Lord appeared unto them” and turned them from the error of their way (Mosiah 26:10-11). Now, these guys weren't your average anti-Mormons with an axe to grind. Astonishingly, Alma admits to having “murdered many of [God’s] children, or rather led them away unto destruction” (Alma 36:14), and Mormon characterizes Alma and his companions as “the very vilest of sinners” (Mosiah 28:4).

Alma was so overcome by the angelic vision that he was left in a somewhate vegetative state for three days and three nights (Alma 36:10), during which time he reports that “after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God” (Mosiah 27:28) (emphasis added). He explained to his son Helaman that during this time he was “racked, even with the pains of a damned soul” (Alma 36:16).

The pain and suffering that Alma underwent while repenting was so exquisite that it ostensibly took him to the brink of physical death. As is often the case, the depth of one’s repentance must be in proper proportion to the severity of the transgression. I conclude that Alma’s punishment was just, and simply proportional to the seriousness of his sins.

Because many in the Church falsely believe that Christ’s atonement effectively removed all pain and suffering for the penitent individual, they find it hard to grasp why Alma suffered so intensely while honestly embarking in the repentance process. In this they are misled. What they fail to realize, and something that I certainly did not grasp when I was a youth, is that there is no repentance without suffering.

Alma himself understood this concept very well, undoubtedly doctrinally as well as experientially. In teaching his son Corianton, Alma explained that “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be” (Alma 42:16). Having quoted this scripture, President Spencer W. Kimball instructed the priesthood leaders of the Church as follows: “Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul. . .” (CR, April 1975, p.115) (emphasis added).

The Lord warned us that “if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:17). In other words, if we repent we will not be required to suffer “even as” the Savior suffered, but there is no indication that we will forego all suffering. Instead, besides having to bear the burden of any natural consequences of our sins and express godly sorrow, each of us will have to experience the full anguish associated with true repentance. President Kimball taught that suffering “is a very important part of repentance. One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. … If a person hasn’t suffered, he hasn’t repented” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, pp. 88, 99).

In the eternal scheme of things, all individuals are required to suffer as long as they remain in sin. Joseph Smith taught that “[a]ll will suffer until they obey Christ himself” (TPJS, p.357). Once each of us repents and justly suffers for our sin, Christ’s atonement may then lay claim upon us.

Monday, April 12, 2010

“[A] seer is greater than a prophet”?

After learning of the Jaredite 24 gold plates found by King Limhi’s people, Ammon indicated that King Mosiah had a gift from God that allowed him to “look, and translate all records that are of ancient date” (Mosiah 8:13). In brief, the gift allowed its possessor to use the Nephite interpreters, “[a]nd whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer” (Id.)(emphasis added). Upon hearing this, King Limhi concluded that “a seer is greater than a prophet” (Mosiah 8:15). Without correcting Limhi’s statement, Ammon expanded on this conclusion and taught that “a seer is a revelator and a prophet also” (Mosiah 8:16).

While we semi-annually sustain all our general authorities in the Quorum of the 12 and the First Presidency as prophets, seers, and revelators (see D&C 21:1), is the calling of a seer greater than that of a prophet?

The word “prophet” as found in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew nabiy, the verbal root of which means to “bubble” or “spring forth.” Used as a noun, however, nabiy means one in whom the message of God springs forth, or in other words, a “speaker” or “spokesman” for God, or “one who is called.” In short, a prophet is one who is commissioned by God to make known his will.

In contrast, the word “seer” as found in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew ro’eh, meaning “one who sees,” and contextually carries the idea of one who sees that which is hidden to others. For example, Enoch “beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people” (Moses 6:36). In the Old Testament, a prophet was oftentimes characterized as a seer, without any differentiation between the two terms (see 1 Sam. 9:9).

Contrary to popular belief, a prophet is not necessarily one who prophesies, or foretells the future. Instead, one can be a prophet without doing so, since the role of a prophet is simply to declare the word of God by the authority of the Holy Ghost. To call a man a prophet merely emphasizes his role in declaring the word of God, whereas to call him a seer emphasizes the manner in which that word is received.

Consequently, King Limhi was most likely correct in postulating that a seer is greater than a prophet, since all seers are prophets but not all prophets are seers. Elder John A. Widtsoe provided an impressive definition of a seer:

A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord’s light with open eyes” (Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 528)(emphasis added).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who Had a Urim and Thummim?

The Hebrew words urim and thummim (both plural) are typically translated by LDS scholars as “lights” and “perfections,” respectively. This seeric device is generally used for receiving revelations and translating ancient scriptural records written in tongues unknown to the translator. The scriptures are clear that the content of such records can be manifest only as the Lord wills and through his appointed prophet and seer.

As I explained in a previous and related post, the expression "Urim and Thummim" is never used in the Book of Mormon. Instead, the term was likely adopted by the Prophet during or after his translation of the Old Testament once he became familiar with the Old Testament revelatory device known to the ancients as the Urim & Thummim. In fact, the reference to the “Urim and Thummim” found in D&C 10:1 was added in the 1835 edition of the D&C. Prior to that the word “interpreters” was used, which is consistent with Book of Mormon terminology referring to the Nephite interpreters. While it isn’t technically correct, it eventually became common for members of the Church to call the Nephite interpreters the Urim & Thummim.

So, who do we know of that had a Urim & Thummim, and do any of them relate to each other?

1)And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees” (Abr. 3:1). A Urim & Thummim was given to Abraham while he resided in Ur, and he was taught astronomy through it (Abr. 3:1-4). “And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord” (Abr. 3:4). It’s interesting to note that, although Abraham used the Urim & Thummim to receive revelation from the Lord, he also “talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another” (Abr. 3:11). The scriptures are silent as to what happened to Abraham’s Urim & Thummim.

2) Aaron and the priests of Israel also had a Urim & Thummim that was passed down from generation to generation (see Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8; Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 28:6; and Neh. 7:65). Although not stated in scripture, it is not improbable nor would it be surprising if this were the same Urim & Thummim that Abraham had. Nevertheless, the scriptures do not indicate how Aaron received the Urim & Thummim.

Though no clear explanation has been preserved for us scripturally, the device used by Aaron likely consisted of ocular objects belonging to the ephod or vestment of the high priest. The Urim & Thummim were carried in the breastplate of judgment, which bore the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on 12 precious stones so as to be on the high priest’s heart when he went before the Lord (see Exodus 28:15-30). Through apostasy, the use of the Urim & Thummim was lost to Israel. Thus, when the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity and they were faced with a tough question, it was agreed to postpone their answer until there should rise up “a priest with Urim and with Thummim” (Ezra 2:63).

3) The brother of Jared received a Urim & Thummim, or "two stones" adapted for interpretation. Atop Mount Shelem, the brother of Jared was privileged to see and record some of the most sacred things ever revealed unto a mortal, including single-handedly parting the veil through his own faithfulness in order to behold the Lord Jesus Christ before he took upon himself a mortal tabernacle. Indeed, “there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared” (Ether 4:4). Because of the sacred nature of his visions, the brother of Jared was commanded to record what he saw “in a language that they cannot be read,” “[f]or behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded” (Ether 3:22, 24).

In order to provide an interpretation for future righteous generations privileged to read his record, the Lord provided the brother of Jared with “two stones” (e.g., Nephite interpreters) that were to be sealed up with his record (Ether 3:23, 28).

4) King Mosiah I, the father of King Benjamin, translated engravings written on a large Jaredite stone “by the gift and power of God” (Omni 1:20). As understood by LDS, translating “by the gift and power of God” is synonymous with using a Urim & Thummim, or the Nephite interpreters as it were in this case (see D&C 135:3; Introduction to the Book of Mormon). The Nephite interpreters were described as “two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow” (Mosiah 28:13). How King Mosiah I received the stones is not readily apparent, neither is it known who put them into the rims of a bow. The interpreters eventually passed from Mosiah I to his grandson King Mosiah II, who translated the Jaredite record found by Limhi’s people (see Mosiah 8:13-14; Mosiah 28:11-15).

I feel it is plausible that the Nephite interpreters used by Kings Mosiah I & II were likely the same interpreters (i.e., two stones) used by the brother of Jared. Mormon explained that the interpreters had “been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord” to translate the brother of Jared’s writings (see Mosiah 28:15), and Moroni indicated that Mosiah II received (and likely translated/read) the brother of Jared’s account (see Ether 4:1). While the scriptures do not specifically state this, it may be reasonable to assume that whoever brought Mosiah I the Jaredite stone to translate also delivered to him the brother of Jared’s interpreters.

On the other hand, if that were the case, why didn’t these individuals also grab and deliver up the brother of Jared’s record to Mosiah I, which was specifically sealed up with the stones? Why did his record not come forward until Limhi’s people found it? Unfortunately, there is no explanation given in the scriptures. Regardless, the scriptures are clear that Mosiah II had interpreters in his possession when Limhi’s people presented him with the Jaredite record. Whether his interpreters were those had by the brother of Jared, we cannot be certain, but a reasonable argument can be made to that effect.

5) Alma received the Nephite interpreters from King Mosiah II (Mosiah 28:20). The interpreters were then passed from one record keeper to the next until Mormon gave them to Moroni who was commanded to seal up the interpreters (specifically, the brother of Jared’s interpreters) in the Hill Cumorah (Ether 4:5). Since there is no record of Mormon or Moroni receiving any other interpreters besides those coming through Mosiah I & II, and we know it was the brother of Jared’s interpreters that were sealed within the Hill Cumorah (see point 6 below), I again feel it plausible that Kings Mosiah I & II used the stones had by the brother of Jared.

On a side note, we also know that Moroni was privileged to read the brother of Jared’s record (see Ether 4:4), which would have required him to translate it using the two stones. Also, there is a good possibility that the righteous generations spoken of in 4 Nephi were privileged to translate and read the record (see Ether 4:1-2).

6) The Prophet Joseph Smith unearthed and used the brother of Jared’s Urim & Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon (D&C 17:1). The Prophet described the Urim & Thummim as “two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate” (History of the Church, 4:537). Lucy Mack Smith was able to inspect the Urim & Thummim the morning after Joseph had obtained them from the Hill Cumorah. She stated that she “took the article in [her] hands and, examining it with no covering but a silk handkerchief, found that it consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows connected with each other in much the same way that old-fashioned spectacles are made” (History of Joseph Smith, 1996, p.139).

7) The planet on which God resides is also described as being “a great Urim and Thummim,” and the earth itself in its “sanctified and immortal state,” will also be a Urim & Thummim (D&C 130:8-9).

Finally, the white stone given to each inhabitant of celestial glory will be a Urim & Thummim “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known” (D&C 130:10; see also Revelation 2:17).

Feel free to comment if I missed something.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Of Priesthood(s) and Casting out Devils

A recent article gave an interesting look into exorcism as practiced within the Roman Catholic Church. According to Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's chief exorcist, the unfortunate sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church is proof that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican." Astonishingly, Father Amorth indicated that he participated in around 70,000 exorcisms during his 25 years as a Catholic exorcist. For any of you who are counting, that's a claim of approximately 7.5 exorcisms per day, for the last 25 years!

While Father Amorth's description of satanic possession seems quite graphic, from at least one personal experience I can affirm that a good portion of it is fairly accurate. I previously wrote about Satan's power and influence in a related post.

Without delving into the controversial sex abuse scandals or trying to figure out how Father Amorth has time to sleep or eat with his busy exorcist schedule, I'd like to discuss priesthood authority and its connection to rejecting satanic presence. Particularly, is Christ's true priesthood required to command Satan and his subjects? Can the faith of an individual (or the combined faith of those present) be used in an exorcism instead of invoking or wielding the true priesthood authority?

The apostle John once remarked to the Savior that "[the apostles] saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:49-50)(emphasis added).

Does this mean that those without Christ's true priesthood authority are able to command and cast out devils as much as one with authority? Commenting on the phrase "he followeth not us," Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
"He was not one of the Twelve to whom the express power had been given to cast out devils (Matthew 10:8); he was not one of the inner circle of disciples who traveled, ate, slept, and communed with the Master. Luke has it: 'He followeth not with us'; that is, he is not one of our traveling companions. But from our Lord's reply it is evident that he was a member of the kingdom, a legal administrator who was acting in the authority of the priesthood and the power of faith. Either he was unknown to John who therefore erroneously supposed him to be without authority or else John falsely supposed that the power to cast out devils was limited to the Twelve and did not extend to all faithful priesthood holders. It is quite possible that the one casting out devils was a seventy.
"Only righteous men who are members of the Church, who hold the priesthood, and who are keeping the commandments, have power to perform miracles.... Our Lord had many faithful followers who had power by faith to cast out devils" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:417)(emphasis added).

To be clear, I do not believe the Catholic Church wields the true priesthood of God. Consistent with LDS theology, I believe Christ's true priesthood was lost to the world at large during the great apostasy. However, I also do not believe that Catholic exorcists, such as Father Amorth are followers of Satan. (See Matt. 12:25-26) Notwithstanding, is it possible that exorcisms can still be effectuated by individuals lacking the priesthood through an exercise and display of faith?

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that "faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth" (Lectures on Faith, 1:13)(emphasis added). Indeed, it was faith that was invoked to frame the worlds (Heb 11:3), and it is through faith that all created things exist. "[Faith] is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things.... And if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in Diety" (Id. at 1:16, 18)(emphasis added).

When the Twelve were unable to cast a devil out of a "lunatick," they queried the Savior on how He was able to finish what they could not. Christ then proceeded to teach them doctrines of faith, not of priesthoods. "Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:20-21)(emphasis added). Thus, since prayer and fasting doesn't have any effect on whether one possesses the priesthood but instead affects one's level of faith, it appears that exorcism relies more on the principle of faith than on one's authority.

Admittedly, I have not taken part in or seen a Catholic exorcism (apart from what Hollywood concocts). I have, however, taken part in a handful of LDS exorcisms and can attest that one's faith plays an enormous role. Still, I am not certain of the extent that God's priesthood plays in such instances. Is the pristhood required simply to keep order? Yet, if an individual lacks the priesthood but has sufficient faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, can that individual command evil in His name? And, if that is the case, does Father Amorth truly exorcise evil spirits during his claimed frequent encounters?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Trading Your Book of Mormon for Porn?

A group of atheists at the University of Texas in San Antonio is trying to tempt college kids into trading religious texts for pornography. It's part of a program called Smut for Smut sponsored by the student organization called Atheist Agenda. See article here.

It sounds like a ploy for attention, but what really bothers me is the insistence on the part of some of its members that religious texts are as detrimental to society as pornographic material is. The prophet Isaiah spoke of times like these:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20)

While some in the Atheist Agenda admitted that pornography can be bad, it astounds me that those same people can assert that the Bible and similar other texts can be just as bad. Really? I understand that many arguments and wars have been fought in the name of the Bible, but when weighed against all the good that it has provided to the human race, the Bible is hands down better for humanity than pornography ever will be.

Mormon also provided a few words on this subject:

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him” (Moroni 7:15-17) (emphasis added).

It would be interesting to hear how the Atheist Agenda would argue that pornography invites individuals to “do good,” or “persuade to believe in Christ.”

Our world is arguably much better because of the introduction of the Internet. However, with this great power came with it an accelerated and more private means of accessing adult material. Because of the effect pornography has on the individual and those closest to the individual, the Internet has also arguably made our world a bit worse.

Interestingly enough, one of the prophecies of the last days is that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). I believe that with the influx of increasingly accessible iniquity, such as pornography, we have become more desensitized and cold to the human emotion. Is it any wonder that Alma urged his son Shiblon to “bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love" (Alma 38:12)? This counsel applies equally to all of us. The more our society indulges in iniquity and accepts it as normal, the colder we become.

Atheist or not, I don’t think anyone can make a case of a wise trade in exchanging religious texts that promote love of fellow man and repentance for pornography that destroys the souls of men.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

At What Point Can We Shamelessly Plagiarize Scripture?

It should be an ongoing goal of each follower of Christ to continuously search the scriptures and make them part of their lives. However, knowledge of the scriptures by themselves does not make one a competent witness of the truthfulness of the gospel principles taught therein. In fact, there are a myriad of people who could quote scripture ‘til sunset, and yet lack a fundamental understanding of basic principles, such as the Fall and the Atonement.

Instead, it is the witness of the Spirit that allows us to stand independent of the scriptures and testify that we in fact “know” something in the scriptures to be true. In a very real way, it is this point that the words of the scriptures become our own words because we know them to be as true as did the author who originally penned the words.

Such was the case with Jacob in quoting Zenos’ allegory:

And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive-tree, must surely come to pass” (Jacob 6:1) (emphasis added)

There can be no doubt that Jacob studied, pondered, and prayed much over this allegory. And now Zenos’s words had, in effect, become Jacob’s words, as if Jacob had been the original recipient of the allegory.

The same principle can be found in the words of Alma to the people of Zarahemla:

Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit . . . .

And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true . . . .

I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth” (Alma 5:45-48) (emphasis added).

I believe that each of us is entitled to the witness of the Spirit that will justify our free usage of scriptural accounts and verbiage. In his last general conference address, Elder Bruce. R. McConkie highlighted this concept with the following words:

In speaking of these wondrous things I will use my own words. Though you might think these are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and Prophets, true it is that they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine. For the Holy Spirit of God has born witness to me that they are true and it is now as though the Lord has revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word” (CR, April 1989, p.9) (emphasis added).
It is my hope and goal to attain such an understanding and witness of the scriptures so as to be able to use them as if they were my own.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UVU Drops Prophet's Name from Events Center

It was recently announced that Utah Valley University will remove "David O. McKay" from the name of their events center and place the name on a nearby education building. See article here. The idea for the name change apparently came from the original anonymous donors who initially donated $3 million to the college in order to place the prophet's name on the arena.

Am I the only one who cringed when the McKay Events Center would host entertainers with questionable morals and values? I could be mistaken, but I think Ozzy Osbourne played there once. Didn't he once tear up a copy of the Book of Mormon while on stage?

Although there are those seeing this as simply a move for the University to attract a new nameplace donor, I think the move to place the prophet's name on an education building was a good move in light of what David O. McKay stood for.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He’s Rich, He Must Be Very Righteous

It’s interesting to me that Latter-day Saints often equate financial success with personal righteousness when it comes to fellow members of the Church. It’s probably a result of living in such a success-oriented and materialistic world. However, I think most would agree that anyone can be monetarily rich, regardless of their status before God, as long as they are determined enough to make it so.

As Latter-day Saints, apparently one of our greatest tests we must endure in these last days is the acquisition of and proper use of wealth. Brigham Young once declared that “[t]he worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear … is that they cannot stand wealth” (James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer, Salt Lake City: Geo. Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1900, pp. 122–23) (emphasis added).

Is wealth evil, then? Certainly not, since it is “the love of money” that constitutes the “root of all evil,” not money itself (see 1 Tim. 6:10). Indeed, President David O. McKay counseled that “[g]old does not corrupt man; it is in the motive of acquiring that gold that corruption occurs” (Treasures of Life, p.175). The false idea that financial success follows righteousness may stem, at least partly, from the following statement from Jacob:

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:18-19)(emphasis added)

Accordingly, all those who have received a hope in Christ, who are true and faithful to every covenant, and who further seek for riches, will be prospered, right? Not quite. There have been too many righteous men and women (i.e., men and women that know true success in life) who have lived and died in humble circumstances for us to conclude that financial success = righteousness.

Instead, I propose an alternative interpretation to the term “riches.” The Lord explained in modern revelation the following:

Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich” (D&C 6:7) (emphasis added).

And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39) (emphasis added)

Thus, I submit that, in at least one interpretation, “riches” may consist of intangible heavenly goods, such as an increase in spiritual guidance, revelation, and, above all, eternal life. This interpretation further accords with the Lord’s admonition that where one’s treasure is, there will his heart be also (see Matt. 6:21). Indeed, if our treasure is God’s greatest gift (i.e., eternal life), our heart will certainly be willing to “clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

LDS Family Services: Isn't It About Time...To Get It On?

My previous post on Marijuana and the Word of Wisdom (WoW) was inspired by what I viewed as an irony where the government may in some cases dictate what is permissible for medical use under the WoW. Another irony came to mind as I was thinking a few days ago about Alma's advice to his son Corianton, that wickedness never was happiness.

In full disclosure, my wife and I are trying to adopt through LDS Family Services. We have already adopted once and it was a great experience. We occasionally are contacted by various birth mothers and will reply to emails, hoping that someone will choose us. After recently being contacted by a potential birth mother, I inadvertently thought to myself that I was grateful that she had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, so that some family could have children, even if it was not mine. And that is where the irony kicks in.

There are hundreds of couples that are waiting, praying, fasting, and sacrificing so that they will be chosen for adoption. And the only way for this to happen is for, in most cases, a boy and a girl to commit a serious violation of the Law of Chastity. That leads me to wonder, only hypothetically, should I pray for more of these scenarios to happen so that I can adopt? It blesses the lives of many. I suppose it's just one of those things where a good situation can occur from a bad one, but I do find it ironic that the happiness that I experience with my son was caused by the wickedness of someone else. Perhaps God does have a sense of humor, or at least a sense of irony.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How Are We to be Perfect in Mortality?

Latter-day Saints believe that our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation aims to transform those who are saved by Christ to be like Christ. We take literally the words of Paul that “[t]he Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16). Indeed, He is the Father of our spirits (Heb. 12:9) and we are his offspring (Acts 17:29); it only makes sense that offspring will eventually grow up to be what their parents are.

The New Testament itself contains Jesus’ directive to “[b]e ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) (emphasis added). President Hugh B. Brown emphasized that “[w]e take seriously and literally the injunction of the Savior to be perfect” (Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 102).

But what is the perfection that our Heavenly Father expects us to achieve while in mortality?

Today, we often characterize perfection as “sinless” or “flawless,” but there has only been One that truly meets that classification. And yet the scriptures attest that “Noah was a just man and perfect” (Gen. 6:9); Job was “perfect and upright” (Job 1:1); and Seth was “a perfect man” (D&C 107:43). Consequently, the scriptural definition of perfection seems to differ from our modern definition.

There are only 5 words in the Bible that are translated as “perfect”: (Hebrew) 1) shalem (1Kings 8:61; 15:14; 2Kings 20:30); 2) tam (Job 1:1); 3) tammim (Gen. 6:9; 17:1; Duet. 18:13); (Greek) 4) teleios (Matt. 5:48; 19:21; Eph. 4:13; Col. 4:12; James 3:2); and 5) artios (1Tim. 3:17). And yet, none of these words actually mean “sinless.” Instead, each is better depicted as “whole,” “complete,” “undefiled,” “upright,” or “just.”

So, what type of a person is someone who is whole, complete, undefiled, etc., if we are to obtain such a state of being? To help explain this, Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated the following:

We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. You don’t. There’s only been one perfect person, and that’s the Lord Jesus, but in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path – thus charting a course leading to eternal life – and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship… If you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path.

There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time that is given to men to prepare for eternity. Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life – though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do – you’re still going to be saved…

You don’t have to live a life that’s truer than true. You don’t have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing. What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church – keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes – because this is the time and the day appointed, this is the probationary estate – you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure” (McConkie, “Probationary Test of Mortality,” p.8) (emphasis added; paragraphing altered).

Accordingly, someone who is whole, complete, upright, and so forth (i.e., “perfect”), is someone who lives as an upright member of the Church and avoids unbalanced, fanatical Church zeal. It is someone who, upon sinning, immediately repents and is once again reconciled to God. In other words, perfection in mortality simply amounts to living our lives by doing those things we know to be right and true, for if we are doing this and we die while in the process, we cannot fall from that path in the world to come.