Monday, March 30, 2015

USU And Local Leadership Development


Utah State University is, of course, not a local community college. Unlike many Junior Colleges, it draws students from all over the nation and around the world. Therefore, its objectives are considerably different from the Community College. However, USU also has a heavy component of state and local students and therefore shares some things in common with a Junior College. Among them, I suggest, is the development of local leadership.

I read this morning an interesting article by John Gardner about the role of the JC in developing leadership. Though it was written in 1988, almost 30 years ago, Gardner makes some points that may be useful for USU leadership to review for possible new ideas to consider. Here are some of the things he said:

  • Finding solutions to some local problems can be facilitated by a school that will serve as a “convening function” where representatives of various factions and interests come together for serious discussion of community problems. It can be a “valuable forum, a meeting ground where the common good is discussed."
  • A recommended program for leadership development for community colleges.
“First, a broad liberal arts education. It is useful for young potential leaders to gain–starting in high school–understanding of their own society and the world, to know their own history and the history of the species, to understand the promise of science and technology. And it helps if they have command of their own language, both speaking and writing. ...
Next, young potential leaders benefit by early exposure to various forums of group activities–team sports, student government, and off-campus activities, such as social service programs, and perhaps even participation in political campaigns. ... Young people interested in leadership need arenas in which they can test their judgment in action. They should get to know many constituencies, preferably some that are not entirely familiar. Young people need to know something about the untidy world in which real life takes place. ...
Third, they need opportunities to lead.  Leadership is a performing art. They need role models and mentors, and they need to have the opportunity to associate with other young leaders.”
  • In our society leadership is dispersed down through various levels of society. “Our system can be made to work only if leadership at those levels is effective, and prepared to do its share.” Community colleges can train those leaders.
  • It is useful and necessary for potential young leaders to know how the local community works, what its problems are, and how the state and community levels function. They need to know how the local political system works and how the city council does its work.
Finally, Gardner offers this important thought:
“When you help young persons discover their own capacity to lead or to be members of a leadership team or to share leadership tasks, you are engaged in the quintessentially American task of releasing human potential, the old and ever-new drama that we have been committed to since colonial days.”(1)
I realize that a number of these things take place at USU and other institutions of higher learning around the state. For that they should be praised and encouraged. Perhaps the above review might stimulate someone to consider some avenues which have not been, but could be explored further. Certainly wise students can benefit from Gardner's ideas and facilitate their own leadership growth by becoming involved in activities and programs USU currently offers and informing themselves about state and local government and get involved through opportunities that may be available on these levels.

Lets think together again, soon.


John W. Gardner, “Developing Leadership in Community Colleges,” The Education Digest, 53, no. 5 (January 1988): 56-58, emphasis added.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-five: Joseph Smith, the Law of Tithing, and Church Prosperity

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Is A Prophet

Evidence Thirty-five:
Joseph Smith, the Law of Tithing, and Church Prosperity© 

It is not uncommon for opponents of Mormonism to point to the wealth of the Church as a reason for criticism. I believe, however, that when viewed in its true light, the prosperity of the Church and many of its members is an evidence of the inspiration and revelation which rested upon Joseph Smith in the early days of the Church, and of his successors in subsequent decades. Basically two simple directives from the Lord through the Prophet guide the revenue collecting and disbursement of the Church. Neither is long and involved. Indeed, the very opposite is true.  They are among the simplest and briefest of the revelations which were given to him.

The first is Section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants, given on 8 July 1838, in Far West, Missouri. It is divided into seven verses and occupies less than half a page in that sacred book. It came in answer to the question, how much of their property the Lord required of his saints for sacred purposes. The answer was “one-tenth of all their interest annually.” This has been interpreted to mean 10% of one’s income. In those early days in which the Saints were poor, the demands for Church revenue were high, and it was being driven from place to place. The Church and its people struggled greatly with poverty. Nevertheless, the Lord blessed his people. In Utah the persecutions by the Federal Government during the so-called “Americanization of Utah” brought the Church to its financial knees, at which time Lorenzo Snow was inspired to reemphasize the law of tithing. Gradually over the decades as the faith of the people increased and more tithing was paid the Church began to prosper more and more.

In the same revelation the Lord specified that tithing was to be used for “the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.” (Verse 2) Section 120, also given on 8 July 1838, was one simple verse of direction regarding the disbursement of the funds. Tithing is to be “disposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them.” The last phrase is the key, of which Church critics are totally unaware.

In the fall of 2013, Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, spoke to the Church about these two directives and told of attending his first meeting of this council in 2004 after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, and the feelings he experienced in that meeting. He said:
I marvel at the clarity and brevity of these two revelations in comparison to the complicated financial guidelines and administrative procedures used in so many organizations and governments around the world. How can the temporal affairs of an organization as large as the restored Church of Jesus Christ possibly operate throughout the entire world using such succinct instructions?  To me the answer is quite straightforward: this is the Lord’s work, He is able to do His own work (see 2 Nephi 27:20), and the Savior inspires and directs His servants as they apply His directions and labor in His cause. (1)
He went on to speak of the “simplicity of the principles that guided our deliberations and decisions.” Two “basic and fixed principles” are observed, he said. “First, the Church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives. Second, a portion of the annual income is set aside as a reserve for contingencies and unanticipated needs.” (2)

Much could be said about the great faith of the Mormon people to pay ten percent of their income to the Church to provide this revenue base, but this is not usually the focus of the Church’s critics. They concentrate on the amount of money the Church has, the businesses from which it makes money as they suppose, and they attribute the Church’s financial success to the business acumen of its leaders. They also ascribe the “power” of Mormonism in the United States to this wealth and influence and miss the real point–the faith and commitment of the Lord’s people to a simple commandment.  

They also miss another important issue, these simple revelations were received by the founding Prophet. He was content to leave less than eight verses to govern the method of financing the Church(3)–the Lord’s Church! The outcome is the present prosperity it enjoys and the blessings it is to people throughout the world. It is truly a marvelous work and a wonder, and the wonder for this author is, how this young unlettered Vermonter came up with this simple system that when properly implemented has produced the astounding “fruit” which it has?

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.


1.  David A. Bednar, “The Windows of Heaven,” Ensign (November 2013): 19.

2.  Ibid, pp. 19-20.

3.  I am aware there are other revelations about the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, but the revenue of the Church is provided largely through the tithing of the membership of the Church, which is the topic under discussion here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-four: Joseph Smith and Cain's Offering

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Is A Prophet

Evidence Thirty four:
Joseph Smith and Cain's Offering©
(Updated 30 March 2015)

There are those who do not think Mormons are Christians. One of the things which I love about the Prophet Joseph Smith is his great testimony of Jesus Christ.(1) One manifestation of it is reflected in his near single minded view of the Christ-centeredness of the scriptures.(2) An example of this phenomenon is what he taught about why the Lord rejected Cain’s offering in the story found in Genesis 4. Verse 3 says “in process of time ... that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.” Abel, his brother, offered the firstlings of the flock. “But unto Cain and to his offering,” the scripture reads, the Lord “had not respect.  And Cain was very wroth.” Cain was so wrathful that he ended up killing Abel.

A typical Christian interpretation of the difference between the two offerings is found in the popular NIV Study Bible, which gives this commentary:
The contrast is not between an offering of plant life and an offering of animal life, but between a careless, thoughtless offering and a choice, generous offering (cf. Lev 3:16).  Motivation and heart attitude are all-important, and God looked with favor on Abel and his offering because of Abel’s faith (Heb 11:4).(3)
I set this beside what Joseph Smith had to say on the subject.  His remarks are found in a lengthy epistle to the Church dated 22 January 1834.(4)  He was twenty-nine years old.
By faith in this atonement or plan of redemption, Abel offered to God a sacrifice that was accepted, which was the firstlings of the flock. Cain offered of the fruit of the ground, and was not accepted, because he could not do it in faith, he could have no faith, or could not exercise faith contrary to the plan of heaven. It must be shedding the blood of the Only Begotten to atone for man; for this was the plan of redemption; and without the shedding of blood was no remission; and as the sacrifice was instituted for a type, by which man was to discern the great Sacrifice which God had prepared; to offer a sacrifice contrary to that, no faith could be exercised, because redemption was not purchased in that way, nor the power of atonement instituted after that order; consequently Cain could have no faith; and whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. But Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God Himself testifying of his gifts. Certainly, the shedding of the blood of a beast could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type, or explanation of what was to be offered through the gift of God Himself; and this performance done with an eye looking forward in faith on the power of that great Sacrifice for a remission of sins. But however various may have been, and may be at the present time, the opinions of men respecting the conduct of Abel, and the knowledge which he had on the subject of atonement, it is evident in our minds, that he was instructed more fully in the plan than what the Bible speaks of, for how could he offer a sacrifice in faith, looking to God for a remission of his sins in the power of the great atonement, without having been previously instructed in that plan? And further, if he was accepted of God, what were the ordinances performed further than the offering of the firstlings of the flock?(5) 
Two things are important to highlight in this interesting analysis. First, Joseph does see a considerable difference between an offering of plant life and animal life. Second, this entire paragraph is surfeited with Jesus Christ, the atonement, and faith.  Consider the following:

1. Abel had faith in the atonement and offered an acceptable animal sacrifice, one that typified or properly symbolized the Savior’s sacrifice. 

2. Cain did not offer the correct type of sacrifice and could not do so in faith because the fruits of the field do not typify the sacrifice of Christ.

3. Animal sacrifice was to point toward Christ, because the atonement was “instituted after that order.” However, the shedding of an animal’s blood “could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type ... of what was to be offered through the gift of God Himself....”  That gift was Christ.

4. This was all done looking forward to a remission of sins, through the atonement.

5.   To exercise faith through such a system, Able must have known about Christ, the atonement,  and the plan.

Quite a different view than that of the NIV Study Bible. This is typical of Joseph Smith, it is not unusual or exceptional. He understood the mission and purpose of Jesus Christ. He understood the atonement and how the Old Testament law of sacrifice pointed toward the atoning sacrifice of Christ. He understood the necessity of having faith in Christ in order to please God, to live righteously, and to gain salvation. This is the message he drew from the story of the two sacrifices of Abel and Cain. Interesting is it not, how his critics never call attention to this most obvious and consistent focus of his teachings and ministry. I wonder why not?

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.


1.   I like and share the view of my friend Jeff Marsh who wrote, "...Joseph Smith was one of the most powerful testifiers of the resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the world has ever known."  See, W. Jeffrey Marsh, Joseph Smith the Prophet of the Restoration, (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort Inc., 2005), p. 14.

2.  This is consistent with Jesus' teaching, "Search the scriptures; for ... they are they which testify of me."  (John 5:39.)  It is not always remembered that the "scriptures" he speaks of were the Old Testament.  Perhaps a few things may have been circulating from his teachings.  There are a number of ways one can approach this idea.  An interesting one is found in an article in the Ensign asserting that the Book of Mormon mentions the Savior more times per verse than even the New Testament.  See, Susan Ward Easton, "Discovery," Ensign, (July 1978), p. 60.

3.  Kenneth Barker, ed, The NIV Study Bible: New International Version, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), p. 11, note at Gen. 4:3-4.

4.  Joseph Smith, “The Elders of The Church in Kirtland, To Their Brethren Abroad,” HC 2:15-16.  See also TPJS, pp. 58-59, emphasis added.  The original was in the Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 18 (March 1834), 142-144; no. 19 (April 1834), p. 152.  Respecting Joseph's argument that Abel knew the gospel and the law of sacrifice relative to the death of Christ, Moses 5:7 teaches us that an angel taught Adam that animal sacrifice “is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father....”  Surely Adam taught this to his children. Moses 5:12 says Adam and Eve "made all things known unto their sons and their daughters."  Concerning Moses 5:7, Elder M. Russell Ballard has written, much as Joseph argued about Abel, “This teaches us that originally, ancient Israel understood the relationship between the sacrifice of their offerings and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.” He refers the reader to D&C 138:12-13, which says: “And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; and who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name.” See M. Russell Ballard, Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Timeless Gospel Messages with Insights from his Grandfathers Melvin J. Ballard and Hyrum Mack Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015, p. 118.

5.  Joseph Smith had more to say in this same epistle about blood sacrifice and their knowledge of Christ. He wrote:  "Our friends may say, perhaps, that there were never any ordinances except those of offering sacrifices before the coming of Christ, and that it could not be possible before the Gospel to have been administered while the law of sacrifices of blood was in force. But we will recollect that Abraham offered sacrifice, and notwithstanding this, had the Gospel preached to him. That the offering of sacrifice was only to point the mind forward to Christ, we infer from these remarkable words of Jesus to the Jews: "Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). So, then, because the ancients offered sacrifice it did not hinder their hearing the Gospel; but served, as we said before, to open their eyes, and enable them to look forward to the time of the coming of the Savior, and rejoice in His redemption. We find also, that when the Israelites came out of Egypt they had the Gospel preached to them, according to Paul in his letter to the Hebrews, which says: "For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (see Heb. 4:2). It is said again, in Gal. 3:19, that the law (of Moses, or the Levitical law) was "added" because of transgression. What, we ask, was this law added to, if it was not added to the Gospel? It must be plain that it was added to the Gospel, since we learn that they had the Gospel preached to them. From these few facts, we conclude that whenever the Lord revealed Himself to men in ancient days, and commanded them to offer sacrifice to Him, that it was done that they might look forward in faith to the time of His coming, and rely upon the power of that atonement for a remission of their sins. And this they have done, thousands who have gone before us, whose garments are spotless, and who are, like Job, waiting with an assurance like his, that they will see Him in the latter day upon the earth, even in their flesh."  HC 2:16-17, TPJS, 60-61, emphasis added.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-Three: Joseph Smith and the “Dews of Carmel”

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Is A Prophet

Evidence Thirty-three:
Joseph Smith and the “Dews of Carmel”©

For being an uneducated backwoods northeastern American farm boy, Joseph Smith seemed to have an uncanny understanding of Near Eastern geography and its symbolical use in the scriptures.  

Today’s evidence of Joseph's divine calling is drawn from such geographical symbolism. It is brief but really quite potent. There is a sentence in verse 19 of Section 128 in the Doctrine and Covenants that has captured the attention of alert readers.  It is the last sentence in that verse which reads:
“As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them [those who bring good tidings]!
There is only one Carmel that could possibly be the referent here–Mt. Carmel in the state of Israel. It is a relatively high promontory which runs from southeast to northwest, and its headland or point serves as the southern end of Haifa Bay on the northern coast of Israel. It is famous for a number of reasons, probably chief of which is the story of the duel between Elijah and the Priests of Baal on the top of this mountain as told in 1 Kings 18. Carmel means the garden of God. Compared to some of the deserts in the southern and eastern parts of the land it really is a lush and garden-like region.

Why would Joseph Smith liken the knowledge which the Lord was going to give his people in the day of the Restoration to the “dews” of Carmel? What did he know of Mt. Carmel or of those dews? Though Mt. Carmel is mentioned in the Bible, the “dews of Carmel” are not. So this is new whole cloth from Joseph Smith.  Where did this metaphor come from? And what do we know about dew on Mt. Carmel which would help us understand it?

Well, here is where it gets very interesting. When I was in Israel with my family to help with a BYU Semester Abroad in the late 1980s, a resident instructor called this passage to my attention and told me that a book published by the Hebrew University had some very interesting information on the subject. Once we moved in to the new Jerusalem Center on Mt. Scopus, I visited Hebrew University which is virtually next door. I found the book in their university bookstore and purchased it. It was expensive. In it I found this remarkable statement in a subheading on “Dew” in a section on “Moisture and Precipitation” in the Holy Land:
Dewfall provides a limited amount of moisture even during the dry summer, and is important to summer crops such as watermelon.  The nearer the area to the sea, the better are its prospects for dewfall on windless nights when the soil grows colder than the air which touches its surface.  In general, the Coastal Plain has more dew than inland regions; richest is Mount Carmel, which has an average 250 nights of dew per year.(1)
Ho, ho, ho, how about that! Two-hundred-fifty nights a year, Mt Carmel receives dew–on average. That is 68.4% of the time. And it is the highest of any place in the Holy Land. How did Joseph Smith know that? I wonder if Joseph’s critics will be able to find some almanac or geography of Israel in the Manchester, New York library with that information in it? I bet some have tried to find such a source available in America in 1842, when Section 128 was written, from which they can argue that Joseph Smith culled it. He was the Great Eclectic you know.

For me, the answer is simple. He did not know that information, but the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth did. And he was Joseph Smith’s source. I can almost see a hint of a smile on Heavenly Father’s face when he gave that information to Joseph, just dropping this little “zinger” in for the fun of it, waiting for brother Ogden to discover it in Israel. I love such “divine mechanics” as my wife refers to them.

But lets not finish this without one final point–the point of the metaphor in D&C 128:19.  It is worth reading the entire verse for context:
19) Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received?  A voice of gladness! [The gospel is the good news.] A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy.  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth!  As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!
The knowledge of God is to descend upon those who bring glad tidings of good things, as the dews of Carmel. Silently, almost imperceptibly, but very regularly, abundantly, the knowledge comes as does the dew. Joseph Smith himself was such a tidings bearer. Indeed, for this Dispensation he is the tidings bearer. Joseph Smith was also such a recipient. Indeed, for this Dispensation he is the recipient of the knowledge of God, not line upon line, or paragraph upon paragraph, or even page upon page. In his case it came book upon book–four books!

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.


1.  Efraim Orni and Elisha Efrat, Geography of Israel, fourth revised edition.  (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1980), p. 147.  I thank Dr. D. Kelly Ogden for directing me to this source.  He did his PhD studies in historical geography in Israel. With David Galbraith he taught at the Jerusalem Center for many years.  He now teaches at BYU.

The Circle of Fire

Introduction: I am reproducing the following document for some former California Roseville missionaries who may remember it, but do not have a copy, or for those who never received one.  It is an excellent essay by Elder Sterling W. Sill about the trials, difficulties and resistance one encounters on the road to a successful life, and what it takes to overcome them.  Probably every culture has some story, legend, or myth which teaches the same message.  It is one of the prevalent philosophies of life found among all people.

We asked our missionaries to read it five times during their mission and to answer some questions about how it related to them at regular milestones of growth and experience during their mission, and finally what advice they would give about its message to new missionaries arriving in the mission.  It was interesting to read how the message took on greater importance and meaning as they grew in experience and maturity.  I hope you will enjoy it too.


Sterling W. Sill

Sometime ago, I re-read that interesting fairy tale entitled, “The Sleeping Beauty.”  It told of a beautiful princess asleep in an enchanted castle surrounded by a protecting circle of fire.  The legend said that whoever awakened the sleeping princess would have her a his bride and would also be entitled to rule the kingdom.  The problem came from the fact that no one could win the prize without making his way through the forbidding circle of flames.

Another version of this story had the castle guarded by a hedge of cruel thorns which grew thicker and more dangerous as the intruder tried to cut through them.

Our literature is filled with this important idea, that the great prizes are always kept under a heavy guard.  The Golden Fleece sought by Jason was protected by a sleepless dragon.  Hercules was required to overcome impossible obstacles before obtaining his status with the Gods on the top of Mt. Olympus.

To some, these accounts may appear to be just interesting stories, but they are much more than that.  And while our day is not especially noted for its belief in sleepless dragons or walls of living fire, yet before anyone goes very far in this life, he discovers that life is a testing, and all of the most worthwhile prizes are still encircled by some kind of protection, designed to frighten away the timid and discourage the unworthy.  The ancient law of success is still in effect, that the sleeping princess can only be awakened by one with endurance enough to get through the flames, and manhood enough to clear out all the obstacles placed in his way.  It is still a standard requirement, that one must kill the dragon before he can rule the kingdom.

Sometime ago a potentially capable  young man told me about his ambition.  He said that someday he wanted to be a United States Senator.  He is now 25 years of age and he had set the date for his accomplishment at age 50.  This allowed him a quarter of a century to make himself into the kind of man he needed to be, to make his dream come true.  He knew that to gain the prize, he must first earn a substantial measure of personal independence and financial success.  He would need to be a man of leadership ability and skill in getting along with other people.

A good character and a stable personality would also be indispensable.  To help him develop these traits he quit his routine job and accepted one with greater challenge.  He was very enthusiastic about his ambition, and felt that he knew where he was going and how he was to get there.  His situation reminded me of the inspiring story of John F. Kennedy.

As a young man, John Kennedy idolized his older brother Joe.  It was Joe, not John, who was the outgoing member of the family and the one most likely to succeed in public life.  Father Kennedy, out of his long experience in political life had encouraged Joe in the thought that someday he could be the President of the United States. Joe had accepted his father’s challenge and had begun working in that direction, willing to make any reasonable sacrifice.  But in the process of completing this military service Joe was killed.

Then the senior Kennedy felt that this responsibility properly fell upon John, the next son in line.  But John was an introvert and it would be much more difficult for him to become president.  But he had great respect for his father.  He also loved his brother Joe and felt that there could be no price too high, if only he could complete Joe’s unfulfilled dreams.  John knew that he would have to change many things about himself and that the process would be difficult.  Substantial personal growth would be necessary.  He knew that he would be required to pass through the fire.  But he wholeheartedly accepted the challenge and said to his father, that he would take Joe’s place and become President of the United States.

A high and holy ambition tightly held, can of itself produce a tremendous power in human life.  And what a thrill even in retrospect to watch John Fitzgerald Kennedy make his way toward his high objective.  He became the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, at a younger age than any of his predecessors in that exalted office.

I could see no reason why my young friend should not also be successful in his ambition.  However, in this I was doomed to disappointment.  Six months later this young man came to see me again.  His enthusiasm had disappeared, his ambition had almost been forgotten.  The industry and courage necessary to qualify him for his high objective were now nowhere in evidence.  To him success was too difficult.  He didn’t get very close to the circle of fire before he decided the heat was too great.

Then almost eagerly he gave up the quest and seemed completely content with the slow moving tempo of his former routine work.  His old job lacked challenge, but it produced no strain on his muscles and made no difficult demands on his personality.  He now preferred a less valuable prize where the heat was not so great nor the obstacles so difficult.  My friend had discovered that the growth process, which requires hardening in the fire, can sometimes be a little bit painful.  In trying to encourage him I told him of an experience I had had many years previously.

One spring, following a winter of school, I got a job helping to clean out an irrigation canal. I was put down in the bottom of the canal on the business end of a shovel handle.  It was not very long before my hands began to feel tender and sore.  They were quite literally encountering their circle of fire.  Naturally I did not enjoy this discomfort, and so a decision had to be made about what should be done about it.

When anyone is confronted with a problem, life usually allows him a choice between a number of alternatives.  No one who cringes and runs away from his problem is ever permitted to marry the princess.  It is also true that if we stop working every time we get sore hands or tired feet or aching hearts, we can never rule the kingdom.  But it is a very interesting fact that if one keeps on using his hands, the skin will not all come off, but instead the soreness will eventually disappear and the hands will become firm and strong, and able to handle the most difficult tasks without discomfort.

I tried to point out to my young friend that the personality, and even the spirit itself, sometimes get such sore hands that they want to put down the shovel.

We sometimes use an interesting word called “tenderfoot.”  I recently looked this word up in the dictionary, and strangely enough it has nothing whatever to do with the feet.  The dictionary explained that a “tenderfoot” is one who is too delicate to endure hardship.  A “tenderfoot” is one who is so sensitive that when the skin of his hands, or the muscles of his personality or the determination of his spirit gets a little sore, he is unable to finish the job.  Very often a “tenderfoot” has great ideas and wonderful ambitions, but because he is not tough enough, to hang on, he turns his back on the thorns, refuses the fire, and loses the princess and the kingdom.

I think that my young friend personifies one of the most threatening problems standing between us and success.  Everyone wants the good things in life—a fine family, an honored name and a sufficient measure of material success.  We fail in so many cases only because we are unwilling to pay the price, or endure the pain involved in growing up.  Someone has said that the Lord always fits the back to the burden.  Under pressure the skin always firms up so that it can pleasantly meet any demands that are made upon it, and so does the personality and so does the spirit.

Jack Dempsey made himself famous for the effective use of his hands.  He made them into fists and then put them under the direction of a fighting spirit.  On one occasion he said that there are two qualities required for any outstanding success as a prizefighter.  One was the ability to give a big punch and the other was the ability to take a big punch.  Assuming one had the greatest ability as a slugger, he would yet be a miserable failure if he couldn’t take a regular diet of punishment.

No one will ever get very far in the prize ring or in life itself who is demoralized by an occasional good punch on the nose.  So frequently in life we hear people say, “I just can’t take it any longer.”  A few discouragements and they drop their ideals, a few disappointments and they abandon their ambitions.  But the great men and women are those who can take it on the chin occasionally without losing their rhythm.

Elbert Hubbard said of Socrates. “He accepted every fact, circumstance and experience of life, and counted them all as gain.”  The bumps we get along the way are all intended for our benefit.  Occasionally life will give us a good kick in the pants merely to wake us up and get us going.  The problems and trials of Socrates were actually wonderful privileges and he was anxious to take full advantage of them.  A very wise man once said, “He who succeeds in evading the unpleasant experiences, cheats himself out of so much life.”

And one reason that my young friend will never be a senator is that he dislikes too many things, and therefore he cheats himself out of too much of life.  He has too great an aversion to hard work, he is unable to make continuous effort on his own power.  He goes down in a heap before too small a blow.  Difficulty was designed as a means of challenging is, it was never intended to remain with us as a permanent condition.  Because my friend is so severely allergic to sore hands and doesn’t enjoy feeling the fire on his face, the sleeping princess will have a long nap ahead of her is she is depending on him to wake her.

Whenever the thermostat regulating the temperature of the circle of fire is set low, it means that that which it protects is of inferior value.  Life has never been known to lessen the guard around the really big rewards.  The little sleepy dragons are only assigned to protect the mediocre prizes.  And seldom does one ever develop the strong firm hands of accomplishment if he never takes them out of his pockets.   How can one be properly advanced above the office of “tenderfoot” before he gets rid of the tenderness not only from his feet but also from his ambition and purpose.  More than about anything else we need some hard jobs to do.  A tough challenge eagerly accepted is better than anything else to raise us to first class rank.  Life has no occupations where limited hours, slow motion effort and mental absenteeism will not cut down our progress in proportion.

For the effect of contrast, just imagine that you were twins.  Suppose that one of you got the easiest possible job, with the lowest standard of accomplishment involving no problems or preparation or ability.  On the other hand suppose that your other self was suddenly placed in the office of President of the United States.  That job would be far too big for you.  You would meet the most severe criticism and the most difficult problems.  The President of the United States can’t turn off his thinking powers just because the whistle blows.  But suppose that ten years later you look on your own situation.  Very likely the “self” that does the easy unchallenging job will still be acting like a “tenderfoot.”  As there is nothing about softness that builds up strength.  Each of your selves will look and act the part of the role he has been playing.  Your worrying hardworking self may still be too small to adequately fill his assignment but he will be a long way ahead of where he would have been.

Challenge, struggle, and worry, conscientiously and intelligently done, cannot help but make a wonderful change in the one who does them.  And just as steel must be heated to be hardened, so all good men are stronger for having passed through life’s circle of fire.  Even the greatest prizes of eternal life and eternal happiness are won by our conquering the difficulties that lie in the way.  The temptations must be overcome and the dragons of sin and ignorance must be eliminated.  Salvation itself means the overcoming of all our enemies and the last enemy to be overcome is death.  The gospel teaches that God himself dwells in “everlasting burnings” and to attain his presence we must pass through the circle of flames.  The poet was speaking for God when he said:

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The term fire is used in the scripture to indicate a purifying agent that cleanses us of our sins.  The bestowal of the Holy Ghost is referred to as “the baptism of fire.”  The sin and iniquity must be burned out of our souls.  Paul said, “God is a consuming fire.”  And those who become like him must make their way against all difficulties if they would be worthy to rule the kingdom.

Sterling W. Sill, The Way of Success, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), pp. 35-40

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-two: Joseph Smith and the Italicized Words in the KJV

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet

Evidence Thirty-two:
Joseph Smith and the Italicized Words in the KJV©

Joseph Smith produced about 900 pages of scripture in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the revisions in the JST.(1) This is monumental! It is monumental for many reasons, but one stands out concerning the theme “101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet.” That is, thousands of small items are tucked away in these pages which I used to call “zingers” when I was teaching Institute. They are unexpected insights, illumination, expansion, additional information, deletions, alterations, clarifications, explanations, and answers. Each one in its own way becomes one more evidence of the heavenly inspiration that rested upon the Prophet Joseph Smith as he translated, received and recorded revelation, or as he edited, corrected and interpreted scripture. The possibilities seem almost endless. So coming up with 101 isn’t really challenging in terms of the number. It is challenging to locate them and then say something intelligent about them. Fortunately, many, many items have been identified by a host of students in the past 185 years. Therefore, I claim very little originality in this series. Here is one, however, that jumped out at me. Maybe in the far and foggy reaches of the past I noticed it because someone else called it to my attention. If so, I do not recall who it was; I offer my apologies.

Many Latter-day Saints do not know why there are italicized words in the King James Bible. It is really pretty simple. Where the KJV translators supplied a word which was not in the original manuscript, but which they thought was implied by the language, the grammar, or context as they understood it, they italicized it to alert the reader it was not in the original text.(2) Interestingly, Joseph Smith paid attention to this phenomenon when he was working on the JST and occasionally he left the supplied word out or substituted something else in its place. This is a fascinating study by itself.

A famous passage which illustrates the importance of leaving the supplied word out is found in 2 Tim. 3:16 which reads in the KJV:
16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Note that the word “is” is italicized twice.  Here is the JST version:
16) And all scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:(3)
The first “is” is deleted and the second one is retained. What does this almost imperceptible change do to the meaning of the verse? The King James Version can, and has been taken to mean that all scripture is inspired, and there are branches of Protestantism who believe and maintain that very doctrine–that the Bible is the word of God and it is without error. That is not a unanimous view in the Christian world, but an important and significant segment of it holds this position. When you take the first “is” out, however, the meaning does not affirm that all scripture is inspired. Rather, it suggests the opposite. The implication being that all which we call scripture is not inspired; and only that which is inspired is profitable to man. That, of course, is much more akin to the Mormon view of scripture. 

Is it correct to believe that not all canonized scripture is inspired? To begin examination of this subject, lets turn to Brigham Young who said, 
...I have heard ministers of the gospel declare that they believed every word in the Bible was the word of God. I have said to them "you believe more than I do." I believe the words of God are there; I believe the words of the devil are there; I believe that the words of men and the words of angels are there; and that is not all, I believe that the words of a dumb brute are there. I recollect one of the prophet's riding; and prophesying against Israel, and the animal he rode rebuked his madness.(4)
I do not suppose those ministers who heard Brigham say this were overly pleased. What is his point? The scriptures are not strictly the “word of God’ because they contain the words of others, including Satan and many of his emissaries. Moreover, not all of what they say is inspired. True, it may have been inspiration that led the authors of the biblical books to include those words for context and greater understanding, but the words themselves are not inspired. Therefore, one needs to take care not to impute more to the text than good judgment permits.  

In addition, it is possible for actual error or mistakes to be canonized by an authoritative and responsible body. There are numerous conflicts between various passages in the Bible itself, which the hardliners work diligently to explain away. Even in LDS scripture we have examples. Notably, the death date of Alvin Smith was incorrect in early versions of JS-H 1: 4. It was originally in this passage as 19 November 1824, but has been corrected to 1823 based on documentary evidence.(5) When the most recent editions of the Book of Mormon were prepared, the printed text was compared with the original manuscript when it is extant, because not all of it is, and with the printer’s manuscript. This process brought to light numerous mistakes made in various printings from 1830 up.(6) Even since the most recent editions were published, scholars have identified yet other passages that may have minor errors in them. So, strictly speaking all scripture is not given by God and is not inspired. The unsteady and inaccurate hand of man plays a role in the production of scripture. Paul understood these matters as did Joseph Smith. It is as if Paul was giving Timothy his own 8th Article of Faith: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly....” We could add and as far as it is “transmitted” correctly too. When it is translated and transmitted correctly, it is profitable to the Saints.

The 2 Timothy alteration also tells us something important about Joseph Smith. Leaving out the "is" in 2 Tim. 3:16 shows us the alertness and keenness of his mind.  He was quick to pick up subtleties of meaning in scripture, particularly the implications conveyed by the manner in which things are written. This same point can also be made about numerous other passages he altered or interpreted. We will have occasion to refer to many in the course of producing 101 reasons why I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.


1.  Gerald N. Lund, “A Prophet for the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, (January 1997), p. 52.

2.  Robert J. Matthews “I Have a Question.” [Why are some words italicized in the Bible?  Is that for emphasis or for some other reason?] Ensign (February 1978): 22-23.

3.  See footnote 16a at 2 Tim. 3:16 of the LDS edition of the KJV.

4.  Brigham Young, JD, 14:280, discourse of 3 July 1870.

5.  Richard L. Anderson, “The Alvin Smith Story: Fact and Fiction?” Ensign (August 1987), p.  72, n. 67.  “The 1824 date in this verse (also History of the Church, 1:16-17) is now corrected to 1823 to conform to the gravestone, Dr. Robinson’s daybook, and the September 1824 newspaper notice of Joseph Smith, Sr.”

6.  This project was initiated by President Spencer W. Kimball in order to produce a new corrected edition of the Book of Mormon.  Associated with this is what is known as “The Critical Text of the Book of Mormon Project,” at BYU.  Royal Skousen has spearheaded that project and has devoted his entire career to a study of the manuscripts to recover the most accurate version of the Book of Mormon possible.  He has written much about this endeavor.  The results are fascinating and very important.  Following are a few sources which,  listed chronologically, will introduce the reader to this work:

Skousen, Royal. “Towards a Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, 30/1 (Winter 1990): 41-69.

__________, “Piecing Together the Original Manuscript,” BYU Today, (May 1992): 18-24.

__________, “The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project,” in Joseph Smith: The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr.  (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), pp. 65-75.

__________,  “Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds. (Provo: FARMS, 1997), pp. 61-93.

__________,  “Editor’s Preface,” in The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, edited by Royal Skousen.  (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. xxix-xlv.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-one: Despite Opposition the Book of Mormon Fulfills Prophecy

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet

Evidence Thirty-One: 
Despite Opposition the Book of Mormon Fulfills Prophecy© 

The Book of Mormon contains a remarkable prophecy about itself which under the best of circumstances would be difficult to fulfill. However, the circumstances have not been the best. At every turn, from the beginning opposition in Palymra to ongoing attacks against it by anti-Mormons and other critics this very day, the Book of Mormon has been under constant siege for 185 years.(1) Therefore, the audacious nature of the prophecy and its remarkable ongoing fulfillment constitutes another not-so-little gem of evidence that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon, but translated it by the gift and power of God. 

An angel speaking to Nephi about the fate of certain religious records said:
These last records [the Book of Mormon], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [Bible], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.(2)
In the October General Conference in 1945, President George Albert Smith spoke about this prophecy and its fulfillment.
There had been written in that book at the time of its compilation the statement that the book would be received by many people. Joseph Smith didn't eliminate that statement when it came to publication.  When the people said, "we'll not read it," he did not take it out and say, "Well, I can't fulfill this." If he had been writing the book himself, he probably would have changed the script, but it was not his script, and so it went to the world. I was present a few years ago when the Smith farm near the Hill Cumorah was purchased, and as I went through the neighborhood I found only one copy of the Book of Mormon. That was owned by a man named Pliny T. Sexton, who was chancellor of the University of New York and the banker at Palmyra. He had a copy of the first edition of the Book of Mormon as it came from the press. The leaves had never been cut, and he kept it in the safe in the bank. I asked him, "Is there any place here were I can find another copy of the Book of Mormon?" He said, "I do not know." I then began to inquire among the people and found that the people of Palmyra had kept their word. They had neither bought nor would they read it. At that time Palmyra was a village and is still a village, but the Book of Mormon that was discredited then has since been read and accepted by people in all parts of the earth, people from many nations, numbering hundreds of thousands, and the work is still going forward, fulfilling the prediction that it was made...known to all kindreds, tongues, and people...."(3)
Does anyone really believe that Joseph Smith on his own authority and foresight could have confidently made such a prediction about the fate of the book he published in 1830 at age 24? What earthly power did he possess in order to fulfill it? Last night I watched Julie Andrews explain, on the 50th anniversary of her hit movie "The Sound of Music," that nobody in the cast and crew at the time had any idea of the success it would enjoy, and that despite the money spent on advertisement--something Joseph Smith did not have. The angel's prediction in the Book of Mormon is as remarkable as another angel’s prophecy that Joseph's “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”(4) In 2011 the Church published the 150 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon! It is now available in 82 languages in its onward march of fulfilling the declarations of both angels.(5)

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.


1.   Below is an annotated list of a few articles discussing opposition to the Book of Mormon at various times.  See especially the Kirkham article for problems in Palmyra at the time the Book was published.  This list was culled from, Donald W. Parry, Jeanette Miller, and Sandra A. Thorne, eds., A Comprehensive Annotated Book of Mormon Bibliography, available for search online at the Maxwell Institute, here:

Doxey, Roy W. "Satan's Opposition to the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon." Relief Society Magazine 44 (November 1957): 760-64.
In opposition to the Lord's great work of saving the souls of mankind, Satan has sought to destroy the same. Joseph Smith was cautioned that temptations would arise concerning the gold plates.The loss of the manuscript was not a frustration to God's work, it was an important lesson.

"Impact of Book Is Dynamic, Lasting." Church News 58 (31 December 1988): 6-7.
Shows how the Book of Mormon has fared from its first printing to the present, in spite of intense opposition. 

Kirkham, Francis W. "What Is the Book of Mormon?" Deseret News Church Section (21 October 1933): 5. The citizens of Palmyra covenanted not to buy a single Book of Mormon from Joseph Smith who claimed a divine origin of the book. It was denounced by Alexander Campbell in the Millennial Harbinger in February 1831. In spite of opposition the Book of Mormon has been carried to the world. Parley P. Pratt's testimony and Joseph Smith's letter to John Wentworth are included.

McGavin, E. Cecil. "The Book of Mormon Survives." Deseret  News Church Section (18 June 1938): 1, 8. 
The Book of Mormon was published in an environment of intense opposition. The enemies of the book published strange stories concerning its origin. Newspapers printed numerous articles (some reprinted in this article) prejudicing the public, claiming that the "next generation" would not remember the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon survived the opposition and has been published in foreign languages.

Newquist, Jerreld L. "The Western Standard." Improvement Era 62 (April 1959): 238-39, 274-82. 
George Q. Cannon, who established The Western Standard (newspaper) for the purpose of publishing items of interest to Latter-day Saints, tells of publishing the Book of Mormon in the Hawaiian language, which received a great deal of opposition from members of the Church in San Francisco.

Smith, Joseph Fielding. The Restoration of All Things: A Series of Radio Talks. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1944. 
Since the day of publication of the Book of Mormon, the flood of opposition towards it has increased. The Book of Mormon answers the critics successfully, fulfills biblical prophecy, and is a testimony against the world. Since not all believe, special witnesses had to be chosen. The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon remained true to their testimonies.

Talmage, James E.  "Scriptures of the American Continent."  Liahona 14 (1917): 611-12.  
Summarizes the Book of Mormon and the story of its coming forth, and explains that much of the opposition to the book was due to Joseph's claim that he had been visited by an angel and received divine help in its translation.  This claim was an affront to the dogma that miracles had ceased. 

2.  1 Ne. 13:40.

3. George Albert Smith, Conference Report, October 1945, pp. 19-20. 

4.  JS-History: 1:33.

5.  These statistics are available at Church’s website, here:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty: Joseph Smith and the Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God

Evidence Thirty: 
Joseph Smith and the Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ.©
(Updated 6 April 2015)

In this issue I propose consideration of two simple statement by modern apostles.  First, Hyrum Mack Smith asks a rhetorical question about Joseph Smith with an implied answer. It is brief, to the point, and powerful. The Spirit bore witness to me that it is true when I read it.  I believe the same can happen to you. Here is what he said:
If Joseph Smith was not inspired, if he was not, indeed, a true prophet, how can we account for the fact that he, though an unlearned youth, not educated or graduated from colleges or seminaries, organized a church that is so far superior in every sense of the term, to any organization yet effected by the learned and the wise? (1)
Second, is an earlier but very similar sentiment from Elder Orson Pratt:
If Joseph Smith were an impostor, whence his superior wisdom?  What power inspired his mind in laying the foundation of a church according to the ancient order?  How could an impostor so far surpass the combined wisdom of seventeen centuries as to originate a system diverse from every other system under heaven, and yet harmonize with the system of Jesus and His apostles in every particular?(2)
Much could be said about the prophet’s organization of the Church,(3) and I may do so on another occasion, but for now I feel like these brief statements can stand on their own, without further comment from me. Read and listen!

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Hyrum Mack Smith, cited in M. Russell Ballard, Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Timeless Gospel Messages with Insights from His Grandfathers Melvin J. Ballard and Hyrum Mack Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), p. 5.  Hyrum M. Smith was truly a spiritually gifted apostle of this generation.  He was ordained an apostle at the age of twenty-nine.  He co-wrote the “influential” and authoritative Doctrine and Covenant Commentary.  When he died at age forty-five in 1918, we lost a man with among the most insightful understandings of scripture in the modern Church. He was elder Ballard’s maternal grandfather.

2.  Orson Pratt, "Divine Authority or the Question, Was Joseph Smith Sent of God?" in Orson Pratt's Works on the Doctrines of the Gospel (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945), p. 5.

3.  I like the following sentiments from my friend Jeffrey Marsh, "Since the death of the original apostles, no person, no committee, no council, and no creed had been able to bring back the original Church with all its doctrines, priesthoods, and principles.  Many have recognized that things have been missing.  But no individual, nor any group of individuals, were ever able to recover what was lost.  The work of the Restoration was simply beyond human ability."   "The Church that Joseph Smith was inspired to restore was revealed from heaven.  It was not something Joseph conceive in council with others.  It has been built up by the power of God to be a light, standard, and messenger to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ (D&C 45:9). It did not originate with Joseph Smith, nor did it end when was martyred." W. Jeffrey Marsh, Joseph Smith the Prophet of the Restoration, (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2005), pp. 41, 43..

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Twenty-nine: Joseph Smith and that Old Serpent the Devil-Part 1

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet

Evidence Twenty-nine:
Joseph Smith and that Old Serpent the Devil-Part 1© 

I have two reasons for writing this installment. First, to point to another of the almost innumerable evidences that Joseph Smith was a divinely appointed prophet. Second, to introduce readers to a fine little book written by a friend and colleague of mine. I will start with the second.

The book is The Farm Boy Does It Again: Evidences of the Prophetic Calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  It was written by John Fowles, formerly a teacher at the Logan Institute. It is self-published and is available through Lulu.(1) John and I toyed with the idea of writing a book about evidence for the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith when we were colleagues at the Institute.  For many reasons it did not happen, but since his retirement John has been active in seeing it through by himself.  I have been doing my version in this blog.  The text is 173 pages, with appropriate bibliography and index. I highly recommend this book; I learned much from it. Today I want to share with you one of John’s insights that is of particular interest to me. It regards one part of what Joseph Smith had to teach this generation about the reality of Satan and his work of opposition to God and his Son Jesus Christ. I hope this will be the first of two or three discussions of what Joseph Smith had to teach this dispensation about Satan.

Scholars are fond of pointing out that the Old Testament “speaks of Satan only very rarely.”(2) While many, if not most, recognize the “serpent” in the Garden of Eden story as Satan, the text does no so identify him. This can, and on occasion, has led to disagreements about the nature of the serpent who apparently walks on legs because part of the curse pronounced upon him is that “upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days thy life.”(3) In this day and age when schizophrenic “modern man” disbelieves the reality of Satan and yet produces endless horror flicks about poltergeist, demons, vampires, walking dead, and Satan himself, I believe it as a significant part of the mission of Joseph Smith to testify of the reality of Satan, to teach us of his powers, tactics, limitations, how to properly recognize him and his emissaries and deal with his influence.

In this respect brother Fowles points out that an important element found in Restoration scriptures regarding the Garden of Eden story is a clear identification of the serpent as Satan. It is found in the Book of Moses chapter 4.(4) The Book of Mormon makes the same identification.  In one of the most famous of Book of Mormon chapters–2 Nephi 2–Lehi says: “Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”(5) Again, in another of the famous Book of Mormon chapters–2 Nephi 9–Lehi’s son Jacob discusses the Fall in these words: 
“8) O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!  For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. 9) And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light....”
Brother Fowles points out several interesting things about these passages. First, Moses 4:1-4, 2 Nephi 2 and 9 are all similar in explaining that Satan was an angel in the pre-mortal existence who fell from heaven and became the devil. Second, the similarity of the two statements in 2 Nephi 2 and 9 regarding the identity of the serpent he explains, is also interesting because Lehi learned what he knew about the Garden of Eden from the Brass Plates and it is likely that his son Jacob either learned it from him or from his own study of the Brass Plates. Third, brother Fowles points out that the Brass Plates were a pristine version of the Pentateuch or five books of Moses, but about the time of Lehi forces were at work among the ancient Israelites to alter the Biblical account, much of which apparently occurred in Genesis.(6) The Brass Plates preceded them and therefore were not missing explicit statements that the serpent was Satan.(7) How nifty is that?

Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Lets think together again, soon.

1.  John L. Fowles, The Farm Boy Does It Again: Evidences of the Prophetic Calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith, n.p., Frithurex Press, 2014.  You can order a hardback for $11.95 here:

2.  Xavier Leon-Doufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, updated second edition, translated by P. Joseph Cahill and E. M. Stewart.  Frederick, MD: The Word Among Us Press, 1988, p. 522.  This is simply representative of many like statements that could be cited.

3.  Gen. 3:14.

4.  Moses 44;1-6,which is also the JST version of Genesis.

5.  2 Ne. 2:18, all emphasis in scripture passages is added.  I would note that temple-going Mormons also know these same truths.

6.  I say this because there is so much of Genesis which was altered in the JST.  The book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is the JST version of the first few chapters and note how much is added by way of revelation to Joseph Smith.  

Much of the literature written about the writing of and alterations in the Pentateuch have been the result of the work of the higher critics in the mid-twentieth century.  Margaret Barker, a Methodist scholar who has made a life-long study of recovering the theology of the First (Solomon’s) Temple, has argued that the reforms of Josiah may have been part of a larger movement by an amorphous group of priesthood, royalty, scribes and theologians whom she calls “deuteronomists” who were writing and altering books of the Old Testament for their own theological and political ends, much as Nephi described in 2 Ne. 13 and in several of Joseph Smith's personal statements which may be found in Fowles, The Farm Boy Does It Again, pp. 84-85. In this she is consistent with Moses 1:41 where the Lord tells Moses that a day would come in which the people "shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write...."

7.  Fowles, The Farm Boy Does It Again, pp. 90-94.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Twenty-eight: An Eye Single (To the Glory of God)

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Twenty-eight: 
An Eye Single (To the Glory of God)© (1)

In the Sermon on the Mount there is an interesting pericope at Mt. 6:22-23.  Jesus says:
22) The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23) But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! [Emphasis added.]
The problem is, what does the Savior mean by the phrase “if therefore thine eye be single”? He does not explain it here, nor in 3 Ne. 12:22.(2) This phrase only appears here in the Holy Bible; it is not to be found in the Old Testament or anywhere else in the New Testament.This situation leaves the interpretation of the phrase open to various explanations. Therefore, this appears to be another of those occasions as Elder Delbert L. Stapely observed in 1955, where the Savior has left the details of this to be explained by subsequent prophets, particularly those of the final dispensation.(3)

It is, therefore, quite interesting that the phrase does appear in modern scripture seven more times.(4) This includes 3 Ne. 12:22. The other six all have a modifying phrase attached that makes the meaning significantly more clear. The second and only other time it appears in the Book of Mormon is in Mormon 8:15 which reads: “For none can have power to bring it [the Book of Mormon] to light save it be given him of God; for God wills that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord.” [Parenthetically, a question arises here. Are there two separate things spoken of? That is, single to his glory, and single to the welfare of the ancient covenant people; or is the welfare of the ancient covenant people one definition of the glory of God?]

The phrase “eye single” appears five more times in the Standard Works, but each of them is in the Doctrine and Covenants and each is modified by the same phrase or variant. For example, D&C 4:5 says in listing qualifying attributes of ministers, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” The most interesting version is found in D&C 88:67-68, which appears to be the Lord’s reiteration of the teachings in Mt. 6:22-23 in a more complete manner. [Emphasis added.]
67) And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. 68) Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. [Emphasis added.]
There are several very important things to note about this passage, but I emphasize only two for our purposes here. First, the passage tells us we keep our eye single to the glory of God by sanctifying ourselves. That is another topic altogether, but this passage suggests that the condition of sanctification is a prerequisite to having an eye single to the glory of God. D&C 1:31 links sanctification with loving and serving God with all our might, mind and strength; which may be a further key to having our eye single to the glory of God.  

Second, the passage in Section 88 also says this condition of sanctification and having an eye single to the glory of God is prerequisite to something else–to seeing God. This is highly significant because seeing God is one of the primary objectives of the gospel.(5) The ultimate purpose of the gospel is to bring us permanently back into the presence of God as exalted beings, or as D&C 84:24 teaches, we are permitted to enter the “rest” of the Lord, which is “the fulness of his glory.” So the phrase is something of a technical term relating to the laws and ordinances of salvation an exaltation, especially those received in the temple, which prepare the Saints for this the greatest of all blessings.  Indeed, the Lord speaks of it as “the great and last promise which I have made unto you.”(6)  Joseph Smith refers to this promise in a January 1833 letter to W. W. Phelps then in Missouri. With the letter he sent a copy of Section 88.  In this letter Joseph connects the promise directly to the temple.
You will see that the Lord commanded us, in Kirtland, to build a house of God, and establish a school for the Prophets, this is the word of the Lord to us, and we must, yea, the Lord helping us, we will obey: as on conditions of our obedience He has promised us great things; yea, even a visit from the heavens to honor us with His own presence. We greatly fear before the Lord lest we should fail of this great honor, which our Master proposes to confer on us; we are seeking for humility and great faith lest we be ashamed in His presence.(7)
So, now to top it off, we return to the Savior’s statement in the Sermon on the Mount and note that the JST version of Mt. 6:22-23 is also modified as the other passages discussed above:
JST Mt. 6:22) The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23) But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light which is in thee be darkness, how great shall that darkness be. [Emphasis added.]
If Joseph Smith were making such edits to the Savior’s sermon (in 3 Nephi and in the JST) of his own accord it would not only be blasphemously presumptuous, but it would also be one of the greatest acts of hubris, egotism, and temerity known. But, to his credit he did not do this of his own initiative.(8) The meaning of this passage was revealed to him by God; not only to help us understand more clearly the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, but to see the significance of this doctrinal concept in our personal spiritual growth and development which is a fundamental and vitally necessary part of our preparation for the exaltation we seek.  Joseph Smith truly was a man with the answers--and how satisfying they are when we look at them closely.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1. I got the idea for this topic from my friend Jeffrey Bradshaw. It comes from some comments he made in an Interpreter Roundtable discussion of  Sunday School lesson 9.

2. I do not have an explanation for the absence of the modifying phrase to be discussed in this article, in 3 Ne. 12:22. It is one of the few significant changes in the JST version of the Sermon that is not found in the Book of Mormon version. Generally the JST version mirrors 3 Nephi.

3. Delbert L. Stapley, “The Strait Gate–Repentance and Baptism,” The Improvement Era, 59 (June 1955), p. 416.

4. See: 3 Ne. 12:22; Mormon 8:15; D&C 4:5; 27:2; 55:1; 59:1 and 88:67.  

5. Many scriptures and statements of Joseph Smith and others could be marshaled to demonstrate this point, but let the following suffice: see the context of 88:67 in verse 63; also D&C 84:23-24 (19-26); and D&C 93:1. 

6. D&C 88:69, emphasis added.

7. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 19, emphasis added.

8. The Lord actually assigned Joseph Smith to study the Bible and make revisions. In D&C 42:56-58 we learn that he was to ask questions and the Lord would give him “my scriptures”, but he was not to teach them until the process was complete and he had “them in full.” This was necessary because we have learned from studying the manuscripts that Joseph was learning “line upon line, precept upon precept” and sometimes he went back and revised something he previously revised because he now had additional information and understanding. The JST not only served to educate the Prophet Joseph Smith about the fulness of gospel doctrines, but through his work on the JST, and full blown revelations now in the Doctrine and Covenants that were given to him in answer to some of his questions, the Lord was educating a whole Church at the same time. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pitfalls to Avoid Along the Path to Eternal Life

Pitfalls to Avoid Along the Path to Eternal Life©

Introduction: I teach Gospel Doctrine in Sunday School in our ward. Today’s lesson was part two on the Sermon on the Mount and concentrated on Mt. 6 and 7. It struck me that of all sermons, this one teaches the fullest and truest “Living Philosophy” so a discussion of it is not only welcome here, but virtually mandated because of its preeminent position in the philosophies of the world.

Many people see the Sermon on the Mount as a collection of wise sayings and illustrations, but do not perceive a unified message in the Sermon. There are, however, actually a number of ways students of the Sermon have come up with that show some unity to the message. We Latter-day Saints have the benefit of two additional versions of this sermon, one in the Book of Mormon, the other in the JST. A partial version is also in Luke 6:17-26.  I believe the fact that the sermon or parts of it are included three times in our scriptures shows that Jesus may have given it on several occasion.  These other versions which have many variations from the KJV in Matthew give us important new information on background and context, doctrines, explanations, and clarifications.  The background found in the first few verses in 3 Ne. 12 and in JST Mt. 5:2-3 show that this sermon was directed towards those who had faith to believe the message of the Apostles and other missionaries and to be baptized–in other words members of the Church.

Latter-day Saints, therefore see some unifying themes, threads, and principles that are not generally apparent to scholars using just the KJV. Among all of those, four stand out to me.  First, this sermon teaches people who have been “born again” through the ordinances of baptism and reception of the Holy Ghost how to “grow up” spiritually and become like Christ. In that sense it teaches us the pathway to salvation, exaltation, and eventual glorification. Second, it is evident from six examples found in Mt. 5:21-47 that Jesus is introducing the “higher law” of the Gospel or what Paul referred to as the “law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)  Third, as we learn from the wonderful work of Jack Welch, law professor at BYU, the Sermon on the Mount is a temple sermon. That is, it teaches about temple doctrines and practices and prepares people for the temple and to make and keep temple covenants which will lead to exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. 

Lastly, and here I want to dwell a moment, there is a thread of warning that runs from the beginning to the end of this Sermon. Jesus warns his followers about potential dangers, one person called them "pitfalls" which disciples will encounter and must meet and overcome in their journey through life. Avoiding or conquering these obstacles is the true measure of spiritual growth and development. I encountered this idea on Nancy Jensen’s blog called “The Cutest Blog.” On 22 February she uploaded her outline for this lesson and in the second half she discusses five pitfalls to avoid. I liked the idea, but felt it could be expanded. I spent a couple of hours this morning before class re-reading the Sermon and extracting the alerts which Jesus gives of potential pitfalls. I thought readers of this blog may find the list interesting and thought provoking. I welcome your reactions, thoughts, and questions.

From the Sermon on the Mount – Mt. 5-7

1. Being an ineffective (inactive?) member.
Mt. 5:13-20. Salt that has lost its savor, light hidden under a bushel, teaching by word or example to break the "least" of God’s commandments. I find it interesting that one of the first things the Lord addresses after people have become members of his Church is to warn against becoming an ineffective member; and certainly inactive members are ineffective. Too many fail to continue on the path of spiritual maturity, or to “grow up” in the Lord.
2. Living a lesser law.
Mt. 5:21-47.  Six examples where the “higher law” is given by reaffirming and deepening the old law or correcting an erroneous tradition.
3. Wrong motives.
Mt. 6:1-8, 16-18.  Giving alms, praying, and fasting incorrectly with the wrong purpose and with the wrong motive–to be seen of men and receive their praise rather than to please God.
4. Being unforgiving.
Mt. 6:14-15.  We cannot be forgiven if we will not forgive.
5. Placing our heart on temporary things; taking our eye off the goal.
Mt. 6:19-23.  Place your heart on those treasures that may be laid up in heaven.  Keep your eye single to the glory of God. (JST Mt. 6:22, see footnote 22b; also D&C 88:67, this one is also in a temple context.)
6. Trying to worship two masters.
Mt. 6:24.  You cannot worship both God and mammon. Isn’t it interesting that this teaching follows the direction to keep our eye single.
7. Faithless worrying and wrong priorities.  (To the Twelve)
Mt. 6:25-34 (JST Mt. 6:38).  Do not worry about clothing and food.  Seek not the things of this world, but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God and to establish his righteousness. See JST Mt 6:38 in footnote 33a.
8. Unrighteous judging.
Mt. 7:1-5.  You shall be judged in the same manner as you judge others. Get the beam out of your own eye so you can see others clearly.
9. Irreverence toward and misuse of truly sacred things.
Mt. 7:6.  Do not give that which is holy to the dogs or set your pearls before swine. Spiritually mature individuals have a heightened sense of and an appreciation and reverence for the sacred and holy.
10. Not finding (missing) the strait gate and narrow way.
Mt. 7:13-14.  Few find it. The gate is baptism; the way includes the other ordinances of the temple and all of these principles of the higher law–the law of the Gospel, or the law of Christ.
11. Misled by false messengers.
Mt. 7:15-20.  Beware of false prophets; by their fruits ye shall know them.
12. Confusing lip-service with discipleship
Mt. 7:21-23.  There is an important difference between saying and doing.  Compare the parable of the two sons in Mt. 21:28-32. Covenants obligate us to use our knowledge so that we are not guilty of lip-service only.
13. Building your life on the wrong doctrinal and moral foundation.  
Mt. 7:24-27.  Live according to the “law of the Gospel,” the higher law as taught in this sermon and you shall be able to properly weather the storms of life.
Let’s think together again, soon.