Monday, August 31, 2015

Prophetic Warning in 1980 about the Danger to the Family!©

At the opening of the October 1980 General Conference, President Spencer W. Kimball gave a brief address titled “Families Can Be Eternal” in which he gave some solemn warnings, the fulfillment of which we are watching in our own day. Here are some of the most pertinent excerpts from that address, with my headings added.

***

The Church Has Emphasized the Family from the Beginning

From the beginning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has emphasized family life. We have always understood that the foundations of the family, as an eternal unit, were laid even before this earth was created! Society without basic family life is without foundation and will disintegrate into nothingness.


Solemn Obligation to Speak when the Family is Imperiled

Therefore, whenever anything so basic as the eternal family is imperiled, we have a solemn obligation to speak out, lest there be critical damage to the family institution by those who seem to be deliberately destructive of it.

The commandments and standards of morality set by the Lord himself are under attack on every hand. There are false teachers everywhere using speech and pornographic literature, magazines, radio, TV, street talk--spreading heresies which break down moral standards.


Marriage and Family Dishonored; Social Restraints Dissolving

We are living in perilous times as more and more individuals dishonor the marriage vow and as juvenile delinquency mounts. Divorces in the United States are up over 65 percent since 1970. The number of unmarried couples living together has gone up over 157 percent during the past decade. Many more children are growing up without having both parents in the home. In 1979, almost one of every five families with children was being maintained by one parent.

Abortion has reached plague proportions. There have been, for instance, “more deaths from abortion in England in the decade since the English Abortion Act than there were deaths in the First World War.” Of this, Malcolm Muggeridge said:
“I was brought up to believe that one of the great troubles of our Western world was that in the First World War we lost the flower of our population. Well, now we have destroyed an equivalent number of lives in the name of humane principles, before they were even born.” (Human Life Review, Summer 1980, p. 74.)

The Time Will Come ...

Furthermore, many of the social restraints which in the past have helped to reinforce and to shore up the family are dissolving and disappearing. The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us.

Government Interference often Hurts the Family; Misguided Efforts of Government to Take the Place of the Family

Whether from inadvertence, ignorance, or other causes, the efforts governments often make (ostensibly to help the family) sometimes only hurt the family more. There are those who would define the family in such a nontraditional way that they would define it out of existence. The more governments try in vain to take the place of the family, the less effective governments will be in performing the traditional and basic roles for which governments are formed in the first place.


So Many Family Difficulties Stem from Violation of the Seventh Commandment; Delinquent Adults Produce Delinquent Children

Whether we like it or not, so many of the difficulties which beset the family today stem from the breaking of the seventh commandment (see Ex. 20:14). Total chastity before marriage and total fidelity after are still the standard from which there can be no deviation without sin, misery, and unhappiness. The breaking of the seventh commandment usually means the breaking of one or more homes. Delinquent adults still tend to produce delinquent children, and that awful reality will not change simply by our lowering standards as to what constitutes delinquency--either in adults, youth, or children.

Family Not Going Through Evolutionary Phase of Society

We of all people, brothers and sisters, should not be taken in by the specious arguments that the family unit is somehow tied to a particular phase of development a mortal society is going through. We are free to resist those moves which downplay the significance of the family and which play up the significance of selfish individualism. We know the family to be eternal. We know that when things go wrong in the family, things go wrong in every other institution in society.

Attacks on the Family Set in Motion Needless Cycle of Misery and Despair

Those who, whether in ignorance or malice, attack the family are setting in motion an awful and needless cycle of misery and despair, for they will search in vain and pain for substitutes, and the wisdom of the worldly wise shall perish publicly for their folly concerning the family.


Nothing can Save Us if the Family is not Intact

The decline in many of our families is occurring at a time when the nations of the world are moving into some of the most difficult times known.
Permissiveness will not pull us through such crises. Materialism will not sustain us, for moth and rust will still lay waste and corrupt all mortal treasures.

Our political institutions--parliaments, congresses, and assemblies--cannot rescue us if our basic institution, the family, is not intact. Peace treaties cannot save us when there is hostility instead of love in the home. Unemployment programs cannot rescue us when many are no longer taught how to work or do not have the opportunity to work or the inclination, in some cases, to do so. Law enforcement cannot safeguard us if too many people are unwilling to discipline themselves or be disciplined.

Need to Stem the Tide of Rising Generations Who are Taught Heresies about The Family

Rising generations who have been taught that authority and loving discipline are wrong will not keep the fifth commandment, honoring their fathers and mothers (see Ex. 20:12). How can the rising generations honor their parents if their parents have dishonored themselves—especially by breaking the seventh commandment? Almost every array of statistics one sees with regard to the family becomes a sad sermon in statistics, reminding us of the need to stem and to turn the tide.  Let us be sure, in our Latter-day Saint homes, that we do our part to stem and to turn the tide.


Parents Use Added Time of the Consolidated Church Schedule For The Family

We hope our parents are using the added time that has come from the consolidated schedule in order to be with, teach, love, and nurture their children. We hope you have not forgotten the need for family activity and recreation, for which time is also provided. Let your love of each member of your family be unconditional. Where there are challenges, you fail only if you fail to keep trying!

If Supporting Network Fails We Will Continue to do Our Part

We genuinely welcome help, real help, from churches, schools, colleges, and universities, from thoughtful men and women of every race, creed, and culture who care about the family. But, as indicated earlier, if the supporting network of institutions does not function adequately, then we will do our part anyway. There is no lack of clarity in what the Lord has told us. We cannot shirk. He has placed the responsibility directly where it belongs, and he holds us accountable with regard to the duties of parents to teach their children correct principles and of the need to walk uprightly before the Lord--and there is no substitute for teaching our children by the eloquence of example.


Do not be Drawn Away from the Importance of the Family

Oh, brothers and sisters, families can be forever! Do not let the lures of the moment draw you away from them! Divinity, eternity, and family--they go together, hand in hand, and so must we!(1)

Let's think together again, soon.


Notes:

1.  Spencer W. Kimball, “Families Can Be Eternal,” Ensign (November 1980): 4-5, emphasis and headings added.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty: The Purpose of the Canonized Version of Joseph’s Early Visions

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty:
The Purpose of the Canonized Version of Joseph’s Early Visions© 
Revised 31 August 2015

The two most important and earliest events in the Restoration–the First Vision and the appearance of Moroni to Joseph Smith–have been the subject of controversy since the 1820s. In the late 1960s new attacks were made against both events, beginning with Wesley P. Walters’challenge of the historical background of the First Vision. Walters was a Presbyterian minister and in 1967 he wrote a small pamphlet in which he produced evidence that he said showed there was no religious revival in 1820 in or around Palymra, New York. Coupled with other events, Walters’ study enlivened Church scholars and reignited interest in early Mormon history which continues to this day.  In recent years several monographs have appeared containing studies of the First Vision.(1) As most Latter-day Saints are aware, the Book of Mormon has also been the subject of intense study by both critic and defender since even before its publication in March of 1830.(2) That has also continued to the present time and there is little reason to believe it will subside anytime soon.  

One of the documents at the center of much of this study is Joseph Smith’s 1838 account of the foundational events of the Restoration, beginning with the First Vision and the visits of the angel Moroni four years later. It is now the official version found in the Pearl of Great Price. Due to questions about the history of both the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, the 1838 account has been scrutinized in detail and the bibliography on these two seminal stories in our history fills a number of singled-spaced typed pages.

In this flurry of activity which has been going on for nearly half a century now, one small facet of the 1838 account of these two episodes has remained largely overlooked. The thing to which I refer is no surprise to the close student of the scriptures. Indeed, it is well known, if not well understood or discussed. It is that the 1838 account contains some statements that suggest that it was intentionally left incomplete.  Verse twenty says that during the First Vision the Lord “again forbade me to join with any of them [existing churches]; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.” Twenty-one verses later he said in reference to Moroni, “He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.”(3) In other words, in both visions Joseph was given considerable information –“many other things” and “many explanations”–which he said he could not include in this narrative.(4)

This naturally raises the question why this would be the case? Why would Joseph Smith tell us he received more information and yet not disclose it to us? What did he mean by the phrases “which I cannot write at this time,” and “which cannot be mentioned here”? The word “cannot” in both statements suggest that Joseph was under some constraint either by God or his own judgment. From other similar statements by Joseph Smith we know he had both a natural reticence to share sacred things, but he was also frequently under divine constraint not to do so.(5) It appears that in the cases of these two passages that Joseph was under some restraint from God.  He does not appear reticent to tell the stories he does. They are honest, straight forward, unembellished.(6) So why not make known the additional information he said he received? Joseph’s natural inclination toward reticence does not adequately answer the question. On the other hand, if I am correct in believing that God instructed him not to include this extra information, that raises the further question of why not? Two answers suggest themselves.  

Perhaps the additional information was too sacred to be discussed, or the Lord did not want that information to be a distraction from the purpose of this document. Sacredness does not seem to be the issue since Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did record other versions in which at least some of the additional information was provided.(7) For instance, when Oliver Cowdery wrote about these events he mentioned 31 different passages of scripture which Moroni quoted to Joseph Smith, only five of which are mentioned in the 1838 account.(8)This is consistent with the inferences found in both statements under consideration. Concerning the First Vision, Joseph wrote he could not write more “at this time,” and of Moroni’s visits the phrase is those many scriptures and explanations “cannot be mentioned here.” Two things are implied. Pertaining to the First Vision the timing for sharing more information was the issue–that is, it was not to be given “at this time,” but this implies that it is possible further details may be given at some other time. The problem of the details of Moroni’s visits was that this account was not the place for them. Again the inference is that they may well be written about elsewhere. Thus, in Oliver Cowdery’s early rehearsal he gives an extended list of scriptural passages which Moroni rehearsed to Joseph Smith and which Church scholars have studied, analyzed, and written about.(9)

This brings us then to the possible reason why the Lord restricted the information to be included in the 1838 rehearsal. A study of the document leads me to believe that the Lord intended it to be an official introduction to the world of the restoration of the Gospel in this the final dispensation. It was intended to be a missionary tool, to introduce investigators to the basic story. The essentials details of First Vision have been explained many times. Primarily we learn that Joseph questioned which Church was right and God appeared to him in vision to answer that question. He was told two critical things which members and non-members need to know. None of the existing Churches were the Lord’s Church, but Joseph Smith was called to be the Lord’s instrument to restore it and the fulness of his Gospel back to the earth. A general apostasy of the early Church necessitated its restoration. Nor is it necessary for new converts to get caught up in an extended discussion of the many passages of scriptures which Moroni taught and explained to Joseph Smith. Again, the essential facts are that there was a book of scripture written about God’s people who came to the Americas. God called Joseph Smith to bring it to the world because it contained the Gospel in greater simplicity, purity, clarity, and completeness than what was then available in the Bible. It is a second witness that Jesus is the divine Son of God who carried out an infinite and eternal atonement which makes salvation and exaltation possible for all mankind. The Lord simplified this story like he did with the story of creation found several times in the scripture. The most important thing for humans to understand is not the process of how the creation took place, but by whom and why it was created.(10)

Why 1838, eighteen years after the First Vision, before we get an official version? Steven Harper has helped us with this question in an interesting chapter titled “Listening to Joseph Remember.”(11)  He points out that critics and believers alike can see a change in emphasis from the earlier accounts to the 1838 and 1842 renditions. Critics, of course, see this as evidence of evolution and embellishment. Harper’s insight, which should make sense to all of us who have related an important story from our own lives, is that we do not see its full meaning at the time it happens.(12) Joseph did not call this the First Vision in the spring of 1820, precisely because he did not then know it would be either the first of many or that it was to be the foundation of the Restoration. That clarity and understanding grew with time, experience, and greater understanding. So, for Harper the evidence “can just as reasonably be read as evidence of insight.”(13). Therefore, we see the wisdom of God in waiting until 1838 for Joseph to write an official introduction to Mormonism.

In a word the Lord wanted a simple yet direct and powerful account as an initial introduction to the restoration of his Church and Gospel in the latter-days. As written, the 1838 recital keeps the readers attention focused on the fundamental issues. Once understood, believed, and accepted there was plenty of time, and in our day plenty of resources for further “in depth” study. Simplicity and plainness are the operative watchwords here. This is consistent with the way the American prophet’s constructed the Book of Mormon itself–a simple, direct, and plain new volume of scripture. Like Nephi, I glory in the simplicity and plainness of the 1838 version of our origins; yet I am also grateful for the additional knowledge we have relative to those early events. In time, we shall explore one or two in this series.

In the meantime, I rejoice that Joseph Smith was called to be the initial prophet of the Restoration, in this instance because he possessed the wisdom and exercised the obedience necessary to avoid an overly elaborate story which may distract and/or sidetrack investigators, including me, from what is really important in these stories.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let's think together again, soon.

Notes:  

1.  See Wesley P. Walters, New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra (N.Y.) Revival. La Mesa, CA: Utah Christian Tract Society, 1967;  and “New Light on Mormon Origins from Palmyra  (N.Y.) Revival,” Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society, 10 (Fall 1967): 227-244; “New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra Revival,” Dialogue, a Journal of Mormon Thought, 4 (Spring 1969): 60-81. The discovery of the papyrus of the Book of Abraham in a New York museum also contributed to this renaissance of Church history.Two of the more important recent monographs on the First Vision are, Samuel Alonzo Dodge and Stephen C. Harper, eds., Exploring The First Vision. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012, and Steven Craig Harper,  Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012.  

2.  Russell R. Rich, “The Dogberry Papers and the Book of Mormon,” Brigham Young University Studies 10, no. 3 (1970): 315-20.  See also, Stephen Kent Ehat, “‘Securing’ the Prophet’s Copyright in the Book of Mormon: Historical and Legal Context for the So-called Canadian Copyright Revelation,” Brigham Young University Studies 50, no. 2 (2011): 4-70.

3.   Joseph Smith-History 1:20, 41. 

4.  Not only did he receive much more information in both of his earliest visions, but in the 9 November 1835 account of the First Vision Joseph says,  “and I saw many angels in this vision.  (Steven C. Harper, Joseph Smith's First Vision, p. 43).  In the Wentworth Letter of 1842, he writes: “After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty, and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22d of September A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records unto my hands.”  Joseph Smith, “Church History,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 9 (1 March 1842), 707, emphasis added.

5.  Ronald O. Barney, “Joseph Smith’s Visions: His Style and His Record, presentation at the 15th annual FAIR conference, Provo, Utah: August 2013.  Available online at:
http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2013-fair-conference/2013-joseph-smiths-visions-his-style-and-his-record

6.  See Arthur Henry King, “Joseph Smith as a Writer,” in Arm the Children: Faith’s Response to a Violent World. Provo: BYU Studies, 1998, 288-293.

7.  There are five separate accounts of the First Vision by Joseph Smith himself and five more by contemporaries who recorded what Joseph said, making this as Steve Harper and Richard Anderson have both observed, perhaps one of the best documented theophanies in history. For examination of the various versions, listed in rough chronological order, see, Paul R. Chessman, “An Analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith's Early Visions,” Master's thesis, BYU, 1965;  Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision.” Brigham Young University Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 275-94; James B. Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision--What Do We Learn from Them?” The Improvement Era 73 (April 1970): 4-13; Richard P. Howard,  “An Analysis of Six Contemporary Accounts Touching Joseph Smith's First Vision,” Restoration Studies, I Sesquicentennial Edition, (Independence, MO: Temple School, 1980), 95-117; Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision,” in Robert L. Millett and Kent P. Jackson, (eds.), Studies in Scripture, The Pearl of Great Price Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985, pp. 303-14;  Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Joseph Smith's Recitals of the First Vision,” Ensign, 15 (January 1985), 8-17; Dean C. Jessee, “The Earliest Documented Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844, John W. Welch and Erick B. Carlson, eds. Provo, UT.: BYU Press, 2005, pp. 1-35; John A. Tvedtnes, “Variants in the Stories of the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the Apostle Paul.” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 2 (2012): 73-86; Steven C. Harper, "A Well-Documented Theophany," in Joseph Smith's First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012, pp.31-66.  For a similar list with a few additions not included here, see Harper, pp. 35-36.  

As can be seen from this bibliography these documents have been available in a number of venues by a number of authors for the better part of half a century, yet as Harper observes, "they are little known by most Later-day Saints and others" (pp. 31-32). It was Dean Jessee's view, which I share, that the reason they are not more well known among the Saints is because so few of them read, especially the history of the Church. See Harper, pp. 34-35. Unfortunately, this often includes those who do much of the teaching in the Church's Sunday School, Priesthood, and Young Men and Young Women weekly classes. Consequently, many are surprised, shocked, and sometimes disturbed at the sudden awareness of this and things like the use of the seer stone in translating the Book of Mormon that receive immediate and sensational publicity on the Internet's social media, but which is old, very old, news to the Saint well-read in his own history.

In a recent article David A. LeFere raised another intriguing possibility relating to the First Vision.  He states that, “Even with Joseph’s multiple accounts of the First Vision, we do not have all the details of his conversation with the Lord,” but he thinks he may have found an echo of that dialogue in the JST version of Psalm 14:1-2.  See, David A. LeFebre, “‘Give Me Right Word, O Lord’: The JST Changes in the Psalms,” in Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, edited by David R. Seely, et al.  Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2013, p. 358.

8.  Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996, p. 104, see also notes 2-7 on pp. 114-115.   

9. Additional detail about Moroni’s visits may be found in Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, “Letter VII,” and “Letter VIII,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 10 (July 1835): 156-159; 2, no. 1 (October 1835): 197–200.  Kent Jackson has done the most extensive work on Moroni’s message to Joseph.  In addition to the citation above see, Kent P. Jackson, “The Appearance of Moroni to Joseph Smith,” in Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, Studies in Scripture, Volume Two: The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City: Randall Book Co., 1985, pp. 339-366;  “Moroni's Message to Joseph Smith,” Ensign, (August 1990), pp. 13-16; “ The Scriptural Restoration,” in Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration, editor not specified. The 34th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005, pp. 221-36. 

For a list of seventeen things Moroni taught Joseph Smith during his first visit to Cumorah, according to Cowdery, see Brian L. Smith, “‘Taught from on High’: The Ministry of Angelic Messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith,” in  Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration, editor not specified.  The 34th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium.  Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005, pp 332-345.

10.  See the discussion in Moses 1:30-40; 2:1.

11.  Steven C. Harper, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, chapter 7, pp. 94-110. 

12.  Many years ago Elder Marion D. Hanks shared a touching story about a girl named Donna who had committed a serious transgression, but was helped through it by her entire ward. Then he said, “A number of years ago Brother Joseph Anderson and I had the privilege of driving with President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., to a solemn assembly in St. George. On the way I related to him this story, it having recently happened then. He thought a long time and had a tear in his eye as he said, ‘Brother Hanks, that is the most significant story I ever heard to illustrate the great importance of our filling our individual obligations in the Church.  When you have thought about it long enough, pass it on to others.’” Marion D. Hanks, Conference Report, April 1966, pp. 152-153, emphasis added.

13.  Harper, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, p. 109. Harper draws on studies of memory in historical writing to make his point about how we gain understanding of the significant experiences in our lives.  On the difference between early and late accounts Harper said of the 1832 version, "Later accounts are more conscious of the vision's significance for all mankind...." Harper, p. 33.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-nine: Joseph’s Early Knowledge Of Salvation For The Dead

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Is A Prophet

Evidence Thirty-nine:
Joseph’s Early Knowledge Of Salvation For The Dead©

A question which consistently reoccurs in my studies of Joseph Smith is, when did he know what as far as the doctrines of the Gospel are concerned? Time and time again I have discovered that he knew a great deal very early, but it isn’t always taught early. Sometimes there are only hints, often things come out piecemeal over a period of time. For most of the last ten years I have intently studied the temple and one of the issues I have looked into is when did he know what about the temple. It is a fascinating study in and of itself, but it also strengthens my belief in him as a prophet of God.

When did he learn about temple work? I do not propose to answer that question definitively in this brief blog, but I do want to share some interesting things that have come to light in my studies, some as recently as yesterday morning. Of course the earliest indication we have of temple related things came on the night Moroni appeared to him in the fall of 1823, when he quoted Malachi 4:5-6 regarding turning the hearts of the fathers and children to each other. Was there an explanation of temple work given to him at that time? He said Moroni offered many explanations, which he could not mention in that particular account of those appearances.

What about salvation for the dead? Richard Anderson, professor of religion at BYU for many years, made an interesting observation in a brief article which he wrote about 1 Corinthians 15:29 and baptism for the dead. He pointed out something which is easy to overlook. That is that preaching to the dead is a parallel doctrine to the ordinance of baptism for the dead.(1)He goes on to discuss several passages in the New Testament familiar to knowledgeable Latter-day Saints which emphasize this point and then proceeds on to an interesting explanation of a passage from the early Christian text The Shepherd of Hermas, in which both preaching to the dead and baptism for the dead are present. Then Anderson points out that Joseph Smith also emphasized preaching to the dead, and makes the following important point:
But how much Joseph Smith said about the preaching to the dead needs to be stressed–for in no sense was proxy baptism ever cheapened into mechanical salvation without faith and repentance of the one for whom baptism was done.(2)
One of the earliest statements I know about on this subject comes from Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which was given to Joseph Smith, 1 September 1831. Verse 2 says, “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.” I am not aware that Joseph Smith ever used this verse in a discussion of preaching to the dead and it does not specifically say that in the passage, but it certainly infers it. That is 1831.  

The next item comes from February 1833. On the second of that month Joseph said he had completed his work on the JST. Though he continued to work on it after that, we know that by that date he made one important change which hints at what he may have known about work in the spirit world. The KJV text of 1 Peter 4:6 begins, “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead....” Sometime before 2 February 1833, Joseph was inspired to make a change. In the JST it reads: “Because of this, is the gospel preached to them who are dead...”(3) Anderson remarked that this change indicated Joseph’s “knowledge that the preparation of the spirits for the blessings of the gospel is continuous.”(4)

Another pre-Nauvoo statement comes out of Missouri in 1838, just before the Saints were driven from that state.  Joseph wrote an article for the July 1838 issue of the church publication The Elders Journal. The article was devoted to answering questions; the sixteenth question was, “If the Mormon doctrine is true, what has become of all those who died since the days of the Apostles?” Joseph answered, “All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and being administered unto by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can be finally judged.”(5) This was two years before he introduced the ordinance of baptism for the dead in Nauvoo in 1840.

Brother Anderson makes another very important point relative to Mormonism’s doctrine of salvation for the dead. Joseph Smith did not simply cobble together the doctrine of salvation for the dead from disparate but related scriptural passages scattered hither and yon through the New Testament.(6) Anderson argued that Joseph received these doctrines by revelation and quoted the Prophet as saying in reference to these very doctrines, “The only way to obtain truth and wisdom, is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer and obtain divine teaching.”(7) He pointed out that Joseph wrote two “formal letters to the Church on the subject, using the language of revelation.”(8) Here is his most insightful statement on the topic:
Joseph Smith was far from anti-intellectual, but he employed a method beyond scholarship.  In writing to the Church on baptism for the dead, he gave an inspired synthesis, a revealed correlation of important scriptures that throw greater light on the practice (D&C 128), not to mention the passages from 1 Peter 3 and 4 cited throughout his discourses. The Prophet had a synoptic view of his subject, not an isolated interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. He eloquently pictured God’s concern with the salvation of all his children.(9)
Orson Pratt said this was true of the Restoration in general.
Like the Church of God in all former ages, we receive no new ordinances, neither old ordinances, only by new revelation. Did we presume to baptize with water on the authority of old revelation? No. Did we presume to lay hands upon the people to confirm upon them the Holy Ghost, by the authority of ancient revelation? No. Did we presume to establish the Church of Jesus Christ, or organize it, about fifty years ago, because they established one eighteen hundred years ago and upwards?  No. Did we presume to officiate in any order of the priesthood by virtue of any ancient revelation given to the ancient Saints? No. We did not undertake to do any of these things by virtue of the former revelation; but all we have done in this Church has been done by direct communication and revelation from heaven; all the ordinances that we administer have been directed by new revelation; all the priesthood that this people hold this day was given by new revelation; all the various duties of the priesthood to be performed by us in our day were given by new revelation....(10)
Following the introduction of baptism for the dead Joseph spoke repeatedly about the subject and  the preparatory work of preaching to the dead in the spirit world. We do not know exactly when Joseph Smith learned about temple work for the dead or the content of the revelation(s) given to him about it. It is evident, however, that he knew some things as early as 1823 and he left evidence in 1831, 1833, and 1838, that all of God’s children would have the opportunity to hear the Gospel message, whether living or dead. The hints are fragmentary, which may suggest that he like all mortals learned the gospel line upon line. But it may also be possible that he knew much more very early and awaited the Lord’s divine time line before teaching it, scattering hints and ideas along the way.

Evidence for this possibility comes from the famous Wentworth Letter. The following statement is in the context of Joseph explaining Moroni’s three visits the night of September 21-22, 1823.
After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty, and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22d of September A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records unto my hands.(11)
The question must be asked, was temple work, specifically the doctrine of preaching to the dead in the spirit world and proxy baptism for the dead a part of the “unfolding” of the “majesty, and glory” of the events “in the last days”? As critical as these teachings have become from Nauvoo on, it is difficult for me to believe that they were not. As many have said before, these doctrines are among the most unique of Mormonism, but they are also among its most potent doctrines. In a majestic way they testify of the completeness and extent of the Plan of Salvation as no other church knows or teaches. Moreover, they testify to the great love, mercy, and justice of God our Heavenly Father.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.

Notes:

1.  Richard L. Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), p. 406. This is from Appendix C: Baptism for the Dead, which deals with 1 Corinthians 15:29 and related matters.

2.  Ibid, p. 410.

3.  See footnote 6a at 1 Peter 4:6 in the LDS edition.

4.  Anderson, Understanding Paul, p. 411. Regarding the date of this change, Anderson referred readers to Robert Matthew’s work, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 1975).  He went on:  Dean Matthews courteously took the time to share his transcribed notes of the manuscript of the Joseph Smith Translation, which show that the verses on preaching to the dead in 1 Peter 3 and 4 are singled out by being handwritten, with no evidence of corrections after first being written. Thus, that the correction was made by 1833 is quite clear.  Dean Matthews also noted characteristic misspellings of Sidney Rigdon in the handscript of the letters of Peter (compare his book, p. 89). Historian Dean Jesse knows of no document showing Sidney Rigdon as the Prophet’s scribe after leaving Kirtland.” See Anderson, Understanding Paul, pp. 414-15, n. 18.

5.  Joseph Smith, The Elders Journal 1 (July 1838): 43; see also Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 121, emphasis added.

6.  Anderson, Understanding Paul, p. 412.  Anderson’s words are: “History is implied in reestablishing any principle, but divine reconstruction is not dependent on fragmentary sources....”  

7.  Joseph Smith, “Minutes of a Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Held in Nauvoo, Ill, Commencing Oct. 1st, 1841,” Times and Seasons 2 (15 October 1841), 577, emphasis added.

8.  Anderson, Understanding Paul, p. 412, see D&C 127:6-8.

9.  Anderson, Understanding Paul, p. 412.

10.  Orson Pratt, Conference Report, April 1880, p. 26.  Upon considering Pratt's statement, it seems logical to me that if there was a complete and total apostasy, then everything would have to be revealed anew–all the doctrines, principles, teachings, ordinances, and practices. God virtually revealed everything again to him, plus a whole lot of other new information.

11.   Joseph Smith, "Church History," Times and Seasons, 3 (1 March 1842): 707; also in HC 4:537, emphasis added.  Because of this statement I take exception to Richard Bushman who in my mind makes two fundamental mistakes in his book Rough Stone Rolling regarding Joseph’s development as a prophet. First, is his emphasis that Joseph’s involvement with money digging through his seeric gifts was the important background to expanding his understanding of his call. Here is his conclusion: “Neither his education nor his Christian upbringing prepared Joseph to translate a book, but the magic culture may have. Treasure-seeking taught Joseph to....”  (p. 131) (See also pp. 51, 69-70, 72-73.) Secondly, he repeatedly says that it was in 1828 that Joseph “found his prophetic voice” (p. 69), and after that he learned his identity, came to think of himself as a prophet, and began to act like it when he was working in Isaiah 29 in the Book of Mormon and with the later revelations concerning Moses and Enoch.  (See pp. 106, 128, 131, and 138-39.) Through all of this you get the impression Bushman believes Joseph had an identity crisis, or at least an identity problem, which he resolved only gradually. These issues are implied somewhat in the subtitle of the book, “Rough Stone Rolling.” 

It is strange to me that he makes nothing of how 2 Ne. 3 may have played into Joseph’s thinking. I should have thought that the numerous prophecies about Joseph Smith found there would have been far more influential than Isaiah 29, Moses or Enoch combined, because it is so much more explicit. Nor does he give enough weight to what could have been learned in the First Vision or from the many angels that visited Joseph between the First Vision and receiving the plates in 1827 as this comment in the Wentworth Letter indicates. The Wentworth account is consistent with a statement by Oliver Cowdery about the period between the Spring of 1826 and Joseph's annual visit to the Hill Cumorah that Fall, “From this time forward he continued to receive instructions concerning the coming forth of the fulness of the gospel, from the mouth of the heavenly messenger, until he was directed to visit again the place where the records was deposited.” Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, “Letter VIII,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, 2, no. 1 (October 1835): 201-202, emphasis added; a more accessible publication of this document may be found in Karen Lynn Davidson, et al., eds.  The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832-1844, (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), p. 89.

Finally, Bushman says nothing about the tutoring done during more than twenty visits with Moroni, which I believe I can make a documentary case to show went a long way to prepare Joseph to understand his calling as a prophet. For example, what about the meaning of Isaiah 11 (especially 11:10-11) which Moroni cited to him four different times, and which is explained in D&C 113? It would be enough to provide him with a significant identity and confirm him in his role as a prophet just to know that Isaiah spoke of him, that he was a foreordained heir to the priesthood, much power, and the keys of the kingdom, and that is confirmed in his blood lineage and worthiness. I think Moroni solved any possible identity crisis the very first day he appeared. Interestingly, in contrast to the feeling you get from Bushman, after Moroni’s visits and tutoring Joseph never looked back or quivered. He never doubted, his knees never buckled, and he never said, “Maybe I didn’t see what I thought I saw.” There must be some explanation. Moreover, Joseph's parents didn’t know what was needed to prepare him as a prophet, and it is difficult to believe that the Lord left that to chance discovery by reading and translating scripture. He sent Moroni as a surrogate father figure to prepare Joseph by numerous visits during those four years.  That being said, doubtless he also learned much about being a prophet from his extensive work in the scriptures.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Reflections Upon Reading de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: The Dangers of a Dead Level Equality©

In the late summer of 1851, Henri-Frederic Amiel, a Swiss philosopher and critic with a superior intellect and creative command of language, read Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous work, Democracy in America, in French. This caused him to muse about the democratic era the world was then entering. With the prescience of a prophet, Amile voices concern about mediocrity and a dead-level equality, particularly economic and social, and the consequences this would bring. The language is that of the 19th Century and may demand a slow and concentrated reading, but I think you will agree the effort will be repaid with provoked thought and perhaps even insight, as well as sober reflection about the present day. He spoke of a potential antidote, a "new kingdom" and "abiding city" where "beauty, devotion, holiness, heroism, enthusiasm, the extraordinary, the infinite, shall have a worship." Is his hope possible or a fantastical illusion?  What is the higher ideal of which he speaks?
Tocqueville's book has on the whole a calming effect upon the mind, but it leaves a certain sense of disgust behind.  It makes one realize the necessity of what is happening around us and the inevitableness of the goal prepared for us; but it also makes it plain that the the era of mediocrity in everything is beginning, and mediocrity freezes all desire. Equality engenders uniformity, and it is by sacrificing what is excellent, remarkable, and extraordinary that we get rid of what is bad. The whole becomes less barbarous, and at the same time more vulgar. 
The age of great men is going; the epoch of the ant-hill, of life in multiplicity, is beginning. The century of individualism, if abstract equality triumphs, runs a great risk of seeing no more true individuals. By continual leveling and division of labor, society will become everything and man nothing. 
As the floor of valleys is raised by the denudation and washing down of the mountains, what is average will rise at the expense of what is great. The exceptional will disappear. A plateau with fewer and fewer undulations, without contrasts and without oppositions, such will be the aspect of human society. The statistician will register a growing progress, and the moralist a gradual decline: on the one hand, a progress of things; on the other, a decline of souls. The useful will take the place of the beautiful, industry of art, political economy of religion, and arithmetic of poetry. The spleen will become the malady of a leveling age. 
Is this indeed the fate reserved for the democratic era? May not the general well-being be purchased too dearly at such a price? The creative force which in the beginning we see forever tending to produce and multiply differences, will it afterward retrace its steps and obliterate them one by one? And equality, which in the dawn of existence is mere inertia, torpor, and death, is it to become at last the natural form of life? Or rather, above the economic and political equality to which the socialist and non-socialist democracy aspires, taking it too often for the term of its efforts, will there not arise a new kingdom of mind, a church of refuge, a republic of souls, in which, far beyond the region of mere right and sordid utility, beauty, devotion, holiness, heroism, enthusiasm, the extraordinary, the infinite, shall have a worship and an abiding city? Utilitarian materialism, barren well-being, the idolatry of the flesh and of the "I," of the temporal and of mammon, are they to be the goal if our efforts, the final recompense promised to the labors of our race? I do not believe it. The ideal of humanity is something different and higher. 
But the animal in us must be satisfied first, and we must first banish from among us all suffering which is superfluous and has its origin in social arrangements, before we can return to spiritual goods.(1)
Let’s think together again, soon.

Notes

1.  Henri-Frederic Amiel, The Journal Intime of Henri-Frederic Amiel, trans., Mrs. Humphrey Ward, Project Gutenberg online version, under date of 6 September 1851, pp. 44-45, emphasis in original.

Friday, August 14, 2015

We Have The Power To Make A Difference©

This is a blog about “living philosophies.” There exists a small, what many people may consider an inconsequential philosophy of life which has the potential for great good. It has to do with the power of small things.  Russell H. Conwell perhaps expressed it most succinctly when he said, “The power of little things [to build or to destroy] ... should be the first lesson in life.”(1) Bruce Barton put the same idea in other words: “Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things ... I am tempted to think ... there are no little things.”(2)

Lots of people great and small have stressed the importance of little things in life. For example legendary coach John Wooden said, “I grew to love seeing little things done well, and I believe it is probably the greatest secret to success.”(3) Charles Dickens wrote, “There is nothing little to the truly great in spirit. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any amiable, honest-hearted, duty-doing man flies out into the world.”(4) And Samuel Johnson said, “He who waits to do a great deal of good at once will never do anything.  Life is made up of little things. True greatness consists in being great in little things.”(5) A man named John Cumming said, “Minute events are the hinges on which magnificent results turn. In a watch, the smallest link, chain, ratchet, cog, or crank is as essential as the mainspring itself. If one falls out, the whole will stand still.”(6)

More to the point of this particular blog are three statements referring to “small things” that smooth human relations. David O. McKay quoted with approval the following from Sir Humphrey Davey, “Life is made up not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles and kindness and small obligations given habitually are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.”(7) And Richelle Goodrich spoke similarly, “Service is a smile. It is an acknowledging wave, a reaching handshake, a friendly wink, and a warm hug. It’s these simple acts that matter most, because the greatest service to a human soul has always been the kindness of recognition.”(8) American statesman Henry Clay seemed to summarize these ideas when he said, “In all the affairs of human life, social as well as political, courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones that strike deepest to the grateful and appreciating heart.”(9)

Many years ago I read a small book entitled The Power of a Penny: Little Ways Our Lives Can Count for Something Big, by Glenn Dromgoole. Recently I rediscovered it and found that I had not extracted for my files some important quotations and ideas, so I began to remedy the situation. Early in the work I came across the following statement which became the outline for the remainder of the book. It teaches us we have the power in a myriad of small ways to make a difference in life. I hope you not only enjoy it, but that it inspires renewed effort in you to find ways to “make a difference.”

WE HAVE THE POWER
We don’t have control over a lot of things in our lives. But it’s easy to let that be an excuse for not using all the power we do have. 
We have the power to smile. The power to be kind. The power to be courteous and pleasant. The power to be supportive. The power to say thank you. 
We have the power to lend a hand. The power to be thoughtful and considerate. The power to compliment. The power to listen. The power to encourage. The power to make others feel important. The power to watch what we say. 
We have the power to keep trying. The power to do what we can. The power to aim high. The power to do our best. 
We have the power to trust. The power to be truthful and honest. The power to participate. The power to give. The power to be unselfish. The power to vote. The power to read. 
We have the power to be optimistic. The power to be happy. The power to feel. The power to like ourselves. The power to be satisfied. The power to treat other people with respect. The power to be open-minded. The power to be civil. 
We have the power to make a difference. The power to amount to something. The power to make our lives count. 
We do not lack for power. We just need to recognize it and make the best use of it.(10)
Why not sit down for a couple of minutes and make a personalized list of “powers” which you possess which when exercised would bless someone else’s life? You may just discover some things you have heretofore over looked, but which would be easy for you to do. Give it a try.

Let's think together again, soon.

Notes:  

1.   Russell H. Conwell, in Richard L. Evans, Richard Evans’ Quote Book, Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1975, p. 218.

2.  Bruce Barton, in Richard L. Evans, Richard Evans’ Quote Book, Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1975, p. 189.

3.  John Wooden with Steve Jamison, My Personal Best: Life Lessons From An All-American Journey, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), p. 105.

4.  Charles Dickens, in Ella Dann Moore, Life Illumined By Some of the Leading Lights of Literature, (Washington, D.C.: Ella Dann Moore, 1908), p. 83.

5.  Samuel Johnson, (1709-1784), in Gary W. Fenchuk, comp., Timeless Wisdom: A Treasury of Universal Truths, (Midlothian, VA: Cake Eaters, Inc., 2000), p. 164.

6.  John Cumming, in Bits & Pieces, (December, 2012), p. 2.

7.  Sir Humphrey Davey, cited in David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay, (Salt Lake City: The Improvement Era, 1953), p. 388.  

8.  Richelle E. Goodrich, in Bits & Pieces, (December 2013), p. inside back cover.

9.  Henry Clay, in Rob Reinalda, ed., Bits & Pieces on Leadership, (December, 2011), p. 22.

10.  Glenn Dromgoole, The Power of a Penny: Little Ways Our Lives Can Count for Something Big, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 23-24.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

CRM-RMs: What Reputation Are You Building On The Internet?©

Recently I posted the following quotation on my FaceBook page.
If you want to be thought of as a solid, reliable pillar of your community when you’re 50, you can’t be an irresponsible, corner-cutting exploiter at 25. ... The time to worry about your reputation is before you have one. You determine your reputation by deciding who and what you are and by keeping that lofty vision of yourself in mind, even when you’re having a rip-roaring good time.(1)
It made me think about the kind of reputation many LDS youth and even some Returned Missionaries are making for themselves by their conduct on the Internet, especially on social media sites. Frankly, I have been dismayed by many things I have seen and I have wondered if you young people realize that the whole world can see what you write and do, what your attitudes and opinions are. And I’ve wondered if you may be unaware that you are building a reputation through this social interaction on the net.

Here is a pretty negative assessment of things I have encountered from LDS youth, a number of them returned missionaries from the CRM, on the Internet: many are childish, petulant, egocentric, and arrogant; use foul, vulgar language; possess “in your face” attitudes; espouse dubious, misdirected and not well-thought-out causes often inimical to the Church; play and promote Spirit-stifling music and games; pass along coarse, crude, and raw humor; exhibit poor priorities in their materialism, recreation, and social interactions; communicate poorly, using bad grammar, punctuation and writing; display inappropriate, often crude, images of themselves and others in unkempt, poor and/or immodest and worldly dress and grooming; frequently promulgate dubious and often erroneous theology and publicly disagree with and/or oppose teachings of LDS leaders; and in general show themselves to be opinionated, unsophisticated, pubescent, unrefined, ill-mannered, and uneducated. These things seem to be the common values of the modern youth culture.

All is ON THE INTERNET for all the world to see. And they show little awareness that all the world IS viewing their ignorance, immaturity, and coarseness. Unfortunately, that will not be without consequence to them--seen and unseen. It makes for a difficult job interview if they even get one, or to be considered seriously for important responsibility in society and the Church, or to be taken seriously by many people.  And ... I've wondered if they have given any consideration to what their parents, other relatives, respected friends, and church leaders might think about what they are saying and doing. Most importantly, has any consideration been given to the example this kind of behavior is setting for their own children when they are old enough to understand?

I recommend another reading of the above quotation and giving some thought as to how it may apply to one's conduct on Internet social sites.

Let’s think together again, soon.

Notes:  

1.  William Raspberry, in Bits & Pieces on Leadership, (September 2012), p. 1.