The Dedication of Louie B. Felt

In December of 1866, three months after they first met, 26-year-old Joseph H. Felt and 16-year-old Sarah Louisa (Louie) Bouton were married in Salt Lake City. Louie became the first Primary general president in the Mormon Church, serving in that capacity for 45 years. She is featured in an article found in the July 2014 Ensign magazine.

Louie B. FeltThe article praises Louie’s sacrifices, dedication, and life’s work with children in the Church. Though childless herself, according to the article, she “found fulfillment in loving, teaching, and serving others’ children.” Louie B. Felt sounds like remarkable woman. But she was dedicated to more than just children.

After nearly 10 years of childless marriage, Louie sat her husband down and suggested that he take a plural wife – a young woman from her ward that Louie cared deeply about, Alma Elizabeth (Lizzie) Mineer. It was Louie’s hope that Lizzie and Joseph would have the children she longed for, so on August 23, 1875 35-year-old Joseph wed the beautiful 20-year-old Swedish girl that Louisa loved. Lizzie and Joseph had 6 children together. Louie called Lizzie to serve with her in the Primary General Presidency as Louie’s First Counselor, where Lizzie served for six years. When Lizzie’s oldest daughter died in 1916, Louie took in her four children and raised them to adulthood. One biography I read said that Lizzie was at Louie’s side when Louie died in 1928. Louie and Lizzie were very close throughout their entire lives. But Lizzie isn’t mentioned in the Ensign article.

About six years after bringing Lizzie into her home as a sister wife in 1875, Louie again prevailed upon her husband to marry another of Louie’s young friends. In March of 1881 Elizabeth Liddell from Northumberland, England became the third wife of forty-one-year-old Joseph Felt, two days after her 20th birthday. Joseph and Elizabeth became the parents of 7 children.

Louie encouraged her husband to live The Principle of plural marriage, enduring hardship because of it. When the government began clamping down on polygamy, Louie’s family had to split up and flee their home, spending months in exile. And twice Louie was compelled to leave Utah Territory altogether to avoid having to testify against her husband.

maskPredictably, the Ensign left all of this out of its biographical article on Louie B. Felt.

Polygamy is controversial, but it is a defining element in the history of Mormonism. Everybody knows this (or they should). Mormon women like Louie sacrificed so very much in order to live the dictates of their religion. It seems a great disservice to their memories, to their sacrifices, and to their dedication, to sweep their true “family life” under the rug so that Mormonism can present a prettier face to the world — a face that continues to hide behind a fabricated mask.

Posted in Early Mormonism, LDS Church, Mormon History, Polygamy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Mormonism?

Last week it was discovered that when Google search engine users typed, “What is Mormonism?” into the search box, the answer provided was this:

“Mormonism is a religion that denies the deity of Jesus Christ. In this religion, He is demoted to being a mere mortal, a true offspring of Elohim and an equal to Lucifer, another of Elohim’s offspring. According to the Mormon doctrine: ‘Every man who reigns in celestial glory is a god to his dominions.’ “

As you can imagine, Mormons were unhappy about this and felt the answer was a misrepresentation of Mormon doctrine. So Latter-day Saints lobbied for a more accurate answer to the question. Their campaign resulted in a significant change. As reported by Deseret News, the new Google result for “What is Mormonism?” became:

“The doctrines and practices of the Mormon church based on the Book of Mormon.”

GoogleDefinitionAs far as I know, Mormons are not protesting this answer – even though it is no more accurate than the initial one quoted above. The problem with the new and improved answer is that the doctrines and practices of the Mormon Church are not based on the Book of Mormon.

For example, take a look at the Mormon Church’s teachings on the nature of God:

  • Mormonism says that there was a time when God the Father was not God, but was a mortal man moving toward godhood.
  • Mormonism says God the Father, in His current exalted state, has a body of flesh and bone.
  • Mormonism says that the God we human beings know is not the only God; He is one of many true Gods (but the only one we need to deal with).
  • Mormonism says that God the Father is the literal offspring of another God (who was the offspring of yet another God, etc.).

Book of MormonNone of these foundational LDS teachings on the nature of God is found in the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon teaches that God has always been God, that God is a spirit being, and that there is only one true God. Mormonism’s doctrines on God are not based on the Book of Mormon.

What about Mormonism’s “practices”? Consider these basic practices that are very important within the Mormon Church:

None of these basic LDS practices are found in the Book of Mormon – the book is silent on all of these things. Many of Mormonism’s key practices, therefore, are not based on the Book of Mormon.

So to say Mormonism is “The doctrines and practices of the Mormon church based on the Book of Mormon” is incorrect. But Mormonism is a complex system, difficult to define in a sentence or two. On MRM’s A-Z webpage we avoid defining Mormonism and stick with merely identifying it: The religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, we devote most of the rest of the website to providing defining details of what comprises this religion.

Yet I believe there is value in giving interested people a short, accurate, defining answer to the question, “What is Mormonism?” But it’s much easier said than done. I tried, and though my definition is short and accurate, I’m not convinced it couldn’t be better:

Mormonism: A pseudo-Christian religion founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 and continually modified by successive Mormon leaders. Asserting that the Bible was corrupted and all of Christianity apostatized following the deaths of the biblical apostles, Mormonism’s teachings deviate significantly from the central doctrines of biblical Christianity.

There’s probably not one accurate definition that would make everyone happy, but why don’t you give it a shot? What short, defining answer to “What is Mormonism?” would make you happy?

Posted in Authority and Doctrine, Baptism for the Dead, Book of Mormon, God the Father, Great Apostasy, LDS Church, Misconceptions, Mormon Temple, Nature of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Member Inactivity in the Mormon Church

On Tuesday (23 September 2014) the blog nearing kolob took a look at recent Mormon missionary reports regarding localized Church inactivity. What follows is a summary of nearing kolob’s research findings (that they gleaned unscientifically from reading Mormon missionary blog posts).

  • South America Northwest area: Out of 1,800,000 members, 1,000,000 do not go to church.
  • Germany: After two stake presidents left the Church, 90% of the ward in Dortmund is inactive.
  • Santo Domingo West Mission, cities of Ocoa and Parra: Members are refusing callings, six former branch presidents have gone inactive, and the small 350-member branch of Parra is “basically all inactive.”
  • Arizona, Scottsdale: 75% of the reporting missionary’s ward is inactive.
  • West Virginia: Most of the wards and branches are comprised of inactive members.
  • Colombia, Cali: Most of the ward leaders are inactive.
  • Belgium/Netherlands: 75% of the reporting missionary’s ward is inactive.
  • Argentina, Mendoza: 60.8% of the ward is inactive.
  • Canada, Montreal: Most of the reporting missionary’s ward is inactive or borderline inactive.
  • Michigan, Detroit: The reporting missionary’s ward had only 30 people at a Sunday service because “the rest of the ward is inactive.”
  • Spain, Malaga: 70% of the reporting missionary’s ward is inactive.
  • Philippines, Quezon City: The reporting missionary suggests (exaggerates?) that 95% of her ward is inactive.
  • Philippines, Cebu: The majority of the ward is inactive.
  • Texas, Seagoville: An “enormous portion” of the reporting missionary’s ward is inactive.

Harvest timeWhile this information is likely troubling to LDS leaders, and perhaps encouraging to critics of Mormonism, it does not prove or disprove anything about the truthfulness of the religion. What it does tell us is that a significant number of Mormons are dissatisfied with their faith.

Friends, people who leave Mormonism for a life without Christ are no better off in the eternal scheme of things than people who remain LDS and follow a “different Jesus.” These inactivity reports are a poignant reminder that, as Christians, we do not seek merely to lead people away from Mormonism. We are called to a much greater purpose. Our hope and deepest longing is to walk with those who are spiritually lost, helping them along that rough but glorious pathway to new life in Christ. The great scope of Mormon inactivity does not reduce the size of our mission field one bit. Let us keep our shoulders to the plow until the field is ripe and ready to harvest.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone,
able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil,
after being captured by him to do his will.”
(2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Posted in LDS Church, Mormon Missionaries | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

President Monson’s Views Don’t Represent the Mormon Church?

I’ve often said that while the Mormon church claims to be the only church on the face of the earth that has the authority to speak for God, no one within it seems to speak with any authority.

Monson Prophets VoiceI received a phone call from my friend Russ East who drew my attention to a book titled A Prophet’s Voice: Messages from Thomas S. Monson. This book was published in 2012 by Deseret Book, a company owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, Thomas S. Monson is the current prophet, seer, and revelator of the LDS Church. When his predecessor, Gordon B. Hinckley died, Monson was set apart as the church’s president on February 3, 2008.

Monson has spent much of his life as an employee of the LDS Church. His biography in the 2012 LDS Church Almanac says “for the 22 years prior to being set apart as 16th president of the Church on February 3, 2008, President Monson served as counselor to three presidents: second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson, and President Howard W. Hunter and, for 13 years, first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley.” Considering all the years that Monson has served in leadership positions, you would think that he should be familiar with the doctrines and history of the organization he currently leads. But apparently the church-owned Deseret Book does not want you to assume that. On the copyright page of A Prophet’s Voice is a standard disclaimer that reads, “The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church or Deseret Book.” You can read the disclaimer for yourself here.

The views expressed “do not necessarily represent the position of the Church”? I can expect such a disclaimer on something written by a Mormon missionary or, for that matter a BYU professor, but Thomas Monson? It might be argued that some of the material in the book was said when Monson was a mere apostle; in the course of my 40 years of talking with Mormons, I have heard some say that only the living prophets can be trusted with absolute certainty. But wait a minute, wasn’t Paul a mere apostle when he wrote Romans, Ephesians, or Galatians? If the LDS Church is, as it claims, a restoration of New Testament Christianity, why wouldn’t an LDS apostle’s words carry the same weight as a New Testament apostle?

Many of the talks included in Monson’s book were given in general conference. Regarding such messages, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Monson’s Second Counselor, said, “Listen to general conference with an ear willing to hear the voice of God through his latter-day prophets” (“Why do we need prophets?” Ensign, March 2012, p.5). If that was the case, there certainly seems to be no need for such a disclaimer for this section of the book.

Mormons insist that their leadership carries the same authority as prophets and apostles of the past. However, Amulek, a prophet mentioned in the Book of Mormon (Alma 11:22), said, “I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord.”

Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith stated, “When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.368).

Four years before his death, Brigham Young declared, “If there is an elder here, or any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason” (August 31, 1873, Journal of Discourses 16:161).

I find it curious that no modern Mormon prophet makes such claims for himself. Instead, there always seems to be this odor of plausible deniability. It would have been helpful if the editors at Deseret Book supplied the portions of Monson’s comments that do not represent the position of the LDS church. But then, how could they unless the editors possess an authority higher than Monson’s? You see, in Mormonism there is no higher mortal authority than the church president (at least officially). No member in the LDS Church has the authority to correct the living prophet. Joseph Smith claimed, “I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.21).

So why the disclaimer? If God really desires a mortal prophet to guide the people, why undermine his authority with such a statement? If his words are to be taken with caution, Mormons should not be upset when we do.

Hear Eric Johnson and Bill McKeever discuss this topic on Viewpoint on Mormonism (2-part broadcast, aired September 22 and 23, 2014).

This article is reprinted from the September-October 2014 issue of Mormonism Researched.

Posted in Authority and Doctrine, Mormon Leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Reading between the lines on the issue of perfection (Part 2)

July 21014 EnsignIn Monday’s post, I quoted from an article found in the July 2014 Ensign magazine titled “Becoming Perfect in Christ” that was written by Seventy Gerrit W. Gong. When Gong’s words are put next to the teachings of the LDS leaders, there seems to be a disconnect. I will continue to quote from the section of his article titled “Perfectionism” and then provide citations from LDS manuals and leaders—which I’ll indent—that  I believe shows another side.

Gong: “Faith acknowledges that, through repentance and the power of the Atonement, weakness can be made strong and repented sins can truly be forgiven.”

“This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 208-209).

Gong: “Happy marriages are not the result of two perfect people saying vows. Rather, devotion and love grow as two imperfect people build, bless, help, encourage, and forgive along the way. The wife of a modern prophet was once asked what it was like being married to a prophet. She wisely replied that she had not married a prophet; she had simply married a man who was completely dedicated to the Church no matter what calling he received. In other words, in process of time, husbands and wives grow together—individually and as a couple. The wait for a perfect spouse, perfect education, perfect job, or perfect house will be long and lonely. We are wise to follow the Spirit in life’s important decisions and not let doubts spawned by perfectionist demands hinder our progress.”

“There is not one requirement of the Lord that is non-essential; every requirement that He has made of us is essential to our perfection and sanctification, to prepare us to enjoy celestial glory” (President Brigham Young, November 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:284).

Gong: “For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure success or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?” For those who feel physically or emotionally exhausted, start getting regular sleep and rest, and make time to eat and relax. Recognize that being busy is not the same as being worthy, and being worthy does not require perfection.”

“I would emphasize that the teachings of Christ that we should become perfect were not mere rhetoric. He meant literally that it is the right of mankind to become like the Father and like the Son, having overcome human weaknesses and developed attributes of divinity” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 26).

Gong: “For those prone to see their own weaknesses or shortcomings, celebrate with gratitude the things you do well, however large or small. For those who fear failure and who procrastinate, sometimes by overpreparing, be assured and encouraged that there is no need to withdraw from challenging activities that may bring great growth! Where needed and appropriate, seek spiritual counsel or competent medical attention to help you relax, develop positive ways to think and structure your life, reduce self-defeating behaviors, and experience and express more gratitude. Impatience impedes faith. Faith and patience will help missionaries understand a new language or culture, students to master new subjects, and young single adults to begin building relationships rather than waiting for everything to be perfect. Faith and patience will also help those waiting for temple sealing clearances or restoration of priesthood blessings.”

Harold B Lee“Christ came not only into the world to make an atonement for the sins of mankind but to set an example before the world of the standard of perfection of God’s law and the obedience to the Father. In his Sermon on the Mount the Master has given us somewhat of a revelation of his own character, which was perfect, or that might be said to be an autobiography, every syllable of which he had written down in deeds,’ and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives” (President Harold B. Lee, The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles manual, p. 57).

Gong: “As we act and are not acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14), we can navigate between complementary virtues and achieve much of life’s growth. These can appear in “an opposition,” being “a compound in one” (2 Nephi 2:11). For example, we can cease to be idle (see D&C 88:124) without running faster than we have strength (see Mosiah 4:27). We can be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27) while also periodically pausing to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10; see also D&C 101:16). We can find our lives by losing our lives for the Savior’s sake (see Matthew 10:39; 16:25). We can be “not weary in well-doing” (D&C 64:33; see also Galatians 6:9) while taking appropriate time to refresh spiritually and physically. We can be lighthearted without being light-minded. We can laugh heartily with but not haughtily at. Our Savior and His Atonement invite us to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” As we do so, He promises that His grace is “sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32).”

(Eric Johnson’s analysis of this part): The heart of this verse is conveniently left out. In context, Moroni 10:32 says, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” In other words, the grace of God can come only after a person denies himself “of all ungodliness and lov(ing) God with all your might, mind, and strength.” This has a much different connotation than “His grace is ‘sufficient for you.’”

Gong: “For those burdened by cares to find perfection or to be perfect now, our Savior’s freely given atoning love assures us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30).”

“In the context of the spirit of forgiveness, one good brother asked me, ‘Yes, that is what ought to be done, but how do you do it? Doesn’t that take a superman?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but we are commanded to be supermen. Said the Lord, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) We are gods in embryo, and the Lord demands perfection of us’” (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 286).

So there you have it. Mormonism’s current version of “perfection” versus the way a number of other LDS leaders took it to mean. According to Gong, as long as a person is doing his or her best, the Savior is apparently standing by and applauding in a reassuring manner. However, presidents such as Young, Lee, and Kimball seemed to have a different perspective. No wonder it’s so confusing for anyone to understand just what the religion of Mormonism teaches about just what is required for the celestial kingdom.

Posted in Authority and Doctrine, Salvation, Worthiness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Reading between the lines on the issue of perfection (Part 1)

July 21014 EnsignA recent article in the July 2014 Ensign magazine titled “Becoming Perfect in Christ,” written by Seventy Gerrit W. Gong, caught my eye. I’m not one to make many predictions, but when I saw the title, my immediate response was that this article would teach that “becoming perfect” is not what Mormonism teaches. In effect, I thought this general authority would do his best to make Mormonism look like the forgiving faith it really is not.

Gong did not disappoint. What I want to do in this blog is to quote from a section of the article titled “Perfectionism” and then provide quotes from LDS manuals and leaders—which I’ll indent—that  seem to show another side. (To be fair, I’m quoting every word from this section of the article, meaning that this will have to be a two-part blog.)

Gong: “A misunderstanding of what it means to be perfect can result in perfectionism—an attitude or behavior that takes an admirable desire to be good and turns it into an unrealistic expectation to be perfect now.”

“Perfection is a word that causes different reactions from many people. Some people say, ‘Perfection? Why, that is impossible!’ Others say, ‘Perfection? I get discouraged just thinking about it!’ Yet, would the Lord give us a commandment that was impossible for us to keep? And when He gives a commandment, doesn’t he, as Nephi said, prepare a way for us to accomplish what he commands? The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s blueprint for perfection” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 1979, p. 57).

Gong: “Perfectionism sometimes arises from the feeling that only those who are perfect deserve to be loved or that we do not deserve to be happy unless we are perfect.”

“Jesus said, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). Because it is very difficult to become perfect, our Father helps us. He has established the Church; called leaders; and given us commandments, principles, and ordinances. In our Church meetings we receive instructions concerning these things. We must obey and live according to God’s laws to become perfect.” (The Latter-day Saint Woman Part A, p. 122).

Gong: “Perfectionism can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, procrastination, discouragement, self-justification, and depression. These feelings can crowd out the peace, joy, and assurance our Savior wants us to have.”

“His example of unhesitating, unswerving obedience sets a very high bar, but when we accept His admonition to ‘be perfect even as I, or your Father is perfect’ (3 Nephi 12:48) as a key element of the plan of eternal progression, we begin to understand what the Lord expects us to be. As we seek to determine what kind of Saints we really are, we must honestly grade ourselves on our willingness to obey God” (Robert C. Oaks, “Stand and Be Judged for What We Really Are,” Ensign, April 2003, p. 65).

Gong: “Missionaries who want to be perfect now may become anxious or discouraged if learning their mission language, seeing people baptized, or receiving mission leadership assignments do not happen fast enough. For capable young people accustomed to accomplishment, a mission may be life’s first great challenge. But missionaries can be exactly obedient without being perfect. They can measure their success primarily by their commitment to help individuals and families “become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.”

Brigham Young“If the Latter-day Saints live their religion, they will forsake iniquity and overcome the evil that the enemy of all righteousness causes to rise within them, until every passion and appetite is as perfectly under their own control as a patient animal they hold by the bit” (President Brigham Young, September 2, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:160).

Gong: “Students beginning a new school year, especially those leaving home for college, face both excitement and concerns. Student scholars, athletes, artists, and so forth go from being a “big fish in a little pond” to feeling like a minnow in an ocean with unfamiliar tides and swift, unpredictable currents. It is easy for students with perfectionist tendencies to feel that, no matter how hard they try, they have failed if they are not first in all things. Given life’s demands, students can learn that it is sometimes perfectly fine to do all they can and that it is not always possible to be the very best.”

 “Every principle of the gospel has been revealed to us for our individual advancement and for our individual perfection, but it is the business of the devil to blind men’s eyes to these facts” (President Heber J. Grant, March 17, 1904, The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 66:168).

Gong: “We also impose expectations of perfection in our own homes. A father or mother may feel compelled to be the perfect spouse, parent, homemaker, breadwinner, or part of a perfect Latter-day Saint family—now.”

“Be perfect here? Yes, it is man’s privilege, the Latter-day Saints believe, to be as perfect in his sphere as God our eternal Father is in his sphere, or as Jesus in his sphere, or as the angels in their spheres. Said Jesus to his disciples —‘Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ Perfection, then, is to a certain extent possible on earth for those who will live, lives that are agreeable to the mind and will of God” (Apostle George Q. Cannon, October 8, 1874, Journal of Discourses 17:231).

Gong: “What helps those who battle perfectionist tendencies? Open-ended, supportive inquiries communicate acceptance and love. They invite others to focus on the positive. They allow us to define what we feel is going well. Family and friends can avoid competitive comparisons and instead offer sincere encouragement.”

“These declarations of the Master are known in the literature of the Christians world as the Beatitudes and have been referred to by Bible commentators as the preparation necessary for entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. For the purposes of this discussion may I speak of them as something more than that as they are applied to you and me. They embody in fact THE CONSTITUTION FOR A PERFECT LIFE” (President Harold B. Lee, The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles manual, 1979, p. 60).

Gong: “Another serious dimension of perfectionism is to hold others to our unrealistic, judgmental, or unforgiving standards. Such behavior may, in fact, deny or limit the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement in our lives and in the lives of others. For example, young single adults may make a list of desired qualities in a potential spouse and yet be unable to marry because of unrealistic expectations for the perfect companion. Thus, a sister may be unwilling to consider dating a wonderful, worthy brother who falls short on her perfectionist scale—he does not dance well, is not planning to be wealthy, did not serve a mission, or admits to a past problem with pornography since resolved through repentance and counseling. Similarly, a brother may not consider dating a wonderful, worthy sister who doesn’t fit his unrealistic profile—she is not a sports enthusiast, a Relief Society president, a beauty queen, a sophisticated budgeter, or she admits to an earlier, now-resolved weakness with the Word of Wisdom. Of course, we should consider qualities we desire in ourselves and in a potential spouse. We should maintain our highest hopes and standards. But if we are humble, we will be surprised by goodness in unexpected places, and we may create opportunities to grow closer to someone who, like us, is not perfect.”

“It is my duty, it is yours, to be better today than I was yesterday, and for you to be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you were today. Why? Because we are on that road, if we are keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are on that road to perfection, and that can only come through obedience and the desire in our hearts to overcome the world” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:18-19. See also The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles manual, 1979, p. 292).

We’ll finish Gong’s article and provide additional quotes in the next blog posting on Thursday.

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Ballad of the Mountain Meadows Massacre

On September 11th, 1857 a Mormon mob attacked and murdered 120 men, women and children who were passing through Utah Territory as they traveled from Arkansas to California on their way to a better life. Known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the following ballad performed by Pete Moore tells the tragic story.

The original words of this ballad (the variant below provided by Frank Kirkman’s Mountain Massacre Site) are believed to have been written within months of the massacre by a United States soldier who was encamped on the border of Utah Territory at the time of the murders (Austin E. Fife, Western Folklore, Vol. 12, No. 4 [Oct., 1953], 238-239).

Ballad of the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Come all you sons of liberty, unto my rhyme give ear
‘Tis of the bloody massacre you presently shall hear
In splendor o’er the mountains some thirty wagons came
They were awaited by a wicked band, oh Utah, bear the blame!

In Indian colors all wrapped in shame this bloody crew was seen
To flock around this little train all on the meadows green
They were attacked in the morning as they were on their way
They forthwith corralled their wagons and fought in blood array

Till came the captain of the band, he surely did deceive
Saying, “If you will give up your arms we’ll surely let you live.”
When once they had give up their arms, thinking their lives to save
The words were broken among the rest which sent them to their graves.

When once they had give up their arms they started for Cedar City.
They rushed on them in Indian style, oh what a human pity!
They melted down with one accord like wax before the flame,
Both men and women, old and young, oh Utah!, where’s thy shame?

Both men and women, old and young, a-rolling in their gore
And such an awful sight and scene was ne’er beheld before
Their property was divided among this bloody crew
And Uncle Sam is bound to see this bloody matter through.

The soldiers will be stationed throughout this Utah land
All for to find those murderers out and bring them to his hands.
By order from their president, this bloody deed was done
He was the leader of the Mormon Church, his name was Brigham Young.

Posted in Brigham Young, Early Mormonism, Mormon History, Mormon Leaders | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Why I Wish Mormonism Would Excommunicate or Disfellowship All of Its Unfaithful or Unbelieving Members

When Mormonism excommunicates or disfellowships people who aren’t faithful to Mormonism or believing in Mormonism, it helps both Mormons and evangelicals. It adds clarity to identity and worldview. It contributes to religious integrity. It speeds up the process of people re-evaluating their beliefs.

We’re better off interacting with Mormons as Mormons, agnostics as agnostics, and atheists as atheists. When the waters are muddied, and I have to parse between committed Mormons, cultural Mormons, New Order Mormons, Jack Mormons, agnostic Mormons, atheist Mormons, etc., it takes away from time and focus spent on actually promoting the truth.

For this reason, I would be glad if every religion excommunicated or disfellowshipped all of its unfaithful or unbelieving members. Evangelicals are better off too if we do this. It also happens to be biblical (1 Corinthians 5).

Posted in Friendship, Interaction, and Evangelism, LDS Church, Truth, Honesty, Prayer, and Inquiry | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Joseph Smith and Luke 10:22

The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka History of the Church or HOC) reproduces Joseph Smith’s journal where he stated:

“This winter [1832-33] was spent in translating the Scriptures…I completed the translation and review of the New Testament, on the 2nd of February, 1833 and sealed it up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion.” (HOC 1:322, 324; brackets in the quoted source; at link see volume 1 chapter 23)

BibleCorrectedMormon Seventy B.H. Roberts attached a footnote to this statement, relating that George Q. Cannon said that Brigham Young said that Joseph Smith said he wanted to go through the translation again to perfect it “upon points of doctrine which the Lord had restrained him from giving in plainness and fullness” in 1833. Whether this reflects Joseph Smith’s true intentions or not, one verse that Joseph was not restrained from revising was Luke 10:22 (numbered as verse 23 in the Joseph Smith Translation). The LDS-printed edition of the Bible includes Joseph’s revision of this verse in a footnote, which gives credence to the understanding that this verse, at least, had been corrected “in plainness and fullness,” according to the inspiration from God that Joseph Smith claimed.

Luke 10:22 in the King James Version of the Bible reads,

“All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”

I checked ten different translations/versions of this verse; nine of the ten translated the verse virtually the same. For example:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (ESV)

“All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” (HCSB)

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (NASB)

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (NIV)

“All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (RSV; see also NKJV, NRSVCE, NRSVA, etc.)

All of these Bible translations faithfully convey the words of Jesus as He spoke of the unique relationship and deep intimacy shared between Himself and His Father.

Of the ten versions I consulted, only the Joseph Smith Translation varied in the essence or doctrine contained in Luke 10:22/23. Joseph’s translation (i.e., revision) changed this verse to read:

“All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.” (JST as found in The Bible Corrected by Joseph Smith, compiled by Kenneth and Lyndell Lutes)

So rather than conveying deep intimacy between the Father and the Son (as the ancient Greek text does), Joseph Smith’s revision conveys sameness: the Father is the Son (and vice versa).

Joseph’s so-called correction of the biblical text presents the Father and the Son as one person. As Sandra Tanner pointed out in a recent article discussing the evolvement of the First Vision story and the development of the Mormon concept of God, Joseph’s revision of Luke 10:22/23 “hardly seems like a change one would make if ten years earlier the Father and Son had appeared to Smith as two separate individuals” (Sandra Tanner, “Grappling with the Past,” Salt Lake City Messenger, May 2014, 8).

Add roughly another decade to Joseph Smith’s tenure as the prophet of the Mormon Church; in June of 1844 he preached:

“I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years.

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit, and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.” (HOC 6:474; at link see volume 6 chapter 23)

This doesn’t sound like “the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son.”

What it does sound like is that Joseph Smith changed his theology – and his story – and that neither Joseph nor his “translation” were inspired by an omniscient God after all.

Posted in Bible, Early Mormonism, God the Father, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Mormon History, Mormon Scripture | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

“Love thy neighbor”: Mormonism’s second prophet explains what Jesus meant

Brigham YoungOn Sunday, February 8, 1857 Brigham Young took the stand at the Great Salt Lake City Tabernacle to deliver a discourse to his congregation. On this occasion, Mormonism’s second prophet included some expositional preaching on Jesus’ command found in Matthew 19:19 (also in Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, 33, and Luke 10:27), “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Brigham Young explained:

“When will we love our neighbour as ourselves? In the first place, Jesus said that no man hateth his own flesh. It is admitted by all that every person loves himself. Now if we do rightly love ourselves, we want to be saved and continue to exist, we want to go into the kingdom where we can enjoy eternity and see no more sorrow nor death. This is the desire of every person who believes in God. Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved in the kingdom of our God and our Father, and being exalted, one who knows and understands the principles of eternal life, and sees the beauty and excellency of the eternities before him compared with the vain and foolish things of the world, and suppose that he is overtaken in a gross fault, that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin, and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man of woman in this house but what would say, ‘shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods?’

“All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant. He never told a man or woman to love their enemies in their wickedness, never. ShedBloodHe never intended any such thing; his language is left as it is for those to read who have the Spirit to discern between truth and error; it was so left for those who can discern the things of God. Jesus Christ never meant that we should love a wicked man in his wickedness.

“Now take the wicked, and I can refer to where the Lord had to slay every soul of the Israelites that went out of Egypt, except Caleb and Joshua. He slew them by the hands of their enemies, by the plague, and by the sword, why? Because He loved them, and promised Abraham that He would save them. And He loved Abraham because he was a friend to his God, and would stick to Him in the hour of darkness, hence He promised Abraham that He would save his seed. And He could save them upon no other principle, for they had forfeited their right to the land of Canaan by transgressing the law of God, and they could not have atoned for the sin if they had lived. But if they were slain, the Lord could bring them up in the resurrection, and give them the land of Canaan, and He could not do it on any other principle.

“I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil, until our elder brother Jesus Christ raises them up-conquers death, hell, and the grave. I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them. The wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbid this principle’s being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force.

“This is loving our neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind.” (Journal of Discourses 4:219-220, GospelLink online edition. Emphasis added.)

For sake of contrast, read a contemporary Christian sermon on Jesus’ command as it was preached by Charles Spurgeon on August 9, 1857.

For more information of the early Mormon doctrine of Blood Atonement, visit the Mormonism Research Ministry website, mrm.org

Posted in Brigham Young, Early Mormonism, Mormon Leaders | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments