The South Carolina “Holiday Card”

Someone recently used satire in South Carolina to expose many to an Orson Pratt quote:

“We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His first born, and another being upon the earth by whom he begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as his only begotten in this world.” (The Seer, pp. 172-3)

I’m not sure who sent this card, and I’m not sure what their motivations were, but I’m glad that the public is being exposed to this. I’m sure some Mormons are hoping their institution will take this opportunity to distance itself from the content of the quote, but the fact is that the Mormon Church today takes no official position on whether God is polygamous or whether God the Father was married to his spirit daughter Mary, so don’t be deceived by any impression that the Orson Pratt quote is mutually exclusive to the Mormon worldview.

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7 Responses to The South Carolina “Holiday Card”

  1. Nathan16 says:

    Talking about Mormonism is fine, but I find the means these people use repulsive. There are plenty of honest ways to show people the peculiar (and by this word I mean unique) doctrines of Mormonism. Whoever did this, in my opinion, undermined the efforts of evangelicals to reach out to Mormons. When we do anything other than honest, open reasoning, we fuel the fire of the “persecution” idea. You can bet this will be blamed on persecutors (at least in some ward, and maybe higher up in the hierarchy as well). So to me, this is a step backward, not forward.

  2. falcon says:

    What I’ve seen with this type of quote is that Mormons either dismiss it as the prophet’s opinion or treat the prophet as the crazy uncle in the attic. Another approach is that Mormons will say “we don’t teach this”. Which is probably true, but whether it’s “taught” or not has little to do with whether it was believed as true by the prophet proclaiming it. I haven’t quite figured out yet exactly what Mormons are to take seriously regarding what their prophets reveal. Actually, I’m guessing it doesn’t matter much because it can all be dismissed in a nanosecond. One night I was watching television with my college aged daughter and one of the characters uttered the phrase “I think I’m falling in love with you” to another character. I said to my daughter, “What does that mean?” I told her that I wished I’d had that line 40 years ago. I guess that’s how we need to treat Mormon revealation. Put an “I think” in front of it. Easy to change your mind that way.

  3. Nathan, your comment reminded me of this:

    “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)

    While I’m glad non-Mormons were exposed to a piece of history that the Mormon Church would rather bury, I also wish the exposure had been more direct without “cunning”.

  4. Donny says:

    I have an electronic library that has a STACK of LDS literature – searchable in seconds on virtually any topic – just about any sort of quote to support any argument you’d like to make – one way or another – from someone in some position of authority in the LDS Church. It’s a free country, and to quite a reasonable extent a free church as well. Especially from the early days when the LDS church was in its development phase, a person can find all sorts of stuff. It’s so diverse that it can’t all be true or official or ‘doctrine’ all at the same time.

    So what’s the point? Is the point that if I can find stuff that’s in disagreement or patently false or hair-brained somewhere in these vast electronic libraries – that the LDS church isn’t what it proports to be – the divinely restored Church of Jesus Christ. Is that the point?

    If that’s the point, then what are we to do with the Bible? I’ve read the Bible forwards and backwards and there’s STACK of stuff in the Bible that sure hope isn’t Christian doctrine – like when the prophet Elisha cursed some children who taunted him and forthwith they were torn apart by bears – 42 children (2Kings2:24). (Read it just this morning – my 10 year old asked a few awkward questions about that one! – anybody who can help me out I’d appreciate it ’cause he’s not buying it). So, does that mean the Bible is not the word of God. Of course it doesn’t mean that.

    Digging up quotations on fringy doctrines from somewhere in the last century proves – what? Maybe it proves that the core doctrines and history of the LDS Church are just too solid, and to criticize you need to focus on the arcane. That’s what I’m reading.

  5. Nathan16 says:

    The children making fun of Elisha were mocking a prophet of God, and therefore mocking God. The bears were a warning to others that God is not to be mocked, AT ALL. That’s my interpretation.

    Christian leaders of the past have posed very disturbing opinions. Pope Urban II and his call for the crusades come to mind, and being Lutheran, I’m particularly embarrassed by Luther’s writing, “The Jews and their lies”.

    The difference is that while Christian churches readily denounce such opinions (for example, all the major synods of the Lutherans unequivocally denounced that work of Luther’s) the LDS church has made no attempt to denounce certain past opinions in their church (arcane, I think was the term you used), and shows no sign of doing so in the near future. If they simply denounced them as wrong, that’d be great; it’d be no longer fair game. However, LDS maintains that Brigham Young and Joseph Smith never made mistakes concerning doctrine, being prophets of God, and therefore all their quotes are used to point out that they did indeed make mistakes. Which is why EV’s love quoting the Journal of Discourses.

  6. Donny says:

    Thank you, Nathan. Good post! Thanks for the Elisha insight.

    I understand the ‘not candid’ part. I often feel the same way myself.

    In fact, however, changing doctrines by Joseph Smith etc. are openly acknowledged – and celebrated – within LDS circles.

    Example: Initially, Joseph Smith taught that God the Father and Jesus Christ were two separate beings, and the Holy Ghost their spiritual manifestation. A later revelation said no, that the Holy Ghost was a third and distinct member of the Godhead. Fundamental change.

    This example is openly acknowledged among informed LDS. Many, many other examples. LDS don’t have a problem with this, because in our Christian paradigm the Canon (spiritual knowledge) is not closed. Revelation is continuing. Yesterday we were ‘less right,’ tomorrow we’ll be ‘more right.’ Nobody’s perfect – not even prophets. We do our best. Cool.

    A very different paradigm from some ‘closed Canon’ Christian churches. Coming from a ‘no-change’ and inerrant paradigm, some reason that if they can demonstrate change in LDS doctrine – then we must have been wrong to begin with and – gottcha! After all, if a prophet is REALLY getting revelation from God, well, how can he be wrong?

    Well, no, that’s not going to fly – because the spiritual paradigm is entirely different. It’s a completely different mind. This is profoundly development religion. If you can understand that, then you’re about to get somewhere.

    So, why do we often appear so intransigent? Easy – 1) the context is usually hostile and ingenuous, 2) there is a strong motive to avoid internal and external contention (historical context).

    And don’t expect a thoughtful response from the PR department. Surely I don’t have to explain that!?!

    You’re right again, Nathan. A hostile approach and you get stonewalled. Be thoughtful, courteous and unthreatening, and I hope you’ll get a thoughtful response in return.

  7. Nathan16 says:

    So you’re saying that a prophet can receive a revelation from God that says one thing, and then later God changes His mind and says, “No, that’s not right”? Are you saying that the prophets are in error (or at least a lack of understanding), and that doctrine must therefore be in a constant state of change? I don’t want to misrepresent or misinterpret what you’re saying, but that’s the idea I’m getting.

    Does that mean God can’t get it right the first time? Or that the prophet can’t get it right? Even more disturbing, if doctrine is in a constant state of change, then how can one possibly be confident that the LDS church is true? If the prophets are essentially saying, “Here’s a theory that works well, let’s hold to it unless I get a new revelation,” then the safest thing you can say is, “I think the church has reasonable doctrines that are worth believing at this time.” If that’s so, and the prophets can be wrong by theorizing, then how does this not affect a person’s exaltation? Or is a person’s loyalty to the church and the prophet more important than a person’s alleigiance to the truth?

    Unless you’re saying that God’s truth changes, that a doctrine is true one day and not true the next. That destroys the doctrine that God’s truth is everlasting. Therefore, what’s true one day can be false the rest, and only the First Presidency, and maybe the Quorum of Twelve, will know the difference. Understand that since God created (or organized, as I’ve heard in some statements of LDS doctrine) Earth and its natural laws, that also means that the laws of physics and mathematics are also going to change just as easily as spiritual truths.

    These are the only conclusions I can draw. Maybe my assessment of what you’re saying is wrong, or there are other conclusions, but the theories I see here are that 1. God or the prophets can be wrong, 2. God is changing everlasting truth. I’m trying to word this in a very unhostile way, but some things aren’t making sense to me.

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