Historic Theophany Accounts (Prophetic Visions of God)

Many LDS people don’t realize that Joseph Smith’s first vision experience was not particularly unique. Many individuals both in recent and ancient times have had experiences with what they believe are angels and deity. Many of the worlds largest religions are the result of such experiences. Many smaller faiths within the mysticism movement have a long history of having and analyzing these types of experiences (see this article for a discussion on this).

Theophany” (θεοφάνεια/theophaneia) is the word coined by the ancient Greeks to describe the appearance of a deity to a human. This term has been used to refer to appearances of the gods in the ancient Greek and Near Eastern religions. While the Iliad is the earliest source for descriptions of theophanies in the Classical tradition/era (and they occur throughout Greek mythology), probably the earliest historically dated description of a theophany is in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Similar experiences have continued throughout recorded history.

The following is a list of theophanies, ordered by their relevance to Mormonism.

 

Taiping Heavenly King (太平天王)

Hong Xiuquan (1 Jan1814 – 1 June 1864), was a Hakka Chinese prophet/leader of the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing Dynasty, establishing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Peace over varying portions of southern China.

In 1837, Hong reported being visited by two figures, an old, paternal figure and an elder brother-figure. In one vision the old man [Father] complained to Hong about men worshiping demons rather than him. In a second vision, Hong saw Confucius being punished for his faithlessness, after which he repented. In another dream, Hong dreamt of angels carrying him to heaven, where he met the elder-brother figure [Jesus] wearing a black dragon robe with a long golden beard who gave him a sword and a magic seal, and told him to purge China of demons. Several years later, he would interpret this to mean that God the Heavenly Father (whom he identified with Shangdi from Chinese tradition) and his Son, Jesus Christ (whom Hong claimed as his brother) wanted him to rid the world of demon worship.  Hong’s heavenly kingdom instituted polygamy and a form of communism. Hong’s religion or ideology was more or less lost when his rebellion was destroyed by Chinese imperial forces, and his followers put to death. (Deaths from the Rebellion are estimated at between 20-70 million).

The Báb, given name, Sayyed ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi

The Báb, whose birth name was Sayyed ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi (October 20, 1819 – July 9, 1850) was the founder of Bábism, and one of three central figures of the Bahá’í Faith (~8 million adherents). He was a merchant from Shiraz in Qajar Iran who, at the age of twenty-four (on the evening of May 22, 1844), claimed to be an inspired interpreter of the Qur’an within the Shaykhi school of Twelver Shi’ism. In a series of several stages, he first introduced himself as the Báb (meaning “Gate” or “Door”) to the Promised Twelver Mahdi or al-Qá’im, then the Mahdi himself, then the Prophet of a New Age, and finally, as the essence of God and his being.

Bahá’ís claim that the Báb was also the spiritual return of Elijah and John the Baptist, that he was the saoshyant referred to in Zoroastrianism,[3] and that he was the forerunner of their own religion. Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, was a follower of the Báb and claimed to be the fulfillment of his promise that God would send another messenger. In 1850, at the age of thirty, the Báb was shot by a firing squad in Tabriz.

Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad مرزا غلام احمد

Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (13 February 1835 – 26 May 1908) was an Indian religious leader and the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (~20 million adherents). He claimed to have been divinely appointed as the promised Mahdi, in the likeness of Jesus (mathīl-iʿIsā),[1][2] in fulfillment of Islam’s eschatological prophecies, as well as the Mujaddid (centennial reviver) of the 14th Islamic century.

When he was just over forty years of age, his father died and around that time he believed that God began to communicate with him. He claimed countless dreams and visions from God. In 1889, he took a pledge of allegiance from forty of his supporters at Ludhiana and formed a community of followers upon what he claimed was divine instruction, stipulating ten conditions of initiation. Ghulam Ahmad was a prolific author and wrote more than ninety books on various religious, theological and moral subjects between the publication of the first volume of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya (The Proofs of Islam, his first major work) in 1880 and his death in May 1908.  In addition to the claim of being God’s Messenger and “god or one with God” Mirza wrote, of one particular theophany as follows,

“I saw God Almighty personified as a human being in a vision. He put His arm round my neck and said [Punjabi]: If you will be devoted to Me, the whole world will be yours.” (from Tadhkirah, page 609, page 571 in the hardcopy)

By the time of his death, he had gathered an estimated 400,000 followers, especially within the United Provinces, the Punjab and Sindh and had built a dynamic religious organisation with an executive body and its own printing press. After his death he was succeeded by his close companion Hakīm Noor-ud-Dīn who assumed the title of Khalīfatul Masīh (successor of the Mahdi).

Abd al-Qadir Gilani or Kilani (1077–1166 CE). The experience of Abd, illustrates both an ancient Near Eastern experience as well as a description as to why theophanies of God (Allah) himself are rare within the Ismalic community–since Muslims generally believe Allah cannot be seen.

In the eleventh century, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani was traveling from one city to another when, to his amazement, the heavens opened up and a figure appeared sky. The figure said, “O ‘Abd al-Qadir! I am God. Because of your devotion to me, I removed the burden of prayer to me from you!”

Did Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir rejoice? He replied to the figure, “Silence you enemy of Allah!” The figure then turned black and the voice said “O ‘Abd al-Qadir, I have led astray 30 mystics before you with this same trick [of falsely appearing in the form of a man], but on account of your intellect, I was not able to lead you astray.” Upon which, the Shaykh replied, “It was the favor of Allah that saved me!” .

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo (notes on the LDS Gospel Topics Essay)

This is an annotated version of the article Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo at lds.org. Content is derived largely from Mormonism 101, with edits and adaptations by the current author. To display the annotation which illustrate the “positive spin” of the Essay, click on the note numbers at the end of a paragraph (Spin Note 1, Spin Note 2, etc.). Click again to hide the note. The annotations are not part of the original article.

polygamy-essays3

Latter-day Saints believe that monogamy—the marriage of one man and one woman—is the Lord’s standing law of marriage. In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman. Some early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also received and obeyed this commandment given through God’s prophets. Spin Note 1

The word ‘commanded’ here is a bit dishonest and without any biblical support— as the Bible does not have a single instance of god ‘commanding’ polygamy. A better wording might be ‘suffered’ his people to indulge in the cultural practice plural marriage. The Bible never states that Abraham was “commanded” to take a second wife, nor with any of the other polygamous patriarchs or prophets. There is simply no evidence that the Biblical God ever commanded or even encouraged Israel to practice polygamy. It infers Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham because she felt bad about being infertile, and Abraham suffered it so they could have promised children. And infers others were allowed polygamous unions because it was a common cultural practice. In fact Deut 17:17 explicitly forbids dynastic polygamy for the Jewish leader saying,

“Neither shall he [a Jewish King] multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” (Deut 17:17) 

The Book of Mormon is no different, explicitly condemning David and Solomon’s use of  polygamy to multiply children and build their dynasties (see Jacob 2:23–26).  LDS leadership’s use of Jacob 2:30 in the Book of Mormon to suggest that god might command polygamy to multiply seed or increase population is an obvious twisting of the verses intent. The verse in question says,

“For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise [polygamy is to be forbidden]”. (Jacob 2:30)

To “raise up seed” does not in any way infer the use of polygamy to take many wives to multiply seed or increase the population. It is a direct quote from Genesis 38:8, referring to a caveat of the Mosaic law in Deut 25:5–7 (which Christ referred to in Matt 22:24) where if a man dies without having children, his brother was to take his widow as a (second) wife in order to “raise up seed” “in the name of his brother”. Since in ancient law, property was tied exclusively to men and their children, in this way the wife could bare children who could still lay claim to her dead husband’s assets, and preserve the family name under civil law. Both the story of the early Patriarchs as well as Judah and Tamar draw on this law of birthright to illustrate how god “rose up” seed or a “righteous branch” through the folly of his servant’s gross improprieties (see Gen 38, Gen 21, Gen 29:21–35, Jer 23:5–6). To suggest that this reference meant that God might randomly command his people to start engaging in rampant dynastic polygamy in order to increase population is unfounded in scripture and frankly a bit twisted.

After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates. Spin Note 2

The chronology of Joseph Smith’s polygamy is different from the way it is presented here. His first extra-marital relationship with Fanny Alger (considered a plural marriage by some, see Bradley 2010) dates back to around 1836, the revelation mentioned above came 7 years and 27 plural wives later. Fanny was a 16-17 year old domestic, hired by Joseph to help around the house while Emma was sick during the pregnancy of her second Child . The sexual relationship happened completely without Emma’s knowledge. (see Hales: JSP)

When Joseph Smith’s wife Emma discovered this relationship, there is no evidence that he appealed to the Bible or a revelation to justify his actions. Instead, he begged his wife’s forgiveness and the relationship was ended (see McLellin Letter).

In the second half of the 1830s, the Mormon situation in Missouri as well as Illinois became increasingly unstable. Joseph Smith’s reputation and allusions to polygamy generated a lot of rumours, which were denied by both Joseph Smith individually and the church as a whole (see references here. also note 15).

This changed at the beginning of the 1840s, after the Mormons settled down in their own city of Nauvoo (Illinois). Here Joseph Smith felt safe enough to test the waters by publicly hinting at what he called the restoration of Biblical polygamy. Reactions to this were usually negative, after which he would backpedal by saying the time had not yet come (see Nauvoo teachings. Newell & Avery 1994, pp. 95-96).

In secret, though, Joseph Smith went ahead and started taking on many polygamous wives in the early 1840s. In an effort to convince his wife Emma of the practice, he finally dictated a formal revelation about polygamy on July 12, 1843.“And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me,” it said, “for I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice” (Doctrine and Covenants 2013, pp. 271-272).

This principle was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration—for Joseph personally and for other Church members. Plural marriage tested faith and provoked controversy and opposition. Few Latter-day Saints initially welcomed the restoration of a biblical practice entirely foreign to their sensibilities. But many later [some] testified of powerful spiritual experiences that helped them overcome their hesitation and gave them courage to accept this practice.

Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment. Significant social and cultural changes often include misunderstandings and difficulties. Church leaders and members experienced these challenges as they heeded the command to practice plural marriage and again later as they worked to discontinue it after Church President Wilford Woodruff issued an inspired statement known as the Manifesto in 1890, which led to the end of plural marriage in the Church. Through it all, Church leaders and members sought to follow God’s will. Spin Note 3

This paragraph contains two errors:

– There were some “exact instructions” on how to practice polygamy;
– The Manifesto did not lead “to the end of plural marriage in the Church”.

To start with the latter point: on the very day church president Woodruff submitted the Manifesto to the general membership for approval, he advised Byron Harvey Allred, who had traveled to Salt Lake City to marry an additional wife, how to circumvent the Manifesto (read Allred’s journal here, search for the last mention of “Woodruff”).

In the Manifesto, president Woodruff denied “in the most solemn manner” the cases of polygamy which the Utah Commission had identified but these have since been amply documented and confirmed (see Quinn 1985, who was disciplined and later excommunicated from the Mormon church for publishing this research). One year later, president Woodruff again lied under oath about the clandestine continuation of polygamy in an attempt to regain seized church property (Wagoner 1989, p. 149) – possibly the real purpose of the Manifesto.

With regards to the “instructions on how to obey the commandment” of polygamy, there may not have been many but the ones that were there, were not followed. Leviticus 18 in the Bible, for instance, prohibits men from marrying a mother and her daughter, as well as marrying sisters, yet both practices were frequent among Mormons (see note 1 to the essay Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah).

Neither did Joseph Smith follow the instructions from his own 1843 revelation which states, for instance, that polygamous wives should be virgins. Joseph Smith, however, had relationships with at least 11 married women. Some girls, like Sarah Ann Whitney (17) and Flora Ann Woodworth (17) married other men within a few months after their polygamous unions to Joseph Smith, which, according to the revelation, constitutes adultery. And finally, the revelation stipulates that the first wife gives her husband permission to take extra wives but Joseph Smith took most of his plural wives without his wife Emma’s knowledge, let alone permission.

Many details about the early practice of plural marriage are unknown. Plural marriage was introduced among the early Saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential. They did not discuss their experiences publicly or in writing until after the Latter-day Saints had moved to Utah and Church leaders had publicly acknowledged the practice. The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin: few records of the time provide details, and later reminiscences are not always reliable. Some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge about this issue. Like the participants, we “see through a glass, darkly” and are asked to walk by faith. Spin Note 4

Throughout this essay, the authors repeatedly claim that “many details” of Mormon polygamy are unknown because the historical record is supposedly incomplete, or even “thin”. It is not clear why they would say this since the authors’ own sources disagree with that conclusion.

In endnote 29, for example, an article by apostle John A. Widtsoe is cited which reads: “The literature and existing documents dealing with plural marriage in Nauvoo in the day of Joseph Smith are very numerous. Hundreds of affidavits on the subject are in the Church Historian’s office in Salt Lake City. Most of the books and newspaper and magazine articles on the subject are found there also” (Widtsoe 1946).

In endnotes 25 and 26, the authors quote Bringhurst & Foster’s 2010 book The Persistence of Polygamy which starts with an overview of “the plethora of books articles, and essays dealing with Mormon polygamy” and speaks of a “multitude of historical documents” (p. ix). “Literally hundreds of books”, the introduction claims, “have been written on the topic of Mormon polygamy” (p. 2).

So we have hundreds of books about polygamy, hundreds of affidavits from early Mormons who were personally involved in polygamy, as well as many other historical documents like marriage records, journals, letters, newspaper articles, etc. They contain details about every aspect of the first polygamous Mormon marriages. These sources are not a matter of faith either; in fact, most of them can be consulted quite easily these days by anyone with an internet connection.

The reliability of “later reminiscences” can be determined by comparing them to the rest of the historical record. By pretending these sources do not exist, the authors exempt themselves from such methodological rigour. Instead, they ask the reader to “walk by faith”. Remarkably, the reliability of later reminiscences doesn’t seem to be an issue in the remainder of the essay when the reminiscences fit the authors’ narrative.

The Beginnings of Plural Marriage in the Church

The revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843, but its early verses suggest that part of it emerged from Joseph Smith’s study of the Old Testament in 1831. People who knew Joseph well later stated he received the revelation about that time. Spin Note 5

This is a first example of what was stated in note 4. The reliability of “later reminiscences” is never questioned when it suits the authors of this article, in this case to create a sequence of events that puts Joseph Smith’s relationship with Fanny Alger in the context of polygamy.

The sources quoted with this paragraph are from 1878 and 1887. That in itself does not mean they are unreliable but in view of the absence of contemporary supporting evidence, some caution seems appropriate. See note 2 for the actual chronology.

The revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, states that Joseph prayed to know why God justified Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon in having many wives. The Lord responded that He had commanded them to enter into the practice.

Latter-day Saints understood that they were living in the latter days, in what the revelations called the “dispensation of the fullness of times.” Ancient principles—such as prophets, priesthood, and temples—would be restored to the earth. Plural marriage was one of those ancient principles. Spin Note 6

It is not in dispute that polygamy occurs in the Bible as a cultural practice. However, the Christian world does not generally see it as a commandment from God (see also note 1). Moreover, the justification of polygamy by claiming that “God justified Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon in having many wives” was already anticipated – and unequivocally condemned – in the Book of Mormon (as already discussed).

Polygamy had been permitted for millennia in many cultures and religions, but, with few exceptions, was rejected in Western cultures. In Joseph Smith’s time, monogamy was the only legal form of marriage in the United States. Joseph knew the practice of plural marriage would stir up public ire. After receiving the commandment, he taught a few associates about it, but he did not spread this teaching widely in the 1830s. Spin Note 7

There is no good evidence that Joseph Smith received a revelation about polygamy in the 1830s, nor that “he taught a few associates about it”. Curiously, the sources that are quoted with this paragraph do not support this either.

The first source concerns a hypothetical question asked to Lorenzo Snow in 1892: “Could Joseph Smith receive a revelation (…)”. There is nothing in Snow’s testimony to suggest that Joseph Smith received a revelation about polygamy in the 1830s.

The second source is an 1869 sermon by Orson Pratt which actually states the opposite of what is implied in the paragraph above, namely that Joseph Smith indicated in 1832 that the time for polygamy had not yet come and that, therefore, the revelation on polygamy was only given in 1843.

The third source is not about polygamy at all but about disseminating Mormonism among Native Americans by “forming a matrimonial alliance with the Natives”. Although this letter is critical of Joseph Smith and his associates, no mention is made of polygamy. Rather, in the matter of an unnamed man from New York (possibly Martin Harris) marrying a Native American woman, the letter states that “before this contemplated marriage can be carried into effect, he must return to the State of N. Y. and settle his business, for fear, should he return, after that affair had taken place, the civil authority would apprehend him as a criminal” (Marquardt 2008; read this source online here, see the second to last paragraph of the December 6, 1831 letter).

A last source cited in other sources is from a second-hand account written in 1896 by Mosiah Hancock, who was not even born until 1834.

When God commands a difficult task, He sometimes sends additional messengers to encourage His people to obey. Consistent with this pattern, Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully. Spin Note 8

This is not a correct representation of the facts. The only source which indicates that an angel appeared three times to Joseph Smith in that period, was Mary Rollins Lightner in 1905 (Hales 2010). However, Joseph Smith did not tell this to “his associates” but to her, in an ultimate effort to convince her to enter into a relationship with him (he had been pursuing her since at least 1834, and some sources even say 1831, when Mary was only 16 or 12 years old respectively, see Newell & Avery 1994, p. 65. Read Mary’s affidavits here).

All sources for the angel-with-the-drawn-sword-story are relatively late (the earliest one is likely from 1853. possibly 1843), appear to be depending on each other and lack  supporting evidence from Joseph Smith’s lifetime. It’s possible, then, that the story was made up later to create the impression that Joseph Smith engaged in polygamy under divine duress – a concept that doesn’t really sit well with Mormon theology.

Either way, one must look suspiciously at the narrative this church Essay is trying to sell church members here. This paragraph is suggesting God sent and angel with a drawn sword to go against Joseph’s agency in commanding him take to his 16 year old house servant as his first plural bride. And that god sanctioned this “union” even though it occurred completely behind Emma’s back— Joseph having sex with her in secret, while his wife was likely pregnant with their second child Frederick (born June 1836). All this with supposed partial unwritten revelation, and no public disclosure, only to have Joseph’s first plural wife to be kicked out of the house by Emma when she finds out about it (like Hagar and Sarah right?!). “God” then says nothing about polygamy again until 5 years later when Joseph would take a second plural wife, (likely Lucinda Pendleton while her husband was away on a mission. see here for information on Lucinda and her marriage to Joseph and connection to early American anti-Masonry). Other sources suggest his second was 26 year old Louisa Beaman.

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Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s. Several Latter-day Saints who had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household, after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents. Little is known about this marriage, and nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger. After the marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Spin Note 9

It is true that a lot of information about Fanny Alger stems from “decades later”, starting with the sources cited for this paragraph, which are from 1886-87, 1903 and 1896 respectively. Of all the historical sources that mention Fanny Alger, these are the most recent. A surprising choice, in view of the concern the authors of this article have expressed about the reliability of “later reminiscences” (see note 4).

Then again, maybe not so surprising, considering that the earlier sources (until 1842) do not speak of a marriage with the blessing of Fanny’s parents but of “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair” (Oliver Cowdery), “adultery” (Far West High Council minutes), “girl business” (Joseph Smith himself), “unlawful intercourse” (Fanny Brewer) and “improper proposals” (Martin Harris).

Other aspects of the relationship between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger that can be gleaned from the sources are that Emma Smith was initially unaware of it, that she caught her husband having sex with Fanny Alger (or found out about it when Fanny’s pregnancy became visible), that Joseph Smith asked his wife for forgiveness, that the relationship ended there, and that Fanny left the Smith household (or was sent away by Emma). And that she left Joseph and the church, was later married and refused to talk about it later in life.

None of the sources mention a commandment or an angel with a drawn sword in this connection. A secondary 1896 source by Mosiah Hancock states that Fanny’s parents may have consented. They remained in the church and followed the Saints to settle in St George, Utah

Plural Marriage and Eternal Marriage

The same revelation that taught of plural marriage was part of a larger revelation given to Joseph Smith—that marriage could last beyond death and that eternal marriage was essential to inheriting the fullness that God desires for His children. As early as 1840, Joseph Smith privately taught Apostle Parley P. Pratt that the “heavenly order” allowed Pratt and his wife to be together “for time and all eternity.” Joseph also taught that men like Pratt—who had remarried following the death of his first wife—could be married (or sealed) to their wives for eternity, under the proper conditions. Spin Note 10

The distinction between “eternal marriage” and “plural marriage” is a modern interpretation that does not necessarily follow from the text of Joseph Smith’s revelation, which only mentions “this law”, “my law” and “the new and everlasting covenant” throughout the entire text.

The only distinction drawn in this revelation is between a traditional, non-Mormon marriage which ends with death and a marriage “by God’s word” which is remains valid in the afterlife.

The sealing of husband and wife for eternity was made possible by the restoration of priesthood keys and ordinances. On April 3, 1836, the Old Testament prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and restored the priesthood keys necessary to perform ordinances for the living and the dead, including sealing families together. Marriages performed by priesthood authority could link loved ones to each other for eternity, on condition of righteousness; marriages performed without this authority would end at death. Spin Note 11

This paragraph confirms the issues with chronology that were pointed out in note 2: Fanny Alger cannot have been “sealed” to Joseph Smith if the sealing of husband and wife for eternity was only made possible three years later.

Moreover, the connection between the events of April 1836 and the “sealing power” is of later origin. No new ordinances were introduced as a result of the appearance of Elijah. The first sealings between men and women were performed in 1843 and the sealing of children to their parents only started after Joseph Smith’s death (Buerger 1994, p. 61; Prince 1995, pp. 155-172).

The sealing of men and women, then, did not originate as a result of the appearance of Elijah but in the context of Joseph Smith’s 1843 revelation on polygamy. To early Mormons, sealing and polygamy were one and the same.

Marriage performed by priesthood authority meant that the procreation of children and perpetuation of families would continue into the eternities. Joseph Smith’s revelation on marriage declared that the “continuation of the seeds forever and ever” helped to fulfill God’s purposes for His children. This promise was given to all couples who were married by priesthood authority and were faithful to their covenants.

Plural Marriage in Nauvoo

For much of Western history, family “interest”—economic, political, and social considerations—dominated the choice of spouse. Parents had the power to arrange marriages or forestall unions of which they disapproved. By the late 1700s, romance and personal choice began to rival these traditional motives and practices. By Joseph Smith’s time, many couples insisted on marrying for love, as he and Emma did when they eloped against her parents’ wishes. Spin Note 12

Love may not have been Joseph Smith’s only motivation for marrying Emma Hale. For years he had been trying to retrieve golden plates which he claimed to have found in a hill near his home. He said they were guarded by a spirit who eventually stipulated that he could take the plates on the condition that he got married. The spirit did not inform him who he should marry but in his seer stone he saw it was to be Emma (for Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones, see this article about the translation of the Book of Mormon).

Earlier attempts to take the plates home had failed and this was to be Joseph Smith’s last chance before they would sink into the earth forever. That is why he wanted to marry quickly; eloping may have been necessary because Emma’s parents weren’t too keen on their daughter marrying a young treasure hunter without a respectable, steady job (Quinn 1998, pp. 163-164; Marquardt & Walters 1994, pp. 89-94).

Latter-day Saints’ motives for plural marriage were often more religious than economic or romantic. Besides the desire to be obedient, a strong incentive was the hope of living in God’s presence with family members. In the revelation on marriage, the Lord promised participants “crowns of eternal lives” and “exaltation in the eternal worlds.” Men and women, parents and children, ancestors and progeny were to be “sealed” to each other—their commitment lasting into the eternities, consistent with Jesus’s promise that priesthood ordinances performed on earth could be “bound in heaven.” Spin Note 13

The statement that the hope of living in God’s presence with family members was a strong incentive to participate in polygamy contradicts the distinction proposed earlier between eternal and plural marriage (see note 10). If the Mormons of Kirtland and Nauvoo had made this distinction, polygamy would not have been required to live in God’s presence with family members.

Incidentally, most non-Mormons who believe in an afterlife believe they will be together with their loved ones anyway. The conditions and restrictions which the Mormon church imposes can be considered impediments rather than enablers.

The first plural marriage in Nauvoo took place when Louisa Beaman and Joseph Smith were sealed in April 1841. Joseph married many additional wives and authorized other Latter-day Saints to practice plural marriage. Spin Note 14

Between Fanny Alger (1833) and Louisa Beaman, there was also a relationship between Joseph Smith and Lucinda Pendleton Harris (Compton 1997, pp. 43-54). It is unclear why this union isn’t mentioned here, maybe because it didn’t occur in Kirtland or Nauvoo but in Missouri.

The practice spread slowly at first. By June 1844, when Joseph died, approximately 29 men and 50 women had entered into plural marriage, in addition to Joseph and his wives. When the Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, at least 196 men and 521 women had entered into plural marriages. Participants in these early plural marriages pledged to keep their involvement confidential, though they anticipated a time when the practice would be publicly acknowledged.

Nevertheless, rumors spread. A few men unscrupulously used these rumors to seduce women to join them in an unauthorized practice sometimes referred to as “spiritual wifery.” When this was discovered, the men were cut off from the Church. The rumors prompted members and leaders to issue carefully worded denials that denounced spiritual wifery and polygamy but were silent about what Joseph Smith and others saw as divinely mandated “celestial” plural marriage. The statements emphasized that the Church practiced no marital law other than monogamy while implicitly leaving open the possibility that individuals, under direction of God’s living prophet, might do so. Spin Note 15

Rumours had been spreading since the days of Fanny Alger and had already caused problems and denials in Ohio and Missouri. The term rumour, however, doesn’t apply since Joseph Smith did indeed have relations with many women. They were only rumours because Joseph Smith and other church leaders kept publicly denying their involvement in polygamy (including in court).

From the very beginning, lying has been an integral part of Mormon polygamy (Hardy 1992). Joseph Smith lied to his wife, his associates, his followers and his community. His successors lied to the authorities, the courts and to Congress. Today, the Mormon church lies about polygamy to prospective members in its missionary program, to current members in its curriculum and to non-members in its media statements (such as this essay).

Whether these statements are called lies or “carefully worded denials”, it seems clear that they were – and are – primarily meant to mislead others from knowing the truth.

Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage

During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone. Spin Note 16

There is no evidence that the Mormons from “the era in which plural marriage was practiced” made this distinction. As stated in note 10, the text of Joseph Smith’s 1843 revelation only distinguishes between marriages “for time” and “for time and eternity” – to this day the only two forms of marriage in the Mormon church. Marriage “for eternity only” is an apologetic term which does not appear in any primary 19th-century source (Quinn 1997, pp. 183-84; Compton 1997, pp. 12-15, 500).

The reason why the authors of this essay use the “eternity only” category may be to introduce the idea that some of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions did not have a sexual aspect, and might be perceived as less controversial that way.
Since the “eternity only” category does not exist, however, there is no reason to suppose that Joseph Smith’s relationships did not have a sexual component, all the more so because sexual relations can be established with reasonable certainty in about half the cases – which is quite a lot for a time in which sexuality was not openly discussed.

Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary. Some of the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith later testified that their marriages were for time and eternity, while others indicated that their relationships were for eternity alone. Spin Note 17

The endnote to this paragraph reports that the best estimates put the number of wives of Joseph Smith between 30 and 40. Mormonism101.com mostly relies on the research of Todd Compton, who lists 33 women (excluding Emma). Quinn (2012) proposes that there is also sufficient evidence that Esther Dutcher, Hannah Ann Dubois, Mary Heron Snyder and Lydia Kenyon Carter were sealed to Joseph Smith, which puts the tally at 37. Based on extensive demographic research, Smith (1994) puts in an even higher estimate of 42.

There is no evidence that any of these women ever “indicated that their relationships were for eternity alone” (see note 16, but see also Quinn 2012 for one possible exception).

Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Spin Note 18

While it is technically true that most of those sealed to Joseph Smith (18 out of the 33 women) were between 20 and 40, this grouping seems arbitrary and clouds the actual age distribution of Joseph Smith’s wives:


The chart above shows that Joseph Smith had a strong preference for women who were younger to much younger than himself. To use another arbitrary grouping: most of those sealed to Joseph Smith (also 18 out of 33) were between 10 and 30. The older women, like Patty Bartlett (47) and Elizabeth Davis (50) were actively involved in recruiting the younger women and girls for plural marriage (Smith 1994; Compton 1997, pp. 179, 254-55, 260, 262).

Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens. Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations. After Joseph’s death, Helen remarried and became an articulate defender of him and of plural marriage. Spin Note 19

Plural marriage was never legal in the US, so the question of age is moot from a judicial point of view. “Some women” did indeed marry “in their mid-teens” but they were few and far between. The chart below (from Foster et al. 2010) shows that in Joseph Smith’s time (1840), less than 2% of the women were married in their mid-teens, at 15 or younger:
The data for the above chart are for the entire United States. Zooming in on the Northeastern states where Joseph Smith lived, the rate of mid-teen marriages drops to 0.4 percent. Nine out of ten women who married in their teens did so at 18 or 19 (Compton 2010). Only three of Joseph Smith’s teenage wives were in this latter age range, the other seven (including Fanny Alger) were all younger:
Another issue is the age gap between Joseph Smith and his polygamous wiwes. Without claiming any statistical sophistication, Mormonism101 has prepared the following chart based on the ages of Joseph Smith and his wives as given by Foster et al. (2010, p. 154) and a sample from the IPUMS-USA database (Ruggles et al. 2010).
The vertical bars represent Joseph Smith’s wives at the age he married them, in order of age; the orange line represents Joseph Smith’s age at the time. The green line represents the age gap between 3,475 women of the same age and in the same area as Joseph Smith’s wives and their husbands as recorded in the 1850 US census (no earlier census data are available). The green area covers one standard deviation plus and minus from the average age gap in the sample.

Thus, whenever the orange line crosses into the green area, the age gap between Joseph Smith and that wife is within what could be considered a normal range. This is the case for 15 out of Joseph Smith’s 33 plural wives (the lighter coloured bars in the chart). The age gaps with his teenage wives and with his elderly wives generally fall outside the green area.

Click here to take a closer look at the 1850 census data.

In summary, then, we can conclude that Joseph Smith’s marital practices were well outside the bounds of normal behaviour in the time and place where he lived with regard to (1) the number of his wives, (2) their age at marriage and (3) the age gaps between them.

Nowhere in the autobiographical writings cited as sources for this paragraph does Helen Mar Kimball state that her sealing to Joseph Smith was “for eternity alone”; this quote is completely taken out of context here. What she does say, is the following:

Helen’s marriage was arranged by her father: “Having a great desire to be connected with the prophet Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar; how cruel this seemed to my mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder” (Compton 1997, p. 498).

Helen supposed the marriage would be for eternity only but, according to one source, soon learned otherwise: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it” (Wagoner 1989, p. 53).

Helen was promised salvation in exchange for her marriage to the prophet: “If you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred. This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward” (Compton 1997, p. 499).

Helen was put under severe time pressure to make her decision: her father left her“to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours, during which time I was filled with various and conflicting ideas. I was skeptical–one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions” (Compton 1997, pp. 498-499).

Regardless of Helen Mar Kimball’s eloquence in defending Joseph Smith and polygamy at a much later age, she was under no illusion that polygamy had anything to offer her or her fellow female participants: “No earthly inducement could be held forth to the women who entered this order. It was to be a life sacrifice for the sake of an everlasting glory and exaltation” (Compton 1997 p. 349).

The authors of this article correctly assess that such relationships are deemed “inappropriate by today’s standards”. It is unlikely, however, that this was any different in the 1840s.

Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone. Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone. Spin Note 20

These married women (12 to 14 according to the endnote to this paragraph) have said and written just as much about their relationships with Joseph Smith as the others (see note 4) and there is just as little (meaning no) evidence that these relations were “for eternity alone”(see note 16). On the contrary, as is the case for Joseph Smith’s other wives, there is ample primary evidence for sexual relations with a significant number of these married women as well (Quinn 2012).

There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church. These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. Spin Note 21

This and the next two “possible explanations” are pure speculation for which there is no supporting evidence. Based on sources that actually exist – as opposed to the imagined feelings and thoughts of Joseph Smith and unnamed “faithful women” – only two explanations have any basis in fact:

Posterity: the stated purpose of Mormon polygamy was procreation. For a long time, Joseph Smith was thought to have fathered a handful of children with several of his polygamous wives, at least four of which were already married (Quinn 2012). By now, most of these claims have been disproved using modern DNA techniques (Groote 2011). As Quinn points out, however, the relevant fact here is not whether these children actually were Joseph Smith’s but whether their mothers thought they might be. This strongly suggests that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with these (married) women and that “raising up seed” should be considered as a possible explanation for his behaviour – which the authors of this essay don’t do.

Loyalty: Joseph Smith tested the loyalty of his closest associates by asking to marry their wives and daughters. Men who passed the test, entered a small, trusted inner circle, received leadership positions and were encouraged to start relations with other women themselves (Wagoner 1989, p. 41).

In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime, and complaints about these sealings with Joseph Smith are virtually absent from the documentary record. Spin Note 22

That few complaints are known about Joseph Smith’s sealings to married women is, again, not an accurate representation of all the relevant facts:

Firstly, not all legal husbands were aware that Joseph Smith initiated relations with their wives (although most men knew afterwards). This was certainly true for Orson Hyde (on a mission) and Adam Lightner (out of town) and possibly for George Harris, Windsor Lyon, David Sessions and Jonathan Holmes as well.

Secondly, by focusing on “these [12 to 14]sealings”, a large group of people is left out of the picture who did not appreciate Joseph Smith’s proposals and who did have complaints about them. One of them, William Law, founded a newspaper with other Nauvoo dissidents in which they wanted to expose polygamy and other misconduct. As the mayor of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith allowed the printing press and the first edition to be destroyed. For this unlawful act, he was arrested and while awaiting judicial proceedings in prison, was murdered by an angry mob. The attempted suppression of complaints about polygamy directly led to Joseph Smith’s death.

Thirdly, complaints from legal husbands are not as absent from the documentary record as the authors of this essay suggest, especially in view of the limited scope of this practice. Church leader Daniel H. Wells, for instance, wrote about Albert Smith (no relation), Esther Dutcher’s legal husband: “He is much afflicted with the loss of his first wife. It seems that she was sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo, though she still remained his wife, and afterwards nearly broke his heart by telling him of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship” (Hales 2010a)

Another example is Henry Jacobs, whose wife Zina Huntington first married Joseph Smith but remained with Henry, then left her husband altogether for Brigham Young after Joseph Smith’s death. Although he remained a loyal Mormon, his letters reveal a deeply hurt husband and father:

“I have written so many letters to you and the children from first to last and got no letters, that I almost feel discouraged. I never have received but one from you since I left Salt Lake. O, how happy I should be if I only could see you and the little children, I would like to see the little babe.

Zina, I wish you to prosper. I wish you knew what I have to bear, my feelings are indescribable. I am unhappy, there is no peace for poor me. My pleasure is you, my comfort has vanished.

I have had many a good dream about you and the little ones. I have imagined myself at home with you and the little boys upon my knees, singing and playing with them. What a comfort, what a joy, to think upon those days that are gone by, o heaven bless me, even poor me, shall I ever see them again?

I think of you very often, Zina. Are you happy? Do you enjoy your life as pleasant as you did with me when I was home with you and the children, when we could say our prayers together and speak together in tongues and bless each other in the name of the Lord?

O, I think of those happy days that are past. When I sleep the sleep of death then I will not forget you and my little lambs. I love my affections, I love my children. O Zina, can I ever, will I ever get you again?” (minor editing for legibility by mormonism101.com, for more extensive quotations, see Compton 1997, pp. 98-100).

These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships. This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having “demurred” on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice. After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women. Spin Note 23

As stated in note 21, this explanation is purely speculative. It is based on reading Joseph Smith’s mind, a dubious story about an angel (see note 8) and a fabricated concept of marriage without “normal marriage relationships” (see note 16).

Another possibility is that, in an era when life spans were shorter than they are today, faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed by priesthood authority. Several of these women were married either to non-Mormons or former Mormons, and more than one of the women later expressed unhappiness in their present marriages. Living in a time when divorce was difficult to obtain, these women may have believed a sealing to Joseph Smith would give them blessings they might not otherwise receive in the next life. Spin Note 24

This explanation is not only pure speculation; it is also based on an incorrect portrayal of the facts. Of the eleven already married women on Compton’s list, only one had a former Mormon husband (Presendia Lathrop) while three had non-Mormon husbands (Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Sarah Kingsley and Ruth Vose).

Nor was divorce difficult to obtain, given the loose Mormon marriage morals. Of Joseph Smith’s 11 married wives (again according to Compton 1997), five divorced or simply left their prior husband (Lucinda Pendleton between 1846-1850, Zina Huntington in 1847, Presendia Lathrop in 1845, Marinda Johnson in 1870 and Elizabeth Davis in 1846).

Regardless of these factual inaccuracies, it has been explained already in note 11 that the idea of sealing originated in the context of polygamy, not the other way around. Sealing and polygamy were synonyms to early Mormons. Saying that “faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed” would be akin to saying that these women felt an urgency to engage in polygamy – an implication which is contradicted by all available sources.

The women who united with Joseph Smith in plural marriage risked reputation and self-respect in being associated with a principle so foreign to their culture and so easily misunderstood by others. “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life,” said Zina Huntington Jacobs, “for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman.” Nevertheless, she wrote, “I searched the scripture & by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself.” After Joseph’s death, most of the women sealed to him moved to Utah with the Saints, remained faithful Church members, and defended both plural marriage and Joseph. Spin Note 25

The women who did not unite with Joseph Smith or his associates in plural marriage also risked their good name. If they continued to refuse polygamous proposals, their reputation might get publicly tarnished to preemptively divert attention away from the proposals themselves, which would be perceived as inappropriate and scandalous should they become known to the general public. Sarah Pratt was accused of adultery, Martha Brotherton was called a “mean harlot” descended from “old Jezebel” in a newspaper, and 19-year old Nancy Rigdon was deemed “little, if any, better than a public prostitute” (Wagoner 1986).

After Joseph’s death, his wives were redistributed among other church leaders. Brigham Young took 7 to 9 of them, his counselor Heber C. Kimball 11. The other women were divided among other church leaders such as George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman, Ezra T. Benson and others (Compton 1997, p. 83).

This practice would be the foundation of the way in which the Mormons practiced polygamy in the second half of the nineteenth century: as “a symbol of status and inclusion in the inner Mormon circle of power” (Zeitzen 2008, p. 99; see also note 11 to the article Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah).

Joseph and Emma

Plural marriage was difficult for all involved. For Joseph Smith’s wife Emma, it was an excruciating ordeal. Records of Emma’s reactions to plural marriage are sparse; she left no firsthand accounts, making it impossible to reconstruct her thoughts. Spin Note 26

This is the third time the authors incorrectly claim that little is known about a certain aspect of Joseph Smith’s polygamy (see notes 4 and 20). The reason why most Mormons do not know a lot about Emma Smith is that she has been largely ignored in Mormon history ever since she chose to remain in Nauvoo after her husband was murdered, and not join the body of Mormons who emigrated to Utah.

According to author Jana Riess, “Emma’s disappearance from LDS history was so total that (…) an article about her for the Ensign in 1979 was the first writing about her to appear in any official church publication in 113 years” (Riess 2013). Polygamy is not discussed in this article, however, because that is another subject which Mormon church leaders have tried hard to ignore in official publications before the advent of internet.

Nevertheless, records of Emma Smith are not “sparse”. Linda King Newell and ValeenTippetts Avery’s biography Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, for example, is 394 pages long, contains a 14-page bibliography of published sources and builds on research into more than 50 historical newspapers, as well as diaries, minutes, letter and (auto)biographies from 85 archive collections. Expertly put together, these sources make crystal clear how Emma Smith felt about her husband’s extra-marital relations: betrayed, deceived, hurt, sad, angry, taunted and humiliated.

However, Newell and Avery’s groundbreaking book is not cited in this essay, once again allowing the authors to pretend that little is known about things they don’t want to write about.

Joseph and Emma loved and respected each other deeply. After he had entered into plural marriage, he poured out his feelings in his journal for his “beloved Emma,” whom he described as “undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma.” After Joseph’s death, Emma kept a lock of his hair in a locket she wore around her neck.

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household. She may have approved of other marriages as well. But Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings. She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it. Spin Note 27

The sequence of events was a bit different. These four women (Emily & Eliza Partidge and Sara & Maria Lawrence, 19, 22, 17 and 19 years old respectively) already lived in the Smith household before Emma gave her permission. The Lawrence sisters were their wards. The Partridge sisters had already married Joseph Smith two months before, without Emma’s knowledge. Nobodytold Emma this, though, but the ceremony was simply performed a second time in her presence. Even when Emma supported polygamy, she was being deceived by her husband (Newell & Avery 1994, p. 142-143).

Emma’s approval was short-lived. Apparently she did not fully realize that Joseph Smith’s plural marriages were also of a sexual nature. That same night she found her husband in a room with Eliza Partridge and “from that very hour,” Emily wrote in her journal, “Emma was our bitter enemy” (Newell & Avery 1994, p. 143-144; Smith 1994).

The speculation that Emma Smith “may have approved of other marriages as well” has no basis in fact. She didn’t even know about these unions. These four are the only ones which she approved of for a few hours, after which she immediately regretted it.

During the two months in which these events unfolded, Emma Smith’s attitude toward polygamy did indeed vacillate. The rest of her life, before and after, she was radically opposed to it. To her dying day she maintained, against better judgment, that Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy.

In the summer of 1843, Joseph Smith dictated the revelation on marriage, a lengthy and complex text containing both glorious promises and stern warnings, some directed at Emma. The revelation instructed women and men that they must obey God’s law and commands in order to receive the fullness of His glory.

The revelation on marriage required that a wife give her consent before her husband could enter into plural marriage. Nevertheless, toward the end of the revelation, the Lord said that if the first wife “receive not this law”—the command to practice plural marriage—the husband would be “exempt from the law of Sarah,” presumably the requirement that the husband gain the consent of the first wife before marrying additional women. Spin Note 28

The “law of Sarah”, then, is of no consequence. The first wife must give her consent but if she doesn’t, the plural marriage can go ahead anyway.

After Emma opposed plural marriage, Joseph was placed in an agonizing dilemma, forced to choose between the will of God and the will of his beloved Emma. He may have thought Emma’s rejection of plural marriage exempted him from the law of Sarah. Her decision to “receive not this law” permitted him to marry additional wives without her consent. Spin Note 29

However, Joseph Smith had already taken on 22 extra wives before he first told his wife about polygamy. There was no dilemma when the 1843 revelation was recorded. He had already made his choice without giving her the opportunity to come to a decision.

Because of Joseph’s early death and Emma’s decision to remain in Nauvoo and not discuss plural marriage after the Church moved west, many aspects of their story remain known only to the two of them.

Trial and Spiritual Witness

Years later in Utah, participants in Nauvoo plural marriage discussed their motives for entering into the practice. God declared in the Book of Mormon that monogamy was the standard; at times, however, He commanded plural marriage so His people could “raise up seed unto [Him].” Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents. Spin Note 30

This is incorrect. Mormon polygamy led to fewer children than probably would have been born in a monogamous society (see note 6 of the article Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah).

Some Saints also saw plural marriage as a redemptive process of sacrifice and spiritual refinement. According to Helen Mar Kimball, Joseph Smith stated that “the practice of this principle would be the hardest trial the Saints would ever have to test their faith.” Though it was one of the “severest” trials of her life, she testified that it had also been “one of the greatest blessings.” Her father, Heber C. Kimball, agreed. “I never felt more sorrowful,” he said of the moment he learned of plural marriage in 1841. “I wept days. … I had a good wife. I was satisfied.”

The decision to accept such a wrenching trial usually came only after earnest prayer and intense soul-searching. Brigham Young said that, upon learning of plural marriage, “it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave.” “I had to pray unceasingly,” he said, “and I had to exercise faith and the Lord revealed to me the truth of it and that satisfied me.” Heber C. Kimball found comfort only after his wife Vilate had a visionary experience attesting to the rightness of plural marriage. “She told me,” Vilate’s daughter later recalled, “she never saw so happy a man as father was when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew it was from God.”

Lucy Walker recalled her inner turmoil when Joseph Smith invited her to become his wife. “Every feeling of my soul revolted against it,” she wrote. Yet, after several restless nights on her knees in prayer, she found relief as her room “filled with a holy influence” akin to “brilliant sunshine.” She said, “My soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew,” and “supreme happiness took possession of my whole being.”

Not all had such experiences. Some Latter-day Saints rejected the principle of plural marriage and left the Church, while others declined to enter the practice but remained faithful. Nevertheless, for many women and men, initial revulsion and anguish was followed by struggle, resolution, and ultimately, light and peace. Sacred experiences enabled the Saints to move forward in faith. Spin Note 31

As can be seen from the examples above, it takes most people tremendous effort to act against their natural feelings, their socialization and their conscience. Many reports of the struggle of those who first entered a polygamous relationship, therefore, mention days and nights of prayer, fasting and sleep deprivation, combined with enormous psychological pressure and emotional distress.

Contrary to what the authors of this essay seem to think, most people will not consider this “a sacred experience” to be emulated in any way. Overriding one’s natural impulses and acting against one’s conscience in the name of faith is the domain of religious fanaticism.

Also missing from this article is the message that religious leaders who, from their position of authority, extort sex from followers in exchange for promises of salvation do not necessarily need to be obeyed (Money 2014). This may be a modern message but then again, the Mormon church chose a modern medium, the internet, to release this essay to a modern audience.

Conclusion

The challenge of introducing a principle as controversial as plural marriage is almost impossible to overstate. A spiritual witness of its truthfulness allowed Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saints to accept this principle. Difficult as it was, the introduction of plural marriage in Nauvoo did indeed “raise up seed” unto God. A substantial number of today’s members descend through faithful Latter-day Saints who practiced plural marriage.Spin Note 32

Unfortunately, no sources are given on which the assumption that a substantial number of today’s Mormons descend from polygamists is based. What is known, however, is that the Mormon hierarchy has become intimately connected through dynastic and polygamous marriages (Quinn 1997, pp. 163-197). This confirms that polygamy was an important tool in establishing and expanding the power base of the Mormon church leadership (see note 25 to this article and note 11 to the article Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah).

Church members no longer practice plural marriage. Consistent with Joseph Smith’s teachings, the Church permits a man whose wife has died to be sealed to another woman when he remarries. Moreover, members are permitted to perform ordinances on behalf of deceased men and women who married more than once on earth, sealing them to all of the spouses to whom they were legally married. The precise nature of these relationships in the next life is not known, and many family relationships will be sorted out in the life to come. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to trust in our wise Heavenly Father, who loves His children and does all things for their growth and salvation. Spin Note 33

Other traces of polygamy that can be seen in Mormon church policies today are:

* Although a man whose wife has passed away may be sealed to another woman in the temple, women whose husband has passed away may not be sealed to another man.

* As a side effect, it is often difficult for young Mormon widows to find a new partner in the Mormon church. Mormons believe that the children of subsequent husbands will belong to the first husband in the afterlife. The authors of this article feign ignorance about this by claiming that “the precise nature of these relationships in the next life is not known” but such ignorance would pull the rug from under the whole of Mormon sealing theology. Why create a mess in this life only to sort it out in the next?

* Divorced women who want to remarry in the temple, have to apply for an ecclesiastical divorce first. This does not apply to men, who can be married in the temple to multiple living women this way.

 

Emphasize that ordinances are symbols, not ends of themselves

reform-banners21

Stop teaching that LDS temple and ordinances are required to make it to the Celestial Kingdom and start emphasizing that these things are important symbols which aid in salvation and eternal union but are not a requirement for it per se.

Reasoning:

In Joseph Smith’s vision of the Celestial Kingdom given in D&C 137:1–10, Joseph sees his brother Alvin (who was never baptized) in the celestial kingdom, with Adam, Abraham, Christ, God and Joseph’s parents. He marvels how his brother could be in the Celestial Kingdom seeing he was not baptised— and is told essentially that God knows people’s hearts and that all with good works and desires go to the Celestial Kingdom regardless of religion or ordinances.  D&C 128:13–18 teaches that temple ordinances (specifically baptisms for the dead are made in “similitude” or symbols of heavenly things, “that which is earthly conforming to that which is heavenly” (v.15).  My article Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology, correlates the work of many modern mystics who give similar descriptions of the afterlife/resurrection and detail how our placement is not dependant on physical ordinances. Common sense & conscience dictate that D&C 76:51 & John 3:5 are speaking of the principles of which baptism symbolizes as a necesity to entering the kingdom of God. (Death of the Mortal Body and carnal nature are needed to enter the kingdom of God. See the gnostic pearl for insight into the deep symbolism involved in the “water” of immersion, as a symbol of cleansing and re-entering the womb of creation.)  Nowhere in our scripture is it taught that temple sealings are needed to exclusively save our dead, but that a “welding link of some kind or other” (or sealing) is needed in order for us to be perfected as a group. (“For we without them cannot be made perfect, neither them without us” v.18).  Our current teachings have created a multitude of conference talks, songs, plays and anecdotal experiences which suggest that God keeps the righteous (and all non-mormons) out of the celestial kingdom until Mormon’s do their temple work. They also often senselessly believe that God somehow keeps families and couples apart in heaven. (As if some invisible being or force restricts them from being together or forbids them from being considered a couple or family?)  This irrational and unscriptural belief drives many from Mormonism. Our traditions also lead people to believe that baptizing infants is blasphemy, but yet baptising 8 year olds (who are also quite ignorant and innocent compared to an adult) is the difference between being able to enter the Celestial Kingdom (unless temple work is done for them). These silly beliefs and practices come from the inability of the lower (temporal) priesthood to see the deep symbolic principles of the higher (spiritual) priesthood which these “outward ordinances” point to.

Most religions have some sort of ancestor veneration and worship. Most religions as well as LDS scripture teaches that the dead are aware of the living and in fact influenced by our actions. LDS temple worship provides a venue for deeply spiritual ancestor veneration. LDS people believe our family history work aids in identifying and tying family lines together for both this life and the next. This richly rewarding spiritual experience is what should be taught and emphasized. Teachings which suggest temple sealings are “required” for heavenly reward go against scripture and conscience and should be eradicated.

Book of Mormon Stories Unearthed – Bibliography

[1] Ancient Maya
Sharer, Robert J.; The Ancient Maya, Fifth Edition; University of Stanford Press, 1994.

[2] Ancient Kingdoms
Davies, Nigel; The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico; Penguin Books, London, 1982.

[3] Ancient Mexico
Ekholm, Gordon F.; Ancient Mexico and Central America; The American Museum of Natural History, Dexter Press, West Nyack, New York, 1970.

[4] Atlas
Coe, Michael, Dean Snow, and Elizabeth Benson; Atlas of Ancient America; Facts on File, New York, 1986.

[5] Aztatlan
Barajas, Lourdes Gonzalez and Jose Carlos Beltran Medina; “La Tradicion Aztatlan;” UNIR, Ciencia, Tecnologia, Sociedad y Cultura; Revista Trimestral de Vinulacion de la Universidad Autonoma de Nayarit: www.uan.mx/uan/publicaciones/unir/no14/el.html; Volume 14, 2000.

[6] Barra
Lowe, Gareth W.; The Early Preclassic Barra Phase, A Review with New Data; Paper #38; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1975.

[7] Biology
Levine, Joseph S. and Kenneth R. Miller; Biology, Discovering Life; D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1991.

[8] Biology of Plants
Raven, Peter H., Ray F. Evert and Susan E. Eichhorn; Biology of Plants, Fifth Edition; Worth Publishers, 1992.

[9] BofM Evidences
Farnsworth, Dewey; Book of Mormon Evidences in Ancient America; Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1953.

[10] Bull Brook1
Byers, D.S.; Bull Brook – A Fluted Point Site in Ipswich, Massachusetts; Society for American Archaeology, American Antiquity, Vol. 19, No. 4, Salt Lake City, 1954.

[11] Bull Brook2
Byers, D.S.; Additional Information on the Bull Brook Site; Society for American Archaeology, American Antiquity, Vol. 20, No. 3, Salt Lake City, 1955.

[12] Casas Grandes
DiPeso, Charles C.; Casas Grandes, A Fallen Trading Center of the Gran Chichimeca, Volume 2; The Amerind Foundation, Northland Press, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1974.

[13] Chiapas #8
Lowe, Agrinier, Mason, Hicks, and Rozaire; Excavations at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico, Paper #8; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1960.

[14] Chiapas #9
Lowe, Agrinier, Mason, Hicks, and Rozaire; Excavations at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico, Paper #9; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1960.

[15] Chiapas #10
Lowe, Agrinier, Mason, Hicks, and Rozaire; Excavations at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico, Paper #10; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1960.

[16] Chiapas #12
Lowe, Agrinier, Mason, Hicks, and Rozaire; Excavations at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico, Paper #12; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1960.

[17] Chiapas #13
Lowe, Agrinier, Mason, Hicks, and Rozaire; Excavations at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico, Paper #13; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1960.

[18] Chiapas Artifacts
Lee, Thomas A.; Artifacts of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico, Paper #26; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1969.

[19] Chiapas Burials
Agrinier, Pierre and Gareth W. Lowe; The Archaeological Burials at Chiapa de Corzo and Their Furniture, Paper #16; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1964.

[20] Chiapas Excavations
Lowe, Agrinier, Mason, Hicks, and Rozaire; Excavations at Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico; Paper # 13; New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, Provo, 1960.

[21] Colima
Messmacher, Miguel; Colima; Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia de la Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Mexico, 1966.

[22] Cowdery
Cowdery, Oliver; Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, July 1835. Reprinted in The Times and Seasons 2; 1841, pg. 379 and also The Improvement Era 2; 1899, pg. 729-734 (See Sorenson pg. 372).

[23] Dixie
Larson, Andrew Karl; I Was Called to Dixie, The Virgin River Basin: Unique Experiences in Mormon Pioneering; The Dixie College Foundation, St. George, Utah, 1961.

[24] Diffusion
Ford, James A.; A Comparison of Formative Cultures in the Americas, Diffusion or the Psychic Unity of Man; Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1969.

[25] Early Bronze
Hennessy, J.B.; The Foreign Relations of Palestine during the Early Bronze; Colt Archaeological Institute, Bernard Quaritch, 1967.

[26] Earth
Hamblin, W. Kenneth and Eric H. Christiansen; Earth’s Dynamics Systems, 7th Edition; Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1995.

[27] Evidences
Yorgason, Brenton G.; Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon; Covenant Communications, American Fork, Utah, 1989.

[28] Evolution
Strickberger, Monroe W.; Evolution, Second Edition; Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1996.

[29] Fielding
Smith, Joseph Fielding; “Where is the Hill Cumorah?” The Church News, Sept 10, 1938 (See Sorenson pg. 388-389).

[30] Fossil Snakes
Holman, J. Alan; Fossil Snakes of North America, Origin, Evolution, Distribution, Paleoecology; Indiana University Press, 2000.

[31] Geology
Hamblin, W. Kenneth; Introduction to Physical Geology, 2nd Edition; Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1994.

[32] Gods and Symbols
Miller, Mary and Karl Taube; An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya; Thames and Hudson Ltd., London, 1993.

[33] Grolier
The 1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia; Grolier Interactive, Inc.; Grolier Incorporated, 1997.

[34] Hancock
Hancock, Mosiah Lyman, Autobiography; The Life Story of Mosiah Hancock; mimeographed volume, BYU Library, 1844 (See Sorenson pg. 376).

[35] Ice Age
Sutcliffe, Anthony J.; On the Track of Ice Age Mammals; British Museum (Natural History), London, England, 1985.

[36] Israel
Bright, John; A History of Israel, 3rd Edition; Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1981.

[37] Kelley
Kelley, J. Charles and Carroll L. Riley; The North Mexican Frontier, Readings in Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnography; edited by Basil C. Hedrick; Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1971.

[38] La Quemada
Nelson, Ben A.; “Chronology and Stratigraphy at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico;” Journal of Field Archaeology; Volume 24, pg. 85-109, 1997.

[39] Maya
Coe, Michael D.; The Maya, 6th Edition; Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1999.

[40] Mayas
Hines, Richard; Washington State University Website; Webpage on the Mayas written by Richard Hines: www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CIVAMRCA/MAYAS.HTM; 1999.

[41] Mediterranean
Trump, D.H.; “The Prehistory of the Mediterranean”; Yale University Press, 1980.

[42] Mexican History
Meyer, Michael C. and William L. Sherman; The Course of Mexican History, Fifth Edition; Oxford University Press, New York, 1995.

[43] Mexico
Coe, Michael D.; Mexico, From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, 4th Edition; Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1994.

[44] McGraw-Hill
McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, 8th Edition; Volume 15, “Radiocarbon Dating”; McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1997.

[45] Mokaya
Clark, John E. and Michael Blake; “Los Mokayas”; La Poblacion Indigena de Chiapas; compiled by Victor Manuel Esponda; Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 1993.

[46] Morelos
Hirth, Kenneth and Jorge Angulo Villasenor; “Early State Expansion in Central Mexico: Teotihuacan in Morelos;” Journal of Field Archaeology; Volume 8, pg. 135-150, 1981.

[47] Mortuary Practices
Ravesloot, John C.; Mortuary Practices and Social Differentiation at Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico; University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, Arizona, 1988.

[48] Mysteries
Mysteries of the Ancient Americas, The New World before Columbus; Readers Digest, Pleasantville, New York 1986.

[49] Neolithic
Singh, Purushottam; “Neolithic Cultures of Western Asia”; Seminar Press, 1974.

[50] Noble
Noble, C.S. and J.J. Naughton; Science; Volume ??; “Deep-Ocean Basalts: Inert Gas Content and Uncertainties in Age Dating”; ??.

[51] North America A-1
Bally, A.W., C.R. Scotese and M.I. Ross; Chapter 1, “North America; Plate-tectonic setting and tectonic elements”; The Geology of North America, Volume A, The Geology of North America—An overview; Geological Society of America, 1989.

[52] North America A-9
Zoltan de Cserna; Chapter 9, “An outline of the geology of Mexico”; The Geology of North America, Volume A, The Geology of North America—An overview; Geological Society of America, 1989.

[53] North America A-11
Donnelly, Thomas W.; Chapter 11, “Geologic history of the Caribbean and Central America”; The Geology of North America, Volume A, The Geology of North America—An overview; Geological Society of America, 1989.

[54] People
Fagan, Brian M.; People of the Earth, An Introduction to World Prehistory, Eighth Edition; HarperCollins College Publishers, New York, 1995.

[55] Pratt
Pratt, Orson; Millenial Star; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, June 16, 1866 (See Sorenson pg. 378-379).

[56] Prehistory
Jennings, Jesse D.; Prehistory of North America, 3rd Edition; Mayfield Publishing Company, California, 1989.

[57] River
CH2MHill, and JE Fuller/Hydrology & Geomorphology, Inc.; River Stability Study, Virgin River, Santa Clara River, and Fort Pierce Wash, Vicinity of St. George, Utah; City of St. George, December 1996.

[58] Scientific America
Wong, Kate and Olga Soffer; The Caveman’s New Clothes, From What They Wore to How They Hunted: Overturning the Threadbare Reconstruction of Ice Age Cultures; Scientific America, November 2000, pg. 32-34.

[59] Sierra Madre
Jackson, Donald Dale and Peter Wood; The Sierra Madre, the American Wilderness; Time Life Books, New York; Time, Inc., 1975.

[60] Sorenson
Sorenson, John L.; The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book; The Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies (FARMS), Provo, 1992.

[61] SW Indians
Barnes, F.A. and Michaelene Pendleton; Canyon Country Prehistoric Indians, Their Cultures, Ruins, Artifacts and Rock Art; Wasatch Publishers, Salt Lake City, 1979.

[62] Talmage
Talmage, James E.; Articles of Faith; Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1984.

[63] Teotihuacan
Pettennude, Paul E.; Teotihuacan; INAH, website: copan.bioz.unibas.ch/meso/teotihuacan.txt, 1998.

[64] T&S
Smith, Joseph or John Taylor; Times and Seasons; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Nauvoo, 1839-1844.

[65] TJS
Smith, Joseph Fielding; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith; Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1976.

[66] Toltecs
Healan, Dan M.; Tula of the Toltecs: Excavations and Survey; University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1989.

[67] Tula
Diehl, Richard A.; Tula, The Toltec Capital of Ancient Mexico; Thames and Hudson, London, 1983.

[68] Underfoot
Sharp, Robert P. and Allen F. Glazner; Geologu Underfoot in Southern California; Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, 1993.

[69] USGS
USGS Website on Volcanoes and Volcanics of North America: www.vulcan.wr.usgs.gov; See sections on “Index to Volcanoes of the World” and “America’s Volcanic Past, National Parks and Monuments”; 2001.

[70] Utah
Hintze, Lehi F.; Geologic History of Utah; Brigham Young University, Provo, 1988.

[71] Warfare
LeBlanc, Steven A.; Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest; The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1999.

[72] World Book
Hay, William W.; “Special Report- Atmospheric Science: Probing the History of Climate Change”; Science Year 2001, The World Book Annual Science Supplement, A Review of Science and Technology During the 2000 School Year Pages 42-55; World Book, Inc., Chicago, 2000.

[73] Zacatecas
Paper by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) in Mexico on the site of Alta Vista in Zacatecas: www.logicnet.com.mx/~zac450/chalch_i.html; 1998.

[74] Zapotec
Flannery, Kent V. and Joyce Marcus; Zapotec Civilization, How Urban Society Evolved in Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley; Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1996.

[75] Zoology
Hickman, Cleveland P., Jr.; Roberts, Larry S.; and Larson, Allan; “Integrated Principles of Zoology, Ninth Edition”; Mosby-Year Book, 1993.

 

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Following is a selection of books which have superb information on their selective topics and which should be available at a local library or bookstore (or the internet) for those wanting to learn more.  A complete bibliography of all referenced books, papers, and articles follows.  In both bibliographies I have first given the nickname used for the book in the paper’s references.

 

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1981.

The Book of Mormon is referenced more than any other book in this paper.  It is the key to all of our research and it was the key to discovering the Bible.  Any research that any scholar in any subject undertakes must have the foundation of the scriptures or it will go astray.  We highly recommend the Book of Mormon and the Bible to all persons wanting to do research.

 

The Bible

The Holy Bible; King James Version; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1979.

The Bible was used extensively in studying the archaeology of the Old World.  It would have been impossible to discover these correlations and put order to the archaeological work being done in the Old World without the Bible.  We highly recommend its use for anyone seeking to better understand the history and archaeology of the Old World.

 

Zapotec

Flannery, Kent V. and Joyce Marcus; Zapotec Civilization, How Urban Society Evolved in Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley; Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1996.

This is an excellent book on the Valley of Oaxaca which we believe to be the land of Manti.  The authors have compiled many varieties of research over the history of the valley and have done an excellent job of interpreting their findings as well as comparing them to events taking place in nearby areas of Mesoamerica.

 

Prehistory

Jennings, Jesse D.; Prehistory of North America, 3rd Edition; Mayfield Publishing Company, California, 1989.

This book covers the entire history of North America.  Its information on the PaleoIndians and Archaic Cultures is excellent in studying the Jaredites.  He discusses actual sites from across the continent and explains what they really found without excessive personal interpretation which allows the reader to make valuable comparisons to the scriptures.  The information on the later cultures is fair but I found other texts that were more complete and gave more detailed information.

 

Maya

Coe, Michael D.; The Maya, 6th Edition; Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1999.

Very good general overview of the Mayan Culture [Lamanites].  It is especially useful in the Post-Christ periods.  It shows the broad trends and culture wide events well but was too vague to be useful in the complicated Pre-Christian events.

 

Mexico

Coe, Michael D.; Mexico, From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, 4th Edition; Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1994.

Very good general overview of the Mexican Highland Cultures [Nephites].  It also has a fair section on the Olmecs [Amulonites].  It is especially useful in the Post-Christ periods.  It shows the broad trends and culture wide events well but was too vague to show the intricacies of Pre-Christian events.

 

Warfare

LeBlanc, Steven A.; Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest; The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1999.

Very good review of the final wars of the Nephites in the American Southwest.  All of the Southwestern Cultures (Anasazi, Mogollon, Hohokam, etc.) are reviewed and the equivalent trends well documented.  From the first arrival in Shem to the final line of defense LeBlanc has researched and documented the manner and movements of the Nephite desolation.

 

Gods and Symbols

Miller, Mary and Karl Taube; An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya; Thames and Hudson Ltd., London, 1993.

Nice basic dictionary of the many names scholars have given the Mesoamerican gods and the peoples’ cultural symbols.  Has some information on legends and beliefs.  Quite comprehensive.

 

Israel

Bright, John; A History of Israel, 3rd Edition; Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1981.

Very good overview of the history of Israel.  The author is obviously convinced that the Bible is not accurate and this bias comes through repeatedly.  However, he has been very thorough in his research and the movements and artifacts are presented in a way that those who really know the Bible can sort out the chronology with the help of our revised timeline.  Information is spotty on cultures up to the Assyrian conquest but very detailed afterward.

 

Grolier

The 1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia; Grolier Interactive, Inc.; Grolier Incorporated, 1997.

All electronic encyclopedias seem to have their own best subjects.  Grolier is an excellent general source for scientific subjects such as archaeology, geology, botany, evolution and the like.  We used it extensively in getting a broad understanding of subjects we were researching and to help us know what subjects to pursue in the library.

 

Geology

Hamblin, W. Kenneth; Introduction to Physical Geology, 2nd Edition; Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1994.

Very good basic overview of geology.  Is not a geologic history book but the information is still all there, it just comes in bits and pieces throughout the book.  Very good maps and pictures to aid one in studying geology in any region.

Economic Socialism in LDS Scripture

The socialistic systems advocated in LDS scripture are not necessarily “socialism” per se, in the most accepted modern economic definitions. Production did not need to be controlled by the state by and large. BUT, a form of socialism was certainly advocated, were excess income (the share one earned which was “above” or more than the “needed” median income for ones situation) was to be consecrated into a socialistic system “a bishops storehouse” which was really just a spiritualized name for a credit union/bank.

The Doctrine and Covenants make it clear that Zion cannot be established unless it accepts by covenant and attempts to the best of its ability to live the United Order (D&C 51:2–3; 105:3-5). It is especially essential as a social framework for integrating converts, immigrants, and the raising generation. Although many early attempts to live the United Order either failed or were foiled by misapplication and government intervention— according to LDS scripture relative social equality is still THE absolute requirement to the founding of Zion or a lasting Utopian society like those which exist in the higher dimensions (D&C 38:27). The church is repeatedly told in its scriptures that it will remain under condemnation for as long as obedience to this law goes completely untaught and unattempted. LDS implementation of this order was often over-complicated and corrupted. A simplistic form of this order/system could be begun at any time with the following simple teaching.

Willingly bind yourself to live a comfortable lifestyle somewhere near the median income of your chosen demographic.

In other words, if you live in Utah with four kids, and the median income for a family of six is around $70k/year, then you don’t spend more than that on yourself each year. You take any excess above that and put it toward worthy investments that lift the community and the poor. As the poor in the community are lifted, the median income rises and everyone has more. This is the only way to free an LDS believer from the condemnation given in our own scripture concerning economic inequality.

 20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. (D&C 49:20)

14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.(D&C 70:14)

Consecration as laid out in LDS scripture had nothing to do with how much an individual made in income per se—it simply dictates that saints who wish to be blameless (and especially those who wish to be religious or political leaders) live a median income lifestyle regardless of their income—consecrating excesses to altruistic causes, instead of spending it on mansions and a lavish lifestyle. (A practice which God’s true Saints throughout the world always live regardless of which church they belong to.)  Any Saint can live this law of consecration right now. As a church if we wanted to socially implement this law it could be done according to scripture following these simple steps…

1-Each Stake or region operates a credit union (a bank whose members are sole shareholders). D&C 51:8–13; 104:68; 124:70.  In the early stages of implementing this program, it may be wise to use regular non-church backed credit unions.

2-Worthy members keep their “excess income” in the credit union (just like most normal Americans do). Of particular importance is excess land & real-estate.  (D&C 42:33–34; 3 Ne 26:19, 4 Ne 1:3, Acts 4:32–34)

3-Worthy members voluntarily bind themselves to live at a median income which approximates the median income for their area and circumstances. (see D&C 51:3). For example, the median income for a family with 2 children in Park City utah is about $77,000/year (this goes up radically with more children). Members agree not to spend on themselves more than this amount in a year even if they have it. The exact amount and details of this fixed salary are for the individual to decide. Excess income goes into the credit union. Caveats and details of what constitutes “excess” stay loosely defined and are ultimately left up to the individual to decide, with counsel as desired from spiritual leaders.)

4-Members with excess income agree to allow the credit union to annually invest their “excess” (increase) into worthy pursuits which make money while working to lift up the poor (every member who makes less than the median income—according to their need). This can be managed just as a modern credit union does, lending money to worthy business startups, education funds, social projects or even home purchases). As a peripheral-endeavor, each credit union should be encouraged to capitalize cooperative social projects which employ the poor (ie. fund bonds in cooperation with political entities, if possible). Those shown to be good with money should be in charge of the lending process according to accepted modern banking standards. (FDR’s new deal/CCC, ZCMI, Deseret Industries, and many other historical cooperative ventures can serve as important historical analogs to what works and what doesn’t.)

5-Special consideration must be given to focus on providing work and lifting all members to attain the median income range for their area and family size (especially convert refugees, immigrants and the raising generation).

6-The countless considerations inherent in this system are to be worked out by those with experience in investment and banking. (Using free market principles as much as possible.) The enterprise would essentially mimic the modern banking/investment systems (there is essentially little difference except that the goal is to lift the poor, in addition to providing an inheritance/pension for members). The most fit and qualified individuals in these industries must be employed to solve problems and create safe and viable organizations. Free market trial and error are inevitable as Stakes and Region’s learn to make it work.

7-The return on investment for the credit union assures retirement funds (an inheritance) for members of the order. (Just as is currently done with pension funds, except that the religious encouragement might create greater participation).

8-Religious (and one day political!) leaders are required by the church & society to be members of the order. To be an ecclesiastical leader or social servant (politician), one must prove they are willing to self-sacrifice enough to bind themselves to the median income–helping to assure that the majority of church leaders (& public servants!) are fairly selfless and dedicated to social equality. (This ends up being the societies best way to assure that social power, such as high callings or positions, is kept in the hands of those willing to self-sacrifice).

9-Just as the jizyah was a powerful factor in Islam’s regional growth & success, the United Order is our God’s program to grow the church (D&C 58:8–11) while helping to promote social stability & equality. Through this program people (especially converts/migrants) are encouraged to live basic religious/social tenets of morality in order to be eligible for loans and good paying jobs on church/social projects. Bishops are scripturally mandated to be somewhat like loan officers. The system serves to motivate the rapid economic lifting and cultural/moral integration of immigrants and the lower classes into the middle class–as well as to minimize the economic disparity of the upper class.

10-This is not communism, but a hybrid free-market/socialist system. I believe the United Order in LDS scripture is very similar to the modern banking and investment system. But the stark differences lie primarily in its goals, participation and management. The system is obviously inferior to the free market system when it comes to returning profit. If you personally covenant with God to not buy a lavishly expensive house, your motivation to work like crazy to make millions may be gone… and for this reason the system must not discourage members who don’t wish to join. But EVERY free or controlled market & monetary system eventually collapses under the weight of its own social inequality. This church program seeks to assuage the social and monetary collapse which result from inequality by giving non-monetary rewards to successful people who make the difficult selfless sacrifice to promote equality—namely they get to govern the investments funds/credit unions, raise the poor, govern wards, stakes and desirably even political systems…

Failed early attempts to live the United Order (like failed national social systems) attempted to take from the rich and give to the poor without requiring appropriate labor or intelligent investment. And by allowing money to be managed by bureaucrats instead of those who have shown they are good with money by being the ones who made it in the first place. They were based on force and lacked balance, education, and common sense. They also lacked needed social or political support—being run and managed by church leaders instead of regionally successful business leaders. Successful LDS attempts, however, simply used excess funds to start or invest in business (such as ZCMI or Church Farms) which could then be used to employ the poor with an appropriate wage. These enterprises must be run by those who are good with money (which would usually be those who give the most money to them) NOT by local priesthood or church bureaucrats (who are notorious at losing/wasting people’s money). The church should only set up the system, and have local church leaders who sit on the boards and act as advisers to show board members where the greatest needs are. Bishops simply run the bishop’s storehouse and food pantry as currently constituted–and serve as or work with loan officers who can adequately judge the need/risk involved to lending to applicant members.

People typically over-spiritualize Consecration and the United Order. The truth is that it is obeyed by millions of people and in operation in thousands of communities throughout the world. It is a very common-sense approach to community economic equality, not requiring a massive redistribution of wealth, and certainly not limiting the rich’s ability to do what they do best—make & manage money. It does require convincing the rich that it is in their best interest to not spend their money solely on themselves. Convincing them not to spend their money on huge houses or lavish living; but to invest it in their future, their children, and most importantly—their community. A society that masters the Spirit of the Law of Consecration will avoid the social collapse which comes from economic inequality, and selfish politicians. The rich in such a society are not robbed or abased–they are motivated to live a median income lifestyle by being encouraged to live the law so they can become the communities leaders, educators, civil servants, and money managers. They are taught to self-sacrifice and that sacrifice gives them power. Under the law, it is that self-sacrifice-dependent power which serves as the motivation for achievement and advancement in the society.  This in contrast to so many of our modern cultures where mansions, lavish living, sexual favors, and selfish, non-sacrifice-dependent power serves for motivation to upward social mobility & economic/political advancement.

If the US dollar ends up collapsing, this system may end up being implemented after-all. But the system will do more harm than good if those who administer it, use manipulative coercive techniques to get people to buy into it or manage it. The stake credit union’s must be substantially a free-market system.

 

Not living this system makes the church just another religious faction preaching religiousness but not practicing a system which remedies inequality—the single largest cause of social instability & collapse.  See D&C sections 42, 51, 78, 82, 104. see also Enrichment L in the Doctrine & Covenants institute manual.

The Sin Next To Murder

 

The hallmark of religious fundamentalism is promoting a worldview that does not accord with reality. In fundamentalist religions things that don’t matter much get blown out of proportion and things that cause social collapse, war and anarchy are dismissed as inconsequential.  For Christians, the Jewish religion at the time of Christ is a classic example. Jewish leaders executed the pacifist Christ because he dare heal on the Sabbath and declare himself Messiah, and yet allowed the insurgent Barnabas (and many like him) go free. The country was teetering on the brink of rebellion, anarchy and war, and yet the religious fundamentalist leaders were more concerned about the minutia of the Mosaic law, than the things that were truly destroying their society.

In Mormonism, we too have some history of fundamentalism—particularly in regard to sexual matters.  Marion G. Romney’s conference talk of “better dead clean, than alive unclean” is a great example of this. In the talk this LDS Apostles tells the story of his father’s harsh words as he left on his mission, that he’d rather see his son come home in a coffin, than to be sent home for sexual impropriety.  For most modern Christians this idea is of course, morally repugnant, and entirely contrary to Christ’s merciful example with the harlot (John 8:1–11). Instead it is completely in line with the world-view of the evil pharisees who brought the woman to Jesus in the first place.

Spencer W. Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness has some similar examples of this language and mindset. (Things condemned by Modern LDS therapists, and quoted as being “regretful” to Kimball himself later in life. see here, here and here.)

Few intelligent sociologists or therapists will dispute that there are destructive sexual practices which have the ability to rip at the fabric of a healthy society. But what I am talking about are the past LDS practices of blowing fornication (which is defined as sex between two unmarried consenting adults or minors) or other minor sexual practices way out of proportion by equating them with violence and murder.  Its this same type of unjust comparison that causes many Islamic cultures (and ancient cultures) to use violence against women as a “punishment” for sexual impropriety. LDS views of fornication may stem primarily from our interpretation of a statement made in the Book of Mormon.  In the Book of Alma, Alma the younger (who was a bit of a rebel himself in his youth) councils and censures his son Corianton for his “forsaking of his ministry” in order to make a trip to the harlot Isabel. In response to this action, Alma tells his son.

5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?
6 For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you, my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.
7 And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good. (Alma 39:5–7)

 

The traditional interpretation of this verse has been that the prophet Alma is teaching his son that pre-marital fornication, or sex out of wedlock, is the worst sin possible with the exception of murder and “denying the Holy Ghost”.

The idea that polygamy (with its often scores of wives AND concubines) can be sanctioned by God.  But that simply unwed fornication (even if it’s between in-love, consenting adults) — is worse than torturing someone, physically assaulting someone, stealing or destroying someone’s property, blasphemy, or any of the 10 commandments except murder and being a son of Perdition (denying the Holy Ghost) is against scripture and most rational individual’s consciences.

There’s a high probability that something else is going on this this story. There’s almost certainly something we as Mormons have culturally failed to grasp in this scripture, and by not addressing and reforming this false concept, we the risk of damaging people’s testimonies when those members finally realize how contrary to conscience and scripture the idea that ‘fornication is next to murder’ is.

The New Testament is unequivocal in declaring fornication a sin (1 Cor 5), but gives little clue to its ranking among other sins. Fornication has a high likelihood of causing emotional pain, unwanted pregnancy, and selfishness so its no surprise that it would be labeled so. But the Mosaic law interestingly, does not even specifically declare most fornication as a punishable sin (although it was undoubtedly condemned). FORNICATION WAS NOT EVEN ONE OF THE 10 COMMANDMENTS–ONLY ADULTERY WAS. In fact it’s debatable what fornication’s exact place in the right and wrongs of the Mosaic law was. The mosaic law attached the death penalty to nearly EVERY aspect of adultery. And ALL cases of fornication which involve a married individual or “forcing” (rape). As well as temple prostitution (a common old world form of sex trafficking). However, there is no evidence of a physical penalty being addressed to fornication in the Mosaic law AT ALL, except when the woman…

1- Is still part of her father’s house and lies about her virginity, defaming her father’s honor (Deut 22:13–20)
2- Is the daughter of a temple priest. (Lev. 21:9) This may just be talking about making the daughter a temple whore or prostitute (19:29)
3- Becomes a paid prostitute (Duet 23:18).

In typical cases of fornication, the consequence was that the Man had to marry the virgin he slept with. But if she, or her father wouldn’t have it, then the man had to pay a bride-price or tax to the father. (Exodus 22:16–17, Deut 22:22–29)

[Before the Mosaic law, it seems the Middle-Eastern religious customs were often similar to modern back-woods Pakistan and other unequal patriarchal societies. Fornication was more or less culturally/religiously acceptable for men, BUT NOT FOR WOMEN. As illustrated in the story of Judah’s sex with Tamar in Gen. 38. Judah commands Tamar to be put to death when she is accused of being a temple prostitute… until he finds out HE is the father of her child, which causes him to marry her instead of killing her. The Mosaic law undoubtedly incorporated many of these (often unjust) cultural traditions (ie. Numbers 5:11–31), but strangely seems to deliberately avoid penalties for simple fornication.]

From available Old Testament and traditional evidence it seems most likely that in the case of Corianton, either

1- Corianton was married, and was committing adultery.

2- Isabel was a temple prostitute, and Corianton was indulging in an all too common idolatrous temple rite involving (often gratuitous) sexual acts. (Temple prostitutes were an ancient form of sex trafficking and were often lured into the prostitution at a young age, and often engaged in group sex acts). Because Isabel is called a “harlot”, this is the most likely scenario.

The Doctrine and Covenants instructs fornication is to be dealt with on an equal level with stealing, lying, etc.. (D&C 42:74–93). And the new Testament classifies it with sins such as being a hypocrite, greedy or rejecting the law of consecration. So although fornication is unquestionably condemned in scripture, it seems obvious that this B.O.M. scripture has caused the gravity of this sin to be GREATLY overrated.

And since I know how the Mormon mind works when anyone gives a soapbox concerning our shady overzealous beliefs on extramarital sex…..
No, I have never fornicated.  😉

Some interesting references on Fornication & Temple Prostitution

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6238-fornication
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_prostitution
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Prostitution#Religious_prostitution
http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/sex-in-the-service-of-aphrodite-did-prostitution-really-exist-in-the-temples-of-antiquity-a-685716.html

http://www.rmsbibleengineering.com/page2/adultery/page2_1.html
http://www.seedbed.com/is-premarital-sex-a-sin-bible-scholars-respond/

A Closer Look at D&C 1:30 and What It Says About the Only True Church

 30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually— (D&C 1:30)

In this scriptural exegesis, I suggest that D&C 10:52–63, clearly suggests that the “only true and living church on the face of the earth” mentioned above in D&C 1:30, is Christ’s spiritual church. And the LDS denomination was founded to help the other prophets of the restorationism movement to “bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness”, where it had been forced as a result of medieval period fundamentalism.

Like many long, somewhat ambiguous run-on sentences found in scripture, D&C 1:30 is understandably confusing in its structure. The verse’s numerous clauses leave the reader to guess the subject of each segment. If we break each clause up, it’s easier for the reader to see how many different ways this verse can be interpreted depending on your aims.

And also those to whom these commandments were given,

Since this revelation was given as a “preface” to the Book of Commandments, it seems natural to assume that this verse is exclusively addressing the LDS church and saints. However, most readers forget about the “others” from verses 17- 18 in the same chapter.

17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

Although Verse 18 is a bit ambiguous in itself, the reader can use other LDS revelations to assume that “others” might be referring to other global prophets of the restorationism movement who are about to overthrow the predominate Gentile religious system which held people in “bondage” to narrow-minded exclusivist religious ideas. The “calamity which should come upon… earth” may very well have been WWI & WWII, where oppressive fascist regimes would seek to take over the entire earth. Verse 20-21 says this new religious movement would not only “increase faith upon the earth”, but would allow “every man [to] speak in the name of God the Lord” (v18-20. see also D&C 49:8, D&C 77:15, 3 Ne 15:17–24). Two important references concerning the meaning of others are in 3 Ne 15 and D&C 49:8. These verses hint at the universal nature of Christ’s work among earth.

15 Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.
16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:
17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them
20 And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them….
22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching… (3 Nephi 15:17–24)
4 …And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of… (3 Nephi 16:1–4)

Note also the similar language in D&C 49:8

8 Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of.

Also of note are these verses which speak of John’s latter-day work “gathering the tribes of Israel” as well as the work of two latter-day JEWISH prophets which are to be “raised up to the Jewish nation”, AFTER the Jews are gathered to Israel. We can assume from other clarifying verses (D&C 98:17; 18:26; D&C 45:18–44; 77:9-15; 109:62-66; D&C 133:12–14,34–35), that this Jewish restoration is going to be entirely separate form the LDS restoration.

14 Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?
A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.
15 Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?
A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers. (D&C 77:14–15)

The Book of Mormon further gives further reason to suppose that any number of the world’s religions and scriptures actually originate from the same God, even though the language, symbolism, archetypes and cultures to which they were given vary greatly.

10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. (2 Ne 29:10–12)

 

For those who have faith in Joseph Smith’s visionary experiences, there is little reason to doubt the authenticity of the string of “other witnesses” of the restorationism movement, who also claimed to see God and Jesus and to be archetypes of the end-time Messengers mentioned in D&C 1:14, 133:63; 3 Ne 20:23, 21:11; JS-H 1:40, Acts 3:23. This includes modern prophets like Siyyid Shírází (Founder of Bahá’í Faith), Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (Aḥmadiyyah Muslims), Hong Xiuquan (The Taiping prophet), Jachanan Ben Kathryn (Messianic Judaism), and others.

.

might have power to lay the foundation of this church,

The word “foundation” is an obvious allusion to Eph 2:19–22 where the early Christian Saints are compared to the “Holy Temple”, apostles (eyewitnesses of Christ) and prophets (those with the gift of prophecy) being the foundation; with Christ as chief cornerstone.

In Mormon circles this allusion brings up its own problems because LDS culture has come to assign a narrower meaning to these titles than the Bible or LDS scripture defines. Most of us LDS people tend to equate a “prophet” with only our church leaders or presidents of the high priesthood, instead of the scriptural definition of anyone (man or woman) who exercises the spirit of prophecy. (see more information in the article “The Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to the Only True Church Doctrine”.)  With a broader understand of what Christ’s “foundation” entails, it’s easier to see that “this church” can have a dual meaning or archetypical context referring to a broader context than simply the LDS sect. Just as used in D&C 10, “this church” is likely the restorationism movement and all those who are coming unto God and not just Mormonism.

67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D&C 10:67–68)

and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness,

An important key to deciphering the correct context of “this church” is the phrase “out of obscurity and darkness” which is an allusion to Isaiah 29:18 and Nephi’s exegesis of that chapter in 1 Ne 22:12,

“and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance and brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.”

Just as the article Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine makes it clear that the ‘Great and Abominable Church’ or ‘Church of the devil’ is a spiritual church composed of the evil people of the world, we can also assume from the context of this verse that the “church” that will gather Israel “to the lands of their inheritance”, bringing them “out of obscurity and out of darkness” is also a spiritual church composed of those doing God’s will. The LDS church is meant to be an archetype of this monumental end-time gathering process. The “gathering together to the lands of their inheritance” likely has reference not simply to Mormonism, but to formation of the United States of America, and its role in preventing the fascist regimes of “the church of the devil” from taking over the world in WWI & WWII.

Since the D&C makes it clear that many parts of the restoration of Israel (especially the restoration of Judah) is to occur apart from Mormonism (see D&C 98:17; 18:26; D&C 45:18–44; 77:9-15; 109:62-66; D&C 133:12–14,34–35; Ether 13:3–12 JS Matthew 24), it would seem that this verse is trying to draw the reader’s mind to the idea that “this church” is bigger than simply Mormonism, but has dualistic reference to the restoration of Israel and the gathering of the righteous out of the spiritual “great and abominable church” or church of the devil which is composed of those who do evil and actively fight against the works of God (D&C 10:56). It is a leading theme throughout the D&C, that the LDS church is meant to play a leading role in this broader work of gathering righteous nations together.

Note that D&C 10 makes it clear that “Christ’s church” already existed on earth before the LDS restoration and broader restorationism movement of the 1800’s, but with the restoration God would restore “this part of my gospel”.

52 And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up.
53 And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.
54 Now I do not say this to destroy my church [the aspect of Christ’s church that already exists], but I say this to build up my church;
55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
56 But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center. (D&C 10:52–55)

However, LDS scripture paints the picture that Christ’s church (although ON EARTH) was in hiding or in “obscurity and darkness”. These words are used in revelations such as D&C 6:21, 10:21, 10:58, 11:11, and are allusions to Christ’s earthly sojourn where even though he was on earth (Like his Church), he was not recognized by the prevailing religions or rulers.

21 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. (D&C 6:21)

This is the same concept which is taught in LDS scripture with the phrase “out of the wilderness” used in D&C 5:14, 33:5, 84:23-24, 86:3, 109:73.  It alludes to the idea that like the children of Israel who sojourned in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years were not allowed to enter the promised land or “fulness of his glory” (D&C 84:24; 76:56), so also was Christ’s scattered Church having to sojourn in the wilderness (or in a scattered, somewhat apostate condition).

73 That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners;
74 And be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens… (D&C 107:73–74)

Much like the manchild of Revelation 12, Joseph and other restorationism prophets were to lay the very beginning or foundation to the latter-day work which would bring the manchild (the TRUE scattered sons of God) out of the wilderness and darkness where the oppressive self-righteous religions and rulers of the middle ages had forced them to hide–into the light of the latter-day work of freedom and pluralism.

the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,
with which I, the Lord, am well pleased,
speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—

There are, of course, multiple ways to interpret each of these segments. In regards to “the only true and living church upon the face of the earth”, the reader is left to guess whether this “true and living church” is referring to the LDS sect, or as the case we’ve made to the spiritual church of D&C 10 and 1 Ne 14, which is alluded to in the clause “out of obscurity and out of darkness”.

To further complicate things, the subject of the clarifying segment “speaking to the church collectively and not individually” is ambiguous. It could be saying “I am well pleased with the collective LDS church, but not necessarily its individuals”, or it could be clarifying that “the only true church on the face of the whole earth” is referring to the collective spiritual church and not any individual sect or denomination.

Given the context as explained in the many scriptural verses laid out in this article, it would seem that the Lord chooses to make little distinction between his spiritual church and his covenant people. As stated in D&C 10:67–69, it would seem that any sect or individual which does the will of God and is “coming unto me” is considered part of God’s “true church” and is scripturally made synonymous to the spiritual church.

It should also be noted that the phrase “true and living church” is almost certainly an idiomatic expression meant to allude to the “true and living God” (see 1 Ne 17:30, Alma 5:13; 11:25-27, Moroni 9:28). Just as there is only ONE true and living God (even though there are actually three aspects of Him in Father, Son and Spirit), so also does he have only one true and living church, even though there are many differing sects, branches or aspects to it as well. There may be multiple branches but ONE tree, multiple members, but ONE unitarian body (1 Cor 1:12,20).

The below is an example of a second way in which this verse could be interpreted, in contrast to the typical interpretation of the verse by mainstream Mormonism.

30 And also those [Joseph as well as others ye know not of; D&C 49:8] to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this [restorational spiritual] church [or latter-day movement], and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church [being a spiritual church, defined as those who repent and come unto me; D&C 10:67] upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church [or latter-day movement] collectively and not individually [to any sect]—

In my opinion, this interpretation actually fits far better given the context of the rest of the section of the revelation. But at the same time, I believe the Christian scripture, much like Christ’s parables, are actually designed to allow egotistical and fundamentalist interpretations while hiding the more profound truths within a veil of metaphor.

LDS Scripture Supporting Universalism

LDS Scripture fully supports a version of Religious Universalism.  Despite many traditional exclusivist teachings from its leaders (going all the way back to Joseph Smith), its scriptures clearly teach a form of universalism. Teaching that Christ will eventually save all mankind (except for a select few who chose Satan’s plan of totalitarian manipulation and enslavement). And that sectarian religious membership on earth means very little in the larger scheme of eternal progression.

42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—(D&C 76:42–44)

38 Yea, verily, [the son’s of perdition/satan are] the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.
39 For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.
40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us— (D&C 76:38–40)

 

-In fact all those that do good will be resurrected (at the beginning of the Millennium) in the resurrection of the Just.  [Including Joseph’s “Celestial & Terrestial” souls]  Only those who do evil will be relegated to the resurrection of the unjust after the Millennium. [Including only Joseph’s Telestial Souls]

16 Speaking of the resurrection of the dead, concerning those who shall hear the voice of the Son of Man:
17 And shall come forth; they who have done good, in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust.
18 Now this caused us to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit. (D&C 76:16–18. see v. 50-65 )

85 These [Telestial grade beings in hell] are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work…
103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. 106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work; 107 When he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father, spotless…

 

-The same is true for the abode of the dead awaiting resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches the Good go to heaven/paradise and the bad go to prison.  It says nothing of church membership being requistie for heaven, but suggest paradise is for those who treat each other well.

11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection. (Alma 40:11–14)

 

-Contrary to some LDS cultural teachings, the Doctrine & Covenants teaches that all religions and churches which are heading toward good, are part of Christ’s true church.

67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D&C 10:67–68)

 

-Mormon scripture teaches that in heaven’s eyes there are ONLY TWO CHURCHES. The church of Christ which as explained above is composed of ALL RELIGIONS who are repentant and moving toward good. And the church of the devil which is composed of those who fight against good.

10 And [The angel of the Lord] said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Ne 14:10)

 

-The Book of Mormon clarifies the above teaching, stating that only those who do evil and ultimately fight against good and god’s kingdom are part of the church of the devil. In other word’s the only churches, political organizations or religions that are ultimately part of the “church of the devil” are those those that do evil and fight against good. (see Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine)

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:16–17)

 

-Mormons should show no ill will toward any church, except the church of the devil

20 Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil. (D&C 18:20)

 

-Although Joseph Smith and his followers did not seem to refer to himself as such, the Book of Mormon equates Joseph Smith with the Jewish, Islamic & Hindu concept of a Messiah (Anointed or Promised One. Synonymous to the words or concepts of Mahdi, Maitreya, Kalki of other traditions).

11 Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him [the latter-day servant] to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant. (3 Ne 21:11)

Other 19th century modern prophets who claimed these titles like Siyyid Shírází (Founder of Bahá’í Faith), Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (Aḥmadiyyah Muslims), Hong Xiuquan (The Taiping prophet), Jachanan Ben Kathryn (Messianic Judaism) who all claimed to have seen divine beings and have strong universalistic teachings might also be part of the same heavenly movement.

 

-Joseph Smith was one of multiple Holy Men God was working through history and especially during the restorationism movement (or second Great Awakening) of the mid 1800’s.

8 Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of. (D&C 49:8)

15 Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.
16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:
17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them
20 And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them….
22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching… (3 Nephi 15:17–24)
4 …And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of… (3 Nephi 16:1–4)

 

-The Book of Mormon supports the idea of many of the earth’s religious books and religious traditions as being of divine origin.

10 Wherefore, because that ye have [scripture] ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them… (2 Ne. 29:8–9)

 

-The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the Jews will have their own Prophets in the Last Days. Also that John the Beloved was to work during the last day with assorted latter-day groups to help gather and restore scattered Israel.

14 Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?
A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.
15 Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?
A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers. (D&C 77:14–15)

 

-LDS & Biblical scripture suggest that the Jewish religious system, the Christian religion and possibly all revealed religion and priesthood (as with Mormonism) is created to be a symbol, metaphor, type/archetype, shadow, light, ensign or example to the world of how divine beings relate to ALL of humanity. These symbols should not be confused for the greater realities they are symbolizing.

10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Hebr 10:1 NIV)
5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebr 8:5 NIV)
23 That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.
24 For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. (Hebr 9:23-24 NLT)
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter [type/symbol] kills, but the Spirit [meaning behind the symbol] gives life. (2 Cor 3:6 NIV, compare NLT)

16 Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order… (Alma 13:16)
13 …that all things may have their likeness, and that they may accord one with another—that which is earthly conforming to that which is heavenly… (D&C 128:13)

 

-The Doctrine & Covenants teaches that all Eternal Punishment or Damnation (latin damnare ‘to adjudge guilty; to condemn, blame, reject) is temporary. It is called “Eternal” only because it deals with the realm of God.

8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.
9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—
11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment. (D&C 19:8–12)

 

-See these articles for scriptures and arguments contesting traditional LDS views which go against religious our scriptures universalism. For example the idea that Mormons are the only one’s with priesthood, or are the only true church, or that the Great apostasy was universal, etc…

Article 1. Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine.

Article 2.  A Doctrinal Look at The Universal Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to LDS exclusive truth claims.

Article 3. Clearing up Misunderstandings in the LDS View of the Afterlife (The 3 Degrees of Glory and their support for religious pluralism)

Article 4.   Re-examining the LDS adoption of the protestant fundamentalist view of the “Great Apostasy”.

My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 2. My Beliefs)

This article is a continuation of the article, My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 1. Supernatural Experiences)

 

My Faith in God

As I’ve tried to explain in my article on Eternal Progression and Comparative Cosmology, I believe as Hindu, Buddhist and Biblical & LDS verses suggest, that the Most High God IS essentially an infinite intelligence which permeates the universe (ie. see D&C 88:6–13,47. see also Oahspe & The Law of One); or in other words the incomprehensible intelligent aspect of creation or the whole of the infinite Universe (of which we are all a part–like individual cells in a body); but I also believe there is a lengthy hierarchy of higher & lower extra-dimensional beings or mediators who are responsible for most of the religious and spiritual accounts of god (ie Mormonism’s “Father” & Son. see D&C 121:28,32. also see divine investiture of authority). I also believe in a sort of global and universal shared subconscious, which mystics are able to tap into (see akashic records, Rev 5:4). I believe the Most High God’s law IS the natural law and is thus impossible to break; and that the assorted laws of religion and state are the laws of mediators who simply try to mimic the unsurpassable harmony and symmetry of the natural law. I believe the highest religion is the one that best explains and mimics nature. My personal religion is based on the idea of doing the most good to others and understanding the natural law. My cultural religion is Mormonism and my life’s work is to bring the two into harmony. I believe Christianity and Mormonism are “types” or copies of more perfect extra-dimensional social systems which seek to mimic the natural law with their ordinances, doctrine and systems. I believe revelation doesn’t work at all like most people think.

Because I believe the Most-High God IS creation and his law IS the natural law, then all my descriptions of him or his law are basically me trying to scientifically or religiously describe nature and reality. And it is obvious that my perspective, compared to the whole of creation, is narrow and my language is partial and limited. I do my best to describe my beliefs of God in culturally accepted religious terms but I could just as easily use detached scientific terms— I  believe the truth encompasses all worldviews and descriptive languages (D&C 93:24–30). The way I would describe my beliefs to a Mormon is far different than the way I would describe them to a Catholic or a Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or Atheist and I believe angels and God’s do the same (1 Cor 9:20).

I sense the truth behind the idea that the world we collectively deem as reality is really just a shared illusion of sorts, and that things are not what they always seem and there are aspects of reality beyond human comprehension (1 Cor 2:9). The question of whether or not we are alone in our galaxy and whether there are transdimensional beings who watch over the earth seems logically necessary to me. From the evidence I see in the fractal patterns our galaxy (see Eternal Progression and Cosmology) it seems illogical to think it would be any other way. But arguing over the afterlife or things which aren’t really provable seems even more silly and illogical. To me, the highest questions of religion are… what is the highest ideal? What’s the best way to avoid social revolt or collapse? What system of morality is best for each society. It is less important to figure out exactly who, if anyone these religious icons or “prophets” are interacting with. I believe, like the movie Avatar tries to depict, that if higher “Gods” are interacting with mankind, they would not take sides– they would simply protect the balance of life–in the same way a good biologist works to preserve fragile ecosystems.

Just as our current world is a product of our ancestors which came before us, I believe that our lowly earth is predominantly led, instructed and influenced by beings who are just a little further ahead in their eternal progression than us. In essence I believe that when a person dies they pass into another dimension of sorts, and that these dead ancestors are able to randomly communicate through transient holes in the dimensions to those who have unlocked certain metaphysical abilities; and that these communications form the basis of most the world’s religions (1 Ne 32:3).

In this next section, I’m going to use Mormon language and concepts as much as possible to describe my idea of the afterworld….

Telestial: The realm of sectarianism (some of Christ, Some of Moses, Some of Brigham. D&C 76:99-101). Terrestrial: Unified with one of the Son(s) of light, but not the Father of all mankind yet. (D&C 76:77) Celestial: Equal and One with the Father in ALL things. They are made Perfect or Whole redeemed from all division. (D&C 76:94-95) See  Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

Telestial: The realm of sectarianism (some of Christ, Some of Moses, Some of Brigham. D&C 76:99–101).
Terrestrial: Unified with one of the Son(s) of light, but not the Father of all mankind yet. (D&C 76:77)
Celestial: Equal and One with the Father in ALL things. They are made Perfect or Whole redeemed from all division. (D&C 76:94–95)
See  Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

 

My Belief in the Purpose of Life

I believe a cohesive purposes of life is hidden with most the world’s religions. I have done a lot of searching in the world’s religions for the purpose of life & existence–which I believe is self realization by eternal progression (struggle/evolution) or movement through the divinely created stages of life. I try not to speculate too much on questions of first cause, but I believe that the progression and existence of mankind is a microcosm of the three stages typified by the stages of the stars and the cosmos. We originate at some distant pre-existent state from an eternal sea of unity, infinite intelligence, uniformity and equality. Through a long evolutionary process we are made self-aware and come to this telestial (3rd density) earth to be repeatedly reincarnated until we are driven by experiences and forces which cause us to potentiate into groups which bring greater unity amidst the group but separation from the eternal sea of uniformity.

This stage of “becoming” is made possible and accelerated by pain, struggle, ignorance & separation. It is often symbolized by concepts such as “polarizing”, “the fall”, “dividing”, “separating”, “creation”, “agency, free-will or willfulness”, “ego”, “power”, “kingdom building”, “pioneering”, “potentiation”, “temple/nation building”, etc. It is typified by prophetic archetypes such as Moses, Brahma, Adam, Mohammed and Elias.  The most important aspect of this stage of progression is the creation of potentiated & opposing desire—because it is desire that makes free will possible and sets the stage for our next phases of evolution.

Next, in the terrestrial or 4rth density, we enter a stage of harmonization or atonement (at-one-ing), where all within the group find their chosen location within that framework and use up their polarity to experience every desire of their own creating. This occurs in after harvest or resurrection into the more fluid higher dimensions of the earth where abilities of group consciousness are developed and harmonization and communication are made possible to a degree hardly fathomable in our present state. It is symbolized by words such as “love”, “atonement”, “harmony”, “gathering”, “significator”, and “sacrifice at the cross or hindu swastika”; and is typified by prophetic archetypes such as Jesus, Isa, Vishnu and Elijah.

Lastly, after what might be termed as millions of years according to our present accounting of time (Celestial or 5th density), and after every-one in the group has experienced, dropped or risen above every desire, external forces begin to divide, destroy, absorb or break up the group’s material form. An eternal “copy” or memory of the group’s “spirit” is integrated and saved within the galactic memory (true Nirvana). This exaltation of essence and fall of form from harmony (ie. creating “spirit children”) and perfect unity is the death which sets the stage for the whole process to begin again. It is symbolized by archetypes such as Messiah, Shiva, Eve, Buddha, or Maitreya and words such as “eternal exaltation”, “redemption”, “salvation” “ONE”, “the Dao”, all in preparation for some aspect of this unity to repeat the cycle of division and fall.  Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and modern mystical works each emphasize different fractal aspects of this grand wheel, circle or cross of eternal life. (or circles within circles or times & seasons within years) They often use differing classifications and break points to divide and describe the endless circle but in the end are describing parts of the same phenomena.

 

My Faith for the LDS Church

I try (oft times poorly) not to pretend to know what I don’t know. But these are my beliefs or speculations based on my spiritual experiences and the writings of many, many others who’ve had visions or purportedly interacted with spiritual beings (see my channeled texts section for some of my favorites). I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet/clairvoyant and really did have angelic visions. But because of my own metaphysical experience and the accounts I’ve heard first-hand from others who have claimed to see spirits or light-beings, I believe that visions are far more subjective than most LDS people would think. Although I’m not dogmatic about it, I believe many of Joseph Smith’s (and most other religious mystics) visions were in fact subjective visions, instead of objective physical events. In other words these “visions” would not be verifiable by an unbelieving or disconnected second earthly observer (which is why Joseph’s siblings were not awoken during Moroni’s visitations, and why the accounts of the three witness state the “witnessing” was done only by faith in “vision” with “a spiritual eye”). In my opinion, it seems that Joseph Smith and other clairvoyants interact with extra-dimensional beings (or their “thought-forms” in the mental realm) in a way where much of what is communicated is telepathically transmitted to the brain or memory across dimensions (through a spiritual eye/third eye, not physical eyes) and received in a state of altered consciousness which must be interpreted through and distorted by the recipient(s) particular cultural lense(s). [This could be explained as just another way of saying these people “imagined what they saw”, except that this type of subjective imagination originates from without the mind instead of within it, often occurs to groups of individuals collectively, has a much higher degree of perceived reality than simple imagination and produces results which often end up affecting the course of human history. In my opinion, higher dimensional beings are subtly communicating to people through their imaginations]. I also believe Joseph Smith (like all mystics) was allowed to be influenced equally by both negative and positive higher beings and thought-forms.

Channeled books such as The Law of One, explain in some detail the supposed rules that guard the agency of man, concerning higher-dimensional groups (both on or off-planet) which seek to interfere with the self-determination the mortal dimension of our planet. Going one step further from the prime directive rules of star command in the opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness, these texts explain that higher beings have emplaced rules which prohibit “interference with the normal and healthy development of 3rd Density life and culture”. These higher beings have the means to appear subjectively to mortals (as thought-forms within their minds) as well as materialize objects and “move mountains”, but are restricted from doing so unless the “faith or pre-existing belief” of those affected is strong enough that the occurrence does not affect the seeking group’s normal evolution and self determination.

Impressive works like The Law of One and John Newbrough’s Oahspe give accounts of the physical barriers that separate the different dimensions, as well as the cosmological phenomena which periodically create holes in these veils—causing curiously similar religious movements to pop up on opposite sides of the globe, seemingly out of nowhere (the global Second Great Awakening of Joseph Smith’s day being the most recent example, with numerous religions beginning not only in America but theophanies like Hong Xiuquan’s Taiping Movement and the Bab’s Middle Eastern Bahai movement occurring with a decade of each other.)  After reading these accounts and noting all the subtle references to similar periodic mystical phenomena found in most major religions, I am left to conclude that it’s completely illogical to suggest that Joseph Smith, Hong Xiuquan and Siyyid Shírází (The Bab), all just “made up” their theophany experiences, nor can I believe that their expansive religious writings and scripture are devoid of supernatural influence.

But whose influence? That is the question! Once again, many esoteric books offer deep insight here by suggesting that people’s emotional and spiritual reactions to the works produced by these religious founders are not necessarily a testament to their absolute “truthfulness” as many suppose, but a testament to the fact that they are associated with higher dimensional groups (both good and bad) which have the ability to affect the consciousness of mortals who have the appropriate faith and receptivity. Furthermore, other texts suggest that many of the details of these mystic’s visions (and even theophanies) are actually the result of these individuals projecting their own biases onto the divine consciousness. The idea is, that when a mystic/prophet is able to break into the highest and most unified levels of consciousness, their worthiness (existing biases) will color everything they see (thus the necessity of worthiness to see the metaphorical “face” or presence of God). This could be what Paul is getting at in 1 Cor 13:12 when he says “Now [in veiled mortality] we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then [after exaltation] we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (NLT)

Because of the interesting similarities mixed with the stark differences of these people’s experiences, I believe most prophetic visions are almost like connecting to a computer mainframe of consciousness where the prophet is in charge of translating, culturalizing and “humanizing” all that is perceived through the spiritual/psychic organs of the revelators mind. I believe the Book of Mormon & Pearl of Great Price were channeled from a heavenly group (not “translated” per se), and are an often loose, somewhat distorted and westernized/christianized rendition of the history of an actual Native American group.  (Scores of other channeled works I’ve read as well as Books like Oahspe, The Urantia Bible, The Kolbrin, The Sealed Portion, The Aklatan, The Metinah Papers, Kinderhook Plates, etc.. might be of interest in a discussion of accuracy, purposes and truthfulness of all these channeled works.)

[Note: I can value the more agnostic perspective where the heaven seen by prophets, mystics and those having near death experiences is actually just a shared imagination of cultures. The idea that there is some type of shared consciousness which is not actually real or inhabited by dead ancestors (except as they exist in the group memory), but a shared dreamworld of sorts that is accessed by these individuals. Thus the more broad or encompassing an individual’s perspective or a culture’s perspective, the closer to a true reality their visions become. However, although there may be some truth to this I think reality is far more complicated, and I truly believe the dead do live on after death in a far more real way—guiding mankind from an unseen realm.]

Through the process of translation I believe Joseph became the mouthpiece primarily for one of these terrestrial heavenly groups—and highly influenced by several others (see D&C 76:86–88). I believe religions, much like nations are subject to evolution and survival of the fittest to an enormous degree. And that most religions (and even nations) are started when cosmologically induced “holes” open between the dimensions, allowing heavenly groups to channel information to receptive individuals—the Father (heavenly groups) impregnating the Mother (earthly groups) with truth and knowledge, which then gives birth to a Son (new nation, religion or influential ideology). I believe the opposing groups which communicated to Joseph did so with an important purpose which pertains particularly to the restoration of Israel, the future of the United States of America, the coming breakup of Medieval Christianity–and eventual transmutation of this planet by cosmic forces.

I believe as Joseph (like other mystics) grew older and the will of his followers became more integrated into his psyche, he became increasingly vulnerable to the negatively polarized groups who constantly seek to inject bias within all heavenly revelations. This revelatory bias (largely stemming from the negative desires of the early saints) was not enough for him to be rejected as a channel by the primarily heavenly group which he received revelation from, but was directly responsible for introduction of polygamy, many imperialist and cult-like doctrines, the subsequent breakup of the church and the succession crisis which ensued. I think it’s obvious from things like the Kinderhook plates, that as Joseph grew older he himself sometimes had a hard time differentiating between his own imagination and actual revelation. I believe that Brigham Young and other subsequent LDS presidents have continued and amplified that bias to the point that they have trouble overcoming the stumbling blocks which separates their own beliefs from the philosophy of the original heavenly group which appeared to Joseph. (see this article for some examples–realizing I certainly don’t have all the answers either.)

But I believe these terrestrial groups are highly intelligent and anticipated what occurred (since it is invariably the case with every heavenly revelation). I think current LDS leaders are good men, doing their best despite the assorted sources of their spiritual light (most of which I think appropriately come from Brigham Young and the Mormon Church in the highest level of the telestial level of the Spirit World–who in turn get inspiration from Terrestrial heavenly groups–who in turn are inspired by the group associated with Christ). As was the case with both Israel, Catholicism, and other major religions the church serves its purpose of exalting groups, and is used by higher beings to do their work. I believe that higher beings are adamant about guarding free will and the right to self determination and the heavenly silence occurs in order to give churches (and people) the right to figure out on their own who they are going to be. It is my hope that the church decides to be an organization which promotes agency, freedom and ecumenical democracy and not divine dictatorship (which is the hallmark of the archetypal Church of the Devil). It is also my hope that the church will continually repent of its pride and eventually play a key role (if not a central role) in gathering “all things in one”—as well as playing a key role in the creation of one of the five nations which will spring from the breakup of the United States in the next five generations (see prophesy in the Book of Ben Kathryn).  But my beliefs are increasingly less Mormon-centric than they once were. I see Israel and the church as a type of symbol of what God is doing globally. I see it as a shadow and school-master for far more perfect government organizations which exists in the heavens–which are designed to help people find unity and oneness, which is the gateway to harvest into the complex systems of higher dimensional life which I attempt to explain in my article Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

 

My Faith in Historical Religion

I don’t like to demonize or vilify things. I believe that all things have their place and time and fit together into one beautiful whole. I believe that the lower one descends through the planes of eternal existence, the more polarized (ie. disharmony in good vs. bad) things become; but that eventually people are redeemed from division when they learn to at-one or unify/harmonize all polarity. I think this same principle is taught in the LDS temple ceremony. That the archetypical “lucifer” unknowingly is fulfilling the Father’s will as he uses the world’s religion to polarize and divide people (giving them the fruit of the knowledge of good vs. evil). I think many people in the earth’s religions are actually being divided and polarized as they follow lords of force & division, instead of actually following Christ the western archetype of unity in love and equality.

I believe the highest extra-dimensional beings who watch over our galaxy (symbolized by the Father & Celestial kingdom in Mormonism), exist outside of space and time as we know it. They watch over earth’s progression with a full knowledge of every possible outcome of evolutionary experimentation. Although they control the natural law and know the end from the beginning, they avoid determinism and instead guard agency wherever possible and maintain the balance of dualities and opposing forces making global self-determination possible.

Some texts refer to the differing planes or densities as "projections" of God. As the planes move further from their source, their fallen or divided nature is greater.

Some texts refer to the differing planes or densities as “projections” of God. As the planes move further from their source, their fallen or divided nature is greater.

 

 

I believe in the cosmologies promoted by books like Oashpe and the Law of One which detail the partial and cryptic explanations of the afterlife given in most of the world’s organized religions. I believe that even though major religious founders interact with inter-dimensional beings, their words and teachings are almost immediately corrupted after their deaths by negative forces originating the earth Spirit World and global mind. These corruptions are anticipated by the higher beings, and the mixed messages and distorted religions which evolve from these revelations become a powerful cultural influence which creates an environment of “opposition in all things” which is necessary for mankind to exercise free will. I believe each religion has a multi-leveled counterpart in the earth’s 3rd density spirit world. These organizations seek to funnel people up to a state of consciousness where they can interact with the higher physical densities (resurrections)

I believe that being raised in this highly polarized environment of a religion which teaches love and acceptance and absolute truth but more often than not practices control and narrow mindedness, has been a highly effective catalyst in aiding my spiritual and intellectual progression. The polarization and conflict has left me seeking knowledge and prizing the answers. I believe most of the great minds on earth were grown in this environment (esp. Judaism in the Western world). Because of this I do not demonize negativity in my religion. I see it as effective, valuable, and useful. I plan to raise my children beneath the auspice of its mythos. I try to promote the good it it, and transmute the bad.

 

The Chinese concept of yin and yang represent how the two opposing polarities or forces in the universe fit into one whole. It is important to note that each force is both cored and underlain by its opposing polarity. (Also note masculine & feminine in this sense have nothing to do with sexual gender.)

 

 

 

An Answer to the CES Letter & Mormon Truth Claims

The CES Letter is a popular summary of arguments made by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was written by Jeremy Renold’s— originally as an honest request to a CES director for answers to the issues it raises.

The CES letter does a good job of compiling, summarizing and explaining many of the largest issues surrounding LDS theology and more especially LDS history and its conflicts with LDS truth claims. However, this letter does not do a good job of giving any context for the issues it brings up.—and as such it is one sided and biased toward not only loss of faith in all LDS theology, but often departure from God, Christianity and religious participation. It is almost an opposing mirror reflection of the one sided, “faith promoting” (ei. whitewashed) version of history and theology promoted by the church for the last 100 years.

The issues are complicated, and the truths presented shatter many ill-conceived doctrines, mores and cultural beliefs held by most Mormons. But as a whole the letter is akin to dumping a lesson onto a 6 year old which in one sitting breaks their idyllic views of humanity by exposing them for the first time to the harsh realities of moral relativism made evident in human history and the brutality of the human condition. For LDS people, it breaks down the oft-held idyllic “mormon-centric” worldview by exposing members to the imperfect realities of religious prophetic and revelatory mystical experience.

Effectively reconciling the issues in this letter (without becoming angry toward Mormonism) often requires redefining one’s understanding of revelatory and visionary experiences (understanding their subjective nature). It requires redefining many of the LDS church’s exclusive truth claims. It requires a mature understanding of the many shades of grey which exist between the idealized black and white view of right and wrong which is often taught in Sunday school. Here’s a great framework to start evaluating the CES letter from, written by someone I respect a lot…

The CES letter evaluates an “all or nothing” set of church beliefs by using the very same flawed “all or nothing” paradigm.

And when we use such false dichotomies, we typically come to the “nothing” answer, which to my mind is just as false as the “all” answer.

In my impression, the correct conclusion to make after reading the CES letter is not whether the church is true or not, but rather, the entire approach of “all or nothing” thinking is completely bogus, whether being used to defend or destroy the church (or anything else).

Evaluating four or six versions of the first vision, then rejecting the vision because the accounts changed is frankly the wrong answer. Theophanies exist. They happen. I have had at least one, and so have many of you. But to accurately describe one? Impossible. Sure, I don’t know if Joseph had a theophany, but the fact that he described it distinctly over time is more evidence of it than against.

But where is this kind of thoughtful evaluation in the CES letter? It doesn’t exist, because “all or nothing” thinking rejects any possibility of a Middle Way.

Yes, I believe, with others, that our beliefs need to be deconstructed, and for me this meant “complete deconstruction” — I embraced the “nothing” part of the “all or nothing” paradigm. Maybe that was necessary, for a moment in time.

But faith is neither found in the “all”, nor in the “nothing”. Faith is the Middle Way between all and nothing, between knowing and not knowing. Faith is not perfect knowledge or certainty, for as Alma said, when we “know” something, our faith is dormant. Faith is never dormant, it is always exploring, acting, moving, learning, dealing with doubt in constructive, hopeful ways.

If we have faith, we hope for things that are not seen that are true.

For most of the things stated in the CES letter, we can “know” that the certainties of church claims are not certain. In other words, we should come to the conclusion we don’t know what we thought we knew.

That’s great! But what then is the typical response to the CES letter? Another certainty: “the church is not true.”

We trade the “all” certainty for the “nothing” certainty, and we have missed the lesson to be learned here.

If the CES letter is a wake up call toward not knowing, then the answer is twofold: (1) the suspension of judgment, casting aside the “all or nothing” paradigm, and (2) activate our faith, which Alma describes as a process of exploring truth by doing the work necessary to find our own truth. –author requested to be left anonymous

 

Book of Mormon Issues

The scriptural anachronisms and scientific conflicts in this section are pretty similar to those found in higher criticisms of the Bible. It is common for those young in a faith to adopt a literal, fundamentalist interpretation of scripture which validates one’s own narrow cultural worldview. As we look more critically at religious scripture and compare it to those of other global traditions, much of that rigidity tends to fall away. By comparison to all available truth and information, our view of reality becomes more broad and encompassing. Faith and rigid dogma give way to knowledge and divine wisdom. Absolutism makes way for a spectrum of possible truth and a realization that even religious prophets or mystics are bound by their own narrow cultural bias.

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1 – What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? An ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?

My Conclusion: I think it’s hard to deny that the Isaiah sections of the Book of Mormon were copied directly from the 1769 king James. An argument could possibly be made that Joseph Channeled the text from some spiritual sources, and that those spirits passing the information to him, copied the passages from his own culturally accepted KJV. Or perhaps they simply told him to go to the KJV to get those sections (not likely given the evidence). Really there’s a number of possibilities, but the question this fact poses is more important. What do the KJV verses tell us about the translation process, if we are to attempt to maintain faith in the idea that the text is an actual divine translation?
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2 – When King James translators were translating the KJV Bible between 1604 and 1611, they would occasionally put in their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV Bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record?

Conclusions: The idea that Joseph “translated” these sections of Book of Mormon (and possibly most, if not all the text), word for word cannot be upheld. The evidence presented would suggest, that if anything, Joseph “channeled” both the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham through “revelation” (channeling being the more modern term for the work of a revelator). The propagation of errors within Biblical quotes found in the Book of Mormon would suggest they were copied, essentially word for word (but with minor changes here and there) from his 1769 version of the bible.

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3- Joseph Smith translated the LDS bible, in which he claims to have fixed errors in other translations of the bible. Why do BOM passages match the KJV 1769 rather than the LDS bible? There seems to be a contradiction here.

-conclusion: It seems evident that the JST is not a “restoration” of the original biblical text written by the ancient prophets, but an attempt by Joseph Smith to clarify, expound upon, or reconcile conflicting ideas and doctrines presented in the passages he chose to address (according to his own beliefs and/or inspiration).

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4 – DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia. Why did the Church change the section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition Book of Mormon, from “are the principal ancestors” to “are among the ancestors” shortly after the DNA results were released?

-conclusion: Obviously church leaders felt that the original claim was too strict, and was likely not supported by the text itself either. Many articles have been written on this, so I’ll just cover this in my explanations on subsequent issues.
-Questions. Just as with the Bible, there are many ambiguities in the Book of Mormon itself which would make genetic testing difficult. These include things like; what was the origin of the “Jaredite” people and were they literally all killed off (or were there tens of thousands living in scattered pockets whom the ancient Jaredite author knew nothing about? Did the Jaredites share a common ancestor with East Asians (such as Mongolians)? If there were many Jaredite remnants how much did they mix with Book of Mormon peoples. Many indigenous groups such as the Navajos, Pacific Northwest peoples and eskimos (the Athabascan language group) are known to have migrated from Alaska during post Book of Mormon times, how do we know which Native American Groups have no part in the Book of Mormon narrative? If the Book of Mormon truly was channeled from ancient North American Indians was what they wrote prone to their own cultural conceptions? Is it possible to find a genetic sample of unmixed pre-Babylonian captivity “Israelites” with which to compare North American DNA samples? Did the Northern Kingdom Israelites exiled into Assyria mix with the Turkish nomads who are the principal ancestors of modern Mongolian and north Asian peoples? Are there reliable control groups available for these types of genetic studies? Is historically known Viking DNA found in North American Indian DNA? How have post Christian era Inuit language group migrations mixed with more southern North American groups (Navajo tribes for example).
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5- Horses, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheels, chariots, wheat, silk, steel, and iron did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times. Why are these things mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being made available in the Americas between 2200 BC – 421 AD?

-conclusion: The anachronistic words used by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon, once again seem to strongly suggest that if one wants to assert that the text is based on a true historical narrative—then the text must have been largely channeled using his own cultural biases and language instead of translated word for word. 

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6 -There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to directly support the Book of Mormon or the Nephites/Lamanites who numbered in the millions. This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists are coming up with the Limited Geography Model (it happened in Central or South America) and that the real Hill Cumorah is not in Palmyra, New York but is elsewhere and possibly somewhere down there instead.
Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson was BYU’s archaeology division (New World Archaeological Funding) founder. NWAF was financed by the Church. NWAF and Ferguson were tasked by BYU and the Church in the 1950s and 1960s to find archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon. This is what Ferguson wrote after 17 years of trying to dig up evidence for the Book of Mormon:
“…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archaeology. I should say – what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.”

-conclusion: One assertion can be made from this. Archeological evidence would certainly suggest these battles almost certainly did not occur on or around the modern Hill Cumorah. (That is unless the battles did not include the use of stone weaponry or the weaponry was completely looted, collected and transported by subsequent indigenous groups. That seems unlikely but not impossible.)
Questions regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon are highly debatable and in many cases impossible to prove or disprove. Using the same logic on known historical documents (especially when legend or myth is concerned) brings similar issues. Numerous battles mentioned in Roman writings, Greek writing, Biblical writings, and Egyptian writings also have produced no archaeological evidence. This does not mean they did not happen. It does not even prove that the historical writings concerning these battles has been exaggerated or mythologized. Sometimes it simply means that archaeological evidence can be hard to find.
Questions: Why did Joseph Smith call the Hill Comoruh such? What real evidence is there that this is the Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon and that he was not simply mistaken? Why did He have a vision of a room full of records within the hill (link). Is that vision hearsay? How error prone are such visionary experiences?
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7- BOM geography names are strikingly similar to the Great Lakes region where Joseph Smith grew up. There are dozens of place names in BOM which correspond to real places around upstate new york. These include Alma, Boaz, Lehi…

-conclusion: This and similar semantics studies on the book of Mormon text (compared with Prof. Antons encyclopedia for instance) seem to suggest many of the Book of Mormon names may not have been direct “translations” but were at least influenced by Joseph’s cultural experience. It could be coincidence, but seems unlikely.
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7b- Off the eastern coast of Mozambique in Africa is an island country called “Comoros.” Prior to its French occupation in 1841, the islands were known by its Arabic name, “Camora.” There is an 1808 map of Africa that refers to the islands as “Camora.” There is an island off the cost of Madagascar called Camorah. Its principle settlement was named Moroni. Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter and fan of pirate fiction. A contemporary source reports that the young Smith was a fan of the Captain William Kid pirate novels, parts of those stories take place on Camorah and in Moroni. The name “Camorah” appeared in the 1830 edition of BOM, but the spelling was changed in later editions.
-conclusion: Same as above.
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8 – A fictional book called View of the Hebrews was published in 1825 in Vermont, 5 years before the first edition of BOM. It tells a story that parallels the BOM story in striking similarity, including migrations of Hebrew tribes to America, Jewish origin of Indian language, similar battles, settlements, Indian records recorded on gold leafs and buried in a hill, Urim & Thummim, messiah visits America, quotes entire chapters of Isaiah… Some passages from View of the Hebrews and BOM are word for word identical.

Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation during this time and before he went to New York to join his cousin Joseph Smith.

-conclusion: Once again, it seems obvious from this and the next point that if the book is true, then Joseph’s cultural experience was highly influential in his “channeling” of his texts. Evidence is poor that Joseph copied or plagiarized his works from “View of the Hebrews”, “The Late War” or the “Spaulding manuscript”. But cultural influence on semantics, wording, styling and prose seems likely.

-Question. How does channeling work? Where is the inspiration of all of these works coming from? Did Joseph even read these books? Is there possibly a common source of inspiration for all these works? Are principles of group consciousness at work here? Are the similarities simply a product of the religious culture of the time?

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9 – The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain is a children’s text book published 1819. It is written in King James style language, and contains many phrases and passages which appear in BOM. Phrases such as “partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball” appear verbatim in both a text book that Smith likely read as a child and BOM.

Same as above.
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10 – The First Book of Napoleon was published in 1809. Compare its opening lines to the beginning of BOM:
“The First Book of Napoleon: Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem…because of the perverse wickedness of the people.
Book of Mormon: Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people.

Same as above.
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11- The first 1830 edition of BOM had a trinitarian theology. Many passages that established identity between Father and Son were later changed, as part of over 100,000 changes made after the first edition. For example:
1 Nephi 3 (p.32): These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world”, was changed to
“These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world”
However, there are still some parts of BOM which establish identity between Father and Son. For example : Ether 3:14–15:
“Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.”
The changes to later editions show an evolving theology of the Godhead away from the traditional trinitarian view, but by leaving in some passages like the one from Ether above, the BOM now presents a contradictory view of the ontology of the Godhead.

-Conclusions: The fact that both of the earliest accounts of the First Vision speak of just One being really supports the issues in this point.
It would seem that just as with many textual changes in the Bible, LDS “Scribes” (Leaders) felt they were in good faith, clarifying confusing aspects of the text. However, numerous other references within LDS scripture, Biblical scripture, and other channeled texts of the time (see link) seem to suggest that like biblical textual changes, these additions were more a reflection of LDS leader’s lack of knowledge concerning the complexity of the subject of the nature of God. They seem to have sought to make the words in the Book of Mormon accord with their interpretation of God, just as Joseph may well have channeled the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants to accord with his own changing views of the nature of God.
Questions: What makes someone a “prophet”? Are the visionary experiences of “prophets” largely a reflection of their own understanding? Just as “god” speaks according to the language of a visionary individual, does he also speak largely according to their existing cultural and religious understandings? Thus do a prophet’s “visions” of God change with their understanding?
Along with the both Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian views in the Book of Mormon, why does D&C define God in a non-anthropromorphic way? Why do later revelations such as D&C 121 and D&C 132, and the King Follet Discourse promote polytheism? Such questions add a great richness to LDS theology.

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Book of Mormon Translation Issues

1 – Peep stone translation. Joseph Smith was not even looking at the gold plates when he “translated” them. He was looking at a rock in his hat. At times the plates were not even in the same building, but were rather hidden in the woods. Why has the church been less than forthcoming about the translation process?

Yes, it would seem the plates were more “channeled” than “translated”.
There is much the church has not been forthcoming about. Are they improving in this area of honesty? Was it on purpose? Was it to protect and bolster their own power? Did they think they were protecting fragile testimonies and achieving “the greater good”? How can we judge intentions when we were not there? Does this affect how much trust we should put in religious hierarchy? Are misconceptions in this area all just honest mistakes?
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First Vision Issues

1 – First vision inconsistencies. There are four different versions of the first vision in the sacred grove. This is Joseph’s vison that supposedly occurred in 1820. There is no mention of the first vision anywhere until it appears in Smith’s journal in 1832, twelve years after it happened and a few years after the first edition of BOM. The four accounts differ in how old Smith was, why he went out to pray, who appeared to him “a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son – are all over the place”.

Conclusion: The church has made great strides in being honest concerning this point as of late (see gospel topics essays). Original scans of these primary-sources for the first vision accounts are available on the churches website. The differences are indeed significant. And although one would expect even large differences in a person’s recollection and storytelling over a period of 30 years, the differences in the accounts do come across as suspicious. I believe this issue is most disturbing because the Church has used the official version of this account as such a central “selling point” of the exclusive truth claims of the LDS gospel.

Questions: What definition of “vision” was Joseph referring to when he described his experience as a “heavenly vision”? Was this a vision as in a true “supernatural apparition”? Or was it a vision as defined in the sense of “an experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance”? (see Webster’s dictionary) What is the difference? Did Joseph’s memory of the vision change greatly over time as his ideas of God evolved? D&C 76 is self-described as a vision given “in the Spirit” which multiple parties had at the same time— can the difference of whether a vision is “real” or not, be differentiated by whether a third party can verify the event. Are visions more subjective than reality where the beliefs of the vision participants are projected into the experience like a shared dream?
How much trust should people put in other people’s “visions”? How are drug induced visions, after-death experience visions and unassisted religious visions different from one another? Would Joseph be clinically diagnosed as a schizophrenic by today’s medical standards and is that diagnosis fair considering the social changes he accomplished? Are the biases of today’s secular medical field concerning visions and hallucinations ignorant of spiritual powers latent within the human mind?
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Book of Abraham Issues

1 – Book of Abraham. Smith bought a piece of papyrus from a traveling mummy exhibit and claimed that it was a document “written by Abraham with his own hand”. Smith’s translation is now the Book of Abraham. Egytologists later determined that the paper dated to the first century AD, 2000 years after Abraham lived, that the text was a common funeral item called a “breathing permit” issued to a man named “Hor” who was mummified in the first century, and that Smith’s “translation” was completely unrelated to the papyrus.
The book of Abraham presents a Newtonian cosmology which very closely resembles Thomas Dick’s (1830)Philosophy of a Future State, of which Smith owned a copy.
“Much of the book dealt with the infinity of the universe, made up of innumerable stars spread out over immeasurable distances. Dick speculated that many of these stars were peopled by “various orders of intelligences” and that these intelligences were “progressive beings” in various stages of evolution toward perfection. In the Book of Abraham, part of which consists of a treatise on astronomy and cosmology, eternal beings of various orders and stages of development likewise populate numerous stars. They, too, are called “intelligences.” Dick speculated that “the systems of the universe revolve around a common centre…the throne of God.” In the Book of Abraham, one star named Kolob “was nearest unto the throne of God.”
Of course now that we have good telescopes, we know this model of the cosmos is just as false as the geocentric models which preceded it.

-Conclusions: It seems apparent that the idea of Joseph Smith “translating” the Book of Abraham from an Egyptian manuscript may be unviable. It may be more likely that, like the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and D&C, the Book of Abraham was channeled. Perhaps the Anthon manuscripts were used as “props” to spur on the desire and need for the channeled material.

It cannot be ruled out that the numerous common elements and glyphs found in The Book of Abraham’s source text, the Book of Dead and other Ptolemaic era Egyptian funerary texts have their cultural roots in a true historical ‘Abraham’. The Kolbrin is worth considering in this discussion.

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Polygamy Issues

1-Adultery/polygamy – Joseph Smith had at least 34 wives “11 of them were married women of other living men. Among them being Apostle Orson Hyde who was sent on his mission to dedicate Israel when Joseph secretly married his wife, Marinda Hyde” Another of his wives was a pregnant newlywed.
Pedophilia – 7 of Smith’s wives were teenagers as young as 14.
Incest – Among the women was a mother-daughter set and three sister sets. Several of these women included Joseph’s own foster daughters.
Doctrine & Covenants 132 – This scripture sets out specific rules as to how polygamy can be practiced. It gives a man a right to “destroy” his first wife if she does not consent to further plural marriages, but she must at least be given an opportunity to consent. Smith did not follow the rules set out in D&C 132, secretly marrying women behind his first wife’s back, and marrying women who were not virgins. Moreover, “Plural marriages are rooted in the notion of “sealing” for both time and eternity. The “sealing” power was not restored until April 3, 1836 when Elijah appeared to Joseph in the Kirtland Temple and conferred the sealing keys upon him. So, Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger in 1833 was illegal under both the laws of the land and under any theory of divine authority”.
Predatory threats and promises – Smith promised salvation to a girl’s entire family if she would mary him. To another teenage girl, he threatened that an angel with a flaming sword would kill him if she did not consent to marriage.
Smith lied about his sexual activity – when publicly questioned about it shortly before his death he said “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.”
The 1835 edition of D&C bans polygamy, but as smith was receiving and teaching these “revelations” he continued to marry new wives.
Soliciting perjury – In an attempt to abate public rumors of his secret polygamy, Joseph got 31 witnesses to sign an affidavit published in the LDS October 1, 1842 Times and Seasons stating that Joseph did not practice polygamy.
“…we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”
One of the signers of this affidavit, was Joseph Smith’s plural wife. Joseph and Eliza were married 3 months earlier on June 29, 1842. Two Apostles and future prophets, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, were very aware of Joseph’s polygamy behind the scenes when they signed. Another signer, Bishop Whitney, had personally married his daughter Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph as a plural wife a few months earlier on July 27, 1842; Whitney’s wife and Sarah’s mother Elizabeth (also a signer) witnessed the ceremony.

Reconciling Joseph Smith’s behavior with the idyllic view of “chastity” promoted by the LDS church for the last 100+ years is difficult to uphold given his behavior.

Questions: How many of these relationships were sexual? Why would Emma be so upset unless some of them were sexual? Why did all but 2 of them occur in the last 4 years of his life? How was Joseph’s polygamy different than Brigham Young’s or later church leaders who publicly lied about their sexual behavior. How fallible are “prophets” or those with the gift of prophesy. At what point does their behavior constitute a fall from grace? Was Joseph allowed to be killed because of his moral transgressions? At what point of “unrighteousness” is a priesthood holder’s authority invalidated? Is the LDS view of sexual morality based more on tradition than revelation? Did Judah’s sexual encounter with a temple prostitute and incest with his daughter-in-law invalidate his patriarchal priesthood authority? Is it hypocrisy for the LDS church to promote such a strict sexual morality when the Church’s founder had such lose sexual morality? Is God’s moral standard based on what secures the greatest happiness for all involved? (see Joseph’s marriage proposal to Nancy Rigdon). Is “God” OK with non-traditional sexual relationships as long as they are consensual, secure the greater good and religiously institutionalized? Does current LDS attitudes toward polygamy and sexuality make it more difficult for members to know about Joseph’s polygamy and sexuality and still maintain a testimony of the church’s exclusive truth claims?

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Prophet Concerns and Questions

1-Adam-God – Brigham Young taught that Adam was heavenly father descended to earth in human flesh. The Adam-God doctrine was condemned by a later prophet.

In my opinion this is not much of an issue to anyone who’s studied much of global religious traditions or religious esotericism in general.
Response: How does this doctrine relate to Joseph’s doctrine of plural gods as taught in the King Follet discourse? Was Brigham talking as a prophet or as a man? How does anybody tell the difference? Was Brigham referring to the “Most High God” or simply saying Adam is the primary God of this world under the Patriarchal priesthood? Did Brigham Young’s statement that Adam was “the only god of which we have anything to do”, infer that Adam was higher than Christ or Christ’s father? Was he talking about literal father’s or figurative fathers in the priesthood? If D&C 76:xx and numerous other scriptures teach that all celestial beings are “equal in power and authority”, then why is this even an issue?
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2-Blood-Atonement – Brigham Young taught that Jesus’s atonement was not sufficient to cover all sins, and that some people needed to be killed in order to atone for their sins with their own blood. “I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them…” Brigham young gave himself the right to kill people under the guise of saving them from their sins.

Conclusion: Brigham Young was an autocratic political and religious leader, leading a large population during a period of great social instability. Like most people in similar circumstances he did and said a lot of things that are very questionable to modern standards.
Questions: Priesthood holders have a responsibility to maintain social stability, but how much power and authority should one give them over our personal lives? Was this simply a religious justification for capital punishment? Did Brigham ever use this form of capital punishment on apostates (or sedition in political terms)? Same question applies to Joseph Smith in relation to his use of Porter Rockwell and the Danites. What’s the difference between a revered empire builder like Alexander the Great or Queen Victoria and a vilified empire builder like Mao Tse Tung or Stalin? Doesn’t history show they often use the same tactics and kill the same percentages of people in their endeavors?

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3-Polygamy necessary for salvation – Brigham Young said “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.”

Conclusion: This is one of the least, of the many contradictory and obviously false things LDS church leaders have said. Questions surrounding whether Brigham Young’s was directly involved in the Mountains Meadows massacre (like Robert E. Lee accused him of being at his execution confession) are far more pressing when deciding how much power one should give religious leaders over their personal lives.
Questions: Just because someone does and says contradictory or morally wrong things, does this mean they don’t deserve their authority? Does the very fact that they hold social power prove that God approves of them? How does the Chinese philosophy of the “Mandate of Heaven” apply to religious leaders? When does speaking out concerning perceived wrongs done by leaders turn into anarchy and end up causing more harm than good?

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4-No Blacks Allowed – Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to black men, but Brigham Young prohibited it and denied black people access to the temple. Every prophet from Young until the seventies upheld the racist ban on blacks in the temple. How can true prophets disagree on a matter such as this? “The same God who “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female” is the same God who denied blacks from the saving ordinances of the Temple for 130 years. Yet, He changed His mind again in 1978 about black people.”
These doctrines were later declared false by future prophets and apostles. “Yesterday’s doctrine is today’s false doctrine. Yesterday’s prophet is today’s heretic.”

Same questions as above apply.

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Falsifiable claims – Smith claimed that he could translate ancient texts – this is a falsifiable claim.
Kinderhook plates – Joseph smith gave partial translation of these plates, claiming they were from a descendent of Ham. The plates were later revealed to be a hoax. This and the Book of Abraham mistranslation show that Smith could not translate ancient texts. His claim was both falsifiable and twice falsified.

 

 

I believe the best way to approach these issues is like a scientist—an unbiased truth seeker. One who wades through the facts not trying to prove or disprove truth claims, but one who starting from scratch wishes to use this information to learn truths concerning ideas like:
-how does the scriptural idea of revelation and “the gift of prophesy” really work?
-what is the nature of a “prophet”. How subjective vs. objective are visionary experiences, and how much control is it prudent to give another over our own lives as a result of material revealed in their visionary experiences?
-are there better physiological explanations for visionary experiences and channeled material which account for the subjective and often contradictory information contained in them, while at the same time accounting for the supernatural aspects of them?
-when does the end justify the means? Is it OK to lie, exaggerate or even kill someone if you perceive it will save someone else’s life or accomplish some greater good (killing in perceived self-defense for example, or killing/doing “bad” for a noble cause)?
-what really is the nature of God, and how involved is this being in the experiences of supposed “prophets”? For example is God an anthropomorphic being who whispers in a “prophets” ears everything he should do, say or write or is “God” more like a computer database which prophets & mystics look into and get the answers, that they want, need or are ready for? Answers which are interpreted through the cultural bias of the observer?
-if God, gods or extra dimensional beings really do exist, what is our relationship to them, what is their relationship to each other and why should we even care if they exist or what they have to say?