Wednesday, November 22, 2006

When will Utah repent?

Utah's latest headlines focus on Mr. Warren Jeffs, president and prophet of the FLDS church. The locals are going to have to be patient while I provide some background for the rest of the 5.99 billion people on the planet who have no idea what is happening in Utah.

To understand Warren, you have to go back to Joseph Smith, the founder of all Mormon groups. Here is the Reader's Digest version.

In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith received visions and wrote, plagiarized, or translated (depending on who you ask) an account of Jews coming to America in the BC and their history up until and shortly after the time of Christ. This is called The Book of Mormon.

The book of Mormon reads much like the Bible and is similar to the core doctrines of Christianity. People started to follow Joseph and a movement was born.

Joseph added teachings, outside of the Bible and the book of Mormon, which came off a bit strange to some. Some groups left (or were forced to leave), but still believed the Book of Mormon to be true even though they felt Joseph Smith had strayed. Polygamy, plurality of gods, jealousy of Mormon prosperity, and Joseph's unilateral power caused all kinds of civil problems. Joseph was assassinated and the core group splintered.

Different groups settled in Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc... almost all of these groups abandoned polygamy (some deny it ever happened during the time of Smith) and the teaching of plurality of gods, and settled into a more traditional Christianity that included the book of Mormon.

Meanwhile, a group of Mormons followed Brigham Young (called Brighamites) out West. The migration West was severe and difficult, which built a unique sense of purpose to this splinter. The Brighamites officially took on the name - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This name is actually shared with a number of other groups who have no affiliation with the Utah church.

The Utah LDS church practiced polygamy unabashed. The most unique teachings of Joseph Smith were clung to, and the territory grew. Utah grew to statehood size, but the rest of country was nervous about giving statehood to a mini-theocracy awash in polygamy.

Prior to gaining statehood for Utah, the LDS church officially denounced polygamy. This caused a number of LDS church members to break away from the Utah LDS church, feeling that they gave up "the principle (polygamy)" due to political pressure. The Utah church said politics had nothing to do with it.

One of the largest polygamist splinter groups is the FLDS church, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Warren Jeffs is the president of this group presently. He is the stereotype of every religious leader who leads a group of nearly unquestioning followers. To be on his badside is to put you out of the graces of god... so the thousands in his church pretty much do whatever he says, even to reassigning of wives to different families and forcing underage girls to marry old men. Warren Jeffs wives number in the forties. There are all kinds of predictions as to what will happen to the FLDS church now that Jeffs will be spending a good long while in prison.

I think the hardest thing for the Salt Lake LDS group to come to terms with is how to juggle the polygamy question. They want to condemn the FLDS group while maintaining the legitimacy of the practice when their founders partook in it. In fact, in theory, they still support it. They believe God the Father is a polygamist with multiple wives (this point is contested, see comments below) who would like to see his children participating in this, just not right now. So it is a complicated dance on a tightrope to distance yourself from the practicers and practice of polygamy while not disavowing it. Tricky.

Unfortunately, America goes to the Middle East to liberate women and children of oppressive regimes, but we allow tens of thousands to remain captive and oppressed within our own land. Check out the trailer for the movie Banking on Heaven to get a glimpse of what life is like for people in these communities. Entire cities exist, where polygamists reign and women and children are seen as chattel.

I have heard the testimonies of women who have escaped from these oppressive communities and have struggled to rebuild their shattered selves. Boys are rejected within homes because they are a threat to older males who seek to acquire more wives. Prophets assign wives to men based on loyalty or reassign their wives as a punishment. Girls are forced into marriages, even young teenagers. As an example, a 19 year old girl was forced to marry Warren Jeff's father, who was 83.

I believe that the sin of Polygamy has never been truly repented of in Utah. Utah looks the other way, weakly justifies it, and quietly props it up; instead of calling it out and rejecting it as the sick and depraved sin that it is. Therefore, polygamy has remained a thorn in the Southwest to this day.

I see Utah as a land of beauty with a gaping wound. This wound will continue to fester until the day it's people become of one heart and reject this sin for time and eternity.

This article actually has sat unpublished for months; I wrote it when Jeff's was first arrested. I was concerned about possibly offending some with this article. However, while reading more news stories lately about Jeff's, I felt compelled to post this. What he has done and what he stands for is no small part of Utah. The circumstance of his community does not sit in a bubble; it has connection and history in the establishment of Utah.

Part of the reason I decided to post was a conversation I had with some friends visiting from Michigan recently. I started talking about Jeffs. They were stunned and one said to me, "You mean polygamy really does happen here?"

The truth is, most of the country has no idea the practice of polygamy goes on here nor how rampet it is. To me, this shows how effective Utah has been in quieting this indiscretion. When the faithful tell the stories of Joseph Smith, polygamy is carefully stepped around. But if there is a need to edit polygamy out of the movies about Smith, if the Utah LDS church does not want polygamy connected with them when Warren Jeffs is in the news, then isn't polygamy something that should be called what it is (sin) and not merely ignored?

I do not write this article to offend; I am not sure that it would cause offense. But if it does, I would be interested to know which part was offensive.


David Alvord said...

I have a few thougts that you may find interesting.

Warren Jeffs is an apostate from the LDS church...and does not give a clear view of how polygamy was once practiced in the state of Utah.

The doctrine of polygamy is often misunderstood...especially when it is perverted by those who practice it today.

By the way there is no official statement from the LDS church that God has multiple I would appreciate you making that correction in your post.

My understanding of polygamy is this. It is a tool used by the Lord to raise a righteous people. If you will look to the Bible you will find numerous examples of the great patriarchs who had multiple wives. Abraham, had wives and concubines. Genesis 25:1. He did so under the direction of the Lord for his own purposes.

It is hard for Utahns to explain this doctrine...especially when a criminal and a fraud like Warren Jeffs sets such a bad example...and breaks the laws of the land. (something LDS would not do).

I believe a sincere study of the scriptures will answer this question. David and Solomon of old also had many wives.

Obviously, polygamy is not practiced by the LDS church today...

But I do have this question: When you meet Father Abraham, will you call him to repentance along with the so-called "Brighamites"?

I believe that whatever the Lord commands is right. If he asks us to lay down our weapons, we do so. If he asks us to go to war, we do so.

When Abraham had wives and concubines, it was approved of the Lord. When Joseph and Brigham Young practiced was approved of our Father in Heaven. If you will ask God in sincerity, He will reveal the truth of these things to you.

I do not believe Warren Jiffs has the authority to practice this type of family organization.

As Christians, we ought to promote chastity and fidelity in marriage. Calling Utah to repentance is divisive...and misses the point. There is moral decay in our society and we ought to focus our energies on these things.

Respectfully yours,

David Alvord

Andrew said...

Before I respond, I want to clarify my tone. I love blogs and posting forums, but the disadvantage to written text is that you do not see facial expressions or hear tone. The intent and attitude of many posts has been misinterpreted, particularly on matters of disagreement.

So before I start I want to clarify (for those in our studio audience) that I know and respect David. He is someone who seeks to please the heart of God. The gracious manner in which he disagrees with me testifies to this. He and I may disagree on a few life points, but we agree on many.

Ok, so here are my disagreements… (I will quote from David, then give my response)

“Warren Jeffs is an apostate from the LDS church...and does not give a clear view of how polygamy was once practiced in the state of Utah”

Not that I disagree with the statement, but I want to clarify for anyone reading that Warren Jeffs would fire the same salvo back at the LDS church. The FLDS church feels it is the LDS who have abandoned teachings they had no right to abandon. In fact out of the myriad of different Mormon groups that exist, the three things they have in common are:
• They believe the Book of Mormon to be true
• Joseph Smith is God’s Prophet
• Every other Mormon group is apostate.

“there is no official statement from the LDS church that God has multiple wives”

Perhaps no official statement, but I have heard it said a number of times. But since I only heard it, I wanted to see if anyone in LDS history had ever brought it up before I posted that. Orson Pratt said, “We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives”. I would pull my original statement if it can be made clear to me that rank and file Mormons don’t believe that God is a polygamist. By referring to “the Salt Lake LDS group”, I was trying to stay away from commenting on church doctrine. From listening to Mormon teachings and talk shows, my impression is that most Mormons would not have had an issue with that statement.

“Abraham, had wives and concubines. Genesis 25:1. He did so under the direction of the Lord for his own purposes….David and Solomon of old also had many wives.”

Abraham had wives and concubines, but I don’t see God making any commentary on this. Simply put, there are a lot of things our spiritual forefathers did that I would not recommend. Though it may have been custom for men to think of their families as property, it didn’t make it right. It was that kind of thinking that led Abraham to give his wife up to a harem to save his own skin… twice!

For brevity’s sake, I won’t list the heartaches that this kind of thinking brought about for Solomon and David.

Jeremiah 9:23-24
23 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,
24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.

I think strength, riches, and wisdom are not bad or good things in and of themselves. However, when we have them, our temptation is to do the opposite of that which beats with God’s heart… we stop being kind, we subvert justice, we ignore righteousness. David is a pretty consistent example of someone who, due to his power, subverted justice. I think the patriarchs did what all men of power tend to do… take more. I see that woman, I want her! Most men think that way, they just lack the power and/or wealth to make it happen. I don’t think the patriarchs were any more or less sinful, they just had more opportunities- with the means to fulfill them.

And polygamy is an outgrowth of power… were the poor in on it? Were women taking multiple men?

To be clear… I believe the patriarchs were wrong to take more than one wife. I don’t think there is an example in scripture where it was a blessing to anyone. Rather, you see one tragedy after another. A trail of hurt and pain that could have been avoided.

I don’t condemn them anymore than I would condemn our patriotic forefathers for holding slaves while declaring all men are created equal. They were stuck in the context of their time and they did good as they knew how… but we have clearer vision now.

“When you meet Father Abraham, will you call him to repentance along with the so-called "Brighamites"?”

I hope the term Brighamites was not taken offensively. A history I read recently seemed to indicate that the various sub-groups of Mormons tended to be referred to by whom they went with after Joseph was murdered. Those who followed Brigham Young were called Brighamites, those who followed James Strang were Strangites, and so on, till they all settled and took on formal church names.

As to Father Abraham, I would not hesitate to call him or anyone else I felt was heading down a dangerous path to repent. I am confident he would do the same for me. The dis-service we do to men in charge is to put them on pedestals, forgetting that they have the same struggles and weaknesses. So these “leaders” end up flying solo, which they are not equipped to do. Hopefully, if I could have caught him prior to his second wife, I would have asked to pray with him, remind him that his wife deserves his fidelity, let him know that using power to push the scales in his favor is not right.

“I believe that whatever the Lord commands is right. If he asks us to lay down our weapons, we do so. If he asks us to go to war, we do so.”

I would agree… if the Lord said it. If a man told me the Lord said it, well… that is a little more up for grabs. Paul advised that if he or even an angel from heaven were to contradict the gospel we received, we were not to believe it. I believe this is a clear injunction that, like the Bereans in Acts, we are to test what anyone says.

“When Abraham had wives and concubines, it was approved of the Lord. When Joseph and Brigham Young practiced was approved of our Father in Heaven.”

That is clearly your opinion and belief but cannot be said with any objective certainty. I could just as easily say, and do say, than none of those circumstances had God’s blessing.

“If you will ask God in sincerity, He will reveal the truth of these things to you.”

I think this is very circular logic. If I pray in sincerity and am still convinced polygamy is wrong, you would simply believe I lacked sincerity. It is a safe place to personally argue from, but is completely meaningless. In that same vein, I could contend that you were already convinced of the truth of your statements prior to praying and the prayer simply solidified the outcome you desired. Both of us go nowhere.

“I do not believe Warren Jeffs has the authority to practice this type of family organization.”

We are in absolute agreement here.

“Calling Utah to repentance is divisive…”

I have no intent to be divisive, and I hope that is not where this is going. My intent is to foster some dialogue. I really believe polygamy is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

“...and misses the point.”

I disagree. The destruction of polygamy can end…. But only if it is brought into the light.

In the Old Testament, there were times when God told the Israelites to go against a group of people and kill every man, woman, and child (I cringe when I read that, but there it is). Often though, Israel didn’t do it. They made peace with the survivors. The footnote at every one of those instances is that the survivors grew and troubled Israel again.

I believe this has happened in a spiritual way here in Utah. Polygamy was not truly rejected; a toe was kept in the door for future possibilities. Doing so has cost us spiritually as a state; Warren Jeffs is just a symptom of that.

I know that asking the LDS church to formally reject polygamy is an almost impossible thing. Doing so would mean Joseph Smith was wrong about that. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems there is nothing in the LDS church philosophical or theological structure to admit that Joseph was wrong about a revelation.

Nevertheless, I think Utah will continue to struggle with the damage caused by polygamy until that day comes.

Anonymous said...

As a member of the LDS church I acknowledge the elephant in my living room. I know that it is there and believe that Joseph Smith was told to practice polygamy because God told him to.

Some critics of the church say that the Mormons go against even
their own Book of Mormon in Jacob 2:27 which reads, “For there shall
not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.” These critics don’t quote verse 30 which says, “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my
people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” So then if the Lord commands - is it ok? Some Nephite men were trying to practice it and the prophet Jacob came to tell them that the Lord told them they were not commanded by the Lord to do it and to stop the practice even if prophets of old did it. According to verse 30 it gives us a
reason why God allows it sometimes and other times he does not. “…to
raise up seed unto the Lord.”

So was Joseph Smith commanded to practice polygamy “to raise up seed unto the Lord?” If you go to you will hear Jeff go off a little on this and answer other questions like: What verses in the Bible really show that God commanded prophets in the bible to practice polygamy? How many really did practice polygamy in the early part of the LDS Church? How did Joseph Smith and Brigham Young feel being commanded to practice polygamy, and did the church stop polygamy because they wouldn't get statehood if they didn't or was it because of all the persecutions, the Lord would no longer require the saints to practice it? (See Doctrine and Covenants 124:49) Jeff also shares his feeling about polygamy which is my feelings too - that I am glad God has not commanded the practice of polygamy today and polygamy means multiple mother-in-laws. :)

Let me bring up one more thing that could give you another way to
look at polygamy. In Isaiah 55:8 it says, "For my thoughts are not
your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” In
Proverbs 3:11-12 it says, “My son, despise not the chastening of the
Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” If God is
a loving perfect Heavenly Father and we are his imperfect children,
what is he trying to turn us into by sending us to earth and then
correcting us? What is a father here on earth trying to turn his soninto by correcting him?

Heavenly Father gives us experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish us for our
everlasting benefit. To get us from where we are to where he wants us to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain. No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the
development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and
humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when
we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy
to be called the Children of God…and it is through sorrow and
suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we
came here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father in Heaven.

I think of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only Son Isaac
on a hill in Moriah. Did God know that Abraham would pass this Test?
Then why did God let Abraham go through this pain if he knew he would pass? Abraham had to learn something about Abraham. Why would God ask his children here on earth to go through so much, ask Christians to go through so much, ask Joseph Smith to go through so much even polygamy that went against everything Joseph believed was right. Abraham was asked to go against everything he believed was not right in being
told to sacrifice his son.

“God will feel after you and will take your very heartstrings, and He
will wrench them, and if you cannot stand it you will not be a fit candidate for the kingdom of God.” (Joseph Smith, Quoted by John Taylor in JD 24:197, quoted by Harold B. Lee, CR Oct. 1972 p. 63)

To me - it all makes sense. I am at peace. I understand the plan, the ordinances are restored, I am on the path, and most important – I know that Jesus Christ is my personal savior. I will continue to keep my eyes and my heart centered on Him. I have hope that if I will do all I can, Jesus will come to my aid and provide for me whatever I lack. His grace is sufficient. 1 Corinthians 12:9, “For my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

Why am I able to accept all of this? It is not because there are basketball courts in the LDS chapels. It is because I know by the spirit that the Book of Mormon is true and that personal revelation has worked in my own life. I believe that God wants us and needs us to be really humble and converted by the Spirit not just by sight so he can do this work in us to help us really become what we are sent to earth to become. God has prepared a tool for us to really to converted and know if all of this LDS stuff is really true. That tool is the Book of Mormon.

If someone reads the Book of Mormon and prays about it with a
sincere heart, with real intent, they will know by the spirit it is
true. If the Book of Mormon is true then Joseph Smith is true, and the Church that was restored through Joseph Smith is true, and the prophets called after are prophets of God that receive revelation from God to
guide the Church are true. We can come to know by knowing that the Book of Mormon is true that the LDS Church is Christ Church once again upon the earth.

The Book of Mormon was written by prophets in ancient America and
by the Lord himself when he visited them after his ascension into heaven (Acts 1). The Book of Mormon is that “marvelous work and a wonder” that Isaiah saw in vision in Isaiah 29. He said that this book shall speak out of the ground, and the speech shall be low out of the dust, and that the voice of it shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit (The Book of Mormon compliments the Bible), out of the ground,
and the speech shall whisper out of the dust. (Isaiah 29:4) Moroni the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon put the plates in the ground not to be opened until Joseph Smith was told by him (Moroni - resurrected) where these plates were. Through the power of God Joseph Smith translated, not wrote or plagiarized, them into English and the truths have been whispering to the honest in heart ever sense.

You have to be honest in heart if you want a testimony of the book. Moroni before he barriers the plates writes, “…When ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5)

I have read the Book of Mormon with that sincere heart, real
intent, having faith in Christ. I was ready to act on the answer and I was reading looking for Christ and instruction on every page. I had a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost come to me that I could not deny. I felt Heavenly Father and the Savior’s love just enfold me there in my room. You just don’t know and realize how this
sweet answered prayer can be so converting until you have experienced it for yourself. This is why members say you’ll know, everything makes sense, and you’ll be able to go forward.

There has been many more faith promoting experiences sense that first one that make everything just come together even more for me. It does what Ezekiel and Joseph who was sold into Egypt said the Book of Mormon or the “stick of Ephraim” would do. Everything becomes “one,” false doctrine is confounded, contentions is layed down, and peace is established. (Ezekiel 37:15-20; 2 Nephi 3:12) There have been so many ways these things have happened. Stories and scriptures in the Bible that didn’t make sense now make sense because of the Book of Mormon. (For example Isaiah 51:4-5 compared with 2Nephi 10:20-25) False doctrine such as the Trinity, baptizing infants, the question of baptism and is it really essential for salvation is made clear in the Book of Mormon. (See 3 Nephi 11, Moroni 8:5-12 and 2Nephi 31:4-7)

I invite you Andy to read the Book of Mormon with more of a sincere heat, real intent, and faith that it could be true and that it can help you get nearer to God. I know that if any man will do Gods will, he shall know of the doctrine, and know whether it is of God. (John 7:17)

I know also it is not easy to pray about and read the Book of Mormon with real intent. I had a man tell me that he had read the whole Book of Mormon and prayed about it and that God told him that it wasn’t true. I asked him if he had done everything Moroni tells us to do to get an answer. He said that he did. I then asked him, “If God’s answer was a “YES” would you be willing to leave your church, your position as the minister of your church, and your money that you make being the minister.” He said “No, that would be too much of a sacrifice right now in my life, and that would be asking a lot.” That would be asking a lot and I could only imagine what kind of sacrifice that would be. I went on to tell him that God is not going to give us an answer about anything unless we are real intent in acting on the answer he, in his wisdom, wants to give us.

Again, it is through stretching, discomfort, sorrow, tribulation that we gain the education that we came here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father in Heaven. Reading the Book of Mormon with real intent presents a situation where we really can grow and will show if we care more about God than we do other things in our lives.

Matthew 10:37-39, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

Tell me what you think about this idea, Andy. How about you and I, and even our wives if they want to, start to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning together on our own time? Lets start with just a chapter a day. During the week and especially on Sunday lets write each other through e-mail and share what we are leaning about Christ from the Book of Mormon, offer insights, ask questions, and share verses that really speak to us.

If anything, what this can do is help us center and talk about Christ more together. That is always a good thing. This can also be a way for me to learn more and hear your deep thoughts and advice you have gained in trying to be a disciple of Christ. I appreciate our friendship and look forward for many more years of us sharing with each other those things that have truly helped us grow and have helped us find joy and purpose in this life. Thanks for letting me respond.

Andrew said...

Once again, before I discuss my disagreements, I want to clarify that Kory is a good friend of mine and he is someone who truly seeks to please the heart of God. My disagreements are distinct, but happy! :)

(I’ll quote from him and then respond)

“So then if the Lord commands - is it ok?”

Again, here we get into “who” said it. Joseph says God said it. If I do not consider him a credible source, there is nowhere to go. There are no justifications given other than that. If someone told me that God told them to tell me to do something, my response would be disbelief. This is not the response with many people. Having grown up a “Full Gospel” Charismatic, I was surrounded by people who felt the argument ended when someone said “Thus sayeth the Lord”. Joseph was obviously an intensely charismatic man. I have seen time and again charismatic leaders (sometimes well intentioned) who get their followers to see and believe almost anything. So for me, the reasoning has to be more than effectively -I know this doesn’t sound very good, but it really is because I was told that God said it was ok.

“Let me bring up one more thing that could give you another way to look at polygamy. In Isaiah 55:8 it says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

I could not disagree more with the application of this scripture. Used in this manner, one could try to justify nearly anything. Besides, considering what Isaiah 55 is talking about, polygamy could not fit more awkwardly into that passage. It starts out by encouraging men to come to God, who will give bread and wine (not just physical) without cost. The verse before 55:8 says:

“Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

Yes, God’s ways are not our ways. We are selfish, He is selfless. We are unforgiving, He offers mercy. We love conditionally, He loves without condition. He wants us to give up all those things and take His path. I don’t think this scripture can be appropriately used to justify polygamy.

“If someone reads the Book of Mormon and prays about it with a sincere heart, with real intent, they will know by the spirit it is true.”

At some point we switched from debating Polygamy to promoting Mormonism. I would prefer to stick with polygamy because this is the item that has an effect outside the Mormon Church. If a Mormon believes in the basic tenants of Mormonism, it affects no one but him. But when Mormons defend (or step around) polygamy, as I stated earlier, the consequences snowball. You may believe that your belief on polygamy and what goes on in Utah have no connection, but there we would have to disagree.

“You have to be honest in heart if you want a testimony of the book…..”

I don’t want to bird dog too much, but let me clarify that the last two quotes above are one of the reasons that Mormonism doesn’t wash with me. The logic of the above statement could not be more circular. It is the perfect example of a tautological position.

If I suspend that critique for a second, then I would have to picture God saying, “Hmmm, I don’t think that was sincere enough, I’ll have to wait till he is MORE sincere”. That is not the God I see presented in Scripture. He seems to be a pretty big extrovert who thinks everybody should know him. What father when his son asks him for bread gives him a snake…?

However, I do not want to use this blog to take pot shots at Mormon theology. I have my disagreements, and if, in a friendly (live) discussion, someone wants to know what those are, I’ll be happy to share; but I am not going to be looking to poke nice people in the eye. Having lived for 2 and a half years in a neighborhood dominated by Mormons, I would contend that one would be hard pressed to find nicer people anywhere.

Anonymous said...

One reason the neighborhood is so good is because you and Mary Lee truly live the two great commandments - to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. You two have accepted your neighbors here just as well or even better than some of your Mormon neighbors. Every neighborhood needs a family like the Hackmans. I am so thankful we are good friends and our families get a long so well.

Let me have one more response then I am done using your thoughts on polygamy as away to promote Mormonism. :) To understand polygamy in the LDS church though, one needs to understand 1st - Mormonism and 2nd - The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

In Joseph Fielding McConkie’s book titled Here We Stand, he does a good job in explaining what Mormonism really is. On page 30 it says:

Mormonism stands independent of the claims to authority professed by either Catholicism or Protestantism. Singularly, it does so while embracing the Bible as God’s word. Yet it rejects the Catholic claim of an apostolic tradition and the Protestant claim of Bible sufficiency. Apostolic tradition is unnecessary in the church that has living apostles, as is the need to depend on revelations given to dispensations past. A written record of God’s word was never sufficient for those who had the power to obtain revelations of their own. This was the case with those of whom we read in the Bible. We dare not rest the hope of our salvation on the tangled vines of tradition, nor do we suppose that a living church can be led by a written record.

We place no limitations or bounds on what God can reveal to us. Some have supposed that God can do or say nothing that cannot be sustained or justified by some Bible tests. The Latter-day Saints do not worship a God who is bound in such a manner.

To declare the Bible supreme in all matters of faith is dangerously close to (if distinguishable from) worship of the Bible. The following exchange between a friend and a scholar of another faith illustrates the danger here. My friend was challenged with the statement that there is no way in all the world that Latter-day Saints could ever justify the practice of polygamy. “Look,” my friend responded, “if the God of heaven personally appeared to you and directed you to practice polygamy, wouldn’t you do it?” “No, “was the response, “even if God himself commanded it, I would not do it, because it is not found in the Bible!”

The principle is plain. To declare the heavens sealed and the cannon closed is to lose at the same time the very power by which the scriptures must be understood. No scriptural text can be properly taught or learned save it be that same Spirit by which it was revealed in the first place. “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24)

Latter Day Saints anticipate a future day when things not yet seen nor heard by mortals, things that have not yet entered into the heart of mankind shall be revealed. The revelations now known to the Latter-day Saints are but a pittance compared to what we expect to receive. (See D&C 76:5-10;121:26-33).

We claim no priesthood, keys, power, authority, or doctrines that do not trace themselves, directly to heaven. We have not built upon the theological rubble of the past. All that we have, and this includes our faith in the Bible and our understanding of it, has come to us by direct revelation in this dispensation. Doctrines from any other source are without authority among the Latter-day Saints. All doctrine and authority must come through the channels the Lord has ordained for our dispensation, and that channel is the priesthood and keys restored to the Prophet Joseph smith. “The Melchizedek Priesthood,” he said, “is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven.” The Melchizedek Priesthood administers the gospel and holds the key of the mysteries of heaven and the key of the knowledge of God (see D&C 84:19).

The essence of virtually every argument directed against Mormonism centers on the critics’ refusal to acknowledge that revelation, as known to the ancients, can be had in our day. Paradoxically, most of these critics profess a preference for the revelations of dispensations past. They claim those revelations as their own, declaring that the Spirit speaks to them through the ancient writings. What they cannot tolerate is the thought that God could speak anew, that other words could be penned that are of equal worth to those of an ancient day, and that those words should rightly be added to the canon of scripture. They profess prophets, but not living prophets; they reverence revelation, but only that revelation given to another people in another time.

We may desire to steal some of the promises given to the ancients, but the greater blessing is always that which is distinctively our own. It is the one suited to our circumstances and needs. Thus as Latter-day Saints we have neither borrowed our doctrines nor our understanding of them from the ancients. Our doctrines and authority all bear the label of modern revelation. Our God speaks directly to people of this day. Such is the message that we seek to declare to all the world. The living voice of God constitutes our rule of faith.

The message of the Restoration centers on the idea that it is not common ground we seek in sharing the gospel. There is nothing common about our message. The way we answer questions about our faith ought to be by finding the quickest and most direct route to the Sacred Grove. That is our ground. It is sacred ground. It is where the heavens are opened and the God of heaven speaks. It is where testimonies are born and the greatest truths of heaven are unveiled. It is of this sacred ground that we say, HERE WE STAND.”

The Book of Mormon

Let me use Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s words to share my thoughts about the Book of Mormon. He said the following in 1994:

“A good deal has been said about the authorship—and, therefore, the divine origins—of the Book of Mormon lately. But then there has always been a lot said about it ever since it first rolled off the old E. B. Grandin press in downtown Palmyra on the twenty-sixth of March, 1830. As a prelude to my own testimony of the divinity of Book of Mormon origins and authorship, let me quote two readily recognizable paragraphs as to the centrality of the book to our faith—its keystone role, if you will.
The earlier of the two is from the late Bruce R. McConkie, and it is familiar to all of us. Elder McConkie said, in general conference more than thirty-three years ago:

“The Prophet’s expression that ‘the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion’ means precisely what it says. The keystone is the central stone in the top of the arch. If that stone is removed, then the arch crumbles, which, in effect, means that Mormonism so-called—which actually is the gospel of Christ, restored anew in this day—stands or falls with the truth or the falsity of the Book of Mormon. . . .
“. . . If the Book of Mormon is true, our message to the world is truth; the truth of this message is established in and through this book” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1961, p. 39).

A more recent and very powerful comment to the same effect is from President Ezra Taft Benson, who said:

“The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church [may I repeat that again—all the Church] stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.

“Yes, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion—the keystone of our testimony, the keystone of our doctrine, and the keystone in the witness of our Lord and Savior” (A Witness and a Warning [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], p. 19).

The significance and the implications of those quotes are surely self-evident, not only as powerful, free-standing texts, but all the more so as declarations from the lips of the two special witnesses who uttered them. I know of no two men in recent memory who would be less likely to “gamble,” so to speak, with the gospel of Jesus Christ than would Ezra Taft Benson and Bruce R. McConkie. They were both quite conservative, and conservative people, traditionally speaking, play things, well, conservatively—pretty close to the vest. So to hear these two remarkably able and gifted and ordained men say something so tremendously bold, so overwhelming in its implications, that everything in the Church—everything—rises or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth—well, to the uninitiated that can be a little breath-taking. It sounds like a “sudden-death” proposition to me. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward.

Not everything in life is so black or white, but it seems the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and its keystone role in our belief is exactly that. Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from his lips, eventually receiving at his hands a set of ancient gold plates which he then translated according to the gift and power of God—or else he did not. And if he did not, in the spirit of President Benson’s and Elder McConkie’s earlier comments, he is not entitled to retain even the reputation of New England folk hero or well meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, and he is not entitled to be considered a great teacher or a quintessential American prophet or the creator of great wisdom literature. If he lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he is certainly none of those.

And let’s not have any of the embarrassingly silly pap we have heard from some recently about Joseph earnestly “thinking” he saw an angel and “imagining” he translated from a set of gold plates. Excuse me if I am speechless—absolutely, totally, and bewilderingly incredulous—at such a comment. Is that really said with a straight face? If so, I think we have another candidate for the Flat Earth Society! That whole suggestion simply adds insult to infamy.

I feel about this as C. S. Lewis once said about the divinity of Christ, a comparison which Dean Robert Millett and others have also made. Lewis once said about the divinity of Christ: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: [that is,] ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1952], pp. 40–41).

I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. So, quite quickly, President Benson’s and Elder McConkie’s declarations don’t seem so bold after all. They are, simply, logical. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is just an inconceivable and, finally, unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically.

As the word of God has always been—and I testify again that is purely and simply and precisely what the Book of Mormon is—this record is “quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow” (D&C 6:2). The Book of Mormon is that quick and it is that powerful for us. And it certainly is that sharp. Nothing in our history and nothing in our message cuts to the chase faster than our uncompromising declaration that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. On this issue we draw a line in the sand.

A recent critic said that our account of and devotion to the Book of Mormon (and, by implication, Joseph Smith’s role in producing it) is, “the most cherished and unique Mormon belief” (Bill McKeever, quoted in Daniel C. Peterson, “Editor’s Introduction,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 6, no. 1 [Provo: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994], p. v). Our collective affirmation here tonight is that we could not agree more heartily, so long as we are allowed to maintain that this is so because the Book of Mormon affirms our yet higher and more sublime belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Savior and the Redeemer of the world.

May I make it very clear where I stand regarding Joseph Smith, a stance taken because of the Book of Mormon? I endorse with all my heart and with the holy office I now hold, indeed with my very life itself, the declaration of John Taylor, who 150 years ago last June took four rounds, full bore, from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s enemies who had surrounded and finally stormed Carthage Jail. Brother Taylor’s life was spared and he lived to say of Joseph: “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. . . . He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed . . . has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (D&C 135:3). Then, including the beloved Hyrum’s life as a second witness, Brother Taylor said, “The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force” (D&C 135:5; emphasis added).

I should think that four balls taken at close range from an unfriendly musket or pistol probably qualifies you to bear your testimony about an experience if you want to. I say that that day in Carthage makes John Taylor’s testimony unimpeachable. Furthermore, I am frank to say, I am offended by anyone who suggests that any hoax could withstand such events then or for these 150 years since that difficult day in Carthage.

A great many of the judgments currently being passed against Joseph Smith are being made from far more comfortable quarters than that second floor of the Carthage Jail where John Taylor tried so valiantly to defend his prophet with nothing more than a hickory walking stick. I was not there, but I would offer to be there—then or now or ever—in defense of the truth—the truth of who Joseph Smith said he was and what I know the Book of Mormon to be.

As surely as I stand before you tonight and as you sit in this majestic hall, each of us, and this campus, in our own way is a product of that miracle which unfolded from Palmyra to Carthage and continues to unfold yet. I testify that Joseph was and is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth, the keystone of our religion. I testify that you and your students will get nearer to God by abiding its precepts, than by any other book.

I testify out of the certainty of my soul that Joseph Smith entertained an angel and received at his hand an ancient set of gold plates. I testify of that as surely as if I had, with the three witnesses, seen the angel Moroni or, with the three and the eight witnesses, seen and handled the plates. I testify that the Book of Mormon has changed my life and gave me my initial and still-abiding provocation to be an active, involved, committed Latter-day Saint.” (“A Standard unto My People” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, CES Symposium on the Book of Mormon • 9 August 1994 • Brigham Young University)

Andy thank you for letting me share with you some more information about Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. I hope it helps you see how we see polygamy and our message a little better. I want to give you Elder Holland’s whole talk, the book, Here We Stand, and your own triple combination that you can have to look up the references given in this, yet another, lengthy response. If you give these words serious study you will have a better perspective on why Mormons believe so passionately and want to share their message with everyone.

Again I am so thankful for our friendship and the pure religion (James 1:27) that we share together and that your family helps my family better live. Your friend, Kory

Andrew said...

Kory – I appreciate your friendship and your thoughtful response.

I have two things to say and then I will close.

One of the points mentioned in your response is something I have heard a lot since I have been in Utah. There seems to be a misperception that Christians do not believe God speaks to us in modern times. I suppose there may be some who believe this, but never in the circles I traveled in. I believe in modern day prophets. I know a few. I have been prophesied over and I had no doubt that God was speaking. I certainly wouldn't be in Utah if I thought God was silent.

Second, I do understand why you want to share what you believe. Like all people who believe their faith with their heart and soul, you want to share it. I have never doubted the sincerity or good will of my Mormon friends. I disagree, but I understand.

SocietyVs said...

First off, I have read a lot on the Mormonism thing and I am an astute learner - and I do believe many a good Mormon is living a very righteous life - but that all being said there are problems man - which will likely arise someday.

First off, Mormons are at the whim of one's man vision of God (a prophet) and whatever is revealed they have to adhere to (which is not a good form of sincerity if you ask me).

Secondly, it's a huge structure that is unchangeable and has no 'face' (isn't that definition of an idol?). I think this religion has the propensity to trap people - and if someone leaves - well - they mine as well go to hell because they become outcasts in the only community they knew - and this is harsh.

Thirdly, they have no way to answer the problematic dilemma I see with their prophethood. For example, Joseph was commanded to allow polygamy, then Wilson abolished it (like 60 years or so later). When did God get so good at changing His mind - concerning what are 'revelations'? Mormons at this point enter 'God mumbo jumbo talk' of the which they have no clue what they even mean (like 'God's ways are higher') - but they can't be so high that we don't see the mistakes?

Fourthly, I am of First Nations descent (Indian) - and there is absolutely no proof at all that Indian peoples came from Jewish nations (and I mean none). No archaelogy, ni building structures, no language inflections, no cultural nuances, and no similar names history. Now a Mormon can very well say I am lying - but I know my cultural history and I am proud of it - and what they do to it is embarrassing (and horrendously disrespectful). Nephites and Lamanites are made up as far as I can tell and the next Mormon who tells me Indian peoples are not legit better make sure he is right - or I will drive them to a reserve to prove it.

Fifthly, polygamy happened and JS said it - and to disavow his word is to against the very founder of your faith. As far as I can tell - Mormons are getting very good at hiding their faith practices they don't want others to know about - since they are either detestable (polygamy) or they makes no sense (baptism for the dead and other temple ordinances). There was actually a case where Jewish people found out the Mormons were baptizing their dead - guess who had to stop baptizing the dead on behalf of surviving Holocaust Jews? Repulsive.

Sixthly, this whole sincerity thing and prayer - is pure BS (and I don't mean brother Smith). Someone could say the same thing for the Quran, the satanic bible, or a dictionary and it would also be true. I had Mormons ask me this a little while back - I laughed - what if I prayed and I am told the opposite? Don't read? They said I wasn't sincere enough...and I said - who made you the judge of anothers sincerity?

Lastly, I would say the Mormons views about the Tanakh and Jewish history are at best contentious. I would challenge every Mormon to approach a Jewish person and find out how they view their culture and their interpretations of the Tanakh. If they are monstorously different then someone is 'wrong' - now we can blame the Jewish nation or we can do the obvious - call Joseph Smith what he was - a product of his times and was way off about Israel. This I also find kind of offensive.

But I like the Mormon nation - I just know they hide a lot of their actual beliefs. One time they even showed the 'how to have faith' video to me - guess what - some Christian family could of showed that - they never quoted the book of Mormon once and Jesus was whiter than white (like most of America sees him). Laughable really. They hate being challenged also - cause they think they can't be wrong - but I got some obvious news - only God cannot be wrong - so even JS, Brigham, Hinckley, and all of them could be wrong (this is the first step to healing).

Sorry I am harsh Andrew - but I had to get that chip off my shoulder.

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