I’m troubled by improbable, indeed seemingly impossible, issues in the history and doctrine of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints. My previous posts: “August 30, 2003 letter to Church President Gordon B. Hinckley,” “Swords and Spears,” “ An Apostate’s Dilemma,” “Too Big To Fai,” “ A Weighty Tome Indeed,” “Matthew 22:21” and “My Quandary,” express some concerns.
If resolve and energy hold, I hope to post on issues such as: Joseph Smith Jr.’s seeing and speaking with angels, Jesus and God Himself, identical Book of Mormon and Bible formats and passages, genetics of pre-Columbus Western Hemisphere indigenous. I will post these as “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, History and Doctrine, Questions and Issus, Part I, II, III, IV, etc.”
My concerns regarding the LDS, religion in general, revolve around faith and fact. Religion demands faith in things that which cannot be proven. Science’s un-provable axioms and assumptions falls back on faith. Still, for now I go with what seems to me “facts.”
This said, I like to point out that a father of science René Descartes conclude there are two aspects to human experience, physical or material and metaphysical or spiritual. Science scoffed at the latter half of Descartes’s postulate as “the ghost in the machine.” Concluding The Second Creation Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics, Physicists Robert P. Crease and Charles C. Mann give this rebuttal a Quantum twist. It seems Descartes may indeed have been mistaken, not because there is no ghost, but because there is no machine!
Similarly, after studying the workings within a biological cell, J.B.H. Haldane concluded, “There are things there not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine!” There is, of course, far more that I cannot imagine than I can. Still, when faith and fact seem to disagree I’m compelled to proceed from what is observable and verifiable. I may have faith this PC keyboard is a ham sandwich, but however hungry I am, however fervent may my faith, I will not take a bite from this keyboard.
Likewise, The Book of Mormon is rooted in Iron Age folks inhabiting the Western Hemisphere prior to Columbus. Five centuries’ accumulation of Stone Age artifacts fill warehouses and museum shelves, but so much as one rusty iron pin has been unearthed. Keyboard or a stone spear point, I have to go with the obvious.
Again, I emphasize my love and respect for Mormon People. I hope no one will interpret my indiscretions personally.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
History and Doctrine
Questions and Issues
Part I: Chosen
So much! Where to begin?
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Alice In Wonderland, Chapter 12
Throughout Judaic/Christian history, many have heard and seen God. What Does the Bible Say About Hearing God? (openbible.info) lists folks who heard the Divine. People in Scripture Who Saw God: Appendix 5 of Immanuel a Practicum | Immanuel approach is a compendium of many who saw the Almighty. These accounts tend toward snippets. I will refer to this later.
The Fist Council of Nicaea, AD 325, began the canonization of Christian scripture. Subsequent accounts of any who may have heard and saw God seem impossible to come by. Until the early nineteenth century when an upstate New York, country boy saw and spoke with angels, Jesus Christ and The Big Guy Himself!
The spring of 1820, in the woods near his home, fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith Jr., “saw two Personages, (Jesus Christ and God Himself) whose brightness and glory defy all description.” When Joseph asked which of the many Christian sects was God’s true church, God answered, “all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines” and wait for further guidance.
September 22, 1827 the angel Maroni handed Joseph a book of gold plates chronicling a Western Hemisphere culture predating Columbus by over fifteen centuries. Employing, variously, a “urim and thummim” or “seer stone,” twenty-one-year-old Smith translated these writings as The Book of Mormon. April 6, 1830 Joseph Smith Jr. and others founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints. June 27, 1844 Joseph and his brother Hyrum were murdered in the Carthage Illinois jail.
Joseph Smith Jr. was a prolific writer. In addition to the Book of Mormon, he wrote journals and “translated” various Egyptian writings, notably the Book of Abraham, whichEgyptologists agree do not accord with the hieroglyphs. His Pearl of Great Price includes seemingly inspired writing on Moses, Abraham and Matthew. In 1843, to test Joseph’s translational veracity, Wilburn Fugate and Robert Wiley of Kinderhook, Illinois, fabricated six, bell-shaped, metal “Kinderhook” plates, regarding which the History of the Church quotes Smith, “I have translated a portion of [the plates] and find they contain . . . a descent of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt . . . .”
The two hundred and ninety-one pages, The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints documents a century-and-a-half of Joseph Smith Jr’s, and later Church Presidents’ revelations from God Himself. If you will, The Handbook for Mormons.
Notably, the Doctrine and Covenants precepts are not irrefutable. Section 132, Verse 4, recorded July 12, 1843, is clear, “For behold , I (God) reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, (plural marriage) then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (my emphasis)
When Utah’s statehood hinged on the Church’s practice of polygamy, “Official Declaration I” reversed course. “After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.”
Likewise, on the heels of America’s Civil Rights upheaval, “Official Declaration 2” backtracked on, since its inception, the Church’s placing stringent restrictions on black people in Church functions and black men holding the Priesthood, “(a) revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978 (which) removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.”
Back to what I called the “snippet” nature of Biblical accounts of folks seeing and hearing God. Beside perhaps the Prophets, Apostles and Jesus Christ Himself, Joseph Smith Jr.’s long-term, face-to-face relationship with the Almighty seems unrivaled!
The Introduction to The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes clear that Joseph Smith Jr. heard, paraphrased and quoted the voice of God!
“The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Although most of the sections are directed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation.
Most of the revelations in this compilation were received through Joseph Smith Jr., the first prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Others were issued through some of his successors in the Presidency (see headings to D&C 135, 136, and 138, and Official Declarations 1 and 2).
The book of Doctrine and Covenants is one of the standard works of the Church in company with the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price. However, the Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin and was given of God through His chosen prophets for the restoration of His holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these days. In the revelations, one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking anew in the dispensation of the fullness of times; and the work that is initiated herein is preparatory to His Second Coming, in fulfillment of and in concert with the words of all the holy prophets since the world began.” (emphasis added)
Joseph Smith Jr.’s relationship with God seems unique in Judaic/Christian history. I am astonished that Latter Day Saints seem really not to appreciate the profound significance of this longstanding, immediate communion with the Almighty! We are talking Revelations folks! A man seeing and hearing God!
Joe, “Hey . . . God.”
God, “’sup Joe?”
Joe, “I been thinkin’.”
God, “I know.”
Joe, “In the Old Testament Solomon was your prophet, right?”
Joe, “Now I’m Your Man.”
Joe, “Solomon, he had all those wives, whose conkebines”.
God, “You want to fornicate.”
Joe, “Well . . . I mean . . .”
God, “I see you eyeing the sweeties. You want to fornicate, Joe.”
Joe, “Hey deliverin’ Your word is a lonesome job. People criticizin’,
God, “I hear ya Joe. You’d feel less alone if you had more companionship.
Hopping in the sack with one of My Handmaidens would help ease the
God, “Go ahead Joe. Fornicate all you want.”
Joe, “Thanks . . . But there’s a problem.”
God, “You tell little Emma, keep her knickers on. This is man
God, “You, and the Brethren too, can fornicate with something like, oh say
ten virgins, and not sin. Tell ‘em it’s My ‘everlasting covenant.’ Break
it you’re sunk! Write it up Joe. Say I said so.”
Joe, “Thanks God. Thanks a lot!”
God, “ Anytime Joe.”