Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, June 3

“If the LDS/ Mormon Prophets Were Wrong on THAT, Then I Just Can’t Have Faith in ANY of Their Words: Truths Are Not the Same” by grego

If the LDS/ Mormon Prophets Were Wrong on THAT, Then I Just Can’t Have Faith in ANY of Their Words: Truths Are Not the Same
by grego
(c)d 2009

In somewhat contrary position to my last post…

On http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_lamanites.html, I found the following, which has some great insight into a typical argument many people use with regards to modern prophets and the LDS Church:

-=-=-=
“Church defenders, I believe, do not quite grasp that simply suggesting that none of this was “official church doctrine”, itself a difficult claim to sustain, doesn’t really do anything other than raise other more devastating questions, like:

If church leaders could get stuff THIS BASIC wrong – like, who is their founding scripture about, and who are their blood descendants, etc.? – what ELSE could they have gotten wrong? Why should we credit them at all, if as you say, they all missed something that basic, and which was so easily revealed to Matthew Roper and John Sorenson? And anyway, why should Mormons disbelieve prophets and apostles, and believe instead a marginalized set of scholars who keep saying the prophets and apostles are wrong are incorrect on the most basic religious claim imaginable?

Defenders sometimes imply that arguments should be accepted because those making them possess superior authority; but they have far less “authority” in the minds of most members than do GA’s; and certainly, there are far more prominent “authorities” in all of their fields, who probably to a man would dismiss most Mormon apologetic arguments as not much more than rubbish. So, arguments to authority just don’t work for FARMS guys: because the authorities ABOVE them, whether ecclesiastical or secular, nearly all have disagreed with them!

But all this raises another question: since defenders are in contradiction with many leaders past and present, why are those apostles funding and promoting those scholars’ work? And how can that NOT raise questions about whether the church is really being run by an omniscient mind, who presumably values internal coherence? How can “‘A’ equal ‘Not A'”, even for God? If, as Alma says, God could not violate free agency without ceasing to be God, and as Joseph and Brigham said (and D&C), is bound by laws, and is more of a supreme engineer or architect rather than a magician, I don’t see any warrant anywhere for presuming that even God could make two plus two equal five, or that he could make one thing, and its oppposite, identical, just by divine decree. Once again, this approach seems to not amount to much of an argument for the church at all.

Why should anyone doubt that the shifting explanations for the Book of Mormon are being provoked not by increased revelation, but by “the arm of the flesh” as it expresses itself in the very earthy disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, zoology, etc.? To believe otherwise, would be to believe that Sorenson et al would be coming up with these scenarios, EVEN IF all those disciplines had CORROBORATED Joseph’s own pronunciations on BOM geography and anthropology, rather than create difficulties for them – and this is NOT BELIEVABLE. Would John Sorenson really still be disagreeing with Joseph Smith if all the evidence was in Joseph’s favour?

And, if the goalposts are being shifted not because of revelation, but from, as Joseph Fielding Smith once noted of the LGT, of necessity due to the evidence yielded by human disciplines and the understanding yielded by human minds – why should members then NOT (following the precedent established by FARMS themselves) likewise allow on to the table things like physical evidence and allow their own minds to do their jobs, in trying to evaluate and understand the BOM? If one piece of evidence is laid on the table by FARMS, it opens the door to all of them being laid on the table; and it just won’t do to claim, as GBH did in The Ensign a couple of years ago, that only confirming evidence counts. It is no wonder there is something of a hermorrhaging. The church has done all this to itself, and still doesn’t even seem to realize it.

Back to one church argument: if it was not ever “official church doctrine” (despite “Jesus'” support in the D&C) that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors” of the American Indian, and that they are descended from BOM leaders, etc., why was it preached from the pulpit by presidents and apostles, and then placed in official church manuals, and included in the introduction the church’s own edition of the BOM? Why does Jesus think it was?

In other words, another problem with this line of defense is that if THIS was not “official church doctrine”, then NOTHING is (with one exception). And if the church has no doctrine other than “obey your file leader”, it is difficult to see how it can live up to its own claims about itself, and rather, how it seems to endorse all of the worst characterizations made of it.

I continue to be unable to see why any “anti-Mormon” should ever be a concern to the church; all the most devastating questions are raised by the church’s own manuals, website, scriptures, leaders, and defenders.

-=-=-=

So, is it true?

Well, I agree with the last sentence, the true “most devastating questions” are raised by members of the LDS Church. If you look at Mormon apologetics, the apologists themselves come up with and even bring to light much more difficult questions and problems than the con-LDS groups, which are often stuck on very old questions that were answered many years ago.

Before getting into the message here, note that many things, changed just a little, can be very important to arguments and the overall scene. For example, take this sentence:
“(despite ‘Jesus’s’ support in the D&C) that the Lamanites were the ‘principal ancestors’ of the American Indian, and that they are descended from BOM leaders,”
Where in the Doctrine and Covenants does Jesus give support that the Lamanites are the principal ancestors? Or that they are descended from Book of Mormon leaders? Nowhere.
Or, is the LDS Church’s one doctrine “obey your file leader”? Hardly, lol.
There are others, but I can still get the jist of it all, right?

However, I believe it’s important because part of the problem of why there is confusion in the first place, is the inability to understand exactly what is being communicated. I wonder if many people get angry not because of the illogicity of something, but because of frustration at trying to understand it. Too many times our personal filters really skew or rearrange the heck out of messages and communications. When that happens, there will always be problems with prophets and prophecies—whether someone is not LDS, or is. And when there’s lots of emotion, there’s often a gap in the logic… Anyway, on…

In the post, I sense a questioning of what really is a prophet, how is it possible that they can lead us down wrong paths, and how do we/ why would we follow the prophets if they just lead us down wrong paths?

(My “Moroni the Man, Pahoran the Propagandist”, “Three Spirits”, and “Ether 12:27” articles talk about this type of thing, and show that there are times, I believe, that prophets might not see it or might have reason to not let others see it unless it’s personally revealed to them.)

This might seem a little out of order here, but I’ll start with the biggest principle I use to deal with these questions myself: that of different “grades” of truths.

There are saving truths, which are essential for one’s salvation and exaltation, and non-saving truths, which are nonessential for one’s salvation; even these truths can be further distinguished, both as to need and to degree. Where the Book of Mormon occurred, for example—while it does have value in the gospel, prophecy, and the future—is not a saving truth. Therefore, I see less need for God to reveal that to a prophet than, say, how a person is to be baptized (interesting connection to 3 Nephi 11 here…). Just think—the apostles in Jerusalem didn’t know about the Nephites; but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been/ won’t be saved (3 Nephi 15:14-23).

Prophets, as men, are still required to grow and learn (see the article about “Ether 12:27” on this site about that).

Even Jesus, the greatest prophet ever (and God, son of God the Father), went through the same process other prophets go through:

Luke 2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Doctrine and Covenants 93:11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
15 And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.

Jesus didn’t “know it all” from the moment he was born. He progressed as a mortal, as we all do. He did know, however, the things He needed to know, at the times He needed to know them, and He did them perfectly. He also knew those things because he wanted to know them and did all that was required to know them.

Church members have been commanded (official church doctrine!) to not just rely on revelation for everything, including doctrinal truths. “What?! You mean God wants me to learn other than by pure revelation?” Yes, that’s what He has said:

D&C 90: 15 And set in order the churches, and STUDY AND LEARN, and BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH ALL GOOD BOOKS, AND WITH LANGUAGES, TONGUES, AND PEOPLE.

D&C 88:118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, SEEK YE OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS words of wisdom; SEEK LEARNING, EVEN BY STUDY AND ALSO BY FAITH.

D&C 109:7, 14 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, SEEK YE OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS words of wisdom, SEEK LEARNING EVEN BY STUDY AND ALSO BY FAITH;
And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS, and that they may SEEK LEARNING EVEN BY STUDY, AND ALSO BY FAITH, as thou hast said;

(This ties in well with the writers writing the plates and Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon.)

Not only that, if you try to live your life only by pure revelation, you’ll probably fail.

When “a man speaks as a prophet”, what does that mean? It means someone speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Prophets are people. They can make mistakes. They will make mistakes. They have made mistakes. Scary, eh?

But if they are men and can make mistakes, how can we trust the prophets?

Let me ask you… how can you trust anything or anyone? Can you even trust God?

Let me ask you… how can anyone trust you? Can you even trust yourself?

What does the Book of Mormon say?

Here are a few scriptures that come to mind:

Alma 5:45 And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
Alma 5:46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
Alma 5:47 And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.

Moroni 10:4 And 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.
Moroni 10:5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

The Book of Mormon is full of stories of people seeking revelation and receiving it. The Book of Mormon tells us to pray, fast, experiment, see if the words of the prophets are true.

All in all, it seems that the Book of Mormon teaches that we do not need to accept the words of the prophets just on their word!

Does this help with “trust”? In essence, it comes down to, “Do you trust *yourself*? Because in the end, that is who will answer to God for your own behavior.

Blessings come to those who obey the prophets. Try it, experiment on that. If you don’t know or aren’t sure, pray.

I don’t believe everything prophets say, just because they say it. I definitely note it, make myself open to believing it, and make myself responsible for finding it out.

As a principle, I am wary of generalizations, unclear things, remarks made in passing, canned responses, etc.

Doctrine is like truth (explained above)—there are grades of it. “Official church doctrine” really is what it claims to be—it’s not a bunch of teachings, no matter who has taught it, for how long, how many others have agreed with it, whether it has been spoken of in general conference or printed in the Church News or Ensign, etc. It is possible to know and preach a truth without it being “official church doctrine”. It is possible to receive a revelation for the Church that is not “official church doctrine”.

People have their places and gifts. Anyone who looks to a prophet for all things, is a slothful and foolish person. (That “by faith and by study” fits in nicely here, too.)

Can it be frustrating? Absolutely, almost guaranteed. Probably very similar to your child trying to understand you, their parent!

When I lose focus that God really is my heavenly Father and I am His child, it’s easy to get things bent all out of whack and proportion and importance. I just need to remember my relationship with my child and correlate it to that, just many degrees beyond, and it’s not *as* frustrating anymore. I also need to have faith. You know, many things really aren’t like we think they are.

It’s imperative to prioritize things; God has.


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3 Comments »

  1. “It is a slothful servant who must be commanded in all things.”

    Take responsibility for your own faith, and quit trying to pawn the job off on Joseph Smith and other Church leaders.

    Having a prophet never meant you had to shut off your own brain. Though apparently you seemed to think so.

    Comment by Seth R. — 2009, June 3 @ 1:21 pm

  2. Dear Seth R.,

    Amazing, even with a brain “on” you missed that I wrote just what you are saying! ;)
    Hey, this is the second time you have taken offense at a quote from something I did not write but am responding to, and replied to me as if I were the author! Are you reading the whole article? Are you responding late at night? Are you depressed, angry, …? What’s up?

    Comment by grego — 2009, June 4 @ 1:54 am

  3. Really, second time?

    Guess I’m just not being careful enough today.

    Comment by Seth R. — 2009, June 4 @ 2:58 am


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