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Why did Joseph Smith have to return the plates?

Visitor Sunde asked a question on the post “Why do Mormons believe in works?“, that I think deserves broader attention.  It’s a very good question that many looking at the Mormon faith might ask.  I thought I’d make a dedicated post out of it, allowing us to carry on the conversation in it’s own area.

Question:  “Why did Joseph Smith have to return the
gold plates to MORONi? If the Book of
Mormon is true, wouldn’t the continued
availability of the gold plates help the cause
of “truth.”

My original answer:

Thanks for asking!

Joseph Smith had to return the plates because God asked him to.

I assume he was asked to return them because God’s approach is seldom one of providing irrefutable proof for “sign seekers”. He has nothing to prove, so proof is not his goal. Instead, his goal is to try our faith, to distinguish the believers.

Consequently, he continues to architect means whereby man is given the opportunity to encounter truth and choose to believe or not.

So, throughout time, he has sent prophets to teach his word (Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveal his secrets unto his servants the prophets”).

The same is true in our day, from Joseph Smith down to the current prophet. Whether men choose to believe them, is what he wants to see.

And so, with His goal being to try our faith, it seems to make sense that he would ask for the plates return. They’d served their purpose, bringing to our knowledge the scriptural record of the ancient inhabitants of America (the “Other sheep” who “must hear my voice”).

Having served their purpose, it fits within the template of precedence to leave the rest to faith.

It would likely convince many if the tablet containing the ten commandments were on display in some Museum, having been verified of their authenticity. But that too would destroy the purpose – to try our faith.

Reply from Sunde:

Thanks for the reply. I must say that a thoughtful,
inquiring skeptic can better understand the missing
Ten Commandments from thousands of years
ago. Rational thinkers do, and ought to, have a harder
time accepting the “missing” gold plates right after the
publication of their supposed contents to the world in 1830.
Especially, since so much of what Mr. Smith claimed the gold
plates revealed would seem to fly in the face of Scripture.
Is my thinking somehow logically flawed on this point?

See my answer in the comments below…

Rusty

Symbolism in Nephi’s journey to the promised land

The story of Nephi’s journey to the Promised Land is well known and widely told amongst Mormons.  It’s a beautiful and compelling story, rife with principles and drenched in doctrine.   But I sometimes wonder if we overlook many of the most meaningful and marvelous symbolic lessons within it.  Here I’d hope to explore at least a few of these, and invite you to share with us those that I’ve missed by adding your own comments.

If you’re familiar with the story, feel free to skip ahead to the first symbol, otherwise, perhaps you’d enjoy a brief refresher of what happened more than 2600 years ago (view the illustration).

 

Early in The Book of Mormon we find the story of the prophet Lehi, who was commanded to take his family and leave Jerusalem around 600 B.C.

After departing into the wilderness with little more than their tents and a few supplies, and after experiencing untold trials, the family of Lehi eventually made it to the seashore.  There, Nephi, a righteous son of Lehi, was commanded by the Lord to build a ship.  This ship was to carry them across the ocean to a promised land that had been prepared for them, a land where they would enjoy freedom and prosperity.

Nephi, who of course had never built a ship, least of all one that could sail across the ocean, didn’t doubt or complain.  Rather, he simply inquired “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship…”

The Lord told Nephi where to go, and showed him how to construct the ship, using “curious workmanship”.

Once complete, and likely with much anticipation, Nephi and his family went into the ship, and launched into the sea.  They were carried before the wind for many days, after which many of them began to “rejoice”.  But they got carried away, and Nephi, fearing that the Lord would be angry, tried to persuade them back to humility and righteousness.

His two older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, weren’t keen on their younger brother acting as their ruler, so they took and bound him, and treated him “with much harshness”.  Upon so doing, the Lord, angry at their wickedness, caused the Liahona (a compass he’d provided them in the wilderness, and that worked upon their righteousness) to stop working.  A great storm arose, and they were driven back for four full days.

During all this time, Nephi remained bound, and in much pain.  On that fourth, and final day, when the tempest became “exceedingly sore”, Laman and Lemuel thought they would die, and so released Nephi and begged his forgiveness.  Nephi, in spite of his swollen and sore limbs, forgave them and did not complain about his afflictions, but rather worshiped the Lord and prayed for assistance.

The tempest died, Nephi took the compass, which resumed working, and after “many days” of travel, they landed upon the promised land (the American Continent), where they were blessed in abundance.

 

To Nephi the Lord said “And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land, and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.”

Always has the Lord blessed the lives of the righteous, and prepared for them a place or circumstance of similar abundance.  As we work to keep the commandments of God, and endeavor to be as obedient, faithful, and enduring as Nephi, so too will the Lord prepare for us a “land of promise”.

 

Nephi’s ship, can appropriately symbolize our own lives.  Just as the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship, strong, and secure enough to carry his family to the Promised Land, so too has he commanded us to build our own lives, and make them strong enough to carry ourselves, and even our families to our own “promised land”.

What’s more, of the ship Nephi observed:  “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me…” (1 Nephi 18:2).  So too, have we been commanded to live, not as the world liveth, but as God lives, to build our lives not after the manner of men, but after the manner of god.

Only then, will we find our lives a vessel sufficiently capable to weather the storms of life, to provide shelter for those we love, and that will allow us to endure to end.

 

Not after the manner of men

When the Lord told Nephi to build the ship, not only was it after a fashion completely foreign to him, but it was a work that he’d never before done.  But never did he complain, never did he doubt, rather always he simply went forward with faith.

Many times in our lives we may be asked by the Lord to do things that we have not before done, or that may seem impossible.  But our faith should be in God, for with God, all things are possible. 

Of this, Nephi said “If god had commanded me to do all things I could do them.  If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. Now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?”

We must always remember, when seemingly overburdened, or overwhelmed by the requirements set before us, that while relying solely on our own native capacity our task may be impossible, but when we involve the Lord in our lives, we augment our capacity with his, and can do anything.

Seek the Lord often

It is also enlightening that Nephi includes “I did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things”.

How often then do we seek out the Lord, how often do we find ourselves on the “mount”, or in the temple, or seeking the Lord in other holy places?  Doing so is a critical component of receiving the necessary inspiration to guide us as we build our own ships.  It is true, that as we seek the Lord he will show, even unto us, great things.

Line upon line

It should also be noted, that while Nephi knew what he was building, he was not given it all at once.  He said “And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship”. 

How often we want to know it all, to see the end from the beginning, but generally it is simply not so.  Instead we are given line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  We are expected to build our lives step by step, strengthened by the exercise of faith and our ongoing reliance upon continued revelation and intervention from the Lord.

As Nephi, we too must seek the Lord often, and not shun aspects of our lives that push us out of our comfort zone.  For again, we’re building the ship, our lives, after the manner of God, according to his vision, and not our own – a principle so beautifully portrayed in the famous poem “Life Sculptor” by George Washington Doane.

 

The compass provided by the Lord to Lehi and his family clearly represents the spirit of God, the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  It’s profound and vital guidance hinging upon our own righteousness, humility, and willingness to obey.  Often we may find ourselves directionless, wondering which way to turn, with feelings of isolation and helplessness.  But it doesn’t have to be so.

We too have been provided a spiritual compass, but its value is only as good as the heed we give it.  When we attempt to steer our own lives, on our own course, and look not for the directions from the Lord, we too may find ourselves lost, alone, and facing the fierce winds of the world.

But by repenting of our sins, turning back to God, and asking for his help, we’ll find our course correcting itself as the spirit takes hold of the reigns of our life.  The seas of the world seem calmer when we sail with God, in truth, the very wind that so previously tortured our existence, becomes the pushing power that drives us forward.  But only when we remember God, and include him in our lives.

 

At times, we may find ourselves in the position of Nephi, endeavoring to teach, but finding ourselves regularly rejected, or even persecuted.  But as with Nephi, we must never let fear of failure or fear of man, prevent us from proclaiming the gospel, and standing up for that which is right.

And in those times when, alas, even confronted by our fiercest adversaries, may we too be as forgiving as Nephi, too focused on an eternal perspective to let the fleeting actions of others long win our attention.

 

Perhaps even more often we find ourselves in the position of Laman and Lemuel.  There are inspired leaders, such as Nephi, all around us.  These leaders seek to guide us, they care for our souls and seek our welfare.  But often their counsel comes sharply, is unwelcome, or at least unexpected.  Often, just as Laman and Lemuel, we shun that counsel, whether in anger or not, and by so doing, bind those leaders, at least symbolically, from their ability to help us.  Not with physical cords, but with mental, emotional, and spiritual deafness.  By turning a blind eye, and a deaf ear to their inspired guidance, we bind them just as Nephi.

When we do this, we are left unto ourselves, to face the world alone, and we find the wind against us gaining strength, with the seas and troubles of life working against us.

We must not be like Laman and Lemuel of whom Nephi proclaimed “And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts”.

We must elect to be humble, before we’re compelled to be humble.  Life is too good, too sweet, too rich for us to waste our time with the self-inflicted burdens that only come from “going it alone”.  Instead, may we embrace the Lord, and let his strength be our own, that our lives might be lived in righteousness, and that we too, may find ourselves with our families, safe in a Land of Promise.

Rusty

P.S.  To read or listen to the full story of Nephi’s marvelous journey online, click here.

Writing on an open canon, line upon line

One of the foundational principles taught in scripture is that we are given “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”, but many overlook the magnificent implications of this profound principle.

The unstated, but astoundingly clear premise of this principle is simply “what I have given you, is not all I have to give” and “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach”, followed with a resounding and exhilarating “…there’s more”.

What beautiful and compelling doctrine, for at its heart is the promise of continued revelation, and the assurance that what he has already taught us, will be added upon.

That refreshing realization revitalizes our search for truth and renews our need for a religion whose philosophy embraces the ideals of ongoing communication from God.

For God has always communicated with Man, through prophets, an ancient and historically proven  pattern.  And as he does so, they record his words, as they did in Ancient Isreal which brought us the Bible.

And within the Bible Christ himself declared that he had other sheep that should hear his voice, other people to visit and teach.   Those too heard his voice, and recorded his words, bringing us the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, and another witness that God gives man line upon line, precept upon precept.

And finally, the Lord restored his pattern of prophets to the earth, through Joseph Smith, thus renewing the ongoing availability of prophetic guidance and instruction to the true followers of Christ, that our divinely outlined “line upon line” instruction may be endlessly fed by inspired leaders of God.

That’s the miracle of Mormonism, wholeheartedly embracing the principle of progression, line upon line, precept upon precept, ever looking for that next line, that next precept, rather than the devestatign proclamation that “we’ve had enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  Click here “Discussing an open canon” for further reflection and discussion on the subject.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open cannon on “Gods words never cease

God’s words never cease…

Yesterday I posted “Writing an open canon, line upon line” and “Discussing an open canon“.  As a continuation of this important topic, I thought that today I would present you with a special treatment on the topic by an apostle of the Lord, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz3rggCnhxQ&feature=related

 

Rusty

A quest for spiritual knowledge

Lehi’s landmark vision of the Tree of Life is one of the most well known revelations from the Book of Mormon.  It’s a beautiful depiction of life, and embodies numerous eternal principles with profound depth.  One of which is the importance of pursuing spiritual knowledge.

The Tree of Life, a synopsis:

Since many of my readers are new to the Book of Mormon, here’s a brief synopsis of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life.

In it, the prophet Lehi finds himself in a “dark and dreary wilderness”.  He travels for a time, and upon praying for assistance, beholds a large and spacious field, on the other side of which, stands a tree, whose fruit was exceedingly white, sweet beyond all other fruit, and caused his soul to be filled with exceedingly great joy.

Compelled to share this joy, he looks up to find his family, and notices the rest of his surroundings.

He sees a river of water, and next to it, a rod of iron with a “strait and narrow path” leading along the bank of the river, so as to protect one who held onto it from falling prey to the current and being swept away.

This path led through the great and spacious field, wherein “numerous concourses of people” were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path, which led to the tree. But in the field, there arose a mist of darkness, so that those who would not cling to the rod of iron, would lose their way, some drowning in the depths of the river, and others becoming lost along forbidden paths.

He spoke also of a great and spacious building on the other side of the river, which seemed, as it were, to float in the air, and in which there were many people who were pointing their fingers at, and mocking those who were partaking of the fruit. There were many who partook of the fruit of the tree, and feeling ashamed, left in search of the building, and were lost. After a time, the building, which lacked a foundation, fell to the earth, causing the destruction of all who were within.

The tree of Life, an interpretation:

Upon hearing his father speak of his vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi, a soon-to-be prophet, sought the Lord for understanding. He too was then given the same vision, but in expanded form, complete with interpretation of its symbolic meaning.

To Nephi it was revealed that the Tree of Life, and the fruit thereon was representative of the Love of God, which fills the soul with joy. The Rod of Iron was the word of god, the great and spacious field was the world, and the great and spacious building was the pride of the world.

The pursuit of spiritual knowledge

Amongst the many lessons taught in this vision, one of those that stands strongest for me is that of the rod of iron. Often within the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (the Mormons), the phrase “hold to the rod” has become cliché. It has sort of come to represent the vague notion of righteous living, our need to “choose the right”.

But while these too are good, the specific, inspired translation of that symbol, as revealed to the prophet Nephi, is that the rod of iron, that thing to which we are to “cling” is specifically… the “word of God”. And cling to it we must.

There’s nothing casual about the word cling. It is defined as “to hold tightly, to grasp or embrace, to cleave”. It is an active word that depicts active behavior.

It’s no mystery where we can FIND the word of God. It is to be had in abundance, in the scriptures, in inspired teachings by the prophets today as well as in times past. And it is to be had by direct revelation to you, as an individual, according to your faith and effort.

In the chapter preceding Nephi’s vision of interpretation, he comments:

“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father… was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever… For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (1 Nephi 10:17-19)

Here Nephi communicates the primary ingredient for receiving revelation: diligent seeking. This is how we cling to the word of God. By diligently seeking it. We must become singularly focused on obtaining, understanding, and internalizing the word of God.

We are told through modern revelation to do “all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). And what is the Glory of God? “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36).

The prophet Joseph said “No man can be saved in ignorance”. We must therefore reflect upon the urgency with which we search the scriptures, seek divine revelation, and work to obtain the word of God. For this is how we cling to the iron rod, this is how we obtain the fruit of the tree… the Love of God, this is how we plunge through the mists of darkness (confusion of the world and the adversary).

Only by clinging to the word of God can we obtain the tree. As the angel told Nephi of the Great and Spacious building “behold the wisdom of the world”. Great was the fall thereof, for it was founded upon the pride of men. But our foundations must be built upon the solid ground of true doctrine, entrenched in the fertile soul of divine revelation, from which eternal lives may grow.

So cling to the rod, and begin your own quest for spiritual knowledge, that the fruit of the tree, or the love of God, will be yours.

Rusty

Behold not the filthiness

Earlier, I’d posted “A quest for spiritual knowledge”, wherein I talked about Lehi’s grand vision of the tree of life. Still studying my way through that section of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, today I stumbled accross the following passage that struck me as important, but that I’d simply read over countless times before.

Nephi had just returned from being carried away in the Spirit, receiving his own vision of the Tree of Life. Upon returning to his camp, his brothers, Laman and Lemuel began asking about the meaning of Lehi’s dream. They had just asked “What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?”

1 Nephi 15: 27

And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.

It struck me that living in the world, we too are surrounded by filthiness, even as prominent as was this river of water in Lehi’s vision. But we can choose our focus. We can choose what thoughts occupy our minds.

Indeed, so much can our minds be swallowed up in the good that surrounds us, in the opportunities, in the service of others, and in the light of the Lord that we too can become impervious to the filthiness of the world.

At such a point, we live in the world, but not of the world. And then, our minds become single to the glory of God.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:67

And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.

Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his will.

Rusty

Spiritual Entropy

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/spiritual-entropy

What’s in the Book of Mormon?

If you’re a frequent visitor to my Blog, you’ll know I like to create series of posts.  Most of them are ongoing.  For instance, I’ve got a series on Faith “Faith Fitness“, and a series on the Mormon articles of faith, and others.

In this series, I’m going to cover principles and teachings found in the Book of Mormon. 

Whether you’re Mormon or not, the principles taught in this book are compelling and eternal – even if you don’t consider it a divine work (which I do).  What’s more, they provide a powerful second witness to the Bible, and help us gain further understanding of the teachings of the gospel of Christ.

To be clear, if you’re wondering what is taught in the Book of Mormon, this is not meant to be a substitute for simply picking one up (they’re free), but rather to be simple inspirational insights and commentary into its contents.

This post will serve as an index to all posts in the series, the first of which I intend to provide shortly. To make sure and not miss an issue, feel free to subscribe using one of the links below.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Rusty

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Discussing an open canon

As I describe here “Writing an open canon, line upon line“, one of the foundational principles taught in scripture is the notion that we are instructed line upon line, precept upon precept. 

The premise of this principle is that we don’t have it all.  That there is more to come and it will be distributed by degrees (the subject for a future post).

It’s the assumption of “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach… there’s more.”

But most traditional Christian denominations believe that there is no more, accepting instead the idea of a closed canon. 

What a dreadful thought, at least to one who has witnessed the incredible clarity gained through additional scripture (which is why “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established”).    

But because this comes up so frequently in discussions here, I decided it was worthy of a dedicated post, so that we could explore it together.  Hopefully we will each gain appreciation for the other’s views.  I can only assume I am egregiously ignorant in understanding the notion of a closed canon, for the premises upon which it is based just seem so rejectable.

It seems to me, that in order to accept a closed cannon, you must accept at least one of the following:

God has already told us all there is to tell

Under this premise, I could accept that perhaps additional scripture is unnecessary. 

But I can’t get past the mere idea of this.  First, if we had been given it all, we would not be given line upon line, but rather the whole truth all at once, which seems absurd, realistically, to assume that the sum-total of God’s knowledge could somehow fit within a single volume of scripture.  My goodness, even if it were a bazillion pages long, it couldn’t even come close to containing the full breadth and depth of God’s eternal knowledge.  To assume that “well, this is all there is” seems shockingly arrogant. 

I cannot accept that somehow God has run out of things to say.

God is unable to speak to man today

Surely, if he were simply unable, this could account for the ongoing silence anticipated by accepting a closed canon.  But that contradicts the very notion of an omnipotent God.

I cannot accept that God has run out of ways or the ability to communicate.

God us unwilling to speak to man today

Perhaps if he’s not unable, then he’s unwilling, but why would that be?  Why would he so clearly establish a pattern of prophets and others who record the revelations of God, and which become known as scripture.  Why would he be unwilling to communicate through revelation today, for the bible said that it is “upon this rock” the rock of revelation that his very church shall be built, and in countless references has he instructed man to turn to God, to ask God, to Knock, and in return he will answer, and open.

I cannot accept that God is simply unwilling to communicate.

God’s words today are less important

If you accept that there’s no way on earth or in heaven that the Bible can contain the sum total of all God’s knowledge, and that he HAS told us he’d continue to instruct us line upon line, precept upon precept… if you accept that god is neither unable, or unwilling to speak to man today, then it seems you must accept the principle of revelation.

But if you accept the principle of revelation, to say the canon is closed, is to say that the words he says today are somehow less important than those he said in the past, as if they’re somehow drowned out by words he spoke some 2,000 years ago.  Why would his words to man spoken 2,000 years ago be worthy of canonization, but the words he speaks to man today, are not? 

If God lives (and I attest that he does), then he speaks, and if he speaks, then his words are of equal, if not greater importance for us today, for they are given directly TO us, in our time, for our benefit, and in consideration of our specific needs and circumstance.

How is man somehow able to decide which of his words should be “canon” and which of his words are unworthy?

But I have a testimony that the words of God are all true, and that there is no end to his instruction, and that all instruction from God must be considered equal, eternal, and ongoing, and as such, am happy to belong to a religion that embraces an open canon, that it may never be found saying “we have enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open canon, and “Writing an open canon, line upon line

Is there evidence for the Book of Mormon – the answer may surprise you

Tina, on the post “Seeking for evidence” asked today:

Please give me the name of one renowned historian who takes the Book of Mormon serious.

Tina, I appreciate your question.  I have your answer.  Before I share it, I think it’s important to note why so many ask this question.

The Book of Mormon presents a serious challenge to orthodox Christianity.  It is said to be another witness of Jesus Christ, a record of His dealings with the Ancient American inhabitants.  If scripture, it provides clarity to the bible in ways which create occasional, but important contradictions to the traditions and beliefs that have evolved over the centuries by all other Christian denominations.

If the Book of Mormon is true, then not only does it call into question the beliefs of so many, but it has eternal implications for you, and calls for meaningful, but difficult changes to your life.

As such, it would be much easier if we could simply dismiss it, rather than undertake the spiritual responsibility of studying it ourselves, and asking God if it is true.  That makes us vulnerable, and we all prefer to have our beliefs validated, and not challenged.

If it could simply be dismissed, that would be so much easier.  If we could just say “there is insufficient archeological evidence to support such claims” then we give ourselves reason to move on.  And so rather than seek the answer from God, we seek answers from men, from science.  We say “give me evidence, give me proof”, even when we know that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Indeed, faith is the evidence, not things we can see.

Still, we want a sign, and archeology is the easiest, and often the first place to turn.  Why?  Because we’ve been raised under the misconception that the Americas don’t have the archeological evidence to support the massive amounts of people, or the advanced technology as recorded in the Book of Mormon.

Indeed, even today, textbooks teach that pre-Columbian America was largely uninhabited.  But as we continuously find throughout all the sciences, things previously accepted as facts (like a flat world), end up not being factual at all.

While there are numerous new findings (archeological, anthropological, and otherwise) that I could recount (and will at some point), perhaps the single best source I could refer you to is a new book, recently published, and that is now a National Bestseller. It’s called “1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann.  Coincidentally, Mann is not LDS, and didn’t intend to validate the Book of Mormon with his work, even though that’s precisely what he did.

The Washington Post said “1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas…”  The book explains that contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled, but were here in huge numbers, larger even than any contemporary European city.  That the people shaped the earth around them, had immaculately clean streets, running water, and were even the first to genetically engineer crops.  But for decades, archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others have been bringing forward a different story.  1491 brings it all together in one read.

One interesting revelation brought by these scientists, is the realization that rather than the first Americans having come over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C, but rather that they came by boat.  Interestingly, that’s just how the Book of Mormon describes it.

Another interesting revelation is that the reason early European visitors found an empty landscape, was not because they’d found the natural, unchanging state of native America, but rather the end product of a vast society decimated by wars and epidemics – perhaps the greatest in human history.  Again, remarkably, that’s just how the Book of Mormon explains it.

Mann describes discovering gigantic ancient cities, with huge, 14 foot walls thrown up as fortifications.  Again, just how the Book of Mormon describes Moroni’s fortifications of the Nephite cities.

It was believed that the Inca, for instance, fell to Pizarro because they had no metallurgy.  But these findings clearly show that they actually had a highly refined metallurgy, just as the Book of Mormon states.

About the book, “Publishers Weekly” stated that “Mann also shows that the Maya constructed huge cities and governed them with a cohesive set of political ideals. Most notably, according to Mann, the Haudenosaunee, in what is now the Northeast U.S., constructed a loose confederation of tribes governed by the principles of individual liberty and social equality.”  Again, that’s just how the Book of Mormon describes the creation of the Nephite nation, and Moroni’s “standard of liberty” which united the cities, even placing them in the right area.

So while it would be convenient to dismiss the Book of Mormon based on the old, uninformed notion that there isn’t sufficient archeological evidence to validate its claims, in fact, the opposite is true.

So true in fact, that the new evidence not only validates the description of early America as recorded in the Book of Mormon, but validates the prophetic nature of the Joseph Smith.  For it must be remembered that we’re talking about a book written by Joseph Smith (actually translated from ancient plates) hundreds of years ago.  Long before any of this evidence was to surface, at a time when such writings were in stark contrast to current beliefs.  But here we are, hundreds of years later, finding detailed evidence validating that work.

It’s been surprising to many.

Publishers Weekly further commented about the book:  “In a riveting and fast-paced history, massing archeological, anthropological, scientific and literary evidence, Mann debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-Columbian America.  Reviewing the latest, not widely reported research in Indean demography, origins and ecology, Mann zestfully demonstrates that long before any European explorers set foot in the New World, native American cultures were flourishing with a high degree of sophistication.  The new researchers have turned received wisdom on its head.”

I’ll be posting additional similarities illustrated in the Book (and elsewhere) to further eliminate this “easy out”, but if you prefer not to wait, here’s the link to it on Amazon.

Most importantly, however, are two simply points.  The first is the principle that we should not require the validation of science (or signs) to substantiate our faith.  It’s sure nice when it does, but true faith needs no such validation.  Second, having removed the easy dismissal of the Book of Mormon, it is upon each of us to then undertake the spiritual responsibility to consider the work for ourselves.  To study, and read it for ourselves.  And then to ask God, for ourselves, if it is not true.   It’s simply too important not to.

Indeed, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5).  The Book of Mormon itself contains a promise.

“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 be 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 10:3-5)

Rusty

P.S.  for more information about the Book of Mormon, or to request a copy, click here.

See also “Discussing an open canon” for coverage and discussions about the common  misconception that the canon of scripture is closed.

The living Christ, a living Prophet – Conference Conclusion

 

This video, while intended to introduce conference, provides an equally compelling conclusion to this marvelous event.  A powerful introduction and testimony by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Living Christ and a living prophet.

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pG2TxKrwAY

 

And here it is in text format:

A general conference of the church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ.  That He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith, in fulfillment of that ancient promise.  That the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His church on earth, and again come in like manner as those Judean saints had seen him ascend into heaven.

This conference, and every other conference like it, is a declaration that he condescended to come to earth, in poverty and humility, to face sorrow and rejection, disappointment and death, in order that we might be saved from those very fates as our eternity unfolds.  That with His stripes we are healed. 

This conference proclaims to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people his messianic promise, that his mercy endureth forever. 

To all of you who think you are lost, or without hope, or who think you have done too much, that was too wrong, for too long.  To every one of you who worry that you’re stranded somewhere on the wintery plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process.  This conference calls out Jehovah’s unrelenting refrain “my hand is stretched out still.”

I testify of this reaching, rescuing, merciful Jesus.  That this is His redeeming church, based on His redeeming love.  It is no trivial matter for this church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it.  It is true light shining in a dark world.  And it shines from these proceedings. 

And that as those in the Book of Mormon declared, “There came prophets again among the people, who were sent from the Lord to speak it, yeah, there came prophets in the land again”.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland
Quorum of the 12 Apostles

What if Mormons are right?

There’s an interesting article that I would recommend:  “What if Mormons are right, and Catholics and Protestants are wrong?”

The full article (and well worth the read) can be found here.

The author asks the important question “Why are the Catholic bishops so concerned about Mormons baptizing dead parishioners?”

His article is referring, in case you weren’t ware, to a recent and ongoing controversy over use of records of the Catholic Church by Mormons in their ongoing genealogical endeavors, to discover and trace back ancestors and create complete genealogical trees, which are also used to perform ordinances for those that have died.

He suggests that the practice of baptism for the dead makes more sense than the practice of baptizing babies, since throughout Christendom it’s agreed that the soul lives on after death and maintains “understanding and consciousness of self”, which is more than can be said of babies, who have no understanding at all.

What’s more, the practice of baptism for the dead, he points out, wasn’t invented by Mormons, but rather was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion, and was only abandoned after a close-run, highly heated debate, which he describes as an effort to hamper growth of competing sects.

He concludes that if we (Mormons) are wrong, then who cares, what does it matter?  But if we’re right, then there’ll be a lot of people in the hereafter that are awfully grateful the Mormons had the inspired guidance to restore a practice that dates back to Christ’s original church.

His argument is much similar to one in the Bible where the apostles were brought before the court, and the argument was given that they should be allowed to preach, for either they are right, in which case what they teach is good, or they’re wrong, in which case it doesn’t matter.

For those who might be less familiar, baptism for the dead refers to the practice of allowing the saints to be baptized by proxy, for those who have already died.  It’s a doctrine and practice that is sublime, a clear manifestation of God’s mercy, and a key element in his eternal plan of the salvation of man. 

For baptism is a required step unto salvation (“Except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5), but what of those who have died without a knowledge of Christ, or an opportunity to hear and accept his Gospel?

Either they are eternally damned for something over which they had no control, or there must be a way provided for them.

Most Christian religions today subscribe to the former view, believing that they were somehow simply “not selected” for salvation, and as such, are eternally damned. 

But such an argument contradicts the notion of a just, fair, and merciful God.  For if Christ’s mercy is sufficient for all, why not for them?  This is the “sufficiency paradox” which I describe in detail here

But the doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is a key element in understanding the real meaning of the atonement, and the concept of “sufficiency”.  Indeed, and it is my solemn testimony, that for those that have died before, without an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel, a way has been provided.

Hence, why in the original church of Christ, and why as a part of the restored church of Christ, we have the practice of baptism for the dead (see also 1 Corinthians 15:9).  That those who have passed before, might have the opportunity yet in the life beyond death, and before judgment, to accept the gospel, and have the work of baptism done for them, by proxy.

The doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is yet another instance of the loss of purity of the gospel of Christ over time, as saving doctrines and practices such as this, have been slowly eroded and even removed.  But this apostasy was not to be forever, for in 1820 the lord appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in a grand vision that would change the world forever, and would initiate a complete restoration of the fullness of the gospel to the earth today.

To learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, see www.JosephSmith.com

Realizing the reality of that grand vision is the quintessential question of our time, for as I explain here – if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, then the fullness of the restored Gospel is available today, in a church led by living prophets, with ordinances performed by the power and authority of God, the one and only path to perfection.

My hope is that awareness of the sublime doctrine, along with the ancient and restored practice of baptism for the dead will lead many to discover the many other restored truths that can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).

Rusty


How to tell if it’s the spirit, or yourself?

Someone typed this phrase into a search engine the other day, and ended up at my Blog.

First, I love seeing that people are out there asking such important questions.  For indeed, the ability to discern the promptings of the Holy Ghost is one of the most important attributes I think we can acquire.

There are many answers to this question, but here I’ll make the assumption you’re referring to a confirmation you’re seeking to a question or decision in your life.  For this, let’s look at the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 8:7-9), which addresses this topic head on.

7.  Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8.  But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you;  Therefore, you shall feel that it is right. 

9.  But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;

Study it out in your mind:

From this scripture, we see the prerequisite command that we must first study it out in our mind, whatever it is we seek. 

So often we have our own prejudices, we have our own idea of what we WANT, and we naturally feel fear, or apprehension over certain things.  I like to refer to this as emotional baggage, and every decision is fraught with it.  If we skip this step, and don’t exercise our own mental capacity to figure it out objectively, then we leave ourselves far more subject to these external emotional influences.  Only by studying it out first, are we prepared to transcend that emotional baggage, make a decision based on principles and not prejudices, thereby leaving us open to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Ask if it is right:

Once we have studied, and have come to our own conclusion, then we’re prepared to ask.  But we must ask sincerely and with faith, believing that we shall receive. 

If we ask insincerely, without being truly willing to follow the answer we get, then again, we find ourselves more greatly swayed to our own emotions, and all we get is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we ask without faith, then again, the doubts in our mind will block or blur the clarity of the feelings of the spirit.

Burning or Stupor:

That burning feeling comes as the Holy Ghost bears witness to us that what we’ve asked is right.  The stupor, at least for me, isn’t that I suddenly suffer from amnesia, and forget everything, but seems to me more like a confusing feeling, where I struggle to really envision the path that I’ve decided on.  On the other hand, if it is right, and the times when I distinctly feel the spirit, the path (whatever it is) is very clear, and you’re motivated and inspired by that clarity, even it isn’t a complete understanding of HOW it might come to pass, you still see that first step clearly.  But if it feels somehow indistinct, or blurry, like a concept you can’t quite grasp, then you’re likely feeling a stupor of thought to indicate you need to pursue an alternate course.

Putting it to the test

Within the scriptures, in many cases, we’re told about how a good seed can only bring forth good fruit, and an evil seed will only bring forth evil fruits, hence “by their fruits ye shall know them”.

Alma, in the Book of Mormon teaches the same principle in his magnificent discourse on faith, suggesting that you should experiment upon the word, plant it in your heart, and see if it will grow.  And if it grows, then you know that it is good.  But if it doesn’t, then you know that it is not good (Alma 32:27-34).

I most commonly use this principle in my decision making process, treating the word, or the seed, as the idea or concept that I am pursuing.  In my mind, I study it, I follow the idea through, trying to understand all the likely paths and consequences.  I have found that when doing so, if it is good, then I find that the “way is lit” (mentally), and I can see clearly what will happen.  But if it is not good, then I stumble around, as though in a “stupor of thought”, and struggle and struggle to try to “imagine” it through, but to no avail.  At that point, I try to shake off the emotional baggage that held me to that concept, and then attempt the mental exercise on the opposite course.

This way of “experimenting upon the word” has always been successful to me, so I wanted to share it with you.  I hope you (or someone) finds it of some value.

Rusty

P.S. If this did not answer your question, I’ve also addressed the “feelings” of the spirit to some degree here where I describe that not all emotion is of divine origin, and offer some suggestions as to what it seems witnesses of the spirit do feel like. 

Also, here and here I explain how to sharpen your spiritual senses and increase the frequency with which you’re able to feel the spirit.

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