Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A little history fun

Our daughter came to my husband and I last night wanting us to help her study for her history test.  It was mostly on the Reformation.  As she was trying to get the main events straight, I told her, "everything was about religion and power and keeping that power."  She said, "the Catholic Church sent out more missionaries," I said "yes, they were so concerned about everyone's salvation," with a smile on my face.  She turned to me and said, "they sent missionaries out to get more money," I said, "oh, that sounds familiar," my smile now turning into a chuckle, guess who's been listening to her mom and dad talk?  As we continued to go through the history, the parallels became fascinating! So let's have a little fun with history:

The Inquisition likened to The Mormon Reformation and The Strengthening the Members Committee

The Inquisition began as a legal way to contend with heretics. You know, those who spoke out about the Catholic Church wielding its controlling power over the helpless and innocent.  Its name comes from the Latin root word inquiro, which means, "to look into".  The inquisitors, those "looking into stuff" were accountable to only the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the earthly representative of God!   They exacted penalties, tortured, and killed, those who objected to or threatened the power of the Church, you know, only stuff that God would do if He were on the earth.  The direct result of the Inquisition was increased influence and power for the church and need I say, an increase in wealth.  The two things, power and wealth, that God hungers after and that man is able to handle so well.  I think I have that right.  Yeah, that's right; and it was kind of a big, maybe biggest, violation of human rights in history, but there was the Holocaust, so... it's a toss up.  

Okay, now let's compare the Inquisition to the Mormon Reformation.   Why the puzzled look?  Surely you've heard of the Mormon Reformation.  Remember... we studied that in Seminary, at the same time that we studied the Meadow Mountains Massacre.  No?  I guess you're right, we didn't study those did we? I was in my forties in college before I ever heard of the Meadow Mountains Massacre.  I just learned about the Mormon Reformation this year. It took place in 1856 and 1857. It was under the direction of President Brigham Young, our earthly representative of God, kind of like a Mormon Pope, the prophet, seer and revelator that speaks directly to God to get His will concerning His church.  Those overseeing the reformation, Young's counselors, were only accountable to him.  Though on a tiny, tinier scale then the Inquisition, there are similarities.  Like only being accountable to the head of the church, and wielding complete authority.   

The Mormon Reformation began with President Young's desire to increase spirituality within the church. He was unhappy with the worldliness of the saints, as they began to build up their own personal wealth.  The reformation began by strict rules being enforced over the congregants through intimidation, home surveillance through a new home missionary program, and preaching the need for repentance and change from the pulpit at General Conference and other meetings.  Young's two counselors, Heber C. Kimball and Jedediah Grant, went throughout the entire Utah Territory, encouraging members to reject sin and embrace all things spiritual.  

Polygamy had been secretly practiced for years by the leadership of the Church, but in 1852, Brigham Young announced it as a church practice and doctrine. Thus, opening it up as a possibility to everyone. It was taught that polygamy was a more righteous way to live, in fact there are plenty of quotes from Brigham Young and others proclaiming it necessary to receive exaltation. When you have that bizarre of a marriage arrangement going on, you are just asking for trouble when it comes to sexual conduct.  A monkey wrench was thrown into their entire moral culture, and as a result, men began marrying younger and younger girls, 13 and 14 years old was not uncommon.  Adultery and fornication must have been seen as a problem, at least in the eyes of Apostle Parley P Pratt, who in 1855 asked the legislature to assign the death penalty for such behavior.  In 1857 Heber C. Kimball spoke about adultery within the church and said that, those doing so, were "worthy of death, and they will get it."  

Mormon's during that time, never really lived the Word of Wisdom like we do today.  Many drank coffee, tea, and beer and smoked or chewed tobacco, Church leaders included.  There are numerous journal entries and other records that provide enough evidence that it's not really debatable that the Word of Wisdom was just that, words. Leonard Arrington, church historian, said that the current attitude we have now about these substances, began in 1867.   

By September 1856, the Utah Territory, had been suffering from a draught, there were increasingly more immigrants coming from Europe across the Great Plains.  The economy was a mess and people were suffering.  Mormon's really believed at that time, including their leaders, that they were on the brink of the Second Coming.  As this call for greater spirituality continued, almost everyone was rebaptized.  The prophet was preparing everyone to live "celestial law" in Utah.  He is quoted as saying:  "The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old broadsword and ask, Are you for God?  And if you are not heartily on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down."  If you think that his choice of words, "hewn down" is a bit dramatic, then you haven't heard of his doctrine of Blood Atonement. He was not kidding around when he used phrases like that.  To enforce this new "spirituality" among the saints, there were secret committees set up called "destroying angels" or Danites. There's an account of one group of people who left the Church during this time period being murdered, though probably sanctioned on a local level. 

During October Conference 1856, 2nd Counselor Grant, called several presidents of the Seventy by name and accused them of adultery among other things, and he urged President Young to "cut them off and prune the trees around him".  Home missionaries were assigned to ward families from their local teachers quorum, these were men in those days not 14 to 16 year old boys as they are now, to check on their physical needs and their spiritual progress; they were to report back to Church leaders regarding this.  This reform was the genesis of home teaching.  It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that the home teaching program began as a home spying program, doesn't it?  Sorry, I don't mean to criticize  home teaching, it's a helpful service to many single mothers and widows, among others, today.

And hey, how about that Strengthening the Members Committee? You haven't heard about that either?  I know, I'd never heard of the fairly secretive committee either, until I saw Elder Holland asked about it in a BBC interview by Michael Sweeney.  (Can I just digress for one moment here to formally thank Elder Holland, if he had never agreed to interviews, I would have never known about this committee, or the fact that we don't know how we got the doctrine for the priesthood ban on the blacks, even though we were always taught it was a revelation from God, and I would have never known that the reasons for the ban are now referred to as "folklore" by our leaders.  Maybe Elder Holland really is doing God's work, because without his interviews how would we ever learn these things!)  Anyway, when Mr. Sweeney asked Elder Holland about the committee, Elder Holland acknowledged that it did and does still exist, ..."to protect against predatory practices of polygamists."  Sweeney asked, "It's there to defend the church against polygamists?"  "...that is still its principal task," answered Holland. When asked its subsidiary task, Holland said..."to be protective generally, just to watch and care for... any, err, insidious influence."   There appears to be two members of the Twelve Apostles on the committee, that reports directly to the First Presidency.  A spokesman for the church, Don LaFevre, said the committee "receives complaints from church members about other church members who have made statements that 'conceivably could do harm to the church', then the committee will pass the information along to the person's ecclesiastical leader."  Kind of sounds like the Nazi Germany's snitch system.  Problem is, nobody knows about the committee, so if you saw something you thought could be harmful to the church, you would have no idea that this committee exists, so how does that work?  Elder Oaks in 1993, described the committee as a "clipping service."  Well that about sums everything up; nothing more needs to be explained there.  Except, what the heck is a "clipping service?"   I looked it up, it's someone who cuts out coupons for you.  That's nice! They used to spy on members and now they are giving them coupons.  No... wait.  It's not coupons after all, it's speeches, writings and activities of those suspected of apostasy, that's what's clipped and passed on to church officials.  Isn't that a nice, harmless little committee, paid for by your tithing dollars no doubt. What happened to free agency, and turning the other cheek, and loving your neighbor and charity and all of that stuff? I wander if the disclosure of this committee is part of the missionary discussions? 

Martin Luther likened to The September Six

The Protestants have their hero, and we have ours too.  On Halloween day, three years from now, it will be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg.  His criticisms threatened the power of the Pope and the Catholic Church, causing his excommunication. Luther was a scholar who had studied Aristotle at the University of Efurt.  We have our scholars too, they also threatened the Church's power and were excommunicated. These church's have no sense of humor when it comes to their power, let's just say they are very protective of it, and your loss of salvation does not cause them to loose any sleep, if you threaten their power in any way. 

The September Six, who are they?  They were a group of prominent LDS Scholars that were excommunicated, one disfellowshipped, in September of 1993. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, that did an article on them 20 years later, they were "writers that were rebuked."  D. Michael Quinn, a historian and one of the Six said, ...The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials... A so called "faith promoting" Church history which conceals controversies and difficulties of the Mormon past actually undermines the faith of the Latter-day Saints who eventually learn about the problems from other sources..."  This statement made back in 1981 by D. Michael Quinn is more prophetic then anything I have heard from any of our prophets from that time until the present.  This is literally happening on a daily basis now and people are leaving in droves. 

The German and English Bible likened to the Internet

This is such a fun comparison!  Control the message, control the masses.  That bears repeating, so one more time, control the message, control the masses.  Loose control of the message and... well bad things happen, like the Reformation or the Google apostasy.  Bad things to the institution that is, the people might say differently. We all know the effects of getting the bible into the hands of the people in a language they could read, right?  They were no longer reliant upon the institution to hand pick what they heard, and interpret it for them.  The people could read it all for themselves and decide. That's exactly what is going on right now in the Mormon Church.  The Church used to have control of the history, and the way it was presented to its members, and unless you were very curious and happened to have a key to the First Presidency vault, so you could view all the primary sources that contradict the white washed history, you would never know.  But there were a few people who did get a "key" and their information has been recorded; remember D. Michael Quinn, one of the September Six, he's one of the people who had this "key".  That was several decades ago, who knew right?  Well some people knew, but they were few and far between, and you still had to be looking and know where to look for that information.  Most Mormons are not curious, not because we are ignorant, we are actually a highly educated people.  BUT, we are not curious, because we have been taught to not be curious! Not in those words exactly, the Church leaders don't put a swinging pocket watch in front of our faces, telling are now getting sleepy, very very sleepy,  then tell us...don't be curious.   They just tell us that, anything that doesn't come from them is anti-Mormon and we should never look at that.  We don't want to be anti-Mormon and fall into a trap that might take away our testimony, thus our salvation, so we are not curious, super not curious.  Why would we be, for the most part, Mormons are very happy people, they have nice families and who wants to do anything that would tear at the root of all of that?  No thanks, we'll just pass on that, wouldn't you?   So even though this information was out there, it didn't look to be a problem for the Church.  All was well in Zion; but as you know, all good things come to an end, and Google was that end. 

There is so much information on the internet, good information, that is backed up by primary sources, double, triple backed up by primary sources, often the sources are the church's own publications from years past, or quotes from their own leaders, or doctrines that were once taught that have quietly disappeared with no explanation, like blood atonement.  It's so prolific and well documented, that if you happen to trip across it on the internet, well... Google apostasy.  What more can I say? 

Jesuits likened to 18 year old missionaries

The Jesuits played a very important role in the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic Church tried to stop the bleeding from people joining with the Protestants.  The Jesuits were organized and committed, and were all in all a very impressive group of people, that did many good things. The Mormon Church has a missionary program that is also made up of a group of impressive people,  very organized, and very obedient.  About three years ago, desperate measures must have been needed, to stop the bleeding from the Google apostasy.  That's when President Monson made  the announcement that boys could now serve when they are 18, previously it has been 19, and girls can serve at 19, previously it was 21.  The Church anticipated that the announcement would significantly increase the number of missionaries, and it did. Unfortunately for the Church, the number of baptisms has not increased at the same rate as the increase of missionaries. So like the Jesuits, the increase in missionaries may help the bleeding, but like the Jesuits, who were not effective in stopping the Protestants, I'm afraid they will have little impact on the Google apostasy. 

Henry the VIII likened to Denver Snuffer

Here's another fun one.  Sometimes things just come out of left field.  Who would have ever thought that a King, Henry the VIII, would get it in his head to break away from the only church in the land and start his own church, which he would be the head of.  Kings are so busy anyway: feasts to attend, people to behead, countries to ravish, women to ravish, oh...I'm getting ahead of the story.  Well anyway, you get the idea, they are busy, busy, busy.  So why in heaven's name, pardon the pun, would you want to add, Popeship to your itinerary? Well it's just the oldest story in the book... pure love.  To get the woman of his dreams he would do anything!  Now image the shock and loss this was to the Papacy, the timing could not be worse.  Just when the Catholics thought those awful Protestants were causing havoc, image loosing an entire empire!  And the blasphemy of that wretched king proclaiming himself supreme head of the church of England. 

Now things are not looking great for the Mormon church either.  They're loosing members in bigger numbers then they'll admit to.  They tried to head off their plummeting numbers by pulling out the stops with their missionaries, lowering the age requirement, thus bringing in the biggest number of missionaries the Church has ever seen. Only to see their baptism rate increase by a mere four percent.  Enter, Denver Snuffer, forty year convert to the Church, who had been doing a lot of reading... a lot!  He read the scriptures, he read Church history, he started comparing the two, he came to conclusions that the Church was off track.  He wrote books about it, he blogged about it, he gained followers, he held seminars, he got excommunicated, his followers still follow him, they are leaving the Church, and being rebaptized.  Now, Denver is no King of England, and he didn't start a new movement over the love of a woman, but it was passion that moved him, passion for a gospel of Christ that he saw being usurped by men who are not receiving revelation from Christ, in his opinion.  And his followers hardly amount to a number to be noticed yet, but he's just in the beginning stages of his reform, so that remains to be seen.

The Council of Trent likened to the new Church Essays

Well, now we have come full circle.  Just like the Catholic Church, when they were first threatened by the Protestant movement, they tried to use force and hold firm to their doctrine and ways of doing things; and just like any other threatened institution when they discovered that they couldn't beat them, they decided to join them, to a small degree anyway.  The Council of Trent lasted for 18 years, but finally in the end, the Catholic Church did clean up some of its corruption, defined its doctrine, and made enough changes that it was able to carry on as an institution in a positive way.  The Mormon church is following suit.  It's leaders tried to clamp down, tighten their hold by excommunicating high profile dissenters, until that back fired on them, because of bad publicity.  They still are very active in excommunicating folks, but there are some that are just too high profile right now, that they have backed down from their threats of excommunication.  But if you're not well known enough to make too big of a media splash, watch out.  The Church essays appear to be an attempt to come clean about some of the sugarcoated history that its been doling out for generations.  Just as the Catholic Church had to admit in its reforms at the Council of Trent, that they had become corrupt in some areas, the Mormon Church is having to admit that they have been less than truthful and have not been forthcoming about its imperfections, which is many, and have had to admit that some of its doctrine was wrong and some of their scripture is not a translation from an ancient record, and that their founder may have not been exactly the near flawless person that they promote.  But you have to really read between the lines to find that.  They do protect his and their image to the best of their ability.  Remember their authority and divine commission, is directly related to Joseph Smith's commission being divine. 

So there you have it, a little history fun! Everything old is new again. 



Friday, October 17, 2014

The Church Essays in a Nutshell Part Two

     Let's look at two more Church essays called: Book of Mormon Translation and Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham.  I'm trying to keep my analysis of the Church's essays brief, but  there are excellent thorough analysis of them here and here and here and many other places. 

Translation of the Book of Mormon
     Growing up in the Church, and still to this day, as far as I know, we are taught that Joseph Smith translated the golden plates by the use of the "Urim and Thummin", which were two clear stones bound together with a metal rim.  I recall being taught in Seminary that there was a table with a curtain that divided it, and Joseph Smith sat behind the curtain on one side of the table, and the scribe sat on the other side of the table.  Joseph Smith had the golden plates on the table as he translated them out loud to the scribe who sat on the other side of the curtain, and wrote down what Joseph Smith said.  The curtain was to keep the scribe from seeing the golden plates, as they were not to be viewed by anyone else but Joseph Smith.  I was taught that it was a matter of faith and that's why the plates were not allowed to be seen by anyone.  And also that they were of great monetary value and needed to be kept hidden from others.  This same scenario is portrayed in various Church pictures that are in our books and in our chapels. You are taught the story and then the pictures are a visual confirmation of what you are taught.  Any small child in the Church could tell you this same story.

Seer Stone

     So what a surprise it is to learn from the Church's essays that, ..."Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, a small oval stone, or 'seer stone'.  As a young man during the 1820's, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost and buried treasure.  As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture."  Excuse me, this is news to me!  When did this seer stone become part of the narrative?  When were we taught that Joseph Smith found a stone and used it to look for buried treasure?  Never, ever, never, that's when.  I was taught that people tried to accuse Joseph Smith of looking for buried treasure but they were just trying to slander his name,   that they were lying. Now the Church is saying he did hunt for buried treasure.  Did you know that our Prophet and founder of our church was a treasure hunter?  The same person that found the gold plates, was also a treasure hunter.  Boy, you just don't learn this stuff in Seminary, do you? 
     According to the essay, "Apparently for convenience, Joseph often translated with the single seer stone rather then the two stones bound together to form the interpreters.  These two instruments--the interpreters (Urim and Thummim) and the seer stone--were apparently interchangeable and worked in much the same way such that, in the course of time, Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term 'Urim and Thummim' to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters."  Come on!  Are you kidding me?  This stone that Joseph found as a youth, which he used to look for treasures buried in the ground, is now going to be interchangeable with the Urim and Thummim that was carefully stored away and preserved by the Lord for 1,500 hundred years.  Fifteen hundred years, it sat waiting for the time of the restoration of Jesus Christ's gospel on the earth, and now for convenience sake, it will be interchangeable with a rock. Really?  This man who will be tarred and feathered and persecuted, and will know all kinds of hardships, can't be inconvenienced enough to use the Urim and Thummim, that was reserved specifically for the translation of the gold plates? 

Rock in a hat

     But here's the real kicker! ..."Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out the extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument."  Is that news to you?  I sure haven't seen any pictures in the chapel of Joseph Smith putting his head in a hat and reading from his rock that he found as a youth to translate the golden plates, have you?  The essay says Emma described, "Joseph 'sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us'."  What happened to the curtain? What happened to the gold plates? Why is Joseph burying his head in a hat and translating from a rock he found, when all the pictures show him with the gold plates open on a table and studiously translating from them?

Translation of the Book of Abraham

     This one should be short and sweet.  Well maybe not sweet, but short.  If you are new to all of these issues about the Church, as I was, you will not even know that there are any questions concerning the Book of Abraham.  But this one is huge, it's the issue that caused my husband to completely loose his testimony of the Church. Let's begin with what we were taught.  I learned that Joseph Smith had been shown some Egyptian mummies and papyri from a traveling salesman, of some kind.  As Joseph examined the hieroglyphics he realized that one of the rolls was the writings of Abraham.  The Church collected enough money to buy the ancient records and from them Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham.  It says in the introduction to the Book of Abraham, that it was "translated from the papyrus by Joseph Smith" and that it is "the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus."  
     The original papyri had been sold by Joseph Smith's family.  In 1967, the Church was given what is left of the remaining fragments of the papyri. According to the Church essay, "The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1. Long before the fragments were published by the Church, some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith's explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings...None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham's name of any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham.  Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham...Scholars have identified the papyrus as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies.  These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived." 
     And that's why this is going to be short, what more can I say?  The essay says it all.  The papyri were not written by Abraham; they are not about Abraham; they are not from the time period of Abraham.   They are common funerary texts and that's most likely why they were found along with mummies!  End of story.  Like I said short, but not sweet.

What we learn from the essays

     Joseph Smith used a seer stone, that he found in his youth to look for buried treasures, to translate the gold plates, by placing the stone in a hat. He often used the stone that he found, instead of the Urim and Thummim that had been preserved for that exact purpose.  Joseph Smith's translation of the papyri which constitutes our book of Abraham, which is part of our scriptures, does not match any of the fragments of the papyri.  The papyri are common funerary texts that were buried with a body.  We have the fragment with facsimile 1 on it,  which is shown in the Book of Abraham, along with Joseph Smith's explanation of it; but Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that characters on the fragment do not match the explanation.   These were not written in Abraham's hand as claimed by Joseph Smith, and they are not from Abraham's time period.

So in other words, everything we were taught about the translation of the Book of Mormon is different from the way it was actually translated, according to the Church's essay.  And in the Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith was supposed to have translated from the papyri, none of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics match Joseph Smith translation,  He said they were about Abraham and written in his hand.  They turn out to be ordinary funerary texts.   

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Family funeral

Yesterday I went to my husband's Aunt Helen's funeral.  Helen lived to be 93 years old.  She was the only girl of nine children; she was the second oldest child, and my father-in-law is just younger than her.  They lived in a two bedroom farmhouse.  Helen got one bedroom and the parents got the other.  The eight boys had to sleep on the screened in front porch, summer, winter, spring and fall. To get to the only bathroom in the house, the boys had to go through Helen's bedroom. As my father-in-law told this story, I had visions of this poor girl never getting any sleep with eight brothers tromping through her room all night long.

Helen was raised LDS, her mother's side goes back into early pioneer stock and her father's side came from converts in Norway in the mid 1860's.  Helen married a nonmember and never attended the Church in her adults years, nor did several of her brothers; but her other brothers were active all their lives, including my father-in-law, who served as a bishop, in a stake presidency, and as a stake patriarch. 

It was a simple funeral, held at the funeral home. Helen has two daughters who asked my father-in-law to conduct and be in charge of the funeral program, which he has done many times because of the positions he has held. Dad, my father-in-law, is a kind gracious person who did a wonderful job.  Although, he did tell a story about Helen that she asked him not to tell... but brothers will be brothers, apparently even at your funeral!  But beside the story, of Helen throwing a pair of scissors at dad, which apparently landed in his thigh, he gave a beautiful account of her life and the kind of person she was.  Dad said that Helen is in heaven now with her mother and father, and her husband.  Very nice, nothing preachy and nothing that would be any different from a typical Christian funeral service. 

Then Helen's younger brother spoke.  He started out by saying he had been assigned to do the spiritual talk for the funeral.  He then rattled off the basic points of the "plan of salvation" including the war in heaven, the need for free agency, Satan's plan, our premortal life, why we are here, where we are going, etc.  He ended with leaving his testimony that all the things that he talked about were true.  As he spoke, I had so many thoughts go through my head. And my analysis is not meant to be a criticism of him, just an observation.

To begin with, the daughters are not members of the Church, and like I said, Helen hadn't gone her entire adult life.  So, for about 75 years, she had not attended the Mormon church; but somehow she got a Mormon funeral, even in the funeral home!  The most striking thing about this whole thing to me was the way the Church usurps the family.  This Church, that proclaims family is at the foundation of it's doctrine, comes in time after time and usurps the family, always placing itself before the family; or I should say we willingly put it before the family, thinking that putting the Church first is putting the family first.  But it's not, it's putting the Church first, at the expense of the family, relationship's, and people's feelings.  Take her younger brother's first remark, "I've been assigned to talk..". who talks like that?  Someone who has lost sight that he is actually speaking at his sister's funeral.  He forgot she has daughters that are not members, and they most likely had no idea about, nor cared about his, "plan of salvation".   Who says, "they have been assigned" at their sister's funeral?  Only someone who has let the protocol of the Church overtake their thinking, and they can't even relax at a service for their sister, and just talk about her, without having to hold a church meeting and do things the way the church instructs.  Namely assigning people to talk.  So when my father-in-law, asked him to speak at the funeral, he was incapable of seeing it as a brother asking another brother to speak at their sister's funeral.  He saw it as a Church assignment and proceeded to carry it out as one, all the time missing the fact that this was his sister's funeral and all that was needed was a personal remark from her brother.  She didn't need him to use her funeral as an opportunity to "spread the gospel" to a room of trapped people who were going to listen to the Mormon plan of salvation, whether they wanted to or not.  I just kept thinking how insensitive we are as members' of the Church, that we can't see two daughters that are at their mother's funeral and the last thing they probably wanted was a sermon on a belief system that they do not believe in. 

But people are for the most part gracious, and the daughters didn't say anything, they might not have even minded.  But why take the chance?  It's just not necessary to spread our beliefs around at every opportunity.  Especially at someone's mother's funeral.  I'm sure that all the members in attendance there thought it was just wonderful, and I'm sure for all the others in attendance, the message fell on deaf ears.

This is not the younger brother's fault.  He has been trained from his youth, to honor his Priesthood.  And sharing the gospel is an extension of that.  And if there is an opportunity to do that, it will be foremost in a priesthood holder's mind.  He thinks he's just doing what Jesus wants him to.  And doing what Jesus wants us to is a powerful thing!  So powerful, that we do things for him that he never asked us to, and we do all kinds of things in his name, that he never did. Mormons are certainly not the only ones guilty of that. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Church Essays in a Nutshell. Part One

If you're not familiar with the new church essays, that have been posted on the Church's official website for about a year now, they deal with church historical and doctrinal problems.  These problems have been the catalyst for many people's Mormon faith crisis.  Since my faith crisis centered on the priesthood ban on the blacks, I will start with that essay entitled, Race and the Priesthood. To see the essay click here .   For an in-depth analysis  of the essay, go to

Blacks were not banned from the priesthood in the beginning! (who knew, right?)

The Church's essay says, "as the Book of Mormon puts it, 'all are alike unto God'." So the first thing they point out, in essence is, that our doctrine contradicted our scriptures.  So, if "all are alike unto God" why did we have a priesthood ban on the blacks?  The essay goes on to state that, "during the first two decades of the Church's existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood.  In other words, for the first 22 years of the Church's existence, blacks were not banned from the priesthood.  Do I have to point out that, MOST MEMBERS HAVE NEVER BEEN AWARE OF THAT!  It was certainly news to me.  I'm in my fifties, I've been a member all my life, and I had never heard that before!  Why would blacks have the ability to receive the priesthood for 22 years, then have it taken away?   

Brigham Young or revelation behind the doctrine?

The essay says, "In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood..." The essay gives no explanation for Brigham Young's  announcement.  No angel with a sword came and threatened his life, like happened to Joseph Smith about polygamy.  Remember how Joseph Smith didn't want to have to carry out the commandment to marry other women, but his very life was threatened by a sword-bearing angel?  Brigham Young doesn't even seem remorseful about his new "doctrine".  No angel threatening his life if he didn't carry this out. Why did God change His mind on the blacks ability to receive the priesthood? Where's the revelation?  In this speech, that Brigham Young gives to the joint session of the Legislature on February 5, 1852, he unfolds this doctrine.  He basically says that he understands the "principle of slavery," and that the "Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood nor his seed...people that are more commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the residue of the posterity of Michael and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed...Now then in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has had the African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of priesthood.."  He goes on to say, "It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants..." 

Yeah, you get the picture, no mention of a revelation from God, just a lot of Brigham Young hubris.  So there you go, that's the starting point for our doctrine banning blacks from the priesthood, proclaimed in a Joint Session of the Legislator of all places!  All the time, being taught from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, in Seminary, that it was a revelation from God.  That blacks had the curse of Cain on them, that they were less valiant in the pre-existence and therefore were born into that linage, and we bought it hook, line, and sinker.  And the thing that bothers me the most and where the Church looses it's credibility in my eyes is when the leaders decided that, "none of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church" they didn't shout it from the roof tops; they didn't announce it over the pulpit; they didn't write it into their manuals; they didn't apologize to an entire race of people.  If they had, it would have been so much more bearable.  Instead we had to find out ourselves by chance, if we happened to catch a PBS interview with Elder Holland where he says that he doesn't know where this "doctrine" came from and the reasons given for it are "folklore."  Or we happen to run across a website like Mormonthink that spells it all out.  But still, 36 years later, the vast majority of members have no idea that the Church has admitted to such things.  And the truth is, most members don't even know about the essays.  I was in that group until recently myself.  My very good friend, who's husband is a stake president, hasn't even heard of the essays, I asked her a few days ago if she knew what they were and she didn't.  

Advancing the theories.

"Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions."  When the essay says Church leaders, it means all subsequent Prophets, who are supposed to be prophet's, seer's, and revelator's, continued on with this doctrine, and the reasons for it.  The essay refers to these reasons as 'theories', but they were never presented that way in church, I know, I was there, and so was anyone else who grew up in this church.  The reasons for the ban were not taught as theories, or folklore as Elder Holland likes to call them.

It's a small thing.

As shocking and unsettling as all of this is to discover 36 years after the "revelation" to remove the ban on blacks is, the emotional trauma to an entire race of people is immeasurable.  At least to anyone who was affiliated with the Church and just happened to have the curse of Cain on them.  Mormon's are so cautious to question the Church, and I understand that in a way, because we think that the Church is literally run by Jesus Christ, and to question it is to question God.  So I get the hesitancy to do so, but there comes a time when thinking just has to take over, or you really run the risk of becoming a dupe.  As I mentioned in another post, when I told our friend about this issue, he said it was a "small thing."  I don't think our friend is racist, I just think the natural reflex is to protect the Church, so it has to automatically become a "small thing."  But let's analyze it and see if it's a small thing.    

I'm 56 years old and my husband is 59.  We were married one year when the ban was lifted in 1978.  We were both born in the Church, we married in the temple and my husband served a two year mission, and both our parents are sealed in the temple.  Now, lets just say that the circumstance remain the same but our race is black; how would things be different?  Well, we both would have been raised in the Church, but our families would not have been sealed in the temple, my husband would not have served a mission because he could not become an Elder and go to the temple to receive his endowments.  When we got married in 1977, we would not have been sealed in the temple.  We would have been taught our entire growing up years, that we were of the lineage of Cain and therefore had a curse on us because we were less valiant in the pre-existence.  How would that play into your make up as a person I can only imagine.  And just because the ban was lifted in 1978, and we could then attend the temple and have our marriage sealed and our children sealed to us, there was no change in the doctrine, that we were less valiant in the pre-existence.  We would still have carried that burden with us and all the people at church would have learned the same thing, and you would wonder what they thought about you.  And there never has been an official end to that teaching, just because that teaching fell by the wayside, doesn't mean it was ended.  And I guess you just had to discover for yourself that the Church no longer advances those "theories."  See how damaging that is?  And really unchristian to NOT shout it from the roof tops that we were wrong, we meaning the leaders of the Church, were  wrong!!  Is that really so hard to say?  What are they so afraid of? That the illusion that they speak for God and receive revelation from God and that they are literally Jesus's Prophet and Apostles  may be broken or marred a bit?  They are willing to let people suffer, just so their image isn't tarnished.  I hate to keep repeating myself, but that's not Christ like. 

In a nutshell.

So in a nutshell what do we learn from the Church's essay on Blacks and the Priesthood?  First, that our doctrine contradicted our scriptures, but no one seemed to notice.  Second, for 22 years blacks were allowed to receive the priesthood, then our second Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Brigham Young announced a change in the Church's doctrine, at a Joint Session of the Legislature February 5th 1852.  He mentions no revelation, just gives his reasons for the blacks unworthiness to receive the priesthood.  There's no revelation canonized in our scripture, as had previously been done with revelations received for the Church, by the Prophet.  Third, we learn the reasons for this ban, that we were taught as doctrine, from the pulpit and in Sunday school and in Seminary are now described as "theories" instead of doctrine, and that none of these explanations are accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. Having said that, the Church has done nothing officially to make amends to an entire race of people for their slanderous doctrine that excluded an entire race of people from the priesthood blessings and temple sealing's that are central to our faith, and family blessings through eternity. How is this possibly from a Church that claims to speak for Christ?  Do any of these actions sound like something Jesus Christ would endorse?