Sunday, December 27, 2015

Church History in Pictures: Translation of a Book

After Joseph Smith was visited by the Angel Moroni, he was told to go to a hill where he would find a record of an ancient American civilization. He at first worked the farm with his father without mentioning the vision, but related it to his father when exhibiting physical weakness.  Trusting in the vision, Joseph Smith Jr's father told him to find the place located on what would later be called the hill Cumorah.

Today the hill has a memorial to the Angel Moroni at the top. During the summer a Pageant is presented commemorating the Book of Mormon that was translated by the Power of God. It would be about four years before he was allowed to take the "golden plates" from the hiding spot. Every year he as commanded to go back and be taught more information before granted permission to take them.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Church History in Pictures: Visions from Heaven

The first years of Joseph Smith Jr.'s life was not very eventful. His mother in her own recollections states he lived like any other youth. The most noteworthy events for several years was constant moving to new locations.

From  the LDS institute textbook Church History in the Fullness of Times Student Manual second chapter:
During Joseph Smith’s earliest years, his family moved frequently, looking for fertile soil or some other way to earn a livelihood. Their first move after his birth took them from Sharon to Tunbridge. In 1807, soon after Samuel was born, they moved to Royalton, Vermont, where two more sons were born. Shortly after William’s birth in 1811 the Smiths moved to the small community of West Lebanon, New Hampshire . . .
While living in West Lebanon, members of the Smith family became ill with typhoid fever. All of the family recovered, including for a time Joseph Smith Jr. Two weeks after getting better, Joseph Smith Jr. developed a serious leg infection. He pleaded with doctors to not take off his leg. A very skilled physician saved the leg after painful surgery to take out infected bone.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Church History in Pictures: Birthplace of Joseph Smith

Thought of doing a project where I present places of LDS Church history in pictures. This post will focus on the Birthplace of Joseph Smith Jr. He was born on Dec. 23, 1805 on the town line of Sharon and Royalton, Vermont. A white granite obelisk marks the general area of his birth as a memorial.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

My "Favorite" General Conference Apostles

All of the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are important witnesses of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many people have a "favorite" they like to listen to and get the most out of their talks. Over the years there are some that I also seem to pay attention to more than the others as personal preference. This post will list those Apostles of the Lord, briefly comment about them, and link representative talks. Names are restricted to those alive during my lifetime and distinctly remember. Prophets are in a class of their own, so they will not be mentioned even before becoming President of the Church. It is so wonderful that technology makes it easy to go back and once again read or listen to their words.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Stone in the Hat and the Miracle of Translation


“You find magic wherever you look. sit back and relax. all you need is a book” - Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

"Oh, Man will fly all right - ho-ho-ho! - just like a rock." - Archimedes the Owl from Disney's Sword in the Stone

What can I say? I was, apparently, lied to by whoever I can point a finger at as responsible. Artistic renderings, Sunday School lessons, General Conference talks, and of course Joseph Smith himself concealed the real history. The Urim and Thummim was supposed to be the principle means of The Book of Mormon translation, but it turns out a Seer Stone did most of the work. I mean, it was no secret that a stone in a hat was the means of production. What became lost and confusing is how much that became the tool used by Joseph Smith to translate by the Gift and Power of God.

This introduction is partly facetious, but there is some truth to the words. My own early knowledge was based on what critics consider misinformation, although more like simplifications. The article "Joseph the Seer" is not the first time the topic of The Book of Mormon translation tools have been published. During the first decade of correlated magazines, there was a Friend Magazine article and an in depth Ensign publication that might be superior to the most recent. The history is confusing even with the primary documents. All of them have points of convergence. But, taken all together there is no clear picture of the means or process. The only person who would know for sure, Joseph Smith, was vague to the point of near silence. He was far less concerned with how The Book of Mormon was produced and more focused on the fact it was written. The teachings in the book are to be read, pondered, and studied while translation devices are simply tools to be used and discarded.

To increase the problem is the concern expressed in my previous post about the Age of Reason. Despite stories of ghosts, bigfoot, UFOs, and the persistence of astrology still printed in newspapers, miracles of the religious kind are a bridge too far in Western society. Throw in a physical object where its existence, if not the miracle, cannot be refuted and skepticism becomes scorn. Even believers wince at a small, brown, and smooth stone once used to commune with the Divine. Throw in a funny old hat and there seems nowhere else to go but ridicule. What is that you say? Oh, don't mind my rabbits foot keychain or lucky horseshoe. No one really believes in those kinds of things anyway.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What the LDS Church Really Says about Reading Anti-Mormon Literature

flier-clipart-ar130411564061063Those members less inclined to know the history of the LDS Church, especially the more complicated parts, express concerns that they were told to keep away from reading non-faithful material. They claim to have been taught to always turn to Church sanctioned material only and avoid non or anti-Mormon literature. No doubt there has been warnings of the harmful effects of the less than official sources, but an outright ban is a misreading of many lessons taught. The message isn't always clear because opinions on just how to approach anti-Mormonism is mixed. There is no one single set of standards how to engage or respond. What is consistent over the years is the warning and how to be careful.

Learning is an essential part of growing in the Kingdom of God. The subject matter that we should focus on is very wide. We read in Doctrine and Covenants 88: 77-80 how open:
77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. 78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; 79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— 80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
Taken in its literal reading, there is nothing to be avoided in pursuit of truth. Of course, that doesn't mean everything we learn about is true. Discernment is part of gaining the wisdom necessary for spiritual and intellectual growth. It is the line between reading and analyzing that the LDS Church wants the members to recognize.

When I first paid attention to my own faith, the questions were almost overwhelming. My heart had already decided that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the LDS Church the authorized organization for the Kingdom of God. My teenage intellectual side was not so willing to leave it alone just because the Spirit spoke peace to my soul. I wanted to understand. Knowing my father was a history teacher, he would be the primary person I would go to when I had questions to find answers. For a short time he put up with my pestering and helped.

One day he must have been too busy or felt tired of my constant questions. He looked at me and then pointed his fingers at a bookshelf. I come from a reading family. My house growing up was filled with books and even now my home contains a few full bookshelves. His message was clear; go do your own research. Most of our books were faithful, but I did run into an anti-Mormon pamphlet tucked away that troubled me. However, it was not what it taught that bothered me, but that I had read the material quoted and found it out of context and a false interpretation. From then on I knew there would always be more than one side of the story and therefore should not fear discussion of them all.

Sadly, too many don't go beyond church material because of a false idea nothing else is acceptable. When they do decide to read other literature it is a surprise to them, often spiritually damaging because of a self imposed ban. It becomes more complicated because they haven't learned to check the sources or counter responses. All of this built on a misunderstanding through mistaken interpretations of what the Church teaches about learning outside official publications.