Latter-day Saint Investigator Files

Are you Investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Having Doctrinal difficulties? If you have received divine affirmation and are looking to understand some of the deeper doctrine this blog was written for you. I am gearing this for investigators who love to search the internet for answers like me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Polygamy in the Restoration

Brief Explanation of the common concern:

Many people are curious about the church's History with the Doctrine of Plural Marriages (Polygamy) Some people are unsure if the church continues to practice this doctrine and others just find the practice strange and want justification for the practice.

Addressing the Doctrine:

One of the things that is essential to addressing the concerns of most people is having a thorough knowledge of the doctrine and the historical setting. If you become familiar with the purpose of the doctrine, how it was revealed, practised and fell out of practice, you can confidently address this doctrine, even if it is not appropriate to share all you know about the subject.

An explanation of the history of Polygamy in the Latter-day church:

On March 7th 1831 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon began work on an inspired translation of the Holy Bible, they sought to correct errors in the text perpetuated by those who had copied the text in error and also to correct grievous errors in the transmission of the text by modern translators. As always, the method of “translation” Joseph Smith used was peculiar to our traditional understanding of the sense of the word translate. Joseph sought revelation from God to “restore” the text to it's form in antiquity. While Joseph and Sidney endeavored to provide an inspired “translation” of the text, an influx of revelation ensued in response to the many new questions they had while carefully attempting to restore the biblical message. During this process, they began to have questions, in particular questions regarding the many passages that refer to Plural Marriage in the Old testament.

This period of translation and the questions it inspired marked the inception of the restoration of the doctrine of Plural Marriage. Joseph F. Smith reflected on the introduction of the doctrine of Plural Marriage and said in substance that Joseph Smith was well aware of the social pressures that this doctrine would exert on the church. According to Joseph F. Smith, this doctrine was not practised until Joseph Smith was commanded by an angel with a drawn sword to comply with the will of the Lord concerning the his church. William W. Phelps recalled an experience in July of 1831 while planning to take the Gospel to the Native Americans where Joseph Smith encouraged him to begin practising this principle with some of the Native Americans he was called to preach among. Joseph Smith himself took as many as 32 wives by the time he was slain in 1844. Many of the early saints took plural wives between 1831-1910. At first, there was resistance with in the church to adopt this practice, plural marriage proved to be a trial of their faithfulness.

There were many benefits generated by living plural marriage as well as many hardships. One of the most fruitful blessings plural marriages produced was a rapid surge in birth rate, this helped the fledgling church grow quickly and sustained the church for many years. Even today, many trace their roots back generations to this fertile period of internal growth. The saints continued to shift their lives from place to place looking to find somewhere they could receive unbridled religious freedom. After the death of Joseph Smith and some confusion along the way, Brigham Young reluctantly assumed his rightful mantle as President of the Church on December 27th 1847. The saints were eventually lead out west under his leadership and the practice of plural marriages continued during the length of his tenure,although this practice thwarted his efforts to legitimize Utah(Than called Deseret) as a state in the United States. In August of 1877 Brigham Young passed away and John Taylor stood as the one approved of the Lord to guide the church. As the mantle of prophet fell on President Taylor, he took a more openly defiant stance with the government on plural marriage and encouraged the saints to practice it and to disregard outside opinions on the doctrine. As Wilford Woodruff succeeded John Taylor he stood behind the principle of plural marriage.

The initial paradigm shift in the practice of plural marriage seemed to be multifaceted, as Utah felt the financial constraint of growth with out the assistance of the government of the United States and the saints also faced Anti-Polygamy legislature, something needed to give. The Edmonds act of 1882 made polygamy a Felony offence, the 1887 Edmonds-Tucker act made the penalties of living Plural Marriage more severe and as a result, the church lost their incorporation temporarily and sought to seize the churches assets . It also barred the church from financially assisting the immigration of Saints from foreign countries who were practising plural marriage. This legislative pressure escalated the severity of the situation as a whole. In 1890 President Woodruff issued the “Manifesto” which is found today at the end of the Doctrine & Covenants and appears as “Official Declaration 1” This document is peculiar in nature given the absence of the signatures of the other 2 members of the First Presidency. (Joseph F. Smith & George Q. Cannon) In substance, a careful examination of the document calls into question who the audience was supposed to be. All the document really says is that there had been no new plural marriages issued for a year. The issuance of the Manifesto put Utah in a position to be accepted as a state and Utah became a state in January of 1896. By 1903 the church crossed new frontiers when Reed Smoot was elected to fill the Senate seat by the Utah legislature. Reed Smoot was not only a Mormon, he was an Apostle. Finally it seemed that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel,however by 1904 it was becoming clearer that light at the end of the tunnel might be attached to a train that was on a collision course. His appointment was contested immediately and this begun a bitter four year battle to determine whether he was eligible to serve. Only a few years earlier B.H. Roberts had been elected in 1898 to the House of Representatives, but denied his seat on the basis of his current practice of plural marriage. Smoot however, was not a polygamist. The Smoot congressional hearings brought the issue of Polygamy to a head. The doctrine and practices of the church were called into intensive scrutiny, Joseph F. Smith was called to testify. Shortly after his testimony in congress, he issued the “Second Manifesto” on April 6th 1904. Prior to this manifesto, there were no penalties attached to practising plural marriage given by the church. This manifesto attached the penalty of Excommunication to any who insisted on taking new wives after this manifesto. A new chapter in the policy of the church developed out of this chain of events and by 1911 the church published the first handbook of instructions which went a long way to clearly defining the policy of the church.

In conclusion, in many instances inspiration for church leaders has been gradual and doctrinal and policy changes often take many years to solidify. The way the Lord reveals his will to his prophet is not always in a clear declaration of policy, many times the Lord provides subtle revelation over a long period of time. One thing is clear, the Lord has permitted only one man at a time on earth to hold the keys to the sealing power of marriages. There has never at any time been an ordinance of Plural Marriage. Just as the practice stands today Celestial marriages can only be performed one at a time with in the bounds of a temple. The Prophet has has the “keys” to solemnize these unions according to his pleasure. When Joseph F. Smith turned the key in 1904, the authorization to seal plural families to living participants ceased.

As the doors seemed to be closed for good to those eager to take new plural wives, new off shoot groups began to form claiming right to the Priesthood and trying to convince others to continue to practice plural marriage in defiance of the now clearly defined church policy. As these apostate groups sought to lead the saints astray, the attitude of the saints and its leaders toward the doctrine of plural marriage began to shift. Possibly in an effort to distance themselves from these splinter groups, many of the saints themselves began to actively oppose plural marriage.

Key Dates of Plural Marriage in the Restoration:

  • March 7th 1831 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon begin their Inspired translation of the Bible.

  • July 17th 1831 Joseph Smith receives inspiration regarding the missionary work with the Native Americans and encourages W. W. Phelps to take plural wives.

  • 1832 Joseph Smith is bound by commandment to practice Plural Marriage.

  • July 12th 1843 Doctrine & Covenants 132 is recorded

  • December 27th 1847 Brigham Young becomes President of the Church

  • March 23rd 1882 Edmonds Act makes Polygamy a felony in the state of Utah

  • 1887 Edmonds-Tucker Act unincorporated the LDS Church

  • October 6th 1890 Wilford Woodruff Issues Manifesto

  • January 4th 1896 Utah Becomes a state

  • January 1903 Reed Smoot Elected by Utah Legislature as U.S. Senator

  • January 16th 1904 Reed Smoot Congressional Hearings Begin

  • April 6th 1904 Joseph F. Smith Issues a second Manifesto

  • February 20th 1907 Reed Smoot Congressional Hearings End

Does the Bible condemn Polygamy?

There is no single statement in all of the Bible that condemns Plural Marriage. In fact, there are several instances which the Law of Moses commands the practice. One such case is Levirate marriage, in which case if a man dies with out giving his wife a child, his brother is obligated to take his brothers wife in addition to his own wife and build up his brothers house. The failure to comply would result in loosing footing in Israel. (Deut 25:5-10)

People practicing Polygamy in the Bible:

Lamech had 2 wives (Genesis 4:19), Esau 3 wives (Genesis 26:34), Jacob 2 (Genesis 31:17), Moses (Exodus 21:10,Deuteronomy 21:15),Ashur 2, Gideon many(Judges 8:30), Elkanah 2, David many, Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth, Rehaboam 3, and Abijah 14. Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives. Job had at least 4 wives (Job 42:9),Abraham had many(Genesis 16:1-4,Genesis 25:6)

Statements by early church Fathers on the subject of polygamy:

Tertullian seems to take the stance that Polygamy is at times commanded by God for the purpose of bringing forth children under the covenant.

"As I think, moreover, each pronouncement and arrangement is (the act) of one and the same God; who did then indeed, in the beginning, send forth a sowing of the race by an indulgent laxity granted to the reins of connubial alliances, until the world should be replenished, until the material of the new discipline should attain to forwardness: now, however, at the extreme boundaries of the times, has checked (the command) which He had sent out, and recalled the indulgence which He had granted; not without a reasonable ground for the extension (of that indulgence) in the beginning, and the limitation of it in the end" Tertullian, “Exhortation to Chastity” in 6 Ante-Nicene Fathers. (Compare Jacob 2:30)

Augustine further vindicates the practice going so far as to state that the primary source of contention on this practice is contingent on social structure.

"Again, Jacob the son of Isaac is charged with having committed a great crime because he had four wives. But here there is no ground for a criminal accusation: for a plurality of wives was no crime when it was the custom; and it is a crime now, because it is no longer the custom. There are sins against nature, and sins against custom, and sins against the laws. In which, then, of these senses did Jacob sin in having a plurality of wives? As regards nature, he used the women not for sensual gratification, but for the procreation of children. For custom, this was the common practice at that time in those countries. And for the laws, no prohibition existed. The only reason of its being a crime now to do this, is because custom and the [secular] laws forbid it."

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blacks and the Priesthood A new "Light and Knowledge"

Quoting from an address by Elder Bruce R. McConkie titled "All are Alike unto God."

Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them.
We have a short 30 years ago, entered into a new light and understanding on this issue. Yet many members are not certain how to harmonize the statements of Prophet's and Apostles of old regarding this issue and other issues. Studying church history, the actions of the Saints and the Prophets that we're called by god to lead them, is a subject that we can grow in understanding from. We have the ability to look at Prophets like Joseph Smith Jr., Brigham Young and John Taylor through a microscope in a way that we do not have the ability to do with the ancient prophets.

This is a blessing and a curse in many facets. Many can not differentiate the study of history from the study of scripture. The living Prophet speaks scripture for Heavenly Father's children. We also have a canonized multi-volume library known commonly as "The Standard works" we believe this canon is open and flexible. Any thing god reveals through his prophets that is scripture and pertinent to the salvation of man will be introduced as canon formally. If we are looking for guidance of the Prophetic nature we only need look as far as the scriptures or the living Prophet.

We believe the restoration is gradual as is our conversion. It is not fair to the living Prophet whom the Lord has called and we have sustained, to compare his teachings which are current with the Lord to a Prophet of old. To do so is to deny the power and authority present on the earth today.

We all held the power and authority of the Priesthood in its fullness before we came to this earth. Thus, when a man receives the Priesthood in this life we are having it restored beyond the veil. In many cases we have been offered preparatory route to follow. In days of old the Levitical order of Priesthood was practiced as a shadow of things to come yet prophets were called to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The restoration of the Priesthood as with the restoration of Jesus Christ's church is gradual and on going and it will be so until he whom we serve comes in glory to restore this priesthood by hand to the head of every worthy recipient. "Every Nation, Kindred, Tongue and People."

Moving in this direction, I want to take a moment to address the curse God put on the Lamanites. It is even common among Latter-day Saints to apologize this issue by sighting 2 Nephi 5:21 as where God changed the skin color of the Lamanites to black to be as a sign of their wickedness. I hope to clarify the misconception on this issue.

2 Nephi 5:21 And he had caused the acursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and bdelightsome, that they might not be centicing unto my people the Lord God did cause a dskin of eblackness to come upon them.

I'd like to call attention to footnote D. on the word "skin" which points us to 2 Nephi 30:6. It reads:

2 Nephi 30:6 And then shall they rejoice; for they shall aknow that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their bscales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a cdelightsome people.
We can than look at the footnote B. on the word "scales" which points us to the topical guide. TG Darkness, Spiritual. It is my conclusion that the curse that was implied as dark skin was their visage the face, countenance, or appearance of a person.The word countenance could be used to replace the word skin in this passage.

The word "pure" in this scripture was changed from the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. The word originally read "White" The change dates to 1837. The change was made by Joseph Smith in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, though it was not carried through in some other editions, which mistakenly followed the 1830 instead of Joseph’s change. It was restored in the 1981 edition, but that was nearly 150 years after the change was made by Joseph. The reason the change was made because Joseph feared people would misinterpret the intended meaning.

This pattern of understanding must be applied when dealing with the issue of race in the scripture.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 7, 2008

Patriarchal Priesthood

Well, I stumbled on some of the writings of Fred Collier, an apostate who has written some doctrinal commentary on restoration beliefs. I used to feel like a faithful rebel for reading any apostate literature but I am to the point where I feel like I have my hand in the cookie jar whenever I review their insights. His article on the Patriarchal order of Priesthood can be easily unearthed by doing a google search. I didn't happen to agree with his conclusions so I researched this statement out on my own to come to a conclusion. I wrote this a few months ago and ended up editing the wikipedia page entry on this subject because I believe they were -way- off.

In Nauvoo, Illinois on August 27, 1843, while the Nauvoo Temple was being constructed, Joseph Smith, Jr. taught, using Hebrews 7 as background material, the "Three Grand Orders" of priesthood:

There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here.
1st. The King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life.... The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.
The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.
The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant.
The Holy Ghost is God's messenger to administer in all those priesthoods.

Eight years earlier, the prophet had dictated a revelation that declared, “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood”. At the time this revelation was recorded, there were, in fact, only two orders of priesthood in the Church. By the time of the 1843 Nauvoo discourse, the temple was under construction and Joseph declared that knowledge of the “Patriarchal authority” would be revealed in the temple.

The Nauvoo Temple was constructed by 1844 and dedicated to the lord in 1846 by Orson Hyde. It was the first Latter-day Saint temple where the ordinance of Eternal Marriage was practiced.

The Latter-Day Saints believe that the oath of the Priesthood referenced in Hebrews 7 was revealed to Joseph Smith in a revelation in Kirtland, Ohio on September 22 and 23, 1832. This revelation is contained in the Doctrine and Covenants. The promise of this oath is critical to understanding their belief in exaltation.

"They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God."

Bruce McConkie famous Latter-day Saint Scholar and Mormon Apostle wrote in his apologetics work "Mormon Doctrine" regarding the subject.

"Those who shall hereafter rule and reign in eternity as exalted beings will form a patriarchal chain which will begin with Father Adam and spread out until every exalted person is linked in. Exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and every family which so continues will find its proper place in the eternal organizational framework which the Almighty has ordained. None will be forgotten. Unworthy mortal links will be dropped in eternity, for there is no family in which all generations will attain exaltation; later generations of worthy families will be welded into the links formed by their ancestors who became worthy of a like exaltation with them. All those after the day of Abraham (of whatever literal lineage they may be) who so live as to be worthy of a place in this great patriarchal chain will be welded into Abraham's lineage and shall rise up and bless him as their father."

The word Patriarch means "Father-Ruler" and one can not have a Patriarch with out a Matriarch. Latter-day Saints believe that Man and Women can be joined in marriage for all eternity if done with the proper authority and in the bounds of a Temple. This (Eternal Marriage) is the definition of the Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Masonic Lodges and Latter-Day Saint Temples

In June 22, 1834 at Fishing River, Missouri, Joseph Smith prophesied that the endowment would be revealed. On the 4th and 5th of May,1842 the endowment was revealed to the saints in the upper room of The Red Brick Store. (The Relief Society was also organized here.) There are some similarities to certain rituals that were already in practice by different groups at the time. We will explore these similarities and the logical understanding of why they exist.
D&C 105:18 But inasmuch as there are those who have hearkened unto my words, I have prepared a blessing and an aendowment for them, if they continue faithful.
Joseph Smith became a Mason in March 1842, advancing all the way to Master Mason the next day. This was unusual since the normal minimum wait between each of the three degrees is thirty days. It was not uncommon for visionary men in the 18th and 19th century to join the Freemasons both George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt were members of this fraternity. Joseph did not continue beyond the 3rd degree of Masonry. This is significant because that is the level you have to attain to be part of their sacred ceremony.

Joseph Smith was in search of the truth god had promised to reveal to him in many things. He viewed ordinances as sacred and was told he would find the truth in a multitude of confusion. He was told by God that he would be revealed The Endowment ceremony. In short,the endowment is a Ceremony members of the LDS Church go through to solidify their covenants with God and commit them self to these covenants with veracity and sanctity. Heber C. Kimball described the parallel to masonry as the mason rituals as being "degenerated" IE the rituals practiced in the Masonic Lodge ceremony once had truth but had fallen into apostasy over the years.

Joseph saw the Freemasons as a noble group with great values. He encouraged other Saints to join the Masons. Some might say that the Prophet Joseph adapted the teachings of brotherhood he learned from the Masons into his teachings about how the Priesthood should be conducted.

Just as Joseph did not invent baptism by immersion, he likewise did not invent the endowment ceremony. Rather, Joseph restored the endowment from its former state of apostasy and brought back the truthfulness of it.

If you or I saw the mason lodge ceremony we might not be able to discern what we were looking at. But Joseph looking at this ceremony had a moment of eureka.

The mason initiation rites go through a story of Hirum Abif a figure mentioned in the bible as a stone mason who was the Master Mason on King Soloman's Temple. The Mason Temple tells a tale of this biblical story as handed down from the Masons.

Chronicles 2:13 And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of aHuram my father’s,
14 The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and ato find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father.

Kings 1:7 13 ¶ And king Solomon sent and fetched aHiram out of Tyre.
14 He was a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with awisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and bwrought all his work.
Essentially, the story told in the Masonic Lodge ceremony goes through the story of this biblical account, each initiate is taken through a mock ritual where this story is acted out. In contrast the endowment ceremony is largely a creation liturgy and has no mention of Hiram Abif.

The complex work of a Prophet is a fascinating subject. It is clear that we do not have a first hand understanding of what talks Joseph had with God. Even most LDS skeptics agree that Joseph had a sincere nature and honestly believed he was spoken to by God and told he would restore the truth of god's plan for men in these latter days. Although some of the same movements and structure is used in the LDS endowment ceremony are borrowed from the Mason Lodge ceremony, NONE of the symbolism or context in which they are used are the same.

Why do Latter-day Saints including myself tread lightly when addressing this subject? Well, there are some things that are so simple and pure that deserve a level of sanctity and reverence. You wouldn't want to discuss your parent's sex life, although the act had to have occurred at least once for you to exist. The Temple is open to all, however as with a University, there are prerequisites to entrance. Curiosity alone is not a prerequisite or qualifying factor to enter into the temple. Keeping the commandments of God is the most important factor that qualifies entry into the house of God. Through righteous living, we can prepare ourself for entry into his house and making eternal covenants with our Heavenly Father. If we do not keep his commandments and enter in unworthily we would defile his house and he would cease to enter into it.

The work we do in our temples for both the living and the dead are sacred and pure ordinances and are performed by worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To compare our Temple work with the Mason lodge rituals is unfair. A fair summation is to sight that the Masons had many good ideas some of which were perfect, others that had become degenerated. If Joseph had sought to steal the ordinance from the Masons, he would have changed them completely. The fact that similarities exist suggest that Joseph was not trying to be deceptive in his methodology of restoration.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Adam God Theory

A typical response to the Adam God Theory is "The problem with "Adam-God" is that we don't understand what Brigham meant." What Brigham Young had to say regarding Adam as God, has been contested,debated and misunderstood since this doctrine was revealed to the Saints in the infancy of Brigham Young’s tenure as Prophet. Is Adam a god? Some scholars like Dr. Nibley have made statements to the effect that it was true doctrine, however few people understand it. He never goes on to offer an explanation. I decided I would take a stab at it and offer my own theory on what Brigham could have possibly been driving at.

It is important to understand that the word “God” as it is understood has lost its meaning in modern understanding. The Hebrew understanding of the word “ēl” has been translated simply to mean “God” which is understood in modern thought as a self explanatory word referring only to the Almighty. Hebrews understand this word very differently, to them they understand it to mean “power and authority” of a legalistic religious sense. At times it refers to the creator, and at times it does not. Throughout scripture the root of ēl is used contextually and at times refers to those who god has granted his authority to. In the case of Psalm 82, referring to those who hold the priesthood, the root of this word is used in its plural form (elōhîm). Ye are gods and children of the Most High.”

The earth was created in three stages or epochs. The first epoch, involves the spirit creation, or the spiritual earth, in this stage the intelligences were organized into spirit bodies. The second epoch involved the creation of the physical earth and its preparation to sustain human life forms. The third epoch was the stage in which life forms came to the earth, including our first parents Adam & Eve. No single creation account is an entirely definitive, continuous record. Each account provides us with pieces of different events within the creation story. In the Genesis account, there are actually two accounts. Moses’ first account, found in Genesis, chapter 1 is a description of the first epoch or spirit creation. His second account found in Genesis, chapter 2 describes the third epoch. In this third epoch, the earth was still in a terrestrial state. Abraham’s creation account beginning in Abraham, chapter 4 starts just as the first epoch is drawing to a close, it than goes on to describe the second epoch, which is the birth and development of the physical earth.

The Pauline account describes three states of being; he compares them to the Sun, Moon and Stars, each differing in glory from the next. Two of the states of being or epochs are mentioned as Celestial and Terrestrial. As it was previously stated, no account has ever been completely definitive.

The commandment given to our first parents before their fall from the paradisiacal Garden of Eden can be very plainly understood, if it is read carefully and in context.

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Adam was to procreate, and to have dominion over all the earth. In this essence Adam received his power and authority and was given godhood over the earth. The kingdom of God was given in a society of Patriarchal and Matriarchal order. Qualities of godhood must only be preserved if one is following God's plan.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

The key is the word used for “sorrow” which is atsav meaning to labor, toil, to sweat, to do something very hard. Again, Adam is given dominion over this Patriarchal society. Thus his godhood in the traditional sense is preserved. As a consequence of the fall did Adam loose his exaltation in the Patriarchal framework of eternity? Contrariwise, Adam is at the very head of this patriarchal chain. Just after the fall, the words ring very clear.

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.

We have evidence that Adam’s state of godhood was taught in the way of textual evidence. Journal entries of the Saints, particularly Brigham Young's secretary L. John Nuttall recorded his interpretation of this doctrine as it was presented to him in the temple, but we can not be certain if he, or any of the other saints who recorded similar entries in their diaries & journals had an accurate understanding of the veracity of the principle being taught.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Multiple Accounts of the First Vision

There are various different accounts of the First Vision of Joseph Smith. Elden Watson's page Is helpful, it lays out the various accounts.

The first point we must illustrate to better understand why the accounts differ slightly is that the account of the first vision was a reflection on events that happened 10 years prior to them being formally recorded. Think about how long its been since you went to the movies. Did you go to the movies 2 months ago or was it really 6 months ago or 1 month ago? The exact time table becomes blurry in retrospect. This is a factor most people who aim to be critical of the first vision all try to downplay. Using this logic, we can simply come to the conclusion the timeline is not whats important to focus on here.

So how do we look at these accounts to figure out what is important? We must begin to look at the first vision as simply a conversion story, Joseph Smith was our first and also our model convert to the LDS church. After all, Joseph Smith didn't found the church, he just restored it through communication with divine authorities. Noah may have built the Ark, but it was God who directed this operation. The same logic can be applied here. When Joseph first received the vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ he was between 12-15 years old. (1820's)When he was recording this Vision, things changed because his understanding of what he saw grew. God promised he would reveal many things to Joseph Smith. By 1850 many things were very clear to Joseph Smith. It is apparent that Joseph Smith never intended to prepare a single comprehensive account of the first vision. Joseph instead gave various accounts to different people when asked about his conversion story.In each account,he highlighted different points. He did not change the story, but he did however touch on different points.

Most people take the account that was published in 1832 of the first vision (Which was written as part of an autobiography) and they like to point out that it only mentions one personage (Jesus) but it doesn't disprove the presence of two. It just doesn't mention the second. We educatedly speculate that at this point, God the Father had not shown him enough to come to this conclusion.

We know he did not receive the Aaronic (Levitical) Priesthood until 1829 and the Melchizedek Priesthood wasn't conferred on him until at least 1830. This supports the idea that the fullness of the gospel was still in process. Given that this was a time of shaping the church, it is important to understand that Joseph Smith's way of thinking probably was still centered in the Protestant churches where he grew up.

Lets start looking at this as a conversion story and begin dissecting what Is important from the varied accounts. Beginning with 1832 we have an element that is unique to the other accounts:

" At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul"
He feels guilty, is concerned about how God feels about his trespasses. In this account he relates that Jesus Christ extends a hand of redemption and commission's him with work to do.

"he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life"
He related a this similarly in an 1835 account simply saying :
"he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee."
By 1839 the published account illustrates his concern for which church to join saying

" which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, "Lo here" and some Lo there. Some were contending for the Methodist faith, Some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist;"

By 1835 we can see that he was reading his bible and certian verses became increasingly significant to him.

"under a realizing sense, (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find, and again, if any man lack wisdom, let of God who giveth to all men liberally & upbraideth not."

He followed this logic and sought a way for redemption and knowledge. We know in every account that this led him to the woods to pray. Some accounts mention the adversary working against him seeking the truth, others do not. It is consistent in all accounts from 1832 to 1850 that he had a heavenly vision. As of 1832 he shows us he an answer to his initial inquiry of redemption.

"and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life"

By 1839 he published the answer about which church he was told to join.

"My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join."

It is true that Joseph testified that God the Father and Jesus Christ the son were independent beings, not manifestations of a Triune Godhead which was the most widely accepted view embraced at the time. He testified also, that the churches that existed in the current dispensation were in a state of Apostasy and that a restoration of truth was essential to understanding God's plan.

It is important to look at the version that was canonized in the Pearl of Great Price in context. It is known as the Wentworth Letter. It was written to "disabuse the public mind" and related to a newspaper that was inquiring about the church. (John Wentworth, Editor and Proprietor of the Chicago Democrat.) It can be seen as the most accurate account that touched on the most defining points.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,