Thursday, June 12, 2008

Revelations in the LDS church

Revelation and the LDS Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be an church that receives direct revelation from God. However, the question arises when was the last revelation? Most of Brigham Young's discourses are pretty much dead doctrines in the LDS church and are dismissed as merely his own personal opinion and not necessarily revelation from God. Mormon fundamentalists have a point there that they are the only ones that treat his discourses as scripture as originally intended. Are any of the most recent statements by the church considered to be revelations?

Official Church Statements

The Official Declaration 1, the basis for ceasing the practice of polygamy was not originally published as a revelation. It is a press release to the United States government. Nowhere does it say "thus sayeth the lord", it says "to whom it may concern" not even meant to be geared towards church members. Wilford Woodruff didn't call or refer to the manifesto as a revelation until a year later in 1891 at a stake conference in Logan, Utah. It is more likely that the manifesto was simply a response to the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887.

Official Declaration 2 is not a revelation. Once again, it is not written in 1st person from the Lord like Joseph Smith's revelations as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants. The specific wording simply refers to a revelation that the prophet and president of the church at the time received a revelation to allow blacks of any descent. The declaration reads "a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church". However, as I said the declaration simply refers to a revelation that was received, and explains the details of the revelation, but the actual revelation has not been recorded.

If we are to believe that God is at the head of the church, one would expect the church to be ahead of the rest of the world, not behind it. This revelation occurred 24 years after the civil rights movement. It seems to me that the idea that the prophets are directed by God simply makes the church more stubborn, entrenched and more reluctant to make changes, even if these are good changes. It draws the question if the church is run from top down, or from bottom up, or maybe a combination.

Are we to consider "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" and "The Living Christ The Testimony of the Apostles" as revelations? They both sound like declarations of beliefs.

Modern Revelation

Does the church still believe in receiving revelations from God? Not everything said from every prophet or apostle is to be considered doctrine. The prophets and apostles are able to voice their own opinions even when occasionally they are considered false doctrine by subsequent church leaders. If there is revelation given to the church leaders, is it given to them through feelings and perhaps not angelic messengers?

Book of Mormon and Angels

According to the Book of Mormon, if angels cease to appear and miracles cease to occur, it is due to apostasy and lack of faith.

Moroni 7:35-38

And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.
The question is asked if the LDS church is a church based on continual revelation, where are the revelations?

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mormon Fundamentalism vs. The Mainstream LDS Church

Mormon Fundamentalism VS. The LDS Church

There seems to be a lot of interest lately on the subject of Mormon fundamentalism, particularly the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) so I will speak on the subject. There are many people that see reports on t.v. about polygamist groups and associate these groups with the LDS church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Part of the reason for the confusion is over the use of the word "Mormon" when describing these groups.


LDS Church-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I use the term "LDS Church" in reference to the mainstream church that most people refer as the "Mormon church".

Mormon-This term is usually used to describe a member of the LDS Church. However, it can also accurately be used to describe followers of other groups, which I will explain. To clarify in this case, I will use the term "mainstream Mormon" to refer to members of the LDS church.

Mormon fundamentalist-Someone that believes that the original teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are eternal and everlasting and the doctrines and practices can not ever change. The main points of these doctrines usually include the earthly practice of plural marriage (polygamy) and the law of consecration, along with other doctrines such as the Adam-God doctrine among many others.

FLDS-Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a Mormon Fundamentalist church that is not affiliated with the LDS church.

First, I would like to address the confusion that is out there. Many people still to this day think that Mormon Fundamentalists are somehow affiliated or associated with mainstream Mormons. This is simply not the case. Mormon Fundamentalists are groups that have splintered or broken off of the LDS church, many of them decades ago principally over the doctrine of polygamy.


The LDS church does not currently practice polygamy. The LDS church abandoned the practice of polygamy gradually from 1890 to the early 1900's. The LDS church excommunicates any member that practices polygamy.

There exists a lot of confusion regarding mainstream Mormons and Mormon fundamentalists. Mormon fundamentalist groups like the FLDS that practice polygamy have nothing to do with the LDS church. The source of this confusion could be the commonality of the word "Mormon" used to describe both groups. When people hear these terms, they assume that they are connected with the LDS church, since most people know the LDS church as the "Mormon church", which is a misnomer.

Frankly, I understand and can empathize with the frustration of the LDS church in trying to distinguish themselves from Mormon fundamentalists. The LDS church has even attempted to go as far as saying that they don't even exist.

Gordon B. Hinckley has said "There is no such thing as a 'Mormon fundamentalist.' It is a contradiction to use the two words together".

Are Mormon Fundamentalists "Mormon"?

This completely depends on your definition of the word "Mormon". Usually, the word "Mormon" is in reference to a member of the LDS Church. In this definition, Mormon fundamentalists are not "Mormon" in the sense that they are not members of the LDS church. However, in a broader sense of the word, a "Mormon" can correctly be applied to anyone that adheres to the teachings of Mormonism, as established by Joseph Smith, and considers themselves to be a Mormon. This was always my understanding of the term "Mormon" as defined by an encyclopedia I read in my youth.

Are Mormons Christian?

Many members and leaders of the LDS church have been trying to assert to mainstream Christianity that they are in fact Christians. Even though the views differ from traditional Christianity, the LDS church and its members make this assertion.

When Salt Lake hosted the winter Olympics, the leadership of the church expressed the importance of its insistence of being regarded a Christian church and attempted to try to distance itself from the use of the term "Mormon Church.

"the church's hierarchy recently advised the media that the term Mormon Church is no longer acceptable. Henceforth, officials declared, short references to the church should read: "The Church of Jesus Christ." In this way the church hopes to emphasize what Mormons share with historic Christianity, not what makes them different."

From Jeff Lindsey's blog(member of the LDS church): "I definitely consider myself a Christian, meaning that I look to Christ as my Savior and Redeemer, and that I seek to follow Him. You may disagree with other doctrines, but please don't assume this means that I am not Christian. However, I realize that some of our doctrines, as painted by opponents of the Church, sound odd, especially our ideas about the relationship between man and God. But our doctrines are rooted in scripture and are those of the earliest Christians - really."

Here is the ultimate irony. Here, you have a member of the LDS church defending the position that Mormons are Christians, yet most of mainstream Christianity that I have spoken with do not recognize Mormons as Christians. The irony is when the tables are turned, the mainstream LDS church gives Mormon fundamentalists the exact same treatment by asserting that Mormon Fundamentalists are not "Mormon".

Use the Same Argument For Mormon Fundamentalists

The same argument from Jeff Lindsey's defense for being Christian can be made to defend Mormon fundamentalists as being Mormon with a slight tweak. Imagine if a Mormon fundamentalist made this statement to the LDS church:

"I definitely consider myself a Mormon, meaning that I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that I seek to follow his teachings. You may disagree with other doctrines, but please don't assume this means that I am not Mormon. However, I realize that some of our doctrines, as painted by opponents of the FLDS Church, sound odd, especially our ideas about the relationship between Adam and God, or polygamy. But our doctrines are rooted in scripture, and are those of the earliest Mormons - really."

Who or What is Mormon?- It is all About Semantics

I believe that there should be a correction of the use of the term "Mormon" to the more broad sense of the word, as any group that follows the teachings of Mormonism and considers themselves to be Mormon. I understand the concern of the LDS church in trying to distinguish themselves with other smaller followers of Mormonism. There is even a distinction within Mormon fundamentalists that try to dis-associate themselves with the FLDS church and consider Warren Jeffs a false prophet.

"Polygamist Sects?"

The LDS church has suggested that the correct term to use to describe Mormon fundamentalists is "polygamist sects" in place of "Mormon sects" or even Mormon fundamentalists. They are trying to get people to not incorporate the word "Mormon" when describing other groups. However, the term "polygamist sect" is very problematic. Not all Mormon Fundamentalists practice polygamy. Most believe in the principal, but are not currently practicing it. Some could be widows, some could be children too young to be married, many live a monogamous lifestyle, but generally still believe in the principal. What are we to call these individuals, Polygamists?

The LDS church fits into the criteria for the term "polygamist sect", as the principal of polygamy is still very much a part of the doctrine of the church as it is expected to be practiced in heaven as I have talked about in a previous post. So the LDS church fits under the definition of a "polygamist sect" if they can be called polygamists just for believing in the principal, but not actually practice it.

The other problem is not all splinter groups of Mormonism practice or believe in the doctrine of polygamy. The Community of Christ is the largest group that broke off of the LDS church and it does not teach the doctrine of polygamy nor does it recognize Brigham Young as a prophet. They deny or downplay Joseph Smith's practices and teachings of polygamy. The Community of Christ is not considered part of Mormon fundamentalism.

Different Groups Within Mormonism

There are different flavors of Christianity and Mormonism is no different. The most well known is the LDS church, however, there are many other churches that all proclaim to be the true Mormons:

Apostolic United Brethren
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days
Community of Christ (originally the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
Latter-day Church of Christ
Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
United Latter-day Church of Jesus Christ

All of these and countless other smaller groups consider themselves the true "Mormons" as in the real followers of the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith. I do not believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on the word "Mormon", even if they are the largest organization. I believe that the word "Mormon" should begin to be viewed in a general term like "Christian", not a specific term like "Catholic". I think a member of the LDS church can still call themselves "Mormon" for short, but so should members of other churches that teach the principals of Mormonism.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Smithsonian Institue Considers the Book of Mormon a Historical Document

The Smithsonian Institute Considers the Book of Mormon a Historical Document

Well, sort of. The Smithsonian Institute considers the Book of Mormon a very important historical document of 19th century American religious history. However, the Smithsonian Institute is very clear that they do not consider the Book of Mormon to be a translation of ancient American texts.

I remember hearing rumors from other missionaries on my mission that the Smithsonian Institute used the Book of Mormon as a guide to help find archaeological digs. However, this is just Mormon folklore. Thanks to Shawn Landis for pointing this out, as I think it is important for everyone ,regardless of your belief in the Book of Mormon, to dispel untruthful rumors.

Smithsonian Letter Regarding Book of Mormon

I think it is important for everyone to read the Smithsonian Letter about the Book of Mormon. Here is the text of the letter as referenced from this site.

Information from the
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C. 20560

Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution's alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in the Smithsonians Department of Anthropology.

The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research and any information that you have received to the contrary is incorrect. Accurate information about the Smithsonians position is contained in the enclosed Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon, which was prepared to respond to the numerous inquiries that the Smithsonian receives on this topic.

Because the Smithsonian regards the unauthorized use of its name to disseminate inaccurate information as unlawful, we would appreciate your assistance in providing us with the names of any individuals who are misusing the Smithsonians name. Please address any correspondence to:

Public Information Officer
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution, MRC 112
Washington, DC 20560

Prepared by


1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.

2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World--probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age--in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen, who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around 1000 A.D. and then settled in Greenland. There is no evidence to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

4. None of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre- Columbian times. This is one of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific premise that contacts with Old World civilizations, if they occurred, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, or camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, bat all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time the early big game hunters traveled across the Americas.)

5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteroic iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre- Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asia and the Near East.

7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt.

8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.

9. There are copies of the Book of Mormon in the library of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

I believe that the last statement is the basis for the origin of the rumor that the Smithsonian Institute considers the Book of Mormon a historical document. However, anyone that has read the letter understands that it is very clear that the Smithsonian does not consider the Book of Mormon a historical document of ancient America, but one of 19th century America. They emphasize their frustrations and even the illegality of people mis-using the Smithsonian name.

Mormon Folklore

Mormon folklore are stories or things that are meant to be spiritually uplifting and faith promoting, but are essentially not true. I believe that it does more harm as people are crushed or disappointed when they realize that it isn't true. However, what is amazing to me is how confident someone can sound when they spread stories that are simply not the case.

I am confident that the missionary that told me about the Smithsonian Institute using the Book of Mormon as a guide really believed it. He sounded so confident and so 'matter of fact' that I believed that he had done thorough research on the subject, so I believed it. Turns out that my missionary companion had heard it from someone else that told it to him in such a way that he assumed that that person had looked into it and had checked the facts.

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