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3.2 Beer

Minutes of meetings of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve are not made available for public view. However, participants in those meetings have kept diaries, which tell us about their discussions. Fifteen years into his tenure as LDS Church President, Heber J. Grant’s diary records an issue they discussed when Prohibition ended.

Twenty-five days after the repeal of Prohibition through the 21st Amendment, Heber J. Grant’s diary has the following entry:

“I was in favor of all the General Authorities resigning as directors of the Utah Hotel, because I felt they would simply have to sell beer and it would be better for us to be out of it.” (December 30, 1933.)

On January 3, 1934 his diary contains the following entry:

“At 11:15 this morning there was a meeting of the Presidency and Apostles in the Presidency’s office, and the matter of my continuing as President of the Utah Hotel in view of the fact that the hotel is selling 3.2 beer was discussed, and the brethren felt that it as it was legal and declared by government chemists to be non-intoxicating it would be best for me to remain as President of the company, that it would create more comment if I resigned than if I were to stay with it. The question of advertising Anheiser Busch beer in the Deseret News was discussed and it was decided not to accept this advertisement. ”

Today, Utah remains one of only 5 states that restrict beer sold in grocery stores, drug stores and gas stations to 3.2% alcohol content.

Secret and Public

I have received an email informing me that there are those who claim I teach one thing in secret and another in public. That is a toxic notion I reject.

The most unfortunate thing about this is that traditional LDS beliefs actually REQUIRE us to accept the public/private hypocrisy of people of faith. What a tragic legacy we have been handed.

I reject the idea we must live lies to be true to God. It is a false idea and utterly contemptible. I wish there was no one who believed this could be a “true principle” because it is not.
If you look carefully at scripture, the information withheld from the public was NEVER a contradiction of what was given. It was more, and it was sacred, and it could be profaned and used to support wickedness if taught in public. But it was not a contradiction, not something to make the public information a lie, and not hypocritical.
It is tragic we have inherited this legacy. It is only because of this legacy that the idea I’m saying one thing in private and another in public could be advanced. I reject plural marriage, do not and will not practice it. It is abhorrent to me and the evidence tying it to Joseph Smith has been manipulated to fit a pattern adopted after his death. Sorting it out now is almost impossible, because the LDS community is almost entirely polygamists–whether they think it is to be practiced today or not, they believe it is a true principle. I do not. I think Section 132 was altered before released to the public.
The advice I give to everyone is to let their disputes end and if reconciliation needs to happen then it should be between those directly involved and in private.
What a sad thing this has remained. I would ask that my name not be associated with any attempt to advance and continue a grave historical problem with LDS Mormonism. I am public about what I advocate, teach and practice.

Pursuing Happiness

As a society organized under a common government, our society is dependent on agreement on principles, including a common set of morals. As John Adams correctly put it, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Thomas Jefferson was given credit for these words of the Declaration which marked the formal decision to rebel from British rule: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” John Locke advocated freedom of life, liberty and property. Jefferson did not use John Locke’s “property” but changed it to “happiness.”

Those words were written against an ecclesiastical, intellectual, philosophical, legal and governmental background that assumed a meaning for the word “happiness.” The idea of happiness envisioned in the Declaration of Independence incorporated the notion of virtue and the existence of a natural moral law established by a Divine Creator. This moral law was knowable through reason which would permit us to detect objective norms of right and wrong.  It revealed to us God’s eternal law, the same God who created the natural order, and revealed Himself to mankind in Christ.

We are not solely dependent upon reason and the Bible to understand the means to gain happiness. We have this from Alma 41:10-11: “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” However much men may seek happiness in wickedness, it cannot be found there.

Not only is it contrary to the nature of happiness to live contrary to the nature of God and godliness, it is likewise contrary to our ability to govern ourselves peaceably. When we as a people cannot agree on morality, and decide what is, to a large segment of the population considered to be immoral, to then be supported, justified, protected and sustained by the Constitution, the Constitution becomes wholly inadequate for governing us.

In a revelation given us in August 1833, we were cautioned: “And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule, the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (D&C 98:5-10.)

Christ was not “an high priest which cannot be touched with the felling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15.) Christ knows how to help us in our struggles because He has likewise suffered from every point of temptation that men must endure. Alma 7:11 explained this about Christ, “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.” Every difficulty men encounter, Christ likewise encountered and therefore He understands how to minister to all our needs, comfort us in our trials, and help us endure what cannot be avoided.

Modern scripture explains Him and how He overcame sin, He “is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them; And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. But by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man. Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him. He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” (D&C 20:17-22.) When we “give heed” to our temptations, we lose the battle our Lord won.

It is possible to live in a world filled with sin and avoid becoming embroiled in the errors. Do not let your eyes focus on the wickedness you see around you, but look up to heaven and the example of Heaven’s God, where there is no corruption.

Our society is no longer sustainable as a cohesive and unified people. It may take years for it to finish its disintegration, but its failure is well underway. The only means to salvage a peaceable society will be to either convince the whole to repent and return, or, failing that, to divide into separate bodies and allow those who agree on certain moral principles, to live together.

We have an opportunity to attempt to convince others to repent and return. This ought to be our work for now. It seems likely we will follow the foolish example of the Book of Mormon people who previously lived on this land and, like them, divide into warring factions before destruction will sweep away the more wicked people from this land.

The Book of Mormon warns us plainly: “For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off. And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done. Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.” (Ether 2:10-12.)

Record Keeping

The Recorder has posted a notice he wanted me to flag here. The “Notice” concerns submission of names for recording and appears here: http://www.recordersclearinghouse.com/2015/06/

The names for 2012, 2013, 2014 need to be submitted today, July 1st, to allow the record for those years to be arranged alphabetically in the book he is now preparing. Late submissions will never be rejected, but will not appear in the alphabetical order (or perhaps in the appropriate year) as the handwritten record is kept. The scriptures always speak about “blotting out”–which is an apt way to describe a handwritten record. You cannot erase or expand a handwritten record as it can be done with an electronic data base. So when the Record is prepared by the Recorder, it is done also by hand (as instructed) and therefore once a year is completed, any later submitted missing names will be added in another year’s list. Alphabetizing each year’s names makes locating a name much easier if it ever needs to be located in the future.

 

Section 132

Any complex subject involving Mormon history, doctrine or practice is always part of a larger picture. If that larger picture is not part of the analysis, things can be confusing. It is impossible to lay out everything in a single comment. Might I remind you that I never make any attempt to tell everything I think, believe or know in a single post or book.

The discussion about Section 132 has provoked additional questions. Those questions, if answered, will lead to still more questions. In response to the current round of questions I’ve received I would add:

1. It is the LDS Church and “fundamentalists” who claim Section 132 authorizes their past and present practices. Therefore, they must accept it as is, intact, and deal with the issues raised for their practice by the very revelation they claim justifies their behavior. They can’t really begin to question or limit the language. For both of these the “one man at a time” issue is fundamental because it identifies who they must follow. The questions I posed to the polygamists about who authorized their current practice (as the “one”) remains the right question for them to sort out.

2. The meaning of “one man at a time on the earth” was interpreted by Brigham Young (and all subsequent believers in Section 132) to mean only one man can authorize plural marriages. The language is in the transcript as a parenthetical inside verse 7. This raises the question of whether it was there in the first place, or if it was there but located somewhere else in the transcript originally and was moved there, or if it was not there at all in the original. Looking at the surviving document won’t help (see point 6, below).

3. There is an idea that the term “one man at a time on the earth” is part of the earliest gospel. It has nothing to do with plural wives. It has to do with the original Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God, which has a single individual in each generation in the family structure. But that has nothing to do with the way Section 132 is generally interpreted or understood. In practical terms, the way Section 132 uses “one man at a time on the earth” should be interpreted as a unique elevation of a single individual elected by God to become the Holy Spirit of Promise. In most generations, the office of the Holy Spirit of Promise belongs to and is filled by God. Understanding of this subject did not survive Joseph’s martyrdom. Explaining it would only invite the deceivers to step forward and claim they are such an officeholder and are entitled to respect (and probably money and more sex partners given what we’ve seen from the fundamentalists).

4. I do think there was a revelation concerning plural wives. I think Section 132 is an altered text and probably not what was given to Joseph.

5. The practice of adoption (or what was sometimes called “man-to-man sealing”) appears to have been a very late development and was not preserved in a way that we can understand what Joseph was doing. Before that very late development, the idea of eternal “sealing” seems to have been confined to marriages. When Joseph organized family relationships, it seems to have been entirely by intermarriages at first. This allowed a family to be sealed to Joseph Smith by his marrying the daughters, then sealing parents, etc. together as an extended family unit. The record of Joseph’s “proposals” for marriages to some church leader’s daughters (if the accounts are reliable) seem to have been worded by Joseph with this idea in mind.

Marriage sealing would also allow a married couple to be sealed to Joseph by sealing the wife to Joseph, then the husband and wife together, and then sealing them all together as a single family unit. The idea this could be changed to a form of sealing by adoption of a man to another man as father/son seems to have been a very late development, poorly explained, and not preserved with an ordinance that survived Joseph’s death. This has left the topic to scholarly debate and speculation. Much of the confusion about what Joseph was doing in sealings of marriages, and confusion about “adoption” of men to men or what was called “man to man sealing” is because Joseph died before he clearly established the practice. It died with him. Perhaps that was in the wisdom of God to prevent abuse and pretensions by the people left behind in Nauvoo.

6. Since William Clayton wrote the original, and was still alive and close to Brigham Young when Section 132 was made public, it is possible the original was re-written by Clayton before its publication in 1852. The Joseph Smith Papers project may be of some help. But at this late date, given Charles Wandell’s diary, it is probably hopeless for us to untangle the questions from a search and examination of available records.

7. Until Passing the Heavenly Gift, everything I wrote was intended to leave the LDS Church claims unchallenged. I was an active member of the institution and felt inclined to sustain the organization’s claims. Everything in The Second Comforter, Nephi’s Isaiah, Eighteen Verses, Beloved Enos, Come, Let us Adore Him, Remembering the Covenant (5 Vols.), and Ten Parables was composed by me as a faithful and loyal Latter-day Saint. In Passing the Heavenly Gift, I asked questions and proposed another framework for the events of the restoration. In the book, the issues were explored as possibilities, missing or unmentioned historical evidence was set out, and the reader was left to choose for themselves what to conclude. After that book, I was excommunicated and no longer felt the need to defend or sustain the organization. The content of Essays: Three Degrees is compatible with traditional LDS beliefs, although the Brigham Young essay does not flatter President Young. It is not unfair to him, but would not please his fans. Now, however, what I write, say or teach is done without any need on my part to consider what, if any, effect it may have on the the church. The next book will address the foundational beginning of the restoration, its prophetic future, and what is still required.

The restoration is about to be completely compromised by the institutional LDS organization. If we do not establish another way to avoid the coming catastrophe, the restoration will utterly fail. The movement begun now will seem very prescient in a few years. In coming days many people will want a place to land as the LDS Church undergoes changes to retain their standing, favorable tax status, popularity and wealth. People need a place to fellowship where they can function and learn how to preserve the restoration in a place that will be a refuge for those fleeing an increasingly corrupt organization.

What has begun may seem small, unnecessary and even rebellious at present. It will not be long before it is viewed very differently.

Alterations and Emendations

To a crowd in Nauvoo two months before he died Joseph Smith declared:

“You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace.” (DHC 6:317.)

He was talking to believers. They assumed Joseph was like them. They projected onto him all their misapprehensions, desires, and ambitions as if they were his. But the crowd who was prideful, quarrelsome, arrogant, and foolish accepted among their ranks those who were engaged in adultery, conspiracies, financial speculation, and counterfeiting.

June 27th, two months after his public lament, Joseph was slain. His legacy was in the custody of the very group who did not know him. Those same people have now bequeathed to us their misapprehensions and errors. When we get to the anniversary of Joseph’s martyrdom we mourn the loss of a man who remains, for most, a misunderstood stranger on whom we project the errors of that same Nauvoo group.

The challenges with Joseph’s history began early. When John Whitmer, Church Historian and record keeper, left the faith in 1838 he took the history he had been keeping with him. That required a do-over.

But telling Joseph’s history was entrusted to others. The Publication Committee members believed they had the right to make clarifications and emendations, and proceeded to do so. Today we have a conventional account of plural marriage handed to us by the proud descendants of the Nauvoo crowd who never knew Joseph. When that view is challenged, their descendants rise up in their pride to challenge and condemn a truer view of the prophet who never did harm to any man since he was born into the world.

Following Joseph Smith’s death, there was an aggressive effort to change the records to support the new polygamous administration of Brigham Young. A recent author wrote:

“The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that ‘no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed’ is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: ‘I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Navuoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838.'” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.)

I believe the unpublished text of Section 132 (the revelation on eternal marriage including plurality of wives) may have been one of the texts deliberately altered before its publication. Clearly, there were differences between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the subject of plural wives. Compare these two passages from the text published by Brigham Young in 1852:

First, the tight controls which must be in place before any authorized additional wife could be taken (in the second part of the revelation):

Verse 29: “Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord…” [God directly commanded him.]

Verse 39: “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife…” [A prophet specifically authorized the marriages.]

Now compare these limits with the any-thing-goes-if-you-can-talk-the-virgins-into-it language later in the same transcript:

Verses 61-62: “And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.”

The contrast between the strict limitations of verses 29 and 39, which seem to have been what was underway during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, with the much broader license of verses 61-62, which seem to be a description of what happened with Brigham Young’s practice, raises questions of alterations and emendations with the text. Brigham Young expanded the practice further (perhaps because of the short supply of additional virgins) to include widows, divorcees, and other men’s wives (if you held more keys than her current husband). The published revelation seems to have cross-purposes and cross-motivations.

We know how Brigham Young advocated and practiced taking additional wives. What we have about Joseph Smith is very limited, and there is little first-hand information tying him to something definite.

Contrast these verses:

Verse 7: “…(and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred)…”

Verse 39: “…by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power…”

The first publication of Section 132 had the parenthetical statement limiting it to “one on the earth at a time.” Nathan was younger than David, and likely would have been functioning as a prophet throughout David’s lifetime. If others gave David wives, in addition to Nathan, while Nathan was still living, then there was not “only one at a time.”

Brigham Young fought Parley Pratt over who was able to authorize plural marriages.  The dispute began before Section 132 was published. When Brigham Young called for his election as “president” in December 1847, part of his reason for wanting the office was to make it clear that Parley Pratt did not have equal right to authorize plural marriages. He wanted sole control. He claimed that right as president, and verse 7’s parenthetical insertion justifies his claim to exclusivity. If it were not there, Brigham Young could not thwart other apostles’ claims to the right to seal marriages. Brigham Young elevated his rhetoric about unauthorized plural marriages  by asserting they were “adulterous” if HE alone did not authorize them. When Parley was murdered by Elenor McLean’s husband, Hector, in 1857 Brigham Young remarked the killing was justified because of Pratt’s adultery.

Section 132 is the only substantive evidence originating directly from Joseph Smith on the subject of plural wives. What if it does not actually contain an unaltered text? What if the best proof we have is compromised by LDS leaders between Joseph’s death in 1844 and publication eight years later?

The overwhelming body of now accepted proof about what Joseph did, said and thought about the practice is taken from information gathered, produced or composed after the public announcement in 1852, and much of it decades after that.

Almost everyone has their mind made up about this topic, so it is unlikely for any new opinions to be formed on this subject by the present generation. But I believe the LDS Church has done a poor job of protecting the name and reputation of Joseph Smith. Had the record not been flooded with post-1852 advocacy for Brigham Young’s practices, it is much more likely Mormons would share Emma Smith’s explanation of Joseph’s conduct than the one commonly accepted today.

Reclaiming Joseph’s name and reputation on this topic seems like an unlikely battle to win today. The Nauvoo descendants continue to impose on Joseph their inherited misapprehensions.

I mourn Joseph’s death today. But I mourn every day the sometimes grotesque caricature that the proud descendants of Nauvoo pretend is an authentic picture of a man they never knew.

Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley was an apologist. He did not expand, alter, amend, or correct anything Joseph Smith accomplished. He defended Joseph’s work and labored to better understand it. His life’s work focused on antiquity to demonstrate the restoration through Joseph Smith was authentic. Antiquity was useful in recognizing that Joseph was the real thing, an authentic prophet. Nibley’s work confirmed there were details of the restoration that were mirrored throughout the ancient world in past, fallen civilizations. He never preferred the ancients over Joseph, but showed us that Joseph “restored” what was lost from earlier ages. Hugh Nibley did not presume to change Joseph’s work, instead he tried to change our appreciation for it.

The Search

The search for the truth is individual. Everyone must undertake if for themselves. One woman’s search is never the same as another’s. One man’s experiences will never be another’s. That does not mean there are never common elements. Mileposts along the way are common to almost all searches.

Where is the most valuable place to start the search? This question requires us to answer others. For example, was Joseph Smith divinely inspired to translate and publish the Book of Mormon? Were his revelations and translations of other records also divinely inspired?

Since I believe Joseph Smith was divinely inspired, the search for me begins there. It requires me to then proceed in these steps: First, find information about Joseph’s teachings, translations, discussions, revelations and beliefs from the most reliable sources. This is not as easy as it once seemed. The materials made available through The Joseph Smith Papers, for example, require some assumptions and conclusions to be revised, discarded, modified or perhaps even noticed for the first time. A great deal of information about Joseph’s life, his words, even his revelations has not been accurately transmitted across a mere two centuries. But this is the best and most recent place for the search to begin.

Second, Joseph’s paradigm must be adapted, modified and corrected by what the new view of Joseph Smith’s ministry reveals and recovers. This is not easy because traditions and presumptions are part of our internal thinking. We hold on to presumptions until forced to abandon them. Even if we think we can begin with a blank slate, we cannot. We do not know what we do not know, and therefore proceed blind to these defects. It requires us to be ever willing to admit we need and must accept correction. This is not easy, but it is necessary.

Third, we must live our lives in conformity with the truth as we understand it so that we gather light and truth from heaven. We cannot live hypocrisy and expect divine aid. We cannot abuse our neighbors and expect divine favor. We are helped by God as we are clean before Him. He (and we) know if we have clean hands and a pure heart.

Fourth, until we have done the work of the first three, there is no justified expectation to discover or have revealed to us something new. Revelation comes at the end of the search, not at the beginning. When, however, the revelation comes, we must be willing to accept it and then reconsider everything in the first three steps in light of what we have gained in the fourth. Even if we think we are living true to the light we had before, once we have more light we must reflect that in our lives. What we did, said, believed or thought before may no longer be consistent with what was just learned.

Likewise, the work of the second step (adaptation, modification and correction) may be wholly inadequate for what new truth has been gained.  And finally, the first step (source interpretation and understanding) may change because of the new light.

Every one of us is put through this same process. None of us are spared.

This leads to the question of how to integrate what has been gained in this process with other important information. The best example of a faithful search I can think of is Hugh Nibley. His relentless searching was always informed by the primacy of Joseph Smith and the restoration. He believed in the Book of Mormon even when the LDS Church and its leaders did not. This is discussed in Eighteen Verses. Brother Nibley was himself a restorationist who amplified our understanding of antiquity. However, Hugh Nibley died three years before a single volume of The Joseph Smith Papers was in print. He died five years before the five volumes of The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young were available in print. He never had an opportunity to see or read most of what Brigham Young said. He died before many of the journals of church leaders and apostles were made available. Brother Nibley’s work sought to harmonize the restoration with antiquity. He did a great work. But he lived and died without having at his disposal a great body of additional material now accessible to us. It begs the question of whether he would (or should) have reconsidered the content and meaning of the restoration and Joseph’s teachings if he learned new information by that process. From all that can be said about Hugh Nibley, it is apparent to me he would have rethought everything he learned if new revelation of the restoration suggested it ought to be done.

There was a prominent anti-Mormon radio preacher named “Dr. Walter Martin.” He had a radio call in show I listened to for years. He got most of what he said about Mormonism from dubious source material and he made bombastic claims that were unpersuasive to anyone who had read the widely available book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards–still a very good book. But Dr. Walter Martin had a constant refrain: “It is the first principle of Biblical hermeneutics that you interpret the old in light of the new.” Meaning, you understand the Old Testament by study of the New Testament. It is a sound principle. Of course, he violated this first principle when it came to the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s revelations. He discarded the new and judged it only by the old.

This is the one rule Dr. Walter Martin and I agree upon. I apply that across the board with all learning, study and meditation. To recover the past we do not begin the search there, but we begin the search with the latest revelation and attempt to recover truth as we measure it beside what we have received in our day from God.

If the search and accompanying conclusions into Joseph and the restoration are much different now than they were just a few years ago, and the intervening traditions and practices are clearly divergent from Joseph’s in just four generations, what does that tell us about caution for antiquity’s remaining documents? Even our understanding of New Testament times is only fragmentary. The historian Norman F. Cantor wrote about how little we really understand the middle ages in his book titled, Inventing the Middle Ages. He explains how traditions rather than proof inform much of our re-creation of the period in the relatively recent past. Going back another millennium to the New Testament is even more difficult. And the earliest ages are more challenging still.

The farther back we journey the more we need the restoration to guide, inform and set the framework for the search. This is why Joseph Smith was a necessary figure in this late date in history. We will not get far if we do not accept him as the indispensable milestone marker for the correct path that God would ask us to follow for the walk back to His presence.

I advocate study of the past, including Egypt. What I do not suggest is we measure Joseph Smith by beginning with the New Testament, Old Testament or Egypt. We work backward to test for truth. I think anyone who believes in the restoration would agree with that.

Disputations

I have been contacted now twice by people who are either involved or witnessing a dispute in southern Utah. I do not know the parties, but have had contact with both and know one side’s principal players.
When I first got a call about this about a week and a half ago I declined to be involved. I suggested to the caller that they let the matter die, and if any offense has been given to just let the offense rest there, and return good for evil.
I know very little about the substance of the claims being made. As I consider the problem it appears to me that the whole one side vs. the other approach is doomed to cause nothing but turmoil. Having a “winner” will alienate the “loser’s” supporters.
The approach suggested by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount is to dismiss the whole winner/loser approach and instead admonish both sides to forgive the other and suffer the abuse they’ve received, returning good for evil. I’ve been advocating that approach to anyone and everyone involved in this conflict.
I think more is at stake here than just deciding the winner. The conflict is being used to foster another, much larger and more effective problem. It has been forged by an opponent to the incipient restoration movement designed to frustrate and polarize everyone involved. It is designed to create enduring conflict, serious alienation among believers and thwart the purposes of God.
It is hard for those whose hearts have been broken by abuse from an institution to begin to trust others in fellowship when they encounter yet another round of abuse, accusation, frustration and imposition at the hands of those claiming to be their brothers and sisters.
I try to be a peacemaker. I try to avoid participation in conflict and to do my best to take abuse but never return it. I probably fail in this, but it is my honest objective and deepest intent.
We are facing the same kinds of conflicts that drove the saints to incur God’s condemnation early in the restoration. I now rejoice only in the fact that we have made no effort to gather. The lesson I draw from this conflict is that everyone on both sides, as well as those who choose a side and work to amplify the conflict,–every participant would be a dangerous neighbor to have living alongside others in any New Jerusalem.
If we are not wise enough to avoid conflicts, then we should bear abuses and insults with grace, kindness and charity when they force themselves upon us. I do not know how we can be gathered if we are quarrelsome, accusing and insulting of one another. How can that please God?
Maybe it is impossible to avoid taking sides. Maybe we need to choose, even with a great deal of ignorance of any facts, understanding of the parties, familiarity with the events, or knowledge of these people’s hearts… But to me that seems more a formula for recreating Kirtland, returning to Missouri, repeating Nauvoo or marching into the salty wasteland of the Great Basin than following Enoch to the mountains and meeting with our Father and our God.
If it is possible for you to take the role of the peacemaker, please do. If you can help restore harmony, please make the effort. It will be worth the effort to try, even if you fail.
Thanks to each of you for all you have done and all you do to help bring this work along according to God’s desire for us all. Let us go on to defeat the jarrings, contentions, strifes and envyings among us. We have a perfect opportunity with this challenge to at least make the attempt. Do not let it pass you by without the effort to address it in a godly and meek way.