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Tolerance

Tolerance requires disagreement. Insisting on agreement is not tolerance, but its opposite.

I’ve Met Valor

A recent email I sent in response to an on-line conversation about the current state of affairs in the US:


My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944 in the first wave, as a Combat Engineer.  It was his job to clear the beach of tank traps for tanks which would never arrive.  The water was too turbulent that morning and all the tanks sank before reaching the beach.  But destroying the traps was not an option anyway, because they were the only thing to hide behind to shield soldiers from incoming machine-gun fire.

Eventually the surviving few, filled with rage at what was done to their comrades, did the only thing they could do: sacrifice their own lives to kill the bastards who were killing their friends.
So it was that the mines intended for tank traps were diverted to destroying the fencing and barbed wire protecting the cliffs from being scaled by the GI’s.  At a cost difficult to comprehend, they overtook the pillboxes and destroyed the German emplacements.
On the morning of June 7th, 1944 my father was the only one in his Company who was not a casualty of the first day’s fighting.  He was unhurt.  So they formed another Company made of the remaining remnants and he turned from combat engineer to infantryman.  
He pressed into Paris, then into Germany.  He was involved in the Ardennes, where he suffered his only injury of the war: frostbite to his feet.  He was taken to a surgical tent where they intended to amputate both his feet.  Outside there were barrels of hands, feet, arms, legs and assorted GI parts.  He begged to keep his feet.
There was a nurse from his home state in the surgical prep area.  She took pity on him.  Throughout the night she rubbed his feet to restore circulation, while moving others ahead of him for surgery.  At morning the waiting supply of injured were exhausted, and only my father remained awaiting care.  They carried him into the room to begin the amputation, and the Doctor inspected his feet beforehand to decide how much to remove.  The Doctor said he saw signs of circulation, and thought it might be alright to wait and see a few more hours.  Everyone was exhausted anyway, and my father was in no hurry.
The next day the feet improved a little more.  After a few days he was removed from the list to be amputated, and then allowed to return to fighting.
For the rest of his life his feet hurt him.  But he never complained.  In fact, the pain made him grateful, he said, to have his feet.
He never collected a dime of disability.  Worked till retirement age, then went to work again.  Worked until they retired him again.  Then he worked part time till he was in his late 70’s.  
As he was dying he returned to a hospital for the second time in his life.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer on Friday, and died on Sunday.  Saturday night he and I were talking in the hospital sometime in the wee hours of the morning and he remarked:  “I can’t figure out why my life was spared when all those others died that morning.”
Warriors are not like those who live safely at a distance from the fight.  But they only die once.

The Angel’s Identification

I have received many comments to the prior post about Nephi having visited Joseph Smith. That post used the Joseph Smith Papers histories to show Joseph Smith consistently identified the angel who visited him as “Nephi” rather than “Moroni.” I’m not going to solve the dilemma for you, but I will point out a few things.

Section 27 of the D&C mentions, “Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon” (D&C 27: 5). However, the original transcript of the revelation did not contain any of these words. You can read the original in Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books, pp. 40-43. These words were added later, probably by Oliver Cowdery. [Oliver thought it was his right to add revelations to the church, as Section 24: 5-6 authorized him to do. He authored a good deal, if not all of Section 20. He also wrote a section on marriage that was contained in the 1835 D&C as Section CI “Marriage” beginning on page 251. It condemned plural marriage and was later deleted.] The addition to Section 27 occurred before the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, and that version can be found in the Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Vol. 2, p. 490 (Section L, verse 2). Joseph Smith reviewed this volume prior to its publication and should have been aware of the mention of “Moroni” as the one who came “to reveal the Book of Mormon.”

Section 128 of the D&C is a letter written by Joseph Smith in September 1842. In the letter he wrote: “And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets– the book to be revealed.” (D&C 128: 19.)

So we either have a contradiction in these identities (Nephi vs. Moroni) or we do not. If we do not have a contradiction then these are some possibilities:

The Section 27 and 128 references are not to the visit described in JS-H in verse 33, but to something else.

For those who believe in multiple-mortal probations it is simple: This proves that Nephi and Moroni were the same person, come twice to the earth, once to begin and once to end the Book of Mormon. I’m not at all persuaded of that one.

For those who want Moroni to have credit for his vast contribution then give it to him, even if it was Nephi who came as the angel to visit Joseph. Moroni gets the credit because:
1. He completed his father’s work in preserving the book.
2. He was the author who completed the Book of Mormon (the one attributed to his father beginning on page 469 and going to page 487) within the larger Book of Mormon.
3. He added a translation and commentary known as the Book of Ether.
4. He added the Small Plates of Nephi to the text “for a wise purpose.”
5. He added his own Book of Moroni to complete the volume.
6. He buried the book, along with other sacred artifacts, to preserve it and the means to translate it.
7. He wrote the cover page to the Book of Mormon.
For these reasons, even if it was Nephi who came, we ought to give credit to Moroni because he deserves mention for his overarching responsibility in preserving, completing and bringing forth the book.

The problem with these proposed alternatives is the language used in the September 1842 letter which calls Moroni “an angel from heaven, declaring…” which suggests it was Moroni who was the one visiting with Joseph. The letter describes a visit, not merely an attribution.

Because of these issues, those who think there is a contradiction are left to wonder:

Did Oliver Cowdery not know the identity of the angel? After all, the testimony of the Three Witnesses in the beginning of the Book of Mormon never mentions the angel’s name. It refers only to an “angel from heaven.” So if Oliver was confused, it would support the notion that the addition to Section 27 was his. But that doesn’t explain why Joseph would approve the addition in the 1835 D&C.

On the other hand, the histories written by Joseph Smith naming the angel “Nephi” came after the 1835 version of the D&C. He wrote these histories naming Nephi in 1838, 1839 and 1841. So was the later naming of Nephi a correction of the earlier addition by Oliver Cowdery naming Moroni? Given the timing, it is possible this may be the case.

This line of reasoning, however, gets interrupted by the 1842 letter calling “Moroni” an “angel from heaven” and associates him with the “Hill Cumorah.” So if understanding the timing is how to solve the contradiction, why would Joseph make this later reference? And why call Moroni “an angel from heaven” in the 1842 letter if he didn’t at least visit the Hill Cumorah? It is rather a stretch to think that visit was when he first buried the plates, and not when Joseph Smith recovered it as part of the “glad news” discussed in the 1842 letter (Section 128).

Is it possible that Joseph wasn’t careful about the name when dictating the letter, but was more careful when compiling his history? Why, if he had worked on the history earlier and got it right, would he then err in the letter?

Most of the references made to the visitor throughout the writings and talks of Joseph Smith refer to a “messenger” or to an “angel” and leave identity unresolved.

What is most interesting is that the controversy resulted in the church editing the Joseph Smith-History in the Pearl of Great Price. They didn’t disclose the contradiction, but covered it up until the Joseph Smith Papers project brings it to light. Then we learned it was resolved in favor of Moroni, without any effort to explain there is another possible identity. I commend the church for now allowing it to become public in an official document.

You should know there is an uncertainty about this. You should be allowed to decide for yourself which you want to believe.

I’ve always called the visitor “Moroni” and intend to continue doing so because it is somewhat annoying at this point to give the angel another name. They won’t know what I’m talking about if I change the name, or they will think I’m too dumb to read what is in the Joseph Smith-History. So I will continue to use “Moroni” as the visiting angel. However, I think it was actually Nephi who visited. That is my view. You ought to study it out for yourself and reach your own conclusion.

The question of resurrection is mentioned in my earlier post as a result of the angel actually having handled objects (plates, sword, directors, breastplate) during the visits and in the presence of two of the three witnesses. Physical contact with tangible things is the province of physical beings. (See, e.g., Section 129: 2-7.) Nephi is the more likely to have been resurrected considering when he was born and when he died. Post-Christ era resurrection is normally confined to the Second Coming. (See, e.g., D&C 133: 56.) There are exceptions, but they are for highly specific reasons, based on individual covenants. Unless Moroni had such an individual covenant with Christ he would not have been resurrected, and therefore could not have handled the physical objects involved in the history of this angel’s mission to Joseph and the three witnesses. If Moroni had the covenant, I would expect it to be mentioned in his book. Of course not everything is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but the absence of proof leans in favor of concluding it was Nephi, rather than Moroni, who would have been resurrected at the time of the visits.

New, Improved Mormonism

Lots of excitement arises from the statement by the church denouncing past practices and teachings in its editorial on its website titled “Race and the Priesthood.” Lots of buzz on the Internet and in news outlets. The thesis of the editorial is that the church, which today is headquartered in a nation with a black president, has overcome racism, which was a sin, and now can denounce it (and past president’s of the church) with passion, like others in modern society.

The LDS position is that the church leaders can never lead its members astray, except in the past – and then it can correct it – in the here and now. When corrected, the LDS church can then consign its past leaders to condemnation for their sins. Sort of ex post facto “we’re still not going to lead you astray” as long as you are living when we fix it… or something like that. It’s really hard to keep up with the “we’re not going to lead you astray” component of modern Mormonism with all the dramatic changes and strong denouncements of past errors and sins and mistakes by racist, sexist, polygamous church presidents. But, trust them, they’re somehow not going to lead you astray.

The minions in the faceless editorial composition unit (I envision them as little yellow chaps who are constantly engaged in slapstick shenanigans) need to move forward now to continue their fix of the LDS position. I’d like to point out for their revisionism some more editing now needed:

The new editorial explained: “According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel. Those who accepted this view believed that God’s ‘curse’ on Cain was the mark of a dark skin.” This view was based on a verse in Genesis. But they can leave Genesis 4: 15 alone, because the “mark” put upon Cain is not defined there. It is only in LDS scripture the mark is clarified. It was blackness: “And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.” (Moses 7: 22.) This uniquely LDS scripture clarifies what Genesis does not make clear. For the Christians “in the United States from at least 1730’s” this idea of blacks descending from Cain was merely a theory. But for Latter-day Saints it was a matter of actual canonized scripture. So the purging of the LDS sins is only partial. They need to condemn Enoch as yet another past, false leader who subscribed to a now discredited view.

The editorial continues, describing “Black servitude was sometimes viewed as a second curse placed upon Noah’s grandson Canaan as a result of Ham’s indiscretion toward his father.” This is derived from the account in Genesis 9 where Noah curses Canaan with these words: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” (Moses 7: 22.) These Biblical words have been used to justify slavery. This raises two issues: first, slavery, and second, a cursed lineage. These are two altogether different topics.

As to the first, slavery was practiced throughout the Old and New Testaments. Further, if you look at the specific curse of Noah’s, it did not relate to Ham. Nor to all of Ham’s descendants. Ham married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain. However, the curse of servitude Noah pronounced did not target Ham, nor Ham’s sons Cush, Mizraim, or Phut. (Gen. 10: 6.) The curse of servitude was only on his grandson Canaan, the youngest son of Ham. Examples of servitude in scripture are too numerous to list, but the Law of Moses adopted rules governing how to treat slaves because slavery was permitted. Even Christ presumed slavery, using slaves in His parables. Most telling of all, however, is the unique future LDS heaven which envisions servitude for the unworthy. (See, e.g., D&C 132: 16-17.) So there’s some work left to do for the editorialists in conforming LDS scripture to the newly enlightened position. We will need for them to condemn past leaders like Moses, Christ, Joseph Smith and the God of the future LDS heaven for their errant positions if they expect to make full recompense for LDS past errors.

On the second idea of a cursed lineage, there’s more work to be done with LDS scriptures as well. In Abraham we read of the “Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry.” (Abr. 1: 27.) This makes it plain enough there was a “cursed lineage”– an idea which survives in LDS scripture despite the editorial.

The editorial continues: “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse,” Stopping just there, we need to have the following language taken from the Book of Mormon: “And he had caused the cursing 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 delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” (2 Ne. 5: 21. There’s also mention in 2 Ne. 26: 33 and 3 Ne. 2: 15) This was designed by God to prevent intermarriage (“that they might not be enticing unto my people”). In the LDS scriptures the word “enticing” is footnoted to the Topical Guide subject “Marriage, Temporal.”

Then there is the editorial remark denouncing “that mixed-race marriages are a sin.” This brushes up against the verse in 2 Ne. 5: 21 as well as Abraham’s commandment concerning his chosen son, Isaac. For that son and the chosen lineage Abraham commanded: “I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell.” (Gen. 24: 3.) Strong, even racist language from father Abraham. He refused intermarriage for his son. The editorialists announce that “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” The word “unequivocally” means without any hesitation or limit. So we now have the editorialists speaking for the “Church leaders today” denouncing Abraham. It was a racist demand imposed by Abraham, while swearing by the God of heaven and earth, that his son must not marry a Canaanite.

I’m impressed with the LDS leader’s bold, historic, revolutionary break with their past, their scriptures and their future heaven as well. This is courage and drama on a scale seldom seen in religion. We are witnessing revolutionaries in the very act of overthrowing their past beliefs.

There’s a lot of the LDS past now denounced, unequivocally, by the “Church leaders today.” They’ve judged and dismissed God, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Joseph Smith, along with past church presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Councilor J. Reuben Clark, and even President Spencer W. Kimball who made the change in 1978 (because he denounced interracial marriage).

I was excommunicated after being accused of among other things “denigrating every church president since Joseph Smith.” I don’t think the accusation was true. In fact, I merely quoted them or their diaries. But even if you accept the accusation against me, I managed to stop short of denigrating Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Christ and Joseph Smith along with “every church president since Joseph Smith.” The “Church leaders today” have raised their game to a whole new level. I know when I’ve been outdone. I’m an underachiever by comparison. These “Church leaders today” will even take on God in their denigration of past leaders!

The trouble I see the LDS church editorial writers now making for the church is conflating racism (which everyone should recognize as bad) with priesthood. They ought to have stopped short of this overreaching effort to fix their public reputation. One (racism) is decidedly bad. The other (priesthood) is not at all related to racism. Racism which results in afflictions visited by one group upon another merely based upon their racial status is invidious. That should be something all mankind can overcome at some point.

But priesthood is something quite different. It is so narrowly distributed that even the lesser priesthood was limited to one tribe (Levi) and even then could not be given to a man with a withered limb, or some other physical defect. Higher priesthood was yet more restrictive, almost never given to anyone, in any age. It is extraordinarily limited in numbers. God controls that Himself, directly.

For mankind to complain about God’s control over His own power is beyond arrogant. The LDS church asserts it has some control over God’s priesthood (a position that is increasingly dubious with each act of rebellion against God, and usurping power and control over the conscience of its members). On the assumption the LDS’ claim is true, then they are merely stewards. They have no right to tinker with something God alone controls.

Fortunately, the highest form of priesthood requires a visit from God, who alone confers it. Therefore, no policy change, or enlightened new political position, will ever have an effect on who receives such an ordination. When (if) it reappears on the earth, it will have only one purpose: To bring about Zion and enable God’s promises to be fulfilled. It won’t be for empowering priestcraft and enabling multi-billion dollar purchases of land and buildings by an elite group who fare sumptuously while the poor are left begging

This is a great moment – and another example of the LDS church’s “continuing revelation,” because it surely is revealing.

Nephi

As part of the assignment given Him, the Lord added to and corrected the Nephite scriptures. He had them bring their records to Him, and noted they omitted mention of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy about some rising from the dead at the time of His resurrection. He got them to confirm Samuel prophesied it, some of the dead did arise, and they had neglected to include it in their scriptures. (3 Ne. 23: 7-13.)

Among those who would have risen would have been Nephi, son of Lehi, after whom the Nephites were named.

Moroni would not live for another 400 years. Moroni would have missed the resurrection at the time of Christ, and therefore would await the Second Coming for his resurrection.

This is perhaps the reason Joseph Smith identified the angel who visited him, taught him, and gave him possession of the gold plates, as “Nephi” and not Moroni.

In the Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 1, we learn Joseph read and corrected his history: “…it suggests that JS [Joseph Smith] read aloud from Draft 2 in the large manuscript volume, directing editorial changes as he read.” (Id. at p. 201.) Here is how Draft 2 reads, describing the visit of the angel to him in his bedroom on the night of September 21, 1823:

“When I first looked upon him I was afraid, but the fear soon left me. He called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Nephi.” (Id. p. 222.)

Under Joseph’s direction, a Draft 3 was prepared by Howard Coray. This version reads as follows:

“When I first looked upon (him) it I was afraid; but the far soon left me: calling me by name, (he) said, that he was a messenger, sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi–” (Id. p. 223.)

There is a footnote that explains someone, unidentified as to who or when, changed the name from “Nephi” to “Moroni” because of a “clerical error.” The same footnote explains that throughout Joseph Smith’s lifetime, in any history he supervised, the name was always “Nephi”. Here is an excerpt from footnote 56 on page 223 of Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 1:

“A later redaction in an unidentified hand changed ‘Nephi’ to ‘Moroni’ and noted that the original attribution was a ‘clerical error.’ Early sources often did not name the angelic visitor, but sources naming Moroni include Oliver Cowdery’s historical letter published in the April 1835 LDS Messenger and Advocate, an expanded version of a circa August 1830 revelation, as published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants; and a JS editorial published in the Elders’ Journal in July 1838. The present history is the earliest extant source to name Nephi as the messenger, and subsequent publications based on this history perpetuated the attribution during JS’s lifetime.” (Id. p. 223.)

The footnote prefers Oliver Cowdery’s account to Joseph’s. Oliver was not present September 21, 1823. Nor was he present for any of the other visits by the angel over the next four years. Therefore, enbracing Oliver’s statement above Joseph’s seems to me to be an odd preference.

I’m persuaded Joseph would not have mistaken who it was that visited him on September 21, 1823 and again each year for four years thereafter. If it was a resurrected personage, it is more likely Nephi, who died before the Lord’s resurrection, than Moroni, who lived after.

I Want To See You Be Brave

I want to see you be brave, and so do others, including Sara.

Mormon History

Just because you “know” something, it doesn’t mean it is true.

Just because you don’t know something, it doesn’t make it false.

LDS history is riddled with lies: Some told to protect lives. Some told to conceal truths. Some told to escape prosecution. Some told to keep the government from taking property away from the church. Some told to promote faith. But LDS history is riddled with lies.

The historic reality of institutional lying does not render our faith itself a lie. But perpetuating the lies today is increasingly perilous.

You tell the truth. Faith cannot be based on anything other than the truth. Everything else is not faith.

Drat

It is always best when you get bad news from someone you love. The news remains terrible, but hearing it from my daughter eases my pain. My daughter called from Wyoming to break the news that Jacoby Ellsbury is going to the Yankees. Now we must face him in the AL East.

On the bright side, apparently Robinson Cano will be leaving the Yankees. With Jeter injured, ARod likely not returning to the game again (ever), and Youklis disabled, they need Jacoby at the top of the lineup to compete. I guess $20 million a year was just too much to resist.

Oh well, he is injury prone.

Scripture Interpretations

In answer to a question about differences between something Joseph Smith said about a scripture and something another prophet said about the same scripture, here is my response:

When Peter referred to the fulfillment of Joel Chapter 2, he declared: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:14-20.)

Referring to the same prophecy of Joel, Moroni declared, and Joseph Smith reported: “He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be.” (JS-H 1: 41.) This was immediately after Moroni quoted from Acts Chapter 3, and therefore Moroni would have been familiar with Peter’s statement in the preceding chapter, Acts Chapter 2.

Both spoke the truth.

What one prophet, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, speaks about a passage of scripture may vary from what another prophet, under the influence of Holy Spirit, may say about the very same scripture. Speaking in different times, under different circumstances, to a different audience, with a different objective in generations separated by considerable amounts of time, allows them both to speak the truth.

How many times have Isaiah’s words “beautiful upon the mountains” been fulfilled? (Isaiah’s prophecy is in Isa. 52: 7. It was discussed by later prophets in different settings. In 1 Ne. 13: 37: Nephi speaking about those who will seek to establish Zion in the last days. In Mosiah 15: 13-17: Abinadi speaking of those who testified about Christ in every generation, past, then and in the future. In 3 Ne. 20: 40: Christ speaking of the future generation when Zion will be established.) Do not think that because one prophet has declared a matter to be fulfillment of scripture that the Lord cannot declare through another prophet another fulfillment of the same scripture. As the Lord stated, “Because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.” 2 Ne. 29: 9.