BOWbutton

This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

Organizational Changes

I teach a Business Leaderhip class in an MBA program. One of the trends in modern business is “flattening of the structure” because a top-heavy management structure is no longer needed. It is possible, with new technology, for the top to be a single layer, and middle-management to be eliminated entirely.

I’ve thought about the possibility this presents for a religious movement. As I’ve written in several of my books, the origin of Mormonism makes it much more suited as a “movement” than as a controlled institution. However, the history Mormonism originated in made it impossible for the religion to survive separate from the institution created to perpetuate it. If it were not for Brigham Young taking the extraordinary steps he took to preserve the faith restored through Joseph Smith, it would have died. Brigham Young did act, reaffirmed the institutional structure, argued it could NOT exist without the bulwark of ordered offices and holders of authority, and as a result, the institution remained. More importantly, through the institution the religion has been able to stay. The religion was altered in form because of the merger of religion and institution, now having no life independent of the institution. The interplay between these two (the religion and the organized structure), has been that the religion has been dominated by the institution. Indeed, it has stayed around only because of the institutional power to keep it here.

However, new social and technological advances have given the religion an opportunity to assume life on its own, unlinked to an institution. When Ronald Poelman gave his talk separating the “Gospel” and the “Church” in general conference (The Gospel and the Church), the talk was censored and re-written. A comparison between the original talk and the replacement is available on-line here. However, in the last general conference, Elder Hallstrom’s talk, (Converted to His Gospel through His Church) dealt with the subject again, this time making the distinction without being censored. The advances in social and technological management of information and people between the 1984 and 2012 have been more than significant.

The possiblity exists now for an entire religious body to become “one” in heart and in belief, not because of periodic visits from a distant hierarchy, but because they are in constant communication amongst themselves. Though they are in India or Mexico or Russia or the US, they can stay abreast of the very latest through direct communication with each another.

This global change is the harbinger of changes coming to every organization on earth, including the church. The church has been an early adopter of technology for decades. As they continue to adapt to new technical capabilities, it will not be long before, once again, we can “live in the same small village.” Just as Joseph Smith would answer questions over the fence in his yard with his neighbors in Nauvoo, the possiblity is coming for all of us to log into a continuing, flattened structure with no middle management. The top and the bottom of the organization becoming one. No longer any lofty branches, exalted to the sky, with the lesser members confined to the shade, but a uniform and equal access among one another from top to bottom.

In Joseph’s day there was no technology that would allow Joseph to be in contact with converts or members worldwide. There was an absolute need for a vertical, hierarchical organization with Presidency, Twelve, Seventy, Stake, Ward, and Quorum leadership levels interfacing between the top and bottom. In contrast, today if the president of the church wanted to address you and I, he could send an email, or post a message on a board where we could all visit and hear directly from him. He could record a MP3 message for us to download. Just like the rest of the world, the church itself could now be “flattened” without any of the difficulties Joseph would have encountered.

Although we tend to think the structure is absolutely essential, it isn’t. For example, the revelation giving the overall church structure was not followed by the church from the time if was received (March 28, 1835) until 1975 when President Spencer W. Kimball organized the First Quorum of the Seventy. Between those times, the Seventies had an on-again-off-again existence at the general level of the church, with only the Seven Presidents regarded as General Authorities for almost all of that time. Needs arose, the Quorum was activated, and it has been in existence since then. Is that a one-way street? Could the expansion that happens at one moment because of global needs be reversed at another time? Could the structure be simplified if it isn’t required just as it was expanded after 140 years?

As technology expands capabilities, it should not surprise us to find one day that the many layers of the church’s organization will increasingly be shortened, condensed, consolidated and simplified. It is now possible, for example, for the Lord to return and speak to us all at the same moment, no matter where located, using existing off-the-shelf means. I use that to illustrate a point, not to suggest the Lord will use those means. However, the economy of heaven is such that miracles are not employed when simple physical means will accomplish the needed work. The Lord prefers “small means” because they conform to a law. (Alma 37: 7; also 2 Ne. 2: 11.)

The idea the church could be “flattened” while the Gospel remains unaffected is an idea that can only occur if you think of the church as separate from the Gospel. The church opposed that idea just a few years ago. Now it is taught in general conference. We should not be surprised if other, presently unlikely ideas one day soon are part of our religious practices.

How can the people of God become “one” if they entertain the idea there must be a hierarchy in control? In fact, Zion and a hierarchy are mutually exclusive. You can have one, or the other, but not both. Hence the Lord’s frequent assertion that HE will bring again Zion (not us). (See D&C 84: 99-100; Mosiah 12: 22; 15: 29; 3 Ne. 16: 18, among others.) Removing all the barriers between the top and bottom, and establishing only a great equality between His people, is a likely prerequisite for the return of Zion. (D&C 78: 5-7.) The technical environment exists and the pressure will grow to flatten the church’s organizational structure. The only reason to resist that pressure would be a deliberate desire to keep distance between the top and bottom of the structure.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is never spoken of in scripture as the Lord’s elect in heaven. There is another body called the Church of the Firstborn. This group is equal in earthly and heavenly things. (See, e.g., D&C 76: 54-57; 88: 4-5; 93: 20-22.) This will not be some fundamentalist group taking multiple wives, calling themselves by that name. It will instead be called that by the Lord. [I have little confidence in self-identifying individuals or groups. The Lord calls and sends whomsoever He elects; they make few claims to authority. Instead their message is their credential, like the Lord before them.] The Church of the Firstborn is likely to be comprised of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have taken their faith seriously and used the scriptures as their guide. They will be those who are not sleeping when the Lord, as a thief in the night, returns unwanted.

The Church of the Firstborn will be humble, obscure members of the church. Those are the ones the Lord associated with during His ministry. It was scandalous how He mingled with the bottom of the social order – prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and outcasts. His people were and are “the least” in this world. So have been His messengers. It is almost amusing to think of Isaiah or Nephi or Jeremiah getting an honorary degree, or humanitarian award for their valuable contributions to society. Indeed, when society celebrates a messenger by heaping acclaim on them, it strongly suggests they have too much of the world about them to have chosen rightly. (3 Ne. 12: 10-12.) Mormon was alarmed to see this penetrating into the Holy Church of God in the last days. (Mormon 8: 38.)

Well, the point is technology and communication are making organizations everywhere “flatter” and without the complex hierarchies once necessary to manage them. From multi-national to local organizations, the trends are accelerating in that direction. It will not be surprising to me if the prophetic promise of Zion’s return is made possible, at last, because there is no longer any necessity for hierarchical organization as we speed along in new communication and information development. Today a single person sitting at a keyboard can send a message to millions of people by posting on a blog or message board. What a marvel that is! Imagine how that would have changed Joseph Smith’s mission had it been available then!

Imagine how futile it is in this new connected world to attempt to force people into believing things about doctrine, history, and truth. I suspect only the foolish will attempt it and only for so long as it begins to produce widespread failure and rejection by the better informed worldwide audience.

I expect the next Enoch sent to cry repentance before the return of the final Zion will have little more than “a red guitar, three chords and the truth.” (Bob Dylan) There will no longer be a need for “the words of the prophets to be written on the subway walls and tenement halls” because they will be available on everyone’s handheld. (Simon & Garfunkel) The question is, of course, whether anyone can distinguish between the truth and error. That has always been the challenge. Flattening the structure, or even eliminating it altogether, does not remove the burden upon us to choose correctly between the invitation to repent and humble ourselves and the temptation to think ourselves justified by our religion. The return of “natural fruit” will come from conversion to truth, not committment to organizational behavior.

We should not seek to be a manufactured product, but individuals who all know God. Our destiny lies somewhere other than putting ourselves inside little boxes. Mormonism today is working on a model of management which is about to be abandoned by the world. Strong, central organizations, tend to flatten people. Inspired people only need a flattened organization, because they govern themselves.

Virtue and Righteousness

There is a difference between virtue and righteousness. Virtue is laudable, required and necessary, but righteousness has priority. Virtue surrenders to righteousness, not vice-versa. The point can be illustrated from scripture:

It is not virtuous to kill. Nephi was repulsed at the idea, but the Lord required it, and Nephi complied. The doctrinal reasons justifying the killing are set out in The Second Comforter, and there were sufficient reasons both under the Law of Moses and the Lord’s standards of judgment to vindicate the Lord’s decision to kill Laban. The killing was offensive to virtue, but it was righteous.

It is not virtuous to mockingly taunt others. Yet Elijah was pursuing a righteous course against the priests of Baal when he did just that: “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” (1 Kings 18: 27.) Mocking is both unvirtuous and uncouth, and in this context would qualify only as righteous.

It is not virtuous to rail against the religious leaders of any faith. Yet John the Baptist rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees as a generation of vipers: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3: 7.) This term of derision, “generation of vipers” is graphic and in context it is both offensive and uncouth. Yet he was a righteous man, moreso than any other apart from Christ. (Luke 7: 28.)

It was not virtuous for Christ to rebuke His accusers: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, … ye fools and blind…” (Matt. 23: 14-17.) The language of the Lord here is quite blunt, uncouth and in the context of that language, gutteral. It was righteous, but not an example of virtuous language.

It was worse still for Christ to call Herod “that fox.” This is a term of derision comparable in our own language to calling someone a “son of a bitch.” (Luke 13: 32.) Yet it was righteous, justified and appropriate.

It was blunt and threatening for Joseph to tell his guards in Liberty Jail: “SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!” (Taken from The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, emphasis in original.) Calling another a “fiend of the infernal pit” is quite abrasive and offensive; it was intended to be so.

Those who prefer virtue to righteousness will handicap their ability to work for the Lord’s ends. He will always require righteousness to be done. When someone prefers virtue and neglects righteousness, or condemns the righteous for their lack of virtue, their inappropriate standard serves only one purpose. It gets applied against the one proposing to use it. They get to be measured by the standard they apply. (Matt. 7: 22.)

I choose to look at Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ and Joseph Smith, as well as any other person moved to rebuke me or anyone else by the power of the Holy Ghost as fully justified and Christlike. I do not resist the challenge of a righteous rebuke. I welcome them. No one should feel they cannot “damn” me. I’ll consider it important and will respond with my defense, or an apology if I think it is warranted.

It is important for you to know that I do not think Christ is a limp-wristed, lisping chap who dotes on us and has nothing but bouquets of flowers to dispense to us. I think He’s about to return in judgment, dressed in red to burn the wicked. He has said that is who He is and I believe Him. I would like to have as many people take that seriously and consider repenting. We are mistaken in our belief that we are chosen. We are mistaken when we think we are too good to be in need of continual repentance. We are nothing before God. We are about to see His judgments. I know these ideas make me irritating.

As Hugh Nibley put it, “there is nothing so irritating as being awakened from a sound sleep.” But my hope is to awaken some few. Therefore, it is worth offending a great number if the result benefit a few. That is the way things work here and I am quite realistic about it all.

It is also important to be clear about some things. First, the Strengthening the Members Committee is a real group, although its existence was denied for a while by the church. Second, they are not supposed to be pressuring local leaders to harass church members. When they do, it is considered a violation of the process because all church discipline is supposed to be 1) local, and 2) independent. When they interfere it is inappropriate. Third, I WANT them to know there are leaks, and they have spilled onto the Internet. They should do what they need to do to plug them. It should be noted that there have been several forum discussions related to me shut down and deleted since my earlier post. Fourth, I want everyone to know if there is a problem which has offended a distant and imperial committee, it is not because I believe too little in the Lord, but too much in Him and too little in men. Fifth, they are misbehaving in a cowardly, unmanly way by this stealth attack. It would be far better, if they want to be credible, for them to address it openly. Do as I have invited them to do. Show me where I’m wrong. Let me respond. Let some sunlight on the matter. It is shameful, even cowardly, to avoid and accuse from a shadow, only to later pretend they weren’t involved. Pressuring local, reluctant leaders who know better from personal experience with their local members is manipulative.

I consider the words chosen by me to be measured, appropriate and inspired by the right reaction to a cowardly and shameful act by this subversive committee. They are wrong to behave this way. They have probably engaged in illegal activity by leaking onto the Internet what should be kept confidential. I have done them a service by alerting them to this misconduct. Surely, no matter how misguided their deliberations may be, they intend to preserve their legal protection to claim to have privileges under the law. That protection is forfeited when they act this way.

More Responses to Comments

On the best sources of LDS history: The Joseph Smith Papers is a gold mine of information. The diaries and journals of the inner circles of church leaders are very informative. There was a conscious effort to prevent diaries and journals from becoming public beginning in the early 1900’s. There were “resolutions” and “covenants” among church leaders that they would stop putting stuff in their diaries for others to find out later. That didn’t always work so well. Today the church requires an agreement to be signed by every new general authority (I forget how many pages it is), but it covers, among many other things, the obligation to turn over to the church the diaries of the general authority when they die. I’ve been told Elder Oaks was the one sent to retrieve the journals of Elder Neal Maxwell when he died. So there is an effort to stop that kind of information from being “inadvertently” released to the public.

When you read diaries or journals it is not really “history” in the narrative-telling-a-story sense. They read just like life. From one moment to the next they don’t have a clue what is coming. They are constantly surprised or frustrated by how it unfolds. For example, there was no plan to abandon plural marriage. There were incremental concessions, intending always to accomplish statehood, after which it would be made legal. So the goal was to do what was needed to get statehood. When the final events take place, the leaders involved were shocked they’d arrived at the point where plural marriage was actually being abandoned. Many of them recorded that if they had known where it would lead, they would NEVER have made the first concessions. So as you read the diaries, you find that the leaders wound up in a place they never intended to go, making concessions they believed would let them avoid forsaking a principle they believed in, and ultimately they were out-maneuvered by the Federal Government and corralled into denouncing and forsaking what they thought was a sacred principle.

When the Cowley and Taylor were forced to resign because they wouldn’t renounce plural marriage, there were some tense moments among the leaders. George Albert Smith said some things which Elder Taylor (who had seen the Lord and was considered a spiritual giant) took as an improper insult to himself. He confronted and warned George Albert Smith to not do that again, but that didn’t stop the preaching against Elder Taylor. So Elder Taylor “cursed” him. The resulting mental and physical health challenges that George Albert Smith suffered were thought by some to have been due to being “cursed” by the resigned apostle Elder John W. Taylor. These sorts of things are not found in the written histories because, well, among other things, Elder Taylor was forced to resign from the Quorum of the Twelve and George Albert Smith became the president of the church. This year we are studying the teachings of George Albert Smith. It doesn’t set well to go into this sort of thing when one has been excluded and the other has triumphed into the presidency. So it just sits as an unexplored thread of events, left for those who search into our history to discover. Then once discovered there is always the further question of whether the researcher is candid or protective. If candid, are they pursuing an agenda to belittle the church and our faith or are they honest and sincere. Even if they are not seeking to belittle the faith, and believe sincerely in it, the problem is further complicated by those who want to gag them, and to prevent any telling of events from something other than what the Strengthening the Members Committee thinks is “faithful” to them. So the history of the church is terribly complicated and likely going to be left to either outsiders of good faith (of which there are a few) or those who must fight to retain their membership because insecure and thin-skinned “thought police” are running amok at this moment.

Returning to the question, the best historians (in my opinion) writing recently are Jan Shipps (non-Mormon), D. Michael Quinn (excommunicated), Richard Van Wagoner, Gregory Prince, and Ronald Walker. Several of those are deceased. That is a horribly incomplete list and I’m not going to look at the bookshelves, but give just this off-the-top-of-my-head list. Bushman’s work is not as useful as I’d like. His tools are academic and have the weaknesses of his discipline. He does not inspire me. Some of Quinn’s work was marred by an agenda rather than objectivity, but that work was important. The second volume of the Mormon Hierarchy series is a very important book. The third one has been delayed, but hopefully will be out soon. It is one of the books I’ve been waiting to read for months. For anyone writing, the sources they use are important, and their conclusions are less so. For what I’ve written about history, I’ve tried to “interpret” (history is always an interpretation) through the lens of scripture. Rather than try to conform the story and sources to the theme I want adopted by the reader, I try to let the scripture’s themes lead to interpretation of events. Other writers of LDS history are developing what they hope are objective views based on the events as they understand them. 

Fortunately the truth always wins. Even if the church decided to spend its vast resources and repository of good-will among the members, the Internet is providing an inevitable transparency to things. There will be “bootleg” copies of diaries and journals. Right now, for example, Yale University received a donation of a considerable volume of material from the church’s archives, which some intrepid (but anonymous) soul published in limited numbers of copies. I’ve spent thousands of dollars acquiring copies of these limited edition books. I try to use my best sense, my faithfulness to the church and the Lord, and my honest reactions to tell the truth about some things in my last book.

On the question asked about the church leaders being “prophets, seers and revelators” the answer is that this is the ‘title’ given to them in the D&C. It is scriptural in origin. We have always associated the scriptural authorization with the office and therefore anyone who fills the office is entitled to hold the title. I don’t see where that is a problem. Anyone elected to the office has the title.

We have never considered it necessary to search about and find a “seer” to put in the office. Instead we consider that the office imposes the obligation on them, and the scriptures allow them to use the title, and therefore it is perfectly symmetrical. How can you NOT sustain them as “prophets, seers and revelators” when the scriptures say that is the office they have been elected to fill? Doesn’t really make sense. Of course they get to wear the title.

On the German version of the Bible Joseph Smith praised: It was the translation rendered by Martin Luther.

Responses to Various Comments

Here, in no particular order are responses to various comments received since we opened comments up a few days ago:

To the fellow wondering if he’d wasted his time serving a mission: I don’t think so at all. The work of bringing people to knowledge of the restoration through Joseph Smith, introducing them to the Book of Mormon, and the modern revelations, as well as baptism, laying on hands, sacrament, and other ordinances offered through the church blessed and changed lives. It was a very good thing. Anyone you converted was given a great gift, and your sacrifice will be one of the things the Lord will account for righteousness.

To the one asking how to reconcile my ancestors contacting me while I did ordinances in the Jordan River Temple for them and the possibility we were rejected, I would respond as follows: Rejection of the church is not rejection of the individual. IF (and I have always left that tentative and for each person to decide for themselves) there has been a rejection, that does not mean anything other than the organized efforts were unacceptable. Each individual is accountable for their own conduct. There was a Temple rebuilt by Herod, presided over by wicked men who would kill the Lord, and yet He called it His “Father’s house.” In that Temple a publican came in and offered a great offering, and was rejected. A widow, however, entered and gave but a farthing, and she was accepted. The difference was not the building, nor the act of paying, but the intent of the individual. In the same Temple there can be acceptable work and unacceptable work proceeding simultaneously.

To the one asking if I would clarify the sealing power: I can tell you there are at least three different ways sealing power is made available. The church purports to have only one of those. I will not be able to do the topic justice in a blog post. It would require a lengthy paper which I will undertake at some point. If there is anyone who thinks they have command of the topic, perhaps they will come out and write something and then I wouldn’t need to.

To the one asking if I thought there was a hidden, wise, or heaven-sent reason to change the temple rites in 1990: I can’t think of any. It wasn’t introduced as a revelatory change, or as an improvement. It was done because the church had the “right” to change it. The church leadership asserted they held “keys” that made them powerful enough to take the changes on and implement them. That is quite different from being either a revelation, a command from God or necessary for salvation of man. The change came about because of the research done in follow-up to an article suggesting dissatisfaction with the temple experience. That article was confirmed in polling of approximately 3,600 families in Canada and the U.S. The whole process was provoked by the members’ concerns and dissatisfaction with the temple rites, rather than Joseph having gotten it wrong in the first place. The leadership had two choices – change the members’ minds or change the ordinances. They changed the ordinances. I do think, however, that when we give our common consent to the church leaders, and they stand in their offices and make changes, and we then sustain them after the changes are made, that we (meaning the entire church) are accountable for the change, not just the leaders. Therefore, we (all of us) are similarly situated and cannot just lament a change made by church leaders. All of us are together moving in the direction we move and are all equally accountable for the changes when we continue to consent by common consent to the implementation of changes.

To the one asking about how I pass the temple recommend question about sustaining church leaders: I sustain them. They have my common consent. I don’t think I have any right to call my new stake president last month, but Elder Nelson did. I don’t think I have the right to build a multi-billion dollar shopping mall adjacent to Temple Square, but the chuch leaders did. I don’t think I have any right to separate the “tithing dollars” from the “investment dollars” belonging to the Lord, but the church leaders have done that for generations and have the right to do that. I’m not a leader. I appreciate being able to attend meetings and to receive the sacrament. I’m grateful for it. I neither envy nor want to join the leaders. I think they have a heavy and unenviable burden to carry, and do a commendable job accomplishing it.

To the one asking about how I see Zion unfolding: Not the way most people do. I tend to think the scriptures are quite clear. It will be the Lord’s work, not man’s. It will be initially in the mountains, only later in the plains. It will be the work of angels to organize. The Lord will provide the means, not men. The residents will not be like the typical nosey, overbearing sort who meddles in other’s lives, like the Strengthening the Members Committee. In fact, I doubt very much anyone on that committee will be fit to invite, because they presume to judge others rather than to serve humbly and provide by their meek example a fit pattern for living as “one” with others who hold perhaps very different views. Those who come will be open to growing into a unity of faith, not asserting that they have the right to compel agreement on pain of some penalty being inflicted. They will use meekness, love unfeigned, and pure knowledge to persuade one another of the truth. While outside the gate the demanding, compelling, presiding and coercing sorts will be burned.

To the one asking about organized atheism: I agree. Organized atheism is a religion. They do attempt to impose their views and do persecute others, but I was speaking about the individual atheist, and in particular the persecutors of the Prophet. For the most part, they were not interested and didn’t care about what Mormons, or anyone else believed. The atheists I know are more broadminded, and tolerant, than the folks in the Strengthening the Members Committee, and a good deal more discrete, too. The Strengthening the Members Committee leak confidential information on the internet, compromise legal issues and the right to claim certain legal exemptions. I think that is a problem for the church, and ought to result in them abolishing the committee, or firing those responsible for this significant mistake.

To the one asking if I can explain the various events in priesthood restoration: I haven’t attempted to give that history for a reason. Therefore, I’m not going to undertake that now. I will get to it, but the blog is not the means to accomplish it.

To the fellow who wants to know why I don’t provide my books free for download: First, I don’t want everyone reading my books. If someone is interested, they must be inconvenienced to do so. That will remain the case. Second, there are others who need to make a living through publishing the books and with whom I have contracts I intend to honor. One of those involved suffered a stroke a few years ago, and is partially paralyzed. It is an honor for me to be able to provide some revenue through the books (though it is not much) for this man and his family. If you think you should have something free, then read this blog. I’ve put more words here free, (and in the downloadable papers) than in my books. But the books deal with a single topic, and require the entire scope to accomplish the discussion. It must be a sustained discussion. One of the books (Removing the Condemnation) is entirely on this blog. I’ve been encouraged to put the Jacob 5 series in a short book. I may do that, too, but it is available free here. Your suggestion that I’m profit motivated is foolish (and wrong). I’d suggest you borrow from the local library. We’ve donated books to many Utah libraries, but my wife tells me there are submission guidelines which may keep them from being made available. So I can’t control if they actually put them on the shelves, or throw them away, or if people just take them once donated.

To the one asking about lunch: No.

To the one asking if I’d be willing to come and talk at the family reunion: No.

To the one asking if I’d recommend an order to read my books: In the order they were written.

To the inquiry about Eighteen Verses: It is a selection of those problems currently facing the church. They are the eighteen most significant issues we have before us today. The verses were selected to allow that discussion to be put into a single volume, and to show how the Book of Mormon remains highly relevant to our current plight.

To the one asking about which one of the Twelve: You’ve got to be kidding.

To the one asking about a Harley: The Dyna Super Glide. The basic model. You can do whatever you want to customize it and add anything you want. To bump power about 20% just open up the pipes and air intake using the Harley shop’s Screaming Eagle slip-ons and you’ll notice an appreciable difference just seat-of-the-pants.

Joseph Smith History, Part 5

Joseph’s education did not open his mind. Translating the Book of Mormon did not open his mind. He clarifies in his history the point at which his mind did open up. He writes of it: “so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.” (JS-H 1: 73-74.) This was the moment of greatest change. At that moment Joseph’s mind greatly expanded.

Later he would provide a description of the effect the Holy Ghost has on one who receives it: “This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, … for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene, and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence.” (TPJS, p. 149.)  This is in stark contrast to what some people think the “Holy Ghost” is about. They associate sentiment and emotion, rather than enlightenment and intelligence with the presence of this member of the Godhead.

Joseph could understand the meaning of the scriptures because he acquired access to the same source of intelligence which animated the authors when they composed the scriptures. He did not need to seek an “interpretation” or study the methods of Biblical exegesis. He knew what they meant because the enlightenment from God laid open to his understanding the true meaning and even the intentions of things that before were merely “mysterious.”

This is what Peter was referring to when he asserted: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1: 20-21.) In other words, no one has the right to assert any prophecy means anything because they think they can “interpret” the words, because such right belongs exclusively to the Holy Ghost. The words came (and still come to those who have received priesthood  —D&C 68: 2-4) from the Holy Ghost, and therefore, the meaning is only given from that source. [Section 68 was addressed to one of those who, in June 1831, was given the Melchizedek Priesthood at Isaac Morley’s farm. According to Joseph Smith, that was the first time the Melchizedek Priesthood was given to the Elders of the church. That is another topic.] Notice also, the appearance of John the Baptist was only to provide the means to be baptized. He specifically speaks about some future visit of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. (JS-H 1: 72.) Yet Joseph and Oliver received the Holy Ghost without any other ordinance and immediately following baptism. (1: 73.) This mirrored my own experience.

So in Joseph Smith’s History, we end at the same point where we began: His ministry as a prophet was directly connected with scripture. He walks through events that happened, including an audience with the Father and Son, repeated visits by Moroni, educational instruction given there, and the appearance of John the Baptist, but for Joseph, it was the Holy Ghost which enlightened his mind. When enlightened, the result was his capacity to understand the scriptures. He tunes into the very same frequency from which they originated. Sharing the mind of those who composed scripture, Joseph could understand what the authors meant. Therefore, when Joseph explained scripture to us, it was his right to tell us things we hadn’t known before, interpretations we hadn’t considered before, and the true meaning of what seems to us mysterious.

As people debate the meaning of latter-day prophecies, and think they can unravel the correct interpretaion of such topics as Zion, gathering, priesthood, sealing power, the “one mighty and strong” and many, many other things we learn of from our unique body of scripture, we should remember Joseph’s ministry. We ought to stop researching the threads of comments from oftentimes mystified commentators, and instead “ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally” to find the answer. Joseph did. It took him on a journey which resulted in him gaining a dispensation of the Gospel. He did not need to build on another’s work, because heaven worked with and through him.

Joseph was above all else, the prototype of a Latter-day Saint. Would that all men were similarly Latter-day Saints, who actually believed and practiced the religion restored through Joseph. A religion in which people are able to ask God and get an answer. A religion which Joseph began, but which God has yet to finish. One where no one needs to say to another: “know ye the Lord” because all know Him.

Little wonder the prophecy of Joel spoken of by Moroni was yet to be fulfilled.

Joseph Smith History, Part 4

Once Joseph had an encounter with God through the veil, he hesitated to discuss the matter fully. Even at the end he remained reluctant, even forbidden, to share all he knew from the encounter. (JS-H 1: 20.) The first attempt to tell someone about the encounter happened only a few days afterwards. He records that it was to a Methodist minister, the sect he had been most impressed with as he investigated the various religions. (JS-H 1: 8.) This fulfills one of the laws ordained before the foundation of the world (D&C 130: 20-21) because it is necessary for the Lord’s servants, and even the Lord Himself, to first make an offering of the truth to the existing religious authorities before either Christ, or Joseph, or any of His servants could then move forward independent of them. (See John 1: 11; D&C 10: 57.) Query in your own mind what would have happened if the Methodist minister had accepted Joseph’s experience as authentic.

Joseph explains this encounter as follows: “Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.” (JS-H 1: 21.) This theme of the false minister opposing new revelation found its way into the endowment ceremony Joseph later restored. That portion of the ceremony was eliminated in the 1990 temple changes. Before then the endowment taught how professional ministers were men in Satan’s employ, but true messengers were angels, sent from God’s presence with a message from God. This endowment teaching came from the actual experiences of Joseph’s life, as shown above. It is repeated, of course, in the experiences of all those who follow God, are taught by angels, and opposed by professional’s making their living from religion. Ultimately there must be a choice between those who come bearing a message from God and those who oppose it, and claim there can’t be any such revelation, and that the organized faith they advocate (i.e., Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, etc.) is the guardian and possessor of the right to teach all truth. They claim to be the spokesmen for heaven and heaven does not really send any messengers apart from themselves. Of course it follows that those like Joseph Smith were “all of the devil” and not to be trusted.

Joseph lived this. As did Christ. The temple rites, until 1990, fortified the endowed against this particular deception of Satan’s.

Joseph’s history includes an observation about the reactions the religious critics had toward him. It is always the false, pseudo-religious who are offended by the truth; not the atheists or agnostics. The athiests and agnostics allow others the liberty of believing as they wish. The religious are another story. They were the ones who, throughout Joseph’s life, worked against him. Ultimately it was the disaffected within the church, and the ministers outside the church, who were directly responsible for killing him.

There is a passing comment in Joseph’s history which is so undeniably authentic it leaps off the page. He writes that he was “persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me.” (JS-H 1: 28.) Joseph is absolutely correct. The right way to proceed, if those who claimed Joseph was wrong and they were followers of God, would have been to have treated Joseph kindly, and endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed him from error. But they didn’t! This is a great key to understanding how the plan of God works. It conforms to a law irrevocably ordained in heaven. The false ministers cannot help themselves.

Why was it that the people claiming to be religious were persecuting Joseph rather than trying to persuade him with affectionate persuasion? It is because when men think that they have God on their side, and they do not, then they become abusive. They seek to have control, dominion and power over others in order to force the true disciples of the Lord to change and surrender faith. They abuse their position by claiming to follow God, while actually doing the opposite.

They had to follow the law of their master, Satan, who deceived them. This was because only in this manner could Joseph also obey the law ordained by God upon which blessings were predicated. For Joseph to grow, it was required for the men inspired by Satan to be revealed in their true light. They had to supress, oppose, persecute and defame Joseph because they could not “in a proper and affectionate manner” have ever reclaimed him while serving Satan. He had the truth and they did not.

Joseph “had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (JS-H 1: 25.) Joseph was following the law ordained before the foundation of the world, and so were his critics. This is the same battle fought endlessly when God intervenes in the affairs of men.

We see the same thing when King Noah feared that Abinadi may have actually been sent by God. Noah was about to release him, but the priestly committee he surrounded himself with interfered. They aroused the vanity and pride of the king to make him angry. As a result, King Noah did not repent, and instead followed the law of  the persecutor. (Mosiah 17: 11-12.) Joseph Smith lived according to law, and according to law he was persecuted. According to a higher law he was vindicated by God, though like Abinadi it required his life. We are the beneficiaries of Joseph’s death. Through it the latter-day work is sealed, and will ultimately triumph. Temporary set-backs will not prevent the final return of natural fruit, and at last Zion itself.

Joseph’s history is the story of how one individual obtained salvation by following the laws ordained for saving any of us. It is authentic. He shares details that conform to the same pattern all disciples of the Lord must follow. He is saved, while his persecutors who followed the law of their master, Satan, opposed the truth and were damned. It is always the case. Joseph explained: “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets….and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” (DHC 4: 574.)

Joseph was not just a source of new scripture, but his life conformed to the pattern of it. To study his history is to see the hand of God acting again to offer mankind the opportunity to repent and come to Him. The way never changes. The pattern never varies. Occasionally men who are initially following the law of persecuting the Lord’s chosen will repent. Mostly they do not. Instead they reject what is offered, and incur the wrath of God. Joseph’s life and death are testimony to this ancient, yet still intact, system of law by which men choose to be saved or damned.

Joseph Smith History, Part 3

Joseph Smith’s entire ministry was connected to scripture. It began with an encounter between him and God which he was only able to describe using the language of scripture. It extended to an encounter with Moroni which he again described using a host of scripture to convey the meaning of what the angel impressed into his mind.
It turned to translating a volume of scripture. This required him to take every thought of the ancient prophets and translate them from one language into another. The language of the Book of Mormon repeatedly adopts phrases from the King James version of the Bible to weave together the ancient narrative. Given the circumstances, and what we have been told of that process, Joseph’s mind was embedded with phrases that would have seemed familiar to him as he struggled to capture in his own tongue the ideas of the long dead authors. It would not have been derivative from the King James’ Bible, but would have sidled alongside it in phrasing, structure and concept.
Just like Nephi’s vision of the fullness of God’s works, Joseph Smith likewise saw God’s unfolding plan. Nephi was forbidden from disclosing what he beheld. To bear testimony, however, Nephi adopted the language of Isaiah to explain his own (Nephi’s) testimony. It is important for us to recognize that when Nephi was writing Isaiah, and then expounding on the material he’d etched into the plates, he was acting the role of a prophet. Isaiah’s words WERE Nephi’s testimony. They allowed him to tell us what the Lord wanted us to know, and to do it using the words of scripture composed by Isaiah.
Jacob accomplished the very same thing. Jacob adopted the words of Zenos, and the allegory we’ve been reviewing, to testify of the things he had seen and heard from the Lord. I went over how Jacob had, like his brother Nephi, been visited by the Lord. Jacob was also looking for the language to express his own vision. He invited his people to the temple where he was going to deliver to them his own prophecy. When they arrived, he read them the allegory, Zenos’ prophecy, the story of the olive tree. When he completed that retelling, Jacob announced the following: “as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.” (Jacob 6: 1.) Jacob, who behleld the Lord and was ministered to by Him, bore his testimony and established his prophecy by retelling Zenos’ olive tree story.
Christ’s great Sermon on the Mount was based on the Law of Moses. The law of retaliation (lex talonis) set out in the prior law was contrasted with what the Lord now established as the underlying meaning for that law. Instead of striking back, bear the blow and forgive. Instead of refraining from adultery, remove lust from your heart. Instead of rebuking, harbor no ill will toward your brother.
Christ’s entire ministry was based on expounding the scriptures. Interestingly, He forbid us from calling one another “fools” in His great sermon. (Matt. 5: 22.) Then He called men “fools” for their blind misapplication of scripture. (Matt. 23: 16-19.) The same scriptures which, in the hands of the Lord will save a man, are the tools for deceiving men and leading them into destruction when used by the Pharisees and Scribes.
For Nephi, using Isaiah was the perfect means to preach salvation. For Jacob, using Zenos was the perfect means to preach and prophesy about his people and us. For Joseph Smith, using the words of scripture to translate into English the words of earlier prophets was a master work of a man who received a dispensation of the Gospel. For Christ, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He was able to show how necessary His own sacrifice and offering was to fulfill all righteousness.
However, for the blind guides, the use of scripture to develop as commandments the doctrines of men, the Lord only had the term “fools” to describe their wickedness. They would not enter into heaven, and would instead hinder others who followed them from entering.
Joseph was commanded to “translate” the Bible. His Inspired Version was a work which led in turn to some of the greatest revelations of our day. Reading about “heaven” in John 5: 29 led to an inquiry which provided Section 76 to us all. The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory was given because of an inquiry about scripture. Earlier John the Baptist came because of an inquiry about baptism as a result of translating scripture. The work of the Prophet Joseph Smith was intimately linked and could not be separated from the words of scripture.
At one point a calm Lord told His critics to search the scriptures, because His detractors claimed they would have eternal life from what was contained in them. But, He added, they testify of Him. (John 5: 39.) So it is not merely claiming the scriptures support a proposition that deserves respect, but instead whether the matter taught has underlying it the truth. Joseph’s history shows what an adept prophet can do when employing scripture to inform the reader of God’s will. In that respect, Joseph Smith does not take a back seat to Nephi or Jacob. It is a marvelous thing to behold; assuming you recognize it as one of the signs that testifies Joseph was indeed a prophet.

Joseph Smith History, Part 2

Joseph was still a young man when Moroni visited with him. He was practically a child when he first saw the Lord and the Father. In both encounters, as Joseph recorded his best retelling of the incident, he used the words of scripture to weave his account together.

In the First Vision, when the Lord addressed Joseph, the account tells it in these words:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

Or, in other words, Joseph has the Lord borrow from Jude 1: 4: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And Isaiah 29: 13: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.”

And from Titus 1: 14: “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

And 2 Tim. 3: 5: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

Or, the Lord conveyed into the mind of Joseph an indelible impression of truth, which would remain with him and expand and distill as he pondered on its meaning. When at last Joseph was able to set it out in an inspired retelling, the words of scripture flooded into his mind and equipped him to compose an account that would ring with truth, convey what happened, and testify of the authenticity of the words of ancient prophets, while letting the world know what the Lord’s message was to Joseph. But the language, even the quotes, are not what transpired. They are an accurate retelling, but reduced to our form of communication. The Lord’s manner of telling is quite different. It is unencumbered by our vocabulary, and conveys pure meaning and intent. Therefore Joseph was able to capture and compose the information with power and meaning to us. But to do so Joseph had to resort to scripture.

Which again, begs the question: “Why?” Why do prophets resort to the scriptures to explain the truth as revealed to them? Why does a new revelation get put into the words of an earlier revelation? Why does a stunning new truth come forth as an exposition of the already familiar words of scripture?

In perhaps his greatest sermon, Joseph drew from and expounded on the scriptures to proclaim new doctrines, unheard of by those who had studied the Bible for two thousand years. As he did so he remarked: “It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries –new things– for my hearers. Just at the time when some men think I have no right to the keys of the Priesthood –just at that time I have the greatest right.” (TPJS p. 364.) He goes on to expound from the Bible on the true meaning of “eternal judgment” and the resurrection, “salvation for the dead,” the plurality of Gods, Abraham’s teachings, eternal glories and the pre-mortal exaltation of some who lived on the earth. “Sons of God who exalt themselves to be Gods, even before the foundation of the world.” (TPJS p. 375.) He used as his text the Bible.

Prophets see the meaning behind the words of scripture, and not the words themselves. This is because having been taught by angels and the Lord, they know the intent. Hence Joseph’s proclamation that it is his “province to dig up hidden mysteries –new things” using the scriptures. They are not a sealed book to them.

In like manner the Lord spent most of the day of His resurrection opening the scriptures in a private conversation between Himself and two disciples while they walked on the Road to Emmaus. “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24: 27.) The Lord could do this because the Lord was there when they were written, and they reflect His mind and His teachings. Therefore, He could see clearly within them the teachings about Him.

To bear testimony of his encounter with the Lord, and with Moroni, Joseph Smith employed the scriptures to expound unto us in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. How like his Master was this servant! Joseph completely mirrored the pattern of the One who can save! We should be able to recognize the Master in the servant! In Joseph’s case, the parallel is unmistakable.

Because he had received a dispensation of the Gospel to him from heaven, Joseph proclaimed the truth using scriptures to confirm the message. “It is the order of heavenly things that God should always send a new dispensation into the world when men have apostatized from the truth and lost the priesthood, but when men come out and build upon other men’s foundations, they do it on their own responsibility, without authority from God; and when the floods come and the winds blow, their foundations will be found to be sand, and their whole fabric will crumble to dust.” (TPJS p. 375-76.)

Joseph, having secured the truth from heaven for himself, did not need to build on other men’s foundations. He was privileged to declare the truth to us from his own understanding, from his own knowledge and in conformity with his own dispensation of the Gospel.

The scriptures weave together the truth from dispensation to dispensation because those who wrote them had seen the same vision, conversed with the same heavenly hosts, and found the inspired language that allows the truth to be declared.

When Joseph wrote his account in 1838, he had pondered and gained the insight to be able to weave into his history the corroboration of his Divine mandate employing the words of scripture to justify what he taught. He was a prophet indeed! He knew the things of which he spoke. All he needed to do was expound the scriptures to be able to dig up hidden mysteries, new things, for those who would hear him. Those who heard him were amazed, just as the disciples on the Road to Emmaus.

Joseph Smith History

The Joseph Smith-History found in the Pearl of Great Price was composed shortly after John Whitmer left the church and took what history existed then with him. He was the church’s Historian at the time. The bitter Missouri conflict left a lot of former top level church leaders disaffected and no longer followers of Joseph or the church. David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and several members of the twelve were among them. Some signed affidavits supporting the Missouri citizens’ campaign against the church, and were responsible for persuading the legal authorities that there was reason to justify arresting and holding Joseph. This series of events resulted in Joseph beginning again to write the history of himself and his church.

Given the fact he was starting over in 1838, I think the account in the Pearl of Great Price is remarkable. I think Joseph, like Nephi, could measure the importance of events he had lived from the distance of some years’ reflection about them than he ever could have as he lived them. What we get in the JS-H is the benefit of Joseph’s considered hindsight. He also could write better the meaning, or intent, of the message he received. He could interpret the visits, and make much more sense of them than he could when they happened. Nephi did the same thing. His Small Plates of Nephi were a production of his history begun some 40 years after the departure into the wilderness from Jerusalem. He wrote with all the insight and understanding of how the early events led in turn to the later results. He could see the preliminary disputes in the wilderness against the backdrop of the rebellion and rejection of Nephi following the death of their father, Lehi. He could align his visions with his father’s, and show how the elder brothers rejected both.

Joseph Smith used the First Vision and his account of Moroni’s first visit to foreshadow in the narrative all of his later prophetic work. It was an inspired explanation, using both scriptural and doctrinal coordinates to establish the Divine and angelic origin of his history and ministry. The JS-H is all the more valuable because of this inspired approach. We are better informed about what was really going on in Joseph’s ministry because he told the account by using language of scripture to testify of what he experienced.

I want to comment on the process of Divine or angelic communication and how that makes its way into the written record of a prophet. It is more complex and subtle than most readers can conceive. For the most part, we read the scriptures as a completed work, and think the words give us everything we need to understand doctrine. That is not at all the case. We must arrive at the same place as the ones who wrote the scriptures in order to be able to understand what they mean. Until we share the same view, take in the same Spirit, and have similarly been exposed to the direct influence of heaven, the words are incomplete and can be very misleading.

The angel Moroni appeared to Joseph in his bedroom, and took hours to communicate understanding to young Joseph. The version of that visit we have in the JS-H was written about a decade and a half afterwards. It reflects Moroni’s meaning and intent, but accomplishes it by supplying direct quotes from scripture. The account we have looks like a doctrine class, with Moroni as gospel doctrine teacher and Joseph as student. It is doubtful, however, there were any “words” exchanged between Moroni and Joseph. It is also unlikely there were “scriptures” used. Instead, the encounter likely consisted of Moroni conveying directly into the mind of Joseph the thoughts of Moroni’s own mind. Joseph would later attempt to explain this using these words: “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all.” (TPJS p. 355.) This makes it seem as if it were less “real” than if it involved normal faculties, but it is in fact far more real, far more precise, and far more communicative to the mind, heart and spirit. It “imbeds” the information within the person. As a result, the impression becomes more clear with time.

As Joseph worked to reconvey the information to us, writing in 1838, he resorts to using scripture to make the meaning clear to us. Moroni is quoting various passages of scripture to Joseph, as described in these words:

He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus:

For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus:
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
He also quoted the next verse differently:
And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when “they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,” but soon would come.
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. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.” (JS-H 1: 36-41.)
You have two options to explain this retelling of the visit. 1) Moroni said these exact things and a decade and a half later Joseph could remember and quote it exactly as it was spoken, or 2) Joseph could remember exactly the impressions, and drew from scriptures known to him in order to convey to the reader the information Moroni passed into his mind on that evening.
I believe the second is the accurate way to comprehend the interview. Moroni visited with Joseph, conveyed the information precisely as if Joseph had no body at all, and did not rely upon the eardrums, or the vibration of atmospheric pressure, in order to clearly and accurately enlighten Joseph’s understanding. Then, when it came time for Joseph to inform us of the event, he resorted to familiar words of scripture to recount the event.
It begs us to ask: “Why?” That is where we turn next.