I have written over 2 million words explaining my understanding of Mormonism. It has largely been an exposition of the scriptures to show how they anchor all my beliefs. The scriptures are a library of material about Christ, written by those who knew Him and had understanding given to them by Him. The value of scripture is directly related to the writers’ proximity to our Lord’s mind and words.
Not all scripture has equal value. The Book of Mormon has the greatest value because of its origin. Its prophecies are more relevant to us than those of the Bible
Other than the scriptures, the sources I trust most are approved or written by Joseph Smith, or his brother Hyrum, and others that include the earliest contemporary accounts of beginning LDS history. The further away the source is from the actual events, the less reliable they prove. There are some accounts that have become “history” that were not even written by a witness. They were fanciful recreations intended to promote belief in the religious systems that followed Joseph’s death. They are not true.
Lately, more reliable source materials about early LDS history are available to the public for the first time. Older accounts written without using the new source material are unreliable and outdated. Defending LDS historical accounts using unreliable source material no longer persuades those who are well read in new material. I have tried to make a positive statement of what I have learned and how events can be better reconstructed using what is now available.
The contradictory clutter of post-Joseph contentions advanced by church apologists are neither consistent nor coherent. Those who prize these sources and find virtue in them have courage. I confess I lack the courage to trust myth without searching to discover truth.
Even after all I’ve written, I still have venomous critics who attribute to me the opposite of what I believe.
-Although I condemn plural marriage, I’m accused of wanting it.
-Although I abhor concentration of power in church leaders, I’m accused of seeking to establish my own organization to control.
-Although I spend my own money to teach and serve, I’m accused of somehow wanting to profit from these expenses I bear.
-Although I have told people to remain LDS if they are happy with their situation, I’m accused of driving people away from the church. (I really like Latter-day Saints. They are among the best people I know. If they follow their faith, they are upright, decent and moral people for whom I hold high regard. They only bother me when they ignorantly and vocally damn me for things I do not believe or advocate. Apart from that, I have no complaints.)
-Although I harbor no ill-will to any church authority, I’m accused of railing against them.
-Although I recommend we return to the original name for the priesthood, I’m accused of wanting to rename priesthood after myself.
As the Lord said, “blessed are you when men shall say all manner of evil against you FALSELY for my name’s sake…” It seems I qualify. The critics do not bother to say what I actually advocate, choosing instead to spread false accusations suggesting I believe the opposite of what I actually believe.
The 11th Article of Faith declares:
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I believe this. I also claim this right. I appreciate the opportunity claimed by every “Mormon” sect accepting the Articles of Faith as part of their beliefs. When others want to attack this right, let’s band together to oppose them. Let everyone be free in their beliefs and worship.
It should be no concern to anyone what, how or where I choose to worship. If I am wrong, that is between me and God. I am only sharing what I have learned with those who are interested. You are free to reject my beliefs. If you are right, then you should rejoice in the truth you have found and try to persuade others to see the truth as well.
No one should “own” a religion. It is morally corrupt to claim anyone can dictate what others believe, what they should believe, how they should worship or what they must do to satisfy a man’s demand in order for God to offer salvation. If you think a Pope, or Priest or Prophet can save you, then by all means go get yourself saved, as you understand it. If I think only God can save me, and that too by the grace of Christ, then permit me to seek for my salvation at the feet of the Lord whom I worship.
If we are both deluded then let’s permit each other the joy of our delusions without rancor or contention. You revel in what brings you hope and satisfaction, and allow me to do the same. If we are all wrong, the least we can be is accommodating and happy.
Because of our limited time in mortality, we will all know soon enough the answers to all the questions. While we are here, let’s be courteous to one another. When at last we arrive, we can compare notes and see what other insights we can share with one another.
Until you have done what I have done, you cannot possibly fully understand my faith, and likewise, since your experience is foreign to me, I cannot possibly fully understand your faith. We ought to resign ourselves to peacefully allow one another the privilege to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience, and trust that we all take seriously the obligation to search for truth.
Assuming we all act consistent with our conscience, then why damn each other for our good faith beliefs and efforts? Why not be open, even with disagreements? Why feel threatened when someone understands our history, scripture, and God’s will differently? When we allow one another the freedom of belief, an open discussion helps us understand the reason for a different view, and lets us reconsider our own views in a healthy, useful way. Over time we inevitably grow more unified by open discourse.
It arouses my curiosity when someone offers a new understanding of scripture. Curiosity is a very good thing. It is perhaps the most childlike thing about us; something Christ said was required for us to see His Kingdom. When we react in fear and anger at other religious viewpoints we are really submitting to the enemy of our soul. Fear is ungodly. Faith casts out fear. Can you imagine a child who refuses to consider anything new because they fear to hear about it?
We should allow everyone to state what they believe and why– in THEIR own words. Redefining them, attributing motives they do not claim, or questioning their good faith can never lead us to an understanding of one another.