Glamis Castle Scotland

Charity Never Faileth

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And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity[1]

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting with members in Norway, Sweden, and Scotland. I met with members who had strong testimonies, members who were struggling, and members who no longer believe. It was a wonderful experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Ok, almost every minute. There were some moments of being a bit uncomfortable in a discussion or two. But, by and large, I really enjoyed it.

With that in mind, I would like to tell you about my interaction with some of the Saints in Scotland. I loved my time in the Nordic countries as well, but I can only talk about one thing at a time. In Scotland, I met with three different stakes. I was really impressed that all of the stake presidents were kind and really cared about all of their people. They loved them. That came across strongly in their words and actions.

In two of the stakes, the Stake presidents had me meet with members who had concerns about the Church. [2]

Now, first of all, it is difficult to put a label on these members. We love to put labels on people. We routinely talk about active and less-active members in our wards. We sometimes even talk about faithful, or less faithful. I have heard labels such as disaffected, discouraged, or in extreme cases disloyal. I don’t think any of those labels apply perfectly to the individuals that I met with, and certainly the word disloyal would not apply at all. The best label I could have would be brothers and sisters in the Gospel who have concerns. Yes, some of them no longer attend church, but all of them wanted things to be better.

In my first meeting, I was one-on-one with a member who attends church but has questions.[3] He had spent significant time reading most of the Websites that FairMormon spends time responding to. In other words, they were Websites that I wouldn’t recommend for people who are interested in becoming and remaining faithful. But, the man was a lovely man. A wonderful man. A man whom I hope I can now count as my friend. His questions were not a burden or a problem. He wanted answers. He had been unable to find them. He had read some responses, but didn’t find them all persuasive. This made him concerned. He saw value in the Church, and value in FairMormon. He saw value in his family attending church. He made helpful suggestions.  We left with him giving me a list of concerns and me promising to read them all carefully. At this point, I have been really busy catching up at work, but I have read some of them and intend to read and examine all of them.

In the second meeting I walked in and found 15 to 20 (I didn’t count) people sitting there, most of them having significant questions about the Church. While things were a bit tense at first, after we got to know each other better, it became more of an exchange of experiences. Things became much more relaxed. As we were talking, I saw that these were good people. Salt-of-the-earth people. People who I would truly value and cherish. Let me put it this way, if I were sitting at a ward dinner, and one of these people came to sit down next to me, I would be really happy. If I saw them before they saw me, I would invite them over. I would love to have them at my house for dinner. If they ever come to Northern California, the invitation stands open. They were honest and sincere. They had legitimate concerns that they had not been able to reconcile, partly because, in my opinion, they fully embraced the outside narrative and discounted the faithful narrative. But, they had reasons for doing so. Did I convince anyone? I doubt it. That wasn’t really the point. I hope that by the time I left they became a little more trusting of the sources that promote the positive narrative, and a little more skeptical of the sources that promote the negative narrative. For my part, I know that I became more sympathetic to their concerns.

Think about this. They had concerns about the Church. Some of them don’t attend any more. The stake president had called and invited them to this meeting at the Church building and they came. They showed up! If I were in their position, I’m not sure I would have done the same.

Sometimes in our discourse about the truth claims of the Church, we forget that there are real people on the other side of the issue. In a recent blog post about online discussions Sean Blanda writes:[4]

It’s a preference to see the Other Side as a cardboard cutout, and not the complicated individual human beings that they actually are.

I see this happening on both sides.

The active (faithful, believing, true blue, whatever) members see the questioning (disaffected, discouraged, less active, whatever) members as attacking them personally when they raise questions about the fundamental truth claims of their belief. I believe some of this comes from a fear that we might not be able to answer the questions, or that there is no answer to the questions. This means we sometimes lash out in an attempt to silence them.

The questioning members, on the other hand, see this wall of silence from people who don’t want to hear their questions. Conversations, attempts to connect, and attempts to correct from the non-questioning (fully believing) side are sometimes seen in a less than charitable light. Let’s face it, many members have not studied the issues, and often their attempts to answer the questions are simply incorrect. Those sincere, but unsatisfying answers are seen as manipulative and misleading. Other times, for those who have completely left, their leaving experience was so painful that they feel justified in giving a little payback. I have been on the receiving end of that on more than one occasion.

I have seen some very hurtful things. The blogger Sean Blanda further writes:

Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.[5]

This is the message I would like to get across. We need to have charity for each other. We need to see others as our brothers and sisters – whether you or they remain in the Church or not. No matter which side you are on. Based on their experiences and information, the “Other side” is being rational. Those that leave are not evil, and those that stay are not “Living in a bubble.”[6] Charity never faileth. Let’s try to put that into practice.

[1] . 1 Corinthians 13:13

[2] I would like to talk about all three stakes, but I have to limit this to get through the post. You don’t want to have to read a post the length of War and Peace.

[3] In the interest of full disclose my wife and the Stake President were there as well. But, the two of us did most of the talking.

[4] https:[email protected]/the-other-side-is-not-dumb-2670c1294063#.d50kq3cjm

[5] ibid

[6] It would be difficult to portray me, or other FairMormon volunteers, as living in a bubble as we have read all of the criticisms that are out there. I have been reading anti Mormon literature since I was 14 years old. A few of my non-Mormon friends have tried to convert me. FairMormon gets multiple questions every day. Through long experience, I have learned to be skeptical of the less faithful narrative.

 

Picture of Scott Gordon

Scott Gordon

Scott Gordon is president of FairMormon.

Picture at the top of the blog is from Glamis Castle in Scotland. Source:Rev Stan (Flickr: Glamis Castle) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

2016 FairMormon Conference

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The FairMormon Conference is an annual event that brings together scholars, apologists, and interested individuals from a variety of areas. Each comes with a unique perspective on history, science, or theology, and all come with a desire to help defend the gospel and share evidences of its truth. On this week’s podcast, FairMormon volunteer Trevor Holyoak discusses the 18th annual FairMormon Conference on August 4 and 5, 2016 at the Utah Valley Convention Center at 220 West Center Street #200, Provo, UT 84601.

Click here to register!

FFMM

The FairMormon Conference is a great way to get informed. This year’s conference is geared toward providing the information and answers you need to faithfully deal with the criticisms leveled against the Church and gospel.

Utah-Valley-Convention-Center-300x177

 

Trevor Holyoak graduated magna cum laude from Weber State University with a BS in computer science. He currently works as a programmer and has created award-winning LDS-oriented Android apps. He is on the management team for FairMormon and was the 2014 recipient of the John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award. Trevor lives in Cedar Hills, Utah, with his wife, Janna, and 4 children.

Book Review: The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents Volume 4, April 1834 – September 1835

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Available from the FairMormon bookstore at 20% off

Available from the FairMormon bookstore at 20% off

This is the fourth in a projected twelve volumes in the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers. The Documents series is the core of the JSP project, containing documents that Joseph Smith was personally involved in producing in chronological order. The documents in the book are also available online, but the annotations and introductions – which are very valuable in understanding the documents – are not put online until 18 months after each volume is published.

The main events covered in this volume are Zion’s Camp; the publication of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants; financial difficulties (particularly those related to publishing and the building of the Kirtland Temple); the formation and operation of the Kirtland high council; the call of Joseph Smith, Sr., to patriarch, and the calling of 12 apostles; and the beginning of the writing of the early history of the church.

The main body of the book consists of documents directly involving Joseph Smith, and then there are a series of appendices with documents for which Joseph Smith’s involvement is questionable. Such documents include the first Lecture on Faith, “Letter to the Saints Scattered Abroad”, “Statement on Marriage”, “Declaration on Government and Law”, and patriarchal blessings given to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and William Smith. Continue reading

2016 FairMormon Conference

Posted on by

The FairMormon Conference is an annual event that brings together scholars, apologists, and interested individuals from a variety of areas. Each comes with a unique perspective on history, science, or theology, and all come with a desire to help defend the gospel and share evidences of its truth. On this week’s podcast, FairMormon volunteer Mike Parker discusses the 18th annual FairMormon Conference on August 4 and 5, 2016 at the Utah Valley Convention Center at 220 West Center Street #200, Provo, UT 84601.

FFMM

Conference sessions begin at 9:00 am each day and end at 5:45 pm. Badge pickup, including same-day registration, is available before the first session each day. Dress is business casual.

Utah-Valley-Convention-Center-300x177

The FairMormon Conference is a great way to get informed. This year’s conference is geared toward providing the information and answers you need to faithfully deal with the criticisms leveled against the Church and gospel.

Click here to register!

Mike Parker is a business and marketing analyst with twenty years’ experience in the financial services industry. He is a returning student currently pursuing a BS in Business Finance from Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. He also has eight years’ experience in corporate training, and currently teaches an adult religion class in the Hurricane, Utah, area. Mike and his wife, Denise, have three children.

The CES Letter 50 to 65 Witnesses Continued

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In Video Five in the FairMormon series: “The CES Letter, A Closer Look” Brian Hales examines claims posted by Jeremy Runnells in his “Letter to a CES Director”.

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The CES Letter 50 to 65 Witnesses Continued

This video continues to examine The CES Letter’s treatment of the Book of Mormon witnesses on pages 50 to 65. Obviously hypnosis could not explain their experiences, but what about religious frenzy and hysteria? Also, alleged parallels to other testimonies regarding James J. Strang, and The Book and the Roll are scrutinized. In the end, the attempts of naturalists’ and The CES Letter to explain away the declarations of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses seem inadequate.

Brian C. Hales is the author of The CES Letter: A Closer Look, as well as seven books dealing with Mormon polygamy—most notably the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue, as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Much of his research materials are available at  www.MormonPolygamyDocuments.org.Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue, as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Much of his research materials are available at  www.MormonPolygamyDocuments.org.

Faith and Reason 75: Degrees of Glory

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heaven

From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael Ash

Christ spoke of many mansions (John 14:2) and Paul compared the difference between the glory of the sun, moon, and stars with the different glory of those at the resurrection. Richard Anderson explains, “[Paul] sometimes wrote ‘heaven’ of the place where God dwells, but he used ‘heavens’ twice as much. Paul normally used the plural, even though the King James Version sometimes writes the singular for the Greek plural. For Paul, Christ is exalted ‘far above the heavens’ (Ephesians 4:10). If Christ is literally ‘higher than the heavens’ (Hebrews 7:26), he is in the highest heaven.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, News Anchor, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

The CES Letter 50 to 65 Three Witnesses

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In Video Four of the FairMormon series: “The CES Letter, A Closer Look” Brian Hales examines claims published by Jeremy Runnells in his “Letter to a CES Director”. Installments in the series run every Monday and can also be found on the FairMormon youtube channel.

333

The CES Letter spends 15 pages discussing the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. The strategy is straightforward: discredit the witnesses and then allege that Joseph Smith hypnotized them. This video examines the witnesses’ reputations showing they were credible and respected men. It demonstrates that The CES Letter misrepresents their declarations to create the appearance of contradiction. It also analyzes the theory that Joseph Smith might have used hypnosis to induce a complex hallucination they later recalled as their encounter with the angel and the plates.

Brian C. Hales is the author of The CES Letter: A Closer Look, as well as seven books dealing with Mormon polygamy—most notably the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue, as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Much of his research materials are available at  www.MormonPolygamyDocuments.org.Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue, as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Much of his research materials are available at  www.MormonPolygamyDocuments.org.

Faith and Reason 74: Salvation for the Dead

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Baptismal font in the Copenhagen Denmark Temple.

Baptismal font in the Copenhagen Denmark Temple.

Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5). Many people, however, have died without being baptized. Others were baptized without proper authority. Because God is merciful, He has prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism. By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf.

From LDS.org: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/salvation-for-the-dead?lang=eng

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, News Anchor, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

The CES Letter 43 to 44 Kinderhook Plates

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In Video Three in the FairMormon series: “The CES Letter, A Closer Look” Brian Hales examines claims posted by Jeremy Runnells in his “Letter to a CES Director”. Installments in the series run every Monday and can also be found on the FairMormon youtube channel.

kinder

Pages 43 and 44 of The CES Letter contain a discussion of the Kinderhook plates, which were an 1843 attempt to deceive Joseph Smith. Charges that he translated the bogus plates as he had translated the Book of Mormon have circulated for decades. However, in 2012, Don Bradley, with the help of Mark Ashurst-McGee, uncovered plain evidence showing that the “translation” of the Kinderhook plates occurred by comparing one symbol on the plates with one symbol in Joseph’s Egyptian Alphabet lexicon. As evidence of Joseph Smith being a fraud, this accusation should be dismissed by even the most hardened unbelievers. Nevertheless, it continues to occupy two pages in The CES Letter.

brian-hales-67Brian C. Hales is the author of The CES Letter: A Closer Look, as well as seven books dealing with Mormon polygamy—most notably the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue, as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Much of his research materials are available at  www.MormonPolygamyDocuments.org.Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue, as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Much of his research materials are available at  www.MormonPolygamyDocuments.org.

 

Faith and Reason 73: Sacred Vestments

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garment

To those outside a particular faith, the rituals and clothing may seem unfamiliar. But for the participants they can stir the deepest feelings of the soul, motivate them to do good, even shape the course of a whole life of service.

The nun’s habit. The priest’s cassock. The Jewish prayer shawl. The Muslim’s skullcap. The saffron robes of the Buddhist monk. All are part of a rich tapestry of human devotion to God.

Not all such religious vestments are on public display. Some are seen only in places of worship. Temple robes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the robes of the holy priesthood, are worn only inside Mormon temples and reserved for the highest sacraments of the faith. White symbolizes purity. There is no insignia or rank. The most senior apostle and the newest member are indistinguishable when dressed in the same way. Men and women wear similar clothing. The simple vestments combine religious symbolism with echoes of antiquity reflected in ancient writings from the book of Exodus.

From the LDS Newsroom: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/temple-garments

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, News Anchor, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.