Monthly Archives: August 2011

FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit

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FAIR Questions features a question that was submitted to FAIR volunteers through the FAIR website at fairlds.org. The answer in each episode is compiled from the various responses provided by the volunteers.

And now for the question:

How do I find a way to not only discern the Spirit from emotion, but how can I become convinced that the Spirit is actually real? How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain? I mean, I’ve prayed about the truth of the Book of Mormon and the gospel and I have gotten answers to my prayers, but how can I come to know whether or not this is from God, and not just either a part of my subconscious or a delusion.

And now for the answer:

John taught us that there are a variety of influences, or “spirits,” that can be mistaken for revelation. He taught us that we should put these various influences to the test to see if they are of God. (1 John 4:1.) Similarly, Paul taught us to “Prove all things.” (1 Thess. 5:21.) Christ Himself warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15.)

In order to put the various voices we hear to the test, it is first important to learn how the Spirit communicates with us. The Spirit can manifest itself in a number of ways. In the account of the two disciples who met the resurrected Savior on the way to Emmaus, one of the believers said, “Did not our heart burn within us?” (Luke 24:32.) We are all familiar with the counsel given to Oliver Cowdery as he attempted to translate the Book of Mormon. He was told that, after he studied it out in his mind, and prayed about it, he would experience a “burning in the bosom” if he was right, but a stupor of thought if not. (D&C 9:7–9.)

On another occasion, Oliver was told that, if he needed further confirmation regarding the truth of the work in which he was engaged, he needed to simply remember the peace he experienced in his mind that came to him when he had earlier prayed about it. (D&C 6:23.)

Christ called the Holy Ghost “the Comforter.” (John 14:26.) Paul also taught that the Spirit brings peace. It can also fill one with love, joy, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. (Gal. 5:22-23.) The Spirit may sometimes give us a sense of constraint so that we will feel that we should do something, or not do something that is contrary to our natural inclinations. (See, e.g., 1 Ne. 4:10; Alma 14:11.)

The spiritual experience of the Nephites following King Benjamin’s famous speech teaches us how the spirit actually softens our heart, makes us willing to covenant with God, and diminishes our disposition to do evil. (See Mosiah 5:1-5.) This is a wonderful yardstick to use. If you feel no desire to do evil, but to do good continually, and your heart is softened so that you are willing to make covenants with God, then you can rest assured that it is the Spirit that is working upon you.

While the Spirit often communicates in the language of emotion, people have reported hearing an audible voice, or at least words that pop into their minds. Enos reported that while he was “struggling in the spirit, . . . the voice of the Lord came into [his] mind.” (Enos 1:10.) The Spirit has been described as a “still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12.) As it speaks to our minds, as well as our hearts, it may bring things to our remembrance. (John 14:26.) Joseph Smith, before receiving revelation on baptism for the dead, reported that the subject seemed “to occupy [his] mind, and press itself upon [his] feelings the strongest.” (D&C 128:1.) The Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” (D&C 8:2.) Alma taught that as the Spirit helps a person to recognize the truth of God’s word, that person will notice that God’s word “beginneth to enlarge [his] soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten [his] understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to [him].” (Alma 32:28.) Joseph Smith explained that “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon.” (TPJS, p. 151.) As the Lord promised, “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” (D&C 11:13. See also D&C 6:15.)

So, how are we to know if those feelings, thoughts or words are from God? John taught us that “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” (1 John 4:2-3.) After warning us of false prophets, Christ gave us the way in which they may be tested: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:16. Compare Alma 32:27-43.)

In answer to the question, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Hinckley read in Moroni chapter 7, and then said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. . . .

“If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. . . . And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.

“You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 260–61, referencing Moroni 7:13, 16-17.) Similarly, Hyrum Smith was taught that the Spirit leads us to “do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously.” (D&C 11:12.)

It is important to note that it will be difficult to recognize the voice of the spirit if our actions are not conducive to spirituality. The Savior taught, “If any man will do his will, he will know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17.) The Spirit often accompanies activities such as prayer, scripture study, fasting, the performing of ordinances, worship through song, instruction, meditation, and temple attendance, expressions of love and service. It is more difficult for the Spirit to communicate with one who is engaged in activities of lust, anger, or greed, or even simple noise and confusion.

Furthermore, God’s house is a house of order. (D&C 132:8.) God will not inspire His leaders to give certain instructions, and then inspire His children to disobey those instructions. Therefore, one of the ways to verify the voice of the Lord is to test the inspiration one received for consistency with the words God has already spoken through his leaders in the scriptures, at General Conference, or in a private meeting with a bishop.

We can also know that a prompting is not of God when we feel to direct the affairs of another person over whom we have no authority. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught, “only the President of the Church receives revelation to guide the entire Church. Only the stake president receives revelation for the special guidance of the stake. The person who receives revelation for the ward is the bishop. … When one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own area of responsibility … you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord” (“Revelation,” New Era, Sept. 1982, 46).

Of course, God has His own timeline, and His ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8.) We cannot force the hand of God either in immediately providing revelation or in sending us revelation that simply conforms to our own preconceived notions or desires. We should be careful in following feelings that simply confirm our own biases. In contrast, if we are feeling prompted to do something that challenges us to grow, and something we may not have otherwise chosen for ourselves, this may be an indication of authenticity. In short, a humble and submissive soul is more susceptible to the whisperings of the Spirit. We should follow the example of Christ who asked that he might be spared from drinking from the cup of the atonement, but afterward said “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39)

Could it all just be brain chemicals? We should be careful not to confuse the effects of the Spirit with the Spirit itself. As the Spirit brings peace, joy, motivation to do good, etc., these will be experienced in the brain like any other thought or emotion. However, just as an event that brings us joy is not joy itself, the fact that the Spirit can bring us joy does not mean that the Spirit is a mere emotional effect or process of the brain. It takes more effort to believe in the Spirit than in something we can sense with touch or sight, but that does not make the Spirit less real. While we cannot see gravity, we can observe its effects. Similarly, we can seek true revelations and observe their effects.

Like any other talent, discerning the voice of the Spirit takes practice. It also involves a process of trial and error. One member of FAIR reported that he went through a couple months in his teenage years where he thought he was receiving all kinds of revelations on all kinds of topics. As time went on, and many of the impressions turned out to be false, he learned valuable lessons on how to tell the difference between the Spirit, and other influences. As he has gained experience, he says that he has more confidence in sorting out his feelings.

Learning what the Spirit is and how to respond is one of life’s most important lessons. As you follow the impressions you have, don’t be discouraged when you find that they are not from God. Just learn from your experience. As you act on true revelation from God, you will come to better recognize the voice of the Spirit. As you follow the Spirit, its voice will become clearer and revelation will become more frequent.

If there is an issue that you have been wondering about, you can often find the latest answers at the FAIR wiki, found at fairmormon.org. If you can’t find your answer there, feel free to pose your question to the FAIR apologists by visiting the FAIR contact page. Occasionally, such a question will be featured on FAIR Questions. Before questions are used for this podcast, permission is obtained from the questioner.

Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to podcast@fairlds.org, or join the conversation at fairblog.org.

Tell your friends about us and help increase the popularity of this podcast by subscribing in iTunes and by writing a review.

Music for this episode was provided courtesy of Lawrence Green.

The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.

Allah, Zeus, and Elohim: A Question of Religious Tolerance

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In his 2011 FAIR Conference presentation, Professor Daniel C. Peterson of Brigham Young University presented a paper on “Mormonism, Islam, and the Question of Other Religions”.[1] Professor Peterson is well qualified to speak on this subject, as he is a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies. A cursory glance of one biographical sketch online will quickly remind the reader that Professor Peterson is not only an authority on Islam, but religious studies in general.[2]

A few months before his presentation at the FAIR Conference, Professor Peterson published an article with the Mormon Times entitled “God’s sheep recognize his voice”.[3] It is something of a reader’s digest version of his FAIR presentation. In both the article and his FAIR Conference Presentation, Professor Peterson essentially argued that regardless of religious or cultural background, “God’s sheep recognize his voice, even when it’s in a different language or imperfectly heard. They follow him as best they can and will not lose their reward.” Thus, we as Latter-day Saints should follow the noble heritage of our predecessors (including Joseph Smith, Orson Hyde, and B. H. Roberts, to name only three) and extend tolerance and understanding towards those of other religious backgrounds in both word and deed. Our world is much too divisive, and religious strife only adds fuel to the fire. Although we should not compromise our uniquely cherished Latter-day Saints beliefs, we should not fall prey to religious dogmatism that can create contention amongst people of differing religious persuasions. Dr. Peterson’s ideas are noble and edifying, and I felt myself  strengthened after listening to his presentation at the FAIR Conference.

However, not everybody is as taken with Professor Peterson’s ideas as I am. One particularly vocal anti-Mormon named Rocky Hulse has made it clear that  Daniel C. Peterson is preaching nothing but rank blasphemy.[4]

Right off the bat Hulse makes it clear that “the first four paragraphs of this article set the stage of falsehood”. What are the shocking paragraphs which Mr. Hulse has in mind?

Trying to make their view seem merely a minor logical extension of my own, several atheistic acquaintances have assured me that there is little difference between us: They just happen to disbelieve in one more god than I do.

They seem to imagine that being a Latter-day Saint entails rejecting all non-Mormon religious experiences and disbelieving every doctrine of every other faith. This, however, is not true.

When Joseph Smith learned that the then-existing Christian churches were corrupt, that didn’t mean that they were totally wrong. To say that something is “corrupt” means that it has been damaged. We speak of “corrupted texts” or “corrupted files,” intending to say that they have been infected or tainted — not that their original content has been replaced by something completely different.

In fact, many mainstream Christian doctrines were and are substantially correct. There is indeed a God. He has a divine Son who came to earth, atoned for our sins, rose again on the third day and now sits at the right hand of his Father. Those who taught prayer, preached of the Savior and translated the New Testament during the centuries between the early apostles and the Restoration preserved and transmitted many central gospel truths.

Hulse continues to blast away at this heresy by asserting that “this attempt at revising the “First Vision” of Joseph Smith is grossly deceptive”. According to Hulse, Joseph Smith’s details of his First Vision disqualify Mormonism from any pretension to inter-faith ecumenicalism.

Here in the “First Vision,” Joseph Smith says the “Personage” who addressed him (later identified as Jesus) told him all churches were wrong and all of their creeds were an “abomination.” The Christian Creeds are Christian doctrine. The word “abomination” is defined as follows: “1: something abominable 2: extreme disgust and hatred: LOATHING.” It is quite clear from the text that, according to Joseph Smith, Jesus has “extreme disgust, hatred and loathing” of the Christian creeds and specifically defines all churches as wrong and teaching the doctrines of men. Yet, in the first four paragraphs of this article, Daniel Peterson very deceptively tries to gloss over Mormonism’s absolute attack against all churches, all Christian doctrine and all who profess Christianity.

Hulse then quote-mines the Journal of Discourses for a statement as equally un-ecumenical as Joseph Smith’s brazen assault on Christianity.[5] Notwithstanding, Husle’s arguments in this regard have been thoroughly refuted by Michael Ash, in his article “Does Mormonism Attack Christianity?”.[6] Furthermore, Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks have addressed this charge in their book Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints.[7]

I mention this only in passing, since I wish to address the more egregiously erroneous claims made by Hulse. He is totally beside himself because of the fact that “this BYU professor and Mormon Apologist goes on in this article teaching that the Allah of Islam is the God of the Bible”. Here is the quote from Dr. Peterson provided by Hulse:

But what about non-Christians? Do they worship false gods?
Jews certainly don’t. Believing Jews accept the Old Testament, venerating the God who brought Israel out of Egypt, spoke through the prophet Isaiah and was proclaimed by Jesus (a Palestinian Jew).
But what of Islam? Isn’t “Allah” a false god? No. According to the Qur’an, Allah created the earth in six days, placed Adam and Eve in Eden and then inspired prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Sound familiar?

To this incredible blasphemy Hulse replies with certitude:

 To draw the conclusion that “Allah” is the God of the Bible because a fictional book of scripture, the Qur’an, plagiarizes the characters and stories of the Bible is ludicrous, however, not without precedent. Mormonism does the same thing in our time. Mormonism draws from its fictional book of scripture, the Pearl of Great Price, claiming in creation that all human beings were born into a pre-existent world, having been sired by God the Father, who has a body of flesh and bones, and that Jesus was the first offspring of this Deity and that Lucifer was the second. This being foundational Mormon doctrine, Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, and these two procreated beings are our older brothers in this non-Biblical doctrine.

But that isn’t the worst of it. What does Hulse consider to be the premiere blasphemy of Daniel Peterson? The fact that he is equating the false Muslim God Allah with the Word of John 1:1. As Dr. Peterson maliciously slurs in the Mormon Times article:

“Allah” is simply the Arabic equivalent of English “God,” related to the Hebrew “Elohim.” Moreover, Allah is the God not only of Muslims but of all Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews. “In the beginning, (Allah) created the heavens and the earth,” reads Arabic Genesis. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (Allah), and the Word was (Allah),” says the Arabic version of John 1:1. “We believe in (Allah), the Eternal Father,” says the first Article of Faith in Arabic, “and in his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Hulse is incensed at this heresy. Hulse screams: “Jesus was the Word that became flesh and then “dwelt  among us” (John 1:14), not Allah!” Unfortunately, though, the facts are not on his side. Perhaps Hulse is confused about how languages work, and how translations from one language to another works. Allow me a few moments to explain.

Here is the Greek text of John 1:1.

Ἐν  ἀρχῇ  ἦν  ὁ  λόγος,  καὶ  ὁ  λόγος  ἦν  πρὸς  τὸν  θεόν,  καὶ  θεὸς  ἦν  ὁ  λόγος.

The Greek word for “God” is  θεόν or θεὸς (theos).

What follows are three different translation of the Greek text in English, German, and French. Note the word used to translate the Greek θεὸς:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (New Revised Standard Version).

Im Anfang war das Wort, und das Wort war bei Gott, und das Wort war Gott. (Die Bibel: Einheitsübersetzung)

Au commencement était celui qui est la Parole de Dieu. Il était avec Dieu, il était lui-même Dieu. (La Bible du Semeur)

In these instances the Greek word θεὸς is translated into the English “God”, the German “Gott”, and the French “Dieu”. These are not differing unique English, German, and French deities but rather just the generic word in the respective language to express the Greek word. So it is with the Arabic word الله‎ (Allāh). Recall that Arabic is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew.[8] It therefore should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Hebrew word for God אֱלהִים (elohim), is closely related to the Arabic الله‎. That is not to even mention the Aramaic (the spoken language of Jesus) word for God  (ʼĔlāhā), which is even more closely related to the Arabic. It is no different than the fact that the English word “God” is closely related to the German “Gott”. They are just two different words in two different languages being used to express the same idea.

Thus, in spite of Hulse’s protestations to the contrary, Professor Peterson is strictly correct. It is entirely appropriate to use the word Allah when translating the Bible into Arabic since Allah is the word in Arabic to denote “God”. Who would have ever guessed that Arabic speaking Muslims, Jews and Christians use the same Arabic word (Allah) to name the God they are worshiping? To illustrate by way of personal experience, when my family and I traveled to Israel in 2006 we sat in on a Roman Catholic mass attended by Palestinian Christians. Does anyone want to guess what word in Arabic we repeatedly and distinctly heard throughout this beautiful Christian liturgy?

Moving on. Hulse takes a swing at Professor Peterson, this time on the grounds that Dr. Peterson has grossly misrepresented Paul in Acts 17. Says Hulse: “In another grand deception, Daniel Peterson attempts to make the claim that Paul is actually equating the God of Israel with the Greek god Zeus.” Here is the relevant quote from Professor Peterson:

When the apostle Paul, preaching on Mars Hill, sought to connect with the pagan Athenians (Acts 17:24-28), he identified Zeus with Israel’s God: “For in him we live and move and have our being,” he taught, quoting the words about Zeus of a sixth-century B.C. Cretan philosopher. “As some of your own poets have said,” he continued, citing a third-century B.C. philosopher’s verse about Zeus, “‘we are his offspring.’”

Hulse bemoans this “truly deliberate deception” as “beyond the pale of deceit”. But, once again, Professor Peterson is correct. Paul is quoting two Greek poets, namely, Epimenides (or some would argue Posidonius) and Aratus.[9] Here is the section from Aratus’ Phaenomena that Paul was quoting:

Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.

For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.

Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.

Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.

For we are indeed his offspring…

That Paul was approvingly quoting Aratus (while at the same reapplying the meaning) is seen in Paul’s conclusion in the next verse of Acts 17, where the Apostle declares: “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill” (New International Version). It makes little sense for Paul to quote a pagan Greek poet unless he was intending to reinforce his own theological point, viz., that we are God’s offspring (Greek, γένος, species, race, genus, etc.) and thus should not consider God as an idol made of man’s artifice.

At the end of his Mormon Times article, Professor Peterson concludes with the following offering:

In the final volume of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia,” a Calormene soldier named Emeth (= Hebrew “truth”) has been a sincere worshiper of the false god Tash all of his life. When, at the end, he meets Aslan and recognizes the true God, he expects severe punishment. But Aslan graciously reassures him that “all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me,” explaining that, although Emeth had been unaware of it, his honest devotion was actually to Aslan, rather than to Tash. “No service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.”

In a concluding rebuttal (I use that word loosely here), Hulse ends his screed thusly:

This teaching by BYU Professor Peterson is absolute blasphemy. Trying to use the “Chronicles of Narnia” as scripture to rationalize that any worship given to any god will be accounted by the God of the Bible as valid, is the epitome of reaching for straws; it’s pathetic really. God will not be mocked. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! There is none other and any devotion offered to false gods will not be accepted by the God of the Bible as worship to him. The Old Testament is clear that God is a jealous God and will not tolerate worship given to false gods; however, since Mormonism has incorporated polytheism (many gods) into their doctrine, the god of this world has blinded their eyes (II Cor 4:4).

Where exactly does Professor Peterson equate C. S. Lewis with scripture? I took it as an appropriate concluding reference to a respected Christian philosopher and theologian. Likewise, contrary to what Hulse maintains, I did not read this so much as Daniel Peterson granting license to worship any god willy-nilly, but rather that even those who serve “false” gods can still do good in the world and receive blessings from the Savior.

It is my hope that Rocky Hulse will take some time to calm down and read Professor Peterson’s more fully documented and expanded paper presented at the FAIR Conference. Likewise, I wish that anyone reading this blog post will take time to read Dr. Peterson’s remarks. Those who do will learn of the importance of religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue, which, unfortunately, is bereft in any of Rocky Hulse’s comments.

We live in a divisive world. Religious differences are sometimes used as further justification for this divisiveness. Usually those who further drive the wedge between people of differing religious backgrounds do so out of ignorance and fear. I am afraid that Rocky Hulse has done such with his knee-jerk reaction to Dr. Peterson’s article.

Notes:

[1]: Available online: http://www.fairlds.org//FAIR_Conferences/2011_Mormonism_Islam_and_the_Question_of_Other_Religions.html

[2]: See his bio entry on Mormon Scholars Testify: http://mormonscholarstestify.org/151/daniel-c-peterson-2

[3]: Available at: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705387043/Gods-sheep-recognize-his-voice.html

[4]: “Zeus, Allah, and Jesus in Mormonism, They’re One and the Same!”. Online at: http://www.mormonoutreach.org/topics/Zeus%20Allah%20and%20Jesus%20in%20Mormonism%20Theyre%20One%20and%20the%20Same.html. All subsequent quotations of Hulse are taken from this article.

[5]: The statement quoted by Hulse is from Brigham Young. “Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth.” Journal of Discourses, 6:176.

[6]: Available online: http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/LDSattack.pdf

[7]: Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992), 158-172.

[8]: Thomas O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1971), xxii.

[9]: Michael D. Coogan, ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001), 219 [Acts 17:28f].

FAIR Issues 22: Analyzing the best historical Book of Mormon evidence

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Michael Ash begins a series of episodes that examine the best historical evidence relating to the Book of Mormon. In this first episode, he concludes that Joseph Smith did, in fact, have actual plates.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

Tell your friends about the Mormon FAIR-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon FAIR-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

FAIR Issues 21: Book of Mormon in ancient setting, not 19th century work

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Mike Ash discusses the importance of understanding use of language and ancient context when analyzing the Book of Mormon. He writes: “If we try to understand the Book of Mormon as a real ancient document, written by real ancient people who lived and thought just like other ancient people and interacted with their environment, and recorded their doings in ways that are similar to other ancient people, then the arguments of the critics lose any power they might have had.”

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

Tell your friends about the Mormon FAIR-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon FAIR-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

FAIR-Cast 42: From Panthers to Priesthood

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Marvin Perkins interviews Ed and Wanda Willis who discuss their past involvement with the Black Panthers and the way in which they both joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are joined by Bishop Fred Bethel from the African American outreach program.

Two of the DVD’s referenced in the interview are available at the FAIR Bookstore, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons and Blacks in the Scriptures.

This interview has been provided courtesy of Marvin Perkins and Blacks in the Scriptures.

The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.

 

Ms. Erickson and CNN Redux.

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Earlier last month I wrote a few words concerning an interview conducted by CNN of Tricia Erickson, a rabid ex-Mormon who exhibited an almost paranoid fear of the prospect of a Mormon being elected as president of the United States. I found her bigoted and offensive ranting far below the journalistic standards of CNN, and hoped that the entire episode would quickly be forgotten.

Unfortunately, Ms. Erickson has been given yet more air time on CNN to prattle away on the nefarious machinations of the “Mormon Church” and Mitt Romney, the prominent Mormon candidate for the presidency. Fortunately, a voice of reason, in the embodiment of CNN Belief-Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi, was allowed to participate in the discussion between Erickson and Tim Foreman, who challenged Erickson to show a single example of a Mormon making a negative political policy choice on the basis of his commitment to Mormonism. (Not surprisingly, Erickson failed to provide any such example.)

One of the arguments Ms. Erickson used in her assault on the faith of the Saints and Governor Romney was the claim that Mormons are on a campaign to dominate the world (why else are there any Mormons who hold political offices?) and that according to Mormon doctrine the second coming of Jesus will include the establishing of a Mormon totalitarian regime based out of Jackson County, Missouri. And if that isn’t enough to disqualify Romney or any other Mormon from being president, also remember that Mormons, including Romney, believe they will become gods and have their own planet! I was especially offended at this misrepresentation of my faith. Only one planet? Egoistical/self-aggrandizeing Mormon that I am, I am not shooting low for only one planet but a universe of endless worlds to populate through endless Celestial sex with my many goddess wives. Or at least that is what Ed Decker has repeated told me through his sensationalistic video The God Makers. Considering that Ed Decker is one of Ms. Erickson’s primary sources on Mormonism, I am surprised that she conservatively restricted Mormon aspirations of godly dominion to only one planet in the hereafter. Get your facts straight, Ms. Erickson!

This is the second time that CNN, a respected news agency, has provided precious air time for a crank to spout off nonsense against the Church of Jesus Christ. Hopefully Ms. Erickson has finally exhausted her time with CNN. We need less sensationalism and more serious journalism on the relationship between religion and modern politics. And we need it now especially with this upcoming election, wherein we have not one, but two potential Mormon candidates for the presidency. If ever there was a time when we as a people should look at the interplay between religious values and political policy that time is now. Ms. Erickson has now demonstrated twice that she cannot provide that nuanced and informed investigation. As such, we are compelled to look to others to answer this pertinent question.

FAIR Questions 1: Truth in other religions

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FAIR Questions features a question that was submitted to FAIR volunteers through the FAIR website at fairlds.org. The answer in each episode is compiled from the various responses provided by the volunteers.

And now for the question:

I am a life-long member of the Church currently preparing to serve my mission. I have studied other religions, mostly those that originate in India, and as I have read many of their texts and learned about their beliefs, I felt what I think was the Spirit telling me that what they were saying was true. Now it wasn’t on everything, it was more on a line by line basis. Like when I was reading the Bahagavad Gita, there would be passages that I found spiritually uplifting. The Church states that we are God’s Church and that only we have the proper authority to fulfill His mission. So how do I rectify this? On one side I have my testimony of the restored gospel, but then I read other material and I feel many of the same things. Now I’m not saying that I have a testimony of reincarnation or something, just that a lot of what I see in other faiths is good and pure. And I guess kind of a sub question, what am I to think of people of other faiths talking about their spiritual experiences?

And now for the answer:

We accept truth where ever it is found. Others having truth is not a problem as we make no claim to be the sole repository or source of truth. What we do claim is that only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can you find priesthood keys through which you can properly covenant with Heavenly Father so as to affect your return to His presence as a joint heir with Christ. We also claim to have that portion of light and knowledge necessary to affect the same, but this is NOT an exclusionary claim. So, do not be surprised to feel spiritual confirmations of truth from sources outside the Church, such as the Bhagavad Gita, as such confirmations in no way diminish the power of the priesthood keys you can only find here. There is nothing that says that God cannot speak to and influence peoples of all cultures. Nephi knew this. In 2 Nephi 29:12, he quotes the Lord in saying:

“For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.”

On February 15, 1978, the First Presidency released a statement titled “God’s Love for All Mankind” that says “The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.”

There is also an excellent article in the August 2000 Ensign that could give you insight on truth from other faiths, that is entitled, A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammad.

God wants us all to have a rich existence. In order to accomplish His purposes he gives each of us gifts and it makes it so, in certain important senses, we need one another in order to be complete. He has given pieces of truth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and He has given to this people the keys of the priesthood and the responsibility to serve and bless the whole earth. But that is something that should fill us with humility rather than cause us to think that because we have been given such a weighty gift and responsibility we have no need of our brothers and sisters of other faiths and their insight and inspiration.

In short, God does not reveal his word to just a small minority. Remember what President Hinckley said a few years ago: “We, in effect, simply say to others, ‘Bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it’” (“The BYU Experience,” BYU devotional address, 4 Nov. 1997). That would be your task as a missionary. Not to denigrate other people’s beliefs and cultures, but to add to the good that they already have.

Good luck on your mission preparation, and let us know if you have any other questions.

If there is an issue that you have been wondering about, you can often find the latest answers at the FAIR wiki, found at fairmormon.org. If you can’t find your answer there, feel free to pose your question to the FAIR apologists by visiting the FAIR contact page. Occasionally, such a question will be featured on FAIR Questions. Before questions are used for this podcast, permission is obtained from the questioner.

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Music for this episode was provided courtesy of Lawrence Green.

The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.

Best of FAIR 9: The Lives of Mormon Women

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Claudia Bushman asks, is the self sacrifice motif for women in the Church so strong that no interest and care should be taken about their own lives? She observes that “too many women in the church live passive lives. We cannot afford to do that. We have talents to multiply.”

She also addresses the role of feminism in the Church. Only a few years ago, she told a Salt Lake Tribune writer that feminism was dead and that the word itself had become so frightening that the movement was now moribund and extinguished. She nevertheless, acknowledges that there are still “many old self-described LDS feminists around.” In fact, she considers herself to be a feminist and said “I doubt that many people would disagree with my definition of feminism, that the talents of women should be developed for the benefit of their communities, their church, their families and themselves.” By this definition, the Relief Society organization itself is a feminist organization. “Mormon women find emotional support and personal and spiritual growth there. The Relief Society, even in its curtailed form, provides a network for us to know, teach, and befriend each other. In Relief Society we are encouraged to exercise that most important feminist strategy, reaching beyond our patriarchal structure to a personal relationship with deity through which we can discover our own personal revelation and destinies.”

She adds: “Without autonomy, women would seem to have little power in this religion. But what is power in religion? Leadership seems important, but many religions, certainly ours, have stressed the humble vineyard worker as the powerful position. The greatest of all is the servant of all.”

She concludes by asking, what can women hope for from the Church? She states: “Women should realize that the Church is a great enabler, not a hindrance. The Church provides a wonderfully welcoming arena for working out our own ideas and building our talents as we seek for and follow our own revelation.”

The full text of Sister’ Bushman’s address can be found here.

Claudia L. Bushman holds degrees in literature and American Studies from Wellesley College, Brigham Young University, and Boston University and now teaches history and American studies at Columbia University in the City of New York. Dr. Bushman is the author and editor of ten books including Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah, Building the Kingdom (with Richard Bushman), and Contemporary Mormonism: Latter-day Saints in Modern America, as well as a variety of other American history books. She was the founding editor of Exponent II. Dr. Bushman is married to Richard Lyman Bushman and is the mother of six. Having held all the usual Church positions, she now finds most of her Church work off the books in such areas as chairman of the Harlem Bridge Builders committee, producer of the Manhattan Temple Jubilee at Radio City Music Hall, and chairman of the committee to install a statue of Joseph Smith near Wall Street in New York in honor of his 200th birthday.