Category Archives: LDS History

The Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ

Posted on by

the-first-vision-82823-galleryThis post by FairMormon volunteer Jordan Latimer was originally delivered as a farewell address on May 24, 2015. Elder Latimer will begin his service as a missionary in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in June 2015.

Early in the spring of 1820, a troubled young man named Joseph Smith retired to a grove near his home and prayed to God. He was unsure which of the churches of that day he should join. Kneeling down, he asked God to provide him with the answers he so earnestly desired. He desired his salvation and wanted to know which church would be able to grant it. His prayer was answered, and in quite an extraordinary manner. Two beings appeared to him, identifying themselves as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Christ answered Joseph’s question, informing him that none of the churches of the day had the ability to provide him with what was necessary for salvation. He instructed him to join none of the churches, because the fullness of his gospel was to be restored in his lifetime. Little did Joseph know that it was through him that it would be restored.

This experience set in motion what we in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints call the Restoration.

After the death of the Christ’s apostles, the authority to perform priesthood ordinances was lost for centuries, and the world entered a state of apostasy. This apostasy had been prophesied by Paul in his 2nd epistle to the Thessalonians: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [meaning the day of Christ’s return] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3) Many early Christians probably didn’t expect this “falling away” to come so soon. Not only did the death of the apostles cause a loss of authority, it also led to unauthorized changes in doctrine and ordinances.

But his epistle to the Thessalonians is not the only place where prophecies of the coming apostasy can be found. When speaking to the elders at Ephesus, Paul said that after his departing, “grievous wolves [shall] enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29). He informed Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3). Peter also prophesied of such corruption, saying that false teachers would “bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2:1).

The death of the apostles resulted in the loss of the priesthood keys needed to perform saving ordinances. Also, because there was no prophet on the earth, revelation could no longer be received for all of Christ’s church. The pure doctrines of Christ began to be corrupted by the philosophies of men. Without the gift of the Holy Ghost, people struggled to determine the difference between truth and falsehood. The church that Christ established was ultimately lost.

Fortunately, the Lord planned to restore the gospel in the latter-days, prior to his coming. This restoration would usher in the last days and would be the final time that Christ would restore his church upon the earth. We know that Joseph Smith was the vessel through which truths were restored. A list of things restored may be helpful.

The Restoration restored the true nature of the relationship between Heavenly Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. In the 4th century A.D. the doctrine of the Trinity was first articulated. This blend of Greek philosophy and Christianity introduced a concept of God people have been trying to comprehend ever since. Joseph Smith restored knowledge of the true nature of the Godhead: that they are three separate beings, who are united in purpose. Joseph restored the concept that we are children of both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. Jesus Christ is our brother, the first spirit-born of the Father, and the savior of the world. Both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, and its role is to comfort, testify of truth, and bestow gifts of the spirit. As Moroni said: “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). The Restoration rejected the idea of Original Sin. Instead of the Fall being a grievous mistake by Adam and Eve, it was a necessary part of the plan of salvation for God’s children. Adam and Eve didn’t mess things up. They did what was necessary to move God’s plan forward. As the prophet Lehi said, “Adam fell that men might be. And men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). And while most Christians believe that Eve, the mother of all living, failed, we know that she actually succeeded. Eve’s role in moving the plan forward is very significant. True to the title of “mother,” she made the choices necessary for mankind to exercise their powers of procreation and provide bodies for God’s spirit children. The role of righteous women cannot be dismissed when the true story of the Garden of Eden is realized.

The Restoration simplified and clarified the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel. These are listed in the 4th Article of Faith. “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Article of Faith 4). While such concepts have always been a crucial part of Christianity, the LDS church provides this outline in its purest, simplest form. It also clarifies the manner in which baptism is to be performed. Immersion is required. This is symbolic of the death of the natural man, and the birth into sainthood.

The Restoration restored the power of the priesthood, and the authority to act in God’s name. All of the keys necessary for providing saving ordinances and of receiving revelation for God’s children now reside with our current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. As the 5th Article of Faith says, “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Article of Faith 5). Through the priesthood power, we can be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, be endowed, and be sealed to spouses and other family members in the House of the Lord.

Speaking of the House of the Lord, the Restoration restored the practice of building and worshiping in temples. In the temple, we can perform ordinances necessary for eternal life. The initiatory and the endowment ceremony are both ordinances that help qualify us for exaltation. They provide power from God, and help to protect us from the deception of the adversary. Such blessings are not only for the living, however. The temple allows and encourages work for the dead. How comforting this doctrine is, to know that the blessings of salvation can be provided to our ancestors who have passed on. It is a fulfillment of the words of Moroni, who said that the prophet Elijah “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” (Joseph Smith–History 1:39).

The Restoration produced the largest women’s organization in the world. The Relief Society is an essential element of the organization of the church. It has provided and will continue to provide countless hours of selfless service for the Lord’s church. The organization of the Church was not complete until the Relief Society was organized.

The Restoration presented additional scripture to support and clarify the word of God contained in the Bible. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price provide inspiration and direction in a day full of deception. In particular, the translation of the Book of Mormon was essential to the establishment of truth, and it provides strong evidence for Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority, for only a man of God could bring forth such a text.

The Restoration provided a church that is self-reliant. The Church provides a powerful welfare system. This system includes ranches, orchards, vineyards, canneries, bakeries, meat and milk processing facilities, storehouses, and its own transportation and funding. The church also provides education, counseling, and addiction recovery for individuals inside and outside the church. There’s also Deseret Industries, which provides jobs for thousands of individuals. And, to top it all off, the Church has done extensive humanitarian work in over 178 countries and territories. This work includes clean water, vision care, food production, wheelchair projects, neonatal resuscitation training, emergency response, and a measles campaign. Such service is done to fulfill the promises of baptism “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; to mourn with those that mourn; and [to] comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9).

The Restoration added knowledge concerning the Atonement of Christ, the most significant event in the history of the world. Our teachings on the Atonement are reflected in the words of Alma: “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:12–13). The Lord descended below all things that we may ascend above all things. The power of Christ’s Atonement can change our minds, hearts, and desires, if we only turn to him and rely upon his grace. We know that works are required for salvation, and that we will be judged by them; but we also know that we are ultimately saved by the grace of God. As King Benjamin said, “If ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21). We are completely dependent upon Christ’s Atonement for our salvation.

The Restoration provided knowledge of our pre-mortal life. We learn of the council of the gods, where Heavenly Father introduced a plan for us to become like him. Jehovah volunteered to fulfill the plan, and the glory would be to the father. He said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2). Such humility and selflessness was not to be found in Lucifer, who wanted it done a different way. He said, “I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). Jehovah was chosen, and Lucifer was cast out for seeking to destroy the agency of man and attempting to elevate himself above the Father. We are here on this earth because we chose the father and his plan. This life tests us on how we will use our agency. Will we use our agency to further the work of the Father, or will we use it to further the work of the Adversary? The choice is ours. Because we will slip up at times, the Lord has provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to satisfy the demands of justice and forge the way back into his presence.

The Restoration explained elements of the post-mortal life as well. We know that when we die, our spirits enter the spirit world, which is divided into spirit prison and spirit paradise. In the words of Alma, “Then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil [shall be] in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:12–13). Further light and knowledge was given to Joseph F. Smith in a vision. He saw that those in spirit prison would actually have a chance to accept Christ’s Atonement and begin living the gospel. Messengers from spirit paradise teach them. He said, “But behold, from among the righteous, he [meaning Jesus Christ] organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30).

The Restoration restored knowledge of the three kingdoms of glory. In 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had a vision wherein they saw the three kingdoms of glory, with their respective inhabitants. The Celestial Kingdom will contain “they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name” (D&C 76:51). The Terrestrial Kingdom will contain those “who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (D&C 76:74–75). The Telestial Kingdom will contain those that “received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:82).

The Restoration provides more information on our potential exaltation and eternal life. Our inheritance isn’t merely a small cloud and a golden harp, to sing praises to God for all eternity. Christ revealed to Joseph a more profound reward for righteousness when he said, “He that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:37–38). How much does Heavenly Father, the creator of the universe and everything contained therein, have? A lot, to put it mildly. And all that he has is promised to us. We cannot fathom the blessings that the Father has prepared for us. As Paul said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We do know one thing: that we shall receive the status of godhood. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ said, “And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:107). Christ also said, “Wherefore, as it is written, they [meaning the saints] are gods, even the sons of God. Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall overcome all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:58–60). As the primary song says, we truly are children of God.

There are many more teachings that the Restoration brought forth. Such truths can be found in Church publications and the scriptures. I encourage Church members of all ages to study the Restoration and feast upon the doctrine and principles that have been restored by the Lord. Follow the Lord’s counsel to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7). I promise that if you do, the Lord will testify of truth by the power of Holy Ghost.

Artwork of Joseph Smith Translating the Book of Mormon

Posted on by

Early this week I posted a brief notice for the book From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of MormonWith permission from professor Anthony Sweat, the artist behind the new artwork depicting Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon, the new pieces from the book are posted below.







A Plea to Seminary Teachers and Parents

Posted on by

seminary-class-1112861-galleryOver the last several years, the LDS Church history department has become increasingly open about the Church’s history. This can be seen in the work made available by the Joseph Smith Paper’s Project and in the recent release of several milestone Gospel Topics essays, especially those on the practice of polygamy by members of the LDS Church during the nineteenth century.

In an unanticipated and exciting step in the right direction, the LDS Church has now decided to teach this information in seminary classes. Parents can view the lessons on D&C 132 and the discussion of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy on the website under seminary lessons here and temple-marriage-766624-galleryhere.

I urge parents to not only read the lessons but also discuss them together as a family. These lessons are carefully written to emphasize those aspects of the section dedicated to eternal marriage and can serve as a basic introduction to the early practice of polygamy in Nauvoo.

From these lessons, students will be taught about eternal marriage, the zenith doctrine of the Restoration. Then they will be taught that God commanded Joseph Smith to establish polygamy as part of the restitution of all things, he married many women, and it was a trial for both Joseph and Emma Smith. It was also a trial for other early polygamists who were reluctant to participate. Fortunately, this was a temporary commandment that was removed in 1890. These are not easy topics to discuss or understand, but avoiding them will not make them go away.

An Op Ed piece written by Kristy Money, a member of the Ordain Woman board, was published in the Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday, March 29, encouraging the boycott of these lessons by seminary teachers and parents. This seems like a step backwards if we want to be open about our past. In urging nonparticipation, she listed several concerns. Interestingly, what I read in the lessons was quite different from the references in Ms. Money’s essay.

Students will not be taught God commanded Joseph to marry teenagers, which is good because there is no evidence that he was ever commanded to marry teenaged brides, even though he did.

Students will not be taught that Joseph married women without Emma’s knowledge. Parents may, emma-hale-smith-155871-thumbnailhowever, want to discuss this with their children, as the LDS Gospel Topics essay on Nauvoo polygamy covers this concern.

The lesson does not teach that “if a man simply ‘desires a virgin,’ he has a God-given right to take her as a plural wife,” despite the opinion of his first wife. This is a simplified contortion of complicated doctrine, and it is best that students learn it as worded in the revelation instead of how it is interpreted from critics or spun on the Internet.

The lesson does not teach the only reason polygamy was practiced was to raise righteous seed. It is listed as one of the reasons “as part of the restitution of all things.” The Gospel Topics essays also mention it being a customized trial for the Saints of that time. Parents may want to discuss these other reasons with their children.

Ms. Money contends that “sexual predators have been using these rationalizations to seduce girls long before the church recently published them.” If this is the case, then, as parents, we need to do all we can to make sure our teenagers are properly informed of what the historical record showsportrait-family-941042-gallery regarding Joseph’s institution of polygamy and its limited practice, so they will not fall prey to such reprehensible acts out of ignorance. D&C 132 explicitly condemns sexual relations outside of the bounds of marriage.

The LDS Church is to be commended for their continual efforts to increase dialogue regarding challenging topics. As members, let’s own our genuine past and study our canonized scripture. Protecting our children includes teaching them truth, so when they encounter misinformation they can recognize it as error. As parents and their children discuss these deep doctrines and difficult aspects of history, they can move toward a better understanding of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

Laura Harris Hales is the mother of a seminary student and the co-author of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding (Kofford Books, 2015).

Lending Clarity to Confusion: A Response to Kirk Van Allen’s “D&C 132: A Revelation of Men, Not God”

Posted on by

temple_night2By Brian and Laura Hales

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has generally not addressed the practice of plural marriage, but increased attention on the subject apparently prompted the Church to release several essays on the topic last year. The postings created a frenzy in the media with coverage by major national newspapers, television news, and countless blogs. While the essays were unexpectedly candid, they did not seem to assuage all of the concerns of members as evidenced by the questions and concerns that continue to be expressed. On February 2, 2015, Kirk Van Allen posted a blog titled, “D&C 132: A Revelation of Men, Not God.” In it, he brings up some valid questions, which have previously been voiced by members and non-members in their quest to try and understand this “strange doctrine.” However, he also advances arguments that seem to superficially examine the topic without taking into account important theological and historical contexts. Since this essay is traversing the blogosphere and stirring up a whirlwind, an alternative view of his assertions seems useful.

Lending Clarity to Confusion: A Response to Kirk Van Allen’s “D&C 132: A Revelation of Men, Not God”

Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 3: Review

Posted on by

JSP Docs V3_CoverThe Joseph Smith Papers Project has recently released volume 3 of the Documents series, as announced on its newly designed and updated website. This new volume covers the years 1833–34 of Joseph Smith’s life and ministry, and is a rich collection of important primary source materials related to the Church in Kirtland, Ohio and Jackson County, Missouri during this time.

The new volume is edited by Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Brent M. Rogers, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. Alison Palmer is the leader editor on the editorial staff for this volume.

As the manager of the FairMormon blog, I was invited along with other bloggers to an event highlighting the release of the new volume and was graciously granted a review copy for this blog post.

According to Dirkmaat, there is “a great diversity of the types of documents in this volume.” Types of documents included in the new volume include letters, minutes, deeds, revelations, notes, and, for the first time in any volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, a transcription of architectural drawings for such things as the plat of the city of Zion and the Kirtland House of the Lord designs. Color images of the documents included in the new volume will be available on the Joseph Smith Papers website in the future.

Dirkmaat also discussed exciting documents in the new volume like the March 18, 1833 minutes of “an assembly of the high Priests” in Kirtland that collectively saw a “heavenly vision of the saviour and concourses of angels and many othe[r] thing[s].” The new volume also contains important documents relating to the violence inflicted against the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, during the summer of 1833. This includes the July 29, 1833, letter of John Whitmer to Church leaders in Kirtland describing the violence in Jackson County and Joseph Smith’s reply written on August 18, 1833, entirely in his own hand. Brent Rogers described the significance of these texts. “The documents series is great because you see a chronological unfolding of Joseph Smith’s life,” Rogers explained. “You also learn about his contemporaries, including some lesser-known members and individuals.”

In addition to the new volume, the Joseph Smith Papers today launched a newly designed web site (linked above). With web traffic having tripled since the earlier website’s launch and a social media presence that includes over 50,000 followers on Facebook, the Joseph Smith Papers is gaining a significant presence online. The new website, besides having a refined search engine, features new photographs, both historic and modern, videos, chronologies, and other features. The new website has also been formatted for optimal tablet and phone usage.

Forthcoming volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers include the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon (forthcoming Summer 2015) and the 3rd and final volume in the Journals series (forthcoming Fall 2015). The highly anticipated Council of Fifty minutes are planned to be released in Fall of 2016.

Living with Fallibility

Posted on by

[The following was written by James Faulconer at Patheos and is reposted here with his permission.]

Mormons have a joke that is so old it has become a cliché: Catholic doctrine is that the pope is infallible, but they don’t believe it; Mormon doctrine is that the prophet is fallible, but they don’t believe it.

Like many jokes and all clichés, that joke works because there is truth in it. The joke misunderstands the doctrine of papal infallibility, but it gets very close to the truth of the way many contemporary Mormons have thought about their leaders, not just the prophet. And for some the truth of that joke has become a tragedy.

The LDS Church’s recent postings on its history of polygamy (see here, here, and here) have caught many off guard. For a long time the Church has avoided and even covered over not only the particular facts about polygamy’s beginnings but sometimes even polygamy itself.

Frankly I understand the motive behind that avoidance: we don’t practice polygamy and haven’t for a long time, so let’s avoid talking about it so we can talk about more important things—like faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. But it is generally agreed that we made a mistake. That strategy has caused a lot of pain and doubt.

In spite of that, it is a mistake that I understand. As a young man I thought we should be more forthcoming about our history, but I’m not sure that had I been a leader at the time I would have done differently. Things looked different during the fifty-plus years that the Church was coming out of persecution and perceived persecution. Things looked different to people whose fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles had been expelled from Missouri and Illinois by force.

As Kristine Haglund points out, members of the LDS Church have lived in different circumstances, sometimes almost to the point of growing up in different churches. Some of us learned early on the things the Church is now writing about, so there is little new in the recent news. But not everyone did.

Many did not know about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy or about the difficulties that surrounded that practice. Even fewer, perhaps, knew about the complications of bringing plural marriage to a halt. And the institutional Church bears considerable responsibility for their ignorance.

Having known about the history of plural marriage, about issues with the Book of Abraham, and so on for a long time, I’m long past those things being trouble for me. That’s not to say that I don’t understand that they trouble others or why. It is to say that they are no challenge to my faith. I’m interested in the recently published materials, but not because of what they say or don’t say about the history of the LDS Church.

I hope that the new strategy of making our story public even when we find it difficult to explain will in the future help prevent the kinds of pain we see some people suffering now. But those documents are important to me because I also hope that they will help Latter-day Saints rethink what it means to recognize authority and to have a living prophet.

We have often been guilty of a kind of idolatry of our leaders, implicitly imputing the characteristics of God to them because we thought that is what it meant to be called by God. To my knowledge few of our leaders asked for our idolatry, but we fell into it anyway. Perhaps our new strategy will help us repent.

I hope that the recently published documents on LDS history will help us see that prophets don’t usually get definitive answers to their questions, and even when the answer is definitive, they don’t often, if ever, get definitive directions for how to put into practice what they have been told. Being called and inspired by God doesn’t remove the need to figure out what that calling and inspiration mean, nor does it remove the possibility that I will confuse my will and desires for those of God.

Prophets speak for God, but he leaves them their personality, humanity, talents—and weaknesses. As he said through Joseph Smith in 1831, revelation is ‘given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language’ (D&C 1:24). God can speak to us only where he finds us.

But if prophets are human too, how can I trust what they teach? Even if a prophet is onlyanother human being like the rest of us, it doesn’t follow that I ought not to trust him. Trust—in other words, faith—and doubt are not mutually exclusive. Trust requires uncertainty, and human agency requires uncertainty. In turn, uncertainty and human fallibility mean that, Christ excepted, even the most righteous or smartest or whatever-you-wish person will misunderstand and be wrong when he hears what God has to say or when he tries to do what he has been asked. Those who are less than such a maximally great person, which includes all of the prophets, will not only be wrong, they will sometimes even do wrong.

But I don’t believe that those called by God, whether a Primary President or the President of the LDS Church is only another human being. I believe that callings can be and usually are inspired, and I believe that inspiration means something. It means that the person called has access to inspiration about his or her calling that I don’t have.

That inspiration will almost always come as a feeling or intuition about needs or directions. It always requires that the person who receives it make decisions not only about what it means but how to implement what it suggests, and mistakes both of intellect and of will are always possible. But since I believe that those people are called and inspired, I am willing to allow what they say to have more authority over me than I would allow someone who is just another person like me.

How far am I willing to go with that? There can be no definitive answer. Obviously some could go so far as to violate the trust I’ve put in them. I know such a violation when I see it. But I give people I love and respect more room for mistakes than I do others. My children can do a lot more than can strangers before I lose faith in them. People whom I have had good experiences with previously also get extra leeway. And if I sincerely believe that a person has been called by God, I am willing to continue to trust them though I am aware of their failings.

Hans-Georg Gadamer has argued that to passively submit to someone’s edict is not to recognize authority at all. Instead it is to agree to tyranny. So recognizing someone as an authority and having faith in that person doesn’t mean following them blindly. Faith in an authority needs to be wide-eyed. But being wide-eyed doesn’t mean being unable to look beyond a person’s mistakes and even some wrongdoing. Within parameters that I cannot specify in advance, I can do what a leader asks even though I think he is mistaken, especially if I remember my own fallibility.

My hope is that the conversations the recently published materials create will help us learn that being called by God isn’t an either/or. It isn’t that either the person is called by God and never makes a mistake in their calling or he isn’t called by God at all. I hope we will begin to see the falsity of that dichotomy, that we will develop a more mature understanding of our relationship to those who lead us, one in which we neither idolize the prophets nor assume that their humanity means we ought to no longer follow them.

Articles of Faith 20: Geoff Biddulph – Why Didn’t The Church Teach Me This Stuff?

Posted on by

Geoff BiddulphGeoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times. He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade. He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”


During your time as an LDS blogger, how have you seen the “bloggernacle” as it is often referred to, the catalog of blogs who claim some voice in the Mormon Community, how have you seen it change during that time?

While we seek to focus on Articles that come from what would be considered more academic or scholarly, we do find articles from time to time that strike an apologetic tone and regardless of the level of scholarship, the argument presented can help those struggling to reframe their position in such a way that might help calm the stormy waters of a faith crisis. Your article entitled, Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff, was released on November 12th, 2014. This was a response to a gospel topics essay that the Church released on Polygamy in the early church, specifically during the Kirtland and Nauvoo periods. If you could, for those that haven’t read the article, summarize what one might find in that piece, specifically the parts that have caused some stir in public discourse recently.

The Church released its gospel topics essay Around October 22nd. A google search just this morning showed a massive amount of news outlets posting articles just three days ago (from the date of this recording), so on November 11th there seemed to be this bump in interest, which makes me wonder what about this topic seems to be keeping this subject around so long?

Your article is in response to a strain of discourse that centers around some discontent or uneasiness with the Church’s release of this gospel topics article. What is that position and why did that strike as something that warranted a response?

You ask the question of the reader but I want to turn it back on you, Why didn’t the Church teach me this stuff?

It is a difficult position to respond to because you don’t want to demean what someone is feeling, that kind of hurt or shock is sometimes not so easily dismissed. So, how does your article serve to address that dissonance?

This may sound like a loaded question or one that is hard to answer in a short podcast, but if people are feeling that the church hid this from them, it begs the question, what is the role or responsibility the church has towards its members with respect to topics such as this? All the lurid details as you put it in your article?

The article concludes:

The Church did teach you stuff about even controversial topics. Perhaps you were distracted or didn’t pay attention or were not curious enough to explore on your own. You are ultimately responsible for your own learning, and you are responsible for how you respond to new information. That is what that whole “free agency” thing is all about.

Fair Issues 72: How did the Book of Mormon people travel to the New World?

Posted on by

MAIn this podcast brother Ash discusses how the Lehites weren’t the only Book of Mormon people to come from the Old to the New World.  The Mulekites (or people of Zarahemla) and the Jaredites (who preceded the Lehites) also begin their journeys from the Old World.  The next few issues will examine the world of the Jaredites and their journey to the New World.

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 FairMormon 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.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


Fair Issues 71: Were there transoceanic voyages in ancient times?

Posted on by

MAWhile LDS scholars agree with non-LDS scholars that the New World was populated primarily by humans who traversed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago, a growing number of non-LDS scholars agree with LDS scholars that there was transoceanic contact between the Old World and the New Worlds in ancient times.

In the podcast brother Ash explores the evidences for cultural, linguistic and botanical discoveries that confirm such voyages did take place in both directions between the 7th millennium B.C. and the European age of discovery.

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 FairMormon 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.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


Fair Issues 69: Where is the land Bountiful?

Posted on by

MAIn this podcast brother Ash discusses possible locations for the land Bountiful.

Current research supports the view presented in the Book of Mormon. In the southern Arabia country of Oman near the border of Yemen is a costal province known a Dhofar which has a fertile region – only a few miles wide – on the coast of the Arabian Sea.  This mountainous area covers more than 38,000 miles square miles and historically was the chief source of frankincense in the world.

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 FairMormon 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.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon