Category Archives: LDS History

FairMormon Frameworks 6: Russell Stevenson and “Elijah Ables”

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RussellStevensonRussell discusses with us today his his research into the life of the first black priesthood holder in this dispensation, Elijah Ables. We also extend to talking about the Priesthood ban, it’s history and implications, and what it means for one struggling today. 

Russell Stevenson is the author of  “Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables,” which is available on Amazon as an E-Book -Black Mormon: Story of Elijah Ables.

Benchmark Books – Story of Elijah Ables

Amazon – Hardcopy

 The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

 

Apostles and Apologetics: Doers of the Word

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Devotional-Elder ChristoffersonBack in April, I did a blog post on some of the apologetically relevant statements from General Conference, including the instruction, from Elder Robert D. Hales, to “protect and defend the kingdom of God.” Well, as with most things our leaders teach us to do, they are also doers of the word who practice what they preach.

In a recent devotional address at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed some criticisms of the Church and made other apologetically relevant comments. Elder Christofferson opens up by briefly relating the visit of Moroni to Joseph Smith, and noting how Moroni told Joseph Smith that both good and evil would be spoken of him throughout the world (see Joseph Smith—History 1:33). This is an appropriate way to start, not only because it allows for the discussion of the good and the evil said about Joseph Smith and the Restoration today, but because Elder Christofferson was giving his address just days after the 190th anniversary of Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith. What an appropriate occasion to discuss the fulfillment of that prophecy! As Elder Christofferson remarks,

to think that this boy growing up in a poor family, in the smallest of small towns, in a country of limited influence and prestige in the world should come to such prominence that his name would be had for good or ill among all nations, kindreds, and people—it was truly (to use an overused word) incredible. Nevertheless, it is a prophecy that has been fulfilled in significant measure and that is more fully realized year by year.

Elder Christofferson talks about the monumental Joseph Smith Papers Project, as research initiative by the Church Historical Department intent on publishing every document written or commissioned by Joseph Smith. He notes that this “expanding access we enjoy to the Prophet’s work and teachings fills previous voids in our knowledge, confirms some things we already knew or thought, and supplies answers to questions we might have had. The information also raises new questions and highlights new areas of inquiry to pursue.” He also stresses that, “we ought not to expect in this life to know all the answers (or for that matter, all the questions).” This wide access to information of Joseph Smith, however, facilitates both aspects of Moroni’s prophecy – both the good and the evil to be spoken of Joseph Smith. Elder Christofferson reminds his audience of this, and offers three important principles to be applied when encountering the “evil” that is spoken of the prophet, his work, and his teachings.

You know, of course, that as prophesied by Moroni, there are those whose research relating to Joseph Smith is not for the purpose of gaining added light and knowledge but to undermine his character, magnify his flaws, and if possible destroy his influence. Their work product can sometimes be jarring, and so can issues raised at times by honest historians and researchers with no “axe to grind.” But I would offer you this advice in your own study: Be patient, don’t be superficial, and don’t ignore the Spirit.

First, be patient. Under this heading, Elder Christofferson reminds us that “while some answers come quickly or with little effort, others are simply not available for the moment because information or evidence is lacking. Don’t suppose, however, that a lack of evidence about something today means that evidence doesn’t exist or that it will not be forthcoming in the future. The absence of evidence is not proof.” John E. Clark, a professional archaeologist, is in agreement, as he once wrote:

Given current means of verification, positive evidence is here to stay, but negative items may prove to be positive ones in hiding. “Missing” evidence focuses further research, but it lacks the compelling logical force in arguments because it represents the absence of information rather than secure evidence.

As an example of this, Elder Christofferson cites a FairMormon blogpost by Book of Mormon scholar Matt Roper, which deals with steel in ancient Israel and the Book of Mormon. While no evidence supported the idea of a sword of “most precious steel” existing in 600 BC Jerusalem at the time the Book of Mormon was published (a lack of evidence that persisted for more than a century), it is now an accepted fact that the steeling of iron was known to Israelites well before Nephi’s time, and steel swords contemporary to the Book of Mormon account have been unearthed in the area. This is but one of many examples that could be given.

John E. Clark has collected sixty examples of alleged anachronisms that have been used against the Book of Mormon since 1829 and found that about sixty percent of them have now been verified by archaeology, while suggestive evidence has emerged for another ten (of the sixty) criticisms, though this evidence remains inconclusive. All in all, this means that evidence is more favorable to some degreenow than it was in 1830 in seventy-five percent of the sixty cases. Researcher Kevin Christensen recently reevaluated a Book of Mormon critique from 1982 to make the same point: with time (and research), many claims made against the Book of Mormon begin to look out-dated as new evidence offers support.

In a footnote to his address, Elder Christofferson also addressed the claim some critics have raised that Joseph Smith was wrong when he said there were religious revivals in the area of Palmyra in 1820. Elder Christofferson cited this FairMormon article and explained that greater access to original sources has revealed not only that revivals were common, but “that revivals were common enough that often they garnered no coverage in the newspapers unless something out of the ordinary occurred such as a death.” As with the Book of Mormon, historian Steven C. Harper has shown that criticisms of the First Vision have faded with time.These and the many similar examples underscore Elder Christofferson’s message of patience: “Where answers are incomplete or lacking altogether, patient study and patient waiting for new information and discoveries to unfold will often be rewarded with understanding.”

This leads well into Elder Christofferson’s second point, to not be superficial. Accepting the claims of critics or, as Elder Christofferson calls them, “insincere seekers,” at face value can be ill advised. Drawing on the words poet Alexander Pope, Elder Christofferson advises us to “drink deep” from the fountain of knowledge. Serious inquiry requires the time and patience mentioned above, and it rarely, if ever, assumes the “obvious” from quick and superficial study.

As a part of this, Elder Christofferson urges us to check our assumptions about the Church and it’s leaders. “When I say don’t be superficial, I mean don’t form conclusions based on unexamined assertions or incomplete research,” he says, and notes that, “We should be careful not to claim for Joseph Smith perfections he did not claim for himself. He need not have been superhuman to be the instrument in God’s hands that we know him to be.” Elder Christofferson quotes some of the many times in which Joseph Smith himself acknowledged his imperfections. Elder Christofferson then helps provide some of the big picture that critics often fail to see as they wade in the minutia of Church history: “Joseph Smith was a mortal man striving to fulfill an overwhelming, divinely- appointed mission against all odds. The wonder is not that he ever displayed human failings, but that he succeeded in his mission. His fruits are undeniable and undeniably good.”

In his address, Elder Christofferson contrasts this patient, deep mode of seeking with the tactics of those whom he terms “insincere seekers,” and distinguishes them from the honest researchers who may also raise serious, even if troubling, questions. He says:

While some honestly pursue truth and real understanding, others are intent on finding or creating doubts. Their interpretations may come from projecting 21st Century concepts and culture backward onto 19th Century people. If there are differing interpretations possible, they will pick the most negative. They sometimes accuse the Church of hiding something because they only recently found or heard about it—an interesting accusation for a Church that’s publishing 24 volumes of all it can find of Joseph Smith’s papers. They may share their assumptions and speculations with some glee, but either can’t or won’t search further to find contradictory information.

Most importantly, however, Elder Christofferson advises that as we seek answers to historical puzzles, we do not neglect the Spirit:

Finally, don’t neglect the Spirit. As regards Joseph Smith, we seek learning both by study and by faith. Both are fruitful paths of inquiry. A complete understanding can never be attained by scholarly research alone, especially since much of what is needed is either lost or never existed. There is no benefit in imposing artificial limits on ourselves that cut off the light of Christ and the revelations of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit has an important role in the process discussed above of exercising patience and “drinking deeply.” It is by the assurance of the Spirit that we can proceed to act in faith as we patiently seek answers about this or that historical issue. Elder Christofferson uses the example of the Mark Hoffman forgeries, and then stresses:

In matters of faith, a spiritual witness is essential if one is to avoid being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. [Eph. 4:14]”  With a Spirit-derived assurance in place, you can go forward in the Lord’s work and continue deepening your relationship with your Heavenly Father while pursuing or awaiting answers. If you determine to sit still, paralyzed until every question is answered and every whisper of doubt resolved, you will never move because in this life there will always be some issue pending or something yet unexplained.

Ultimately, some answers will never come in this life. Faith is a principle of action, and it is in the acting that we often gain our testimonies. We must not let unanswered questions keep us from exercising our faith.

After discussing how to approach historical issues, Elder Christofferson goes on to remind us of what it most important:

Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling is key to our religion. Without his commission from the Father and the Son, without his priesthood ordinations and the keys he received at the hands of duly appointed heavenly messengers, without the fullness of the gospel restored through his visions and revelations and his translations of the Book of Mormon and the Bible, what we would have is something much less than true Christianity. It is critical that we gain a witness of these things by study and above all, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost.

He also adds that, “Despite all this, however, I remind you that Joseph Smith is not our foundation—it is Jesus Christ and Him crucified and resurrected. Joseph Smith, Jr. was called of God ‘to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and a prophet.’ [D&C 124:125]” While Elder Christofferson may seem, to some, to have departed from apologetics, I think here Elder Christofferson actually does something that is an important part of good apologetics: rather than just respond to objections, or talk about how to handle criticisms, Elder Christofferson also seeks to build faith. He does this by discussing the important things Joseph Smith accomplished as a prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ, and bearing testimony of those things. In apologetics, we must do more than simply address the negative. We must also provide the positive. We must give people reasons to believe. This can be done in a number of ways; bearing testimony, sharing evidences, or telling personal experiences of how the gospel and the Church have blessed you are only some examples. The exact method (or combination of methods) should probably be adapted based on circumstances, but it is always important to try and give the person who is doubting something positive to build on.

As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ speaking in a devotional setting, it is appropriate that Elder Christofferson used his own and Joseph Smith’s testimony of the Savior, the witness of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and the martyrdom of the prophet to serve as faith promoting points to build on. As the apostles often do, Elder Christofferson closes with his own testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

I bear witness of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, and to his magnificent revelation of Jesus, I reverently add my own testimony of the Christ. I too know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. He stands at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the Redeemer, and His grace is sufficient. I pray that all may receive the testimony of Joseph Smith and come unto Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

FairMormon Frameworks 4: Brian Hales Polygamy

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hales

We sit down with Brian Hales, LDS author of “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy.”  We ask him the hard questions fast and furious and he does a great job answering them.  We discuss polygamy, polyandry, and Joseph’s withholding the knowledge of the practice from the public and even the general membership.  Brian handles every question that is thrown at him. This is a must listen for every person who struggles with polygamy and polyandry. 

The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

 

Bro. Hales books can be found here

Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

 Brian’s Websites

http://www.josephsmithspolygamy.com/

http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/

FairMormon Frameworks 3: What Is Doctrine

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doctrineBill Reel and Jon Westover sit down and have a discussion over “What is Doctrine and What isn’t.”  They attempt to try and differentiate between doctrine, policy, and culture.  Using statements from leaders and their own unofficial insights, they try to establish ways the average member can navigate “What is Doctrine.”

- How big is the “Box” of Mormon Doctrine?

- What is the Church’s official stance on what is Doctrine?

-  Is there room for those struggling to have more flexibility than what they perceive?

- What were Joseph Smith’s feelings on creeds and dogma and defining Mormonism strictly?

 

The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

To get to know our guest participant, Jon Westover better, please check out these informational resources

http://mormonscholarstestify.org/3093/jonathan-hinton-westover

FairMormon Frameworks 2 : Steven Harper First Vision

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Harper_StephenIn this interview with Steven C. Harper, we focus on his book  ”Joseph Smith’s First Vision – A Guide to Historical Accounts” and discuss the context, differences, unity, and other aspects of the different accounts.  We also talk about how best to handle a faith crisis and and how you are of much worth to the Church.

Steven C Harper, until recently, was a professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU.  He has written several books and has contributed to the Joseph Smith Papers project.

Listeners will note that the sound quality of this episode suffers slightly, but this interview is full of insights that will be beneficial to the listener, so I hope you’ll hang in there.

The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

Bro Harper’s book can be found here

Joseph Smith First Vision

Mormon FAIR-Cast 160b: Don Bradley and Dan Peterson Taking Questions

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Joseph Smith Scholar Don Bradley and Dr. Dan Peterson take calls on K-Talk radio and answer a wide variety of questions in this interview that took place on July 25, 2013 on Drive Time Live with Mills Crenshaw.

This recording is posted here by permission of K-Talk Radio. The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the views of FAIR or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This is the second of a two-part interview.

Translating the Book of Mormon

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Ash (newer) PictureHow did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon? Joseph didn’t share many details of the translation process other than the fact that he received the translation by the gift and power of God. In order to develop any theories on how it was done we must to turn to clues from those who witnessed the events. When we examine those details we quickly discover that the translation process may not have been like what many members have envisioned.

As I began to write this article (based on my promise in the last installment) a friend of mine coincidentally published a detailed discussion of this topic in the new Interpreter on-line journal so I’ll provide a link at the end of this article for those who want more depth on this fascinating subject.

The average member’s mental image of Joseph translating the plates is generally formed from artwork in Church magazines and comments from Sunday school teachers rather than from a critical examination of the historical evidence.

Unfortunately most artists are not historians and may produce beautiful drawings and paintings that are based on misassumptions. Some wonderful LDS artwork, for example, depicts Caucasian-looking Nephites with romance-novel cover-model physiques wielding broadswords and Viking-like helmets—none of which fits the actual images that could be created for how early American warriors would have looked or the weapons they would have utilized.

The average painting of the Savior typically falls victim to similar problems with features generally based on the cultural or theological perspectives of the artist rather than on historical accuracy.[i] Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” for example, depicts European-looking men sitting at a regular table instead of Middle Eastern men reclining at the low tables of Jesus’ day. An Italian Renaissance portrait of Mary and the baby Jesus has a Renaissance castle and town in the background, and the 1569 “Census of Bethlehem” by a Belgian artist depicts snow and ice-skaters in what appears to be a Renaissance Belgium village.[ii]

Some Church art of the Book of Mormon translation shows Joseph studiously looking at the plates with one finger on the engraved letters as if he could actually read what each character said. Some show Joseph reading the characters to his scribe Oliver Cowdery with the plates exposed in full view of them both. Other images show Joseph dictating to a scribe sitting on the opposite side of a curtain. A few images show Joseph looking at the plates through the Nephite Interpreters. All of these images are incorrect.

First, while a curtain may have been used between Joseph and Martin Harris (the first Book of Mormon scribe) the majority of the text was translated in the open while the plates were covered with a cloth. The plates were never in open view and were only exposed to others as instructed by the Lord when they were shown to witnesses. A curtain or blanket appears to have been draped across the entry to the living room at the Whitmer house (where much of the translation took place) in order to give Joseph and his scribe privacy from curious on-lookers while they worked.[iii] This curtain was apparently not present all of the time, however, because other Whitmer family members were witnesses to the translation process.

While some LDS artwork doesn’t depict any translating tools, most informed members are aware of the Nephite “Interpreters” that Moroni put in the stone box with the plates so Joseph would have a tool for translating. According to those who handled the Interpreters they were like large spectacles with stones or crystals in place of lenses.

Many of the details on the Book of Mormon translation method become lost or muddied over time. Part of this confusion was the result of the fact that some early Latter-day Saints began referring to the Interpreters as the “Urim and Thummim”—a reference to a device in the Old Testament that was associated with the High Priest’s breastplate and used for divination or for receiving answers from God (see Exodus 28:30).The early Saints didn’t think that the Nephite Interpreters were theUrim and Thummim mentioned in the Bible but were another Urim and Thummim given for translating the plates.

Unfortunately the Interpreters didn’t come with instructions and Joseph was apparently left on his own as to how to use them. This is when his cultural background came in handy.

It’s important first to return to D&C 1:24 which tells us that God speaks to His children (including the prophets) in “in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” Our “language” includes more than words, but also how we understand the world around us. My “language” is different than the language of Joseph Smith, or Moses, or Gandhi. In Abraham’s day it was believed that the disc-shaped earth was covered with an inverted heavenly bowl that contained a heavenly ocean. Windows would open periodically to let out the rains.

In Joseph Smith’s day many of the frontiersmen in his vicinity believed that divining rods and seer stones could be used to find water, lost objects, and treasures. The ability to divine was generally considered to be a God-given gift and was practiced by devoutly religious men and women.

Long prior to acquiring the plates the young Joseph Smith was a believer in divination. In fact, he and his friends and family believed that he had the God-given gift to find lost objects by way of a seer stone. Seer stones were thought to be special stones in which one could see the location of the object for which one was divining. The seer stones were related to crystal balls or the practice of looking into pools of water or mirrors to divine information (such as the Queen’s magic mirror in the Snow White tale).

While this seems strange in modern times, in Joseph’s day many intelligent, educated, and religious people believed that such real powers existed in the forces of nature.  Well into the nineteenth-century, for instance, a number of people believed in alchemy—the belief that baser metals could be turned into gold. Some of New England’s practicing alchemists were graduates from Yale and Harvard and one alchemist was the Chief Justice of Massachusetts.[iv]

In order to see inside of the stone, it was sometimes placed between one’s eye and the flicker of a candle, or into something dark—such as an upside down hat—to shield out all light.  It was believed that in such an environment a seer (someone who “sees”) could stare into the stone for the information one was seeking.

When Joseph first acquired the Nephite Interpreters he also tried placing them into a hat to shield the light.  Although he apparently managed to translate the 116 lost pages by this method he complained that he had a hard time fitting the spectacles into the hat and that the two lenses were set too far apart—and were apparently made for someone with a broader face. It gave him eyestrain when he stared into the lenses.

After Joseph lost the first 116 pages, the Interpreters and his gift to translate were temporarily taken away. Eventually, after repenting, Joseph’s gift was returned but instead of using the Nephite Interpreters Joseph was allowed to use his seer stone to finish the translating process. In Joseph’s “language” the seer stone had the same properties as the Interpreters and was therefore also a Urim and Thummin. So when many early records speak of Joseph translating by way of the Urim and Thummim they are generally referring to the seer stone and not the Interpreters. Unfortunately, through time, members had forgotten about the seer stone (as divination become less accepted by society) and eventually most members assumed that the only Urim and Thummim Joseph used was the Interpreters.

The seer stone made the translating process much easier and we read that Joseph would sit for hours, his face in the hat—to obscure the light—while he saw the English translation of the Book of Mormon text that he dictated to his scribes.

While such an image may shock modern members, we have to remember that the Lord works through the culture of His children as speaks to them in language (words, symbols, and methods) through which they can understand. If one can accept that Nephite Interpreters could be used to translate an ancient document, is it really a wonder that God might have prepared Joseph with the cultural belief in seer stones so that he would be receptive to the workings of the Interpreters or that he believed that his seer stone was a Urim and Thummin like the Interpreters.

In reality the major difference between the average-member-view of the Book of Mormon translation (Joseph looked into the crystals in the Interpreters) vs the historical view (Joseph looked into a seer stone in a hat) is the “hat”—one is a stone or crystal out of the hat; the other is in a hat.

Joseph, of course, was not alone in believing in unscientific things in a world that didn’t have today’s advantages of scientific knowledge. The Bible records several instances or forms of divining as practiced by the righteous followers of God. We read that Aaron had a magical rod (Exodus 7:9–12). Jacob also used magical rods to cause Laban’s cattle to produce spotted and speckled offspring (see Genesis 30:37–39). In Numbers 5 we read about a magical test for adultery in which the priest would give the suspect a potion to drink. If the woman was guilty, her thigh would swell (v. 11–13, 21). The Old Testament records that the Joseph had a silver cup by which “he divineth” (Genesis 44:2, 5). This convention, known as hydromancy, was also practiced by the surrounding pagans. The casting of lots (sortilege) to choose a new Apostle (see Acts 1:26) was known and practiced by the pagans of Jesus’ day. Even some of Christ’s miracles were similar to the magic of surrounding pagans. Jesus’ healing of the deaf man by putting his fingers in his ears (Mark 7:33–35) and Jesus’ healing of the blind man by touching his eyes with spittle and clay were also common pagan practices.

Although the historical picture of the Book of Mormon translation process is not as commonly known to some members as it perhaps should be, despite the cries of critics the Church hasn’t been hiding this information. It has been mentioned for instance in the Ensign,[v] (one instance in which the talk was originally given to Mission Presidents[vi]), the Friend,[vii] as well as other LDS-targeted publications.

As we continue our discussion of scriptures and translation in subsequent installments it’s important to note that from the historical record we also learn that Joseph translated in plain sight of other witnesses and that, because his face was buried in a hat to exclude light, it would have been impossible for him to be reading the text of another document while he dictated the translation.

For those who would like to read a much more detailed paper on this topic I recommend Roger Nicholson’s new Interpreter article, “The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat, and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer’s View of the Book of Mormon Translation” as well as Brant Gardner’s award winning book The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon.


[iii] “David Whitmer Interview with Chicago Tribune, 15 December 1885,” in Early Mormon Documents, ed., Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2003), 5:153.

[iv] Cited in Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, 2nd ed. (Redding CA: FAIR, 2013), 282.

[v] Richard Lloyd Anderson, “By the Gift and Power of God,” Ensign (September 1977), 80; Gerrit Dirkmaat, “Great and Marvelous are the Revelations of God,”Ensign (January 2013), 46 (while Dirkmaat doesn’t mention the hat, he does explain that Joseph sometimes used a seer stone [also referred to as a Urim and Thummim] to receive revelation.)

[vi] Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign (July 1993). (Like Anderson [above] Nelson does mention both the seer stone and hat).

[vii] “A Peaceful Heart,” Friend (September 1974). (This article doesn’t mention the hat but does mention the “egg-shaped, brown rock… called a seer stone.”)

* This article was cross-posted from Meridian Magazine.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses

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Most of the eleven official witnesses to the gold plates later left the Church. Is this evidence that the Church is not true? Or do these circumstances actually help strengthen the claim that the gold plates actually existed? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on March 20, 2013, Martin Tanner addresses these and other questions.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR. Listeners will note that the first part of this recording is missing.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 147: Using Objects to Receive Revelation

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What did it mean in the Book of Commandments to say that Oliver Cowdery had the gift of working with the “rod of nature.” What is the “gift of Aaron?” Are there other examples of physical objects being used to receive revelation? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on January 13, 2013, Martin Tanner responds to this question and discusses many of the anti-Mormon attacks. Further discussion of this topic can be found at the FAIR Wiki.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

New Doctrine and Covenants resources available from lds.org and Interpreter

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At FAIR, we like to keep abreast of various resources which become available for studying, understanding, and teaching the gospel. With the current Sunday School year focusing on the Doctrine and Covenants, there are two new resources to which we would particularly like to call your attention, as well as some old favorites. The first is found here:

http://history.lds.org/series/doctrine-and-covenants-revelations-in-context?lang=eng#

and contains articles written by historians discussing with balance and grace some of the key characters and events associated with the restoration. A particular focus is the context in which the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received. These historical papers provide a golden opportunity for teachers and students to better understand the context and process through which Joseph received many of the early canonized revelations so that they can better apply the process in obtaining divine guidance in their own lives. They also provide an excellent opportunity to better understand the historical unfolding of the restoration.

The Scripture Roundtables, hosted by Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture provide a second useful resource in the study of the Doctrine and Covenants. Each Roundtable involves a rotating collection of scholars discussing the gospel doctrine lessons. The discussions are roughly forty minutes each and may be found here:

http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/category/scripture-roundtable/

The guests have included a number of BYU professors, scholars associated with FAIR, students at Claremont Graduate University and other specialists who each bring unique insights and perspective to the study of the scripture. Interpreter’s multimedia platform makes it especially ideal for those who like to learn on the go. Their roundtable discussions are available as an itunes podcast as well as in the youtube format linked above.

A few other notable resources bear mention. This site: http://bit.ly/ldsarcdc provides teachers notes, slide shows, and class handouts for the Doctrine and Covenants.

Another resource, located at http://scripture.byu.edu, provides references for each time a scripture has been used in, for example, General Conference, and allows a teacher or student to get an idea how a particular scripture is typically employed in teaching.

Used wisely, these various (ultimately explanatory) resources help us fulfil our divinely mandated duty to “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7) and also to “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;” (D&C 88:78)