Monday, April 24, 2017

Elder Boyd K. Packer as a Special Witness of Jesus

            Editorial Note: this blog piece introduces and comments on a few matters relating to a chapter in my forthcoming book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to know Jesus Christ.

            Some six years ago, Elder David A. Bednar gave an interview to a staff member in the office of the BYU Religion Department’s Religious Educator journal. It was all about the work and purpose of special witnesses of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world; the work and testimony of the apostleship. In this piece he mentioned the following conversation: “President Boyd K. Packer and I were talking one day when he made a most helpful observation. He said the longer one serves as a member of the Twelve, the weightier the mantle becomes and the more overwhelmed you feel. I think this truth also applies to all Church callings. The longer I serve, the more I see and understand the weight of the calling. Consequently, the responsibility drives me to my knees and requires me to rely upon heavenly help instead of the arm of flesh.”

            President Packer’s apostolic mantle found place upon his shoulders for over four decades, and he bore it well. I recently listened to a talk by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, now an emeritus member of the Seventy. He spoke of listening to a very old man who had served in many local leadership capacities, and who had known most of the General Authorities for many decades. This old man replied to someone’s question about who among all those church leaders impressed him the most. His answer was that they all impressed him, but that Elder Packer impressed him as having a marvelously pure heart for one so young. He felt Elder Packer evidenced a clean and pure mind and heart, with no guile.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Book coming about Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ: “I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ”

            During the decades around the turn of the 19th to 20th Centuries, Andrew Jenson, for many years an assistant Church Historian, collected voluminous amounts of data and published hundreds of short biographical sketches in his LDS Biographical Encyclopedia (4 vols.). Orson F. Whitney did the same in the 4th volume of his imposing History of Utah. Also around this time Elder Matthias Cowley (father of Elder Matthew Cowley) also produced similar work in his Prophets and Patriarchs. (This was before his fall from grace as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve over plural marriage issues.) Some other similar works, such as Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, by Frank Esshom, also appeared.

            These works often traded information and articles with one another and it is sometimes said that to more recent academic historians, they feel more like lengthy obituaries. They concentrated on the highlights of what their subjects had done, including various inspirational stories and important leadership positions held. The more prominent subjects usually got more space. While limited in nature, these earlier treatments remain valuable as being a source of helpful biographical information on many early prominent Mormons and Utahns.

            In the 1950s, Bryant S. Hinckley, father of President Gordon B. Hinckley, then in his late eighties, wrote Faith of Our Pioneer Fathers. This work of under 300 pages has some 22 chapters, each biographically covering an important LDS church leader from the past. The individual pieces are somewhat longer than most of the previous treatments mentioned above and contain more stories and anecdotes and spiritual experiences had by their subjects. This volume was published in 1956 when Hinckley was 89 years old. His intention was to be faith-affirming and inspirational as well as truthful—a worthy goal.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The LDS Doctrine of Sex in the Spirt World and the Resurrection

In the proclamation on the family, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[1] From this we are assured that male and female reproductive organs will remain in their proper place as gender identifiers for all eternity, worlds without end.
Misled people can make use of all the science and surgery they can to change these identifiers in mortality, but in the next life beyond the veil they will see that they still have the same essential characteristics they were born with to those same heavenly parents in their pre-existent home. God our Eternal Father is a perfect being with all knowledge and all power and he knows how to put a male spirit in a male body and a female spirit in a female body and he has never made one mistake in this regard in all the history of the world; nor will He ever. For those rare incidents of nature or other intervention, where some confusion (on our part) is present with these organs, if nothing sorts them out before then, death certainly will. Surgery cannot affect the eternal spirit found within the body of a man or woman in any way.
            But there is a further question as it relates to the resurrection: will those sexual characteristics/organs be functional—will they be operative? The revelation says: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1-4). These verses constitute the settled doctrine of the church, that those who are resurrected with any kind of body other than an exalted glorified body in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, will not be able to have increase, or spirit children—a continuation of the seeds: “Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:16-17). This is the eternal law.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Critique of John Dehlin's LGBT Research

This paper shows that John Dehlin has been playing fast and loose with statistics and surveying methods.

John Dehlin and the Weaponization of Scientific Research by Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Future of the Church

            Some of the enemies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have predicted its demise over its stand opposing gay marriage and homosexual sin. They predict that within a few decades the Church will disintegrate and be no more.
            Below is what the prophets have said, to the contrary. Somehow I just don’t think we need strain our minds with great mental exertions and run about in circles suffering anxiety and panic to figure out which voices speak the truth. I think President Hinckley’s thoughts pretty well sum it up, and President Packer’s confirm:  

President Gordon B. Hinckley discussed this very question:
I noted from last Sunday’s papers that a new book is off the press, put together as a “history” of this work by two men who have spent much time gathering data. I have not read the book, but the conclusion, reported one reviewer, is that the future of the Church is dim.
Without wishing to seem impertinent, I should like to ask what they know about that future. They know nothing of the prophetic mission of this Church. The future must have looked extremely dim in the 1830s. It must have looked impossible back in those Ohio-Missouri days. But notwithstanding poverty, notwithstanding robbing, notwithstanding murders, notwithstanding confiscation and drivings and disfranchisement forced upon the Saints, the work moved steadily on. It has continued to go forward. Never before has it been so strong. Never before has it been so widespread. Never before have there been so many in whose hearts has burned an unquenchable knowledge of the truth.
It is the work of the Almighty. It is the work of his Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the gospel of salvation. Men and women may write now, just as Hurlburt and E. B. Howe and others wrote in those days, but the work goes on because it is true and it is divine. These are the best of times in the history of this work. What a wonderful privilege it is to be a part of it in this great era.

President Boyd K. Packer has declared: “Despite opposition, the Church will flourish; and despite persecution, it will grow.”

Will there be a sifting of the wheat from the tares as the years pass? Of course. Will the weak and even a few of the elect be deceived? The prophecies so state. But I think the above quotations speak for themselves, despite the gnashing of teeth by the adversary and his online spokespeople.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gay Activism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Ruminations on Promoting Sin

Editor's note: an earlier version of this appeared here on February 13, 2016.

(Revised and Enlarged)

President Gordon B. Hinckley knew exactly what he was talking about when, in a 1997 general conference, he cautioned members of the Church, saying: “I hope you will never look to the public press [or bloggers/social media] as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” His point was that most commentary from such sources fails to one degree or another to accurately represent or communicate Church doctrine, practice, and policy. The result is that many readers are given a false impression of the Church’s position and judge it falsely thereby. Of course, such a result—misunderstanding and confusion—is usually what the reporter or blogger—often a gay activist—seeks. They know there is nothing easier to sway than an outraged but misinformed audience.

The Position of the Church

The Proclamation on the Family, issued by the First Presidency, teaches that “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[1] The First Presidency has further stated:

We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord. As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.[2]

During an occasion when activists and media were agitating, President Hinckley stated the following, which is the same thing he would say today if he still lived:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #42: George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton

Editor's note: This is the last of a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            George Smith, owner of Signature Books, is an atheist and critic of the Mormon Church who interests himself in issues and episodes of LDS history that he dislikes—polygamy being one of them. His publishing company’s ultimate purpose seems to be to reinterpret Mormon history so that the divine element is missing. On occasion he self-publishes his own works; hence his version of the journals of William Clayton. While most students of LDS history are grateful for those publications that make available new sources and documents, they do have an expectation, often disappointed, that what they buy will meet established scholarly standards. In this case, they are again disappointed.

            James B. Allen, former assistant church historian and BYU history professor, reviewed An Intimate Chronicle for BYU Studies with the eye of one who had already spent considerable time himself with the journals for his own scholarly works. He discovered that G. D. Smith was using purloined notes of the journals instead of the originals for his transcriptions, and that he was purposely omitting parts of the journals to make them seem more sensational. For example:        “Though editors have the right to determine what to eliminate, it is unfortunate in this case that some seemingly significant entries were excluded while some relatively insignificant passages were retained. Sunday, March 8, 1840, for example, was a very eventful Sabbath day for Clayton. In the morning, he prayed with a Sister Burgess, who had a serious infection on her breast. He also recorded where he had breakfast, who spoke at Church meetings during the day and evening; the ordination of certain men to the priesthood; some baptisms and confirmations; visits he made to members of the Church; gifts he received of oranges and money (he often recorded such thing as a reflection of his gratitude for people who supplied him with food and other needs while he was working without purse or scrip); and, finally, a cryptic comment about using ‘liberty’ toward Alice Hardman. In his abridgement, however, Smith kept only about one-sixth of the total entry: ‘Sister Burgess came. Her breast is very bad. I prayed with her…. Supper at Hardman’s. Used great liberty toward Alice Hardman’ (33). By including only the somewhat titillating material and leaving out the much more important information about Clayton and what he was doing as a missionary, this ‘abridgement’ does little but distort the day’s activity” (BYU Studies, Vol. 55, No. 2 [1995], 166).

            Because this distorted version of Clayton’s journals was published in paperback, it was more widely distributed than many other Signature publications—how many unsuspecting readers will be fooled, or at least misled, by this manipulated mess.