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.