Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Introduction to a Series on Teachings and Testimony of the First Vision (and first installment)

Compiled by Dennis B.Horne

            As is probably fairly well known by now to most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the October 2019 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson said: “In the springtime of the year 2020, it will be exactly 200 years since Joseph Smith experienced the theophany that we know as the First Vision. God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth. That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible. . . .
            “Thus, the year 2020 will be designated as a bicentennial year. General conference next April will be different from any previous conference. In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.”
            I am sure many of us are curious what President Nelson meant about next conference being “different from any previous conference.”[1] I have no inside information, but surely it would be safe to guess that such a conference would include powerful teachings and testimony from prophets and apostles and other general church officers regarding the First Vision and other Restoration events. I think myself on solid ground in so venturing, in part because President Nelson also noted it would be “a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.” Those foundations are understood to be the very items President Nelson referenced by name in his address and should be on the tip of every member’s tongue.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Jana Just Doesn’t Get It (and Probably Knows It)

            Jana Riess, an (evidently) leading and loud voice for liberals/progressives/dissidents opposing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while trying to stay in it, is continuing to clearly position herself further outside the mainstream of orthodox believers.

            In a recent blog, she wrote regarding the new temple recommend questions: “Does the new Mormon temple recommend interview make things better or worse for members who struggle with chastity or who support teachings the church opposes?” She went on to “parse” the revised questions looking for loopholes—I suppose she hopes she won’t have to bend the truth as much when she herself is interviewed.

            But the quoted question itself is deafening in its obtuseness. I am supposing that by “things” she means remaining a dissident but still getting into the temple; not the right perspective; like getting credit for a class with a D grade. But the real issue here relates to her championing of LGBT people desiring to break the law of chastity and remain members in good standing, and her ever-growing activist agenda of supporting teachings the Church opposes.

            Jana Riess, and anyone else for that matter, can rationalize and bend the truth and parse the recommend questions all they want, even bald-face lie to their local leaders, and often succeed in obtaining a recommend—for all the good that it will do them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

“The Seven [or Ten] Deadly Heresies”: Thoughts on Elder McConkie’s Famous BYU Devotional Address

            In 1980 Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a powerful devotional address at Brigham Young University. Most saw it as a sweet doctrinal feast at the table of the Lord, but some others were upset with it and have called it controversial to this day.

            The fact that Elder McConkie quoted scripture in-depth to refute man-made theories that God is still progressing in knowledge and that He used organic evolution to create man (Adam and Eve) did not sit well with those who favored these notions. In fact, those who disagreed with some of his named “heresies” have completely dismissed his teachings out of hand. This they have a right to do, since neither God nor His Church forces anyone to believe truth.

            They further point out that, because of some outcry from liberal voices, President Spencer W. Kimball asked Elder McConkie to soften some of his authoritative-sounding wording, so that readers would know he was speaking for himself and not for the First Presidency.[1] This he willingly did, so there are some differences between the audio and the printed versions. However, this address still caries substantial spiritual power, simply because the Apostle who delivered it taught doctrine from the revealed word of God, as one having authority. Obviously this fact still rankles the loud liberal/progressive elements in the Church today.

            Other heresies Elder McConkie noted and refuted in the talk were:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Joseph Fielding McConkie Explains Symbolism in Abraham 3

            Note: With the arguing and theorizing going on in some (thankfully narrow) circles regarding the Book of Abraham, and some academics going so far as to call it “controversial” scripture, whatever that means, I found the below items refreshing, appealing, and insightful. They certainly don’t portray the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price as anything less than inspired modern revelation from the Prophet Joseph Smith. No matter what some academics, whether in or out of the church/BYU, may say about the Book of Abraham, all of the prophets and apostles and faithful saints have sustained and honored it as a choice scriptural text, part of the canonized standard works, and the voice of God to us today. 

            Joseph Fielding McConkie:

            It’s no fun to teach what you do not understand. As a Pearl of Great Price teacher, I did not look forward to teaching the first part of Abraham 3 in which the old Prophet is given an expansive vision of the order of heaven.
            I heard a few astronomers explain what was involved there and they had plenty of interesting things to say, but they generally lost me somewhere in space wondering how well I had to understand their science to be saved in the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Some Philosophies of Men Mingled with Doctrine

            The below quotations are taken from an online “Reddit” interview of Terry Givens, (wherein he was pitching a new book he has written about the Pearl of Great Price) containing his responses to questions, and also a few relevant comments from questioners. These are followed by statements of true church doctrine that refute Givens’ statements:

Givens: I think the significance of the BofM, for Joseph and the world generally, was that it was a sign pointing to a renewal of the miraculous universe. It contained very little that was new theologically.

Response: I don’t think most members of the Church would recognize this assertion on the “significance of the Book of Mormon.” If by a “sign” of the “miraculous universe” he means the Book of Mormon is a sign of the beginning of the unfolding of the restoration of the gospel to the earth, then, yes, it is—but why not just say that? Otherwise, the title page of the book indicates its true purpose: “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” Further, the assertion that it contains very little new theologically is unjustified and would be disputed by many students of that volume of scripture.

Interview question: How can I strengthen my testimony once I’ve started to doubt Joseph’s gift of translation?

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Jana Reiss’s Flunking Doctrine

            I have almost come to dread running into Jana Reiss’s blog posts because they are so inept and activist for modern progressive/liberal propaganda. I don’t know what missionaries taught her the discussions/Preach My Gospel, but either they did one lousy job, or she didn’t listen, and instead got her “gospel” knowledge from internet dissidents and our severely troubled society at large.

            These erroneous sources of information have enabled her to misunderstand and misstate most everything she muses or complains about in her aptly named “flunking” blog. Perhaps she knows she is clueless about what she writes; I don’t know. Yet she does have the modern misinformed activists agenda, and that keeps her from gaining any improvement or enlightenment regarding gospel subjects.

            She recently criticized President Dallin H. Oaks, pitting her false understanding of the gospel against his correct teachings in General Conference. The result is that she looks like a fool with a third-grade level of competence. (I sometimes wonder why someone so poorly informed feels to open her mouth and remove all doubt.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Seeking Truth

            Some months ago I noticed the comments of a critic of the Church posted on a (highly critical) chat-site forum. This person wanted to engage with me in a discussion (debate) about Church history and doctrine in hopes of causing doubt or loss of faith. His opening catch-phrase was clever. Something like: “I assume he is a truth-seeker” (meaning me). This was meant to sound innocent; after all, for goodness sake, shouldn’t we all be truth-seekers?; especially Latter-day Saints?

            At first glance I knew sophistry was in play. I realized that this question “are you/is he a truth-seeker,” was a wolf-question in sheep-question disguise. It was a way to ensnare, to set a trap. Something like “beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.”

            But it also gave me further occasion to ponder whether or not I am a truth-seeker, and if so, what kind of truth-seeker I am, and this caused me to engage in some introspection. Sometimes the deceptions of the enemy (Satan’s mortal servants and spokespeople who often don’t know they are) can prod thoughtful people into adjusting or refining their thinking and views, and such was the case for me. While I made no direct response to the subtle crafty critic then, I now offer some broader thoughts on the subject.

Friday, October 4, 2019

LGBT Activists and Reporters Oppose the Prophets Again

             In an LGBT activist “news story” recently published by the Salt Lake Tribune, Peggy Stack, the (alleged) religion reporter and progressive activist, took special aim at President Dallin H. Oaks’ message to church leaders in the General Authority leadership training session of General Conference. (Whether this Tribune piece is really news is debatable, but it did give Peggy an opening to gripe.) President Oaks referenced and defined the word “gender” in the Proclamation on the Family and in other church publication since then, and clarified that it meant biological birth sex—not what some confused person might decide to decree for themselves later. “ ‘Finally, the long-standing doctrinal statements reaffirmed in [The Family: A Proclamation to the World] 23 years ago will not change. They may be clarified as directed by inspiration.’ For example, ‘the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth.’ ”

            This doctrinal statement and clarification from President Oaks evidently upset and offended some LGBT activists, including Peggy Stack (the religion reporter), who then raced to collect some quotations from her activist contacts that could be used to criticize the story. Hence the title including the misleading words “dark day for transgender Latter-day Saints.” The fact that a non-Latter-day Saint (a transgender excommunicant) gave her the quote is ignored; maybe it is simply the fault of a bad headline writer).

            This excommunicated (former) member, who clearly decided it was more important to portray themselves as supposedly becoming the opposite sex than to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is then referenced again: “Oaks’ definition of gender as being the ‘biological sex at birth,’ she [or really he] said, directly contradicts Hall’s own ‘personal revelation.’ ” Stack explained that this person “believes that gender is eternal but that she was born in the wrong body.” And “That is a view shared by many transgender Latter-day Saints who continue in their faith and practice with the church.”

            There are some major issues brought up here. One pertains to the validity of “personal revelation” that contradicts the position of the Church of Jesus Christ and the scriptures. Another is the faulty doctrinal notions of the transgender group Stack references. It might very well be that the very reason that the First Presidency devoted some time to clarifying this doctrine is because some people were viewing it wrong. And another is to speak of “transgender Latter-day Saints who continue in their faith and practice with the church.” People who use surgery and hormones to attempt to change their God-given sex would be highly restricted in any “faith” or “practice” in the Church; their status would leave them able to do little more than a nonmember.

            President Harold B. Lee shared an experience from his tenure as a stake president that explains this transgender activist’s experience with getting false personal revelation. A man in his stake had committed gross immorality, having “harmed a lovely young girl.” The stake presidency and high council met for most of a night and deliberated. The verdict was that the man should be excommunicated. That morning, the man’s brother met a weary President Lee at his office. “This man said, ‘I want to tell you that my brother wasn’t guilty of that thing which you charged him with.’ ‘How do you know he wasn’t guilty?’ I asked. ‘Because I prayed, and the Lord told me he was innocent,’ the man answered.” Thereafter followed a little discussion, in which President Lee interviewed this man who was the brother of the man who was excommunicated. He quickly learned that the man was inactive, did not keep the commandments, and was angry with (had been offended by) his bishop. He did not pray or read the scriptures. President Lee then explained to him how attending church and keeping the commandments and praying and studying the word of God were necessary activities that helped someone to carry the Spirit of the Lord with them and receive personal revelation; the most important one of all being keeping the law of chastity; being morally clean.

            “ ‘Now then,’ I said, ‘fifteen of the best living men in the Pioneer Stake prayed last night. They heard the evidence and every man was united in saying that your brother was guilty. Now, you, who do none of these things, you say you prayed, and you got an opposite answer. How would you explain that?’ Then this man gave an answer that I think was a classic. He said, ‘Well, President Lee, I think I must have gotten my answer from the wrong source.’ And you know that’s just as great a truth as we can have. We get our answer from the source of the power we list to obey. If we’re keeping the commandments of the devil, we’ll get the answer from the Devil.”

            Could any clearer explanation of this current transgender person’s scenario be given, than that set forth 67 years ago by a prophet of God? Anyone getting answers to prayers that conflict with or contradict the word of the Lord as given through His prophets and apostles can easily conclude they are getting their answers from the Devil, like this confused activist did. He/she won’t accept this truth because it runs counter to their new worldly sinful lifestyle and culture, but it is true nonetheless.

            The second issue is whether male spirits can mistakenly get born in female bodies, or female spirits be born in male bodies. We should just as well ask whether God is perfect or not, whether He makes mistakes or not, whether He is omnipotent or not, and so forth. If we buy this argument, then God becomes imperfect and ceases to be God (some baloney that many LGBT activists are arguing is the case anyway).

God does not make mistakes; He puts the right spirit in the right body: male in male and female in female; that we can know with absolute surety. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said that President Marion G. Romney taught the Brethren that God has never put a female spirit in a male body or a male spirit in a female body. "Just a word about homosexuality. President Marion G. Romney said, 'the God of heaven will never put a female spirit in a male body and he’ll never put a male spirit in a female body.' You can write that down as God’s truth. . . . You’re going to hear so much of it in this generation. You need to hear and understand the word of the Lord in this dispensation. And understand the great direction the Brethren have given over the years." God does not make mistakes. The LGBT activist’s arguments are erroneous and only lead themselves and others astray. But Peggy Stack must make an issue of it, being a marvelously misled activist herself—even if it means criticizing in public print a prophet of God. The sad thing is, General Conference time is the most visible time for her to do it and she knows it.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Another Mistaken BYU Harmonize-Evolution-with-Doctrine Movement

“There is no need to attempt to harmonize conflicting views when some of the
views are out of harmony with the Standard Works. This is what life is all about.
The Lord is finding out what we will believe in spite of the allurements of the
world or the philosophies of men or the seemingly rational and logical
explanations that astute people make.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie[1]

“Informed members of the Church know that when they come across statements or
 doctrinal explanations which are contrary to what is in the revealed word, they are duty
bound to reject such.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie[2]

“I see others, [BYU Students] sharp, cynical, skeptical, in the know-it-all arrogance of blossoming young manhood and womanhood. They have inquisitive minds. They are easily taught—and easily led astray. Teach these with extra care.” Elder Boyd K. Packer[3]

            I may be behind the news, but I recently learned, to my dismay, that some professors in the Brigham Young University Biology Department are actively promoting another attempt to harmonize evolution with the gospel. Such a misguided and possibly even spiritually dangerous effort must not go unchallenged and uncorrected.
            I recognize and fully appreciate that BYU biologists must study and teach evolution for the school to be acceptable to the world as an accredited institution of higher learning. I also enthusiastically appreciate the almost inestimable value of the great majority of science for the betterment of the world.
            What is not appreciated, and what is unacceptable, is when the theories of the historical life sciences are forced to mix with the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in ancient and modern revelation—specifically, the theory (or theories) of organic evolution. Round pegs just don’t fit in square holes without causing damage; in this case spiritual harm. Where this latest BYU movement loses its way, as with its predecessors, is in supposing it can harmonize evolution of any brand with revealed gospel doctrine.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Modern Science and the Light of Christ in the Biblical Creation Story

The scientific properties of Light are key to reconciling science and the biblical creation story. The article thus begins with a brief primer on Light, thereby establishing a sound basis for a scientific analysis of Moses’s masterpiece of subtlety and symbolism.
The dual, wave/particle personality of Light – the “complementarity principle” – defines the “heaven and the earth” of Genesis 1. The creation of Light, followed by the firmament, then the appearance of land and so on is not an account of the creation of Planet Earth, but a metaphor for the creation of the universe.  Understanding this, the major anachronisms plaguing the usual understanding of Genesis 1 disappear and the timeline tracks well with scientists’ “Big Bang” cosmological model.
Re-examining the “fall” in terms of complementarity reveals that the “forbidden fruit” was physical sensory experience, and the fall was a quantum event in which the focus of Adam’s consciousness shifted from God to the physical world in accordance with this principle of quantum physics. Details of the physical creation as distinct from the spiritual then come into sharp focus, the meaning of the six “days” of creation and other symbolic elements becomes apparent, and the old earth/new earth conflict is resolved.

History of the Universe (Detail, cropped from original).
Credit: www.particleadventure.org
Genesis 1: 1 – 2:
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Without a basic understanding of modern cosmology and the scientific properties of light, any attempt to reconcile science and the biblical creation story is doomed from the start. The first chapter of Genesis is a metaphor for the creation of the universe, not an account of the creation of Planet Earth. That begins in Chapter 2. When we understand this the apparent anachronisms disappear and the creation story then agrees quite well with scientists’ “big bang” model.
We’ll return to Genesis in a bit, but since the Light of Christ underpins the entire universe, let’s start by discussing some of the properties of light. I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible without losing important detail.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Revelation and Relativity: Modern Science in Abraham 3

Abraham 3, Verses 2 through 12 reflect several features of General Relativity, including black holes and time dilation. The 4.1 million solar mass black hole at the center of our galaxy, closely surrounded by thousands of more ordinary (typically 25 – 40 solar mass) black holes, is “the great star,” Kolob, with “many great ones near unto it.” Every galaxy, as far as is currently known, contains one and only one of these “supermassive black holes” (SMBHs), that controls or “governs” the galaxy.
Many well respected physicists, including Nobel Laureates, now also believe black holes likely involve higher-dimensional portals leading out of our universe and into an alternate reality. This is almost certainly the sense in which Kolob is “nearest to the throne of God.”
Another feature of Relativity is the warping of time in the presence of mass, called “time dilation.” Understanding Verses 4 through 10 in terms of time dilation, obscure terms and phrases such as “set time” and relative “reckoning of time” become clear.
Verses 10 and 11 then answer a common question regarding Kolob and our galaxy relative to other galaxies, and neatly wrap up Abraham’s lesson on galactic astrophysics.
Kolob is the Supermassive Black Hole “Sagittarius A*.” Source: Author
Abraham 3:2-10 is scientifically correct in terms of modern galactic astrophysics and General Relativity. Yet Einstein did not publish his seminal paper on General Relativity until 1915, 73 years after first publication of Abraham’s revelation. No one alive in Joseph Smith’s day could have known anything about Relativity’s predictions of black holes, Einstein-Rosen bridges (AKA wormholes), and the warping of time and space (time dilation), except by revelation. Yet there it is, in the first few verses of the chapter!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Terryl Givens Seeks to Weaken Church Doctrine re: “Becoming Like God”

            A couple of years ago (Nov. 2017), Terry Givens (now with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute) was interviewed for an LDS Perspectives podcast, giving his views on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ gospel topic essay “Becoming Like God.” As he answered questions, he made a concerted effort to diminish or weaken or dilute the long-standing settled doctrine of the Church that man (men and women) can become like God; can become gods themselves.

            Some of Mr. Givens’ disturbing comments are these:

There is a good deal of folk theology that has developed around this notion, especially during the Brigham Young years. Because of the theologizing of people like Orson Pratt and others, the emphasis was often on world creation. Joseph Smith, of course, in section 132 referred to the possibility that men and women sealed in the everlasting covenant of marriage would produce seed eternally. That was extrapolated to mean that men and women who were exalted would create their own worlds and people them with their own spirits, then preside over those planets as God does over His. There isn’t, as far as I can find, any authoritative scriptural or prophetic pronouncements with that degree of specificity. I think it’s an unfortunate misdirection that serves the church poorly, both because of the delusions of grandeur which it can lead to and because the last thing we want to be known for to an outside community is the aspiration to have planets of our own.

            Setting aside the troubling issue of discounting the teachings of such inspired apostolic timber as Elder Orson Pratt and President Brigham Young, not to mention their contemporaries; and forgetting for a moment the temerity of labeling of their teachings as “theologizing” and “folk theology”; and setting aside for a moment that the Book of Abraham and modern apostles have taught that in the pre-existence the “noble and great ones” already helped create this earth as practice; the most startling comment found in this narration is that Mr. Givens has been unable to find “any authoritative scriptural or prophetic pronouncements” that directly speak of or teach that exalted men and women would one day become gods and preside over worlds/planets, “as God does over His.” And further that Mr. Givens states as a reason that Latter-day Saints don’t want to be known to “outsiders” (also known as non-members) as aspiring to have planets of their own.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Revisiting Book of Mormon Historicity Out of Necessity

I was unpleasantly surprised by this quotation from a website that purports to know what it is talking about: “Many BYU professors, even on the religion faculty, do not believe the Book of Mormon is historical and are not convinced that historicity matters.” No proof was provided for this statement, and so we cannot say that it is true. I am sure many if not most BYU professors would be offended by it and would declare their testimony of the historical authenticity the Book of Mormon. However, if there is some truth to it, and if there are some few that it speaks correctly of, let us review, point by point, what these professors, and others of like mind on the fringes of the Church, are rejecting—to view this book as (perhaps inspired) fiction; a 19th Century production.

They are rejecting the revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith as found in the Doctrine and Covenants wherein the Lord references the Nephites and Lamanites as an ancient people. See section 3 and also 38:39; 1:29; 10:48.

They are rejecting the revelations to Joseph Smith that speak of modern peoples as descendants of the ancient Lamanites. See Doctrine and Covenants sections 32:2; 28:8-9, 14; 49:24; 30:6; 19:27; 54:8. It seems that if the Book of Mormon isn’t speaking of real ancient peoples, we may as well toss out the Doctrine and Covenants as well.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Glaring Problem with Book of Mormon Geography Theories

and some other issues also

            Book of Mormon geography location theorizing has become enough of an issue among scholars and laymen alike, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a formal Gospel Topic essay stating a neutral position. The pertinent sentences read: “the Church’s only position is that the events the Book of Mormon describes took place in the ancient Americas.” And, “The Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.” When I first read the entire statement, and the quoted sentences in particular, I thought it very wise, to the point of inspired.

            In me this statement accomplishes some valuable and necessary objectives. 1) It should hopefully reduce argument among well-meaning members who often heatedly debate the subject into the realm of contention. 2) It avoids sticking a pin in a map. 3) It relieves the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of the burden of taking a position on something that may well not have been revealed to present or past prophets, beyond that stated in JS—H 1:34 (quoted below).

Saturday, March 30, 2019

By Common Consent Blog Baloney (or Can We Become Like God)

            On the liberal/progressive/dissident blog “By Common Consent,” a feminist author wrote the following comment, which I provide here in context. The main subject of the piece is an attempt to set forth a warped “straw-man” definition of the Latter-day Saint concept of heaven (that all women are tired/exhausted there—she doesn’t know what a resurrected body is), and then shoot it down. Further trouble is found in the parenthetical aside that she throws in: “Sometimes Mormons joke about the reality of what heaven looks like, especially for women. I suspect this is doctrine that the institutional church may be turning away from (like the doctrine of ruling planets that makes us just look really weird to other Christians), . . .” Incidentally, this woman also admits that she is glad she is “moving away from traditional Mormon beliefs.”

            So we have a feminist making the doctrinal determination that she thinks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is turning away from “the doctrine of ruling planets that makes us just look really weird to other Christians.”

            This is actually a “really weird” thing for a supposed Latter-day Saint to say. Many of our doctrines make us look really weird to other Christians. After all, they are in a state of apostasy. This feminist author is allegedly a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, a “peculiar [even weird] people.” If we didn’t have doctrines that made us look weird to other Christians, we would therefore be (or be joining) the other Christians—Protestants/Evangelicals/Catholics. Does she not understand this fundamental concept that the Church is founded upon?—restored doctrine and authority that other Christians don’t have. We better be weird to them or we won’t be Restored and right with God.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Highlights from Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone as found in BYU Speeches talks

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne

“Whenever we find problems in the Church, we usually find them under one of two umbrellas or canopies, either transgression or lack of faith in Christ. If members have faith in Christ, then they are active in the Church and they are absolutely committed.”

“I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I would rather lay down my life this instant than deny that Nephi, King Benjamin, Alma, Ammon, Moroni, Mormon, and the Brother of Jared were prophets of God. I know they were. As I stated to the missionaries, the enemies of the Church could line up four abreast from San Francisco to Salt Lake City and come to me to try to convince me that the Church was not true, and when the last one had passed by I would still know that this church is the only true church on the face of the earth.”

“Long before I was a General Authority I would sit out in the congregation and look at the faces of the General Authorities. Do you know what I always saw? Besides integrity, devotion, love, and commitment—and I love them more now than I did in those days—I saw almost a translucence, that is, a whiteness, a countenance change. I don’t know if any of you saw LeGrand Richards in his later life, but it is true his skin was smooth and almost translucent. I believe you could have almost looked into the soul of LeGrand Richards through this crystal clear, translucent flesh of his and seen “the foulest deed his heart doth hold.” I believe in President Kimball’s case his face is almost translucent. In the upper room of the temple quite often in our first Thursday meetings—and we’ll have one again this Thursday—I have seen on occasion some of the Brethren stand there with an aura of light around them as they spoke. One of the men around whom I saw an aura when he spoke was the president of this great institution [BYU], Jeff Holland. It was about four inches wide. He reported to the Brethren, and I could see it. I knew that Jeff Holland was speaking in an inspired way to the Brethren at that time.”

[An explanation of D&C 132:46: “and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven”]
“Let me digress here just to say this: Do you know that the President of the Church is the only man on the face of the earth who can actually forgive on behalf of the Lord? The rest of us who are common judges forgive on behalf of the Church, as the Lord’s agents. President Kimball has said that he never uses this authority unless he really knows.”

“President Kimball, our beloved prophet, not too long ago, did something that is very tender to me. We were at an area conference. He heard about a man that had been burned in an explosion. . . . He left the area conference and flew down to this particular place, spent a few moments administering to this good brother and then flew back to the area conference. We arrived back at the hotel at about 10 o’clock and President Kimball was just coming in. We are just a little over half as old as President Kimball. We had been out to dinner and had a lovely evening together and he had been doing the Lord’s work. When he came he looked tired. We found out that the man that he had administered to, about two weeks later or so, when he finally gained his consciousness, he said he could only remember two things: one, that he had talked with the Savior and his time was up. And the other, that President Kimball came. He couldn’t remember anything else that happened during that period of time. As he started to heal, his wife said, Of course you’re going to make it; you’re going to live. He said, no I am not, I already know.” [He died within two weeks.]

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone’s Experience with the Scriptures and the Savior

Cobbled together by Dennis B. Horne

            Note: In his earlier years, in some talks given in the 1970s, as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone referenced a marvelous spiritual experience he received. The below contains both published text and newly transcribed wording that was withheld for whatever reason (perhaps felt to be too sacred then), from the published version, that gives further insight into the experience. Links are provided so readers can listen to both of the talks at their convenience:

Let me tell you the greatest experience I believe I have had in all my readings of the scriptures—and I am sharing something that is very tender with me. I remember the night that I read 3 Nephi the 17th chapter [3 Ne. 17]. That is when I discovered the Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, my Savior, my personal Savior; and I believe that is where I finally found the description of the Savior as I thought him to be.

He had been with the Nephite people all the day long, you will recall, and finally said:

“I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.

“Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and … I come unto you again [on the morrow].

Monday, January 28, 2019

“Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach” (D&C 43:15)

            Questions have arisen, and various thoughts expressed by some, regarding the role that non-Latter-day Saint scholars, meaning academics of the world (friendly or not), have to play within scholarship of the Restoration. Simply put, should we be studying their works to inform our own understanding of scriptural texts? Let us review this issue.
            Twenty-five years ago I attended a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls by Emanuel Tov, given at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Sitting on the stand was then-Elder Russel M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Elder Holland conducted the meeting. Tov gave an excellent presentation and Elder Holland indicated afterward that he considered it outstanding himself and even said that if the building wasn’t dedicated that we would all have applauded.
            I feel safe in suggesting that neither of these apostles were there to learn new doctrine or to obtain an improved interpretation of any scriptural text from this fine Jewish scholar, who did not believe that Jesus was/is the Christ. Neither of them could be taught doctrine about God and the plan of salvation by Tov. But they both wanted to know more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were a trending subject of scholarly study at that time, and Tov was an expert. So they enjoyed learning from him, as did I.
            This illustrates a wise way to approach the scholarship of the world. Where they know more than Latter-day Saint scholars, in matters related to historical, linguistic, geographical, or specialty subjects, their studies may make a helpful contribution. Yet when it comes to doctrinal explanations or interpreting any of the standard works (usually the Bible), we should be very wary of accepting their conclusions.
            Elder Mark E. Petersen gave the following counsel to Church Education System instructors. While it is true that teachers employed at church universities have greater (academic) freedom in their teaching than do those in the Seminaries and Institutes, Elder Petersen’s general cautions still apply:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Why Some People Leave the Church

            As President Gordon B. Hinckley acknowledged, “It is a fact that we lose some—far too many. Every organization of which I am aware does so.  But I am satisfied that we retain and keep active a higher percentage of our members than does any other major church of which I know.” (“The Church Grows Stronger,” Ensign, May 2004, 4.)
            An unfortunate trend is to leave the Church over the so-called social issues. It is on these grounds that I see need for further and deeper thought. We will look closely at this question: Where do most people today, including some Latter-day Saints, get their values/conscience/feelings/attitudes/ideologies from? Where do they get their ideas on how to behave, to live, to conduct their lives? Is there such a thing as wrong or foolish values? And if we learn the source of that information, meaning the answers to these questions, can it be trusted or is it false? These are questions that may decide whether certain people will remain in the Church or leave it. So, where is “society” or the “world” and now, and how did we get there?

A Decrease in Morality and Increase in Sin and Disbelief

            Elder Boyd K. Packer believed that the United States of America, has from its beginning been a mostly moral and decent nation, deserving of the title “good, moral Christian people,” but that around the time of the Vietnam War, that majority shifted and became a minority; also that the United States has been in rapid moral decline ever since. He wrote: “Perhaps for the first time . . . that balance of decency and morality is shifting past the center. The balance . . . is slowly tipping in the wrong fatal direction.” Further, “It happened first in and to the universities of America. It happened when agnostics and atheists were protected in teaching their philosophy of religion in public institutions of higher learning. Because they claim affiliation with no church, the principle of separation of church and state is supposed not to apply to them. They are free to teach their faithless philosophy at public expense, to shake, even destroy, the faith of their students. Meanwhile teachers of faith are restrained and churches are kept off campus. What happened, happened in and to the schools and the churches, to the towns and cities, it happened in the homes and in the hearts of the American people.”
            Elder Packer then stated: “Something is weakening the moral fiber of the American people. We have always had couples live together without marriage, but we have not honored it as an acceptable life style. We have always had children born out of wedlock, but we have never made it to be respectable. And, we have never before regarded babies, conceived in wedlock or out, to be an inconvenience and destroyed them by the thousands through abortion. And this while barren couples yearn for a child to raise. We have always had some who followed a life of perversion [homosexuality], but we have never before pushed through legislation to protect that way of life lest we offend the rights of an individual. . . .”  This address, given thirty years ago, presaged well what has become of the United States and the rest of the world as well.