Saturday, July 11, 2020

Elder Ezra Taft Benson Speaks Prophetically to Issues Seen in the News Media Today


Editorial Note: In this General Conference address from 1967, fifty years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who later became a president of the Church, speaks prophetically to issues seen in the news media today. Some of what he said could have been written in the last few days and weeks. Sometimes we forget how insightfully prophetic the apostles and prophets really are, because their messages are buried in the past. We are now reminded. Some academics have dismissed Ezra Taft Benson’s General Conference messages out of hand because he spoke a lot about Communism. Such dismissal is now seen as unwise—as usual. On the issue of race and the priesthood brought up in this address, Brother Benson was present when the revelation on the priesthood was received in 1978 and fully supported it afterward and while church president; he would have referred readers to Official Proclamation 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants for resolution of that issue. As for now, Elder Benson’s message serves as a guide to how to view current events—as conspiring men and women seek to harm the United States of America. As would be expected, his words run contrary to many of the false philosophies of our day and point us in the right direction toward solutions and public improvement.

In the Book of Mormon the prophet Nephi exclaims: "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (2 Ne. 4:34.)

Prophesying of our day, Nephi said, ". . . they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (2 Ne. 28:14.)

Precepts of men or principles of God

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Correcting an Errant Perspective on the Restoration




            Some three years ago (2017), retired BYU professor Noel Reynolds gave an interview regarding his research about the authorship of the Lectures on Faith. While not all of his findings were convincing to me, I think the gist of his main thesis, that the Prophet Joseph Smith was not the main author of the lectures, is probably mostly accurate. His notions that they reflect the teachings of Sidney Rigdon who reflected the teachings of Alexander Campbell (an 1830s Protestant reformist), is less convincing to me (nor do I think we should assume Campbell’s teachings were all false). But much of Reynolds’ research seems to have some validity and therefore value, and such contributions, even if partially flawed, are generally welcome.
            However, in one regard, he said some things in the interview that were not accurate and showed that he had not researched at least one portion of his presentation very well. This is not a big deal and I don’t overly fault him for missing the mark, but I have decided to take occasion to do some correcting. (Part of the reason I do so is because in the last year I have heard a couple of prominent names voice criticisms of Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s statements on certain matters where, again, they showed a lack of knowledge.) It is in regards to Elder McConkie’s views that Professor Reynolds showed some ignorance. This becomes more clear almost every time President Russell M. Nelson speaks to the Church about the ongoing status and future of the Restoration.
            The issue at hand relates to what should be defined or categorized as part of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; more specifically, written texts. Professor Reynolds said: “He [Elder McConkie] seemed to have an enthusiasm that was fed by having more and more things [inspired writings] be part of the Restoration. I have to admit that I come from a different mentality, which is being skeptical and watching out for people who are trying to import things into the Restoration that really aren’t part of it.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pure Apostolic Witness and Testimony of the First Vision



(Part twenty of a series compiled by Dennis B. Horne)

            As the concluding item of this series on the First Vision, I have sifted through most of the preceding nineteen pieces and selected brief quotations—nuggets of pure testimony—from those holding the holy Apostleship (including the keys of the Kingdom as received in direct line from the Prophet Joseph Smith, who got them from Peter, James, and John, and other ancient prophets), declaring their incontrovertible spiritual witness of the reality of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. In these testimonies, we find no doubt, just perfect knowledge:

            “I am grateful that early in my life I was blessed with a simple faith that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that he saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in a vision. He translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. That testimony has been confirmed to me over and over again.
            “As one of the least among you, but in my calling as one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, I testify that He truly lives, that He is the Messiah. I do have a personal witness of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. I received this knowledge by the unspeakable peace and power of the Spirit of God.”

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Race Whitney in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906




            [Note: The below narrative is taken from a chapter in the author’s biography of Elder Orson F. Whitney, called “The Misadventures of Race Whitney” (page 257), that describes his harrowing experience as a newspaper reporter (working for the San Francisco Chronicle) when the great San Francisco earthquake hit in 1906. This was also about the time his father was called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Race Whitney was Orson’s oldest child, filled with promise and potential, but whose life was cut short because of drink—he died of alcoholism in his late twenties. Race, shortened from Horace, took after his father as a talented writer, journalist, and dramatist. Yet he became indifferent to the gospel teachings of his youth. As an older teenager, his father secured a position for him with a Salt Lake newspaper, and Race was one of a select company that travelled to St. George with President Lorenzo Snow in 1898, where President Snow received a revelation to reemphasize tithing to the Church. It would seem that after that experience, Race drifted from gospel teachings and standards, married a non-Latter-day Saint, and eventually drank himself to death. His account of being in the middle of the earthquake is well-written and thrilling. I have added some text from Race’s original correspondence with his father, that was published in the Deseret News, but that I deleted from the book since I thought it extraneous; this means the newspaper account found here is longer and has more earthquake details than the account in the book. Quotations are from Elder Whitney’s journal, mostly 1906, but I have deleted all the endnotes. From The Life of Orson F. Whitney: Historian, Poet, Apostle:]

            Good as he was at what he did—writer, reporter, dramatist—Race struggled to stay employed for very long. He also made a poor choice for a wife. It is with this decision that he again finds mention in Ort’s diary: “Went this evening with my son Race to see Miss Rosemary Gloez, his young lady. She is not a Mormon but is a very charming girl, aged 20, finely educated, a native of Boston. . . . They are a Hungarian family and nice people. Race and Rose are madly in love with each other. They want to marry. While I hate to see him wed outside the Church, I prefer this to no marriage, or a life on the stage, which he says is the alternative.”


About two months later, the day of the wedding arrived:

Saturday, March 28, 2020

President Hinckley Comments on Joseph Smith’s and the Church’s Critics



(Part nineteen of a series compiled by Dennis B. Horne)

            While the standard procedure for the First Presidency is to ignore the enemies and critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they do sometimes manifest an awareness of what the devil’s mortal emissaries are saying and doing. As a natural result, President Hinckley occasionally referenced their public and private efforts to disturb or distract, or to diminish or destroy faith in Jesus Christ and His modern prophets. As President Hinckley noted, many of them have targeted Joseph Smith and his First Vision—and (as he notes) while they have had some small success among the weak in testimony, the true and faithful have not faltered.
            The below statements and explanations given by President Hinckley over past decades are not exclusive to defending the First Vision only (his defense was much broader than that), but enough is mentioned on that subject to warrant inclusion here. Further, all can be benefited by his prophetic counsel on handling criticism of all kinds. His larger perspective placing the Prophet’s and the modern Church’s critics in their true context in relation to the kingdom of God and eternity is a valuable lesson to all. This prophet knew how to put the devil in his place:

            What about the critics of the Church who have been so vocal of late?
            We have them. We have always had them. They are not as vociferous as they once were. Noisy as they are, they are not as threatening. People ask whether we are fearful of research of our history. My reply to this is no, of course not, provided it is done with balance and integrity, as has been done by some scholars both in and out of the Church.
            However, we are under no obligation to spend tithing funds to provide facilities and resources to those who have demonstrated that it is their objective to attack the Church and undermine its mission. These funds are sacred. They have been consecrated by the faithful to advance the work, and that is the way they will be used.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

President Gordon B. Hinckley’s Teachings and Testimony of the First Vision





(Part eighteen of a series compiled by Dennis B.Horne)

            As far as I can discover, it seems to me that President Hinckley had more to say about Joseph Smith’s First Vision than any other modern prophet or apostle. As the below quotations demonstrate, he had studied the historical records, was informed on the scholarship (including the faulty arguments of the critics), had visited the sacred grove repeatedly, and had pondered and prayed and received a witness from the Holy Spirit, probably multiple witnesses, that what Joseph testified took place did. President Hinckley’s testimony of the First Vision must therefore be considered one of the greatest prophetic witnesses given since the event of the vision itself. The below selections are given in chronological order:

            Joseph Smith likewise was a figure of loneliness. I have a great love for the boy who came out of the woods, who after that experience could never be the same again, who was berated and persecuted and looked down upon. Can you sense the pathos in these words of the boy prophet?
            For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation. [JS—H 1:25]

            When I was a boy, twelve years of age, my father took me to a meeting of the priesthood of the stake in which we lived. I sat on the back row while he, as president of the stake, sat on the stand. At the opening of that meeting, the first of its kind I had ever attended, three or four hundred men stood. They were men from varied backgrounds and many vocations, but each had in his heart the same conviction, out of which together they sang these great words:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Missionary Receives a Testimony of the First Vision



and a few other like experiences
(Part seventeen of a series compiled by Dennis B. Horne)

            A few years ago, a returned missionary who served in one of the Mexican missions shared with me a classic experience that illustrates the “diligence” principle in the acquisition of faith and sacred knowledge. I had conducted the stake president’s interview before his mission and sent his papers to Church headquarters. I remember that interview with him. He was 6 foot 5 inches tall and 255 pounds. He was one of the first two young men recruited from my children’s high school to play football at Brigham Young University. He was a fine young man, clean-cut and worthy in every way. I remember being impressed with his potential. I could tell from the answers he gave to the questions I asked that he was honest, but there was one crack in his armor. I knew that his testimony was based on the faith of others rather than on his own witness. However, he related the following story to me during his release interview at the end of his mission.
            As his mission began, Elder Stone worked energetically with his companion. Frequently he was called upon to give the first lesson. In the lesson it was necessary for him to tell the investigators about the appearance of the Father and the Son to the boy Joseph in the Sacred Grove and then bear witness of its truthfulness. After bearing testimony a number of times, his conscience began to bother him. Although he believed the story, he did not know that it actually happened. He had not been there, nor had he received his own witness. How could he tell others that the First Vision really happened? As doubts began to multiply and replace his belief and as the pains of conscience increased, he told his companion that he could no longer be a missionary. He was going home. He could not serve as a witness to something he did not know. His companion responded, “Elder Stone, why don’t you follow the counsel given the investigators? You need to study and pray more diligently. Put Moroni’s promise to the test. Exercise your faith, and you will receive an answer. Stay with me for a few more weeks.”
Elder Stone agreed to stay and put Moroni’s promise to the test. A few weeks passed, the missionary worked harder, prayed more often, was more attentive in his reading, but no witness came. Finally, during an interview with the mission president, Elder Stone expressed his frustrations and indicated his desire to return home. He could not continue. A wise mission president counseled, “Elder, do not give up! You have a desire to believe. If you continue faithful in your calling for a few more weeks, the Lord will answer your prayers. I promise you!”