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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Was Jesus Born In a Caravanserai?

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming! Rudolph is coming! Hear the Jingle Bells? This is the day we exchange gifts, put up trees, decorate our homes to an extent that would make the famous Las Vegas Strip seem austere.

We do all this because this is the day Jesus Christ was born in a manger (or a cave in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) because there was no room at the inn. The date? December 25, A.D. 1.

We know all this, have known it all our lives; or do we? As Will Rogers was fond of saying, 

It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble. It's what we know that ain't so.

Sorry, but all this just ain't so.

The Date

In Luke 2:8 we read
 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Why would the sheep be kept outdoors in the cold and rainy winter? Perhaps they had a shelter of some kind. And how about the people, traveling on sandaled feet on rough, and in winter often muddy, roads? Joseph and Mary are reported to be going to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. Surely the Roman Empire could have survived without a census until springtime. And it probably did.

It is part of Mormon mythology, widely accepted but never actually declared by the Church, that Jesus was born on April 6, A.D. 1.

But in the Mortal Messiah, by Bruce R. McConkie, we read,

We do not believe it is possible with the present state of our knowledge — including that which is known both in and out of the Church — to state with finality when the natal day of the Lord Jesus actually occurred. James E. Talmage takes the view that he was born on April 6, 1 b.c., basing his conclusions on D&C 20:1, which speaks of the day on which the Church was organized, saying it was "one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the flesh." April 6 is then named as the specific day for the formal organization. Elder Talmage notes the Book of Mormon chronology, which says that the Lord would be born 600 years after Lehi left Jerusalem. (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pg 102-104.)Elder Hyrum M. Smith of the Council of the Twelve wrote in the Doctrine and Covenants Commentary: "The organization of the Church in the year 1830 is hardly to be regarded as giving divine authority to the commonly accepted calendar. There are reasons for believing that those who, a long time after our Savior's birth, tried to ascertain the correct time erred in their calculations, and that the Nativity occurred four years before our era, or in the year of Rome 750. All that this Revelation [D&C 20] means to say is that the Church was organized in the year commonly accepted as 1830, a.d." Rome 750 is equivalent, as indicated, to 4 b.c.
 The Place: No Room in the Inn

"Inn" at that time and place probably meant "caravanserai." These were the places where camel caravans stopped along the way; people stayed in rooms on the second floor, while the animals were housed at ground level. Note that Luke 2:7 says,
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
  Caravanserai -- water trough front and center.

The operative word here is room, not space.

All the rooms upstairs were taken, but there was still space on the ground floor among the animals and in the courtyard. Mangers (actually water troughs) would naturally have been where the animals could get to them

We might read the above as: [Mary] wrapped him in swaddling clother, and laid him in a watering trough; because all the rooms in the caravanserai were occupied.

I won't comment on the Christmas tree, the holly, the candles and all the accoutrements of Christmas in our day and time. Much has already been written, and is easy to find on the Net. Christmas is a day for prayer and thanksgiving, but it is also a day for the delight of children (and sometimes for the child within ourselves). So don't feel guilty about the gift-giving, or about the sweets we will all consume. Just enjoy. 
The exact date, especially considering the various changes in the calendar, is really of no importance.  As Joseph Smith wrote,
The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 121).

Wishing everyone a slightly more realistic Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Christmas" Is About Christ

These are pictures I took in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in 2003 and 2005.

The music is from Internet royalty free sites; the scriptures are KJV.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jesus Was a Jew

A friend told me of a long-ago friendship with a Jew. Her only regret, she said, was that she wouldn't see him in Heaven.

Why not?, supposing for the moment that he had later committed some terrible crime.

She gave me that pitying look members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are accustomed to receiving, and pronounced "Jews don't go to Heaven, you know."

After taking amoment to absorb this information, I asked, "So you're looking forward to a Heaven where Jesus won't be admitted? Jesus was a Jew."

The conversation came to a standstill.

Another comment I've often heard (not from Mormons) is that one need only study the New Testament; the Old Testament has been fulfilled and done away with.

My personal feeling is that you can't begin to grasp the New Testament without a pretty thorough knowledge of the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible or the Tanakh. ) The Book of Mormon, too, is ultimately grounded in Old Testament history and doctrine.

Comes now a new book by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Amazon's description reads:

Although major New Testament figures--Jesus and Paul, Peter and James, Jesus' mother Mary and Mary Magdalene--were Jews, living in a culture steeped in Jewish history, beliefs, and practices, there has never been an edition of the New Testament that addresses its Jewish background and the culture from which it grew--until now. 
An international team of scholars introduces and annotates the Gospels, Acts, Letters, and Revelation from Jewish perspectives, in the New Revised Standard Version translation. They show how Jewish practices and writings, particularly the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, influenced the New Testament writers. ... In addition, thirty essays on historical and religious topics--Divine Beings, Jesus in Jewish thought, Parables and Midrash, Mysticism, Jewish Family Life, Messianic Movements, Dead Sea Scrolls, questions of the New Testament and anti-Judaism, and others--bring the Jewish context of the New Testament to the fore...

Note: "Click to Look Inside" must be accessed through I sorry 'bout that; I'd remove it if I could!
About the Authors: Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at the Divinity School, College of Arts and Science, Graduate Department of Religion, and Program in Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN
Marc Z. Brettler is Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University.
Other books by Levine and Brettler:

I was introduced to Amy-Jill Levine through the Teaching Company and their DVD: Old Testament, Taught by Amy-Jill Levine.
 It has meant more to more people than any other book in history. The influence of ancient Israel's religious and national literature is evident in everything from medieval mystery plays to modern novels, art, music, theater, film, and dance. ...The Old Testament is endlessly fascinating,because it offers everything to explore:myth, saga and history;tragedy, comedy, and farce; economics and politics; literature and poetry of surpassing beauty; court intrigue and prophetic morality; heavenly miracles and sometimes heavenly silence; questions of theodicy; answers that satisfy and answers that may not; destruction and rebuilding; despair and hope."
Disclaimer: I'm not a rep of The Teaching Company, just an admirer and occasional customer as the budget allows.

Mormons believe in the Bible and study it regularly. By this I don't mean that we pick a subject like "love" or "humility" and cherry-pick verses here and there to support our conclusions. We read it thoroughly, both for doctrine and for its historical content. We believe that in the last days, out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 (KJV).

We understand that Jesus was a Jew.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We Give Thanks for Our Freedoms: Spirit, Body and Mind

Abraham Lincoln: Proclamation
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
As the 18th century ended and the 19th began, the spirit of liberty was strong in the land. The Revolution was over; men were freed from the tyranny of an unjust government.

But stronger than the Redcoats, many of the old ideas still kept us captive.

Early in the 19th century, the Lord sent forth three men who turned the world upside down, shook it open, and set the captives free.

The first of these, Joseph Smith Jr., was born December 23, 1805.  Three years and two months later, on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day.

 Man was never to view himself or his God in the same way again.

Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln were born in frontier circumstances. Each attended school only briefly, and each was enormously self-educated. Darwin came from a prosperous family and had a university education. No one who knew any of them or their families could have guessed their importance to the world.

Each produced a seminal document:

Joseph Smith Jr.: the Book of Mormon

Because of this "unlettered farm boy" and the message he brought, man (in the anthropological sense; includes both male and female) was freed from the centuries-old dogma of the Triune God.  When we pray, we are not addressing a formless blob or a concentration of energy; we are speaking to the father of our spirits, our Heavenly Father.

For the first time, we no longer had to ask Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? No longer did we fear that if we made the slightest misstep, forgot the smallest observance, we would burn in the fires of hell forever. No longer need we fear a frowning, vengeful God. Instead we kneel to a loving, gracious Father who loves us and asks only that we love him.

Abraham Lincoln: the Emancipation Proclamation

Another "unlettered farm boy" who saved the Union and made it clear once and for all that man must never be physically enslaved by another man. The soul of this great man is further revealed in his Gettysburg Address. His work laid the groundwork for freedom everywhere; a battle that is still being fought as I write this.

Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species

Though I doubt that he would have thought of himself in this way, Darwin was the product and refiner of the Protestant Reformation. For centuries, illiteracy, the lack of Bibles translated into the vernacular languages, no printing press and no cheap paper conspired to keep men from reading Holy Writ for themselves. All they knew was what the local priest told them, and sometimes he was as ignorant as his flock. So everyone "knew" the Bible said the world and every creature in it was created in six days, fixed in their species forever.

Darwin was the quintessential naturalist; his brilliant seeking mind soaked up information and put it together like a huge jigsaw puzzle. He had the idea of evolution, but knew it could not fit into the 6,000 years alloted for creation. When he boarded the Beagle, his father gave him a going-away present. It was Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, and the five-year voyage of the Beagle became an unequalled adventure of the human mind.

The closing paragraph of The Origin of Species reads:
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
These men perceived the Laws of Nature to be the Laws of God, their Creator and ours. In the early days of the 21st Century, let us look back with gratitude to the early days of the 19th, and to our several gifts of freedom. From Joseph Smith, freedom from the wrath of a whimsical and vengeful God; from Abraham Lincoln, freedom from the Simon LeGrees of the world; and from Charles Darwin, freedom from the tyrany of a young earth

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What if the Mormons are Right? [Gasp! Horrors!!]

The subject of whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly Christian or an aberrant cult, is being done to death nowadays. I have written about it before, but this time I propose to address it from a slightly different angle: What If? Just for the sake of discussion, and not to be taken as perjorative in any sense, we might ask: What If we Mormons (LDS) are Christians and "Mainstream Christianity" (MSC for short) is the cult?

Let's look at some of the issues being raised. The first thing that comes to mind is the doctrine of the Trinity. MSC holds that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three manifestations of the One Triune God. LDS belief is that they are three separate beings, united in will and purpose.
On this question many MSCs are closer to the LDS than you might think. A quick look at the SaintsAlive! Store on this site will show you a number of books whose MSC authors do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.

Here are just a couple (among many) of examples:

The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound [Paperback]
Sir Anthony Buzzard (Author), Charles F. Hunting (Author) Publication Date: August 1, 1998

Book Description [Copyrighted material cannot be copied; thus only the description is reproduced here]:
This important work is a detailed biblical investigation of the relationship of Jesus to the one God of Israel. The authors challenge the notion that biblical monotheism is legitimately represented by a Trinitarian view of God and demonstrate that within the bounds of the canon of Scripture Jesus is confessed as Messiah, Son of God, but not God Himself. Later Christological developments beginning in the second century misrepresented the biblical doctrine of God and Christ by altering the terms of the biblical presentation of the Father and Son. This fateful development laid the foundation of a revised, unscriptural creed that needs to be challenged. This book is likely to be a definitive presentation of a Christology rooted, as it originally was, in the Hebrew Bible. The authors present a sharply-argued appeal for an understanding of God and Jesus in the context of the original Christian documents.

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith John W. Schoenheit (Author), Mark H. Graeser  Mark H. Graeser (Author).

Of course, volumes defending the doctrine of the Triune God are innumerable.
Click on any of these three images to see more.

The next thing we might look at is the insistence of the MSC that the Book of Mormon, since it was "added on," cannot be true. Yet they subscribe to one or more of the following Creeds, all of which are obviously "added on."

 Deuteronomy 4:2: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."
This of course, if taken literally, would obviate the OT after the Pentateuch, and the NT in its entirety.
Revelation 22:18-19  "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book."
With these scriptures in mind, let's look at the following Creeds and their dates:

Symbolum Apostolorum (Apostle's Creed)
The present form first appeared in the 6th century in the writings of Caesarius of Arles (d 542), but prior versions can be traced back to 340 AD in a letter to Pope Julius I and even still further back to a circa 200 document containing the Roman baptismal liturgy. ... Instead of the continuous prayer as we have it today, each line was rather in the form of a question to which the catechumen gave assent indicating he both understood and believed. ... Eventually this question and answer style was modified into the prayer form as we have it today. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who recite the Symbolum Apostolorum. ...
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.
The Canons of the Council of Orange (529 AD) 
CONCLUSION. And thus according to the passages of holy scripture quoted above or the interpretations of the ancient Fathers we must, under the blessing of God, preach and believe ...  
The Synod of Constantinople  (Hiera, 753 AD)
Thirty-five years later, Irene, the regent for Constantine VI, called another council at which 350 bishops repudiated the decision documented above.
Council of Nicaea (7th Ecumenical,787 AD)
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honorable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. ... and to these should be given due salutation and honorable reverence not indeed that true worship of faith which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented.
See the previous post, Of Temples, Churches and Crosses on this blog, and the page The Cross, the Cross Symbol, and Christianity by MSC writer L.D. Hannons.

MSC holds that Joseph Smith and his successors cannot be called Prophets, since as "everyone" knows there can be no prophets in our day.  But the Prophet Amos wrote "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Amos 3:7.
Are we to infer that, since there can be no prophets today, God will do nothing? If this is the case, why do we waste our time in prayer?
In the Temple, Mormons pledge their time, effort and substance to the Lord. MSCs find this particularly offensive, but who among them, if called upon, would not give all that they have in service to the Lord? Mother Theresa comes to mind.

How dare they call themselves Saints? 

Church Discipline By: Pastor Vincent Nicotra
Church discipline was never intended to drive a sinning saint away or to execute judgment on fallen saints. ...At this point the sinning saint should recognize the seriousness of their offense. ..., for the purity of the church and the good of the sinning saint. . . .  Paul commonly addresses the Christian community as "saints." (Acts 9:13, 32; Rom 1:7; 12:13; Phil 4:22; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1), especially the community in Jerusalem (15:25; 1 Cor 16:1).

To return to our original question, What if? What if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turns out to be the truly New Testament religion? We would never apply the term "cult" to other denominations, but just ask yourself: What If?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Resurrection and Baptism for the Dead

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:29  King James Version

Here St.Paul is addressing two fundamental questions: Resurrection and Baptism for the Dead.

I have long suspected that, along with the Virgin Birth, Resurrection is one of the biggest pills for the non-Christian to swallow. A man was killed -- didn't just die, but was actually crucified -- wrapped in linens and laid in the tomb. And on the third day, he came out of the tomb, leaving his wrappings behind, and conversed with his followers. Afterward they saw him ascend into heaven.
Incredible. Unbelievable. If you believe that, you'll believe anything.
There is a name for people who believe that, and according to Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance they constitute about 32% of the world's population. They're called Christians. 

Many, if not most, Christians do not believe the other part of the verse in 1 Corinthians. They want to believe in the Resurrection, but they do not want to believe in baptism for the dead -- so they don't. They either ignore it or come up with some kind of explanation which relieves them of the necessity of belief.
By others, that the apostle refers to a custom of vicarious baptism, or being baptized for those who were dead, referring to the practice of having some person baptized in the place of one who had died without baptism. This was the opinion of Grotius, Michaelis, Tertullian, and Ambrose. Such was the estimate which was formed, it is supposed, of the importance of baptism, that when one had died without being baptized, some other person was baptized over his dead body in his place. That this custom prevailed in the church after the time of Paul, has been abundantly proved by Grotius, and is generally admitted. But the objections to this interpretation are obvious...[Of course. But not to me!]
 Read more:

There is, perhaps, no passage of the New Testament in respect to which there has been a greater variety of interpretation than this; and the views of expositors now by no means harmonize in regard to its meaning. It is possible that Paul may here refer to some practice or custom which existed in his time respecting baptism, the knowledge of which is now lost. Barnes' Notes on the Bible, referenced frequently on the Net.
As a believing Latter-day Saint, I point out the following:
 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3.
Should persons who have not been baptized, most likely through no fault of their own, be denied entrance? Does the Resurrection apply only to those of today, and the recent past, or did Christ die for us all? What of the uncounted millions who have lived in remote times and places where they never have even heard of Jesus Christ, much less baptism? Or, having heard of it, had no opportunity to participate?
Will a just and loving Father in Heaven stand at the gate and deny them entrance?

Ask yourself, would you stand at your front door and deny entrance to most of your children, providing food and shelter to only a favored few?

Surely a way has been provided, and Mormons believe that baptism by proxy for the dead is that way.

BTW we do NOT believe that baptism for the dead implies a forced conversion to or membership in the Church. God gave us all free agency, the right to choose. For those who wish to accept baptism, we provide it, just as we do for the living. We offer the key: whether anyone decides to use it is strictly a matter of individual choice.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Of Temples, Churches and Crosses

Columnists, bloggers and other writers frequently do not familiarize themselves with the terminology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And may I say, it's mutual. We Mormons don't know a nave from an apse; we don't kneel in our services and so don't know what a prie-deux is. Mention hermeneutics or exegesis to us and our eyes will glaze over. We can only respond, "How's that again?"

But we don't spend a lot of time writing about other churches in the major dailies. And we try to be polite and not bother to correct things others say about us, unless they really cross the line, usually something about doctrine.

So forgive me if I take a few minutes here to define some terms.

First of all, it's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not the Mormon Church. We recognize that that's a bit of a mouthful, so it's acceptable to call members or cite instances of history or doctrine "Mormon" or "L.D.S."

Outsiders tend to use three separate terms, which are perfectly clear to us, interchangeably. These are Church, church and Temple.
  • The Church. The overall organization. As in "The Church places great emphasis on higher education."
  • the church. The meetinghouse, where Sunday worship services are held. Also used for other kinds of meetings, parties, etc.

  • The Temple. The place where special ceremonies, such as baptism for the dead, are performed. They are closed on Sundays so members may attend their regular meetings. On Mondays they are closed for cleaning.
One blogger wrote of a black family that was turned away from a Temple on a Sunday. All they wanted, the writer stated, was to attend a simple Sunday worship service. The writer interpreted this as racism. In fact, the Temples are closed on Sundays and nobody -- black, white or green -- gets in.

It's true that you will not see a cross on or in a church or a Temple. There may be many explanations for this. My personal explanation is simply that the cross predated Jesus' life on earth by untold millennia. It appears in ancient rock art, carved there by persons who never heard of Jesus Christ. It is familiar to us as the Egyptian Ankh. We see it in so many places, indicating so many different things, that I don't just automatically think of Jesus Christ when I see one -- on an ambulance or a national flag, for example.

Finally, nothing in the New Testament indicates that the cross was used, or was expected to be used as a symbol of the Atonement. The taking of bread and water or wine is what the Lord commanded should be done in remembrance of his sacrifice.

According to L.D. Hammons (sorry; I'm not familiar with him or his credentials, except that he is obviously Christian, but he certainly shares my viewpoint in this matter):

To say that an object-shape contributes to Christianity is to attribute religious power to the object. Believing that religious objects have spiritual power is false worship and false dependence on a physical object. . . .The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is basic to Biblical Christianity, and believers remember Jesus Christ's sacrificial death when they participate in the Lord's Supper. Religious symbols, such as the cross, have no spiritual power, and such symbols are neither needed nor appropriate as aids to the worship of God.

For a illustrations and further explanations, see the Wikipedia entry at
or  The Cross: an emblem of Christianity

God-fearing Christians believe that Jesus accepted crucifixion on a cross for the benefit of us all. The message from this is at the heart of all true Gospel preaching and consequently the cross symbol is used by two billion Christians all over the world.
This has not always been the case however. Christians didn’t use the sign of the cross as their religious symbol for many generations after Christ was crucified. Rather than being a Christian symbol of hope and love, it only had the negative association as an execution apparatus for criminals.
So initially, Christians adopted the fish symbol or the trident symbol to identify their religion. Then, early in the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine publicly declared that Christianity should be tolerated1, execution by crucifixion was abolished and the cross became the emblem for Christians.
The cross is now carried by more people than any other religious talisman and is considered by a few to be sacred to the extent that it becomes icon of adoration in its own right. However, such idolatry is certainly not the norm in Christendom, particularly Protestant Christianity. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Is the Place of Religion in American Political Life?

Does the Constitution really call for the "separation of church and State?

If so, where, and what does it mean? I don't claim to be a Constitutional scholar, but to be honest, I've never been able to locate this phrase there. Everyone, or nearly everyone, knows that it is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists. 

Interestingly enough, in light of the current question as to which denomination is Christian and which a cult, Danbury Baptists wrote to Jefferson because they felt they were being denied certain rights because of their faith. In other words, Baptists were in a cult!

Danbury is in Connecticut, and fell within the northern reaches of the Anglican Church. The States, roughly from Connecticut to Virginia, taxed their citizens for the support of the Anglican (Church of England) Church, without regard to membership therein. 

For fuller information, click on Founding of The Episcopal Church Part I , Tony Knapp.

It is in this light then that Jefferson's famous letter was written, and by which we can see more clearly the meaning of Article One of the Bill of Rights.

Article I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,  (the famous "Establishment Clause"). The federal government cannot force you join, attend or otherwise uphold or support any one denomination. Neither can it levy taxes for that purpose. States? Counties? That's a different question, and one which seldom if ever comes up.

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This part is less clear-cut. A few days ago a man half-strangled his little boy and threw him out of the car, abandoning him on the roadside. He did this, he said, because God told him to. 

Are we eager to elect this man to public office? Article Six of the Constitution states:

no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. Not even for axe murderers, child abusers, and their ilk? How about headhunters? Or can it be that these are not really religious questions?

There must be something else involved here. Whether we recognize it or not, are we in fact living under a higher law?
 Is America a Christian nation?

No. We are not a Christian nation. But we are, undeniably, a Judaeo-Christian Nation. That doesn't mean that only Jews and Christians are welcome here. But it does mean that anyone living here must abide by those principles. Those who shed innocent blood, steal their livelihood from the weak, do not honor those who came before, are not contributing to our society and cannot be tolerated here or anywhere.

Every clan, village and nation in history has had the Ten Commandments. They may not be written out or enumerated, there may be six or 20 or 14, but those basic concepts are what it takes to make a society viable.

So to summarize:

 What Is the Place of Religion in American Political Life?

We can require that the office-seeker be honest, well-intentioned, educated. We want him to be responsive to the current national and world situation. We hope his personal behavior won't embarrass us on the world stage.

We cannot require that the office-seeker avoid cults or agnosticism or atheism.  

Religion is and must remain a personal choice. 

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Is "Mormonism" a Cult?

I hadn't planned to comment on this, nor on Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations, but sometimes the daily news overtakes common sense and forces writers to join the debate.

By now everybody knows what happened at the Values meeting, so I won't go into that. I will, however, attempt an answer -- not "the" answer, but "an" answer to the cult business.

Not being certain what exactly is meant by the term "cult," and having decided that "us-against-them" may be accurate, but is not comprehensive, I went to the Merriam-Webster (an Encyclopedia Britannica Company) Dictionary for help. Here's their take on it:


noun, often attributive \ˈkəlt\

Definition of CULT

1: formal religious veneration  
Plea: Guilty as charged. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does practice religious veneration.
2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents 
Plea: Guilty again. There is a system of religious beliefs and rituals, and there is a body of adherents.
3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents 
Question: By whom? By what authority does one religious body call another "unorthodox?" 
Again, I'm not sure what "unorthodox" means. Call me "stupid" if you like, but I want to get this right.
Back to M-W: unorthodox  means "not orthodox". Now there's a shocker. So how about "orthodox"?


adj \ˈr-thə-ˌdäks\

Definition of ORTHODOX

1 a: conforming to established doctrine especially in religion b: conventional
2  capitalized: of, relating to, or constituting any of various conservative religious or political groups: as a: eastern orthodox b: of or relating to Orthodox Judaism

Examples of ORTHODOX

  1. He took an orthodox approach to the problem.
  2. She believes in the benefits of both orthodox medicine and alternative medicine.
  3. He is a very orthodox Muslim.
  4. I attend an Eastern Orthodox church.
  5. My grandmother is Russian Orthodox.
I'm guessing that by "orthodox," much of what we shall call "mainstream" Christanity means accepting and conforming to the Medieval Creeds. In brief, Trinitarians.

Latter-day Saints are not Trinitarians. We believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. We believe they are one in intent and purpose, but that they are not therefore different names for the same being. When Christ in the Garden said "Not my will but thine be done;" or on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou  forsaken me?" it does not make sense to us to maintain that he was talking to himself.

Someone on one of the morning talk shows pointed out that the press and others are determined to bar religion from the public discourse. Sometimes people try to block Nativity scenes, or even have crosses removed from military cemeteries. But just let a Republican aspire to public office and -- Whammo! -- religious beliefs return with a vengeance. At this point we throw all our journalistic scruples out the window, along with any concept of fairness or truth.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not alone in having been labeled a "cult." Richard J. Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical school in Pasadena, California, recalls "a reporter once asking me: 'Evangelicalism, is that like Scientology and Hare Krishna?'"
A family I happen to know is about equally divided between Baptists and Lutherans. At Holiday gatherings, theological differences were served up with the turkey. On one memorable occasion, a Baptist pointed out that, "You know, there really was a John the Baptist, but there has never been a John the Lutheran." The Lutheran's priceless comeback: "John the Baptist lost his head, and the Baptists have been running around without one ever since!"
So, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Christian? (The name ought to give you a clue). Or is it a cult?  I'd say that's up to you. What do YOU  think a cult might be?

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Friday, September 30, 2011



Right now the big question on the blogosphere is: Why do Latter-daySaints go to General Conference?
As several have pointed out, there won't be anything "new." It's just hour after after hour of sermons, interspersed with sermons-set-to-music by the Tabernacle Choir.

Only a relative handful of Latter-day Saints (perhaps 100,000 or so) will actually be in attendance at Temple Square. So perhaps a better question is: why do millions -- members and non-members alike-- tune in on TV, radio and Internet to hear all that?

Again, chances are there won't be anything "new." No new discoveries, no new sales techniques, no new (you fill in the blank) such as we hear at business or science seminars. Only affirmation of things we already know. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself; and on these rest the Law and the Prophets. Such was Jesus' teaching, and even he was quoting the great Hillel. I doubt that was new with Hillel, either.

The answer lies in the difference between matters of practice and matters of doctrine. Matters of Practice have to do with procedure. Sunday School may be at 10:00 a.m. or at 2:00 p.m. or whenever the local leaders want it to be. In fact, it may be that Sunday School is optional. In its early days, the Church got along without any Sunday School at all. Fast Sunday, now the first Sunday of the month, was once Thursday. Years ago, Alexander Schreiner used to write a four-bar interlude to be played on the organ or piano before and after the Sacrament service (Communion or Eucharist to our fellow Christians); we don't do that any more. We used to stand for the "rest hymn" (now called Interlude) between talks and for the closing song. We don't do that any more either.

Some people seem to think that the Temple service should never change. But it does. It changes to conform to changing technology, changes in societal customs and sensitivities.

In fact we seem to have borrowed an axiom from the geologists: nothing is constant except change.

What doesn't change falls under Matters of Doctrine, chief among these being the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

So tune in. Be comforted. Be admonished. But don't look to be surprised.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tree of Life?

I guess I'm one of those people who were once called "Liahona Saints." I'm always out looking for guidance here there and everywhere. Now don't get me wrong -- I accept the teachings of Church authorities, but always with the caveat probably best uttered by Bruce R. McConkie.

Are all prophetic utterances true?  Of course they are!  … But not every word that a man who is a prophet speaks is a prophetic utterance.  (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p.231.)
 There is a difference between Prophecy and folklore. The following is an example of the way folklore can get out of hand and be widely disseminated:
A special dinner and reception will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 23, featuring speakers from the Utah Mexican Consulate, government officials from Chiapas, Mexico, the Utah state governor's office, the LDS church and West Valley City. The event celebrates the gifting of Stela #5, or the "Tree of Life" stone replica, to West Valley City. The stone has been recreated in precise detail and will be permanently displayed next to the Olmec Head, also a gift from the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Following the reception, the public is invited to the 7 p.m., unveiling of the stone, also at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 West 3100 South, in West Valley City.
Izapa Stella 5 is one of a number of large, carved stelae found in the ancient Mesoamerica sites of Izapa, in the Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico along the present-day Guatemalan border. These stelae date from roughly 300 BC to 50 or 100 BC, although some argue for dates as late as 250 AD. Also known as the "Tree of Life" stone, the complex religious imagery of Izapa Stela 5 has led to different theories and speculations concerning its subject matter, particularly those involving Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. Though discovered and documented first in the 1930s, the stone is particularly noteworthy because of the controversy created by the proposition by Professor M. Wells Jakeman in 1953 that the stone was a record of the Book of Mormon "Tree of Life" vision.

So we must thank the Republic of Mexico for their gift. It is a rare and wonderful work of art. But -- there's always a "but", isn't there? BUT the Tree of Life is, IMHO, a universal symbol. Some have gone so far as to suggest that it is the second tree in the Garden of Eden, and further that as such it represents a foretelling of the Cross.

One of the oldest recorded accounts of the World-Tree is of Babylonian origin and stems from about 3000 - 4000 BC. This tree stood at the centre of the Universe, which was thought to be somewhere near the ancient city of Eridu at the mouth of the river Euphrates. Its white crystal roots penetrated the primordial waters of the abyss, which were guarded by an amphibious God of wisdom called Ea. He was the source of the waters of life that made the plains fertile. The foliage of the sacred tree was the seat of Zikum, the Goddess of the heavens, while its stem was the holy abode of the Earth-Goddess Davkina and her son Tammuz. Echoes of this imagery can be found in all the mythologies of ancient Mesopotamia.
 Writing in the 12th century, the Icelandic scholar, poet, historian and politician Snorri Sturlunson described the Norse version of this cosmic tree in his epic poem known as 'the Edda'. It is hard to tell how much of the symbolism is derived from actual oral accounts of ancient Norse mythology and how much of it is based on the authors' prosaic fancy. The World-Tree of the Eddas seems at any rate to be a compilation of mythic imagery drawn from various sources. The story has been re-told many times, variously embroidered with more or less fancy details, but essentially it goes like this:
Somewhere, in a space beyond space and a time beyond time grows a magnificent, huge tree, who's branches embrace and uphold the heavens, and who's roots reach deep into the Underworld - it is known as the World-Tree Yggdrasil.
Yggdrasil bridges the three great realms of existence: In its midst lies Asgard, the mountainous domain of the Gods, pierced by the stem of the sacred tree. ... But this microcosm [would] not be complete without the serpent and the eagle, signifying the polarised opposites between the creative and the destructive forces of the Universe. At the very base of the tree lurked the serpent Niddhogg who constantly gnawed away at its roots. Its destructive powers were only kept at bay by an eagle, symbol of the sun, who lived in the upper branchesof the tree from where he continuously warded off the serpent's assaults. Thus, the forces of life and death are kept in equilibrium and the essential life-force of the tree is never damaged.
Sacred Earth

This is not to say that the universal symbol of the tree is completely unrelated to Lehi and his dream. But to put it in reverse order, Lehi's dream may have been based, at least in part, on the omnipresence of the Tree.

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In answer to a request by thousands of my fans -- okay, one of my relatives -- here's some of the info I've gathered on Jon Huntsman, Jr.

Everybody with access to a keyboard has told the world who the writer thinks Huntsman is and what he thinks.

The New York Times has compiled his C.V., as of September 7, 2011.

Jon Huntsman at a Glance

Full Name: Jon Meade Huntsman Jr.

Political Office: Governor of Utah, 2005-2009

Business/Professional Experience: U.S. ambassador to China, 2009-present; chairman, CEO, Huntsman Family Holdings Co., 2003-2004; Deputy U.S. trade representative, 2001-2003; Vice chairman of the Board and Executive Committee member, Huntsman Corp., 1993-2001; U.S. ambassador to Singapore, 1992-1993; deputy assistant secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, 1990-1991; deputy assistant secretary, International Trade Administration, 1989-1990; senior vice president and general manager, Huntsman International, 1988-1992; vice president, firector, Huntsman Pacific Chemical Corp., 1987-1988; product manager, Huntsman Chemical Corp., 1986-1989; state director, Utah Reagan-Bush campaign, 1984; staff assistant, the White House, 1983; secretary of the Huntsman Corp., 1982-1989; special assistant to the chairman, Republican National Committee, 1982.

Date of Birth: March 26, 1960

Place of Birth: Palo Alto, Calif.

Education: B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1987

Spouse: Married Mary Katherine Cooper, Nov.18, 1983

Children: Mary Anne, Abigail, Elizabeth, Jon III, William, Gracie Mei, Asha Bharati

Religion: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

As he sees himself:

A version of this [following] article appeared in print on September 1, 2011, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Huntsman Urges Stripping Deductions From Tax Code.

On Science: Twitter:To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy. Thu Aug 18.

On Lybia: Monday [Aug 22]: “The impending fall of Colonel Qaddafi is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Qaddafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful — as the whole world should be — that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it.”

On jobs and taxes: “Over the last few decades, our tax code has devolved into a maze of special-interest carve-outs, loopholes and temporary provisions that cost taxpayers more than $400 billion a year to comply with,” Mr. Huntsman said in a speech at a metal plant in Hudson, N.H. “Get rid of all tax expenditures, all loopholes, all deductions, all subsidies, all corporate welfare.”

Mr. Huntsman’s plan, which borrows from both Representative Paul D. Ryan’s proposal and the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission recommendations to reduce the deficit, also calls for sharply lowering both corporate and individual tax rates, as well as ending taxes on capital gains and dividends, positions more in line with Republican orthodoxy.

It calls for simplified income tax rates of 8 percent, 14 percent and 23 percent, but would eliminate popular tax breaks like the deduction for interest on home mortgages.

On China: NYT 9-7-11."updated 6-21-11" No date for lecture given:    Using a high-profile annual lecture on Chinese-American relations to make his final public address as ambassador, Mr. Huntsman said bluntly that prominent Chinese activists had been unfairly detained or jailed, naming Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is serving an 11- year prison sentence for “subversion,” and Ai Weiwei, the Beijing artist who was taken into custody in April 2011.

The most poignant moment of his remarks came in the question-and-answer session when someone asked what he thought of China’s one-child policy. (The policy was recently in the news when, during his visit to China, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. seemed to condone it.)

“I hate the one-child policy, as do a lot of people there,” Mr. Huntsman said, explaining that “it is robbing the Chinese people of life and opportunity.”

But, he added, his 12-year-old daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from China, was a direct result of the policy.

“I’ve got to say it has given me one of the loves of my life in my own daughter,” he said.

Deseret News 5-20-11
On Israel:KING: Would you tell the prime minister of Israel, go into talks with the Palestinians and start with the premise that you start with the 1967 borders?

HUNTSMAN: I would say you know best how to conduct this negotiation. ... We can't force these issues. We have to make sure that security, economic development, settlements, regional security, the changing nature of the Middle East that we couldn't even have conceived of six months ago, that all of that is taken into proper consideration at the negotiating table. And that's best left up to both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.

KING: So the U.S. should pull back, not get as involved? . . .

HUNTSMAN: There's a role for us to play, but I think when we start defining, you know, pre-'67 War borders, we're probably preempting discussions that may get them there eventually and probably will eventually. But they have to take it at their pace and they have to make sure that it's cued up with all of the other issues that matter, as well.

And as others see him:
Sylvia Kronstadt on the ivillage declares that he "should just play a president on tv"  and The fact that he announced yesterday he is soon "going to announce" his candidacy for president -- and that he hadn't even told his wife, who was sitting in the audience, looking shocked -- tells us something about his character as well as his marriage. ...  He is never caught off guard. He is never embarrassed or uncertain. Smugness is his armor. He is like a beautifully designed robot who comes complete with pre-programmed gestures and commentary: "moving forward," "at the end of the day," "sooner rather than later." ...Huntsman is in love with himself. His movie-star poses are all over the Internet, with that perfect hair, the lavender scarf tossed around his neck, his matinee idol smile. He has cut back a bit on his use of self-tanning products following a considerable amount of national media ridicule, but he can’t resist it entirely, and it does fortify his image of glowing vigor. ...Exactly what is it that has made us great, Jon? I very much doubt that it was someone like you. ?"

Sorry Sylvia, but I'm afraid this stuff comes across sounding like a woman scorned.

As Governor of Utah, he did reform the tax code, including, according to the Huffington Post, "a new flat state income tax of about 5 percent, a reduction of the sales tax on unprocessed food from 4.75 percent to 1.75 percent, and nearly $30 million in tax credits for industries such as renewable energy development and mining. ...pushed for money to preserve open space and farmlands, fought efforts to store nuclear waste in Utah, and vetoed a bill requiring environmental groups to post a bond if they file a lawsuit to stop a project ... recognized that the state's reputation as a difficult place to find a drink was hurting tourism and business development. He successfully pushed the GOP-controlled Legislature to change the law."

At the Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Library on Wednesday Sept. 7, Huntsman quickly sidestepped a question about the turmoil in his campaign by suggesting the moderator call John Weaver. Weaver was deeply involved in the bitter rivalries and resignations that followed Huntsman's botched announcement. Such things as a camera shot that missed the Statue of Liberty; spelling his name "John" on the credentials; the lack of a policy director to furnish the white papers; and hauling  the  press to a Saudi plane instead of the campaign plane give the impression of a campaign thrown together without much forethought. And finally, the candidate refuses to put more of his own money into the effort. 
Huntsman indicated that evening that he was losing sleep over the operational side of the organization.

Read more:

Before the debate on Wednesday the press had decided the race for the nomination would be between Romney and Perry. Afterward, nothing had changed. It might be well to remember that at this point in 2008 the frontrunners were Guiliani and Thompson.

Huntsman has the time and the resources to rise to the top tier of candidates. But unless he can get control of his operation in short order, he would do well to wait for 2016.

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Building Your Business On a Budget

Monday, September 19, 2011

O You Beautiful Doll!

One of the women in my ward has made all these gorgeous dolls. Suzanne not only creates the doll itself, head body and appendages, she made the clothes, the hair, the shoes. She even made the tiny little buttons! (Psst! don't tell, but every little sweetie has appropriate underwear, including ribbons and laces).

For 42 years, beginning each January first, Suzanne vowed to learn a new craft every year.

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DNA and the Book of Mormon

Can't we lay this question aside once and for all? Reading here and there that "Mormonism has been proven wrong by the DNA of American Indians"  has itself been shown to be not only wrong but just plain silly for so long that I'm tempted to throw a shoe at the computer every time I see it.

But it persists. So once again:

  • The Book of Mormon does not say that the American Indians are Jews in disguise. It does say that two men, Lehi and Ishmael took their families and left the Holy Land in 600 B.C. Both these men, though they resided in Judah, were of the House of Joseph, not Judah.
  • Mormons do not believe the American Indians are one of the Ten Lost Tribes. As someone has astutely pointed out, if we knew where they were they wouldn't be "lost". As in the case of invaders everywhere, the victorious parties take over the most desirable lands, ports of entry, and other such things. Soldiers, craftsmen or shipbuilders may be taken away, but the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker is left where he is to continue producing food and durable goods for the conquerors. The Soviet Union collapsed in living memory. Ask yourself: Where did all those people go? 
  • DNA has nothing incontrovertible to say about the origins of the American Indian. For one thing, DNA deteriorates over time, especially when introduced into a new group. Lehites intermarried with the existing population. It would be nothing short of amazing to find their DNA here after 2600 years (even if we knew what their DNA looked like, which we don't.)
It's popular, even among some scientists, to say that DNA proves that the American Indian came from Asia. However, as late as 2010, National Geographic reported that:
Nearly all of today's Native Americans in North, Central, and South America can trace part of their ancestry to six women whose descendants immigrated around 20,000 years ago, a DNA study suggests.

Those women left a particular DNA legacy that persists to today in about about 95 percent of Native Americans, researchers said.
The finding does not mean that only these six women gave rise to the migrants who crossed into North America from Asia in the initial populating of the continent, said study co-author Ugo Perego.
The women lived between 18,000 and 21,000 years ago, though not necessarily at exactly the same time, he said. . . . The six "founding mothers" apparently did not live in Asia because the DNA signatures they left behind aren't found there, Perego said. They probably lived in Beringia, the now-submerged land bridge that stretched to North America, he said.

Evidence for diverse migrations into the New World also comes from Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research on living American Indian populations. These studies have consistently shown similarities between American Indians and recent populations in Asia and Siberia, but also unique American characteristics, which the very early crania have also shown. Evidence for only four mtDNA lineages, characterizing over 95 percent of all modern American Indian populations, may suggest a limited number of founding groups migrating from Asia into the New World. Recently, however, a fifth mtDNA lineage named "X" has turned up in living American Indians and in prehistoric remains for which there does not appear to be an Asian origin. The first variant of X was found in Europeans and may have originated in Eurasia. Naturally, generations of conflict, intermarriage, disease, and famine would influence the genetic makeup of modern Native Americans. Further work with mtDNA, nuclear DNA (which is more representative of the entire genome), and Y-chromosome data, the male-transmitted complement of mtDNA, will permit better estimates of the genetic similarities between Old and New World groups and help to determine when they would have shared a common ancestor.

Once again -- DNA, archaeology or any other scientific endeavor is so far unable to prove the Book of Mormon either right or wrong. But if you're going to condemn it, have the grace to read it first.

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     I think everyone dreams of owning their own business.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


This is my first blog, so it seems that a word of introduction would be in order.

I'm a longtime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), a convert from a family of non-church-goers. So from childhood on I heard a lot about Mormons: they have horns and use carrots for money. But since we now have two Mormons in the Presidential race,  I'm hearing things I've never heard before.

While I am in no way authorized to speak for the Church in any official way, I think a lifetime of study has given me some insight, and I'd like a chance to answer some of your questions.

BTW I do have an M.A. degree, so I'm reasonably intelligent -- at least able to read and write. My field of study, besides religion, is cultural history, which is a blend of history and anthropology. I sincerely doubt that I'm easily misled.

So lets get started. Here are a few things you may like to comment on:

Yes, we Mormons are Christians and No, we are not Trinitarians, though we do believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

We don't practice polygamy (incidentally, plural wives is  polygyny) and haven't since 1890.

There's no such thing as Book of Mormon archaeology, but like many others I could point out a few things that are at least suggestive.

We don't believe the Book of Mormon replaces or conflicts with the Bible. The Bible deals with people in Egypt and the Southern Levant, for the most part. The Book of Mormon tells of people who left that area and came to the New World. You probably don't think a history of Finland would replace a history of Japan. See what I mean?

Then there's those pesky golden plates. In the last few years there have been numerous finds of records on metal plates of different kinds, dating back to Lehi's time and before. Does this "prove" the Book of Mormon is true? No, it's just one of those little things that keep cropping up here and there that make the Book of Mormon story that much easier to accept.

Well, that ought to be enough to get started. Now it's your turn.

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