Nearing Kolob

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How the LDS Church Finds Lost Members

How the LDS Church Finds Lost Members

This is an interesting guide to how the LDS Church encourages local leadership to find “lost” members: https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Locating_members

 

Mormon Missionaries with Guns

There seems to be a couple pictures going around recently of Mormon missionaries with guns. Have you seen other pictures of missionaries with guns?

 

Mormon Missionaries with Guns

Mormon Missionaries with Guns

 

Mormon Missionaries with Guns

Mormon Missionaries with Guns

Job is no longer a prophet?

Job is no longer a prophet?

I was a bit amused when I read this month’s Ensign. Since the Sunday School curriculum is focused on the Old Testament this year, the Ensign has run a series of articles called “Old Testament Prophets”. So far the featured prophets have been:

  1. Adam (January)
  2. Noah (February)
  3. Abraham (March)
  4. Moses (April)
  5. Samuel (June)
  6. Elijah (July)
  7. Job (August)

Job seems like a great choice. I like Job. I like the Book of Job. In fact, I am very much looking forward to Michael Austin’s book “Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem” which aims at introducing a more academic approach to the book to an LDS audience .

Job his considered a prophet in the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. While conservative religious believers maintain he was a real person, others argue he was not. Some say it doesn’t matter. I agree with the latter two: it’s unlikely he existed and it doesn’t really matter.

Growing up in the Church, I not only took it for granted that he was real, but I was repeatedly told he was a real person and an Old Testament prophet. Here are some examples (bold is mine):

  • The prophet Job learned the meaning of friend when, in his many afflictions, his three friends ‘made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.’” –First Presidency Message, January 1971 (LINK)
  • The classic example of faithful endurance was the Old Testament prophet Job. He lost all his possessions, he suffered great personal affliction and physical pain, some of his children met tragic death, and even his friends deserted him. Yet he proclaimed his faith” –Elder Howard W. Hunter, 1980 General Conference (LINK)
  • “If we witness by our acts, and from our hearts our determination to carry out the mind and will of the Lord we shall have this double assurance of a glorious resurrection, and be able to say as the Prophet Job said—his was a glorious declaration” –Elder Joseph F. Smith, 1883 (LINK)
  • “The prophet Job counseled us not to “dig a pit for your friend.” (Job 6:27.)” –Elder James M. Paramore, 1992 General Conference (LINK)
  • Job had a premortal existence. On one occasion the Lord asked the prophet Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” — “Q&A”, February 1972 New Era (LINK)
  • It does not make any difference to me, brethren, what people think about the Mormon Church, or its doctrines, I cannot help thinking of the words of the Lord to Job the prophet: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)” –Elder Samuel O. Bennion, 1944 General Conference (LINK)
  • These words of the prophet Job are not particularly flattering to man, but they are truthful.” –Elder Hartman Rector Jr., 1970 General Conference (LINK)

So, I was not surprised to see the Ensign feature him in the “Old Testament Prophets” series this month. I was surprised to see them remove that title from Job in an addendum to the article saying:

“Although Job was not a prophet, his life, testimony, and endurance during trials can be an inspiration to us”

Job is no longer a prophet?

Job is no longer a prophet?

I was intrigue by what seemed to me to be a change. Is Job no longer considered a prophet by the LDS Church? Was he even considered a prophet? I decided to look through some Church resources. This is what I found:

In fact, I couldn’t find any LDS manual saying Job was a prophet. They usually avoid the topic or call him a “righteous man”. The current issue of the Ensign is, in fact, the first time I’ve seen any Church publication declare “Job was not a prophet”. Maybe the Church never considered him a prophet while I was growing up.

This is, however, counter to the message of many General Conference talks and likely the belief of many Church members. Now that you know, though, be sure to set the record straight when we get to Lesson 32 in a couple weeks: “Job was not a prophet”

Seventy Asks Priesthood Quorums to Teach Oaks’ “Remarkable” Talk

Seventy Asks Priesthood Quorums to Teach Oaks' Remarkable Talk

In May of this year, Area Seventy Fred A. Parker wrote a letter to the Elders Quorum Presidents and High Priest Group Leaders in the North America Southeast Area asking them to “let this remarkable talk be the topic of discussion in your quorum/group over the next 30 days.” The talk he is referring to his Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood”.

This talk was by far the discussed talk of last conference–for both its content and timing (there was also hidden meaning). The talk was viewed as a response to the Ordain Women movement protesting for entrance to the Priesthood Session (and the priesthood). Ironically, this talk was given during that session, with no women in the building to see it live.

The content was also highly debated during the following week. In an effort to aid Elder Parker’s desire “to help make the brothers and sisters in our stakes more aware of the keys and authority of the Priesthood and to strengthen our families through the Priesthood” I am posting some links to help our study:

GD Lesson 30: The LDS Church and Prophetesses

GD Lesson 30: The LDS Church and Prophetesses

Next week in Sunday School my ward is covering Lesson 30 in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual which includes the story of one of most important prophetesses in the Old Testament. This lesson includes the story of King Josiah and the book “found” in the temple. We previously wrote a post discussing the similarities between this anonymous book and anonymous literature presented as law in these latter-days here.

An interesting character appears in this story: Huldah.  Wikipedia says: “According to Rabbinic interpretation, Huldah and Deborah were the principal professed woman prophets in the Nevi’im (Prophets) portion of the Hebrew Bible“.

Huldah and Deborah should be discussed as examples of strong leaders and prophetesses. They should be presented as strong examples to your women  and young women. However both of these women are unfortunately marginalized in our church manuals.

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah was a prophetess that appears in the book of Judges. She is the only female judge and a strong figure. Judges 5 is a poem that may be in the oldest passage of the Bible which, interestingly, portrays women fighting.

Jana Riess wrote an article a while back discussing the Church’s treatment of Deborah in the Gospel Doctrine manual. She wrote:

The manual gives the impressions that 1) Barak had received his commandment directly from God, and 2) he wanted his sidekick Deborah to come along to the battle as moral support. The manual then reinforces #2 by lauding Deborah as a ‘righteous friend’ and ‘true friend’ to Barak. Behind every good man, it seems, there is a good woman.

“What the manual subtly does is strip Deborah of any power the Bible gives her in her own right, by failing to mention her status as a prophetess and her leadership role as a judge. In fact, at no point does the manual even refer to her as a judge, let alone point out that she’s the only wholly righteous one in the entire Book of Judges.”

In the lesson Deborah was demoted to a “friend” and stripped of her power as a prophetess and leader.

I won’t go into more detail about Deborah as Jana said it nicely. Read more about what she wrote here.

Huldah the Prophetess

So, how do the Church manuals handle Huldah, the other “principal professed woman prophet” of Nevi’im? In the Gospel Doctrine manual we that

  • They do call her a prophetess (“Huldah the prophetess tells of the forthcoming desolation of Judah but prophesies that Josiah will not have to witness it” and “What did the prophetess Huldah say would happen to Judah”)
  • And as prophetess, the GD manual says, she tells what will happen to Judah and Josiah (“What did Huldah say would happen to Josiah?”)

So this is good, right? Yes, but…

As pointed out by the Faith Promoting Rumor blog, she is completely ignored in the 2011 church educational video “Josiah and the Book of the Law”. Read the post for more discussion.

Also, according to the Institute manual why did King Josiah ask her about the found book in the first place? The Gospel Doctrine manual doesn’t address this specifically, but the Institute manual does by citing a Bible commentary published in 1890. BTW they couldn’t find anything newer? (emphasis mine):

(19-9) 2 Kings 22:14–20. What Is the Significance of Huldah and Her Prophecy?

“Nothing further is known of the prophetess Huldah than what is mentioned here. All that we can infer from the fact that the king sent to her is, that she was highly distinguished on account of her prophetical gifts, and that none of the prophets of renown, such as Jeremiah and Zephaniah, were at that time in Jerusalem. Her [husband] Shallum was keeper of the clothes, i.e. superintendent over either the priests’ dresses that were kept in the temple . . . or the king’s wardrobe.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:1:480.)

So, the reason King Josiah asks a woman to authenticate the found book is because none of the male prophets were around. The implication is then that had male prophets been around she certainly wouldn’t have been asked.

The idea expressed above reminds me of two examples of women being left out of things in the modern Church.

#1 Chieko Okazaki and The Proclamation on the Family

Lori Burkman wrote a nice article titled “Why aren’t the women included in this?” which is a quote from Chieko Okazaki to Church leaders asking why the General Relief Society leadership was not asked about (nor made aware of) the change in third hour lessons. Lori continues by saying

“The part of this interview that surprised me the most was finding out that the General Relief Society Presidency was not even notified that ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ was in the works. They were not informed of it, they were not asked for consultation of any kind in its drafting, and they were not asked if there were specific concerns for women that might need to be included. When she was presented with the finished product, her response was as follows:

‘How come we weren’t consulted?’”

Lori continues by discussing how female Church leaders were similarly ignored during the crafting of The Proclamation on the Family. In response, Chieko Okazaki said: “Sometimes I think they get so busy that they forget that we are there”.

You can read more here, but you get the idea.

#2 Women and the sacrament

I have long felt that our young women would greatly benefit by being allowed to participate in church more visibly. Our young women need to see they are valuable to the ward and the Church. There are many ways this could be accomplished without changing “doctrine”, but one way would be by allowing women to participate more in the sacrament.

The sacrament is often described as the most sacred time of the week for Latter-day Saints. Unfortunately, only men are able to prepare, bless, pass, and administer the sacrament. Some of this is by scriptural charge and other is policy. I previously wrote a post titled “Women Should Be Allowed to Participate More in the Sacrament” demonstrating that women have previously participated in preparing the sacrament and that doctrinally they could be allowed to pass it–just not bless or administer it (at this time).

The precedence for this can be find in this article by BYU professor William G. Hartley (pages 129-130). In fact, while preparing the sacrament was ultimately listed as priesthood responsibility in 1933 (see article), women continued to prepare it through World War II when many men were away overseas. After the war, the policy was was more strongly set forth and in 1950 the Church News published a message from Church leadership saying that is was “preferred that [preparing the sacrament] not be delegated either to LDS girls or their mothers.” (emphasis mine)

Women Should Be Allowed to Participate More in the Sacrament

Conclusion

We, as a Church and as a people, can do better at recognizing and celebrating the female prophetesses in scripture by understanding their real roles and importance and by not demoting the status the scriptures give them. Unfortunately, the viewpoint that demotes women in scripture also demotes women in the modern Church by marginalizing their roles beyond even what our latter-day scriptures say.

BYU-Idaho Professor Resigns from the Mormon Church

BYU-Idaho Professor Resigns from the Mormon Church

Last Friday I learned that Kirk Caudle, online professor at BYU-Idaho and host of the Mormon Book Review Podcast (here and here), had resigned from the LDS Church. His announcement on Facebook can be seen at the bottom of this post.

An interesting post on Chris Henrichsen‘s blog Approaching Justice provides a little more detail on the back story and reasons for Caudle’s resignation: he didn’t leave over issues about The Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith, but because “he does not feel welcome within the LDS Church community.” Please read and share Henrichsen’s post! Henrichsen’s article discusses, as the event leading up to Caudle’s resignation, the complaint from one online student that Caudle “mentioned that the account of Brigham Young being transfigured to appear like Joseph Smith is not ‘entirely historical.’ ” There is a problem about the complaint: he is correct–it isn’t “entirely historical” (see “The Making a a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young”). Yet another reason why my kids will not go to BYU-Idaho.

A quick search shows BYU-Idaho has removed some of Caudle’s information from the university webpage (Google search results here):

BYU-Idaho Professor Resigns from the Mormon Church

I believe Caudle still considers himself Mormon–just no longer a member of the LDS Church.  As such, the Church has lost a lot, but at least Mormonism hasn’t.

 

Facebook Announcement

I have officially resigned from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that some of you already know and I know that many others have heard a variety of other rumors about my membership being threatened. Therefore, let me set the record straight. 

“At its heart, Mormonism is communal. I love that community with all of my heart. I have tried my best to give whatever I had to that community and time and time again I felt rejected by the communal family that I so closely love and cherish. My academic study of religion started with a love of people. The reason I continue to study and teach it today is for the same reason.

“Let me be clear that I have a deep love, affection, and testimony of Joseph Smith, a very personal relationship and testimony of The Book of Mormon, and most of all, I believe in Jesus Christ. However, I cannot in good faith, and for the betterment of my family, continue to be associated with the church as it stands in the 21st century. I cannot justify staying because of a growing divide between me and it both religious and morally.

“I am truly blessed to have an amazing wife and children who support me and me 100%. The respect and sustain my choice in this. This is probably the hardest choice that I have ever made in my life and is quite the paradigm shift.

“With that said, if you have nothing but negative things to say or simply want to change me mind please do not post on this thread. I know my threads are usually open season to say whatever you would like, but if you only have negatively, please do not post it here.

“I am more than happy to talk with individuals if need be. I am sure that people probably have questions. I thought it better to just get it all out there at once though rather than just continue to have rumors flying around.”

 

Did Joseph Fielding Smith Hide “Strange” First Vision Account?

Did Joseph Fielding Smith Hide "Strange" First Vision Account?

A reader forwarded me this PowerPoint presentation (original link) titled “The Case of the Three Torn Pages” which is based on a new Dialogue article by Stan Larson titled “Another Look at Joseph Smith’s First Vision”. The opening slide provides a summary:

“Joseph Fielding Smith’s extraordinary attempt to hide Joseph Smith’s 1832 hand-written account of the First Vision when he discovered it, nearly 100 years after it was written”

And the presentation concludes with:

“The Church is widely accused of white-washing/hiding any history that is not“faith promoting”

“This is a very specific example of an important, historical document being withheld from history for over 30 years.

“Evidence strongly points to JFS, or someone in his office, excising Joseph Smith’s hand-written 1832 account of the First Vision from the book that contained it, and hiding it in his private safe (away from the already tightly held Church archives)—only to reinsert it in the archived book over 30 years later, when news of its existence started to mount.”

Talk by Elder Christofferson’s Gay Brother

This is an interesting read that some might enjoy

“What Manner of Men and Women Ought We to Be?”

ALL Are Alike Unto God, 2014

Arizona LDS LGBT/SSA Conference

April 26, 2014

Tom Christofferson

Temple Photobomb

Temple Photobomb

I’ve taken a break for a week or so, but thought you might enjoy this picture. It appeared on Facebook here.

Do Mormons Fear Changing Doctrines?

Do Mormons Fear Changing Doctrines?

I ran across an interesting IAmA reddit post started by “utah1percenter”. The post says “IAmA Mormon, born into the church, leaving on Wednesday to serve a full time, two year mission in Columbus, Ohio. AMA!”

There are a number of interesting questions and responses, but one that particularly drew my attention was the following (emphasis mine):

shooooosh: “Where in Utah are you from and do you think those uppity women are going to have stolen your priesthood by the time you get back?”

utah1percenter: “Sandy City, Wasatch Valley area. This is one of my fears, not that they receive the priesthood, but that this is a fundamental belief, that I’m not sure if I would agree with if changed. I would hope that if it happened I would be able to understand the reasoning, and perhaps accept it.”

FuzzyKittenIsFuzzy: “I will buy you dinner tonight and gift you a physical copy of CES letter or a copy of Insiders View if you would read it before you go. Serious offer.”

sincere9: “One of your fears is that they will give women some authority?”

utah1percenter: “No, I said one of my fears is that a doctrine that I have been taught my whole life is a certain way, changes suddenly and against everything I have been taught before. I have no problem with women, and I think it is right to say neither does the church. We believe that the Lord has set apart the brothers of the church to do the priesthood ordinances and it has nothing to do with us hating women. Which we don’t.”

Do Mormons Fear Changing Doctrines?

Utah1percenter said one of his fears is having a doctrine he was taught his whole life as true suddenly changing. I can’t help but thing this future missionary is alone. Mormon doctrine is an evolving thing. It has always been that way.  Many of the changes have discussed in the outstanding book “This is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology” by BYU professor Charles Harrell.

Do Mormon really fear doctrines and even major policies changing?