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Cinepro’s Unified Theory Of Official Doctrine

One of the recurring themes among apologists and critics is how to find “Official LDS Doctrine”.  The confusion seems to stem over the lack of a clear, authoritative definition, leaving each member (and non-member) to arrive at their own conclusion.

While there are many, many doctrines for which there is no debate over their “official” status (Jesus is the Son of God, everyone will be resurrected, Baptism by immersion is required for everyone, etc.), once we venture outside of the core teachings, things get much murkier.

A recent article in Wired magazine discussed the problem of “status” in the world of scientists.  The traditional method of gaining status was to be published in high-status journals.  The more publications over time, the better for you.  But some scientists were doing work of great value, but for certain reasons, it wasn’t being accepted for publication in the few high-status journals.  But it was being referred to and used by other scientists, which would indicate that it did have value.

So physicist Jorge Hirsch developed his own system for “rating” scientists:

After two years of number-crunching in his cluttered office at UC San Diego, Hirsch had it—an invention important enough to warrant publication in the (very prestigious) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In his 2005 article, Hirsch introduced the h-index (named after himself, of course). The key was focusing not on where you published but on how many times other researchers cited your work. In practice, you take all the papers you’ve published and rank them by how many times each has been cited. Say paper number one has been cited 10,000 times. Paper number two, 8,000 cites. Paper number 32 has 33 citations, but number 33 has received just 28. You’ve published 32 papers with more than 32 citations—your h-index is 32.

Or to put it more technically, the h-index is the number n of a researcher’s papers that have been cited by other papers at least n times. High numbers = important science = important scientist.

In its nearly four years of life, the relatively simple, flexible h-index has become the most talked-about metric in the very hot science of rating scientists and their research, a discipline that has flourished in ways Hirsch had never imagined. The h-index was the biggest splash in a flood of Internet-enabled rating systems—growth and decay chronometrics, semiometric measures, hub/authority metrics. Schools and labs use such ratings to help them make grants, bestow tenure, award bonuses, and hire postdocs. In fact, similar statistical approaches have become standard practice in Internet search algorithms and on social networking sites. These numbers do for scientists what U.S. News & World Report does for colleges and Bill James’ Sabermetrics did for baseball: They quantify reputation.

It’s an interesting idea.  This quantification process reduces the influence of any single factor in determining the value of a theory or research paper.  It is the aggregate, over time, that is important.  There is no one, single authority determining what has scientific “value”, and what research must languish in obscurity.  It’s a way of saying “This theory or research is used by many different scientists in many different areas of research, so it must have value.”

It seems to me that a similar system could be used to determine the validity of doctrines in the Church.   Just as there is no single way for a scientific paper to be determined “valid” (it is tested and used over time, by many different scientists), there is no single way for a doctrine in the Church to be considered “official”.  Many factors come into play, including the source of the doctrine, the frequency with which it is taught, its “currency” (how recently was it taught?), who is teaching it, and who is teaching contradictory doctrines?

Each teaching of the Church could be analyzed in such a way, with weighting given to different sources (i.e. it’s in the AoF = very strong, it’s in an article written by a non-GA in the Ensign 25 years ago = not very strong, it’s only found in the JoD = very weak).  Some doctrines would be found to be taught and repeated in many places, continually getting reinforced in manuals, publications, conference talks, and rooted in the scriptures.  Others would be popular in certain eras, but fade over time (becoming “less official”).  Others might have more recent, contradictory statements that would weaken them considerably.

Looking at the aggregate of teachings and citations over time, it could be seen which doctrines have been useful and solid, and which have disappeared or fallen out of fashion.  “Jesus = Son of God” could be a 10, “Blood Atonement” could be a 1.  Instead of trying to shoehorn different ideas into a box of “Official Doctrine”, it could be understood that a teaching has a doctrinal rating of “6”, which might mean it is frequently found in manuals and certain interpretations of the scriptures, but there are alternate theories which are also acknowledged and it hasn’t been taught explicitly by a latter day Prophet of Apostle from the pulpit.

In order to implement such a system, each type of “reinforcement” would need to be graded, and then for each teaching under consideration, someone would have to do the research to determine when and where it has been taught (or taught against).  Ultimately, we all probably use our own version of this system (adjusted for our personal preferences for weighting of sources and knowledge of what has been taught where), but it would be interesting to actually try to codify it, and give some uniformity to these discussions.

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The Case Against Physical Evidence for the Book of Mormon

One of the truisms of Mormon apologetics can be summarized thusly:

There is no solid physical evidence for the Book of Mormon because even if they had solid evidence, people who disbelieve the book still wouldn’t believe. And for the others, they would be logically compelled to believe in the gospel, thus skipping the all important step of having faith.   Sometimes this is even embellished with the theory that God is being merciful by withholding all the evidence.  He’s doing it for our benefit.

But, as with many apologetic truisms, this one makes no sense when compared to other situations where evidences such as source documents are available.  Does the presence of these sources inspire other people to change their religion?  And when faced with an “exceedingly unusual” claim (such as one that drastically rewrites traditional history) does the presence of “evidence” such as source documents usually help the claim, or does it do more damage?

After all, how many people converted to the Church after the “discovery” of the Joseph Smith papyri?

How many people changed their religious affiliation, or diminished their feelings towards their current one, after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library, or any other recently discovered ancient religious document?

How many “anciently inscribed” metal plates or clay tablets supporting an alternate view of ancient American history have been discovered on the American continent in the last 200 years (inluding the Kinderhook plates, the Vorhee Tablets, and the Michigan Relics)? Of these, how many have been fraudulent, and how many have been authentic? Has the availability of the artifacts made it easier to determine their fraudulent nature, or harder?

How many hard evidences of an ancient Hebrew presence have been “discovered” in the Americas in the last 200 years (including the Bat Creed Stone and the Los Lunas inscription)? Of these, how many have been accepted as authentic, and how many have been determined to be likely fakes? How has the availability of the artifacts affected a researchers ability to determine their authenticity?

In any of the previous examples, if the artifacts had been “lost” or hidden, would it be easier or harder to believe in their authenticity?

Compare pre-1980 comments in Church publications regarding the Kinderhook plates to post-1990 comments (when testing in 1980 had strongly indicated a 19th century origin). If there had been existing Kinderhook plates to test, would we have seen such a dramatic change in the approach of Church scholars to the subject?

In addition to the Golden Plates that are now gone, also consider the liahona, Laban’s sword, the breastplate, the Urim and Thummim and the cement box, all of which were claimed to have been recovered by Joseph Smith in the 1820’s. When formulating a theory to explain the missing Golden Plates, should the theory also include an explanation for these other missing artifacts?

It should also be noted that  “uneducated farmboys”  have found ancient artifacts before, including significantly religious ones (main example being the Dead Sea Scrolls). Joseph Smith could have found an stash of ancient metal plates and artifacts entirely by luck, especially since he was digging in the area looking for such things anyway. So, the actual existence of the plates would only prove that Joseph Smith found some ancient plates.

The critical factor as far as faith and evidence is concerned would be the translation. But based on the situation with the Book of Abraham, where Joseph Smith’s “translation” doesn’t exactly correspond with what is one the original document, and the apologetic reaction to the situation, how is it imagined the reaction would be any different if Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon didn’t correspond with what is written on the plates (assuming scholars could crack the code in the first place).

Let’s take the most direct piece of evidence we have for Joseph Smith’s claims of supernatural gifts: the papyri. Is it your opinion that it was easier to believe in the Book of Abraham before the papyri was recovered in the 1960’s, or after? For those who believe the existing papyri is incomplete, do you imagine the recovery of the rest of the papyri would be more supportive of belief, or more damaging?

Look at the Kinderhook plates. Until an actual plate was discovered and tested, most LDS publications considered them genuine, and supportive of the presence of ancient metal plates in the Americas (and thus the Book of Mormon). But the increase in “evidence” allowed the claim to be tested and falsified. Luckily, it was a purely tangential issue (merely a footnote in Church history), but imagine if the same thing happened with the actual gold plates !?

And the same thing has happened over and over in the last 200 years, with all sorts of odd archaeological artifacts being found that support some unusual theory of the ancient americas. The artifacts that remain get tested and falsified (michigan relics, kinderhook plates, bat creek inscription etc.,) The only hope for a con or a fraud is to somehow get rid of the evidence, so it can’t be scrutinized or tested.

No, in the last 175 years, discoveries of physical evidence have ended up being negative to the previous orthodox belief of Church members and scholars, and have required an attitude shift and redefinition away from the previous belief, usually to a less-literal and less-likely-to-be-falsified version of belief.

But if you can get people to believe something regardless of the evidence for or against it, then who cares? You’ve hit the argumentative lottery, and have graduated to that blessed Xanadu that few can hope to achieve: where you can say almost anything you want, and people will believe you not because of the evidence for our claim, but only because you said it. And if evidence contradictory to your claim should appear in the future, the believers will not doubt your claim, but instead work to re-evaluate the evidence to make it fit with your claim, or ignore it all together. They’ll do the work for you!

Just to be clear, the plates would not be a “dead giveaway”.

Remember, there is a situation where a group of people seperated from the main “Church”, and lived in their own society for many years. Then, before their annihilation, they hid up their records (including copies of some of the books of the Old Testament, which they had with them). The records were preserved for over a dozen centuries, until discovered by an uneducated farmboy.

But this farm boy wasn’t Joseph Smith, and we still have them today. The discoverers of these ancient texts didn’t start a Church though. They handed them over to scholars. Thus, researchers the world over are able to learn about this ancient community. No one doubts the origin of the record, because they can be examined. And yet, their existence and publication hasn’t “compelled” anyone to change their belief, as far as I know.

These records are of course the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So, it would have been entirely possible for Joseph to have found a set of buried metal plates in one of his digging expeditions. The real proof wouldn’t be in the existence of the plates, it would be in the translation of the plates. And if the translation was shown to be unrelated to the engraven language, then those who had faith would accept their mistake, right?

Unfortunately, there is another similar case where Joseph translated some ancient documents, with the subsequent examination producing a non-faith promoting result. The Book of Abraham.

So, even if we had the plates, and the translation was shown to be incorrect, I’m sure we would be hearing all about a “catalyst” theory for the Book of Mormon, where these ancient american artifacts weren’t the actual record, but instead “inspired” Joseph to channel Mormon‘s long lost writings.

But if we had the plates, and the translation was shown to be correct, that would be pretty incredible. But considering the prevelance of hoaxes involving ancient american artifacts in the last 200 years, and the ability of the hoax to be exposed based on the availability of the artifacts, I think it was the smartest thing Joseph and/or God ever did when they got rid of the evidence.

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What’s Wrong With “Mormon Doctrine”?

In 1958, Elder Bruce R. McConkie (then a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Seventy, the third highest Quorum in the Church) published a book entitled “Mormon Doctrine”.  It set out, in alphabetical order, his views on hundreds of different subjects relating to the Church, ranging from “The Atonement” to “Playing Cards”.

Though not an “official” Church publication, Elder McConkie was a noted and respected scriptorian, and his forceful and certain tone throughout the book gives it an air of authority.  Soon after it was published, the first edition of the book fell under criticism for some of it’s more unusual and ascerbic claims (the most notable one being that the Catholic Church is “The Church of the Devil” as described in The Book of Mormon).  Higher church authorities discussed the matter, and to make a long story short, the book was issued in a revised second edition in 1966.  After the revelation giving blacks the priesthood in 1978,  it was further revised, and that is the edition available today.

Before his death, Elder McConkie became a member of the LDS Quorum of the 12 apostles, making him a high-ranking authority and one of the 15 men LDS revere as “apostles”.  Since his death, Elder McConkie’s writings, including “Mormon Doctrine”, have enjoyed continued popularity, and he is one of the most quoted Church leaders in the Church’s own scripture lesson manuals and curriculum.

While many of the statements made by Elder McConkie have become outdated and fallen out of fashion in Mormon culture, “Mormon Doctrine”  continues to be published and sold to this day (even in Deseret Book, the LDS Church-owned bookstore). [Edit: As of March 2010, it appears the book is no longer in print or available at Deseret Book – CP] LDS Scholars who support the Theory of Evolution and other more “nuanced” understandings of the scriptures are those most likely to find themselves teaching things contradictory to Elder McConkie.

Whenever the topic of “Mormon Doctrine” comes up, people tend to downplay the book, as if it were harmless or “mostly correct”.  I agree it is “mostly correct”, but I think perhaps it is time to let the book go out of print and fade away (as has almost ever other book published by an LDS General Authority during the 1960’s.  When was the last time you saw “An Abundant Life” by Hugh B. Brown on sale at Deseret Book?)  And why?

Here are some of the many statements made in “Mormon Doctrine” that, at the very least, do not reflect the opinions of many modern Church members and leaders.  I won’t note why each one has fallen out of favor in some circles, but I will say that if these statements are true in general, apologetic scholarship on the Book of Mormon and creation of the Earth has run off doctrinal the rails, and scholars and apologists are living in a  state of delusion:


American Indians “When Columbus discovered America, the native inhabitants, the American Indians as they were soon to be designated, were a people of mixed blood and origin. Chiefly they were Lamanites, but such remnants of the Nephite nation as had not been destroyed had, of course, mingled with the Lamanites. (1 Ne. 13:30; 2 Ne. 3:1-3; 9:53; Alma 45:13-14; D. & C. 3:16-19.) Thus the Indians were Jews by nationality (D. & C. 57:4), their forefathers having come out from Jerusalem, from the kingdom of Judah. (2 Ne. 33:8-10.)”

…….

Since the days of the Spanish conquests and colonizations of Mexico and South America, there has been further dilution of the pure Lamanitish blood. But with it all, for the great majority of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, the dominant blood lineage is that of Israel. The Indians are repeatedly called Lamanites in the revelations to the Prophet, and the promise is that in due course they “shall blossom as the rose” (D. & C. 49:24), that is, become again a white and delightsome people as were their ancestors a great many generations ago.



Animals They were all created as spirit entities in pre-existence. (Moses 3:1-9.) When first placed on earth in the Garden of Eden, they were immortal. The revealed record, speaking of the edenic day, specifies: “All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.” (2 Ne. 2:22.) Such would have been the continuing condition had there been no fall of Adam, but Adam and all forms of life were subject to the fall and have been living on earth in their mortal states ever since.

Article on Marriage

When the Prophet returned (in 1835) and learned of the action taken relative to the publication of the article on marriage, he was greatly troubled. However, knowing that up to that date the new and everlasting covenant of marriage had only been revealed in principle, that there was as yet no command to practice it, and that the power and keys had not been restored whereby marriages could be solemnized so they would endure for eternity, he let the action stand. The higher order was to come later.

Evolution

Adam’s fall brought temporal (natural) and spiritual death into the world. The temporal or natural death means that body and spirit separate, the spirit going to a world of waiting spirits to await the day of the resurrection, the body returning to the dust, the primal element, from which it was taken. The effects of this fall passed upon all created things.

Thus when man fell the earth fell together with all forms of life on its face. Death entered; procreation began; the probationary experiences of mortality had their start. Before this fall there was neither mortality, nor birth, nor death, nor — for that matter — did Adam so much as have blood in his veins (and the same would be true for other forms of life), for blood is an element pertaining only to mortality.

…..

However, for our present purposes, it is sufficient to know that the time element since mortal life began on earth is specifically and pointedly made known. We are now nearing the end of the 6th thousand years of this earth’s “continuance, or its temporal existence,” and the millennial era will commence “in the beginning of the seventh thousand years.” (D. & C. 77.) That is, we are approaching the end of the 6th of the periods of one thousand years each, all of which periods have occurred since the fall, since the earth became temporal, since it gained its telestial status, since it became the natural earth that we know, since death and mortality entered the scene. Thus the period during which birth, and life, and death have been occurring on this earth is less than 6,000 years.

……

How weak and puerile the intellectuality which, knowing that the Lord’s plan takes all forms of life from a pre-existent spirit state, through mortality, and on to an ultimate resurrected state of immortality, yet finds comfort in the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state! Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?

…..

Merely to list the basic doctrines of the gospel is to point out the revealed truths which are inharmonious with the theories of organic evolution and which were to taken into account by those who postulated those theories. In addition to the considerations so far mentioned attention might be given to revelation, visions, and angelic ministrations; to miracles, signs, and gifts of the Spirit; to the enjoyment of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the faithful; to the truths comprising the plan of salvation; to the decreed judgment according to works, and the ultimate assignment of all resurrected men to kingdoms or degrees of glory hereafter.

There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.

First Man

There were no pre-Adamites; the great archangel Michael, who descended from the courts of glory to be the father of the human race, was appointed to be the father of all living. Indeed, Adam and Eve were not able to have children and provide bodies for the spirit children of the Father until after the fall.

Plural Marriage

Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium.

Flood of Noah

In the days of Noah the Lord sent a universal flood which completely immersed the whole earth and destroyed all flesh except that preserved on the ark. (Gen. 6; 7; 8; 9; Moses 7:38-45; 8; Ether 13:2.) “Noah was born to save seed of everything, when the earth was washed of its wickedness by the flood.” (Teachings, p. 12.) This flood was the baptism of the earth; before it occurred the land was all in one place, a condition that will again prevail during the millennial era. (D. & C. 133:23-24.)

There is no question but what many of the so-called geological changes in the earth’s surface, which according to geological theories took place over ages of time, in reality occurred in a matter of a few short weeks incident to the universal deluge. (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 414-436.)

Birth Control

(Quoting President Joseph F. Smith:) : “I regret, I think it is a crying evil, that there should exist a sentiment or a feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. I think that is a crime wherever it occurs, where husband and wife are in possession of health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity. I believe that where people undertake to curtail or prevent the birth of their children that they are going to reap disappointment by and by. I have no hesitancy in saying that I believe this is one of the greatest crimes of the world today, this evil practice.” (Rel. Soc. Mag., vol. 4, p. 318.)

Cain

As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed and told that “the earth” would not thereafter yield him its abundance as previously. In addition he became the first mortal to be cursed as a son of perdition. As a result of his mortal birth he is assured of a tangible body of flesh and bones in eternity, a fact which will enable him to rule over Satan. The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race.

Caste System


However, in a broad general sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry. (Gen. 4; Moses 5.)

Cumorah

See BOOK OF MORMON, GOLD PLATES.

Both the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations fought their final great wars of extinction at and near the Hill Cumorah (or Ramah as the Jaredites termed it), which hill is located between Palmyra and Manchester in the western part of the state of New York. It was here that Moroni hid up the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. (Morm. 6; Ether 15.) Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and many of the early brethren, who were familiar with all the circumstances attending the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in this dispensation, have left us pointed testimony as to the identity and location of Cumorah or Ramah. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 232-241.)

Quetzalcoatl

See APOSTASY, BOOK OF MORMON, CHRIST, NEPHITES AND LAMANITES.

Lamanitish tradition has preserved the account of the ministry among the ancient inhabitants of America of a white God called Quetzalcoatl. One of the most accurate and authentic sources of the secular history of America, for the period before Columbus, was written by Ixtlilxochitl near the close of the 16th century. His material, gained from ancient hieroglyphic writings handed down from his ancestors, contains such statements as these:

“Quetzalcoatl was a favorably disposed man, of grave aspect, white and bearded. His dress was a long tunic.” He was “just, saintly and good.” He taught “by deeds and words the path of virtue forbidding them their vices and sins, giving laws and good doctrine.” “He told them that in time to come, … he would return, and then his doctrine would be received.” (Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 195-222; Hunter, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, Christ in Ancient America.)

It is well known that one of the chief reasons for the relatively easy conquest of Mexico by Cortez was the belief, almost universal among the Aztecs, that he was the great white God returning as he had promised. (William H. Prescott, The Conquest of Mexico.) Almost without exception Latter-day Saints have associated these traditions with the ministry of the resurrected Christ among the Nephites. President John Taylor, for instance, has written: “The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source, which has sadly disfigured and perverted the original incidents and teachings of the Savior’s life and ministry.” (Mediation and Atonement, p. 194.)

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Evolution: The wrong tool for the job

As the evidence for evolution mounts, more and more LDS are looking for the middle ground and adopting some hybrid theory of creation, usually adopting some form of “Theistic Evolution” in search of a middle ground that doesn’t make their heads explode.

I’ve heard many interesting and creative theories that blend the two (evolution and “God”), but most avoid one really uncomfortable aspect of evolution: If you know what you want to make, Evolution is an inefficient and inexact way to get there.  Basically,  it is the wrong tool for the job.

The whole idea behind evolution is that you don’t know how it’s going to end up. It’s gradual change over time, with improvements being made bit by bit (or with punctuated big bits).

But supposedly God knew all along exactly what the end product was supposed to look like (namely: like Him). He knew the form and function of all the organs, and the total anatomy from head to toe.  This idea is most explicitly outlined in the LDS doctrine of “Spiritual Creation“, in which things are actually created in spirit form before their physical creation.  But how can that be possible with evolution?

This theory would suggest that God using evolution was a process with a goal; it had to come out just right so it would look just like Him. It couldn’t result in humans with three arms, or one eye. That’s not what evolution is.

So what is the purpose of spending millions of years just kind of nudging the process along, with false starts and dead ends? It would be like trying to make chocolate chip cookies, but instead of just using the Nestle Toll House recipe from the back of the package, you make thousands and thousands of different batches, trying to figure out how to make Nestle Toll House cookies. Then, finally, after years and years of experimentation, you arrive at the exact cookie that you could have made the first time by looking at the package.  Even if you used that method, you wouldn’t say that you “evolved” the cookie.  You would say you developed the cookie using trial and error.   Do we really want to suggest that God created our physical world using “trial and error”?

The other problem is the ongoing nature of evolution.  The story of the creation gives the idea of a creative “period”, and then the state where things are “created”.  2 Nephi 2:22 certainly frames the creation in such a way.  But evolution doesn’t have an end.  How could it?  How could God be evolving thousands of different species, each moving slowly towards their intended finished design, and then find that one moment in time where a species is “created”, and then have it keep evolving?  And what happens when some speices are fully evolved/created after 20 million years, but other species need 80 million years, or 100 million years?  Do some animals get their spirits first?  Are there animals even today who are not yet “created”, and are spiritless lifeforms waiting to evolve into their final “spiritual” form?

And what happens if a species evolves away from it’s spiritually created form?  Does it become “uncreated”?

Sure, God could use evolution (a time consuming and wasteful process) to “create” life to the exact specification he had alreay prepared, but why would He?  Other than the fact that some LDS need to reconcile the evidence for evolution with a belief in God-centric creation, why would anyone believe that?

(If you want to brush up on what, exactly “Evolution” is, I highly recommend taking 10 minutes of your time and watching this fantastic, wonderful and interesting video:  Evolution )

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“Big Love” goes to the Temple

Recent reports (apparently TV Guide) indicate the the HBO television show “Big Love” is doing what every good Mormon desires themselves to do and is going to the Temple.  This has raised the ire of the LDS online community, with claims that any dramatization of what goes on in the LDS Temple is off-limits, and categorically qualifies as mockery or persecution.

For me, the critical consideration for the Temple’s use in “Big Love” is that it isn’t done for mockery, or “voyeurism”. The writers have created characters, and they must be true to the characters. If Barb is/was LDS, and going to the Temple means something to her in such a way that it’s important to her story, than the writers would be irresponsible to not show it, especially if it is something most viewers won’t be familiar with.

Based on past episodes of “Big Love”, we have every indication that the Temple ceremony will be treated seriously and with respect because Barb will be treating it seriously, and with great respect.

There are many situations where viewers can put 2+2 together, and we just need to be told what happened without being shown (like Sarah’s miscarriage). That is part of the human experience. But for uniquely Mormon things, if they are to play a part in the character’s lives, then they must be shown so we can understand why (like the baptism-for-the-dead in the hot tub). My biggest annoyance is when they get the details wrong, not when they get them right.

I think LDS frequently get their emotions about the temples a little mixed up, and mistake “I’m so embarrassed” for “I’m righteously indignant”. Technically, there are only a few, specific things that Temple participants promise not to divulge. As far as I remember, the clothing and interior design of the Temple aren’t included in these. The LDS Church itself publishes pictures of sacred ordinances getting performed all the time, without diminishing the “sacredness” of these ordinances in the slightest. So the very act of dramatizing or publicizing an ordinance can’t be considered de facto sacrelige.

Of course, “Big Love” could prove me wrong, and play the Temple for humor or mockery, but based on past episodes, I’ll wait and see.

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Belief-O-Matic

Beliefnet.com has an interesting poll where you can input your feelings on different moral and religious topics and they list your “compatibility” with different religious groups of thought.  Here’s how the Cinepro Belief-O-Matic turned out:

1. Mahayana Buddhism (100%)
2. Orthodox Judaism (96%)
3. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (92%)
4. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (85%)
5. Hinduism (79%)
6. Islam (72%)
7. Scientology (61%)
8. Roman Catholic (57%)
9. Taoism (55%)
10. Nontheist (44%)
11. Jehovah’s Witness (42%)
12. Unitarian Universalism (38%)
13. Theravada Buddhism (35%)
14. Jedi (35%)
15. Baha’i Faith (32%)
16. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants(32%)
17. Secular Humanism (31%)
18. New Age (30%)
19. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (28%)
20. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) (25%)
21. Jainism (25%)
22. Orthodox Quaker (25%)
23. Reform Judaism (25%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (21%)
25. Gods of Kobol/ Battlestar Galactica Polytheism (15%)
26. Liberal Quakers (14%)
27. Neo-Pagan (5%)

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Three Degrees of Celestial Separation…

Who goes to the lower degrees of the CK? To put it bluntly, there is no plausible theory that makes sense or is politically correct. We just don’t know, and I defy anyone to even imagine a scenario where someone is worthy to enter the “Celestial Kingdom” but isn’t worthy of the highest exaltation.

My theory is that Joseph Smith revealed the 3 degrees of the CK to sort out the true believers and the super-duper true believers. He already had a bunch of people who were pretty much assured of getting to the CK based on the 1832 revelation (D&C 76), but if that was the case, why would they care about celestial marriage and/or plural marriage? The only way to make it work would be to reveal to people that even though they will be in the CK, they could end up in coach seating while others are flying first class.

There was also a time in the Church where people who didn’t get married in this life were assumed to not get married in the afterlife; this Earth was their only shot. But now we are in the era of “happy feelings” where we can make anything up that we want to if it makes us feel good, so now we teach that even if someone lives in Provo, Utah their whole life and is surrounded by thousands upon thousands of single Mormons, and they have access to the internet and LDS Singles, it’s still not their fault if they don’t get married, so God will sort it out in the end.

So at the time of section 131 (1843), I imagine the answer to your question would be this:

CK – First Class Seating – Polygamous Marriages
CK – Business Class – Monogamous Marriages
CK – Coach – Single people (ministering angels)

But we really don’t know. The answer to your question probably died in the summer of 1844, and is buried overlooking the Mississippi river

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Top 12 Apostles of All Time

(A few years back, someone asked who our 12 favorite apostles of all time were.  Here’s what I came up with)

If I got to pick 12 apostles to speak in conference, I would choose the following:

Legrand Richards (improvisational)

Neil Maxwell (the proper prose of presentation would glisten like intellectual dew on the melon of my mind)

Bruce McConkie (doctrinal)

Joseph Fielding Smith, circa 1958 (literal scriptural)

Ezra Benson, circa 1966 (communist conspiratorial)

William McLellin (disgruntled)

Reed Smoot (political)

Thomas Monson (I remember the bouncing wheels on grandma’s rickety red buggy. Ever to be
remembered…never to be forgotten)

Howard Hunter (representin’ the California Mormons)

Boyd Packer (metaphorical)

N. Eldon Tanner (financially responsible)

David Haight (only conference speaker to ever use the word “boobs“)

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Polygamy in the Bible…

The “Biblical Appeal to Precedent” is one of the most common justifications LDS use for Joseph Smith introducing the practice of Polygamy.  But I don’t find the argument that “they did it in the Bible” to be convincing.  Here’s why:

– The prophets of the Bible may have been committing error in their practice.

– The Bible may be incorrectly reporting the details of their polygamy.

– The Prophets of the Bible never denied their polygamy, or kept if from their first wives (that we know about, of course).

– The Prophets of the Bible never took women who were married to other men. Obviously, the incident with David and Bathsheba comes to mind, and we know how God felt about that.

– The polygamy of the Bible may have been a cultural practice only, such as slavery. The fact that God apparently tolerated something thousands of years ago doesn’t necessarily argue for its status as a doctrine or divinely instituted practice.

I think it’s interesting to read about Biblical polygamy, but when I consider Joseph Smith’s practice of the practice, I find it largely irrelevant (other than suggesting a possible inspiration for Joseph’s institution of the practice in the first place.)

So if you insist on trying to explain why Joseph Smith introduced polygamy, please stick with the only answer you can be sure about:  Joseph Smith thought God had commanded him to do it.  Anything beyond that and you may find yourself in argumentatively dubious waters.

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Two Worlds of Mormonism

If you think about it, the Church (i.e. the members and leaders) have to live in two worlds.

In one world, we believe in the Gospel of Christ as taught in the New Testament; you know, the Jesus who wasn’t intent on acquiring worldly goods, or forming a corporation, or building buildings, and who told a rich man that he would be more righteous if he sold his worldly goods and gave them to the poor (Matthew 19:21). The same Jesus we believe repeatedly berated the Nephites for desiring “fine” clothing (but not once does he get after them for being immodest, and if “Apocalypto” is any indication, you can bet there were many topless women in the crowd when he came to visit them.)

On the other hand, we believe that Jesus now directs his Church to acquire vast tracts of real estate, to make investments and run his Church as if it were a major world corporation. More than once, He has steered His Church’s finances to the brink of bankruptcy and insolvency, but He always comes out on top. He doesn’t mind if his followers wear suits that cost many thousands of dollars, or expensive designer dresses, but he totally freaks out if a woman shows a half inch of her “midriff”. And he doesn’t like it if a woman wears more than one pair of earrings (or guys wear any at all).

Lucky for us, God doesn’t appear to be the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. The light of Christ is eminently compatible with the light of capitalism, and both are shining brightly in His modern Church. Maybe he wasn’t waiting for the religious freedom of America to restore his Church, but instead He just needed a lightly regulated capitalist society where his Church could become all that it could be.

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