Monthly Archives: January 2009

Still Sealed After All These Years

The Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon is one of those seldom discussed bits of Mormon folklore that fascinates me.  Other than a brief mention every four years in the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine class,  the idea of this extra book of scripture rarely makes an appearance in LDS conversation.  Ultimately, do any LDS really think the “Sealed Portion” is going to “come forth” in their lifetime (or within any definable time frame)?  I doubt it.

Obviously, the “Sealed Portion” coming forth would be huge. But I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

Different theories have been suggested for why we don’t have the sealed portion (or any other ancient scriptures) translated for us in our day by an LDS prophet.  Bruce McConkie had this to say:

The Lord expects us to seek wisdom, to ponder his revealed truths, and to gain a knowledge of them by the power of his Spirit. Otherwise he would not have revealed them to us. He has withheld the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon from us because it is beyond our present ability to comprehend. We have not made that spiritual progression which qualifies us to understand its doctrines.

Understanding the Book of Revelation

Other than the interesting implication that Moroni understood certain doctrines, painstakingly engraved them onto metal plates, lugged them to upper-state New York, and preserved them for no apparent good reason because it turned out that modern LDS weren’t spiritually able to “comprehend” them, it should be noted that Elder McConkie didn’t actually tell us how he figured out that this was the reason for the sealed portion being hidden.  As far as I can tell, he was just making it up as he went along.

Here’s another possibility.

Whatever you believe about Joseph Smith and the abilities of his prophetic successors, I think it’s obvious that Joseph possessed some talent or gift from God that Prophets #2-16 haven’t. Over the years, the role of “Prophet” in the Church has become increasingly bureaucratic, to the point that I don’t think any GA would have the stones (or stone) to actually produce a scripture that claims to be a translation of an ancient document. I think Paul H. Dunn was probably the most qualified GA in the last 50 years to attempt such a task, but his fast-track to seerhood was unceremoniously derailed, and I don’t see anyone waiting in the wings.

Some might expect the “Sealed Portion” to be threatening to someone who has doubts about the historicity of the Book of Mormon such as myself. But I think it presents far more danger to those who believe. Especially the apologists. If you look at the intricate web of arguments and evidences woven to support belief in the Book of Mormon, it is easy to see how the Sealed Portion could be catastrophic to such a worldview, with so many opportunities for contradictory data to bring the whole house of cards crashing down.

As it is, people believe in the Book of Mormon, they love it, they read it, and even trained scholars find enough evidence to believe it. The Sealed Portion is only going to upset that apple-cart, so it best lay hidden.


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Lex De Azevedo was full of it.

The idea that we “knew” our friends, families and especially our future spouses in the pre-existence was first dramatized in the novel “Added Upon” by Nephi Anderson (in 1898)! Then, in the 1970’s, there were two popular musicals that were seen by hundreds of thousands of Church members: “My Turn on Earth” and “Saturday’s Warrior“.

“My Turn On Earth” didn’t really get into the whole relationships-in-the-preexistence thing, but “Saturday’s Warrior” sure did! One of the sub-plots was rebellious teenager Jimmy arguing with his parents over their decision to have another baby when the world is on the brink of overpopulation. But at the beginning of the play, we have already seen the whole family in the preexistence, and Jimmy was especially close to his future-little sister, whose birth he is now protesting! Oh the irony! And the older sister whose spirit loved to dance in the spirit world is born to a body confined to a wheelchair. Oh the tragedy!

There is also a common feeling among many parents that they are visited by the spirits of their “future children”, as if there were actual spirits in the preexistence anxiously waiting for those two specific people to concieve so they can be born into that specific family. I’ve heard several stories told over the years in different settings.

But the idea crumbles upon the slightest investigation. Just think about it. A conception isn’t the result of a single encounter between a man and a woman. No, a conception is the result of an impossibly long chain of trillions upon trillions of individual choices made by all the billions of people who have ever lived on this Earth. And for all the trillions of variables that are involved, very few are actually under the control of the mom and dad.

At the very least, their parents would have had to make the correct choice regarding the timing of their births, and then their lives would have to intersect at the right time and place for a relationship to spark. And this assumes intentional conception. If we factor in the countless unintentional conceptions, whether they be between a married couple, or something more casual, unconventional, or involuntary, any carefully set plans from before this Earth would get mixed up beyond belief once the slightest variable gets set the wrong way.

If we truly wish to believe that we could have known our Earthly families beforehand, then we have to imagine a flowchart of the billions of births being designed before Adam and Eve were on the scene, and every conception and birth being carefully monitored to ensure future generations come through the queue in the proper timing and order.

But, as with many ideas in religious traditions, this one will never die. It just sounds too good, and makes too many people feel warm and fuzzy. And it just seems to make sense.

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What I Like About the Church

As a somewhat critical member of the Church, I am occasionally asked what do I like about the Church; why do I keep going.  While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the things I like:

  • Roadshows
  • Scouting program
  • Members are generally honest, sociable, and have a sense of humor.
  • Flexibility in doctrine and practices, so we’re not stuck with polygamy, priesthood ban, or the traveling CES sideshow of “Know Your Religion” forever.
  • Word of Wisdom
  • Emphasis on chastity and modesty (even if some people go a little overboard. T-shirts and halter tops are mutually exclusive fashion items, people.)
  • Prophet-selection process designed so even the nuttiest apostle has their quirky views on politics or doctrine worn down by the advancing years.
  • Church building program gives tithing members nice chapels, Temples, and shopping malls to enjoy.
  • And of course, I met my beautiful wife through Church related activities, so to whatever degree I can give credit to the Church for that, it’s a big +.


Filed under Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions