Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Joseph Smith", by Elder Neil L. Andersen

Find this talk here. I was excited about this one, because from the title it sounded like it would share details of actual history. Unfortunately it was all apologetics, and not particularly well reasoned apologetics at that.

  • It's interesting to see Elder Andersen talk about a bunch of righteous people who had very difficult lives, shortly after a talk that claimed the Lord doesn't want anyone to be poor.
  • The wise, the pure in heart, and the virtuous will have to be willing to do things others -- including some of their loved ones, presumably -- will disapprove of, in seeking blessings under the hand of someone everyone else holds in derision.
  • "Many of those who dismiss the work of the Restoration simply do not believe that heavenly beings speak to men on earth." My own experience is that actually those who aren't wholly atheist tend mostly to believe God can talk to people.
  • His statement that "we always welcome honest and genuine questions" is frankly false.
  • "We are especially saddened when someone who once revered Joseph retreats from his or her conviction and then maligns the Prophet." This of course is true. It would well serve those of us who claim to revere the Prophet Joseph to gain some idea of what he actually taught. The Book of Mormon is clear that most of those who claim to receive the gospel from Joseph will fall into apostasy. Joseph's teachings also make clear that we must seek to meet the Savior in this life. Unfortunately, that's one of several topics the Church's correlation committee won't allow Church materials to discuss. Joseph made very clear several times, including in D&C 13, that animal sacrifice will be reinstituted, yet Mormons often insist this is false. Joseph Smith tried to teach that temple sealings were to seal people to the head of their dispensation through what was called "adoption" (another topic the correlation committee prohibits), but the modern version of sealing instead comes from Wilford Woodruff, who openly admitted he didn't know anything about "adoption" and invented the current way of doing things in its place. Most importantly, Joseph made clear we need to work to have Christ promise us salvation, while we're in this life. This is yet another topic correlation refuses to countenance, but Joseph's teaching was that those that don't receive that promise in this life won't be saved.
  • "We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a 'truth' filter." Neither do the Church's published materials, which are often hilariously inaccurate.
  • "You may understandably question what you hear on the news, but you need never doubt the testimony of God’s prophets." The scriptures never promise prophets, real or so-called, won't be wrong. 1 Kings 13 and most of Ezekiel make very clear that while prophets are crucial, they can also make mistakes, and people who depend on their prophets to lead them to salvation will be damned.
    • Of course, trusting too heavily on the internet is similarly foolish.
  • Elder Andersen accuses Joseph Smith's detractors of presenting truth without adequate context. That's exactly what the Church's "Gospel Topics" essays do, too, for the most part.
  • His constant refrain of "we might remind" people is awfully defensive.
  • "A sincere inquirer should see the spreading of the restored gospel as the fruit of the Lord’s work through the Prophet." So the simple fact of an idea spreading widely is a sign of truth? I think we can all find contrary examples.
    • 2 Nephi 26:20: the prideful and unrighteous Gentiles have built up many churches. Sounds like an idea spreading to me.
    • By the way, vs 26 ("Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.") doesn't describe the modern LDS church. An acquaintance of mine was excommunicated and presented with a restraining order prohibiting him from entering any Church-owned property. The Church still hasn't told him why he was excommunicated, or given the order.
    • While we're in 2 Nephi, 28:29 says "Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" So what do we do when Pres. Hinckley in a newspaper interview (San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 13, 1997) (and our recently released bishop, in his office) claim we don't need much revelation anymore, and Elder Wirthlin tells us everything necessary for our salvation has already been revealed (Gen. Conf., Oct 1994)? We should still pay attention to Joseph, who taught that you can't receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelation, because the Holy Ghost is a revelator. (TPJS p. 328) So if you've not got revelation, you haven't received the Holy Ghost yet.
      • Elder Wirthlin in the same talk tells us to "avoid delving into so-called mysteries", which also flatly contradicts Joseph Smith ("I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness."  HC 6:17)
  • He keeps talking about fruits. That's a good criterion to judge -- it's the one the scriptures recommend, even (Matt 7:20, among others), but our fruits demonstrate only a good and kind people, not "one true church". Joseph and the scriptures taught that true belief leads to much more impressive fruits (Mark 6:17, for instance)
  • "Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is true for every generation. Spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God." This is absolutely true. It would be nice if he'd include Joseph's teachings that indicate that the Holy Ghost who will deliver these answers is more than the warm fuzzy feeling by which we often allow ourselves to be guided.
  • "you won’t be of much help to others if your own faith is not securely in place."
    • This is perhaps also true, but it would be helpful if we in the church had any idea what faith is, anymore, or in whom it should be placed. Since Lectures on Faith isn't considered scripture anymore, we have deprived ourselves of probably the best explanation of faith ever written.
  • "The constant water balloon volleys from the sidelines may occasionally get you wet, but they need never, never extinguish your burning fire of faith." So we should assume that everything false comes from "the sidelines", whatever they are, and that truth always comes from whatever isn't the sidelines? Presumably that should mean the Church? So the Church never says anything false?
  • "First, find scriptures in the Book of Mormon that you feel and know are absolutely true." So we're trusting intuition again?
  • "I testify that Joseph Smith was an honest and virtuous man." Ok, so how do you also explain his polygamy and polyandry, historical occurrences the Church openly accepts? There is an explanation for those historical facts, and one which preserves Joseph's virtue and honesty, but it's not the one the Church presents.
  • "In our society beyond the veil of death, we will clearly understand the sacred calling and divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith." The point of revelation is that we don't have to wait until death.

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