Fraud, Doubt and Miracles

By: Guest
February 12, 2014

Today’s guest post is by Jared. When I started blogging in 2007 my objective was to write about the doctrine of Christ as it is taught in the Book of Mormon and by church leaders. As time as gone on, I realize that there are not many LDS who search the internet with the intent of learning about the first principles of the Gospel (the doctrine of Christ). It appears that most LDS are interested in other things than doctrine. To verify this go to the high traffic blogs and look at what they offer.

The Bloggernacle Gathers All Kinds

I read many blogs, including those written by former Mormons who have left the church and now can’t leave the church alone. Why do I read these blogs? Because I am interested in all things pertaining to the LDS church. I’ve known for many years about the controversial teachings, history, and faith destroying material that is creating so much difficulty in the present day. I first learned of them in the early 1970′s. I’ve had a long time to think about it.

The Latest Difficulty

President Monson has been summoned to appear in a London court for fraud. A former Bishop and Stake President from England has worked tirelessly to bring this about. He claims that President Monson is perpetuating a fraud to make money from tithing paid by church members.

Disaffected Church Members are Rising Up

In October General Conference, President Uchtdorf gave the first talk in conference I am aware of that addressed the current disaffection of church members. He said:

“Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question…I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.”

We Live In Fallen Telestial World

President Uchtdorf brought up two seeming unrelated topics that I would like to explore: 1) “an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events”, 2) “some things said and done that could cause people to question”.

If every decision, everything ever written, everything ever said by the apostles and prophets from Joseph Smith to the present day were exactly what the Savior would have decided, written, and said it would be contrary to the laws of a fallen telestial world.

The laws of a fallen telestial world requires that there be “opposition in all things”. This means, as President Uchtdorf pointed out, that apostles and prophets make mistakes, they have agency. That said, the faithful know that the Lord is at the head of this church and will lead the church to accomplish the Savior’s purposes.

Decisions Determine Destiny

Each member of the church will decide for themselves how they will respond to the things that have been said and done that cause people to question their faith. Some will remain faithful, others will leave the church. Each will then follow their decision and determine their own destiny.

It is important for faithful members to not judge those who leave the church as being offended, lazy, or sinful. President Uchtdorf made that clear when he said, “it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations…this Church… honors personal agency…we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.”

I fully expect to see a continued exodus of church members; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the exodus include some General Authorities.

Questions and Miracles

LDS church history includes things that have been said and done that bring up difficult questions, but along side the questions are a legacy of miracles, reports of divine intervention. Miracles are not limited to church leaders.  Average LDS often testify of divine intervention.

If there were wondrous miracles without difficult questions then there wouldn’t be opposition. And that just isn’t possible in a fallen telestial world.

I’ll provide an example of a difficult question and a miracle from church history to illustrate this pattern. In fact, it may be the most difficult question of all according to some critics and observers.

From Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman writes:

“Nothing confuses the picture of Joseph Smith’s character more than these plural marriages.”

“Was he a blackguard covering his lusts with religious pretensions, or a prophet doggedly adhering to instructions from heaven, or something in between?”

There are many ways to evaluate this part of LDS history. For myself, the more I study plural marriage the less I’m concerned about it. But the real clincher for me is the testimony I’ve been given about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. My testimony easily trumps all the difficult questions including those surrounding plural marriage.

I’ll leave the question of plural marriage for my readers to deal with in their own way. There is one account I’ll focus on. It is from the life of Mary Elizabeth Lightner, one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. I hope you will read each link. BYU Address 1905 and her autobiography.

When Joseph Smith told her about plural marriage she said she wouldn’t believe it without a witness. Joseph told her she would have a witness, she did, and angel appear to her.

There you have it. A difficult question along side a miracle.

When it comes to miracles, some church members experience miracles to help them deal with the challenges of life, including difficult questions. Other church members are required to believe on the testimony of those who testify of miracles (D&C 46:13-14).

With all this said, I invite you to follow this link where I testify of the miracles the Lord has given me as a gift. I share a few sacred experiences from my life with the hope it will prove a blessing to others.

Some fault me for sharing sacred experiences in the bloggernacle. I reply that I consider this is as a gift from God that “all may be benefited” (D&C 46:9).

Three question to consider:

  • Does the abundance of the manifestation of the Spirit found in the history of the LDS church help balance the difficult questions that critics rise?
  • What is the single most difficult question critics raise against the LDS church?
  • What manifestation of the Spirit found in church history has most influenced you?

Discuss.

Tags: , ,

21 Responses to Fraud, Doubt and Miracles

  1. Nate on February 12, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    Great post.

    What did Jesus say when he heard John the Baptist had asked about Him, “Are you the One, or we do seek another?” He said, “Go tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and to the poor the gospel is preached.”

    For Jesus, the sign of the true gospel was miracles. This was also the sign for the members of the early Mormon church. According to Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith did not figure much in the early Mormon missionary message. Nor did the Book of Mormon. The message was: “The gifts of the Spirit are back! We are to gather and build Zion! The 2nd Comming is upon us.” It was much later that all the other stuff we put in the 1st discussion was added.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  2. Ken on February 12, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    Jared,

    This is a great post.

    I teach gospel doctrine (have for a long tim) and spend a great deal of time addressing real concerns from those that are disaffected or those that are looking into the church. It really started on my mission. I was an assistant and my president assigned me the task of dealing with those that had doctrinal questions — missionaries and investigators.

    I have found two great lessons: 1) The gospel is 3nd Nephi chapter 11. Those that live this find their way through the weeds. 2) To solve a spiritual problem (e.g was Joseph a true Prophet), you need to approach it spiritually — reading the word (the seed), exercising faith in the word, praying and most importantly living the word. So many try to solve a spiritual problem by secular means. They will be ever learning and will never come to a knowledge of the truth.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  3. brjones on February 12, 2014 at 6:39 PM

    Jared, you hurt your credibility with statements (unfortunately typical of your comments and posts) like “former mormons who have left the church and now can’t leave the church alone.” Former mormons who continue to talk about the church are absolutely no different from you, except that you think you’re right and they’re wrong. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone who spends as much of his or her spare time talking about the church as you do, yet somehow in your case it’s noble and laudable, because you’re testifying to its truthfulness. A person who feels they have a testimony of the church’s un-truthfulness has exactly as valid a position as yours and exactly as valid an interest in obsessing about it as do you. From a more practical standpoint, comments like that, frankly, make you a lousy missionary. I can tell you from experience that doubters and non-believers tend to stop listening when you open up the discussion by taking cheap shots and casting aspersions on people’s motives. Those who struggle with, or reject faith altogether, are just as sincere in their pursuit for the truth as you. For you to degrade those people’s motivations right out of the gate is not only sad, it’s also self-defeating. So congratulations. Once again you find yourself bearing testimony only to those who already have one.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  4. Jared on February 12, 2014 at 6:41 PM
  5. Brian on February 12, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    Thanks,br. You said it better and more completely than I could/would.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  6. Howard on February 12, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    Nice post Jared!

    Now I have something to share with you. Just like Watergate it’s the coverup that’s causing the most trouble, not the origional break in! The coverup implicates something much much bigger than the simple fact that prophets are men. Lying for the Lord has become wink and nod common place acceptable even revered and cheered by the so called faithful as the church continues to loose it’s honesty compas bearing.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  7. Jared on February 12, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    Howard-

    I agree. I think we’re witnessing the beginnings of a brand new approach to our Mormon history. The apostles and prophets, I believe, will make things right, as much as they can.

    It will take time and come about slower than many would like, but the “truth” will find a way.

    From what I’ve been able to learn over the years, most church leaders who weren’t close associates of Joseph Smith were mostly unaware of the difficulties we’re dealing with today.

    This unawareness appears to be almost universal after Joseph F Smith passed.until the advent of the internet. I doubt leaders like President Grant, Smith, McKay, and those who followed had a working knowledge of the difficult questions we deal with today until the internet brought them front and center.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  8. Jared on February 12, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    brjone and Brian-

    When I wrote “former mormons who have left the church and now can’t leave the church alone”, wasn’t intended to be mean spirited. I was trying to point out the unusual and perplexing circumstance of those who denounce their belief in the church but then stay close to it at a distance or fight against it.

    I fully support what Elder Uchtdorf said:

    we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  9. Howard on February 12, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    I think we’re witnessing the beginnings of a brand new approach to our Mormon history.. I’m cautiously optimistic. The essays are definatly a step in the right direction but failing to date and sign them and simply filing them away online without bringing them to the attention of chapel Mormons smacks more of defense than of transparency and innoculation. It seem the church default position is to cover up!

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  10. Ken on February 12, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    Brjones,

    I too think there is a wrong way and a right way to say something. The oft quoted Maxwell quote strikes a nerve, but does have a valid point. I realize its different, but many years ago I hated where I worked. I complained constantly. One day things came to a head and I ended up quitting. It was the best decision I have ever made. I have never looked back or regretted leaving and I never contacted them ever again.

    If this is not for you and you believe it is “un-truthful”, why not move on to something else? I ask this sincerely and not in a negative tone. Put another way, what makes you continue to focus on something you think is false? An honest question

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  11. Roger on February 12, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Some limited self-disclosure: I’m a borderlands Mormon who hasn’t been active in 35+ years. And I am one who can’t leave it alone. I took no offense at the reference above. I paid a lot of attention during my first 25 years of activity so I still recognize there is a lot riding on the LDS truth claims. So, I still read and ponder … and question and wonder.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  12. Jared on February 12, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    No doubt church leaders are between a rock and a hard place as they attempt to answer difficult questions.

    It appears they are taking measured steps to help those who are struggling with the difficult questions found on the internet. And at the same time caring for those who haven’t been exposed from being over whelmed with answers to questions they didn’t know needed to be answered.

    I’m expecting that the community of faithful LDS authors will soon step up and write books to help meet the challenge.

    When a crisis confronts the work of the Lord I believe He will provide “miracles” to bless those who diligently seek His help.

    In the post I provided links to information about Mary Elizabeth Lightner. The links in the post are not working at the moment so I’ll provide them here.

    She spoke at BYU in 1905 http://user.xmission.com/~plporter/lds/merlbyu.htm

    Her autobiography http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/MLightner.html

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  13. Brian on February 12, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    Comparing leaving a job and leaving a church in which so much is invested is no comparison at all. The less one has invested in the church, the easier it is to leave alone. My sons shake their heads at me sometimes. 40+ years of TBMing and all that means is a lot to jettison. Cold turkey doesn’t usually happen. Extended family members, doing their god-given assignment of rehabbing me gets the flames of discontent burning brightly. Discussing, venting is how I handle my situation. Would love to have it all go away, not happening.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  14. hawkgrrrl on February 12, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    I’ve fixed the links in the post, so they should be functioning now.

    I don’t think the statement about not leaving the church alone is necessarily mean-spirited. There are some who leave and never look back. There are others who seem tethered to it, picking at it like a scab. There are still others set on proving others wrong (both in and out of the church). Maybe this is a lot like those who are still in the church. Some really poke at their faith, others are more apathetic.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  15. Ken on February 12, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    Brian,

    “Discussing, venting is how I handle my situation”

    Appreciate the prospective

    I have always disliked the “relentless” approach by some members and missionaries. If somone says I’m not interested, move on to on the next door; if they want thier records removed, respect thier wishes; if they don’t want contact, leave them alone. The best approach is genunine interest, love and mutual respect. By way of confession, I learned the hard way with one of my own.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  16. Bitherwack on February 13, 2014 at 12:22 AM

    I suspect the inability to make a clean break is seated in the fact that Mormonism as a belief system is, comparatively speaking, (as far as a religion can be) mostly logical, systematic, and with a uniquely beautiful internal order. This belief system leads to unrealistic expectations as to the actual church as it is. Perhaps this expectation, and the disappointment is what keeps disaffected people near.

    I certainly find a beauty in the gospel and the teachings that in spite of disaffection cannot be satisfactorily replaced elsewhere. I have chosen to keep my disaffection to myself, a kind of internal separation… where I understand that, as Jared and Elder Uchtdorf more ably suggested that the ideals are divine, the actuality is by mortal, fallible men… a terrestrial manifestation of celestial yearnings. Keeping my ‘internal distance’, I am able to maintain relative outward activity, (and therefore avoid unwanted evangelizing) while at the same time seeing what is hidden behind the message, the messenger, and the delivery. For me, that is enough. I am satisfied with Heavenly Father’s efforts on our behalf… or at least those that get through that all to frail filter of human imperfection.

    I think the most important takeaway message from Elder Uchtdorf’s talk was the fact that not only has he, a general authority admitted fallibility among his brothers, but it seems to be a direct repudiation of (then) Elder Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet”. It also means a restoration of the teaching of my Primary days of receiving the words of the prophet, pondering, studying, and praying on them… which was very different from the, “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done,” pronouncement.

    I believe that as responsible latter-day saints, we are required to take responsibility for our own choices. Ultimately, it is not what we are told to do, but how we use our agency to act on the advise of imperfect leaders. Then, when confronted with teachings that are based on all too human frailties and limitations, we must take a step backwards and look from an objective distance at the speaker, his background and motivations before we judge an earthly church according to divine standards. I am astounded at how this group of octogenarians can deal with todays problems using the value system and thought processes forged in the depression era.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  17. New Iconoclast on February 13, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    Nate says, with his usual perspective and perspicacity,

    According to Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith did not figure much in the early Mormon missionary message. Nor did the Book of Mormon. The message was: “The gifts of the Spirit are back! We are to gather and build Zion! The 2nd Coming is upon us.” It was much later that all the other stuff we put in the 1st discussion was added.

    Interestingly, the Restoration made that “other stuff” relevant. In the religious context of the Great Awakening, the “restoration of the True Church” and the return of the gifts of the Spirit and so on, were relevant and of great importance to the worshiping public. Satan had made hay for years on causing conflict between sects and denominations which claimed to have the truth, or get closer to the truth than the others. However, once the real authority was back, true seekers could actually find it. The Adversary had to come up with new tactics.

    Enter two pernicious doctrines: charismatic, Pentecostal-style revivalism, complete with hysteric fainting, meaningless speaking in nonsense “tongues,” and so on (this is a 19th-20th century phenomenon); and modern secular universalism, the idea that it doesn’t matter what you believe, love is enough, God is love, he doesn’t care what church you go to, we can all be prophets, etc. Both of these things supplanted the previous common Christian sectarian beliefs that the gifts of the Spirit had ended and that denominational beliefs had importance as they reflected Scriptural, absolute truth. Thus the Adversary was able to counterfeit what was happening in the real, restored Church of Christ and offer an alternative by which people could be led astray. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – or at least offer a low-commitment, fat-free substitute, devoid of true priesthood authority and ordinances, so that the clear contrast between the Restoration and the Apostasy is blurred a bit.

    LDS youth, especially in heavily-LDS areas, are frequently taught the founding LDS stories – how Joseph did his early investigations, the sectarian response to his musings and to the First Vision, and so on. These poor young men and women then expect 2010s Minnesota Lutherans and Connecticut Unitarians and so on to react like 1820s New York Methodists, instead of saying things like, “All churches are true,” or “My mom goes to one of those places where they speak in tongues,” or “All you have to do is believe in Christ and you’re saved.” And our missionaries have no idea how to respond, or even, frankly, what these people are talking about. They need testimonies, and many of them have that, but it doesn’t hurt for them to be able to build rapport and relate to their listeners.

    That was wordy; sorry. It’s been a thing I’ve tried to brief missionaries on in Minnesota for years, along with the “how to talk Minnesota” basics. ;)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  18. Jared on February 13, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    #17 New Iconoclast–

    Interesting and informative comment.

    The latter day prophets were made aware from the beginning that the Gentiles would reject the message of the restoration, the Book of Mormon, and etc (3 Nephi 16:10).

    What you wrote above gives the details as to how and why they reject it, at least in your area.

    The Book of Mormon adds another insight into the reason the Gentiles reject the restored gospel:

    20 And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 26:20)

    Heber C Kimball added a profound prophecy/insight into the day we live in:

    This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand. Harold B. Lee quoting Heber C. Kimball, BYU, June 28, 1955; also in “We Believe” by Rulon T. Burton, p. 1038-39.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  19. Jenelle on February 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    “When Joseph Smith told her about plural marriage she said she wouldn’t believe it without a witness. Joseph told her she would have a witness, she did, and angel appear to her.”

    I am intrigued by the early days of the church, and have read many books over the last two years. What I have learned is that these people believed in second sight. They didn’t distinguish between having an actual experience in the physical world, and experiencing things through their “spiritual eyes”. (In fact, many churches of their time period and geographical area required an individual to experience a visitation by either an angel, or the Lord himself, before allowing them to join their congregations. Newspapers printed countless stories of these perceived visitations.) One of the most fascinating books that I’ve read on the subject is Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. It is a long read, but it is sourced very well.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  20. hawkgrrrl on February 13, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Bitherwack: “it seems to be a direct repudiation of (then) Elder Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet”.” Well, that’s a repudiation that is LONG overdue.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  21. Brian on February 13, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    Just because the head of marketing says his product isn’t going to sell very well doesn’t make it a good product and it doesn’t make him a prophet.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: