What’s Up with Non-Biblical Angels?

By: Mormon Heretic
January 3, 2011

Angel Moroni

A few months ago, I attended several family reunions.  At the time, I was reading John Hamer’s book, Scattering of the Saints.  I was absolutely fascinated with all the accounts of Mormon schismatic groups.  I was especially interested in Strangism and the Church of Christ with the Elijah Message.  As I told the story of their founding, the reaction of my relatives was incredibly interesting to me.

The First Vision

As Mormons, we all take the visits of Moroni, Jesus, God the Father, John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John as pretty much fact.  In order to be a Mormon, you pretty much have to believe these things happened.

We take it as a fact that Moses received the 10 Commandments carved by the finger of God, Mary saw the Angel Gabriel, and many other heavenly angels visited mortals on earth.

But if it’s not in the Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, or Pearl of Great Price, we just don’t take angelic visitations seriously.  We don’t know what to think about non-biblical angels.  For example, we  don’t accept it as fact that the Angel Gabriel visited Mohammed, or that Joan of Arc had a heavenly visit, or the Virgin Mary has appeared to numerous Catholics, or that Jesus appeared to Ann Lee (founder of the Shakers), or anybody else.  When we hear these stories, we say, “Yeah, whatever.”  As Mormons, you’d think we’d be more open to the idea, but we’re not.

Angel Gabriel and Mary

I’ve discussed Strangism previously, but I want to share a little more about James Strang’s “First Vision”  (for lack of a better word.)  Robin Jensen details the beginning of the Strangite movement in Hamer’s book,Scattering of the Saints.  The title of his chapter is called “Mormons Seeking Mormonism.”  James Strang joined the church in February 1844 (baptized by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo), just a few months prior to Joseph’s death.  A few days after his baptism, he was ordained an elder, and Smith sent Strang back to his home in Wisconsin with the idea that it could be a possible future home of the saints.  Strang wrote a glowing letter praising Wisconsin.  Strang claims that he received a letter from Joseph Smith, appointing Strang as the next prophet of the church, known by Strangites as the “Letter of Appointment”.  Quoting from page 117,

On the same day that Smith is supposed to have written the letter, Strang reported that he received a vision: a future Mormon city called Voree—spectacularly built up near Burlington as a gathering place for the Latter Day Saints.9 Ten days later, on the fateful day of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith—but weeks before Strang would have received the Letter of Appointment—Strang reported that he experienced a second vision.  This time an angel appeared to him, anointed his head, gave him instructions concerning his mission, and prophesied about the future.10 The followers of Strang would argue that the Letter of Appointment and the two visitations authenticated Strang’s succession to the leadership of the Latter Day Saint movement.11

James Strang, the Strangite Prophet

As you can imagine, there was controversy from the beginning about whether the letter was authentic, and whether Strang had really received an angelic visit.  I remember relating this story to a relative, and his reaction was “Yeah, Whatever.”  I will mention that Strang convinced Joseph’s brother, William to join his movement for a time (William later left for the RLDS church), and convinced Martin Harris to go on a mission for the Strangite church.  The official name of the Strangite Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; it has different punctuation than the Mormon church’s official name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I spoke with Robin Jensen at the MHA conference and learned that one of his ancestors served a mission with Martin Harris for the Strangite church.  In the 1840’s-50’s, the Strangite church rivaled the Brigham Young church in size.  It was definitely a force to be reckoned with until the death of James Strang.

But that’s not the only angelic ministration of a Mormon group, or even recent ministrations.  (I’ve highlighted some other ministrations in a longer version of this post.)

Otto Fetting, a former RLDS members was ordained to the Council of Twelve Apostles in the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).

As apostle, Fetting wrote and preached on the need to build up Zion, both spiritually and physically.  He also made this topic a matter of intense personal study and contemplation.42 According to Fetting, a wonderful event happened to him on 4 February 1927.  He described an event where John the Baptist appeared to him on February 4, 1927 at his house in Port Huron, Michigan.

Quoting from a pamphlet for the Church of Christ with the Elijah Message,”

After the Messenger who said that he was John the Baptist, the Elias that was for to come and restore all things, had brought Thirty (30) Messages Brother Fetting passed from this life.  Four (4) years later, the Messenger came again to continue his unfinished mission.  This time he came to a young Elder W. A. Draves.  To date, of this reprint, there are Ninety-Six Messages full of inspiration, instruction, warnings, and prophecy.

So, what do you make of all these angelic visitations?  Why do you think Mormons are so quick to accept Joseph Smith’s visions, while discounting all of these others?

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56 Responses to What’s Up with Non-Biblical Angels?

  1. Joshua Whelpley on January 3, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Yeah, whatever

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  2. Justin on January 3, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    Why do you think Mormons are so quick to accept Joseph Smith’s visions, while discounting all of these others?

    Because Mormons want to be Christians. The temporal inequality among us is the reason that there are no spiritual manifestations such as angelic visitations among us –[D&C 70: 12-14]

    The Christians have temporal inequality and have minimum manifestations of the spiritual gifts.

    The Mormons have temporal inequality, have minimum manifestations of the gifts, and desire to be called Christians.

    When a person has not had experience with spiritual manifestations, they will quickly doubt that such things are possible — by virtue of the fact that he/she is not receiving such things.

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  3. Mike S on January 3, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Personally, I think God cares about and communicates to more than the 0.1% of His children who are active LDS members. I really don’t have any problem with angels appearing to Muhammad or any of the other people you mentioned and think they did. For every one person who think an angel appeared to Joseph Smith, there are 100 people who think the same thing happened to Muhammad.

    I think the reason this isn’t a widespread attitude in the LDS Church today is that it flies somewhat in the face of the “One True Church” philosophy that forms the essence of the first vision and is the core of the missionary program. If the Church accepts that these other denominations have equally valid manifestations confirming their beliefs, then there is not really any reason someone should join the LDS Church. It also contradicts the First Vision story, where JS said that God told him that every other denomination was wrong, that: …they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…”

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  4. Jared on January 3, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Several years ago I met a well educated, doctrinally smart member of the church. He had a high profile job and made a lot of money. I got well acquainted with his fine family, as well. I really enjoyed our friendship.

    He invited me to a fireside he was speaking at. I’d heard him speak before. He was gifted at speaking.

    Near the end of his remarks he told about how the Savior recently had visited him. When he said that, I was told by the Spirit that he was lying. The person who was with me received the same prompting. I had been praying to know if other things he had told me were true, among them how various angels had visited him.

    About three months later I learned he was excommunicated from the church for polygamy. I understand he has since repented and has returned to activity in the church.

    Over the years I have had others tell me about angels they have seen. A lady in my ward, who took care of children in her home, told me that one day she saw angels watching over the children. I had no doubt about her testimony.

    Two years ago a Polynesian sister related an experience she had on her mission where an angel appeared to her with very specific instructions about keeping family history records.

    Her dad, Iohani Wolfgramm, was a well known man among the Polynesians and had experiences with angels, Elder Oaks used him in his talk titled “Miracles” (see link below). Elder Oaks related how Elder Wolfgramm had raised his daughter from the dead after being hit by a car (Elder Oaks didn’t mention anything about angels, but his daughter told me some of his experiences with angels).

    I can testify about angels, I didn’t see them, but on several occasions I have heard them speak to me in answer to my prayers.

    As one would expect, there are true and false stories about angels, as well as other kinds of manifestations of the Spirit. It requires the gifts of the Spirit to sort them out.

    I think the best thing is for each of us to draw as close to the Lord as we can. That way we won’t be deceived and will have our own manifestations the Spirit in the Lord’s time and in His way.

    http://lds.org/ensign/2001/06/miracles?lang=eng

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  5. Ren on January 3, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Mormons act in the same way other sects do. We’re right and everyone else is mistaken. There’s the rub with religion.

    Who is to say who God is actually talking to? I’m wont to say what is attributed to deity is the product of our own projections.

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  6. Mike S on January 3, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Jared:

    Thank you for sharing those stories. I have heard others about LDS members having similar experiences.

    My question, though, relates to the OP. All of the examples you gave are within the LDS faith. What do you make of those OUTSIDE the LDS faith? What about people who feel that similar experience confirm that their (non-LDS) path is the correct path back to God? Do you suggest that all of them are deceived?

    Just wondering.

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  7. diane on January 3, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    I was recently taking a class on Judaism and the Rabbi who was talking about this same thing related a story. It went like this:

    There was a rabbi of a congregation who was i competition with another rabbi. The congregation was trying to decide who was to lead them. So the first rabbi went away to a cave and fell asleep. He awoke and saw an angel, and the angel said” Rabbi you are to lead the congregation.” The Rabbi went back to the congregation and related the information the angel told him. An old man in the back of congregation stood and stated,” “Why would that angel only appear to you, If he really wanted you to be the rabbi, the Angel would have appeared to all of us, especially since we were all praying.” The Rabbi had nothing to say and everyone went to the other rabbi as a leader.

    That being said, when I was getting ready to go to the temple. I struggled with whether or not I wanted to go because I grew up in foster care and I didn’t particularly want to be tied to the same people in death that couldn’t really give a crap in life. I had a dream and in the dream I remember specifically being led into a house and outside the house there was a bunch of confusion and people running around screaming and crying. I remember once inside the house looking outside the window and seeing these people running about and actually feeling scared. I was then led upstairs where I saw sitting at white table my guardian angel and then I looked to my right and I saw the face of Christ and he told me I was safe and I then promptly woke up. And I knew that the dream was telling me I was suppose to go to temple.

    The point I’m trying to make is that I think some of us get angels, some of us get our confirmation in dreams, or by what ever means we process our information.

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  8. Jared on January 3, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Mike S

    I don’t have enough experience to really add much to the discussion on non LDS experience.

    That said, the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost are available to all the children of God. The Lord hasn’t left them without inspiration. Do angels appear to them? I don’t know.

    Has the Lord inspired some to establish religion and teach truth at some level? I believe this is the true.

    Are there deceivers? I believe this also.

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  9. mh on January 3, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    so, if God called others, such as mohammad, how do we as mormons reconcile that with joseph smith’s first vision?

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  10. Cowboy on January 3, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    MH:

    You don’t, because you can’t. At least not within the “revealed” framework of the restoration as commonly taught and believed. Particularly in consequence of the necessary pre-cursor, the great apostasy. Even taking a universalist approach is difficult if you want a logical theology, unless you decide to cherry-pick your multi-faith worldview for consistency. For example, in the First Vision Joseph Smith allegedly learned that God is real, Jesus is his Son – giving some merit to the Christian tradition, and that there was a literal void between every religion in the world and this deity who addressed him. According to Muslims Jesus was a Prophet, sent by God, born of a virgin, but importantly NEVER DIED! As far as I understand, the Quran never actually states that he was replaced by a look-a-like, but it is common Islamic thought. The Quran does say however that he was not killed, only thought to be. Instead he ascends to God. There is no mention of his atonement, including his sacrifice and resurrection which are essentials to Mormonism. I have personally met with Muslims whose greatest gripe with Christianity is that it is blasphemous to suggest that Christ was the son of God. Interestingly, as it relates to other discussions here and at Mormon Matters, they were repulsed by the idea because to them it implied that God would have had to have sex with Mary. There is too much inconsistency, for logic. One or both is wrong.

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  11. Cowboy on January 3, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    You know Jared, as thought – Joseph Smith claimed to have recieved revelations about Polygamy that rubbed wrong with even First Presidency members. He claimed to have been visited by Angels commanding it, which ultimately resulted in dissensions within the Church – can you really excommunicate Joseph Smith? Still, we don’t doubt him.

    It is very difficult to accept anecdotal arguments like your #04 without considering the liklihood that your experiences were actually the result of a priori beliefs being challenged. I know this is the same old re-hash between us – but that’s just where I come in. Interestingly, in your first example with the Polygamist, I would have had the same reaction as you, I just would have had it when Joseph Smith said it too.

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  12. hawkgrrrl on January 3, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    I think the question revolves around whether the church is there to lead people to Christ or just to lead people to the church. If Christ and God are real, they will want us to experience their reality if we seek them. That’s a personal spiritual quest whether we are in the church or not. Spiritual experiences are not limited to the church – they are individualistic.

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  13. diane on January 3, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    I’m with hawk on this 100%, I don’t think I can discount anyone’s else personal experience. The only reason that I can think of to discount a personal experience of is in the case of severe mental health disability.(i.e.) schizophrenia.

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  14. Cowboy on January 3, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    “I’m with hawk on this 100%, I don’t think I can discount anyone’s else personal experience. The only reason that I can think of to discount a personal experience of is in the case of severe mental health disability.(i.e.) schizophrenia.”

    I don’t know? I used to think this way, and still realize that I can’t ever say definitively that I know someone elses experiences, but I’m feeling more comfortable doubting some claims.

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  15. Jared on January 3, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    As Cowboy pointed out there are different ways of viewing things. This is true of the prophet Joseph Smith, the Book Mormon, the LDS church, other religions, and so forth. This is easily seen by how many churches have come forth from the Bible;I’m told there are over 1200. There are a lot more questions than answers.

    At heart, I’m quite skeptical, especially the older I get. If it weren’t for the manifestation of the Spirit I’ve been given I wouldn’t have anything to do with any church.

    Over the years, I’ve been rubbed the wrong way by church leaders, particularly those in the wards and stakes of the church. I’m able to forgive and forget because of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And that is the whole point, the Summum bonum, the Holy Ghost reveals what we need to know and do.

    Without the companionship of the Spirit we’re just like any other group of people, with the Holy Ghost we are followers of Christ restored church entitled to receive the promises He has made. The greatest being that of becoming a joint heir with Christ.

    This brings up the issue of why some don’t experience the Holy Ghost in the same way others do. Cowboy, Mike S and I have discussed this before. I don’t know the answer in every case, but I do know that things are done in the Lord’s way and time.

    In my case, I was a hard living teenager on the way to a war zone when he reached out to me in a mini Alma the younger experience.

    Consequently, I have no reason to think of myself in glowing terms. I was astonished then, and I am even to this very moment–that such a thing could happen to me.

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  16. mh on January 3, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    cowboy, that is interesting about jesus in islam. I have heard a couple is variations. one variation is that when jesus fell carrying the cross, another person (simon, I think) carried the cross the rest of the way. I have heard that muslim’s believe that simon was crucified in jesus’ place.

    alternatively, I have heard that jesus somehow miraculously escaped from the cross. a third explanation is that jesus may have been resurrected, but not divine and was merely a prophet. I don’t know if there is an official muslim position on the crucifixion, but they clearly don’t believe jesus was divine.

    while I have heard of similar explanations like jared gave that god could have revealed truths to mohammad, I wonder if a better explanation is that islam apostatized? however, I don’t think such an explanation is satisfactory because mohammad clearly seemed to rejecy christ’s divinity.

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  17. Cowboy on January 3, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    MH:

    That’s exactly my problem. As you noted, the most prevalent Islamic take on Christ is that he is not the Son of God. As for the various explanations for conflictng histories, it’s all merely academic for our purposes except to show that the theological differences stand in such contradiction that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to conclude that both Mohamed and Joseph Smith were directed by the same heavenly source. To suggest that they were, is to suggest that 1) either the “true” message is unimportant; which is in direct conflict to the messages in the first place. In which case it’s entirely unimportant, and Mormonism is still wrong so long as a person can find a personally preferable alternative. Despite the need to show goodwill to all, religion – and particularly Mormonism – really only makes sense if remains as Zero-Sum game.

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  18. Cowboy on January 3, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Sounds good Jared – this is usually where we end up. I’m not sold on the “spirit”, but for some reason I like you. It’s either the spirit telling me I like you, or it’s just the sum total of my experience with you given a number of similar encounters.

    It’s good to see your still around.

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  19. Jared on January 3, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Cowboy–

    The feeling is mutual. I’m looking forward to the time when you can relate your own personal conversion experience.

    Have all the doubt you want until then. There is nothing wrong with doubt. It’s a cousin to belief; it’s fragile though, and can disappear like the hoar frost when the sun rises on your testimony.

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  20. Jared on January 3, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    #12 hawkgrrrl–

    I like what you wrote. The church is a means to and end, not the end. It’s like a tool. It is used to accomplish something greater. That something greater to is fulfill our baptism covenant and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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  21. Mike S on January 3, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    Jared: I too appreciate the discussions we have had in the past. I still don’t understand everything, but I do realize that you have had a profound and life-changing experience such that your path in the LDS Church is firmly set.

    What do you think of the following theory: Perhaps God places each of us on the path that we best need individually. Perhaps your path to reach your “optimum potential” lies down the LDS path.

    But, could other people’s best paths NOT be in the LDS faith? Is accepting this compatible with LDS teachings? Or is it essential to accept the LDS path?

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  22. Cowboy on January 3, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    Mike:

    I realize you didn’t address me, but I’d like to pose a few questions in response.

    *As a note, by “path”, I believe we are saying “religion” or “ideology”

    1) If the specific path is less important than the destination, what exactly is the destination?

    2) As a follow up to 1), how does a path help us overcome impediments to our destination, if the exact path is unimportant.

    2-b) If a path is essential, but there is no exclusively “true” path above all other options, are there at least universal impediments, or bearings that all path’s must cross.

    If yes, how does the ambiguity of a universalist point of view provide solid theological utility if those impediments or bearings can be so convoluted between systems?

    If no, then what exactly is the point?

    3) How do we reconcile that most “path’s” teachings that they are the single correct way, when as per this theory, that is incorrect? In other words, if the point of having a path is to ultimately bring us to some destination, at what point does the confusion caused by exclusive claims on arbitrary issues exceed the value of being utility for driving people to the destination?

    The only logical conclusion I can come up with that satisfies the notion that a) there are multiple paths, and b) God directs us according to plan, to specific paths which contradict other paths, but ultimately lead to the same destination; is to concieve that perhaps the path is important not as a direct utility of value, but a utility of trial and growth. In other words, God is testing us by placing us in paths that will try us, and from which we may grow to a point that we can reach the destination. This would mean however that religions stated value is still incorrect, and as a matter of perspective, would still not be a correct path in any kind of conventional way. I don’t believe this for the record, but I think this becomes the natural end of Universalist thinking.

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  23. Bishop Rick on January 4, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    Mike S #21

    Since the LDS population is .001% (not .01) if you believe attendance rolls and only .002% if you believe LDS claims, I would have to think multiple paths are not only possible, but necessary. Otherwise, God’s plan is a total failure.

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  24. Bishop Rick on January 4, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    Mike S #3 said it perfectly. You can’t believe the first vision and believe any non-LDS angelic visitations.

    Additionally, I was taught in my earlier days in the church that God would not send an angel to anyone unless it had church-wide implications so I shouldn’t expect an angel to confirm my testimony.

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  25. George on January 4, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    #24: Does that really say that you were taught that no angel would ever appear to anyone unless it had church wide implications? And, if so, do you hold that as true?

    To me, it reeks of the institutionalization of God that Mormons (generally speaking) adhere to (i.e. that God will reveal nothing save it be through the President of the LDS church) – and I don’t agree with that notion. Sort of reminds me of what Joseph Smith said so many years ago:

    “It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes & set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.”

    I don’t think we can presume to know, let alone limit, what God can/cannot do. If God is God, then He can do whatever the hell he wants to do. If he wants to share a message with some Indian Chief, then so be it; if He wants to share a message through Buddha, so be it; if He wants to share a message through seemingly insignificant people, so be it; or, if He wants to bring me a message via some angel, so be it.

    Do we really believe, as a Church, that we have the corner on God and God cannot act but through us?

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  26. George on January 4, 2011 at 1:06 AM

    P.S. My daughter (not yet a member) claims to have seen her “guardian angel” (her words) at least 2x in the past couple of years. I have no reason to doubt those visits happened and they certainly had no “church-wide implications.”

    I see them simply as messages to her from a loving Father, though I have no idea what those messages were. I didn’t want to influence her answers, so I didn’t probe too deep, but I do remember her “countenance” the day following the first visit (before she told me about it) and she was measurably brighter and more joyful.

    Just thought to share.

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  27. Wonderdog on January 4, 2011 at 3:36 AM

    No better way for Satan to foment confusion than sending an “angel of light” bearing a message. Much in the same way several people in the early days of the restoration claimed to be receiving revelation for the church.

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  28. Cowboy on January 4, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    #27-

    This is what I love about religion. If we don’t like the other camps message, just blame it on the “sneaky one”, Satan. If God is willing to allow Satan to show up and decieve us, he might want to show up too on occassion. I’m just a mortal, and so I don’t ask angels for their I.D., I wouldn’t know how to verify it anyway. If Satan appears to me as an “angel of light”, I won’t ask questions, I’ll just do what he says. Hell, if he shows up as an “Angel of Darkness” I’ll still probably do it, just be because…well…he’s an angel, and I’m a mortal. Besides, based on my experience, if he did show up, thus far that will have been the best answer to my prayers.

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  29. Mike S on January 4, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Bishop Rick:

    Not to be nit-picky, but:
    Estimate 6-7 billion people on earth
    Estimate 6-7 million active LDS members
    This gives 1 in 1000.

    Expressed as a decimal, this is 0.001 as you mentioned. However, expressed as a PERCENTAGE, it is 0.1% (as 1% is already 1 in 100)

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  30. Mike S on January 4, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Cowboy:

    I do agree that it is convoluted thinking, especially since so many different paths claim they are the only true path and that everyone else is deluded. You ask: what’s the point?

    My opinion is based on several premises:

    1) God is ultimately successful. If being LDS in mortality was absolutely essential, then there would be some mechanism where more than 0.1% of people would be active LDS. If God is 50% successful, for example, that would mean that for every LDS person in “heaven”, there are 499 who were NOT LDS. If you accept that God is a successful God, then it follows that there need to be multiple “paths” through mortality.

    2) Universal truths. In studying a wide number of religions around the world, on a practical day-to-day basis, they are much the same. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Be honest. Care for your neighbor. Revere the divine. The areas in which they differ have little importance to our day-to-day lives. Some religions ban pork, some ban coffee, some ban alcohol, etc. Some don’t celebrate birthdays.

    And even in the “big question” – Allah vs three-in-one vs “two separate personages” vs Brahman vs etc. – on a practical day-to-day basis, they are the same. We are to respect Deity, have reverence and gratitude to Deity, and ultimately hope to be unified with Deity. In my opinion, how someone reverences Deity is more important than their particular belief (ie. I would rather associate with an honest Muslim who is wholly devoted to Allah than a crooked LDS businessman who believes in “two distinct personages”)

    Given these 2 premises: Mortality is a test. How we live our lives is much more important than anything else. The basics are the same throughout time and throughout the world. We are all different and unique. It therefore makes sense that different paths might work best for different people. Even within the LDS Church, things are different. Our practice of religion is vastly different from Brigham Young’s or Peter’s or Nephi’s or Moses’s, yet we believe all these people will ultimately return to God.

    Given this, yes, I believe that God speaks to people of ALL faiths. I believe that angels can speak to ALL people as needed and may even lead them to paths that are NOT in the LDS Church, but down paths that are best for them in their time in mortality.

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  31. Mike S on January 4, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    George:

    I have to believe your daughter and her story of a guardian angel. I have as much reason to believe her as I do of believing JS’s story of also seeing a divine messenger. If I start claiming that one is from “Satan” to deceive, how do I judge one person’s story as more “valid” than another person’s.

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  32. Jared on January 4, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    #21 Mike S wrote:

    “Perhaps God places each of us on the path that we best need individually. Perhaps your path to reach your “optimum potential” lies down the LDS path.”
    ——————————
    I think this is correct. We’re all God’s children, and experience shows that not all are interested in the “fullness of the gospel” as brought forth by His prophets. We know that many will accept it in the spirit world. How many that will include will be interesting to see.

    Mike S wrote:

    “But, could other people’s best paths NOT be in the LDS faith? Is accepting this compatible with LDS teachings? Or is it essential to accept the LDS path?”
    —————————–
    As I understand it, this is correct reasoning, though I can’t appeal to the scriptures to support it, other than to say that the Lord doesn’t give us doctrine to help us into kingdoms of glory other than the celestial.

    I like what Cowboy (#22) said, especially in the last paragraph.

    The path is narrow that leads to the celestial kingdom, but the net (mercy because of the atonement) the Lord employs to gather His followers is very broad and encompassing, far more than we are able to comprehend.

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  33. mh on January 4, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    the lds claim to have continuous revelation. however, since joseph smith there have been only a hand full of revelations added to the d&c. certainly that is why james strang was so appealing to early mormons like martin harris. the problem is that strang was shot and killed (almost paralleling joseph), but no strangite prophet emerged to take his place, stunting the growth.

    I find otto fetting’s revelations to be very interesting where john the baptist appeared. continued revelations and angelic visitations to w a draves seem appealing to my sense of continued revelations, though I haven’t prayed about them. even the rlds are still adding to the canon of the d&c, yet the lds seems strangely closed to new revelation, despite our public insistence that we are led by a prophet with continued revelations.

    I have to wonder if pres monson claimed to have been visited by an angel who told mormons to start building a temple in missouri (as otto fetting claimed), would modern mormons be open to this revelation, or would we be just as skeptical of such a story, as we are skeptical of strang, fetting, and draves?

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  34. Cowboy on January 4, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    I’m okay with the notion that life is a test. However, it was a really good test to see whether we could “be good” outside of the presence of heavenly authority, Church’s and revelation still don’t make sense. When you add Church to it, the best becomes a mortal multiple choice to see if we would join the right club. When you add revelation to it, God gives away the answers and then it fails to be a good test. In short, if life is a testing ground where God can observe us, then it makes sense that he would have little need to intervene or provide Church’s.

    Mike:

    The challenge I have is that those universals are still convoluted. But most importantly, if we don’t understand the destination, then we can never understand the path.

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  35. Thomas on January 4, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    I could always accept the concept of revelation — the notion that God gives people ideas that they would not have thought of otherwise.

    And I can accept the idea that God could select a limited number of people to whom to reveal divine truth, either because those people are more capable of receiving revelation, or for God’s own reasons, rather than directly revealing the truth to everybody — and then, when men of good will hear the message passed on by those chosen messengers, God causes it to resonate with them, and incline them to believe it.

    Where my egalitarian and libertarian tendency makes me want to get off, is with the notion that God tells prophets to expressly tell people God told them the things they were preaching. In that situation, the Messenger is essentially demanding agreement and obedience based on who he is, rather than persuading people to follow based on what he says.

    The “I am a prophet, therefore, follow me” model is too easily abused. It creates hierarchies among men, who are supposed to be equal, God being no respecter of persons. Even if you believe that we belong to the one institution that really is the divinely-guided hierarchy it claims to be, the model has some serious side effects: More people appear, over the course of history, to have followed false revelatory hierarchies than true ones. At worst, they’ve become complicit in evil; other times, they’ve simply been led into the vice of servility.

    I do like how, in this Church, there is at least a nominal teaching that the revelatory process works in the first manner described above — that God reveals his will to prophets, which then resonates in the hearts of honest men when they hear it. In practice, though, there is an awful lot of “follow the prophet or suffer,” as we heard twice last Conference.

    I wonder how a world would operate, in which God revealed his truth to men, but didn’t actually let them know he was doing so. Where holy truths stood or fell based on their tendency to be adored by men of good will.

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  36. Bishop Rick on January 4, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    George #25

    “#24: Does that really say that you were taught that no angel would ever appear to anyone unless it had church wide implications?”

    Uh yes, that is what it really says.
    Because that is what really happened.

    “And, if so, do you hold that as true?”

    Of course not.

    Now would someone please explain to me what I said in #25 that deserved a dislike?

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  37. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    “I wonder how a world would operate, in which God revealed his truth to men, but didn’t actually let them know he was doing so. Where holy truths stood or fell based on their tendency to be adored by men of good will.”

    That’s a religion I could belong to. However, for the Mormon Church it is not just about the principle of Revelation in general but how it relates to authority that can punish. In other words, I could support a religious ideal, where men claimed revelation, and I was left to decide. Where I lose interest is when those same men also claim to be “stewards” over the key’s of salvation, and implicitly demand that if I want the saving ordinances, I have to swallow hook-line-and-sinker the idea that I am to obey them. They may publicly declare, and I can either publicly support, or privately disagree (with the intent that I seek to learn from God that they are right). They also may interview me for “worthiness”, and among other things God reveals that to them, and not me (or at least their view is given pre-eminence). So, could Angels visit others, yes (perhaps), so long as they don’t threaten the authority of Church leaders. But the Church has never really been about revelation, since that is an elusive topic anyway, but instead has always been about authority. Brigham Young said it best, when he stated that no one enters heave without Joseph Smith’s say so. Even worse however, I also have to get my Bishops.

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  38. Thomas on January 5, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    “But the Church has never really been about revelation…but instead has always been about authority.”

    Reading Rough Stone Rolling, you get the impression that the Church started out more open to revelation to the laity — but this quickly got out of hand. The Kirtland converts, in particular, were having all kinds of wild “revelations” and spiritual manifestations. Plus, Joseph Smith found it impossible to administer an institutional Church when he was just one prophet among many. The Mormon hierarchical structure evolved over time, largely because of pragmatic concessions to the perceived problems of dispersed authority. It certainly wasn’t all there from the beginning.

    “In other words, I could support a religious ideal, where men claimed revelation, and I was left to decide.”

    Even more interesting to me would be a model where men received revelation, but didn’t know it and didn’t claim it. They would just declare divinely-inspired principles, which would stand or fall on their inherent value.

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  39. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    “Even more interesting to me would be a model where men received revelation, but didn’t know it and didn’t claim it. They would just declare divinely-inspired principles, which would stand or fall on their inherent value.”

    That sort of hearkens to my point in #34, that life as a test makes the most sense if God is a non-interventionist, particularly in establishing a Church. Perhaps at a subtle level, providing for a revelatory process in the manner you suggest would feasible in my argument, if the point is to see whether “men of goodwill”, as you say, can recognize an inherent good will in divine principles. Once Church’s step in, dictating universal principles to the proximal crowd, the logic of the “life is test, to see if you will join God’s Church” just doesn’t make sense. Even with a catch-all clause like salvation for the dead which seems more like a convenient after-thought, than a natural component to a perfect plan.

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  40. Mike S on January 5, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Perhaps this IS the model that God uses. Some people feel a testimony that the LDS Church is the right path for them, while others don’t. Others are equally as certain that God wants them to be Catholic or Muslim or Baptist or Hindu. There are certainly conversion stories in all of these denominations equally as profound as any in the LDS faith. For other people, perhaps something like Buddhism also gets them to be good people while leaving the specifics about God undefined.

    Perhaps, at the end of the day, all of these are vehicles to get us back to God, to get us to be good people towards our fellowman, etc. Perhaps we will all ultimately be judged on how we actually lived our lives and not on which particular denomination we followed.

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  41. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    “Reading Rough Stone Rolling, you get the impression that the Church started out more open to revelation to the laity — but this quickly got out of hand. The Kirtland converts, in particular, were having all kinds of wild “revelations” and spiritual manifestations. Plus, Joseph Smith found it impossible to administer an institutional Church when he was just one prophet among many.”

    I can agree with this idea, but it still presents Mormon tribal-communalism with a big problem. The Church didn’t evolve into the Satan inspired “subdue the land” state with hierarchical controls, in spite of Joseph Smith. Rather, Joseph Smith himself evolved to that point. This makes any appeal to Joseph Smith for tribal-communalism futile.

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  42. Mike S on January 5, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    (Sorry – hit enter too soon.)

    If this is the case, it makes sense that God would send angels to people in all denominations confirming seemingly contradictory things – if the important thing is to help people progress and be good.

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  43. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Wow!!! I just conflated two unrelated topics. Sorry!

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  44. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Of course Mike, one could really question that as well. I’m sort of cautious against the cliche’s that blame religion for most of the worlds atrocities. Still it cannot be denied that religious conflict has at least been a catalyst, driven by irrational emotions of certainty, for much of it. I wonder how adept God would be in such a scenario, towards accomplishing his stated task.

    Consequently, this also rests implicitly that as per religious notions, ie, the fall of Adam/man, we are seperated from God and must return. It would seem to me that God has the greater ability towards reuniting us. If that is his intention, mabey he has that obligation. Ultimately it is circular logic, since the whole notion of restoration (restoring man to God) is in and of itself sort of a sectarian principle that varies sect to sect, and religion to religion.

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  45. Thomas on January 5, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    “[L]ife as a test makes the most sense if God is a non-interventionist, particularly in establishing a Church. Perhaps at a subtle level, providing for a revelatory process in the manner you suggest would feasible in my argument, if the point is to see whether “men of goodwill”, as you say, can recognize an inherent good will in divine principles.”

    I find myself drawn to this notion of a “stealth God,” who works quietly in this way — because that’s what I’ve experienced. I can’t say I’ve ever felt so inspired by any man, or any recital “Thus saith the Lord,” that I felt wholeheartedly inclined to accept the words that followed on the merits of the speaker. I have, on the other hand, heard or read words, or witnessed acts of faith, that simply struck me in an extraordinary way as being true and beautiful.

    And I agree that it is very compatible to an understanding of life as a test. If God’s reality, law, and promised rewards are too obvious, then choosing the right doesn’t say anything about, or tend to develop, a love of righteousness and truth. It just says we can be bought — that we are rational actors, calculating that eternal bliss is worth giving up Starbucks and a few other things for.

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  46. Thomas on January 5, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    “Still it cannot be denied that religious conflict has at least been a catalyst, driven by irrational emotions of certainty, for much of it.”

    I wonder if “religious” violence, is actually an expression of the simple, inherent human tendency for intertribal violence, which probably goes all the way back to our and the chimpanzees’ great-great-to-the-umpteenth-power grandparents.

    Just like Windows and Internet Explorer, sectarian religion usually comes bundled with a ready-made tribal identity. Sometimes I wonder if that’s not actually the most powerful part of the bundle. Mormonism has certainly flourished by becoming a kind of tribe, shaped by the Utah experience and the fact that until the relatively recent influx of converts, we were pretty much all second- or third-cousins at most.

    People will always find something to hate each other about, whether religion, nationality, political affiliation, or Dodgers vs. Giants.

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  47. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    “I find myself drawn to this notion of a “stealth God,” who works quietly in this way — because that’s what I’ve experienced.”

    Not to mention it just sounds cool!

    “And I agree that it is very compatible to an understanding of life as a test. If God’s reality, law, and promised rewards are too obvious, then choosing the right doesn’t say anything about, or tend to develop, a love of righteousness and truth. It just says we can be bought — that we are rational actors, calculating that eternal bliss is worth giving up Starbucks and a few other things for.”

    That’s how see it!

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  48. hawkgrrrl on January 5, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    I think it was AdamF a while back who posted on MM about different paths being like software. Some software just doesn’t run well on some computers. You can change the extension on the document, but you lose something in the translation of the software. Yet different programs work more successfully on those different operating systems. I do think that spiritual paths are like that. One size does not fit all. Even within Mormonism there seem to be different versions of software.

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  49. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    If I were to follow that analogy, then I would have to assume that concepts like a restoration would naturally be scheduled as recurring events, so that God can update the software. Christianity should probably be out of date, like trying to run a floppy on new laptop. Mormonism by extension would be nothing to take too serious in the now, because as it currently stands it’s in its tenth version, and we can expect that trend to continue.

    If one needs religion to just keep their “system” running smoothly, then I suppose that works. If on the other hand, we are concerned for progression towards some ultimate truth, that concept is less than inspiring.

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  50. Thomas on January 5, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    “If one needs religion to just keep their “system” running smoothly, then I suppose that works. If on the other hand, we are concerned for progression towards some ultimate truth, that concept is less than inspiring.”

    Reminds me of the December 30 post “Positivism versus Scientific Realism.”

    Why couldn’t the answer be “both”? Why couldn’t a religious tradition be simultaneously “something that works/close enough for government work” and “the best present approximation of Ultimate Truth, and a step closer towards it”?

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  51. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Religion generally doesn’t hold itself out as approximations, but matters of fact. It doesn’t follow therefore that it can undergo incremental change, and often stifles such a thing. Lastly, because I suspect that many religions were never intended as vehicles for “getting us there” but rather means of social control. It just doesn’t work for me, I suppose it is fine if others feel they are getting value from it…I just wonder if we really know what that is.

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  52. Thomas on January 5, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    “Religion generally doesn’t hold itself out as approximations, but matters of fact.”

    How many things in the world do live up to their advertising? One makes do.

    If I can find a religion that functions as a serviceable vehicle in which to worship God better than I could do alone, I count myself ahead. The Church qualifies, still, if sometimes barely.

    “Lastly, because I suspect that many religions were never intended as vehicles for “getting us there” but rather means of social control.”

    My impression is rather that religions only become serviceable as “means of social control” after a very long mellowing period. Until that point — usually at least a century after the religion’s founding — the Wild Men of God tend to give the ruling caste no end of headaches.

    The irony, of course, is that the prophets’ great-grandchildren are almost invariably captured by institutionalization, and become respectable.

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  53. Cowboy on January 5, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    Fair enough.

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  54. Bishop Rick on January 5, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    Mike S #40

    Perhaps you could use the word Perhaps a few less times.
    Ok, I deserve dislikes for that one.
    Just couldn’t resist.

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  55. Bishop Rick on January 5, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    I think that is there is a God, he/she doesn’t interfere with anything happening on this earth. If he/she did, then I am greatly disappointed at the filtering process.

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  56. Mark D. on January 16, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    There is no rational way to rule out visitations of angels to others not of our faith, not in this age nor any other. The only thing you can do is judge the fruits of the potential recipients of those visitations on their merits.

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