Our Foundation Stories Part VI: The Laying on of Hands

July 7, 2008
By

This is the last installment of Our Foundation Stories, I promise!

As a child, I heard the story of the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods this way: In May of 1829 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were praying in the woods about baptism and had John the Baptist appear to them, put his hands on their heads, and recite the following, currently found in D & C Section 13: Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins…”

Some time later, Joseph and Oliver again were in the woods and John, James, and Peter appeared to them, put their hands on Joseph’s and Oliver’s heads, and restored the Melchizedek priesthood.

Certain details were fuzzy here, but I got the gist. Joseph and Oliver were ordained like every other 12 year old boy I knew, even dressing up for the occasion, as Church art depicted. (Can you imagine an imageless Church manual? We would have to use our own imaginations!)

I later majored in history at BYU, where I learned to distinguish primary from secondary sources, and to assign relative weights of reliability to certain primary accounts over others based on many factors like whether the person writing was an eyewitness to the events described, length of time between the event and its recording, potential motives of the writers, etc.

When I turned this rudimentary training on the sources describing the stories above, I found the records to be vague and contradictory, more so than in the case of Joseph’s different accounts of the First Vision. This is partly because Joseph had a co-participant, Oliver Cowdery, who left his own account of these experiences, and that many other early Church members wrote as if they did not hear of these ordinations until 1834 or 1835. Cowdery’s account is especially interesting, as he mentions only one occasion of priesthood bestowal, only one priesthood, only one angel visiting, and declines to name the angel as either John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John. (Note that the Church has added an “s” to “holy angel(s) in the link to the Oliver Cowdery account above to soften the ambiguity, under the guise of correcting “spelling, grammar, and punctuation”. Compare to the wording here)

Parley Pratt, John Corrill, Lyman Wight, and David Whitmer each leave accounts which make it appear that the Melchizedek or Higher Priesthood was first revealed to the church in a June 1831 conference, and was unknown before that time.

So where did our contemporary story of two separate priesthood bestowals come from? It appears that the line upon line development of church doctrine made clear after the organization of the church that two priesthoods, arranged hierarchically, were necessary for Church governance. Revelations included in the Book of Commandments (later renamed The Doctrine and Covenants) were edited later to include references to both priesthood bestowals. (Editing revelations was a common practice in the early years of the Church.)

B.H. Roberts of the Seventy even attempted to fix a timespan for the second bestowal of the priesthood to the period between the May 15 first bestowal and the end of June 1829, based on some conjectures flowing from assumptions based on the edited revelations (e.g. Section 27). This is likely where our sense of certitude on the subject comes from.

My questions are these:

Since I, and probably many others, were raised in the Church with the very definite, specific chronology for two separate priesthood bestowals, and this appears (although La Mar Petersen, Bill Hartley, and Larry Porter have attempted to rescue the Roberts chronology) to be highly questionable given the testimony of the sources, what do we do with this story?

Does the restoration of priesthood/authority need to have been a literal laying on of hands by resurrected beings in the same order in which 12 year old boys and 18 year old men experience it in the contemporary Church?

Does imagining that things happened this way make it easier for LDSaints to serve confidently in the Church, fulfilling their callings, learning to love God and their neighbor?

Could God have restored priesthood by an act of will, divine fiat?

Why do we rely on these stories as told and recounted in our secondary literature?

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  • Valoel

    This difference between the fragments of history we have, and the mythology we are taught is very difficult. I fall on the side of innocent hand-me-downs of culture though. A lot of this stuff grew to the proportion of Paul Bunyan proportions. Joseph Smith was 40 feet tall, could chop down trees with a single stroke of his axe, and he had a giant blue ox named babe for a pet. Yet it all really started with a much less romantic, simple woodsman.

    Is it ok that it might not have been exactly like the sunbeam lesson? For me it is. I wish they just didn’t go there to begin with. That’s the hard part — the dramatic reversals. My wife did not survive this transition. She left the Church. I’m ok with it being a little sketchy, with JS and others trying to follow an inspired idea and possibly missing the mark at times. There’s still a phenomenal list of deep and profoundly divine concepts that came out of the restoration. Priesthood authority can be one of them too.

    It just doesn’t seem like it was all so neat and tidy as it is in the paintings :-(

  • Bruce Nielson

    I took a class from Larry Porter and during the class he shared documents he found exciting. One that he brought up with that Oliver Cowdery left a testimony of receiving the priesthood under Peter, James, and John in his own handwritting in front of a book. He read it in class. He did not bring it up in context of any controversy.

    Of course I wish I had a reference. The reason it stuck out in my mind is because I had met with the Bickertonites which base their truth claims around this discrepency. Having Oliver specifically mention Peter, James, and John really stood out. Of course that was years ago and I wish I had a perfect memory. I remember it being an 1835 reference, or there abouts. I can’t remember anything else and of course I’m afraid I’m misremembering.

  • http://radiobeloved.wordpress.com/ Neal Davis

    Larry C. Porter also has a very good article on the timetables of the restoration of the priesthoods in the December 1996 Ensign: “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods”, http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1996.htm/ensign%20december%201996.htm/the%20restoration%20of%20the%20aaronic%20and%20melchizedek%20priesthoods.htm but it tends to follow the traditional storyline.

    My big dilemma is whether or not it’s ethical to teach the “standard” but incorrect version to my own children, or opt for the revisionist version.

  • Bill

    “Is it ok that it might not have been exactly like the sunbeam lesson? For me it is. I wish they just didn’t go there to begin with.”

    Is it ok that it isn’t exactly like it was in the sunbeam lesson? This is OK for most people. Is it ok that is didn’t happen like it was taught in the institute or gospel doctrine class? This is where more people have problems.

    “That’s the hard part — the dramatic reversals. My wife did not survive this transition. She left the Church.”

    The problem here is that the church now seems afraid to tell the real story. If they push to change the traditional story to match the facts, they will be advertising that the traditional story has been way off. If they stick to the traditional story, some people leave the church when they hear the real story.

  • DavidH

    A few years ago BYU Studies published a pretty evenhanded compilation of documents related to the restoration of the priesthood. Not sure if this works as a link: http://byustudies.byu.edu/shop/pdfsrc/35.4Cannon.pdf?zoom_highlight=brian+cannon+priesthood+restoration+documents

  • Pingback: Mormon Coffee » Mormon John Nilsson questions the foundational Mormon stories of priesthood bestowal

  • http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    When any event takes place it can be difficult to reestablish the details of the event event when it is only weeks or months old, let alone years. When I write in my journal I find this lack of memory annoying, so the best remedy is to keep records the same hour or day an event occurs.

    It seems to me that some have a mindset that the truth isn’t being served and the only way to overcome that is to have undeniable record keeping. The problem with this approach to history is that young, uneducated individuals living in rural America didn’t follow that ideal. I would imagine this kind of cluttered history is common and historian learn to deal with it as a fact of life. The way they do it, in the absence of ideal recording keeping, is to assemble the history with “secondary facts” based on the sources they have. It appears this is how the church historians dealt with the coming forth of the M Priesthood. Was it reasonable to have done it this way? Isn’t this a standard practice among historians? In hindsight how would you have done it?

  • hawkgrrrl

    Nevertheless, a swing back to the “correct” story, including in church manuals, is simply inevitable. The biggest problem is getting to the “correct” story; it’s all very confusing and incomplete. The details are just not all there, and it seems evident that JS and OC didn’t really understand the nature of the keys, what the significance was or what to do next about it for several years. Restoration would have been a lot easier if JS had found a handbook of instruction rather than the BOM (which he also seemed to misunderstand at times). Frankly, all that makes it so much more credible to me. The simplistic idea is too neat to be factual. Life just doesn’t happen that way. I know people are surprised by that, but like any church, some of our foundational stories are mythic in how they are portrayed, and I agree that it’s got a downside. But creating myths is also human nature.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> Cowdery’s account is especially interesting, as he mentions only one occasion of priesthood bestowal, only one priesthood, only one angel visiting, and declines to name the angel as either John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John

    Okay, I’m remembering better thanks to the link provided. The reference Oliver Cowdrey made in his own handwriting didn’t mention Peter, James, and John (I remembered that wrong) but mentioned specifically John the baptist. That was the issue with the Bickertonites. They believed “the angel” Cowdrey mentions elsewhere was Moroni. But Cowdery left a record in his own handwriting that it was John the baptist who bestowed the lesser priesthood on him in 1835.

    Here is the quote that was in his own handwriting:

    “He [Joseph Smith] was ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on Fryday, the 15th day of May, 1829″

    he later says: “After this we received the high and holy priesthood”

    (This is obviously very vague, but I don’t buy the argument that if it’s not specifically mentioned it didn’t happen. I also don’t buy the argument that if there is a contradiction in the sources that it means it’s made up. Both arguments seem silly to me. We are all very human and sources almost always contain some contradictory material. Heck, I can’t get a non contradictory story out of what happened on my projects 10 minutes ago most of the time. That doesn’t mean someone is lying or the incident was made up.)

    This is a first hand account, it tells us specifically it was John the Baptist, and it tells us specifically it was the Aaronic or lesser priesthood which implies a higher priesthood existing in Oliver’s mind. It specifically talks about a second incident later, even if it gives no details at all. So while it’s not conclusive proof (history NEVER is) it would seem to be sufficient to support Joseph Smith’s own account in all the particulars that matter and I think you are overstating the reality of the historical record with your post above. At a minimum something like this needs to be mentioned for people to consider all sides.

    Now I realize we could make the case that Oliver made it up later just like Joseph did and/or they colluded. And if we are hell bent on disbelieving, we will. This view doesn’t not “contradict” the historical record either, obviously.

    But, John, I think you go way too far to say “Why do we rely on these stories as told and recounted in our secondary literature?” (Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean here. I thought Oliver’s handwritten account would count as a primary source. Remember, I’m not a historian, so forgive me if I’m not understanding.)

    Now I don’t want to get into an argument over the multitude of ways we can interpret the first hand sources and how they do sometimes contradict (as is normal in any type of history). I would prefer we just all admit that there is plenty to believe or disbelieve and it’s not a matter of fact one way or the other, as I feel this post suggests.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “But Cowdery left a record in his own handwriting that it was John the baptist who bestowed the lesser priesthood on him in 1835.”

    I mistyped this. I meant to say “But Cowdery left a record in his own handwriting that it was John the baptist who bestowed the lesser priesthood on him *according to his own 1835 account*.

    I just want to note that the fact that I made a mistake like this and that it is contradictory to what I just said is positive proof that contradictions don’t mean the person was lying or what they said was made up. Pretend, for a moment, that I didn’t catch my error and it just stayed this way and that scholars, years later, were talking about how misinformed I was to think Oliver Cowdery received the priesthood *in* 1835. But in fact it was just a typo. :P

  • Jeff Spector

    There is an implication that this story or any story pertaining to the Church that is not fulled with explicit, verifiable, undeniable facts has somehow a sinister element to it. Either it is supposed not true, someone is hiding something, or is not exactly as advertised. This story, like many others was formulated many years ago using the best information at the time and by some of the people who more directly knew about it.

    One of the difficulties of history is it becomes interpretive when evidence is not present or is lacking in detail. Unless new evidence is uncovered to the contrary, why don’t we just go with the prevailing thinking instead of trying to revise it to suit ourselves?

  • hawkgrrrl

    Jeff Spector – I agree with you and Jared on this. Historical fact is an oxymoron.

    John asks: “Does imagining that things happened this way make it easier for LDSaints to serve confidently in the Church, fulfilling their callings, learning to love God and their neighbor?” Maybe in some cases it does; myths can create patriotic fervor where the true story only creates doubt. Isn’t that a key problem with the current war vs. WWII (message control is lacking today whereas in WWII, there was a black & white mythology)?

    JS seemed to understand 2 things that may be unpalatable concepts to some: 1) the need for physical ritual to teach spiritual lessons symbolically (e.g. he couldn’t literally show them the face of God, but he could symbolically teach them how to purify themselves to enter God’s presence), and 2) the need for connection to previous generations of followers throughout time through shared rituals and experiences that lead to salvation.

  • http://wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com A Well Behaved Mormon Woman

    After studying other topics in the Church, and comparing them to how they are taught at their most basic “primary” level – I am convinced that this subject is just one of many that are presented in such a way. After much contemplation, I am left to believe that order is imperative in presenting and teaching the Gospel to all of us…

    The LDS Church has mastered this skill. The Church, has only the responsibility to teach the first four principles of the Gospel – that’s it. The purpose of this, is to administer the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It is only through the Holy Ghost that a testimony is received.

    Once an individual “receives” the Spirit — ultimately, they have “the” teacher that will lead them into greater and deeper understanding of all these things.

    I realize that this sounds very simplistic, but I honestly feel – that much more understanding and perspective are possible “through” the Spirit – than will ever be available by sifting through so many accounts, opinions, speculations, etc…

    Yet, I too – enjoy asking many of these very same questions and enjoy the comments and discussion that they afford the truth seeker:-)

    tDMg
    LdsNana-AskMormon

  • http://www.mrm.org/topics/historical-issues/priesthood-restored-or-retrofit Joe P.

    I would encourage you to click on my name to begin studying the restored priesthood.

    If mormonism is truth it should stand up to any test? right?

  • Jeff Spector

    Joe P.

    Kind of like asking a Red Sox fan what they think of the Yankees.

  • http://www.mrm.org/topics/historical-issues/priesthood-restored-or-retrofit Joe P.

    Jeff Spector,

    Your response is nonsensical. When the facts don’t support your beliefs you are left with setting up a strawman argument. I’m not falling for it…

    Instead I hope someone will actually look at the facts.

    God bless…

    Joe

  • hawkgrrrl

    Joe P. – nice try, but the lack of evidence is not the evidence of what is lacking. I find your research biased and unhelpful. Phrases like these are needlessly provocative and paranoid:
    - “Mormons are led to believe” – sounds like there is a conspiracy theory afoot and that Mormons are unwitting dupes.
    - “Mormonism teaches that for churches to act without this authority is a grievous sin.” Really? I don’t recall being taught that it is a ‘grievous sin’ for other teaches to act without priesthood authority, for what else can they do since they do not have it? This is inflammatory hyperbole.
    - “The evidence shows that the LDS teachings regarding a restored priesthood authority originated many years after the founding of the church, and that they were subsequently added to the early revelations and history.” The absence of evidence is not evidence to the contrary. During the restoration, teachings were evolving as they became understood. It was simply not as cut and dried as some would like to think, ironically, since some of those same individuals are the ones who seemingly lacked the imagination to understand that the first time they heard the history and now feel disillusioned and angry about it.

    Those of us on this site are generally very familiar with the dates and details your site includes, and yet many of us have concluded differently.

  • http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    # 12 Well Behaved

    Based on my experience in the church your comment is right on.

    The best evidence the church has for its historical claims is whether or not members receive the gift of the Holy Ghost through the priesthood administration it offers at the time of baptism. If members receive this gift then the priesthood is authentic, end of story. I understand the difficulty the untidiness of church history can cause. But when one experiences the manifestations of the Spirit all these problems are swallowed up and of no concern.

  • Jeff Spector

    Joe P.

    Likewise, I’m sure. Heavens, don’t fall for what I say. You’ve obviously fallen far enough….. The fact is, you are what many of us refer to as an Anti-Mormon.

  • Bruce Nielson

    “Those of us on this site are generally very familiar [with the facts]…and yet many of us have concluded differently.”

    Hawk, please consider writing a post on this idea. This is something we all need to hear a lot more about.

  • hawkgrrrl

    Bruce N. – I thought we’d just threadjack this one instead :). JK

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe P:

    Your argument on this thread is as well thought out and you’ve made as much effort to understand all sides as you did with our last discussion about what Mormons believe about the nature of God. Good luck, my friend.

  • http://www.mrm.org/topics/historical-issues/priesthood-restored-or-retrofit Joe P.

    My comments are now being moderated.

    If you are going to censor what I say I’m done.

    Titus 3: 9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

    God bless you all…

  • Jeff Spector

    Joe, Joe,

    Before you get too bent out of shape, please understand there is currently a technical problem with the site which is not allowing any of us with admin privileges to free up any comments in the filter. Typically, things get caught up there because of too many embedded links. So, it is not on purpose. When our site is fixed. we can free it up providing it isn’t nasty.

    But, please. If you wish to contribute to the discussion, please leave the anti-mormon rhetoric at the door. We’ve all heard it, seen it and have tired of it. We want a dialog here not a spouting off of 200 year old material.

  • Bill

    #16–I would find it more helpful if you critiqued the content rather than the style of Joe P.’s link. “Mormons are led to believe” isn’t all that inflamatory.

    The statement, “Mormonism teaches that for churches to act without this authority is a grievous sin” is fairly well supported by the “Presumptuous and blasphemous” SWK quote given in the link. You call it ‘inflammatory hyperbole’, I’d call it simple re-stating of SWK. You can say that SWK was misquoted or wrong or that we don’t emphasize or teach that any more, but I don’t see the ‘inflammatory hyperbole’.

    Regarding “The evidence shows that the LDS teachings regarding a restored priesthood authority originated many years after the founding of the church, and that they were subsequently added to the early revelations and history.”, I think the evidence does show this. A better word choice may have been ‘evolved’ instead of ‘originated’ or that ‘CURRENT LDS teachings regarding preisthood authority originated many years after..’. Either way, a poor word choice isn’t all that inflammatory to most people.

  • Jeff Spector

    Bill,

    “Either way, a poor word choice isn’t all that inflammatory to most people”

    Except there are many people who are looking for every opportunity to be critical of the church for one thing or another. One person’s poor word choice is another’s fodder.

  • Carlos U.

    13) Joe P.

    It Mormonism is tru, it should be witnessed of by the Holy Ghost to sincere seekers who have paid the price. As for me it has. Strongly. Repeatedly. Undeniably. The rest are details. Nothing trumps God speaking directly to my soul.

  • Dan Knudsen

    #7 comment–I think your observation is quite astute. Why didn’t these guys, before doing anything, write up a handbook of all the steps needing to be done to make this organization perfect, and reminding them to record everything as it happened, and/or to have a clerk run around with them day and night, to make sure it was recorded as it happened. Then, if they’d have just stayed in the same place for several years, instead of all this frantic running from place to place, it would have been much easier to keep a current history of everything so that we wouldn’t have so much to complain about how sloppily they recorded, and didn’t record, everything. But, then all the fun of our complaining about how we would’ve done it so much better would’ve been done away, and the anti-Mormons would have to have come up with a whole bunch of other stuff to worry us about.

  • Doug G.

    One of John Nilsson’s points in the OP was to ask this question.

    “Since I, and probably many others, were raised in the Church with the very definite, specific chronology for two separate priesthood bestowals, and this appears (although La Mar Petersen, Bill Hartley, and Larry Porter have attempted to rescue the Roberts chronology) to be highly questionable given the testimony of the sources, what do we do with this story?”

    First, it’s entirely unfair to not be willing to at least acknowledge Joe’s points. I realize that for many of you this is old news, you’ve already studied the historical documents and came away convinced that there is no smoking gun. (I sometimes wonder for the TBM if any amount of evidence could be enough) However, just because you found what to you is a plausible explanation for why this history is “confused at best”, doesn’t mean you’re right. Spiritual manifestations are only good for the receiver, so stating that priesthood restoration must be true, (as taught in the manual) because God told you so is absolutely worthless to anyone else trying to discover the facts here.

    As someone who has tried to walk a very tight line between being labeled a simple heretic to an outright anti-mormon, let me try and give my perspective on John’s question.

    The church has always known the time frame of Peter, James, and John’s literal restoration of the priesthood is problematic. For many years our manuals simply stated that the restoration of the MP occurred sometime after the AP restoration. However, the JS manual used today in priesthood and R/S went a step further and put a date range on the event. (I personally think they should have stuck with their original MO and left it open) By doing that, they have invited the types of questions we are all dealing with now.

    What should John do with the story? In other words, is it right to deliberately teach a correlated historical perspective, which is unsubstantiated by the historical record, to the members of the church? (Please don’t confuse the difference between teaching a concept, such as “the priesthood was restored”, with teaching history.) To me, the answer is fairly straight forward. If you believe it was restored, then you can state that and tell why it was important. Don’t invent history to make your point. I actually think this is Joe’s main point. To put a date range on the event without good evidence to back it up, is inventing history. Much of the criticism aimed at the church today is result of us teaching correlated historical events. All the while knowing that in reality there was much more to the story and knowing the additional information would put a different light on the history. My mother used to say that any communication with the intent to deceive is a lie. Lies should not be part of teaching people the gospel.

    Please don’t insult my intelligence by making claims that the church hasn’t engaged in deceptive communications about its history. I could make a long list, but most all of you have read enough to know of what I speak. That too is “old news”…

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    This simply is a non-issue to me. I’ve read all the complaints, and they just aren’t valid from the perspective of a history teacher. As I’ve said elsewhere, history is messy. We live in a day when everyone seems to be conscious of recording everything as it happens. That just wasn’t the case throughout most of history.

    I couldn’t care less that we don’t have a date for the restoration of the MP, and I don’t care a bit that the Church has tried to move away from a vague “it happened sometime” to their best educated guess. ***That happens ALL THE TIME in the compilation of history when an exact date is not known.*** If the Church is condemned for this, so should almost every (if not every) historian who has ever lived. Good heavens, that’s why the term “circa” exists – and that term is employed liberally in the study of history with absolutely no charge of conspiracy or deception.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    I have debated whether or not to make this comment, but I feel like it needs to be said:

    Joe P, the comment that is frozen in moderation right now contains links to 2 videos that are explicitly and directly created as rebuttals to the Mormon conception of God, the Father, and Jesus, the Christ. Within the first minute of the first video, a verse in the Pearl of Great Price is misquoted on the screen – blatantly misquoted with no way to view it as an accident, but written as if it is an exact quote. That is not a good way to start what is presented as a sincere effort to expose the incorrect teachings of Mormonism. It is a BLATANT example of the video producers (at the very least) bearing false witness – and of knowing it is false witness while bearing it. There is NO way to view it as an honest mistake. All your protestations notwithstanding, it is the height of hypocrisy to use those tactics when commenting on a thread where you condemn inexactness in historical detail.

    This blog is dedicated to open and courteous conversation even among people whose beliefs differ radically. It is not dedicated to blatant and egregious, unrepentant lying, especially when charging others with deception. That goes beyond motes and beams and enters into a realm that simply is abhorrent.

  • John Nilsson

    Ray,

    “This simply is a non-issue to me.”

    What exactly is a non-issue? The questions I asked have nothing to do with whether or not the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored in the way church publications have indicated. That is not possible for anyone to know.

    My questions have to do with why the story is presented the way it is. Why is it so important to have two separate priesthood bestowals, so much so that we put credence in an event which has comes down to us with less detail than Joseph Smith pontificating on the origins of Zelph the white Lamanite?

    Hawkgrrl,

    Thanks for attempting to answer my questions. I do think some people “need” the mythic renderings we have inherited from the correlation era of the 1960s to face the world as an active Latter-day Saint with confidence.

    Bruce,

    “But, John, I think you go way too far to say “Why do we rely on these stories as told and recounted in our secondary literature?” (Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean here. I thought Oliver’s handwritten account would count as a primary source. Remember, I’m not a historian, so forgive me if I’m not understanding.)”

    I guess what I’m getting at is why we rely on the interpretations of B.H. Roberts instead of the statements of Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, or their contemporaries in Church manuals? Larry Porter’s quoting of Oliver was helpful, but I think most Church members could handle reading that statement in a church manual instead of in an institute, or BYU religion class.

  • Doug G.

    Ray,

    I’m going to say this as nicely as I can. :)

    Just because this and many other issues with messy history are not an issue for you, doesn’t mean they are not for others. I realize you were a history teacher and therefore you understand that history is messy. Don’t you think, as a history teacher, that the members of the church have a right to be taught “all the history” and let them decide what to believe?

    Ray, please reread my post, I think you’ll see that I agreed with you concerning the important thing being the concept. As a history teacher, you of all people should appreciate the value of giving all the historical information available when teaching history to adults. Deliberately picking what to teach and what to leave out in-order to push a certain point is “deliberately” dishonest. Again I refer you to my post about deception.

    As for your point about all historians being guilty of inventing history, I’ll refer you to another quote from my mother. “Just because Johnny jumps off a bridge, does that mean you need to?” The issue of the MP restoration is far messier than just a simple date, but I think you already know that…

    Peace

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    John,

    I meant the furor over the exact date. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

  • Bill

    “It is a BLATANT example of the video producers (at the very least) bearing false witness – and of knowing it is false witness while bearing it.”
    “There is NO way to view it as an honest mistake.”
    “It is not dedicated to blatant and egregious, unrepentant lying, especially when charging others with deception. That goes beyond motes and beams and enters into a realm that simply is abhorrent.”

    Ray, you came down on Joe P. pretty hard. Your comments may have been completely justified, but it would be nice for the rest of us to be able to see the evidence and decide for ourselves. Can you provide the link to the offending material?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “Ray, As a history teacher, you of all people should appreciate the value of giving all the historical information available when teaching history to adults. Deliberately picking what to teach and what to leave out in-order to push a certain point is “deliberately” dishonest.”

    Doug, I’ve said this in the past on another thread, but it is impossible in a limited time frame when covering extensive time periods or complicated concepts to give “all historical information available”. As a history teacher, I appreciate that fact. It can’t be done. In fact, “deliberately picking what to teach and what to leave out in-order to push a certain point” is precisely the definition of teaching history in just about every history class in the world – no matter the level of that instruction.

    I do oppose deliberate changing of historical detail, but there is a huge difference between that and choosing what to emphasize and what to ignore (and when to be ambiguous and when to make a best guess) – just as it is in a courtroom for both defense and prosecuting attorneys – just as it is in a hospital for attending doctors – etc., etc., etc. That’s my point: Teaching and presenting history ALWAYS is subjective and NEVER is comprehensive.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> I guess what I’m getting at is why we rely on the interpretations of B.H. Roberts instead of the statements of Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, or their contemporaries in Church manuals?

    John, I’m not sure I really undestand what you are getting at. Are you saying that the link you gave follows the B.H. Roberts timeline (“weeks later” it says. kinda vague.) and that it should have instead said “we don’t know how long” because that would be more accurate to the primary sources based on what we know today?

    The link you gave was to a summary and certainly seems like an inappropriate place to start quoting primary sources and explaining the historical source issues that are common to all such sources.

    Also, how many people are qualified to skillfully handle primary sources correctly according to scholarly means but also for a general audience. If someone trusts a secondary source in devotional material doesn’t that sort of make sense? I assume you are not pushing for the LDS church to stop writing develotional material unless they get scholars to do it so that they are 100% above reproach. Such a standard could be passed by no religion… or any organization I’d imagine. (I also assume you don’t buy the standard DAMU argument that the LDS Church should be held to an impossible standard because they claim to be “true.” That’s irrational, of course.)

    I guess I’m not sure what you are really asking here, can you clarify a bit more? Offline would be fine if this is getting off topic and too complex.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    A specific example: When I taught about The Civil War, I tried hard to do so in a way that showed both the good and bad of both sides, but all I could do is scratch the surface of “all the historical information available”. It was available for any of my students to find and read and study, if they chose to do so, but there was no way for me to even begin to approach comprehensive instruction.

    Another example: Mormon was blunt in saying that there was no way to record even 1/100th of the history he had before him – so he “pick(ed) what to teach and what to leave out in-order to push a certain point”. Iow, he was a typical historian.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #34 – Bill, not here. If someone else wants to do so, that is their right, but I won’t post a link to the videos. I won’t help spread intentionally dishonest material like that.

    #32 – Doug, I forgot to thank you for the laugh at the beginning of your comment. That was funny.

  • Imperfection

    History is messy?

    Yes, history is messy but we are not talking about when Joseph had his first kiss. These are fantastic claims about super-natural beings visiting you and giving you the very power of God. I was raised with black and white versions of these stories only to later learn that the tales being told would change and be polished up so as to be more presentable. But that’s OK we are told because what is important is that they evoke a spiritual response that means they are true. And who told us those feelings were spiritual manifestations? Why, the same people who were busy polishing up the stories.

    Nice.

    It is only appropriate to question the credibility of a fantastic story that continues to change. I am a member who was given myth and told it was fact. Why would the leaders do that? What were/are they afraid of?

  • Bill

    Ray,

    I understand that you don’t want to propagate the link. As it stands, however, you’ve made some pretty strong statements against someone based on info that most of us can’t see. If you are right about the info, your statements were probably justified. If you are wrong, you were way out of line.

    Can someone else here confirm your assertions?
    Are you an administrator? Can you put up the link and then take it back down?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #39 – “Why would the leaders do that? What were/are they afraid of?”

    Those are two very different questions, and the first does not lead necessarily to the second. In my experience, the only “fear” of most volunteer / lay teachers is not understanding something well enough to answer deep questions. Most of the time, however, there hasn’t been “fear” – only differing levels of understanding (allowing for people to present what is “myth” to some as “fact” in their minds) or a belief that individuals need to reconcile these things for themselves. In this case, especially, when dealing with a judgment of others, I think charity is a very good rule of thumb – for those who believe it to be fact AND those who believe it to be myth.

  • hawkgrrrl

    Doug G. – “just because you found what to you is a plausible explanation for why this history is “confused at best”, doesn’t mean you’re right.” This is an excellent point, and I hope we can all have the humility to accept that. Frankly, you can interpret the evidence and lack of evidence either way, and you may be right that TBM will see it one way and someone prone to disbelief will probably see it the other way; the facts themselves don’t settle the matter. The historical record is ambiguous and even ambivalent.

    My own belief is that the restoration of the MP was originally viewed by OC and JS as less significant than the restoration of the AP because AP happened first. I don’t believe JS fully understood the difference between AP & MP for the next few years, or that MP was greater than AP, if he ever fully understood it. The written record is very sporadic during this period.

    Similar is the evolution of the endowment. It’s quite clear JS fully expected the “endowment” to happen in Kirtland and eventually he did some of the preparatory work toward it, but he didn’t fully understand what it entailed or how to convey the concepts in a symbolic manner that would encompass the spirit of the endowment and be able to be carried off after his death by other members (able to be replicated). He pretty clearly was expecting it to be more of an event that he prepared people to experience than a ritual for individuals to repeat with symbolic significance, again based on my reading of the history. I could be totally wrong, but it’s how I see it anyway.

    If you want to see Joe’s site, click on his name. It is, however, clearly an anti-Mormon site, so buyer beware. I’m not sure if his home site also contains the links referenced. The comment is stuck in moderation due to having multiple links.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #40 – Bill, I understand that, but all I can give you is my word.

    The producers doctored a verse from the PofGP; it couldn’t have been more blatant. I recognized it as soon as they posted it, but I also checked the PofGP just to make sure. There is no way it was an honest mistake. It was not a horrible twisting of Mormon doctrine, but it as a blatant and intentional misquote.

    Again, all I can do is promise what I wrote was accurate. You have my word.

  • Doug G.

    Ray,

    “Doug, I’ve said this in the past on another thread, but it is impossible in a limited time frame when covering extensive time periods or complicated concepts to give “all historical information available”. As a history teacher, I appreciate that fact. It can’t be done. In fact, “deliberately picking what to teach and what to leave out in-order to push a certain point” is precisely the definition of teaching history in just about every history class in the world – no matter the level of that instruction. “

    Ok Ray, but if this is fair then a non-believing person should have the right to show the history in the light of the evidence that they find compelling to make their point. We shouldn’t be offended by this tactic, or label the person as “anti-mormon”. After all, they’re doing the same thing from a different perspective.

    I’m having a little struggle with your concept of everyone having a bias and therefore making anything anyone teaches from history suspect. While I certainly understand that bias exists, I think the historians that get the most respect are the ones that can teach historical events without the bias showing through. Again, you can’t give the church a pass for deliberately correlating its history to paint a picture they know is incorrect. I’m not going to go into all the correlated history because you already know they did and it was not done by accident. It’s also the core of why so many are angry with the church, it isn’t the messy history my friend, it’s the deliberate effort to suppress it…

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “it’s the deliberate effort to suppress it…”

    and that’s where we disagree. I’m fine with that disagreement, so let’s let this die. Agreed? :)

  • Doug G.

    Hawkgrrl,

    Thanks for your post; I actually don’t disagree with your premise. The AP restoration certainly seems to figure much more importantly in the restoration to JS and others then the MP restoration…

  • Doug G.

    Ok Ray, I need to go to bed anyway… :)

  • Bruce Nielson

    Doug,

    I’m glad you brought this issue up as, and I really mean this from the bottom of my heart, I feel it’s the only real difference between you and me (or between yours and my views of the LDS Church.)

    You said, “What should John do with the story? In other words, is it right to deliberately teach a correlated historical perspective, which is unsubstantiated by the historical record, to the members of the church?”

    If we answer “yes, it’s wrong” here, we have now eliminated basically all history, period. Granted this date range in question is “more open” then, say, D-Day, to be sure. It’s also “more open” then, say, the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood or the visit of Moroni. But a great many things we get taught in history as if they are fact have a lot less to go off of then this date range you are upset over and calling a deception. And we’re talking true scholarly historian stuff compared to non-historian correlated manuals here! So they deserve even more “slack” then the “facts” we get taught in our history textbooks and classes.

    You said: “Don’t invent history to make your point. To put a date range on the event without good evidence to back it up, is inventing history.”

    But Doug, that’s just it. 100% of history, all of it — literally all of it — is “invented” in the sense you use the term here. That’s because it’s all guess work based on he said, she said. One history professor of mine said, “my job is to read gossip.” For that’s what history really is. There is not an ounce of history known for absolutely certain. If we have to be certain before we print it, we’d never print any of it.

    Many people labor under the mistaken impression that history is “known.” It most certainly is not. It is all about degrees of confidence based on triangulation of sources which are often contradictory.

    Heck! How would you teach Shakespeare according to your standards? Scholars can’t even agree on *who he was* or *if he even existed as a real person*! (There is a majority view and that’s what gets taught in schools, of course, as if it’s fact.)

    On a personal note, I just recently studied the death of the baby of one of my ancestors. The date they (the parents) recorded for the death is a day off from the death recorded in History of the Church. Furthermore, the names of the parents don’t match exactly. Because of that, I can’t, with confidence, be sure that we’re talking about the same baby and parents from both sources, though the odds that two babies with such similar parental names happened to die a day apart is very very low.

    But am I being deceptive if I tell people “my ancestors and the death of their baby is recorded in history of the Church”? Of course not. But let me assure you that is how I explain it to people rather than take the time to explain how I derived it all.

    So your question, to even be considered reasonable, has to be reworded to “how certain should it be before they print it.” But now we’re in an impossible situation because it’s all just a judgment call and thus we can be assured not everyone will agree with the decision. And in the case of Mormon history in particular, there is so much bias and desire to ‘debunk’ it or ‘prop it up’ on both sides that there is literally no such thing as an unbiased person who takes a look at it. All have a personal investment in it, either to see a way to dismiss it or accept it.

    If the people putting the correlated material together decide, after studying it out as best they can within their deadline and for their level of education in history, that they have sufficient confidence in the timeline suggested, shouldn’t they print it? Does this really mean they are doing something untruthful?

    Yet you will *feel* that they being untruthful because, due to your brain feeling certain over that which is uncertain, you will have a tendency to believe that if they were being honest they would have came to the same conclusion as you. This is called the narrative fallacy, by the way, and it’s a well researched human failing. We are an unfair race due to our problems with the narrative fallacy. We cannot conceive the possibility that those that we disagree with aren’t lying when reviewing the same set of facts but come to a different conclusion than us.

    There is nothing that can be done about this problem but let people make their best judgments and cut them slack. It’s the ‘cut them slack’ that you are not doing and that I am.

    It is impossible for them to ever actually make everyone happy because they are dealing with something as imprecise as history. And for the DAMU crowd, there will ALWAYS be ways to make them look like they are lying if only by virtue of the fact that there will always exist multiple interpretations of sources. Due to the narrative fallacy, the mere existence of an alternate interpretation will always be interpreted as lying by those that don’t agree.

    Doug, this is not a small issue. It runs to the heart of everything you and I believe (or disbelieve) in. This issue alone accounts for every difference between how we look at the world, God, religion, and the LDS Church.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> It’s the ‘cut them slack’ that you are not doing and that I am

    Clarification to be sure this doesn’t get taken wrong. I do not mean “in all things” but limit this to LDS History. I’m just saying it is the reason LDS history bothers me so much less than it bothers Doug.

  • hawkgrrrl

    “And in the case of Mormon history in particular, there is so much bias and desire to ‘debunk’ it or ‘prop it up’ on both sides that there is literally no such thing as an unbiased person who takes a look at it.” The key issue with this bias in interpreting the history of Mormonism is simply that no one has really attempted it who was truly neutral. Thus far, no one has been sufficiently interested. Bushman’s RSR is the best we have currently because he at least states his view openly, and he does present the (contradictory) facts without glossing over what is ugly or sticky. It’s possible this will change in time as more universities become interested in studying Mormonism as has recently begun happening.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> Ok Ray, but if this is fair then a non-believing person should have the right to show the history in the light of the evidence that they find compelling to make their point. We shouldn’t be offended by this tactic, or label the person as “anti-mormon”. After all, they’re doing the same thing from a different perspective.

    They should be held to the same standards, yes. Joe P’s issue isn’t that he’s being held to a different standard, it’s that he puts words into others mouths about that they personally believe, etc. That is what makes him a an anti-Mormon — his intolerance. I has nothing to do with his particular take on history. One can present their negative view of LDS history or doctrine in a tolerant way or an intolerant way. You are a good example, Doug, of how to do it tolerantly. (Tolerance has nothing to do with holding back.)

  • Bill

    Ray,

    I watched the first few minutes of all the videos on the home page of the site that Joe P. referenced, but didn’t see the offending material. Can you give me a little hint? Something like ’3rd video in the list’ or something like that? Which verse in the PoGP is misquoted?

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> It’s possible this will change in time as more universities become interested in studying Mormonism as has recently begun happening.

    Hawkgrrl, I have to disagree with you on this. The very nature of Mormonism makes it impossible to be unbiased on. It makes it impossible to be “not too bias” on. We will never see a neutral history of the LDS Church IMO.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Bill, I didn’t check for the videos on the actual site. I looked at it very briefly, but I’m not interested in sites like that. The video in the comment that got stuck in moderation was about our belief in Jesus, and the misquoted verse was Abraham 3:27.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Bill, The videos appeared to be YouTube or similar videos. I just looked and can’t find anything on the site that looks like the ones he linked in his comment.

  • Bill

    Ray,

    Thanks–I found the thing that you are complaining about. I think that you owe Joe P. an apology.

    The quote comes directly from the Gospel Principles manual that is shown in the video. The reference to Abraham 3:27 was from the text of the Gospel Principles manual. No–the quote itself is not Abraham 3:27, but this is at worst a simple misunderstanding. Gospel Principles says:

    Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27).

    This is what is quoted in the video. It is wrongly implied in the video that this text is a quote from Abraham 3:27 rather than just being derived from Abraham 3:27.

    So we have a minor error in a citation that still correctly describes the teachings of the church. Why on earth would you get so worked up about it? I think its clear that you over-reacted.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Not the same one, apparently, Bill. E-mail me the link to the video you found, so I can check it out. Send it to fam7heav at juno dot com.

    If the one he linked was an original one that was edited to be correct in an updated one, I will retract my assertion. I need to see the video first, however.

  • http://michelleglauser.blogspot.com Michelle Glauser

    I remember learning from a teacher at the institute about this. His idea was that the priesthood was simply restored by the voice of God, as it says in the D&C. The funny thing is, to some people, this really matters. I think it’s interesting and I love to talk about it, but it doesn’t change my belief and gratitude for the gospel.

  • Bill

    Ray,

    Let me first just apologize to you if I was wrong on the video.

    Click on Joe P.’s name on post #13 and then edit the url to go to the main ‘.org’ site. There are ‘introductory online videos’ on the left side of the page. The first one (Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith) is the one that I thought you were talking about. 3 minutes and 19 seconds into the video they make a quote from Gospel Principles look like it was a quote from Abraham 3:27.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    When any event takes place it can be difficult to reestablish the details of the event event when it is only weeks or months old, let alone years. When I write in my journal I find this lack of memory annoying, so the best remedy is to keep records the same hour or day an event occurs.

    Hey, I feel your pain. I often am interviewing disinterested witnesses about events and they give me radically different accounts of the same event, often from married people sitting next to each other in the same car.

    “He [Joseph Smith] was ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on Fryday, the 15th day of May, 1829″

    he later says: “After this we received the high and holy priesthood”

    Typically, things get caught up there because of too many embedded links. So, it is not on purpose Which happens to my posts all the time. Then I have to go in and moderate my own posts ;)

    My own belief is that the restoration of the MP was originally viewed by OC and JS as less significant than the restoration of the AP because AP happened first. I don’t believe JS fully understood …

    Joseph Smith said as much about his understanding of many things.

    But am I being deceptive if I tell people “my ancestors and the death of their baby is recorded in history of the Church”? Of course not.

    Excellent example. Hits home because my daughter Robin was born on the Sixth of July. For a number of reasons, we tend to emotionally react to it on the Fourth of July and I tend to get confused and think she was born on the Fifth. Every year since she died in 1977.

    I would, obviously, be seriously offended if someone accused me of getting the dates wrong on purpose.

    Ahh, I need to just quote Nick Literski right here.

    Heck, Nick, if you are reading this line of posts and comments, could you do a post on historical narratives. Your earlier comment on trial experience, witnesses and historical narratives (and the way so many of them are after the fact by second hand or third hand sources with an axe to grind) would make an excellent post all in itself.

  • Bruce Nielson

    I need to bow out of this conversation for now. Spending too much time.

    But I wanted to add one thing that it occurred to me last night might be taken wrong in what I wrote above.

    When I tell Doug that cutting slack to the LDS church or not cutting slack is the difference between him and me, it might sound like I think I’m making some indepth analysis of Doug with piercing insight. I want to be clear that that was not my intent.

    In actuality, the reason I feel so comfortable drawing such a conclusion is because it is my perception of the difference between any two people on two sides of a question that has no definitive provable answer. (Which basically anything controversial and a great many non-controversial things.) One will have the null hypothesis one way and one the other and there isn’t much else going on. The rest of the arguments usually mean very little.

    And I am just as guilty as anyone of creating a narrative fallacy in my head and then holding people responsible for it and assuming they are lying if they didn’t draw my conclusions. I still have to fight off that feeling when I read unbelieving Mormon historians such as by Todd Compton. I intellectually know he is not trying to deceive people but my little inference engine in my brain constantly looks at every thing he leaves out or slants and colors with his words and can’t help but feel he’s lying and being deceptive.

    But then I have to kick myself and remind myself it just isn’t true. He’s as honest as I am. He just sees the world through different eyes than I do. And ultimately the difference between his interpretation of history and mine seems to (I personaly believe) boil down to what we feel moral outrage over the most. So the difference ultimately seems to be rooted in something not based on reason after all.

    Anyhow… I can’t write any more. I have been planning to write a post about this for a long time and after writing what I did above, to Doug, and feeling like I did such a sloppy job (even considered deleting it but finally decided not to and just let my words stand regardless of whether they were a well formed and cleary explained thought or not) I decided to start on the post(s) that will explain myself better.

  • Joe Geisner

    I promised myself I was not going to get into this mess of apologetic responses, but then Bruce has to attack one of the nicest, most considerate people I know. Todd is anything but a “unbelieving Mormon historians”(sic). Hell, even the church leaders use Todd as their poster boy against Jon Krakauer, who BTW is an unbelieving historian of all things Mormon. Jan Shipps is a unbelieving historian of things Mormon. She has made this quite clear publicly and is a very happy Methodist. Bruce have you ever heard Todd say he does not believe in Mormonism as his religion? If not I think you had better apologize. As for his historical work. I know of no one with more than half a brain who thinks Todd is anything less than an excellent and honest historian.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Jan Shipps is a unbelieving historian of things Mormon. She has made this quite clear publicly and is delightful in person.

  • Joe Geisner

    Stephen,

    I am sure Jon Krakauer is also a pleasant person. My point is that we attack people with in our own faith and label them recklessly. Jan and Jon have both gone on record saying they do not believe in the Mormon church as we Mormon’s think of belief in our religion. Jan is a wonderful person and I think of her as a friend. She has helped the church on many levels and I am grateful for this, but she does not believe in our faith as we do. In no way was I suggesting Jan is anything but the salt of the earth, but why would one label Todd as unbelieving? In no way am I attacking Jan, I am pointing out a difference in a religious faith. As for a historian, I think Jan is one of the finest. Her “New Religious Tradition” is one of my favorite books and I think is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand Mormonism. Jan’s “Prophet Puzzle” is one of the best articles ever written about Joseph Smith and it changed my idea of our founding prophet.

  • John Nilsson

    “All have a personal investment in it, either to see a way to dismiss it or accept it.”

    Bruce, I suppose I disagree with you, Ray, and a few others on this site in terms of the possibilities of objectivity. The first part of your sentence above is not connected to the second part. I have known many people who have a personal investment in historical issues who could honestly go either way regarding the validity of the Church’s claims, that is, they are willing to stick with the Church as an investigator or member while continuing to put together the most complete picture of what happened in the past as possible. You, Ray, and others on this thread seem to assume that anyone’s frame of reference is equal to bias in the pejorative sense.

    While everyone certainly has a frame of reference, I cannot see that everyone has a bias. I’m sure that all of you historical relativists still have life commitments based partly on your sifting of various kinds of evidence, historical, spiritual, experiential, etc. I’m also sure that you would say some historical accounts are closer to the truth than others, and that books written on other emotionally loaded topics like the Holocaust can be written about more objectively by a trained historian than an amateur neo-Nazi or employee of the Anti-Defamation League.

    The binary thinking of us vs. them exemplified on this thread, the circle the wagons, historically defensive “Haun’s Milling” posture of everyone that writes about historical topics having an axe to grind is not exemplified by the explosion in solid Mormon Studies monographs which have been published in the last two decades, and by the resurgent scholarly interest in these topics.

    My point in this post was, the story of the priesthood bestowals AS A STORY, AND AS PRESENTED IN OUR CHURCH MANUALS, is weak at best. If I had been asked to write a term paper in my senior history seminar on the development of another religion, say Seventh Day Adventism, with sources like the ones we use to support the second bestowal, I would have had to take note of the fact that the sources only started mentioning this around 1834 or 1835, and that this coincided with an elaboration of church organization which made a second visitation more desirable. I would also have to take note of the practice at the time of editing revelations, which raises further questions. It seems more like a theological elaboration on the order of “well, we have two priesthoods now, so there must have been two separate founding events way back then.”

    My question based on my point was, WHAT DO WE DO AS LATTER-DAY SAINTS with the correlated Church story and all it was designed to support theologically when we know it is a weak story? Keep telling it the correlated way? Tell it with caveats? Rethink the concept of the priesthood, its transmission, its importance?

    These are open questions for me.

  • hawkgrrrl

    My mother used to always say: “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.” That never made a whole lot of sense to me until I heard the phrase “the truth will out,” which is a more accurate reflection of what happens IMO. I don’t believe there is a wide-spread conspiracy to suppress truth, although I do believe some individuals like to weave mythical narratives that, frankly, they themselves probably believe. Does that make it a lie? Or just optimistic “it coulda happened this way” storytelling? I’m not inclined to judge. But the simple fact is that over time factual truths emerge and evolve and are reinterpreted. So, accounts in secondary (non-scriptural) church sources will continue to shift. We should all realize that we are surfing rather than standing on terra firma when we are talking about history. Church history, family history, American history, World history, our own personal history. It’s all subject to this.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #59 – Thanks, Bill. That looks like the same basic presentation, but I don’t remember the reference to the Gospel Principles manual at the very beginning. (The initial comment that was in moderation was just two links – no “comment” at all – and now is gone, so I can’t go back and compare.) Perhaps they are different versions; perhaps I was distracted at the very beginning and missed the quick reference to Gospel Principles; I can’t say for sure, so I’m not going to hold to the harshness of my original comment about that particular point.

    You also asked why I “over-reacted”. That deserves a response, given the overall context of this thread.

    I have dealt with truly anti-Mormon groups for over 20 years. I have seen everything that they say (all of it) – and I have seen it in many, many different forms. It hasn’t changed a bit in 20 years. I have seen all kinds of levels of sincerity, and I have seen all kinds of levels of understanding. I am fine with those who simply are misinformed and act out of sincere love and concern, but I have a very difficult time with those who know the nuances of our actual beliefs and intentionally choose to ignore those nuances and paint with a broad, prejudicial brush – who claim to act out of true Christlike love while engaging in duplicitous and deceptive and mean-spirited attacks. Generally, it’s not any one thing; it’s the totality of the blatant distortions that frustrate me and cause my ire.

    I have dealt previously with Joe’s group. They have been around for long time, and they know better than to present much of what they do in the way they present it. Before looking at the link in the comment I had gone to the site, seen who it was and perused a bit to see if they still were the same organization I remembered from my past – twisting things they knew better than to twist. (For example, one of their favorite ploys is to quote controversial statements from long ago – even ones that were not generally accepted even when they were first said – and present them as standard Church doctrine. Another tactic of some groups with whom I have dealt is to change scriptural citations to say what we teach, making the defense you did – that it was an innocent attempt to make their point in the easiest, quickest way. The issue is that they know the reader / hearer isn’t making that distinction – that the audience really believes that what is being presented is actual canonized scripture. I have seen that over and over and over again, and sometimes it is downright disgusting and vulgar.) The web site is full of these things – things that I know the leadership understands but prints anyway.

    That was on my mind when I viewed the video and, I’m sure, was the reason why I reacted as I did. I simply despise that organization and its tactics, and Joe was the one who took the brunt of my frustration.

    Again, I do apologize if I simply missed the reference to Gospel Principles at the beginning – if the one you linked is the same one I saw. That particular group should know better than to attribute it the way they did, but it simply was the proverbial straw last night for me. I really did debate whether or not to comment at all, and I probably should have avoided it altogether.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “You, Ray, and others on this thread seem to assume that anyone’s frame of reference is equal to bias in the pejorative sense.”

    #65 – John, I never said that, and it was not my intention. There is no “pejorative” in my actual perception; I simply think it is impossible for anyone to present ALL the historical evidence in any limited presentation, so they have to pick and choose what to present – and those decisions are made based on their purpose. That is not meant pejoratively, since I do it, as well.

  • http://katesamericanlife.blogspot.com Kate

    Sorry – I didn’t have time to read all the comments yet. I just wanted to respond to the question “Does the restoration of priesthood/authority need to have been a literal laying on of hands by resurrected beings in the same order in which 12 year old boys and 18 year old men experience it in the contemporary Church?”

    I would say that we don’t really know, and it doesn’t really matter. We know that in order for us mortals to receive priesthood ordinances, we do need the physical laying on of hands. We also need to physically partake of other ordinances, like our baptism, confirmation, initiatory, and endowment.

    I strongly feel that full and complete understanding of WHY we must partake in these ordinances in this way during this life is not something that is for us to understand with our mortal minds. I do believe that seeking for truth is necessary, and good, but demanding a complete understanding of it in a specific time frame will more often lead to frustration, doubt, and too much reliance on human logic. We have a level of understanding, but it does not compare with the scope of God’s understanding.

    We have been given instructions about how to administer certain ordinances, and we follow them. Whether or not the restoration of the priesthood “needed to have been a literal laying on of hands by resurrected beings” is not important to understand now, in my opinion. Please don’t take this to mean I disagree with discussing it as such on this blog. I think this is a completely appropriate topic and even commendable for bringing up, provided the purpose is not to sway faith.

  • Doug G.

    In my time on this board, I have learned so much about how well informed people deal with disturbing pieces of history. Bruce, Ray and others have my profound respect as they are willing to defend their beliefs in an open forum, such as this, and take the brunt of many of us heretics and apostates. I certainly understand Ray’s weariness at having to answer the same questions year after year.

    I think where I part ways with many of the orthodox believing members are the historical events that the church doesn’t take issue with, but conflict with what they once taught. When I first learned of some of these issues, I fully expected to go to LDS.org or FAIR/FARMS type apologetic sites and find straight out denials of the particular issue. Instead I found that they accepted the same historical documentation I had been confronted with, but put a believing spin on it. Much as Ray, Bruce, and Hawkgrrrl do here. What that told me was that the evidence was indeed legitimate, not a Mark Hoffman type fabrication.

    For the sake of those who think I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, allow me to give a couple of simple examples. As a missionary serving over 25 years ago, I taught out of what was commonly referred to as the rainbow discussions. We were required to memorize these word for word and were informed the reason we needed to get it exactly right was to ensure we didn’t teach non-members false doctrine and thereby offend the spirit. These discussions came with flip chart pictures depicting the events we were teaching. In the “C” discussion, third concept, we were instructed to show the picture of JS translating the gold plates while explaining to the investigator that Joseph accomplished this work by the gift and power of God. A picture paints a thousand words for the investigator, therefore imagine my shock to learn that the translation was actually accomplished by JS putting his head in his hat and staring at a peep stone. This head in the hat methodology is backed up by no less than six primary sources and is generally accepted by most LDS historians including Bruce. :)

    The fourth concept is no better. It states that while Joseph and Oliver were translating the BoM, they constantly sought divine inspiration and frequently went to the woods to pray. During one of these times Peter, James, and John appeared to them and restored the MP. The church had us teach this concept and timeline, knowing full well that no historical account was available to back this up. It’s very possible that the understanding of needing the higher priesthood didn’t come until well after the church was organized. Ray and Bruce call this acceptable; I call it making up history. Call me picky, but that’s different then picking and choosing what to tell, its deliberately painting a picture of events that we don’t have any record of happening. We can go back and forth all day on what actually occurred in 1829, and none of us will ever know for sure. I’m not arguing the validity of whether the MP was restored; I just think missionary discussions and other official church publications should pick historical events to relate instead of fabricating them…

  • hawkgrrrl

    Doug G. – I totally agree with you, but I also wonder how much of that was a byproduct of the “assurity” generation of black & white thinkers in the 50s (who created those discussions). My parents were taught from those earlier discussions, and even growing up a couple decades later, they would say things to me that they were taught by the missionaries that I would tell them are not what I was taught at church, and that those things were speculative. There was a real focus for a time on “having all the answers” that I think is no longer viewed as necessary, thank goodness! But you are right that it creates an inconsistency. The best thing about the changes in the missionary program that I have seen is an ever increasing focus on flexibility and sticking with the basics only. Although the artwork issue is always problematic. The artwork is impactful, and when it is inaccurate, there are often not better alternatives readily available.

    I say omit artwork that is inaccurate from all teachings, but there could be inaccuracies that we don’t know are inaccurate yet. Even so, if we know something to be inaccurate, it shouldn’t be presented in teaching. Frankly, I don’t even like those paintings of JS in the grove with the enormous tree trunks that make it look like he’s praying in the redwood forest. The trees are just not that big there and not that type of tree.

  • Michael

    If I may, I wish to give some insight as a non-believer and one who has studied history extensively. First, I do beleive that everyone who writes history does so with a given bias. I also think there is far too much information far too often to include in brief studies. Is this an excuse to pick and choose all evidence on a given side? And does our bias lead us to certain bits of evidence we wish to include or leave out? Can this be overcome?

    Well, yes, it can be overcome. Despite our personal bias, we must attempt to present the past for what it was, and not for what we want it to be. Reading through this thread it seems many are willing to ignore the very real possibility the leaders of the church have favorably altered the history to their cause rather than present it as what really happened. They are then presenting a very biased history, which is in large part why so many leave the church and feel they were lied to.

    To me, if the church were determined to present the truth, it would in all phases– historically as well as spiritually. Certainly, since I am not a believer in LDS doctrine I do not feel the need to have my faith uplifted, but I wonder if that is why so many are willing to overlook the discrepencies in the historic record.

    To those that claim that since history is messy and we cannot ever know what exactly happened, I say that is a cop out. No, we cannot ever go back to it and see it happen, but we can piece together history, and get a good idea of it. When I look at the questions presented here, historically, it is problematic why the leadership chooses to present a chain of events that is not backed up by the what the record has left us.

    I’ll end by saying I mean not to rouse anger, only to present my point of view.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Michael, I have no time right now, but I really appreciate the tone and perspective. Honestly, I don’t think we differ much in the long run in our perspectives on this issue. Frankly, I don’t think the leadership (or I) care enough about what we see as the tiny details to spend time trying to get an exact detail 100% right – when we beileve a generality will suffice. People can differ as to what constitutes “tiny details”, obviously, but that is another disucssion entirely.

  • hawkgrrrl

    Michael – I wouldn’t excuse deliberate white-washing to obscure actual facts, but in this case, I also don’t see the major significance of when the MP was restored. Did it have to be prior to the church’s organization? Not necessarily. Giving a possible date range, which is all the church did, is not very misleading in my perspective. Did it happen? Yes, according to the statements. The only real open question is when. And my personal view is that the when isn’t that significant. It’s only become significant because the myth-builders imbued it with significance in their earlier speculation.

  • Doug G.

    Hawkgrrrl,

    Thanks for your insight and wiliness to see my frustration. We were very much black and white in the 60’s with all the answers. No-one in the church back then questioned the history. Of course, the church controlled most of the information available at the time. Incidentally, who in your opinion are the “myth-builders”?

    Ray talks about these things being “tiny details” and to his point, compared to the overall concept of whether or not a restoration accrued, he’s right. Unfortunately for me, I’m a born skeptic which means once I find out you deliberately fed me a story, I suspect everything you tell me after. As a manager, I have fond this methodology to be very effective. As they say, the devil is in the details.

    Michael hit the nail on the head when he stated that many of us feel like we were lied to. And to make matters worse, we were sent out into the world with these deliberately deceptive details for reasons I still can’t understand. After all, we teach people to pray about the truth, not research it and come to some logical conclusion. So why be afraid of telling the events as the historical record states they happened? I’m not sure the missionary effort would have gone much differently and many people would not have been so offended went the truth finely does cut its own way. Let’s not even start down the path of wondering why God would bear witness of so many incorrect things…

    Hawkgrrrl made the statement that many things in our missionary discussions from the 70’s were speculative. To validate her point, nearly every concept taught in the “C” discussion (which was almost always the first one we taught) is not considered accurate history now. The “D” discussion (The Plan of Salvation) is considered heretical and the film strip that went along with it “Mans Search for Happiness” as been publicly disavowed by the brethren as not being LDS doctrine.

    I guess the long and the short of it is, the church today is not church of my youth in so many ways. I know I’ve said that before, but it really is a different animal…

  • Bruce Nielson

    Michael, Doug, and John,

    When I read over what you all are saying, I keep wondering if I’m really understanding what your intent is. Please take my following question(s) as sincere desire to understand you better.
    I don’t like to talk in generalities on something like this, so please, let’s hold this strictly to the issue of putting a range of possible dates in a church manual based on previous research by believing historians.

    I see the following facts as not in dispute by anyone here. If you dispute any of them, please let me know as it will help me understand your arguments better:

    1. The range of dates for when Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith is a guess, but it’s based on the LDS historians research that is published and available for anyone (for or against) to read and dispute as desired. Many people read it and agree with it and feel it correct.
    2. The LDS people making the manual honestly believe, and in fact feel quite certain, that Peter, James, and John came to Joseph Smith.
    3. We do not know if they who put the manual together are familiar with pro and con arguments to the time lines they are suggesting. But we do know they are not, themselves, historians and that the manual is not a history manual.
    4. Some people (Michael, Doug, and John) feel that #2 is questionable. They feel, based on their honest reading of historical sources, that it was an after the fact made up event. In fact, they feel quite certain about this.
    Are any of these facts in question? If so, then that would explain my misunderstanding. If not, then let me continue.

    The context for my questions concerns two different “it seems” statements made on this very thread:

    #1: “It seems more like a theological elaboration on the order of ‘well, we have two priesthoods now, so there must have been two separate founding events way back then.’”
    #2: “..it seems evident that JS and OC didn’t really understand the nature of the keys, what the significance was or what to do next about it for several years.”
    If you look at both of these very carefully, they are both narratives that explain the same set of data from the historical record.

    It is because I recognize both of these as valid narratives that explain the data, that I’m confused by somethings stated. So here are my questions:

    1. Doug, when you say, “The church had us teach this concept and timeline, knowing full well that no historical account was available to back this up” what do you mean by this? We’ve already established that both Joseph and Oliver claimed that they had the priesthood restored in two separate events, one for each priesthood, so the “concept” is established in the “historical account.” From a purely “is it in the sources,” yes, it’s there and in spades. And it’s well known that neither recorded a date. But it’s perfectly normal for people to use context clues to guess dates in history. This is not out of the ordinary. The fact that the date is given in a range indicates they don’t have an account. So can you please explain what you meant here further?

    2. Doug, when you say “It’s very possible that the understanding of needing the higher priesthood didn’t come until well after the church was organized. Ray and Bruce call this acceptable; I call it making up history.” Are you suggesting that just because there isn’t an earlier account then 1835 (some claim sooner, but I’m not going to debate that right now; and let’s admit that that is dang early in the Church either way) that you feel the LDS Church should simply not bring this up because “it’s in question?” Are you saying that you feel that unless there is an earlier account that it must be seen as made up history? Do you see why I find what you are saying confusing? How much history has accounts this soon afterwards?
    Doug, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so please realize I’m just asking: Could it be that what you are really saying is that because you feel it’s in dispute by others (as per John’s argument and fact #4) that the LDS Church shouldn’t print it at all and that they should only print things that everyone agrees upon? I find this hard to believe that you’d say this, but it seems like maybe this is what you are saying.

    3. Michael, when you say “To me, if the church were determined to present the truth, it would in all phases” what do you mean by this? If the LDS church honestly believes Peter, James, and John came to Joseph Smith (as per fact #2) then aren’t they teaching the truth to the best of their knowledge?
    Michael, I don’t want to put words in your mouth either, but honestly it seems that you are saying that you believe that because others doubt that interpretation of history (see fact #4) that the LDS Church has a duty to bring up that there are doubters of what they (the LDS Church) believes and explain why some might feel it’s a later invention. Is this what you are saying? Again, I find this hard to believe, but I’m not sure of any other way to interpret your statements.

    4. John, when you say, “The binary thinking of us vs. them exemplified on this thread, the circle the wagons, historically defensive “Haun’s Milling” posture of everyone that writes about historical topics having an axe to grind…” I don’t understand what you mean. Please explain further. I fear I might just have to respectfully agree to disagree with you here. I can only speak for myself, but let me assure you that I am not circling the wagons to protect a story. I am telling you the, with God as my witness, truth about how I see this story after studying it out to the best of my ability.

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth either, John, but could it be that you feel so strongly about your view (of it being a later invention) that you have a hard time accepting that someone else might honestly study the same sources and come up with a different interpretation than you?

    Also, what is Haun’s Milling?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “To validate her point, nearly every concept taught in the “C” discussion (which was almost always the first one we taught) is not considered accurate history now. The “D” discussion (The Plan of Salvation) is considered heretical and the film strip that went along with it “Mans Search for Happiness” as been publicly disavowed by the brethren as not being LDS doctrine.”

    Source?

  • Bruce Nielson

    Doug, a couple of more sincere questions based on #75.

    First, I have never heard that the LDS Church disavowed Man’s Search for Happiness. I am quite familiar with both versions. I can’t even begin to fathom what they would disavow in it other than maybe the literalness of some of the depictions (i.e. showing an old man as having an old man’s spirit, etc.) that I would have thought obviously limitations of the technology. Can you be more specific?

    Second, since I have no familiarity with the discussions in question, please explain to me what is in the “C” discussion. Since we do not see eye to eye on the history points in question so far, it seems very likely I would not find it to be as inaccurate history as you do. Are you open to the possibility of more than one valid interpretation?

    Okay, one last thing. Are you aware when the LDS Church actually started getting serious about history? How familiar are you with Leonard Arrington? (I think you’ve mentioned him before) Are you aware of how long it takes for information, correct or incorrect, to pass around?

    I’m asking sincerely because I have this impression, right or wrong, in my mind that the era of your discussions came from long before we’d realistically expect any impact from the Arrington era. In fact, I’m not so sure that we would expect any impact at all from the Arrington era as he didn’t challenge any of the basic points of history we are discussing. In fact, I’m still unaware of any qualified believing Mormon historian that challenges any of the points we are discussing or have discussed. And of course I’d expect the LDS Church to “believe” the believing Mormon historians.

    I have “The Mormon Experience” by Leondard Arrington and Davis Britton, published in (according to my book) 1979 originally. (Mine is a 1992 version though.) This was a publication done by the LDS Church historian under the direction of the First Presidency. In this book there is mention of the possible discrepencies between first vision accounts and possible explanation for reconciling them, a description of the seer stone, a discussion on the Hurlbut affidavits, mention of the possible dating issues on the First Vision, and a great many other things.

    Does a history put out by the LDS Church historian under the direction of the First Presidency count?

    People attack this by saying “well Arrington was censored.” But I’ve read his book Adventures of a Church Historian and the types of things the two most conservative members of the 12 (the other 10 were all in favor) were concerned over were things like mentioning BY was working on over coming a chewing tobacco addiction at a time when the Word of Wisdom was not understood to be as important as it is today. It was really really minor stuff they were quibbling over. Also, Richard Bushman said that the main concern was really not Arrington’s histories so much as the official stamp of approval from the LDS Church on it.

    So Doug, a few sincere questions for you:

    1. Is your primary concern the discussions and Sunday school handling of history or are you willing to take the LDS Church as a whole? (i.e. Does The Mormon Experience count as LDS Church telling it’s own history?) Do you accept that Sunday School is devotional and not history or do you feel it should be treated just like a history class if we are discussing history?
    2. Is your concern that the LDS Church only teaches info that believing and qualified historians and doesn’t acknowledge the unbelieving historians point of view? (This seems like a no-brainer to me. Does the Catholic Church teach alternative Protestant views?)
    3. Is your concern that the LDS Church strongly favors the official Joseph Smith account that Joseph Smith specified should be the official account — specifically History of the Church and Joseph Smith – History? (i.e. That they rarely mention the unofficial accounts in Sunday school or missionary type settings? Personally I wish they’d start using more less official sources and I’m thrilled they’ve started to with the President series. But I’m sympathetic to wanting to stick to the official account Joseph specified to be used and believing that one to be the most accurate for that very reason.)
    4. Is your concern that the LDS Church, prior to opening the archives, had closed archives? (This seems the most likely scenario to me. Do they even now know what is there? Or do they rely on believing historians to tell them?) Are you open the possibility that they honestly didn’t know what they had and that the discussions, right or wrong, were accurate to the best of their knowledge?
    5. Are you open to the possibility that your discussions might still be accepted as valid history by many qualified historians today?
    6.Are you open to the possibility that even if the discussions aren’t entirely accurate, it takes a long time to change things like this and you were really still at the cusp of when change was even possible? (Quick question for you here. How long was it known that Columbus didn’t prove to the world the world was round before the whole sail off the edge of the ocean story finally started to die out? Decades? Centuries? Isn’t it still around even in well meaning history books that are otherwise accurate?)

    Of the things we’ve discussed from your missionary discussions to date, the only thing that you’ve mentioned that was clearly not “historically accurate” was the pictures of the translation. I have two sincere questions for you about this:
    1.Are you someone that accepts that paintings can and should use creative licenses?

    And… since even with your knowledge back then you knew the paintings were inaccurate — for example, they show Oliver looking at the plates, we all knew that wasn’t true and they don’t ever show the Nephite interpreters or the breast plate they were connected to, as mentioned in the official account we were all aware of, even back then – did you, back then, think there was something dishonest going on? Or did you, back then, think of it as simple creative license required to make the painting effective to the audience without being distracting?

  • Bruce Nielson

    Doug, please understand that I’m not asking you questions to try to trap you or something. I know this might be really hard to believe from where you are sitting, but I honestly do not understand your concern with the LDS Church and history and I’m trying to hone in on the concern. That must seem almost twilight zonish to you because it’s obvious you think there is something obviously amiss with the LDS Church and history. But I have a very different “narrative fallacy” then you do and I am at a loss to understand your concern because of that.

    Where my questions were a bit leading, but still valid in my mind, I stated what I was thinking so that you knew.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Geisner,

    Despite your deeply rude and misrepresenting response at #62, I feel I owe you an apology on my use of a label if it offended you. I believe in the power of labels to communicate information but I believe a person should feel free to reject a label if they don’t like it.

    When I said Todd Compton was an “unbelieving Mormon historian” I meant it quite literally and not at all offensively. Todd Compton, who clearly identifies himself as Mormon, just as I did, has gone on recorded as denying many of the fundamental truth claims of the LDS Church. I was contrasting him as opposed to a “believing Mormon historian” such as Richard Lloyd Anderson or Richard Bushman.

    But if the word “unbelieving” is considered offensive by you or others (it is not offensive to me, it’s just a statement of fact) I will cease and desist from using it from this point forward if you will help me understand what is a better more acceptable label that explains the same information I’m trying to communicate.

    I thought about saying he’s a “liberal Mormon historian” but this doesn’t really communicate what I meant and is misleading. I thought about saying he’s a “non-TBM Mormon Historian” but TBM is an even more offensive label because it’s used as a pejorative. I thought about saying he’s an “unorthodox Mormon historian” but this is a Catholic reference, fails to note that there really isn’t such a thing as an “orthodox Mormon”, and doesn’t really communicate the thought I’m trying to communicate. I would never dream of calling him a “heretical Mormon historian” because that’s an offensive term. I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate to call him an “NOM Mormon Historian” but please note that NOM usually refers to a Mormon that is active but is unbelieving in the truth claims of the Church.

    It’s rather cumbersome to say “a Mormon historian that does not believe in the truth claims of the Church” so I really do need a label here.

    Joe, I have another issue I need to discuss with you, but I’ll do it as another post to avoid confusion.

  • Doug G.

    Ray,

    You know me better than than that. Do you really think I would put something on here with you guys reading it, if I couldn’t back it up? I already provided two very well documented problems with the 2nd and 3rd concept of that discussion.

    Tonight is already past my bedtime…If you’re still awake, take the challenge and see if you can find the sources. It’s out there, I’ll give you a hint. The church pulled this filmstrip from the MTC bookstore and forbade missionary’s with copies of it from showing it to investigators. The main reason I think was becuase of the statement about being able to earn your way into Celestial Kingdom… Perhaps that’s still doctrinal to you… :)

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Geisner,

    The second issue I need to take up with you is a difficult one. I have thought about this for a while and I’ve come to realize that no matter how honestly I ask the question it will come across as accusatory. So I’ve decided to address it indirectly:

    You had stated previously: “I have been Mormon most of my life, but I don’t know what Mormons believe when it comes to the Trinity/Godhead”

    This was a question specifically about what Mormons believe today. And it was specifically about belief:

    I then gave you an answer in good faith. You then rudely dismissed me, not just my answer, by saying this:

    “I realized that we have nothing in common. I was hoping to have a rational and serious discussion on this subject. You have made it clear that is not possible. When you use words like “believe it is true” and “seeking to hold as man-made” you want to discuss faith and belief. That is fine, but it is not rational or serious. I have tried to take these subjects seriously and have done as Paul suggested “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things”.”

    Please compare the above to the below similar situations:

    Joe said about Bruce: “You really believe we are Trinitarian? Then you do not understand what Trinitarian means.”

    What Bruce actually said that Joe was responding to: “[Trinitarian, Social Trinitarian, Tritheist] are just words. If you are comfortable with such a designation, by all means you should use it. I do not reject “tri-theism” though I think any one label fails to grasp our real doctrine of deity. That is to say, I agree with your statement here: “I think it is important to add that the definition of the Godhead is not so clear and not so cut as modern Mormons seem to be implying.””

    Joe said about Bruce: “As for [Compton's] historical work. I know of no one with more than half a brain who thinks Todd is anything less than an excellent and honest historian.”

    What Bruce actually said that Joe was responding to: “[After explaining that Compton's honest points of view come across dishonest to me due to my own short comings...] But then I have to kick myself and remind myself it just isn’t true. He’s as honest as I am.”

    How Bruce referred to Compton: “unbelieving [as explained above, unbelieving in the truth claims] Mormon historian

    What Joe read from this statement: “ Bruce have you ever heard Todd say he does not believe in Mormonism as his religion?”

    Joe, I honestly have no idea how to proceed in having any dialog with you at this point. I’d love to have you help me out so that we can have tolerant discussions, but it’s going to require some effort on your part. If you are unwilling to do that then I can think of no way for any dialog to continue between us.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Doug, I didn’t make an accusation at all. I just asked for a source – sincerely asked.

  • Bruce Nielson

    #78 – oh, one clarification on the translations pictures question. It might be helpful to understand where I am coming from if you realized that I was aware of the seer stone — and the fact that occasionally Joseph put it into a hat to avoid eye strain — way back when I was only a teenager. And also, everyone I knew (in the mission field anyhow) knew it too. I was not aware, until recently, that many members of the Church did not know about both translation instruments. I knew not everyone knew, but I thought of it as relatively common knowledge.

    It might also be helpful to realize that I never, in a million years, thought of the creative licenses in the pictures of translation as problematic and would never have guessed anyone could possibly care. It simply never entered my mind as a realistic possibility. The first time I heard it (a few months ago when I joined the bloggernacle) I almost laughed out loud at how ridiculous it seemed to me at the time.

    I take it seriously now, though. While it still makes me scratch my head a bit, I am really working hard to try to understand why it bothers so many people. Because of my background with it, it simply does not bother me.

    But that’s why I’m asking the questions I do in #78. If the thought never occurred to me that it’s an issue, I can safely say that it never occurred to the leaders of the Church as an issue either. Thus I have my explanation of why I know for a fact that there is no deception going on here.

    And before someone accuses me of just being stupid… that’s the point of #78. Not a single person with an objection seems to have noticed that the objection was just as valid *before* they knew about the seer stone. And yet it never occurred to them back them as an issue before they knew about the seer stone.

    My theory is that this is a simple narrative fallacy. Certain people find out about the seer stone via a negative source (mine was positive) and at the same time they are told about the hat. At the same time, they are told that the Church is deceptively hiding the ridiculousness of the hat via artwork. (No one ever seems to notice that a breastplate is WAY more ridiculous.)

    This leaves them with the false impression that Joseph translated the whole Book of Mormon with his face in a hat the whole time (impossible of course) and so once this narrative fallacy is lodged in their minds this way, they can’t break out of it very easily to realize that this actually changes nothing. The art work was either an issue before they knew about the seer stone and hat or it’s not an issue now.

    Anyhow, it’s just a theory. I take it with a grain of salt. I’m more interested in how you felt about the artwork prior to knowing about the stone and hat, yourself.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Doug, I have been looking around, and the following are some things I’ve found:

    1) This happened in 2005, and the following is a combination of two announcements about the event:

    “Bryce Chamberlain, who starred in an LDS Church- produced movie for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, will provide commentary during a showing of the movie at Brigham Young University.

    The program that night will also include two **fondly remembered** short films made by the LDS Church in the 1960s — “Man’s Search for Happiness” (1964), which was originally produced for the World’s Fair, and “The Three Witnesses” (1968).

    “Man’s Search for Happiness” will be shown Nov. 18 in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium after a 7 p.m. showing of the movie “Wagon Master.” The film “The Three Witnesses” also will be shown.”

    2) This is from a reference this year (2008):

    “According to Mormon film historian Randy Astle, “Many consider this to be the most important film the LDS Church has ever produced; it at least proved a milestone and a turning point in Church film production. Created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, it was the first film done by the BYU Motion Picture Studio in 35mm, their first done for a primarily non-LDS audience, and their first depicting premortality. Despite its short length it was one of their most expensive and difficult films up to that point. It was immensely successful at the Fair, showing to an estimated five million people, and it later played for years at Temple Square and was distributed extensively on 16mm film, especially in a version that contained Fair footage as well, called The Mormon Pavilion. It prompted an increase in the Church’s efforts to dub its films into foreign languages, and it was even remade in 1970 in a Japanese version. Another remake, retaining the original narration, was done in 1987.”

    I found plenty of positive references, including one from “Mormon Times” just last month. So, source? I admit, I can’t find it.

  • Left Field

    The flipchart picture used in the C discussion doesn’t depict Joseph Smith translating, it shows him transcribing the characters. Perhaps that explains the absence of seerstone, urim and thummim, breastplate, or scribe.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    we were sent out into the world with these choices in narrative beliefs which mirrored those of those who sent us.

    It is easy to say that I have three sources that have one perspective and six that have another, and a possible harmony or a possible choice and I will take the choice with the most sources, or the choice with the best sources or the choice with the choices that fit the narrative of the primary actor. Those are all possible decisions.

    But with small groups, that were not documenting things tightly (especially for the time period of this particular narrative), and with few sources, the question is whether or not you feel you can follow the primary actor’s recapitulation or whether you go “gee, you didn’t have anyone write it down and did not talk about it much at the time, so I’ll treat the gaps in the record as proof that it didn’t happen.”

    That isn’t the strongest of arguments. I’ve read a number of journals where men had children, but never wrote about sex. Should I conclude that they were not the father of any of their children? Surely sex is important, lots of people talk about it all the time, so if they were having sex obviously they would write about it …

    Or in my personal life, one of my journals is missing. It was stolen from a hotel along with my scriptures and a briefcase. I guess you could conclude from that fact that I just gave up on journal writing for several years.

    I know, I’m repeating, in many ways, the prior comment:

    #1: “It seems more like a theological elaboration on the order of ‘well, we have two priesthoods now, so there must have been two separate founding events way back then.’”
    #2: “..it seems evident that JS and OC didn’t really understand the nature of the keys, what the significance was or what to do next about it for several years.”
    If you look at both of these very carefully, they are both narratives that explain the same set of data from the historical record.

    Guess that Xonophon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon really did not lead a Greek Phalanx out of Persia — he didn’t write about it until years after the event ….

    /Sigh

    The rest of this I’ll take up with the other bloggers in a shared e-mail.

  • Bruce Nielson

    #81 – DougG (and Ray)

    I have a distinct memory on my mission of one of the Church videos — very probably Man’s Search for Happiness — having a word or phrase in it that I used to think “Ouch, if I were an anti-Mormon I’d take that out of context and show it’s at odds with the Book of Mormon.”

    That thought was specifically what led me to create the thought that resulted in my posts on “Offenders for a Word.” (Well, that and specific real life examples of anti-Mormons doing things just like that.)

    What I find intersting is my Offenders for a Word post included this very statement:

    Do Mormons believe it’s possible to earn salvation?

    I have thought a lot about questions like the above and I’ve come to the realization that I can honestly answer those questions any way I choose because it all depends on how one defines the terms being used.

    Indeed, I believe that 80%+ of all anti-Mormon issues and a large percentage of disaffected Mormon issues are really simple word-offense: a refusal to try to understand the underlying thought the speaker was attempting to express through words.

    I remember, when I wrote this recently, specifically remembering that this is a thought I came to on my mission, though I thought it was from reading something by Bruce R. McConkie. But I couldn’t find the reference. Now with Doug’s post… I think maybe the video that lead me to this thought way back then was Man’s Search for Happiness…

    I own the video so I’m going to watch it and see if I remember.

    By the way, none of the old prosylting videos are available from Church distribution any more, at least on line. They seem to have retired the entire bunch including Man’s Search for Happines.

    * Also note, I’m most familiar with the 1987 version which is the one I own and would have used on my mission. I have seen the original once or twice too. I’ve seen the 1987 version hundreds of times.

  • John Nilsson

    Stephen, Bruce, Ray,

    SIGH SIGH SIGH of my own. Everyone seems to think I am denying an event took place, when what I am doing is raising theological questions based on the weak nature of the documentation:

    “Guess that Xonophon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon really did not lead a Greek Phalanx out of Persia — he didn’t write about it until years after the event ….”

    Bruce,

    This is the “Haun’s Milling” I’m writing about. No one, including an institution, is under attack. There are no shots being fired, no one is being killed. Anti-Mormons are not raising these questions. Mormons are. But we tell these stories to foster an image of Mormons as an embattled group, which is just not true today. So why the defensiveness?

    Most people, including Mormons, could probably care less about this thread we’re conducting. Nowhere did I write that there are problems with the story of the second priesthood bestowal as taught in the church now, therefore it DIDN’T HAPPEN. Where did I say this? Where did Doug say this?

    The only reason we could be accused of saying it didn’t happen was we are questioning the current party line which implies that because Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith referred to themselves as elders since June 1829, therefore that’s when Peter, James, and John appeared to them and set them apart by the laying on of hands. I stand by point #1 as listed by Stephen above.I am writing from the perspective of one who was told with absolute certainty by seminary teachers and others that all of our truth claims as a church stand or fall on these particular events as they are recounted in the Church right now. That’s why I called this series Our Foundation Stories.

    The way I see it, every institution has priorities. In the era when B.H. Roberts was developing his flawed timeline for a June 1829 event angelic visitation (which is not stated in the D&C revelation) the Church was concerned with theology. The dust had settled from the martyrdom and the West was settling down, so it was time to start systematizing our stories. Which is why I stated it seems like the theology is driving the history in this respect.

    Today I suspect that the institution’s priorities are not theology or history, but public relations and missionary work. So if it assists us in these arenas, we can revisit the theology-driven history we inherited from good old B.H. Right? Especially if Americans would prefer to see Mormons as open folks who are unafraid of their history.

    Greg Prince’s Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood may be a useful source to start visiting some of the primary sources in this matter. His footnotes are very detailed.

  • Michael

    Bruce #76,

    Actually, I am more focused on the huge discrepency in details from Cowedery’s account and JS’s accounts.

    You touch on the bias issue, when you mention the fact that believing historians have come with something they are satisfied with. Would non-believing historians come up with the same thing? I am not so sure they would given the above. If you can provide solid evidence to suggest they can be reconciled, I am open to consider it. But the difference alone really does make me doubt.

    I understand this is a Mormon site, but it is fair to question, I think, how such different impressions came upon two men from the same powerful and life changing event.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    John,

    “Everyone seems to think I am denying an event took place.”

    I have never made that claim about you. If I gave that impression, I apologize.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Ray, I think he’s refering to my post #76. I state two things, one a quote from him:
    “#1: “It seems more like a theological elaboration on the order of ‘well, we have two priesthoods now, so there must have been two separate founding events way back then.’””

    The other my, I thought, summary of the same:
    “I don’t want to put words in your mouth either, John, but could it be that you feel so strongly about your view (of it being a later invention)…”

    I somehow lost the thread of John’s thoughts… actually, I don’t think I ever had them… and I emailed him asking him to call me to explain himself better. I do not see the connection between the facts he is presenting and the questions he is asking.

  • Thomas Parkin

    “how such different impressions came upon two men from the same powerful and life changing event”

    A few weeks ago we had something of a regional leadership meeting. An Area Seventy spoke. There was a very powerful, palpable presense of the Spirit, and everyone felt remarkably instructed. Yet, when we discussed the meeting ten days later in PEC, everyone had different impressions concerning the most salient points made. The thing that to me came through crystal clear seemed to be something no one else had even noticed.

    ~

  • Bruce Nielson

    Michael,

    >>> Actually, I am more focused on the huge discrepancy in details from Cowedery’s account and JS’s accounts.

    Michael, please be specific. I’m afraid I simply do not know what you are talking about here. This is, very likely, because you know something I don’t. It’s just as likely that you are reading the data on way and I another. At this point I can’t say.

    I am not sure what “huge discrepancies” you are talking about. I am unaware of any huge discrepancies at all.

    Now, I am aware that Oliver didn’t mention Peter, James, and John in an 1834 account talking about John the Baptist. But that’s not a discrepancy unless you start with the assumption that that any information not stated is a discrepancy to information that is stated.

    I’m also aware that Oliver specifically stated two occurrences in 1835. This is clearly not a discrepancy.

    I’m also aware that in, what, 1848 or something, he stated again there are two occurrences and that much is made over the singular use of ‘angel’ as the recorder happened to write it down (as John points out in the post.) But this is nothing close to a huge discrepancy for more than one possible reason.

    I am also aware that Melchezidek’s order of the priesthood is specifically discussed in Alma 13 (1829 reference) despite the utter lack of knowledge the early leaders had to the whole concept at that time.

    Is there something else you are referring to? Again, please be specific.

    >>> You touch on the bias issue, when you mention the fact that believing historians have come with something they are satisfied with. Would non-believing historians come up with the same thing?

    I think this goes to the heart of an issue that I guess I can’t expect you to ever agree with me on. My answer is “no, of course not, because they are biased against miraculous events just like believing historians are biased in favor of them.”

    I see no difference between the two groups in terms of bias. (I am not using that as a pejorative because I’m “accusing” both sides of it equally.)

    I suspect, from the way you worded this, that you honestly feel that believing historians are biased and non-believing ones are not. Please let me know if I misunderstood your point of view. But if this is what you mean, I am going to have to just agree to disagree with you.

    And I need to point out what a strong bias that is on your part — even though you think you’re just being “sensible.” :P I mean that half joking, but it’s really the point I’m trying to make. You are biased so the believing scholars might look like they are being unreasonable. They are biased so what you are saying might look unreasonable. I’m not sure there is much else going on here. But if you are not lying (and I don’t believe you are) then they aren’t either.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #92 – Thomas, I have had that same type of experience so many times I now take it as the norm.

  • John Nilsson

    Bruce,

    I appreciate that you are doing your best to try to understand my post. The questions I asked remain to be answered. If anything, those were the thread of my thoughts.

    Boiled down to this, here is the thread of my thoughts on this post: Most active Mormons probably assume the evidence for two priesthood bestowals by the LAYING ON OF HANDS (as shown in the artwork above) in the summer of 1829 to be clear-cut and strong. It is not. What implications does this have for how we view the priesthood? Any, none?

  • Bruce Nielson

    John says: “Most active Mormons probably assume the evidence for two priesthood bestowals by the LAYING ON OF HANDS (as shown in the artwork above) in the summer of 1829 to be clear-cut and strong. It is not. What implications does this have for how we view the priesthood? Any, none?”

    I would really prefer to talk to you about this. I have no idea what you mean by the evidence not being strong for the laying on of hands in summer of 1829.

    I agree that the evidence *is* strong that the Church did not refer to the order of Melchizedek priesthood prior to 1831 (with the possible notable exception of of Alma 13.) I agree the evidence *is* strong that there was no concept of two priesthoods prior to that point and it came to them gradually afterwards. I would even say the evidence is decent that there may have been a concept of three priesthoods back then — at least amongst some. (Aaronic sub to Melchezidek superset being High Priesthood and not interchangeable with Melchezidek directly, though apparently considered related: probably related like teacher and priest in the Aaronic) I’d also agree that the evidence is strong that there was no concept of “priesthood” as meaning “power” at all back before 1831 *including in the Book of Mormon*. (This is important.) I’d admit the evidence is strong that the word “priesthood” prior to 1831 was “authority” and “priesthood” was restricted to mean the body and/or office itself.

    But I really really don’t understand how any of those points somehow casts doubt on either a visitation, nor at the date specified, nor with a physical laying on of hands. That is the gap I just can’t seem to cross. They seem unrelated to me.

    Would I be asking the same thing in your mind if I reworded the question to: What ramifications is there to the fact that the Church went through drastic changes in their understanding of what we now call “priesthood”? Is this the question you are asking?

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> I suspect, from the way you worded this, that you honestly feel that believing historians are biased and non-believing ones are not. Please let me know if I misunderstood your point of view. But if this is what you mean, I am going to have to just agree to disagree with you. And I need to point out what a strong bias that is on your part — even though you think you’re just being “sensible.” I mean that half joking, but it’s really the point I’m trying to make. You are biased so the believing scholars might look like they are being unreasonable. They are biased so what you are saying might look unreasonable. I’m not sure there is much else going on here. But if you are not lying (and I don’t believe you are) then they aren’t either.

    I typed this very poorly. I can’t edit any more, so let me reword –

    I suspect, from the way you worded this, that you honestly feel that believing historians are all biased and some non-believing ones are unbiased. Please let me know if I misunderstood your point of view. But if this is what you mean, I am going to have to just agree to disagree with you.

    And of course I feel such a belief is itself biased, though I’m sure it seems very “sensible and unbiased” to you from your point of view. :P

    I mean that half joking, but it’s really the point I’m trying to make. Due to your biases believing scholars might honestly look to you like they are being unreasonable. Due to their bias, your point of view might honestly look to them to be unreasonable.

    I’m not sure there is much else need to explain the difference in point of view. But that is why I feel so strongly about the charges of deception being leveled. They themselves are the real issue: an inability to realize that there is more than one way to explain a set of facts and that not everyone will agree. But we do not have to treat each other intolerantly because of that by leveling unsubstantiated charges at each other.

  • Doug G.

    Ray,

    Perhaps I should check my sources more carefully on “Mans Search for Happiness”. My brother was on a mission several years after me and is the one who told me of the MTC pulling the film from the library and a General Authority explaining that the film contained too many things that were not considered doctrine. I really thought this was common knowledge to anyone from my era. Again, according to my brother, the film makes a statement that was very offensive to Christians in general and was pulled about the same time the church started a much greater emphasis on Christ. The offensive statement, which was the key point of the film, was near the end where the narrator states that through the atonement of Christ all mankind will be saved. However, in-order to go to the highest level of the Celestial kingdom, which is the greatest of Gods rewards, that you must EARN.

    As far as I know, the church as no desire to have the outside world believing we can EARN our way into heaven. The statement would seem to minimize the role of the Savior in our salvation as it implies everyone will get to heaven, but anything more is based on YOUR works. Now please, let’s not get all wrapped up in some deep theological discussion about salvation. That’s not my point, my point is the church pulled this because they didn’t like the perception it gave the outside world about us.

    Granted, I’m getting this information from my brother who was there when it happened. As he is still very TBM, I don’t believe he was telling me a story. I also find that it fits with the church’s reemphasis on Christ, the importance of the atonement, and its desire to be seen as a Christian religion.

    #86 Left Field “The flipchart picture used in the C discussion doesn’t depict Joseph Smith translating, it shows him transcribing the characters. Perhaps that explains the absence of seerstone, urim and thummim, breastplate, or scribe.”

    Sir, please go back and read my discussion about this picture. I think you’ll find that I described it just as you did, so what’s your point? I however put it in contents with the “C” discussion being taught. The place the little asterisk appears in the text (indicating to show that picture) is exactly where the line is stating that JS translated the plates by the gift and power of God. Your comment actually makes my point. Not lonely does the picture not show the hat and sear stone, it doesn’t show the urim and thummin or breast plate either. What we did was show them a picture of him staring at the plates, with a pen and paper nearby, and state that he was translating. Thanks for helping me make my point about deliberately deceptive pictures of the restoration.

    Bruce, you know I appreciate your perspective and your desire to defend your beliefs. I don’t have time tonight to go into all your questions and I’ll be on vacation with my family until the middle of next week. By then, you guys will probably close this thread… If you ever decide to take me up on that dinner, I would be pleased to bring you my missionary decision book for your perusal.

    Let me just say this, every point made in that first discussion as significant problems with the historical record. I can’t quite go with your feeling that the brethren were ignorant of the historical records available from church historians. I actually give them more credit than that, but I can’t discount the possibility either…

    Even though you don’t seem to mind the discrepancies, they are real to many of us. I would ask that you give me and those like me the same respect that I try and show you. My beliefs now involve the perception that the church depicted much of its history from a very one sided and even wishful world view. I don’t think even you would state that our perceptions are groundless. You shouldn’t be surprised that stepping back from the trees and seeing the forest differently has been one of the most gut wrenching things I have ever been through. It’s been hard on my family and ward members who don’t understand my lack of full activity. Nor am I allowed to explain to them why I have such issues.

    The restoration of the MP is just one of many, many problems with the correlated history of the church. If it were just this one thing, then of course I would put it on the shelf. For apologist, they approach these issues like a good lawyer and try and discredit or minimize each point, on its own, as if it doesn’t fit into a much bigger picture. This is how OJ Simpson can get a not guilty verdict from our court system. It may work to keep the flock (jury members) in one piece, but it doesn’t do much for those outside (the rest of the world) looking in. He was guilty you know…

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    John Nilsson — I wasn’t being critical of you, I was commenting on the way some of the posters approached things and reached different conclusions. If I’d meant to criticize you it would have come up in my first post. I was more reacting to Doug G.

    Sorry that you got the wrong impression.

    Though to answer your question, the secondary literature always exists because the primary sources lend themselves to analysis and narrative — though in our case we have later primary sources (i.e. Joseph Smith talking about what happened) that suffice to support the secondary narratives.

    I have dealt with truly anti-Mormon groups for over 20 years. I have seen everything that they say (all of it) – and I have seen it in many, many different forms. It hasn’t changed a bit in 20 years. I have seen all kinds of levels of sincerity, and I have seen all kinds of levels of understanding. I am fine with those who simply are misinformed and act out of sincere love and concern, but I have a very difficult time with those who know the nuances of our actual beliefs and intentionally choose to ignore those nuances and paint with a broad, prejudicial brush – who claim to act out of true Christlike love while engaging in duplicitous and deceptive and mean-spirited attacks. Generally, it’s not any one thing; it’s the totality of the blatant distortions that frustrate me and cause my ire.

    I have dealt previously with Joe’s group. They have been around for long time, and they know better than to present much of what they do in the way they present it. Before looking at the link in the comment I had gone to the site, seen who it was and perused a bit to see if they still were the same organization I remembered from my past – twisting things they knew better than to twist. (For example, one of their favorite ploys is to quote controversial statements from long ago – even ones that were not generally accepted even when they were first said – and present them as standard Church doctrine. Another tactic of some groups with whom I have dealt is to change scriptural citations to say what we teach, making the defense you did – that it was an innocent attempt to make their point in the easiest, quickest way. The issue is that they know the reader / hearer isn’t making that distinction – that the audience really believes that what is being presented is actual canonized scripture. I have seen that over and over and over again, and sometimes it is downright disgusting and vulgar.) The web site is full of these things – things that I know the leadership understands but prints anyway.

    My experience as well.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Obviously “suffice to support” does not equal “mandates or states” in case anyone was confused …

    Ray will know what I mean ;)

  • Michael

    Well, Bruce,

    “This is partly because Joseph had a co-participant, Oliver Cowdery, who left his own account of these experiences, and that many other early Church members wrote as if they did not hear of these ordinations until 1834 or 1835. Cowdery’s account is especially interesting, as he mentions only one occasion of priesthood bestowal, only one priesthood, only one angel visiting, and declines to name the angel as either John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John. (Note that the Church has added an “s” to “holy angel(s) in the link to the Oliver Cowdery account above to soften the ambiguity, under the guise of correcting “spelling, grammar, and punctuation”. Compare to the wording here)”

    Cowdery here is listed as saying there was one occasion when a preisthood was bestowed, one preisthood, and angel, no names, and the addition mentioned in the link is indeed interesting.

    Bias, I am biased, yes, as we all are, aren’t we? This is the historians biggest struggle, IMO– getting past the bias both in himself and from the source. Even in primary sources, this is true– a king would say his reign was glorious while his people might say the king was cruel and times were lean. So, who’s right? How do we know? We have to look at all the evidence we have available, no matter how overwhelming all the information is. This in addition to who is giving the information and why.

    In the current topic, we are discussing whether or not the differing accounts of the bestowal of the priesthood is significant. As you might guess, I think it is, for a variety of reasons that extend even beyond the LDS church making Cowdery’s angel plural. Given that this discussion would go beyond the scope of the topic at hand, and I sincerely wish not to boil the pot, I will not go into these other areas of consideration.

    Like anything, the topic is not black and white, and while I understand the need to simplify, I see much more than what is presented.

    Thank you for allowing me to contribute.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Michael,

    Thanks for your explanation. I see we agree on much in your comments about the natural bias and the challenge that presents.

    I do think it’s important to point out that the quote you made, of John, is a secondary and interpretative source. The original primary source in question does not state that there was only one event, only one angel, and one priesthood as you are claiming.

    There is a technical difference between someone telling of one event and not mentioning another and claiming only one event took place. For better or worse, this seems to be where we differ. You see OC’s 1834 account as claiming only one event while I understand it as describing one of two events.

    I am happy to agree to disagree with you on this. And I even feel that I can see where you are coming from, though I believe you are mistaken.

    I hope you can see, Michael, that I am not asking you to believe my narrative of the facts. I am only asking you to believe that *I believe* my narrative of the facts. (And by extension the LDS church does too.)

    Even if we are poor deluded fools, your original comment here is still inaccurate and problematic: “To me, if the church were determined to present the truth, it would in all phases”

    By saying this, you are saying that if we don’t accept your narrative as factual, or at least acknowledge it as a possibility, that we are being deceptive. I do not agree with this and in any other circumstance, I doubt you would either.

    We are honestly presenting the truth to the best of our knowledge in all phases. This is because we reject your interpretation of the facts as not being a significant challenge to the official Joseph Smith account that Peter, James, and John did come and they did ordain him to the Priesthood (and he specifically mentions by laying on of hands.)

    We specifically believe you are making a logical error in equating absence of evidence to evidence of absence. And we specifically believe you are discounting OC’s private account a year later where he, again emphasizing the first angel, mentions there was another event later. (Clearly OC remembered his first heavenly visitation the best. But doesn’t this make sense?)

    Again, I am not asking you to agree with me one whit on what really happened. This is for you to decide for yourself. But I am asking you to not call the LDS church — or by extension, me — deceptive like you did.

    Michael, I appreciate the respectful way you presented yourself. And I am grateful for your contributions here. Please feel free to continue to contribute.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> As you might guess, I think it is, for a variety of reasons that extend even beyond the LDS church making Cowdery’s angel plural

    Oh (this isn’t pointed at Michael even though I’m using his quote.) Where did the LDS church change this to plural? This post has no link to an example. I’m not saying they didn’t. I’m just curious.

    Last night, when I looked up Joseph Smith’s account in History of the Church, I noticed that B.H. Roberts quoted the 1848 OC and that it was *printed singular* in History of the Church. I underlied the whole section back when I read it. I had, at the time, never conceived that someone might see this as a discrepencie because I had assumed he was refering to the angel (Peter) performing the ordination.

    It was not until this post that I had ever heard they changed it to be plural on the grounds that it was recorded wrong. I have to say that while this thought never occurred to me, it’s very reasonable. Recording methods were very poor back then. But I still not aware of the place the LDS Church changed it and I am aware of where they didn’t change it and just left it as it was right in their own official account.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Doug,

    I appreciate your respectful tone — as always. You are a rare gem. You have a real ability to express yourself non-offensively.

    “My beliefs now involve the perception that the church depicted much of its history from a very one sided and even wishful world view”

    I hope you’ll emphasize this statement more. While of course I do not believe I am a poor deluded fool (see #104) I would much rather be called that than deceptive. I see this statement above as the anthesis of:

    “Much of the criticism aimed at the church today is result of us teaching correlated historical events. All the while knowing that in reality there was much more to the story and knowing the additional information would put a different light on the history. My mother used to say that any communication with the intent to deceive is a lie. Lies should not be part of teaching people the gospel.”

    For better or for worse, we view the evidence differently, you and I. You may think I’m an OJ jurist that can’t see the obvious truth because I’m seeing the trees and not the forest. I feel the same way but in reverse. It is okay for us to agree to disagree.

    But please continue to speak of the church as naive rather than deceptive. If we are wrong, this will turn out to be the real truth. And I’m fine with being well intentioned but naive at the judgement bar of God.

  • Bruce Nielson

    My question concerning the plural change was from this:

    “Note that the Church has added an “s” to “holy angel(s) in the link to the Oliver Cowdery account above to soften the ambiguity, under the guise of correcting “spelling, grammar, and punctuation”.”

    The only link given above is to this which does not contain the wording in question.

    I searched around and I could only find this which does quote OC but leaves the “holy angel” wording with no plural. Note, this is on the Church’s own website and is quoting the very footnote I just mentioned in 104.

    I still can’t find the change to plural that is mentioned.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    “Note that the Church has added an “s” to “holy angel(s) in the link to the Oliver Cowdery account above to soften the ambiguity, under the guise of correcting “spelling, grammar, and punctuation”.”

    compared to:

    I searched around and I could only find this which does quote OC but leaves the “holy angel” wording with no plural. Note, this is on the Church’s own website and is quoting the very footnote I just mentioned in 104.

    I still can’t find the change to plural that is mentioned.

    Well, I think that goes to the honesty and accuracy of the criticism, all in all. It is the sort of thing that made me sigh when I was involved in apologetics. A false statement, repeated over and over, as the basis for a criticism of the Church, and no substantiation. A quick look at the Church source would show the falsity of the assertion that the Church is deliberately changing things.

    Mormon Coffee, which links to this essay, pretty much is a site full of that sort of misrepresentation and misuse.

    I need to avoid any more comments on this topic.

    Most of the criticism of Joseph Smith’s narrative is similar to

    “Guess that Xonophon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon really did not lead a Greek Phalanx out of Persia — he didn’t write about it until years after the event ….”

    It seems intended to keep us from being able to discuss what Bruce was trying to write about by perverting the conversation into something entirely different.

    It would have been nice to have had an honest discussion about:

    Does the restoration of priesthood/authority need to have been a literal laying on of hands by resurrected beings in the same order in which 12 year old boys and 18 year old men experience it in the contemporary Church?

    Does imagining that things happened this way make it easier for LDSaints to serve confidently in the Church, fulfilling their callings, learning to love God and their neighbor?

    Could God have restored priesthood by an act of will, divine fiat?

    Why do we rely on these stories as told and recounted in our secondary literature?

    Instead, we have the sort of thing we have.

    The really interesting question is why didn’t Oliver go “Gee, Joseph, I don’t remember things happening that way?!” when he was in his state of being critical of the Church and of Joseph Smith? Would have been an easy point of departure for him to make.

  • Michael

    Stephen, in all honesty, do you see the trouble I have with this statement and why? To quote you: “A quick look at the Church source would show the falsity of the assertion that the Church is deliberately changing things.”

    I ask not to be inflammatory, but to get at the heart of the criticism and the discussion of bias. The church source surely would not contradict what the church says, right?

    The criticism is not only directed at Joseph Smith, but rather at the entire picture. Why the differences in accounts? Why the wait to see this show up in records? Why didn’t other influential Mormons know about it until much later if it were so vital?

    You do not need to like the questions for them to be fair. As Bruce said to me, certainly you have the right to believe what you wish, and to grant that you see facts for what you see them as, this as Bruce granted, goes my direction as well. When I look at the evidence, I see more question marks than answers. When I look that way, I see too many gaps to grant it truth. But, I believe differently and therefore have a different bias.

    This is the problem I have with your quote. Using a Mormon source does not make it true in my eyes.

    Further, as to the “This is the sort of thing we have,” this specific detail kind of encaptulates it all, doesn’t it? See, it comes down to this question to me and to so many others out there: can we trust the Mormon sources? If there is evidence to form a different story, very different from the one presented and taught as absolute truth, can you blame one for questioning?

    You can indeed see what you want to see, and I respect that completely, and will defend you that right. My intent is to simply raise an issue. Hopefully you will see it as that.

    Thank you again.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> I see too many gaps to grant it truth

    A startling and interesting choice of words that I believe drives to the very heart of the real but unspoken question.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Michael, I think you are misunderstanding what Stephen said. He’s just challenging the idea that the Church did a cover up by adding an “s” since the unaltered words are on their website in the singular.

    However, I think Stephen might have misunderstood me. I am not suggesting that there is not a Mormon source somewhere that added an “s”. I just don’t know where it is because the link provided didn’t contain it and linked to an unaltered source.

    I think we’re making too big a deal out of the “s”. I think John, in good faith, made that comment: “Note that the Church has added an “s” to “holy angel(s) in the link to the Oliver Cowdery account above to soften the ambiguity, under the guise of correcting “spelling, grammar, and punctuation”

    I simply can’t find it and I am curious if it was a mistaken link. I actually believe him.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Bruce, since the source given just happens to link into the same source you quoted, who knows, but you may be right that he has another source.

    Interesting comment on “too many gaps” ….

  • John Nilsson

    Sorry. Here’s the link to the Church website with “spelling, grammar,” etc. corrected.

    http://josephsmith.net/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=7a19b84d09042010VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD&vgnextfmt=tab2
    Note the difference between the singular and the plural between this link and the one above. It would be interesting to examine the handwriting in the original. This is a late statement from Oliver Cowdery when he rejoined the Church.

  • Bruce Nielson

    John,

    Thanks for the link.

    Note that there are other discrepencies between the two sources as well. “Angel” vs. “Angels” wasn’t the only one.

    What I find interesting is that we now have positive proof that there is no “conspiracy” but only different sources (likely both secondary unless you honestly believe the web designers were going to the Church archives to find quotes) being quoted accurately by the LDS Church employee(s) putting this up. No attempt was made to harmonize the discrepency because they came from two different secondary sources and there was fidelity to both.

    We would do well to realize that once you go down the “conspiracy” route for an explanation you can literally explain everything that ever happens that way… and you will from that point forward.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Bruce, nicely said.

    Somewhat like the many differences in the Bible (Chronicles v. Kings for example).

    Later scribes were aware of the conflicts and chose fidelity.

  • Left Field

    #99 “Sir, please go back and read my discussion about this picture. I think you’ll find that I described it just as you did, so what’s your point?”

    Um, no. You described it as a “picture of JS translating the gold plates.” I described it as a picture that “shows him transcribing the characters.” Since the picture does show him transcribing and does not show him translating, your description was inaccurate. My description of the picture is accurate. That was my point.

    You’ll notice that I didn’t say anything about whether or not the use of the picture at that point in the discussion was or was not appropriate.

  • Comments closed

    Since we have decided to close the comments to end the spamming and the debate, it is fitting that the last word be in accordance with the topic rather than an attack on the Church.