Dear Reader,


A Latter-day Saint who believes that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey will continue to thrive in the church if members say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to encourage wavering Latter-day Saints not to leave the Lord's restored church merely because of its flaws and the errors of its leaders.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 44 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia and Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (2018)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon and other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ is God and that Heavenly Father is God the Father.

Creation stories Teachings about the Creation tend to turn wobbly when they go beyond “God created the earth.”

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups by top LDS authorities.
Appreciating Christ



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Short takes



Don't see R-rated movies? Just another myth


Question:  How many presidents of the church have said we should never view R-rated movies?

Answer: None

Yes, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled young men at a 1986 General Conference priesthood session not to view R-rated movies in order to keep their minds free of entertainment that is immoral, suggestive or pornographic. (He later offered similar counsel to young women of the church.) But the general membership of the church has never received counsel from a church president not to attend R-rated movies.

Indeed, President Benson's counsel to youths suggests that attending R-rated movies might be acceptable even for LDS young people if they contain no sexually explicit material.  In fact, I would not hesitate to recommend to my fellow Latter-day Saints age 16 and above that they view such R movies as The King's Speech, Gran Torino and Schindler's List.

Although no president of the church has said we should never see R-rated movies, Elder Robert L. Simpson stated in October 1972 general conference that members should not view R-rated movies.  Let's keep in mind that Elder Simpson was an assistant to the Twelve and was expressing his opinion, not the position of the prophet, the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve or of the church.  

Here's a couple of other problems with letting a rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America determine whether we see a movie. First, by relying solely on rating and ignoring movie content, we may miss a great movie containing one F-word while convincing ourselves it's OK to see a PG-13 movie that is mediocre and full of vulgarity, violence or idiotic content. Second, the MPAA rating ignores the fact that many members live in countries where movies receive no MPAA rating.  Third, by automatically following someone's counsel never to see an R-rated movie, we trust in them and the MPAA to guide us rather than wisely exercising our agency. 

The best focus

The paragraph below is from reflections by Linda and Richard Eyre about their friend Stephen Covey.  It ran in the July 20, 2012, Deseret News.

“One evening he told us that there were many large, extended families who summered at a different lake, the one where he and Sandra always took their kids for the Covey family reunion. He said that after watching all those families for several years, he realized that they fell into three categories: families that were church-centered, families that were family-centered and families that were Christ-centered. It was only the third category, he said, that lasted, stayed strong and stood the tests and challenges of life without becoming divided.

Proof that there is a God

I offer the following experience as proof that there is a God.

Around midnight in the late 1990s, I waited in my car for a left-turn signal on northbound State Street and North Temple in Salt Lake City.  I had just finished a Saturday afternoon/evening shift at the Deseret News, but for the occupants of many of the other 10 or so cars it perhaps was late-night party time.

At the front of the left-turn line was a car with several rowdy young men, windows open and loud music rolling forth.  Behind them was a car with two more males.  I was third in line, and other cars to the right occupied the northbound lane. As the rest of us dutifully waited for the lights to change, the first car peeled out and accelerated through the red light onto westbound North Temple.  In effect, the message the young men sent to the rest of us was: “Hey, losers. You can obey the law if you want, but we sure as hell don’t have to.”

A few seconds later, as I muttered to myself, it got worse.  The men in the second car also peeled out!  Apparently, the fellows in both vehicles were part of the same night-on-the-town group. My muttering grew more intense. I'm ashamed to admit that I might have thought, or spoken, the word “bastards.” My main thought was: Why is there never a cop around when you need one?

Finally, the light changed and the rest of us proceeded.  About two blocks later, to my surprise I saw the two peel-out cars parked on the side of the road.  As I passed, I saw flashing lights on the dashboard of the second car—it was an unmarked police car!

In that moment I went from being a muttering loser to a man with one joyful thought:  “Yes, there is a God.”

The Spirit made me do it

Many active, mainstream members take a dim view of those who don’t always follow the Brethren and who appear to pick and choose when to obey. That's especially true if the picker and chooser is an Obama-lovin' bleeding heart liberal. Yet mainstream, more traditional members also pick and choose—but with a major difference.  When one of them chooses to disobey, he may feel he is doing so because the Spirit has directed him. (Which is, by the way, a good excuse for disobeying.)

Following are five common ways that active members disobey the Brethren. 

First, testimony bearers, perhaps the majority, tend to disregard specific counsel from the church about testimonies not being, in effect, mini-speeches or verbal newsletters. Yes, some may be unaware of the counsel, but unawareness represents a failure to pay close heed to leaders—also a form of disobedience.

Second, speakers routinely disregard the time limit assigned for their talk.

Third, the leaders of some organizations, perhaps caught up in a presumably spiritual lesson, allow their meetings to run several minutes over the time specified for the meeting block. Often, when a meeting has already gone over, leaders compound the disobedience by allowing the closing song to be sung, followed by a prayer.

Fourth, LDS young people appear to feel it's OK with the Spirit for them to attend, view or participate in football games, despite specific counsel from church leaders not to attend, view or participate in anything that is violent in any way.”  (See For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, p. 11.) They also routinely attend or view such movies as Star Wars that contain violence. (Give BYU credit for cutting back on football violence in 2017 thanks to many missed tackles and a 4-9 record.)

Fifth, leaders have repeatedly counseled against repeating the name of Deity in prayers, but we constantly hear Father this and Father that.  (See “Father, Father, Father” on this site.)

A rather dramatic example of “Spirit-driven” disobedience happened a number of years ago in a previous ward that I attended.  During two sacrament meetings a couple of weeks apart, the first speakers went well over their allotted time, leaving no time for the final, main speakers.  In order to right this wrong, the bishopric invited the two speakers who had been jilted to speak in a sacrament meeting the following month.  This would have been a wonderful solution to the unfair treatment of these two brethren except for one thing—the first man proceeded to hog nearly all the time!

An approach to the Word of Wisdom

For years, a man named Cory entered the same bar every Tuesday night, sat at the end of the counter by himself, and ordered three small beers. On his latest visit, however, he ordered two large beers.

As he arose to leave, the bartender said, “Hold on just a second. I've gotta ask you something. You've been coming in here for years and drinking three small beers, but tonight you had two large ones. What's going on?”

Cory smiled, leaned against the bar, and said, “Here's the story. In Vietnam in 1968 I had two good buddies, Mike and Matt. We promised each other that if one of us didn't make it out of there alive, the other two would drink a beer every week in his memory. Well, we had a terrible firefight a month later, and Mike and Matt were killed. Since that time I've had one beer a week in memory of Mike, one in memory of Matt and the third one for myself. Tonight I drank one for Mike and one for Matt but none for me because last Saturday I joined the Mormon Church, and I'm not allowed to drink.”

Two glasses half full

My wife and I attended a regional conference at the Conference Center in 2014 at which Elder Dallin H. Oaks was the final speaker.  The first several speakers addressed the importance of family.  When Elder Oaks arose, he noted that no topics had been assigned.  However, because the speakers all independently chose to speak on the same topic, family, he observed that they had selected the message that the Lord wished to emphasize.

Elder Oaks comment brought to mind words that President Gordon B. Hinckley had spoken as the final speaker in the April 1995 general conference:

“My brethren and sisters, just a few words in conclusion.  First, I’d like to say that we have participated in a miracle.  As I have listened to all who have spoken, I have noted that there has been no duplication of treatment.  Every man and woman who has spoken has chosen his or her own theme to treat. There are no assignments made to any of the speakers concerning what they should say.”

We're not that rude

For decades, letters to the editor have popped up in Utah newspapers insisting that our state's drivers are the rudest in the country.  I never thought that was true.  Having driven in all of the Western states except New Mexico, my view is that, yes, our Utah drivers may be among the rudest, but saying we're No. 1 is a total guess.  In 2014, I was pleased to get support from an outfit called Insure.com.  They conducted surveys of 2,000 drivers nationwide, asking which state has the rudest drivers. I'm happy to say we Utahns got good news—we're only the ninth rudest! 
Neither the Church News nor the Ensign bothered to inform their readers about this wonderful survey and its positive implications for Mormons.  After recently studying the numbers more closely, maybe it's best that they let that sleeping dog lie.  That's because the four states with the highest proportion of LDS residents—Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada—all finished in the top 10.  Idaho was No. 1; Wyoming was 3; Nevada was 8 and Utah was 9.

Post script, Dec. 10, 2016: A study recently released by QuoteWizard reports that Utah's drivers are “the worst in the nation.”  (To be fair, worst doesn't necessarily mean rudest.)

Who was that man?

An Idaho-raised, LDS college student related the following experience at a U.S. university.

“When [the speaker] strode onto the stage, I recall him first greeting invited guests, university leaders and dignitaries.  Then he turned, smiled and waved, and a powerful feeling washed over me.  I can only describe it as a presence of great virtue.  It was as though I felt a wave of goodness rush past me.  I recall being shocked by the experience. . . . his soul touched mine—no doubt through the virtue of a life of choosing good over evil.  I left inspired to be better.”

Perhaps most Latter-day Saints in reading this account by Matt Sanders would surmise the speaker was the president of the church or an apostle.  However, it actually tells of Nelson Mandela’s 1998 appearance at Harvard University.  (Deseret News, Dec. 13, 2013)

Kernels of truth

“The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.”  --Thomas Paine

“If you, who are organized by Divine Providence for Spiritual communion, Refuse, & bury your Talent in the Earth, even tho’ you should want Natural Bread, Sorrow and Desperation pursues you thro’ life, & after death shame & confusion of face to eternity.”  --William Blake

“Here in America, we are descended in blood and spirit from revisionists and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine.”  --Dwight Eisenhower

“It is better not to have so much faith, than to have so much as to believe all the lies.” --Hyrum Smith

“It is when the hour of conflict is over that history comes to a right understanding of the strife and is ready to exclaim, ‘Lo, God is here, and we knew it not.’ ”  --George Bancroft

“I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth—genuinely loved each other—will remain together with God, for to love is part of God.”  --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.”  --Isaiah 32:17

“God is . . . a very present help in times of trouble.”  --Psalm 46:1

“The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves . . . The disciple always looks only to his master, never to Christ and the law, Christ and religion, Christ and the world. He avoids all such notions like the plague.  Only by following Christ alone can he preserve a single eye. His eye rests wholly on the light that comes from Christ . . .”
  --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice”  --Rudyard Kipling
2013)

The Bible is trueexcept for the false parts

On occasion I have said that I think it would be just fine if about 40 percent of the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants went missing.  In the Bible, I wouldn’t mind if most of the God’s anger parts along with the tedious details on observing rituals and the law of Moses were deleted.  Also, I wouldn’t miss about half of the psalms and proverbs along with nearly all of the genealogies.

Of course, the best parts to delete would be those that are simply false.  For example, I don’t believe:  “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation  . . . ” (Exodus 20:5)  I suspect this passage was inserted by a crotchety old loser who was mad at someone.  Some people just need to lighten up.

Another reason I don’t believe the Exodus 20 passage is because it contradicts numerous other scriptures.  I’ll offer a few examples.  Speaking to Cain, the Lord said, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?”  (Gen. 4:7)  The Lord most assuredly did not say “if your parents mess up, I’ll punish you for their iniquity.”  Also: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers” (Deut. 24:16) and “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). And there's something in the Articles of Faith about people being punished for their own sins.

One of the best ways to evaluate whether a scriptural passage is true is to ask whether it is in harmony with the attributes of God and whether it comports with the preponderance of scripture passages on the subject in question.  (Speaking of the “attributes” of God, I believe God loves and desires joy for us all while encouraging—not compelling—the behaviors that lead to joy.)

Hastening

We often hear these days that the Lord is hastening his work.  Let us not assume, however, that in the past the Lord was dilly-dallying.

Didn’t President Kimball exhort us to lengthen our stride?  And when President McKay said “every member a missionary,” he did not add “unless your day planner is already full.”

On the other hand, Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that . . . say, Let him make speed and hasten his work, that we may see it.” (Isaiah 5:18, 19) 

More revisions

One of the remarkable things about reading the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and comparing it to the current English edition and to an 1830 replica edition is how insignificant have been the changes in the text.  The “thousands upon thousands” of changes noted by the book’s critics almost entirely consist of adding punctuation (the printer’s manuscript had none), correcting spelling, changing terms such as “because that” to “because” and “which” to “who,” where appropriate, and adding verses and chapters.

Still, a few trivial errors remain.

Some were errors in the original (see “What in the World?”).  But the examples listed below are likely modern glitches.

“Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous . . . ”

(Rejected probably should be separated.  1 Nephi 15: 36)

“Nephite coinage set forth—”  (This is in the chapter heading for Alma 11, which makes no mention of coins.)

“And when she had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy” (Clasped should probably be clapped.  Alma 19:30)

“and he plead with them that they would not slay him”  (Should be pleaded or pled.  Oliver Cowdery appears to have written pled correctly in the printer’s manuscript. Ether 8:6)

In the introduction, which isn’t part of the original book, the description of Lamanites as “the principal ancestors of the American Indians” was changed in 2007 to “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”  In the Doctrine and Covenants, Lamanites remains as a synonym for Indians.

Why bother with Isaiah?

Although I far prefer the Book of Mormon and the New Testament to the Old Testament, I agree with those who say that Isaiah deserves our attention.

Here are seven reasons to give heed to Isaiah:

1. He is the Old Testament prophet most often cited in the New Testament.
2. Christ commenced his ministry by quoting Isaiah (Luke 4:17-19)
3. Isaiah saw Christ. (Isaiah 6:1; 2 Nephi 11:2)
4. Nephi twice tells us “my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah.” (2 Nephi 25:5; 2 Nephi 11:2)
5. Moroni advises us to “search the prophecies of Isaiah.” (Mormon 8:23)
6. Christ twice instructs the Nephites to search the words of Isaiah. “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”  (3 Nephi 23:1; 20:11)
7. The Book of Mormon, “the keystone of our religion,” includes many chapters of Isaiah’s writingsin fact, far more from Isaiah than from any other biblical prophet.

Emerson needed an editor

A number of times I have heard the following words of Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in conference and other meetings:

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier—not that the nature of the task has changed but our ability to do has increased.”

OK, he was a great writer.  But in this instance, maybe he was being paid by the word.

Here’s what he could have said:  Practice makes perfect.

What I believe

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ who believes in the fundamentals of the restored church including the Book of Mormon and the divine mission of Joseph Smith. 

I believe that the LDS faith, having authority from God, offers the best prospects for mortals to draw close to Christ.  But I also believe that certain doctrines, teachings, policies and practices in the church are questionable and, in some cases, incorrect. 

I believe Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth and that he is merciful, patient and understanding, and is especially pleased with those who strive to live a good life, to put “love one another” into practice and to become better people.  His love extends fully to those who do not actively participate in organized religion.

Steve Warren

Sept. 22, 2014
(minor revision, June 2016)

Creation stories



We believers, like everyone else, are lost when it comes to the origins of the universe.  We know stuff exists, but we have no clue how that’s possible.  Something can’t come from nothing, right?  Yes, we believe in a creator, but we can’t grasp how he apparently had no beginning.  Of course, the Big Bang-ers have a problem, too.  They have not the slightest idea where the fundamental particles necessary for an explosion came from.

None of this precludes us from believing that God created (or organized) the earth and that Adam and Eve were our first parents.  After all, we surely descended from someone, and science tells us that matter existed long before the earth came into existence.

But we don’t know how the earth was created.  Once we go beyond “God created the earth,” we find ourselves on shaky ground.  Certain details of the Creation story, the Flood story and other biblical episodes are about as credible as saying that Santa guided his sleigh using Rudolph’s red nose.  (Does anyone really believe that a single red nose would provide sufficient illumination at night for that fast-moving sleigh?  On the other hand, if that red nose had GPS qualities . . . )

We Latter-day Saints have four versions of the Creation story—Genesis, Moses, Abraham and the temple presentation.  Virtually hidden in the Scriptures is a fifth version, mentioned later in this essay.

Many Christians believe that the Genesis story of Creation is literal.  The Creation Museum in Kentucky teaches that the earth is 6,000 years old, that each of the six days of creation lasted 24 hours and that Adam and Eve were contemporaries with dinosaurs.  According to actual rumors, museum directors consider videos of “The Flintstones” to be documentaries.

The LDS interpretation of the earth’s creation is slightly more realistic.  We say that the “days” of creation were likely extended creative periods.  Few Mormons today accept a 6,000-year lifespan for the earth. And church leaders have described the Creation story as allegorical while affirming the existence of Adam and Eve. (Note: Many LDS leaders taught in the early decades of the church that the earth was created 6,000 to 7,000 years ago and that there was no death on the planet until after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit.  Doctrine and Covenants 77:6 puts the temporal existence of the earth at 7,000 years.)

“The most correct book on earth,” the Book of Mormon, may provide the most correct scriptural version—it basically says Christ created heaven and earth, and leaves it at that.  In the Book of Mormon, at least we don’t read about Eve coming from Adam’s rib or about grasses and herbs flourishing without sunlight (grasses and herbs were made on Day 3; the sun on Day 4) or that the earth was created before the sun and stars, etc.

I believe that writers of the Creation stories prayerfully produced narratives of the earth’s creation that they thought were inspired accounts of what happened and that would be helpful for believers wanting insight on the subject.  Some parts of their narrative, such as the following passage in Genesis and Moses, have a credible ring: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”  That sounds like organic evolution.

The Doctrine and Covenants, Old Testament and Book of Mormon contain verses that suggest a fifth approach—instant creation.  Although I’m not advocating the Big Bang theory, we must admit that the following scriptures at least suggest that the Creation—whether of the universe or the earth—might have occurred quickly.

“I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.”                                                                                 --D&C 38:3

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”                                                      --Psalms 33:6

“Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.”                                                                                            --Psalms 148:5

“Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure.”                                                                                                                  --Jacob 4:9

Science has been helpful over the centuries in bringing us closer to truth.   It may yet offer answers on how the universe came into existence.  In the meantime, we believers are well advised to focus more on the why of creation than the how.

Who is God?



Latter-day Saints routinely use God as a synonym for Heavenly Father.  This usage is consistent with our Bible Dictionary, which notes that “when one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to.”  In referring to Jesus Christ, members use terms such as Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Son of God and Jehovah.  

In the Scriptures, however, the word God usually refers to Jesus Christ, not to the Father.  The message of the Book of Mormon, “the most correct of any book,” is emphatic:  Christ is God. 

In these last days, even before the Lord named his church, he declared: Behold, I am God.” (D&C 1:24)  If it is a good thing to call the church by the name Christ has given, surely it must also be a good thing to call Christ by the name (God) he has given himself.  Indeed, Alma states that embracing our Redeemer includes a willingness to confess that he is God.  (Mosiah 27:30, 31)  

Much confusion in the Christian world about the Trinity or Godhead would be eliminated if we all made a better effort to distinguish between two separate beings, God (Christ) and God the Father (Heavenly Father).  Moreover, recognizing that God in the Scriptures usually refers to Christ elevates our Lord to his true stature; namely, that he is the God who possesses all power over the earth and that we follow him.  He alone lifts us to exaltation.  He is the central focus of our worship, observed President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 2002.

Failure to routinely describe Christ as God suggests that we primarily think of him as the mortal Jesus rather than as the risen, glorified Lord who reigns as God over the earth.

Also, failure to describe Jesus Christ as God shows lack of understanding of the relationship among Father, Son and us.  Briefly stated, our relationship with the Father is significantly different from Christ’s relationship with him.  The Father is the God who lifted the Son to godhood.  Christ is the God who lifts us.

The earliest mentions of the word God in all four Standard Works connect the term to Christ, not to the Father.

In the Book of Mormon, even before we get to the first verse, we are told in the title page that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, which are the only words in the title-page text that are entirely capitalized.  Verse one of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”  (Christ was God the creator.)  The first words of the Pearl of Great Price are: “The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain.  And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him . . . ”  (The God who spoke to Moses was Jehovah or Christ.)  And in Section One of the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ tells us three timesthree times!that he is GodGod the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (v. 20), “Behold, I am God” (v. 24) and “the Lord is God” (v. 39).  Let us not forget that Christ himself directed that Section One be placed first and that it is viewed as the Lord's preface to the book. How much clearer can it be that the God of the Scriptures from Page One is primarily Jesus Christ?

For Latter-day Saints, it should be especially noteworthy that the Book of Mormonthe keystone of our religionteaches from start to finish that Christ is God.  Seventeen examples follow:

“And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD . . . ”  (title page)

“there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.”  1 Nephi 13:41

the Lord their God, their Redeemer . . . loveth those who will have him to be their God.  1 Nephi 17:30,40

“For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation.  But there is a God, and he is Christ . . . ”  2 Nephi 11:7

“it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.”  2 Nephi 26:12

come unto God, the Holy One of Israel . . . I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel . . . ” Omni 1:25,26

“Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent . . . is God above all.”  Mosiah 5:15

“And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things . . . and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood . . .”   Mosiah 7:27

“Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.” (Mosiah 16:15)

whosoever were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God; and they were called the people of God.  Mosiah 25:23,24

“Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth . . . ”  Alma 11:38, 39

And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory . . .  Helaman 8:23

“I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole Earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”  3 Nephi 11:14

“thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel—the God of the whole earth shall he be called.”  3 Nephi 22:5

“that Jesus, whom they slew, was the very Christ and the very God.”  Mormon 3:21

Behold, I am Jesus Christ . . . And he ministered unto him even as he  ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God  Ether 3:14, 18

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God.” Moroni 8:8

It is helpful for disciples of Christ to distinguish among the three contexts in which the Scriptures use the term God.

First, as the PREMORTAL Lord God or Jehovah, the first commandment that God (Christ) gives to Moses refers to himself: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Second, as a MORTAL, Jesus Christ sometimes is referred to as God (Isaiah 25:8,9; Mosiah 15:1; Helaman 8:20,23), but usually writers of scripture, the early apostles and the Lord himself call him Jesus, Lord or other names while describing the Father as God.  This is especially true in the New Testament.  However, even in the New Testament the first mention of God is a reference to Jesus (they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23).  Nearly always, the New Testament use of the term God is a shortened way of saying God the Father. 

Third, as the POSTMORTAL risen Lord, he proclaims, Behold, I am God” (D&C 1:24).  The risen Lord is the God who reigns over the earth, is the central focus of our worship and possesses all power” over mortals.  (Matt. 28:18; D&C 19:3, 93:17; 1 Nephi 9:6, Alma 26:35, Ether 3:4. etc.). 

After Adam and Eve left the Garden, believers worshiped and prayed to Yahweh/Jehovah/God.   When Jehovah was born into mortality as Jesus Christ, the relationship between God (Christ) and man changedbut only for 33 years.  As a mortal a little lower than the angels, Jesus learned line upon line and obviously did not  pray to himself.  We can assume, therefore, that during these years it was the Father who acted as God over the earth and who answered prayers.  Today, however, in correctly teaching that the risen Lord is our God and answers prayers, it makes no difference that Jesus in referring to Heavenly Father spoke, for example, of ascending to my God and your God because your God was a temporary designation.  It remained in effect only for the time it took him to bid adieu to his disciples and rise to heaven, where your God for mortals again became Christ himselfas it has been for the other 6,000 years (or 99.5 percent of the time) since the Fall. 

What are we to make of such words from Jesus himself as “this is life eternal to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent”? (John 17:3, italics added)  First, this verse is spoken from the temporary perspective of a learning, praying, mortal Messiah; second, two verses later Jesus speaks of returning to his former glory, a glory apparently equivalent to that of the Father: “glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was,” and third, whether considering this passage or passages from elsewhere in scripture, we must remember that the vast preponderance of scriptures uses God to refer to Christ. An example cited earlier:  King Benjamin observes that “Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent . . . is God above all.”  (Mosiah 5:15)

Similarly, when the Lord visited America, he provided an example for the Nephites by continuing to humbly pray, to display obedience and to show reverence toward God the Father, just as he had done in the Old World.  However, his departure from the Nephites signaled the end of his short mission as the praying, kneeling, learning Jesus and allowed him to return to his I am the Father and the Son” stature (Ether 3:14; see Appreciating Christ on this site) and to fully reclaim his mantle of the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven before the world was made; the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes (D&C 38:1,2). 

Until the Lord's Prayer, the faithful had seldom prayed to Heavenly Father; instead, they almost always had prayed to God (i.e., Jehovah, the Lord God and various other titles for Christ).  If we taught that Christ acts and speaks as the Father, we would more easily understand that although we pray to God the Father, who hears prayers, Christ (God) both hears and answers them.  Mormon clearly understood this.  In Moroni 8:3, he speaks of continually praying unto God the Father while making it clear four verses later that a prayer addressed to the God the Father is also a prayer addressed to God (Christ) and that Christ both hears and answers: I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the  Holy Ghost, saying: Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God.

As Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote in the 1976 Ensign“It is true that when we pray to the Father, the answer comes from the Son.”  Elder McConkie noted that whenever Joseph Smith asked the Father, in the name of the Son, for answers to questions, “the answering voice was not that of the Father but of the Son.” This is hardly surprising because there is no record of the Father dealing directly with man except to bear witness of the Son.  Answering prayers is exactly what we would expect from the Christ who declares at my command the heavens are opened and are shut; and at my word the earth shall shake; and at my command the inhabitants thereof shall pass away. (Ether 4: 9) The song In Humility, Our Savior, correctly states our prayer relationship with Christ: Let our prayers find access to thee in thy holy courts above.

For members who suggest that the first Article of Faith (We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.) means that we should refer to the Father, rather than Jesus, as God, here is a thought:  In the remaining Articles of Faith, the term God primarily applies to Christ.  In the fifth article, the God who calls man and gives authority in The Church of Jesus Christ is always Christ (See Mosiah 18:17,18).  In the ninth article, God the revelator is always Christ, as Elder McConkie notes above.  And Almighty God in the eleventh article is a scriptural term that applies primarily to Jehovah/Christ: And I appeared  unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known unto them.  (Exodus 6:3 Also: Isaiah 9:6; 2 Nephi  28:15; Mosiah 3:17,18,21; Moses 1:3, etc.) 

A rather intriguing aspect of recognizing that Christ is God and rules and reigns over the earth is that by doing so, we may also come to better appreciate God the Father (about whom little has been revealed) because I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one. (3 Nephi 28:10) 

Joseph Smith’s First Vision is the only scriptural record of the Father appearing to man and is an excellent teaching moment because the Father does something with great symbolic meaning—he points to Christ as he says, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” The message is not only for Joseph Smith to look to Christ, it is for the whole world to look to him.  To Joseph Smith, the centrality of Christ in the First Vision was so clear-cut that in his brief first written account of it, he mentioned only Christ.

Christ glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son.  But the will of the Father is for us to come unto Christ: whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off . . . ” (3 Nephi 21:20)  In other words, a key reason why we should place Christ first and foremost in our lives and recognize that he is our God is that by doing so, we obey the Father.  The Nephites seemed to fully grasp this concept:  “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “It is all so wondrously Christ-centered. Whether in the structure of the atom or of the galaxies, or in the truths about temples and families, for those who have eyes to see, all things . . . are designed to point us to Christ, typifying Him, so that we might follow Him, have faith in Him, and keep His commandments.” (April 1986 General Conference; see also Alma 34:14)

Elder Maxwell also said, “One cannot have adequate faith in a Christ whom he does not adequately know.”  We certainly do not adequately know Christ unless we recognize that throughout our mortality, into the spirit world and until we are resurrected, he is our God and possesses all power over us.

In the church, our grasp of the term God hasn't been firm.  Our first three church presidents, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor, consistently and incorrectly taught that Jehovah was God the Father.  Moreover, Brigham Young asserted on multiple occasions that God the Father was Adam.  With this track record, it behooves us to make an extra effort today to get it right in our use of the term God.

Conclusion

It is always correct to refer to God the Father first when we speak of the Father and Son. He is the heavenly parent of us all.  We love him and address him in prayer.  Although the Son is the central focus of our worship, we also worship the Father.  We seek to dwell again with him.  But the Father has placed Christ as the God who rules and reigns over the earth and “hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35).  He both hears and answers prayers.  As our God, the risen Lord instructs mortals to “look unto me in every thought” (D&C 6:36) and that we are “subject unto him” (2 Nephi 9:5).  For us, when the term God stands alone, it generally means Christ in his roles as Father, Son or both.  He is our advocate and our judge.  In him alone resides the fullness of the Godhead and all power over us. He alone is the giver of eternal life.

The message of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures that Christ is God is well worth understanding, appreciating and sharing.

Witnesses



Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are among those who believe theirs is the Lord’s church.  Many other faiths simply say that their denomination, while not necessarily the Lord’s, is the best available.

In this essay, I will list multiple witnesses that suggest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed the Lord’s church.  I find it perfectly reasonable for readers to be somewhat skeptical about my objectivity because I’m LDS.  Therefore, I’ll begin by offering several thoughts that I hope will lessen the skepticism.

First, over the past few decades I have been fairly prolific in pointing out—often publicly—problems with church teachings, history and policies.  I have been on a “watch list” at church headquarters for about 30 years.  My Jan. 3, 2015, Op-Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, titled “LDS political history shows plenty of failures,” has likely found its way into my file because some may not have appreciated my view that “if someone is determined to use LDS leaders as a barometer for how to vote wisely, history shows his best approach generally would be to learn the church’s position, then vote exactly opposite.” (With the strong LDS support for the vile, lying Trump, I'd have had even more fodder if I had waited two years to write the article.) 

I also recognize that a couple of chapters of my 1986 book, Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah, will never be required reading in the church.  One chapter, “LDS Second Thoughts,” cites failed teachings and prophecies of LDS leaders.  The chapter “Tall Tales,” covers LDS stories or anecdotes once widely believed that have fallen on hard times. 

I have long been inspired by the sermons of Billy Graham and attended his crusade at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, in 1974.  I enjoyed a tent revival meeting around 1990 and “A Night of Hope” with Joel and Victoria Osteen in 2013, both in West Valley City.  I spent many late-night hours in the 1990s watching Jimmy Swaggart’s televised singing and sermons. (I recall one sermon in particular from Lima, Peru, that always makes me smile.  Currently, however, I view Swaggart as a money-driven huckster with a great singing voice.)  I was an admirer of Pope John Paul II and was inspired by the visit of Pope Francis to the United States in September 2015 and by his comments.  (I’m not a fan of all prominent religious leaders and confess that I think some of them are about as acquainted with God as a hog is with a napkin.)

I am a huge admirer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Protestant pastor who began speaking out against the Nazis in 1933 and continued to do so when other Christian denominations were willing to accommodate the Devil as millions of Jews suffered.  (The highest three leaders in my church supported a U.S. policy of isolation.  Thankfully, Franklin Roosevelt didn’t.)  I view Bonhoeffer, who was hanged by the Nazis two weeks before the Allies liberated the camp where he was held, as a saint.

Now, to the point.  Following are eight witnesses related to whether the restored church is indeed the Lord’s church and/or if the Book of Mormon is of divine origin.  I simply believe that if one of these is credible, a person would be well-advised to seriously look into Mormonism.  If more than one is credible, he’d be foolish for failing to do so.

1.  The First Vision.  Joseph Smith said that when he was in his “fifteenth year,” he went alone to a grove of trees with the intention of asking God which church to join.  He said that in answer to his prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and that Christ told him to join none of them.  He said the Father's only participation was to introduce Christ.

2.  Multiple visions of the angel Moroni.  At least 20 appearances of the angel Moroni were reported by Joseph Smith and others, all of which were related to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  The first four appearances of Moroni to Joseph Smith occurred within a period of less than 12 hours.  In the first three of those, Joseph said the angel appeared at night in his bedroom and gave him a message about the book, repeated twice at intervals during the night.  In writing about those three appearances, Joseph gave this rather remarkable description about the light that accompanied the angel: 

“After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.”  (This seems to be more from the Star Trek TV series of the 1960s than from 1823.)  

Eight others besides Joseph Smith reported appearances of the angel Moroni.

3. The credibility of Emma Smith.  Joseph Smith’s wife was an educated woman of great integrity.  She was strong-willed.  Sometimes her husband felt her wrath; often it was directed at others, including such prominent Mormons as Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith and Eliza Snow.  She refused go west with the church after Joseph was slain, married a non-Mormon man and later chose to affiliate with the Reorganized Church.  On one occasion, Joseph Smith, apparently fearful of provoking her, asked his brother, Hyrum, to present to her Joseph’s revelation on plural marriage.  After doing so, Hyrum said that “he had never received a more severe talking to in his life, that Emma was very bitter and full of resentment and anger.”  In 1879, thirty-five years after the murder of Joseph Smith, Emma Smith related the following details about the translation of the Book of Mormon to their son, Joseph Smith III, who led the Reorganized Church:

“In writing for J.S, I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it and dictating hour after hour, with nothing between us. He had neither mss nor book to read from. If he had had anything of the Kind he could not have concealed it from me. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I felt of the plates, as they lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. O Cowdery and JS wrote in the room where I was at work. JS could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of M. . . . When acting as his scribe he would dictate to me hour after hour, and when returning after meals or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the mss or having any portion of it read to him.  This was a usual thing for him to do.  It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this, and for so ignorant and unlearned as he was it was simply impossible.” (Source: 1879 interview by Joseph Smith III)

4.  Sidney Rigdon’s consistent story.  When it became apparent that a person as unlearned as Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon, critics suggested that Smith must have teamed up with the educated Sidney Rigdon to have written it.  Later in life, when Rigdon had good reason to dismiss the book as a fake—the church had excommunicated him—his son, John, who also had left the church, asked his elderly father if he had written the book.  John Rigdon recorded his father’s words:  “My son, I can tell you before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of that book is true.  Your mother and me  . . . were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of that book is what Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story, and that was that he found it engraved upon gold plates in a hill near Palmyra, New York. . . . I believed him, and now believe he told me the truth.”  The younger Rigdon also noted that his father stated near the end of his life that “Joseph Smith was a prophet.” 

5.  Other visions.   A. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said that John the Baptist appeared to them on May 15, 1829, and conferred upon them the Priesthood of Aaron.  B.  Joseph and Oliver said that Peter, James and John appeared to them, probably in late May 1829, and conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood.  C.  Joseph and Sidney Rigdon said that on Feb. 16, 1832, they beheld the Father and Son together with “holy angels” and others who were worshipping God. “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” (D&C 76:23)  D.  On April 3, 1836, Joseph and Oliver said Christ appeared to them in the Kirtland Temple.  “We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.” They also reported that Moses, Elias and Elijah appeared to them on this occasion and committed certain keys or authority.  (D&C 110)

Lorenzo Snow stated that after the death of President Wilford Woodruff in 1898, Jesus Christ appeared to him in the Salt Lake Temple and instructed him to immediately reorganize the First Presidency.  President Joseph F. Smith said that on Oct. 3, 1918, he received a vision of the Savior’s visit to “the hosts of the dead” in the spirit world.

6. Testimony of Three Witnesses.  Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris signed a statement, which appears in all Books of Mormon, that “an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon . . . the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it.” 

In a court of law, the testimony of a friend in support of a friend, a spouse in support of a spouse or a business partner in support of his business partner carries less weight than the same testimony coming from a more neutral observer.  Similarly, if a witness has negative feelings toward a defendant, we feel no surprise when the witness testifies against him.  But we are very surprised when a witness with bitter feelings toward a defendant testifies in his favor.  This is exactly why the testimony of the three witnesses carries great weight—all three men, Cowdery, Whitmer and Harris, were excommunicated from the church in 1837 or 1838 as a result of differences with Joseph Smith.  Yet rather than expose the Mormon founder as a fraud, all three affirmed throughout their lives the authenticity of their statements about the Book of Mormon, the appearance of an angel and hearing the Lord's voice.  Not once did any of the three witnesses (or the eight witnesses named below) ever retract his printed and signed testimony of the Book of Mormon. I have carefully read claims by those who claim otherwise and have found such claims to lack merit, often bordering on laughable.  (Note: Cowdery and Harris later returned to the church.  Cowdery would even assert that Smith “had fulfilled his mission faithfully until death,” while Harris in his final days observed “just as surely as the breath of life sustains us, so surely do I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.”)

Note: The highly credible and often reaffirmed testimonies of the three witnesses (four, counting Joseph Smith) can also be seen as hugely significant to mankind in providing affirmation of life after death and of the existence of God.

7. Testimony of Eight Witnesses.  Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith and Samuel H. Smith signed a statement, which appears in all Books of Mormon, that Joseph Smith “has shown unto us the plates” and that they handled and “hefted” the plates.  “We also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.”  Five of the eight witnesses were excommunicated from the church in 1838. Although it could be argued that excommunication offers a strong motive to deny one's testimony, there is no credible evidence that any of the eight ever denied his testimony of the authenticity of the golden plates.

8.  Out of time, out of place.  Certain elements of the Book of Mormon seem to be so far out of time and place in 1829 that for Joseph Smith or his associates to have written the book perhaps would have been a greater miracle than to have translated it by the power of God.  See the essay titled “What in the World?”

I recognize that many have criticized the validity of the previous claims, which makes it important for people with legitimate questions to investigate both sides for themselves.  I have read pro and con claims equally lacking in merit. Both sides engage in proof-texting as well as something I call kitchen-sinking—it consists of presenting a host of weak arguments when a person lacks a single strong argument. Still, I believe the pro side presents better sources and tends to document its case more thoroughly than do the critics, who frequently seem content to recycle arguments and hearsay that have little or no credibility.  It’s as though they are hoping that listeners share their biases and will not investigate further.  (Alas, in a world that offers myriad distractions, this often proves to be the case.)

The following excerpt is from a letter I wrote to a critic of LDS claims, Dean Brown of Avon, Indiana, on Dec. 26, 2005:

“I do not think The Book of Mormon provides the most fertile ground to challenge the validity of Mormonism.  For every perceived flaw in the book, a counterargument can be offered explaining either that the flaw is no flaw at all or that it is no more significant than flaws found in the Bible.  To me, The Book of Mormon resembles a granite wall that people periodically hit with paint balls.  For a while, the impressions left by the splattering seem bright and noteworthy, but over time they fade and wash away and are replaced by others.  None, however, exhibit a lasting effect on the granite.”

Additionally, in looking more closely at presumed defects related to the Book of Mormon, I have often discovered that these “defects” end up strengthening its credibility.