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 gets a long lease on life when members merely say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to assure Latter-day Saints who are struggling with their faith that, although I agree the church has many flaws and its leaders often err, there are very strong reasons to believe that the restored church is indeed the Lord’s church.

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 43 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia-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. (February 2017)
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 emphatically teaches that Jesus is our God and that he acts and speaks as both the Father and the Son.

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.







Thursday, October 22, 2015

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 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.)  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 teachings.  (I’m not a fan of all prominent religious leaders and confess that I think some of them are no more acquainted with God than 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.

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 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.  (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.”)  

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 with 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.

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