Friday, October 23, 2015

The Other Side of the Coin and Critics of the Church

My friend is upset because he heard that Joseph Smith once said that if he lived to be 70 he would see the Son of God and the millennium would begin. This is a big criticism of the Church and Joseph’s divine calling as a prophet. After all, everyone knows Joseph didn’t live to be anywhere close to that age and, of course, the millennium still hasn’t happened yet, 170 years later.

Well, friend, the quote you heard isn't quite complete. The quote is found in our D&C. (The Church isn't hiding it.) “I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man….”

That, unfortunately, is all the critics let you read or hear. After all, they can’t provide the entire quote (or other versions of it) if they want to use it as ammunition against the Church. So here is the rest of the quote, which will resolve any conflict.

“I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.” (D&C 130:14-16)

Joseph clearly said he did not what that statement meant and mused that it could mean a variety of things IF he lived long enough. (Yes, there are other versions of this quote floating around but this is the version the Prophet, himself, approved for publication. The other quotes, if they are accurately recorded, did not merit that same approval. This is the version he placed his reputation behind...the one he knew most closely represented what he was saying.)

So, from this quote you mean a prophet of the Lord doesn’t know EVERYTHING?

That's right. And it is naive to expect that they do.

Prophets are not called for their infinite knowledge. They are called for their relationship with the Lord, to fulfill other purposes.

You are also upset because the Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said that men would never walk on the moon. How, then, can he be a true prophet of God if he makes such an obvious mistake. Why didn't he know the coming truth?

First off, that statement was not a prophecy nor was it made by a Prophet. Joseph Fielding Smith made that statement in a stake conference in 1961. (Not the General Conference critics would lead you to believe.) He wasn't called as a prophet until 1970. Here is the quote the critics use from Elder Joseph Fielding Smith:

“We will never get a man into space. This earth is man's sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.”

They fail to tell you that Elder Smith was using that statement as he spoke on the faith (not space travel). His grandson, Joseph Fielding McConkie explained, “He reasoned that because the atonement that Christ worked out on this earth applies to all the creations of the Father, that our getting to other worlds and discovering that they had the same Savior and the same plan of salvation would dispense with the necessity of our accepting the gospel on the basis of faith. To dramatize the point he said, "I don't even think the Lord will let men get to the moon."

Joseph Fielding McConkie went on to say, “What he said (about faith), in my judgment, was right. The illustration he used to dramatize his point has since proven to be in error. It, however, has nothing to do with the point he was making. To dismiss everything else he said on the basis of one faulty illustration is, I would suggest, a far greater error and may frankly be grounds to question whether those saying it deserve credence, not whether Joseph Fielding Smith does.”

Yes, the “man” in Joseph Fielding Smith was incorrect. Men often are, doggonit. But that also means even critics of the Church are prone to being ‘incorrect’. Remember that if you face them and especially if you go looking for them.

But what about the Prophets, you ask. Don't they have to be perfect?

No. If we’re looking for perfect mortals to lead the Church then will have to throw out all of them. Goodbye Adam, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, Joseph Smith, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, Joseph Fielding Smith…

We know that Christ was the only perfect person who ever walked on this earth, therefore we know, too, that all others have made mistakes--including the men He has called as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. Yet Christ clearly taught that "by their fruits ye shall know them." He didn't say anything about inspecting their bark to see if it was free of flaws. Why, then, do we feel we must pick apart the bark ourselves?

We are not here to find fault with others. God wants us to be of good cheer, to uplift and to edify those around us. I believe critical people tell me more about themselves than about the topic they are criticizing.

So, as we seek out our own learning and knowledge we must keep keep our eye focused on God. If we are doing as He wants we will be guided to paths that strength and brighten...not darken and taint.

So how do we know if something a prophet says is from God and not his own opinion? Here is a clear guide.

If it is from God it will be presented to the entire Church. It will be spoken from the housetops. It will not be a quote or two taken out of context. Everyone will know.

Neil L. Andersen said, “A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by ALL 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.”

So, if the topic is being talked about by the Prophet, First Presidency and the 12 Apostles then you can rest assured it has the Lord’s approval. A random quote or two does not a doctrine make.

“Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church….Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted” (LDS Newsroom, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine”).

When you read a short comment that makes you question the Church, know there is more to that quote. Find the full quote, read the full talk, understand the history of the time and, above all, pray as your read. Ask God for knowledge and guidance. He is the highest source of information you can find. Higher than any blog and any Web site. If you aren't going to God you are failing yourself.

Finally, my dear friend, prophets are not perfect but they are called by God for the strengths and guidance they can give to the world. If everyone listened to and followed the Prophets as they spoke His doctrines and principles, the world would be a much better place. That is the fruit that is sweeter than all others.

Do not get upset when people, strangers or even close friends, throw comments at you to shake your faith. No matter their reason for doing so, there is a certain baseness of spirit in anyone who would intentionally try to shake another person’s faith.

I love what Elder Vern P Stanfill said in October General Conference about critics of the Church. "These ever-present naysayers prefer to tear down rather than elevate and to ridicule rather than uplift. Their mocking words can burrow into our lives, often through split-second bursts of electronic distortions carefully and deliberately composed to destroy our faith. Is it wise to place our eternal well-being in the hands of strangers? Is it wise to claim enlightenment from those who have no light to give or who may have private agendas hidden from us?"

We need to remember that--always. Let us cautiously pick the voices we will listen to. And let us also remember each time we hold some change in our hand that there are two sides to every coin...and every comment. The side you choose to view is entirely up to you. But it will also tell others more about who you are and who you are becoming than the side you are viewing.

Elder Stanfill's talk Choose The Light

To find answers to questions posed by critics or even raised by your own studies go to FairMormon


Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Sabbath is a Delight...and a Blessing

At the age of 51, when most people are mentally moving toward retirement, I gave into God’s promptings and returned to school full time. Though I was employed full time and had five children still at home, I knew I needed to complete my education. The Lord’s goal for me? To work towards becoming a nurse.

Become a nurse? At my age? Though I knew age wasn’t a factor for Abraham or Noah it was a worry for me. What would people think? Would the professors and those who selected candidates for the nursing program discount me because of my age?

With those doubts ringing daily in my mind I decided I would do as the Lord was prompting and return to school.

The week school began our tiny branch found themselves in desperate need of an early morning seminary teacher. With hesitation the calling was extended to me. My stake president, branch president and husband all voiced concerns over my ability to take on the calling with my upcoming school schedule. I told them I needed the blessings that would come from teaching seminary each morning.

So with all that on my plate I went back to school and that first weekend I found myself overwhelmed by school work and looking at using Sunday to do my assignments. Against all sense of logic I decided I needed the Lord’s help more than I needed Sunday to study or do my work. I made the commitment that, regardless of what was facing me at school on Monday morning I would not study or do homework on Sundays. If I needed more time I would get up early on Monday morning but I would give the Sabbath to the Lord.

For two and a half years I kept that promise and never once did I study or do homework on Sunday. Often that meant getting up at 2:30 or 3 on Monday morning but Sunday was for the Lord.

After two and a half years of full-time school I completed all the prerequisites to apply to the bachelor’s nursing degree program with a 3.97. My cumulative GPA for an associate of science degree was a 3.93 and earned me one of three full-tuition waivers to complete the final two years of my education.

Was keeping the Sabbath Day a delight as Isaiah said? Yes! It was a time for me to relax my mind, enjoy my family and immerse myself in the Gospel.

"If thou turn away…from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight,…and shalt honour [the Lord], not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
“Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.”
(Isaiah 58:13-14)

I know that promise is true. I am absolutely delighted by the help and blessings the Lord has given to me! I know there is no way I could have accomplished those kinds of grades, been accepted into a very competitive program and received a needed tuition waiver on my own. While working full-time, teaching seminary every morning and taking care of my family I needed His help and He gave it in greater abundance than I could have imagined or even designed.

Russell M. Nelson said, “The Lord gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief.”

And, at the opening of this dispensation, the Lord told the world through his prophet Joseph Smith, “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High…And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances…the fulness of the earth is yours.” (D&C 59:10 and 15)

Elder Nelson went on to say that “Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God. A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.”

I knew the Lord wanted me to return to school. I knew that He would help me if I honored my covenants and kept the Sabbath day holy. I have found out that a sacred Sabbath truly is a delight…not only for the spiritual blessings we receive but for the earthly blessings He gives us.

We may not readily see the miracles and blessings that come to us for putting aside the things of the world for one day but those blessings will accumulate like oil in our lamps until one day we will look back and know that because we gave the Lord one day a week He carried us and blessed us through seven days each week.

To read Elder Nelson's talk, go to: The Sabbath is a Delight