Saturday, January 29, 2011

Joseph Smith's First Vision(s) Explained

Joseph Smith had multiple versions of his first vision story. On the official LDS site, we read

During a 10-year period (1832–42), Joseph Smith wrote or dictated at least four accounts of the First Vision. These accounts are similar in many ways, but they include some differences in emphasis and detail.

The “detail” that this quote is referring to can be found in the following 4 versions summary (as the official church source is a little light on specifics)

Version 1 – 1827 - Joseph Smith’s first account

  • A spirit appeared to Joseph in a vision telling him of a record on gold plates.
  • When Joseph went to get the plates the spirit, transforming from toad to man, struck Joseph twice and gave him instructions to come back again in a year, a command repeated several years in a row.

Version 2 - 1827 – Given by Martin Harris to the Rev. John D. Clark

  • After an evening of money-digging an angel appeared to Joseph in a vision telling him he has been chosen to be a prophet and bring forth a record on gold plates.
  • Joseph and his father disobey the angel and look for the chest using Joseph's clairvoyance. They find it but the angel appears, Joseph knocked is to the ground and severely reprimanded.
  • Joseph would dictate words to Harris, while looking through the stones, but Joseph and Harris had to be separated by a suspended blanket during the dictation process.

Version 3 – 1832 Account by Joseph Smith, Jr.

  • Felt convicted of sins
  • Determined all churches were wrong
  • Vision of the Savior –Jesus Christ (has a “Christian experience”)
  • At age 17 he again prayed and an angel appeared telling him about the plates and announced again he was forgiven of his sins.

Version 4 – 1838 – Currently Official Version (not Joseph Smiths account)

  • A local revival caused him to wonder which church was right, it had never occurred to him all were wrong
  • age 14 (1820)
  • he was in a grove
  • had a vision of two personages
  • One identifies the other as his son (by implication God the Father and Jesus, but not explicitly stated)
  • Was told all churches are wrong and is to join none of them
  • Claimed to come under great persecution
  • Fell into all kinds of temptations
  • Three years later has vision of an angel

The issue that seems to vex certain non-believers is that Joseph Smith’s original account was not used as the official vision; which also varies significantly from the official version used today. Woah! woah! woah! Anti-mormon critic guy! Slow your horses! This is where a lot of people get lost and forget the principle of modern revelation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in a modern prophet with continuing revelation. This allows the current prophet of God to receive revelation and correct any mistakes in Joseph Smiths vision story.

What you need to appreciate is that it ultimately doesn’t matter whether Joseph Smith said he saw a toad-man, an angel, Jesus or both God and Jesus; because if the current prophet says that something else actually happened, then the original first account from Joseph Smith’s becomes only his opinion, and not actually revelation or official doctrine. Why would we need Joseph Smith to know what he saw when we have a current prophet?

I hope I’ve cleared that up!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Priesthood Flow Explained

Some might content that the contradiction of revelation from Mormon prophets might suggest that one of them is apostate, which could lead to a disruption in priesthood authority from prophet to prophet. I could perhaps humour the idea for a second, that if someone like Brigham Young really was teaching false doctrine regarding Adam God theory, then it puts the priesthood flow of authority in disrepute. I mean, how can Brigham Young’s successors claim that Brigham Young was a false prophet when it would only sever their own claim to priesthood authority? The answer of course is that one must look at the bigger picture.

The solution to this is what I like to refer to as “priesthood jumping”. Priesthood jumping is what occurs when the prophet of the day says fun stuff to entertain the saints but is actually deemed to be false doctrine by a future prophet. If the revelations of the previous prophet have been converted to opinion by the opinion of the current prophet (which then gets escalated to revelation) then the fun prophet becomes a bouncing agent for his priesthood authority so it can reach his successor. This is how the authority can bounce from multiple false prophets until it eventually reaches one whose teachings are in harmony with God.

This can reflect and inflect though. What this means is that whilst the current prophet might claim that prophet number two, three and four are false, the future prophet might differ in opinion and declare two, three and four true prophets, and all the ones in between false. This activates the opinion-revelation conversion reversal process so that the previous prophet’s opinion-revelation conversion can be undone as per revelation from God.

The following diagram illustrates this concept

The Priesthood is the authority from God to act in his name. I testify to you that the current prophet has the right to reverse any revelation given by a previous prophet, and a future prophet can reverse that prophet’s reversal. If there be any doubt in your mind concerning this concept, I invite you to pray about it until you get a “yes” answer. If you don't get a "yes" answer, then please see my flowchart on the prayer cycle in the “Mormon/LDS Revelation Explained” article.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mormon/LDS Revelation Explained

Hello brothers and sisters! I wanted to shed some light on revelation.

What is Revelation?
Revelation is when God talks to us. This can happen as inspiration through the Holy Spirit, prophetic dreams, visions, visitations of angels, and so on.
Revelation is crucial because it helps us know what God wants for us in these challenging and changing times. To help debunk anti mormon critics, I've tried to illuminate some of the more confusing issues surrounding LDS that you won't find in your priesthood manual! :)

The key concept to understanding revelation is understanding why the Mormon church exists in the first place. The Mormon church exists because of the great apostasy, this is the killing of Apostles and righteous members of Christ's Church by the wicked to the point where only fragments of Christ's Church remain.

Some of these "fragmented churches" claim that this apostasy did not occur to the extent that Christ's truth and authority was taken from the earth. Evidence that this is the case is when their religious leaders interpret scripture, or presume to receive revelation, AND THEN CHANGE THEIR MIND LATER ON! I'm sorry but this is not acceptable. If the message came from God, then it must be true. You can't change your mind later on. I understand how someone can become emotionally invested in a religion, but you have to face facts (and your own eternal consequences) by acknowledging that changes to core doctrine, beliefs and inconsistent religious leaders is proof that the church is false.

Now, having said that, there are some that might point out some issues with Mormon history which I'd also like to address. Specifically, the racism issue with Negroes, blood atonement and Adam-God theory.

Adam God Theory

Adam God Theory is the belief that Adam (from the Garden of Eden) is actually God. This was first taught by Brigham Young in 1852 at General Conference. Some unfaithful Mormons were unreceptive to this doctrine.

In 1873, Young lamented,

How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me namely that Adam is our Father and God.

Just before his death, Young took steps to ensure that the Adam–God theory was taught in temples as part of the Endowment ceremony

When Joseph F. Smith became the 6th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, he rejected the doctrine. In 1897, Joseph F. Smith said

"Young no doubt expressed his personal opinion or views upon the subject"


Bruce R. McConkie published a book called "Mormon Doctrine". He explained why Negroes are currently not allowed to hold the priesthood. This basically is because they were less valiant in the pre-mortal existence.

Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others. Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes.

Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty.

The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence.
McConkie says this doctrine is pure and simple. I agree. It's very simple. McConkie makes no mention of speculation and his language does not leave any room for confusion or misinterpretation (a refreshing change from some religious texts).

On June 1, 1978, McConkie was present in the Salt Lake Temple when a revelation was received by the First Presidency and the Twelve

that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture and race, including the black race.
This fixing revelation was announced to the world on June 8, 1978.

Blood Atonement
This is where the church will kill you if you do bad stuff. Blood atonement used to be in the temple ceremony. As it's no longer in the ceremony, I will detail some extracts of the sacred oaths.

The blood oaths in the ceremony related to protecting the ritual's secrecy. In keeping with the idea that grievous crimes must be answered with bloodshed and that blood atonement should be voluntary, participants made an oath that rather than ever revealing the secret gestures of the ceremony, they would rather have

my throat ... be cut from ear to ear, and my tongue torn out by its roots
our breasts ... be torn open, our hearts and vitals torn out and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field
your body ... be cut asunder and all your bowels gush out
The "penalty" portion of the ceremony was removed by the LDS Church in 1990.

The Dilemma

These changes in doctrine may appear to be suspicious to the untrained eye, however one must consider the context. The doctrine was revelation when it was given - yes, that much is obvious based on the context on how it was given, plus it was all put in temple ordinances which is the house of the Lord and we know the mysteries of God unfold there. When it was removed by a modern prophet, the initial revelation then becomes opinion and the change is justified.

Here's a simple flowchart diagram to explain this concept.


Follow the prophet! If the modern prophet receives revelation on anything, then believe. It doesn't matter if the new revelation directly contradicts what the previous prophet has said, this is what revelation is all about! Pray about it and you can receive your own testimony of the truth.

Pray for the Holy Ghost. Pray until you get some kind of warm feeling in your bosom. If you're kneeling over your bed and your blanket feels warm, then the Holy Spirit is just like that and that was probably it. If you're not sure if it was the Holy Ghost, but your electric blanket instead, it's usually safe to assume it was God's confirmation to you that whatever you were praying about is true. Feel free to mention this at the next fast and testimony meeting.

If you don't get a witness that the prophet's message is from God, then it is because you are unworthy and must repent of whatever you are doing to feel the Holy Ghost despite your current temple recommend. (nb this does not apply to faith promoting missionary stories about Biker guys that do drugs, have tattoos, and kill people but are somehow able to have an amazing experience with the Holy Ghost that you will never have where everyone bursts into tears, the biker agrees to be baptised after the first discussion, cuts his hair and is a Bishop after 1 year of faithful membership).