Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recap of April 2012 Conference

Here is the re-cap of the April 2012 General Conference.  The technology of the Church is pretty incredible.  Those Church IT guys have done a tremendous job making GC available so quickly after it's over.  I remember several years ago when they first started steaming GC on-line.  Then it would take about 3 weeks for the videos or text to be available.  Now it's practically instantaneous.  The videos and mp3s are up the next day and the text is up by the Thursday after GC.

My wife and I were talking about whether we should force the kids to watch GC all day Saturday or not.  My point is that if you watch everything at once, you just don't get everything.  So we decided not to sit through all 10 hours at once.  Rather, we are going to watch one or two talks each Sunday as a family and then discuss the talk.  We did watch conference on Sunday though.

One other thought - I think I've successfully stayed awake through an entire GC once or twice in my life.  It is nearly impossible for me to sit in my living room and listen to talk after talk after talk and stay awake and alert.  I love that I can listen to or watch and read along the weeks after GC is over.  I get so much more out of the talks this way.

So BIG KUDOS to the Church IT guys!!  If tithing money is spent on this technology, then I think it is very well-spent!

President Thomas S. Monson - As We Gather Once Again
why we meet: strengthen, encouragement, comfort, build faith, to learn
if changes need to be made in your life, may you find the courage to do so
oppose evil whereever it is found
be instructed and be inspired
be filled with the Lord's spirit

President Boyd K. Packer - And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
the ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see husband and wife with their family happy at home.
too often, someone comes to me and says, "President Packer, wouldn't it be nice if ..." I usually stop them and say, "No" because I suspect what follows will be a new activity or program that is going to add the burden of time or financial means on the family."
personal application: what can i do, as scout leader, to promote family time?
the goal of scouts, according to this talk, would be to help fathers spend meaningful time with their sons - to provide opportunities to let fathers and sons learn and grow together.
if scouting becomes a burden, then it would seems it has failed the mission of "supporting the family"
if we get all the eagles scouts in the world, but no real fathers, we've accomplished nothing.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks - Sacrifice
Mormon Pioneers example of sacrifices
Husband left wife and family to serve a mission
Symbols of our Christian faith (Mormons) is our daily sacrifice
Home teaching and visiting teaching
full-time missionaries (time spent to save money, actual time serving, family sacrifices time they are not with their child)
converts' sacrifices: loss of family temple service: time spent to save money to be sealed with family in temple

President Henry B. Eyring - Mountains to Climb
there are giant opportunies (challenges) to be met.
give me this mountain; give me these challenges and adversities he prayed for a challenge
1) god heard his prayer and answered it
2) he learned that a great blessing could come from adversity
repent have faith that the way through trials is the balm of gilead
foundation for faith = personal integrity (consistently choosing the right) curing that faith takes time and patience and experience

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - The Laborers in the Vineyard
do not covet, do not pout or tear others down; do not demean others to improve yourself
do not throw away your good fortune in protest of the perceived injustice - accept the good fortune (mercy from God) and rejoice in the mercy He gives to "late" repenters.
don't dwell on old issues or grievences (of self, of neighbor or even the Church)
simply accept the Atonement of Christ, don't dwell on anything else, enjoy the fellowship of the labor

accept mercy and be merciful

personal thoughts: the key premise in this parable, in my mind, is that there is a shortage of work for the laborers.  Laborers are standing around, waiting for work. The need the work or else they don't feed their families.  Anything to do for work would be great - and it doesn't matter when they get the work - they will take it first thing in the morning and work all day or take the job in the late afternoon and get something rather than nothing.  so how does this apply to our life today?  perhaps it can be said there is a shortage of "good fortune" in the world - just like there was a shortage of jobs to be done in the parable.  so, if someone is blessed with abundance from the time they were born until the time they die, that person should be grateful and thank God for what they've been blessed with.  That person should also learn not to be envious when good fortune comes to those who receive it later in life.  If they are envious of another's good fortune, despite having good fortune their entire life, they choose to experience ill feelings toward another person who has received good fortune!  As Elder Holland puts it, they drink a quart of pickle juice every time someone else receives good fortune, rather than pondering their own good fortune.

another thought: similarly to what I stated above, we can envision a person who was "born in the Church", who was faithful all his life - who went to Church, Boy Scouts, service projects, received the Priesthood - was a Deacon, Teacher, Priest, became an Elder; served a difficult mission - maybe not even baptizing a single convert; returned honorably, married in the temple; started family and continued serving faithfully day after day - week after week for his whole life.

Meanwhile, his younger brother chose the opposite all his days, indulged in all his desires rather than being obedient and serving others.  He ate, drank and was merry all the days of his life.  Then, when he reached the end of his rope, he found he was not happy.  He decided to clean up his life - it was a difficult process back into the fold.

Now they both die and are both granted eternal life - the reward of living in the presence of God for eternity.  Does the faithful brother act like the other son who is not the prodigal son?  Does he refuse eternal life because his "unfaithful" brother receives it?  Or does he act like the father and rejoice in the mercy of Christ?

Elder Robert D. Hales - Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and the Sacrifice in Service
prepare to worthily take the sacrament before coming to sacrament meeting; leave the daily work and recreation behind; do not think of worldly thoughts or concerns.  then ponder the Atonement; ponder the sacrifice of Christ
sing the sacrament hymn; listen to the sacrament prayers; partake of the emblems
seek forgiveness of sins and shortcomings of previous week; make specific commitments for the coming week.
search from the scriptures
live the gospel standards
obtain a temple recommend
gain a testimony of God, Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Atonement, Joseph Smith, the Restoration
sustain leaders; be kind, stand as a witness of Christ, attend Church meetings, honor covenants, be a good parent, be virtuous
assist the youth to prepare for lifelong service
learn to work; live within your means; avoid debt, save money now so that we can give full-time service later in our lives; to be able to lift others.

Elder Quentin L. Cook - In Tune with the Music of Faith
a great divide between those who love, worship and feel accountable to God and those who do not
destroyers of faith: pride, vanity & foolishness
love the Lord; love His gospel; continually try to live and share His message - especially with your families.
be in harmony with the promptings of the Spirit
observe religion in your home
strive to be a disciple of Christ
with regard to his paragraph that starts out "We recognize how busy you are"  From that paragraph, I hear "if you are serving; don't feel guilty for not serving enough"
don't judge others
rescue those who have "fallen away"
avoid being judgemental about conduct that is foolish or unwise, but is not sinful
be an example in action, not just words (as a parent to your children)
read and gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon

Elder Richard G. Scott - How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life
revelation = crisp, clear and essential communication from the Holy Ghost
inspiration = series of promptings that guide us step by step toward a worthy goal
we are supposed to ask the Lord to receive revelation
fast, pray for finding scriptures that will be helpful with the answer for the question, read those scriptures, ponder, pray, write down what the Lord would have you do, pray again
don't let daily activities distract us from the spirit

Elder David A. Bednar - The Powers of Heaven
distinguishing feature of the church is priesthood (the authority of god delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of mankind)
be active in priesthood service - promote the cause of righteousness in the earth
by not doing your duties, you break your priesthood covenant
be righteous; faithful; obedient; diligent; worthy; willing to serve
lift souls, teach, testify, bless, council, advance the work of salvation
take the lead in scripture study, family prayer, fhe - be a strong leader - preside - protect

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf - The Why of Priesthood Service
the why of priesthood service is to motivate others; to awaken their spirit; to inspire action
be enthusiastic about the gospel as you teach others.
let the fire of your testimony bring light and warmth and joy to the hearts of those you teach
priesthood service is to provide a vision of what it means to establish the kingdom of god on earth
building the kingdom of god on earth means building personal testimonies and strengthening families
priesthood service helps us prioritize between good, better, best - it helps us stay focused on the most important things
the most important things are: increase our love for god and our fellowmen, invigorate marriages, strengthen families and build the kingdom of god on earth
how we specifically decide on our priorities: study the scriptures, heed the prophets, hold serious and dedicated prayer
act before being acted upon; the value of an idea is in using it

President Henry B. Eyring - Families Under Covenant
four things you can do as a priesthood father to lift and lead your family home again to heaven
1. gain & keep a sure witness that the keys of the priesthood are with us & held by the president of the church - pray for that every day.
2. love your wife
3. enlist the entire family to love each other
4. discipline when needed - d&c 121:41-44

President Thomas S. Monson - Willing and Worthy to Serve
various definitions of priesthood ...
1. joseph smith - priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with god from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years.
2. wilford woodruff -  the holy priesthood is the channel through which god communicates and deals with man upon the earth; and the heavenly messengers that have visited the earth to communicate with man are men who held and honored the priesthood while in the flesh; and everythign that god has caused to be done for the salvation of man, from the coming of man upon the earth to the redemption of the world, has been and will be by virtue of the everlasting priesthood.
3. joseph f. smith -  the priesthood is the power of god delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the father and the son and the holy ghost, and act legitimately; not assuming that authority, nor borrowing it from generations that are dead and gone, but authority that has been given in this day in which we live by ministering angels and spirits from above, direct from the presense of almighty god.
4. john taylor - it is the governmant of god, whether on the earth or in the heavens, for it is by that power, agency, or principle that all things are governed on the earth and in the heavens, and by that power that all things are upheald and sustained.  it governs all things - it directs all things - it sustains all things - and has to do with all things that god and truth are associated with.
stories of examples of priesthood service - soldier blessing injured soldier on beach; saving his life.  writing letters of encouragement to servicemen
there are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspirt and souls to save

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf - The Merciful Obtain Mercy
required to forgive all men - including ourselves
stop hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm
love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
be kind
talk peacefully with others
do good unto all men
people will be people; learn to rise above the fray, forgive and forget.  this talk had a very similar feel as elder holland's talk

Elder Russell M. Nelson - Thanks Be to God
gives thanks to god
be mindful of the various gifts from god ...
the world, the universe, his son jesus christ, our bodies, the resurrection, spiritual gifts, gospel gifts

Elder D. Todd Christofferson - The Doctrine of Christ
believe in christ; be baptized

President Thomas S. Monson - The Race of Life
personal thoughts: how often do you ask yourself: if you know you are going to die tomorrow ... in a week ... in a month ... in a year; how does that change your current priorities?
endure to the end
we have the power to (and must) think, reason and achieve
pray; listen to the holy ghost, search the scriptures; heed the prophets

Elder L. Tom Perry - The Power of Deliverance
both the people of limhi and the people of alma were delivered
both suffered
limhi's people chose to fight; alma's people chose to pray
what do you need to be delivered from?
which way is your "door" facing? to the world or to the alter of god?

Elder M. Russell Ballard - That the Lost May be Found
our liahona/gps is the holy ghost - the promptings of the holy ghost
new york times: "the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to american women under 30 occur outside of marriage"
the most important cause in our lifetime is our family
prioritize - put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home.
organize - your personal life to provide time for prayer, scripture study and family activities
teach your childen to work and give them responsibilities
marriage first, then family
read family proclamation often, understand it, follow it.

Elder Neil L. Andersen - What Thinks Christ of Me?
pay attention to who and what christ labels in the scriptures ... see 3rd paragraph in this talk
love christ, trust christ, believe christ, follow christ and you will feel his love and approval

President Thomas S. Monson - As We Close This Conference
pray always
fill your homes with love and the spirit of the lord
love your family
settle disagreements
do god's will, serve him, serve others
ponder the words you've heard from this conference

Monday, May 14, 2012

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman

I read Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling in the summer 2007.  I, like many other members who read this book, found and learned things, for the first time, about the history of the Church and that they were very different that the stories I had been taught in Primary, Sunday School, at BYU, at the MTC and on my mission.  It was a real eye-opener.  Generally speaking, I was taught (or at the very least, I was impressed upon) to avoid the controversial issues of Church History - rather I should stick to the the narrative the Church lesson books offered.  The authors of those "other" controversial Church History books would just fill my head with apostasy.  That was my reality until the Bushman book came along - then all of a sudden, it was OK to read about these issues.

I have to admit, my testimony has gone through several phases since that first reading of the book.  I started reading it for a second time in January of 2012 - this time reading it more in depth and considering the words of Bushman.

Below, I've written about a few things that have stuck out to me, that I consider significant for my own testimony.  In some cases, I expound a bit more.  For other parts, I just state things as they are.

The First Vision
Joseph received the "First Vision" in the early part of 1820.  There are many accounts of the vision.  Bushman talks of two main accounts; the one in 1832 and the one in 1838.

It is interesting to note, that we never really know if Joseph told his parents and family of the "First Vision".  As Bushman notes in the book, many of the early converts were drawn to the religion because of the restoration gifts of God and the idea of gathering Zion before the coming of Christ.  The "First Vision" did not play into their conversion, unlike today's introduction of the Church to investigators.

In the 1832 account, the emphasis was on receiving forgiveness of sins.  The "pillar of light" was present and it was "the Lord" who he saw and spoke with.

In 1835 and subsequent versions, more details emerged - the dark power that kept him from speaking; that he heard sounds of walking.  In these other versions, he saw two personages and they both spoke to him.  In the 1838 version, he made it clear the two personages were God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.  In 1835 and 1838 versions, emphasis was placed on the lack of truth in other churches.

Another thing that Bushman notes about the First Vision as well as other visions, is that Joseph was very slow to say anything about them to other people.  In fact, Moroni had to command him to tell his father about his visit from Moroni.  The vision in the Kirtland temple is another example ... see below for more info on this.  In a podcast, Bushman thinks that perhaps the reason Joseph was slow to share these experiences was because of the culture.  There were many people proclaiming visions, but that they may have been seen as "kooks" and Joseph did not want to be seen as in the same vein as these people.

I've often thought about this.  We are taught that "sacred experiences" are indeed sacred and should usually not be shared with others.  It's the whole "pearls before the swine" idea.  But we, as a Church today, are OK with sharing the First Vision and other visions of the prophet.  We are comfortable with Lehi's and Nephi's vision; with Alma's visitation from an angel; with Enos' experience; with Paul's conversion and on and on and on.  But why are we reluctant to speak of experiences that are happening today - right now?  Why are we taught not to share those experiences?  Would we quickly discount others' spiritual experiences?  Would we react the same way the Methodist minister did when Joseph told him?  Is that why we don't share them?  If that is the case, then it's the lack of faith on the hearer's part, while, perhaps, others who would hear it would be edified.

The Book of Mormon
The traditional story of how the Book of Mormon was translated is Joseph putting on the breastplate and Urim and Thummim, casting his gaze onto the plates and seeing the reformed Egyptian turn into English words.  Furthermore, it would seem that Joseph just knew to "put on" the breastplate and spectacles and begin the translation - but this was not so.  As Bushman states on page 63, "Developing a method took time."

The whole process is not really known.  But we do know that he copied characters; had them sent to scholars to translate and to verify.  There is also this passage from Bushman: "Neither Joseph nor Oliver explained how translation worked, but Joseph did not pretend to look at the 'reformed Egyptian' words, the language on the plates, according to the book's own description.  The plates lay covered on the table, while Joseph's head was in a hat looking at the seerstone which by this time had replaced the interpreters.  The varying explanations of the perplexing process fall roughly into two categories: composition and transcription.  The first holds that Joseph was the author of the book.  He composed it out of knowledge and imaginings collected in his own mind, perhaps aided by inspiration.  He had stuffed his head with ideas for sermons, Christian doctrine, biblical language, multiple characters, stories of adventure, social criticism, theories of Indian origins, ideas about Mesoamerican civilization, and many other matters.  During translation, he composed it all into a narrative dictated over the space of three months in Harmony and Fayette."

Bushman describes the 'composition' method, but I'm not going to quote that here.  I will quote what he wrote about 'transcription.'

"The transcription theory has Joseph Smith 'seeing' the Book of Mormon text in the seerstone or the Urim and Thummim.  He saw the words in the stone as he had seen lost objects or treasure and dictated them to his secretary.  The eyewitnesses who described translation, Joseph Knight, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, who was in the house during the last weeks of translation, understood translation as transcription.  Referring to the seerstone as a Urim and Thummim, Knight said: 'Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkned his Eyes then he would take a sentance and it would apper in Brite Roman Letters.  Then he would tell the writer and he would write it.  Then that would go away the next sentance would Come and so on.'"

"Joseph himself said almost nothing about his method but implied transcription when he said that 'the Lord had prepared spectacles for to read the Book.'  Close scrutiny of the original manuscript (by a believing scholar) seems to support transcription.  Judging from the way Cowdery wrote down the words, Joseph saw twenty to thirty words at a time, dictated them, and then waited for the next twenty to appear.  Difficult names (Zenoch, Amalickiah) were spelled out.  By any measure, transcription was a miraculous process, calling for a huge leap of faith to believe, yet, paradoxically, it is more in harmony with the young Joseph of the historical record than is composition.  Transcription theory gives us a Joseph with a miraculous gift that evolved naturally out of his earlier treasure-seeking.  The boy who gazed into stones and saw treasure grew up to become a translator who looked into a stone and saw words."

A word about the seerstone (or seer stone as found on  The image of Joseph putting his head into his hat to see his seerstone is not a common image in the Church.  I've never even seen an image of Joseph using the Urim & Thummim and breastplate.  Rather, the image that does come to mind is Joseph gazing on the plates (sans seerstone or U&T) while Oliver sits across the table writing.  But the fact that a stone Joseph found in 1822 was being used in the translation of the Book of Mormon is an interesting one.  Bushman talks about this in his book - the theory is that Joseph learned of the Gospel in the context of the treasure and magic culture that existed at that time.

Comparing my childhood/teenage view of the translation of the Book of Mormon with this new (to me), more accurate description of the translation is interesting. In my mind, the two views are vastly different.  My childhood view is simple and very clean.  The reality view is more enticing.  But my fundamental question is this: why, as a child, did I have to be taught the clean version of the story?  If anything, it would have been far easier to believe as a child, the story of Joseph finding a stone while digging a well and then using that stone to translate the Book of Mormon.  Perhaps the "clean" version is told so as not to distract the learner with the idea that there are seerstones just laying around the earth - rather the focus should be on the work of God.  That's just a thought.  But to finish that thought - why would the Church jump to that conclusion?  Is it because others found a seerstone too?  And to prevent others from from finding a using a seerstone (a true one or a false one)?  I don't know.  But the fact remains - the version I was taught was not the whole truth and this is not an isolated example - it's a pattern.

Kirtland Temple Dedication
D&C 110 is an important section in the scriptures and Church History.  As a seminary student, I was taught (or at least I viewed it as being taught) that during the dedication of the Kirtland temple, Joseph and Oliver saw Jesus Christ "standing on the breast work of the pulpit before them, and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber: his eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was like the pure snow, his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun, and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the Voice of Jehovah, saying I am the first and the last, I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain. I am your Advocate with the Father."  They also saw Moses, Elias and Elijah, who in turn delivered keys to Joseph and Oliver.  In my mind, I saw them stepping behind a veil, while the rest of the congregation waited for them. After being visited, they return to the congregation to tell them the marvelous experience ... but they don't.

Bushman informs us the "vision was not included in editions of the Doctrine and Covenants published during Joseph's lifetime, and no manuscript copies exist save Warren Cowdery's and the one Willard Richards copied into Joseph's history for the Church newspaper in 1843.  Joseph never mentioned the event in his other writings.  There is no evidence he told the Kirtland Saints."

"The episode behind the veil is mysteriously suspended at the end of the diary without comment or explanation, as if Joseph was stilled by the event."  Bushman goes on to say that the formal revelations the Saints were used to receiving from Joseph seem to stop and that he was receiving "incommunicable revelations" the Saints "could not bear."

This was something new to me.  Again, I viewed this revelation of Joseph and Oliver seeing Christ in the Kirtland temple as something grand - a bulwark of doctrine for the Saints.  But they never knew this vision happened until seven years later.  In fact, the sole purpose of building the temple was so that the Saints could receive their endowment - to see and know Christ personally.  Meetings occurred in the temple from January to April - many outpourings of the Spirit occurred, but not as many saw the face of God as was hoped.  Bushman writes, "Not many saw the face of God or the Savior, but enough had been given to say that the endowment was now theirs.  As one brother wrote later, 'Some brethren expressed themselves as being disappointed at not receiving more and greater manifestations of the power of God, but for our part, we had found the pearl of great price, and our soul was happy and contented, and we rejoiced in the Lord.'  Joseph told the quorums 'that I had now completed the organization of the church and we had passed through all the necessary ceremonies, that I had given them all the instruction they needed.'  Now they needed to 'build up the kingdom of God." (pp. 318-19).  And then, when Joseph and Oliver thought the endowment was essentially over, they see the greatest of all the visions - Jesus Christ ... and then they don't say a word.  Maybe, as Bushman alludes, more was revealed than the Saints were ready for and this is why they didn't say anything at the time.

I don't have anything specific to say about Zion.  I've always held the same belief and opinion about Zion and the book just reaffirmed my opinion.  Namely - that the Saints kept having to give up on it over and over again.  Almost from the start of the church, they had a dream of Zion.  And whenever they tried to establish it, they failed.  All the knowledge that was given to the Saints has stayed with us.  But perhaps the single most important thing to them was establishing Zion - and that was the one thing they could not get and keep.  Now, Zion is not so much a central place for the Saints to live in, rather it's a watered-down Region-Stake-Ward concept.  It's palatable, but not necessarily satisfying.

Word of Wisdom
Just some minor observations abot the WoW as I read the book.

The WoW was given in February 1833.  I've always been taught that the WoW at the time it was give was just that - a word for the wise, but not necessarily a commandment.  It was later codified by the Saints living in Utah, along with the interpretations of what "hot drinks" meant.

In first few months of 1838, Oliver was accused of "various infractions of the Word of Wisdom ... Cowdery admitted to drinking tea three times a day for his health, and the Whitmers contended tea and coffee were not covered by the revelation."  It would seem the WoW had some force back then.

Another passage from when Joseph was in Nauvoo: "Through the late fall and winter of 1843 and 1844, Joseph and Emma's relationship broke down only once.  During Sunday dinner on November 5, Joseph became ill, rushed to the door, and vomited so violently that he dislocated his jaw.  'Every symptom of poison,' Richards noted in Joseph's diary.  That night at the prayer meeting, Richards wrote in code that Joseph and Emma did not dress in the usual special clothing, a sign they were too much at odds to participate.  The next day, Richards wrote that Joseph was 'busy with domestic concerns.'  Years later, in the anti-Emma atmosphere of Utah, Brigham Young spoke of a meeting where Joseph accused his wife of slipping poison into his coffee.  Brigham interpreted Emma's refusal to answer as an admission of guilt."  Bushman later goes on to say the accusation was "unfounded" and that Joseph was prone to violent vomiting and that he had dislocated his jaw before.  But in all this, what caught my attention was Joseph drinking coffee in 1843.

At time of his leg operation, he would not drink a strong drink.  But later, there were numerous times when he drank wine.  In fact, during the Nauvoo chapters of the book, I was surprised at how many parties and social dinners they had at the mansion.  Wine seemed to be served often at these parties.  Perhaps there was a fundamental difference, in peoples' minds, between strong drink and mere wine.

This seems like such a burned-over topic in Church History.  But the key thing that I learned from Bushman's book was that the original teaching of "Celestial" marriage was marrying multiple "spiritual" wives and that in order to obtain the highest kingdom, a man must enter into this new and everlasting covenant.  This teaching has since shifted from polygamy to mean one man marrying one woman in the temple for time and eternity.

Other things to note on this topic ... Bushman alludes that this doctrine began around the time of the dedication of the Kirtland temple.  It was never openly taught.  This doctrine was always taught in secret.  Joseph denied it publicly.  Emma hated the doctrine and the thought of polygamy - Joseph was stuck between eternal damnation (for not practicing it) and his wrathful wife (who he loved dearly).

I see the practicality of most doctrines.  But I don't see it for polygamy.  Yeah, there's Jacob 2, but I don't think there was a great need to "raise seed" back in 1836-88.  Maybe it was for the point of "restoring all things", but if that was the case, wouldn't it have been sufficient to introduce it; perform it once and call it good until it was actually needed?

King Follet Discourse
Every missionary wanted a copy of the King Follett Sermon.  When I worked in the copy center at the MTC my freshman year at BYU, we had copies of it on standby to sell to missionaries.  I don't know if my memory is accurate or not, but I seem to remember we could not sell copies of the sermon anymore at one point.

As Bushman notes, it was the doctrine of polygamy and multiple gods that essentially got Joseph killed.  It was just too much for people in that day.  But the feeling I got from reading Bushman was that this was major, major doctrine for the 20,000 Saints assembled on April 7, 1844.  But to this day, the sermon remains absent from the D&C.

One of his last quotes
About a week after the King Follett discourse, Joseph gave his final public sermon on June 16, 1844.  From Bushman's book: "Joseph new his leaps would terrify less intrepid souls.  'I despise the idea of be scared to death,' he said upon completing his proof of God the Father having a father.  'When things that are great are passed over with[ou]t. even a thot I want to see all in all its bearings & hug it to my bosom.'  Then came a sentence that captured his spirit perfectly: 'I never hear[d] of a man being d[amne]d for bel[ievin]g too much but they are d[amne]d for unbel[ief].'  A few minutes later he stopped talking.  The sky was pouring rain."

And that seems to sum it up - Joseph brought a lot of ideas into the world.  The final few ideas cost him his life, but the fact remains that we have those ideas because of Joseph's desire to believe and gain knowledge from God.

Final Thoughts
Rough Stone Rolling is a fantastic book.  For someone who was raised in the Chruch and was taught all the wonderful things about Joseph Smith and Church History and never taught a thing about the "dark secrets" of the Church, reading this book was a bit like reading the journal of someone you look up to ... and when you read it, you realize they really aren't the person you perceived them to be.  You realize they are human - just like you - they have faults, sins and short-comings.  There is a bit of a let-down.  But then you realize no one is perfect except Christ.

If anything, you should feel confident that if the Lord approves of and loves Joseph, then he also loves us!  Joseph and the church were in debt.  They broke the law of the land.  They didn't always keep the commandments.  They were forced to make tough Adam/Eve/Fruit and Nephi/Laban/Thou-shalt-not-kill choices.  When all was said and done, Joseph just wanted to do what the Lord wanted him to do.  And if we can say that all we did was what the Lord wanted us to do, then despite all our faults and short-comings, we can feel confident in the Lord's love and approval for us.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Quote on Temptation

I came across the C.S. Lewis quote on temptation years ago.  In yesterday's Elder's Quorum lesson, I heard the quote again.  This time it came from Elder Tad Callister's book The Infinite Atonement.

Here's the quote:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.  A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means - the only complete realist.

Friday, May 04, 2012

"Like" Stats on Apostles' Talks April 2012

from most facebook 'likes' to least:
6500+ holland: the laborers in the vineyard
5400+ uchtdorf: merciful obtain mercy
2200+ eyring: mountains to climb
1400+ scott: how to obtain revelation
951 monson: race of life
796 anderson: what thinks christ of me
683 packer: little child shall lead them
610 oaks: sacrifice
572 ballard: that the lost may be found
363 nelson: thanks be to god
264 bednar: powers of heaven (priesthood session)
239 christofferson: doctrine of christ
231 monson: as we gather once again
214 eyring: families under covenant (priesthood session)
191 hales: coming to ourselves
176 monson: willing and worthy to serve (priesthood session)
148 cook: in tune with the music of faith
147 uchtdorf: why priesthood service (priesthood session)
122 perry: power of deliverance
79 monson: as we close

elder holland having the most likes is no surprise.  his talks are regularly amazing and inspiring.  after you watch his talk, you feel uplifted.  as you read his talks, you really have something to think about and chew on.

president uchtdorf's talk on mercy is interesting.  he's fairly "popular" and liked overall.  my parents, when they were serving in prague, had the chance to listen to him and work with him.  they've always raved about him.  does the mercy topic strike a chord with members?  are we really looking for mercy and forgiveness from others?  are others judging us to harshly?  the beginning of his talks seems to indicate this is a big problem among the members.  and thinking about this a bit more, holland's talk seems to hit on the same subject as uchtdorf's talk - just in a different light.

president eyring's talk was about overcoming adversity ... i can see why this talk is popular.  and the same goes for elder scott's talk on revelation.  in fact, that was the talk i was reading and listening to again and as i was reading it, i noticed how much i liked it.  then i noted how many others 'liked'; and that prompted me to make the comparison.

anyway, it's an interesting view into general conference.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

"Like" Stats on Apostles' Talks October 2011

following up from the previous post; here are the stats from october 2011
6700+ uchtdorf: you matter to him
3500+ scott: power of scripture
3200+ packer: counsel to youth
2800+ ballard: importance of a name
2400+ monson: stand in holy places
2200+ hales: waiting upon the lord ...
2100+ anderson: children
2000+ monson: dare to stand alone (priesthood)
1800+ holland: we are all enlisted (priesthood)
1200+ oaks: teachings of jesus
1000+ cook: the songs they could not sing
974 christofferson: divine gift of repentance
763 perry: perfect love ...
733 bednar: hearts of children ...
673 eyring: a witness
474 uchtdorf: providing in the lord's way (priesthood)
418 monson: as we meet again
382 nelson: covenants
214 eyring: preparation in the priesthood (priesthood)
172 monson: until we meet again

i'll have to revisit the april 2012 stats in about five months to see how they've changed.  i noticed that there are, overall, a lot more likes in the october 2011 general conference.

again, president uchtdorf is very popular.  scott is also up high on the list as well.