Song of the Week: God
Song of the Week: The Promise

Packer’s New Commandment: Any Takers?

In the October 2006 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk in which he said it was incumbent upon members of the church to “willingly defend the history of the church.”  See here.

In the version he gave at General Conference, he also said that “[w]e need not apologize for the church or its history.” There is no statement on the official church web site as to why that remark was edited out of the printed version. Is it an implicit retraction? Who knows. Either way, faithful Mormons now have a new commandment from a man they sustain as a “prophet, seer, and revelator.”

Recently, a fellow calling himself “john f.” posted this comment on a popular Bloggernacle site: “Re George who wrote about the shock of learning that the church’s history is not the pretty picture that was presented to me, it’s probably worth noting for the benefit of posterity and google searchers, if for nothing else, that many Latter-day Saints believe that the church’s history is not not the pretty picture that was presented to [us]. To the contrary, it is a very beautiful picture indeed.”

So it is not just overzealous octogenarians who fail to see problems with church history. Young, Internet-savvy members of the church appear willing to take up the charge set forth by President Packer and defend what they see as a “very beautiful picture.” So, I extend here an open invitation to Latter-day Saints everywhere to use this post to do your duty and follow your file leader. I offer the following topics from church history for you to defend church history as you have been commanded to do (it is not clear whether or not you are also supposed to avoid apologizing for any of these things):

        1. The Mountain Meadows Massacre.

2. Destruction of Nauvoo Expositor

3. Joseph Smith’s Polyandry (marrying a woman already married to another man).

4. Polygamy with teen girls.

5. The Danites.

6. Blood atonement.

7. Post-manifesto polygamy

8. Treasure digging

9. Kirtland Bank fraud

10. Kinderhook Plates fraud

11. Multiple First-Vision Accounts

12. Falsification of Church History

13. The Book of Abraham Fraud

14. Racist statements of past leaders

Well, that’s a fair start. What think ye, my faithful Mormon readers? Is President Packer correct that you have nothing to apologize for? Are you willing to take up the cause and willingly defend the 14 issues cited above? And if you don’t defend the church history, are you sustaining the Brethren? These are not rhetorical questions. I’d really like to know.

Comments

Kirk

I have come to think of the Church's history as rather comforting. Once you stop insisting that the Church is THE TRUEST THING EVER and GOD'S #1 CHURCH ON THE PLANET AND PROBABLY THE WHOLE UNIVERSE, the history becomes rich and dark and twisted and sad and beautiful. If it was just like the children's story we were given in primary that would seem weird to me. Secret police? Masacre's? A horny prophet who ran a bar? AWESOME.

Once the hurt wears off from having been deceived, I don't see any reason to hold the Church's history against them.

I also can't imagine that E. Packer's new commandment won't cause more people to do some reading and discover what really went on in their history.

Equality

Kirk,

For some reason, yoru abbreviation of "E. Packer" makes me think of the name of a dangerous bacterium.

Anyway, I agree that the church's history is rich and dark and twisted and sdad and beautiful (speaking as an historian). I first became interested in Mormonism in college when I was studying American history. But I don't know that it's something I would want to defend. DO you think E. Packer would qualify his remarks about church history with your proviso?

Sister Mary Lisa

Dangerous bacterium!!! I so should not have taken that sip of my water just before reading that!! Sheesh, where's a paper towel, for goodness' sake?

I like how you pose this as an honest question. I'd really like to know too.

Kirk

No. I think the Church leaders don't want anyone looking in the dark corners. In fact I think E. Packeri probably said this so when people do hear challenging history they feel they must "defend" the church.

It is a funny situation. I think the commandment will do more to polarize the church. Those who are TBMs will dig deeper into their trenches and those who read the history and find out "the secrets" (I don't know who I am quoting there) are going to feel that much more offended that a prophet asked them to defend such weird crap.

So, to the mormon who has discovered the darker colors in the crayon box of church history: Cheer up! We might have had a Mountain Meadows massacre but at least we never had a Spanish Inquisition! Because you know... (wait for it...)

Nobody expects a Spanish Inquisition.

Oh man. I just accidentally came out of the nerd-closet on your blog.

Equality

Kirk,

I've read your posts at the cultural hall--you were already out of the closet, my friend. :-)

I do think you raise an interesting point. If the only way to defend the church history is to divorce it from the idea that the church is the "one true" end-all be-all spiritual monopoly, then doesn't the church history prove the church "false"? (or, at the very least, one could say that church history is not the apologetic weapon of choice in trying to make exclusivist claims to divine approbation).

Jordan F.

Perhaps by "defending the history of the Church" Elder Packer means that we are to promote the faith-building aspects of Church history (of which there are many).

Even for some of the issues you mention above, there are faith-promoting aspects to be found. For example, I find very inspiring the idea that the Lord can still work with people when they mess things up, misunderstand, or misapply His will. I also find enlightening the process of achieving different levels of understanding and insight into heavenly communication, as with Joseph Smith's various versions of the First Vision as he grew and progressed in knowledge and understanding of what happened to him.

Also, omnipresent in the issues you raise is the issue regarding how complicit the "Church" as "THE CHURCH" was in orchestrating the events, versus the wiles and ambitions of certain men in parallel church and secular positions (such as John D. Lee, for example).

C'mon. Admit that there is something special in the Church. I feel it in my bones each time I teach Gospel Doctrine or speak in church- and I can't believe that what I feel is simply a Pavlovian response.

But back to the point- I do not believe that Elder Packer's call was for us to waste time trying to resolve most of the issues you raised above. Rather, our calling is to defend and promote the more glorious aspects in the history of the Restoration and to dwell on those rather than certain accompanying controversies. The controversies are indeed interesting. Indeed, you know I always get a kick out of hearing/reading about them in a sort of "well, isn't that interesting?" or "ew, gross" way.

Perhaps an analogy can be made to the news. We church members are like a reporting service. We have been asked ("commanded" seems to go too far, in my opinion) to focus on the news that is uplifting, like news of people helping in the community, etc., rather than focusing on the nasty news, like news that focuses on crime and all the sorts of things that tend to get ratings.

I think the inspiring events and people in the history of the "restoration" of the Church are plentiful enough to make it easy to comply with Elder Packer's request to "willingly defend the history of the Church" by focusing on those wonderful events.

As for the controversial things you mentioned above- they make interesting history and character studies, but I believe that history is murky enough to allow positive inferences to be drawn even from the alleged facts forming the foundation of the events you allege above. To the extent that positive inferences cannot possibly be drawn from such facts, I believe there is enough "slip room" in the weakness that is man's agency to allow for some poor decisions, even on the part of those sustained as "prophets, seers, and revelators".

Elder Packer's "commandment" is nothing more than a heartfelt request for Church members to use historical fact, allegations, and innuendo to draw the most charitable inferences and conclusions possible and promote those in public speaking and teaching. I understand his words as a pleading with Church members not to trade in their testimonies of the "restored gospel" for a shelf full of books and a head full of interesting trivia. That was how I understood it.

Of course, I probably understood Elder Packer's counsel in the most charitable and faith-promoting way... ;) Just my two cents.

Equality

Sounds like you are reading E. Packer's words metaphorically rather then literally, Jordan F. I'm proud of you. ;-)

You are very articulate. You should be a lawyer. Let me just address your aside of "C'mon. Admit that there is something special in the Church. I feel it in my bones each time I teach Gospel Doctrine or speak in church- and I can't believe that what I feel is simply a Pavlovian response."

I will say that you and I have different emotional reactions on Sunday morning. Perhaps it is simply due to localized differences in where we attend church. I do think, though, that there may be something in the cognitive space between a Pavlovian response and inspiration from deity.

Mark G.

word.

Mark G.

Equality after actually reading your whole post I just want to say that you raise a very very interesting question to members of the church

and also, that's a great compilation of links of fourteen issues in Church History. Nice job! This is a must-read for all TBMs.

I personally think that E. Packeri (thanks again, Kirk) may have opened up a can of his own bacterium that he may not have wanted to open.

The whole New Mormon History "thing" is going to be so interesting to watch unravel over the next 5-10 years with influential things such as: statements from church leaders almost provoking members to finally study their own history; the internet, youtube and other resources which open the world of Mormonism to inquiring minds.

Thanks again, Equality.

Randy

IIRC, Jordan F. is a lawyer, and in Texas, too. That's why he talks so dang slick.

I have no quarrel with Jordan's choice to emphasize the faith-promoting portions of Mormon history, so long as he acknowledges the entirety of Mormon history, warts and all. Heck, we all make our own individual conclusions and choices from the facts before us. My quarrel is with Packer and the correlated, sanitized version of Mormon history that simply omits, ignores, or denies those parts of church history that don't correlate well. THAT is what Packer wants the membership to study, not the New Mormon History put out by Arrington, Quinn, et al., or books like the Ostlings' "Mormon America." As I've said before, Joseph Smith is a much more interesting person than the Church allows him to be, but also a more flawed, less pious one.

DV

If Jordan is a lawyer, which I highly doubt, then he would have no problem seeing an issue with Joseph Smith's varying accounts of the first vision. The issue is one of credibility.

How can people believe a story about a 14-year old boy who claims to have seen God and Jesus face-to-face, if there are contradictory versions of that account? Are we to believe that he forgot the details of such a transcendent experience? Are we to assume it took eighteen years for the modern accepted version to appear because Joseph was growing and progressing in knowledge? How does it promote my faith to learn that through oversight, there was no written version of the First Vision until 1838?

I am shocked and amazed that rational minds would find a story that is distorted beyond belief to be "faith-promoting" in some way. Joseph's own versions have him seeing an angel, seeing the Lord, seeing legions of angels, but the version we teach now is the one that was recorded eighteen years after the fact by someone else, not even Joseph Smith.

Unbelievable.

Jordan F.

1. I never said there was no credibility issue. I still believe there is another way to view these varying accounts. One way is to attack credibility, and that is perfectly reasonable and sound. If Joseph Smith were on trial, these different versions would probably be brought up on cross-examination to effectively attack his credibility. Then Joseph's counsel would attempt to rehabilitate by asking lines of questions geared towards establishing some other reason for the discrepancies other than that the foundational event must have been made up. However, the final decision for evaluating that credibility would rest in the fact-finders- the jury. This "juror" finds other explanations for the discrepancies besides outright lies.

2. I am, in fact, a lawyer. May be sad, but true. I may also say that I do not believe that being a lawyer gives me any "special insight" into life or somehow gives me additional accountability for believing things that you find unbelievable. I can, however, certainly understand WHY you would find those things unbelievable. I am not trying to convince you that I am right or that you are wrong- I was merely voicing an opinion as an overall faithful Latter-day Saint (whose faith is often in a state of flux about certain things) regarding what Elder Packer's counsel meant to me.

On a side note- Equality and I often have these talks on topics like this, both here and elsewhere, and are able to do so without it devolving into incredulous "shocked and amazed" language. But Equality is a special sort of guy.

Equality

As Rodney King once famously said, "can't we all just get along?" I will admit to employing the rhetorical devices of hyperbole and irony and mock indignation from time to time in online communications. I think it a rather common occurrence generally and I think the reason people sometimes comment in that manner on blogs and discussion boards is that the nonvisual communication medium makes it difficult to express emotions and nuance of speech. Without facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, and variations in vocal intonations it is hard to get across the message that the writer wants to convey.

On the substantive issue that DV raises and Jordan addresses regarding the First Vision, I think I agree with Jordan that the differing accounts do not necessarily mean that no rational person could accpet the story as basically true. People often change details (and sometimes contradict themselves) in retelling stories about things that happened to them, even very exciting things where you might expect them to remember with exacting detail. So, I don't think that just because there are conflicting details in the various First Vision accounts you can conclude that Joseph Smith was lying or making the whole thing up.

However, after looking not just at the differing versions, but also other historical facts, I think it is reasonable for people to doubt the veracity of the 1838 account. And I think it disingenuous and misleading for the church to act as though that is the only account and the only way the story can "officially" be told.

Although I agree with Jordan in principle that a witness's divergent stories about a given event are not necessarily fatal to the witness's credibility, I do think that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to be accepted.

More problematic in my mind than the differing details of the various versions of the story is the lack of supporting historical evidence. For example, no one in his family mentioned the First Vision in their accounts of the rise of the church and Joseph's prophetic calling--the earliest versions of Mormon history written by Joseph's mother makes no mention of the First Vision. There is no reliable evidence for a revival in 1820 in the Palmyra area. The early leaders of the church did not emphasize the First Vision. As DV mentions, the official account wasn't produced until 1838 (the first known account was told in 1832--12 years after the fact!) And more. When taken all together, I think there are other more creditable explanations for the developent of the First Vision accounts than the official one promulgated by the church.

I would also argue that in looking at Joseph Smith's credibility with respect to the First Vision, we should not look at the various accounts in isolation but rather should examine his whole life to see if there are other things that might be relevant to an assessment of his credibility generally. That particular analysis is probably too much to cover in a comment. Suffice it to say that people come to different conclusions on that front. I happen to think the evidence favors a conclusion that, generally, Joseph Smith lacks credibility. And so, I reject a literalist acceptance of the official First Vision account.

john f.

Your post is funny. The things you list happened in one way or another and different inferences can be drawn from what we can possibly know about the occurences. It is fair, I suppose, to do as you have done and infer from the selectively chosen items in your list that the Church is not true. But that is not the necessary conclusion that result from knowing about these things.

Equality, I find you very disingenuous. Your post is a deliberate provocation and then you quip about "all just getting along." From what I have observed, ever since you have decided to change your conclusions about the truth of the Church, the last thing that you want is to "get along" with faithful Latter-day Saints. And I have read A LOT that you have written since then. That is fine -- you don't have to want to get along with anyone. I just don't understand why you put up this facade or pretext of good faith. Your conclusion is that the Church is false; you believe that anyone who continues to hold to their faith in the Restored Gospel is an idiot, particularly because they have not drawn the same inferences that you have chosen to do, or rather, followed the inferences of certain historians treating the historical record, as you have chosen to do; and you actively seek to bring down the Church and draw faithful members away in what you claim is a work of enlightenment but is really just ridicule and arrogance.

john f.

And, yes, I welcome Elder Packer's challenge to defend the faith against people like you. I do not retract the statement I made that you quoted that our history is beautiful indeed.

And I am not a fellow calling myself "john f."; that is really my name. Not sure what the reason for that interesting construction was.

Jordan F.

John- I have actually found the opposite to be true in Equality. But that may be because I have more contact. I certainly don't feel like he thinks I am an idiot.

john f.

Jordan, I am sure that he does. Just read his material and then step back, realize you still believe the things he thinks are utter rubbish and outright deception, and put two and two together. There is no way he can possibly respect you, your intellect, or your choices based on what he has written under his pseudonym.

john f.

For the record, I think that Equality can understand the meaning of Elder Packer's statement as well as any faithful Latter-day Saint. None of us faithful Latter-day Saints have to apologize for believing the Church is true despite anything that anti-Mormons such as yourself will try to use to portray the Church in a sinister light. It is not a claim that all the characters on the stage of Church history, whether early history or late, were perfect or without sin. But not everyone has to draw the most negative inferences possible about those characters as you and your friends around here and in the DAMU choose to do. To the contrary, we can still believe and find the history rich and beautiful, as Kirk alluded to, but without having to abdicate, as Kirk has apparently done, a belief in the necessity of ordinances performed by the proper priesthood authority which is the essence of any statement that this is the "true Church," as you very well know.

john f.

In response to Jordan, Equality wrote
I will say that you and I have different emotional reactions on Sunday morning. Perhaps it is simply due to localized differences in where we attend church. I do think, though, that there may be something in the cognitive space between a Pavlovian response and inspiration from deity.

What the?

john f.

What an elaborate game! Now who is being deceptive?

john f.

Equality wrote There is no reliable evidence for a revival in 1820 in the Palmyra area.

I'm surprised to see you dredging this up. At least two recent articles have treated this supposed conclusion and dispelled the idea that there was no revival going on in Palmyra in 1820. None other than Quinn has recently put the nail in the coffin of that theory of anti-Mormons. Why do you use it as a supporting premise? Maybe DV should be questioning your prowess as a lawyer rather than Jordan's?

Trevor

When it comes to the issue of the First Vision, it is important to remember that the experience did not always have the same significance to the Mormon community as it does now. It is for this reason that Joseph Smith's contemporaries did not discuss it. Do we know that they even knew about it? I find it quite possible that, in keeping with the differences in the accounts themselves, Joseph's approach to the experience changed over time.

If I recall, it wasn't until some decades after Joseph's death that the Church started to place a lot of emphasis on the First Vision. It used to be that the BoM was the big miracle that everyone focused on.

Equality

Members of the LDS Church sometimes assert that those who are disaffected with the church are bitter or angry. I think the comments made here illustrate that invective and vitriol are sometimes launched from the other direction.

I'm not sure what I have done specifically to push your buttons, john f., but I do think that folks with differing opinions, who draw different "inferences" as you say from the same set of facts about the church, can agree to disagree agreeably.

I really don't have any personal beef with you and I don't think you are an idiot. I was a true-believing Mormon for the better part of two decades. I consider myself to have been an intelligent person the whole time and I don't think my intelligence level has been altered simply because I have a changed perspective on the church's history, doctrine, and practices. I acknowledge that there are many smart people who are religious generally and many smart and educated people who are faithful Latter-day Saints. And I've never said anything on this blog or elsewhere to the contrary (I notice you did not quote any examples to support your assertions that I think anyone who believes in Mormonism is an idiot). You have inferred that which I never implied, and I am not sure why you think that because I disagree with the conclusions you have reached about the church I necessarily think you are an idiot. Perhaps you are engaging in some psuchological projection. Do YOU think that people who disagree with you are idiots?

Some of your other comments show that your irony-detection unit is malfunctioning. You might want to have it inspected.

As for the 1820 revival issue, I was unaware of recent historical research conclusively proving that a revival of the type described in the 1838 account occurred in 1820. I should be grateful to you if you could provide a link to the Quinn research you mention. As for its importance to the overall evaluation of Joseph's credibility, I will say that it is one minor component of the larger evaluative framework. I don't think it will tilt my conclusion one way or the other.

I await your defense of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and subsequent church cover-up, as well as your defense of the other items on the list. Thank you for your comments.

Peace, bro.

Jordan,

Thank you for your kind remarks. As you know, I do respect you and value your friendship.

john f.

Then why should I provide a link?

Anyway, you do a great job of turning everything back on someone with a differing view. It remains a fact that your post was a full frontal assault on me and on a person I consider to be an Apostle of God. And then you say "can't we all just get along"? Don't you think it's natural and appropriate for me to call you on your disingenuous behavior in that regard?

As for bitterness, anger, and hatred, you are correct that ex and anti-Mormons have a corner on those. And you are also right that the anti-Mormon hate can and does legitimately anger, sadden, or dismay faithful Latter-day Saints.

I await your defense of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and subsequent church cover-up, as well as your defense of the other items on the list.

See, this is ludicrous and fully demonstrates that you are devoid of a good-faith argument or discussion about someone choosing to believe in the truth of the Church. Now you want me to be an apologist. But don't you normally denigrate apologists? Don't you normally take the position that apologetics is an invalid pursuit per se, overlooking the fact, of course, that you are an apologist for the positions you have chosen to take?

"John, now defend the MMM." Okay, E., I'll defend the MMM. Yeah right. I think the reader here (if there are any who are not anti-Mormons) can see what you are doing, E. Who is ever going to defend the MMM? And you know better than most, surely, that there is nothing conclusive in the "historical record" that the Church was involved in it; indeed, it seems to indicate that there was not any endorsement of that kind of thing by Brigham Young. Also, numerous books have been written on the subject, and yet the show you are putting on for your readers, whom you wish to convince that the Church is false, bad, and/or lying, is that if I don't make some kind of apologetic defense for MMM in a blog comment, then I simply can't hold my own against your arguments against the Church. There might be some readers to whom this might be persuasive, but my guess is that if the majority of them were aware that there are numerous books, by both anti-Mormons and neutral to faithful historians, then they would understand that a blog comment is not a likely place to be able to mount an apologetic defense showing that the MMM, while a tragedy, really can't say much if anything about the veracity of the doctrines and priesthood authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Trevor

I wanted to clarify something I wrote in my earlier comment. I meant to say that his contemporaries during the early years--before the first written account of the FV--may not have known about the FV, or at least did not place the kind of sweeping significance on it that it later acquired.

Lunar Quaker

john f. said: What the?

He means that spiritual experiences need not be either inspired from deity or a Pavlovian response. They could be an altered state of consciousness, or a deliberately-induced psychosis. Whatever their origin, humans must still interpret their meaning.

In Mormonism, we are taught that spiritual feelings are evidence for truth. By taking this stance, Mormons by definition abandon reason as a means of discerning the truth of their religion.

I no longer accept feelings of the heart as evidences for truth, because in my personal experience I have found that this method is unreliable. The faith experiment in Alma 32 is not really an experiment at all, since no conclusions can be drawn, other than the fact that one can feel deep spiritual feelings by pondering scripture. Mormons must make the logical leap that feelings should be interpreted as evidences for truth.

What happens when the truths you discover through your feelings contradict hard facts? The difference between TBMs and non-TBMs is that TBMs resolve the contradiction by questioning the facts, or the sources from which the facts were obtained. Non-TBMs have drawn the conclusion that given the facts, the feelings that they had must not have been valid evidences for truth.

So to me it's not a question of intelligence, but rather a question of faith vs. reason. I also believe that in order to have faith, you need to have uncertainty, or as the Bible and the Book of Mormon put it, things that are "not seen" (Alma 32, Hebrews 11). For example, I have already "seen" that the Book of Mormon is not a historical record, so I can't continue to have faith that it is.

DV

This topic is a valid one Equality, as a number of so-called TBMs have entered the fray, and have yet to provide conclusive evidence for any of the fourteen topics you raised. It appears that John F's only purpose was to attack you, on the basis that you are disingenuous, an anti-mormon, believe all mormons to be idiots, and are a poor lawyer.

John, I don't know what rock you crawled out from, but your approach to complex mormon issues is infantile and FAIR-esque. Name calling accomplished nothing. Who is being disingenuous here? Your diatribe questioning Equality's prowess could equally be directed toward yourself. Many of us logon to Equality time to discuss the confused messiness of the gospel. We have sincere questions that get answered in church or by family members with "contention is of the devil." We are able to visit Equality Time and vent some cynical and bitter comments, that we could not spew to our wives or in church. If you visit, please make a substantive contribution to the discussion that consists of anything topical, rather than resorting to a juvenile name calling approach. Please. . .these topics are important, and TBMs should be allowed to discuss them honestly. Your accusation that Equality is trying to bring down the entire church is ludicrous. Its a behemoth, no one person can "bring it down." Equality is simply trying to reconcile issues that have been open for many, many years that most members don't even know about. Most members don't have the foggiest knowledge of Blood Atonement, the Kirtland Bank fraud, or the Book of Abraham fraud. Some TBMs do have an in-depth knowledge of these issues, and Equality is merely seeking out the erudite and scholarly TBMs, not the ones who come in and launch personal attacks. Calm down John. Everything will be ok, my friend.

john f.

LQ, when I said "what the?" to E, I was referring to this, actually:

I will say that you and I have different emotional reactions on Sunday morning. Perhaps it is simply due to localized differences in where we attend church.

I'm honestly not sure the reason E would feel he has to play that game. E knows what I am talking about.

john f.

DV, how silly. E is not searching out "erudite and scholarly TBMs" (he knows where to find them and the defenses they've already made to the very selective list of items he provides, i.e. FARMS and FAIR); rather, his post was a frontal assault on me and the fact that I stated on a different blog that our history is beautiful. I am within the bounds of appropriate discourse to respond on a personal level to such a personal calling out. You of course can also disagree.

E is not trying to "reconcile" issues, as you put it. It is transparent that E is trying to discredit the Church based on conclusions he has already drawn, leaning for support on the inferences and speculations of writers who share the goal of doing whatever damage to the Church is possible. It is inconceivable that E. is merely trying to "reconcile" such banal episodes as the Kirtland bank failure, curiosities about the Book of Abraham (yes, I am aware that E. is convinced that it is a fraud; that doesn't mean that one has to follow his inferences or ignore, as he does, other facts about the issue that would question his conclusions). Rather, he wants me to defend MMM. Okay, let's turn that around, which E. loves to do so much, and see you, DV, or E., defend the anti-Mormons' assault on the Church in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois: the burnings, lootings, rapings, persecution, beatings, expulsion from homes and forced migration. Oh, that's right. Either it's all a myth or the Mormons deserved it because they were annoying.

-Domokun-

john f. wrote, "a person I consider to be an Apostle of God" - in reference to Boyd Packer.

I think the burden of proof is on you to show that Mssr. Packer is who you claim he is - an apostle of God. What do you have?

john f.

I have no burden of proof. I am not trying to convince you that BKP is an Apostle. I am merely stating my belief. You can believe whatever you want.

Equality

"Then why should I provide a link?"

Because I am always interested in learning new things. Because that particular fact is not outcome-determinative to my analysis of Joseph Smith's credibility, however, it won't change my opinion on the veracity of the 1838 First Vision account. Nonetheless, I'd be interested to know what evidence has been unearthed regarding the alleged 1820 Palmyra revival.

"It remains a fact that your post was a full frontal assault on me and on a person I consider to be an Apostle of God."

I wonder why you consider my challenge a "full frontal assualt" on you and President Packer. I simply took the words he uttered at General Conference and applied them. President Packer said members of the church should "willingly defend the history of the church." He also said (though the church has chosen to censor this comment) that church members have nothing to apologize for with respect to that history. And so I listed a number of historical events that I think are difficult to defend, some of which I believe the church ought to apologize for. And you call this an "assault?" As I said before, I think we can discuss these things and still all get along, so no I don't think it is appropriate for you to characterize my post and subsequent comments as disingenuous.

"As for bitterness, anger, and hatred, you are correct that ex and anti-Mormons have a corner on those."
Uh, when did I say that? Are you quoting someone else's blog? I said "Members of the LDS Church sometimes assert that those who are disaffected with the church are bitter or angry. I think the comments made here illustrate that invective and vitriol are sometimes launched from the other direction." As you can see, I was talking about how some members of the church characterize disaffected members and was making the point that those characteristics are sometimes found coming from the non-disaffected members (in this case, you).

"I think the reader here (if there are any who are not anti-Mormons) "
Actually, I don't know if I have any readers who are so-called "anti-Mormons." Is there a registry or database somewhere that I could consult to find out?

Finally, on my request that you defend the MMM (among other things) I think you have forgotten who has given that charge: it is President Packer who said members are to defend the church's history without apology (so I guess no need to be an apologist after all). And it is you who said you would take up the charge "against people like [me]."

Also, you seem to be conflating two separate ideas in your comments. I haven't said anything about defending "believing in the truth of the church," but rather have targeted specific statements made by President Packer in General Conference regarding the history of the church. One can say that many things in church history are deserving of an apology and are indefensible and still have a belief in the truthfulness of the restored gospel. You seem to be arguing from the position that defending the truthfulness of the church and defending the unqualified goodness of its history are one and the same. I (and I think at least some faithful members) would disagree with that, although it may be an implication of President Packer's charge.

-Domokun-

john f., you have an error in your logic if you think that someone questioning the claims of mormon history is the same as defending violence against anyone, including mormons. You are sick and twisted, bro.

john f.

Thanks man. I'm feeling the love that you implicitly claim to have.

Mayan Elephant

well, i suppose the nastiness would cease immediately if someone believed that equality was an apostle of god, right. i mean, he doesnt really have to be one, the standard is whether somebody somewhere believes he is an apostle.

i, mayan elephant, believe that Elder Equality, is a prophet, seer and blogger in the church of cycling among the greenspace. I sustain him as an apostle in the restored cocatg.

there, that should stop the vitriol in a jiffy.

Elder Equality. I pay on the 'net.'

Equality

"Okay, let's turn that around, which E. loves to do so much, and see you, DV, or E., defend the anti-Mormons' assault on the Church in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois: the burnings, lootings, rapings, persecution, beatings, expulsion from homes and forced migration."

Perhaps if there were an organized group of disaffected Mormons, led by apostles, and at a semi-annual conference of the disaffected Mormons, one of those apostles gave the charge to his followers that they defend unapologetically the history of violence against Mormons, you would have an apt analogy. Do you really not see how absurd your suggestion is, john f.?

Sit down, have a crumpet and a cup of (herbal) tea, old chap, and come back when your blood pressure has come back down a bit.

john f.

What I see that is absurd is you intentionally wresting Elder Packer's words and making them into a command for any LDS who dares actually believe in the truth of the Church to defend MMM. Can't you see how absurd that is?

Equality

Well, I think the words of Elder Packer on this matter are absurd, yes. Perhaps the folks who give final approval on publication of GC addresses thought so as well, since they censored part of his comment. I don't see how I have "wrested" his words.

john f.

You have wrested his words because he never said that members have to defend MMM. Yet, that is how you are construing them here. MMM happened but that doesn't mean that Latter-day Saints have to "apologize" for it to critics like you because it doesn't say anything about the truth of the Church.

Mayan Elephant

john f. you are missing the point. shocker.

if an apostle of god commands you to defend the history of the church, donchya think ya should do it comprehensively, not selectively? and dont you think the church itself should provide you the true history to defend, not a fabrication?

if a prophet tells you to read the book of mormon before the end of the year, donchya think you should read it all, and not just the even pages, or the pages that dont have embarrassing stuff, like that cursed dark skin thing?

in jf's defense. equality, its fairly obvious that packer was just rambling. hell, not even the editor of the ensign believed him enough to repeat that nonsense.

so, maybe we should change the topic to discuss something packer ever said that wasnt rambling nonsense. after all, he is the holy order author? and we all know what a load a junk for the trunk that was.

not personal there jordan. really. its not. just a fun example.

john f.

ME, the Church has not fabricated its history.

john f.

by the way, ME, leave my brother jordan out of this, please.

Equality

Well, respectfully I disagree, John. President Packer did not qualify his remarks. If he had said members should recognize that parts of church history are troubling and even, in some cases, indefensible, and worthy of apology but that in the main the church's history is one of faith, sacrifice, honor, etc., then we would not be having this conversation. But what President Packer has said is that all the church's history is worthy of defense without apology. If you disagree with that notion, say so. But don't blame me for simply repeating what Packer said and then showing how impossibly absurd it is to actually apply his words.

You can disagree with Packer. Really, it's OK. But if you agree with him, then I don't see how you can avoid the implication of his remarks. Which was the point of my original challenge. He's asking you to defend (in some cases) the indefensible. Your problem is with his words, not with me. Don't shoot the messenger.

john f.

I disagree with your interpretation of Elder PAcker's words, although that interpretation is predictable from you.

DV

John, calm down before you suffer a massive coronary. Sheesh. I questioned your motives when you figuratively walked in and took off the gloves and started throwing wild punches. I saw that Equality referenced you in this piece, but he portrayed you fairly, and simply asked for some scholarly defenses to outrageous issues in church history.

And, why would I defend the antics of anti-Mormons in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois? I am a member of the church who is seeking peace in my life. I was born into the church, served faithfully on my mission, and have served faithfully in many leadership callings in the church. My father was baptized by one of the twelve apostles and has also held leadership callings in the church. My wife's great great grandfather settled Nauvoo and her father worked side by side with Spencer W. Kimball while he served as prophet. Why would I even attempt to condone any alleged burnings, looting, rapings, persecution, beatings, and expulsions of mormons??

You apparently are convinced that I am also an anti-mormon. But I am not. I am a questioning mormon. I use my mind to try to discover the answers to issues within my church. I serve faithfully in my ward as I always have, yet I have questions about many serious foundational issues with the church. Isn't the glory of God intelligence? A wise man would not classify his friends as his enemies. I am on your side here, friend, but when you come in and start hurling accusations and insults, it becomes quite apparent that you are not a humble follower of Christ. I would advise you that if you want any traction whatsoever on this blog, or any other religious blog for that matter, to treat people with respect and courtesy. I'll get off my soapbox now. Chill out John, everything will be OK. Heretical points of view have been maintained by B.H. Roberts, Orson Pratt and many other pre-eminent scholarly General Authorities. It is OK to question, and to wonder. If Equality has examined the evidence and made conclusions that the church is not what it claims to be, who are we to fault him? Don't we teach that we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience? Equality is entitled to worship as he sees fit, and we should all grant him that right.

In his book the Articles of Faith, Talmage says "Knowledge, therefore, is essential to worship; man cannot adequately serve God in ignorance." It is with this attitude that I approach the study of true church history. I accept the challenge willingly of discovering the truth, whatever that may be. Some of the truth that I have discovered has been at odds with what I was taught growing up. Does that make me an anti-mormon? Hardly. Please do not ascribe fictitious labels to me when you can't judge the thoughts and intents of my heart. I leave it to God to do that.

Jordan F.

John, I think Equality had a good point about the "localized differences." I knew what he meant, at any rate! But, I can't delve too deeply into that here. Let's just say I got a laugh out of it! :) (at least, out of what I thought it meant!) I chuckled when I saw that.

Equality

"although that interpretation is predictable from you."

See, now, John, that's what I'm talking about. Why you gotta hate a brutha, man?

Sister Mary Lisa

John F., I still don't see where you're defending your words that the church's history " is a very beautiful picture indeed."

I understand that you fully believe the church's history, as edited and changed by the leaders of the church. The church heirarchy only shows the members their edited version ~ they make certain that it's a rosy picture of perfection.

What Equality (and I) would like to know is how you can call it a "very beautiful picture indeed" when you know some or all of the historical issues that he's pointed out here, that the church hides (or fails to publish to its membership).

I understand beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but come on! Help me see ANY beauty in the real history of these instances.

Jordan F.

I would advise you that if you want any traction whatsoever on this blog, or any other religious blog for that matter, to treat people with respect and courtesy.

DV that is a good point, but just the other day you were beside yourself with incredulity that a "lawyer" of all things could find a rational basis at all to believe claims of Joseph Smith regarding the First Vision. I believe your words were that you were "shocked and amazed" that someone could believe something like that. Is this an example of the respect and courtesy you expect?

I have followed your comments for many months on various forums, and I can honestly say that I do have respect (and compassion) for your situation. I hope I have not said anything here that would indicate otherwise. On the other hand, your earlier comments to me belie a lack of respect for anyone irrational enough to believe in the "First Vision", among other things.

John- Equality is not the enemy here. He does have at times an irreverent sense of humor (which I actually find quite funny most of the time), but I have never seen anything to indicate that he sees "informed" Latter-day Saints like you (meaning aware of the issues he raises above) as idiots in any way. Please don't rend your garments and put on sackcloth and ashes over Equality! :)

If you could see his smirk (not one of contempt) as he types these things, then half the things he says would be funny. The other half is, indeed, good food for thought, even though at times I (vehemently) disagree with the conclusions he draws (though always agreeably, I hope). Equality has read more books on religion and history than almost anyone I am aware of. It is fun to pick his brain.

But I know, after working through some initial frustration and consternation with myself, that Equality respects us TBM-types and does not think we are idiots for drawing different conclusions than he has.

john f.

Heretical points of view have been maintained by B.H. Roberts, Orson Pratt and many other pre-eminent scholarly General Authorities. It is OK to question, and to wonder. If Equality has examined the evidence and made conclusions that the church is not what it claims to be, who are we to fault him? Don't we teach that we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience? Equality is entitled to worship as he sees fit, and we should all grant him that right.

I agree with everything you have said here and still disagree with E's interpretation of Elder Packer's remarks as meaning that faithful Latter-day Saints have to defend the MMM. Elder Packer wasn't talking about the MMM because the Church didn't perpetrate it. As for the other things, no one has to apologize for any of that in order to defend the truth of the Church and maintain their belief in it. I believe that E. knew what Elder Packer meant but it is more convenient for his agenda to play the game he is pursuing in this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.