Captain Moroni and False Revelations

December 17, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 10:36 pm   Category: Scriptures

It’s pretty obvious that the historian Mormon had a fairly strong case of hero worship for Captain Moroni. First, he named his son after him, second, major portions of his history are dedicated to Moroni, and third, he notes in a moment of commentary, that he believes if all men were like Moroni, “the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” ( Alma 48:17 )

Moroni, however, was not a perfect man, and even with his profound love and admiration of Moroni, Mormon does not paint us a picture of a man on a pedestal. He gives us a religious leader at war who “began to doubt, because of the wickedness of the people, whether they should not fall into the hands of their brethren.” ( Alma 48:17 ) In other words, he doubted God was with him and his. This fact was probably important to Mormon, who felt he was in a very similar situation (and perhaps was the main source of his admiration for Moroni.) What is more interesting is Moroni’s actions while in this state of doubt. He blamed this on others, and, as we all know, wrote a scathing rebuke to his leader, Pahoran. While he repented of this letter and went to Pahoran’s aid quickly, what is most interesting to me in this letter is that he falsely evokes the name of revelation, saying

Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet. Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.

Moroni is claiming incorrectly that God has revealed to him his right to fight and usurp his leaders, based on his false belief that his leader is in the wrong. In actuality, his leader does not have “sins and iniquities” he needs to repent of. I personally believe that Moroni did in fact believe he had a revelation at the time he wrote Pahoran, but was confusing his own feelings of anger and discouragement for divine injunction. He obviously quickly repented of this error.

And yet Mormon says this man, who mistakes his own passions for revelation is so great that we should all strive to be like him. And I agree. We should strive to be like Moroni, Warts and All. If someone as great as he was can make such a huge mistake, so can the rest of us accept mistakes we make in discerning the will of the Lord, and mistakes others around us make, whether it be an apostle or a primary teacher. We all are going to be wrong about revelations sometime, we need to accept that fact, and move forward with faith.

I love that we have this fallibility built into our religion, a way to accept every son or daughter of God as only imperfectly human, yet truly remarkable.

221 Comments »

  1. I think this reading is one important possible reading of the text. There is another way to look at it, though, in context of its place in the letter to Pahoran. In his response, Pahoran (in addition to not taking offense) states that Moroni’s resolve was one of the things that strengthened Pahoran’s determination to fight the king-men. Had Pahoran not responded thus, then Moroni would have been justified in attacking on his own – and he would have been attacking his new government. I see Moroni’s revelation as preparing him to preserve liberty even if it meant attacking his own people. And I see Pahoran’s response as confirming this revelation, and calling the preparation into action.

    Comment by Ugly Mahana — December 18, 2007 @ 1:42 am

  2. On the other hand…….
    I doubt that Pahoran was the only individual in power back home. The statement is: “… your governorS…” Perhaps, the Lord, in His revelation, was refering to the other individuals in positions of power in the homeland. Pahoran, after all, admitted that the Kingmen were frustrating what Pahoran wanted done. Obviously, it was not a single party rule by a single Chief governor. I think Capt. Moroni was wrong in assuming it was. The revelation is not false.

    Comment by mondo cool — December 18, 2007 @ 7:22 am

  3. Ditto post #2. Have you never given or heard a blessing where you have misunderstood what was meant, and yet the prophecy was true?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — December 18, 2007 @ 7:36 am

  4. Mondo: I am flexible enough to allow that there may have actually been a revelation to Moroni, but he still completely misinterpretted it, based on his understanding of the situation, which falsified the value of the revelation in any case.

    I think that is still enough to make my case that “We all are going to be wrong about revelations sometime” , even if you disagree with my reading.

    Would you disagree?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 7:49 am

  5. #3:
    Sometimes a “revelation” is false, and because we’ve already invested ourselves in believing it was genuine, we reinterpret it. In essence, we choose to believe that we had simply misunderstood before, rather than acknowledge that we placed our faith in something that was not true. This avoids a lot of unnerving personal examination. It also avoids uncomfortable questions about the larger framework of our faith.

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 18, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  6. Sorry, but I don’t get it. Moroni says that he was told, “IF those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.” The prerequisite for proceeding wasn’t there. But I don’t see why that means that Moroni didn’t received, or misconstrued, revelation. If I receive a revelation saying “if A, then B,” I don’t take that to mean that A is true (at least not at the moment), just that IF it is (or becomes) true, then B is the proper course of action. It seems to me that your analysis reads “if” out of the scripture.

    Comment by JrL — December 18, 2007 @ 8:59 am

  7. JrL:

    Actually, if you want to put it that way, Captain Moroni’s revelation says, in effect:

    “If X does not stop Y, then Z” with my analysis being that X (where X = Pahoran) had not started doing Y (Where Y = Sins and Iniquities) to begin with.

    Mondo Cool is saying Moroni got X wrong, which I believe is enough of a discrepency to say that Moroni got the equation wrong, thus a false revelation.

    Does that help?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 9:19 am

  8. Then again, you could interpret such a “revelation” as a blanket commandment to attack, since surely every person has “sins and iniquities” for which they haven’t “repented.”

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 18, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  9. Nick, thus context matters.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  10. Of course, Matt, and that’s why I agree with you, that in the narrative, Moroni misinterpreted his own feelings and assumptions as a divine revelation. However stirling Moroni’s character may have been, he made the same mistake that has been made at one time or another by every person who believes in personal revelation. Anyone who believes in personal revelation, and says they’ve never made a mistake in regard to such, is self-deluded, arrogant, or both. Even Joseph Smith implicitly acknowledged such, when after the Canada failure, he said that some revelations are from god, some are from man, and some are from the devil.

    We have the same thing in our government today, with a leader who thinks he’s doing the will of deity. Unlike Moroni, no amount of evidence seems capable of convincing him otherwise.

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 18, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  11. While I think that it is more likely that moroni had a mistaken revelation, I think it is possible that he is merely quoting nephite scripture and likening it unto himself.

    Comment by jax — December 18, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  12. Or, Mormon is putting words into Moroni’s mouth. After all, this was written 400 years after the fact. Yes he had access to records and all that, but what is he (Mormon) trying to tell us? The Book of Mormon was written with an end purpose in mind and we (the world today) are that audience for whom it was written.

    Comment by John — December 18, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  13. Matt,
    Interesting post and I think you have made some good points however, IMHO, based on personal experience with the Spirit, I am not convinced that this is a false revelation.

    Spiritual warfare is much dirtier than we invision when we are sitting in Priesthood meeting. If Satan is the “master of deception”, the Spirit is the “master of perception”. But the game is rigged, because the Spirit knows all of our minds. When things get down and dirty, the Spirit is not beyond using the end to justify the means. His hand is in all things. His method is to paint perception knowing in advance how we will resopond to it, technically still allowing agency. We can choose a different path, but He knows that we won’t. Sometimes agency does not equal autonomy.

    He knew the mind of Moroni and he knew the mind of Pahoran, in other words, he knew the outcome of this “false” revelation.

    Comment by Howard — December 18, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  14. I love that we have this fallibility built into our religion, a way to accept every son or daughter of God as only imperfectly human, yet truly remarkable.

    Amen to that. I agree with your sentiments in this post.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  15. Thanks Jacob, that means a lot to me.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 11:57 am

  16. Matt,

    I also feel that maybe you have misinterpreted this scripture wherein you apply it singularly to Pahoran when in fact Moroni’s “scathing rebuke” was directed to many as we read in Alma 60:1

    and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.

    Should I point out that the “sins and inquities” that Moroni refers to are the failures to provide and send support to the troops of which Pahoran is certainly guilty being the Chief Judge despite his lack of ability due to dissension.

    We might also remember that a few years ealier in Alma 51 Moroni had already dealt with dissension in the government with the Kingmen trying to establish a King and failing to support the troops for the cause of liberty and “hewn down” 4000 dissenters. I might well imagine he was pretty upset to have to do it again.

    I hope this helps a little.

    Thanks

    Comment by Jothan — December 18, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

  17. #13:
    I think this theory of the Holy Ghost manipulating “perception” is so very near deception as to create at least two major problems:

    First, one could never exercise faith in any revelation, because it could be just a false “perception” created by the Holy Ghost in order to manipulate behavior. You could never, as Moroni put it, know “the truth of all things,” because you could never trust that kind of source.

    Second, believing in a Holy Ghost who is, as you put it, “not beyond using the end to justify the means” in such a way inevitably will encourage mortals–particularly those in leadership positions–to rationalize a similar approach. In no time at all, they will find it appropriate to deceive others (ahem, “direct their perception”) in order to achieve what they believe to be righteous ends. This ignores the revelation given to Joseph Smith, condemning those who claim that it is acceptable to lie, in order to catch another in a lie. Further, it openly encourages deception and corruption, which are entirely incompatible with the LDS concept of the Holy Ghost.

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 18, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

  18. Hmmmm…you know with the current state of affairs with our present government in debating and politically toying with the needed support for our troops in the cause of liberty I wish we had a modern day Captain Moroni who could come in and make things happen.

    What a blessing that would be.

    Comment by Jothan — December 18, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  19. Jacob and Matt,

    “I love that we have this fallibility built into our religion…”

    I think this stands in need of some justification. Fallibility seems to imply unreliability. How can this possibly be a good thing? Furthermore, doesn’t fallibility provide the ultimate justification for buffet-style religion, where one can pick and choose what they want?

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  20. Matt,
    Help me here; are you saying if Mormon got what the Lord said wrong then the revelation is false? That appears to be a condition that if the receiver of the “word” is faulty, then the “word” doesn’t reach the status of a communication that needs to be paid attention to. In other words, it seems that you are defining a revelation as: Word of the Lord -> Receiver who gets it right = revelation.

    Yes, WE are all going to be wrong about revelations sometimes, which, I think you would agree, is not the same thing as a false revelation.

    The effects of me being wrong about a revelation and having a false revelation (i.e., from some other source than God) may be hard to distinguish; but, the identifying the party to blame for those untoward effects is important, don’t you think? Not a good idea to assign blame to God when He didn’t do it.

    Comment by mondo cool — December 18, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  21. Nick,
    Perception is not deception. Perception is built into every parable, multiple meanings on multiple levels.

    One can have faith in revelation and know “the truth of all things,” by the fruits of the revelation.

    Once we willingly agree to act as the Lord’s servant, we have given our permission to benevolent manipulation. Sometimes it is necessary for us to be “kept in the dark”as we perform these duties so that our reactions will be perceived as authentic by those around us.

    We are not encouraged to rationalize a similar approach” as long as we are lead by the Spirit as Moroni was.

    Comment by Howard — December 18, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  22. Jeff G.,

    Rather than “seeming to imply” total “unreliability” I would suggest that fallibility does mean a certain level of risk. By allowing for the existance of that risk from the onset, it allows one to honestly accept the system based on it’s perceived merits, and not on some sense that it is absolutely perfect.

    As for the buffet-style religion comment, I think the problem is that many take this as an “all or nothing” type arrangement. I’ve never been to a buffet where you could order food that wasn’t available in the resteraunt, nor can you order things into Mormonism which are not there. Also, in any given buffet, you can’t change the layout of the resteraunt, not the lighting, the chef, or the management. As in Mormonism, there are certain ideas [edited to correct my spelling error] you are stuck with.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  23. Mondo Cool (#20):

    I am a bit confused by your ending here. In neither situation is the blame assigned to God.

    Scenario A:
    Moroni receives a revelation from God telling him to Go and fight the sinful governers, to purge the wickedness from the land. Due to Moroni’s own feelings on the matter, he interprets this as Pahoran and sends a repent or else letter.

    Scenario B:
    Moroni does not receive a revelation from God telling him to Go and fight the sinful governers, to purge the wickedness from the land. Due to Moroni’s own feelings on the matter, he feels like he has received divine revelation to do such, and sends a repent or else letter to Pahoran.

    God is not blamed in either circumstance. In Both cases, Moroni has made an error. The beginning result in Scenario A was a true revelation. The beginning result in Scenario B was no revelation. The end result in both scenarios was a false revelation, because of Moroni, and not because of God.

    You do make a good point that perhaps the misapplication of the true revelation in Scenario A does not falsify the original revelation, but the end result of “Pahoran, repent and send aid to yor troops or I will send Moroni to come and take you out” which is the way this reads to me in context, is definitely not the original revelation.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  24. My point is related to D&C 1:38: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled…” So, there are certain tenets (and tenants, for that matter) we are stuck with. Because of those tenants, our understanding of the tenets may be off-track. But, it’s not the Lord’s fault. I’ve encountered several ex-mormons who are such, just for this reason – in fact I work with two at the present.

    Comment by mondo cool — December 18, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

  25. I dunno. I certainly can’t back this up, but in reading Pahoran’s reply I sometimes get the impression that the guy was a consummate politician. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn that Pahoran had been primarily concerned with saving his own neck, and that his letter was calculated to throw Moroni’s own words back at him in order to enlist his aid in recovering the judgment seat.

    Comment by JimD — December 18, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  26. Mondo Cool: I completely agree.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  27. Jeff,

    Fallibility seems to imply unreliability. How can this possibly be a good thing?

    Unreliability is not a good thing, per se, but it is a fact of human existence. I greatly appreciate that in our religion we face up to the fact that humans are fallible and deal with the very real consequences of that.

    The alternative is to pretend that there is some person or process or book that is infallible. Many religions go that route and although it is probably comforting to them to pretend that something is infallible, it leads to detrimental problems due to the fact that those people, processes, and books are not actually infallible. I’d much rather own up to the reality of the situation than delude myself.

    Furthermore, doesn’t fallibility provide the ultimate justification for buffet-style religion, where one can pick and choose what they want?

    The buffet-style approach is risky in that we might not choose something from the buffet that we really must be eating to be saved, but then, on the other side of the coin, it means we don’t have to justify racism just because someone in leadership was racist, we don’t have to believe the earth was created 7,000 ago just because someone in leadership taught that it was, and so forth. The onus is on each of us to follow the spirit and sift out the wheat from the chaff. I much prefer this to a paradigm where the onus is on someone else and my job is to follow them blindly. If I make mistakes, they can be part of my learning process and I’m better off for being engaged in such a process even if there is risk involved.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

  28. I actually agree with JrL on this one. I think you are misreading the situation Matt.

    If I remember the scenario correctly, Moroni is out in the battlefield with his men giving their blood to protect their nation. He is getting no support from home and his government. He writes a letter to the elected head of that government and basically says “you people better start supporting us or I will come and clean house there with my armies. And, by the way, God says that is entirely appropriate.” Where is the false revelation there?

    Now Moroni is addressing Pahoran, but only as the head of the entity he is really attacking — the Nephite government. It turned out that there had been a coup and that Pahoran agreed with him on the subject anyway. Moroni eventually did attack the usurpers of the government and did it with the green light from God.

    Again, I don’t see a false revelation here. I simply see a letter being mailed to the wrong address.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

  29. Geoff, in line with my comment #23, then would you say you are in a Scenario A camp, or that you are setting up a camp C?

    Scenario C: God gives Moroni a revelation. Moroni interprets in correctly, Moroni mails the repent or else letter to Pahoran because that is basically the only mailing address available?

    Personally, the letter seems more personal than that to me…

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  30. Matt,

    What do you mean by “God gives Moroni” a revelation as the precursor to all of your scenarios? Why do you think that part came first? D&C 9 and my experience indicates otherwise. Here is the scenario I would bet on: Moroni is ticked that his government is hanging him out to dry. He decides to write a letter. In that process he gets a clear impression that he has the green light from God to go kick some butt in Zarahemla if the government doesn’t step up. He indicates that in his letter (while he still justifiably assumes that Pahoran is the figurehead in the government). So it is along the lines of A but a little more nuanced I think. If Moroni made an error it had nothing to do with the revelation he received in this scenario.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  31. Matt,

    I pretty much disagree with your entire comment #22.

    “…it allows one to honestly accept the system based on it’s perceived merits, and not on some sense that it is absolutely perfect.”

    First, there does not seem to be any conflict between these two options. Second, I don’t see how the fallibility of revelation allows people to honestly perceive the merits of any (which?) system. Third, I don’t see how sensing that the system of God-man revelation is perfect is bad in any way.

    “I’ve never been to a buffet where you could order food that wasn’t available in the resteraunt, nor can you order things into Mormonism which are not there… As in Mormonism, there are certain ideas you are stuck with.”

    This is exactly wrong if one allows for fallibility. One can reject any particular doctrine is one is willing to make the adequate adjustments in other places. Sure, if one chooses to reject Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ, one isn’t really “Mormon” anymore, but so what? We are talking about a view of revelation, and revelation is prior to either of those claims. If one accepts the fallibility of revelation, why cannot they believe that they are following God’s direction in rejecting JS or JC?

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  32. Jacob,

    “…in our religion we face up to the fact that humans are fallible and deal with the very real consequences of that.
    “The alternative is to pretend that there is some person or process or book that is infallible.”

    If we are dealing with a perfect person (God), why can’t we “pretend” that there is an infallible process? Why can’t God know exactly what to communicate in order for us not to be confused? The appeal to freewill seems shallow, since it is no different than our adjusting our own communication to suit the circumstances so as to minimize error and confusion. Shouldn’t God be able to do the same thing only better?

    You account of the buffet-style approach is also confusing.

    “The buffet-style approach is risky in that we might not choose something from the buffet that we really must be eating to be saved…”

    Exactly, what if the fallible revelation is wrong about something that we really must have to be saved? That is the whole point of why fallibility is bad; it simply allows us to reject ANY doctrine with which we might be “prompted” in some way to disagree with. Sure, we don’t have to justify racist comments, but surely we must justify our cavalier rejection of those same comments. After all, following the spirit in which doctrines to reject or accept is simply following into the very hole we are trying to climb out of.

    “I much prefer this to a paradigm where the onus is on someone else and my job is to follow them blindly.”

    I don’t see how this relates to the fallibility of revelation at all. I don’t see how my following a prophet has anything to do with the nature of the communication which that prophet has with God. What is it that I can learn in a context of fallible revelation that I cannot learn in a context of infallible revelation?

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  33. I should mention that prior to my de-conversion, I also rejoiced in the fallibility of the system. However, I don’t think that I had a very good reason to do so. I was happy that I didn’t have to face up to some really difficult questions (BoM historicity, priesthood denials, young earth creationism, etc.), but that’s pretty much the only benefit that I can see from it. This benefit simply seems rather shallow compared to the worry of unreliability that fallibility brings with it.

    I’m open to someone showing me what other benefits come with fallibility as well as why the unreliable worry isn’t all that big. I do, however, have my doubts.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  34. Jeff,

    As you know, I think the fallibility with revelation is entirely in the reception and interpretation rather than the transmission. That is why I think that ultimately the only revelations that really matter to us are the revelations we personally receive. Those revelations give us help in our current lives, are the source of our personal relationship with God here, and guide us into which revelations given to others to believe or not. If we screw personal revelations up we have one else to blame in the end but ourselves since our personal conduit to God is our personal responsibility in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2007 @ 4:40 pm

  35. There are a few problems I see with your model in this context, Geoff.

    1) First, it makes God seem REALLY passive. Why can’t He alter content in anticipation of it being misinterpreted? I can see two responses you can make here: a) maybe we just don’t leave a correctly interpreted version available, and b) God can’t see how we will interpret a communication due to a lack of complete foreknowledge.

    (a) seems pretty weak for a number of reasons: Why wouldn’t God just not send the message is such is the case? Isn’t this just another way of saying we aren’t ready to receive revelation? Are we REALLY so close-minded that there is no way in which God could have clearly communicated with us?

    (b) has a different set of problems: Is it reasonable to believe that the same message will be misinterpreted time and time again by the same person AND multiple people? Why can’t He correct misunderstandings like we do in normal communication? After all we can’t see the future, but we can still keep on trying to communicate with someone until they finally understand.

    2) Your model severely constrains how much work fallibility can do. Let us consider the case of Blacks and the Priesthood. (I realize that “mistakes of men” is not the official response, but it certainly seems the most plausible to many of us.) We would have to assume that B.Y. misunderstood revelation… pertaining to individual’s salvation… on many occasions… and so did his successors… for many generations… to the point where church leaders eventually opposed abandoning the denials due to revelation. It seems doubtful that your model can accommodate such widespread and deeply ingrained error. Sure, your model might be able to account for the occasional misunderstanding, but such occasional misunderstandings are not what really stand in need of explanation.

    3) I also worry that your model will have difficulty accounting for mistaken visions (Zelph, etc.). For JS to be mistaken in cases such as these, it would seem to be the fault of JS’s eyes (or some spiritual equivalent) rather JS per se.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  36. I should also retreat a bit from my last comment. My problem is not with accounting for fallibility, as Geoff seems to be doing, but rather with rejoicing in fallibility as Matt and Jacob seem to be doing.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 5:22 pm

  37. Jeff,

    Why can’t He alter content in anticipation of it being misinterpreted?

    I never said he couldn’t. Why do you assume that? Now why he would or wouldn’t send unmistakable messages in any given situation is something you’d have to ask him.

    Let us consider the case of Blacks and the Priesthood… We would have to assume that B.Y. misunderstood revelation

    Why do you think that is the only option? Seems to me there are all kinds of other things we could assume. For instance we can assume that the ban never had a revelatory backing to begin with, but rather it was a policy that gained a great deal of institutional momentum over the decades. I know lots of folks who assume something along those lines. (They also generally assume that no person denied the priesthood in this life will suffer for that in the eternities.)

    For JS to be mistaken in cases such as these, it would seem to be the fault of JS’s eyes (or some spiritual equivalent) rather JS per se.

    I have no idea what you mean by this one.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  38. I missed your #36 as I was writing #37 Jeff. Take that for what it is worth…

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  39. My problem is not with accounting for fallibility, as Geoff seems to be doing, but rather with rejoicing in fallibility as Matt and Jacob seem to be doing.

    Jeff,

    If you read my first paragraph of #27 you will see that I specifically don’t rejoice in fallibility, but in the acknowledgement that people are, as a matter of fact, fallible. You ask why God can’t make sure that people are infallible, and the answer is that people are fallible due to their imperfections and God has no magic wand for making us perfect.

    As to the buffet stuff, you said my comments were confusing, but then you very nearly restated them. I am acknowledging that there is a serious risk in approaching the gospel as a buffet. At the same time I am suggesting that there is no better alternative.

    After all, following the spirit in which doctrines to reject or accept is simply following into the very hole we are trying to climb out of.

    No, I am not trying to climb out of “the hole” of the spirit. If there was an infallible epistemology, I would trade out what I have for it. In the mean time, I am simply trying to do the best with what I have. I believe this includes the spirit if the question is about what God wants me to do.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  40. I don’t know the answer to the question Matt poses, but I think it an interesting point to ponder. But even more interesting to me is the fact the Book of Mormon preserves the account (thanks to Mormon) and points out the possibility that a man of the stature of Moroni might have misunderstood things of the spirit.

    This is another testimony to the reliability of the Book of Mormon being what it claims to be.

    Comment by Jared — December 18, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

  41. Jeff G: a) seems pretty weak for a number of reasons: Why wouldn’t God just not send the message is such is the case? Isn’t this just another way of saying we aren’t ready to receive revelation? Are we REALLY so close-minded that there is no way in which God could have clearly communicated with us?

    Here’s where your determinism makes a great deal of difference — and the way you must imagine God interacts with us as a result were he to exist (in other words, I think your de-conversion is a result of faulty deterministic world-view). If we are free to make mistakes, and free to reject the spirit in such a way that God won’t coerce (or cannot) to see it his way, then God just cannot do what you suggest. God doesn’t have the power or ability to force us to see things his way if we have a kind of libertarian free will in relation to him and his revelations that is assumed in my process view of creative co-participation. God won’t overwhelm us because to do so he must obliterate our individuality on such a view.

    On your deterministic view, God could just cause us to see things his way. There is a reason that there is such a close tie between scriptural fundamentalism or inerrancy and the divine determinism of Calvin.

    Now I don’t believe that the best reading of the text is that Moroni was mistaken. The revelation is after all in the conditional subjunctive. In fact, Pahoran repented and explain his heart to Moroni. So I believe that there is a superior reading. But even if we adopted the reading that Matt suggests, I don’t see any reason to call into question the reliability of revelation as you do based upon this text or the fallibility of revelation. After all, if the text is in fact an instance of failed prophecy, then the Book of Mormon is an instance of divine disclosure and revelation. You cannot have it both ways.

    And what is the crap about Zelph? Yeah, I know all about it. I’m surprised you see it as you do.

    Comment by Blake — December 18, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  42. Ahhh Blake,

    Again, I see no connection between my determinism and my deconversion. I still see the two as being entirely compatible.

    When I posted this sentence:

    “b) God can’t see how we will interpret a communication due to a lack of complete foreknowledge.”

    I actually had first put “due to LFW” rather than a “lack of complete foreknowledge.” However, I realized that God wouldn’t be able to foretell the future perfectly under determinism, as I interpret it either. That is why I switched it.

    My point doesn’t have much to do with determinism or LFW. My point is that in our day to day interactions with people we anticipate others’ reactions, repeat ourselves, approach the same point from a different angle, provide additional context, etc. in order to make sure that people understand what we are trying to communicate to them. Now this is the case whether LFW or determinism holds true.

    Now if we are able to do this given our extraordinarily limited understanding of what other people are like and/or thinking, shouldn’t we expect God to do the same thing only is a much more efficient manner? Thus, I don’t see anything resembling a lack of agency playing that large of a role here.

    Indeed, inasmuch as agency is an issue here, it would seem to me that God wouldn’t be trying to communicate with the person in the first place, no?

    About the zelph part, I was more focused on the “etc” part. While I certainly don’t take Zelph story all that seriously, it does seem clear to me that Joseph Smith did claim to have received by revelation all sorts of historical knowledge regarding the Native Americans which turned out to be quite false. Indeed, isn’t this roughly what your BoM translation theory is supposed to deal with?

    Comment by Jeff G — December 18, 2007 @ 10:39 pm

  43. Jeff: So what you’re saying is that God should have just kept repeating himself until Moroni formulated the message correctly? What if Moroni thought he got it right the first time and stopped paying attention afterwards? Again, we live in different worlds because you believe that God can virtually guarantee that Moroni pays attention whether he chooses to do so or not (not to mention that for you this is a mental game while for me it is a discussion of the way the world could be). On my view, that is not possible.

    Just what did Joseph Smith get wrong? That is not what my theory claims at all. It claims only that Joseph expressed it in terminology and explanation available to him.

    Comment by Blake — December 18, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

  44. Jeff G,

    Are you getting at the idea that God could just appear to Moroni and talk with him until he gets the message?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2007 @ 11:35 pm

  45. Are you guys suggesting that He couldn’t? Or that He isn’t patient enough? Or that He doesn’t know us well enough to cater the message to our abilities? And so on…

    I’m not talking about guarantees, but I don’t think it out of line to suggest that God’s communication with us should be more reliable than our communication with each other.

    The way that members tend to play the fallibility card simply does not match up with this expectation.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 19, 2007 @ 12:36 am

  46. Let me use the example of Blacks and the Priesthood. Let’s suppose that the policy was a revelation. It would certainly be difficult for many people to accept that such revelations come from God. Let’s suppose that the policy was misinterpreted as revelation. I would then be difficult to see why people should have much confidence is somebody who is capable of making such egregious errors with regard to matter so important. It’s a sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 19, 2007 @ 12:40 am

  47. Jeff G,

    If you want to use the fallibility of communication from God as a challenge to God’s existence (very similar to the problem of evil, actually), that is legitimate. However, that is pretty far afield from the original discussion. Do you agree that a person who accepts God’s existence (despite the difficulties involved in getting infallibly clear communication from him) must deal with the fact that obtaining messages from God is demonstrably error prone?

    I am not suggesting that God couldn’t communicate more clearly, any more than I would suggest that God cannot prevent many evils which he allows. If we assume that there is some utitility in the way God deals us, then the important thing is that we face reality squarely. This is where I was coming from originally, I appreciate that we do not demand infallibility from our prophets in order to see them as great and remarkable men. On the other hand, if we don’t want to make that assumption (that there is some utilitiy in the way God deals with us), I am not disputing that we could use the same facts to challenge the idea that God is there in the first place.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2007 @ 1:40 am

  48. “I am not suggesting that God couldn’t communicate more clearly…”

    There are times that the Spirit is deliberately vague, splitting His message up into several communications each adding clarity as they go. Often, this is when he wants make a point that does not fit with the receivers frame of reference and He is being gentle while making the point. Sometimes I find myself jumping to conclusions before we get to the final part of the message.

    Also, my understanding of the meaning grows over time, similar to how one’s understanding of a parable grows with time.

    His communication is typically customized for the specific receiver and is easily deniable by a third party observer. I suspect the reason for this is to preserve the agency of the observer while testing the faith of the receiver.

    Comment by Howard — December 19, 2007 @ 4:21 am

  49. Jeff: In any event, it seems to me that Jacob and Howard are correct that the same issues related to the problem of evil arise in relation to the problems of God’s hiddeness and God’s ambiguity (at times) in communication. Now I’ve already said that I don’t believe that Moroni’s revelation is an instance of failed revelation — there were all kinds of “governors” and leaders in the Nephite camp that Pahoran refers to that God could have been referring to when he stated that either they repented or Moroni should go to battle against them. However, even assuming that Matt were correct and Moroni’s revelation were inaccurate, how is that evidence against God’s existence? Don’t you have to accept the Book of Mormon as historically true in the first place for it to be a failed revelation?

    So what you must mean is that the ambiguity of some divine revelations is evidence against God’s existence in principle. I grant that it is an instance of the unreliability of spiritual communication. But it isn’t an argument against God’s existence that is distinct from other arguments from God’s hiddenness and evil. It so happens that God may leave revelations vague or allow error for reasons; or He may be unable to prevent such error given human freedom and so forth.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2007 @ 8:18 am

  50. Jeff: Again, I see no connection between my determinism and my deconversion.

    This is a discussion for another day. I’ll just note that you were blogging incessantly during the time of your deconversion and it was evident that you had already assumed a reductive naturalism where spiritual experiences had no place because everything had to be explained in terms of naturalistic (i.e., physical) deterministic causes. Given that assumption, the conclusion that your spiritual experiences of the spirit could not be trusted and in fact had to have a totally physical and deterministic explanation. Your deconversion is relevant to this post because as I see it you chose to de-convert by distrusting religious experiences — and so you now suggest that the fact that God cannot guarantee that his communications are accurately perceived is evidence that there is no God or that all spiritual experiences should be distusted. However, one can’t get there from the Book of Mormon account because it presupposes the reliability of some religious communications.

    The fact is that as existing individuals having the limitations that we do, God just may not be able to overcome our prejudices without obliterating our agency. Further, I see no reason to engage the assumption that the ban on blacks holding the priesthood was grounded in any sort of spiritual communication. Indeed, your very argument begs the question. You assume that the ban on blacks and the priesthood is based on revelation, assume that it cannot have any basis, and then argue that God wouldn’t leave such an important issue to ambiguous communication.

    Because your assumptions are incorrect, you conclusion is incorrect. First, it wasn’t based on revelation. But then there is an important fallback — well, then why didn’t God get their attention and correct such a wrong-headed and prejudicial practice on an issue so important? Two points — it is a fact that God doesn’t magically weed out prejudice whenever it appears. Why not? See problem of evil and the explanations there. It turns out that God doesn’t have an obligation to give the priesthood to anyone or to everyone if he chooses some and not others. The priesthood is a grace. It is like my picking an agent. I can choose whomever I wish. God could choose no one, one tribe in Israel, one group of people, just males, only a certain group of females, one race, or everyone to give his priesthood and he doesn’t violate any obligations because the priesthood is a gift and a grace.

    That said, I’m delighted beyond words that he finally got through to us and we changed what was our own prejudicial exclusion. However, it took a change in heart on our part before it could happen.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2007 @ 8:32 am

  51. Jacob J said it very well, and all have added to the discussion. Jeff G, I really appreciate your taking the discussion this unanticipated but very interesting dirrection.

    Like Jacob J said, if we start with the belief that there is a God, it is good to acknowledge that there can be communication fowls ups, though they may be typically caused on our end.

    If we start with the idea that there may not be a God, I have to say that just because I confuse what I think my Wife is saying to me and what my wife is actually saying to me doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.

    More seriously, If we argued that God could have communicated what he wanted more clearly, we could go on to argue God could do it himself, etc etc. If we start with the position that Faith and Our being in a relationship with God are important, then this falls away.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 19, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  52. Oh for crying out loud! When did I ever, in this thread, call the existence of God into question? Why is it that every time I try to contribute to a discussion it always devolves into this? The only time I took the discussion in a new direction, I promptly backed away from it the very next comment. I am still focused on Matt’s rejoicing in prophetic fallibility and Jacob’s agreeing with him (which he seems to have backed away from).

    I will concede that Blake picked up my temporary sidetrack and ran with it a bit. I do hope that this discussion does not interfere with the debate I still mean to carry on with Matt and whoever else rejoices in rather than laments the fallibility of revelation. Whether or not God can bring about clearer communication than He seems to is an entirely different discussion, which anybody can feel free to ignore.

    The ultimatum which I mention in #46 was that of a (presumably Christian) investigator and was meant to illustrate how they would hardly celebrate the fallibility of revelation. The conundrum is as follows: either we will not appeal to fallibility and will have a hard time believing a prophet when they receive outrageous revelations, or we can appeal to fallibility and have a hard time trusting a prophet when they claim revelations, be they outrageous or not. It’s difficult to see how one could rejoice in either option.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 19, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  53. A few more comments regarding the tangential subjects which have been raised:

    “You had already assumed a reductive naturalism where spiritual experiences had no place because everything had to be explained in terms of naturalistic (i.e., physical) deterministic causes. Given that assumption, the conclusion that your spiritual experiences of the spirit could not be trusted and in fact had to have a totally physical and deterministic explanation.”

    I see this as being entirely mistaken. First of all, my materialism/reductionism was heavily qualified to include “spirit matter”. Secondly, I never believed that this materialism somehow lead to the unreliability of spiritual experiences. (You always claimed that determinism entailed such, and I always argued against such a claim.) In fact, I still think that my materialism/determinism is the best position for a faithful Mormon to take. (But honestly, how many faithful Mormons ever take to time to sort through such issues, right?)

    Regarding Captain Moroni’s revelation, I’m not convinced of Matt’s reading either. Nevertheless, I was never really commenting on it at all, as I mentioned in the previous comment. My primary beef is with those who rejoice in the fallibility of revelation.

    My secondary beef is with Mormons’ all-too-common appeal to fallibility to get them out of a doctrinal bind. Whether this appeal is the official explanation for the priesthood ban or not is irrelevant; so many Mormons make the appeal anyways.

    My position on the matter is as follows: appeals to the fallibility of revelation are not entirely off-limits by any means; we are imperfect beings after all. However, inasmuch as such appeals are used to explain errors which are widespread, long lasting and/or relevant to people’s salvation, the appeals become increasingly problematic.

    Of course the “official” explanation for any doctrines or policies which eventually come to be rejected is rarely, if ever going to be “there was a goof-up in divine communication.” Within the church, silence on the matter will always be the official response to such matters. Nevertheless, church members still make the appeal in cases such as the following:

    the priesthood ban, the age of the earth, the date of the second coming, the location of the garden of eden, the relationship between nephites/lamanites and the native americans, women having or not having the priesthood, the relationship between Adam and God, the Kirkland bank fiasco, plural marriage, and so on. In each of these cases, at least some members of the church appeal to the fallibility of revelation to explain away what they perceive as doctrinal problems. Nevertheless, each of these “revelations” was either widespread, long lasting and/or relevant to people’s salvation. To think that (so many) prophets were wrong (for so long) about such (important) issues seems to seriously undermine one’s confidence in the prophets’ ability to reliably lead us.

    Now, as to whether God can or cannot make His communication with man clearer. Of course He can. We all agree on this. Furthermore, it seems obvious that He can do so without interfering with our agency in any strong sense. But as Jacob stated, perhaps there is some reason why He doesn’t. While this explanation is REALLY cheap and easy, I suppose it could be true nonetheless. The more important point on this matter, however, is that if you are going to cling to a particular conclusion regardless of what the arguments for and against it are, what is the point of arguing about it, right?

    Comment by Jeff G — December 19, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  54. Jeff, to your point(which was a good one):

    For clarification, I love that we have this acknowledgement of fallibility. I am not sitting at home thanking my lucky stars we screw up, but I am greatful we understand that we can screw up.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 19, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  55. Fair enough.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 19, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  56. Jeff G,

    Oh for crying out loud! When did I ever, in this thread, call the existence of God into question?

    #32 and #35. Honestly, I see this as the inevitable conclusion of your line of reasoning. I said that we should face up to the reality that we are fallible and communication is imperfect, and you asked: “Shouldn’t God be able to do the same thing only better?” As I said, this appears to me to be a variation of the problem of evil. Whenever we ask something like “Should God just be able to do such-and-such?” which God is clearly not doing, the implication is that either there is no God (which explains why he is not doing it), or that there is some reason why God is not doing it. I gave my first answer assuming you meant the latter, that there was some reason, but you responses seemed to be driving at the fact that there is no reasonable explanation for why God would not be doing it. In #35, you say “Are we REALLY so close-minded that there is no way in which God could have clearly communicated with us?” Well, the implication of your statement is that we are NOT so close-minded that God is unable (I agree). If we also accept that God is trying to communicate with the full power available to him as God, then what are the possible implications? The only two I see are that he has his own reasons which are unknown to us (which puts me back to my original position that humans are fallible and we should face up to that) or that there really isn’t a God. Am I missing something?

    The more important point on this matter, however, is that if you are going to cling to a particular conclusion regardless of what the arguments for and against it are, what is the point of arguing about it, right?

    Apparently I have misunderstood the alternative you are driving at. What conclusion are you suggesting I adopt? I am open to a new conclusion if you will put one forward.


    I am still focused on Matt’s rejoicing in prophetic fallibility and Jacob’s agreeing with him (which he seems to have backed away from).

    Sheesh. How many times do I need to explain myself. I have never on this thread (not one time) rejoiced in prophetic fallibility. I have not backed away from any position. Matt’s original statement was:

    I love that we have this fallibility built into our religion, a way to accept every
    son or daughter of God as only imperfectly human, yet truly remarkable.

    Given the second half of the sentence, I took this to be Matt saying that he loves that Captain Moroni is not required to be infallible for us to see his as truly remarkable. We have, as part of our religion, a tolerance for fallibility. We don’t claim the Bible is inerrant, we don’t claim the prophet is infallible, and so forth. Thus, the fact of Captain Moroni being and “imperfect human” does not mean he was not a remarkable prophet.

    Now, obviously, my one sentence response in #14 doesn’t say all that, so you asked me about it, and in #27 I said:

    Unreliability is not a good thing, per se, but it is a fact of human existence.

    Despite this, in #36 you again claimed that I am rejoicing in fallibility, so I responded in #39 by saying:

    If you read my first paragraph of #27 you will see that I specifically don’t rejoice in fallibility, but in the acknowledgement that people are, as a matter of fact, fallible.

    Then again in #47 I said:

    This is where I was coming from originally, I appreciate that we do not demand infallibility from our prophets in order to see them as great and remarkable men.

    And yet, in #52 you still seem to be stuck on the idea that I was rejoicing in fallibility at some point. Where are you getting this?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  57. Jeff G,

    To think that (so many) prophets were wrong (for so long) about such (important) issues seems to seriously undermine one’s confidence in the prophets’ ability to reliably lead us.

    Is this what you are getting at, that these problems demonstrate our prophets are not really prophets? or that real prophets cannot reliably lead us? Seriously, I am trying to figure out what point you are arguing for.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  58. Jacob J.: The only two I see are that he has his own reasons which are unknown to us (which puts me back to my original position that humans are fallible and we should face up to that) or that there really isn’t a God. Am I missing something?

    Yeah, you’re missing that God is always communicating and whether we are willing to listen is up to us.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2007 @ 10:57 pm

  59. Jacob J: Is this what you are getting at, that these problems demonstrate our prophets are not really prophets?

    Good questions Jacob.

    What exactly are you angling for here Jeff?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

  60. Blake: Good point, I should have said that. Jeff didn’t seem to be going for that angle either, so just add it to the list and my question for Jeff remains.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  61. Jacob,

    I can kind of see how #32 seems like I might be appealing to an argument from evil of sort, but #35 seems like quite the stretch. Throughout this entire discussion I have been assuming (for the sake of argument, of course ;) ) that revelation does happen. My main target however, as should be relatively obvious by now, is the all-too-easy appeal to the fallibility of revelation to get one out of doctrinal binds. I was arguing that God’s nature prevents such widespread appeals. The nature of God was a premise which I thought we were all agreeing to.

    “If we also accept that God is trying to communicate with the full power available to him as God, then what are the possible implications? The only two I see are that he has his own reasons which are unknown to us or that there really isn’t a God. Am I missing something?”

    Yes, you are missing something, namely that we shouldn’t believe that revelation is so fallible. Whether this entails some kind of atheistic conclusions, I’m not so sure. I would certainly expect such entailments to be spelled out in a lot more detail than I have done.

    As for my arguing that God can make His communication better, you are entirely right to call me out on being less than clear. I argued that revelation is not as fallible and many think. It was counter that it is because we aren’t perfect and God doesn’t force the matter. I responded by claiming that we should certainly expect God to force the matter, THUS we should expect revelation to be more fallible than many believe. As a reply to this I see people arguing that even though we don’t know the reason, we can be sure that God doesn’t force the matter. This, I argued is a cheap and easy reply, etc. I hope that clears things up a bit.

    As for your rejoicing, I took #14 to be an example of such, but it would appear that I was focused far too much on the first part of the sentence in question. (Honestly, was I the only one?) Nevertheless, I don’t think that the problem I have raised has been fully addressed, namely that far too many church members seem to rejoice at best or be neutral at worst in their feelings toward the fallibility of revelation. I seems clear to me that a person who does accept a less fallible approach to revelation would be rightly put off by the frequent confession which Mormon make to fallibility.

    Now as for Blake’s suggestion, I’m slightly conflicted. First of all, our simply not listening, implying that there is no communication going on at all, doesn’t seem to have much to do, directly, with the fallible reception of revelation. What I was worried about is when a prophet is listening, God does speak to him, and then he comes away with a REALLY wrong answer.

    That said, however, it remains unclear to me why God would speak when nobody is listening. This makes Him sound more than a little crazy, no? The idea of God trying, but failing to communicate over and over again makes me a little uncomfortable. If we simply aren’t ready to hear a message, why wouldn’t God simply wait until we were? That’s certainly what most of would do, right?

    To repeat, my main point is that allowing revelation to be too fallible is disturbing for two reasons: it seems contrary to the nature of God and it seems to seriously undermine confidence in prophets, thereby allowing a religious free-for-all in the form of a doctrinal buffet. The faithful Mormon seems committed to a less-fallible view of revelation than the average Mormon seems to have.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 1:52 am

  62. Jeff: What I was worried about is when a prophet is listening, God does speak to him, and then he comes away with a REALLY wrong answer.

    OK, now we get a clear statement. First of all — when has this happened? We both agree that Moroni’s revelation is not likely such an instance. I assert that the ban on the priesthood was not such an instance — BY wasn’t listening and it wasn’t based on revelation. In fact, this a good instance where God must wait for us to learn to love before we can hear what he is saying.

    I agree that we cannot let revelation get too fallible — like being from God when it is from the devil or from human supposition. Joseph worried about that one too. But there is also the question of allegory, metaphor, parable and story. I doubt that the garden of Eden and much of the story of the patriarchs actually occurred as told. I see it as a story of all of us choosing to leave the presence of our common Father to be given a choice whether we will turn from God or choose to re-turn to Him. There is a danger along the way that, being embodied, we will take the physical world and our senses to be all that there is (it is called being carnal, devilish and sensuous). It is a challenge to learn to trust the spirit and to discern it. The challenge is to learn how to master the body and allow our spiritual nature to work cooperatively with the body. Learning to hear God’s voice is a part of that process. That may be one reason why he leaves it to us to choose to listen. Another may be that listening is a free choice and it cannot be coerced even by omnipotence.

    So we are once again back to determinism and something that could actually be free will. God in a deterministic world could insure that we hear him infallibly. A God in a world with real free will leaves it to us to choose whether we will listen to him. Contrary to your claim, allowing us room to choose is precisely in alignment with God’s nature in a non-deterministic world. Further, your claim that determinism better aligns with Mormonism is just wrong-headed in my view. I’ve given reasons why — and here is another.

    Comment by Blake — December 20, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  63. Jeff G,

    Yes, you are missing something, namely that we shouldn’t believe that revelation is so fallible.

    I am still not getting your counter-proposal. What conclusion should I draw if I accept your premise about revelation not being so fallible. Is it that the people who seem to have screwed up weren’t listening (you seem to say this is not a good answer), that they were not prophets, or that the things they said which appear to be wrong were not really screw-ups after all? Give me your non-cheap-and-easy reply to the problem.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 20, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  64. The fallibility or infallibility of revelation is up to us. It is determined by our faith.

    The brother of Jared fell down with fear. The Lord said, “Arise, why hast thou fallen?” it was because he saw the finger of the Lord.

    Comment by Howard — December 20, 2007 @ 10:38 am

  65. Jeff: Yes, you are missing something, namely that we shouldn’t believe that revelation is so fallible. Whether this entails some kind of atheistic conclusions, I’m not so sure.

    Well an atheistic conclusion is where you ended up. It seems to be where you are trying to funnel things here. If not that conclusion then what other viable conclusions do you have in mind?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 20, 2007 @ 10:42 am

  66. Jeff, you said:
    To repeat, my main point is that allowing revelation to be too fallible is disturbing for two reasons: it seems contrary to the nature of God and it seems to seriously undermine confidence in prophets, thereby allowing a religious free-for-all in the form of a doctrinal buffet. The faithful Mormon seems committed to a less-fallible view of revelation than the average Mormon seems to have.

    Is part of this fallibility doctrine the holding that the last prophet speaking on a subject is correct?

    Blake you said:
    I assert that the ban on the priesthood was not such an instance — BY wasn’t listening and it wasn’t based on revelation.

    Why are you so sure that Brigham wasn’t listening?

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — December 20, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

  67. Steve: I’m not 100% positive — but these are the reasons I believe that God would want the practice changed: (1) the practice of not granting priesthood to blacks was BY’s doing; (2) Joseph Smith ordained blacks to the priesthood; (3) there is neither revelation nor scripture to justify the practice; (4) God does not condone prejudice and would have us overcome it with love unfeigned. However, I also believe that priesthood is a gift, a grace, and no one has a right to it and no one is wronged by not receiving a gift that the giver has no obligation to give in the first place. God could choose the Levites only to hold the priesthood if he wanted to. He could choose just the Hasmoneans, or just men or just women or he could choose no one at all and no one is wronged. So maybe God is behind the distinction — but I can see no reason to believe that in either scripture or other revelation and I don’t like the practice and I don’t believe God does either.

    Comment by Blake — December 20, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  68. Seriously, what has to happen for you guys to drop the whole “atheist” thing. I mean, c’mon. It’s not what I’m arguing for, and even if I was, it wouldn’t convince anyone, nor would it be a good argument.

    Blake,

    I don’t think that your position is all that incompatible with mine. I’m not criticizing prophets at all, only the way that prophets are widely perceived in the LDS community. If you don’t think that any of the doctrines I mentioned in 53# were received by way of fallible revelation, then it sounds like you already agree with me.

    I don’t think that you are completely out of the woods on this one though. It’s not enough to merely reject the idea that any of the doctrines (I use the priesthood ban as my example) was an incorrectly received doctrine. You must also maintain that God didn’t make any efforts to correct these doctrines, something which I find very difficult to believe, or that neither Brigham Young nor any of his successors ’til Pres. Kimball were listening, something which seems even more difficult to believe.

    Let me approach the same point with a different example, namely the creation and age of the earth read literally. Let us suppose that Moses didn’t claim revelation on the subject. Well Joseph Smith sure claimed it both for Moses (In the PoGP) and for himself (in DC 77). Furthermore, to say that other prophets (i.e. Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie) were never listening for revelation on the subject so as to allow the Lord to correct this fallible revelation (or non-revelation) seems more than a little far fetched.

    Furthermore, saying that these prophet simply needed to learn how to “better discern the voice of the spirit” seems to be conceding to the numerous fears I have mentioned. If the prophets are so unqualified when it comes to discerning revelation, this opens to door to some serious problems.

    With regard to the whole determinism thing, see my #42 again. I don’t see the LFW/determinism debate as playing any role here at all. I simply state that if we are able to ensure that we are understood in our communications (this thread is a perfect example of this, no?), shouldn’t we expect God to be even better at this than we are? I certainly don’t feel like I’m disrespecting you or your freewill when I repeat myself and try to make my message more clear. Why would it be any different if God were to do the same thing?

    Jacob,

    “I am still not getting your counter-proposal. What conclusion should I draw if I accept your premise about revelation not being so fallible.”

    You still aren’t getting it. My so-called “premise” IS my proposal; the less-fallible nature of revelation is not my premise, it’s my conclusion. If you want to draw some conclusions from this, feel free, but I haven’t. Pretty much my concern is that Mormons use the fallibility of revelation card far too easily whenever they are in a doctrinal bind. My point is that the use of this card should not be so easy; there are serious consequences. I’m not saying that Mormonism is therefore left in shambles. I’m only saying that the faithful Mormon needs to think a little harder on the issue rather than settle on an appeal to fallibility which seems innocent enough but on closer examination turns out not to be.

    Geoff,

    If you can show how my conclusion leads to atheism, that might actually be a powerful counter-argument to my conclusion (either that or a powerful argument for atheism). To be honest, I don’t see that tight of a link between the two.

    Steve,

    I’m not sure I understand what you are asking, but let me take a shot at it anyways. I see the claim that modern revelation trump past “apparent” revelations and buffet-style revelation as being closely connected. What exactly this connection is, however, isn’t clear in my mind. What concerns me is that whenever the modern prophet contradicts a past prophet, the fallibility card is all-too easily played by Mormons to resolve the apparent contradiction. Now whether the fallibility of revelation is applied to the past or present prophet seems to be a separate issue which would probably distract from the more relevant issues at hand.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  69. I should mention that the position I am defending in this thread has strong similarities with NDBF Gary’s.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  70. Jeff G: (re 69)

    A general problem I have with the mentioned approach is that it does not leave room for a margin of error or growth in a continually changing and progessive religious experience. Further, it doesn’t effectively take into account for past contradictions which have obviously occurred.

    In truth, I sadly find it to be a sort of one dimensional caricature of the religion I experience.

    I know you have poo pooed in the past of people who believe as I do, in other words, in people who believe in evolution and the Gospel, in People who believe what the prophets say, but that the prophets can be wrong, and ultimately in people who find that the best way to navigate their religious experience is in a slow, plodding cafeteria style of trying things, keeping what works, setting aside what is not currently useful, and moving forward within the parameters of their faith. However, personally, I believe that those who are following the previously mentioned model, are in truth, following this model as well, as, from my perspective, it’s ultimately the only game in town.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 20, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  71. Matt,

    You still seem to not be understanding me.

    I’m not characterizing your religion in any way at all. I’m simply arguing that there are serious negative consequences to overplaying the fallibility card. That’s it. I’m not arguing for infallibility. I’m not arguing against modern corrections to past doctrines. I’m not arguing that contradiction haven’t occurred. You can accept or reject any of these things, but be willing to face up to the consequences as well. That’s it.

    I’m not describing religious experience in any way, be it good or bad; nor and I describing your religion, your belief/disbelief in evolution, your view of prophets, your belief/disbelief in God, your views on freewill or any other red herring that can be conjured up to avoid the issues at hand.

    All I’m saying (how many times is it that I have said this?) is 1) that the fallibility of revelation is a bad thing, not good and not neutral; 2) how bad the fallibility of revelation actually is depends on how frequently it is appealed to; 3) many (most?) Mormons appeal to the fallibility of revelation far too often to avoid the negative consequences which follow from such.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  72. Blake (#67),

    It seems that you don’t like the idea that God would discriminate in those to whom He gave His authority, even though as you point out He has surely done so in the past. I really don’t think the Almighty cares about our politically correct views of the day. While to us it may have looked and smelled like racism, perhaps to Him it was the easiest way of identifying a group of people who would not be blessed by being given the priesthood. Now, we may think ourselves more enlightened than previous generations for giving it. But, what if we actually cursed them and ourselves by so doing?

    Second issue. I could swear that I have read something in the PoGP about a race which was not to be given the priesthood and that I had read where Joseph had said that the black race was not to receive the priesthood and in fact he had to sorrowfully return to a man so ordained and undo it.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — December 20, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

  73. Jeff G:

    I thought we’d already cleared all that up way back in #54 and #55. You keep accusing me of not listening or not understanding, but I don’t think that is the case.

    Anyway, just for fun.

    1.> Generally I agree, but I also am grateful that I have the freedom to be fallible and the opportunity to repent and gorw and be free. Call me a typical mormon, but I tend to rejoice in the “opposition in all things” based on the fact that it means I can know the good and the bad, etc. (ie- i am free and can be myself, whatever that means) That is a generalization, of course, and I, of course, don’t want bad things to happen to any people, and don’t want to make mistakes, whether it be in discerning revelation or in figuring out what to buy my wife for Christmas, but I do accept that I am going to make mistakes, but keep going anyway, because greater people than me have also made mistakes.

    2.> Obvious enough, if you are applying the verb “appeal” to the revelation, and not to the acknowledgement that it is potentially fallible. I say this becasue you use the word appeal in the latter fashion in the next statement and there was some minor confusion.

    3.> I think this is where we disagree. I think repentance and responsibility are deeply engrained into the mormon psyche, and thus fallibility is not used in a way to “avoid negative consequences” rather, I think acknowledging potential fallibility is necassary to move forward with a more mature faith approach to our religious experience.

    By the way, the universe doesn’t revolve around you, and since you just completely discounted everything I wrote in my last post, which was my reaction to your comment about NDBF Gary, I think it is you who are not understanding. Also, it’s silly to say “I’m not describing religious experience in any way” after saying “the position I am defending in this thread has strong similarities with NDBF Gary’s” (a position based on religious experience)and just before saying “the fallibility of revelation is a bad thing”. (where revelation is typically seen as the pinaccle of religious experience)

    Comment by Matt W. — December 20, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  74. Jeff,

    Thanks for your response.

    What troubles me is that in neither case is there a real, tangible revelation. Instead the closest thing I see was the verse in the PoGP mentioning the ban. The next closest thing in my mind is the occasion when one of the brethren asked Joseph about this and he lowered his head, presumably asked God, and made his pronouncement. The third thing is when he had to sorrowfully revoke the ordination of a black man at the Lord’s insistence.

    The breaking of the ban mentions a revelation, but I have yet to see one.

    Again in neither case is there a verse-by-verse revelation that the members can see, ponder and ask God about as we see in D&C 76. Not very satisfying in either case.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — December 20, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  75. Jeff G,

    You still aren’t getting it. My so-called “premise” IS my proposal; the less-fallible nature of revelation is not my premise, it’s my conclusion.

    C’mon, you accused me of giving a cheap and easy answer and then you come up with this? This it the ultimate in cheap-and-easy. You want to propose that revelation is less-fallible and then avoid dealing with any of the practical consequences of that position. I have taken it one step further to actually explore those consequences and I am rejecting your proposal based on that analysis. If you refuse to get into the consequences and take it all the way to a proposal of what we should conclude from your position, then your position is hardly compelling.

    Imagine if I suggested that it is clear that God will always prevent evil when it was in his power. Then when you took that to the next level to see where that premise leads, I say, “No, you’re not getting it. That is my conclusion, not my premise.” Your “conclusion” has logical consequences.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 20, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  76. Alright Matt, let me try again. I might have overreacted a bit since people can’t seem to respond to my comments without mentioning my atheism (which you did yet again, I might add).

    Let’s make sure one thing is perfectly clear: I am not advocating infallibility at all. As you rightly noted, the difference is more one of degree. I don’t think Mormons can expect the process of revelation to be absolutely perfect, but I do think they can and should see it as highly reliable. I’m pretty sure you got this part down already.

    1) Where I start to get really confused is where you start to appeal to the freedom to be wrong or leaving room for growth and repentance. I don’t see how these things have anything to do with the idea that significant (as opposed to minimal) prophetic fallibility is not only contrary to God’s nature but also undermines prophetic reliability. At minimum, I would hope you could spell out the connection you see in a little more detail. If you argument is that we should see things for what they are, I’m all for it, but let’s see the consequences for what they are as well. Anyways, I’m not sure that this is what you are saying.

    2) Regarding my use of the word “appeal”, I don’t see a significant difference. We acknowledge that prophets are fallible, the question is how fallible. When people makes frequent appeals to prophetic fallibility to get them out of doctrinal jams, they are suggesting that they are acknowledging prophets to be pretty darn fallible. Perhaps you could spell out what how this distinction between “appeal” and “acknowledge” is supposed to undermine my argument.

    3) See (1). Inasmuch as (3) is supposed to be distinct from (1), I am completely lost.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  77. Jeff G, when did I ever mention your atheism?!? c’mon, now your just making crap up!

    Comment by Matt W. — December 20, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  78. (exclamation points are for Geoff’s benefit)

    Comment by Matt W. — December 20, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

  79. As to your other points, post persecution complex.

    1a.- Prophetic Falliblity is not contrary to God’s nature. You have zero supporting evidence for such a claim. No presupositions to make such a claim are accepted.

    1b.- Prophetic Falliblity does undermine absolute prophetic reliability. That’s natural. Still, I think I can live with the risk factor versus the benefits perceived, based on my own experience.

    1c.- K, spellling it out. You said fallibity is bad. I said I agree, except that the alternative to faliblity is that we are not free, from my point of view. I’d rather be fallible and free that infallible and not free. Now I grant you, my definition of free may differ from yours, in a strict literal since, becuase I am not being heideggery or whatever, but this is still my perspective.

    2. It wasn’t an arguement, it was seeking clarification. In one instance, you said the fallability of revelation is bad when it is appealed to, and in the next, you said Mormos appeal to the fallability of revelation too often. Did you or did you now mean two different things?

    3. um my 1 was a response to your 1 and my 3 was a response to your 3? I was disagreeing with your statement that (many/most) mormons use the “we’re only fallible humans” to abdicate responsibility for their mistakes.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 20, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

  80. Jacob,

    Judging by the resistance I have encountered in this thread, I would hardly call my proposal cheap and easy. I am claiming that the frequent appeals which Mormons make to prophetic fallibility are dangerous. This doesn’t seem cheap and easy at all.

    The only consequence which I see following from this analysis is that when doctrinal contradictions arise, appeals to prophetic fallibility probably raise more questions than they answer and should therefore be avoided. In other words, think harder. I don’t see it as entailing much else.

    Now I will change the subject a bit in order to address what I think are your fears. First of all, I don’t think that you have spelled out very clearly how my position entails atheism, etc. (I really would like to see such an argument, btw.)

    Furthermore, the proposal presents a two-horned dilemma: either one accepts minimally fallible revelation which, as you argue, has some negative consequences (though I would argue that they are not nearly as dramatic as you suggest) or one accepts significantly fallible revelation which, as I have argued, has some negative consequences.

    Let us suppose that you are right, and that the consequences entailed by minimally fallible revelation are simply unacceptable. Fine, but you have yet to show that they are any more acceptable than the consequences entailed by significantly fallible revelation.

    Now let me turn my attention more directly to the negative consequences which you see in minimally fallible revelation. You suspect that it entails atheism. To this a strongly object; I have no clue how a more reliable view of revelation could possibly entail such a strong conclusion. If anything it would seem that the less reliable view of revelation would get us closer to that conclusion.

    HOWEVER, it does seem to say something about minimally fallible prophets who seem to contradict one another, right? If prophet A says that it was revealed to him that the sons of Cain would not receive the priesthood until all all the sons of Abel had received it (or something like that), and then prophet B says that it was revealed to him that there is no such restriction after all, something must be said to account for this. Did God deceive one of the prophets? Did He change His mind? Did one of the prophets lie, or perhaps exaggerate his claim to revelation a bit (implying a moral fallibility)? Or is there some other explanation which I can’t think of off the top of my head.

    This last option is closest to what I am arguing for, namely, think harder. Is this response cheap and easy? Probably, but it is difficult to argued against or prove wrong. It is for this very reason that the minimally fallible revelation does not entail much of anything in specific. Of course it may suggest a few unsavory things about the prophets, but at least such things are limited to the prophets themselves rather than including God. Either way, I don’t think that such consequences outweigh those of significantly fallible revelation.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  81. Matt,

    Maybe I am being a bit sensitive and your mentioning that Gary’s position is “based” in religious experience seemed like a snide poke at my atheism since it’s hard to tell what else it could possibly have to do with the topic at hand. If you say no such thing was meant, then I will believe you and apologize. But to be honest, I’d like to just drop this particular topic altogether due to it total irrelevancy.

    Now for the claims:

    1a) See #42 and #45 and numerous others. I have supported this claim with arguments.

    1b) I’m still waiting to here what the benefits entailed by significantly fallible revelation are.

    1c) Right, I understand that you think infallibility (which I am not arguing for BTW) limits freedom in some way. That isn’t what I wanted you to spell out. Rather, I wanted you to spell out how minimally fallible revelation limits freedom in a way which significantly fallible revelation does not. The same can be said for “growth” and “repentance” and all those other benefits which are supposed to flow from SFR but not MFR.

    2) I meant the same thing. In other words, the frequent appeal to fallibility by Mormons serves as an indicator that they are acknowledging SFR, and SFR is bad. (I had no clue that you were responding to my three claims. Sorry ’bout that.)

    3) To be clear, I’m not talking about the fallibility of the average Joe-Mormon. I’m talking about the fallibility of church-leading, scripture-writing prophets. Furthermore, I’m talking specifically about their fallibility in correctly receiving and interpreting revelation, or in other word to successfully communicate with God. What I object to is not “we’re only fallible humans” but rather the too frequent use of “the prophet is/was only a fallible human”. It should be fairly obvious how this claim is in direct opposition to the reliability of the same prophets.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  82. Blake,

    RE:#67

    Would you agree with Kevin Barney and others then that women too should be allowed to hold the priesthood? Or do you think the practice of men only in the restored Church is revelatory?

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — December 20, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  83. Yellow Dart: I remain open on the issue. Unlike the issue of blacks and the priesthood, I believe that the Book of Abraham may actually have something to say on this issue. Abraham makes a good deal of the fact that he sought an appointment to the priesthood through a patriarchal line:

    1:2 …I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
    3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
    4 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed….18 Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee….
    25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.
    26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
    27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry….”

    I believe that the Book of Abraham can be read to say that Pharaoh didn’t hold the priesthood because it came through the matriarchal rather than the patriarchal line. Whether that means that women should never hold the priesthood or just that Pharaoh’s maternal line wasn’t legitimately recognized remains open.

    However, I hold that women must hold the priesthood right now because they officiate in priesthood (initiatory) ordinances in the temple and I don’t know how that can be done without holding the priesthood at least in a significant sense. I’m not sure how they can officiate in ordinances without an ordination — but maybe the setting apart as a temple worker functions in the same way or merely turns a key where they can exercise priesthood power in ordinances.

    Jeff: What I object to is not “we’re only fallible humans” but rather the too frequent use of “the prophet is/was only a fallible human”. It should be fairly obvious how this claim is in direct opposition to the reliability of the same prophets.

    The problem with your view is that you’re going to have a devil of a time drawing the line of what is acceptable fallibility as opposed to something that just isn’t acceptable because it undermines trust in a prophet’s office and calling. Apparently God draws the line in a different place than you do {chuckle}. I believe that we see more reliability that you seem to believe is required to make sense of what prophets write and reveal.

    As for the take on evolution and 7,000 year temporal duration of the earth, Joseph accepted the prevailing views of his day. However, I am stunned that you see evolution as such a sticking point after having read on your blog how Mormons can readily accept both evolution and Mormonism (with which I agree and now you apparently disagree).

    Comment by Blake — December 20, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  84. Jeff G: “Think harder”

    That’s your whole point here? Sheesh.

    If that is a case then let me pull out one of my favorite old chestnuts:

    “Brevity is a virtue”

    Comment by Geoff J — December 20, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  85. Just for the record, I wasn’t taking a position with regard to evolution and the church. I was simply using examples were one is prone to call prophetic statements into question. Evolution is certainly one of those issues, no? I still believe that Mormonism and evolution are fully compatible.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 20, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

  86. Jeff G:

    dropped, my friend. And sorry for being irritated and pithy.

    1a) essentially I see this not really being a nature of God issue so much as a nature of man issue. Since Man is eternally coexistant with God, In some substantial way, man’s existance is essentially independent from God’s existance. In my mind, this means that there is always going to be some sort of margin of error. I will go back and reread your #42 and #45 more closely before responding further though.

    1b)I think there may be a communication error here. Say I buy stocks and that a certain newspaper is 95% accurate in predicting successful stock purchases. I am willing to accept that 5% margin of error. Especially if my personal experience with the paper syncs with the typical margin of error. The same goes with my relationship with prophetic fallibility. I am more accepting of prophetic counsel because my own experience leads me to believe it is good counsel the vast majority of the time. My personal experience leads me to believe that the tenets are true.

    1c.) I think you have to take minimal fallibility and significant fallibility together as part of a single package.

    2.) fair enough, I think it is healthy to acknowledge bad mistakes and move forward. Are you asking me how I can trust someone (or something) after they have made bad mistakes or sinned against me?

    3.)The Prophet, while estraordinary in some ways, is only a fallible human. Interestingly, I think we too often don’t use this “excuse” when it would probably better serve our interests to do so.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 21, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  87. God knows what He wants to reveal and He also knows the mind of the Prophet. Therefore, He knows how well the revelation was understood and accepted. I don’t see much fallibility in this.

    Fallibility comes into play when the Prophet reveals this information to us. He is a man, men make mistakes.

    Prophets must speak to a very wide audience, much greater than just the followers of his faith. Potentially, He speaks to all of the living and all of the dead. Many more generations of attitudes and opinions must be considered than just the 3 to 5 generations of the living. God knows this and tailors the message accordingly. For instance the living may have been ready to raise the Priesthood ban before the dead.

    Comment by Howard — December 21, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  88. as to whether God can or cannot make His communication with man clearer. Of course He can

    I don’t think that we can all agree that God can do this and leave us within the walls of the world.

    In fact, I think this is where a good deal of analysis goes astray, that there can be clearer communication without damaging us.

    Something laced throughout the writings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young is how God’s communication to us is limited by the limits of our language and understanding and that we are faulty vessels as a result, who need to strive and continue to learn.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 21, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  89. Great Point, ethesis.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 21, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  90. When I get more time, I need to write on the topic of revelation vis a vis human limits.

    We know, for example, that David O McKay knew that Blacks would have the priesthood and wanted God to allow him to promulgate that and was told no, he could no do it, a later prophet would be allowed to do it. That does a number of things to the entire narrative that indicate that most of our current interpretations of what God intended in that regards are wrong.

    As a result, I think most general analysis is also off track.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 21, 2007 @ 10:16 am

  91. The angels visiting Laman and Lemuel sorta undermines that argument guys. God can get his point across when he wants.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 21, 2007 @ 10:16 am

  92. Geoff:, What’s interesting about the Laman and Lemuel example though is that ultimately, God did not “get his point across” to them, no?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 21, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  93. With regard to Blacks I believe that it is entirely possible that slavery, the Civil War (to the extent that it dealt with slavery) and the Civil Rights movement may have been a necessary part of the atonement.

    Comment by Howard — December 21, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  94. Geoff: I agree with Matt. Laman and Lemuel actually show that God may not be able to get his point across. Yeah, he could knock them on their arse — but could he get them to see and acknowledge and angel? It seems not.

    Comment by Blake — December 21, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  95. Matt. Laman and Lemuel actually show that God may not be able to get his point across

    At least not without breaking something. Now if God wants to damage us, break free will, or otherwise take us out of the walls of the world, sure, who knows what is possible.

    There is a lot to be said for reading the scriptures as they are written.

    Back to helping out with the cookies, and maybe buying a new keyboard here (brand new computer at my in-laws, but I don’t like the keyboard, was happy to take care of the vista bugs otherwise).

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 21, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

  96. I have to agree with Geoff on the L&L thing. There was obviously clear communication between them and the angel. That they later turned away from it has little to do with them not getting the message. They certainly didn’t come away from the experience thinking that God wanted them to flog their brother a little more.

    Furthermore, since L&L did continue in their own rebellious ways, doesn’t that go to show that their freewill wasn’t violated by the intervention? If I see an old lady getting mugged or harassed in the street, am I supposed to just let it happen out of respect for everyone’s freewill?

    Regardless of one’s feelings on the L&L example, I have seriously take issue with Stephen’s #88. To assume that God can’t communicate with his prophets at least as well as we communicate with each seems to raise more problems than it answers. I seems to paint God as being seriously bankrupt in terms of resourcefulness.

    To be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating any kind of forceful divine intervention. I’m simply saying that when the prophets are listening (as I think we all suppose them to be on a regular basis) God should be able to freely communicate with them at least as clearly as we communicate with each under similar circumstances. This doesn’t seem like that extravagant of a claim.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 21, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  97. Matt: God did not “get his point across” to them, no?

    I would venture to say that if you have to use quotes around “get his point across” you have probably already equivocated so much on the meaning of the term to make debating such things pointless.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 21, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  98. Howard,

    I have no idea what you mean by #93 but it sounds just racist enough for me not to want to find out.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 21, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

  99. Blake and Stephen,

    I fully agree that God won’t force someone to repent or love him. But we can’t say that he cannot give very clear and unequivocal instructions based on this story. This conversation is getting muddy in jumping back and forth between convincing/persuading/converting people and simply clearly communicating with people. If God wants to communicate clearly he can.

    Jeff,

    The things you are bringing up are all a subset of the problem of evil. It all comes down to why God doesn’t intervene when he has power to do so. Your example of the old lady getting mugged is a classic scenario of such non-intervention. The problem of evil remains that after all these years — a problem.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 21, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  100. Looking back, I have no idea what the old lady getting has to do with the point I was trying to make. (I wish I could edit comments like you guys can. ;-) )

    I’m not sure that the argument I am trying run is really a subset of the problem of evil, though I does seem to closely parallel it. In the problem of evil, we ask why God allows other people to do evil. Within the very limited context in which we are talking, there isn’t a clear case of evil being performed by other people. If there is any evil, it is being performed by God Himself in not communicating more clearly. It is for this very reason that I think we are clearly committed, in virtue of God’s nature, to believing Him able to communicate clearly with His prophets.

    Thus, either we are left believing that God’s ambiguity in communication isn’t an evil (in which case we are no longer discussing the problem of evil) or we are left believing that God’s ambiguity is an evil which He wants to perpetrate on us for some reason. I personally think that most here would be more comfortable with the former than the latter.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 21, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

  101. Geoff,
    We are commanded to love one another, but in practice we don’t. Slavery, war and protest may have been necessary to finally bring us back together.

    Comment by Howard — December 21, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  102. I wish I could edit comments like you guys can.

    Ha. I edit comments like crazy, this made me laugh. I sometimes don’t like to comment at other sites because I won’t be able to fix my typos and bad grammar. (But just to make it fair, I fix lots of other people’s typos and grammar too, except for the people with hopeless spelling and grammar.)

    I agree that your main argument is not synonymous with the problem of evil, but it is related and very parallel in its line of reasoning. The real problem you are pointing to is the hiddenness of God (as Blake pointed out already). A quick google search is enough to demonstrate that this often comes up in connection with the problem of evil and with arguments against the existence of God. So, no surprise those two keep coming up on this thread.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 21, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  103. Geoff: If God wants to communicate clearly he can.

    Here is the crux of the problem Geoff. Yeah, God can communicate clearly, but he cannot guarantee that anyone is willing to listen or to pay attention or has the ability to grasp what is being said. Most theories of revelation (mine included) don’t place the accountability for the fallibility of revelation on God, but on our own failures and lack of capacities. For instance, God could communicate very clearly the theorums and formulae for quantum mechanics to my 13 year old daughter who is quite bright, but unless God just changes her capacities ex nihilo she doesn’t have the capacity to make sense of what is being said and she couldn’t re-convey the message unless it were just written down in English so that she could just hand it to someone who could understand. But in that case God would bypass her and give it to someone who can understand. But what if it is new or just so foreign that no one can get it?

    In my own theory, inspired by process thought, the message is in part our own co-creative re-formulation of the messages. So God cannot re-communicate thru a prophet the clear message he sends because the capacity to receive, grasp and translate the message is, in part, limited by the prophet’s abilities and attention and choices. That is why Jeff’s determinism makes a difference: God can just cause the message to be received and grasped clearly. However, because God deals with people who have real freedom (libertarian free will), and who are essentially free, God cannot accomplish successfully without obliterating the agent as such.

    Comment by Blake — December 21, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

  104. Nicely said Blake.

    “because God deals with people who have real freedom (libertarian free will), and who are essentially free, God cannot accomplish successfully without obliterating the agent as such”

    God desires not to harm us.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 21, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  105. Blake,

    I definitely agree with your position on this in general. However, in Jeff’s defense, and in the spirit of being totally honest with ourselves, I don’t think what you have just described works particularly well to explain away something like, say, the priesthood ban.

    Look, if we start with the assumption that God never intended the priesthood to be banned from any worthy males, then I simply don’t think it will do to claim God had been telling prophets all along but they weren’t able or willing to understand. How hard would it be for God to clearly tell President Young, Snow, Woodruff, Smith, Grant, etc. “stop withholding the priesthood from any worthy males”. And how hard would it be for them to understand such a clear message? The answer is, not hard at all. The visions Cornelius and Peter received show that. So do the visions/visitations that wicked men like Laman and Lemuel and Alma and the sons of Mosiah received. I think we simply have to assume that there is more to this than God earnestly telling them all along and them not getting it. A simple vision or visitation could have solved that problem. (Perhaps you agree with this but I can’t tell from your comments here.)

    Again, I think that explaining any non-intervention like this is a variation on the problem of evil and I realize that it is a hard thing to figure out. My personal way to deal with the priesthood ban is to assume that God doesn’t really care all that much who gets the priesthood in this life or not. When I consider the billions of people today in China and India and the Middle East who will never even hear about the restored gospel it isn’t hard for me to assume that.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 21, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  106. “Look, if we start with the assumption that God never intended the priesthood to be banned from any worthy males…”

    This may be a false assumption.

    As Blake pointed out in #90, Marion D. Hanks relates a story from the late 1960s in which he quotes McKay as saying “I have prayed and prayed and prayed but there has been no answer”. Lola Gygi Timmins a secretary in McKay’s office in the 1960s quotes him as saying that the answer was “Not yet.”

    “And how hard would it be for them to understand such a clear message? The answer is, not hard at all.”

    The above information suggests that God did intend the priesthood to be banned from Black males.

    Comment by Howard — December 22, 2007 @ 12:38 am

  107. Geoff: Like I said, the instance of Laman and Lemuel demonstrates fairly clearly that God can send an angel to knock someone on their arse and they still don’t hear the message. Further, your reference to Peter’s dream is a good instance in point. The fact is that it wasn’t clear even after that dream just how much of the Law should continue to be observed and how fully gentiles should be incorporated into the church and which law applied to them if they were accepted. This struggle to understand God’s will regarding the gentiles is played out in the pages of Acts 15 and 18 and Galatians. Peter’s dream took a willingness and capacity to grasp the message which wasn’t clear at all in the dream. Peter’s subsequent actions that Paul spoke of in Galatians where Peter separated himself from the gentiles when the Jewish contingent arrived show that the extent of gentile inclusion was still unresolved and the message wasn’t clear. So what I suggest is that an actual look at the process of gentile acceptance by Jewish Christians wasn’t clear — even with God knocking Paul on his arse and calling him on a mission to the gentiles. It was Paul largely who worked out that gradual change and Peter and James were looking for a politically acceptable way to sell it to the Jews who originally joined the church. So your simple solution resolved all at once in Peter’s dream is a chimera that fails to grasp the struggle of the early church.

    I haven’t claimed that God was revealing all along that blacks should hold the priesthood; merely that existing collective prejudice is enough to explain why we may not have been ready to hear what God wanted us to learn. God cannot force us to learn. He cannot coerce us to see it his way. You’re suggesting that God can simply overcome our cognitive structures that we create and correct all of our misconceptions. My creative co-participation theory of revelation suggests that such an action takes our cooperation and creative co-participation and you have to address that issue as well. I believe that the instances you use are uninformed by the real-world process. It wasn’t a bright light flash and all was made clear by God as you suggest.

    If God’s word in a still small voice is so clear, then why the changes to the Doctrine & Covenants and Book of Mormon — not to mention the Bible and its long redaction? Such changes suggest that learning from God is a process different than sitting in a college classroom and listening to regurgitated info.

    Comment by Blake — December 22, 2007 @ 8:32 am

  108. Geoff 97- I was quoting you, dude.

    Anyway, to grab a more clear cut example for your side of the Argument, Mary definitely was given a clear message and also clearly was not damaged. The scriptures are full of such examples.

    The Questions, to me, are, was the message clear because of the absolute clarity God used (army of angels singing, angel Gabriel spelling it all out, God presenting Plans to Nephi to build a ship, etc, etc) Or was there a requirement of Faith and Righteousness on the side of the receiver of the message that added clarity. Does such Faith and Righteousness exist in the world today? Why not?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 22, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  109. Matt: We see the message to Mary only in the later (much later — say about 70-85 A.D.) writings of Luke who never knew Mary and Matthew who was very unlikely Jesus’ apostle and probably the writer never knew Mary either. Matthew actually writes about the message to Joseph. It is unlikely that the story was told as they present it in literary fashion given that it is based on myths and stories about Moses. Further, if it was so clear, why were Mary and Joseph supposedly surprised when he was 12? Again, we get a story that is not likely historical and that is the outworking of numerous years after the event.

    What Joseph Smith’s First Vision meant was much clearer in 1842 than it was in 1820 and Joseph continued to learn from it and about for the rest of his life. That is the way actual spiritual experiences are. They are always more than we first grasp and less than we sometimes want them to be.

    Comment by Blake — December 22, 2007 @ 9:05 am

  110. Consider Abraham and Pharoh and his “sister.” The accurate message “if you knew who I was, you would treat me with respect and not murder me” was communicated, btw.

    But, with L&L, had they really understood the message, they would have changed. There were levels at which they did not get it. All communication works at different levels, and we have to decide which are the most important.

    Been a great conversation here though.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  111. Oy.

    Alright… First Blake, you know I am not attacking the church here, but let me point that out first anyway. But I do think we occasionally need to call a spade a spade on these things too and I don’t feel like you are doing that with the priesthood ban thing.

    If God really wanted to prevent the priesthood ban he could have easily made it so. Send an angel and have it tell one of our prophets “Make the priesthood available to all worthy males”. Period. You think our prophets would have said no? I don’t — no matter how much they didn’t like it. But God never did that for whatever reason. Trying to say he didn’t do it because the people weren’t ready just doesn’t work. There was massive prejudice against plural marriage at the time but people obeyed that law anyway.

    Further, the message to Laman and Lemuel was very clear and they did get it. The message was “Stop beating the crap out of your brother right now”. Just because they didn’t experience a mighty change of heart too is beside the point.

    So the fact that God did not intervene to stop the priesthood ban leaves us with a few general options I think:

    1. Assume God did want to withhold the priesthood from black males all along. This assumption has led people to come up with racist-sounding explanations for it (like Howard is trotting out in #106). This is where we get the hideous explanations like “seed of Cain” and “less valiant in the pre-mortal world”. It shields our past leaders from scrutiny and throws African Americans from the period under the bus. I personally think this approach pretty much sucks.

    2. Assume God wanted to end the ban all along. This leaves us having to question God’s power since sending an angel could taken care of that problem very quickly and the Mormons of the time would have had to just overcome their prejudice out of obedience to God. They overcame their prejudice against polygamy so I don’t think it is a stretch to say they could have overcome their racial prejudice too. I think assuming God wanted to end it but was too inept to get the job done is also a non-starter.

    3. Assume God was not behind the ban but that he didn’t care that much if every worthy male got the priesthood in this life. If this is the case I think we also have to assume he didn’t care because not getting the priesthood in this short life won’t deter people in their longterm eternal progression. I don’t think that assumption is very controversial. The only thing this assumes is that there is potential progression forever (probably including progression between kingdoms). I think this is easily the best approach to this subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 10:55 am

  112. Racism is the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others and assumes discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    Racist-sounding is your judgment, not my intent.

    The Jews were the “chosen people” yet they were enslaved and then spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Why did God allow this “racist-sounding” thing to occur?

    Comment by Howard — December 22, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  113. Geoff: We really do disagree on this one. You think seeing an angel is like going to a baseball game and watching the action. It ain’t. Knocking someone on their arse isn’t the same as getting them to accept a doctrine. So I gave the specific example (which you brought up BTW) of God attempting to deal with Peter and the early Church regarding gentiles. It took quite awhile for the Church to get it. He could have sent an angel. It doesn’t mean that they would have seen the angel, or heart it or heeded it.

    The best view was the God was all along teaching us to love our brothers and sisters of all races and waiting on us to change our hearts so that he could get through to us.

    Comment by Blake — December 22, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  114. Geoff,
    To illustrate the point of 93 & 101 let’s move away from “racist” and use “pre-judge” instead.

    We are commanded to love one another, but in practice we don’t. There are times that I am so connected to the Spirit that I am in touch with the “oneness of the universe” and I feel love for everyone, all mankind. But, this experience is rare and most of the time I feel love for my family and friends which, of course, leaves out a lot of people both living and dead.

    The difference between these two experiences is the breadth of the people who I identify with. In the “oneness” experience I can see what I have in common with all mankind and my love grows to include all of them. The rest of the time I can only seem to feel love for the people I can identify with – family and friends.

    Yesterday I walked into a FedEx store. Standing and bent over the counter supporting his weight with his elbows was the most morbidly obese (white) man I have ever seen. I caught myself looking the other way. I had quickly pre-judged him, identifying him as “not me” Later I saw that he had an instrument from a private airplane in his hand and was going to ship it. I am a pilot, I love flying and have owned several planes. Suddenly, this morbidly obese man was “me”. Suddenly I could love him!

    Slavery, war and civil protest may have been necessary for all of us both living and dead to wake up and catch ourselves in this pre-judgment experience.

    Comment by Howard — December 22, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  115. Oy.

    Or, perhaps God intended a temporary difference that might have been a blessing as much as anything else. After all, in the Exodus, not all tribes got the priesthood or the various offices in it.

    Given God’s response to those who challenged that order, it appears that he meant it. But does that mean that God threw the rest of us under the bus (or to the back of it)?

    What about not taking the gospel to the gentiles during Christ’s ministry? Are we really all just dogs?

    The three alternatives you give do not capture the full picture. I’ll have to find time to write more.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  116. Blake: Knocking someone on their arse isn’t the same as getting them to accept a doctrine.

    But it clearly would (and has) worked to get someone to change a practice or behavior. And that is what the priesthood ban was as far as I can tell — just an institutionalized practice. If God wanted the practice changed in the 1850′s he could have gotten the job done. Surely you don’t disagree with that assertion right?

    It doesn’t mean that they would have seen the angel, or heart it or heeded it.

    Are you implying that one must be at a certain level righteousness to hear or see an angel? The Laman and Lemuel and Alma stories disagree.

    I agree with you that God has all along wanted us to love one another regardless of race or ethnicity. My assertion is that God clearly did not care enough about the priesthood being withheld from some people to intervene an change it for more than 100 years. I do not want to conclude any of the following from that fact:

    a. There is no God
    b. God is not really talking to Mormon prophets
    c. God wanted the priesthood specifically withheld from black men
    d. God wanted the practice changed but was too inept to get the job done any sooner.

    So that leaves me with this:

    e. Getting the priesthood in this particular life is not all that important. At least not important enough for God to change the practice any sooner.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  117. Howard (#114): Slavery, war and civil protest may have been necessary

    I remain baffled by your comments in this thread Howard. Meanness and cruelty and sin are never “necessary” for free willed sentient beings. They are choices. And what does any of your comment have to do with the practice of withholding the priesthood from black men anyway?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  118. Stephen,

    All of your examples seem like evidence to me that getting the priesthood in this life isn’t all that important to God — choice “e” from my #116. They certainly don’t lead me to choices a-d.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  119. Geoff,
    Baffled?

    Meanness and cruelty and sin all played a significant role in the crucifixion.

    What does this have to do with withholding the Priesthood? We weren’t ready if we were fighting a civil war and civil protest over these issues, were we?

    Comment by Howard — December 22, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  120. In hour church contrarly to Science, world news or or fooball results, I find many insights of interest, scecially in subjects like this in Joseph´s Smiths words, they are 150 + years old but still they find a clear place in my mind today.
    There is a sermom from joseph Smith which clearly says (im sorry that I am not in my house right now to tell you which sermon it is) – Basically JS says that we are going to be judge by our current circunstances. If we are muslin, cathlics etc we will be judge by what we have done with and consequently how we lives our lifes.
    This in my openion goes according to what Blake says. I do not think that its more important sometimes to have the pristwood than for example loving your fellow man. We have to distinguish some times from what our limited minds think and think that God´s mind has more openess and knowledge than ours. Temple answers all of that… for instance all yeallow men, Blacks, whites will eventually get all that… but all of us will be equally judged according to our deeds.
    my openion on the ban it self is different from some of you, I am portuguese and the history goes on to say that we have blood that came from the moors, arabics etc. This people came from north of africa and they brought my beautifill brown eyes and skin that so attracts my wife…would a deep investigation take place and people would understant that my blood very likely came from blacks ultimatly but there was no ban on portuguese people, or spanish and even to some Islands like Samoa that clearly show a pigmentation more close to blacks…. This to say that there is in my understanding of the subject a culturally influenced action that took a more clear view after the 1850´s (as JS as some of us clearly know ordained black men to the higher pristoowd). After that we all know what happened, as I said a fully agree with Blake on his opinions, I do not think that the beautifull suit and tie. leather scriptures, blessing oil container on the right pocked will save us at all if we dont go down and do what is really important. We have to remember that when Christ came to earth he found the pristwood in existence, he went to church and all that, but he also found tha people were so kean on their rituals and cloths than actually love their fellow men.

    Comment by Sérgio — December 22, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  121. Apparently there were other leaders, under Pahoran, who did need to repent.

    Comment by Bookslinger — December 22, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  122. Howard (#119),

    “We”, as in the Mormons, weren’t fighting in an American civil war. We had left America because America at the time made it clear that Mormons weren’t welcome there. Why would any of that have any effect on God choosing to withhold the priesthood from black men anyway? If that is what you asserting (and it seems to be) then it is indeed baffling.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

  123. All of your examples seem like evidence to me that getting the priesthood in this life isn’t all that important to God

    Oh, I have to say that I think you are right.

    The only person I knew who had in depth personal revelation on the point explained it to his brother as a blessing he had received, not a deprivation.

    Which made me think. I’m still reflecting after thirty years.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  124. Well I dont think you got my point though,

    I think that priestwood is the most beautifull part of the house its an endless room with inlimited joy. What I am saying is that to get to the room you have to get to the house, and is getting to the house that is important to us now, not to have picures of the inside, memorizing the whole thing and in the end not entering at all.
    God wants us to get in the house first, and for him that is what matters now as he is thinking to the whole humanity…

    Comment by Sérgio — December 22, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  125. the pristwood only works if we understand the basic things, in fact I think that the pristwood is written in a simple language that when some people try to translate it the miss the point by complicating…

    Comment by Sérgio — December 22, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  126. If we can get to the big room on this earth and make it a part of the house then its a plus for us and for ours families and our friends. That is the intent of the restauration to enlight the paths of those that got to the house.

    Comment by Sérgio — December 22, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

  127. Hey Guys,

    This discussion has been stimulating. Thanks.

    I just wanted to point out an interesting post by TT over at faithpromotingrumor and I didn’t know where else to put it (maybe you could have a place for comments like this–I hate to potentially thread-jack):

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2007/12/22/the-father-of-jesus

    I know that Blake has written extensively on the Atonement (and that there have been numerous discussions here regarding it), and I wanted to hear his/all of your thoughts regarding the “Virgin Birth” and its relationship to a proper and coherent LDS Christology. Thanks.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — December 22, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  128. Geoff,
    Combatants aren’t the point, attitudes are.

    Mormons were affected by the war:
    D&C 87

    Revelation and prophecy on war, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, December 25, 1832. HC 1: 301–302. This section was received at a time when the brethren were reflecting and reasoning upon African slavery on the American continent and the slavery of the children of men throughout the world.

    1–4, War foretold between the Northern States and the Southern States; 5–8, Great calamities shall fall upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

    Do you think this would be good time to ordain the Blacks?

    No. God is saying I hear your concerns, but war is comming and the war will be about your concerns.

    The war did come and later the civil unrest and then the ban was lifted.

    Comment by Howard — December 22, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  129. Howard: Do you think this would be good time to ordain the Blacks?

    Yes. I think there is never a bad time to show equal love and respect to all people.

    What, you think the Mormons were worried about their popularity with the US at the time? If you have forgotten, the Mormons nearly went to war with the US a few years later. Plus there was that little polygamy thing. If Mormons were into popularity contests they never would have practiced polygamy. I think your argument here holds no water at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

  130. Geoff: Are you implying that one must be at a certain level righteousness to hear or see an angel? The Laman and Lemuel and Alma stories disagree.

    Well not righteousness per se, but yeah, I’m suggesting that it requires a certain openness to experience. So Paul could see an angel and his companions won’t; or Joseph and Sidney can see the Father and the Son and the others in the room don’t. Needless to say I agree with Sérgio.

    Comment by Blake — December 22, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  131. But surely you are not implying that Laman, Lemuel, and the pre-repentant Alma and the sons of Mosiah would be more open to experience an angelic visit than modern prophets like Presidents Young, Woodruff, Snow, Smith, Grant, McKay, and so on. That is the gaping hole in this argument you are making as I’m sure you are aware.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 10:48 pm

  132. Geoff,
    “Yes. I think there is never a bad time to show equal love and respect to all people.”
    Well, aparently God didn’t agree with you.

    Comment by Howard — December 22, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  133. Geoff: But surely you are not implying that Laman, Lemuel, and the pre-repentant Alma and the sons of Mosiah would be more open to experience an angelic visit than modern prophets like Presidents Young, Woodruff, Snow, Smith, Grant, McKay, and so on. That is the gaping hole in this argument you are making as I’m sure you are aware.

    Yeah, that is precisely what I am suggesting. Alma and sons of Mosiah didn’t get the message because they were evil, but as Alma explained in Alma 36, because he remembered his father’s words and called on Christ. The angel didn’t cause the change, Alma did. And yes, I have given specific instances where God revealed a change (e.g., to Peter) but it wasn’t clearly understood and it took a good deal of working out through councils and experience for the real change to occur. So like I said, getting knocked on your arse is one thing, experiencing the change of heart necessary to effectuate change is another.

    Comment by Blake — December 22, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  134. All it would have taken to change the priesthood ban policy would have been for God to knock just one of those modern prophets “on his arse” over the subject. God didn’t do that. So either God wanted the ban or he didn’t care about the ban. I believe it was the latter of those two.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 22, 2007 @ 11:34 pm

  135. So, God “didn’t care” about showing “equal love and respect to all people”?

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 7:21 am

  136. What on earth are you talking about Howard?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 9:20 am

  137. #129

    Howard: “Do you think this would be good time to ordain the Blacks?”

    Geoff: “Yes. I think there is never a bad time to show equal love and respect to all people.”

    #134

    Geoff: “So either God wanted the ban or he didn’t care about the ban. I believe it was the latter of those two.”

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 9:36 am

  138. My position is that God loves and respects all of his children and so should we. Since God did not intervene to make sure all males could get the priesthood in this life even when they were worthy, I conclude that all people getting the priesthood in this life isn’t all that important to God. From that I conclude that getting the priesthood in this life is not required for eternal progression and failing to get it here will not preclude anyone from eventual exaltation.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  139. In #129 you equated lifting the Priesthood ban with showing “equal love and respect to all people.”

    In # 138 you state “My position is that God loves and respects all of his children and so should we. Since God did not intervene to make sure all males could get the priesthood…”

    These statements are an apparent contradiction.

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  140. I think the ones not showing equal love were people, not God. That’s because I think the priesthood ban was the result of the prejudice of people; our people in this case. So there is no contradiction in those two statements of mine. People were prejudiced and God wasn’t.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  141. “I think the ones not showing equal love were people, not God.”
    I agree, but “people” aren’t the one who makes the decision, God does. So, apparently God waited until people were more capable of showing their love for one another.

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 10:05 am

  142. I think there is never a bad time to show equal love and respect to all people.

    I’m not sure that getting the Priesthood in this life, is on balance more of a blessing than a burden.

    Unless you think God only loved the tribe of Levi.

    I think we over rate the importance of many things and that we need to think just how much we think we know better than God about God’s business.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 23, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  143. I think people did make the decision to withhold the priesthood from black males, not God. That is apparently where we disagree here.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  144. Amazing, how do they do that?

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  145. Do what? Freely make decisions? Comes with the territory on earth for humans I think…

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  146. President McKay states “I have prayed and prayed and prayed but there has been no answer”. Later he said that the answer was “Not yet.”

    This is God withholding the Priesthood from black males….and he continued to withhold it until 1978.

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  147. Well that is an interesting piece of evidence from Ms. Lola Gygi Timmins, Howard. I must say that such third person hearsay is a pretty flimsy foundation to build the case that God wanted the priesthood withheld from black males. Nevertheless, if you are asserting that the priesthood ban was 1) God’s idea to begin with and/or 2) Supported by God all along I would be interested in the case you have built up.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  148. Howard, If you were right then this ordenations would not take place

    1836: In March, Elijah Abel, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.

    1836: In December, Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Seventy.

    1844: Walker Lewis, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.

    1846: William McCary, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.

    1900: Enoch Abel, the son of Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Elder.

    1935: Elijah Abel, grandson of Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Elder.

    1958: All black Melanesians (Fijians) are given the priesthood (blacks in the Philippians even earlier)

    Comment by Sérgio — December 23, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  149. Geoff: “What, you think the Mormons were worried about their popularity with the US at the time? If you have forgotten, the Mormons nearly went to war with the US a few years later. Plus there was that little polygamy thing. If Mormons were into popularity contests they never would have practiced polygamy. I think your argument here holds no water at all.”

    Well they *were* interested in survival though–and survival had everything to do with ending polygamy. I think there’s something to be said for the priesthood ban having to do with survival as well–what with the Civil War and all. I don’t think we really have a good grasp on the difficulties of those days.

    Comment by Jack — December 23, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

  150. So are you asserting that allowing black men to have the priesthood would have led to the destruction of the church Jack? If so, who would have destroyed the church for being nicer than most Americans to people of African descent?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

  151. Sérgio,

    President Joseph F. Smith is quoted in a statement under date of August 26, 1908, when he referred to Elijah Abel who was ordained a Seventy in the days of the Prophet and to whom was issued a Seventy’s certificate. This ordination, when found out, was declared null and void by the Prophet himself and so likewise by the next three presidents who succeeded the Prophet Joseph.

    (Harold B. Lee April 19, 1961, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1961 7.)

    Sorry I didn’t find anything on Walker Lewis, William McCary or Enoch Abel

    President McKay was satisfied by anthropologists at the National Museum in Suva that the Melanesian peoples were in no way related to African negroes. In 1958 he authorized Church leaders to ordain Fijians, who have a considerable admixture of Polynesian blood, to the priesthood.

    (R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 502.)

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  152. Well, Geoff, what “interesting piece of evidence” do you have to support your belief that God “didn’t care” that black males were banned from holding the Priesthood?

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  153. I take that to mean you have no evidence to support your assertions about God being the author of the priesthood ban Howard. I’m ok with that.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  154. Take it any you want Geof, but I’m not through.

    Shall I take your #153 responce to mean that “you have no evidence to support your assertions”?

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  155. Geoff,
    Brigham Young is often credited with the policy of withholding the priesthood from Blacks but #151 shows that Joseph Smith and the next 3 Presidents of the church found Elijah Abel’s ordination to be null and void.

    You have taken the position that the Priesthood ban was “the result of the prejudice of people; our people…” (#140) and you equated lifting the Priesthood ban with showing “equal love and respect to all people.” (#129)

    Are you accusing Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff of being prejudice? Are you accusing them of not showing equal love and respect to all people?

    The ban was not lifted until Spencer W. Kimball, are you accusing Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee of being prejudice and/or not showing equal love and respect to all people?

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  156. Sérgio,

    Although several blacks were ordained to the priesthood in the 1830s, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith authorized new ordinations in the 1840s, and between 1847 and 1852 Church leaders maintained that blacks should be denied the priesthood because of their lineage.

    Some Latter-day Saints theorized that blacks would be restricted throughout mortality. As early as 1852, however, Brigham Young said that the “time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more” (Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives, Feb. 5, 1852)

    …increasingly in the 1960s, Presidents of the Church taught that denial of entry to the priesthood was a current commandment of God, but would not prevent blacks from eventually possessing all eternal blessings.

    …in the late 1960s. When questioned about the Church and blacks, Church officials stated that removal of the priesthood restriction would require revelation from God-not policy changes by men.

    (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 126.)

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  157. Howard,

    Joseph Smith was the one who ordained Elijah Abel. If later church leaders decided to overrule Joseph’s opinion on the subject that is something they’ll have to take up with him and God in the spirit world. Just in case you were wondering, there is no record of any revelation starting the ban.

    Are you accusing Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff of being prejudice?

    Yes. They most certainly were. (Though Joseph was arguably less so based on the ordination of Elijah Abel.) But then again, basically every white person in the 1800s was horribly racist by our standards. We have all kinds of offensive racist quotes from former church leaders that our critics love to throw in our faces even today to claim we are still a racist church.

    My take is that the man-made ban was in place for so long that it became a tradition of men that was difficult to reverse.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  158. Howard,

    The statement by Joseph F. Smith in 1908 is a reversal of his position for decades previous to that. All of the contemporary evidence suggests that the 1908 statement you are citing is wrong about what happened during the life of Joseph Smith.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 23, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

  159. Howard,

    Incidentally, there is so much information about the history of blacks and the priesthood readily available online that your citing of this 1908 statement troubles me. This is a topic on which you can do a lot of damage if you are uninformed. If you are madly doing searches right now in Gospel Link and on google, please stop and educate yourself before you continue. Seriously, this is not a topic to spout off about if you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 23, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  160. A great overview on this topic is the interview of Darius Gray and Margaret Young on Mormon Stories:

    http://www.mormonstories.org/blacksandtheldspriesthood/

    The presentation above discusses the 1908 statement by Joseph F. Smith.

    Also, there have been a ton of great posts on this topic in the MA. Try this search or this one.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 23, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

  161. Jacob,
    I don’t claim to be a scholar, nor do I desire to cause any damage.

    Geoff and I were discussing his idea of God not caring that His Prophets were banning Blacks from the Priesthood vs. my idea that slavery, war and protest may have been God’s plan to teach us how to finally love one another.

    As you know from our emails and the references I showed in this thread, I do use Gospel Link. The 1908 Joseph F. Smith statement was simply offered as a response to Sérgio’s comment.

    Thanks for the link.

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 7:48 pm

  162. Geoff,
    An uncaring God does not fit my personal experience, I do not believe that God does not care. Please share how you arrived at this conclusion.

    “Yes. They most certainly were…But then again, basically every white person in the 1800s was horribly racist by our standards.”

    The last part of this statement makes my point, we (even the Prophets?) weren’t ready, and God knew it.

    President McKay “prayed and prayed and prayed” but no answer. It was 1978 before an affirmative answer came.

    Why? Was as God just to busy? Did he forget about us for awhile and completely missed the Civil War and most of the civil rights movement before he finally looked down said “Oops…maybe I better attend to the Blacks now.”?

    This is not the God I know.

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

  163. I think this whole discussion is just dumb. Either the ban was from God or it wasn’t. Either you know the answer to this question due to personal revelation, or you don’t. If you do, either you have further been given by revelation to know why the ban was allowed to stand for as long as it was, or you haven’t.

    If personal revelation is involved, you shouldn’t be talking about it here. If personal revelation is not involved, I think it unwise for any lay member to contradict the prophets (one of whom started the ban [namely Brigham] and many of whom have taught that the church doesn’t know the reason for it).

    It is one thing to talk about personal ideas, and another thing to present them as authoritative, and another thing to presume to correct/fault the Lord’s anointed.

    Take it for what it’s worth.

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — December 23, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  164. Howard – I never said anything about “an uncaring God”. That is your invention Howard. I said that our getting the priesthood in this life is not all that important to God. That is the only good explanation I can come up with for why he didn’t intervene on this fiasco for the restored church. That is, not getting the priesthood in this life apparently must not deter anyone from being exalted in the eternities. That doesn’t seem like all that controversial of a position to take. Why is it so objectionable to you?

    we (even the Prophets?) weren’t ready

    Weren’t ready for what? Not ready to not be racists? Not ready to be charitable to all people? Moroni says that if we aren’t ready to have charity then we aren’t ready to be exalted. So does that mean that no Mormons were ready for exaltation prior to 1978?

    And who is the “we” you are referring to? Aren’t black people part of “we”? Are you saying they weren’t ready to receive all of God’s blessings?

    Did you even follow any of the links Jacob provided?

    Pace – Yes, I took your comment for what it was worth.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  165. Geoff: “So are you asserting that allowing black men to have the priesthood would have led to the destruction of the church Jack? If so, who would have destroyed the church for being nicer than most Americans to people of African descent?”

    Not necessarily. But I am challenging your notion that the church had no interest in “popularity” or the reality of social compromise. I think you would agree that the church may very well have been destroyed–or driven to Antarctica–had it not put an end to polygamy.

    I also think you might agree that the church being driven from Missouri might have had something to do with the slave issue. The “bad guys” weren’t just beating up the innocent Mormons over there–at least, I don’t think that’s the way they viewed it in their own minds. They had something to protect; to fight for, however depraved their cause may have been.

    Comment by Jack — December 23, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  166. Re: The broader question as to whether or not revelation had anything to do with the ban–

    It’s a lot easier for me to put the pieces together in my mind if I go with the assumption that it was all based in culture and had nothing to do with God’s edicts. But then I read OD2 and I have doubts on the that score. It reads as a fulfillment of prophecy. It speaks of the “day long foretold by prophets” etc.. Now while this doesn’t necessarily establish the ban’s inception as being inspired, it does keep the door open to the idea that God may have had something to do with the timing of the ban’s lifting.

    And so, while Howard may not be as informed as Jacob would like, I think he (Howard) has a legitimate concern in that we not glibly toss aside the possibility that God may have had a hand in it–at least with respect to the timing of it’s end.

    Comment by Jack — December 23, 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  167. Geoff,
    “Why is it so objectionable to you?”

    “So either God wanted the ban or he didn’t care about the ban. I believe it was the latter of those two.”

    My personal experience is that He cares deeply about what goes on here.

    In my view, your idea indicts both God and His Prophets.

    “That is the only good explanation I can come up with for why he didn’t intervene on this fiasco for the restored church.”
    No, you came up with another one; God wanted the ban, what’s wrong with that one?

    “Weren’t ready for what?”
    We (“basically every white person in the 1800s”) weren’t ready to embrace and love those some of us had enslaved.
    Most people cannot enslave someone they identify with, so slaves must be labeled “less than” us. When we finally admit that they are equal to us, we are psychologically forced to face the injustice we (or others) created. This is traumatic, people naturally resist that internal conflict so it was finally forced by war and civil protest. Only after this catharsis was the ban raised.

    “So does that mean that no Mormons were ready for exaltation prior to 1978?”

    Geoff, this type of question makes the conversation tedious. We are speaking in general terms. I’m sure many Mormons qualified for exaltation prior to 1978.
    You made the statement; “But then again, basically every white person in the 1800s was horribly racist by our standards.” did you mean that almost no one could be found who wasn’t a racist? If so, then you answered your own question about Mormons ready for exaltation.

    “Did you even follow any of the links Jacob provided?”

    No, not yet. BTW…you could have left out the word “even”.

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  168. Pace,

    Doesn’t your reasoning pretty much apply to all gospel related discussions? If your reasoning is right, then why should we debate anything online or even in Sunday school? After all, either we’ve received personal revelation on every subject or we haven’t…

    BTW, I didn’t intend my bringing up the priesthood ban to be that big of an issue. Sorry ’bout that.

    Comment by Jeff G — December 23, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  169. Howard: you could have left out the word “even”

    I could have but I didn’t on purpose. You really need to listen to that presentation in the first link Jacob gave you before we continue this discussion. It is clear to me that you have such a limited understanding of the actual history of this subject that continuing this dialogue until you get somewhat up to speed is worse than tedious — it is downright silly.

    Let me know when you have done that homework and I’ll be happy to pick this conversation up again with you.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  170. Pretty rude and condescending Geoff.

    Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Howard — December 23, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  171. Hmmm… I think you are right. That last comment was pretty rude and condescending of me. Sorry about that Howard.

    Merry Christmas to you as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 23, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  172. Jeff G,

    In case my original post was unclear: I don’t think it is productive to present one’s opinion *as authoritative* when the prophets have proclaimed that *we don’t know*. I don’t think it wise to present personal revelation to the world without God’s authorization (or until it is first revealed to the church). I also don’t think it wise to denigrate the Lord’s anointed.

    As far as I know, most conversations involving the gospel do not involve any of these three things. As far as I know I’m misreading much of the above conversation, so I’ll leave it up to individual posters to take my comments for what they are worth (as Geoff already did).

    I hope that clears it up.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — December 24, 2007 @ 7:47 am

  173. P. Nielsen,

    There are some very strong historical facts involved in the priesthood ban. Please see this link as a primer to get you up to speed. No one here is presenting personal opinions “as authoritative” so your comments on that subject are at best not particularly useful and at worst obnoxious.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 8:50 am

  174. Jacob,
    Thank you for the link to Darius Gray and Margaret Young’s excellent presentation.

    I was struck by the similarity between Michael Quinn’s excellent account of Plural Marriage with church leaders saying one thing while doing another and this account of Blacks and the Priesthood with church leaders saying one thing while doing another. I will share more on this soon.

    In the mean time,

    Geoff I have complied with your homework assignment. I look forward to your sincere responses to #167.

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  175. Jack,

    And so, while Howard may not be as informed as Jacob would like, I think he (Howard) has a legitimate concern in that we not glibly toss aside the possibility that God may have had a hand in it–at least with respect to the timing of it’s end.

    I agree with you.

    Pace,

    Jeff G seems to be on to something in #168. Also, any comment that begins with “I think this whole discussion is just dumb.” is almost certainly obnoxious.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 24, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  176. Did one of my posts get deleted?

    ————-

    Jacob,

    Here is the definition of obnoxious from dictionary.com:

    1. highly objectionable or offensive; odious: obnoxious behavior.
    2. annoying or objectionable due to being a showoff or attracting undue attention to oneself: an obnoxious little brat.
    3. Archaic. exposed or liable to harm, evil, or anything objectionable.
    4. Obsolete. liable to punishment or censure; reprehensible.

    If you found that one sentence highly objectionable, or attracting undue attention to myself, I apologize. I don’t have editing powers, and would remove it otherwise.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — December 24, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  177. Howard (#167): In my view, your idea indicts both God and His Prophets.

    The entire purpose of my view is to figure out a way to not indict God. (We don’t believe in infallible prophets so if they were wrong as the historical records seem to indicate that is not a big deal to me.) As I mentioned, my view on this is a variation on a theodicy — or in other words a way of explaining God’s non-intervention to help us understand how God is not morally culpable for an evil in the world.

    So here is what the records indicate:

    1. Blacks were not precluded from the priesthood by the prophet Joseph Smith
    2. Later leaders of the church began to preclude blacks from receiving the priesthood for whatever reason (likely pragmatic reasons mixed with their own prejudice).
    3. The ban gained institutional momentum and became a tradition in the church. So much so that changing it would make previous church leaders look really bad. It took until 1978 to change the policy.
    4. God refrained from intervening and rectifying this problem for more than 100 years even though he had full power to do so,

    So with those as the premise, the question that must be asked is: How is God not morally culpable for not fixing this ugly problem sooner?

    The best answer I can come up with is the one I have presented here. Namely, I assume that God does love all people and that he would intervene if a mistake of men jeopardized the eternal progress of an entire race of people. Because he did not intervene here I think a safe conclusion is that he did not intervene because not getting the priesthood in this life has no significant negative effect on the eternal progress of a man.

    As I have said, I don’t know why you would be so opposed to that claim. Perhaps you could explain what you find so objectionable about it.

    And if you do find it objectionable, I am interested in the theodicy you employ to absolve God of moral culpability in your mind for for his non-intervention in this matter (whereas he did intervene in all sorts of other things in the meantime.)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  178. Yes, I deleted one of your comments Pace. It was obnoxious. (As is your comment #176). And since I am an administrator here I get to delete any comments from our guests here I deem obnoxious.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 11:01 am

  179. Howard (#167 continued): God wanted the ban, what’s wrong with that one?

    Well,it seems that it would make God a respecter of persons, no? Plus it would make Joseph Smith plain wrong in his non-racist actions since he personally ordained a black man to the priesthood and became increasingly less racist over time (in contrast to most other white Americans of his time).

    We weren’t ready…

    This is the weakest of your arguments. You think we were “ready” for polygamy? You think we were ready for the law of consecration and the united order? Of course we weren’t. God commands his people to do all sorts of things they aren’t “ready” to do and always has done so.

    Joseph Smith and his contemporaries were ready to give the priesthood to black men. It was only decades later that the policy was changed based on prejudice and false hearsay.

    This gets back to the issue of charity. If we weren’t ready to have charity for black people even if God commanded us to treat them fully as our brothers and sisters (since that is who they are) then such a people would not be ready to be exalted. This whole line of reasoning of yours falls apart under even the most superficial scrutiny.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 11:10 am

  180. Geoff,
    Attempting to judge 19th and 20th Century people through a 21th century lens is simply wrong, it lacks love, it lacks charity and it is arrogant.

    I prefer to believe that God directed the ban because it indicts no one.

    Thank God for slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights movement, all of the many bigots and the few who were so blessed to be enlightened. Thank God for all that played any part large or small in this Great Struggle because…it brought us to the 21th Century lens we sometimes misuse by judging those who blazed great trail for us.

    I ask God ask to bless ALL of these people and I pray that their sometimes bloody and often painful struggle will lead us to still more still Light.

    Thank God for the Darius Grays, the Margaret Youngs and Michael Quinn’s both inside and outside the church who use their intellectual gifts to help illuminate this struggle.

    This is NOT a race issue, it is so much larger than that. It is my prayer that all who are involved in this struggle both living and dead might eventually learn to love each other as we are commanded without engaging in the self-censorship that I found myself engage in with the obese man at FexEx.

    “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  181. Thank God for slavery

    Are you kidding me? Please tell me this comment is a joke Howard.

    Should we thank God for genocide and child abuse and murder as well?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 11:31 am

  182. We should thank God for giving us the opportunity to grow through the adversities He places before us, but I see that you are baffled again.

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  183. Yes, I am baffled again.

    I don’t plan to thank God for children being raped and murdered ever just as I will never thank God for the great evil we call slavery. And why won’t I thank God? Because God is not behind such evils — free-willed people are behind them.

    Slavery (like murder and rape and a whole host of other evils) has been on the earth from the beginning of human history. Do you really think that we should thank God for it? The whole suggestion is mind-bogglingly ridiculous.

    Howard, I’m sure you have good intentions and all, but I think comments like this are fine examples of you doing a lot more harm than good as Jacob warned of in #159.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 11:46 am

  184. Geoff,
    I can see that you are baffled, because if you understood what I wrote in #180 you would treat your blog commenters with more love, respect and charity.

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 11:49 am

  185. Geoff,
    The main point of #180 encourages us to come together and love one another as we are commanded, how does this do “a lot more harm than good”?

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  186. Howard,

    I have charity for you. I assume you have excellent intentions — if that is not charitable I don’t know what is. I also have enough respect for you to assume that if I point out that writing quotable little sound bites like “Thank God for slavery” is the height of bad judgment for a Latter-day Saint that you will be intelligent enough to see that it is indeed a totally knuckle-headed thing to say in any context. Please prove me right in my faith in you. Please show me that you see that your comment #180 was poorly written and generally poorly reasoned. (Poorly reasoned because we should not thank God for the existence of great evils in the world — we thank God for helping us rid the world of such evils. I obviously agree with your conclusion that we should love one another.)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  187. Geoff,
    When I say “Thank God for slavery” I am not saying that I am pleased that people are oppressed or mistreated I am saying thank you God for providing a way to eventually bring us closer together, a vehicle with which to learn to love one another.

    I am not happy that the Savior had to go through the punishment and death that he went through but I am eternally grateful that he did.

    Do you also have charity for P. Nielsen?

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  188. Sigh.

    Yes, I have charity for Pace. And I have enough respect for him to assume he can choose to not behave boorishly.

    And yes, I still think that you claiming that the ages-old practice slavery was a vehicle that taught us to “love one another” in the 21st century is shockingly naive as ridiculous and offensive. Let’s just stop now Howard.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  189. I Love you Geoff, I know that you are a good man and so does God. So, imagine that sometime in your future you are chosen to become a General Authority. Then some well meaning historians discover your blog! Wow, look here, a GA without charity.

    See what I mean? It’s not good for mortals to judge by looking backward.

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  190. Merry Christmas Geoff, Jacob, Matt and families, may God bless you all.

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  191. Hehehe. If that were to ever happen they could use my blog as proof that repentance is real Howard!

    Merry Christmas to you as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 24, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  192. Lol

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  193. President oaks recently visited the place wehre Elijah was burried to say that He was the first blak to have the pristwood. He thank him for the hardware. many coloured people were there and whites. Does it mean that he wanted to say that Joseph Fielding Smith was wrong when he said that his ordenation was wrong?
    I dont think so…
    Geoff I am completly of your openion, this was a mistake. Sometimes is better to leave the gospel link for a while and get more of the Book of Mormon. To say that the church of Christ was for several time withihelt from grouth because of pride, richness, etc. Tha was the same church we are, why thing that happened then could not happen now? Remember that church growth began pretty much after the 1978 statment. If we leave our pride behind we are a lot better off. I believe it was wrong as I dont believe in determinism, we can only be a true church because we grow to be like that, and we develop. If we are doing something wrong then we will go back words.
    Howard is time to leave the pride behing… and move on embrace all people as Jesus set the example

    Comment by Sérgio — December 24, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

  194. merry Christmas from Poland.
    I am Portuguese, and my wife polish. Thinking that before 1989 we had a wall in a middle of europe…I have 2 beautifull daughters, one day I will have to tell them that men once decided that Poland (mom´s country) and Portugal(my country) were once separated by a human made wall. Now should I say that God made the wall? no, I dont think so…We are the ones that make make the separations, not God. God I am sure grew to be a lot smarter than that. That growth is a basic one, Children play with other children regardless of colour or back ground…. lets grow to be like little children…

    Comment by Sérgio — December 24, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

  195. Merry Christmas Sérgio.

    Comment by Howard — December 24, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

  196. Merry Christmas.

    Comment by Sérgio — December 24, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

  197. horward,

    did turkey make softer?

    Comment by Sérgio — December 28, 2007 @ 7:41 am

  198. I mean made you softer?

    Comment by Sérgio — December 28, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  199. Personal Note: I can’t believe this post is at 198 comments, when it was just a random musing, while my post on Hinduism (which I thought was awesome) got less than 15 comments. Go figure. I must be out of touch.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 28, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

  200. Sérgio, I’m not sure what you mean. “Did turkey make me softer?”

    Was I too hard before turkey?

    Does this have something to do with your “leave the pride behind” comment?

    Comment by Howard — December 30, 2007 @ 9:26 am

  201. I was hopping, with no offence, that turkey would make you softer as my comment yes!
    I think I understand your point because many People I know are of your openion. I really think that thinking that God is the cause of the ban can only be wrong. We have seen the flip flops of some people like Zebedee Coldrin and Joseph F Smith, that in my openion shows that its really not a matter of God made commmandments. Its a tradition based on wrong beliefs that were carried out through many many years….
    That it why I believe in the Gospel, we can change to be better and together grow. There should be no determistic view of the things we hear, or the things we aqcuire. Our relationship with God and the Gospel should be a daily battle, where we perceive the wrong and the good doings and try each day to get better. Like our own singular path, in our church we have many things we need to change, (not commandments or eternal laws). But we have aquire traditions that are no gospel centered at all.
    I remember some years ago as a missionary seeing a women slapping a boy´s left hand because that was the hand he was picking up the sacrament bread with… in her belief sacrament should be always taken with your right hand…this sort of things go from mouth to mouth and people will then think it was a commandment.
    I am sure that God was happy and manisfested his happiness in the salt lake city temple in 1978 when 15 men devoted praid. in my openion God was saying to himself,
    -finally they have opened their eyes for something that was so obvious.
    Now according to Geof, Blake and other people´s openion God, either doesn´t think that having a prieswood in this life is of much importance (remember that this work can always be done in the temple for people that died already for eternal progression ), or God wanted the Ban. Honestly and given the facts I go for the first one.

    Matt, I think this one got to a boiling point that is why, some times does not mean that is a better thing.
    I really think that this type of subjects are to be spoken as speacially in Europe where the church in many palces is infant we hear some really odd thing that people say, you would not believe it sometimes…. but I will go to you post now and see if I can add my openion.

    Ciao

    Comment by Sérgio — December 30, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  202. “finally they have opened their eyes for something that was so obvious.”

    Yes indeed Sérgio.

    Comment by Howard — December 30, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

  203. Sérgio, regarding prejudice:
    We once dwelt together in heaven with the Father and the Son. There was a war about agency. Satan and his bunch were cast out and became the adversary. We were endowed with agency, given mortal bodies and allowed to grow by learning from our mistakes. Through Christ’s Atonement or At-one-ment we can again become “one with God”.

    I like to think of this as a diamond. At the top, we are “at one” with the Father and the Son in the pre-existence. All of our wills overlay the Father’s. When we enter mortal life, we spread out moving toward the sides of the diamond, our wills diverge as we develop our individuality. We are no longer “one”. Since we now think, act and look differently, it is easy to forget that we were once “one”. Soon, we learn pre-judgments from those around us. From our parents, siblings, friends and neighbors we learn to identify “us” vs. “not us”.

    Race, sure, race is often an issue because one race can look and act differently than another. But the real issue is not race, it is much larger than race, it is our lack of love. I was lucky to have been raised in what was called a “mixed neighborhood”, of course, I didn’t know it was “mixed”, to me they were just my friends, Mexican, Black, Filipino, Jewish, Italian and Caucasian. I thank God that my 4 year old daughter has the privilege of attending a “mixed” Christian pre-school where she plays with her friends and learns about Jesus…and that she has no idea what “mixed” means. So, have I escaped being prejudice? NO! Read # 114 about the obese man in the FedEx store. We are ALL prejudice, “us” vs. “not us”. We must all learn how to love our fellow man. The difference is the breadth of the people you identify with. In the “oneness” experience you begin to see what you have in common with all of mankind.

    Through the Atonement, our wills begin to over lay Christ’s, who’s will over lays the Father and we become “one” again completing the diamond.

    Comment by Howard — December 31, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  204. well,
    im so glad for you. I am sure you don’t live in Utah, also we are not in the 19 th century.
    I agree with you racism=prejudice
    modern scriptures do not show prejudice
    some modern prophets are quoted to have been racist and they have wrongly asset that it was backed in any sort of scripture or revelation.
    it was wrong all wrong. lets not forget it not to get wrong again. the book of mormon is full of accounts of how a christ church could go up and down in their acquantance with God. lets make sure in this matter we all agree that is a matter of ignorance. the church is no longer implanted in the states, we are an international church with no limitations in terms of spiritual growth for both male or female, black or white.

    Comment by sergio — January 1, 2008 @ 2:42 am

  205. Yes, we are now an international church with no limitations in terms of spiritual growth for anyone.

    Racism = prejudice. But, simply giving mortal man agency also = prejudice. The thing that we must realize is that we all have prejudice. Prophets are men, men make mistakes. Prejudice is based in a lack of love, it is identifying the other person or group as “not me”.

    This is what people must do when they go to war, “the enemy is not like us, they are less than us”. If we did not do this, we couldn’t face killing them! The same was true for slavery.

    The Father and the Son love us ALL equally. “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” It reads “souls”, it does not specify which type of souls or what color souls. But, who among us actually loves ALL souls equally? Do you? Even the obese man at FedEx or his equivalent for you? Christ did, has any one else since? Not likely.

    As a result, it is virtually impossible to accuse someone of being racist without engaging in prejudice yourself. By calling someone “racist” we must ignore our own prejudice and identify them as “not us”. It is an ugly circle that can only be broken with love and compassion.

    Happy New Year Sérgio!

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 7:14 am

  206. Howard: As a result, it is virtually impossible to accuse someone of being racist without engaging in prejudice yourself.

    There is nothing wrong with being “prejudiced” against hateful and evil thoughts and beliefs and actions in a person. In fact if that were wrong then God would be wrong and “prejudice” by this loosey goosey definition of yours Howard. However there is something very wrong with being prejudice against a person purely because of the color of their skin or some other incidental/accidental trait they were born with which has nothing to do with their free choices. That is simply morally wrong and is the vile kind of racism that we must all spurn as the evil it is.

    So in other words, you are simply wrong in trying to equate a person who spurns racists beliefs in others with racists who spurn people solely because of race. The first is spurning a vile belief in the racist, while the racist spurns a person simply for his or her race regardless of that person’s beliefs or character.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 1, 2008 @ 9:55 am

  207. Geoff,

    There is nothing wrong with being “prejudiced” against hateful and evil thoughts and beliefs…

    We agree.

    However there is something very wrong with being prejudice against a person purely because of the color of their skin or some other incidental/accidental trait they were born with which has nothing to do with their free choices.

    Yes, it is wrong. But we are all prejudice “purely because of “ something. It doesn’t matter what the something is, none of us are free from prejudice.

    We are commanded to love one another, no exception is made for blacks and no exception is made for racists. Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  208. What’s your point Howard? Are you simply agreeing with me that racism is a horrible evil? Or are you making the fallacious argument that all forms of prejudice are equally evil?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 1, 2008 @ 11:39 am

  209. Equally evil? No. But, until one has eliminated their preconceived judgments or opinions, it amounts to the pot calling the kettle black.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  210. Howard,

    You’re totally out to lunch with this argument you are trying to make. Not all prejudice is bad. I may have a prejudice where I assume all Mormons are honest people. That is an unsupportable pre-judgment when it come to individuals. Is that evil to assume the best about someone? No. But it is a form of prejudice.

    Racism is a form of prejudice — I’ll grant you that. But racism is generally an egregiously awful subset of the practice of prejudging people. You are making a serious category error in implying that there is no difference between racism and prejudice.

    So no, it is not the pot calling the kettle black. You are just wrong in that argument.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 1, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  211. Geoff,
    Assuming the best in people is not what I was addressing by using the word prejudice.

    The only difference between racism and common prejudice is magnitude, both operate on “not me”, “not us” thinking.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  212. Ok. So do you have some overall point to make here Howard?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 1, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  213. Some forms of discrimination can be beneficial. It is important that we seperate as “other” some behaviours, persons, or thoughts which would otherwise be harmful or counterproductive. In fact, God commands us to judge for ourselves.

    For example, at work, people who harrass others for what ever reason (whether it be sexism, racism, just sheer idiocy) are fired and seperated from the group.

    The most common form of discrimination in America today is discrimination against stupidity(inferiority). The problem comes up in that inferiority is subjective and is measured in so many different ways (some people think race or sex are indicators of inferiority) that often the judgments themselves are based on stupidity to begin with. Thus God also said “judge not lest ye be judged” and encouraged us to ju\dge with righteous judgment.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 1, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  214. Geoff,
    Yes, the antidote to “not me”, “not us” is at-one-ment.

    Thanks Matt, “judge not lest ye be judged” sums it up nicely.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  215. But there’s the rub, we must judge. It’s part of life. Hence the JST, “judge not unrighteously”.

    The Book of Mormon says it even better.

    “It is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil”

    Comment by Matt W. — January 1, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  216. Matt,
    Moroni 7 says we must use the Spirit of Christ to judge good from evil, it goes on to say that charity is the pure love of Christ and without it we are nothing.

    Matthew 7

    1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    Luke 6

    37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

    3 Nephi 14

    1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    Comment by Howard — January 1, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  217. 1. Perhaps Moroni got a false revelation…

    2. Perhaps Mormon got Moroni all wrong…

    3. Perhaps many of us: have false revelations (actually, I doubt I would call them revelations, but understanding) regarding Moroni… are assuming things… have limited our perspectives because of what others have told/ taught us… are forgetting things we have been told in the BoM regarding the Bom… are forgetting things we have been told regarding the compilation of the BoM and its purpose…

    Which do I pick as more possible and plausible? Which one do I personally go with?

    The third.

    I believe the answer is in the book, and that we just need to keep searching. Why is something so apparent, also so hidden?

    JS also implied we don’t receive revelations because we would do something like fly to pieces like broken glass if we got them–because we would refuse to believe and obey them, and they would damn us. I believe tha once we allow ourselves to be open to see what Mormon is showing us, we will understand.

    Comment by grego — May 27, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

  218. grego,

    Do you have a theory about what we are all missing regarding the Book of Mormon, or are you just musing that we may be missing something?

    Comment by Jacob J — May 28, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  219. grego, very cryptic

    Comment by Matt W. — May 28, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  220. Experience has shown me that, overall, the Book of Mormon is deep. The more we study and learn about it, the more we see that’s in it. So yes, there’s always the chance we are completely missing something important when we read.

    Sorry, not trying to be completely cryptic, the comments were just meant to be a starting point of contemplation, in response to many of the comments I’ve read–not just here but over the years–about Moroni and Pahoran. The “official understanding” –what most church leaders and most others teach–#1 and #2 (in post 217) or some variation or similar thing, such as Moroni acting brashly or angrily or not understanding–was all fine until I read those chapters over and over and also started learning about other things that tied in; and then something very different slowly opened up. (Yeah, yeah, there’s the possiblity it was a false revelation to me, too…) Then, it was like a dam breaking; more and more things all pulled together and made sense, faster and faster.

    Are the lessons from the old stories helpful? Absolutely: get your facts before you judge and threaten, a soft answer turneth away wrath, concentrate on what needs to be done to solve a problem, etc. So yes, helpful. Are they correct? I don’t think so. Are they what Mormon wants us to get at? I don’t think so. We must ask, why did Mormon put that all in? What was the reason? If the Book of Mormon is for our day, what, in all that, is for our day particularly? In the face of those critical questions, to me, the “official understanding” doesn’t fit.

    It’s a lot about reframing. Framing is how you see, how you have been taught/ conditioned/ used to looking at something. When you have experiences that make you look at something differently, you are open to new ideas that didn’t, that couldn’t, have existed for you before–not because it changed, but because you changed. For example, Lamoni had never even considered that it was wrong to kill his servants–until his experience with Ammon.

    So yes, I do have a theory about Moroni and Pahoran, but it doesn’t fly well with most people–especially the conclusions–so I just leave it at that. My main point here, especially as a guest, was just to point out that many times we choose #1 and #2 or such, but don’t choose #3–probably just because we have been pre-conditioned to. My hope was the comment would help some to rethink and reconsider at least the possibility that there might be something more than what is generally being seen now.
    Also, if we don’t understand or “have problems with it”, it might be wise to put off a definite conclusion until we reread and rethink more.

    grego

    Comment by grego — May 29, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  221. Grego, rather than tell me to rethink and reconsider in hopes I will independently come to your point of view, just tell me your point of view, and I’d be happy to consider it.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 30, 2008 @ 11:20 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.