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I loved the article, and I appreciate Daniel Peterson taking the time to articulate his thoughts. I think that there is ample evidence to support either a pro-Christian or anti-Christian stance that much of where one ends up is basedon culture and upbringing. However, in my view what it all comes down to in the end is a decision about how one chooses to see the world. The lens through which we see our experiences is influenced by factors like culture and upbringing, but it still always comes down to a personal choice.
Maybe I am just demonstrating that you can prove anything you want to out of the Scriptures. I happen to be the sort of person who believes the “by their fruits ye shall know them” interpretation of the Scriptures. I’m foolish enough to think that means fruits in this life, not in the life after this. One of the great problems, as I see it, with the Pharisees who battled with Christ is that they were the greatest of self-centered hypocrites you could find. They said wonderful things, including prayers in public, but then did not do a blessed thing to help someone in need. The Good Samaritan situation had the “pure” priests walking by the wounded man, afraid to damage their personal purity by helping him. I would say that our church today has become thoroughly “priestified” so that personal purity is all that matters, and we don’t actually have to DO anything in the real world to be considered living the gospel.
Alma 34:32 “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” I take those “labors” to mean something beyond making sacrifices and performing ritual washings.
“This is the time for men to prepare to meet God” – Of course that could mean maximizing personal purity, Pharisee-style, was what he had in mind. I prefer to believe that taking actions to improve the lives of other people and the entire society is what he really had in mind.
I assume there are hundreds of examples, but just the example of the prophet Jonah, going to Nineveh to preach the gospel seems to have saved a few hundred thousand lives and got people headed on the path of righteousness. Was that propheit out of order to try to be interfering with that particular society? Are our leaders to be measured and applauded by how LITTLE they affect society as opposed to how large their effect for good may be? Did Enoch and his wife constitute the entire city of Zion, or did he have a few million people there do be part of that exemplary society? Did that city spring up spontaneously, or did Enoch have to do some “community organizing?”
I think of the pioneers going West to Utah and all that they went through to find a place of political freedom and a refuge for their religious freedom. If they were building Zion, then am I building Zion merely by dragging myself out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church, and calling that good enough? With trillions of dollars being spent specifically to corrupt society every year, what are we doing to counteract that corruption? Are “thoughts and prayers” really enough?
As you can probably tell, I am quite energized on this general topic. I have written six books, and am working on the seventh. The first five have actually been published. (And I think I have sold at least one copy of each.) 🙂 Much of this material is available for free at futuremormonism.blogspot.com.
Incidentally, I have no objections to people being employed by the church, simply because that is the society we now live in. However, personally, I have had two or three different chances to work for the church, and passed them up. I didn’t have any strong feelings about it at the time, but I’m very glad now that I passed up the opportunity. (For example, I took the seminary teacher course at BYU and considered becoming a seminary teacher.) I now have multiple reasons for my early uneasiness. (In general, I am now old and crotchety and highly opinionated.) 🙂
I like old and opinionated , a little crotchety is also tolerated
Thank you Professor. I have been struck by the fact that Father Lehi taught there would be opposition “in” all things. He did not teach that there would be opposition “to” all things. Having there be opposition “in” all things suggests to me choice and an opportunity to choose and, thus, that it is God’s plan that we not be coerced by proofs, or events, or other external matters. Evidences? Yes. Witnesses? Yes. But coercion? No. That’s not God’s plan. We have been granted the gift of moral agency and if we exercise it well a path to God’s will.
As a software engineer, dealing with information most of my working life, it has been extremely important in my life for things to WORK. There may be thousands of interesting ideas and theories swirling around some project, but only the ones that work, that get the job done, that contribute positively to the project, can be used in the real world.
You made a comment which may be useful here: “As I see it, there are no decisive proofs for the claims of the Restoration and, pending at least the Savior’s Second Coming, there will be none.”
It seems to me that there is a giant hole in the things which gospel apologists are willing to talk about or offer as proof. That near-taboo set of topics would have to do with the practical sociology of the church. Presumably, that reluctance is partially based on the fact that the facts or evidence turn out badly in practice, at least today. If we assume that God sent men to earth with a complete plan for doing everything imaginable, and the gospel was that plan, then we ought to be able to see the powerfully positive sociological effects of the gospel on various societies.
For example, we constantly talk about a Zion society, but as far as I can tell, no one has the slightest clue TODAY as to what that means or how one would get there (although earlier generations acted with real vigor in their search for Zion (and the church also grew very quickly in the beginning)). If we have perhaps 4 million people in the world who are actively involved in the LDS church, should we conclude that God’s “plan of happiness” was never meant to be available to more than 4 million people in the last 2000-3000 years of the Earth’s existence? If things are going that badly, does that mean there’s something wrong with all the people of our time, or is there something wrong with the current version of the gospel which is being taught and practiced? Have there been massive changes in the doctrines and policies of the church since the time of Joseph Smith? Would that explain today’s problems?
I don’t mean to nitpick on the question of tithing, but it seems demonstrably true that the overwhelming bulk of college educated thought leaders in the LDS church have their salaries and pensions paid for by tithing. Should we really expect them to challenge the hand that feeds them by going past the surface to look at every imaginable aspect of the church and the gospel? I have a relative who was an Institute teacher and stake president. He died recently, but, whether it was justified or not, during his retirement years he greatly feared that he was walking on eggshells concerning saying something even slightly negative about the church and, especially, its administration. He became a bit of a recluse, partly, I think, because that made it easier for him to not accidentally speak out of turn. He feared that he would lose his pension. He may have been irrational, but maybe not.
The existence of temple ordinances by proxy is a rather clear rebuttal to the idea that the goods of gospel living can only be obtained my membership in this life. I think of Church membership as a duty station more than anything else. A duty station with pretty good sociological outcomes in life satisfaction, marital success, fertility rate etc. I might add.
Not gonna lie, I don’t see what point you were aiming towards with your paragraph on tithing. I’m sorry your friend had that experience, but it does nothing to invalidate the principle of Church employment.
It seems to me that you have several actual points rolled into your comment. I’ll address, at least partially, the first one you raise. You say that it seems “there is a giant hole in the things which gospel apologists are willing to talk about or offer as proof.” I’m not sure if you were being imprecise in your use of verbiage, but the entire point of Dan’s article is that there is no proof.
There is plenty that can be offered as evidence, however. Just take a look at the devotional titles of any Deseret Book store or, easier still, listen to most of the talks given at any General Conference or stake conference. They offer assurance that the gospel plan works, often accompanied by stories that provide evidence of that assurances offered. It is up to the listener to determine if that evidence is of value within their lives.
All of this, however, has to do with applying the gospel plan individually, not at a societal level. You are correct that “gospel apologists” seldom talk about societies or governments, even though we are supposed to yearn to create a Zion society. I think that is not necessarily evidence of a “giant hole,” but evidence that we all understand that Zion societies are not built from the top down, but from the bottom up. If enough individuals live the principles of Zion within their lives, then a Zion society is created by those same individuals. The society is not imposed from outside those individuals, but generated from within them.
In my 50+ years in the Church I’ve lived in dozens of wards and stakes in a half-dozen or so states. Some of those wards were pretty close to Zion, some were far from it. Most were mediocre. Like so many things in life, their collective application of gospel principles could be plotted on a standard bell curve. None of that is surprising to me nor, I believe, should it be surprising to anyone.
Even though I’m not exactly sure what you envision by a “gospel apologist,” I’m certainly not unwilling to discuss what you see as a hole.
Nicely stated. I have enjoyed Interpreter. The evidence in the BofM is overwhelming. It may not be considered proof but should convince any honest person.
As I study the D&C I find that the Lord held that generation that failed to accept the Restored Gospel, the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, with the three witnesses, etc,. accountable. They were certainly free to reject and He said they would but there would be consequences!
Vs 31 of Section 45 reads “ And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land”.
I’m sure you are well aware of this poor dead horse but I found three individuals on my family tree that match perfectly the requirements of this prophecy. All three were born in 1823 and were still alive in 1920. They lived in and around Ohio and Illinois to witness the rejection of the Church. They lived thru the Civil War and 1918 Influenza pandemic.
See – KJ4N-J9R; L7NK-7W3 and 9KZR-MSF at familysearch.org. All include pictures and sources.
Stephen Hawking said it was impossible for man to predict the future. He even said that not even God could. He was right about man but he did not know God.
So I consider Sec 45 proof that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, that Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega, Naive? Perhaps. Accountable, definitely.
Please forgive an old man’s rantings.
Good article! Although I strongly disagree with all atheists, I have sympathy for some of them. I have sympathy for those atheists who have experienced tragedy (e.g. a death of a child), who don’t understand why we’re here, and thus say that no god would have permitted this tragedy. Oh, how wonderful it is to know the restored Gospel and to understand where we came from, why we’re here, where we’re going, and the nature of the godhead.
But I have little patience with scientists who use their scientific credentials to declare atheistic beliefs. As the article says, we in this world cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. We must pray, study, and obey in order to obtain a witness of the Holy Ghost that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ. Atheistic scientists deny the very method of obtaining knowledge that they allege to love – the scientific method. The scientific method shows quite clearly that we in this world cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Thus atheistic scientists deny the very method of obtaining knowledge that they allege to love – the scientific method.
Agnostics (those who claim that they do not know whether or not God exists) realize that we in this world cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Unfortunately, I know a few agnostics who use this fact (that we in this world cannot prove or disprove the existence of God) as an excuse to make no commitment. But it’s not an excuse as shown by the beautiful agnostic prayer of King Lamoni’s father after Ammon’s brother Aaron teaches him the Gospel; here’s that agnostic prayer:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. (Alma 22: 18)
In this agnostic prayer the prayer asks 2 questions about God:
1) “if there is a God”
2) “if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me”
Of course, the key to this agnostic prayer is:
“I will give away all my sins to know thee” thus providing a classic example of Moroni’s statement that you must “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent” and not just idle curiosity:
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10: 4, 5)
Nicely stated, Dan!