> I'm a little unclear about the "salamander" issue in Church history.
> Would someone please clarify, and separate the Hoffman from the
The "Salamander Letter" of course was Hofmann forgery. It was supposed to be a letter from Martin Harris to W.W. Phelps. Some believe that Hoffman got his idea from the early anti-Mormon book, "Mormonism Unvailed", a portion claimed that when Joseph Smith opened the box in which the gold plates had been deposited, "he saw in the box something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the side of his head." This book of course is very unreliable and full of lies. The following information is discussed in Turley's book, "Victims."
The bogus letter states Joseph found a white salamander in the bottom of the hole and it struck him three times, not letting him get the plates.
After the letter was revealed, some in the church tried to rationalize the term "salamander". Some dictionary definitions showed the term could be taken to mean a person living in or capable of enduring fire.
Brent Metcalfe had a high profile in this Salamander fraud. He worked with Hofmann in efforts to authenticate the letter. Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon who was president of the Mormon History Association said of Brent, "Brent was clearly intoxicated...with the idea that he possessed knowledge that would alter the world's understanding of the beginnings of Mormonism."
The Tanners claimed there was an Oliver Cowdery history that the church was hiding. Searches of the history were made in the church archives and an Oliver Cowdery sketchbook was rediscovered, but it was not the long lost Cowdery history. On May 13, 1985, Brent Metcalfe and George Smith (Signature Books) appeared on a program on KUTV. Metcalfe claimed he had learned the contents of the long-lost Cowdery history that told of a story "very much in the same terms as (the Salamander letter) does." He said that the Cowdery history referred to a salamander twice, and that it first appeared to Alvin Smith. Metcalfe wouldn't reveal his unnamed source that claimed to have seen the history. President Hinckley asked the historical department what they knew of such a history. Dean L. Larsen cited a 1971 Dean Jesse article that concluded Cowdery's history had never been found. And Elder Larsen concluded, "the record referred to by Brother Metcalfe is not in the Church Archives." Metcalfe claimed that his source said President Hinckley knew where the document was. On radio, both Metcalfe and George Smith said they were convinced that the Salamander letter was authentic. Metcalfe and Smith continued to spread the story that they claimed was in the Cowdery History (only seen by this "extremely reliable source") as evidence that the Salamander Letter was true. Metcalfe helped make possible a Los Angeles times story on the Cowdery history.
One year after Hofmann murdered Christensen, the church again denied that they had the Cowdery history. The next day, Metcalfe said that Hofmann was his secret source regarding the Cowdery history. Hofmann later admitted that the story of Alvin Smith discovering the plates was his own creation. Hofmann admitted that through Metcalfe's help, the reporter from the Los Angeles Times came to Salt Lake and that at a restaurant with Metcalfe and the reporter, he told him the fabricated story. He admitted that "It's not based on anything I saw in the First Presidency's office or elsewhere." Of Metcalfe Hofmann said, "One thing about Metcalfe is he's always interested in these little hidden rumors or truths or whatever. And I noticed I could throw out a little thing to wet his appetite and he would always be after me for more and more information. So I would just make it up as we went along." He said he was using the Cowdery story to validate the salamander letter. "One forged idea to validate another forged idea."
Thus, we have two bogus stories that refer to salamanders. I know of no true LDS historical documents that refer to a salamander. (The above information can be found in Turley's "Victims."
Back to Contents
I agree. However, Satan does have limitations on his knowledge. He is not omniscient. Take a look at the event in the Garden of Eden
"...and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world." (Moses 4:6)What are Satan's motives? Satan knows what he is doing, he continues to be in a state of rebellion and his only recourse now is to destroy. Just because many of the followers of Satan are deceived and think they are following after a higher law doesn't mean for a minute that Satan too is deceived.
Satan knows he will be miserable forever:
"And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.,,for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." (2 Ne 2:18,27)Satan clearly understands that those who don't keep their first and second estates are lost.
"The answer to Lucifer was not obscure. Already it was known that the Father had decreed that those who kept not their first and second estates should not have glory in the same kingdom with those who kept those estates." (B.H. Roberts, TWL p. 283)By destroying as much of God's kingdom as possible, he hopes to expand his dominion and influence. This he does, not because he believes he has a better way, but because his evil glories in destruction and misery for others. He glories in having other people worship him.
"What, then, is the mission of Satan, that common foe of all the children of men? It is to destroy and make desolate." (Brigham Young, JD 11:240)
"He understands that if this kingdom, which he rebelled against in heaven, prevails on the earth, there will be no dominion here for him." (Wilford Woodruff, JD 13:163)
"Satan has tried from the beginning of the world to overturn the works of God." (John Taylor, GK p.99)
"His satanic majesty has proclaimed his intention to destroy our young people, to weaken the home and family, and to defeat the purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ through His great Church." (Ezra Taft Benson, God Family Country p. 90)
"One of Satan's greatest aims, as he works his nefarious schemes among men is to get them 'to worship him.'" (Bruce R. McConkie, MD p. 193)
Back to Contents
I like to have my copy of the scriptures be my primary study/reference tool both at church and at home.
Thus, my scriptures have tons of markings, quotes, cross-refs etc., and are my primary gospel study tool. Seven years ago I bought a nice large print leather-bound copy and they have held up very well.
I have a poor memory and when I take time to read something I don't want to lose the things that I have learned, so my scriptures collect what I discover in my travels. Here's how I use them:
1. Quotes. Yes, my scriptures have tons of quotes in them. When I read books, conference addresses etc., I will highlight profound or new thoughts and ideas that I consider worthy to enter in my scriptures some where. I will dog-ear the page of the book and later transfer the quote next to a related verse in my scriptures. When I write a quote in a margin, I draw a line from the quote to the related verse. Yes this takes time, but I'm amazed how things sink in when I take the time to copy them.
At times it is difficult to find the best scripture to write something next to, but it is a wonderful study exercise to search the scriptures for the right place. As my margins fill up, I must find secondary verses on the topic.
2. Finding Quotes. I use the topical guide as my index to the multitude of quotes that I have jotted in them. Under a subject in the topical guide I will underline the scripture reference that contains a set of quotes on the given subject and I may put a one or two word note in the margin for some of my favorite quotes, so I can easily find them.
Example: Somewhere I know I wrote down the Brigham Young quote that says there will be other churches on the earth at the beginning of the Millennium. I look in the Topical Guide under "Millennium." I see that I have two scriptures underlined, one in D&C 101 and one Alma 30:8. Sure enough, I find this Millennium quote and others written in the margin of Alma 30. I also find a neat Joseph Fielding Smith quote that says there will be millions of people, Catholics, Protestants, etc. In D&C 101, I find a link to scriptures that discuss how Satan will be bound during this time. This makes it very easy to give "on-the-spot" talks or lessons in church because my scriptures are linked together with great words from the prophets.
3. Underlining. I don't go crazy with under-lining scriptures. I generally underline key phrases and words. If I think an entire verse is very important, I simply circle the number for the verse. This avoids useless clutter.
4. Footnotes. The footnotes in our scriptures are great, but numerous. If there is a cross-reference that I have found to be important, I will circle the super-scripted letter in the verse and underline the cross-reference at the bottom of the page. I also do my own cross-referencing and write in other scripture references.
5. Colors. I don't color-code my scriptures because I always lose pens and don't want to carry around a bunch of different colors. So I stick to one color, but I generally change colors each year. I'm amazed how these color changes help me find things. Currently I am using a green pen. Be careful to use a pen that won't bleed the ink through the pages.
Back to Contents
How much do we as a church really study the scriptures? A few Sundays ago, I was in our front room studying mine and a member of our ward stopped by to get something from my wife. My wife later told me that this sister asked, "What's Dave doing?" Her reply, "Studying his scriptures." To which this sister replied, "I know we are told that we should do that on Sundays, but I didn't know anyone really did!" Linda let her know that I always do, and do it every day.
This quote from President Kimball comes to mind:
"It is a common thing to have a few passages of scripture at our disposal, floating in our minds,...to have the illusion that we know a great deal about the gospel...I am convinced that each of us at some time in our lives must discover the scriptures for ourselves and not just once, but over and over again." (1976)I rediscovered the scriptures just three years ago, after many years of neglect. It is never too late to start REALLY studying the scriptures.
Here's a quote I always try to keep in mind regarding my motivations for scripture study:
"Am I valiant if my approach to the Church and its doctrines is intellectual only? Am I more concerned with having a religious dialogue on this or that point than I am on gaining a personal spiritual experience?" (Bruce R. McConkie, 1974)President Kimball listed the blessings from immersing ourselves in the scriptures: 1- Narrows the distance between our Heavenly Father and us. 2- Increased spirituality. 3- Helps us love more. 4- Makes it easier to follow counsel. 5- Lessons of life are learned more readily. (Spencer W. Kimball, 1975)
I found item #4 especially interesting and at the risk of judging others, regarding the many vocal people in the church today who are speaking out against the brethren today, I wonder how they are doing in the personal scripture study.
Back to Contents
> What portion of the plates were sealed?
Joseph Smith said,
"The volume was something near six inches thick, a part of which was sealed." (HC 4:537)But what about all those Book of Mormon witnesses...didn't any of them describe them?
Yes, but it doesn't help much. David Whitmer on on occasion was quoted as saying 1/3 was sealed and on another occasion saying 2/3.
Does it matter. No. But accounts can change over time and be told in different ways. Just because most of us have heard that 1/3 was sealed doesn't make it a fact.
There is also a lot of misunderstanding in the church as to what is in the sealed portion and why it is sealed. Ether 4 is very revealing. It tells us that the brother of Jared saw a great vision, "never were greater things made manifest..." Moroni wrote these "very things" on "these plates" and was commanded to "seal them up."
Has anyone other than Moroni read these things?
"The doctrines revealed to the brother of Jared and which are recorded in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon were had among the Jaredites, known to the Nephites during their Golden age; certainly know and taught in Enoch's Zion." (Bruce R. McConkie MM p.237)I believe many other prophets have seen this same vision, including Abraham, Moses, John, Mormon, and probably Joseph Smith.
So what did the brother of Jared see?
"in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof...they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof." (2 Ne 27:7,10) Wow, wouldn't that be great to read! Maybe it would tell me where to make some good investments. (Hold it, that's one reason why we don't have it now.) They also contain "all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are." (Eth 4:7)So why don't we have this record now?
"They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord." (Eth 4:6)We find out that Limhi's people found these 24 plates and that Ammon couldn't translate. Did Mosiah translate them? Yes (Mosiah 28:17) Do we have this record in the Book of Mormon? In Mosiah 28:19 Mormon tells us that an account would be included hereafter, but Mormon never did include them. But we have Moroni to thank for including a small portion of this record, and we have some of this in the Book of Ether. (Ether 1:2) Do we have it all? No. Moroni left out a bunch (Ether 1:4-5). We only have "part of the account." (Ether 1:5).
"the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations..." (2 Ne 27:8)
"We will not receive the sealed portion until the time comes when the people show by their faith, their willingness to accept it." (Joseph Fielding Smith, DS 3:201-2) The Lord has placed us on probation...He has given us the Book of Mormon which is the lesser part to build our faith...when we are willing to keep the commandments...then the Lord is ready to bring forth the other record." (Joseph Fielding Smith CR 1961)
In fact, a portion was so sacred that even Mosiah couldn't share them with his people. (Ether 4:1) This sacred portion included a great vision given to the Brother of Jared. This great vision was revealed to the righteous Nephites after the Savior visited them. (Ether 4:2) So, where is this account now? Moroni was commanded to seal it up.
"So we today do not have the fulness of the account written and sealed up by the Brother of Jared and again sealed by Moroni. This part of the record the Prophet Joseph Smith was forbidden to translated." (Joseph Fielding Smith, DS 3:225)
Back to Contents
My question is: Can the Second coming be delayed or hastened due to anything that we do here on earth? I've come across some conflicting statements that I would be interested in figuring out. Maybe this all revolves around that fact that the Lord has a foreknowledge of what is going to happen anyway...something our finite minds just can't deal with.
"As to the Second Coming, the time is fixed, the hour is set, and, speaking after the manner of the Lord, the day is soon to be. The appointed day can be neither advanced nor delayed. It will come at the decreed moment, chosen before the foundations of the earth were laid, and it can be neither hastened by righteousness nor put off by wickedness." (Bruce R. McConkie, "A New Witness for the Articles of Faith", p 591.)
"If the members of the Church do real proselyting in their home wards, the number of converts could grow to astronomical figures and even HASTEN the time when the Lord will be returning to the earth in His second advent." (Spencer W. Kimball, 1976)
"There are many many upright and faithful who live all the commandments and whose lives and prayers keep the world from destruction." (SWK 1971)
"Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion -- that they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands." A little season -- how long will it last? Will it be two hundred years? or three hundred? Though the day of the Second Coming is fixed, the day for the redemption of Zion depends upon us. After we as a people live the law of the celestial kingdom; after we gain the needed experience and learn our duties; after we become by faith and obedience as were our fellow saints in the days of Enoch; after we are worthy to be translated, if the purposes of the Lord should call for such a course in this day -- then Zion will be redeemed, and not before." (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, Pg.615 - Pg.616)
Back to Contents
Another related story that I like is found in Mark. As Jesus and his disciples traveled to Capernaum, they discussed several topics. Christ taught his disciples about his upcoming death:
"For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him." (Mark 9:31-32)This is interesting. They didn't understand, yet they were chicken to ask. It is great to see the human qualities in these great men that we also struggle with. Yes, they were great apostles, yet they were still in important training stages as they were learning their duties.
Later Jesus really puts them on the spot:
"And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?" (Mark 9:33)I picture them all taking a big gulp. Oops, we've been caught! "But they held their peace". They just couldn't bring themselves to tell him. So what was the big secret?
"...for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest." (Mark 9:34)Isn't it amazing how many times they disputed this topic? It is a very tough one to learn. Well, of course Jesus knew what was going on:
"And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." (Mark 9:35)We have always been told that it isn't where we serve that is important, but it is how we serve. Is is wrong to secretly wish for a particular calling and to try to do well in a current calling, hoping that we will be "rewarded" with a "better" calling?
"If a man serves well to obtain a leadership calling, there is likely to be a day of disappointment for him, but if he serves because he loves his fellows, then whether the other things come or not, he is never disappointed." (Antoine R. Ivins, CR 1948)
Back to Contents
Have you ever dreamed of living at the time of Joseph Smith, standing true at his side? I have, but I was deeply moved by Elder Glenn L. Pace's experience:
"Many year ago I took the occasion to read the "History of the Church." At the conclusion of the exercise, I too fantasized about how valiant I would have been had I lived at the time of Joseph Smith. The Spirit brought me up short during one of those fantasies. It was made known to me that if by some miracle I were to be taken back to live my life at the time of Joseph and Hyrum and all I could take with me was my current spirituality, I would not have been successful. This knowledge cut me to the quick. I would have died for Joseph Smith, but don't ask me to take any more than two home teaching families. I would have died for Joseph Smith, but don't ask me to do anything I don't really want to do." (Glenn L. Pace, Spiritual Revival, p. 164)I too have come to the same conclusion. I fear with my rebellious spirit that I may have ended up on the side of the mob, being blinded by false rumors. I no longer dream this dream and am thankful for my ancestors and for their faithfulness and strength to stand by his side.
Back to Contents
There are many types of solemn assemblies held in the church, and yes many of them are held in the temple. But others are held elsewhere. When we sustain a new prophet, a special session of conference is held which is a solemn assembly. It will be a wonderful meeting, one you won't want to miss. I was in attendance at the Tabernacle for the Solemn Assembly when we sustained President Kimball, many years ago. It was a very spiritual experience. Here are a few excerpts of talks regarding solemn assemblies that have been held in recent years.
"This conference is historic because we will be given the opportunity to raise our hands to personally sustain a newly called prophet of God, his counselors, and other Church leaders. A Solemn Assembly grants to members the right to participate in the principle of common consent, instituted by revelation, authorizing members to sustain those called to official positions. Individual histories and personal accounts of this historic conference will be a highlight throughout our lives." (David B. Haight, CR April 5, 1986)Bishop Peterson describes a solemn assemble held at a stake center:
"We boarded the plane to Calgary for the purpose of going up there to attend a solemn assembly. President Kimball has instituted, and there will be held in various parts of the United States in the months to come, several solemn assemblies. As you may or may not know, most of the solemn assemblies are convened in the temples. Now, we have had solemn assemblies in the Tabernacle when we sustain the new Presidents of the Church, and you're familiar with those. But, because there aren't enough temples in the world yet and because there are priesthood brethren that need to be instructed, the President has outlined a very ambitious schedule of solemn assemblies. The solemn assemblies are for the purpose of instructing the priesthood. Those who are invited to come need a temple recommend and a ticket; there are men placed at the doors, just as you would find if you were to go to the temple here in Provo, who check recommends and tickets." (H. Burke Peterson, BYU 1979) ... We then went inside, and there were over nine hundred brethren, priesthood leaders-elders quorum presidencies, bishoprics, high councils, stake presidencies, and seventies and high priests leaders-from the nine stakes in Alberta and the...districts. It was a great experience to sit there for four hours. We partook of the sacrament first. Elders quorum presidencies passed the sacrament; the presidencies of the stakes administered to it. It was a great experience. All of these brethren had come fasting for one purpose: to be in tune with the Spirit when they were instructed by those assigned, particularly the prophet. I appreciated all that was taught...But there was a difference when the prophet stood up to teach the priesthood. There was a spirit about it that I'm sure you can imagine, but it was unusual. For one hour President Kimball, with a few notes but without a prepared script, instructed the priesthood. This was a thrilling experience." (H. Burke Peterson, BYU 1979)Similar meetings were held several years earlier:
"We have also been holding solemn assemblies in the United States and Canada for the purpose of edifying, strengthening, and encouraging the priesthood leadership of the Church in their duties and responsibilities. The three members of the First Presidency and two other General Authorities attend and speak at these solemn assemblies. To date we have held thirty meetings in twenty-five cities in the United States and Canada, with a total attendance of just over thirty thousand. The leaders of the stakes and missions within a radius of two or three hundred miles of each meeting place are invited to attend these solemn assemblies. It is certainly encouraging and most inspiring for us to meet with these groups of dedicated stake and mission leaders. We have had as many as twenty-two hundred in attendance at one meeting. Just last month we held a solemn assembly in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday evening, and in New York City on Saturday afternoon." (N. Eldon Tanner, BYU 1976)
Back to Contents
What does it take to become Christ's sons and daughters? Is this obtained by all those who join his church?
Here are some requirements:
1. Faith on his name (Mosiah 5:7, Ether 3:14)
2. Hearken unto the words of his prophets (Mosiah 15:11)
3. Received Christ (3 Ne 9:17)
4. Born of the Spirit (Mosiah 27:24-25)
"Those who receive the gospel and join the Church...have power given them to become the sons of God. Sonship does not come from church membership alone, but admission into the Church opens the door to such high status, if it is followed by continued faith and devotion." (Bruce R. McConkie, MD. p. 745)By becoming his sons and daughters we become his heirs (Mosiah 15:11)
"The seed of Christ are those who are adopted into his family, who by faith have become his sons and his daughters. They are the children of Christ in that they are his followers and disciples and keep his commandments." (Bruce R. McConkie, MD p.700)
"Heavenly Father gave to His Son those of His children who would take upon themselves the name of His Son, demonstrating faith in Him by repenting of their sins and entering the holy waters of baptism and then going forth steadfastly in His kingdom forever." (Robert E. Wells, CR, 1982)
"There are other meanings as well, deeper meanings that the more mature members of the Church should understand and ponder as he or she partakes of the sacrament. It is significant that when we partake of the sacrament we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We witness that we are WILLING to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the most important sense. What future event or events could this covenant contemplate? The scriptures suggest two sacred possibilities, one concerning the authority of God, especially as exercised in the temples, and the other--closely related--concerning exaltation in the celestial kingdom." (Dallin H. Oaks, 1984)