Early LDS

The criticism for the early apostles and witnesses bugs me. Many of them had a very sacred calling in the early restoration and many fulfilled their callings.

According to his daughter, B.H. Roberts once made a biographical project out of the life of Oliver Cowdery, planning to present him as a man of "almosts" who came close to destiny but who finally was stripped of his gifts and leadership. In response to prayer, Elder Roberts became convinced that Oliver Cowdery had completed his mission and that his private estrangement from Joseph Smith added weight to his unrelenting witness of the Book of Mormon. B.H. Roberts threw his manuscript into the fire. (Georgia Roberts, in BYU Studies 1979)

Yes, many of the early brethren didn't endure to the end and let pride get in the way, but many performed a great service in the restoration that we should honor them for and not think that Joseph Smith somehow goofed in calling them to the work. To me this is nonsense.

> Would you include William Law in that group? Why
> do you suppose the Lord called him to his position?

For several years William Law provided valuable service to the early church. For 1840-1843, he gave much of his money to help the church. In January 1841 he was called to serve in the First Presidency. He served a mission that year with Hyrum Smith in Philadelphia. From 1840-43 he made his home available for church meetings of all kinds and filled many assignments to preach. He was a vocal and public supporter of the Prophet in defending Joseph's character in 1842 condemning John C. Bennett's conduct in Nauvoo. He later served a mission that year to the Eastern States to preach the gospel, regulate church affairs, and counter Bennett's allegations. In May 1842, he received his endowments from Joseph Smith. He aided Joseph during his hiding in 1842 and provided financial support during his trial in Springfield, Illinois in January 1843. Hew was numbered among those who rendered valuable assistance in his rescue. He writings show that he was deeply committed to the gospel during these years.

Did he fall? Yes he fell hard. He could not accept the Prophet's teachings regarding plural marriage and he fell into a deep apostacy. He fought against the church and was an instrument in the martyrdom of the prophet. He published the Nauvoo Expositor which fueled the mob and helped stir up the mob that would later take the prophet's life. He felt no sorrow regarding the loss of the Prophet and felt that it was the vengeance of the Lord for blasphemy. He was the first endowed member of the church to be cut off.

Yes, I fear for his soul. Yet he provided valuable service to the Lord's kingdom for several years. He fell and played a role like Judus of old. Did the Lord or Joseph Smith make a mistake in calling William Law? I think not. He served the Lord's kingdom, but then served the devil's purposes in the actions that resulted in sealing the Prophet's testimony with his blood. (For more details, see Lyndon W. Cook, "William Law")

> I think the callings of Law and Bennett were both serious
> mistakes in judgement by Joseph Smith and show a lack of
> discernment on his part. I am very hesitant to blame God

Yes, Bennett was was a scoundrel and Hyrum Smith discovered that he had abandoned a wife and children in Ohio. Nevertheless, he was called by the Lord to serve.

Take a look at the Lord's own words:

"Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel. And for his love he shall be great, for he shall be mine if he do this, saith the Lord. I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue, and will crown him with blessings and great glory." (D&C 124:16-17)

Is this portion of the Doctrine & Covenants uninspired? I think not. John C. Bennett could have repented, and could have been crowned with these promised blessings. He fell short, he fell hard. However, the Lord and Joseph Smith did call him to perform a work.

Likewise, is D&C 124:91,97 uninspired?

"And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William (Law) be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph...Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say."

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"The Twelve Disciples among the Nephites ministered in an ordained apostolic capacity." (Bruce R. McConkie MD p.47)

"While in every instance the Nephite twelve are called disciples, the fact remains that they had been endowed with divine authority to be special witnesses for Christ among their own people. Therefore they were virtually apostles to the Nephite race, although eventually subject to the Palestine twelve." (Joseph Fielding Smith, AGQ 1:122)

"The Twelve Disciples among the Nephites ministered in an ordained apostolic capacity." (Bruce R. McConkie MD p.47)

"...our Savior made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection; that he planted the gospel here in all its fullness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had APOSTLES, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings as were enjoyed on the eastern continent." (JS HC 4:538)

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Paul was called an "apostle" twice. (Acts 14:4; 14:14) Assuming Luke was the author of Acts, he uses "apostle" 34 times in his Gospel and in Acts, and every other time this word refers to the Twelve or its members. Paul, himself puts his office on a parity with the Twelve, speaking of those who were "apostles before me" (Gal 1:17) and humbly calling himself "least of the apostles" after mentioning the Twelve (1 Cor 15:9). Paul opens ten of his fourteen letters, stating that he is an "apostle of Jesus Christ." Peter also make similar statements opening his two epistles.

Yes, we have no account of his ordination. But it is interesting to see that Paul was called back from Antioch to Jerusalem, and on his next mission he and Barnabus are referred to as "apostles." Did his ordination happen when they returned to Jerusalem? Also around this time, some feel, Paul had the glorious vision referred to in 2 Cor 12.

Joseph Smith referred to Paul as an apostle many times. Joseph Fielding Smith says, "Paul was an ordained apostle, and without question he took the place of one of the other brethren in that Council." (DS 3:153) There is little doubt in my mind that Paul was an apostle. Why is there hesitation to believe that Paul was a true apostle of Jesus Christ? What are the arguments against this?

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Those of the Terrestrial Kingdom are they "who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it." By receiving it, would they somehow witness to the Lord that they have received it...say by baptism? Are proxy baptisms meaningless for these people even though they eventually accept Jesus?

Also, these are they who will be resurrected during the Millennium and will be on earth. Will they participate in the temple work during this time? Seems unlikely if they haven't received baptism.

For now, I continue to believe that all the ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are Celestial ordinances. Also in D&C 76, baptism is only mentioned when talking about the heirs of the Celestial Kingdom (vs 51).

"All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial Kingdom of God...who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom." (D&C 137:7-8)

D&C 138:59 is curious and does seem to refer to those of the lower kingdoms. Washings certainly seem to refer to vicarious baptisms.

Joseph Fielding Smith was very familiar with his father's vision (D&C 138) and he taught:

"Vicarious Ordinance not for all. We are not going to do the temple work for everybody because it does not pertain to them. We are going to do the temple work for those who are entitled, through their faith and their repentance, to enter into the celestial kingdom...The Lord has given us the opportunity to perform in the temples the necessary labor for the righteous and repentant dead."

"I want to correct an idea that prevails very largely in the minds of many members of the Church...All of the ordinances of the gospel--baptism, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the work in the temples for the salvation of the living and the dead--these ordinances, everything else, all of the ordinances of the gospel pertain to the celestial kingdom of God."

He also quotes a First Presidency statement,

"We know of no ordinances pertaining to the terrestrial or the telestial kingdom. All of the ordinances of the gospel are given for the salvation of men in the celestial kingdom and pertain unto that kingdom." (Joseph Fielding Smith, DS 2:190-1, 330)

Maybe one thing to consider is this: At what point does an individual know that they will be sealed up to eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom. Yes, we know it can happen in this life. What about those in the spirit world? At what point do they know their destiny? In this life, people who will ultimately end up in the lower kingdoms are baptized with a hope of eternal life. What about those in the spirit world?

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Baptism for Dead

Other evidences that baptism for the dead was practiced at one time in the early Christian church:

"4th Century Marcionites believed when any died without baptism they baptized others in their name" - Epiphanius

At the Council of Carthage held in AD 397 in its 6th Cannon forbids the administration of baptism for the dead.

In a Roman Catholic Bible commentary:

"Again, the Apostles alludes to a practice of the Corinthian community as evidence for a Christian faith in the resurrection of the dead. It seems that in Corinth some Christians would undergo baptism in the name of their deceased non-Christian relative and friends, hoping that this vicarious baptism might assure them a share in the redemption of Christ." (Jerome Biblical Commentary 2:273)

A conservative Protestant work comments on 1 Cor 15:29:

"The normal reading of the text is that some Corinthians are being baptized, apparently vicariously, in behalf of some people who have already died. It would be fair to add that this reading is such as plain understanding of the Greek text that no one would ever have imagined the various alternatives were it not for the difficulties involved." (Gordon Fee, "The First Epistle to the Corinthians", p. 763-64)

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"Ward presidents, as anomaly today, were an experiment of sorts during Brigham Young's presidency. Earlier, in Church concentrations outside of Nauvoo and then during the Winter Quarters and Kanesville sojourn, many LDS branches had both a president and bishop. Apparently the perception behind this double leadership structure was that every ward was but a stake in embryo, which, when fully organized, would have a president, bishop, high council, and patriarch. During the 1850s several LDS settlements in the West had both a president and bishop, including San Bernadino in California, and Nephi, Manti, and Spanish Fork in Utah. As late as 1862 President Brigham Young touted the two-leader concept: "As soon as the elders have wisdom sufficient to magnify their calling and Priesthood, we will give to every Branch, no matter how small the Ward, both a Bishop and a President." ...In most communities...President Young placed the two positions, president and bishop, upon the shoulders of the same man. In practice, the double leader system produced disagreements between the two heads, and, instead of being widely implemented, the idea quietly died out." (William Hartley, "My Best for the Kingdom", p. 343

A Bishop is both president of the Aaronic priesthood and president of the Priest's quorum in his ward. He is also the presiding high priest in the ward and presides over all ward affairs and members. In his Aaronic Priesthood capacity a bishop deals primarily with temporal concerns. (D&C 107:68) A bishop holds many keys and has many responsibilities which includes being the "president" or presiding officer of his ward which has priesthood keys associated with this role.

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Book of Mormon

In George Reynold's biography, "Prisoner for Conscience' Sake", Bruce Van Orden states:

"Throughout the pre-Utah period, the Bible was preferred in Church literature to the Book of Mormon in a ration of nineteen to one. That general trend continued for several decades following the Saints' settlement in the Great Basin."

George Reynolds''s writings helped most members of the church really discover the Book of Mormon for the first time.

The above data is obtained from "Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology," by Grant Underwood, Dialogue 17. Also see "The Mormons and the Bible in the 1830s," BYU Studies 13.

Anyway, the church has come a long way since then it its use of the Book of Mormon. I find that missionaries today use the Book of Mormon far more often than I did as a missionary in the late 70's. In my use of the scriptures, and all the scribbles and notes I have in them, I try to use the Book of Mormon as the primary point to start from when I wish to find a quote or a scripture and then I use the scribbles and cross-refs from that point.

Yes, I think we are still under condemnation.

"What is the major purpose of the Book of Mormon? To bring men to Christ and to be reconciled to him, and then to join his church--in that order" (Ezra Taft Benson, 1984)

"The book is not on trial -- its readers are" (Spencer W. Kimball, 1963)

"The Book of Mormon is not on trial, the people of the world, including the members of the church are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ." (Ezra Taft Benson, CR Oct 1984)

"No member of this church can stand approved in the presence of God who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon." (Joseph Fielding Smith, 1961)

"I have noted within the Church the difference in discernment, in insight, conviction, and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. The book is a great sifter." (Ezra Taft Benson, 1975)

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The Zelph story was compiled by Willard Richards (Joseph's scribe) and was published in 1846, after Joseph's death. Accounts differ. Wilford Woodruff's account includes the word "probably."

A couple interesting statements:

"It is possible to put this sacred volume to uses for which it was never intended, uses which are detrimental rather than advantages to the cause of truth and consequently to the work of the Lord...The Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths...For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation. There can be no harm result from the study of the geography of this continent at the time it was settled by the Nephites drawing all the information possible from the record. But beyond this, don't go, evil may result therefrom." (George Q. Cannon, 1890)

"The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not the geographical. While some LDS have looked for possible locations and explanations because the NY Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description...there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site." (Michael Watson, secretary for First Presidency, 1993)

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Brother's Keeper

What does it mean to be "my brother's keeper?" The Lord asked, "Where is Abel, they brother?" Cain answers with a lie and with an excuse: "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"

I think we would all agree that we should be "our brother's keeper." But how far should we take this statement? I searched many years of conference talks and this story and statement are frequently used to help us understand that we should "love our neighbor" and provide service for others. But does it mean that we are accountable for others sins and therefore must suffer if we don't repent?

What was, or would have been the Lord's answer to Cain's question? It isn't recorded.

"Maybe the answer to that question is as Professor Chauncey Riddle once said to me--"No, Cain, you are not expected to be your brother's keeper. But you are expected to be your brother's brother." (Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU 1986)

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Card Playing

There have been a couple more references in recent years in talks at BYU:

Hartman Rector Jr. quotes President Kimball:

Now, that is rather specific. And he said, "We hope that faithful Latter-day Saints will not use playing cards which are used for gambling...... That means spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. (I have a friend who said: "You know, you can play bridge with a set of Rook cards if you know what you're doing." I guess the prophet can't cover everything, right?) "... Either with or without the gambling," he added. "As for gambling in connection with horse racing or games or sports, we firmly discourage such things." What the Lord has given us through a living prophet is very specific, and it is for our benefit; so we ought to follow the scriptures." (Harman Rector Jr., BYU 1977)

As members of the Church, there are things you cannot do. For one, you cannot take a "Las Vegas"-style vacation. I do not know whether you all knew that. You cannot gamble, bet on the horses, or play with playing cards. You cannot be "loose," immoral, or violent. Even though the world wants you all-all you men, at least-to imitate the "Marlborough Man" and to be "macho," those attitudes simply do not belong to you. They do not demonstrate Christlike qualities." (W. Grant Banterter, BYU 1979).

For those who wish to discount these teachings, my question is: What has changed in the world that makes you think that the prophets now think that card playing is OK? Is gambling less of a threat now? How often do our living prophets need to "re-issue" statements to make them binding on us today? Every 50 years? Every 20 years? Every 5 years? Every conference? Does each new prophet need to go down a lists of do's or don'ts for them to be binding on us? For those of you who don't like to follow "dead prophets," have you thrown away your scriptures yet?

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> Were the Cherubim in the Garden of Eden real angels?

Interesting enough, Antionah asks a similar question to Alma:

"What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever." (Alma 12:21)

Well, maybe Alma still had a little politician in him (he used to be the chief judge), because he never specifically answers the question regarding the cherubim. But he does explain that if they would have eaten it, it would have made "God a liar." (Alma 12:23)

Alma 41:2 says

"he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword WHICH TURNED EVERY WAY, to keep the tree of life."

"Apparently a cherub is an angel of some particular order or rank to whom specific duties and work are assigned. That portion of the Lord's word which is now available among men does not set forth clearly either the identity or work of these heavenly beings....in Hebrew, the plural is cherubim." (Bruce R. McConkie, MD p.125)

Were other angels sent to Adam and Eve? Yes.

"Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused me to behold of his glory...made known unto them the plan of redemption..." (Alma 12:29-30)

"And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam..." (Moses 4:6)

"The angel who appeared to Adam, the first man, and asked him why he was offering sacrifices apparently was one of these spirits from pre-existence, for no angels minister to this earth except those who belong to it. (D&C 130:5), and up to that time no one had been either translated or resurrected." (Bruce R. McConkie, MD 35-6)

Were the cherubim in the Garden real angels? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't matter. What is important is what Alma answered in Alma 12. God prevented Adam and Eve from eating of that tree. Was the tree figurative too? Maybe, maybe not.

B.H. Roberts called the trees in the garden, "symbol trees."

"Here...are the symbols of the necessary 'opposition in all things' the tree of life, the tree of death--symbols of the antinomies of the universe." (TWL, p.340)

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> Is it OK of a married person to be alone with someone of the > opposite sex?

"Our loyalty to our eternal companion should not be merely physical, but mental and spiritual as well. Since there are no harmless flirtations and no place for jealousy after marriage, it is best to avoid the very appearance of evil by shunning any questionable contact with another to whom we are not married." (Elder James E. Faust, CR Oct 1977)

"You must be as Joseph who fled from the presence of Potiphar's wife rather than sin against God (see Genesis 39:7-12). You must avoid moral misconduct by making a firm decision to avoid compromising situations and to stand firm for what is right. You must have self-control and high goals." (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, CR March 1990)

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else" (D&C 42:22).

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