Thursday, March 29, 2012

Salt Lakes City Creek Center Opens

Salt Lake's City Creek Center has recently opened. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been criticized by some for using investment income and not tithing to further invest, restore and revitalize the failing mall across the street from the church's world headquarters and temple. Many people think any money invested in the immediate neighborhood of downtown Salt Lake City could be better spent helping the starving in Africa. Thinking about the issue of starving in Africa vs the City Creek Center, I realized something important.

I used to work in the old Crossroads and ZCMI malls. The place was a serious dump and a serious seismic hazard. These malls were seriously falling apart and could not be saved. No amount of whitewashing could have saved the many structural problems with Crossroads Mall. If you havnt worked there, then you have no idea.

The LDS Church has rescued Salt Lake City yet again. Just consider the alternative. Crossroads mall was about to close, Anchor store Nordstrom was about to jump ship, and the entire mall area was going to just get closed down and condemned. The Temple would be left with a run down, unkept, delapidated neighbor.

Now look what the LDS Church has helped to bring about. Instead of a dead downtown, the downtown area has been revitalized and transformed into a prosperous and beautiful environment.

We have a responsibility to help our families first, and neighbors second. People posting pics of starving Africans have no idea the political and tribal reasons for the suffering.

Giving money to the poor doesn't help the poor. Most US money and NGO resources end up being hoarded by warlords and corrupt politicians and never trickle down to the people intended.

Many people criticize the LDS Church for bailing out Salt Lake City from the disaster of a failing Crossroads Mall. These people think the money would be better spent sending it to save the starving in Ethiopia. What the critics don't know is the political and tribal issues that is leading to the starvation.

If you have ever taken a public health course, you would learn the issue with starvation in Africa is not one of scarcity of resources, but the problem of tribalism and corruption. Truth is there are very fertile lands in Ethiopia next to very barren land. Unfortunately, if you are a member of the wrong tribe, you are cast out and have to eak out a subsistence in the barren land. Furthermore, when government and NGO assistance arrives, it is usually hoarded by corrupt politicians and warlords and tribal chieftains and doesn't make it to the people who need it.

In fact, much of the abject starvation we see in pictures is real but set up as propaganda. Groups will starve out a tribe, take pictures of starving children, and then guilt the west into sending them millions which never ends up going to the people in the picture.

The reality is that the LDS Church's example of helping out and rescuing their neighbor is exactly the example and message that would save the starving in Africa.

United Order: Free Market Inspired Neighborhood Insurance Program

Most people recognize the problems with Socialism and Communism. Socialism makes the false promise of equality. However, in reality, socialism can never be equal because a socialist society requires rule makers and rule enforcers.

On the other side of things, capitalism is no less problematic. Instead of an economic system controlled by an appointed ruling class, we have a ruling class set up by inherited generational wealth and insider loan approval. Capitalism is a system ruled by the "golden rule:". He who has the gold makes the rules.

That said, anyone who confuses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints concept of the United Order with Communism is very misled. Similarly, anyone who believes the United Order is not "free market" is also mistaken. The differences between The United Order and Communism are many that they do not resemble one another in the least aspect.

# 1 The United Order respects property rights.
#2 In the LDS United Order there is not an absolute equality. Claim on property varies depending on family size, talents and abilities, wants, and needs (D&C 82:17-19). While Communism chokes our creativity by limiting people to a specific labor in the system, the United Order embraces and supports individuals who seek to develop and magnify multiple talents, skills and abilities.
#3 Think of the "all things in common" system as an insurance system. Money and resources in excess of wants and needs put into an immediate neighborhood/ward insurance fund to only be applied for the assistance of: A. family first, B. Second, widows and fatherless, sick and afflicted that live next to you, C. Third, the whole church.
#4. There is no "retirement" in the United Order. There are no pentions. Men eat their bread by thr sweat of their brow all the day of their lives and not until retirement (Gen 3:19). In our "retirement and pension" system, men without any real productive skills idol off the system in their later years and feel fully justified. During life planned retirees hoard away excess money for a hoped future retirement instead of using those resources now for the benefit of family and neighbors.
#5. The United Order believes in a separation of Church and State (no theocracy)
#6. There is no slave and ruling class.
#7. The United Order is Free Market.
#8. Jesus Christ will reign personally on the Earth but will administer government via his priesthood.

“That Jesus will be a resident on the earth a thousand [years] with the Saints is not the case, but will reign over the Saints and come down and instruct, as he did the five hundred brethren [see 1 Corinthians 15:6], and those of the first resurrection will also reign with him over the Saints.” TOPJS

Imagine a system where excess money is not hoarded away into investments for a future retirement and instead put into a common insurance pool to assist immediate family and neighbors. Because they are neighbors that are potential beneficiaries, the donors see that the funds are used appropriately for your family and your neighbors (D&C 82:19).

Because, potential beneficiaries are your immediate neighbors, you have continual interaction with them. This makes it less likely that there will be those who free-load off the system. However, seeing how the Early Christians, Puritans, and Early LDS Saints failed at maintaining the Order, successful implementation may not be possible. Yet, I think we may yet see its implementation with divine assistance before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Reading D&C82, I am surprised how "free market" the united order really is. In Communism, subjects are arbitrarily assigned as a potato peeler unless they have money or influence. In capitalism, an inventor cannot get investment funding unless his invention can maintain or expand the power of the current establishment.

On the contrary, the United Order states that all members "have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church"

In other words, members are given stewardships in the economy (doctor, electrician, dentist, plumber, builder, retailer etc) and all have equal claim for for assets and credit. Furthermore, members are free to expand and develop other talents, abilities for the benefit of the community.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Opposition to the current elite-controlled establishment have been using the word "meritocracy" to describe an alternative system of government.

I don't like nepotism or the "good 'o boys system" that we see today. But what about "meritocracy?". Who decides what has or who has merit?

I am not against merit. However, I was taught that our Constitutional representative government was intended to select representatives based on virtue and not merit. Only a "return to virtue" can save our country.

Alma 50:20 "Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land."

Imagine if all politicians needed a bishop's endorsement (according to 1Cor 5:11) to run for office?

However, as a friend pointed out, a bigger issue is "who selects our leaders": elite vs people. The issue of who selects our leaders is more important than by what criteria they are selected: merit vs virtue. The Book of Mormon teaches that the business of government should be conducted by the voice of the people because the majority usually tend to desire that which is right.

For many, virtue is merit. However, that gets back to the subject of this post. Who decides what is of merit? If we follow the "voice of the people" the Book of Mormon promises that the greater portion tend to desire that which is right.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book of Mormon Q&A

Fellow Student,

My name is David Brosnahan. I am one of four sons of Gayle and Timothy. I am trained in the physical sciences having earned both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Biochemistry. Following this study, I was blessed to attended medical school. I am currently working as a US board certified emergency physician. During my studies I met and married my wonderful wife Ruth. We have been happily married for over 12 years and I am the proud father of 4 wonderful children; 3 of whom were born during various stages of my advanced education.

My purpose for listing my credentials is not to brag, but to 1. Encourage you not to delay getting married and having a family because of school, and 2. Illustrate that being highly educated has increased my faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout my training, I have had the
pleasure of working with hundreds of highly educated and disciplined scientists, physicians and other health professionals who have also been people of sincere faith and spirituality. Regardless of our different religions and beliefs, most everyone I have associated with has taught me that truth speaks to both the heart as well as the mind.

If you are reading this letter, then I can only assume something is tugging at your heart; urging you to making an honest and sincere investigation of the Book of Mormon. When, my parents told me that they would be teaching several classes on the Book of Mormon, I wished to write a brief letter discussing some of the questions I have pondered over the years during my personal and continual investigation of the Book of Mormon.

Having given and attended many lectures on the Book of Mormon, I am
of the opinion that these lectures can sometimes get bogged down with the same old questions that critics raise to divert our attention away from the real message of the Book of Mormon. The reason critics endlessly raise the same questions about a specific historical claim here or a specific word usage there is to discourage people from focusing on and appreciating the overall message and Spirit of the Book of Mormon. Investigating a book of scripture like the Book of Mormon is no casual mental or spiritual undertaking. Therefore, if you can be led to believe the Book of Mormon contains many simple and obvious errors, then Satan knows you won't bother to investigate

Look, let's face the reality of human nature. If you were to discover that the Book of Mormon is true, then you would be faced with the necessity of making some serious life changes. Christ's true church doesn't just allow its members to "go through the motions" of religious observance without making any demands (1Cor5:11-13). Yes, it is true that Christ accepts us as we are. But, once we invite Him in our lives, he doesn't leave us the same person. The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ saves us "from" our sins and not "in" our sins (Hel 5:10). In addition to living up to Gods higher standard of virtue
and morality, many converts to the LDS church face painful persecution
from family and friends.

With all this in mind, you can understand why it is easy for many
investigators of the Book of Mormon to be looking for the flaws instead of looking for the truth. Most people focus on criticisms instead of the message of the Book of Mormon because if they can convince themselves that "such-and-such" flaw proves the Book of Mormon is a fake, then you don't need to really "pay the price" and investigate further.

My hope is to list some of the more common intellectual criticisms of Book of Mormon historicity, together with a few well-reasoned responses. My hope is these responses will encourage you in your honestly and sincere investigation of the truth of the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Questions:

Q. Does it matter if the Book of Mormon is true? Isn't there truth in
all religion? Isn't the most important thing that everyone believe in
A. Today, a major false doctrine has spread throughout the world is that it doesn’t matter what you believe, or what church you belong to. Most people today believe there is no one true religion or belief. Yes, there is truth to be found in all religions and beliefs and we should be respectful of everyone and their beliefs. However, the truth is that true belief does make a difference. True belief (Orthodoxy)
leads to true behavior (Orthopraxis), and true behavior and belief lead to a true heart towards God (Orthocardia). The consequences of false religion and
belief (priestcraft) are a major theme of the Books of Mosiah and Alma in the Book of Mormon.

Q. Does the Book of Mormon teach a different Christ that the Bible?
A. 1. The same Christ that died on the cross and was resurrected in the New Testament appeared to the Nephites in America (John 10:16).
2. Paul taught the Galations, “But though we, or an angel from heaven,
preach another gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto
you, leg him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). Yet John in Revelation was shown
another angel in the Last Days preaching the true gospel: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” The angel Moroni, who delivered the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, is this “other angel”.
3. Many Christian Churches claim that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christian. This is because they define Christian as believing in the Nicene Creed of 325 AD. LDS do believe in the God Head which is composed of 3 Divine Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. However, there is one word in the Nicene Creed that has led to an incorrect understanding of God. This word, which comes from Gnostic tradition, is “homoousios”. “Homoousios” is understood to mean that God the Father and Jesus Christ are the “same substance”. This forms the basis of the Trinity Doctrine and the great mystery of how God the Father and God the Son are 2 Persons; but 1 Being and 1 God. Joseph Smith learned in the First Vision and through the Book of Mormon that God the Father and God the Son are: 1 God, 1 Power, 1 Purpose, 2 Beings, 2 Personages, 2 Individuals. First Century Christians like as Justin Martyr, in his letter to Trypho, taught that God the Father and Jesus Christ were 2 “numerically distinct” beings, and 2 distinct persons (Justin Martyr
Letter to Trypho, Chapter 62)

Q. Doesn’t Revelation 22:18-19 mean that the Bible is closed and that
no one should add or subtract anything from the Bible?
A. 1. Revelation says “if any man shall take away (or add) from the words of the book of this prophecy.” The words “the book” and “this prophecy” are singular which makes it clear that these words are referring to Book of Revelation itself. Furthermore, the Bible hadn’t even been compiled yet in its current form. John the Revelator wrote his 3 epistles after he wrote the Book of Revelation. The 3 letters
of John were placed before the Book of Revelation even though they followed the Revelation chronologically. Deut 4:2 contains a similar warning. The message of the Book of Mormon is that the heavens are not sealed, the Bible is not sealed, and our unchanging God is continually calling prophets and giving scripture to man, and will continue forever.

Q. Doesn’t the existence of the Book of Mormon mean that the LDS believe that the Bible is flawed? However, doesn’t the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the Bible is not flawed?
A. The Book of Mormon testifies that the Bible is the word of God. In fact, the Book of Mormon specifically says that the Old Testament would “never perish,” and not be “dimmed any more by time,” (1 Ne 5:19) except that our Old Testament would not contain as many books of the prophets as they had at that time. With regard to the New Testament, the Book of Mormon says that it would go forth unto the
Gentiles, “in purity,” but that some “plain and precious things” would
be taken away. (1Ne 13:25;28) The LDS Church 8th Article of Faith states that “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” In other words, what this means is, we believe the Bible is the word of God so far as it is “interpreted and understood correctly”. Nothing in the Bible is incorrect, it just may be incorrectly interpreted.

Q. Does the Book of Mormon teach that man can save themselves through
their own works?
A. Nephi taught, "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Ne 25:23). Now the "after all we can do" part, is what most people misunderstand. If you understand the context of this verse, was explaining why they bothered
observing the Law of Moses at all, knowing that the "law hath become
dead" and that salvation was through the grace of Christ. What Nephi meant by saying "after all we can do" was that the Law of Moses was given by Christ, and was a manifestation of His grace. So, what Nephi is really saying is not that man can contribute anything (by himself) to his own salvation; but that we should receive what grace God has already given, before asking and expecting more. In other words, Nephi is saying, "finish what’s on your plate, before asking for seconds."

Q. Doesn't Native American population genetic research prove the Book
of Mormon false?
A. Initial Native American mitochondrial (mtDNA) studies demonstrated that founding mtDNA haplogroups A,B,C,D came from Asia and Siberia. However, these early studies excluded another founding Haplogroup X which comes from the area of Northern Israel. Even today, the Druze of Northern Israel and Lebanon have the highest rates of Haplogroup X which is believed to represent the genetics of the region at the time the Druze first settled the area around 1000 AD (genetic refugium).
[Hadid Y, et al. (2008) The Druze: A Population Genetic Refugium of
the Near East. PLoS ONE 3(5):

Q. If a majority of Native American DNA comes from Asia, then how are
the Book of Mormon peoples considered their "principal ancestors"?
A. Although the Book of Mormon Introduction states that the Nephites
and Lamanites are the principal ancestors of the Native American, this
is speaking in a spiritual sense and not genetically. In fact, Nephi himself clearly says that only a "remnant of his seed" would remain in the Last Days (1Ne 15:13).

Q. Haplogroup X in America has been proven to come from the Middle East, but radio-isotopic dating suggests it came over 10,000 BC; way before the Nephites who migrated in 600 BC.
A. If you studied your climate science through all the global warming excitement you should have noticed graphs showing fluctuations in rates of solar neutrinos hitting the Earth as well as fluctuation in the rate of formation of C-14 and other isotopes. Dating techniques assume that isotope formation is constant when it is not. Consequently, all radio-isotopic dating techniques are flawed. If you are a creationist or just believe that Adam (the first man) lived only 4000 BC, you may also question these isotopic dating interpretations.

Q. What about bees in the Jaredite Barges?
A. American bees are stingerless. Bees with stingers are European, African, or Asian.

Q. What about animals in the Jaredite barges and sanitation?
A. The air-tight barges had a stoppered opening on the top and bottom. Stoppering the top, and opening the bottom makes a convenient “moon pool” to discard any waste materials.

Q. What about Shiz gasping for breath after having his head "smitten off"?
And what about Nephi smiting off Laban's head and then putting on his
armor. Wouldn't Zoram have noticed the blood?
A. According to Judges 5:26, to smite off the head means to deal a death blow to the head and not to cut off the head.

Q. Wouldn't golden plates the dimensions that Joseph Smith described weigh 90 kg?
A. The golden plates were never described as a solid block of gold. Instead they were made up of paper-thin engraved pages bound together
with 3, D-shaped rings. Furthermore, the golden plates were described as only having the appearance of gold. It is well known that Ancient Americans alloyed gold with a high percentage of copper (Tumbaga). With these facts in mind, Martin Harris' approximate weight of 25 kg (50 lbs) is very reasonable.

Q. Why is the Book of Mormon translated using King James English?
A. The King James Bible was the most popular version of the Bible at the time of Joseph Smith and it is the English version used in the LDS Church today. God knew this and choose to translate the Book of Mormon using the similar biblical language to help readers remember and also cross-reference. Many times I read verses in the Book of Mormon which prompt me to look up similar sounding scripture verses in
the Bible and visa versa. Similar language is not plagiarism. The
Book of Mormon writers reference the Old Testament when they are specifically quoting from it. Otherwise, similarities are a result of the same God teaching the same principles.

Q. What is Reformed Egyptian (Mormon 9:32-33)?
A. The Book of Mormon says that it contains the learning of the Jews written using the language of the Egyptians (1Ne1:2) In today’s meaning of words, the golden plates were written in the Hebrew language using a lost Egyptian alphabetic shorthand script similar to Demotic or Meroitic Egyptian. It's like Hindi and Urdu; same oral language written in either Sanskrit or Persian. Paleo-Hebrew or
Phoenician of 600 BC was too bulky of a writing system to fit on the plates. Classical Hebrew hadn't been invented yet. But writing Hebrew use an Egyptian shorthand script proved much more compact. This also explains why there are so many Hebraisms (Hebrew grammatical structure and idioms) preserved in the translation.

Q. Would the Ancient Jews have ever written their scripture in a pagan language?
A. 1.there is nothing inherently pagan about a language. God created all languages and speaks to all people in their own language (2Ne31:3).
2. Hebrew itself was borrowed from the Phoenicians. Classical Hebrew
wasn't invented until the Babylonian captivity.
3. Papyrus Amherst 63 dated to the second century BC is a document
written in Aramaic using Egyptian Demotic characters. Among the writings included in the religious text is Psalms 20:2–6.

Q. Does the Book of Mormon teach Racism?
A. The Book of Mormon deals with race. And why shouldn't it. Racism
and tribalism have been an issues that mankind has dealt with from the beginning of time. At the beginning of the Book of Mormon the family
of Lehi split up forming two nations: the Nephites and the Lamanites.
The wicked sons Laman and Lemuel reject God and are said to have been
cursed with a dark skin like Cain in the Old Testament.

In reality, if you read carefully, the skin is described as a mark the Nephites associate with the curse (Alma 3:6) and not the curse itself. The real curse of Laman and Lemuel is explained as "the great inequality of man because of sin" (Alma 28:13). Laman and Lemuel didn't just reject God and the religious tradition of their father Lehi, the Lamanites rejected all the civilizing practices of literacy, agriculture, and industry; instead reverting to an aboriginal hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Consequently, the children of Laman didn't have the same opportunity to read scripture, learn about the true
nature of God and choose God. They weren't taught to read. This was the curse.

The major message of the Book of Mormon is not just about the Lamanites digressing into a savage and superstitious lifestyle, but about how God, through the power and mercy of Christ, overcomes the curse. So, you see that the Lamanites at the beginning are described as being savage and bloodthirsty. In the middle, you see the same Lamanites taught to read, principles of agriculture, and free
enterprise. Only after this initial preparation, are the Lamanites prepared to receive missionaries and the scriptures. In the end, the Book of Mormon describes the Lamanites who embraced the truth as having a faith, zeal, and steadfastness towards God that exceeded that of the Nephites. The Book of Mormon teaches that no one is beyond the redeeming power and mercy of Jesus Christ. God in the Book of Mormon is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).

2 Ne 26:33 "and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

Q. What about the Book of Mormon discussion of money, wheeled carriages, swords, barley, horses, elephants, etc.
A. 1. Book of Mormon speaks of weights and measures of gold and silver and not "coinage" (Alma 11).
2. There are several examples of aboriginal American horse and elephant species that are now extinct. Many bones have been found in caves by researchers. The only problem is correctly dating the bones.
3. Some references in the Book of Mormon may be anachronisms in the
sense were an English word "barley" was used to describe a grain similar to barley but not the exact species H. vulgare.
4. In a few cases, artifacts have yet to be discovered to support the historicity of the Book of Mormon in a few areas. However, Absence of proof is not proof of absence.

Even though the Nephite civilization was relatively advanced, Archeologist haven’t yet discovered their exact location. This is partly due to the fact the Nephites were exterminated. The Nephites started off well, but became corrupted internally by allowing their
free republican/democratic style government and justice system to be
infiltrated and subverted by a secret organization of corrupt and wealthy elite (king-men). In the end, the Nephites were victims of a secret conspiracy of corruption and then genocide. The tragic pattern of the Nephites and earlier Jaredites serves as a warning to the Gentile nations today (Morm 9:31).

Q. The Bible has thousands of Archeological Artifacts proving it's
historicity. Why do we not have Artifacts to prove the Book of
Mormon? A. We can trace the steps of Lehi's family from Jerusalem through the Arabian Peninsula along the Red Sea and then east to the coasts in present-day Oman. The Book of Mormon descriptions of rivers,
oasis, trees, and iron ore in the Arabian Peninsula match up perfectly with known geologic and geographic knowledge. However, when it comes
to crossing the Ocean, we have yet to discover where the Nephite civilization arrived and flourished in the Americas. The Book of Mormon describes a limited geography where distances could be walked in a matter of days. Consequently, there are numerous candidate sites. Some are now under water.

Furthermore, having archeological proof of the Book of Mormon is not part of God's plan. No Bible artifact proves the resurrection nor the divinity of Christ. I don't know of any Bible artifact that proves a miracle. However, If the city of Zarahemela, for example, were discovered proving Christianized Jews lived in America just as the Book of Mormon says, then everything Joseph Smith taught is proven true.

Discovering Pre-Columbian Christianized Jews in America just as the Book of Mormon describes would be proving a miracle because the Book
of Mormon is itself a miracle. On the other hand, proving Isaiah, Peter, Paul or King David existed, doesn't prove that what they did or said is true. Proving that these great Prophets, Apostles, and Kings existed is very important but it doesn't prove a miracle.

Archeological Proof of the Book of Mormon is proving a miracle and would frustrates the central purpose of the Book of Mormon, which is for God to inspire man to trust again in His prophet and in personal revelation through the Holy Spirit. If we had artifacts and science alone we wouldn't need modern prophets or the Holy Spirit. The artifact would speak louder than the prophets and the "still small voice" of God's Spirit. Again, the purpose of the Book of Mormon is
to inspire reliance on our spiritual senses and not a reliance on science alone (Jer 17:5).

The Proof of the Book of Mormon we are given is to read it for ourselves, and according to God's "Law of Witnesses" (2Cor 13:1) consider the testimony of the 3 Witnesses (Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdary, David Witmer) who all beheld the angel Moroni, saw and touched the Golden Plates, and heard the voice of God declare that the
Book of Mormon was translated by God and not man. All 3 witnesses left the LDS Church, and 2 later returned. However, through it all, not one of the 3 witnesses ever denied their testimony of the Book of Mormon. David Whitmer, the lone witness who didn't return to membership in the LDS Church, requested his testimony be engraved on his tombstone.

Finally, after reading and pondering, the Book of Mormon invites us to specifically ask God the Eternal Father, praying in the name of Jesus Christ, if the Book of Mormon is true. God Himself has promised that, if we ask in faith, He will prove its truth to you by the power of His Holy Spirit. Asking with faith means we are willing to follow the answer no matter the consequences or inconvenience.

As a researcher, physician and scientist, I can tell you that I have performed the experiment exactly as described in the Book of Mormon,
and God has answered my prayer that the Book of Mormon is His Word. And God hasn't just answered on one occasion but continually answers and testifies to my heart and mind as I study the Book of Mormon that it is true. I know He will answer your sincere prayer as He has answered me.

Having faith is not "blind obedience" or "cognitive dissonance". Faith is about testing all of God's words to see if they are true and conducting your own "experiment upon the word" (Alma 32:27). However, in the initial stages of our experiment, Jesus Christ taught that only by first living His Doctrine will we discover for ourselves that it is
true (John 7:17). This reminds me of how I often tell my young children to taste the food on the plate before they decide whether they like it or not.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Book of Mormon on Racism

Critics and Enemies of the LDS Church falsely claim that the Book of Mormon is racist. Our enemies claim this is because the book deals with darker and lighter-skinned peoples called the Nephites and the Lamanites. It just so happens that at the start of the Book, the lighter-skinned melanin-deprived people were the more righteous people. But if you stop there and claim racism, you miss out on the what is a major theme of the entire work of scripture.

Yes, the Book of Mormon deals with race. And why shouldn't it. Racism and tribalism have been an issues that mankind has dealt with from the beginning of time. But hopefully readers of the Book of Mormon will read the Book of Mormon carefully enough so that they can appreciate what God really has to say about race and racism in the Book of Mormon.

1. When Lehi's family arrive from Jerusalem to the Americas, they are a very small group in comparison to the Jaredites who had already been living on the continent for over 1000 years. The Book of Mormon says the Jeradite civilization was destroyed, but that doesn't mean every last Jaredite went extinct or that there weren't other groups living in the Americas. What it means is that those that remained ceased to be any type of cohesive civilized society and reverted back to a primitive hunter-gatherer aboriginal state.

2. Upon arriving in the Americas, Lehi's family divided up into what are referred to as the Nephites and Lamanites. The Nephites were more righteous at the start and retained the civilizing practices of religious observance, literacy, agriculture, and industry. The Lamanites, on the other hand, rejected God and rejected all of the civilizing practices that the Nephites maintained. The Lamanites, like the Jaredites before them, reverted to a aboriginal hunter-gatherer subsistence lifestyle.

3. It is apparent that the Lamanites likely intermixed with the other hunter-gatherer aboriginals and through extreme sun exposure, and genetic inheritance patterns had a darker skin color and higher melanin pigment content than the Nephites who bring Middle-Eastern themselves were likely also very olive-brown complected themselves.

4. Due to envy and continual war, both the Nephites and the Lamanites suffered from learned racism that was continually passed down from generation to generation.

Nephite view of the Lamanites

Enos 1:20 "And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us."

Alma 26:24 "For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.
25 And moreover they did say: Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us."

Lamanite view of the Nephites:

Mos 10:12 "believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, . . .
15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.
17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi."

5. But, despite the Nephites view of the Lamanites and visa versa, this was not Gods view. Gods view on race is explained in the following scriptures:

Prophet's view of the Lamanites:

Jacob 3:7 "Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?
8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.
9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers."

God's view of race, ethnicity, gender:

2 Ne 26:33 "For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

7. In reality, the dark skin is not the curse of Laman and Lemuel but rather a mark the Nephites associated with the curse.

Alma 3:6 "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers,
7 . . . and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women."

8. The real curse of Laman and Lemuel is specifically explained as the curse of inequality due to sin.

Alma 28:13 "And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men."

9. The major theme of the Book of Mormon is not just about the cursing of Laman and Lemuel. Rather, the Book of Mormon is more specifically about how the Atonement of Christ has grace and power to overcome the curse of inequality due to sin.

Thus we see a slow and steady process by which the Lamanites are first taught in the language of the Nephites and many are taught to read and write. The Lamanites are also taught civilizing principles of agriculture, husbandry, and industry. At one point the Book of Mormon says that the Lamanites engaged in free economic trade with the Nephites. The Lamanites were then prepared to receive missionaries who could then use the scriptures, and the power of the Holy Ghost to convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers.

Alma 26:3 "Behold, . . . our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God."

10. By the end of the Book of Mormon, the faith and devotion of the Lamanites exceeds that of the Nephites. Converted Lamanites are praised for their continual faith and steadfastness toward God.

Alma 27:27;30 "And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end. . . And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord."

3 Ne 6:14 "And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; . . . save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord."

It is unfortunate that there are those who have failed to read the Book of Mormon carefully enough that they miss out on its beautiful message. First, that all are alike unto God and that he really is no respecter of persons. 2. That the grace and power of the atonement has the power to overcome the curse of inequality due to sin. And 3. That no one is beyond the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

LDS Baptism For The Dead

1 Cor 15:29 "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

There seems to be a continual misunderstanding with the media about what LDS Baptism for the Dead is all about. 1. LDS do not baptize dead people. Living are baptized in proxy for or on-behalf-of those that have died. 2. Being Baptized for the dead does not make that person LDS against their will. The LDS Church nor its members do not automatically consider those who are named in these ordinances as member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 3. The point of Baptisms for the dead is to offer everyone the same blessing we feel we have received. LDS Baptism for the dead does not make someone Mormon against their will, it offers them something they can freely ignore or decline or accept.

Again, Latter-day Saint Baptism for the dead, doesn't make the person named automatically and surreptitiously a Mormon against their will. Baptism for the dead just offers something that can easily and freely be declined, ignored, or accepted.

In fact, the ignore part of baptisms for the dead is significant. LDS do not publicize who is or isn't offered this ordinance. Baptisms are done privately in our temples and not in the public eye. The LDS Church keeps a database of all those who have been post-humously offered membership in our Church so there is not needless duplication of effort.

The only reason the media learns about anyone in particular who "work" is done are critics and enemies of the LDS Church who look up this information and want to cause a stir.

It is the goal of the LDS Church to offer every human being who has lived upon the Earth, living or deceased, membership in the LDS Church. Baptism for the Dead is how we posthumously offer membership.

LDS Baptism for the Dead is not about disrespecting others beliefs, but rather it is about our desire to be completely inclusive and make sure no one is excluded, and invite anyone and everyone to be LDS if they so desire.

Baptism for the dead is an invitation. Nothing more.

Everyone Has A Conscience

Moroni 7:16 "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;"

A major theme of the Book of Mormon is the teaching that all men are born with a conscience and therefore understand the difference between right and wrong. The Book of Mormon refers to conscience as "the Light of Christ" or "the Spirit of Christ". In addition to teaching this wonderful truth, the Book of Mormon contains several illustrations that demonstrate the universality of and the consequences of conscience. I will list a few of the many examples.

1. Laman and Lemuel. These wicked and rebellious brothers of Nephi on one occasion saw and heard an angel of God. The angel appeared to reprove them for striking their brother Nephi after Laban had stole their wealth which they had planned to use to purchase the Brass Plates. On another occasion, they felt the power of God shock them. On this occasion Nephi was commanded to stretched forth his hands in an attempt of motivate Laman and Lemuel in assisting with the construction of the ship which would take them to the American Continent. And again, while crossing the ocean, they witnessed Nephi's prayer calm the turbulent sea. Yet, despite all these signs and miracles, Laman and Lemuel refused to humble themselves to the will and commandments of God. They resented Nephi's leadership and example and were continually threatening and attempting to get rid of and even murder Nephi.

The Book of Mormon describes Laman and Lemuel as being "past feeling". The point of being "past feeling" is not the absence of conscience. The point is that they did not respond to it except when constrained by an angelic visitation, the pleading of their wives, or being threatened with utter destruction. In several instances, Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi for forgiveness and Nephi says at one point that he had high hopes for them. But, in the end, Nephi's hopes are in vain and he is warned to take those who would go with him and separate themselves from their evil brothers.

The lesson here is that even the most evil and rebellious can be convinced and constrained to do what is right.

2. Sherem and Korihor. These two characters in the Book of Mormon are both anti-Christ's. Both Sherem and Korihor seek to attack the church of God and the faith of the people by claiming that there was no God, and that it was impossible for prophets to know of anything in the future. Particularly, these two challenged the knowledge of the future life and mission of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

However, when push comes to shove, and Sherem and Korihor face divine judgement for seeking a sign, they both confess that they had both known all along that there was a God and that Christ would come but that they had been lying even to the point that they began to believe in their own lies.

The lesson here is, just like a steroid-using athlete who will deny it until the bitter end, even the most outspoken atheists really do believe in God.

3. King Lamoni is another example of conscience. In the Book of Alma, the sons of King Mosiah embark on a courageous mission to the Lamanites to convert them to the truth. King Lamoni demonstrate conscience when he is convinced Ammon is the Great Spirit sent to punish him for killing his servants when others had scattered his flocks.

Here is the King who could easily have convinced himself that as king, it was well within his right to spare or deprive anyone under his rule with life, liberty or property; instead acknowledges that when judgement seems to be upon him, that he was wrong to have killed his servants when his flocks were scattered.

King Lamoni teaches us that kings and rulers are not beyond having a conscience and self-evident truth. And the truth is that life, liberty, and property are self-evident, God-given rights and not merely privileges doled out by the good graces of a ruling elite.

3. Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah demonstrate conscience at the time they were visited by the angel. Like Saul in the New Testament, Alma the Younger was going about persecuting the Church of God. Upon facing the potential of eternal punishment, Alma the Younger demonstrates a mighty change of heart and becomes a valiant servant of God.

Here we learn that when faced with the consequences of sin, even the most rebellious and wayward child can have a miraculous change of heart for the better.

4. Lastly, the Lamanites who were converted to Christ by the preaching of Ammon and his brethren are another great example of the operation of conscience. In Alma 26, Ammon comments that many Nephites laughed and scoffed at the idea of going on a mission to the Lamanites. Ammon says that the Nephites saw the Lamanites as beyond any hope. In fact, Ammon confesses that many Nephites were of the opinion the only option was to entirely destroy and kill off the Lamanites so that they would no longer come up against them to war.

However, the example and success of Ammon in converting many of the Lamanites to the truth was that every man on this Earth is born with a conscience, and the Light of Christ is the Spirit of Freedom and there is no man anywhere that is beyond the ability of Christ to Redeem them. Likewise, neither is there anyone that cannot potentially understand, appreciate and embrace the principles of freedom.

Alma 28:14 "And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life."

Friday, March 02, 2012

Alcohol Consumption Is Not Funny

A friend emailed me a joke that listed a series of humorous comments by young children about their views on alcoholic beverages and their parents frequent use of alcohol to get intoxicated. The email really got me thinking.

Thanks for the humorous note on childrens view on alcoholic beverages. The email really got me thinking.

Here is what my Irish Catholic father said about my Irish Catholic grandfather. "every time my father drank he would come home and yell at my mother and hit me". I see many more very non-humorous consequences of alcohol every day in the Emergency Department of our community.

Here is what the Bible says on the subject. Hopefully one day "all [our] children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of [our] children." (Isa 54:13)

1 Cor 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Lev 10:9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: (common Jews were allowed to drink wine but those worthy to labor in the Temple it was forbidden)

Prov 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Prov 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
(as followers and deciples of Christ, we are to be a royal priesthood, and a holy nation of kings on priests to Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords)

Isa 5:11;22 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! ...22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

Isa 28:7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

I am thankful for modern prophets beginning with Joseph Smith and modern scripture like the Word of Wisdom in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, warn us to stay away from tobacco, alcohol and other addictive and potentially destructive substances.