It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.
A strange thing I noticed on my mission: whenever I ran across people of any denomination — Mormon, Pentacostal, whatever — and they were super into the timing of the Last Days, they just seemed dangerously nuts to me.
One guy referred to the book of Daniel. Apparently it said that the King of the North was wounded in his head, and that was meant to refer to Gorbachev’s famous birthmark. And don’t even start me on the Bible Code. I guess if you’re someone who really gets into the Last Days stuff, you kind of have to believe that God was kind of obsessed with 20th century politics.
You also have to be kind of horrible. Seems many Christians just can wait for disasters to happen, so that Jesus will come again.
So perhaps that’s the reason for this hilarious note in the Gospel Doctrine Manual:
Note to the teacher: As you teach this lesson, focus on the Lord’s revealed words in the Doctrine and Covenants. Do not discuss speculative matters such as the timing of the Second Coming.
Well, of course. Could you imagine? You might as well turn the class over to the crazies.
Let’s take a quick look at the reading.
God will burn people.
D&C 29:9 For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth;
What kind of Stockholm Syndrome must members be in, being told to worship a being who will burn them up if they don’t obey him?
Next thing: It’s going to happen soon.
D&C 29:10 For the hour is nigh, and that which was spoken by mine apostles must be fulfilled; for as they spoke so shall it come to pass;
It’s going to be so impressive. Also it is going to suck.
D&C 29:14 But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath;
15 And there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men;
16 And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.
17 And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.
18 Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them;
19 And their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets;
Also hell with fire is totes real, and it will last forever.
D&C 29:27 And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father;
28 Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
29 And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.
Has anyone told you that Mormons don’t believe in hell, or if they do, it’s just sort of like being forever alone? Well, that’s not what the Doctrine and Covenants says.
Also: Jews will totally be sorry.
D&C 45:51 And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?
52 Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.
53 And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.
Wait — who’s that walking towards us on a gigantic ice highway? Why, it’s the Ten Lost Tribes! Remember them from Lesson 12? Apparently they were all hanging out together in the north country all this time!
D&C 133:26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
Then there will be a thousand years of peace.
D&C 101:30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.
The Institute director in our town loved stuff like this, and would teach about getting “twinkled” instead of dying. Anyone hear anything like this?
So why did I get the impression — even as a believer — that going too far down this particular rabbit hole was the mark of a delusional person? Because it is delusional. It is nuts. Sensible people don’t be believing this way.
How to be ready
What are members counselled to do about the Second Coming?
Before you answer, let’s remember: this is the run-up to the biggest event in earth’s history. Billions of people are going to die. Disasters and torments await the unprepared.
So what are you supposed to do about this enormous impending event?
Answer, according to the lesson manual: Eh, nothing really.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “How do you prepare for the Second Coming? Well, you just do not worry about it. You just live the kind of life that if the Second Coming were to be tomorrow you would be ready. Nobody knows when it is going to happen. … Our responsibility is to prepare ourselves, to live worthy of the association of the Savior, to deport ourselves in such a way that we would not be embarrassed if He were to come among us. That is a challenge in this day and age” (Church News, 2 Jan. 1999, 2).
In other words, you’re supposed to be on tenterhooks all the time, staying ready ready ready! but then don’t worry about it. Relax!
This is a contradictory demand. Other contradictory demands in the church:
You’re supposed to love your family, but spend all your time serving the church instead of being with them.
You’re supposed to study and gain knowledge of earthly things, but treat it like it’s not very important.
You’re supposed to make friends with non-members so you can proselyte them, but your social group will naturally include the people you spend the most time with: members.
So in summary: the Second Coming is a crucial event that is happening very soon, but that you have a lot of time to prepare for. It’s very frightening, but you’re not supposed to worry about it. Joseph Smith said that it was happening very very very soon, but that was a long time ago. So just think how soon it’s going to be now!
In our last lesson, we discussed the Plan of Salvation. Now we’re zooming in on a revelation about the three degrees of glory.
Vision of the three degrees of glory
In another lesson, I pointed out that the idea of three kingdoms of glory was shamelessly pillaged from Emanuel Swedenborg, and other church leaders at the time even thought it was “a trial to many” and a “satanic revelation”. Well, much of the doctrine surrounding the three kingdoms comes from Section 76, part of this week’s reading.
But I’d never read the whole story. It’s the wackiest church meeting I’ve ever heard of (and I’ve been to a few). Here it is. Read the whole thing.
I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet when he first came to Kirtland, and was with him in the first conference held in that place, which was in a small schoolhouse. When he arose in our midst he said that before the conference closed there were those present who should see the heavens open and bear record of the coming of the Son of Man, and that the man of sin should be revealed.
While he talked he laid his hand upon the head of Lyman Wight. He then laid his left hand upon the head of Harvey Whitlock. Lyman Wight stepped into the middle of the room and bore record of the coming of the Son of Man. Then Harvey Whitlock stepped into the middle of the room with his arms crossed, bound by the power of Satan, and his mouth twisted unshapely.
Hyrum Smith arose and declared that there was an evil spirit in the room.
Joseph said, “Don’t be too hasty,” and Hyrum sat down.
Shortly Hyrum rose the second time, saying, “I know my duty and will do it,” and stepping to Harvey, commanded the evil spirits to leave him, but the spirits did not obey.
Joseph then approached Harvey and asked him if he believed in God. Then we saw a change in Harvey. He also bore record of the opening of the heavens and of the coming of the Son of Man, precisely as Lyman Wight had done.
Next a man by the name of Harvey Green was thrown upon his back on the floor by an unseen power. Some of the brethren wanted to administer to him by laying on of hands, but Joseph forbade it. Harvey looked to me like a man in a fit. He groaned and frothed at the mouth. Finally he got upon his knees and came out of it.
Next thing I saw a man came flying through the window from outside. He was straight as a man’s arm as he sailed into the room over two rows of seats filled with men, and fell on the floor between the seats and was pulled out by the brethren. He trembled all over like a leaf in the wind. He was soon apparently calm and natural. His name was Lemon Copley. He weighed over two hundred pounds. This I saw with my own eyes and know it is all true, and bear testimony to it.
I was with Joseph the next morning after he was tarred and feathered by a mob in the town of Hiram. After he had washed and dressed in clean clothes, I heard him say to Sidney Rigdon, who was also tarred and feathered, “Now, Sidney, we are ready to go on that mission,” having reference to a command of God to go to Jackson County, Missouri, and which they had deferred to comply with until they should have accomplished some work which they had planned, but never did accomplish.
The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 76] was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hiram, Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time– probably two-thirds of the time,–I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.
The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.
Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”
This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.
Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.”
PEEPS. BE TRIPPIN’.
What was the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage”?
Here’s a phrase that always went over my head, and I don’t think most Mormons are aware of it.
D&C 131:1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
Baptism, marriage, and all other covenants from God necessary for salvation are new and everlasting.
The study manual for Brigham Young has a whole chapter on this phrase, and talks about its importance, but never once comes out and says what it actually is. How incredibly shifty.
This phrase had a meaning that Brigham Young and other early church leaders well understood: polygamy.
Brigham Young (here’s the link, but watch out for Evangelical Christianity)
…[men] who did not have but one wife in the Resurrection that woman will not be his but [will be] taken from him and given to another. President Wilford Woodruff (Utah Stake Historical Record #64904/CH0/1877-1888. Quarterly Conference held March 3rd and 4th, 1883; Sunday, 2 PM, p.271) The new and everlasting Covenant is marriage, plural marriage – men may say that with their single marriage the same promises and blessings had been granted, why cannot I attain to as much as with three or four, many question me in this manner I suppose they are afraid of Edmunds, what is the Covenant?
It is the eternity of the marriage covenant, and includes a plurality of wives and takes both to make the law…Joseph Smith declared that all who became heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ must obey his law or they cannot enter into the fullness and if they do not they may loose the one talent, when men are offered knowledge and they refuse it they will be damned and there is not a man that is sealed by this priesthood by covenants to enter into the fullness of the law and the same with the woman she says she will observe all that pertains to the new and everlasting Covenant both are under the Covenant – and must obey if they wish to enter into a continuation of the lives or of the seeds.
When a man, according to the revelation, marries a wife under the holy order which God has revealed and then marries another in the same way, he enters into the new and everlasting covenant, and so far as he has gone he has obeyed the law.
–Wilford Woodruff letter to Bishop S. A. Woolley (9th Ward, SLC) May 22, 1888, First Presidency letterpress copybooks, 1877-1949, Vol. 18: 841-843
Religious polygamy is gross and coercive. Maybe I ought to be glad that the LDS Church tries to walk back its polygamous past, but to hide it outright is dishonest.
Also, I actually think that if this scripture did mean simply “getting married in the temple”, it would be damaging enough.
Ask: How does this emphasis on marriage affect people in the church who have no desire to get married?
Student manual. Read the statements under “Those Who Do Not Marry” (student manual, 168). Ask students what these statements teach about those who do not have the opportunity to be married in this life.
There, there, it seems to say. You just didn’t have the opportunity. But if you did, I’m sure you’d do what everyone has to, in order for their existence to be truly validated!
How the LDS Church continually shits on everyone who doesn’t follow the model.
If you’re a guy, did you ever fully grasp how different were the experiences of young men and young women in the Mormon church?
I did not.
(Thanks to Redditor merlin5603 for the find!)
Additional ideas for teaching
Matter, or anti-matter?
What’s the relationship between spirit and matter? Are they different things, or are they just different manifestations of the same thing?
If you said, “They’re different,” then congratulations. First of all, you’re right — matter exists, and spirit doesn’t. But second of all, you’ve managed to avoid a trap that besets silly spiritualists. The trap is a question: why is there no evidence for spirits? The way out of the trap is to say, “Because spirit and matter are totally different things, and you can’t detect spirit using material means.”
Unfortunately, Joseph Smith falls directly into this trap. Here’s what he says:
D&C 131:7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.
Bah-bow. Now he has to explain why, if spirit is matter, it doesn’t behave like matter, and it’s not detectable like matter is. True, it’s very common for charlatans to say that “our instruments just aren’t sensitive enough”, but this is a dodge that grows ever less convincing as our instruments improve.
For example, matter can be weighed. If spirit is a kind of matter, it can also be weighed. To give an idea: there’s a scale that can detect an object as small as a yoctogram.
Have you ever imagined weighing even the smallest particle of a certain object? If ever a yes, then you actually had the same perception as Adrian Bachtold and his company when they did the tiniest weights.
This guy together with his colleagues is from the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Barcelona, Spain. They did research and came up with this spectacular invention of the world’s most sensitive scale. The device can significantly measure the smallest unit of a mass, or also known as the yoctogram which is just one septillionth of a gram.
I don’t really know how you would get some of that spiritual matter to weigh it, but surely if it were a thing, a clever person would be able to put together a research program. Instead, we get TV shows with people running around in the dark. Silly.
Study the scripture passages listed in the following questions and in the scripture chain.
Moses 4:2, D&C 19:16–19, and 76:40–42.
Premortal life: Job 38:4–7; D&C 138:55–56; Abraham 3:22–28
Mortal life: Alma 42:9, 14; D&C 29:40–43; Articles of Faith 1:3
Life after death: Alma 40:11–14; Alma 42:11–13, 15; D&C 76:111; D&C 88:14–16
It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.
This blog is starting to resemble an actual Gospel Doctrine class, in that we’re talking about the same issues over and over again. This time it’s the Plan of Salvation, or as you know it from your time in church, the three-circle chart.
We’ve talked about the Plan of Salvation before in an earlier lesson. What I want to do for this lesson is show why it makes no sense on any level.
Shman of Shmalvation
Let’s get a look at the chart for the Plan of Salvation.
Whoops, not that one.
There we go.
And now, to describe the Plan of Salvation, here is a super secret transcript of the War in Heaven, smuggled from the Granite Vault.
SETTING: The Premortal Realm
GOD: Gather ’round, everybody — and I mean everybody. Humans only.
ALL: What is it, God?
GOD: I have a plan.
FEMALE EXTRA: What sort of plan?
GOD: A plan whereby you can become like me.
GOD: You’ve all been living with me and a variety of Heavenly Mothers for aeons of eternal time. You have learned much. But now it’s time to be tested.
<SLIGHTLY WEAKER APPLAUSE>
GOD: You will need to be sent to Earth to be tested and tried.
FEMALE EXTRA 2: Why can’t we just be tested and tried here?
GOD: That would be too easy. Here, you know I exist, and we have a relationship. But on earth, your knowledge will be wiped, and then we’ll see if you’ll hearken to my words and obey me.
LUCIFER: If this test is the most important thing we’ll ever do in the eternities, why would it be a good idea to wipe our memory and then take the test? Wouldn’t it help us to do better on this test if we know what we know now?
GOD: I don’t want to know if you’ll obey me if you know stuff. I want to know if you’ll obey me, knowing nothing.
LUCIFER: That doesn’t make any sense.
GOD: Ahem. My ways are not your ways. The other thing you need is to have a body. Right now, you are spirits. But soon you will be encased in tabernacles of flesh.
ADAM: What’s a body?
GOD: Good question, Adam. Nice acting. A body is basically a version of you, but made of stuff.
LUCIFER: I don’t understand. Why would a body help us? Up here we can listen to you, ask questions, and make informed decisions — without having a body. So why are these bodies necessary?
GOD: How do you mean?
LUCIFER: Well, if our bodies get hurt and don’t work as well — or even if they’re just hungry or tired — then will it affect our ability to reason and make decisions?
GOD: (testily) Yes…
LUCIFER: And even if our bodies are working perfectly, they’ll still be only as good at reasoning as our spirits are now. It seems like these bodies only make the task harder.
GOD: Yes, but in return you get to be like me.
ADAM: How is this going to work?
GOD: You will all go to earth, in different places and at different times. A tiny fraction of you will get to hear about the Gospel in mortality, and the vast majority of you will be taught the Gospel after you die.
LUCIFER: …As spirits?
GOD: (steaming slightly) Yes, that’s right.
LUCIFER: Well, if almost all of us are going to learn about and accept the Gospel as spirits, then I still don’t see the point of having a body.
GOD: Forget about the bodies. I still haven’t told you about the other part, and that’s sin.
ADAM: What is sin?
GOD: Thanks, Adam. I can always count on you. There are things I don’t like you doing. That’s sin.
LUCIFER: Will we be able to stop ourselves from sinning?
GOD: No, not really. I’m either going to stain you with the taint of original sin, or I’ll make sure you’re born with an unpreventable tendency to want to sin — I haven’t decided which.
GOD: But don’t worry — I’ve got the perfect solution to the problem of sin.
LUCIFER: (sourly) Which you created.
ALL: To forgive us?
GOD: Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t just forgive you. How would simply forgiving you show that there are consequences for sin? I demand suffering.
GOD: No, I’m going to get someone killed. Then I’ll forgive everyone.
GOD: Except not everyone. You have to accept my moral superiority. And pay tithing. Then I’ll forgive you.
LUCIFER: And after that someone dies, there will be no more sin?
GOD: Of course there will still be sin! But I’ll feel better about having a relationship with you.
GOD: Now the purpose of this meeting is to pick a scapegoat. Someone’s got to suffer unimaginable torment for a few hours and then die, so let’s decide who gets it.
GOD: Oh, don’t worry! You won’t stay dead! A weekend, max. Then you get to sit at my right hand. Anyone?
JESUS: (puts hand up)
GOD: Right, thank you. Well, that’s about all for…
LUCIFER: I’ll do it, as long as you guarantee that everyone passes the test and gets to live with you.
GOD: Oh, and how will that work?
LUCIFER: You could just relax the constraints on sin.
GOD: (distant sound of thunder) What do you mean?
LUCIFER: Well, you’re arbitrarily designating some things as wrong, and then killing someone to fix it. So it seems like the whole problem is you. Why don’t you just circumvent the whole thing by trying to not mind sin so much? Surely you have the ability to do that.
GOD: Not with my unyielding sense of justice. I cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
EUTHYPHRO: I thought you could do anything.
GOD: Not that.
SOCRATES: (makes notes)
LUCIFER: Well then, how about if you just make it so that we can’t sin. We go down to earth, get bodies — no sin, no problem!
VOICES: (murmuring) Yes. Good idea. That would work.
GOD: That’s a terrible idea because I have to allow free will. Now off with you, Lucifer, and all those who agreed with your opinion!
<SOUNDS OF ETERNAL BANISHMENT>
GOD: That was kind of lucky, because I needed him for the plan. Right. The first of you lot will go down soon, so get ready. Oh, and Mary — stay back. I’ve got a special job for you.
To show that the church has changed its interpretation of tithing in a way that benefits itself most.
This lesson is about tithing. Man, they never miss a chance to ask for money! Didn’t they just do a lesson on this?
There are a few things I’m thankful about, with regard to my days of LDS membership. I learned public speaking, and I got to sing in front of an audience. But the main thing I’m grateful for is that I left before I hit peak earning potential. Not everyone is this lucky; my sympathies to those who have paid a lot, and my deepest sympathies if your spouse still insists on giving free money to what is essentially a tax-exempt real estate concern.
It’s amazing that, as a member, I just believed what I told about tithing. Even if I did read what the D&C actually said on this topic, it just bounced off. So it’s been enlightening in the years since my deconversion to read what follows. This is the work of other people, and I’m providing
Tithing was once on surplus
Currently, Mormons are supposed to pay 10% of their income to the church.
Net or gross? While the official Gospel Doctrine manual don’t come out and say it, you’re not supposed to be a cheapskate about it. The implication is: gross is the word… is the word… is the word.
President Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve explained: “It is remarkable how many excuses can be made and interpretations given as to what constitutes the tenth. … It is written, however, that as we measure it shall be measured to us again. If we are stingy with the Lord, he may be stingy with us, or in other words, withhold his blessings” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 2:92).
Get the picture?
But what does the Doctrine and Covenants actually say? It’s all in Section 119.
D&C 119:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,
2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.
3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.
4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.
5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.
6 And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you.
7 And this shall be an ensample unto all the stakes of Zion. Even so. Amen.
So in the early days, members were supposed to give the church all their extra stuff, and then pay 10% of their “interest”. From the manual:
The First Presidency gave the following definition of tithing: “The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay ‘one-tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this” (First Presidency letter, 19 Mar. 1970).
Wait… income is very different from interest. It looks like this scripture has become subject to interpretational inflation. The way this scripture reads, it looks like if you make $500 in interest on your bank accounts or investments or what have you, you’re supposed to pay 10% of that. And it looks like that was the understanding at the time.
In the revelation as recorded in Mormon scripture, tithing was explained to mean members would give “all their surplus property” to the bishop at the time, Edward Partridge, and thereafter “pay one-tenth of all their interest annually.”
Current LDS leaders say interest is typically interpreted as “income.” But that’s not what it has always meant.
“Bishop Partridge understood ‘one tenth of all their interest’ annually to mean 10 percent of what Saints would earn in interest if they invested their net worth for a year,” Harper wrote. He cited an example from Partridge who was reportedly in the room when Smith received the revelation.
“If a man is worth a $1000, the interest on that would be $60, and one/10. of the interest will be of course $6. thus you see the plan,” Partridge wrote in a letter just days after the revelation was received.
The Malachi scripture may have only applied to priests
When the subject of tithing comes up, you can count on this scripture from Malachi:
Read Malachi 3:8–9 or 3 Nephi 24:8–9 with class members. In what ways do we “rob God” if we do not pay tithes and offerings? (You may want to have class members read D&C 59:21 and D&C 104:14 as they discuss this question.)
Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
It’s stupid to talk about robbing a supernatural being who can create a universe. But it’s possible that this scripture wasn’t directed at the rank and file Israelites, but rather the priests. Malachi chastised them for sacrificing the sick and blind animals, keeping back the good ones for themselves.
Malachi 1:7Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
1:8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
Maybe it’s the leaders who are guilty of holding back funds, being stingy with humanitarian aid.
The church tells you to let your family starve so you can pay it
From time to time, the church teaches a truly horrendous ‘family can wait’ idea, where you pay the church, even of that means your family goes hungry.
After reading these scriptures together, Bishop Orellana looked at the new convert and said, “If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.”
After some events related to our civil war in Central America [Cordón grew up in Guatemala], my father’s business went bankrupt. He went from about 200 full-time employees to fewer than five sewing operators who worked as needed in the garage of our home. One day, during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children.
If you’re wondering this, you are in a cult.
On Sunday, I followed my father to see what he was going to do. After our Church meetings, I saw him take an envelope and put his tithing in it. That was only part of the lesson. The question that remained for me was: what we were going to eat!
Early Monday morning, some people knocked on our door. When I opened it, they asked for my father. I called for him, and when he arrived, the visitors told him about an urgent sewing order they needed as quickly as possible. They told him that the order was so urgent that they will pay for it in advance. That day, I learned the principles of paying tithing and the blessings that follow.
The dual purpose of tithing
So what’s tithing really for? I see two purposes. The church gets all that delicious money. And because you’ve invested all that money, you’re less likely to want to admit you’ve made a mistake and leave. Especially if you’ve starved your kids. The investment fallacy is powerful.
The manual quotes John A. Widtsoe:
“Doubt retreats; faith advances; certainty and courage buoy up the soul.” (in Deseret News, 16 May 1936, Church Section, 5).
Oh, I’d say doubt retreats, all right! But it’s not for honest reasons.
Of course church leaders try to claim that it’s not about the money. From the manual:
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve said that “the payment of tithing has less to do with money, but more to do with faith” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1990, 41; or Ensign, May 1990, 32). How is tithing more about faith than money?
Fine; in that case, people should pay with faith, and keep their money. Or doesn’t it work that way? Why not?
So it’s no secret that something’s going on in the LDS Church. It’s having a truth crisis. People keep leaving. Some are finding out about its awful history. Others are feeling at odds with its policy with regard to LGBT people and marriage equality. It seems like every member knows someone who left.
The leadership is surely aware of this, and have tried to patch the problem with essays. But the essays are only intended for members with one eye on the door. What has been the focus for members?
I was mystified by this. They’re facing an exodus, and they respond with a kind of boilerplate response that’s not even related to the problem? That’s the kind of thing you come up with for a stake conference, not for a church in crisis.
“They’re not coming to church? Then let’s tell them to go to church more!”
At first, I thought they’d lost it. Had the Q15 been in church leadership so long that they’d lost touch with humans? Are they in denial? But then I remembered that these guys have been professionally fleecing people for a long time, and the church still exists largely because they’ve made the right moves.
So could there be something behind the whole Sunday thing?
Turns out that this was probably a really good choice. Here’s why.
Informational bubbles depend on strong social networks. If people keep relying on communal reinforcement, people feel like the beliefs of the group are true. Or they don’t mind as much if they’re not true. Or they’ll interpret ambiguous information in the most charitable light. So getting people together is a good move. So is cultivating a group mentality, separate from other people. An emphasis on Sabbath observance does both those things.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Section 59, and see how this works.
The world is dirty
If you want to have an ideological community, you have to make it look like other communities are wrong. That’s why there’s a very strong anti-world thread running through LDS doctrine.
D&C 59:9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
The world gives you spots. It’s a dirty place.
You’re also supposed to carve off huge blocks of time doing nothing.
D&C 59:13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
Fasting, while not exactly synonymous with rejoicing, is probably a good thing to do for a while. More and more people these days are doing intermittent fasting. That includes Your Humble Gospel Doctrine Teacher; I’m doing alternate-day fasting. Food fads are silly, but there is some science backing this up.
Alternate-day fasting trials of 3 to 12 weeks in duration appear to be effective at reducing body weight (≈3%-7%), body fat (≈3-5.5 kg), total cholesterol (≈10%-21%), and triglycerides (≈14%-42%) in normal-weight, overweight, and obese humans.
This could easily reverse with more research, and if it all turns out to be fake, I’m okay with that; it’s still working for me in the medium term and I’m not going to go overboard on it. Modest claims for modest evidence.
But one thing I’ve noticed is that fasting puts you in a bit of an altered state. My wife comments that I seem slightly more light-headed and intense on fasting days. That must be the ketosis, as my body breaks down long chains of ketones into energy. (It also gives the faster the characteristic ‘temple breath’. How many times did I have to try to remember the Five Points of Fellowship with my arms wrapped around some elderly temple worker with ketosis.)
Religions love their altered states, and if you take a person who’s fasting and put them in a room where all they can do is read the scriptures — voilá! Spiritual experience!
You might remember how, in an earlier lesson, we saw that some early church members got a bit boisterous in meetings. This must have triggered quite a backlash! Now there’s a huge reaction against anything indecorous, raucous, or indeed interesting. This means that in the 21st century, you can’t bring a drum into a chapel for a musical number, and… they tell you how you can laugh. Controlling much?
D&C 59:15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance
The prohibition on loud laughter also pops up in the temple endowment ceremony. So what’s up with this?
I think this has to do with how people support bad ideas. If you’re confronted with flat-earthism, climate denialism, religion, or other silly (or dangerous) beliefs, you could patiently explain why someone is wrong. That can at times be a good strategy. If the person is convincible, or it’s someone you have a relationship with, patient explanation (and at times saying nothing) is a good way to go.
But in other situations, where you’re in a forum with observers, against someone who’s not going to shift, then dropping a bit of sass can be just the thing. It gets people not to take the belief seriously. Ridicule is appropriate for ridiculous ideas.
Here’s a cartoon I did a while ago. The main point was:
Click on the image to read the whole thing.
Loud laughter is something religions just can’t withstand. That’s why they demand that they be met soberly and seriously. Don’t play into it. Deploy ridicule judiciously.
The earth belongs to humans
Here’s one of the more dangerous ideas: the earth and other animals belong to us.
D&C 59:16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
If we treated things well, that would be fine. Unfortunately, we only seem to exploit public goods. Our effect on the earth has been disastrous. I don’t want to get all cosmic here, but it seems to me that we’d do a lot better if we thought of ourselves as a part of the earth, instead of as owners. People who accept evolution seem to get this; people in the human-supremacy movement (including, apparently, Mormons) don’t.
And this attitude is just making it harder for us to survive.
God gets pissed
Was this one of the sections that was dictated in one big stream of consciousness? Because you can tell that Joseph Smith was totally free-styling here.
D&C 59:21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.
Isn’t it strange that this is the all-powerful creator of the universe, and what really ticks him off is not getting acknowledged by puny mortals? Why would an omnipotent being need humans to obey him? And what’s with the wrath?
Talk to the Spock.
A renewed focus on Sabbath observance may help shore up members in the short term. The church will still have considerable issues in the medium- to long-term, however, and these won’t be so easily dealt with
There’s a major problem with using church meetings as a tool: they’re terrible. Even as a Mormon, I had to acknowledge that going to church was the worst part of church. Meetings are dour, boring, and repetitive. And why would it be necessary to use communal reinforcement if a belief is true? It’s been years since I studied (let’s just pick an example) continental drift. Yet I still think it’s as true as I ever did. It’s only nonsense that needs to be constantly shored up. This should be a warning to church-goers.
Wouldn’t it be great to have superpowers? Invisibility, super speed, or magic are the stuff of human imagination.
On the other hand, maybe some non-traditional powers could be in the running.
As for me, I think this superpower is a strong contender.
But if God — the all-powerful creator of the universe, not limited to merely human imagination — were behind it all, then you’d think he would have an inventory of spiritual superpowers that would blow your mind!
Well, get ready for disappointment, because this lesson is about the saddest list of spiritual gifts you’ve ever seen.
In early January 1831, Levi Hancock met three young men named Edson Fuller, Heamon Bassett, and Burr Riggs, who introduced themselves as elders of the Church of Christ. According to Hancock, these young elders engaged in “all manner of doings” during worship services. Burr Riggs would “jump up from the floor, strike his head against the joist . . . swing some minutes, then fall like he was dead.” He would then rise and relate visions he had while unconscious. “Edson Fuller would fall and turn black in the face. He[a]mon Bassett would behave like a baboon.”
I’m kind of glad, though. Growing up Mormon was weird enough without this kind of thing going on.
No, God’s gifts are just sort of quiet.
Before we get to the list of unimpressive gifts, God reminds us that we’re not supposed to use them to impress anyone (not to worry, God) or provide evidence for anything.
D&C 46:9 For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
And he tells us that everyone gets a gift.
D&C 46:11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
List of gifts
Anyway, here’s the list. Brace yourself.
D&C 46:13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
Wow. You don’t usually think of that as a gift. Because it’s not. The ability to sit there and believe fictional things is honestly not that great of a superpower.
D&C 46:14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
Again: wow. The ability to be gullible. That’s not a gift; that’s a curse.
D&C 46:15 And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
What’s that one about? The Gospel Doctrine manual says:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve said that this gift is “used in administering and regulating the church” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 278).
So it’s like being a cleric, but a really boring cleric. From God, I was expecting a little more D&D, but I guess this is Mormonism, the world’s most boring religion.
D&C 46:16 And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
The manual again:
(Discernment “to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God.” This gift helps us discern whether a teaching or influence comes from God or from some other source.)
That one’s easy. Mormons already know that a teaching comes from God if they already believe it. I HAVE THE GIFT.
D&C 46:17 And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
18 To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
I like those things. Unfortunately these gifts, in my church experience, were a bit thin on the ground.
D&C 46:19 And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
20 And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
Now we’re getting somewhere! Every party needs a healer.
Except… why would this be a spiritual gift? Is this supposed to be something that… certain people are good at? But why would that be? You want someone to be healed, you pray to God, he heals them. Why would he hold out on someone and not heal them just because the wrong person was doing the praying? If the healing comes from God anyway, then this doesn’t make any sense.
Unless what happens is that people are getting better randomly, and people are mistakenly attributing prayers as the cause. Maybe we’d better listen to that Tim Minchin song again.
Ask: What are some reasons why people mistakenly think God is healing their loved ones?
Ask: How does this play into narcissism?
D&C 46:21 And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
D&C 46:22 And to others it is given to prophesy;
23 And to others the discerning of spirits.
Let’s talk about prophecy and discernment. Mormons often talk about the “gift of discernment”, which is where the bishop can tell if a teenager is lying when they claim that they’re not beating off. If the gift of discernment is a real power, then surely the leaders of the church would be the most discerning of all. Are they? What kind of test could we devise?
Perhaps there could be a situation where someone was lying repeatedly, directly to them. Surely they’d be able to detect it.
Apparently not, because this actually happened. Here’s a photo of document dealer, forger, and convicted murderer Mark Hofmann, discussing church documents with church leaders.
Hofmann was selling them fake documents related to church history, and they bought them. All they had to do was to use the Holy Ghost to detect the forgeries, but at no point did they suspect that they were getting played. What’s worse, if they had been good at fortelling the future, they could have saved a few lives. As public skepticism mounted around the supposed finds, Hofmann planted bombs to divert the investigation. These bombs ended up killing two people, and injuring Hofmann.
Arguably the most famous of these fake documents was the White Salamander letter, in which Martin Harris supposedly reported that the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in the form of a white salamander.
in the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph found a gold bible I take Joseph aside & he says it is true I found it 4 years ago with my stone but only just got it because of the enchantment the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole & struck me 3 times
I remember when this was being talked about. The oddest part for me was that Dallin Oaks seemed to believe the whole thing was legit (in all of its oddness), but for him that was okay. See, a “salamander” was a being that could, according to legend, appear in the midst of fire and not get burned. Like an angel! See? It all works.
“Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word ‘salamander’ in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W.W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word ‘salamander’ in the modern sense of a ‘tailed amphibian.’
“One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of ‘salamander,’ which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s…. That meaning… is ‘a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire.’...
“A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni:… the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.
“In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship or membership in the Church?”
(“1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium,” pages 22-23)
This is a favourite tactic of apologists: when confronted with disconfirmation, just start redefining words until you get the answer you want. It’s totally reasonable that Joseph Smith would see an angel that had a very bright but very human-looking body, and say, “Well, now, that’s a salamander!” At least Dallin Oaks thought so.
Until the Salamander letter was shown to be a fraud and then Oaks was like, Pssh, forget what I said about salamanders and angels, it’s totally a hoax now. And everyone went along and just kind of forgot that explanation.
What a weird and sad episode. But it does show that, at the highest level, church leaders fail when it comes to discernment. And if you need further evidence, look no further than the manner in which New Name Noah can walk unimpeded through temples — with an actual recommend and a camera, no less! — and no one is the wiser.
Especially check out this video, where NNN infiltrates a ward, and during Gospel Doctrine, the teacher actually mentions this blog! I’m so pleased to be noticed.
(Spooky how the bishop knew I was lying, though.)
Back to the list.
D&C 46:24 And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
25 And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
This was no doubt a reference to glossolalia, or babbling away in a made up language. That was a known thing at this point in church history. But now Mormons kind of bleach it out and say that it’s about learning languages. And they often go on to claim that missionaries are really good at learning languages, and this is a manifestation of the gift of tongues. Whoops — missionaries don’t learn languages all that well. See this lesson for more.
There really isn’t anything amazing or helpful in this list of spiritual gifts — or if there is, there’s no evidence that any of them are real.
And when people extend the list of gifts, it’s even more mundane. See if you find anything inspiring in the manual:
Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve said some “less-conspicuous gifts” include “the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; … the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; … the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 23; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 20).
Almost all of these are things that normal people can do. It’s like they’re describing personality traits, and not actual abilities.
However, there are some spiritual gifts that would really be useful in the church today.
The ability to sit quietly
The ability to bite your tongue for three hours
The ability to sing harmonies tunelessly
The gift of casual misogyny
If spiritual gifts were real, wouldn’t they be a bigger deal? It would be obvious that God’s magical powers were having some effect. Mormons would be the best at healing, at predicting the future, and “miracles” (whatever that means). Instead, there’s no really discernable effect beyond anecdotes.
As a church, we want to assist in all that we can to create and support strong marriages and families. That is why the Church actively participates in and provides leadership to various coalitions and ecumenical efforts to strengthen the family. It is why we share our family-focused values in the media and on social media. It is why we share our genealogical and extended family records with all nations. We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established.
— L. Tom Perry, Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World, 2015.
Explain that Satan can try to deceive people with counterfeit spiritual gifts. Concerned about some false manifestations of these gifts among Church members, the Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord and received a revelation that is now recorded as D&C 50.
Apparently a counterfeit is when something good exists, but with no connection to the church.
In the April 2017 Ensign (h/t John Dehlin), Larry Lawrence of the Seventy demeans other people’s relationships as counterfeit, and says that:
Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, but same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although [Satan’s] imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.
Jerk. This is an insult to people who have a relationship that is committed, loving, and valid. And there’s something else: I’ve been married twice. Once was in the temple, with only part of our family able to attend, and almost no friends. It was officiated by someone I didn’t know, and it was a dour affair, meant primarily to affirm the organisation.
The second time I got married was in a city hall, a lovely historic building. There were friends, there was family, there was an officiant that we chose. We got to decide what would happen in our ceremony. And there was an amazing choir, because my wife and I have mad connections in the Perth music scene. Then there was a dinner, and music and dancing all night. We were surrounded by good wishes and people who loved us. We’ll never forget it.
Which marriage ceremony was authentic, and which could best be described a sad and joyless counterfeit?
The LDS Church offers counterfeits. It presents a counterfeit history, counterfeit facts, a counterfeit idea of the end of the earth, counterfeit authority, counterfeit happiness, counterfeit linguistics, counterfeit archaeology, counterfeit anthropology, counterfeit genetics, and most crucially, a counterfeit method to find out if all of the above is true.
Ah, the days when I could get a rise out of a Sunday School class by cheekily suggesting that the Law of Consecration (aka the United Order) was a form of socialism.
“Socialism is Satan’s counterfeit for the United Order!” Brother Grumpus would always say. The classfull of Mormon-Americans would nod along. They probably didn’t understand socialism (or communism), and they sure didn’t understand the United Order, but I doubt they would have been thrilled with any of these systems. So it’s funny that this lesson tries to sell communitarian utopianism to what is very likely to be a very conservative class of members.
The Law of Consecration is not communism or socialism. It is, however, the mark of an incredibly demanding religion. Briefly, it is an economic system in which members place all their property and worldly goods into the hands of the same church leaders who ask if they masturbate.
It is the system that the Lord has ordained for looking after the welfare of his Saints… and it is something that always fails. It never works, but God doesn’t seem to know this.
There is, however, something that does seem to be working where it’s been tried so far: Universal Basic Income. I’ll plug that a bit later on.
How it started
The chapters for this lesson are revelations from the creator of the universe, and definitely not Joseph Smith, in which people are told to give Joseph Smith their money. Edward Partridge was supposed to work it out.
D&C 51:3 Wherefore, let my servant Edward Partridge, and those whom he has chosen, in whom I am well pleased, appoint unto this people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.
4 And let my servant Edward Partridge, when he shall appoint a man his portion, give unto him a writing that shall secure unto him his portion, that he shall hold it, even this right and this inheritance in the church, until he transgresses and is not accounted worthy by the voice of the church, according to the laws and covenants of the church, to belong to the church.
Here’s God giving poor deluded Martin Harris the business…
D&C 104:24 And again, let my servant Martin Harris have appointed unto him, for his stewardship, the lot of land which my servant John Johnson obtained in exchange for his former inheritance, for him and his seed after him;
25 And inasmuch as he is faithful, I will multiply blessings upon him and his seed after him.
26 And let my servant Martin Harris devote his moneys for the proclaiming of my words, according as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., shall direct.
D&C 58:35It is wisdom in me that my servant Martin Harris should be an example unto the church, in laying his moneys before the bishop of the church.
36 And also, this is a law unto every man that cometh unto this land to receive an inheritance; and he shall do with his moneys according as the law directs.
37 And it is wisdom also that there should be lands purchased in Independence, for the place of the storehouse, and also for the house of the printing.
38 And other directions concerning my servant Martin Harris shall be given him of the Spirit, that he may receive his inheritance as seemeth him good;
…while calling Martin sinful at the same time!
D&C 58:39 And let him repent of his sins, for he seeketh the praise of the world.
Joseph Smith was really something, wasn’t he?
I want to recommend Mithyn’s Law of Consecration Timeline, with loads of information about how it all went down. Mithryn’s breakdown of this lesson is also required reading. It explains the failures of 1830s-era consecration, but also of Brigham Young’s attempts in the 1850s.
This arrangement was supposed to be permanent.
D&C 78:3 For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion
4 For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;
5 That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.
6 For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
And despite the Law of Consecration being discontinued, the manual says it hasn’t changed.
Explain that the principles of the law of consecration have not changed since it was revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, the application of those principles changes from time to time. The current prophet helps us understand how to apply these principles in our day.
Obviously, it’s one of those “policy changes” rather than a “doctrinal change”.
So what really happened? Why did consecration fail? Predictably, the Gospel Doctrine manual blames the people, because God never fails, and if his plans don’t work, it’s because you were bad. (Just ask Eve.)
Some Saints lived it well, to the blessing of themselves and others, but other members failed to rise above selfish desires, causing the eventual withdrawal of the law from the Church. In 1838 the Lord revealed the law of tithing (see D&C 119), which continues today as the financial law of the Church.
In other words, God had to call it off because he didn’t realise that people were going to be selfish and mean. He just didn’t see that coming. Consecration was the victim of nothing more than God’s failure to grasp human nature.
Think about it: Joseph Smith had God himself giving detailed instructions on how to make it work, and it still failed? God could knock up a universe in six days, but it seems that figuring out an economic system that works was too hard. Which makes one conclude that God is a bit of a loser. Or consecration never works. Or both.
There’s another possibility: God is a really good engineer, but a really shitty economist. His all-knowingness only extends to certain areas. Which makes sense because he isn’t that great at other things, like moral reasoning. Many times, I’ve asked religious people, “Just because God is smart enough to make a universe, why does that make him a moral expert? Why would that mean that he gets to tell us how to live?” It always confuses them, because they’re not used to thinking that someone who’s good at one thing isn’t automatically good at everything.
The response you can expect from members is “Just wait until God is in charge of it, though. Then it will work.” But this makes no sense. In what way was God not in charge of it the first time? He was dictating entire sections of the D&C, explaining who should do what, and it still didn’t work. How will next time be any different? At some point the buck has to stop.
What are class members supposed to take away from this?
What else? Give the church everything.
We must be willing to make the sacrifices that the Lord requires of us at the present time. These include sacrifices of time, talents, and possessions. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve give us direction regarding how we implement the principles of the law of consecration in our day.
• How can we consecrate our time, talents, and possessions to help build the kingdom of God today? (Answers may include those listed below.)
a. Pay tithing and fast offerings and give generously in other ways to those in need. By doing these things, we can help the Church care for the poor and carry on the important activities necessary to build the kingdom of God on earth. Elder Marion G. Romney asked: “What prohibits us from giving as much in fast offerings as we would have given in surpluses under the United Order? Nothing but our own limitations” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 100; or Improvement Era, June 1966, 537).
b. Serve willingly in the Church. The Lord has admonished each person to “learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). We should fulfill the callings we receive to the best of our ability. In addition to specific Church callings, we can share the gospel with others, do temple work, and seek to strengthen the testimonies of those who are new or weak in the faith.
c. Serve as a full-time missionary. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Going on a mission teaches you to live the law of consecration. It may be the only time in your life when you can give to the Lord all your time, talents, and resources. In return, the Lord will bless you with His Spirit to be with you. He will be close to you and strengthen you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 50; or Ensign, May 1996, 36).
God: Oh, did I say consecration? I meant fast offerings and going on missions.
It’s worth pointing out that, in the endowment ceremony, members promise to give everything they have to the church — and note: to the church! not to God. Once you’ve promised that, they own you.
And while the purpose of the United Order was ostensibly to care for the poor, getting members to hand over everything was a far more useful goal. After that, what else would you hold back from them? And if the whole enterprise fails, the investment fallacy makes you incapable of admitting that it failed.
George Carlin knew what was up.
What works: UBI
There is a way to make sure everyone has enough, and it seems to work: the Universal Basic Income, or UBI.
Many people worry about the rise of automation displacing jobs. In the past, this hasn’t been a problem because computers have created entire industries to replace the jobs they supplanted. However, with the new wave of driverless cars, robotic automation, and (crucially) AI systems that can do human jobs just as well as a human, there’s no reason to think that there will be a robot technician for every robot. That means a lot of less-skilled workers out of work.
This is all happening at a time when neoliberalism has funnelled a lot of money toward the top 1%, and shrunk the middle class. A lot of people are just not seeing a way out of their money problems, and this is fuelling hopelessness and extremism.
One solution that has been proposed (and tested) is a Universal Basic Income, or UBI. Everyone, no matter how much money they make, gets enough money to live on, and they can work more if they want to. With a bedrock level of economic security, they can make choices:
Leave a job they hate
Start a business they’ve always wanted to
Take care of kids, or someone who’s sick or elderly
Not have to do something terrible for little to no money because they have few other choices
With a UBI, people who are doing unpaid but necessary work will be compensated. If we want people to fill unpleasant or distasteful jobs, we’ll need to pay people at a commensurate level. Don’t like porn or sex work? Fewer people will be doing it for the money; you’ll only see the people whose hearts are in it. And people who are still in truly unsavoury careers, like marketing, will be exposed for the kind of people they are.
But with the basics of life taken care of (and how about a national health care system in place), people will be able to get on with things they’d like to do. And there will be a not incidental amount of money rocketing around the economy, increasing the velocity of money, and stimulating demand.
GOP lawmaker: The Bible says ‘if a man will not work, he shall not eat’
One lawmaker is citing a godly reference to justify changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) recently quoted the New Testament to question the strength of current work requirements.
The biblical passage, 2 Thessalonians 3-10, was a rebuttal to one of the hearing’s expert witnesses, a representative of the Jewish anti-hunger group MAZON. (He referenced Leviticus.) It is also a familiar refrain to anyone who has watched past debates about SNAP.
House Republicans have historically cited the verse — “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” — as justification for cutting some adults’ SNAP benefits.
But this is just part of another bible-based system created by a do-nothing god that hasn’t worked. Why listen to him? He did a week’s worth of work ages ago, and hasn’t done a damn thing since, except write a couple of books.
Additional ideas for teaching
Why are Mormons so blasted conservative?
I’ll be straight with you. If you’re a Gospel Doctrine teacher in a politically conservative area, this lesson is a hard sell. And there are a lot of conservative areas, because Mormons by and large are not the most liberal people. Far from it.
Mormons Most Conservative Major Religious Group in U.S.
PRINCETON, NJ — Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, are the most conservative major religious group in the country, with 59% identifying as conservative, 31% as moderate, and 8% as liberal.
This is likely getting worse, as liberal members are driven out by the anti-LGBT leanings of the church’s policy makers.
Wait, where’s the bubble that says “Church is heavily compromised by its refusal to provide evidence for its claims or come clean about problematic areas of its history, plus it is untrue”? Guess they didn’t have room.
This next part is going to sound dumb. I’m sorry in advance.
For me, the conservative nature of the church was part of my deconversion. Specifically, it was when George W. Bush was re-elected to president in 2004 — county for county in the case of Utah.
I don’t mean that Mormons didn’t vote the way I wanted to, so they must be evil. There’s a lot of scope for political difference, and who knows where our political values come from anyway.
But that was the capper on a long lifetime of confrontation with Mormons, as some of the worst people in the American experiment. We live in a time when some really unapologetically evil people are in charge, and Mormons — the people who claim to have the greatest unfiltered access to the Holy Ghost — are the biggest defenders of the evil.
And yes, I do mean evil. If being evil means causing unnecessary suffering, then throwing people off their health care is a form of evil. Cutting off school lunch programmes so kids don’t get fed is a form of evil. Making sure wealthy people get enough while everyone else doesn’t is a form of evil. At some point, making sure people have enough stops being a political issue, and instead becomes a test of moral rectitude. It’s about whether you’re a Good Person, whether you give in to fascism, or whether you’re willing to turn in your neighbours on a registry.
Majority of Utahns now view Trump favorably, poll shows
Washington • President Donald Trump’s approval rating is increasing in Utah — a majority of registered voters now view him positively — even as his numbers nationally have sunk in his first two months in office.
A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll finds that 54 percent of registered voters say they somewhat or strongly approve of Trump’s job performance while 41 percent disapprove. In January, just before Trump took office, a Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll found 46 percent favorability for the incoming president and 52 percent unfavorable.
Does that sound like a group of people that have the Holy Ghost? Or are they willing to overlook a pussy-grabber when he does what they like?
Maybe there’s hope. I went to visit my TBM sister before the 2016 election. She confided that she wasn’t keen on Trump. Didn’t know why. Just didn’t like him. And I thought, Well, maybe there’s a line there that she wouldn’t cross. That election was a test for many people of what they would put up with, and a lot of people failed. At least for her there was a line.
There’s one thing you’re not supposed to do in this lesson, and that’s covet.
Read D&C 19:26 with class members. What warning did the Lord give to Martin Harris in this verse? Why must we overcome covetousness if we are to consecrate our lives to the Lord? How can we overcome covetous feelings?
D&C 19:26 And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God
Wow — you’re not supposed to covet your own property. In the Old Testament, you weren’t supposed to covet someone else’s stuff, but at least you knew that for your own stuff, covet away! But apparently not. That this is part of Joseph Smith’s plan to get Martin Harris to hand over everything as part of a business scam is especially galling.
Also from the manual:
President Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid of covetousness in our Elders than I am of the hordes of hell. … All our enemies … in the world, and all hell with them marshalled against us, could not do us the injury that covetousness in the hearts of this people could do us; for it is idolatry” (in Journal of Discourses, 5:353).
I’m not going to beat the drum for capitalism — not as it exists today, that is. But it seems to be that covetousness is not really a problem when everyone’s finances are unconnected. I like my neighbour’s car. Maybe I’ll work harder or make better choices, and get one. That’s mildly positive.
Coveting is only a problem when everyone’s finances are linked. You only have to worry about someone drawing out all the money when it’s a joint account. So it seems to me that the United Order encouraged covetousness.
John Whitmer recorded that “The time has not yet come that the law can be fully established, for the disciples live scattered abroad and are not yet organized; our numbers are small and the disciples untaught, consequently they understand not the things of the kingdom.” Whitmer further noted that part of the problem was that “some of the disciples who were flattered into this Church… thought that all things were to be in common, therefore they thought to glut themselves upon the labors of others.”
In general, looking after each other is something that needs to happen, even if this isn’t the way to do it.
I like this quote from Louis C.K.
Bind the Lord
There’s an idea in this reading that I find slightly evil. It was promoted on my mission, and it doesn’t work. It led to a lot of disillusionment.
D&C 82:10I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
The idea is: if you’re doing what God says, he has to come through with the blessings. He’s bound. It’s a very mercantile view of spirituality.
So in theory, you could “bind the Lord” and get what you want. In the mission field, it played out like this:
Pray and make a covenant with the Lord that you’ll do something (obey the rules) if he’ll do something (send you people to baptise).
You do the thing.
He doesn’t do the thing back because he doesn’t exist.
This is very confusing. Apparently the Lord wants people to join the church, but he never seems to zap people’s minds and make them want to be Mormons.
With the failure of your covenant, you now have choices:
Reinterpret the outcome in an uplifting way
Only number 1 is unacceptable in the church, and it also happens to be the best answer.
The scriptures listed in the following questions and in the scripture chain:
D&C 84:19–25 (Melchizedek Priesthood),
D&C 88:15–24 (Three kingdoms of glory; see also D&C 76:50–112),
D&C 93:29 (Premortal existence),
D&C 107:23, 33, 35 (Apostles and prophets),
D&C 124:37–42 (Temples),
D&C 128:16–18 (Baptism for the dead),
D&C 130:22 (The Godhead);
Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation,” 717;
Our Heritage, pages 23–25, 41, 58.
This lesson is about Joseph Smith, and his impact on Mormon doctrine. (Since he’s the founder, the answer is an unsurprising “huge”.) For Mormons this lesson is kind of a breather, a list of what Smith wrote, along with exhortations to be grateful for it, and invitations for class members to tell what it “means to them”.
For us, it’s a chance to take an all-encompassing look at the full horror, and see how wrong it all is. If somewhere I missed an opportunity to bash away at a volume of scripture, here’s where I make up for it.
Joseph Smith was part story-teller, part con artist, part religious mystic, and all sexual predator. Richard Dawkins’s description of him as “enterprisingly mendacious” is just right. He was a magpie, scanning the frontier culture of his day, picking up anything shiny that crossed his path, and working it into a narrative that he busily constructed for the whole of his life, in hopes that it would be the One Big Sell that would get him money, sex, and power.
We’ll be looking at his major works:
The Book of Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants
The Joseph Smith “Translation” of the Bible
Pearl of Great Price
The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is arguably the most beloved book of scripture for Latter-day Saints, and predictably, it gets everything wrong.
It misidentifies Hebrews as ancestors of Native Americans — a hypothesis that was current in Joseph Smith’s day, but which has been disconfirmed by modern evidence. It mentions plants and animals that did not exist in the ancient Americas, and fails to mention many that did. The Lamanites should have left an extensive archaeological footprint, but would appear to have vanished without a trace.
Joseph Smith plagiarised the Bible in its entirely, even the bits that weren’t supposed to have been written at the time of the Book of Mormon. No one in the church seems to notice this.
Joseph Smith was supposed to have seen God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate individuals — a theological bombshell for Christendom at the time — but then went ahead and wrote the Book of Mormon to reflect a trinitarian doctrine, as though the First Vision had never happened. It also addresses theological, social, and political concerns of the American frontier Protestantism of the 1800s, in a way that would have been entirely foreign to ancient Mesoamerica.
Even more brashly, Joseph Smith inserted himself into the Book of Mormon as a fulfilment of prophecy, in a move that would make any writer with a sense of shame blush. From the manual:
The Book of Mormon
Read 2 Nephi 3:11–15 with class members. Explain that this passage contains a prophecy about Joseph Smith. The writings mentioned in verse 12 are the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 3:11 But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins — and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
3:12 Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
3:13 And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.
3:14 And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;
3:15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.
Talk about audacity!
Ask: If you were a believer, what did you think about these verses? Did you allow yourself to reflect on how transparent a con this might have been?
Doctrine and Covenants
The manual explains:
The Book of Commandments. This is the first compilation of the revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These revelations later became part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Ahem: not in their original form. The chapters from the Book of Commandments were reworked (in some cases, extensively). And the best part:
Interestingly, most of the revelations collected in the Book of Commandments were first printed in the Church periodical The Evening and Morning Star. When Doctrine and Covenants was printed, the first fourteen issues of The Evening and Morning Star were reprinted so as to agree with the revised revelations.
Down the memory hole!
There’s a bit in this lesson about the tensions between the people of Missouri and the Mormon settlers. That’s not cool, and I don’t want to excuse that. But there’s a tendency to think that the opposition facing the church — then and now — is the result of blind, unreasoning (possibly Satanic) prejudice. There are a couple of reasons for that.
It’s a way of explaining opposition. If people are against the church, members must not give in to the idea that they might have a point. Make it seem unreasoning, and thereby invalid. That way, there’s nothing to explain or think about. No self-analysis is necessary.
Blind implacable aggression is frightening. Fear drives members farther into the in-group. It galvanises support.
In fact, there were reasons that the early Saints and the Missiourians didn’t get along. I’d encourage having a read of the relevant entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which surprised me by being pretty even-handed in its treatment, without whitewashing the actions of the Mormons.
Tension between the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors in frontier Jackson County mounted for several reasons. First, marked cultural differences set them apart. With New England roots, most Saints valued congregational Sabbath worship, education of their children, and refined personal decorum. In contrast, many Jackson County residents had come to the Missouri frontier from other states precisely to avoid such interference in their lives. Many held no schools for their children, and Sunday cockfights attracted more people than church services did. Often hard drinking intensified violent frontier ways. In the opinion of non-LDS county resident John C. McCoy in the Kansas City Journal (Apr. 24, 1881, p. 9), such extreme differences in customs made the two groups “completely unfitted to live together in peace and friendship.”
Second, Missourians considered the Latter-day Saints strange and religiously unorthodox. Many LDS Church members aggressively articulated belief in revelation, prophets, the Book of Mormon, spiritual gifts, the Millennium, and the importance of gathering. Some went further and claimed Jackson County land as a sacred inheritance by divine appointment. Even David Whitmer, presiding elder of one branch, thought these boasts excited bitter jealousy. Articles on prophecy and doctrine published in the Church newspaper at Independence, the evening and the morning star, added to hard feelings. In addition, local Protestant clergy felt threatened by LDS missionary activity.
Third, because the Saints lived on Church lands and traded entirely with the Church store or blacksmith shops, some original settlers viewed them as economically exclusive, even un-American. Others accused LDS immigrants of pauperism when, because of diminished Church resources, they failed to obtain land.
A fourth volatile issue was the original settlers’ fear that Latter-day Saints might provoke battles with either slaves or Indians. They accused the Saints of slave tampering. As transplanted Southerners who valued their right to hold slaves, the settlers erroneously feared that the Saints intended to convert blacks or incite them to revolt. They also correctly asserted that the Latter-day Saints desired to convert Indians and, perhaps, ally themselves with the Indians.
Finally, Missourians feared that continued LDS ingathering would lead to loss of political control. “It requires no gift of prophecy,” stated a citizens’ committee, “to tell that the day is not far distant when the civil government of the county will be in their hands; when the sheriff, the justices, and the county judges will be Mormons” (HC 1:397). These monumental differences between the Latter-day Saints and the Missourians eventually led to violence.
The short story: utopian religious groups don’t play well with others. The frontier people of Missouri might have had some valid concerns about people from a strange unknown religious tradition moving in en masse and agglomerating economic and political power — not to mention firepower. But that’s going to figure in later.
That fourth point — “slave tampering” — became an issue at this time. The Mormons published a pro-abolitionist article (<a href=”http://mit.irr.org/joseph-smith-and-abolition-of-slavery”>atypical for Mormons at the time</a>) called “Free People of Color”. Incensed, the Missourians destroyed W. W. Phelps’ printing press, and copies of the Book of Commandments were destroyed. The destruction of the printing press was a move that the Mormons would later reciprocate.
The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
Ever written a book of fan fiction based on another work, and then found out that it conflicts with the canon? How annoying! But Joseph Smith has the answer — just retrofit the Bible so it works better with your theology. This attempt was the so-called Inspired Version, now called the Joseph Smith Translation.
It’s awful. He rewrites the poetry of the Creation account by sticking “And it came to pass” right up the top! (He doesn’t fix the problem of plants coming before the sun, though.) Instead of the KJV Lot offering his daughters to the men of Sodom,
KJV Genesis 19:8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
he has Lot make a rather unpersuasive detour:
JST Genesis 19:13 And Lot said, Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may not bring them out unto you; and ye shall not do unto them as seemeth good in your eyes;
Why would the JST need to be a thing? Because Latter-day Saints teach that the Bible has many textual errors. From the manual:
• Read the eighth article of faith with class members. What is the significance of the phrase “as far as it is translated correctly”?
The problem here is that Mormons don’t bother to find out how we would know what a correct translation looks like, or what’s even involved in translation. They don’t want to use a better translation. “Translated correctly” just means “agrees with Mormon doctrine”. It’s a lazy way of dismissing inconsistencies between LDS dogma and the Bible.
Instead of making a literal translation, as scholars would use the term, he used the Urim and Thummim as a means of receiving revelation. Even though a copy of Abraham’s record possibly passed through the hands of many scribes and had become editorially corrupted to the point where it may have had little resemblance to the original, the Prophet—with the Urim and Thummim, or simply through revelation—could have obtained the translation—or, as Joseph Smith used the word, he could have received the meaning, or subject-matter content of the original text, as he did in his translation of the Bible. This explanation would mean that Joseph Smith received the text of our present book of Abraham the same way he received the translation of the parchment of John the Revelator—he did not even need the actual text in front of him.
More word games from apologists. Translation doesn’t translation, horses don’t mean horses, and steel doesn’t mean steel. And no one knows what the hell a curelom or a cumom is.
But now we’ve wandered into Book of Abraham territory, so maybe it’s best to go there now.
The Pearl of Great Price
The Book of Abraham is the best evidence that Joseph Smith was making stuff up. If there’s a bigger smoking gun, I don’t know what it would be.
Joseph Smith pretended to translate Egyptian papyri that he procured, and — what do you know! — it was written by Abraham’s own hand. At the time that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Abraham, decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics was not well understood. Joseph Smith could have written anything, and no one would have able to tell him he was wrong.
We can now, though. The papyri are ordinary funerary documents. The meanings given to the facsimiles are what you’d expect from someone who was making stuff up, and who was trying to fool people.
Click to follow the links.
If I wanted to snark, I could say that if God didn’t pick a fact-challenged con-man to lead his church, he sure went to a lot of effort to make it look like he had.
But then my kinder nature kicks in. Joseph Smith was a writer of terrible and historically inaccurate fiction. For most of us, this is uncontroversial. But he and his followers have created a community that thinks it’s fact, and they can’t see their way out of it. Their reasoning is upside-down; they’ve decided it’s true, and reason backward from there. As LDS apologist Kerry Muhlestein said:
“I start out with an assumption that the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, and anything else that we get from the restored gospel, is true,” he said. “Therefore, any evidence I find, I will try to fit into that paradigm.”
Ask: How are you avoiding poor reasoning and confirmation bias in what you think and read?
Are you finding sources that you disagree with? Do you try to understand their arguments, and can you identify the strengths in their arguments, as well as the weaknesses?
I’m approaching this lesson with a bit of nostalgia. Here’s the thing: Mormon doctrine used to be so weird and cool! But then they dumped a lot of the weird bits, once it became clear that they were embarrassing or unpalatable. This is why President Newsroom says you no longer get your own planet, even though prophets said that you do. (Blame that musical.)
And there used to be absolutely bonkers ideas about the gathering of Israel, and about how everyone would eventually have to go to Jackson County, Missouri. Well, these ideas came out of this time in church history.
But they’ve been deprecated. So now Mormon doctrine is still weird, but boring.
The gathering of Israel
Okay, so one of the core tenets of the church is that Israel will be gathered during the last days before Jesus comes again.
Article of Faith 10: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
It’s in this reading as well.
D&C 29:7 And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;
8 Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.
D&C 33:6 And even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice.
Gather? How were they scattered? Well, as this lesson explains, the ten northern tribes of Israel were used as a punching bag by a succession of kings, until they were dispersed into the lands northward.
So where are the ten lost tribes of Israel now? Ah, well, that brings us to our first crackpot theory:
They’re all together on a planet somewhere.
This planet is actually a big hunk of the earth that God tore off, and threw into space. Hey, don’t look at me like that. There’s a precedent: the city of Enoch, which God took up to heaven.
D&C 38:4 I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom
Thou, Earth, was once a glorious sphere
Of noble magnitude,
And didst with majesty appear
Among the worlds of God.
But thy dimensions have been torn Asunder, piece by piece, And each dismember’d fragment borne Abroad to distant space.
When Enoch could no longer stay
Amid corruption here,
Part of thyself was borne away
To form another sphere.
That portion where his city stood
He gain’d by right approv’d;
And nearer to the throne of God
His planet upward moved.
And when the Lord saw fit to hide
The “ten lost tribes” away,
Thou, Earth, wast sever’d to provide
The orb on which they stay.
And thus, from time to time, thy size
Has been diminish’d still
Thou seemest the law of sacrifice
Created to fulfil.
Before you say, “That’s not how planets work,” remember that God can do anything.
They’re somewhere else
They’re all in one place, unobserved somewhere, waiting for the signal to come on down. After all, didn’t Jesus go and visit them? How could he do that — the logic goes — if they’re not all in one place?
3 Nephi 15:21 And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 3 Nephi 16:1 And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.
16:2 For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.
16:3 But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them.
Okay, so if they’re all together waiting for the bat-signal, where are they?
“I was then really ‘the bosom friend and companion of the Prophet Joseph.’ … Sometimes when at my house I asked him questions relating to the past, present and future; … one of which I will relate: I asked where the nine and a half tribes of Israel were. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘you remember the old caldron or potash kettle you used to boil maple sap in for sugar, don’t you?’ I said yes. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘they are in the north pole in a concave just the shape of that kettle. And John the Revelator is with them, preparing them for their return.” – Benjamin Johnson, My Life’s Review, 1947, p. 93
“I heard Joseph Smith preach baptism for the dead…. I heard him say, ‘the Ten Tribes were not on this globe, but a portion of this earth had cleaved off with them and went flying into space, and when the time comes when the “earth reels to and from like a drunken man and the stars from heaven fall,” it would join on again.’” – Bathsheba W. Smith, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Juvenile Instructor, June 1, 1892, v. 27, p. 34
“The Prophet Joseph [Smith] once in my hearing advanced his opinion that the Ten Tribes were separated from the Earth; or a portion of the Earth was by a miracle broken off, and that the Ten Tribes were taken away with it, and that in the latter days it would be restored to the Earth or be let down in the Polar regions. Whether the Prophet founded his opinion upon revelation or whether it was a matter of mere speculation with him, I am not able to say.” – Apostle Orson Pratt, Letter Box of Orson Pratt, LDS Church Historian’s Office, letter to John C. Hall, December 13, 1875; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 529, footnote 101
The Ten Tribes then continued north over the Caucasus Mountains and encamped north of the Black Sea, where many stayed. But a sizeable group continued their trek north into Russia, Mongolia and Siberia, where some of their remains have been found to this day. But they didn’t stay there either. Their trek took them even further north through the northern aperture of the earth led by a prophet of God where they live today in the “North Countries” of Our Hollow Earth.
So if the ten tribes of Israel are hidden away up in the frozen north, how will they get down here when it’s time to return? A highway. This idea appears in Isaiah (sing the Handel if you know it):
Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
40:2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
And then it appears in the D&C. This lesson has a lot of scriptures, but why is it that they don’t mention D&C 133? They’ve left it right out, and it’s enormously relevant for us Israel-watchers! Especially the part about the highway.
Mountains turn into valleys; valleys into mountains.
D&C 133:22 And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.
This would require a quake of about 7 billion on the Richter scale, but let’s keep going.
Then the ocean flows up the the north for some reason.
D&C 133:23He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;
Before you say, “That’s not how water works,” remember that God can do anything.
Then for the finale: The reversal of continental drift! That’s right; Pangea and Gondwanaland together again like they’ve never been before!
D&C 133:24 And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.
Before you say, “That’s not how plate tectonics works,” remember that God can do anything.
Finally after all that: a gigantic ice highway! (Sorry: an highway.) They’ve lived in the North for so long that they’ve absorbed its powers and become icebenders! So Frozone.
D&C 133:25 And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.
26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
“To show that they come with power they come on a highway cast up for them; and ice feels the power of God and flows down, making room for them; and the barren deserts of the north, wherever they may go and need water, will yield forth pools of living water to quench their thirst. As they come to sing in the height of Zion, the everlasting hills, this great Rocky Mountain range, extending from the arctic regions south to the central portions of America, will tremble beneath the power of God at the approach of that people. . . . But where have this great company been, where has this mighty host come from? They have come from their hiding place in the north country; they have been led thence by the Prophets of the Most High God, the Lord going before their camp, talking with them out of the cloud, as he talked in ancient days with the camp of Israel, uttering his voice before his army, for his camp will be very great.”
The scriptures clearly teach that Israelites will someday return from the north countries. The Lord has revealed that they will do so on a highway that is cast up in the great deep. If that is interpreted literally, science has no explanation of where they might be located, much less for the sudden appearance of a land bridge across a deep ocean. Therefore, if the prophecy in D&C 133 of their return as a group along a highway is fulfilled literally, it would be a miracle. Such an event could cause many more to believe in the restoration, and others to vow to fight against it more vehemently. Time will tell just how literally the Lord meant this prophecy of a highway to be interpreted, but in any case it should be a marvelous event to witness.
Alas, the church nowadays doesn’t go for anything like that. The remnants of Israel aren’t in one place, but mixed. Says Bruce McConkie:
But, says one, are they not in a body somewhere in the land of the north? Answer: They are not; they are scattered in all nations. The north countries of their habitation are all the countries north of their Palestinian home, north of Assyria from whence they escaped, north of the prophets who attempted to describe their habitat. And for that matter, they shall also come from the south and the east and the west and the ends of the earth. Such is the prophetic word.
And instead of coming back en masse, the gathering of Israel has a much more mundane meaning. From the Gospel Doctrine manual:
• Read the tenth article of faith and D&C 45:71 with class members. What is the gathering of Israel? (Explain that the gathering of Israel has a spiritual meaning and a physical meaning, as outlined below.)
a. Spiritual gathering. The spiritual gathering of Israel occurs as people learn the gospel, come unto Christ, are baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and keep their covenants. In this way they are gathered from the world into the Church, or the kingdom of God on earth.
b. Physical gathering. The physical gathering of Israel occurs as Church members come together in a particular location or in the stakes of Zion throughout the world.
In other words, the gathering of Israel is basically “everyone going to church”. Boring! Not nearly as momentous as the scriptures would make it sound.
This is like when the scriptures talk about the gift of tongues, and over time, this has been watered down into “learning languages at the MTC”. How disappointingly ordinary.
Zion is in Jackson County, Missouri
One of the ideas that was going around in my LDS background was that one day the prophet would tell the Saints that it was finally time to move to Jackson County, Missouri. But not drive. Walk. With handcarts.
It was sometimes referred to jokingly — once when someone left the ward, someone else joked “See you in the handcart company!” — but the belief was definitely back there. This scripture explains the importance of Jackson County for the early saints.
D&C 57:1 Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints.
2 Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.
Sadly, the promise didn’t stick — Mormons had to flee Missouri, but the mythos surrounding Jackson County remained. So another narrative was built, in that Mormons thought they were going to have to make a trek to Missouri and reclaim Zion.
What did they think would happen once they got there? You don’t just own a place because you squat there. But before you say, “That’s not how real estate works,” remember that God can do anything.
“When God leads the people back to Jackson County, how will he do it? Let me picture to you how some of us may be gathered and led to Jackson County. I think I see two or three hundred thousand people wending their way across the great plain enduring the nameless hardships of the journey, herding and guarding their cattle by day and by night. … This is one way to look at it. It is certainly a practical view. Some might ask, what will become of the railroads? I fear that the sifting process would be insufficient were we to travel by railroads.” (Journal of Discourses, 24:156–57.)
And that’s how Brother Hickendorfer in a suburban ward in Idaho Falls thought he might need to get some cattle and a handcart.
You really get the picture that the leaders of the early church were just bursting with zany ideas, which people later had to get rid of when their crackpottery became clear. But it’s weird for an apologist to try and pull rank on a past prophet, like so: “Oh, don’t listen to that guy — he’s just an apostle who knew Joseph Smith. He didn’t know anything about the gospel; you might as well ask the cat. Listen to me — I’m some guy writing in the Ensign!”
Did you know that the United Order — in which members were expected to give the church all their stuff and then get some of it back — was floated as early as 1831?
D&C 42:30And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.
31 And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose.
32 And it shall come to pass, that after they are laid before the bishop of my church, and after that he has received these testimonies concerning the consecration of the properties of my church, that they cannot be taken from the church, agreeable to my commandments, every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family.
33 And again, if there shall be properties in the hands of the church, or any individuals of it, more than is necessary for their support after this first consecration, which is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop, it shall be kept to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.
34 Therefore, the residue shall be kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy, as shall be appointed by the high council of the church, and the bishop and his council;
This idea was deprecated when it turned out not to work. No doubt the idea strikes many politically conservative members as socialism.
So there you have it. Three big ideas in the early church — Israel’s literal return, the handcart trek to Missouri, and the United Order — that came to nothing. They were watered down or dropped entirely. And what we can conclude from this is that God is a bit of a loser who isn’t good at making things happen.
By the way, LDS Church: Evangelical Christians still can’t stand you, even though you’ve dropped some of the weird stuff. If someone makes you change your doctrines, they’re not your friend.
Other suggestions for teaching
Orson Hyde was tasked with the important calling of dedicating the so-called Holy Land for the return of Israel. Joseph Smith said it was super important.
From the Gospel Doctrine manual:
Orson Hyde recalled that when he joined the Church, Joseph Smith prophesied, “In due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem … ; and by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people” (History of the Church, 4:375). In the April 1840 general conference, Elder Hyde, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, was called on a mission to Palestine (History of the Church, 4:106). About 18 months later he arrived at his destination.
Early on Sunday morning, 24 October 1841, Elder Hyde ascended the Mount of Olives and offered a prayer. In his prayer he dedicated and consecrated the land “for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy Prophets—for the building up of Jerusalem again … and for rearing a Temple in honor of [the Lord’s] name.” He also prayed that the Lord would remember the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob forever and “give them this land for an everlasting inheritance” (History of the Church, 4:456).
As a witness of the deed, Elder Hyde erected a pile of stones on the top of the Mount of Olives. He also erected a pile of stones “on what was anciently called Mount Zion [possibly Mount Moriah], where the Temple stood” (History of the Church, 4:459).
Very inspiring! Yet another group lays claim to the land. Wonderful.
What was going on with his wife Marinda, while Orson was away? For some reason, the lesson manual doesn’t mention that Joseph Smith married her.
In the Spring of 1842 she married Joseph. In Joseph’s diary is a list of his marriages. It includes the entry: “Apr 42 Marinda Johnson to Joseph Smith.”. Eight months later, in December, Orson returned from his mission. It is not clear when, or if, Orson learned about his wife’s marriage to Joseph. However, by March, Orson had learned about plural marriage himself and married two additional wives.
A second method Smith used to get females to say yes to his proposals was to send family males on a mission that might or did object to his advances. For example, unlike his approach of obtaining parental permission of the Whitney’s, Kimball’s, and the Woodworth’s, before asking for their young daughters hand in marriage, Smith directly approached young Lucy Walker only after sending her father, John Walker, on a mission. He also sent Horace Whitney on a mission because he felt that Horace was too close to his sister Sarah Ann, and would oppose the marriage. Smith married Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde, a year before her husband Orson, an Apostle, returned from his mission. He also approached Sarah Pratt while her husband Orson, an Apostle, was on a mission.
We don’t know if this marriage was one of the sexual ones. Maybe he just had a thing for the wives of guys named Orson.
Not to be taught, but to teach
What attitude should missionaries have?
D&C 43:15 Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit;
Good job, LDS Church. You’ve already taken a pile of Mormon teenagers, given them fake authority, and made them think they were doing the right thing by hectoring normal people into joining their religion. That made them unbearable enough. But with this scripture, you’ve compounded the problem by telling them that they’re not supposed to learn anything from the people they encounter. True, they won’t be able to help learning from people. But this takes an existing superiority complex (it’s our job to save the nations) and combines it with an attitude of unteachable lack of humility (I’m not here to learn from these people) to turn a douchy, arrogant teenager into a truly insufferable know-it-all.
I, um, know this from experience. Sorry to everyone I encountered.