Sunday, February 28, 2010

Joseph Smith and false prophecies

All right, so my YouTube friend asked me "if Joseph Smith spoke a false prophecy in the name of the Lord, would you still uphold him as a true prophet?" I'm going to attempt to draw you into the process my thoughts went through as I worked with the question.

I didn't instantly jump to one answer or the other, and I think doing so, to either answer, would be wrong. I try my best to think through things, weigh the arguments on both sides and then work with what I know to come up with an answer.

I'm really big into criminology, and the brain and how people think fascinates me; working off the interest I listed first there, I drew a comparison to this guy's question: If a man told me, honestly, that he had killed someone, could I support him if he was pleading innocent? This may very well be an extreme example, but I think they're beneficial for really bringing out the true thoughts of a person. My answer, and yours, I hope, is no, I could not. Now, while Joseph Smith was no murderer, if I somehow was privy to information that proved - not through argument or such - that he was truly a false prophet, then no, of course I couldn't stand behind a state
ment to the contrary.

When I read this question, I assumed (because I do that a lot) that this information I was being privy to was from the Lord, not from a man. This would require that I have some kind of intense authority, even over that which Joseph Smith claimed to possess, and which our Prophet, Thomas Monson holds claim to.

I think I'm getting a little bit too deep here, so let's back out for a bit. Three things come to mind when I think about people claiming Joseph Smith was a false prophet based on some of his prophecies which didn't "come true." First I think about how limited I am by my mortal mind, then about how limiting the human definition of the word "prophecy/prophesy" is, and finally I think of my understanding of how the human measurement of time is not God's time. Let's go through these three, then go on from there.

Firstly, the limitations of my brain. My siblings would love to see me write exclusively on this subject, so for now I'll humour them. To demonstrate this, I'm going to ask you to think about eternity. Do it. Now. H
ow's that working for you? Can you actually imagine an infinite amount of time? Something that neither begins, nor ends? Can you imagine what the edge of space looks like? Does space have an edge? It doesn't actually take much until we feel like our brains are on the frying pan. I think sitting through an advanced physics class would push my brain to the edge. In that case I'd just be diving into the pool without testing the waters first, but the questions before that, about space and eternity, those questions are, thus far, unanswerable, inconceivable.

Next, to explain my second point. When I think of the word, "prophecy/prophesy," I think of it's definition. Some may think of various prophets (Adam, Abraham, Moses) but not me, and this is because I'm an English major. So what I think, is of how limited the definition of the word is, and how it's defined by the average person. To prophesy today is, some people think, equivocal to prediction. If someone is prophesying, then it's thought that they'r
e predicting the future. I don't know about you, but I contend that this is a pathetic definition of that word. Prophesying is so much more than that, and because of my major, I looked up the origins of the word. Prophecy is the action of prophets, and "prophet" comes from the Greek word "prophetes," which means an interpreter or spokesperson, especially with the gods, or God. This in turn comes from "pro", meaning "before" and the root of "phanai," which is "to speak." I like it. One could turn around and say, "this shows that prophets are predictors, because they are 'before-speakers,' speaking before something happens." I'll still disagree. They're getting their "before-speak" from God, who knows and understands all, is the same before, now and forever, so I argue that "before" is a synonym for God. Under that context, prophets are God-speakers. The only definition of prophecy that I truly accept as being full, is "to speak as a mediator between God and humankind, or in God's stead." This includes any "predictions," as well as other guidance the Lord gives his people, without being so narrow as the typical definition as to exclude anything other than predictions of the future.

OK, and now to show that God's time is not our time. I think the best way this is illustrated is through the use of countless predictions of Christ's coming in the Old Testament, as well as in the Book of Mormon. How long did Jews wait for their Redeemer? I think a better question is how long did humanity wait for their Redeemer? Genesis 4 talks about Cain and Abel offering sacrifices to the Lord; Abraham was to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and Moses even demanded of Pharaoh that he let them offer sacrifices - they're even commanded to and build a tabernacle, or temple, in the desert so they could perform those sacrifices! So, why all the sacrifices? Why did the Lord want all these burnt animals? There has to be a good reason, especially if Moses was commanded to build one. Scripture provided by the Latter-day Saints explains that because Jesus Christ hadn't come and performed the Atonement, the sins of the people had to be cleansed some other way. This other way was through burnt offerings, and in some cases through the use of a scapegoat, or Yom Kippur, as the ceremony is called. To answer my own question, how long has humanity waited for their Savior? Since the Creation, since the time of Adam. Moses and Adam, they knew a Savior would come, but they didn't know when. God had appointed a certain time for Jesus Christ to come to earth, despite the fact that I'm sure these prophets of old prayed mightily for the Savior to come, what was to them, soon. Another perfect example is the Second Coming. When is it? No one but God knows.

And to think, these were just some of the things that went through my mind, but this man asked me to take a full day, so instead I've turned it into a (so far...) three-part blog-posting blitz!

If I want to emphasize anything here, it's that in this hypothetical situation the information I was receiving of Joseph Smith being a false prophet was from the Lord, not from man.

All right! Whoo, we've come a long way! And this is where we'll stay for now. In my next post I think I'll go over some scriptures that "define" a prophet. One scripture I'll spend some time on is used by loads of anti-Mormons to "prove" that Joseph Smith is a false prophet. I'll also demonstrate that although God doesn't change, man does, and therefore the prophecies given by prophets can, and as we'll see, do change.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Are you a Mormon, or a Christian?

I have a way of drawing people to me that I can't explain, so I just embrace it. Since I love discussion and in particular, discussions on religious topics, I took up the opportunity when it was presented to me. Lemme explain, shall I?

I love YouTube. Why? Because of the sheer number of nutty people! Granted, there are some really cool people on there - in fact, many of them are cool, and just happen to be insane - but I tend to float towards the anti-Mormon material.

Now, the sleeves get rolled up, the eyebrows are raised and you ask, "But Katie! Are you as insane as the people you just mentioned?? Why would you go anywhere near that stuff!" In short: So I know what's out there and how to respond to it. There's a brilliant talk that Hugh Nibley gave called, "How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book," and although we (referring to members of the LDS Church) can just repeat what he says and dismiss the arguments made by anti-Mormons as being old and ridiculous, we 'ought not to. Again, why? Because the sad truth is that these arguments aren't limited to the past, they're still being parroted today. Not everyone who repeats these arguments are doing so maliciously; a lot of people just repeat what they hear. A common example of this is the practice of polygamy. And although the Church stopped that practice in 1890, I'm still asked if I'm going to have to share my husband, what I think it'll be like to be wife #2, etc. In high school, there was even a rumour started that I had entered into an arranged and polygamous engagement!

This isn't the LDS Church playing victim - having to "defend" itself from these falsities - but this is evident in everyday life. I'll list a some of these myths from various facets of life...
One I like is the idea that gum (or some other food) takes 7 years to digest. I've heard this about gum and I've also heard it about Bits & Bites Snack Mix.
Another one, that giving kids sugar makes them nuts! Or rather, hyperactive. Have you ever heard that humans only use 10% of their brains? What a waste! Thankfully it's false. How about shaving your legs causes the hair to grow back thicker and darker? It doesn't, period. I could literally go on and on with these examples. My point? Not everything that's "common knowledge" is true, often thankfully.

OK, so let me get back on topic here. Why do I view anti-Mormon materials? So I know what silly arguments my friend's atheist boyfriend is going to pull up the next time I see him. Understanding what twisted things people are saying about my beliefs help me understand those beliefs better. Easy explanation: research has a tendency to make one learn, especially when it's focused research. Crazy, I know, but that's how it goes - a fact, I assure you.

So I had posted a response to this anti-Mormon video (which I won't link to because it can definitely be a stumbling block) on YouTube, and when I checked my e-mail the other day I had a message. The message went a little like this: Are you Mormon?
So I sent a message back saying that I was, and he responded with this, which I find intriguing in and of itself:
Being a Christian I'm finding it increasingly more difficult to determine if the person I'm speaking to is Christian or a Mormon.

He explained that he figured it was a new trend among members of the Church and said he was attempting to figure it out. You see, he likes to learn, so he does research. For that I can give him props. Our messages went back and forth and what seemed like a challenge to me was when he said if I wanted to have a conversation with him, I'd have to have thick skin. I'm a big fan of challenges (goes back to my investigator days), and when he said that I was reminded of that atheist boyfriend my friend has. This friend's boyfriend was saying how he was doing his best to really get under my skin. At this point one of the other guys we were with, who is a long-time friend of mine said, "Even I haven't been able to offend Katie yet." Instead of accepting defeat though, this spirited atheist just said something about re-doubling his efforts to get to me. Don't get me wrong though, I love spending time with these guys because they're fantastic people.

So that comment really peaked my interest, and I said I was open to a conversation if he was. He agreed, and then asked the question. I can only assume he thought it would trip me up.

The question is this:
If Joseph Smith spoke a false prophecy in the name of the Lord, would you still uphold him as a true prophet?

I don't know what your answer would be, but inside of 5 minutes I had an answer, and within 20 minutes I had a coherent response to explain my position.

And my position will be explained in further detail on Sunday, because I'm exhausted! And with that, to tie my exhaustion into the scriptures, and for your reading pleasure:

D&C 88:124
"Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Perfect Parents...

...Just don't exist. No matter how hard a person tries, they'll never be capable on their own of being perfect, let alone being a perfect parent. This post has been incited by watching my siblings parent their own children.

It's an awful thing to say, but one of the best things about being one of the younger siblings in a family is that you get to learn from the mistakes your older siblings make. Going by this, one might assume that the more mistakes your siblings make, the fewer you're apt to make. Sometimes though, we're just so hands-on in our own lives we can't help but make decisions that wind up being "mistakes."

In my opinion, we should only classify something as a mistake if we've learned nothing from it. I disagree with the idea that a mistake is something wrong, or a decision made in error. Perhaps a decision leads to adverse consequences, but even good decisions can have those kinds of consequences. Since Valentine's Day is two days from now, let's use a semi-related example. A woman marries the man she loves. Unfortunately the woman's father, let's say, doesn't approve of this young man. If the emotions involved are extreme enough, the father may choose to cut himself off from his daughter and her developing family. It's a perfectly legitimate decision made by the woman, but at least one consequence in this scenario isn't so good.

Anyway, as I do, I've gotten off-topic. Sort of.

Just as "good" decisions can have adverse consequences, "bad" decisions can, conceivably, have positive consequences. To clarify: I'm not advising that we go out and make a bunch of bad decisions to determine which have positive or negative consequences. I am of the belief that although "mistakes" are made, there can be consequences that are blessings in disguise. I've felt the reverberations of such a decision. When my niece was conceived there were doubts about the abilities of my brother and his later, wife, in raising a child. But we need something to set us off to begin the process of growth and development.

Anyway, I'm not advocating that a couple who wants some change in their routine should have a baby, especially if they aren't in a financially, or an emotionally stable position.

But who am I? I'm single and happy (not saying that people who aren't single are unhappy), and as my mother would point out, I'm in no place to give advice on parenting. But, as I hope one day to be in such a position, I don't think there's anything wrong with seeking out information posted by the experts: parents. The points that follow also have a deep meaning for me, as I've been raised with and without some of the following, and I'm watching the children around me being raised with and, more often, without.

One comment I've come across repeatedly is to put your children first. Yes, you need to spend time with your partner, but it's also vital to remind yourself that everything you do has an effect on your child(ren). Don't be a parent whose motto is "Do as I say, not as I do."

I've seen and experienced far too much of parents not showing love and affection to their children. A line I often heard when I was around 15 was, "Why can't you be more like (insert name here)?" which did not seem, to my mother, to have the desired result. I guess I was expected to, through this line, somehow emulate that person who, for whatever reason, fit the moment. Parents can never be too loving. And loving here means a show of affection and warmth. Spoiled children result when something is given to them in place of love, like material objects, or leniency.

Children need discipline. Children crave discipline. I know I did. Without discipline, rules, guidelines, children don't know what is expected of them. Physical discipline is the worst kind a parent can use. It leads to physical fighting amongst siblings, as well as to physical fighting with other children. As children, my siblings and I experienced physical discipline, and it's easy to trace our old problem-solving "skills" back to the kind of discipline we experienced as children. Consistency goes along with discipline. It's vital. They need it. Without it, as without rules and guidance, children don't know where the line has been drawn.

I've seen, for a long time, children being left to watch TV while their sitters or parents do something else, like playing games on the computer or Xbox or something. Not only has it not been shown that children, especially young ones, actually understand the concept of a television and understand that they're just images projected onto a screen, but it hinders development. As our brains are constantly making connections, restricting a child to simply watch something deprives them of the opportunity to even make those connections. Children need to use their hands, to experience things around them. The more ways in which a child learns, the more connections their brains make, and the more accomplished they tend to be in the future.

Children shouldn't have to bear their parents burdens. I find it inappropriate whenever I hear someone talking to their child like they're talking to a friend. Let your child be a kid! They should only ever have to worry about kid things: which colours mixed together make orange, or how they can capture the family cat so they can have a make-believe zoo.

Finally, on a note that touches close to home with me, children 'ought not to be left to their own devices. They need supervision, they need activities and games to occupy their time. They need to develop their relationship with their parents, and parents need to develop their relationships with their children. What better way to do this than to play with them? To see the world from a child's point of view, in my eyes, is a blessing that shouldn't be squandered so you can have an hour or two online to check on your Facebook updates or games. Children aren't children forever. From what I've been told, it's not uncommon to wake up and realize your children are grown up, despite the fact that it "seems like only yesterday," we lament, that children were crawling around, being given baths and playing "House."