Wisdom of Men

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Columbus?

Statue of Christopher Columbus, at the corner of Elmwood Ave and Reservoir Ave, Providence, RI. This statue is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today at the beginning of Sunday School I was handed a little white slip of paper with some scripture verses to read. Here’s what I read in class:

And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. (1 Nephi 13:12-13)

It was reinforced in the class that the “man among the Gentiles” is Christopher Columbus. I suppose that in reading verse 12 you would think that the Spirit coming down and working upon someone would mean that they were righteous and sent by God to do good. In this country we celebrate Columbus Day and it seems as though many Latter-day Saints hold him with a kind of reverence, see him as a visionary, and perhaps even a prophet of sorts.

A Scourge

God does not always work upon people to bring blessings and happiness, sometimes he sends them as a scourge:

And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation… (2 Nephi 5:25)

Lehi prophesied about it:

“Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.” (1 Nephi 1:11)

Wait a minute, am I suggesting that Columbus was sent as a scourge, how is that possible? Well I started out Read Full Post

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Experts

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There is truly opposition in all things isn’t there? Name absolutely anything and *poof* there will be someone with a reason for opposing it. Where there is an object and visible light, there will be a shadow.

It’s all good though, that’s the way it should be, we’re here to have options that challenge us. To see what we will choose do with the time and information we have at our disposal is the great purpose of life.

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The Path to God is Strewn With Shattered Paradigms

Orlando-Ferguson-flat-earth-map

Every single one of us, right at this minute, believes things that are wrong. There is an idea that you cherish, some way of seeing the world that seems so clear to you, but it is wrong, or at best, incomplete.

We all build paradigms in order to function in life and make decisions, it is a necessity. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions and/or ideas that form a model for viewing what you perceive as reality. When someone attacks your paradigm it is as if they are attacking reality itself! Let’s say that in your paradigm there is a God, perhaps because you know there is or perhaps because you really, really believe there is. If someone seeks to remove that cherished piece of your paradigm with a convincing argument, it can cause the whole structure to shake or collapse like a Jenga tower.

Sometimes we give up one flawed perception for another flawed perception, or we can enhance a true perception with one that is more comprehensive. When it comes to knowing God and his mysteries, it helps to understand that you will probably have to give up a lot of false notions and assumptions. We like to think that because we are Latter-day Saints and belong to “the true Church” and have “the restored gospel” that our paradigms are correct, true, complete, and superior.

I’m going to suggest that anyone who thinks that had better Read Full Post

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Truths that Joseph Smith’s Seer Stone Continues to Reveal

When I first saw the pictures of Joseph Smith’s primary seer stone my first thought was, “Oh, cool, I’m glad they released some pictures. I knew it was a small, chocolate-colored stone but I didn’t realize it had stripes.” and that was that.

I see conversations around the web indicating that some members of the Church are upset about the seer stone and the part it played in our history. Some were unaware of its existence, but I remember learning about it as a teenager. I didn’t know that much about the process of the translation and how the seer stone and Interpreters fit into the picture, but I did when I cared enough to research it on my own.

Skeptics find humor in the seer stone looking like just a plain old rock and are no doubt enjoying the opportunity to further paint Joseph Smith as an occultic scheister.

Instead of trying to address all of the legitimate concerns and questions, I want to write about my own perspective and the much larger themes at play.
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O That I Could Just Fix Everything in the Whole World

I was reading Alma chapter 29 recently and I thought I’d share some observations that I think are particularly relevant to today’s world.

I love how you can keep coming back to scripture to find new things. As we age, mirrors reveal changes, but the mirror does not change, we do.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that one cannot step twice into the same river [1], so perhaps one cannot read the same scripture twice. Additional knowledge, insights and understanding gained through time and experience cause previously bland verses to come to life in new and exciting ways.

Alma 29 begins with a ponderous Alma wishing that he could change the world in a dramatic way.

1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

Remember that this is the Alma who was called to repentance by an angel who spoke with a voice that shook the earth [2]. Alma had this incredible experience and feels that perhaps others would respond in the same way if they experienced the same thing. In a way, we do the same thing when we Read Full Post

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Korihor, Elsa, Cain, and Karl

What if we modernized Korihor’s philosophies and compared them to the kinds of things we hear people saying today?

For morning study a couple days ago, I started off reading about the sons of Mosiah but then felt like reading about Korihor. As I read, I had my trusty 1828 Dictionary app out to further analyze the words Joseph Smith used to translate Korihor’s ideas. Then, I looked in a modern dictionary to discern how his theories might be composed by someone presenting the same arguments today.

This exercise revealed a very familiar-sounding rhetoric. I also began to think about song lyrics from the movie Frozen (because I have 3 daughters) that reminded me of some words Cain spoke, and then all of it together reminded me of something Karl Marx wrote; all from pondering Korihor’s doctrines.

As for my modernized version of Korihor’s ideas, I claim ownership of my interpretations and any errors that I might have made. This is merely a personal exercise, so feel free to go back to the original text in Alma 30 and try this out yourself.

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Lies and Testimony

Every fast and testimony meeting I can’t help but ponder what people mean by what they say. I suppose that only the person themselves really understands what they are trying to do by going up to the stand and speaking. One person might be speaking of real experiences and using better words to express themselves, while another person might be trying to express real yearning and feelings but using the wrong words.

It’s easy to judge the latter person and dismiss their attempts to express themselves. While one could easily point out the errors in their expressions, even to the point of calling them lies, maybe the judgers should take a deep breath and relax a little. I don’t think those people are necessarily lying or deceiving, let’s take a look at what a lie is: Read Full Post

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“They think they are wise…”

“When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves…” 2 Nephi 9:28

  • Does knowledge equal wisdom?
  • When we think we have things figured out on our own, do we pray less or more and for what reasons?
  • What knowledge in this world is worth setting aside a relationship with the one who holds your life in his hands moment to moment?
  • Why would one put more trust in the learning of man versus the wisdom of the revelations of God?

We live in a world where quick answers and quick results are demanded. If a website on a phone takes more than 5 seconds to load we groan with frustration. If traffic slows a little or one person slides in front of us, we are angry. We stare into microwaves waiting the excruciating 60 seconds for our food to cook. Not only do we want things fast, we want them cheaply, we want to obtain them with as little effort on our part as possible. Perhaps a “good deal” seems more valuable than a quality product.

Endurance is overshadowed by convenience; it is cheaper to replace things than to fix them. Rather than reconcile, repair and renew, we discard, destroy and dissolve. How deeply have these cultural philosophies that we practice daily bleed into our spiritual life? Is is any wonder that so many people give up trying to communicate with God and make dramatic life decisions based on what they think or suppose they “know of themselves?”

“Have ye inquired of the Lord?…We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” 1 Nephi 15:8-9

  • What does it mean to “inquire” of the Lord?
  • What are the requirements for “inquiring of the Lord” and how are they different from how we inquire for information in temporal matters?
  • How well do we really know and understand the scriptural pattern for inquiring, asking, seeking and knocking?
  • Do the things of God come as cheaply as the things of this world?
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The Shelf vs. The Garden

shelf-vs-garden

There is a phrase I hear repeated every now and then among members of the church. Typically when there is an issue they come across that challenges their faith, they are able to either reconcile that issue one way or another or remain undecided.

Without the necessary information to arrive at a satisfactory understanding, the person says that, for now, they will put the issue “on the shelf”.

“The shelf” is the proverbial repository for issues that you no longer want to deal with at the moment for whatever reason. You don’t have the time, resources, information or desire to pursue an answer to the question so you “shelf” it.

Here’s why I really dislike this metaphor.

When you put things on shelves all they do is

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Questioning the Comma in Verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom by A. Jane Birch

The following article was published at Mormon Interpreter. I’ve been waiting for someone to do the research and put together some good information on this subject and I think Jane did a great job. She’s the author of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom which she wrote following her own personal journey toward health and wellness by seeking to follow the principles in D&C 89.

Of all the things going on in the world, the Word of Wisdom might not seem to be very significant, but when the revelation itself states that it is “showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days” and that “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation”, it sounds pretty relevant to us today.

I don’t personally feel like it is my duty or obligation to tell people how they should live the principles of the gospel, but I do believe that giving people as much information as possible so that they can make their own decisions as guided by the spirit is my duty and obligation.


Abstract: The 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants included an additional comma, which was inserted after the word “used” in D&C 89:13: “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Later authors have speculated that the addition of the comma was a mistake that fundamentally changed the meaning of the verse. This article examines this “errant comma theory” and demonstrates why this particular interpretation of D&C 89:13 is without merit.

In 1921, a committee of five apostles who had recently completed a new edition of the Book of Mormon began preparing a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). Elder James E. Talmage, a member of the committee, noted that previous editions of the D&C contained “many errors by way of omission.”1 The most significant change in this new edition was the removal of the “Lectures on Faith,” but the committee also expanded the headnotes, revised the footnotes, and divided the pages into double columns.2 Numerous smaller changes were also made. As one of the many changes published in the revised 1921 edition, a new comma appeared in verse 13 of section 89, [Page 134]also known as the Word of Wisdom. This comma was inserted between the words used and only:

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (D&C 89:12–13)

In his detailed analysis of the textual changes throughout the history of the D&C, Robert J. Woodford relates the following interesting story:

It [the comma] was never found in any text prior to the 1921 edition of the D&C. According to T. Edgar Lyon [prominent LDS historian and educator], [Apostle] Joseph Fielding Smith, when shown this addition to the text, said: “Who put that in there?” This is a significant statement since Elder Smith served on the committee to publish that edition of the D&C. Thus, the comma may have been inserted by the printer and has been retained ever since.3

This story supports what has become a very popular interpretation of verse 13, namely, that the inserted comma is a mistake that reverses the meaning of the text and that the true meaning is understood only Read Full Post

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