Throughout my many travels I'm frequently asked by persons who don't know much about Mormons, Are Mormons Christians? With a smile I always give the same answer, "Yes we are, very much so."

Mormons quite often are referred to as Latter-Day Saint Christians due to the official name of the church which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But it's more than just a name, Latter-Day Saints strive daily to live the life of Christ and study his teachings and those of his apostles to become more like him.

The Bible tells us the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) The word Christian means “a follower of Christ" but the word disciple means “student” or “pupil.” Hence a true Christian is not someone who simply says they believe in Christ but rather someone who ardently follows and studies the Savior their entire lives. Mormons do exactly that, therefore we are very much Christian in the truest sense of the word.

Monday, November 7, 2016

First Vision was only a beginning, symposium speaker says

(by R. Scott Lloyd 11-3-16)

Though Joseph’s Smiths First Vision heralded “the dawn of a new day,” it was only the beginning of “the era of restitution, the times of refreshing, the season of cleansing, purification and endowment that would reach in zenith in the Millennium itself,” Robert B. Millet said Oct. 28.

Brother Millet, professor ancient scripture and emeritus dean of religious education at Brigham Young University was the keynote speaker of the 45th annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium sponsored by the university. The symposium honors Brother Sperry, who taught at BYU from 1932 to 1971 and is recognized as a pioneer in religious education.

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Foundations of the Restoration: Fulfillment of the Covenant Purpose.”

“Unable to walk fully in the light of the Lord, the people of the earth had chosen their own paths and sought to direct their own destinies,” Brother Millet said of the period leading up to the First Vision. “In the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gives both a description of the situation and a prescription for how to solve it.”

Paraphrasing that preface, Brother Millet said the pressing problem “was idolatry: devotion or dedication to anything other than the true and living God.”

By way of prescription, “God would call upon the weak and simple to bring forth His great and marvelous work, those, He said, who were unlearned and despised, those who were teachable, who were willing to unlearn falsehood, strip themselves of pride and duplicity, whose minds and hearts are open to the will of the Almighty.”

The Restoration, Brother Millet noted, would begin by revelation or “re-revelation” of doctrine, principles and precepts and would include the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which includes, “verities long lost on such matters as the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement.”

He added, “Revelation upon revelation would come to and through Joseph Smith, including the restoration of those plain and precious truths once taken away or kept back from the Bible.”

Citing the words in Doctrine and Covenants 135, the section announcing Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, that other than Christ himself, Joseph had done more for the salvation of those in the world than any other man who had ever lived in it, Brother Millet posed the question of what that means. He suggested a few points to consider:

First, “Joseph Smith serves as the legal administrator associated with that period of time prophesied” in Joel 2:28 that the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. This applies not just to members of the Church but to others as well, Brother Millet said. “The Spirit of God, meaning the light of Christ, has been behind the rapid intellectual, scientific, technological developments from the time of the Industrial Revolution to our own information age. A modern seer presides over this age of enlightenment and expansion.”

Second, “most of what we know today in the form of doctrine … has come to us through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith,” Brother Millet said. “His call initiated the times of restitution of all things which God had spoken by the mouths of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

Third, “with the visit of the disembodied Savior to the post-mortal spirit world, the work of the redemption of the dead began,” Brother Millet said. “It would appear that the responsibility for gospel ordinances for … the earth’s inhabitants rests with our dispensation. Think on it: Joseph Smith and his successors are responsible for the teaching in the world of spirits and the performance of saving ordinances for literally billions of our Father’s children.”

Being loyal to the gospel restoration entails being ready and willing to bear witness of truths made known in latter days, Brother Millet affirmed.

“Modern revelation provides, as it were, an interpretive lens, a hermeneutics key to the Bible. Much of what we understand about the testaments is clear to us because of the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. There are those, however, who hesitate to read into the biblical record what we know from modern revelation those who feel that to do so is somehow to compromise the integrity or the unique contribution of the Bible itself.”

He compared such a posture to using a map that is deficient in detail or inaccurate in layout simply because the map had been in the family for generations and was highly prized.

Brother Millet said there is a matter that is not understood by some today: “As members of the Church in the 21st century, we can be loyal to Joseph Smith only to the degree that we are loyal to the leaders of the Church in our own day. Those who criticize or find fault with the present Church leaders … in the name of being true to Brother Joseph know not what they do. The spirit of Joseph is with the leaders of this Church. Of that I have no question.”

Furthermore, “the Church is to be governed by revelation: current, daily, modern, ongoing, divine direction, and not by written documents alone,” he said. “All of God’s purposes for His children cannot be codified. Nothing is more fixed, set and established than the fact that among the people of God the canon of scripture is open, flexible and expanding.”

How God’s people fare in days to come “will be determined largely by how well we are able to read the signs of the times,” he said.

“To read the signs of the times in our day does not mean seeking signs in our day. … Those who are not spiritually mature enough to read the signs of the times are so often those who demand signs. ‘Show us the golden plates,’ they cry out. ‘Call down the angel Moroni. And while you’re at it furnish the complete text for the Book of Abraham.’

“Those who truly seek to be in tune with the divine will, on the other hand, become witnesses and recipients of those wonders and miracles that a gracious Lord always bestows upon his faithful flock. Faith cometh not by signs, the Lord says, but signs follow those that believe.”


Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Lyman Wight settlements in Texas

Pedernales River near the Lyman Wight settlement

(by Kenneth Mays 10-25-16)

After laboring at the Wisconsin logging sites near the Black River, Lyman Wight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles led a group of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Texas. They were seeking viable sites where the Latter-day Saints could establish a place to settle.

Following a long overland journey, they stopped in Austin. The group moved to the Texas Hill Country at a site on the Pedernales River near Fredericksburg, Gillespie County, the following year. They named the new settlement Zodiac. Among other things, they built a much needed mill on the river. Although some of the social practices of the Wight group were strange to the German settlers of Fredericksburg, they welcomed the practical advantages of ground meal and sawn lumber. The economic benefits of the mill helped maintain a positive relationship between the two groups.

Farms flourished and it was observed by some that the common-stock economy controlled by Wight had a number of successful business enterprises. These circumstances later changed and, along with disease, massive storms and flooding, caused the community’s downfall.

In 1851, the Wight group moved northeast to Burnet County. Ultimately, Wight's determination to stay in Texas rather than join the rest of the LDS Church in Utah led to his being dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and cut off from the LDS Church.

Little historical evidence from the Wight settlements remains today.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

The inspired plans for the Kirtland Temple

(by Daniel Peterson 10-20-16)

Doctrine and Covenants 95, a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 1, 1833, contains directions on the building of a house of worship and instruction at Kirtland, Ohio. Eventually these would result in the construction of the first temple of this dispensation, which was dedicated on March 27, 1836.

“Now here is wisdom,” it reads, “and the mind of the Lord — let the house be built, not after the manner of the world, for I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world; therefore, let it be built after the manner which I shall show unto three of you, whom ye shall appoint and ordain unto this power” (Doctrine and Covenants 95:13-14).
And,in fact, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams — who, at that time, constituted the First Presidency of what would shortly thereafter be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — saw the temple prior to its construction, in a remarkable vision. Some years afterward, when the temple was actually complete, Williams recounted what he had experienced:

“Joseph received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors Williams and Rigdon and come before the Lord, and he would show them the plan or model of the house to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance: I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us, and the makeup of this hall seems to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia.”

The journal of Truman O. Angell, who, decades later, served as the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, is our source for Williams’ reminiscence. He also mentioned it in a March 11, 1885, letter to President John Taylor:

“F. G. Williams came into the temple about the time the main hall 1st floor was ready for dedication. He was asked, how does the house look to you. He answered that it looked to him like the model he had seen. He said President Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and himself were called to come before the Lord and the model was shown them. He said the vision of the temple was thus shown them and he could not see the difference between it and the house as built” (see “The Revelations of Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants," edited by Lyndon W. Cook, Deseret Book, 1981).

A roughly contemporary non-Mormon source, otherwise rather disdainful of the design of what it called “a huge misshapen edifice,” confirms the essence of the story, as well: A letter in the Ohio Atlas newspaper, dated March 16, 1836, reports that “The pattern … was given by direct revelation from Heaven, and given to those individuals separately.”

This relatively little-known story about the Kirtland Temple is significant for at least two reasons:

First, it seems to represent a modern repetition of the experience of Moses, who, according to Exodus 25-31, 35-40, knew by revelation exactly what the Tabernacle was to look like and how it was to be built. Similar accounts have been given of subsequent temples such as the ones in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Salt Lake City, and President Gordon B. Hinckley reported a revelation on the construction of small temples that he received while driving back to the United States from the Latter-day Saint settlement at Colonia Juarez, Mexico (see "Inspiration came for smaller temples on trip to Mexico" in the LDS Church News, Aug. 1, 1998).

Second, as with so very many of Joseph Smith’s revelations, there were co-witnesses; he wasn’t alone (see "Many of Prophet's revelations were shared experiences," published on Feb. 24, 2011).

In my judgment, this fact represents a substantial challenge to critics who would dismiss Joseph Smith’s prophetic claims. Simply brushing him aside as mad or dishonest isn’t enough when other people — and more than just a few of them —corroborate his prophetic experiences.

Some critics, responding creatively if not very persuasively, have suggested that Joseph’s fellow witnesses, in their supposedly fanatical enthusiasm and because they were expected to do so, followed Joseph’s prompts and, thus, “saw” what he claimed to be seeing. In that light, it’s important to note that, according to Truman Angell’s account, Frederick G. Williams reported that he himself was the first among the members of the First Presidency to see that three-dimensional image of the future Kirtland Temple suspended above them.