By Scott S. Mitchell
Two Sundays ago, the lesson in my LDS priesthood meeting centered around a talk by Becky Craven in the April 2019 general conference entitled “Careful Versus Casual.” Predictably, two things occurred during the classroom discussion. First, the discussion quickly focused on two of the most prominently discussed Law-of-Moses-type items on Mormonism’s long checklist of do’s and don’ts–wearing the temple garment and Sabbath Day observance. Second, two or three members of the class self-censored the comments they felt were most important to make. (It should be obvious who one of them was.) Had they not self-censored, they would have pointed out that neither temple-garment-wearing nor Sabbath Day observance were part of Jesus’ gospel when he preached that gospel to the Nephites. Thus, as non-commandments, the rules of garment wearing and Sabbath proscriptions didn’t merit the attention LDS Church members give them. In fact, it might also have been added that Jesus never even mentioned the word “temple” or anything about sabbath observance to the Nephites in all his teachings,1 nor were these items part of his teachings to the Jews.
In Part 1, I argued that the specific messages of 2 Nephi 4 in the Book of Mormon go almost completely ignored in the writings and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter, “the Church”). This chapter, which is accurately called the psalm of Nephi, contains, among other things, Nephi’s lament over his repeated susceptibility to sin and temptation, and the depression and loss of self-esteem he suffers as a result. The reader is surprised to read his words, since Nephi’s stature as a prophet of God is almost unparalleled in both the Bible and Book of Mormon. And, no part of the Book of Mormon, outside of this chapter, informs the reader of any sinfulness on his part, much less the nature of such sinfulness. Since this chapter is unique in all of scripture, and the messages in it are so crucial to our understanding of how major, persistent weaknesses and exceptional spirituality can co-exist in the greatest of individuals, one would think that its substance would be the focus of much discussion among the lay membership, church leaders and scholars of the LDS Church. It should be one of the most famous passages of scripture, and by itself, should be the subject of lessons and talks. Below, I’ll attempt to not only delve into the vital messages of this chapter that I feel have escaped public discussion, but also explain why I think the LDS Church purposely shies away from those messages.
One of my daughters, who loves math and majored in statistics in college, recently challenged me to solve a math word problem to which she had already figured out the answer. Since I generally enjoy word problems, and believed careful thinking on my part would reveal the solution, I had no reason not to accept her challenge. I also assumed that the problem was tricky and the answer counterintuitive, because otherwise my daughter would have no reason to use this problem to test me. So, with what I thought was the appropriate amount of confidence and wariness, I said “Sure, lay it on me.”
I feel the need to begin with this short clarification. Although the second half of this essay argues that leaders of the LDS Church too often claim to have received revelation from God when they actually haven’t, I don’t believe these leaders are unrighteous men. Indeed, I consider them generally righteous, well-intentioned, and highly intelligent men, who, like most members of their church, accomplish much more good than evil during their lives. Their principle mistake, I believe, is that they accept unquestioningly traditional LDS views regarding their own authority, the superiority of their spiritual gifts, and what constitutes revelation and what does not. Continue reading
In two unique chapters of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13 and 14, the prophet Nephi, writing during the 6th century B.C., relates what an angel showed him in vision about the future history of Christianity in Europe and the Americas. One of the most salient features of his vision is a description of what happens after the Old Testament Jewish scriptures and the New Testament Christian gospel have been recorded and written in their uncorrupted form1 by Israelite and Jewish writers of the Old and New Testaments. Over the centuries, as these records and writings coalesce into what is known today as the Bible2, they are then adopted and accepted by Christians as canonical. Thereafter, the Bible comes into the possession and control of what the angel and Nephi refer to as the “great and abominable church.” The result is that the biblical message, formerly pure, becomes corrupted in the way it’s taught to Christianity’s adherents. Specifically, the church’s teaching is observed to be missing “many plain and precious things” which have been “taken away” or “kept back” by said evil church. See 1 Nephi 13:26, 28-29, 32, 34, 40. Continue reading
In some of the most perplexing passages in all of scripture, Jesus appeared to indicate that a man should not put away his wife for any grounds other than sexual immorality, and that any man who married a divorced woman was guilty of adultery. In this essay I’ll attempt to demonstrate why this statement by Christ is not at all harsh, and is so widely misunderstood. Continue reading
In a previous essay, I laid out the evidence demonstrating why Shem and the ancient high priest Melchizedek couldn’t have been the same person, contrary to popular Mormon belief. See Why Melchizedek wasn’t Shem, and Why it Does and Doesn’t Matter, elsewhere on this website. By reading further information on this subject, which was brought to my attention by a reader of this website, I have found what I consider to be another forbiddingly strong argument that further solidifies the case against Shem and Melchizedek sharing the same identity. At the end of this essay, I’ll explain why I think this new piece of evidence has important ramifications for our study and understanding of not only the Bible, but all other books that Mormons accept as scriptural.
The “new” (to me, at least) piece of evidence is that Shem had been dead for 570 years when Abraham was born, so he couldn’t have been present when Melchizedek later encountered Abraham as the latter returned from the slaughter of the kings. Continue reading
I recently had a private conversation with an acquaintance following an LDS priesthood lesson in which I, as a class member, had made a controversial statement. This acquaintance had stayed after class to question me further about my statement, because the subject of my comment was a matter of great importance in his life. I’ll write more about this conversation in the latter part of this essay. My comment in class had been that in all of scripture, there is no support for the idea that we are expected to forgive people who have wronged us if they haven’t repented and sought to be forgiven. In fact, I added, the Bible and Book of Mormon contain the opposite message: We do harm to forgive unrepentant sinners, and the Lord has expressly instructed us to do otherwise.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter “LDS church”) are taught the following about the three entities who comprise the Godhead: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” See Doctrine and Covenants (“D&C”) 130:22. (Emphasis added.)
They’re further taught that in heaven, before the earth was formed, Jesus and all the future inhabitants of the earth were spirits, or “intelligences,” existing separately of the Father, who was also there (see Abraham 3:22-28 in the Pearl of Great Price, a canonized book of LDS scripture)1, but that the God who governed the earth until his own birth into mortality was indeed Jesus, not God the Father.2
Finally, LDS church members are taught in their temple ceremonies that the name “Jehovah” refers exclusively to the premortal Jesus, and in no sense refers to God the Father. Continue reading
In Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which became an Academy Award winning movie, the story revolves around a married black man, Tom Robinson, who is on trial after being falsely accused of raping and beating a young white woman, Mayella Ewell, in a small Alabama town. The reader or movie viewer learns from the evidence produced at trial that the putative victim and accuser is a poor, uneducated daughter of the mean town drunk. The marks observed on her by the sheriff after the beating were on the right side of her neck, face and body, and finger marks around her neck showed they had to have come from both the right and the left hands. Her injuries were thus inflicted mainly by the left hand of someone who also grasped her by the neck with both hands at one point during the beating. No evidence is ever produced at trial that she was sexually assaulted other than her allegation, and though she claims she screamed throughout the assault, she cannot explain why none of the other children in her family heard her.
Tom Robinson’s defense lawyer, Atticus Finch, establishes in court that Tom could not have committed the crime because his entire left arm and hand are paralyzed and useless due to a prior accident. Continue reading