Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon

An Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon is yet another pamphlet I own, this one written by David Whitmer (one of the three witnesses). I assumed this would be an official declaration of his testimony of the Book of Mormon (he died one year after this pamphlet was published in 1887). What I read was not quite what I expected.

While this pamphlet did affirm Whitmer's testimony of and belief in the Book of Mormon, it was actually mostly a defense of his decision to not unite with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor the "Reorganized Church." The reasons he gives are often without foundation, and even contradictory. Here is just an example:

He says that the Church did not remain the way it was supposed to be. He deplored the calling of high priests, stating it was not part of the original church organization, nor part of the original revelations. He also says that Joseph Smith was only called to be a translator of the Book of Mormon, and he took the church leadership upon himself when he wasn't supposed to. However, in another place, Whitmer admits he believes the revelations contained in the Book of Commandments when these revelations talk about Joseph's calling to be the First Elder of the Church and for members of the Church to obey the words from his mouth as if from the Lord's own mouth.

Sadly, more than anything, this pamphlet just shows how blind one can become when they fall from light and truth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage

Another pamphlet on my shelf, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage is a discussion between Joseph Fielding Smith and Richard C. Evans (second counselor in the presidency of the "Reorganized Church"). Mr. Evans wrote an article in a Canadian newspaper denouncing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of these two topics. However, he got a lot of his facts wrong, and so Joseph Fielding Smith replied and this pamphlet contains their discussion.

More than anything else, this book reaffirmed my frustration and impatience with anti-mormons and the tactics they employ. The first item they Smith clarifies is the Church's teachings of blood atonement. He states the scripture in Hebrews that says "without shedding of blood is no remission" and applies it to the atonement of Jesus Christ. Evans responds with quotes from Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and others to show that the Church taught that they must spill the blood of their enemies and apostates in order to save their souls. Smith reveals Evans' desperation and folly by showing that the quotes he used were taken out of context and put together to describe something different than was actually taught.

I really liked a quote that Smith uses from President Anthon H. Lund in response to vague comments that anti-mormons love to take hold of and declare it to be bizarre doctrines of the Church. Lund said, "When our missionaries are met with these sophistries and with isolated extracts from sermons, we say to them anything that is a tenet of our religion must come through revelation and be sustained by the Church, and they need not do battle for anything outside of the works."

Evans also goes to great lengths to denounce Brigham Young and "prove" that Joseph Smith did not found plural marriage in the Church. He uses statements from various people to make his point. Smith again reveals his folly when he points out his sources are all from other anti-mormons and apostates. Again, attempting to twist the words of others, Evans quotes from some members of the Church, but stops his quotation in mid-sentence because the very next word would defeat his argument. This dishonesty crumbles his argument to dust.

Smith reveals that many of the people Evans quotes from have also attacked his own church and beliefs and that it is foolish to use them as a source. Smith then provides multiple testimonials from people that prove beyond doubt that Joseph Smith truly did reveal the doctrine of plural marriage, but it was not publicly taught until after his death.

Smith is able to support his argument with facts, testimonials from good reputable people (both members and non-members of the Church), and scripture. Evans resorts to deception, the words of slanderers, and blatant lies to try to prove his point (in fact, when Evans had this conversation printed in his church's magazine, he left out many of Smith's words that proved Evans to be wrong). Truth is able to stand on its own, and anybody who resorts to deception, subtlety, and lies does not have the truth in them.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Father and the Son

While not really a book, I do have The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by The First Presidency and The Twelve in pamphlet form, so I decided I'd do a short review anyway.

This was originally published in 1916 and its purpose can be found in the title. It defines the relationship between Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, as well as their relationship to us. It is broken into four parts: 1. Heavenly Father as our literal parent, 2. Jesus being called Father due to His status as Creator, 3. Jesus is the "Father" of those who abide in the Gospel (being born again and becoming His sons and daughters), and 4. Jesus as the Father by Divine Investiture of Authority. The explanations given by the leaders of the Church are backed with scripture, including several scriptures from the Bible to support each concept. This is a great resource for teaching about the Godhead and helping students of the scriptures to understand the phrase that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are "one God."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Fall of Adam, The Atonement of Christ, and Organic Evolution

The Fall of Adam, The Atonement of Christ, and Organic Evolution (wow, that's a mouthful!) compiled by Reid E. Bankhead is a 48-page pamphlet I received at BYU as part of my biology class, if I am not mistaken. This is a great book that contains quotes and teachings from Church Leaders about these three topics, mostly all woven together.

In short, they teach that the idea of evolution is a false doctrine that comes from the devil in order to destroy faith in the mission of Christ. If man has evolved from primates, then the fall of Adam is a myth. If the fall of Adam is a myth, then there is no need for an atonement. The teaching that says we all had our origin from scum in the ocean is a heresy that flies in direct opposition to the revealed truth from on high.

Scientists do not take into consideration that the entire earth changed from a terrestrial to a telestial state when Adam fell. No amount of scientific research can determine the true origin of earth and all the life thereon. Furthermore, nature itself teaches that the Lord's decree that all life multiply after its own kind is strictly adhered to. If this is the case, how did scum become man? How did man gain a conscience, something lacking in the rest of the animal kingdom? There are obviously some serious flaws to the theory of evolution.

My favorite part of the whole book is a quote from Joseph Fielding Smith that says, "If great joy will be felt by the individual who has, through his humble effort, saved one soul, then how great must be the remorse of these learned men when they discover that their efforts have been the means of destroying thousands of souls." I think this applies not only to those who promote the theory of evolution, but all those who seek to shatter the faith and testimony of others. How profound!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Life of Joseph Smith

I have to say that Life of Joseph Smith by George Q. Cannon is one of the best books written about the prophet. The author states at the very beginning of the book that he has an agenda and the reader knows immediately that the book will speak very favorably of the prophet. Cannon states that his purpose in doing so is to give the reader a clear picture of Joseph Smith from those who knew him best, and not from the slanderous reports that were being published in his day.

Although it can be accused that the author writes with a bias, it also must be stated that he uses reliable sources for his information (eyewitnesses to the events he describes in the life of Joseph Smith). He does not try to paint the prophet as a perfect man, but he does demonstrate that Joseph constantly tried to do the right thing.

As I read the account of the final days of his life and the action taken by Governor Ford that led to the prophet's death, I decided that I was wrong about a statement I made on another post. Ford is not a modern-day Pilate. He is much worse. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, but feared the people and so he allowed the Savior to be crucified. Ford knew Joseph was innocent, but he never admitted to being in compliance with the mob. His heart was with the mob all along and constantly told lies to the prophet and his associates. Reading the accounts of Ford himself, along with others involved, there can be no doubt that Ford had a perfect knowledge about the planned assassination to take the prophet's life.

Contrast the actions and attitudes of Governor Ford, Governor Boggs, apostates, or mobbers with that of Joseph Smith, and you can plainly see a man who was endowed with a higher calling and a clear vision. Joseph was a man of remarkable character. Today there continue to be many people, both in and out of the Church who attempt to discredit him. But these scoffers will also fade into history, or leave an embarrassing stain on their name as those who opposed the prophet in his own day. Yet the name of Joseph Smith shall continue to be had for good despite those who have it for evil. Opponents will never be able to erase who he was, what he did, and who he represented as he restored the true Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth.

Monday, October 27, 2014

You May Take My Life But Never My Faith



You May Take My Life But Never My Faith is a book put together by The Hendrickson Family Organization. The book is a life history of Gerda Alma Hendrickson (originally Reinholdsen) and Lars Wilhelm Hendrickson. The majority of the book is taken from Gerda’s own journals. She was an avid writer and faithfully wrote each day. The family organization selected the most faith-promoting passages to include in this work. A smaller portion of the book is written by Lars as he tells his own life story.

The title of this book comes from an incident in Gerda’s life while she still lived in Sweden (where both she and Lars were natively from). When she joined the church, Gerda suffered extreme persecution from her family. They gave her up as dead to them and referred to her as a harlot. One night, one of her brothers went to the place where she was living and pointed a gun at her and said, “Deny your faith this minute or I will send a bullet through your heart.” Gerda replied, “You can take my life, but never my faith.” Her brother ultimately didn’t have the courage to pull the trigger, but instead cursed her and fled. Interestingly, Gerda never stopped loving her family and in later years they all softened their hearts and demonstrated great love towards her.

Gerda was a woman of strong character and a firm determination to serve the Lord. She is the grandmother of Amy’s Grandma Whitney. She has miraculous accounts in her journals of witnessing the Lord’s healing power again and again, and even being aware of the presence of guardian angels. Her spiritual intuition was remarkable and it inspires the reader (and especially members of her family) to emulate her example.

I was also neat for me to read about changes in the Church and in the world. She lived from 1872 to 1950. As you can imagine, she saw a lot of change. At one point I actually called Grandma Whitney to learn more, because Gerda refers to her son earning money for his mission by doing temple work for a sister in their ward. I learned from Grandma Whitney that for 70 years or so, it was the practice that if you couldn’t go through the temple to do your own names for your kindred, that you would pay someone else a dollar a name to do the work for you. I had never heard of this before, and I’ve read a lot of Church History books, so it was fun for me to learn more.

I feel that no “review” on this book would do it justice. Philosophers and scholars may write volumes of what good Christian living looks like, but their words pale in comparison to the actual real-life example of a devout follower of Christ. Gerda Alma Hendrickson is one such example. She remained focused only on things of an eternal value. She had a grateful heart. She had true charity. I am so grateful to have married into a family with such an incredible legacy, and I feel both honored and humbled to have the duty of passing on that legacy to my own children so that they may honor their ancestors by choosing to follow in their footsteps.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fairy Tale Christmas



Fairy Tale Christmas is a new book coming out by Michael and Scott McLean. The premise is both entertaining and amusing. The fairy tale villains are tired of losing! They hate that the good guys get to enjoy their happily-ever-afters while they remain miserable. Unfortunately, they can’t merely take away these endings from the heroes and heroines. These endings have to be given willingly. However, this year the villains are certain they have a full-proof plan! They are going to kidnap Santa Claus and hold him ransom!

The book has a charm that comes with it. After all, it has Santa Claus and fairy tales. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with that. I also have to commend whoever designed the cover. The story certainly has a juvenile feel to it, one that would appeal to a younger audience. Sometimes I felt like it was written for a young teenage boy audience, but every now and then I felt something else was written to appeal to female readers. The only part of the book that I worry is going to be way over a young reader’s head is the end, when they make a couple references to the musical Oliver! Seriously, how many 13-14 year-olds have seen or even heard of that musical?

But when all is said and done, the book is entertaining and has a nice storyline. Santa has a neat theory in this book that he plans to pursue to bring out the good in everyone. If you know anything about Michael McLean, you know he likes to end with everybody as happy as possible, and you can certainly count on that in this book. Overall I think this will be an enjoyable story for young readers this holiday season.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kiss it Goodbye



Kiss it Goodbye is, for a most part, a biography written by John Moody about Vernon Law. Law was a catcher on the 1960 World Series Champion team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. I say that’s what it is for the most part because Moody frequently takes a break from Law’s story to tell his own. In my opinion, that is what ruined the book.

Vernon Law (who, by the way, signed my copy of the book) was an LDS athlete who made a name for himself that year in baseball. But he never reached the Hall of Fame, nor is he well-remembered by most people. Perhaps he would have earned all this recognition, if it weren’t for one disastrous night. When his team learned they were playing in the series, they celebrated in a raucous manner and began to drink and horseplay, activities which Law would not participate in. They tried to get him to take his shirt off, and as they ganged against him, a loud pop was heard in his foot, immediately sobering the crowd. With the injury to his foot, Law was never able to pitch the same again.

There are many lessons that can be learned from Vernon Law. He instantly forgave those who hurt him. In fact, he never publicly announced who caused the injury and it took some prying from Moody to get him to reveal who did the damage. Law was a good man on and off the field, a true example of a great athlete and a moral man. Although his career ended prematurely, he never let himself become bitter.

The author ultimately reveals his purpose in writing this book: baseball helped bring his family together in a society which seemed to force his family apart. Although his family ultimately began cheering for the Yankees (terrible choice, by the way), he decided to write his book about Law because he was the author’s boyhood hero, and where his love for baseball began. In my opinion, this information could have been mentioned as a forward or introduction instead of being told throughout the book, which only distracted me from Law’s story, which is what I actually felt invested in as a reader.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Remake



Remake is an upcoming dystopian novel by Ilima Todd. The book is certain to be controversial, which is the entire purpose of it. It is a book with a message and people will take different sides in regard to it. Others will miss the message completely and will not be able to see past the storyline. I, for one, found the book to be engaging and the message to be powerful.

The book follows a character who simply goes by Nine. She is the ninth person in a batch of ten females. There are an equal number of males with her batch. For seventeen years they are raised together androgynously and on their 17th Birthday they go to a Remake facility. At this facility, they get to choose what they want to look like, what trade they will do for the rest of their lives, and what gender they would like to be.

Nine has only known this lifestyle in the city they live in called Freedom One. Everybody can do whatever they want with no consequences. There is no morality. Nightclubs with their accompanying patrons are frequent. Words like marriage, family, father, mother, etc. are not a part of their vocabulary.

However, Nine’s world changes completely when their plane crashes on its way to the remake facility. She ends up stranded on an island where she discovers a colony of rebels—rebels only because they believe in family. On the island, Nine learns about the corruption within Freedom One, and the many other Freedom cities around the world. They absolutely forbid families and do all they can to prevent them. Nine learns the value of families for herself and ultimately needs to decide whose side she will support.

This book does not beat around the bush. It clearly talks about the sacredness of marriage, physical intimacy, and the crucial roles of each gender. The author teaches these principles with contrasts, showing a distorted version in Freedom One, and then later showing the true principles found in the island colony. Readers that can’t see past the corruption of Freedom One miss the entire point of the book and its message. Our society is currently heading toward the same society of Freedom One. If we are to avoid such a future, we must stay true to the values found in the islanders’ colony.

I personally look forward to the next book.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Articles of Faith

I started Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage several years ago while I was on my mission. While I was in the MTC, the missionary library changed and this book was no longer included. Now I finally got to finish the book I started so long ago. Talmage did an exceptional job of linking nearly every LDS doctrine to the 13 Articles of Faith penned by Joseph Smith. He also brought some great insights that really made me ponder.

In talking about the Holy Ghost, Talmage teaches that he is an actual person that can only be in one place at one time, and yet his influence can be felt everywhere at once. He explains this works, just like the technology we enjoy today. A person speaking on the radio is only in one place, but his voice can be heard all over the world. Likewise, the Holy Ghost probably operates through technology beyond our comprehension to communicate with all mankind simultaneously.

I also found his teachings on the sacrament to be very interesting. He talks about what the sacrament is for and what it is not. For example, it is not for the remission of sins. Otherwise, it would not be forbidden to those who are in most need of remission of sins. Its purpose is to be a testimony to God that we are determined to keep His commandments and are mindful of His Son's sacrifice.

While discussing the Ninth Article of Faith, Talmage points out that one of the biggest objections to the Church is the claim to modern revelation. He observes that it is interesting, ironic, and tragic that mankind seeks to expand every field available to him, except for revelation. Why is it that in science we continue to try to push past boundaries and learn more than we do now, but when it comes to Gospel learning, so many insist on learning as little as possible.

One of the most interesting ideas presented in this book relates to the Kingdoms of Glory. The author states that it is reasonable to believe, until we receive further light and knowledge on the matter through revelation, that progression within each of the Kingdoms of Glory is likely provided for. Talmage states, "We may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive."

There were also two parts of the appendix that stood out to me. The first is about the Book of Mormon. Talmage quotes Orson Pratt, who commented on the perfect harmony that exists in the Book of Mormon, not only with the Bible, but also with itself. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Book of Mormon that contradicts the truths about science or nature. Everything in the Book of Mormon is consistent and in harmony with religious, historical, and scientific truths.

The other thought that I found interesting is the idea that natural phenomena is related to human agency. It is likely that certain storms, earthquakes, and other destructive occurrences are following the sins of mankind in a natural manner. Upon further examination, we can find that keeping such commandments as Sabbath Day and Tithing and the Law of the Fast are all connected with blessings found in nature. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that natural disasters can and do follow wickedness and disobedience. This is not because God is a vengeful and angry God, but because He cannot bestow the blessing upon His disobedient children, and the natural disasters are allowed to run their natural course.

I highly recommend this book to both convert and scholar, investigator and scriptorian. There is much to be gleaned from its pages that is edifying.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Joseph Smith: The Man and the Seer

I picked up a copy of Joseph Smith: The Man and the Seer by Hyrum L. Andrus as it was going out of print a while back. I have a few other biographies of the prophet, so I wasn't necessarily pressed to read this one urgently. When I finally did, I didn't glean too much new information because of other sources I have already read. That being said, there were a few gems scattered throughout the book that I found enjoyable.

The purpose of this book is to give the reader a really good idea of what Joseph Smith was like. The author dwells on his physical traits as well as his personality. Examples are given from firsthand accounts of those who knew him. I had heard some of the stories before, but now through this book I have documentation for those stories. Some of the stories depict his quick wit and humor, while other stories reflect on his kindness and charity. All of them demonstrate the greatness of his character.

The book goes on to talk about his earthly education contrasted with his heavenly education. It talks about his associations with angelic ministers, from Adam to Moroni. It also tells of his education preparatory to obtaining the plates, and how he needed to be better trained in obedience and spiritual understanding.

Finally, the book discusses his role as Seer. It discusses his visions and prophecies and how minutely they were fulfilled. It gives firsthand accounts of his appearance while having a vision or uttering a prophecy. He prophesied concerning individuals, the Church as a whole, and even prophesied concerning states and nations. The author did sufficient research to provide evidence of the fulfillment of each prophecy.

For a quick book to get a snapshot of what the Prophet Joseph was like, this book is excellent. It is engaging and informative, and most of all, it leaves the reader for an appreciation for this great man that the Lord raised up to restore His Church in these latter days.