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.