The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Monday, July 18, 2022

The Gospel Topics Essays - my view

There has been a lot of discussion about my comments regarding the Gospel Topics Essays. My position is simply and clear.

The Gospel Topics Essays are useful resources that point to reliable sources. They have not been canonized. They have been revised in the past and can be revised and improved at any moment. I point out errors and omissions in the essays because I'm hopeful that the essays will continue to be improved, particularly by including the relevant and reliable sources from the Joseph Smith Papers that have so far been omitted.

I encourage people to read the essays partly because the introduction to those essays expresses my objection to the M2C/SITH citation cartel. 

The introduction to the essays quotes D&C 88:118 and explains that "Seeking “out of the best books” does not mean seeking only one set of opinions, but it does require us to distinguish between reliable sources and unreliable sources."

Contrary to that guidance, the citation cartel (the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, FAIRLDS, Meridian Magazine, and all their followers) insist on "only one set of opinions" regarding M2C and SITH. 

The Interpreter Foundation's very name reflects its arrogant assumption of authority as the "interpreter" for ordinary Latter-day Saints. Typical of the credentialed class, they claim superiority over the rest of us who lack their credentials and status because they think we are incapable of understanding the gospel without their "interpretations" which they enforce through their journal, radio show, and even their movie Witnesses.

Book of Mormon Central is so adamant that only one set of opinions is permissible that they've embedded M2C right in their logo.

It's the same logo that FARMS (which has promoted M2C for decades now) used before the principals left to form the Interpreter Foundation and Book of Mormon Central.

If the intellectuals in the citation cartel heeded the guidance from the Gospel Topics Essays, there wouldn't be a citation cartel. 

They would be open to alternative "interpretations" of the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, and authentic historical documents--including an interpretation that corroborates and supports those teachings, instead of M2C/SITH which expressly repudiate those teachings.


To be clear, I agree with, embrace, and do not dispute, what Elder Ballard said about the essays being important. I encourage people to read and study the essays because they contain useful references to reliable sources. 

But nowhere have Church leaders stated, suggested, or implied that these essays were ever intended to replace the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, or authentic historical documents. 

Nevertheless, some people (including my critics) refer to the essays as though they have been canonized. 

The introduction to the Gospel Topics Essays is here: 

The introduction also says, "The Church places great emphasis on knowledge and on the importance of being well informed about Church history, doctrine, and practices." 

That, too, perfectly expresses my approach to Church history, doctrine and practices. I encourage people to be well informed so they can make informed decisions. As President Nelson has said, "Good inspiration is based upon good information." 

My objection to the citation cartel is not that they promote different interpretations than I do. That's fine with me. I fully endorse the concept of multiple working hypotheses. My problem with the cartel is the same as my problem with the critics such as CES Letter and Mormon Stories; both groups deprive people of good information through censorship and sophistry purely to promote their respective agendas.

To repeat: the Gospel Topics Essays have been revised in the past and can be revised and improved at any moment. 

I point out errors and omissions in the essays because I'm hopeful that the essays will continue to be improved, particularly by including the reliable sources from the Joseph Smith Papers that have so far been omitted.

A memo dated Sept. 9 from the church’s "Priesthood Department" to "General Authorities; Area Seventies; Stake, Mission, and District Presidents; Bishops and Branch Presidents" explains the purpose of — and audience for — the essays.

"The purpose of the Gospel Topics section is to provide accurate and transparent information on church history and doctrine within the framework of faith... When church members have questions regarding [LDS] history and doctrine, possibly arising when detractors spread misinformation and doubt, you may want to direct their attention to these resources."

Leaders should emphasize that "prayer, regular study of the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets, the exercise of faith, and humility are fundamental to receiving inspired answers to sincere questions."

Thursday, July 14, 2022

The big choice

Jonathan Edwards made a useful observation about the choices all of us face.

Some have never come to a resolution in their own minds so much as whether there be a God or not. They don't know that there is, and oftentimes very much doubt of it.

Second. There are some that never have come to any determination in their minds, whether to embrace religion in the practice of it. Religion don't consist merely or chiefly in theory or speculation, but in practice.

-- 96 --

It is a practical thing. The end of it is to guide and influence us in our practice. And [many] consider it in this view. And there are multitudes that never have come to a conclusion in their {own minds}, whether to embrace religion or no.

'Tis probably pretty general for men to design to be religious sometime or other before they die; for none intend to go to hell. But they keep it at a distance: they put it off from time to time: they never come to any conclusion that shall determine them in their present practice. There are some that never so much as limit any time. They design to be religious sometime before they die, but they don't know when.

There are many that have always hitherto continued unresolved about the necessity of striving, and being earnestly engaged for salvation. They flatter themselves that they may obtain salvation, though they ben't so earnestly set, though they mind the world and worldly affairs more than salvation. They are often told how necessary it is that they should make haste and not delay, that they should do whatever their hand finds to do with their might, that they should be violent, that a dull, slack way of seeking salvation is never likely to be effective; but they are never convinced of it. Some seem to resolve to be in earnest, and set out with some engagedness of mind, but soon fail, because they never have been fully6 convinced of the necessity of it.

Many never have come to a determination, what to make choice of for their portion. There are but two things that God offers to mankind for their portion: one is this world with the pleasures and profits of sin, together with eternal misery ensuing; the other is heaven and eternal glory, with a life of self-denial and respect to all God's commandments preceding. Many continue as long as they live without coming to any settled determination in their own minds which of these to choose. They must have one or the other, and can't have both; but they are always held in suspense, never make their choice. They have a mind to have both: they would have heaven and the world, too; they would have salvation, and the pleasure and profits of sin, too.

But considering heaven and the world as God offers them, they would have neither. God offers heaven only with the self-denial and difficulty that is in the way to it, and they ben't willing to have heaven thus. And God offers the world and the pleasures of sin to man not alone, but with eternal misery tached7 to it, and so they ben't willing to have the world neither.