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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The meaning behind Joseph Smith's final dreams

Joseph Smith had several dreams near the end of his life. As we commemorate his martyrdom today, our thoughts turn to those dreams and what they mean for us today.


12 comments:

  1. Those were incredible! I am SO grateful that you shared them. Thank you!
    Heidi G.
    http://mormonmomswhoblog.blogspot.com
    http://ldspowerbloggers.blogspot.com

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  2. I never knew about those dreams, until now.
    If you'd like to learn more about the book that Joseph Smith translated, click here.

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  3. As you commemorate the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, can you please help me cope with the continual exclusion of details surrounding Smith's death by various church officials and multiple LDS "Life of Joseph Smith" movies?

    Having heard the story of Smith's final days from local missionaries, hearing the story given by church officials at Carthage jail, as well as watching several Smith biographies, the following information is never mentioned, making the account disingenuous and misleading.

    1. First Presidency member William Law's excommunication due to his rejection of Smith's secret practice of plural marraige and the propsal to Law's wife Jane, thus leading to the publishing of Law's "Nauvoo Expositor"

    2. Smith's incarceration as a result of his destruction the "Nauvoo Expositor".

    3. The smuggling of a pistol to Smith by Cyrus Wheelock while in jail.

    4. Smith's shooting and killing of two of the three John Wills, William Voras, and William Gallaher.

    There seems to be a continual practice of withholding information from members and non-members alike. I believe this to be the cause of so many faithful to leave the church because they feel lied to by the lack of disclosure concerning church history once discovered.

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  4. 1) The issues between William Law and Joseph Smith are not as simple as you make them out to be. Please research these links (the other side of the argument not obtained by reading anti-mormon literature alone) and then we can discuss: http://www.google.com/cse?cx=006480910542272568972%3Adjiv3kx8zqo&ie=UTF-8&q=william+law&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search&siteurl=www.fairlds.org%2F&ref=&ss=1487j341729j10#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=william%20law&gsc.page=1

    2) Again, let's discuss this objectively, without false premises and taking into account what faithful Mormon scholars and apologists have published on the matter. http://www.google.com/cse?cx=006480910542272568972%3Adjiv3kx8zqo&ie=UTF-8&q=william+law&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search&siteurl=www.fairlds.org%2F&ref=&ss=1487j341729j10#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=Nauvoo%20Expositor

    3) This was an act of bravery and justice. Joseph Smith was being held on trumped-up charges and everyone at that time knew a mob was being assembled to ensure Joseph Smith and his companions did not receive a fair trial. Cowardly men with guns and blackened faces (to hide their identities) camped 1/4 mile from the jail in Carthage. They made no secret about what they planned to do to him. Even the jailer could see that this was not going to end justly for the accused and did everything he could to ensure their safety. Under these circumstances, Joseph Smith, as would anyone, had the right to at least attempt to defend his own life and the lives of his friends.

    4. Again, you're not stating that the three men you mention were not innocents. They were part of the mob that was breaking into the jail to murder Joseph. See http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Martyrdom/Did_Joseph_actually_kill_two_men and http://www.fairlds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/starr-was-joseph-smith-a-martyr-or-a-murderer.pdf

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  5. My question is not whether I'm simplifying an issue or not, whether issues are being discussed objectively or not, or the innocence of men.

    You agree there was a rift between Smith and William Law, there was a printing press destroyed, Smith did in fact fire a gun and men were shot by it.

    Whether or not these events were justified or considered acts of bravery is not the question, my question is why are they continually withheld from the narrative?

    Why are all of these events omitted from the pro-Mormon film "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" as well as Jeffrey R. Holland's moving conference speech "Safety for the Soul"? Both clearly depict the imminent martyrdom awaiting Joseph and Hyrum, they clearly include accounts of pistol and ball in enemy hands used to kill the brothers. Yet both omit any reason for Smith's incarceration, that Smith fired a gun, or was even armed with one.

    Don't you see how this creates an appearance of deception?

    The fact that these events are omitted makes the story misleading as if there's something to hide. It makes the story white-washed and doctored and therefore disingenuous.

    There may be explanations for all of these issue, but why does one have to dig into a MAJOR event in church history to find out there's more to the story, only to THEN get an explanation?

    If I discovered that my Ward teacher never mentioned how Timothy smuggled a knife to Paul while captive and that stabbed three men while attempting to escape execution, only to THEN have it explained to me that Paul was in fact justified but felt it best to leave that piece of the story out, I'd wonder why. Is that not an honest question?

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    1. I can't comment on why the Church doesn't give every granular detail of every historical event they portray in their audio-visual programming. I'm not a Church filmmaker. But as an aspiring filmmaker I find it difficult to believe that very many people looking to get an overview of what we teach would watch such a film all the way through. Even the History Channel and Smithsonian pick a point of view from which to portray events in their documentaries, and the latter of the two is considered a gold standard in public schools for social studies instruction.

      And then there's the intent of the film in general. Surely you can understand that any organization that seeks to spread what it considers to be a positive message (the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this instance) and, ostensibly, to increase its membership and improve its image in the world is going to accentuate the positive and downplay the negative. I don't quite understand your demands when viewed in a realistic context.

      At any rate, your assertion that the Church is being misleading, hiding something, whitewashing, being disingenuous or that these things are NEVER taught is incorrect. We do teach about Joseph defending himself with a gun someone gave him. It's in our gospel doctrine manual for Primary (children's Sunday School). http://www.lds.org/manual/primary-5-doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history/lesson-37-joseph-and-hyrum-smith-are-martyred?lang=eng&query=(+%22joseph+smith%22+)+NEAR/20+gun and in several other manuals. A simple search of LDS.org, which carries the full text of all our gospel doctrine manuals and historical documents, will turn these instances up.

      Yes, Joseph Smith made mistakes, and his legacy isn't 100% pure. Joseph (and, indeed, as you've alluded in your last paragraph, other historical figures) also did things that our skewed historical presentism can't or won't countenance. Opinions will differ as to why he used a pistol in Carthage jail, or whether polygamy was right or wrong, or if William Law's accusations were backed with evidence, whether the Church chooses to emphasize that bit of history or not.

      Rather, what I sense in your question (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that you have an axe to grind with a church you once belonged to and left, are thinking of leaving, or never belonged to.

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    2. You say you investigated the church with the missionaries and they didn't answer your questions. Well, I it's just not in their mission statement to do so. Theirs is to go "into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature", not to engage in apologetics and strain at historical events.

      If you really want an understanding of how we Mormons can possibly revere Joseph Smith as a prophet, in spite of his failings, all you need to do is read from his journal and mete to yourself the same judgments he made of himself.

      The Prophet’s journal for November 6, 1835, records: "I was this morning introduced to a man from the east. After hearing my name, he remarked that I was nothing but a man, indicating by this expression, that he had supposed that a person to whom the Lord should see fit to reveal His will, must be something more than a man. He seemed to have forgotten the saying that fell from the lips of St. James, that [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, yet he had such power with God, that He, in answer to his prayers, shut the heavens that they gave no rain for the space of three years and six months; and again, in answer to his prayer, the heavens gave forth rain, and the earth gave forth fruit [see James 5:17–18]. Indeed, such is the darkness and ignorance of this generation, that they look upon it as incredible that a man should have any [dealings] with his Maker." (History of the Church, 2:302; from a Joseph Smith journal entry, Nov. 6, 1835, Kirtland, Ohio.)

      "When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught?" (History of the Church, 6:366; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on May 12, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Thomas Bullock.)

      "Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing: the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault. Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him—they all watched for iniquity in Him." (History of the Church, 5:140; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 31, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Eliza R. Snow.)

      Joseph Smith’s journal for October 29, 1842, records: "I … went over to the store [in Nauvoo, Illinois], where a number of brethren and sisters were assembled, who had arrived this morning from the neighborhood of New York. … I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities." (History of the Church, 5:181; paragraph divisions altered; from a Joseph Smith journal entry, Oct. 29, 1842, Nauvoo, Illinois.)

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  6. Telling why Smith was incarcerated and the fact that he shot three men is hardly asking for "every granular detail of every historical event they portray". c'mon now :)

    The gospel doctrine manual for Primary you linked even omits the primary reason the Nauvoo Expositor was published:
    "Many non–Latter-day Saints in Illinois were afraid of the potential ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL POWER of so many members of the Church. They began to persecute the Saints...These men started a newspaper in which they told many vicious lies about Joseph Smith."

    Again, facts have been withheld. The primary reason the Nauvoo Expositor was published was to expose Joseph Smith as what they believed to be a fallen prophet in regard to his practice of plural marriage.

    "The Nauvoo Expositor was the newspaper voice of apostates determined to destroy the Prophet Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the spring of 1844....The principals claimed to believe in the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel, but rejected what they termed Nauvoo innovations, notably PLURAL MARRAIGE." (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Nauvoo_Expositor) PRO-MORMON SCOURCE

    I don't have an axe to grind with the church. I have honest questions about church history and why certain facts are withheld from members and non-members alike. Do you realize how shocking and embarrassing it is to discover truths about your church that you've never been taught before?

    Why does the gospel doctrine manual for Primary omit the paper's objection to plural marriage? Why does it omit Smith shot three people?

    The longer members are left to discover issues on their own, the more they will continue to leave in droves. Official church historian, Elder Marlin Jensen acknowledges this. "My own daughter has come to me and said, 'Dad, why didn't you ever tell me that Joseph Smith was a polygamist?" Read the full story:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/us-mormonchurch-idUSTRE80T1CM20120131

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  7. Joseph shot three people who were trying to shoot him. It was self defense. Either you believe in the right of a man to defend himself when violently confronted, or you don't. I won't debate that point any further.

    Plural marriage is discussed frequently in church doctrinal expositions. Just search LDS.org. Nothing is hidden. It's all over the Web and was in books I and other faithful members have been reading long before the Web ever existed.

    The Reuters article is a predictably shallow and sadly typical treatment of the very deep subjects it pretends to expose fully. And, I never trust a 2nd hand report of a speech a General Authority gives. As a PR professional (non-Church day job), I learned a while back that journalism is always a game of "Telephone". A journalist's biases or inattention to detail will always corrupt a story, so I don't believe anything I can't independently verify by going back to the original source.

    I also learned that when a GA speaks to a local group, what he says is just for that group and not necessarily 100% applicable to the whole church. That's the beauty of personal revelation and stewardship. The Lord knows what He wants a GA to say to a particular set of individuals and that's why such meetings are typically not recorded and archived...of what use would the meeting in the Reuters article be to those faithful Latino saints who humble themselves and wholeheartedly accept the core Gospel in spite of knowing all about the "controversial" bits of Church history. Their hearts are not as hardened by sin and vice and mistrust of everything like we Americans and Europeans.

    I categorically reject your assertion and opinion that the Church is involved in any kind of cover-up. It simply isn't. Otherwise, why would they allow Richard Bushman to publish "Rough Stone Rolling", his warts-and-all account of Joseph's history? Why would they allow faithful members to belong to any apologetics group that approaches, acknowledges and talks regularly about troublesome events in Church history? Yup, there are those who do get excommunicated for doing just that, but only because they allow Satan to mislead them into believing they're more enlightened with revelation than the General Authorities. They are deceived into believing that it is their duty to lead people away from the Gospel altogether, rather than humble themselves and focus on the core doctrine.

    No, I've been doing apologetics for 20 years now. I've seen this line of dialogue and the path it leads to: endless, unproductive back-and-forth between a faithful believer and someone who simply won't _spiritually_ investigate the present-day Church.

    Would it be worth it to you to set down a fixation on the past and do a sincere, humble, spiritual investigation of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and priesthood restoration? I've seen very intelligent people such as you (several with Ph.D.s) do the same and they've not regretted it at all. Lots of potential Christians have joined the Catholic church (and other Christian break-off denominations) in spite of egregiously worse things done in the name of Christianity than that of which you're accusing Joseph.

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  8. Please tell me, because I'd really like to know, how does one actually "spiritually investigate the present-day Church"? Is it really just reading the BOM and praying that it's true? Or is there something more to it?

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    1. MOST IMPORTANTLY

      As you study and attend and discuss:

      A. Set aside doubts long enough to feel the Spirit. "The Savior said, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28) and 'Knock, and it shall be [given] you' (Matthew 7:7). These are action verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism." (Faith—the Choice is Yours, RICHARD C. EDGLEY, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/faith-the-choice-is-yours?lang=eng)

      B. Live the teachings and doctrine (John 7:16-17) and pray to know whether what you've been taught is true. From Elder David A. Bednar's October 2012 conference talk on conversion (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/converted-unto-the-lord?lang=eng&query=pray+testimony):

      "As Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He posed this penetrating question to His disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?”

      "Peter responded forthrightly:

      "'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

      "'And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 16:15–17).

      "As is evidenced in Peter’s reply and the Savior’s instruction, a testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children. Any honest seeker of truth can obtain a testimony by exercising the necessary 'particle of faith' in Jesus Christ to 'experiment upon' (Alma 32:27) and 'try the virtue of the word' (Alma 31:5), to yield 'to the enticings of the Holy Spirit' (Mosiah 3:19), and to awaken unto God (see Alma 5:7). Testimony brings increased personal accountability and is a source of purpose, assurance, and joy.

      "Seeking for and obtaining a testimony of spiritual truth requires asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7; 3 Nephi 14:7) with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in the Savior (see Moroni 10:4). Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days."

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  9. I'm glad you asked! Here are the steps I recommend. In general form (ignoring the LDS specifics below), these are the steps I recommend for when anyone is interested in learning the spiritual aspects of any religious organization and/or the truth of any thing at all.

    1. Attend several meetings of your local congregation (called a "ward"). I suggest going for more than a month straight, so you can see broader picture (for example, differences between Fast and Testimony meeting on the 1st Sunday of every month vs. the regular sacrament meeting programs).

    2. Attend all three hours of each week's meeting block to hear what is taught in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, and Priesthood (or Relief Society).

    3. Attend at least one cultural event or activity outside of a Sunday meeting. There's usually at least one per month in every ward.

    4. Read along with the classes that are being taught. This year is Book of Mormon for Sunday School Gospel Doctrine. The classes rotate as follows each year over a period of four years: Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants (and Pearl of Great Price).

    5. Ask the missionaries to teach you. Tell them you'd like a member of the Church who is not a full-time missionary to accompany them so you can get a second perspective from a "regular" member.

    6. Visit LDS.org/conference and listen to the most recent words of apostles and the prophet.

    7. Get hold of and read a Church magazine, such as The Ensign (adult), The New Era (youth), or The Friend (children).

    8. For any questions you have about doctrine, the entire library of everything we teach in all of our weekly meetings is found online at LDS.org/manual.

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We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)