Church Administration versus Ministering


LDSChurchOfficeBuildingWhen I was much younger, I was fascinated with the administration of the church. My sister works for the church. She is secretary to an Apostle. That means nothing, really. I only mention it to bring some context to what I am about to write. I love my sister and am proud of her accomplishments. I know the church doesn’t pay much but she has stuck it out all her life.

My Desire to Work for the Church

Around the time I married, nearly thirty-two years ago, I applied for a job with the church in the Information Systems Department. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to work for the church and help with all the technology as it is rolled out throughout the corporation – the institution?” I had a degree in computer programming and a few years’ experience designing database programs.

The Church Responds to My Request

I was surprised when I received a call from Russ Borneman (HR department I think) and Dennis Egget (IS Department) about coming up from California for an Interview. “Sure,” I said. They sent me a round-trip ticket on Western Airlines. I think this was back when the church owned a lot of stock in Western and sat on the board of directors so they got ridiculously low fares.

The Interview – Grilled by the Board

I thought the meeting a little strange. Let me tell you they grilled me. I felt like I was in a police lineup. They put me on a high-backed stool on one side of the room, while a board of about five or six employees from the IS department sat behind a long table on the other side of the room. I must have passed the initial interviews because the rest of the day was spent talking projects.

Objective: Reducing Project Life Cycles

We talked development code, specific assignments and objectives where “new” microcomputer technology could shorten project life-cycles. This was back in 1983. I believe the IBM PC had just been announced. My experience was all in CP/M and dBase coding but it was transferable. When we parted for the day I felt great and thought I had nailed the job. Boy, was I naïve then.

I Move My Family To Salt Lake

Foolishly, I moved my pregnant wife to Salt Lake, went back to the HR department of the church and asked to see Russ.

“What are you doing here?” he said.

“I’m here for the job. You said if I could get to Salt Lake I could start on the projects we talked about.”

He face said it all. It seemed to turn white as a sheet. “I’m so sorry,” he said. We gave the job to the nephew of Brother so and so” – and he named a General Authority. “He applied from another department and we have a policy of promoting from within.”

I Work for Management Systems Corporation

Sensing my disappointment, he cheerfully added, “But why don’t you go down the street to the retail store Management Systems Corporation,” (also owned by the church), “and I’ll put in a good word for you because of your experience with Apple computers. I did and I got the job but it was nowhere near what I needed to support my growing family. Maybe if I were a single guy.

Administration of a World-Wide Church

I told this story many years ago in a previous blog post. I only repeat it here to introduce a topic I’ve been thinking about all day – administration of a world-wide church. I’ve watched with interest as the church has grown in technology over the years. At first, it seemed they were slow to embrace Internet-based applications and anything not dependent on big iron “blue” machines.

The Church Needs and Uses High Tech

“Big Blue” of course is IBM and usually refers to the huge mainframes of yesteryear – the 360’s, 370’s and 390’s. I have no idea what the church uses today, if they still outsource (I doubt it) or if it’s all in-house. I don’t really care. I know they are (or were) big on Novell networks for obvious reasons – made in Provo – and I think they finally got off WordPerfect in the last decade.

Technology in MLS and LDS Tech

I am impressed with the technology of the church today. As a stake clerk I work on MLS every day. I love being able to find answers to just about anything on LDS Tech, a community of other clerks and developers, including many volunteers who give of their time and talent to support the vast and far-flung reaches of the church network. Just think about how it works for a minute.

The Church is Really Like a Bank

By the end of the day each Sunday, any authorized or interested party in the church administration or Church office building knows, to the penny, exactly how much income the church received that day. I am confident there are professional managers whose job it is to trend and forecast the state of contributions each week – and to have a report on some apostle’s desk first thing Monday.

All That Good Money Sitting There Unused

The Church knows exactly where the money is coming from, what areas are feeling the effects of economic downturn and where the fast offerings are being spent. They know exactly how much money is sitting in the missionary funds of each stake – perhaps billions of dollars going unused because many good families pay two years in advance. Others barely make the $400 a month.

Cultural History of the Book of Mormon

If you want to know more about how the church is run at the administrative level, be sure to read the Book of Mammon by Daymon Smith. He’s having a special over the next few months where you can get “The Cultural History of the Book of Mormon” for free, chapter by chapter, via PDF download. I said I was interested in church administration but not so much in our church culture.

Part Two: A Personal Experiencing in Ministering

Now I want to switch gears for a moment. I want to tell you a story about a wonderful spiritual experience I had yesterday (Saturday). I and another High Priest have been home teachers to a returned Mission President for about the last five years. Recently, this good brother contracted cancer. Each time he has a cancer treatment, he has called upon us for a priesthood blessing.

Home Teaching Can Be A Wonderful Thing

He was feeling so good before his last treatment that he felt he could forego the blessing this week. After all, he taught our Gospel Doctrine class just the day before and did a wonderful job. We received a call from his dear wife yesterday (Saturday) asking if we could come and provide a priesthood blessing. Apparently his treatment this week did not go as well as previous visits.

Called Upon to Give a Priesthood Blessing

We were pleased to respond. We alternate blessings with his treatments. He has six total, one every three weeks. I gave the first, my companion last time, so yesterday it was my turn again. Now I have given hundreds, if not thousands of priesthood blessings in my life. Some have been wonderful experiences while some were not efficacious because of a lack of faith somewhere.

Authority Versus Power in The Priesthood

I have been thinking about priesthood blessings a lot over the last few years since I have been introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer. I’ll bet you know what I’m going to say. It is the contention of some that Denver teaches the church is in an apostate condition and has been since the death of Joseph Smith. They claim he teaches the church has no priesthood authority at all.

Don’t Assume What Denver Snuffer Teaches

First of all, I want you to know that Denver does NOT teach that. I specifically wrote about sealing power on my first post about Denver a couple of years ago. He responded that he has never taught the church does not have sealing power. It is his contention that some types of authority or power can only be granted by a voice from heaven. Is that so hard to comprehend?

Being “In the Spirit” While Giving a Blessing

In any event, this is the first blessing I have given since my “episode” with the spirit on my birthday which I wrote about on my previous post. I made a momentous, life-changing decision that, for me – and for my wife – may prove to be a supreme act of sacrifice. I’ve got to tell you my heart has been tender since that day. I have been feeling especially dependent upon the Lord.

Blessing One of the Lord’s Faithful Servants

It was in this state of mind I laid my hands on this faithful returned mission president, former bishop and member of the stake presidency. I know him well and felt honored that he, or rather his faithful wife, had called us to come and give a priesthood blessing. As I sealed the anointing I began to feel something special and sacred that will be difficult to describe but which I’ll try.

Inspiration to Say Something I’d Never Said Before

I acknowledged the priesthood blessing as an act of faith of all in the room. I also acknowledged our dependence on Heavenly Father and his love for us demonstrated through His Son. Then I did something I had never done or said before. I felt impressed to say, “Acting as a conduit for the Lord Jesus Christ, we bless you to receive, through this ministration, virtue into your body.”

The Positive Energy of the Lord – His Virtue

After I said that, I could not speak for several seconds. I felt the love of the Lord for this humble man. I felt the appreciation the Lord had for this man’s years of faithful obedience, sacrifice and service in striving to build the Kingdom of God on the Earth. It was an overwhelming feeling. That is one of the things I miss most about setting people apart when I was in the bishopric.

My Personal Witness of Priesthood Power

There is a real power in the priesthood. It is enabled through our faith and though our desire to say what the Lord would have us say and do what the Lord would have us do. Don’t let anyone ever tell you there is no power in the priesthood. I am a witness that it is real. I know it’s not the ultimate power that comes from having the Lord lay his hands on our heads to confer power.

The Lord Wants Us To Be Conduits Of Virtue

Nevertheless, it is a real power, activated by faith and righteousness. I felt that virtue flow. It was a real sensation. It was a positive and uplifting energy flow that could only have come from the Lord. The Lord is the source of all virtue. It was not because of anything I had done or said. It was because the Lord has virtue to heal and wants His priesthood holders to be His conduits.

The Witness Comes in Exercising The Priesthood

I left that short home teaching visit a sobered and humbled man. Once again, I had received a manifestation from the Lord of his power. It is real. He is real. He is intimately involved in our lives. He wants to bless us. He will bless us according to our faith and righteousness. I am so grateful to be able to exercise the priesthood in behalf of others, especially those I love so much.

Part Three: Stuck in Administration of the Church

Now, my concluding point: Have I ever said how much I dislike Church Administration? I know I said at the beginning of this post how interested I was in church administration when I was a young man. I have had my fill of church administration. I would much rather minister than to administer any day. Why does it seem I’ve been stuck in administrative callings for the past 25 years?

Would Rather Be Teaching, Preaching or Ministering

I would so much rather teach or write or lead a discussion about gospel principles than to go to yet another meeting on how to do a successful stake audit or attend an organization meeting on how to plan a successful meeting or some other inane and basic principle of good planning that any person who has been in the business world or has served a mission knows over and over.

Perhaps As Much As a Year To Get New Job

I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me. I am striving to exercise faith. I know my faith is going to be tried over the next few months. I was surprised in Friday’s senior staff meeting that the CEO announced my resignation and added, “To be effective in one year.” I know I wrote that in the resignation letter but I had every expectation he wanted me out of there as soon as I quit.

Always Wondering How a Entrepreneurial CEO Thinks

Who knows? If I were a CEO, I would want to run my business as efficiently as possible. More to the point, I would want to spend as little money as possible to get the talent I need to run the parts of my business that I don’t understand, don’t have time to understand and don’t want to worry about. I think I’ve given the boss his money’s worth over the past nine years. But now…

Should I Consider Relocating to Utah?

Now it’s time to move on. At 57 years of age. Some people would say I’m done for. Nobody will hire an old man like me. “Overqualified,” they’ll say, code word for “You’re too old and will need too much money.” I know I have my work cut out for me. “Move to Utah,” some of my friends have said. Technology is booming up here.” Ah, yes, the grass is always greener…

We Are All Dependent Upon The Lord

I close with this thought. I love the Lord. I will do anything He asks of me. I have come to the point in my life where I know His voice. I’m not trying to brag. I’m trying to say it’s possible. I know when He speaks to me. I know His promptings. I have not always obeyed and have felt left on my own more times than I want to acknowledge. But I need Him now than I ever have before.

Sacrifice Can Seem Illogical And Unreasonable

Perhaps that’s why he asks us to sacrifice something that is illogical and unreasonable to most people in the world. As I wrote in my last post, what I did went against everything I have always counseled others not to do. Get a job locked down before you quit your present one. But I could not deny the Lord was asking it of me and was pleased with my response. I acted immediately.

Consequences Of Acting Rashly And Impulsively

Carol told me she wanted to respond to some of the comments on the last post and tell how she felt about my decision. Yes, it was rather cold around the house for a couple of days. She had every right to be upset with me. I encouraged her to add to the comments but she declined. She is too busy working her own magic on her blog and promoting her book, now out in paperback.

Thank You For Sharing My Life Online

It’s late and I want to get this posted tonight. I thank each of you who read my ramblings and allow me to share my life online. I’m just a simple Mormon boy coming to grips with a major paradigm shift in my life brought about by the writings of one Denver Snuffer. His books have changed my life. If you haven’t read them, I recommend you do so. You’ll never be the same.

Conversation with an Indian


EnosPraying“Halt, who goes there?”

I stopped cold in my tracks.

The voice spoke again, this time with a bit more gruffness, “Identify yourself, or I will let loose this arrow that is ready to fly into your heart.”

“My…”

“Speak up,” the voice commanded.

“My name is Tim,” I almost shouted.

“What a strange name. What are you doing here, Tim?”

An old man showed himself. He had been hiding behind the tree just ahead to my right. He seemed to be dressed like an Indian, with long white braided hair.

There was something different about the markings of his clothing. I couldn’t quite place it. If I didn’t know better I’d say those markings were Hebrew.

“I’m lost. I’m sorry. Did I frighten you?”

“Ha! You could not frighten a mighty hunter. But you did frighten the deer I was stalking. What was that strange noise you were making?”

“Huh? Oh, you mean the whistling. We do that when we are fright…”

“Yes, I can see you are still trembling. This…whistling…will not increase your courage. You must face your fears squarely, like a man. Like a mighty hunter.”

He had taken the arrow out of the bow, put it in his quiver. He wrapped the bow around his body in a fluid motion. I imagined he had done it thousands of times before.

The Indian walked closer toward me, stopped within an arm’s distance. He crossed his arms, stood proud and erect. He had broad shoulders and was at least a head taller than me.

He looked me over, as if curious to see who dared walk through his forest. He pushed back my hoodie and ran his fingers over my glasses.

“Glasses,” I said. “To help me see better.”

“You are weak,” the Indian said. It was a statement of surprise, but not contempt. “You do not answer my question.”

“Huh?” I said. “Oh, like I said, I’m lost. I’m looking for a way out of this place.” I began to look around as if that would help him see I meant it.

“I have never seen one of your kind in this part of the forest before.” He completed a circle around me, taking in the belt on my blue jeans and my sneakers. “How did you get here?”

“I read your story a few moments ago. Then I knelt down to pray. The next thing I knew I was walking here in the forest looking for a way out.”

“My story…?”

“Yeah…You know. Enos the mighty hunter. Everyone knows your story. You go into the woods to hunt beasts. But instead you get to thinking about what your dad Jacob taught all those years so you…”

“Stop. How do you know my name and that of my father?”

“Oh, come on. Everyone knows your name. You’re Enos, Jacob is your father, mighty preacher of righteousness. Your grandfather was Lehi who crossed the ocean and brought you to this land. I live here too.”

Enos knelt down on one knee and bowed his head. I couldn’t help but follow his example. I watched him closely. He seemed to be praying, but to himself. For a moment I thought I saw tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

I didn’t want to seem rude so I closed my eyes while he finished his prayer. I could tell he was done because I felt him staring at me, but he still knelt.

“So, the promise was fulfilled. But you’re not…”

“A Hebrew or a Nephite like you?”

“You don’t even look like a Lamanite. What are you?”

“I’m an American. I think you guys called us Gentiles.”

“Ah. I see, Tim. You are indeed a Gentile. I can see it now. Nephi told us about you.”

We both rose, He extended his hand as if to shake, I tried to grab it, but he reached past my hand and grabbed my wrist. He held my arm for a long time and looked deep into my eyes.

I felt something pass between us, some sort of energy. It was a positive feeling. There was something special in the arm grasp. It was as if he was greeting a brother. He broke the grip.

“You have great courage to come here, after all, my Gentile friend.”

“Why’s that?”

“This is the spirit world. There must be some doorway nearby or you have some gift. I have been hunting in this forest for many generations. You are the first Gentile I have seen.”

“I’m in the spirit world? Wow. Does that mean I’m dead?”

Enos looked at me closely, squinting. Perhaps his eyes were as poor as his ears.

“No, you are not dead. But I can see you nonetheless. You must be a man of great faith or have some spiritual gift otherwise I could not see you.”

I smiled.

“Do you know what this means?” Enos said.

“Uh, I’m dreaming in my sleep?”

Enos looked at me with sternness. I felt like he wanted to reprimand me.

“No. It means the end of time is approaching. God has shown me your day. He told me the Gentiles would inhabit this land.”

“He told me someday I would meet a Gentile. If you are a Gentile then tell me a little about your world. I want to learn.”

He sat down crossed-legged in front of me. I followed suit.

“Uh, where do I start?”

“Tell me of the record where you learned my name.”

“We call it the Book of Mormon.”

“I do not know this Mormon, but tell me more.”

“Well, Mormon lived after you…a long time after you. He took all the sacred records of Nephi and the other prophets into one place then made a long book from all the little books.”

Enos look at me strangely. “You have seen this book. Someone read it to you?”

“No, we have thousands, even millions of copies of this book printed on paper.”

“I do not know paper. My father told me the Egyptians used something they called papyrus to record their records. He said Nephi had seen them. But I have only these metal plates on which I write the history of my people.”

“That’s right,” I said. “The Gold plates. That’s what Mormon used to put together the history of your people. Then his son hid it in the hill Cumorah until Joseph Smith got them.”

“Curious. I am glad to know our history is so well known. God is truly faithful. He promised me our people would not be forgotten.” Enos looked sad for a moment.

“Tell me. What happened to our people – the Nephites?”

“All destroyed in one huge battle. Even Mormon was hunted down and killed. You guys had a terrible hatred for each other.”

Enos bristled. “They will not listen to reason. They are a stubborn people. I myself had to kill many of my own brethren because they tried to destroy our village. We have moved much.”

“Well, we have your record. It is all over the world. It makes it easier because we have machines that automatically copy them over and over onto the paper or papyrus as you call it.”

“And the Messiah? He came and visited my people as was prophesied?”

“Yes, that’s one of the best parts of the book. He taught his gospel, commanded us to have faith in him, to repent and baptize one another. Having faith is the hard part for me.”

“Yes, I can see it affects your confidence. You must practice like Enos.” He stood. “I prayed all my life to have this gift. You must do the same. It is a most important part of life.”

“Are you leaving?” I said.

“I must go and tell the others that a Gentile has been seen in the forest. It is one of the signs we have been waiting for. I am glad you asked God to help you have faith. It must have opened the door so you could come into this far part of the spirit world. Nobody comes here.”

“Why is that,” I asked.

“This is where the dark spirits stay. They do not like the light. It is also the part closest to your world. You must pray harder to move past the dark area. It is not good to stay here long.”

Once again he extended his hand. This time I grasped his wrist as we had done before.

“Goodbye Tim. I am glad to have met you. You have much to learn but I can see you have found how to access the spirit world. You must be careful from now on.”

“Thank you, Enos. I hope to see you again.”

“That all depends on you and your faith. Pray for the gift. Pray all day long if you have to. God will speak to you. He has spoken to me many times. I will await you in the light.”

And with that he disappeared. Slipped behind the same tree I suppose but I didn’t see him go. I thought for a moment, felt sleep come over me, closed my eyes and awoke in my own bed.

My Defense Before the High Council


32493_000_01_Title.qxdOne of my readers, Steve, asked, “I wondered what you would do if your stake president told you to quit blogging about Denver or you would be exed.” This is a fictional account, based on that very possible what-if scenario that could happen:

What if members were called to account for themselves in regards to the books they read and what they publish on their blogs? Oh, how I hope and pray that day never arrives. Isn’t that what George Orwell’s 1984 was all about?

Standing Before the High Council

“Thank you, President, for allowing me to take a moment to speak. I’ll make this brief. I know your time is precious and I don’t want to prolong this council any longer than necessary. I know we would all like to return home to our families.

“First, please allow me to express how much I love and appreciate each of you brethren. I hope you can feel that. Even if I am excommunicated tonight, I am grateful to have been able to know each of you and to have served with you.

I Have Received Sacred Experiences

“Many years ago, I had some sacred spiritual experiences that convinced me God lived, loved me and had a plan for my life. I have also felt the love of my Savior so many times since that I have a sure and certain witness He is guiding my life.

“In many ways, I have given my life to this church. I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again. I’m simply your typical, average member. I love this church and love the people in it. I love to serve. I’ve always accepted every calling extended to me.

The Approved Curriculum

“Like many of you, I grew up being taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in primary, Sunday school, Seminary, Institute and priesthood quorums. I have always appreciated my brethren and sisters. They were just like me – regular folks. They tried to teach the approved curriculum by the spirit of inspiration.

“Sometimes that process can be a contradiction in terms. What we find and teach from our authorized curriculum is not always exactly the way things happened. That’s OK. It’s faith-promoting and invites the spirit of the Lord to attend us. So what if we leave out some little part of the actual story that makes us look bad?

Some Things Are Embellished

“I always felt it was not worth bringing things up when I knew the teacher was not exactly sharing the perfect truth, meaning the story he or she was relating was later proven to be hearsay or something with a little extra added. We all know, if we have studied our history that some stories are embellished or parts left out.

“I’m sure you know what I mean. Think of Paul Dunn for a moment. He did a lot of good. But the fact remains he embellished some of his stories. Do I love him any less for doing so? No, of course not. He helped me develop faith in the Lord.

My Testimony of Joseph

“I grew up reading the Book of Mormon at my mother’s knee. I literally learned to read from the Book of Mormon when I was five years old. I love that book. I learned long ago it is scripture and contains the word of God.

“Over the years I have made an extensive study of the life of Joseph Smith from as many sources as possible. I have read the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what I have read that claims otherwise, I know Joseph was a prophet.

“Because of my witness, I knew I would serve a mission, marry in the temple and do all I was asked to do over the years to help build up the church through home teaching, serving in callings, paying tithing and trying to be a good example to others.

Asked to Write About the Church

“Shortly before Elder Ballard invited the members of the church to become more involved in the conversations taking place on the Internet, I decided to start my own blog. For those who don’t know, a blog is a website where you keep adding new entries over time. The newest entries always appear at the top of the page.

“At first I simply wrote rebuttals to stuff out there that I knew were lies. I work on the Internet for a living. I read a lot of web pages. It’s my job. I got tired of all the stuff I read out there by those who had an axe to grind against the church.

Members Who Have Doubts

“After a while I noticed those who responded were mainly other members, and then only members responded to my blog posts. They wanted to argue with me. They wanted to show me where I was wrong and why I should think otherwise.

“I considered them naive. I could not believe they were duped by some of the stories out there on the Internet. Even worse, I could not believe they had not read or heard these things growing up. It seemed they wanted to shock me with some new revelation they spouted about how Joseph practiced polygamy or polyandry.

Inoculated at an Early Age

“What they didn’t know is I had a mother who taught me to read and who had a library full of controversial LDS books. She was a teacher. We did not grow up with a television. Reading was something my family did. I grew up with four sisters. We went to the library each Saturday and came home with a dozen books.

“I mainly read science fiction, but I also read a lot of history, especially from my mother’s library – LDS history. Mother was a Gospel Doctrine teacher and she loved to research her subjects. I think I read No Man Knows My History when I was in seminary. I was probably only fourteen or fifteen years old at the time.

“For those who may not know, the author of that controversial book was President McKay’s niece. She was excommunicated for writing that book. I first learned of polygamy from Fawn Brodie, and more to the point, of Joseph’s polygamy. There are seminary students in our stake today who know absolutely nothing about polygamy or that we ever practiced it as a church, especially in Joseph’s time.

Sympathizing with an Apostate

“I stand before you today accused of sympathizing with an individual whose teachings are contrary to the official story of our church history as found in our curriculum. I can’t believe it has come to this. Are we now willing to discipline our own church members simply for what they read? I can see the importance of writing uplifting material, but not everything in our church history is uplifting.

“I have always made it a point to teach ONLY authorized material from the official curriculum when I am asked to teach or speak in church. However, this is my private blog, in which I quote what others have said about the church. I offer my opinion and sometimes additional insights that come to me as I write about them.

Encourage Others to Remain Faithful

“If I were publishing things in my blog that advocated members to leave the church then I could understand the reason for this council. I don’t encourage others to teach the things I write in my book reviews. I always reassure my readers they should teach only what is found in our official curriculum. That is what the Brethren have asked us to do and I sustain that decision. Milk before meat, right?

“My whole blog is about LDS-related book reviews and specifically books that deal with the doctrines of the Last Days – the Coming of the Lord and how it will happen. That’s all I write about and nothing more. I comment a lot on Denver Snuffer’s books because he has written so much in this area. His writings are controversial, especially now that he is probably about to be excommunicated.

My Testimony and Conclusion

“That’s all I wanted to say. I love this church. I know it is authorized by the Lord to preach the gospel, to perform the ordinances of salvation, to print the scriptures, to collect tithing and to build temples. I am happy to be a part of the work. I hope to contribute until the return of the Lord. I believe my blog helps some people who struggle come to grips with some of the more difficult parts of our history.

“I will do as this council directs. Specifically president, if you ask me to take my blog down or at least to stop publishing or reporting on what Denver Snuffers says as he conducts his lectures over the next year, I will do so. But I can’t believe we would let it come to such a thing – controlling the lives of our members like that.”

Can the Church Control Bloggers?

And that is the end of my imaginary defense I would offer if I were called in to defend myself for writing about Denver Snuffer and his teachings. By the way, I ran this by my wife. She thought it was funny and said I was being overly dramatic but I don’t think so. I’ve read of bloggers being asked to stop writing certain things about the church, haven’t you? There just seems to be something wrong with that.

Our Libraries Get in our Way


GoodreadsScanI just discovered the scan icon on my Goodreads iPhone app. What I thought would be a totally manual process of entering my 2,000+ library of books into Goodreads has now turned into a manageable project. I just scanned a dozen and entered them in about ten minutes. You can even scan a whole bunch at a time and put them on the same shelf – read, to be read, or whatever.

My Worldly Possessions

This is a project I’ve wanted to do for years – catalog my library. I have only a few worldly possessions I would miss if I did not have them. 1) My computers. I make my living with my computers. Without them I would not be of much value to my employer. 2) My car, of course, because I live in Southern California and could not work the weird schedule I do without it.

A Source of Pride

3) My books. Ah, my library. I confess it’s a source of pride. I know that’s wrong. I love to collect books. When I get a new book, it’s usually on the recommendation of someone I trust. When I receive it, I scan through it, become familiar with the contents, decide if I want to read it right now and either read it or add it to the library, intending to get around to reading it someday.

Interfere With Knowing God

Denver Snuffer said the following about our libraries: “It isn’t the volume of the books we possess which helps our search into deep truths.  Indeed, our libraries may well interfere with knowing God.  It is the depth of how we live the basic principles contained in the scriptures which let the light of heaven shine into our lives.” (Denver Snuffer Blog entry, 23 March 2010)

An Early Love of Books

I know where this thing about books comes from – my mother. I grew up surrounded by books. Every room in our house growing up had a bookcase. The front room had hundreds, perhaps thousands, just like mine has now. Each bedroom had its own bookcase and mine was filled with Caldecott and Newbury award winning books. Mother made sure we had the best books to read.

Learned to Read Book of Mormon

Family trips to the local public libraries each week was my favorite thing to do. We did not grow up with television in our home so reading was the main activity of my youth. My mother read to me nightly and we read out loud as a family. It was an old cheap brown-covered Book of Mormon that I remember reading with my mother the year our family found and joined the church in 1962.

Book of Mormon Connects Me

She would mark out all iterations of the phrase “and it came to pass” as she read. “Didn’t sound like good English,” she said. I didn’t mind. I just learned to skip them when it was my turn to read. So I literally learned to read with the Book of Mormon before I was five years old. It’s no wonder I love this book. It’s special to me. I’ve connected to it through all phases of my life.

Love of Science Fiction

In High School I developed a love for Science Fiction. I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series before it became popular. I read the Dune series by Frank Herbert – loved the books, hated the movie. Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, then Isaac Asimov Robot series, Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land, Ray Bradbury – Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Michael Crichton. I read all the classics for many years in my youth.

Technical Reading – How Boring

Sadly, I stopped reading fiction after high school. I got a degree in computers and started my career and family. I read technical manuals for fun. I dug into books on programming techniques and network protocols, phone systems and the Internet. I make my living supporting computers and networks. I work for a private jet management and charter company at a local Southern California airport. I read a lot of news and blogs, especially in science and technology. But I still don’t read a lot of fiction. In fact, I’ve probably read less than a dozen fiction books in ten tears.

Someone Had to Write the Scripts

I’ve always had an interest in disaster movies. I’m fascinated to see Hollywood portrayals of how people will react to a terrible tragedy of global proportions. Most of the disaster movies have been blockbuster hits so I’m not alone in my interest. Earthquake (74), Dante’s Peak (97), Deep Impact (98), Armageddon (98), Day After Tomorrow (04), Knowing (09), 2012 the movie (09) and When Worlds Collide, first made in 1951. I think somebody is working on a remake.

Alternative Model of the Universe

I became deeply interested in Astronomy in college. I love the study of the Sun, comets, meteors, and the planets, especially the inner planets. I subscribe to an alternative view of cosmology different from the astronomical standard model, something called the electric universe. One of the most radical ideas of this alternative model is that the sun is powered directly from an external source, not necessarily by internal thermonuclear fusion. I know it goes against science.

Becoming a Professional Writer

For about the last four or five years I have been taking professional writing classes and seminars, mostly with Carol. She has been much more serious about this than I have. Her first novel has been accepted and will be published within the next month or two. Things move fast in the world of e-publishing. I’ve been thinking it’s time for me to catch up and finish the novel I started.

Odds are Against First Novelists

I read a disturbing statistic the other night. “According to one conservative estimate, upwards of 30,000 writers in the U.S. are currently struggling to write or publish their first novel. Perhaps .001% of them will be published at some point.” Wow. What makes me think I could write a novel that anyone would want to read or buy? I know some of those 30,000 aspiring writers.

A Work in Progress

I know a few of my readers have ventured up to the top of my blog section entitled “Red Sky – LDS Fiction.” It contains PDFs of the drafts I have taken to our monthly writer’s groups where we read and critique each other’s work. I have received some good public and private feedback. Some of it has been not so good. Sections need to be rearranged; some corny dialog chopped.

Writing is a Lonely Business

Writing is a lonely business. It takes discipline. You’re supposed to set a reasonable goal for yourself and then churn out X number of words per day. Perhaps I haven’t wanted this published badly enough. It’s been on my mind a lot more lately. I know I’ll regret if I get to the end of my life and don’t at least finish, edit and try to publish the book. I can see it in my mind’s eye now.

Prioritizing The Important

I can name about ten projects I have put on my plate, could be working on and never seem to be able to make more than a little progress on any one of them. Do any of you have that same problem? I’m wondering if this Goodreads library scanning project is just another one that has now gotten in the way of finishing my book. It makes me wonder what I’m trying to avoid.

Overcoming Fear of Success

Everyone has to ask themselves what they fear most about success. What if the book really does take off and a legitimate New York Publishing house wants a contract? I already know an agent who has said she would be happy to represent me based on what she has read so far. What about movie rights? Doesn’t every writer of disaster fiction want to see his book made into a movie?

Making a Book More Than Palatable

Then, of course, the book could be awful. It could be something that is not interesting to a large number of people – critical to success in book publishing. Poor grammar and weak sentence structure can be overcome with good coaching. I know one of the best who has offered his services for a very reasonable rate – $50 an hour. He has helped hundreds publish their books.

Finishing a Project Takes Work

When I pray about my book, I can see the chapters in my mind’s eye. Someone is trying to help me. I know the story. I know the scriptures on which it is based. I think my characters are at least a little bit interesting, or so I’ve been told. The dialog is good; the action scenes are fast paced. So why do I have this self-doubt? I suppose it’s because I’ve seen others write books that failed.

A Change of Direction for my Blog

For my regular readers, I hope you’ll excuse this public foray into musing about my alternatives. There is no discussion of theological doctrine here, no thoughts offered about how I think things could be better if we only did this or that, and no revelations of some inside tidbit of information derived via email from a high-ranking source inside the church office building or elsewhere.

Public Commitment to a Project

They say that making and announcing a public goal helps to get it accomplished. I’ve heard of people who lose weight this way. I know of people who get projects done when they tell their family and friends it will be completed by a certain period of time. I guess they hope that others who love them will ask them occasionally how the project is going and when it will be finished.

Thinking Out Loud Here

So I’m going to go out on a limb here and commit myself to finishing my book by December. I’ve got over a dozen chapters written. Most need additional editing or rearranging. I probably won’t use them all in the finished book. I’m thinking I want this book to be about 180 pages. Although my genre is disaster fiction, the average science-fiction book is about 105,000 words.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

I’ve written about 27,000 words so I’m a fourth of the way through the first rough draft if I use all the stuff I’ve written so far. Of course, there’s all the editing to be done. Writing a book is a big project. How do people do it and still hold down a full-time job, take care of their family, church and social obligations? How do they keep that motivation to do the hard work of churning out another 1,500 to 2,000 words when they come home after an hour commute from the office?

Got to Have a Story to Tell

I think the answer to motivation is that you’ve got to have a story to tell and you’ve got to be passionate about it. I believe I’ve got one but I’m going to split this post in two and give you a rough outline of the story and why I think it’s exciting. According to my stats I have a couple hundred regular readers plus the one-time readers who come for my review of Visions of Glory. I invite your opinions.

Fulfilling a Long-Time Promise

That’s enough of the background story. The bottom line for me is that I’ve made a promise to a friend to write this book and I intend to fulfill it. I’m excited about the possibilities of the story and the feedback I’ve received each time I share a chapter in a writer’s group. An early chapter was published in my college literary magazine awhile back. Let’s skip to part two of this post.

Ten Signs of the Second Coming


Samuel the Lamanite visited the Nephite people just a few years before the birth and death of the Savior. Because they rejected him, he stood with courage upon the wall of their capital city and declared things the Lord put into his heart and mind. I recently had the opportunity to teach the gospel doctrine class as we considered Samuel’s prophecies.

The signs of the Savior’s birth, which focused on light, saved a people who professed to believe in Jesus Christ. I have always wondered how a society could have deteriorated to the point where a government would allow people to be put to death for their beliefs. Will we see a day where our government sanctions murder for a belief in Jesus Christ?

Samuel’s prophecies of destruction at the death of the Savior halfway around the world were fulfilled as powerful cataclysmic forces ripped through the Western Hemisphere. A modern prophet has declared that conditions and events similar to Samuel’s time will be fulfilled again in our day. We would do well to be familiar with Samuel’s teachings.

Preparing for the Second Coming

Consider these words of President Ezra Taft Benson delivered in General Conference of October 1986 as he offered us his landmark address on the keystone of our religion. “In the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for preparing for the Second Coming. A major portion of the book centers on the few decades just prior to Christ’s coming to America.

“By careful study of that time period, we can determine why some were destroyed in the terrible judgments that preceded His coming and what brought others to stand at the temple in the land of Bountiful and thrust their hands into the wounds of His hands and feet.” By studying the Book of Mormon we learn how to be prepared to meet the Lord.

“Can anyone doubt that this book was meant for us and that in it we find great power, great comfort, and great protection?” And in April of 1987: “The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” Let’s consider just a few of those parallels.

1. Strong Righteous Minority 1 Nephi 14:12 & Jacob 5:70

There were but few who were righteous, few who professed to believe in the Savior and few who endeavored to serve the master by declaring his teachings to the world. We find ourselves in a similar situation today. As the second advent of the Lord approaches, the number of those baptized into the Lord’s church is few compared to the world.

Critics have asked why the Mormon Church has just a few million members while there are so many billions of people in the world. They offer this as evidence that we cannot be the Lord’s servants, authorized to offer the ordinances of salvation to the world, as we claim. The scriptures offer evidence to the contrary. “Their dominions were small.”

We proclaim to the world that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church authorized to perform ordinances required by the Lord to enter his kingdom. It is in the Mormon Church that you will find the Priesthood of God, men sanctioned by the Lord to act in his behalf administering baptism and other necessary, sacred ordinances.

2. Spiritual Outpourings and Miracles  Helaman 16:13-14, Joel 2:28-30 and D&C 45:39-42

Just prior to the Lord’s birth, “angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy.” Angels have appeared unto man again in our day as announced by the prophet Joseph Smith and many others. Angels declare unto men “glad tidings of great joy.” We proclaim that angels continue to visit wise men today.

A modern prophet has declared that the prophecy in Joel has been fulfilled. The Lord is pouring out his spirit upon all flesh. Young men see visions. Old men dream dreams of the Lord. Sons and daughters of the saints prophesy. Wonders in the heavens and in the earth are being shown forth. The meanings are being revealed to those who ask of God.

Many signs and wonders shall yet come to pass. Not all of that verse in Joel has been fulfilled. Perhaps we have seen some “blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.” But “before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.” That has obviously yet to be fulfilled.

3. Great Wickedness  2 Tim 3:1-5 and D&C 45:26-27

Who can doubt that ours is a day of wickedness or that we live in perilous times? These are indeed the last days. In Samuel’s day, the Nephites claimed to be a righteous people, favored of God and protected from evil. Like those self-deceived Nephites then, we live among a world that says black is white and white is black. They deny the power of God.

Wars and rumors of wars are non-stop. The whole earth is in commotion. Men’s hearts are failing them, meaning they are no longer standing for courageous ideals. Many say that Christ delays his coming. Perhaps he will wait until the end of the world. We live in a cold society, where iniquity abounds and the wicked are rewarded for their deceptions.

Even among the saints of the Lord, those who have been baptized into his church, we find many who find nothing wrong with the ways of the world. “Why do we judge and reject them? God would not do so,” they say. “Why do we condemn their teachings or practices as unnatural or ungodly?” Yet God continues to condemn wickedness today.

4. Rejection of the Lord’s Prophets and their Call to Repentance  D&C 1:14-16

There is no truer sign of a prophet than a call to repentance. If any of us think we have no need to repent then we deceive ourselves. There is always something we can do to improve ourselves and always something we can do better to please the Lord. The need to repent and turn to the Lord has never been greater than it is in the world today.

Do we seek to establish the Lord and his righteousness or are we more interested in “doing our own thing” until the end of our life? How diligent are we in giving heed to the words of the servants of the Lord, His apostles and prophets? Have we received all the ordinances that the Lord requires of us, including those in the house of the Lord?

For the most part, the world has ignored the invitation of the Lord’s prophets today to come unto Christ through baptism by his authorized servants. The day is coming that the arm of the Lord shall be revealed. Those who have taken the voices of the world for their guide will be cut off from the people of the Lord who shall be saved at his coming.

5. Conversion of Many Lamanites  Hel 15:12-13, D&C 49:24

One of the miraculous events that transpired before the Lord visited the people of the ancient American continent was the conversion of the Lamanites. These descendants of Father Lehi had lived as a dark and loathsome people for many generations. Once they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ they became a fair and delightsome people.

In the last days, before the great day of the Lord shall come, the children of Father Lehi will blossom as the rose, be brought to the true knowledge of their Redeemer, and be numbered among his sheep. They shall flourish in the wilderness, meaning they shall be blessed in their many countries and build up families unto the Lord in righteousness.

In spite of great wickedness in many of their countries, including the United States, the children of Father Lehi have joined the church in great numbers throughout America. They have a great work to do in the very last days as they will assist in the building of the great temple complex in the center stake of Zion. It is their heritage and promise.

6. Prophecy of a Night with no Darkness  Hel 14:3-4 and Zech 14:1-7

Until I prepared this lesson, I’m not sure I fully realized that the prophecy of a night with no darkness would be fulfilled once again at the second coming of the Savior. We all know the story of the night without darkness as told in the Book of Mormon. It came to pass on a most traumatic day in the lives of the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I know I had read the scripture in Zachariah before but I had not understood that it was referring to a time other than when the Savior was born. If you read it carefully, you will discover that it makes reference to the day when the Savior’s feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives. Of course we all know this refers to the second coming of the Lord.

The Gospel Doctrine lesson manual makes reference to page 287 in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. My library is currently in storage while we replace our flooring. In that quote, apparently Joseph teaches that the night without darkness will occur once again as one of the signs of the Savior’s return. Of course by then it will be too late.

Update: My library is out of storage. Page 287 of TPJS contains the quote about the “one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” (DHC 5:336-337)

7. Prophecies of Signs and Wonders in the Heavens  Hel 14:5-6, Joel 2:30-31 and D&C 45:39-42

Besides the new star, the scriptures speak of many signs and wonders in the heavens and in the earth. We have already mentioned blood, fire, and pillars of smoke, the sun turned into darkness, the moon into blood and the stars falling from heaven. These are given for signs of the coming of the Son of Man and we should be carefully looking for them.

In modern terminology, perhaps we should be looking for such things as unpredicted meteorite showers, unusually large or numerous sunspots or flares on the sun, changes in the orbits of the planets, the appearance of numerous comets and asteroids, or even a repeat of the Peshtigo fires which some declared to be fire from the sky or burning sand.

Those who fear the Lord will be looking for the great and dreadful day to arrive. Fear means to respect or to give careful heed. He will not come unannounced. We should not be surprised when that day comes. The signs are known and foretold in advance. They are prophesied because he loves us and wants us to be prepared for that terrible day.

8. Denials of Signs, Wonders and Christ’s Coming  Hel 16:15-17, 2 Pet 3:3-4 and D&C 45:25-27

When these signs start to appear in the heavens, it is reasonable for men to look to the science of astronomy to understand and explain them. And there will, of course, be some very reasonable explanations that they are natural phenomenon even if they were not predicted. But should we not look to prophets for our explanations and reasons?

You can use your intellect exclusively to explain away these things when they begin or you can accept the words of the prophets that they are signs of the closeness of the return of the Savior. There will be scoffers in the last days who say that all things remain as they were from the beginning of creation; in other words, this is all normal.

Even when the whole earth is in commotion, with more and more powerful earthquakes, the sea heaving itself beyond its bounds, volcanos in unusual places, numerous and unusual comets, meteors and asteroids, men will say that there is some other reasonable explanation, but that it has absolutely nothing to do with the prophesy of Christ’s return.

9. Prophecies of Great Storms and other Natural Destruction Rev 16:18-21 and D&C 88:87-90

By the time this sign rolls around, it will be too late. The day of the Lord will be upon us. But we will not be able to say that we weren’t warned. There will be many signs leading up to the great storms and natural destruction that will occur when the Savior comes. Read the Book of Revelation carefully to understand some of those signs.

There will be voices, loud sounds from within our planet as it communicates with the approaching heavens. The Lord has said that he comes with the City of Enoch. We are taught and believe that it will be a physical return of a large portion of our planet that was broken off. Can you imagine what that will be like when they come close together?

Thunders, lightnings, great earthquakes, mountains being cast down, valleys raised, a great hail from heaven and stars falling into the sea. This hail will not be water or ice. It will be large pieces of rock and earth. In other words, they are meteorites and asteroids. The earth will tremble to and fro at the approach of the Lord and the City of Enoch.

10. Prophecy of the Destruction of the Wicked  Isa 26:20-21, Mal 4:1, D&C 1:9-14 and D&C 133:40-44

The Lord warns the righteous to be prepared for that great and dreadful day. He tells us to seek safety indoors, to hide ourselves for a little moment until the destruction passes. It will be a hot day. It will burn as an oven. All those who are out of doors will burn like stubble in the field. Only those who are besieging Israel will be out of doors that day.

The wicked will be destroyed by the brightness of his coming. The Lord has warned them and has told us to warn them, but they heed not the warnings and prophecies. We are to prepare for the day when the anger of the Lord is kindled, when the sword bathed in heaven shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth. It will be a great and terrible day.

Because of their disobedience and their determination to fight against Israel, the wrath of God will be poured out without measure. They have sealed up their destruction. They have willfully rebelled and chosen to seek the destruction of the people of the Lord. The presence of the Lord shall be as melting fire, but the righteous shall be caught up.

Summary and Conclusion

This is one of the longer essays I have written. I have worked on it for over a week as I have pondered the signs prophesied by Samuel that will be fulfilled again in the very last days. We are fast approaching those days which the righteous need not fear. We have been warned and we know what to expect. We will be prepared when it comes.

There are so many more signs of the second coming that we could add to this list but these are the ones specifically mentioned by Samuel we have been taught will come to pass again before the Lord returns. I have written much about the natural explanations of how some of these events will come about, but they are not acceptable to science.

I am grateful for the assignment to teach this lesson that helped me focus my mind on these conditions and events that are obviously coming to pass again just as they were in the days before the Lord visited the Nephites. The Book of Mormon is indeed a guide for our day to be prepared for these terrible events that must come when Christ returns.

The Book of Mormon, A Biography


Lives of Great Religious Books, Princeton University Press
March 2012, 280 pages, $24.95, small size – 4 ½ W by 7 ½ H
ISBN: 9780691144801, includes 23 halftone B/W photos
ISBN for the eBook (same price): 9781400841615
Paul C. Gutjahr, Professor of English, Indiana University

Introduction

This is a book about a book. That’s not unique but the subject of the book is very unique. The Book of Mormon launched a religious movement. It is an influential book, a controversial book, a best-selling book (150 million copies) and a well-read book. It has a lot of history (182 years), has been translated into over 100 languages and has survived intense scrutiny and criticism.

The book has inspired countless pieces of art, poetry and music and has been the subject of numerous movies and plays, most recently the successful Broadway musical of the same name. It is a part of the daily spiritual life of millions of people, considered a sacred text, holy writ comparable to the Bible or the Koran, presented to the world as evidence of modern revelation.

Every day, new readers discover it for the first time, usually after being introduced to it by a friend or by Mormon missionaries. You can check it out at the library, read it online or download it for free to your Kindle, iPhone, iPad or Android. If you want to discuss it you can find several hundred websites, blog posts, forums and online articles filled with commentary and explanation.

A Biography

Until now there has never been a definitive biography of the Book of Mormon. Paul Gutjahr’s latest offering fills that need. Although not a Latter-day Saint, Paul is well-qualified to write this biography (see About the Author below). Those not of the faith will find it scholarly and well written. Most Latter-day Saints will find it informative, interesting and surprisingly refreshing.

This book biography is part of a series from Princeton University Press entitled, Lives of Great Religious Books. Other works in the series include The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The I Ching, The Book of Revelation, The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Bhagavad Gita and many others. Just as we enjoy reading biographies of famous artists, these book biographies should prove interesting.

My review is from the viewpoint of an orthodox member of the LDS faith. I am not a scholar. I’m just a regular blogger so I’m not sure why Princeton asked me to review the book but I’m honored to do so. Besides, I’m always grateful to add good books like this to my library. My experience with reading Paul’s latest offering was enjoyable, enlightening and entertaining.

Physical Appearance

The first thing that stuck me was the photo of the angel Moroni on the cover and the size of the book. It is only a half-inch taller than today’s common blue-backed editions of the Book of Mormon. I took it to a church social the day I got it. A number of people commented on the beautiful cover and similar appearance to the Book of Mormon. I think that was intentional.

Because of the small size, this book can be read in just a few hours. The acid-free paper is much thicker than the Book of Mormon but has less than half the pages. The actual number of reading pages is 195 if you count from prologue to epilogue. The rest are appendices, notes and an index. The dust jacket is a unique, rubberized type of cover, one I have never seen on a book before.

There are almost two dozen photographs, maps and illustrations sprinkled generously throughout the book. I especially liked the chart of the various printed editions. Some of the maps were supplied courtesy of the church archives, including one that has an error, faithfully reproduced. The location of Voree, Wisconsin, once home of the Strangite movement is shown in Michigan.

Content of the Book

You won’t find a lot of information on the content of the Book or Mormon in Paul’s biography. There is little to no discussion of doctrine or theology. However, there is much of history to be found, some of which I didn’t know even though I have been a life-long member of the church. The history provides a rich background for the publishing timeline of the Book of Mormon.

For example, I was not aware previously that there were differences in the American and the English editions which caused some problems when they were brought back together for the current 1981 edition. The problem arose because the English editions were based on the 1837 edition. The American editions were based on the last one revised by Joseph Smith in 1840.

The theme of Paul’s biography is the story of how the Book of Mormon has “grown up” into what it is today. When I served my mission in 1976, we used the Book of Mormon heavily and as a central focus of our message. I later learned that it was not always so and Paul illustrated this for me with his chapter on Missionary Work. The Book of Mormon has now come full circle.

Survey of Criticism

Some members of the church don’t like to read scholarly reviews of our sacred text because of necessity they contain equal time for those who have written against the work. I think that it is wrong to not make an effort to understand what unbelievers have said. Gutjahr presents all the usual early critics, but does so in a neutral way that lets the reader reach their own conclusions.

This is what scholarly works do best and why regular members of the church should read them. It helps us keep our heads from being stuck in the sand. I found Paul’s work in this area well presented. Members should not be offended by what he has written. Paul has kept his personal opinions out of his writing. It is neutral, unbiased and straightforward. In short, it is truthful.

If you have not heard of or read about Philastus Hurlbut’s affidavits, Eber Dudley Howe’s 1834 book Mormonism Unveiled, the second Spaulding manuscript theory, or Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, then you should take the time to become familiar with them. Gutjahr presents them for us in a non-threatening manner that should allow LDS members to converse intelligently.

Modern Scholarly Approach

Millions of church members who have read the Book of Mormon rely on a divine confirmation of the veracity of the record. For most of them, this is enough. Yet many still seek for a more intellectual approach to the book that millions today accept as the word of God. If you want a good survey of recent and current scholarly analysis of the Book of Mormon, Paul offers it.

In fifteen pages of chapter six, Paul whets our appetite for some of the academic research being done on the Book of Mormon. If you are not already familiar with FARMS, now part of the BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute, you should be. We are also introduced to Terryl Givens (By the Hand of Mormon) and Grant Hardy’s work (Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide).

This is a chapter that I think could have been expanded a great deal. In fact, I would venture to say that someone should take this basic survey and expand it into a doctoral thesis. We need Mormon scholars who understand intellectual and theological history well enough to offer the academic world a defining work of rigorous scholarship deserving of the Book of Mormon.

Artistic Interpretations

The most delightful parts of the book for me were the chapters on Illustrating the Book and The Book on Stage and Screen. I knew about Arnold Friberg and Minerva Teichert because their works are hanging in temples and church buildings throughout the world. Although I had heard about George Reynolds The Story of The Book of Mormon, I had never seen a printed copy.

Thanks to the modern miracle of Internet technology, you can read it online, and view all the wonderful illustrations that accompanied it. The copy I linked to is autographed by Wilford Woodruff. Reynolds book was the first attempt to create an illustrated version of the Book of Mormon told in story fashion for young readers. His work has a romantic look and feel to it.

Until I read Gutjahr’s book, I had no idea about some of the early history of the Book of Mormon in the theater. For some reason, I assumed the recent Broadway musical was the first time the book had been used for a production. If you have not already, you must read about Corianton, the Story of Unholy Love. If not from Paul, then read about it here and here from Ardis Parshall.

Summary and Conclusion

The Book of Mormon has become a part of American culture, indeed worldwide culture. It has a life of its own, beyond the control of the Church that publishes it and expends so much time, effort and energy to get it into the hands of as many people as possible throughout the world. The “Mormon Moment” we are experiencing is made possible by this now venerable old book.

Paul Gutjahr has given us a fresh look at a book that so many millions revere as proof of modern revelation and of God’s love for his children in our day and age. The book offers a few unique new insights, much information not well-known, and a balanced approach to the current state of scholarly research on the Book of Mormon. I enjoyed reading and believe it worth your time.

The Book is respectful, thoughtful, and enjoyable to read. It is entertaining yet intellectual. It traces the history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in 1830 into what it is today. You may see the Book of Mormon in a new light after reading Paul’s biography. If nothing else, you will better appreciate the fact that the Book of Mormon is here to stay and is worth studying.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Joseph’s Gold Bible
Chapter 2 – Holy Writ or Humbug?
Chapter 3 – Multiplying Prophets
Chapter 4 – Great Basin Saints and the Book
Chapter 5 – Missionary Work and the Book
Chapter 6 – Scholars and the Book
Chapter 7 – Illustrating the Book
Chapter 8 – The Book on Stage and Screen
Appendix 1 – Notable Book of Mormon Editions in English
Appendix 2 – Book of Mormon Translations

About the Author

Dr. Gutjahr received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1996. His specialized field of research is the history of publishing and literacy in the United States or as he calls it, “History of the Book Studies” in North America. He has written extensively on the production of the English Bible in North America. He lends that analytical expertise to The Book of Mormon, A Biography.

Paul’s research interests are American religious and intellectual thought, religious publishing and American literature and culture 1640-1860. I think I would have enjoyed taking some classes from Dr. Gutjahr. One graduate course is entitled, “The Most Turbulent Decade: America in the 1840s.” His biography of Charles Hodge was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Other Reviews

Princeton University Press      Indiana University
Amazon           Google Books             Goodreads
Pacific Standard, Wade Clark Roof   Booklist
Library Journal (Scroll down – third review)
Meridian Magazine, Grant Hardy       Dialogue, Blair Hodges
(Also found on By Common Consent)
Deseret News, Ryan Morgenegg        Standard Examiner, Doug Gibson
The Juvenile Instructor – a fascinating Q&A with Paul
Washington Post, Justin Moyer – short but highly quoted
(Breitbart and Ex-Mo Forums – Reviews of the WaPo review)
Mormon Letters Forum, Matthew R. Lee
Modern Mormon Men, Scott Hales
National Post, Canada – Excerpt, not a review (pages 61-70)

An Evening with Richard Bushman


About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.

For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.

Open and honest discussion

It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.

There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.

A well-qualified historian

One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.

Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.  He knows early church history.

Serving faithfully in the church

And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple.  I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history.  I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.

I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.”  I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.

Believing in spite of knowing

This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?”  I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.

Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?

Shocked by our history

Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church?  For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey.  Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.

Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.”  Things were different back then, weren’t they?  The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.

History not being hidden

When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.

For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.

Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright

Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission.  Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.

We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review.  Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.

Consider carefully the source

For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil.  Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.

We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.

Get the facts straight

If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.

Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?

The Joseph Smith Papers

Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation.  In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.

I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.

We can believe the prophet

As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.

Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.

My Interview with Mormon.org


On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org.  There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.

01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?

Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer.  We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work.  We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help.  We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service.  It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.

02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?

The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another.  I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not.  It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that.  To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.  He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.

03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.

Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is.  Think about it!  Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday.  It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God.  I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.

04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.

I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man.  He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed.  But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come.  I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.

05. Why do Mormons go on missions?

I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries.  As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries.  It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism.  I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.

06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?

Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives.  I am a product of all those who came before me.  My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover.  Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation.  We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).

07. How has attending Church services helped you?

One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday.  I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings.  I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior.  I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week.  That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week.  I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.

08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?

Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry.  I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure.  So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members.  I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most.  We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.

09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?

Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding.  Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control.  We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material.  So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!”  It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content.  We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.

10. Could you talk about your baptism?

I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago.  My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance.  I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission.  My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood.  I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back.  I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance.  It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.

11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?

I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior.  I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others.  I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way.  I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion.  I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too.  Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger.  I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life.  The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.

12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity.  Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations.  When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift.  The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices.  Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes.  The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.

13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?

There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two.  Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife.  After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy.  I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there.  One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me.  I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family.  I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers.  I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later.  The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.

14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?

My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual.  I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life.  But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family.  We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals.  For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active.  We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community.  The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.

15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?

Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world.  Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary.  I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come.  Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things.  Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be.  The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.

16. What is hope and what do you hope for?

Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life.  Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow.  I hope for a glorious resurrection.  I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life.  Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here.  This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.

17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?

In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life.  Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is.  One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8).  In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted.  Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy.  The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream.  What a great story!

18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?

I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift.  The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life.  The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places.  The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered.  The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain.  The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.

19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?

It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life.  For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting.  But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good.  The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him.  And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better.  It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.”  I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.

20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?

One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved.  We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us.  Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes.  Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do.  We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.

21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?

Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome.  For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment.  In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak.  We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come.  We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.

22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life.  Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent).  But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member.  Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors.  When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.

23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?

A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer.  I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers.  And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself.  My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit.  The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer.  I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.

24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?

I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old.  I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher.  Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together.  I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it.  In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family.  No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed.  The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God.  It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us.  The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.

25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?

Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints.  Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy.  We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church.  In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do.  I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis.  These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.

The endowment is more than the ordinances


The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have.  The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.

You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?”  A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.

The redemptive mission of the Savior

In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.

He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.

Receive the Holy Ghost

This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”  This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.

I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it.  Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.

Promise of the Father

One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power.  The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us.  So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.

The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father.  Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created.  It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost.  This fills us with great power.

We must seek this gift

I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed.  I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.

We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer.  We must hunger and thirst after this gift.  As Paul said, we must covet this gift.  It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more.  Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.

Temple ordinances part of the process

We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed.  The temple ordinances serve two purposes.  They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom.  I believe it is analogous to being born again.  It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost.  The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.

Endowed with power

The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name.  Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.

The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high.  It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.

More than the ordinances

The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple.  The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power.  There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.

The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s.  It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.

Pattern found in Third Nephi

In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem.  Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.

Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world.  They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side.  They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.

Witnesses know for themselves

Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute.  They had seen him and they had touched him.  No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.

And yet they lacked something.  When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.

The endowment begins

It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day.  Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.

Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention.  He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.

In the midst of fire

The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.”  I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times.  This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.

This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire.  The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not.  This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.

To be continued…

Divine manifestations must have a purpose


One of the delightful parts of a stake temple night is the opportunity to be taught by a member of the temple presidency.  On one particular occasion many years ago, the Temple President felt inspired to relate a few stories that patrons had shared with him about spiritual manifestations that they had received while serving in the LA temple.  It was an uplifting and edifying session.

I was very impressed with what the Temple President spoke about that evening.  He related some very sacred experiences of visits from the other side of the veil from deceased family members for whom the work was being done.  He gave specific examples of what people saw, heard or felt that was evidence to them of the validity of this work and that it is accepted by their relatives.

A conversation with my Stake President

While preparing to leave the temple that evening, I conversed with my Stake President about the things the Temple President had taught us in our chapel session.  I had served with this Stake President for several years on the High Council and felt comfortable sharing heartfelt concerns.  I knew that he would carefully consider what I had to say before answering with thoughtfulness.

“President”, I said, “I’ve been coming to this temple since I was twelve years old.  In fact, I was six years old when I was sealed here to my parents.  I have many sacred memories of this place.  I was endowed here when I was nineteen and married to my sweetheart not too many years after completing my mission.  I have participated in several thousand ordinances here in this temple.

Sacred temple manifestations

“So why is it that I have never experienced any of these kinds of sacred manifestations that the temple president described?”  As I expected, he thought for a few minutes while we continued to change back into our street clothes after the evening’s temple work was completed.  After a moment, he paused, put his hand on my shoulder and then responded very slowly and carefully.

“Brother Malone, some people do not require manifestations to be faithful.  The Lord knows their hearts and knows what they need.  You apparently do not need any additional evidence that the work being performed in these temples is valid and acceptable to both the Lord and to those for whom it is performed.  Your years of faithfulness are proof that you know the work is true.”

The Lord bears witness

He was right, of course.  I didn’t need a manifestation to know that the work being done in the temples is of eternal significance and validity.  I had known that since I was a child and had never doubted it.  I thought about his response and realized that there was never an occasion when I attended the temple that I didn’t feel the warmth and comfort of the spirit of the Lord.

It was just another piece of evidence to me that the Spirit of the Lord is always present when priesthood ordinances are performed, especially in the House of the Lord.  I didn’t need any additional evidence because I had the constant companionship of the Lord each time I sat in an endowment session or knelt across the altar in a sealing session.  Yes, I knew the work was true.

To uplift and edify

I have the same kind of experience each week when I attend Sacrament meeting, and especially in a testimony meeting.  There is just something special about attending church each week and partaking of the Sacrament.  I just feel different by the end of the meeting.  I feel happy and feel that my burdens have been lifted.  It never fails.  I feel this strengthening each week after church.

This uplifting feeling is always the same whether I am conducting the meeting as a member of the Bishopric, or just sitting in the congregation as a regular member of the ward.  I love to hear members of my ward teach the gospel from the pulpit and share their feelings about the truth of what they have learned and have taught.  Sacrament meeting is always uplifting and edifying.

Testimony meetings

Last Sunday I sat in our monthly ward testimony meeting and thought about the different kinds of testimonies I was hearing.  The Bishop was short and succinct.  He bore witness of the five basic points of an LDS testimony and then sat down, inviting others to share their testimonies.  I got up and rambled a little bit about testimonies and then bore witness of the same five points.

As we progressed through the meeting, I noted that some members talked about experiences that demonstrated to them that the Lord knew them personally and that he hears and answers their prayers.  Others spoke about the trials through which they were passing and then concluded with assertions that they knew the Lord loved them would not leave them comfortless in their trials.

When we say “I know”

I listened very closely to each testimony waiting for the phrases “I know” and “I believe.”  I think I heard “I believe” maybe once or twice.  “I know” was used by the majority of those who shared their testimonies.  I know these people and know that when they say that they know that the church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, they mean it sincerely.

I was listening closely because of recent conversation with readers of my blog about testimonies and what it means to say the church is true.  I now try to qualify what I mean when I say that by adding some additional phrases like, “because angels conferred priesthood keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith,” and “because angels ordained Joseph Smith and gave him priesthood authority.”

Authority and the true church

You see, this authority thing is very important to me.  I’ve had a lot of dialogs with visitors to Latter-day Commentary about this very important subject.  I’ve tried to share with them that the idea of priesthood authority is one of the most important aspects of a church that claims to be the true church of Jesus Christ.  Ordinances of salvation require God’s authority to perform them.

That’s all we really mean when we say that we are the true church.  We are simply saying that angels came from the spirit world and gave Joseph Smith divine permission to do what he did in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth again in these latter days.  Of course, the idea that angels have visited man in our day is a very difficult thing for some people to accept.

Angels, visions and revelation

I have never seen an angel.  I have had no divine vision with my natural eyes.  I have never heard an audible voice from the spirit world. Yet I have never questioned that Joseph Smith saw God, was visited by angels, received revelations and brought forth the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.  Some of my readers find it fantastic that I can believe Joseph was a prophet.

How is this possible?  On what basis do I stand and say “I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph was a prophet and that this is the true church of Jesus Christ with a prophet at the head today?”  If I have not seen God or Jesus, and was not there when Joseph brought forth the Book or Mormon, how am I a witness?

Divine manifestations must have a purpose

In all my years in this church, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who said to me, “Yes, I saw God.  He visited me and told me…”  I have never had someone say to me, “I was praying very earnestly one night and the Lord appeared to me to tell me that he loved me and that my sins were forgiven.”  I have also never heard anyone relate to me that they were visited by an angel.

Now perhaps you know people who have received such manifestations or maybe you have been the recipient of angelic visitations.  I think that’s wonderful.  I assume the visits had a purpose.  I guess I’ve never felt the need for divine manifestations beyond what I have already received when I was young as I prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was indeed the word of God.

We live far beneath our privileges

When I was seventeen I was extremely motivated to obtain a manifestation from God about my standing before him and to know if the Book of Mormon was what Joseph said it was.  I obtained both of those witnesses and a few more that the Lord felt were needed in order to help me fulfill my purpose in life.  I’ve been coasting on those manifestations for the past thirty-five years.

I’m wondering if I’ve been coasting too long.  Our former stake president, now serving as a mission president, often repeated this from Brigham Young.  He said, “[We] may have the Spirit of the Lord to . . . direct [us]. . . . I am satisfied, however, that, in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges.”  Is there more the Lord wants us to have besides what he has already given us?

Summary and conclusion

The Lord reveals himself to man when he has a purpose or a mission for them to perform.  He sends angels to instruct man and teach him about the work that he wants performed.  He sends his spirit to assure men and women that the work in which they are engaged is divine.  He gives gifts of the spirit to help us do his work.  For Joseph, one needed gift was the power to translate.

When I needed to know that the church and the Book of Mormon were of divine origin, the Lord sent his spirit and confirmed these things in my heart and mind.  Over the years, that same spirit has encouraged and motivated me to ever increasing faithfulness and obedience.  Is the Lord willing to provide additional manifestations, and if so, what is the purpose they would serve?

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