There is a great and glorious plan,
The only one, forsooth,
By which to save degenerate man, -
That only plan is TRUTH.
For truth takes all in his embrace,
The living - dead - and works, and grace, -
Philosophy, and fruitful hives,
And politics, and ENDLESS LIVES.
Could TRUTH but have a perfect sway,
Throughout this world of pain,
How soon would come that blessed day,
When Peace shall fully reign?
Though Honesty is little known,
And out of date has almost grown, -
The Truth shall ev'ry nation hear;
The just rejoice - the wicked fear.
The spirits of the dead shall know,
That Truth to them is given;
Thus all around, above, below,
Through truth may gain a heaven.
Truth is a great and endless chain,
Which reaches Hades and back again;
Then rap ye spirits, rap and LIE -
Eternal Truth will never die.
Of piety the world is full -
Religious souls in every place;
But ah! good works are very dull, -
Rejoice ye sinners in free grace.
But he who wins, the Master saith,
Must show his works as well as faith.
O hypocrites! where will you be?
And when will you salvation see?
PHILOSOPHY shall raise its head,
When Truth dictates its laws;
And thus has it been truly said,
Effect must follow cause.
Philosophers may wisdom seek;
There is a glory for the meek: -
The WORLD expects that bliss to gain,
But scorn the door, and scale in vain.
And from Philosophy shall spring
The light which Science gives;
For truth with all its lustre bring,
Wherever spirit lives; -
The greatest science e'er unfurled,
Salvation shows to all the world;
The rules are plain, and firmly laid,
Though simple, they must be obeyed.
And Truth will gather all in one,
As bees collect from flowers;
With richest stores to draw upon,
In Zion's fragrant bowers.
There's room for all, the cells to fill
With industry, and art, and skill;
The swarms are still increasing yet -
The parent hive is DESERET.
Political confusion reigns,
And anarchy is rife;
The smartest rogue an office gains,
To stir the fire of strife; -
And parties clash, and split, and fight,
Like blind men groping for a light;
When Truth's broad banner is unfurled,
There's policy for all the world.
The government of Truth is pure,
Its laws are good and just;
Its subjects have their rights secured
With officers of trust.
THEOCRACY shall take the sway,
And politics shall sweep away; -
The Truth will take its grand career,
And swift it comes! 'tis here! 'TIS HERE!!
The universe throughout will gain
Release from every strife;
The earth shall soon be free from pain,
And taste eternal life.
Salvation unto all is free,
Unbounded as eternity -
But they who see eternal day,
Must surely take the narrow way.
The day of grace now shining bright,
Reveals the heavenly plan; -
How vast the love! how great the light,
Displayed to fallen men.
Those who unto its voice give ear,
Who unto every good adhere -
Embracing truth, renouncing sin,
The prize, eternal lives, will win.
Thus all our faith and works below,
To righteousness should tend;
Our lives should heavenly wisdom show,
Enduring to the end: -
Truth makes the path to glory plain,
And takes us back to bliss again;
It gives new life, exalts the soul -
And MORMONISM takes the whole.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Two days ago I presented an anti-Mormon account of the death of Joseph Smith. It seems only fair that today we should hear from an early LDS account of the same, especially as today marks the 167th anniversary of the event itself. This account of the death of Joseph Smith is excerpted from the journal of Joseph Fielding. I give very slight repunctuation here and there. The account may be read in Andrew F. Ehat, ed., "'They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet' - The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding", BYU Studies 19/2 (1979): 10-11. I thoroughly recommend examining Ehat's excellent piece.
...on Thursday [27 June 1844] the Governor left them and with a company of men came to Nauvoo having left a guard at the jail, but of the Carthage Greys who had just before been in a state of mutiny, yet as all the troops had pledged themselves to the Governor to abide by the laws, these were entrusted with the care of the prisoners. It seems that a party of the mob had come to Golding's Point on their way to Nauvoo, and that messengers were sent to them to order them to disperse. At this their leader, Colonel Williams, ordered all who were not willing to go to Carthage and kill the Smiths to lay down their arms, and the rest to step out together, saying "Now is the time, or never". This was soon done, and the murderers disguised themselves by blacking their faces and started on their way to shed blood, and came to the place about 5 o'clock in the evening of the 27th.
A young man named Daniels who had given up his gun went with them, as he said, to see what they would do, and was an eyewitness to all that passed, heard Wills say he had shot Hyrum. This Wills was one of the company of Saints (an Irish man) who came with me from England with his wife and two children. He was an elder in the Church. It is understood that he received a wound in the arm from a bullet by Bro. Joseph; it took his wrist and ran up by the bone, of which wound he soon after died.
A ball passed through the door and entered Brother Hyrum on one side of his nose just below his eye when he exclaimed "I am a dead man" and fell, at which Joseph cried out to Hyrum; as he lay another entered under his chin. Bro. John Taylor attempted to get out at a back window, but a ball met him which it seems threw him back into the room owing to its taking his watch, which beat in the watch thereby giving the exact time at which it occurred he had received four balls before he was taken by Brother Willard Richards and put under the bed. He suffered much but survived, a living martyr.
Joseph too endeavored to escape by the same window but the mob quickly met him there. He fell from the window, and was taken by the mob and was set against the well curb and four men shot him in the upper part of his body. Williams then said, "Take his head off," but at this moment, as Daniels states, a light shone between Joseph and the mob which so affected them that they had no power to touch him, and the four men dropped their arms and had to be carried off by their companions.
The whole then ran off, leaving their victims weltering in their blood. Thus the earth was once more stained with the blood of the Saints, even the anointed servants of God; and their blood echoes the cry of former Saints for vengeance to be taken on the wicked, that the earth may be cleansed from the blood of the righteous. Their bodies were washed from blood and put into boxes and the next day were conveyed in two wagons under a guard to Nauvoo. This was the most solemn sight that my eyes ever beheld.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
David Wells Kilbourne gives us one of the earliest anti-Mormon accounts of the death of Joseph Smith in a letter written just two days after the fact from Fort Madison to an Anglican parson named Thomas Dent who lived in England and was curious about learning more. Kilbourne was staying at the Nauvoo Mansion House - which he calls "Joe's tavern" - at the time when news arrived in Nauvoo. Here is the essence of what Kilbourne wrote to Dent:
I hasten to inform you of the wonderful events which have taken place at Nauvoo since my letter to you a few days since. The work of death has been commenced. The Mormon Prophet Joe Smith & his brother Hyrum are no more. I have just returned from Nauvoo & I this day looked upon the lifeless remains of these two men - the great heads & leaders of Mormonism. Their work of infamy is finished & their dupes about two hours since committed their remains to a silent grave. But I will hasten to give you the particulars as full as I am able in a single letter.....
On Thursday morning 27 [...] In the absence of the Gov. & about 4 O Clock P.M. of this Thursday 27th day of June, an armed and disguished band of men, about two hundred in number attacked the Jail - overpowered the guard of eight men, entered the Jail and shot both the Smiths. Hyram received a ball in the head, and mearly had time to exclaim "I am a dead man," and expired; Joe received a number of balls which pierced his body, some while still in the Jail, some while he was in the act of leaping from the window of the Jail, and others after he reached the ground, he exclaimed "O God" - and expired.
Elder Taylor who was also in the jail received several flesh wounds, is considered dangerous. The disguished band immediately escaped to the woods & were not pursued for want of force sufficient to take them. They were all disguished with paint, & of course not known.
There is but one feeling throughout this country in regard to this last tragedy, & that is, that merited vengeance had fallen on the right men, at the same time all regret that it happened while he was a prisoner & had a right to expect protection. It is regretted because his followers will now claim that he died a martyr when if he could have been tried on the charges & convicted he would have died a felon.
This is taken from Warren A. Jennings, "The Lynching of an American Prophet", BYU Studies 40/1 (2001): 207, 209-210. I thoroughly recommend reading the article, which contains three of Kilbourne's letters to Dent.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
So, is it permissible to financially sustain a pastor?
Many are induced to withdraw, or withhold the support of the Gospel ministry. Many under the name of teachers have artfully led the unwary to infer from the gratuity of some of Paul's missionary labors among the heathen, that the ministry of the Gospel is ever to be free of all regular expense: and that all ministers, who stipulate for their regular support in return for their being devoted to a people, are hirelings and impostors. This is a suggestion, than which nothing can be more opposed to the word of God; or injurious to man. It is a prime stratagem of hypocrisy, and of Infidelity. These words of Christ are perverted, and pressed into this service, Freely ye have received; freely give. In relation to the power of miraculous healing, which was superadded to the special commission of the apostles, our Lord gave them a charge; Freely ye have received; freely give. (Matt. x, 8.) i.e. Make no merchandize of this special Divine delegation. Men would give almost any sum to be healed. Take nothing. But it is base wickedness to pervert these words of Christ into a prohibition to his ministers from asking their regular support. The words of Christ, which immediately follow, take this text out of the impostor's hands. 'Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey; neither two coats; neither shoes; nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.' It is the express order of God, that those, who preach the Gospel, shall live of the Gospel; that people shall aid their support according to their several abilities; and that they shall do it to such a degree, as that their minister need not entangle himself with the affairs of this life, but may give himself wholly to the work of the ministry. When this support of the Gospel is covetously withholden, God charges the withholders with the sin of robbing him. (Mal. iii, 9.) And they may well expect judgments, delusion, and ruin in return. The support of the Gospel then, and a faithful attention and obedience to its administration, are a most important remedy against the innovating, Antichristian principles of these last days. And a firm rejection of all erroneous and irregular preachers, is an important mean of withstanding the Antichristian principles of this period. And this is solemnly enjoined in the word of God.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Salvation belongs to saved beings - but exaltation to the Gods, who organize, redeem, govern, and celestialize worlds; but the world does not believe it, because their God has no body.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Hark! the hoarse, dull drum of war
Sends its pealing tones of thunder,
To the nations near and far,
Filling all the world with wonder!
Let the nations close their eyes,
But a change is surely coming.
God has heard His children's cries,
'Tis the angels who are drumming!
Truth and Error don't agree;
Both are strong but one must perish.
God has made His children free,
They may fight for what they cherish.
But the battle must go on,
Till the blood-red flag of Error
Shall be torn and trampled down,
Then will cease, "The Reign of Terror."
There are those who will not fight,
But who, serpent-like, are crawling
In the dust where men of might,
Pierced with shot and shall are falling.
Let the war-drum wildly beat,
Let its thunders roll and rattle!
None but cowards will retreat,
Honor loves the field of battle!
Jesus Christ will never fall,
And His sword will ne'er be broken;
Saber stroke and rifle ball
Harm Him not - a God has spoken.
And the snow-white flag of Truth
Will in time o'er earth be waving;
Right still stands in strength of youth,
He will win what man is craving.
When the hoarse war-drum shall sleep,
When all evil powers are shaken,
May we have no cause to weep
For the part that we have taken.
May we greet our noble King
In the mansions of His glory;
Nor feel conscience's painful sting,
When we tell Him this life's story.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The following article comes from William W. Phelps, Deseret Almanac, for the Year of Our Lord 1854: Being the Second After Leap Year, and After the Sixth of April, the Twenty-Fifth Year of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; and the Third of the Last Half Century of This Dispensation (Great Salt Lake City, UT: Willard Richards), 22, 24, 26, 28:
To give a full history of Spirits, begotten, raised, educated, and destinated, in the celestial world, would require the 'memory' and 'experience' we left there when we chose to take our mission for this world. - But little has ever been revealed on the subject. The common occurrences of life teach us however, that spirits had knowledge in the elder world: whether human or not human. The wisdom of God is plainly manifest in his creations: so that a "life-giving power" animating man, beast, fowl, fish, reptile, and insect, "spreads undivided, and operates unspent" from age to age. And when we read that Jesus Christ was with the Father, in the beginning, and came down from the Father, and was begotten of the Father, and born of a woman, like ourselves, and raised up among his brethren; suffered in the flesh as a mortal, was buried and arose on the third day in newness of life, we certainly have one chain of evidence, that spirits had an existence with God in another world.
Again, when we observe among all nations, kindreds and tongues, two self evident principles prevailing; the one, in all cases, actuating its subject to do unto others as it would wish others to do unto it; and the other secretly and openly taking an undue advantage, we are compelled to know that there are two kinds of spirits - good and bad - living together on the earth. And so, also, may be observed among the animal creation, a species of self will, called, "instinct" developing itself to sustain life, giving wise men proof of what was known in the spirit world.
But the grand question is, how shall we distinguish between good and bad spirits, seeing there are such a variety, and that they manifest themselves in a multiplicity of ways? The rule given by Jesus Christ is this: - "He that prayeth whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me, if he obey mine ordinances; he that speaketh whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek, and edifieth, the same is of God, if he obey mine ordinances. And again, he that trembles under my power, shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise, and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you. And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me. Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens" [D&C 52:15-19].
The question being thus settled beyond controversy, all honest men can judge the tree by its fruit; and the "anointed of the Lord," whenever they judge a spirit, professing to have obeyed 'mine ordinances,' will require the tokens that the watching angels require at the passes from this world to the next.
But to open the subject under consideration, plainer to the comprehension of all, let it be known that all spirits in their "first estate," have their agency the same as they have in their second, or temporal probation. For it is written, that "Adam was tempted of the devil, for behold the devil was before Adam, for he [the devil] rebelled against me, [Jesus] saying, 'Give me thine honor,' which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me [Jesus] because of their agency; and they were thrust down and thus became the devil and his angels; and behold there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell: and it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be "agents" unto themselves, for if they never should have bitter, they could not know the sweet" [D&C 26:36-39].
Thus we have the subject fairly open. The spirits in the "elder world" have their agency, and act upon it. Now the Lord has one grand rule for spirits and mortals in both worlds. He exhibits the plan of what is to be in the next state of existence, and then gives the candidates for exaltation and glory, permission to go upon their agency and do the best they can under the holy order of the priesthood, - if they obey his ordinances. And so the spirits, anxious to imitate their Father, and inherit a kingdom, come down to earth and take a body of flesh, that through obedience according to his ordinances, (after death) the spirit and the body may be raised, incorruptible, a SOUL for exaltation.
There is one thing still farther in relation to the spirits before they come into the flesh, and that is, that they have a body and live by sustenance, the same as mortals: for Jesus said to the brother of Jared: "Behold, this body, which you now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in spirit, will I appear unto my people in the flesh" [Ether 3:16]. And again, when this same Jesus, long afterwards, visited Abraham, he killed a calf and made cakes, and HE DID EAT with the old patriarch, in company with others, and blessed Sarah at ninety years, to bring forth Isaac. So it seems that Jesus Christ had a body and lived by eating before he was born of Mary. And more than this, he had a Father and a Mother in heaven: for in the forty-fifth Psalm (literally from the Hebrew) is read these sublime sentences: - "Thy throne (is as) the Gods of eternity: and the eternal rod of justice (is) the rod of thy kingdom. Thou lovedst righteousness and hatedst wickedness, therefore the Gods with thy God anoint thee with the oil of joy over thy household. - Myrrh, aloes, and cassia for all thy garments from palaces of ivory are bestowed to gladden thee. The daughters of kings stand among thy honorable wives: the Queen on the right hand in gems of ophir" [Psalm 45:6-9].
So reads a portion of the blessing of the King and Queen of heaven, upon their Son, before he came down, upon his mission to Idumea, or the world. And as he makes his brethren, who come and take a body of flesh, "equal with him in power and glory," they must receive the same blessings in the spirit world before they come.
One idea further: Good angels and spirits never leave the realms of glory without permission or commission: and when they arrive on the earth, the first salutation is, (if an angel) I am Michael; I am Gabriel; or I am one of thy fellow servants the prophets - worship God. No clairvoyance: no mesmerism: no spiritual rapping: nor no making medicine. No, they come like a God, and act like a God.
But the free thinker naturally inquires, from whence come the evil spirits? The world is troubled with many. We answer: we have already given a clue to that question. "A third part of the hosts of heaven" went on their agency, after Satan; and as neither their leader nor themselves, have the power to create a body, they enter everybody weak enough to give them admission, not even refusing a hog's, by scores and thousands, contrary to the order of God, because by the fall they forfeited their right to "flesh and exaltation." Herein, too, the power and rules of heaven may be known: good spirits for men, never enter hogs and form beastly unions; neither will many in one, degrade humanity like the "legion" that Jesus cast out of one man, and permitted them to enter swine.
One circumstance, among evil spirits, strengthens the idea of their knowledge of where they came from. Says one of the seven sons of Sceva, to an evil spirit, I adjure you to come out of that man, in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches! To which the spirit replied: - "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" [Acts 19:15] That devil told the truth, for he had been acquainted with Jesus and Paul, in heaven, and not on earth, for spirit knows spirit, and flesh, flesh.
There is still another important item in the catalogue of spirits that rebelled; and that is, they were all males, for "host" is derived from Hebrew, and means "an army," or "soldiers;" of course, then, the "third part of the hosts of heaven" that left on account of their agency, as angels for Satan, left an equal number of "lady spirits" in a state of single bliss, unfleshified, and unexalted; that is in the good old fashion of one-for-one way of marriage - unless they fell back on the priesthood, as a kind of reserved rights: or, alas! remain as the angels, who never increase in this world or the worlds to come. And if they fall back upon their "reserved rights," and only one hundred and forty four thousand have the claim as Gods, to take them, from the heavenly hosts, there would be more than one hundred to a man, allowing heaven to contain only about eight millions of spirits. But wisdom would indicate a different number, according to the "hundred fold" promised by Jesus. Suppose the present population of the globe to be one thousand millions, and they should only double once in a hundred years: in the space of fifteen hundred years, there would be living on the globe during the last hundred years, no less than forty-five billions, five hundred and thirty thousand millions of human beings, requiring the same number of spirits to animate their bodies - so that a "third of the hosts" actually left matchless, companionless, and bodiless as to flesh, an "innumerable multitude" of women, as worthy and well qualified to multiply and replenish the earth as mother Eve, and her daughters.
Let no one startle at this: for when seven devils left Mary Magdalene, was not the fact established that the devils were "male?" Who ever heard of a devil-ess, or daughter of perdition? Earth and ages reply - NO ONE.
Two nations or manner of spirits certainly enliven the world; for no man gathers grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. The one is governed by Jesus Christ, and the other runs at large for the use of the devil.
And now to conclude, let me ask a few questions. Have the "host of the high ones," who are to be punished on high, obeyed the ordinances referred to in the pattern? Will, or do the kings of the earth, who are to be punished on the earth, obey the ordinances? What! will the angels who kept not their first estate, at the day of judgment, dare say that they obeyed the ordinances? Do the mesmerizers, who exercise so much influence over the will of many, obey the ordinances? Can the spirit rappers, with all their pretended light from the spirit world, declare that they obey the ordinances? Shall we have the satisfaction to hear the magicians and sorcerors of old say, they obeyed the ordinances?
Will any of the master spirits who have endeavored to open the windows of heaven, without entering in at the door, come out like the apostles and assure a wondering world that they have fought the good fight, and obeyed the ordinances? Is it to be expected that Judas, who Jesus said, had better not have been born, will yet come out and brush away the cobwebs of that 'host' of bodiless spirits, and walk the narrow way of eternal life, with the motto on his forehead, "I have obeyed the ordinances?"
Ah! ye mystery-loving, secret-working, self-elated millions, from beginning to end, - on high, on earth, and in hell, - when the trumpet of all earth sounds the answer, the universe will tremble with no! and eternity will echo - NO!! and the regions of the damned will mutter up an awful NO!!!
Saturday, June 11, 2011
The following statement is taken from Ethan Smith's A Dissertation on the Prophecies Relative to the Antichrist and the Last Times; Exhibiting the Rise, Character, and Overthrow of That Terrible Power: And a Treatise on the Seven Apocalyptic Vials (Charlestown, MA: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1811), 157-159:
In short, the doctrines of the Gospel have been perverted; and the main pillars of the Christian system have been attempted to be overthrown. Yet man has a conscience; and guilty beings under its lashes dread the judgment. Who among us can dwell with devouring fire? Who can inherit everlasting burnings? These are questions not instantly disposed of. The conscience is not seared as with a hot iron at once: This is usually a work of time. And some kind of religion, in the mean time, must be had, to quiet the alarms of guilt. But to embrace the humbling doctrines of the cross; uniformly to endure the restraints, and perform the duties of the pure religion of Christ, is intolerable to the proud heart, to the ignorant and the perverse. Some substitute then must be adopted; some kind of religion invented, more consonant with the feelings of the wicked; which yet may soothe their consciences. How perfectly are such people prepared to fall a sacrifice to the wiles of some subtle imposture. They have become habituated to despise the genuine doctrines, and the regular order of Christ. And yet, not having quite reached gross Infidelity, they seem to want some religion. The fanatic preacher arrives. And there are multitudes of them at this day! He declaims against those doctrines of grace, which are most offensive to the carnal heart; and harangues upon imaginary doctrines, which are much more pleasing. He proposes a cheap and easy religion; one which allows to man much of that independence and importance, which he claims; a religion, which saves man the labor of diligently searching and comparing the word of God, and of studying his own heart. All is done both by preacher and hearer by immediate inspiration! Proselytes become at once first rate Christians; yea, fit for teachers; being admitted to a high and peculiar intimacy with God! They reach at once the top of the mount. Every passion is addressed, and wrought up to the highest pitch. These new fangled Christians are confident, dogmatical, and above the reach of salutary instruction. The regular teachers of religion are by them accounted hirelings, and ignorant of spiritual things. The improvements of such people usually are, to learn the most common cavils against the doctrines of grace. In this they often make great proficiency. And they become a prey to enthusiasm and error, of one denomination or another, according to the notions of their teachers.
Such people are in the high road to Infidelity. Their religion is no better than a dream. Their God is only a fiction; a creature of their own imagination; and no better than an idol. The essential glories of the true God are by them denied, and often with bitterness. Such fanaticism is often followed by Infidelity, at a period not far distant. The human passions are not capable of long retaining such an elevated tone. The feelings will by and by vibrate to the opposite extreme. Such characters after a series of heats and colds, become tired of their religion. Its novelty is gone. Their former attachment to it sickens to disgust. They find much plain Scripture against their tenets. Yet they will not renounce their scheme for that which is correct. They thus form a habit of perverting the word of God.
When the early Latter Day Saint movement was labeled as a 'fanaticism', this is the sort of charge meant to be evoked. Note that this description of 'fanaticism' was written nearly two decades before the official organization of the LDS Church on 6 April 1830.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
The 11th chapter and 7th verse of Job, rightly rendered from the original Hebrew, reads: - "Who has searched out God? Canst thou find out the Eternal Mother? Canst thou find out the perfection of the Almighty?" All right; spiritually or temporally, there cannot be a father without a mother, in truth, to continue the ad infinitum of lives, - except the sectarian god, who has neither body, parts, or passions; he has no wives, and, of course, he had no mother. "Oh gracious!" inquires the philosophising granny, "where did he come from?" "Why," replies the King's Jester, "may be he is one of the Misses Lucifer's come-by-chances:" Now hush, you, - slandering the Prince of this world's family. Hush!
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Recently the Bloggernacle has included some interesting reactions to a Patheos article by one Warren Cole Smith. Smith's article, "A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the LDS Church", was part of a collection of articles (the "For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservativism" symposium) published at the Patheos site dealing with various Evangelical and Roman Catholic perspectives on the religious ramifications of a Mitt Romney presidential campaign. The collection also included "Yes, Christians Can Vote for Mormons" by J. E. Dyer, "In Defense of Mormons" by Jeremy Lott, and "The LDS Church Walks a Tightrope on Public Policy" by Nathan B. Oman. Still, the inherent controversial nature of Warren Cole Smith's perspective has ensured that his article has stood out as almost *the* Evangelical voice on the matter.
LDS author Joanna Brooks has since done an interview with Warren Cole Smith. LDS blogger Dave Banack reacted to Smith's article with a Times and Seasons post titled "Evangelical Incivility", while LDS blogger John F. reacted with a By Common Consent post titled "Where Does It End? The Real Danger in Warren Smith's Perspective". More recently, LDS Church Head of Public Affairs Michael Otterson wrote a response to Warren Cole Smith, titled "Evangelicals, Mormons, and the beliefs of the president", as noted by LDS blogger Gerald Smith ('rameumptom') in his recent Millennial Star post titled "Michael Otterson - Mormon of the Week". Among LDS responses I have seen, Otterson makes the most effective appeal to other Evangelical voices and is the least prone to paint Warren Cole Smith as somehow generally representative of Evangelicalism as a unified whole, though as shall be seen some of his points miss the mark. His civil tone in direct reply to Warren Cole Smith is also quite commendable. Warren Cole Smith's article has also been criticized by David French, a co-founder of Evangelicals for Mitt, in his Daily Caller article "Evangelicals Can (and Should) Support Mitt Romney", and also in his own Patheos post "A Mormon President: Are Souls at Stake?". Most recently, Warren Cole Smith has offered a somewhat general reply to several criticisms in a Patheos interview, "A President's Faith Matters: An Interview with Warren Cole Smith", conducted by Timothy Dalrymple. Dalrymple further provides an excellent three-part critique of Warren Cole Smith's positions in his Philosophical Fragments posts "Is It Bigotry to Oppose a Candidate on Religious Grounds?", "Would a Romney Presidency Fuel the Growth of Mormonism?", and "Would His Mormon Beliefs Make Romney a Bad President?" The subject is also touched upon in a recent episode of the Mormon Matters podcast, "Why Are Mormons Seen as 'Dangerous' by Some Evangelical Christians?", which features an outstanding panel.
As an Evangelical Christian with moderately conservative political stances and a somewhat classical liberal bent, I must dissent from Warren Cole Smith's view. I could not in good conscience hesitate to vote for a Latter-day Saint candidate simply on religious grounds. I would, I admit, be hesitant to vote for Mitt Romney in the primary, but that has everything to do with his political record and nothing to do with his religious outlook. The same goes for Jon Huntsman, about whom I know quite a bit less as of yet. (Then again, I can't see any Republican candidates currently on the field who seem significantly more promising, alas...) Were either of them to win the primary, I might conceivably give them my vote in the general election, though probably not happily. Then again, I confess that this controversy has given me cause to do a reappraisal of Romney as a candidate, which may result in a more favorable stance on my part.
With that out of the way, what exactly does Warren Cole Smith say? John F., following Joanna Brooks, has essentially distilled Smith's case under the four headings of "unreliable", "errant", "weird", and "validation". I'm not convinced that John F.'s treatment quite accurately captures Smith's case, and indeed Smith objected strenuously to Brooks' distillation upon which John F. has expanded. Warren Cole Smith contends that the first major obstacle is the belief in continuing revelation. Smith himself seems largely to develop his objection along the line of new scripture and policy at the institutional level at the church. On the other hand, Otterson and some of Smith's other critics have pointed out that Smith's own examples of actual reversals of church policy (plural marriage and the priesthood ban on blacks) were not unpredictable, frequent shifts on a moment's notice, but were rather infrequent moves that each came after a lengthy process of deliberation and searching - neither of which lends itself to a strong analogy with the image of the 'flip-flopping politician'. Smith charges that the LDS belief in continuing revelation makes LDS politicians inherently unstable. Smith ties this in to allegations of Romney's 'flip-flopping' on certain political issues, though Smith of course is unable to give any grounds for such an association. While Smith's analogy here has an extremely superficial appeal, it breaks down quite promptly upon investigation. There is no indication whatsoever that policy or even doctrinal shifts at the institutional level of the LDS Church have any effect on the frequency of shifting political stances of LDS politicians.
Second in John F.'s analysis is the charge of "errant", namely that Latter-day Saints dissent at quite a few highly critical points from what Evangelicals see as the fixed standard of biblically acceptable teaching. (Naturally, John F. gives this a strongly LDS spin in his treatment, without any apparent attempt to sympathize with the Evangelical perspective.) The problem is, of course, that while this may well be theologically or soteriologically quite significant, it fades into utter insignificance in terms of the political realm. Smith does not give this point much space at all in his article, though in the Brooks interview he argues that any falsehood is dangerous ("Anything false is dangerous. Falsehood leads to danger"). In terms of capacity for effective political leadership, however, false opinions on certain issues are irrelevant and hence not at all dangerous with respect to the duties of the office. I care little whether or not the President of the United States of America is a Platonist or an Aristotelian or a nominalist! It matters little to our nation practically what the president thinks of Thomas Aquinas. To put things another way, I care a lot less about whether the president believes a machine could pass the Turing test than about whether the president could him- or herself pass the Turing test! (And with some of our past choices, I'm really not all too sure.)
In point of fact, America has had presidents whose personal views differed quite more widely from historic orthodox Christianity than either Romney or Huntsman is likely to, and the union is still here. Smith offers no reason why Romney's non-Trinitarian view of God or his views about salvation (whichever set of LDS options those happen to be) would have any significant impact on his performance in office. In the Dalrymple interview, Smith shifts almost seamlessly from the relevance of religious beliefs to the president's role in providing "moral leadership", though Smith does not further elucidate the meaning of this term or why he thinks a Latter-day Saint president would be in any way impaired in providing it.
Third is the "weird" aspect, which Smith chooses to flesh out in terms of (what he perceives as) drastically false LDS views about history. In particular, Smith charges that belief in the Book of Mormon narrative shows an utter disconnect from historical reality, and it is this disconnect that severely problematizes an LDS candidate's ability to fulfill the duties of his or her office. I think that John F. has incorrectly labeled this charge as that of 'weirdness'; rather, it is an accusation of historical disconnect. Smith never, of course, provides any reason to suppose that belief in the Book of Mormon is even so much as coincidentally connected with an inability to engage with the historico-political realities of, say, the Middle East. It would prove quite surprising if there were any such link. While I certainly have met my fair share of Latter-day Saints whose hyper-fideistic attitude evinced an utter disregard for history and reason at all levels (and, to be fair, I know a disheartening number of Evangelicals in the same boat), it is undoubtedly false to characterize either Romney or Huntsman as believing, as Warren Cole Smith put it, "that history is something you can 'make up as you go along'".
The first three points that Smith makes are all rather poor; the fourth ("validation", as John F. describes it) requires greater thought. Smith's implicit argument appears to run much as follows:
- Evangelicals should avoid engaging in actions that would be inclined to lead to greater numbers of people joining 'dangerously false' movements. [premise]
- Normalization of a 'dangerously false' movement will result in greater numbers of people joining that 'dangerously false' movement. [premise]
- Therefore, Evangelicals should avoid engaging in actions that would normalize a 'dangerously false' movement. [from 1, 2]
- Actions that place members of 'dangerously false' movements in public positions serve to normalize those movements. [premise]
- Therefore, Evangelicals should avoid engaging in actions that would place members of 'dangerously false' movements in public positions. [from 3, 4]
- Mormonism is a 'dangerously false' movement. [premise]
- Therefore, Evangelicals should avoid engaging in actions that would place Latter-day Saints in public positions. [from 5, 6]
- Voting for a candidate to achieve a national political office is an action that would place that candidate in a public position. [premise]
- Therefore, Evangelicals should not vote for Latter-day Saint political candidates. [from 7, 8]
Needless to say, Latter-day Saints will first challenge point (6), and frankly I question its verity as well, at least so baldly stated. There is also a rather limited sense in which (4) is true, at best, and it is this point of Smith's argument that Otterson and others seek to challenge by pointing to the religious persuasions of past presidents, such as John F. Kennedy (Roman Catholic) and Richard Nixon (Quaker). In fairness to Smith, neither of these movements is quite so active in proselytizing Evangelicals as are Latter-day Saints. Nor does Otterson provide statistical evidence showing that the election of these presidents had no significant impact on conversion rates to those group; however, neither does Warren Cole Smith give such evidence showing that there in fact is a significant positive impact on conversion rates, as he fears.
Smith repeats in the Dalrymple interview that "the election of a Mormon president would be a tremendous step toward normalizing Mormon beliefs" and would be "a tremendous shot in the arm for Mormon evangelism around the world", but Smith does not attempt to build a precedent-based case for this or, more pertinently, for his view that a Latter-day Saint president would positively affect the rate of conversion. As David French aptly says, "The workings of God on the human heart are infinitely more complex, miraculous, and mysterious than Smith's simplistic formula of successful Mormon president equals more successful Mormon religion." Indeed, as Aaron Shafovaloff notes, the intense media scrutiny of the LDS faith that would accompany a Romney candidacy or presidency could, given the bent of the American media, actually be detrimental to LDS missionary efforts.
Premise (1) might be true in itself, but this is hardly an overriding obligation; I think it could easily be outweighed. If the structure of Smith's argument is upheld, grave problems follow, insofar as then Evangelicals ought to, for example, avoid shopping at large businesses owned or operated by Latter-day Saints, since benefiting their financial situation might place them more prominently in the public eye. Or again, Evangelicals should avoid actively supporting a sports team with LDS members or movies with LDS actors or books with LDS authors, since this too would be precluded under (5)!
Furthermore, for someone with Smith's mindset, the arguments used to defend (6) would likely be suitable for supporting some (6') wherein virtually any non-Evangelical religious outlook is substituted for Mormonism. So then, if Smith's argument is valid, then Evangelicals ought to avoid voting for Hindu candidates, or Buddhist candidates, or atheist candidates, or Unitarian candidates, or Muslim candidates, or even Jewish candidates. Joanna Brooks raised just this point, in response to which Smith refused to give a clear answer, instead remarking, "I'm not prepared to talk about Judaism", save to remark that Judaism is merely incomplete Christianity. How this makes a significant difference with respect to the question at hand is, to say the least, unclear. Surely if Smith is fully up-front, he must acknowledge contemporary Judaism to be a 'false' and 'dangerous' religion since it denies that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Should not Smith be worried about the implications of further 'normalizing' Judaism?
When asked about Roman Catholicism, Smith seemed to accept them under the ecumenical umbrella of Nicene orthodoxy - and I certainly do think he was right to do so - but this would likely be anathema to many of his more fundamentalist compatriots, for whom Roman Catholicism is an idolatrous system that perverts the gospel and puts its adherents in grave spiritual danger in much the same way that Mormonism does in Smith's eyes. And dare we even ask about non-Chalcedonian believers? Should Smith fear that, say, an American president affiliated with the Assyrian Church of the East would 'normalize' Nestorianism and result in people around the world falling away from orthodoxy?
Essentially, then, Evangelicals can only vote for Evangelical (and possibly other orthodox Christian) candidates. The patent ridiculousness of this conclusion should be sufficient to call into question the validity of several of Smith's key premises and the force of any net obligation that Smith might somehow successfully highlight. Additionally, given the difficulty in finding an even remotely suitable candidate without such an added restriction, the likely consequence would be to severely limit Evangelical involvement in politics. This would be an unfortunate conclusion for Smith, who when interviewed by Brooks contended that "active involvement in politics is an important part of the expression of our faith". Furthermore, it is worth noting - as David French does - that Warren Cole Smith's line of reasoning here bears worrisome similarities to that used by some hardline secularists who would regard Evangelical Christianity to be a 'false' and 'dangerous' movement that should be increasingly marginalized to whatever degree possible, and which renders its adherents unsuitable for public office. Smith could plausibly object that Evangelical Christianity is not false and might put forth arguments to that effect, maybe even good arguments, and this would admirably move the debate past a mere hurling of slogans and bald assertions. Perhaps a handful of Latter-day Saints would in turn do the same, mutatis mutandis, and perhaps some metaphysical naturalists would push back with earnest attempts to defeat both sets of arguments. The point, however, is that the fragmenting of the American electorate along religious lines is not good for the country.
None of Warren Cole Smith's arguments for his position seem very good. In truth, there is no inherent reason why an Evangelical should so much as hesitate before voting for a Latter-day Saint candidate, or a candidate of virtually any other religious persuasion, so long as that candidate is - apart from the issue of religion - the right man or woman for the office. A Latter-day Saint candidate does not seem to be inherently likely to have unstable political views; a Latter-day Saint candidate does not seem to harbor any politically relevant dangerous beliefs, at least not simply by virtue of being a Latter-day Saint; a Latter-day Saint candidate does not seem to be inherently likely to be disconnected from historical reality in any way that would affect his or her performance in office; and voting for a Latter-day Saint candidate does not seem at all likely to seriously imperil the spiritual welfare of the populace, at least not in any way that justifies an overriding prohibition on casting such a vote. For those Evangelicals who believe that Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman or any other LDS politician is the right person for the job, there need be no religiously based reluctance to cast a vote for Romney or a vote for Huntsman or a vote for anyone else. Evangelicals can support Romney, Huntsman, or any other LDS candidate without needing to be 'made comfortable' that such a candidate "shares [our] fundamental beliefs and views on history".
That said, and moving on to a few critical remarks on Smith's critics, I must also disagree with some of Dave Banack's treatment and those of some commenters on his post. I ultimately don't have a problem with Warren Cole Smith expressing his view, given that he holds it; I object to the view itself. Smith's perspective is a harmful, unfortunate position, and he ought to reconsider his position, not simply hold it privately and act on it in the voting booth, or spread it secretly among other Evangelicals out of view of the public eye. It is not merely the public expression of the opinion that is offensive; it is the opinion itself. I disagree with Banack's statement that Smith's statements result in greater "animosity that does not dissipate after an election" than many of the other statements common in our politically diverse discourse that similarly challenge "civil unity". It is good that Banack inserts a brief note that "it is only some, and not all, Evangelicals who have that bias or who state it publicly"; that Warren Cole Smith does not speak for all Evangelicals should be clear from the other essays included in the symposium. Still, the succinct title of his post does give the impression - apart from that brief disclaimer - that Dave Banack is criticizing Evangelicals or Evangelicalism in general. (And, it must be admitted, there are plenty of Evangelicals who harbor quite unfavorable views of Latter-day Saints - sometimes on good grounds, sometimes on bad grounds.) There were also a few comments that made similar generalizations about Evangelicals and Evangelical voters in general. And that's simply unfortunate, because to a great extent it smacks of an underlying attitude not wholly unlike that of Warren Cole Smith himself. Indeed, one commenter at By Common Consent said, "I would think long and hard about voting for any outspoken evangelical because I'd be concerned how much anti-Mormonness she'd ingested along with her other beliefs".
Additionally, while some critics of Smith - e.g., Otterson - have made appeal to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, arguing that Smith's case flies in the face of the constitutional provision that there may be no religious test for office. This appears to me, however, to be a misuse of the Constitution. Otterson and others who go this route are making a fundamental error. The government cannot require any elected official to subscribe to any particular religious tenets, nor can they exclude elected officials of any given religious persuasion. This is not, however, what Warren Cole Smith was advocating, as Otterson himself grants ("...you aren't calling for Mormons to be legally barred from the highest office in the land...") and as Smith points out in the Dalrymple interview. His was an appeal to Evangelical voters to not vote for Latter-day Saint candidates for office, not an appeal to the government to prohibit Latter-day Saints from taking office - a road we've been down before with the B. H. Roberts and Reed Smoot cases anyway. Smith explicitly states that "[r]eligion cannot be used by the state as a qualifier or a disqualifier for office. What this means, and what I affirm, is that Mitt Romney or anyone else has the right to run".
Voters are perfectly free to vote as they wish on whatever grounds they wish - even when their grounds for not wanting a given candidate to take office are also grounds that do not constitutionally prohibit said candidate from holding that office, should that candidate be elected through the proper processes. There is no constitutional or legal stipulation whatsoever that prevents a group of voters for engaging in legal behavior in the voting booth with an aim to, in Otterson's words, "effectively marginalize Mormons and make it impossible for them to [successfully] run for office". Thus, it is simply not true that Smith is attempting to get Latter-day Saints to "concede a fundamental right granted to all Americans", as no Latter-day Saint candidate for office has a 'fundamental right' to the vote of any given voter or group of voters - and hence no right to the votes of Evangelical voters, even when the lack of such votes would prevent any Latter-day Saint candidate from succeeding in his or her political campaign. Voters are free to make their decisions based on horribly bad reasons, as in this case, and not run afoul of any provisions in the U.S. Constitution. As Dave Banack noted, "There is no law against opinionated, uninformed, or even bigoted voting"; and one commenter at By Common Consent remarked that the U.S. Constitution "doesn't prohibit citizens voting against somebody based on their religious belief". Smith himself declares in the Dalrymple interview that "every voter has the right to take a candidate's views, religious and otherwise, into account in his or her vote", and this is undoubtedly correct.
Similarly, LDS voters are perfectly free to vote for Romney or Huntsman on the simple basis that they are LDS candidates. Like Warren Cole Smith's proposal to Evangelical voters, it seems like a poor plan and a strategy not very conducive to the well-being of the nation, but nevertheless one that those voters are constitutionally free to pursue. While Smith disclaims the notion that his approach is in any way 'bigoted', I must disagree. While the reflexive and immediate hurling of epithets such as 'bigot' in some responses to Smith has unfortunately obscured thoughtful critique that could have otherwise been made, there is no principled reason why one may not conclude that Smith's view is no less bigoted than that of a person who would refuse to vote for an Evangelical on analogous grounds, or than that of a person who would declare women generally 'unfit to serve' on the grounds that women in politics must presumably be feminists and therefore have an objectionable political philosophy, or than that of a person who would make a similar declaration with regard to African-Americans by assuming that they must surely adhere to some sort of black liberation ideology and hence could not possibly be as fit for leadership as, say, a white Protestant male.
While it may well be the case that Smith's values do not cohere with the 'American ideals' of the Constitution, as several critics have charged in connection with the 'religious test' criticism, this is certainly no crime; neither do the values of a significant number of our current elected officials. On that point - a fairly minor point - it seems to me that several criticisms of Smith have gone awry. For this reason, Otterson's quibbles about who defines 'false' and 'dangerous' are similarly off the mark. Smith is not advocating for an official government agency designed to sniff out 'false', 'dangerous' religions. Rather, he is addressing himself to a subset of voters whom he assumes will agree with his own notions of what religions are 'false' and therefore 'dangerous', and urging them to behave in certain ways based on those notions. As hopefully elucidated above, Smith's case for his rather objectionable position can be undermined without appeal to specious applications of constitutional provisions. Warren Cole Smith is entitled to his opinion and entitled to apply his opinion to his decisions in the voting booth however he sees fit, but his opinion is not only incorrect but harmfully incorrect, and for that reason I hope that the number of those who share it will steadily decrease until voters in general are able to base their decisions on a candidate's actual qualifications and political stances, rather than on the basis of his or her religious beliefs.
[Last updated: 20 June 2011]
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Starting today, I will be working through them in order. This reading list will, in all likelihood, take many years. I'd like to invite any and all interested parties to join me on this journey through the history (up to 1922) of the Latter Day Saint movement in its various forms. I will continue to update this post regularly as a way to publicly track my progress. As of today (5 June 2011), I have already completed item #12 (Alexander Campbell's 1832 Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon) and item #16 (Eber D. Howe's 1834 Mormonism Unvailed). Other eccentricities in the order are largely a result of additions to the list after I started, resulting in renumbering.
- Progress Report
- Before 5 June 2011: #12, #16 - completed in entirety
- 5 June 2011: #4 - finished preface and first section of first chapter
- 6 June 2011: #4 - finished first chapter
- 7 June 2011: #4 - finished second chapter
- 9 June 2011: #4 - finished first section of third chapter
- 10 June 2011: #4 - finished remainder of third chapter
- 11 June 2011: #4 - finished fourth chapter
- 13 June 2011: #4 - completed in entirety; #6 - finished preface and first chapter
- 14 June 2011: #6 - completed in entirety; #7 - finished introduction
- 17 June 2011: #7 - finished first and second chapters
- 21 June 2011: #7 - finished third chapter
- Late June: Computer crash results in considerable... delays, plus loss of all notes.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Into the house of worship came
The earnest, crowding throng,
The gentle girl, the aged dame;
Through prayer, and praise, and sacred song,
To learn the path that led above
Earth's vales and wilds of wrong.
While prayer, full-toned, sweet, clear and high,
And worship-hymn like incense rolled,
A stranger, half as one in fear,
To vacant seat beside me stole,
Like one apart from all commune,
Save with her secret soul.
Her garments, worn with studious care
(The fashion of long years gone by),
The straying locks of once bright hair,
The pallid cheek, the drooping eye,
The prayer-bent head, the shrinking form,
Might wake a pitying sigh.
Yet, e'en as once in Eden dwelt,
One spirit dark, whose trail was blight,
There, where truth's seekers humbly knelt,
Vain worldlings, at the saddening sight
Blushless, within the sacred place
Their fine derision dealt.
Ah! how my soul within me burned
To shield the helpless from their sting,
When once her thin pale face she turned,
Then shrank like some poor hunted thing
Too weak and wounded to take flight,
Though shouts around her ring.
Ah! what hath been thy woe, poor heart?
What history of wrong and pain
Lie hid from reason's reach and smart?
And but the seal-ed lids remain.
Save one stray leaf thou connest o'er,
Thy heavenly home to gain.
When, low upon her dying bed,
The lonely worshiper was found,
Few friends kind ministrations fed,
Few mourners stood her grave around;
And the sealed lips their secret kept
Within them, 'neath the mound.
Then the bright angel, lifting forth
The poor clay from the trampled sod,
Found 'neath cankering dross of earth
(Where worldly feet indifferent trod),
Dim with tear-rust, a jewel bright,
Worthy the praise of God.
"Blessed thou art," the Master said,
"Because when worldlings sought not me,
Though with my richest bounties fed,
Thou, in thy depths of misery,
Friendless, distraught, one bright thought kept,
And loved, and worshiped me."
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Every one, perhaps, is not aware how the earth appears to the inhabitants of the Moon. As more than three fifths of the earth is covered in water, and being nearly 13 times larger than the moon, a full earth must be a grand sight! The earth light there must be sufficient to read and work by. Again, as the moon always keeps the same side to the earth, those who live on the back side, must naturally enjoy themselves in taking pleasure rides to the Frontiers, to view through their telescopes, and Urim and Thumims, the earth's grandeur, and glory, and some of the curiosities of their next worldly neighbors.
If revelation is as prevalent there as it was here in the days of Enoch, there must be some joyful seasons, in preparing, like their friends the Mormons, for a general jubilee of all the worlds, or rather, all the sanctified resurrected creations of our Father's district of eternity.
It will considerably eclipse Queen Victoria's chrystal palace fair.