Ep 56 – Re-Evolving Doctrine
On this week’s episode, we cover June and early July 1839. Jo was signing land purchase agreements faster than he could tour the landscape to see if the sale was a good deal or not. He names a new town to be built under the banner of Zarahemla and continues to visit a bunch of Mormons to set straight the record of how the BoM came to be. The quorum of the Twelve prepare for their journey to England by listening to a lecture from Jo about some finer points of Mormon doctrine and we compare them to the doctrine before and after this newest evolution. Finally, we wrap up the episode with a teaser for how to talk to missionaries or TBM loved ones about church history and BoM archaeology.
NYTimes A Neuroscientific Look at Speaking in Tongues
Calling and Election Sure by Roy Doxey
Mormon Stories Tom Phillips’ Second Anointing
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
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With that, let’s get to the show.
Last episode, we saw the beginning of the work to establish the new Mormon settlement in Commerce Illinois, which would soon be designated Nauvoo, meaning a beautiful plantation in Hebrew according to Jo. The sickness and exposure to the raw elements in May and June of 1839 were taking their toll on the Mormon population. People were dropping like flies, but they were led by the true prophet who had divine healing powers to take care of them.
The problem with these healing powers is they weren’t very predictable. Some who were blessed and anointed with medicinal consecrated oil would recover swimmingly, but for every success there were dozens of failures where those blessed would still perish. If you’re a believer in Jo as the prophet, the conduit to god who wields the power of the almighty priesthood, it would be expected that Jo could heal anybody who needed it. When those who were blessed with healing power still died, it must have caused some of the Saints to take a step back and say… wait a minute, why didn’t that guy get healed when he was blessed by the only guy on the planet who can control the power of god? Add in to that the fact that the Spalding theory was making a new resurgence in the media and Jo had to begin dictating his own history to set the record straight and clear his name of any plagiarism accusations, those questions about whether or not Jo was a real prophet of God must have gained a little more strength.
Among all the chaos plaguing the saints during this tumultuous time, the middle management, the quorum of the twelve apostles, were commissioned for a mission to England, for a couple of possible purposes, set to depart in waves from July to September of 1839. The only possibilities that come to mind for me are, and there could be other reasons, but most likely, Europe was a wholly untapped market. The news of the Gold bible had crossed the pond to the old world, but it’s likely that most of the uglier skeletons lurking in Jo’s armoire were still unknown to the average truth-seeking European. That wasn’t the case in America. Most of the states had publications which had picked up on the shtick of the crazy religious fanatics known as the Mormons, and most were convinced Jo was a charlatan at best, or an anti-Christ at worst. Europe was untapped for the most part, which is probably why the Saints went out there beginning in 1835.
Another possible reason I can think of which would have led the twelve to depart was a search for medicine. With thousands of people sick and hundreds dying, the Mormons were burning through their plant and root medicine stores faster than could be replenished, and a lot of people who were aware of who the Mormons were, possibly sharing some of the sentiments held by the Missourians, wouldn’t trade with them, or wouldn’t do so reasonably, so the saints may have had to travel far and wide to replenish their medicine cabinet. Europe was a hotbed of plant and root medicine experimentation, and the saints could probably get large quantities of the necessary medicines for significantly cheaper than they could stateside. Jo may have even known of some places like Liverpool and Glastonbury where certain medicines were abundantly available for people to harvest from the forest floor for themselves at absolutely no cost.
Whatever the reason, the twelve prepared to depart in July through September for Europe and left all ecclesiastical matters up to Jo, Hyrum, Emma, and the sickly and almost absentee Rigdon.
Let’s get into the meat of the episode.
Milk to Meat
There may have been a bit of buyer’s remorse once Jo purchased the land on either side of the Mississippi in Iowa and Illinois. There were no other options readily available without forcing the saints to scatter over hundreds of miles, so this land purchase had to go through and it’s understandable that Galland was aware of the desperate situation in which the Mormons found themselves. This is from page 343 of the Dan Vogel edition of the History of the Church, Jo describes Commerce in early June for us quite well.
“About this time Elder Theodore Turley raised the first house built by the Saints in this place; it was built of logs about twenty-five or thirty rods north north-east of my dwelling, on the northeast corner of lot 4[,] block 147, of the White purchase.—
When I made the purchase of White and Galland, there were one Stone house, three frame houses, and two block houses, which constituted the whole city of Commerce. Between Commerce and Mr. Davidson Hibbard’s, there was one stone and three log houses, including the one that I live in, and these were all the houses in this vicinity, and the place was literally a wilderness. The land was mostly covered with trees and bushes, and much of it so wet that it was with the utmost difficulty a footman could get through, and totally impossible for teams. Commerce was so unhealthy very few could live there; but believing that it might become a healthy place by the blessing of Heaven to the Saints; and no more eligible place presenting itself, I considered it wisdom to make an attempt to build up a city.”
It was now the mission of all the Saints to build up cities in these untamed swaths of wilderness Jo had purchased sight-unseen. Other trusted church leaders had seen the majority of the landscape set to be settled imminently, but Jo had just signed the dotted line in a state of ignorance and desperation. Most of the months of June and July after Jo purchased the lands was spent in travelling around these areas and visiting friends and family to make sure they could comfortably settle. Here are a couple of passages from the following pages of the Dan Vogel edition of the History of the Church which show just how busy Jo was. It’s also important to note just how often Jo had to relate his history and the history of how the BoM came to be at these locations. Jo was in damage control mode from the Spalding theory resurrection and he was forced to meet with people in small groups to put out the fires cropping up everywhere from the radiating heat and controversy of the public exchange between Hingepin Rigdon and Matilda Davison.
“Saturday June 15th—I started with my family, to visit br. Don Carlos Smith. We met brother William on the prairie, about four miles west of Carthage; found him in good spirits, and went with him to his house in Plymouth; found his family well. Staid over night, and had a very satisfactory visit…
Monday, June 17th—Bishops Whitney and Knight arrived at Commerce. I staid at br. Don Carlos’ this day, and my brother Samuel H. Smith came in; I had not seen him before, since my deliverance from prison. Bishop [Vinson] Knight returned to Quincy.
Tuesday, June 18th—I went to the house of a man by the name of Matthews. During the evening, the neighbors came in, and I gave them a short discourse.
Thursday, 20th—Visited Elder Zebedee Coltrin’s. From thence we were invited to visit at brother Vance’s, which we did; and there gave to the brethren and friends of the neighborhood, a brief history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. (Considered ubiquitous information for Mormons today but apparently nobody knew the modern narrative back then… We’ll get into that in a bit)
Sunday 23rd—Went to brother Wilcox’s and preached to a very crowded congregation; and so eager were they to hear, that a part of them stood out in the rain during the sermon. In general they expressed good satisfaction as to what they had heard.
Monday 24th—This day the Church purchased the town of Nashville, in Lee county, Iowa Territory, together with twenty thousand acres of land adjoining it.
Tuesday 25th—We held a meeting, at which I spoke with considerable liberty, to a large congregation…”
Then we have a break where Jo met with the twelve, giving them a final discourse before their departure to England. We’ll get into that in a second, but let’s read another couple of excerpts from later to tell us a few more important meetings Jo had, to continue organizing the new territories the church had just purchased.
Continuing on with page 349 of the Dan Vogel edition of the HoC.
“Sunday 30th—I attended meeting at brother [Squire] Bosier’s. There was a crowded audience, and I bore testimony concerning the truth of the work, and also of the truth of the Book of Mormon, etc…
Tuesday July 2nd—Spent the forenoon of this day on the Iowa side of the river. Went in company with Elders Rigdon, H. Smith, and Bishops [Newel K.] Whitney and [Vinson] Knight and others to visit a purchase, lately made by Bishop Knight as a location for a town, and advised that a town be built there, and be called Zarahemla.”
As a side note, I can’t figure out why it’s a good idea to call a city Zarahemla since when Jesus came back in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 8 the city of Zarahemla burns to the ground. It would be like naming a city Carthage while knowing the fate of the city in Classical antiquity, or naming your kid Adolf.
The reason we read a bunch of those excerpts while passing over unimportant passages was to illustrate just how chaotic things were for Jo and the church at this time. I even skipped 3 passages that just say Jo was at home dictating his history for the soon-to-be-published history of the church. If you run a small business or even if you just have a hobby that sticks with some kind of schedule, you know that you can start a week telling yourself you’ll get ABC and D done, all seemingly simple tasks, but if you’re like me you get to Saturday night and sit back stunned wondering where the week went because you only got one small part of A and B done, while C and D weren’t even a possibility. That’s just how time seems to fly when we’re busy, and that’s usually only concerning us, or the few people surrounding us. Now imagine trying to build a number of small cities, administer to the sick, handle ecclesiastical matters, organize the mission for the twelve, all of these things, while trying to keep a religion together amidst a swirling cascade of controversial accusations that Jo plagiarized the BoM from a dead guy. It’s a wonder he didn’t just melt into a puddle from all the pressure.
Something we do see at this time, which I only mentioned earlier, was an evolution of Mormon doctrine. As the Twelve were preparing themselves for their mission to England, Jo took the opportunity to preach to them on some details about Mormonism they’d need to understand in order to preach the right version of Mormonism, Jo didn’t want another iteration of Mormonism like what happened with the Whitmerite Missouri church during 1832-7 cropping up in England. This chapter in the history of the church is titled “Doctrinal Development”.
Before reading this section, just a quick question. What does doctrinal development mean? Saying the doctrine developed, doesn’t that imply it was imperfect or incomplete before? I guess this doesn’t seem like much of a grand revelation as Mormon doctrine is always developing to accommodate changes in societal norms, but are we not working with the restored doctrine of the one true and perfect God here? Is Mormonism not the restoration of the one true church Jesus founded when he created his church in the New Testament? The section discusses how the doctrine developed, but, ask yourself, could development not be exchanged for evolution in this case? Let’s read what Jo was telling the Twelve here and try to parse out where it developed/evolved from and how this treatise on doctrine affected church doctrine today. We’ll read the entire treatise pausing at important parts to dissect what we’re reading.
It begins with the refellowship of Orson Hyde, as we know him L’Chydem due to his missionary efforts in Israel which would soon come to pass.
“I attended a Conference of the Twelve, at which time brother Orson Hyde made his confession, and was restored to the Priesthood again.
At this time I taught the brethren at considerable length on the following subjects:
FAITH comes by hearing the word of God through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of Prophecy and Revelation.”
Faith by current definitions is typically something along the lines of what is believed without evidence. Jo’s definition here kind of hits on that because he says faith is gained through testimony of servants of God, but then the qualifier is put in place that faith is always attended by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Jo was a champion of personal revelation, and encouraged his followers to attain it by nearly any means necessary. Today, revelation is left up to the leadership, and if anybody claims to be getting revelation which supersedes that of the leadership, they’re quickly removed, usually by excommunication.
“REPENTANCE is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God.”
This is essentially in line with the church today, as with most other churches. You can’t just sin every day and repent every night, that’s cheating or something. This does, however, miss an important aspect of the current repentance process which involves the church at varying degrees. If you sin in the church today, the repentance equation almost always involves your bishop. Let’s say you’re a teenager who goes past first base; if they find out, you have to go to the bishop who then issues a punishment at varying degrees depending on how many bases you hit. If you round home plate, it’s usually a pretty big deal involving disfellowshipping and a year-long process of telling your bishop every time you masturbate. However, if you even get close to first base with somebody of the same sex, that’s usually a modern equivalent of 39 lashings, and forced attendance at the church’s, now disbanded, Evergreen gay-conversion program. The point I’m making here is Jo made no mention of ecclesiastical involvement in the repentance process which is the primary use for Bishops nowadays.
“BAPTISM is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered.”
This is how the church treats baptism today with the added qualifier of being beyond the age of reason, which is somehow 8 years old. Granted, the church doesn’t recognize a letter from somebody asking to have their records removed from the church if they’re under 18, but you can sure as hell make the reasonable decision to officially join the church at 8 because that’s when people truly understand good and evil as well as the ineffable concept of eternity. This line from Jo does, however, recognize that baptism and the gift of the holy ghost are separate things whereas many churches in 19th-century America considered people to gain the holy ghost upon baptism.
To give a tiny bit on the context of church history here, the whole idea of baptism started with Jo and Ollie Cowdung Oliver Cowdery during the BoM authorship in 1829. As the story goes, Jo and Ollie were writing the BoM and they came to a passage about baptism and asked god if they needed to be baptized. Apparently the still small voice told them it was necessary and John the Baptist appeared to them on the banks of the Susquehanna in Harmony, PA to give them the priesthood so they could baptize each other with authority. Once they were finished they arose from the water and prophesied a great many things that defy description because they didn’t bother to write them down. This is all included in the JSH of every Pearl of Great Price, so this is nothing new. But, the idea of baptism stayed with them from then on and every person who legitimately joined the church had to be baptized before they were considered members.
When I was in Kirtland on the Mormon history tour, the missionary giving me the tour of downtown pointed to one spot on the creek running through old town Kirtland and said that was known as Mormon bend in the creek because that’s where the Mormons would baptize new members when the water was high enough to fully immerse the person. It should also be noted that the gift of the holy ghost, or the confirmation process, which required the Melchezidek priesthood to confer, wasn’t really a concept until around 1834 or 5 when first talk of the lesser and greater priesthoods became a thing. This treatise is the first place I’ve seen the ordinance of baptism being a separate ordinance from the laying on of hand for the gift of the holy ghost, which Jo talks about in the next passage.
“THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness, for if the proposals are not complied with, it is of no use, but withdraws.”
Today this is called confirmation. You get baptized into the church, then you’re given your confirmation, which is equated to the gift of the holy ghost.
“TONGUES were given for the purpose of preaching among those whose language is not understood; as on the day of Pentecost, etc.; and it is not necessary for tongues to be taught to the church particularly, for any man that has the Holy Ghost, can speak of the things of God in his own tongue as well as to speak in another; for Faith comes not by signs, but by hearing the word of God.”
This is one I wanted to get to because the definition of ‘tongues’ in the church was a fluid thing back then and has a very specific definition today. When Jo started the church, the gift of tongues wasn’t really a thing. Once he teamed up with Rigdon and moved from New York to Ohio in early 1831, he was exposed to a whole new world of religious evangelism and fervor existing around Kirtland, yet it was awfully familiar from what he’d left in the burned-over district.
The Pentecostal gift of tongues is what people do when they babble nonsense and somebody else in the congregation has to interpret or translate what they say. This wasn’t the case in the very early church, but as more people joined the church and more versions of Christianity were incorporated into Jo’s proprietary Christianity, the Pentecostal babbling began to make its way into typical church practices. According to Richard Van Wagoner, Rigdon’s congregations weren’t really privy to this babbling phenomenon before the arrival of some early people in late 1831 and early 32, he points to Bloody Brigham essentially being the guy who introduced it. The gift of tongues only meant the Pentecostal babbling during the Kirtland years, but this secondary and modern definition slowly made its way into changing the definition of gift of tongues.
Now, the church’s stance on the gift of tongues is solely that of interpreting or understanding tongues which are foreign. You talk to any missionary who goes into the MTC for a different language and they’ll often say they had the gift of tongues in some respect. Whether the gift helped them learn conversational French or made them understand written Spanish better than they feel they otherwise would have, what Jo said as the non-Pentecostal definition of gift of tongues is the only tongues Mormons today understand. “TONGUES were given for the purpose of preaching among those whose language is not understood”. There’s another definition which falls into that same category, but these are purely anecdotal. Some people will claim that they received the gift of tongues in special situations. I’ve heard stories of a missionary giving a father’s blessing to an ailing child and the child being broken down into tears because the missionary sounded just like their own deceased father. I’ve heard of greeny missionaries not understanding a language very well but giving the most remarkable prayers with perfect grammatical accuracy. As I said, these are anecdotal, but if you talk to a missionary on a foreign speaking mission, they’ll often claim they received the gift of tongues to help them with the foreign language somehow. The atheist in me searches for naturalistic explanations to these claimed phenomena, even if they’re anecdotal and I’m happy to offer such musings if you don’t mind a brief digression.
When missionaries go into the MTC for a foreign language, they’re immersed in a world of endless studying for usually 6 weeks to 3 months, then shipped off to their designated mission. What they study while in the MTC is church material and the basics of grammar and conversation in that language. The thing is, they’re given a script of what good prayers and sermons in the given language should sound like, then they tailor those prayers and sermons to their own dialect and speaking patterns. You go to any Mormon family meetup including a meal and the prayer will inevitably sound something like this:
“Our dear heavenly father, we thank thee for this day and all that thou has given us. We thank thee for our family and all the safe travels that brought us here today. We ask a blessing on this food, that it will nourish and strengthen our bodies. We love thee and say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Of course, each prayer will be tailored slightly depending on who’s giving it or what they’re thankful for, but that’s the basic script for every Mormon meal prayer. The same goes for other languages and other prayers. Missionaries practice the prayers they’ll be giving and the proper words to use which are commonly used in the area to which they’ll be proselyting, so is it really that remarkable that prayers from different people speaking the same language and dialect can sound similar when they’re just speaking a script? As an extension of that, the quickest way to learn a new language is to be thrown in the deep end, which is why greeny missionaries are paired with senior companions who’ve been out for much longer and have had time to learn the language. You throw enough people into the deep end with a knowledgeable instructor, they’re gunna learn to swim pretty damn quick. They can think they’re receiving help to learn the language from on high, but most anybody who’s put into a world where they can’t do anything without learning a new language, it won’t be long before they can carry on very basic conversations in that language.
That’s my naturalistic understanding of the modern interpretation of the gift of tongues, I don’t know what the hell happens with the Pentecostal babbling, that’s something completely different, which the church distances itself from today. If somebody in sacrament meeting stood up and started babbling, it wouldn’t be long before somebody called an ambulance. There was a study which made headlines back in 2006 where researchers from the University of Pennsylvania took brain scans of people while they were speaking in tongues, but the study I found only had 5 participants, one of which was a co-author on the paper, not exactly the rigorous scientific heuristic used to create a legitimate theory. I’ll leave a link to the NYTimes article titled “A neuroscientific look at speaking in tongues” in the show notes, and I won’t even try to guess at what their findings were because the study is far too dense and I can’t even pretend to understand what the study found.
Alright, digression over, let’s keep reading Jo’s evolution of Mormon doctrine in July of 1839.
“The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment are necessary to preach among the first principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Granted, this isn’t D&C 76 describing the 3 levels of heaven and other details of Mormon eschatology, but it does hit on a couple points that Mormons believed in back then, yet believe in a different version of today. The resurrection of the dead is handled in multiple waves depending on how righteous you are, and eternal judgement wasn’t much of a thing in Mormonism. We have to remember that Jo learned much from his father on the doctrine of Universalism, meaning everybody gets to heaven eventually, a doctrine which agrees with Jo’s version of heaven set out in D&C 76. The only people who don’t make it to one of the kingdoms after the probationary period are apostates, people who know the doctrine for sure and still choose to leave it behind or even actively blaspheme against it. Eternal judgement doesn’t mean eternal punishment, it just means that your place in eternity is judged based on your actions on earth. Mormons don’t talk much about outer darkness, probably because it says explicitly that the telestial kingdom is a temporary hell in D&C 76, so Jo figured they were covered in the hell department. Jo also said at a later time that if you saw the glory of the telestial kingdom, the lowest of them all, you’d kill yourself to get there, so that doesn’t sound like the fire and brimstone hell of most versions of Christianity, it strikes a lot of similarities with Universalism. Go listen to episodes 155-6 of the MyBoM podcast to hear Marie and I go through Mormon endtimes, because this little blip that Jo described in that one line sells the whole thing short. The next piece he screeds about is pretty exciting and it’s something which has dramatically evolved throughout the century and a half + since this was given.
“The doctrine of election.—St. Paul exhorts us to make our calling and election sure. This is the sealing power spoken of by Paul in other places,…. (Scriptures Listed)”
That calling and election sure is kind of a higher-up Mormon thing that not many people actually attain and a lot of Mormons don’t even know about. Nowadays this is known as the second anointing. When a member receives their second anointing, they’re given a place in heaven and nothing they do from then on can take that spot away. They will go to heaven and become god of their own planet no matter what, unless they blaspheme or shed innocent blood, of course. The second anointing ceremony itself involves an apostle anointing the recipient’s head with consecrated oil and washing the feet of them and their wife, then the two go into a special chamber in the temple where the wife washes the feet of her husband, just to keep the patriarchy in order, and the ordinance is complete. After that time, you have a golden ticket and you’ll transfigure in the twinkling of an eye.
This is from a July 1976 Ensign article by Roy Doxey titled “Accepted of the Lord: The Doctrine of Making Your Calling and Election Sure” You’ll find a link to it in the show notes:
“Although the process of obtaining exaltation continues even into the spirit world, the knowledge that one will become exalted with the privileges of continuing on to eternal life can be certain in this life. This is what making one’s calling and election sure is all about.”
And from Bruce McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine 1958 1st ed. pg 102:
“Those members of the Church who devote themselves wholly to righteousness, living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, make their calling and election sure. That is, they receive the more sure word of prophecy, which means that the Lord seals their exaltation upon them while they are yet in this life.”
I don’t often do this, but I’ll point you to an interview on Mormon Stories podcast episodes 535-539 where John Dehlin interviews a man named Tom Phillips who received his second anointing and subsequently fell away from the church after learning some of the history. He shares the details of the second anointing ceremony including the foot washing and anointing oil parts, and also shares his correspondence with his friend, Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, during his faith crisis. I have yet to listen to all 5 parts, but what I’ve heard up to this point is really informative in describing the gravity of what it means to have your calling and election made sure.
The next chunk we’ll read is actually quite lengthy, but I’ll say right at the onset, it’s something I’ve never heard before, and most references to it from LDS articles point to this specific passage or to D&C 131 and 132 to explain it. I’d be curious to know if any of you listeners ever heard of this concept during your time in the church, or if it seems as foreign to you as it is to me.
“This principle [of sealing] ought (in its proper place) to be taught, for God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint, may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, know ye the Lord, for all shall know him (who remain) from the least to the greatest. How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power, and the other Comforter spoken of, which will be manifest by revelation.
There are two Comforters spoken of. One is, the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost.—In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence.
The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and received the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands) which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted, etc. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazards, the man will find his calling and election made sure; then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John in the XIV chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses…. (Reads from John 14)
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more or less that the LORD JESUS CHRIST himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter: that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even he will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the Heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and the Church of the First Born, etc.”
That is bold. Jo just claimed that once people receive this second/other comforter, they receive no more or less that Jesus himself, and the lord will teach them perfect knowledge face to face. The bible says explicitly in Exodus 33:20 that nobody can see the face of God and live, but the majority of the people listening to Jo give this treatise had attended the Kirtland temple dedication ceremony where some people claimed to actually have seen God wandering around the congregation or sitting on the pulpit next to Patriarch Joseph Sr., Big Daddy Cheese, so that bible teaching didn’t really seem to apply anymore. Apparently, this other comforter is some heightened state of belief which allows people to see all kinds of crazy shit and be taught pure intelligence by Jesus. That phrase, pure intelligence, I’ve never run across that in a church teaching ever before. That’s not to say it hasn’t appeared, but it definitely stands out at a time when Masonry, centered around gnosis or pure knowledge, was slowly creeping its way into the church. It wasn’t long after this teaching when Hingepin Sidney Rigdon, and later Jo himself, joined the Masons and the temple rituals evolved into something much closer to what’s practiced in the temples today, which closely mirrors the ascendant rituals in Masonry. The next passage builds on this idea of pure intelligence and what it is.
“The Spirit of Revelation is in connection with these blessings. A person may profit by noticing the first intimations of the Spirit of Revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing unto you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day, or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of Revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”
I won’t belabor the point, but I just have to point out that this is some weird phrasing I’ve never seen before which doesn’t really make an appearance in the church today. The church talks endlessly about listening to the still small voice and the intimations it delivers, but the phrasing of “pure intelligence flowing unto you” and “give you sudden strokes of ideas” is all incredibly foreign to my little Mormon brain.
And finally, the last passage in this teaching session to the Twelve given by Jo:
“An Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons, etc.”
We’ve discussed patriarchal blessings at length, and if you’re a supporter on patreon.com/nakedmormonism you may have even heard me read my patriarchal blessing. I consider them to be a Mormon horoscope because they’re full of good-feeling profundities without any real definition or expected time frame to be fulfilled. The role of patriarch was first filled by Jo’s dad, Big Daddy Cheese, who gave a number of blessings which were subsequently called patriarchal blessings, but the hang-up with this passage is where Jo equivocates an evangelist with a patriarch.
This flies in the face of the definition of what an evangelist is today. Bruce McConkie in Mormon Doctrine defines evangelist by referencing this passage we just read, but a secondary definition is as follows from his 1958 1st edition of Mormon Doctrine pg. 224
“Having lost the true knowledge of the priesthood and its offices, and knowing nothing of patriarchal blessings as a necessary part of church administration, the false traditions of the sectarian world have applied the designation evangelist to traveling preachers, missionaries, and revivalists. The sectarian theory is that evangelists travel to spread the gospel. This usage of the term is so widespread that even in the Church it is not inappropriate to speak of the evangelical work of missionaries.”
That’s the modern-day definition of evangelist making its way into Mormonism thanks to something Jo said during this treatise. For the record, the church doesn’t use evangelist for anything meaningful today. I remember memorizing the articles of faith in primary and wondering what was meant by pastors and evangelists in the 6th article which is as follows:
“We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”
I knew what apostles, prophets, and teachers were because they were all different offices of the priesthood to which all I hoped to ascend one day, but evangelist was a foreign word to me back then and I would bet that the only time it’s used in today’s church is, like McConkie said, in reference to the evangelical work performed by the missionaries, which is usually called proselyting. At no point do I ever remember evangelist and patriarch being the same thing. This represents a clear evolution of Mormon doctrine from what Jo claimed when he was alive to what we have in our modern definitions today.
One of the first books I read about Mormon history was Grant Palmer’s Insider’s View of Mormon Origins. It’s an easy 260 page read and it truly gets at the importance of studying Mormon history in the first place. Each chapter is great, but the last chapter is my favorite because it dissects the first first-vision account from 1832 and compares it to the subsequent versions of the first-vision story. It’s clear to see the evolution of the story and it definitely follows some similar trajectories to other legendary or folklorish accounts of theophany, meaning it gets more detailed and epic with each iteration, the earliest being the simplest and least incredible.
One thing I didn’t pick up on during my first read-through was something that just hit me as I was thumbing through the book while ponderizing this discourse from Jo. The BoC section 24, which is today’s D&C 20, has the actual first first-vision account, written in June 1830 and it’s even more barebones than the 1832 version, only making reference to an holy angel. In all my studies of the different first-vision accounts, I’ve never seen this included in any historical analyses.
Beginning with verse 6 from the BoC ch 24:
“6 For, after that it truly was manifested unto this first elder, that
he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the
vanities of the world;
7 But after truly repenting, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness, and gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high, and gave unto him power, by the means which were before prepared, that he should translate a book;
8 Which book contained a record of a fallen people, and also the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles;
9 And also to the Jews, proving unto them, that the holy scriptures are true;
10 And also, that God doth inspire men and call them to his holy work, in these last days as well as in days of old, that he might be the same God forever. Amen.”
Studying the changes in doctrine and church history is unquantifiably more important than just knowing the history it claims today. This isn’t the New Testament where we have 4 slightly different anonymous narratives of some guy who may or may not have existed, these are a bunch of different accounts of the same instance, written during a single decade with a few years separating each iteration, and we can reliably document the discrepancies between each account. These changes can mean a number of things when it comes to the story of how the BoM came to be or whether or not Jo actually saw God, but when it comes to documentable changes to church doctrine, we’re dealing with something completely different.
This is supposed to be the restored gospel. Mormonism claims to be the restoration of the Primitive Church Jesus put in place when he led his congregation. How can you claim to have the restored true gospel when you’re constantly changing it? How can we buy the doctrine or the historical narrative the church claims when both have obviously been fundamentally altered and the version missionaries talk about didn’t really appear until more than 20 years after the first vision supposedly happened?
This is an account of theophany, a connection to god, written by a man named Norris Stearns published in Massachusetts in 1815:
“At length, as I lay apparently upon the brink of eternal woe, seeing nothing but death before me, suddenly there came a sweet flow of the love of God to my soul, which gradually increased. At the same time, there appeared a small gleam of light in the room, above the brightness of the sun, then at his meridian, which grew brighter and brighter... At length, being in an ecstasy of joy, I turned to the other side of the bed, (whether in the body or out I cannot tell, God knoweth) there I saw two spirits, which I knew at the first sight. But if I had the tongue of an Angel I could not describe their glory, for they brought the joys of heaven with them. One was God, my Maker, almost in bodily shape like a man. His face was, as it were a flame of Fire, and his body, as it had been a Pillar and a Cloud. In looking steadfastly to discern features, I could see none, but a small glimpse would appear in some other place. Below him stood Jesus Christ my Redeemer, in perfect shape like a man—His face was not ablaze, but had the countenance of fire, being bright and shining. His Father’s will appeared to be his! All was condescension, peace, and love!”
This is one of a handful of similar accounts published long before Jo’s first vision ever appeared on the scene. If Jo plagiarized his first vision, what else might he have plagiarized throughout his days. Joseph Smith was no prophet. Joseph wasn’t divinely inspired. He was a lazy drunken vagrant who loved to eat psychedelics and steal material from other people to make himself out to be something he wasn’t. He lied, cheated, and stole to get what he wanted in life and when people called him out on it he exiled them to a life of missionary servitude and usually ended up fucking their wife. This man should not be revered. We should all hold a grand jury trial in our mind’s eye and watch him burn on the stand as the perfect portrait we’ve been sold crumbles under the weight of Jo’s past transgressions. I love to talk to Mormons about church history. Whether out of ignorance or fear, they hate to talk about their history. A little knowledge can be a powerful thing, and the only reason it’s so hard to get into conversations with believers is because they know there’s nothing in the world I want to talk to them about more than their beliefs and who Joseph Smith really was.
We’re amidst a Patreon pledge drive leading up to the live show after Sunstone on July 29th at Squatter’s pub in SLC. If you’re a subscriber on Patreon.com/nakedmormonism, you gain access to a ton of extended edition episodes and the patron exclusive comment threads. If you’ve thought about pledging, now is the time. The rest of this episode will be a teaser for periodical episodes that only patrons get access to.
Dovetailing off the last segment, I’m often asked about the best way to talk to missionaries or TBM’s in general. This is a hard subject to broach as there are so many ways to approach believers depending on what you want out of the conversation. If you want to get in a dick-swinging match with a Mormon that ends in a screaming argument, that can have its benefits and there are plenty of ways to do it, but it’s much harder to engage in a conversation with believers which ends with one or both of the parties saying something like, “Well that’s interesting, I’ve never heard of that, but I would like to look into it further”. So, what do you talk about to pique a Mormon’s interest, and cause them to not throw up a defensive barrier which damns the conversation right out of the gate? How do you approach a conversation with missionaries or family members with the hopes of ending with a respectable handshake and interest to dive deeper into Mormon history? That’s what these patreon exclusive episodes will be devoted to, amicable conversations with TBMs.
I was just in SLC visiting a bookstore called Eborn books. Most of the upper level is devoted to nothing but Mormon books with some glass cases on the main floor holding some very rare specimens for all my fellow rare book geeks out there. But when you first walk in the front door there are two massive glass cases with motorized scrolling shelves holding a bunch of different collectible artifacts. Some of those shelves have the most damning pieces of antiquity which wholly refute the Book of Mormon for the small price of 5-7 dollars per specimen. These damning pieces of antiquity to which I’m referring are ancient roman coins.
Long-time listener and correspondent, the vanishing man, sent me a gift package some time ago which I’ve never thanked him for, so thank you Scot for your very kind gift. He sent a little postcard with 5 roman coins taped to it in varying degrees of condition. They are amazing! Two of the 5 coins are in good enough condition that you can actually see in subtle relief the stamped head of Caesar. These were the coins used at the height of the Roman empire prior to the collapse of the Western half in the 5th century C.E. They were used to pay government employees and military leaders, as well as exchanged by the common people for goods as a superior method to the bartering system. This money was also used by the government to collect taxes. These coins were used everywhere throughout the empire, which is why you can buy them for 5 bucks a piece even though most specimens are nearly 2000 years old.
Luckily for us, the Book of Mormon describes the Nephite coinage in Alma 11. Here’s a quick rundown of the monetary system in verses 3-9.
3 And the judge received for his wages according to his time—a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given.
4 Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value. And the names are given by the Nephites, for they did not reckon after the manner of the Jews who were at Jerusalem; neither did they measure after the manner of the Jews; but they altered their reckoning and their measure, according to the minds and the circumstances of the people, in every generation, until the reign of the judges, they having been established by king Mosiah.
5 Now the reckoning is thus—a senine of gold, a seon of gold, a shum of gold, and a limnah of gold.
6 A senum of silver, an amnor of silver, an ezrom of silver, and an onti of silver.
7 A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain.
8 Now the amount of a seon of gold was twice the value of a senine.
9 And a shum of gold was twice the value of a seon.”
It goes on for another 15 verses describing everything about Nephite money and their justice system. The reason why this is so great is because these coins were used around the same time the Roman empire converted from a bartering system to using coinage, yet we haven’t found a single Nephite coin in all American archaeological digs over the past 3 centuries. Some Native Americans used cacao beans as a commodity superior to bartering, but no systematic group of coins has ever been unearthed on the American continents.
Of course, this piece of refutation of BoM authenticity hasn’t been taken lying down by church apologists. This is what the FairMormon.org article says concerning the Nephite coins.
“It is claimed that Book of Mormon references to Nephite coins is an
anachronism, as coins were not used either in ancient America or Israel
during Lehi's day. One critical website even speculates: "Do you think
that the Church just casually adds words to their sacred scriptures
specifically for the purpose of summarizing and clarifying the text
without being pretty confident they are doing so
The actual text of the 1830 Book of Mormon does not mention coins. The word "coins" was added in the 1920 edition to the chapter heading for Alma 11. In the 1948 edition of the Book of Mormon, we see the following chapter heading:
‘Judges and their compensation—Nephite coins and measures—Zeezrom confounded by Amulek’
Seeing "coins" in the Book of Mormon occurs when readers apply their modern expectations and an inadequately close reading of the text. There are units of exchange (weight-based and tied to grain) in the Book of Mormon, but no coins.”
Hang on, didn’t it say in the actual 3 verse of the passage the heading modifies that the judges were paid in gold and silver according to their wage? What could payment in gold and silver with denominations be other than coins? If they weren’t coins then we would find whatever it’s describing as the monetary system, but coins or not, nothing like this has ever been found in American archaeology.
Of course, you can find websites like nowscape.com/Mormon/momoney.htm which exhibits gold and silver coins found all over the world and claims they are the money used in the Book of Mormon. This website lays out the denominations and puts pictures next to what it thinks are each of the described coins in the BoM, but the examples they provide are from all over the world from wildly different time frames, hardly useful as evidence for coinage of one small Native American empire.
But the lack of coins isn’t the most challenging point this lack of evidence brings up. The Roman empire needed to refine the mined ore in order to forge it into swords, shields, chariots, and coins.
From the Roman Metallurgy Wikipedia page citing John F. Healy’s 1978 book “Mining and Meallurgy in the Greek and Roman World.
“The Romans obtained metals just as we do today: by mining ore and somehow extracting metal from it. Healy also explains, “An ore is basically a rock containing mineral, or occurring with it as inclusions” (Healy 35). The Romans mined for 10 different types of metals, each having multiple occurrences of compounds and crystal structures. These 10 metals are: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, zinc, mercury, arsenic and antimony. They began with the ore and prepared it for smelting by crushing the rocks. This separated ore-bearing rocks from waste rocks. This was usually done by either giant mortars or slave-powered mills (Healy 142). Sieving was also used for gold processing. The Romans used the old methods of furnace smelting, where metal is extracted from the ore by literally melting it out at high temperatures (Healy 152). They also employed methods of amalgamation, where post-ground metal-bearing ores are placed on an inclined board and rubbed while water flows over it. Romans developed advanced methods of separating gold and silver, usually by cupellation, where a gold-silver alloy is crushed into a fine powder, then heated just enough to melt the silver and leave a gold powder”
The first signal that you were getting close to Rome during its greatest centuries was the cloud of smoke hanging over the city from the refineries billowing out toxic pollutants generated during the refining process. Not only do the Nephite coins not exist, but the refineries required to manufacture said coins are nowhere to be found.
Thus, we see the greatest evidence against the BoM is found within its very own pages.
That was just a teaser of some extra content that only supporters of the show can gain access to on Patreon.com/nakedmormonism. This episode isn’t extended, but you will see another episode posted next to this which is a full 20 minutes on how to talk to missionaries and TBMs about their favorite book, the Doctrine and Covenants. If you liked the last little segment about Nephite coins and want to continue to fill your arsenal with everything you need for having fruitful conversations with believers, consider taking the 90 seconds to pledge some pocket change and you’ll enjoy all the benefits supporters of the show get beyond the regular podcast feed. Also, if you support Marie and I on the MyBoM patreon page, you’ll get an exclusive episode every week. This week we talked about her meeting with the missionaries which pairs with this week’s Naked Mormonism pledge drive like fine Brie and Merlot.
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