Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Do We Know What We Have? Remembering the Getrude Specht Story

"Do We Really Know What We Have?" is the question of the late Dr. Getrude Specht, a respected theology professor in Munich who joined the Church. She had studied the intricate details of Christianity and recognized that there had been an Apostasy and quickly gained a testimony of the reality of the Restoration. As shared on Marc Schindler's Website, who knew her and home taught her, here is an excerpt from the journal of Elder Scott Anderson regarding the day she was baptized:
This Theology professor at the University of Munich was well known throughout Southern Germany. She stood up in front of this small congregation of people and said, "Before I'm baptized I’d like to tell you of my feelings. In Amos 8:11 it says, there will be a famine in the work of God. I've been in that famine for 76 years. Why do you think I have three PhD's? I've been hungering for the truth and have been unable to find it. Then 8 1/2 weeks ago, two boys walked into my home. I want you to know these boys are very nice and wonderful young men, but they didn't convert me. They couldn't; they don't know enough." And then she smiled and said, "but since the day they walked in my door I have read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, all of Talmage's great writings, Evidence and Reconciliations by John A. Widtsoe and 22 other volumes of Church Doctrine." She then said something which I think is a challenge for everyone of us here. She said, 'I don't think you members know what you have."

Then in her quiet, powerful way, she said, "After those years of studying philosophy, I picked up the D & C and read a few little verses that answered some of the greatest questions of Aristotle and Socrates! When I read those verses, I wept for 4 hours." Then she said again, "I don't think you members know what you have. Don't you understand the world is in a famine? Don't you know we are starving for what you have? I am like a starving person being led to a feast. And over these 8 1/2 weeks I have been able to feast in a way I have never known possible."

Her powerful message and her challenging question was then ended with her favourite scripture, "For you don't see the truth can make you free."

She said, "these missionaries don't just carry membership in the church in their hands, they carry within their hands the power to make the atonement of Jesus Christ full force in my life. Today I'm going into the water and I'm going to make a covenant with Christ for the first time with proper authority. I've wanted to do this all my life."
Sometimes we get too focused on controversies, the problems of mortal leaders, the weaknesses of members, and unresolved theological puzzles. It's good to occasionally step back and look at the big picture of the Restoration. How wonderful to have restored the basic truths about God, the covenant framework of the Gospel, authority from God, modern revelation through prophets and apostles, and ordinances such as baptism by immersion. There was an Apostasy, a famine of the word of God, and now there has been a Restoration. Do we know what we have?

44 comments:

Mina said...

Jeff,

Thank you for a powerful reminder. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to resolve arguments that we forget the basic doctrine, which is Salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for a very beautiful and timely reminder.

Mina

texasspirit314 said...

That's a nice anecdote, but every faith has people like that. Do a google seach of "why I became a mormon/muslim/jew/atheist/catholic"for a few thousand results. Then search for "why I left Mormanism". Do you doubt the testimonies of ex-Mormons? Why should we put our faith in the feelings of the lone Ms. Specht?

Themmormons said...

Well, texasspirit314, he wasn't saying that we should put our faith in the feelings of Ms. Specht. He was saying that she is making a good point. She set a good example. Can't you see that?

Oh, and I have read the 'testimonies' of the ex-Mormons, and I have seen why they left; the unsufficient reasons. I have not been convinced by them because I know information they did not before they left the church. Now many of them won't even listen to the truth, let alone an explanation.

ME, myself, & I said...

Ms. Spech is an awesome reminder of how anybody can get closer to Jesus Christ. Our faith does not belong in her testimony, but in the Lord Jesus. Which her testimony centers around.

Mormanity said...

TexaSpirit, sounds like you've been conditioned to react negatively whenever a Latter-day Saint uses the word "feelings." I suspect it was a knee-jerk kind of reflex as opposed to thinking about what was said. Perhaps you have fallen into the trap of relying on conditioned feelings rather than logic in your response. Ironically, some of the best-selling anti-Mormon material that derides LDS belief for being based on "feelings" is effective because it preys upon feelings, using spooky music, for example, and carefully twisted words to create a frightening sense of a cult-like power threatening our streets. I suspect that influenced your response.

Aas for the occurrence of the word "feelings" in Getrudes comments, please note that in normal speech, people use the term "feelings" to also mean "thoughts." Gertrude was sharing her thoughts. Yes, feelings were involved - gratitude, joy, wonder, etc., after having searched for the truth so long. But her thoughts were based on heavy study, based on far more scholarship that you or I will ever master. It was her mental searching and expertise that allowed her to recognize the logical strength of the LDS position.

In any case, thanks for dropping in.

texasspirit314 said...

It doesn’t matter whether Ms. Specht converted out of feelings or logic; neither are exclusive to the church of JCLDS.
Mr. Lindsay has done an excellent job of thoroughly explaining and defending Mormon beliefs and practices, usually in a way that seems quite logical. And I’ll admit that occasionally I am at a loss to rebut his arguments. But I’ve also met a lot of very smart Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals etc., who are equally clever, equally dedicated, and equally convincing in their use of logic.
I’ve tried doing my research. I’ve read the Koran, working on the Book of Mormon, and plan to finish all the major religious books eventually. But as I learn more and more about different religions it has become quite clear to me that I will never be able to ponder every issue. I can’t comprehend the major ones. Case in point: an anti-Mormon website writes three paragraphs explaining how Joseph Smith lied about the Book of Abraham. A pro-Mormon website rebukes the statement in a 3-page article. The anti-Mormons respond with the 10 page paper. The Mormons write a book.
It doesn’t matter how much research I do, or how open my mind is. There will always be one last rebuttal, one untouched issue, one misconstrued line of thinking. At some point, I have to get on with my life. That’s why I’m agnostic.

Anonymous said...

texasspirit314 - this is the point where the other definition of 'feelings' comes into play. Ponder everything you have learned, mull it through your mind for a couple of weeks. During this time have a prayer in your heart - ask Heavenly Father, God, Allah, whoever - if he exists. Ask him on your knees. Se wht he tells you the true Church is. Then you can distinguish what is true doctrine from what isn't. Through YOUR own feelings that are given to you by God through the Holy Ghost. When it burns in your heart then you have found your path.

BRoz said...

Some evangelicals will on one hand criticize LDS for following our "feellings." But then, on the other hand, they turn around and say they "feel" they have been called and "inspired" by God into their ministry. I do not appreciate the inconsistent double speak.

They criticize "feelings" and deny the power of inspiration that comes by the Holy Ghost because they equate it with the Pentecostal idea of the Holy Spirit. But this creates a false dichotomy.

The LDS concept of inspiration and personal revelation by the Holy Ghost is nothing like the Pentecostal concept. LDS recognize that the most important spiritual skill one can master while in this life is to learn to decern ones own natural emotions, adrenaline excitement, lustful passions from the quiet, patient, warm, happy and peaceful feelings of the Holy Ghost.

Robert said...

This posting reminds me of the thing that finally helped me understand my wife's point of view when she was just a friend witnessing to me about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It also speaks to a lot of what Texasspirit's posting just mentioned. You can read all the evidence for any faith you want, but in the end, it all comes back to what my wife asked me. She said it only comes down to "It is either true or it isn't. Joseph Smith either saw what he said he did, or he didn't." Then she just asked me whether I believed it or not. Thanks for sharing a great reminder of how great a truth we have in this church.

Ujlapana said...

Robert, if only the world were so simple. The church is not a coin toss--it is not restricted to such a binary (black-and-white) view. Did Joseph Smith see what he said he did? Well, first we have to decide what he said he saw, since that changed a lot over time. You could generalize it to, "Joseph either had a profound experience or he didn't," but even then, the profundity of the experience probably depended on the time of his life.

It's like saying, "You're either a Yankees fan or you're not." No, Robert, there are degrees of acceptance and rejection in all human endeavors. That's what makes life so fascinating.

Unfortunately, Hinckley fosters this innapropriate approach to truth by statements such as, "Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens (GC Oct. '02)" There are so many alternatives to his diametric proposals that it is astounding. I'd like to hope that he realizes that, but maybe not.

MG said...

A consistent tone I perceive in almost all naysayers is an underlying attitude of pride and/or arrogance. The Joseph Smith assertion--he saw Christ, translated ancient records, is a black-and-white proposition. The same can be said for the Quran--either the angel Gabriel spoke with Muhammed or not. There either is a God or there is not. These are all black and white. The absolute only way to revealed truth is _absolute humility_ before God. There is no other way. God has provided enough evidence to show the feasability of the proposition, but the evidence will never be the final word.

There's tons of evidence (Mahujah and Mahijah in the Pearl of Great Price, two Hebrew names completely non-existent in any know hebrew texts until the Dead Sea scrolls a century after Joseph Smith's death, for example) but this is the end, but the preparation for true knowledge from God.

Finally, the witness of the Spirit is simplistically called a "feeling" for lack of vocabulary to describe it. However, if you study the Spirit, it is much more complex. Many times it will prompt someone to do something that he otherwise does not want to do, for example. Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah, despite the prompting of the Spirit. The Spirit is different than an emotional feeling, only understood by those who have experienced it. The real issue is are we ready to live with the consequences of an answer? It's not God that's on trial, it's us.

Ujlapana said...

Watch out for that beam, MG--you could put an eye out with that thing!

Even the greatest apologists, such as Jeff himself, will readily admit that "translate" may not mean "translate" in a black-and-white way. To suggest that you have a perfect understanding of what "God" entails is really mind-boggling--perhaps you are God yourself?

You seem to have a lot of passion, which is great. I hope for all of our sakes that the Spirit never tells you to decapitate a rich man and steal his stuff.

Walker said...

Snide-remark argumentation, uj? (esp. the simplification of Nephi's slaying of Laban, failing to take into account the intricacies of Hebrew Law--and Exodus chpt. 20 alone won't cut-tsk, tsk). I know you can come up with something better than that.

In any case, what we can really hang our hat re: Specht's account is simply that the gospel is intellectually respectable. Heavens--if only the gospel were provable by empirical evidence. I would have a heyday! The world would be converted and a much happier place. But alas...mortality is not for ease but for learning to control this odd couple we call "mind" and "spirit."

Anonymous said...

Great testimony. I also add mine. I have no degrees but I felt the Holy Ghost two important times in the two years before I heard the Joseph Smith first vision story and had the same spiritual revelation again as the missionaries taught me. After this I have again been given reconformation over the 30 years I have been a member. It is much more than just a feeling. To me it effect my physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yes other faiths have spiritual experiences just as I did before I was taught the restored gospel. The best I can understand it is this what they agreed with God before they came here and all their lives are a preperation for when they are ready to full imbrace the truth. Again the Spirit has confirms her special oppertunity to here the gospel restored to me. This is why I love hearing other peoples conversion stories. Remimber the gospel is for Kings (PhD.s) and slaves. It is all a matter of when we are ready to receive it. Did Dr. Specht write any books after she joined the church?

Anonymous said...

I do think most members know what they have. Most of the members that I have knowen over my 30 years in the church have scrificed and tried to live up to the restored gospel and shair it any time they could. I know that I would will in give my life to have everyone experience the spiritual experiences I have had in my life. But I am sure they will get their chance when they are ready to except it.

Russell said...

For the more hardened, the Ensign published a bit on Specht in NOv. 1973 (under the News of the Church) section. The details in Schindler's account are not confirmed there (why would they be, the story was about more people than just Specht). However, the spirit of the article fits very well with the details Schindler provides.

Jeff L. said...

Specht's story DOES NOT show that respected non-LDS scholars can find any credibility in the LDS religion. She may have been a respected non-LDS scholar for a while, but, you need to understand, once she got baptized, she was just another biased Mormon whose views no longer matter to real scholars. Strike her from the list.

Robert said...

Jeff L.,

That sounds like a fairly biased statement to make, that just because a scholar saw merit in the church and joined it, all of their education and their contribution to scholarly enterprise is now worthless. With that attitude, no "evidence" could convince you, let alone a visit from an angel or Heavenly Father himself, it would appear.

MG said...

Ujlapana and Jeff L.,

Uj did not deal with the problem of Mahujah and Mahijah. Completely sidestepped the issue. I say to Uj, that _you_ also have _every right_ to direct communication from your Father, if you want it. I'm no better than anyone else out there. We will let the readers judge between the tone of the responses, which usually convey more than the words.

Walker, unfortunately, undeniable evidence (which I personally believe there already is) would not be enough. From the good old Bible, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, what did the Pharisees do? They 'took counsel together for to put [Christ] to death'. They also sought to kill Lazarus. You see, mens hearts are revealed when the come in contact in full truth.

Jeff L.'s rejection of a scholar once they convert may be likened to the Pharisees' rejection of Paul once he converted. I'm quoting from the Bible here, folks, not the Book of Mormon. It takes great instrospection and personal honesty to see the Pharisee in ourselves, and we are all subject to it if we are not careful.

Russell said...

Really--that is one of the most intellectually lazy arguments I've ever heard in my life. I'm not inclined towards hyperbole.

Everyone accepts a dogma of some kind--what distinguishes everyone is that some know they're accepting and others are not. I could just as easily say "just another biased secularist." Secularism has just achieved a hegemony and is accepted as "common sense." We could effectively delegitimize everyone for believing anything. To be intellectually responsible, we can't just dismiss arguments because they're coming from someone whose arguments we don't like--circular reasoning at its finest.

If you're going to make an effort to engage the Specht issue intellectually, do it right.

Bookslinger said...

Broz wrote: "The LDS concept of inspiration and personal revelation by the Holy Ghost is nothing like the Pentecostal concept."

I don't agree. I think the Pentecostal concept of how the Holy Ghost works is probably closer to the LDS concept than any other non-LDS denomination. Mainstream protestantism gives lip service to a degree of "inspiration", but not outright personal revelation like the Pentecostals, most Evangelicals, and the LDS do.

The Pentecostals, and a good number of evangelicals, are perhaps the only other denominations that believe that continuous revelation through the Holy Ghost, and the ability to "walk in the Spirit" is possible.

"LDS recognize that the most important spiritual skill one can master while in this life is to learn to decern ones own natural emotions, adrenaline excitement, lustful passions from the quiet, patient, warm, happy and peaceful feelings of the Holy Ghost."

That's an important skill, but I don't know if the prophets have said it's "the" most imporant skill.

And I'd like to add, that while the majority of the time, the feelings from the Holy Ghost are "quiet, patient, warm, happy and peaceful", that there are notable exceptions in the scriptures where the Spirit was poured out to such a great degree, that it was exhilarating, and exciting.

Some dramatic examples: People being surrounded by fire, Nephi being "flown" up to mountain tops (2 Nephi 4:25), Lamoni and his father passing out, David dancing topless at the head of the triumphal parade of his army, thousands of people hearing the gospel at once and having it preached by the gift of tongues at Pentecost, pillar of flame and cloud of smoke guiding the Israelites.

The vast, vast majority of outpourings of the Spirit are quiet and non-dramatic. And yes, sometmes there are counterfeits in the Pentecostal/Evangelical circles. But the scriptures do document special situations of spiritual excitement and drama.

When Sister Specht asked "Do you realize what you got here?" I think she was implying that the saints should have been a bit more excited.

Anonymous said...

I think what she implying was do you now understand that 14 million people out of 6 billion belong to and can know the most important news sense the birth of Christ. That his kindom has been restored and all this life it a great plan under the hand of Jesus Christ. That this can be known as fact throuth the spirit as sure as any law of nature or physics. Are you in a state that the scriptures say " WE HOPE NOT FOR JOY" (It to good to be true).

Anonymous said...

I think what she was implying was, do you understand that 14 million out of 6 billion people belong to and can know that the most important news sense the birth of Christ has been announced to the earth. That his kingdom has been restored and that all this life we live is the great plan under the hand of Jesus Christ. That all people will have the chance to except the truth and live with Him and our families forever. That there is no hell for those that do not hear about his plan but Christ is just and will assure that all people will have the chance to join God in helping others know this. That this can be known as fact through the spirit as sure as any laws of nature or physics. Are you in a state of mind that the scriptures say " WE HOPE NOT FOR JOY" (It to good to be true).

Anonymous said...

Some have suggested that sections of the D&C are comparable to Plato's Timaeus or better. I think because the answers to the age old questions posed by Plato and Socrates are found in Jesus Christ's words to Joseph Smith this is why Dr. Specht was so excited. Not to mention that any thing that would cause you weep for hours when moved upon by the Holy Ghost would be a life altering experience. As a reluctant convert add my testimony to her's that it is a spiritual famine in the world and unless you have be through it and found the waters of eternal life and the fruit of the tree of eternal life on the other side it is hard to understand. I can not express enough the over whelming joy, gratitude and humility that comes over me when the Holy Ghost confirms the gospel restored.

Ujlapana said...

MG, I've come across some new (to me) apologetic concepts in this thread, but I didn't want to completely thread-jack this thing.

However, since you're insistent, I suggest you look for similar names in the 4th generation from Adam. Joseph had a Bible, so that would always be the most likely source (by FAR) for any names that seem Hebrew in origin. (e.g. Mosiah = Moses + Josiah) This is why NHM is so unremarkable: there's a Book of Nahum, for crying out loud!

I agree that tone speaks volumes. Believing Mormons will likely find mine offensive. Everyone else will probably find yours condescending. C'est la vie.

Walker, don't the snide remarks keep bringing you back for more witty exchanges? Nephi's legal defense is also new to me, but I checked it out at FARMS. I won't make any snide remarks about it, but I think it's clear from the text that Nephi didn't seem to think he was acting legally (that's not how he defends it). The extremely literal use of the term "lying in wait" also seems to suggest that you could kill a sleeping person any time (since you can't really lie in wait for someone who's immobile) as manslaughter, which is a bit of a stretch. And comparing the situation to Moses intervening to save the life of an imperiled slave? Please.

Robert said...

Uj,

A better comparison would probably be the sleeping children dying in Egypt. God's agent performed that task as well, and he therefore condoned it, which makes what Nephi did legal under God's law. He explained that it was God's will that Laban not be left to lead a whole nation astray, which is generally the argument for why God told the Israelites to destroy whole nations, or why he himself destroyed cities like Sodom, rather than let those nations lead others (and themselves further) astray.

The name comparison you make is a self-defeating argument. If the names Joseph used were Jewish, then they would appear in Jewish texts whether he found them there or whether they were written by another hand and he translated them. To demonstrate that the names can be found, or something similar to them can be, does not prove anything about Joseph being the original author. It merely proves that the names in the Book of Mormon likely have Jewish roots. Previous critics said the names were definitively not Jewish, and now that such an argument is thrown out the new one becomes that they were found in the Bible. How did Joseph learn to write in a style not recognized by any known scholar until the last sixty years or so? How did he get so much right about the geography of the Arabian peninsula without having ever seen it (including a river running into the Red Sea which was previously thought to be wrong but has only recently been found)? How did he know that volcanic eruptions occurred at the time of Christ's death in the New World? How did he know that cultures and governments in Mesoamerica were like those described in the Book of Mormon instead of like Native Americans in the Northeast where he grew up? None of those concepts would've been readily available to him in the Bible. But, as an earlier post points out, even if the profundity of evidence proved the Book of Mormon was an ancient text translated by Joseph Smith, there would still be people who refused to believe because it's not really evidence they want. What they (and it seems evident you, uj, are included in "they") want is not to believe, and to instead tear down those who do. What is gained by such an endeavor? What benefit do you find in tearing down someone else's beliefs? If you don't want to believe in the Book of Mormon, then that is your choice, but believing in it and accepting the church as true is the choice we as members make, and the choice Dr. Specht made. She did not do so because of copious amounts of physical evidence lying around. She did so because of her familiarity with the gospel and her immediate recognition of the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures as exactly that, gospel.

Anonymous said...

Right on Robert. Could not have written it better myself.

Ujlapana said...

Thank you, Robert, for acknowledging the obvious--if God says it, you can do it. Now we can deal with how to trust the voices in your head as being from God, rather than yourself...in another thread. The question for you to ponder, I suppose, is just what kind of feeling would you need to have to kill your own child for no other reason than God is telling you to? What level of "knowledge" would be sufficient for you? Interesting questions. Not as interesting as why God suggested the Israelites keep virgin slaves (Numbers 31), but interesting nonetheless.

It reminds me of what Emma must have felt, when she caught Joseph cheating on her. Did she get a remorseful apology? No, a revelation condemning her to hell if she didn't accept their new open marriage. When people do immoral things in the name of God, what recourse is their for helping them improve?

I admit I cannot take the time to address the flurry of misinformation, half-truths, and red herrings that you whipped off in your response. I will point out, however, that the war of ideas is not the same as "tearing people down." This is a common misunderstanding which leads people to respond to hostile ideas with hostile physical actions, an oft-repeated cycle of human existence. If you read what I wrote you will see me mocking Nephi, who is fictional, and ribbing MG, who suggested, in all humility, that skeptics are usually arrogant. Perhaps believing that you are persecuted makes you feel better about your beliefs. Whatever works for you. If you want to get a better sense for what "tearing people down" means, I recommend you see September Dawn next weekend.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or does anyone else see hysteria growing in uj's offerings?

Anonymous said...

Good job Uj. Spoken like I felt before I became a member. I agree with everything you said. I don't have the answers to your questions but once the big ones are answered then the small ones or what if is something to help me get to sleep.

Bookslinger said...

The things Robert mentioned in his post of 5:25 am are not proofs. They are possible supportive _interpretations_ of the Book of Mormon used to make parallels with geography, the geological record, archeological evidence, etc.

Sometimes I get embarassed by apologists making too much of a stretch, and putting forth interpretations and extrapolations as facts. Because that falls into the non-believers' trap of trying to proove spiritual things through physical evidence. It just can't be done.

Jeff Lindsay is good in that he always qualifies the parallels he writes about, and points out they are not proofs, but merely illustrations of plausibility.

Ujlapana seems to have been rather respectful in his/her rejection of the binary either/or framework used by most LDS believers.

Since the apologetics mentioned in this thread are things that are subject to interpretation, LDS believers should not be so offended when non-believers offer possible alternative explanations. For every faith-promoting interpretation of how scripture relates to the physical world, there's another logical interpretation leading to a different conclusion.

I would also point out that belief in a supposedly "more plausible explanation" still takes faith in one's interpretation. Critics can't logically say that the Book of Mormon has been "proven false" any more than proponents can say that it has been "proven true."

A critic can say the Book of Mormon has not been proven true, but to say that it has been "proven false" is to assume that all archeological evidence has been found and correctly understood.

I don't believe that God is only available to scientists, historians, and archeologists who have the tools and smarts to figure things out. In my opinion, scientific and historial learning does not make one an expert in spiritual matters.

If God is a just God, there must be something available to all of humanity that they could use to find him if they want. And there is. There is spiritual access to God through prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit.

My religious faith is not based on which scientific conclusions have the most plausible sounding explanation. That's not how God works.

Faith in God is not found by investigating history, archeology, geography, and the geological record. The Apostle Paul nailed it when he said spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

I'm not dismissing scientific study either. We should investigate, study, explore, and learn. But until the various sciences have exhaustively learned _everything_ there is to learn, we'll never be able to use physical sciences to explain the spiritual realm.

Anonymous said...

Most members are not offended by other explanations I normally just disagree. Once the Holy Spirit confirms that the foundation of the gospel is in and only in the LDS church then the rest is interesting mind play. Many members try to use the same proof aginst those they disagree with that is used aginst them requardless of is supportaive logic. It just makes us feel better to here what others say about us in a positive manner requardless if it is true or not because when real questions of our faith come about then we reflect back to the spiritual experiences to get us through. Faith plus false proof fill in the gaps of the spirit confirming experiences of knowing that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Do we know what we have? Those that have search for the Perl of Great Price and then went and sold all that they had to obtain this perl is like those that obtain a testimony. As a convert I was able to live this and I thank you Mormon missionaries for finding me and helping to gain a testimony and allowing me the chance to go on a mission to Utah. Many of know what we have and with quiet resolve we do our best to do Christ's will. Now I am old and have a lot more the next big test would be for God to ask me to sell all that I have and follow him again like the young rich prince. Thank you Dr. Specht.

Walker said...

Uj,

Looks like the thread has progressed beyond my original remarks, but I will say this--the killing of Laban was definitely more indicative of the times than it was a rule to be followed. To believe that revelation functions independtly of the culture in which it exists is to be ill-informed and naive.

And just fyi, your depiction of Joseph's relationship with Emma during polygamy is similarly (and terribly) ill-informed. Not that this is news for most detractors, but you REALLY need to read up on your polygamy scholarship. Joseph did indeed make ammends to Emma on at least one occasion, even ousting two of his wives from the polygamous relationship to please Emma (Emily and Elizabeth Partridge to be precise--see the Bushman biography for the documentation).

Informed Mormons can see through the rhetoric Uj. While I do not know your motives, just know that educated Mormons know better than to accept your claims at face value.

Bookslinger said...

Walker: "but I will say this--the killing of Laban was definitely more indicative of the times than it was a rule to be followed."

How do you mean that?

As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, Nephi knew that he didn't have authority to kill Laban. It was not self-defense, as Laban was passed-out drunk. There was no immediate threat. Killing Laban was not justified by the previous threats of the day, nor by the theft of their family's treasure.

The only thing that justified Nephi in killing Laban was that God told him to do it. That's it, pure and simple. And Nephi _knew_ that it was the Lord speaking to him through the Spirit. He was _constrained_, or in other words the Spirit made it painfully obvious that the command came from the Lord. It was not a "still small voice" at that point.

And Nephi, knowing that the command of God overrides all other things, as in Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac, did not argue about the rightness/wrongness of it. His main concern was that he had never shed blood before. Therefore, in order that Nephi could overcome his natural aversion to blood-shed, the Lord told him _why_ Laban needed to die.

Robert said...

Uj,

I think the various writers who followed your comments have spoken to your specific assertions. To your questions of what I would need to hear to be willing to sacrifice my child or involve myself in polygamy, I cannot answer with any measure of accuracy. Because I have not been asked by anyone - let alone God - I cannot say. If I was asked by God, I cannot say I would jump at it and immediately follow. Moses did not do that when asked to lead the Israelites, nor did Nephi when asked to kill Laban. I have, in my own experience, asked for more than one response to the same question to verify that I had indeed interpreted the Spirit correctly, and I received a response that was in the same style but with greater depth. The second response satisfied me, and helped me greatly appreciate the first one. But to answer specifics to your question is just not possible.

Bookslinger,

Thank you for saying so much better what I really set out to say when I started writing. I should've left more out than I put in, and I should have qualified my statements better as you suggest, but my point in responding was really to say that proof does not build testimonies. You have said that more aptly, and one of the best articles I've read recently (from the Sept. '88 Engsign, Oct. '88 Ensign, or Feb '92 Ensign, can't remember which it was) that explored evidences for the Book of Mormon, the preface specifically quoted one of the Presidents of the Church, I believe it was Spencer W. Kimball, and said that the greatest proof will not do as much to help someone build a testimony as will prayer and confirmation through the Spirit. I badly paraphrased the quote, but it really codified my own beliefs well. I do not seek prove to confirm my faith. I enjoy evidences because I am thinking person who likes to explore more fully anything that I am interested, and I am definitely interested in my own faith. To turn my mind on in my work and then off at church has never worked for me very well. I have at least begun to learn to listen first with my heart and then accept with my mind.

And to anyone who read my post, know that I am not offended by ujlapana or any other responder I've seen on here. I just wonder why people who claim to be happy to be shed of the Mormon Church spend so much effort trying to tear it down after they've left. I never did that to the church I left. I see no point in such endeavors. I am happy with where I am in my own faith walk - or I am happy that I feel I am walking in the right direction at least - and I do not need to look behind me and scorn what I used to believe.

Robert said...

Oh, and to the discussion of how Nephi was or was not justified in killing Laban, I had a response written up this morning I failed to post that was similar to Bookslinger's. Nephi was only justified because God ordered him to kill Laban. Similar killings of people who slept were done on the orders of God in the past (e.g., the Egyptian first-born after pharoah refused to release the Israelites). God's demand for Laban's death was sufficient for Nephi once he knew it was indeed God who desired it.

Walker said...

Bookslinger,

I always appreciate your posts--really. However, on this point, I must strongly disagree.

An entire article by John Welch on the intricacies of the Hebrew law during Nephi's time. No time to regurg. it here. Let's just say that Nephi's killing of Laban was far different than the kind of killing spoken of in Exodus 20-21--a far more complex kind, a more defensible kind. Nephi never said that he broken one of the Ten Commandments, something he surely would have done given the centrality of the Ten Commandments to Mosaic Law ("And I said in my heart, 'God hath said thou shalt not kill'). He only said that he had never killed anyone. OUr understanding of the MOsaic law must be nuanced if we wish to understand this very fascinating episode.

On a more philosophical note, if we cross the fundamental line, that is, that God grants authority to kill to anyone anytime he feels like it, we will fly in the face of the spirit of how God has directed us in modern America where the church has been organized in a more structured setting than at the time of Nephi(see the Manifesto--God commanded them to cease polygamy given the laws made against the practice).

I continue to maintain that Nephi's slaying was defensible given the Mosaic law. Yet again, we see that the BOM is complex in its ancient roots, not something easily spun together by a simplistic mind. Like Specht, we need to be willing to analyze our histories in every possible light--allowing the truth to win the marketplace of ideas.

Bookslinger said...

Walker, okay, I'll bite.

Quote me the verses in the Mosaic Law that justify Nephi killing Laban absent a direct command of God.

And feel free to "nuance" the Law of Moses however you want. I'm curious to see how much one has to "wrest" Mosaic Law in order to justify slaying a man who is passed-out drunk.

If I were a lawyer in 600 BC, I would much rather be on the side prosecuting Nephi, than defending him.

Just for the record, I am a believer in the Book of Mormon, and believe God really did tell Nephi to kill Laban, and therefore it was not a sin, and not murder.

The Mosaic Law, and priesthood in general, is very strict about having authority, especially in administering judgement, especially in matters having to do with life or death.

Nephi had no authority to judge, let alone execute a man. He was not a priest. He was not even of the tribe of Levi. He was not "an elder." He was not an "officer." He was a nobody, with no authority.

Bookslinger said...

On to a related point... The Lord certainly has the power of life and death in his hand. In an absolute and technical tense, the Lord didn't have to have Nephi do the killing. The Lord could have caused Laban to choke on his own vomit (he was drunk), or given him a heart-attack or a stroke, or just simply stopped his heart.

Why did the Lord require Nephi to be his executioner?

Here are my suppositions:

1. The Lord was testing Nephi.
2. The Lord was training Nephi.
3. By having Laban die a violent death, and Nephi and his brothers being the prime suspects (since they had had an altercation with Laban, and had motive to kill him), the event basically prevented Laman and Lemuel from ditching the family in the wilderness and going back to Jerusalem. With Laban dead, and the family of Lehi being the prime suspects, Laman and Lemuel couldn't go back without being accused of Laban's murder.
4. The Lord wanted to magnify Nephi in the eyes of his siblings and the rest of the party. This was to show them that the Lord meant business, and Nephi was going to do _whatever_ it took.

Personally, I'm very interested in knowing "the rest of the story." I hope it's written on Nephi's large plates, and it will be revealed someday, even if it's in the millennium or later.

I'd be curious if the authorities in Jerusalem suspected Nephi/Laman/Lemuel/Sam in Laban's death, and if they pursued them in the wilderness.

I'm curious about whether the conversation that night, after Nephi got the plates, and "persuaded" Zoram to go with them, went something like this..

Laman: Nephi, why did you have to kill Laban. If he was passed-out drunk like you said, why didn't you just take his sword and over-clothes, and leave him in the street?

Nephi: Well, God told me to kill him.

Laman: Yeah, right. [rolls eyes]

Later on, as they approach the family's camp in the wilderness. Laman runs ahead to be the first to give the news to their father.

Laman: Dad! Dad! Nephi killed Laban in order to steal the plates! They're going to come after us, and we're going to be stoned for the murder of Laban. And it's all Nephi's fault! Nephi killed Laban all on his own. I didn't have anything to do with it. We're all going to die! And it will be all Nephi's fault.

Lehi is very concerned about this. He didn't tell Nephi to fight or kill anyone, just to follow the Spirit.

In a few minutes, Nephi comes trudging up to camp with the plates in his back-pack. (No one else wanted to help him carry them.)

Lehi: Nephi, my son! How glad I am to see you! I knew the Lord would preserve my children and make a way for you to get the plates. Bless you, my son!

Laman: But dad, he killed Laban! He murdered him in cold blood!

Lehi: Nephi, here, put the plates here. And what's this about Laban? Did you really kill him?

Nephi: Here you go father. [puts plates on a blanket/skin in front of the big tent]. And yes, I slew Laban with his own sword.

Laman: See dad! I told you! He killed Laban! They're going to come and get us! We're all going to DIE!

Lehi: But Nephi. Was it really necessary? Why did you kill Laban?

Nephi: Father, I killed him because the Spirit told me to. I was _constrained_ of the Spirit.

Lehi closes his eyes and says a quick silent prayer, and then opens his eyes.

Lehi: Okay.

Laman: "Okay" what? Is that all you're going to say? For cryin' out loud, dad, he killed a man in cold blood, just to get some stupid pieces of old brass!

Lehi: Okay, I believe you, Nephi. Now let's have a look at those plates.

Ujlapana said...

Just a couple of thoughts:

Most people who leave the church never look back. I suspect they're usually converts who try it out for a while, decide it doesn't meet their spiritual needs, and move on. Their family and friends say, "Glad that's over," and maybe laugh about the whole thing a few years later. (Except that the church won't leave them alone, so HTer's and missionaries keep dropping by on an annual basis.)

But some people, usually those that are born in the church, don't have such an easy out. They are constantly harassed or pestered by their still-believing relatives or friends (those that remain such, at least). They may feel like they've finally seen the world for what it is, and are troubled by the fact that those they love are still walking in darkness. So they find themselves either seeking solice from others in their plight (such as at NewOrderMormon.org) or trying to help other Mormons really see the emperor's outfit.

I don't know exactly what Emma and Joseph said to each other about polygamy. Nobody does. But we know she went so far as to deny it happened her entire life--she obviouslyy hated it. He had married her in a monogamous vow, and he violated it! Even if he conceded a few wives, he took plenty more.

Walker, to say, "Yet again, we see that the BOM is complex in its ancient roots, not something easily spun together by a simplistic mind," suggests that something in the BOM creates this complexity. But in reality, Nephi could have kidnapped Laban, just snuck in and stolen the plates, or whatever, but apologists would still write articles justifying whatever happened. I think the creativity is clearly in the mind of the modern reader. People find parallels everywhere--like the old email about 9-11 and the frequent appearance of the number 11.

Anyway, I only chimed into this because the hard-line black/white view espoused by many believers and many critics of the church is so disappointing to me. There are alternative approaches to these things, but dogmatism (on either side of the aisle) completely clouds one's vision.

Bookslinger said...

"Anyway, I only chimed into this because the hard-line black/white view espoused by many believers and many critics of the church is so disappointing to me. There are alternative approaches to these things, but dogmatism (on either side of the aisle) completely clouds one's vision."

You're entitled to your opinion of course. But I'm not worried that my dogmatism disappoints you.

Of course, you're entitled to your "alternative approaches."

And I suppose I'm just as disappointed that you embrace a middle-of-the-road can't-choose-one-side-or-the-other approach.

I do subscribe to Hinckley's (and other prophets') statements that Joseph Smith was either a prophet of God like he said, or a fraud.

The non-committal "every approach/viewpoint is just as valid as every other" philosophy strikes me as a bit cowardly.

It's one thing to respect other viewpoints, and acknowledge the right everyone has to freedom of conscience to believe what they want, and freedom of expression.

But if your aim is to triangulate between two polar extemes, then you're just as guilty of letting others determine your course as if you had signed on with one side or the other.

I'll defend your right to believe in non-committal, wimpy and ineffectual philosophies. That's freedom of conscience. And I'll defend your right to express your non-committal, wimpy and ineffectual philosopies. That's freedom of speech.

But I'll also claim my freedom of conscience to embrace my dogmatism, and exercise my freedom of speech to express my opinions of both my philosophy and yours.

Ujlapana said...

My, my--strong words from Bookslinger, who hasn't been carefully reading my posts.

I do subscribe to Hinckley's (and other prophets') statements that Joseph Smith was either a prophet of God like he said, or a fraud.

Okay, but you miss an obvious middle way here, that Joseph was genuinely confused himself. Or that he embellished the truth in order to help people stay committed to brotherly kindness. Maybe you should look up the word "fraud." Would you call yourself a fraud when you talk about Santa? How about when you discuss the possible off-screen actions or motives of a fictional TV or movie (or book) character?

Mormon Fundamentalists would agree that Joseph was telling the truth, but not agree that the LDS church represents the most important work ever--it's in apostacy, right? So there's another option.

The non-committal "every approach/viewpoint is just as valid as every other" philosophy strikes me as a bit cowardly.

I agree, and I never said that. I think my viewpoint is more correct.

But if your aim is to triangulate between two polar extemes, then you're just as guilty of letting others determine your course as if you had signed on with one side or the other.

Not in any way that I can see. You suggest there are two options. I suggest there are millions. They're not all equal, but they exist, even though you are apparently blind to them. While you must weigh the better of two options, I can find the best of millions. See how that works? Takes some effort, but it's worth it, I promise.

Here's a quick quiz, to illustrate my point:

1) The Internet is a
a) tool of Satan
b) tool of God

2) Thomas Jefferson was a
a) visionary patriot
b) vile slave-owner

3) George Bush is the
a) worst President ever
b) best President ever

Come on, don't go down some wishy-washy middle--it's one or the other!

Russell said...

Uj,

Believe it or not, I can concur with you on the creativity of some apologists. In fact, I would take the accusation further and accuse ALL ancient historians (at least any who ever have to write a book) of a healthy amount of imagination. We're dealing with extremely limited evidence when we deal with this kind of history (the discovery of the Lachish letters was huge for this very reason; on another issue concerning the role of Jews in the establishment of the Byzantine empire, there are 7 PIECES OF EVIDENCE...period).

That said, if the story were a simple one like you mentioned, why was it written that way, one with no loopholes (unlike the Nephi story), no caveats, no nuances? Why go to all the trouble of creating this dialogue?

Bottom line: This creation of the mind sustains far too much historical analysis for it to be merely written off as some tale Joseph thought of while he was plowing the field.