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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Want More Scientific Evidence About the Main Candidate for Bountiful? Here's How You Can Help!

Meridian Magazine is launching a series of articles reviewing the detailed reasons for accepting Wadi Sayq at Khor Kharfot in the nation of Oman as the best candidate for the ancient Book of Mormon site of Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula, one of many intriguing examples of Book of Mormon evidence. The story of the discovery and basic exploration of this site is remarkable, and the evidence so far stands as some of the most impressive factors supporting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, or at least its opening chapters.

Yet there are still many questions. A genuine archaeological investigation has not been conducted (one was supposed to happen, but the funded investigation went elsewhere for reasons I don't fully understand). The site is suffering from vandalism, tourism, decay, and environmental change. This strange, extremely unusual biological enclave needs to be protected, documented, and carefully explored by professionals, not just because it's of interest to Mormonism, but it is a rare and unusual spot on the globe that should be of interest to many naturalists, archaeologists, and other scholars.

So what's a lover of knowledge to do, LDS or otherwise? You'll be pleased to know that there is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting knowledge of the Khor Kharfot area. The Khor Kharfot Foundation (http://khor-kharfot-foundation.com/) may be exactly what we need to advance scientific knowledge in this small but significant spot in the Middle East. From their website:
The Foundation exists, therefore, to facilitate exploration and documentation of Khor Kharfot in its anthropological, archaeological, faunal and botanical aspects so that the history of human occupation is better understood. It also acts as an advocate for the protection of the site. At all times the most qualified specialists will be utilized and, wherever possible, Omani citizens will be involved in the effort.

Publication of findings will be undertaken as expeditiously as possible in both popular and scholarly outlets. Making information available is also intended to enhance awareness within Oman of Khor Kharfot and to encourage preservation of the site from further degradation.

With the generous assistance of Meridian Magazine, the Foundation solicits funds toward that end. All donations to the Foundation are tax-exempt under Section 501 (c) (3) of the US Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.

The Khor Kharfot Foundation has no connection with any other organization.
I made a donation today, and hope you will also donate.  Thank you, Warren Aston and Meridian Magazine for taking up this cause.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Amazing Tale of One Man's Perilous Journey from Islam to Mormonism

My experience with members of the Islam faith has been extremely positive, and I have respect for the peaceful forms of that religion that many people practice. But the chasm between our faith and Islam can be quite wide. Crossing it can be an incredible challenge. One man's journey from Islam to Mormonism is a gripping tale shared at LDS Living. Tito Momen's story is told in "My Name Used to Be Muhammad: One Man's Journey from Muslim to Mormon." Read the article (or the book) and let me know what you think.

Fifteen years in an Egyptian prison for just his conversion to the LDS faith--how many of us would be willing to pay that price? How much he suffered and lost for his beliefs.

Even the darkest trials of our lives can have value when we turn to God. Thank goodness Tito endured his trials and clung to his faith.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Problem of Evil and Some LDS Perspectives, Or, We Are All Statistics Till the Conflict Is Over

Shame and Anger: A Response to Small Miracles in a World of Big Pain and Evil

Latter-day Saints and other Christians I know sometimes share faith-promoting stories of how a prayer was answered or how they experienced a miracle of some kind. These miracles are rarely the bigger and more dramatic ones we would like to see, such as finding a cure to cancer or a way to heal Ebola.Yet these small miracles can be real and may be received with gratitude from the recipient, for whom the miracle may play an important role in strengthening faith or solving real problems. The sharing of these miracles, however, often brings negative or even hostile responses, typically draped in stinging sarcasm.

Wo unto the person who shares a story of losing and finding their car keys, after praying for help. Better that a millstone was attached to those keys and they were tossed into the depths of the sea than to be found with gratefully received divine help. Better that two millstones were attached to a grateful believer's lost kitten. And wo, wo, wo unto any member, but especially any allegedly insensitive male church leader, who would dare publicly recognize a kindness from God in finding a quarter to buy some food when tired and hungry (see my discussion of Elder J. Devn Cornish's story in my post, "Trivial Miracles and Petty Prayer: How the Accuser Teaches a Man Not to Pray"). Better that the purchased chicken parts were cast into the sea along with the found quarter and the hungry man himself, than to hint that God might miraculously help someone eat while millions starve with no sign of divine aid. Those who dare give public thanks for small miracles are likely to become "a hiss and byword" or, as Deut. 28:37 warns (NIV), "You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples," especially on the Bloggernacle, where some LDS thinkers are horrified and appalled when others imply that God could be so callous as to care about lost keys and kittens when there are big problems in a world where terrorists rage, disease ravishes, and Congress is in session again.

On the Web, believers soon become trained to be ashamed of God's tender little mercies, or even to become angry with those who express gratitude for rare but possibly real encounters with God's love through small miracles. For a faith in which we are encouraged to recognize the hand of God in all things (Doctrine & Covenants 59:21), this is unfortunate, in my opinion. Others in the Church and beyond are free to disagree, but I'd like to share some of my thoughts on this issue and also on the complex problem of evil.

Bethlehem, Cana, and the Problem of Evil

The story of Christ in the New Testament begins with His miraculous birth, a small but important miracle for Christians that remains completely unimpressive to skeptics since it surely looked like an ordinary pregnancy and natural birth. That small miracle was accompanied with the horrific massacre of infants in Bethlehem precipitated by Christ's arrival, thanks to the evil of one jealous king. The life of one infant was spared with a warning from God given through a dream to a parent, a classic small miracle with large consequences, while no timely warning came for the rest as far as we know. We see that God was capable of sparing those lives, but apparently chose not to. We are swiftly introduced to the problem of evil in a world created by a loving God.

Monday, September 08, 2014

David L. Paulsen on the Problem of Evil

Many thanks to Matt W. at New Cool Thang for mentioning the outstanding speech by David L. Paulsen, "Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil." This is an excellent summary of the serious challenges to Christian faith presented by the abundant presence of evil and suffering in the world, and a sound demonstration of the power of the revelations given to Joseph Smith in helping us to better address these issues. Much more to say on this topic later, but for starters, let me know your thoughts about Paulsen's treatment of 3 major aspects of the problem of evil. Good stuff, IMHO.