Why Can’t We Be Friends: Part 4 – Mad Respect for Kiwi57

Minisode

Posted May 10th, 2017

Are Mormon Priesthood holders really more powerful than Jesus?  Are Mormons really even Christians?  Listen in as Glenn responds to some very intelligent, articulate, critical comments recently made on the IOT website by faithful believing Mormon listener Kiwi57.

Glenn

  • kiwi57

    Hi Glenn,

    Just a few random notes as I listen to your podcast.

    The reason I mentioned the bit about the “boast” being correctly recorded, is that Joseph corrected most of his statements that were recorded in the History of the Church, except for those he made in the last few months of his life; they were written down after his death, at which time he was unavailable for editorial duties. When we see things in those last few months that appear inconsistent with what went before, when Joseph was correcting the record, it raises legitimate questions about accuracy.

    Group coherence as a manifestation of divine power: all I mean by that is that we don’t usually see a group of people who stick together and assume that the leader must be divine; or that the group that sticks together the best has the leader with the greatest power.

    Joseph was certainly not claiming to be greater than Jesus. Accepting for the sake of the discussion that he claimed to have accomplished something that Jesus did not, that is in fact consistent with what Jesus Himself said would happen, when he promised his disciples that they would work greater wonders than He had done.

    It’s true that “LDS doctrine requires an LDS-performed baptism.” However, as mentioned, we baptize by delegated authority. We have witnesses for every baptism, for instance, to make sure there are no mistakes in the things that we can control. However, we recognise that we aren’t infallible, and we have faith that the Lord who doesn’t make any mistakes will ultimately sort out ours.

    I must say that I find it puzzling that there could be any other “paradigm” for LDS Priesthood than the one I’ve described. Certainly, non-believers could see it as serving purely social and/or administrative functions in the Church; but the only model I’ve ever heard of that entails Priesthood ordinances having any eternal, spiritual or heavenly significance is that in which the Priesthood really is what we say it is. I don’t see how it is possible to make an argument that Jesus didn’t send Peter, James and John to confer the Priesthood on Joseph and Oliver, but that its ordinances somehow still determine who does or doesn’t get into the Celestial Kingdom. Either the Priesthood has the power to influence our eternal destiny through its ordinances, in which case it is authority delegated from Jesus, or it doesn’t, in which case it isn’t. There isn’t any coherent way to say that it is both non-divine and eternally efficacious.

    The point about unrepresentative snippets is that they create a distorted picture of what is in a document, such as JD (or HC.) The analogy of a pitcher of water with cyanide in it is an interesting one, but it can only go so far, because the statements in question aren’t dispersed throughout the entire document, like the cyanide in the water; they are where they are, and they don’t really “taint” anything else.

    Context is everything, and context is more than the paragraphs just before and after the excerpt in question. Joseph Smith many times spoke of Jesus in reverential terms as someone far greater than himself; his one recorded “boast” needs to be seen in that context. As just one other example – and there are many others like it – Brigham’s racist comments (and let’s agree that, by today’s standards, they were certainly that) have been used (may I say “exploited” ) to attack his personal character, the honesty and/or intelligence of those who follow him, and – more particularly – his prophetic calling. However, the larger context of those statements shows that he never actually expected anyone to be “killed on the spot” (note that this entirely theoretical penalty was thought to apply to the white participant only) and in fact enacted rather humane laws to protect slaves from being sexually exploited by their masters. Richard Burton (not the actor) commented on Brigham’s use of hyperbole in his sermons; that is also a relevant part of the context.

    All of which is taking us far afield from the topic, of course.

    And charcoal is still the best barbecue fuel. (But I’ll admit you don’t get as dirty using gas.)

    • Swaggy

      while I don’t think that Joseph Smith was insinuating that he was greater than Jesus, he did boast that his church was better than the church at Jesus’s time.

      Still an odd statement. Joseph Smith was a type of Trump.

      • kiwi57

        John 14:
        12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

        • Ophanim

          If you believe in Jesus he does the work through you. You still can’t flaunt that it’s your work.
          “striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Col 1:29

          • kiwi57

            Whether he should have said it or not, the material point is that Joseph never, ever, at any time, ever, claimed to be greater or more powerful than Jesus. That is an old anti-Mormon libel, and is false.

          • Ophanim

            From the HoC vol6 quote it is clear that JS is pinning the apostasy on Jesus’ lack of charisma and/or leadership, organizational management, or succession plan.

          • kiwi57

            No, he isn’t. The Apostasy, of course, was always part of the plan, and Jesus prophesied it in a number of places.

            And Joseph’s sincerity is an established historical fact. When you have demonstrated your sincerity as thoroughly as he did, in laying down his life for what he believed, feel free to let us know.

          • Ophanim

            Joseph would have brought far less controversy on his head if he had just quoted Jacob 4:7, “Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.”

          • kiwi57

            Instead, he made a passing reference to John 6:66, which his critics have probably never heard of.

    • Swaggy

      Actually, I take the first part back. Joseph said that he had more to boast of than any man. Any man. So he said he had more to boast of than Jesus. WTF.

  • Travis Gower

    First Law of Heaven: Obedience. Whatever else a Mormon might think, they make a covenant every time they go thru the temple: Obedience above all. Regardless of a member’s individual beliefs, the highest covenants available to most members dictate obedience.

    Am I “cherry-picking” LDS teachings here? How many times does a prophet have to say something before it is no longer “cherry-picking” to point it out? Conversely, how many times does a prophet have to say something before faithful members will obey? We all know how much even a single utterance can take hold in Mormonism — take Hinckley’s “single set of earrings” talk, for example. Not a doctrine, per se, but a good indication of the supremacy of obedience to authority.

    Many of the doctrines often repeated by ex-Mormons — Adam-God doctrine, blood atonement, polygamy, racism — were much more than just one-off comments. They were prophetic teachings that required, to varying degrees, the obedience of church members. Even members not inclined to believe or engage in such ideas very often did so. Their personal beliefs mattered less than the insistence of “follow the prophet,” which is hardly a cherry-picked idea in the LDS Church.

  • Travis Gower

    Subtract all the hyperbole, confirmation bias, bombast, cherry-picking, proof-texting, and other failings of ex-Mormon claims. There still remain plenty issues to sink the church. It’s not as if all our arguments have no substance.

    In the same way that ex-Mormons are often inclined to always believe the worst of the church, Mormons tend to always give the church the benefit of the doubt

    When Mormons strictly hew to doctrine and facts, instead of faith-affirming stories, they can criticize the excesses of ex-Mormons. Until then, they’re just another side of the same coin.

  • Jerome

    Hi Glenn,

    This is in support of Kiwi’s statement that a doctrine can never mean anything but what the interpretive community that believes it takes it to mean. This isn’t the sort of assertion that one backs up with evidence; it follows from the definition of doctrine, which means what is taught. Kiwi is right about this, but it leads to conclusions that most Mormon apologists would rather not support.

    A definition is agreed upon by convention and has no independent truth outside of how a word is commonly used. The best way to evaluate a definition is not whether it is “true” or “false” but rather whether it is useful or not, and Kiwi’s definition of “doctrine” is useful. The problem, of course, is that not everyone in the community interprets the doctrine the same way. So unless we define the doctrine to mean what most Mormons think that it means, there is no such thing as coherent Mormon doctrine. By this definition of doctrine, it is Mormon doctrine that here was a universal flood and that there was no death before the fall of Adam, because that’s what most Mormons think that the scriptures mean. It’s also Mormon doctrine that justice can be served by inflicting the punishment for one person’s sins upon another person who is innocent, because that’s what most Mormons think. Most Mormons think that their doctrine includes that blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood for a long period of time because they are descendants of Ham. So that’s Mormon doctrine as well.

    Many Mormon apologists like to argue as though there is some Platonic ideal of Mormon doctrine that exists apart from whatever it is that most Mormons think and believe. They can argue that if they want to, but it has no value apart from limiting the scope of craziness that they feel obliged to defend. Kiwi’s understanding of how to determine what Mormon doctrine means is the only one that makes any sense and the only one that results in a coherent understanding of what the church teaches.

    • kiwi57

      Actually Mormon apologists hold that there exists a body of definitive LDS doctrine, which is officially taught by the Church, is found in the four volumes of Scripture and in joint statements of the First Presidency and the Twelve, is expounded by them in General Conference, and printed in official curriculum materials.

      So we don’t lean back in our armchairs and assume that “most Mormons think” something; we look at official Church sources.

      • Thomas Moore

        …See, this is part of “my issue”. Because of my age, the church as it is now is not my church and has very, very anti-Mormon doctrine compared to what I was taught and raised on. I’ll give examples below. We can’t accept what was written in the “Journal of Discourses” yet we are to accept the doctrines that are now published in the Ensign as part of the everlasting gospel?!? Even when these things contradict previous teachings?

        1) Lay ministry/office of Stake Seventies. 2) Vast changes and deletions in temple ceremony. Yes I was part of the Blood Penalties and real washing/anointing ; I wasn’t afraid of losing my life, I was literally afraid that I’d be called by my priesthood leaders to possibly take a life using the appropriate penalties. 3) Loss of actual Christian activities. Ward parties, Road Shows, Boy Scouts, YDE (Youth Developmental Enterprises [yes I picked pineapple for two seasons & we have a FB group]) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_Developmental_Enterprises. Primary Children’s Hospital https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_Children%27s_Hospital LDS parochial schools http://www.deseretnews.com/article/565035550/So-few-LDS-schools.html
        4) The belief that races were becoming “whiter and lighter” as they became more righteous. 5) The belief of having actual “Lost Ten Tribes” blood (none of this “adoption” stuff). Correlation took away a lot of God’s mysteries, supernatural, historic teachings, celestial eugenics, The belief of Mormon reincarnation (eventually at the end of Eternity, all intelligences and beings will have the opportunity to advance because God doesn’t take away estates, he just damns though who can’t advance) There are so many things that have been taken away. Even something so pretty and holy sounding as “Proclamation on the Family” is actually very anti-Mormon compared to what I was taught and raised on. Even though we couldn’t at this time practice plural marriage; someday as the scriptures say: 7 women will cling to one man (2 Nephi 14:1, Isaiah 4:1) The “Proclamation” is clearly opposite of D&C 132 and was drawn up by lawyers to match other religions creeds for the amicus brief when they were fighting same sex marriage in Hawaii in 1995. 6) New scriptures and revelations and translations. There was a huge prediction and discussions in conferences and such on the “Dead Sea Scrolls” and the translations and saving being done by BYU. There was a 12 part series on “The Book of Enoch” by Hugh Nibley back in the Ensign of 1978-79. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library and the discovery and translation of “The Gospel of Judas” in 2002 (which is almost identical to Brigham Young’s teachings of the Adam/God theory) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Judas Then suddenly because of CORRELATION, God has closed down the inspiration, prophecies and teachings of the gospel, even though we were promised continuing teachings and revelations?!?!

        • Jerome

          Quite so. The apologists’ definition of “official” doctrine doesn’t reflect the everyday experience of being an active member of the church. My wife got released from her calling teaching relief society because she suggested that not everything said by general authorities is necessarily revelation. Because the relief society president and most of the members of the relief society didn’t agree, she was let go.

        • kiwi57

          Thomas Moore: “Yes I was part of the Blood Penalties and real washing/anointing ; I wasn’t afraid of losing my life, I was literally afraid that I’d be called by my priesthood leaders to possibly take a life using the appropriate penalties. ”

          Thomas, those who read the kind of nonsense you are putting out here can be divided into four groups:

          1. Those who will believe whatever they read because they don’t know any better;
          2. Those who are eager to believe anything bad about the Church of Jesus Christ, and the worse it is, the better they like it;
          3. Those who know better, and wonder whether you have trouble understanding plain English;
          4. Those who, like group 3, know better, but who, like group 2, are happy to have your misinformation believed anyway.

          I went through the Temple for the first time in 1977. I know exactly what you are talking about, and exactly how you are misrepresenting it.

          No-one ever expected to either be killed, or to kill anyone else. (No-one sane, anyway.) The exact sense of the portions to which you refer was exactly, and only, a very formalised way of saying “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

          • Thomas Moore

            This is obviously something you have forgotten. Didn’t the temple workers say, “These are ways that life may be taken.” or also, “I suffer my life to be taken”. These are in fact part of the Reed Smoot hearings and are sworn testimony from those hearings. It’s not that “anti-Mormon” stuff. That’s why the blood atonement is and was accepted by LDS; why Ted Bundy chose the Utah firing squad rather than lethal injection or electric chair because he believed that spilling his blood was necessary for any kind of redemption. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penalty_(Mormonism)

          • Actually Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair in Florida. Are you talking about Gary Gilmore? He was definitely shot, but the only two things on the menu in those days were hanging and the firing squad. Supposedly he chose the firing squad because he was afraid they would botch a hanging.

          • Thomas Moore
          • kiwi57

            John D. Lee was in no sense a “scapegoat” for the MMM, although there were others who should have been shot alongside him. Lee was the one who incited the Paiutes to attack, who got the whites involved when the started to falter, who planned the massacre, and personally killed several people that day. It was his project.

            The “scapegoat” story is generally put forward by those who subscribe to the “Brigham did it” conspiracy theory. This theory has been quite thoroughly discredited; it is now believed by no-one except those who really, really want to believe it.

          • I’m just inclined to believe the best constructed, most interesting story. God doesn’t tell boring stories, not in my Universe. Remember, the exchange rate between facts and alternative facts in Post Truth Trumpistan is one-to-one.

          • kiwi57

            I have forgotten no part of the earlier versions of the Endowment ceremony, which I had substantially memorised, being a Temple Ordinance worker for a number of years prior to 1993.

            The old “Blood Atonement” libel is every bit as false (and inexcusable) as the “Blood Libel” that was made against the Jews, for remarkably similar reasons. Indeed, the only real distinction I can see between those who libel the Jews and those who libel the Saints is that the former group are marginally less cowardly, given that the Jews are a lot less tolerant of being targets for those kinds of libels.

          • kiwi57

            Incidentally Thomas, if the truth matters to you at all, you won’t repeat the disgusting “blood atonement” libel until you have read and understood this:

            https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/publications/dead-men-tell-no-tales

          • Thomas Moore

            I do have to thank you for saying that the Mormon’s sacred temple ordinances are nothing more than secret passwords and pinky swears to get into the club. Also, I agree with you…if anyone saw a prayer circle with us doing the pay-le-El and the true order of prayer would agree that it was NOT SANE!!!!

          • kiwi57

            Given your Olympic-class talent for failing to understand plain English, I am not altogether surprised to see your heroic misunderstandings here.

            No, I am not agreeing with you that “the Mormon’s sacred temple ordinances are nothing more than secret passwords and pinky swears to get into the club,” and no reasonable construction of my words supports that assumption. In my view, the ordinances of the House of the Lord are of eternal and salvific significance.

            Nor are you agreeing with me with the rest of what you wrote. That fails entirely to resemble any part of my view.

            It is, of course, trivially easy to mock and belittle matters that are sacred to others. So easy, in fact, that it takes no talent at all.

            As you frequently demonstrate.

            But I stand by what I said: no-one sane (and plenty of perfectly sane people report that they were uplifted and edified by the Temple ordinances) ever expected to either kill anyone else or be killed due to anything they experienced in those ordinances.

            Sorry.

      • Jerome

        I’m well aware, but the “official” vs unofficial doctrine is an apologetic fiction. The apologists’ definition of “official” doctrine is not official doctrine by its own standard. It’s as I said above nothing but a device for limiting apologetic liability.

        • kiwi57

          Thank you, Jerome. I read what you’ve written, and I understand it thus:

          You resent the fact that limiting your attacks to official LDS doctrine makes the Church of Jesus Christ less vulnerable to your attacks.

          Tough. Live with it.

          You yourself agreed that doctrine is “what is taught,” and then you silently switched over to “what is generally believed.” Well, there ought to be (and actually there is) a pretty significant overlap between the two things; and in fact, if we were to scientifically determine the content of what is generally believed (using the tools of the soft sciences, I mean) instead of merely asserting it for polemical purposes, as you do, then I rather expect that there wouldn’t be a very large disconnect between the two things. But the fact remains that they are two distinct things, and would remain two distinct things even if their content was identical.

          Sources of official doctrine are well known, are publicly accessible, and are disputed by nobody without a polemical agenda. Thus, they provide the best possible control, not only upon the “apologists” you affect to despise, but upon the polemicists as well.

          So if someone claims that their Uncle Heber said that the Lost Ten Tribes were living inside the hollow earth, nobody but Uncle Heber has even the slightest need to defend such a notion. The Church does not teach it and has never taught it.

          Was there a universal flood? As near as I can tell, not in historic times. General authorities talk without the slightest sign of embarrassment about prehistoric earth, dinosaurs and whatnot; and the various theories explaining the former Priesthood ban have all been repudiated. So they are not Mormon doctrine.

          Incidentally, the ban itself will be forty years into the irrecoverable past next year. I was a serving missionary when the Revelation ending the ban was announced. Although Schadenfreude is not an attractive quality, I admit, without much shame, that it gives me no small satisfaction to reflect upon the fact that the window of opportunity for people like you to attack the Church on the question of race relations slammed shut on your fingers that June day in 1978, and that your attempts to still find something to whine about are sounding increasingly shrill and desperate as time goes by.

  • Kaytee88

    Hey Glenn! Loved this one, might be my favorite minisode. Felt like a mini smackdown. You went very in depth, and was very charitable to Kiwi.
    You do, however, have a total misunderstanding of Catholicism and the Communion of Saints, but it’s perfectly natural that you don’t understand. You were raised LDS in a country built on the Protestant ethos.

    Praying to a saint, such as Mary, is no different from asking someone you greatly admire for their prayers. Catholics believe those who have died and have gone to Heaven can hear us and watch over us via the Beautific Vision (direct communion with the Divine).

    Kneeling before a statue of the person is simply a sign of reverence. It comes from the very, very old practice of kneeling before people of great authority (such as a secular king).

    To a modern person who has no frame of reference outside of 1800’s Protestant culture (which Mormonism sprouted from), asking a saint for their prayers can seem like idol worship, but I assure you, for the first (nearly) 1,500 years of Christian History, nobody would have felt that way. The definition of “worship” has certainly evolved, and this litmus test of what is & isn’t worship definitely is a modern invention.

    I know this response to a couple throwaway digs at Catholicism probably doesn’t interest you at all Glenn (considering you’re an atheist that left a Protestant-esque church that probably doesn’t care to hear about other theistic religions) but still, figured I might as well comment!

    Take care!

  • Ramon Canizalez

    There shouldn’t be any apologies to any man infected rezoning mind, who’s believed, that the power and authority from the master and designer of all things, can be transferred to any mortal been, the enlightening of every soul is so independent from external sources and senses, the lds organization has made a joke out the divine, and atheist out descent believers who’s faith has been shattered and remains scattered.

  • Zelph

    Getting the feeling that Kiwi is just one of Glenn’s characters so he can test drive some of his new insights…pretty ingenious though if that were the case. By the by wink emoji

    • That’s a cool idea. You could create your own foil and have great philosophical jousts with yourself on the interwebs (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

      • kiwi57

        Actually such a fictitious character is called a “sockpuppet,” and is frowned upon in polite internet circles.

        • I have yet to be accused of being polite (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

  • Mary Ann

    As a believing member, I actually love listening to your podcasts. The barbs and sarcasm offer good entertainment, but the fact you guys back up your positions with good arguments is the real value.

    I do want to push back on two minor points brought up in the podcast. On the whole Jesus getting the priesthood on the Mount of Transfiguration – that isn’t what we believe. The current understanding is that Elijah and Moses were there with Jesus to bestow keys on Peter, James and John (see https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/transfiguration-mount-of?lang=eng). Also, due to our obsession with authority, current church leaders determine official church doctrine, not members (see http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine). So while it is entirely appropriate to discuss what lay members believe in discussions on Mormon topics, *official* doctrine may or may not match what the lay membership says.

    Love you guys!

  • Mary Ann