Primary vs. Secondary Questions

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, General Authority Seventy, speaks during a BYU devotional on Jan. 22, 2019.

Elder Corbridge gave this talk at the BYU devotional yesterday: What to do with your questions, according to 1 General Authority who’s an expert on anti-Church materials.

As part of an assignment, Elder Corbridge read critical material lots of critical or anti-Mormon material. In fact, he claims there’s virtually nothing he hasn’t read from critical or anti sources.

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Key point:

Elder Corbridge explained there are primary and secondary questions when it comes to the Church. The primary questions must be answered first, as they are the most important. They include:

  • Is there a God who is our Father?
  • Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world?
  • Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
  • Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the kingdom of God on the earth?
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In contrast, the secondary questions are unending. They include questions about Church history, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, women and the priesthood, how the Book of Mormon was translated, DNA and the Book of Mormon, gay marriage, different accounts of the First Vision and so on.

“If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too or they pale in significance and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t understand, things you agree with and things you don’t agree with without jumping ship altogether,” Elder Corbridge said.

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More from the talk:

“There are some members of the Church who don’t know the answers to the primary questions, and they spend their time and attention slogging through the secondary questions.

They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt,” Elder Corbridge said.

One cannot prove the Church is true by disproving every claim made against it. Ultimately, there must be affirmative proof. With the things of God, that affirmative proof comes by revelation through the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.

Faith, Reason, and Spiritual Experience

Wonderful perspectives with Blake Ostler.

Topics Discussed:

• Epistemology of Religious Experience
• The Distinctive Mormon Epistemic Practices
• Faith, Evidence and Reason

Among many other ideas, Blake makes the point that we should trust our spiritual experiences just as we would trust our senses. He states that we’re hard wired to be spiritual. That God has implanted within us a spiritual compass we can follow when we’re faithful.

Has Anyone Seen God?

Latter-day Saints believe the answer is yes!

Is it true that no man has seen God?

John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

JST: John 1:19 “And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.

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The video above shares several biblical passages in which God is referenced.

Isaiah 6:5 “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

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Acts 7:55-565But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Lehi’s Vision, 1 Nephi 1:8: “And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. “

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Several accounts from the Old Testament:

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This suggests bodily features of God and an ability to see Him. The Children of Israel are still at the foot of Mt. Sinai at the time of this writing. 2

This type of opportunity to see the face of God or his entire body (Stephen’s stoning context) isn’t a casual or common experience. See the verse below in John 6.

John 6:46: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. “

This verse in Hebrews stresses the same point:

Hebrews 12:14 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”

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Jesus himself said the following:

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” 

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Moses was initially fearful to see the Lord, Exodus 3:6:

“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. “

But later in his ministry Moses was permitted to look at the Lord’s back, Exodus 33:23

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Moses’ encounter with God couldn’t be much plainer than read below. Many saw God and survived to tell about it.

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After Jacob’s wrestle with the angel, Jacob shares this account:

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Additional examples:

Numbers 12:8 “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

Deuteronomy 34:10 “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face

1 Kings 11:9 “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice

Summary: The Old and New Testament attest that people do see the Lord under the proper circumstances and when they’re prepared.

How Not to be Secular

James Smith, professor at Calvin College, makes a case against rising secularism, emphasizing the continued presence of spirituality, and he asserts that a secularist explanation of humanity cannot account for spiritually motivated behaviors. This lecture was sponsored by The Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University and delivered on March 10, 2016.

Calvin College is a liberal arts college located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1876, Calvin College is an educational institution of the Christian Reformed Church and stands in the Reformed tradition of Protestantism. Calvin College is named after John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant Reformer.

God Can’t — How to Believe in God and Love After Abuse, Tragedy, and Other Evils

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Five beliefs in this book answer the question why a loving God doesn’t stop evil. Starting with the belief God cannot stop evil singlehandedly, the book adds that God empathizes with those who hurt, heals the injured to the greatest extent possible, squeezes good from evil God didn’t initially want, and needs cooperation from creatures to overcome evil.

Awesome podcast:

Oord helps shares his view on why bad things happen to us.

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Key points:

“God’s uncontrolling love makes it so that God can’t prevent genuine evil.”

“God isn’t sitting on the sidelines doing nothing.”

“God doesn’t permit torture. God doesn’t have the power to prevent horrific things.”

Many falsely believe this: The pain and suffering in the world is allowed by God for some greater good, some hidden purpose, some divine plan. Oord disputes this idea.

“God squeezes good out of the evil that God in the first place.”

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“God does have a plan, but it’s not a detailed plan.”

“God can’t prevent evil single handedly.”

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Dr. Oord is an ordained elder within the Church of the Nazarene.

King of the Jungle: The Mayan Empire of Archaeologist Richard Hansen

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This fellow, Richard Hansen, has done much to uncover long-lost Mayan civilizations. Read the article here.  

As a grad student, Hansen made a significant contribution:

“The gigantic El Mirador complex had first been discovered in 1926, and it was assumed that owing to its sheer size and elaborate layout, it represented yet another classic-period city like Tikal, only in worse condition.

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But while excavating a chamber in the bottom level of a structure at El Mirador known as the Jaguar Paw Temple (the jungle cat had totemic significance for the Maya), the 26-year-old Hansen came across fragments of polished-red pottery, undisturbed for centuries, that could only be preclassic in origin. “That ceramic was only produced in the Mirador Basin, and I was the first one who identified that,” he says.

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It was a startling moment of revisionism: It meant that the entire El Mirador agglomeration dated at least five centuries earlier than anyone had thought, to a period that began before the time of Christ, and that the preclassic Maya, rather than being primitive forerunners of a more elaborate classic civilization, had built far bigger and produced an even more complex and powerful political and social organization than their medieval successors—until they, like their successors, precipitously abandoned their massive settlements during the middle of the second century. “

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Hansen’s freedom from the strictures of academia also helped him become one of the very first archaeologists to exploit a brand-new technology that has been to Mayanists of the second decade of the 21st century what carbon-dating was to the Mayanists of the 1950s: light detection and ranging, or LiDAR. The technology—using airborne lasers to “map” the topography of a given area digitally, revealing the natural peaks and valleys, as well as manmade structures, beneath the dense jungle canopies that otherwise mask them—had been used for decades by NASA to create digital maps of planet surfaces.

A few videos, highlighting previously unappreciated pre-classic (1200 years ago) developments in Guatemala:

Read the entire article above.  It shares the history of LDS-supported projects in the area.

LDS Magazine wrote the following article in February 2018 when the National Geographic story was published:    How an Incredible New Archeological Discovery Corroborates the Book of Mormon


Bruce and Marie Hafen: Understanding and Navigating Stages of Faith, Pt. 1

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Awesome podcast.

They discuss the class — Religious Problems — they took at BYU decades ago.  The format was that each student would introduce a topic about a “controversial” topic.

Topics included church history, Joseph’s polygamy, race and priesthood, living one’s religion, having the spirit, etc.

We should be able to discuss these things — doubt, faith, questions — in the open.  And learn from these topics.

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The Hafens gave a topic at BYU-Hawaii:  “Faith is Not Blind” and wrote a book with the same title.

 

 

JRR Tolkien and the Book of Mormon

Fascinating article:    What J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works Can Teach Us About the Book of Mormon:   New Study Reveals

Article text below:

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Skeptics have sometimes compared the Book of Mormon to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, including his epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings. If, they reason, Tolkien could create an entire imaginary world, with a large and detailed geography and a complex history that involves multiple ethnic groups, wars, and intricate subplots, it’s surely not impossible to imagine that Joseph Smith might have done the same.

Of course, there are some differences between them. For example, Joseph Smith was a marginally literate frontier farmer who dictated the Book of Mormon in less than three months and always insisted that it represented genuinely ancient history.

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By contrast, Tolkien, who created his Middle Earth over the course of many decades and never claimed it was other than fiction, was an accomplished philologist and translator. He taught at Oxford University as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and then as the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature.

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However, a new comparison of the Book of Mormon to the works of Tolkien is well worth considering. In their intriguing article “Comparing Book of Mormon Names with Those Found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Works: An Exploratory Study,” four Brigham Young University professors — Brad Wilcox (ancient scripture), Wendy Baker-Smemoe (linguistics), Bruce L. Brown (psychology, with specialization in the psychology of language), and Sharon Black (education, with a focus on writing and editing) — look specifically at the unusual names found within both Tolkien’s books and the Book of Mormon. (It’s published on mormoninterpreter.com, of which I am the chairman and president.)

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They focus on “phonemes,” the smallest units of sound, using a hypothetical construct that they term a “sound print” or “phonoprint.” This is a pattern of sound that — rather like the individual “wordprint” seems to characterize different writers or like the fingerprints that are used to identify and specify the perpetrators of criminal acts — appears to be distinctively characteristic of individual authors and could, therefore, serve to differentiate one writer from another.

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“Traditionally,” say the authors of this new study, “words have been seen as the smallest building blocks over which authors have some freedom to choose. This new line of research expands the fundamental unit of text into phonemes and proposes the possibility that we could produce a phonoprint that would differ from author to author. Despite that authors have fewer sounds with which to create words than they have words with which to create prose and poetry, there is some evidence that authors favor certain sounds over others when choosing or inventing names.”

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Using this fresh and unusual research approach in an “exploratory” fashion, the authors examine the dwarf, elvish, hobbit, and human names created by Tolkien, as well as the Jaredite, Nephite, Mulekite, and Lamanite names found in the Book of Mormon. Although Joseph Smith always maintained that he had translated the Book of Mormon from an ancient record, his critics have frequently claimed that he wrote it himself, just as any ordinary writer composes a fictional narrative. Presumably, if those critics are right, he would have chosen the names for his imaginary world, or created them, just as other writers of fiction do.

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Their summary of their findings is worth quoting:

“Results suggest that Tolkien had a phonoprint he was unable to entirely escape when creating character names, even when he claimed he based them on distinct languages. In contrast, in Book of Mormon names, a single author’s phonoprint did not emerge. Names varied by group in the way one would expect authentic names from different cultures to vary. . . . Thus the Book of Mormon name groups were significantly more diverse than Tolkien’s. . . . If the Book of Mormon names were created by an individual, they were created by a very different process or based on languages more different from each other and consistent within themselves than those created by Tolkien.”

For Tolkien, the invention of fictional languages was a lifelong hobby that contributed substantially to his creation of Middle Earth. He began developing “Elvish” in his late teens, for example, and was still working on its history and grammar at age 81 when he died in 1973.

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It seems highly unlikely that Joseph Smith was better at inventing fictional languages than Tolkien was.

Evolution Proves God’s Existence

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William Lane Craig rightfully points out that Catholic scholar, St. Augustine of Hippo who lived from 354-430, articulated that creation wasn’t necessarily 6000 years ago.  Neither did Augustine required special creation with God “poofing” Adam into existence. This flexible conception of creation arose well before Science revealed the age of the earth and universe.

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Without intervention by God, Craig argues life wouldn’t have arisen.  Life simply would have been so improbable the Earth would have first been swallowed up by our dying Sun before life would have had a chance to develop.

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Latter-day Saints don’t believe in creation ex nihilo.  We believe in eternal matter and eternal spirits.  We believe God is the father of our spirits.   When men developed from their ancestors, at this point God may have given the first humans their spirits.

We simply don’t know how God was involved.  We welcome findings of scientists that demonstrate what occurred.  But we should all recognize there are limits to what Science can tell us.  We don’t need to adopt Scientism.  Instead, we should marry the best of Science and our faith.

 

Moroni’s Stone Box, protecting the Golden Plates

Fascinating topic.

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Informative podcast:

Details of box and location on the hill in this article:  Hill Cumorah.

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What ever happened to the box?  David Whitmer reported he visited the hill three times and saw the box.  Later, the box had drifted down the hill.  Read about it here.

The Maxwell Institute looked at a related topic in 2004:  Cumorah’s Cave.