Stated goal of this site: Building faith in Jesus Christ by making the Pearl of Great Price accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world.
The book that concerns us was purposely called “The Pearl of Great Price,” that term being . . . the designation of a treasure that is both hidden and inexhaustible. Being hidden, it must be searched out and dug up—brought out of the depths by the strenuous and determined efforts of whoever would possess it. Being inexhaustibly vast, it can never cease to be a source of new wonders to the inquiring mind. . . . The Pearl of Great Price is unique among scriptures in that its message is available only to that extent to which God’s children choose to make it so, but at the same time it is capable of conveying knowledge of undreamed of scope and significance.
– Hugh Nibley, “A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price,” Improvement Era, May 1970, 94.
Book of Mormon Central was created several years ago. I was pleased to see this site roll out. Many folks have had questions and struggled with the Book of Abraham.
I appreciated the details shared in these two recent articles:
From Jeff Lindsay in the context of recent scholarship by Jensen/Hauglid:
Jeff discusses issues relating to manuscripts (age, numbers, and contrasts with classics, such as Homer’s Iliad), erring scribes, the fidelity of oral transmission of histories, source criticism, and more.
The dating of the 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7, for example, is 2 years after Jesus’ resurrection! Paul was told orally many things when he met the Apostles in Jerusalem around 30 AD. Critical, non-believing scholars agree on this early date.
“Within 3 years of Jesus’ death, the early church was circulating a creed that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead.” That’s early!
Jeff discusses several issues: the flood, Jonah & the whale, Genesis’ creation account, and others.
The Bible is similar to a library. Lots of books there. Lots of books from different genres or styles there. Not all the books are historical non-fiction. Same with the Old Testament.
Some in the Old Testament is poetry. Some is parable. Some is absolute history. But not all is absolutely historical.
Did the Good Samaritan story really happen in the New Testament? Probably not.
Did Jonah really get swallowed by and remain in the belly of the whale? For three days? Almost certainly not.
Ben Spackman is a helpful source on this topic:
Short video about when Joseph first began to think about polygamy. First revelations on the topic were before 1832.
Joseph Smith polygamy expert, Don Bradley reviews the timeline associated with this marriages and surrounding details, including those about possible pregnancy with Joseph.
Don highlights events in 1836 with Fanny showing signs of pregnancy in July 1836. Emma was a major player in getting Fanny out of the Smith home around that time.
Gospel Tangents discusses the restoration of the priesthood in 1829, and its relevance to Fannie Alger. Peter, James, and John bestowed the Melchizedek Priesthood. That fact in 1829 helps answer this question: was Fannie sealed to Joseph and with what authority?
Elijah restored the keys to direct others to seal and be sealed. This occurred in Kirtland in 1836. Keys are not priesthood. Joseph held the priesthood since 1829.
Though Joseph didn’t orally share the Elijah Kirtland visitation, it was immediately dictated and put in a journal.
A candid discussion about the young women Joseph married:
Side (but relevant) note: a non-LDS miller — Jacob Hawn of Hawn’s Mill, Missouri — married a woman at the age of 15. Jacob’s first wife died, and Jacob 2nd wife was 15. Young for us, but not too young for that time.
There is no solid evidence of sexual relations with women Joseph was sealed to by eternity-only ordinances, including young Helen Mar Kimball. Helen was 14 years old when sealing occurred. Significant evidence exists, however, for Jacob Hawn (wife was 15), Edgar Allen Poe (wife was 13), and others of that time did have sexual relations with their young wives.
Sealings to Young Brides: from Brian Hales’ site, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy
I created another post here that details the parsonage/stipend that our up to 108 full-time leaders are eligible for. That discussion — do LDS leaders get paid? — has tended to be poorly understood topic, in my experience.
This post below, however, will more broadly focus on the full scope of LDS finances, tithing, etc.
These videos and articles provide useful context:
This might be the best summary on the topic of the LDS Church’s endowment I’ve ever seen:
Major subtitles in the article above:
– Are the Church’s reserve funds illegal or somehow evading taxes?
– Is saving $1 Billion a year for a “rainy day” fund wrong or abnormal?
– Why would the Church have a rainy-day fund?
– What about the two alleged distributions, those must be illegal, right?
– Are there other public policy concerns?
– Should a church hold $100 billion that could otherwise be spent on helping those in need?
– Should a church have the freedom to avoid transparency into its finances and should it avoid “opening its books”?
– Is asking the poor to tithe morally wrong?
– Should wealth escape taxation because it’s owned by a church?
– What about just taxing the excess wealth of a church? If the money is just sitting around, why not have the government put it to better use?
– Why not tax huge endowments, where the nonprofits have more than they could ever need?
Final paragraph: In the meantime, Latter-day Saints can appreciate the impressive arc of a church that was once on the cusp of financial ruin, and now, thanks to faithful tithing and prudent management, appears to have all it needs and more to carry out what they believe is a divinely-appointed mission.
Jeff @ LDS Q&A:
Kathleen Flake at the U of Virginia wrote this: Mormonism and its Money.
First paragraph here: ” The Washington Post’s recent news story, captioned “Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund” is likely to be met with little resistance to its message. It is a familiar one: Mormonism is too rich and stays so by exploiting its members. The old canard takes its new form in a former employee and devotee’s complaint to the IRS that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is hoarding money, which should be given to charity.
Indeed, it has hoarded so much, according to an accompanying video, members would not have to pay tithing if that money were used instead of saved. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot and, not least, the facts. Forbes has already responded to the fallacies related to the legal claim: “there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.” [See also a subsequent analysis here.] However, the moral claims in the complaint – miserliness, dishonesty, and exploitation – invite us to investigate further. …”
Michael Quinn, a credible Latter-day Saint scholar, shares additional context in these interviews with Rick Bennett:
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Sound scary? Well, a clearer understanding will remove any fear that John was condemning Latter-day Saints and their additional revelations.
As usual, context matters. Moses made a similar comment in Deuteronomy. Proverbs mentions a similar concept. And John himself likely wrote his Gospel and epistles after writing Revelation.
No, the canon (New Testament) wasn’t closed with John’s words in Revelation 22.
Some feel the Old Testament is largely fiction. Whales, arks, towers to heaven, Satan singling out Job, and more. Some feel the resurrection isn’t possible. Not historic. Same with other scriptures and miraculous events.
Dan Peterson shares his thoughts: Historicity: Does it matter?
Removing some of the often-present confusion on this topic of historicity, Ben Spackman articulates the Bible has multiple genres.
In Ben’s own words: “Often times when reading scripture, the assumption is made that the text is either literal or figurative, but these two categories are insufficient to describe the different genres of scriptures.
It would be more helpful to approach the Bible as if it were a library that contained books of many different genre instead of being all the same type of writing. No Christian would presume to label all scripture as parable. Likewise all scripture should not be labeled as history. The Bible contains books of satire, law codes, poetry, parables, myth, conquest narratives, and prophetic revelation among other things…”
A special focus on Book of Mormon historicity below:
Brant Gardners 2004 FAIR conference lecture, A Case for Historicity: Discerning The Book of Mormon Production Culture.
The process and content are without parallel. As B.H. Roberts said 100 years ago, “Match it!” Turns out, the Book of Mormon is matchless.
Debunking Other-author Theories
Why was Joseph Smith killed?
Rick Bennett covers this topic in much more detail in several interviews. This is the first of 7 segments on this topic. Additional videos can be found here.