Having been given free rein to pick a chapter from this year’s LDS adult Sunday School manual to review, I decided to see what would be being taught near the time my post was due to go online. I discovered that it was chapter 10, entitled: ‘Our Search for Truth’.
The title seems entirely appropriate, given the aims, intentions and purposes of our website.
The chapter begins with this quote:
“It is a requirement that is made of us, as members of this Church, to make ourselves familiar with that which the Lord has revealed, that we may not be led astray. … How are we going to walk in the truth if we do not know it?”
As a Mormon, one feels a sense of being in a safe place when immersing oneself in this world of church publications, which are all so well-produced to a high standard and give off an air of authority. The program is all there for you as laid out by the church, and all that is needed is to read, teach and learn from these authorised materials and you come away with a sense of purposefulness and security which is greatly appealing to those who feel lost or directionless in the world. So, from the standpoint of us who contribute to this website, what may be said of the intention of this chapter, that of making, “ourselves familiar with that which the Lord has revealed, that we may not be led astray”? Well, I intend to show that focusing on, and being familiar with, ‘that which the Lord has revealed’, can be a tricky business for the LDS seeker of truth.
Looking to LDS scripture, one can become easily confused when trying to ascertain a clear picture of the nature of God. For example, the Book of Mormon is clear in Alma 11 that there is only one God: “And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No.” There are many other passages in the Book of Mormon that affirm the same teaching, and the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon support this also, as stated at the end of their testimony printed at the front of the book: “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God.” When reading from The Pearl of Great Price, those words start to become problematic, since we have Moses 2 on the one hand, which reads: “And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light” whilst in Abraham 4 one reads: “And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.” The problem of knowing what to believe when confronted with words that the LDS church claims are revealed by God starts to become apparent.
Further LDS teaching relating to the nature of God merely adds to the difficulties. For example, the Book of Mormon God is a spirit: “the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem? And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth.” (Alma 22:9-10) but the Doctrine & Covenants God “has a body of flesh and bones, as tangible as man’s”. (D & C 130:22)
The contradictions between the Book of Mormon and later LDS scripture continue when faced with the teaching of whether or not God may dwell in people’s hearts:
Book of Mormon: “the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell” (Alma 34:36)
Doctrine and Covenants: “the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” (Section 130:3)
Again, one can see in the following example that Book of Mormon teaching goes against subsequent teaching/ practice carried out in the LDS church. Let me present to you the words of Ether 8:18-19:
“And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God; For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.”
Here it is plainly the writer’s intention for it to be understood that God does not go about working in a secretive fashion. This brings to mind Jesus’ words when on trial, “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.” (John 18:20)
Yet we know that, for Mormons, God does indeed work in secretive ways, since the actions and wording involved in the secret temple oaths past and present are nowadays accessible to all who wish to learn about them. The ‘obligation of secrecy’ regarding the oaths taken in the Mormon temple are of the utmost seriousness to the temple-worthy Mormon. It is clear that the Book of Mormon theme of ‘secret combinations’, which is mentioned in several places throughout the book, presents a view that would suggest that God would not tolerate secretive oaths (even blood oaths as they were) to take place in his one true church.
I could continue with a great many more such differences, but will add only one more. Let us look together at Jacob 2:24, “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” There are a great many examples in the Book of Mormon where such a stance regarding plural wives is taken. Yet other LDS scripture has the opposite view, expressed in strident terms: “I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory… David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.” (D & C 132: 4 & 38)
Clearly verse 4 is stating in no uncertain terms that the ‘new and everlasting covenant’ of plural marriage is essential in order to ‘enter into (God’s) glory’, and part of the justification for this ‘new and everlasting covenant’ comes from the precedent stated in verse 38, that of David, Solomon and Moses receiving many wives (and concubines!) which was not sinful of them! Yet the Book of Mormon has God saying this was an abomination. Great confusion reigns here once again.
To return to chapter 10 from the ‘Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith’ manual, remember those words quoted earlier: “How are we going to walk in the truth if we do not know it?” Points 2 and 3 from chapter 10 state: “The Lord has commanded us to search the scriptures… We have a great responsibility to hearken to the message of truth that the Lord is now revealing to His servants.” I wonder how the truth can be known using LDS scripture with so many blatant contradictions with which to contend.
Fortunately, there is another way:
“ …whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John 14:4-11)
This is the way. HE is the way. HE is the truth! Ultimately that is what counts. Not seeking ‘the truth’ in LDS scripture. It is about knowing and (more importantly) being known by, God Himself. When we trust that Jesus is our way and is the truth, we can begin to understand that He is also ‘the life’. This is His gospel and it is far richer and more liberating than the ‘impossible gospel’ of Mormonism.