Truth Cannot Contradict Itself

June 25, 2006

Joseph Smith once wrote:

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? (Joseph Smith-History 1:10)

When I was sixteen years old, so long ago, I read these words and they had a very deep impact upon me because I had lost my faith in the teachings of my childhood. I had been reared an ecumenical Protestant of primarily a Baptist persuasion. And during my early teen years I started to ask the clergymen of my acquaintence questions about God, the Bible, and what we believe as Baptists. And the more questions I asked, and the more they failed to answer in any way that I found satisfying, the more certain I became that their teachings taught a religious whole within which were numerous self-contradictions. And I instinctively understood that what there were teaching must therefore be false because truth cannot contradict itself. If 2+2=4, it cannot also equal 5. I was more certain of this than I was that there is a God. Even today I am more certain of this than I am of God's existence, or my own existence for that matter. I know that truth, if I ever find it, will be perfectly self-consistent. Because an idea or system of ideas that is self-contradictory is always false.

So in this frame of mind, imagine how thrilled I was to learn of another young man about my own age who had questions about religion who also found the answers a mass of self-contradiction and confusion. Like myself, young Joseph knew that because the various denominations of his day contradicted each other on very basic things, they might all be wrong. But there was no way that they could all be right. Truth cannot contradict itself.

I've pondered this over the years and my understanding of this important truth has grown. For one thing I have come to know and love another thing that Joseph Smith wrote on exactly the same subject. He wrote:

"by proving contraries, truth is made manifest"

Even though I am not a student of philosophy, logic or mathematics, I have always thought this to mean that when two things that are certainly true seem to contradict each other, there must be a resolution of that contradiction on some level which we have not yet considered. And that by finding what that resolution is, we can learn new truth. Why? It is because two things that are true cannot possibly contradict each other. They may superficially seem to contradict each other, but there must be some greater perspective from which a resolution of the apparent contradiction becomes apparent. And if we are really interested in seeking out the truth, then it is our duty to find that greater perspective. And if there is no level or perspective at which the resolution becomes apparent, if they actually do contradict each other, it is absolutely impossible for both of them to be true.

Isn't this what the young Joseph meant when he said that all of the churches might be false, but they could not possibly all be true because they directly contradicted each other on various points of doctrine? Can you see how this thought about proving contraries relates to his statement in JS-H 1:10? Were all of the churches wrong, or was one of them right and all of the others wrong? Obviously they could not all be right because they contradicted one another. This is the way the man's mind worked. And it thrilled me as a 16 year old teenager to hear about this from the Mormon missionaries because it is also the way that my mind works. It was for this reason that I had already rejected the traditional Christian faith of my childhood before I ever met my first Mormon.

Well today on a whim I did some Googling to see if I could find out more about the Joseph Smith quotation about proving contraries. And I also went looking for what Joseph might have meant by "contraries." What are they? We don't talk like this any more. It is not part of our culture to "prove contraries" whatever that is. I didn't even know what a contrary was. So I looked it up in a number of different sources. And this is what I found:

In logic, a contrary is "a proposition related to another in such a way that if the latter is true, the former must be false, but if the latter is false, the former is not necessarily true."

Elsewhere I find it defined as "a logical relation such that two propositions are contraries if both cannot be true but both can be false."

This is what drove Joseph into the woods that glorious morning of the First Vision. He was intelligent enough to understand that all of the churches might be wrong, but if not, only one of them could be right. Because truth cannot contradict itself.  As Latter-day Saints we ought to remember this important truth better than any other people in the world because we remind ourselves nearly every day because of the clothes we wear. Certainly truth is circumscribed into one great, self-consistent whole.

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Aren’t you glad the Savior’s church doesn’t have these problems?

June 22, 2006

Just a few minutes ago I received an email from one of my sons-in-law telling me that every day he sees more and more proof that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and right. He then referred me to this news story about troubles in a traditional Christian sect. My heart burned within me as I realized how well his faith in Christ is growing. What a thrill it is to see the man to whom I have entrusted my daughter and my grandchildren continue to grow in the gospel.

Watching my son-in-law prosper and grow builds my own testimony. It especially builds my testimony of home teaching. I met this fine young man many years ago when he and his single mom were assigned to me as one of my home teaching families. He was in his teens and was never active during those years. But he came over to my home often, and we became great friends. Never at the time did I imagine that he and my nine year old daughter would some day become the parents of my only grandchildren and bring me such joy. So watching his testimony grow, builds my own in ways that I never imagined.

What a joy it is to have children! What a joy it is to have grandchildren! And what an extraordinary joy it is to see my home teaching bear this kind of fruit. I hope that he and I will be good friends for a million billion years and more. I know of no other faith that can offer me such a hope. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints truly is the Lord's own church, the Kingdom of God on earth.

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Midgley’s Preliminary Response to Roasted Tomatoes

June 22, 2006

Note from John W. Redelfs: Louis Midgley has offered to write a guest post on The Iron Rod early next week relative to the current discussion taking place in the comments to my "FARMS vs. the Signaturi" which I posted on Tuesday. Here are some preliminary remarks which he has asked me to post for him this morning. He promises us more after the weekend.

I rather like what Roasted Tomatoes has fashioned. He has spunk and has done some research and discovered a few things. I would enjoy having a conversation with him and others on my "Prying into Palmer." I will, if you will permit, fashion something responding to "Reviewing the FARMS Review: Midgley on Palmer" by Roasted Tomatoes (aka JNS) But I have to finish some editorial details on the editor's introduction to the next issue of the FARMS Review 18/1 (2006). This must be done this morning, and then I must attended a meeting of Maxwell Institute people with Richard Bushman. Immediately after this meeting, my wife and I are leaving town for a couple of days–I am going fishing. When we return, I will draft something for you. I will have it to you on Monday.

But I can say now that I agree with Roasted's comments about Ann Royal probably not being the editor of Paul Pry's Weekly Bulletin. I have worked long and hard on the question of who edited that thing. I was too confident that she had been the editor of that thing. I have been unable to figure out who it was. But, as Roasted indicates, it really does not matter. Probably Roasted does not know this, but I have already tried to address the problem of determining who the editor of that tabloid was. Who the editor was is, as Roasted grants, not really an important issue. And neither is the question of whether Grant Palmer knew that "Paul Pry" had anti-Mormon connections. He may or may not have known. However, his current effort to explain how he came up with that name is not all that plausible. And Roasted needs to ask himself if he has represented the explanation that Palmer recently provided on that Podcast accurately. He needs to make and then post a transcript of the relevant portions of that Podcast. Why? My understanding is that Palmer indicated that on a holiday in London he visited the West End (the theatre district) and noticed the name Paul Pry on a leaflet giving tips on plays and musicals. I am confident that Palmer mentioned that he loves to travel and on one of his trips to London, which had to be prior to 1980, he found that name in the theatre district. Palmer will have to demonstrate that he was in London prior to having adopted the name "Paul Pry" to hide his identity from CES.

His current explanation is not what he told me when I had a long phone conversation with him. Back then, what he said is that someone had suggested the name to him. He could not recall who it was. At that time he was very close to Brent Metcalfe and Ron Walker, who were then busy looking for anything they could find that would cast light on what turned out to be Mark Hoffman's forged Salamander Letter. For example, It was Ron Walker who introduced Palmer to E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Golden Pot. And it was that tale that got Palmer started writing "New York Mormonism" under the name "Paul Pry Jr." So who might have mentioned Paul Pry to Palmer? I do not know and he probably cannot recall. But it is likely that it was someone who was right then working on the very earliest published literature on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Paul Pry's Weekly Bulletin was one of the very first such publications. Palmer's most recent account of how he just happened to come up with Paul Pry as a handle, however, is much more plausible than his efforts to see the Moroni story in The Golden Pot.

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Book of Mormon DNA Problem Solved

June 21, 2006

Reading in Jacob a couple of days ago I ran across a passage that completely solved for me the so-called “problem” claimed by the enemies of the Lord who proclaim against what his chosen servants have taught concerning the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon.  Joseph Smith was an honest man telling the truth about the First Vision and the gold plates. Yet these people pretend they can overturn the truth by misapplying the findings of modern DNA science in a dishonest effort to deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon.  Here is the passage that settles the “problem” for me:

13 Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites.

14 But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings. (Jacob 1:13-14)

Here in the Book of Mormon itself it is made clear that the Lamanites, who were the principle ancestors of the Native Americans, were not all the descendants of Laman and Lemuel who were the sons of Lehi, the Jew, who came out of Jerusalem.

The term Lamanite, according to this passage written by Jacob the brother of Nephi, was applied to anyone, regardless of ancestry, who sought to destroy the Nephites. DNA science, archaeology, and paleoanthropology have clearly established that the Lehi colony was not alone in the “promised land” of the Americas. And this passage of scripture clearly states that anyone who sought to destroy the Nephites was considered by them to be “Lamanites” regardless of their ancestry. So that completely solves the ridiculous assertion that there is some “problem” caused by the recent discoveries of modern DNA science. If the Nephites were calling those not descended from Laman or Lehi “Lamanites,” then the statement that the Lamanites were the principle ancestors of the American Indians is perfectly consistent with the scientific record. With this scriptural passage it is clear that Lamanites included but were not limited to the literal descendants of Lehi and his rebellious sons, Laman and Lemuel. And using this definition of Lamanites, those who came over the Bering land bridge from Siberia could have been called Lamanites just as well as those descended from Laman and Lemuel. If a few of the saints have made the error of assuming that all of the American Indians were descended from Lehi, they just didn’t read the Book of Jacob carefully enough. They overlooked this passage.

I just knew there had to be some scriptural explanation for this “problem” that could not possibly exist because the Book of Mormon is a genuine record of an ancient people brought forth by the power of God in our day.

Next I want to figure out how the references to horses is resolved.

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FARMS vs. the Signaturi

June 20, 2006

There is an interesting debate going on in an email discussion at Mormon-Library, an email discussion group for Latter-day Saints and other individuals and book collectors interested in all things related to Mormon books. The debate is between George Mitton of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) at the Brigham Young University, and Tom Kimball, an editor at Signature Books, a publisher that has published some excellent material in the field of Mormon studies but has also offended many of the true believers, sometimes referred to as TBMs (True Believing Mormons or True Blue Mormons), by publishing scholarly and academic studies that have been referred to as The New Mormon History by some and as "digging for dirt history" by others such as myself.

Apparently Roasted Tomatoes, a well known writer in the Bloggernacle, and author with his wife of the Latter-day Saint Liberation Front blog featured as one of the main "Isles" at the Mormon Archipelago, an aggregator of the best in Mormon blogs, has written a post entitled Reviewing the FARMS Review: Midgley on Palmer in which he was not especially complimentary of Louis Midgley. That shouldn't bother Louis Midgley much, however. The author has clearly taken sides with Grant Palmer against the Church. And if Grant Palmer is right, then we Mormons are all being deceived by a great hoax, and our Church leaders have been lying to us about the history of the Church right from the beginning. Because the Church is true, and I happen to have an inspired testimony, I'm certain that could not possibly be so. Why would true prophets be liars? The correct answer, of course, is that they wouldn't. The liars are those who call them liars.

I hope that the Mormon-Library list learns the truth from this debate between Brothers Kimball and Mitton. Somehow I doubt they will. Usually such debate generates more heat than light, maybe that is why I enjoy it so much. I think I'll go discuss this blog post on my own email discussion list, The Friends of FARMS. The slant is a little different there, and if this debate generates enough heat, maybe my little list will enjoy some much needed traffic. I know there are many illustrious lurkers there.

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Have You Ever Been Lost In The Woods?

June 12, 2006

Have you ever been lost in the woods and temporarily didn’t know how to get back to the road, or camp, or the parking lot where you left your car?  It is pretty disorienting, isn’t it.  Remember how confused you felt?  Do you remember how you felt when you finally figured out where you were and which way you should go to return to safety?  That is a pretty happy feeling, isn’t it?

Well, that is exactly how I feel most of the time about the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Long before I became a Mormon I had questions about religion that I simply could not answer.  And I couldn’t find anyone else who could answer them either.  Often my spiritual leaders would tell me, “You will just have to wait until you get to heaven and ask God.”  But some of my questions were about things I needed to know now, right here in this life.  Without some answers I didn’t know my way out of the woods.  I didn’t know which way to turn.  Who should I marry? What course of study should I pursue in college?  Do my mother and father really love me or are they just saying that because they feel it is expected of them?  Is there really a God, or is that something my clergymen are just telling me in order to be successful in their careers?  Why are some sins so hard to avoid?  How come others are so mean to me?  Why am I so unpopular at school?  Why am I so lonely?  Why do my teachers at school seem to hate my guts?  Everyone tells me that Jesus loves me, but how can I be sure?  I know that I am supposed to help others, but what if I can’t even help myself and I’m just hanging on by my finger nails?  If school is so important, why do I hate it so much?  And why does everyone up at school seem to hate me so much, especially the other kids?  How am I ever going to get a girl to date me when I know that dating me would instantly destroy her social life because everyone thinks I’m so weird?

I can still remember how awful it was before I became a Mormon.  But ever since I met the Mormon missionaries things have been enormously better, and that was over 43 years ago when I was still in high school.  They were able to answer almost all of my questions for me.  And when I read the scriptures with them, for the first time ever they seemed to make sense.  All the times before when I read them, they just seemed to be empty words that didn’t mean anything.  Or if they did, I didn’t know what the meaning was.  Sure I knew there was a God.  Somebody was listening to my prayers.  I could sense that in some mysterious way.  But I didn’t know anything about him.  I didn’t even know if Jesus was his Son or whether or not that even mattered.  What did God want from me?  Did he want anything?

I was so mixed up and confused.  I really was like a person lost in the woods.  I didn’t know which way to turn.  I did not feel safe in this dangerous world, and I did not know which direction to go to look for safety or some relief from my loneliness.  But meeting the Mormon missionaries, and the Young Women who introduced me to them, changed all that.  Everything has been much, much better since then.

I still have a difficult personality.  People who do not know me well, do not know how happy I am, or how positive I am about life, the universe and everything.  I love best those scriptures that talk about damnation, the wicked and hellfire.  Sure, I like all the luvy-duvy stuff too, but the scary scriptures are the ones I love most because they make it so clear where the danger lies.  And knowing where it lies, I can travel around it or in another direction.  Now I know how to stay out of trouble.  I know what kind of people might accept me the way I am and even help me become a better person.  And I can spot those I need to stay clear of because they will probably drag me down.  I know how to find a loyal friend because those who are loyal to God are loyal people, and they will be more likely to be loyal friends.  And I do not expect loyal friends among those who are not loyal to God or anyone else.

I am not a negative person, a person always predicting disaster and complaining about “how bad it is.”  I am just so happy to be able to spot the bad stuff for what it is.  How can it hurt me if I can see it?  All I have to do is keep the commandments of Jesus Christ with all my might, and everything will go well for me, either now or later.  But now at least I know what those commandments are.  And I know what sins to avoid and which ones are the most dangerous.  I am not nearly as gullible as I used to be or as easily deceived by others who do not have my best interests at heart.  This is good, not bad.  It is a great cause for rejoicing, not some evidence that I am an unhappy, negative person.  Finally, I am no longer lost.  I know which way to go.  I am confident that I can find my way out of the woods.  The pathway is clear.

Yes, I am an Iron Rod.  I love Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith almost more than words can express.  But I love them for pointing out the clear path for me.  My favorite book after the standard works is The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball.  He wasn’t even the President of the Church when he wrote that book.  I don’t think he was even in the Twelve.  But oh how I love that book.  It marked out a clear path for me to follow.  It told me in plain, easy to understand language what I needed to do to straighten myself out and get right with the Lord.  And it told me what I would receive as a reward if I did.  How wonderful it is to know which way to turn, which path to follow!  It just makes me so happy to know I am not lost any more as I was for so many unhappy years during my childhood.  Surely I am one of the most lucky people in the world because the Lord found me and answered my prayers by sending the Mormon missionaries to teach me.  I will be grateful to him all the days of my life because he has done this wonderful thing for me.  Never again will I have to be lost and confused like I once was.  I have found my way out of the woods.

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There Are Two Churches Only

June 11, 2006

"In revelation both ancient and modern, the Lord refers to his own words as being “sharper than a two edged sword.” [1] In modern vernacular, much that he said is “politically incorrect.” It is judgmental, divisive, rigid, closed-minded, and all too often just plain embarrassing. In many of our instructional meetings, the teaching of ethics prevails over the teaching of doctrine simply to avoid giving offense or to avoid disagreement. Everyone is pleased to speak of God’s love; rare are the mentions of his wrath or displeasure." –Joseph Fielding McConkie

Thus begins a two-part article by Joseph Fielding McConkie at Meridian Magazine in a discussion of Mormon teachings that make many Latter-day Saints uncomfortable because they are unique to our faith and emphasize the differences that separate us from other Christian faiths rather than the similarities. How important are those differences? Can we really understand our own doctrine if we do not keep them in mind? What dangers are there to the Latter-day Saints if we forget these important differences?

I have not yet read this article, but I can imagine some of what Brother McConkie is going to say because I believe I know a bit about how the McConkie mind works. One of my frustrations as a Latter-day Saint is watching what seems to me a "mainstreaming" of the modern Church in which our differences with other faiths are downplayed in order to minimize the accusations of the anti-Mormons and other critics of the Church. Some of them say that we are not Christian. What they really mean is that we are not like them. Our beliefs are different from theirs, in some cases radically so. They are so different that according to Jan Shipps, the well known nonmember scholar and academic who has become an authority on all things Mormon, we are a "new religious tradition." We are as distinct from traditional Christianity as Christianity is from the Judaism out of which it grew. Our Book of Mormon and other modern scriptures are an expansion of the scriptural canon in much the same way that the New Testament was an expansion of the scriptural canon of the Jews at the time of Christ. The traditional Christian have a bigger and more nearly complete Bible than the Jews have, and we have a much bigger and more nearly complete Bible than the Christians.

So if we are two distinct religions, traditional Christianity and Mormon Christianity, how can we both call ourselves Christian? If we are two distinct religions, and they are Christians, then what are we? Depending on how one looks at it, we can't say that we are Christian, at least not in the traditional sense of that word. Doctrinally, we are as distinct from what has gone before us in the Christian world as Christianity was distinct from the Jewish faith that preceded it. But that shouldn't embarrass us or cause us to become defensive when others accuse us of not being Christian. President Hinckley has acknowledged this when he said:

As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say. Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient tradition, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. –Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2002

Too many Latter-say Saints, especially here on the Internet seem embarrassed about the doctrinal teachings that make us different from other Christian faiths. I feel bad for them. That is unnecessary. It is precisely those wonderful doctrines that have restored the ancient truths taught by the early Christians of Christ's day. These are the teachings that make our Church of such great value to the world, especially to other Christians. Many people in other denominations are true and faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ. They would follow him better if they knew how. We can teach them how because we have more of the truth, more of what the Savior taught the ancient saints. Because we have those unique teachings that were lost in the Great Apostasy, we have a better understanding of what the Savior wants from us, how he wants us to follow him and walk in his footsteps. What a wonderful blessing that is to the rest of the Christian world.

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