The Foolishness of Atheism

August 22, 2013

I once read a literary critique by T.S. Elliot of William Shakespeare’s sonnets.  It was highly critical.  Basically, Elliot said that Shakespeare was a lousy poet.  I was reminded of an ant crawling up the leg of an elephant.  By what rationale could a literary pipsqueak like Elliot criticize the greatest writer in the history of the English language?  He simply was not qualified.

Today I see the same hubris coming from many of the crusading atheists such as Richard Dawkins and his faithless admirers.  They claim that we who believe in God have no evidence to support our belief.  Well, what is the evidence for their disbelief?  There is none that I am aware of.  The whole discussion reminds me of the dozens and perhaps hundreds of verses in scripture that proclaim that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God.  Or in other words, man’s wisdom is no such thing.  Man’s wisdom is actually foolishness.

If there is no God, then either there is no universe, or the universe created itself.  And whenever in all human history has anyone, believer or atheist, ever seen anything create itself?  Does a tree create itself?  A rock?  A person?  A mathematical formula?  A poem or novel?  What?  Joseph Smith said that there never was a man who didn’t have a father, and there never was a father who was not first a son.  Duh.  How can there be anything spring into existence out of nothing whatever?  It has never happened.  It has never been witnessed or observed.  And should it happen, it would violate every known law of physics.

Here are two verses from the Book of Alma in which he explains the truth of the matter to Korihor:

And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. (Alma 30:40)

But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44)

But my personal favorite is this one:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (1 Corinthians 3:19)

All of mankind’s knowledge is less than a single drop in the vast ocean of our ignorance.  Were it not so, we could not continue to progress as rapidly as we do because there would be little left to learn.


Where is Zarahemla? Why have we not found its ruins?

May 13, 2013

While reading the Book of Helaman with Esperanza this morning, I ran across a verse that jumped off the page at me.  I’ve read it many times before, but I did not notice it.  It is Helaman 12:19, and I think it might explain why archaeologists and other diggers have never found any proof that Zarahemla and other Book of Mormon sites existed.  Here is the verse:

“And if the Lord shall say–Be thou accursed that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever–behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever.” (Helaman 12:19)

The rest of the chapter includes important context for understanding this verse. It explains that when a wealthy man or a blessed people offend God by turning against him, he can curse their treasure so that when they bury them up in the earth, they can never be found again. He reminds the reader that the earth moves and mountains cover up cities according to his mere word. Could Zarahemla be buried deep beneath the earth because it was cursed by God at the time of the final destruction of the Nephites? The scriptural record does not record everything that God does. But these passages do indicate that God works in this way. It would explain a lot.


Are Mormons Becoming Protestants?

March 16, 2012

Are Mormons becoming Protestants?  Of course not.  Even if they would accept us as one of them, we would betray the gospel of Jesus Christ and his prophets if we became Protestant.  Yet I have heard some online who feel there is a spirit among some Latter-day Saints to become more Protestant-like.  Whereas in past generations Latter-day Saints have celebrated our differences from the traditional Christian world, today it seems more common to dwell upon the common ground we both share.  Is this a good thing?  Is this a change in our doctrine?  Is this trend from the rank and file membership, or is it being taught our prophet-leaders?

Thoughts on Interfaith Relations
President Gordon B. Hinckley has consistently advocated dialogue and mutual respect in interfaith relations. He has admonished members of the Church to cultivate “a spirit of affirmative” for those of differing religious, political, and philosophical persuasions, adding that “we do not in any way have to compromise our theology” in the process. He gave this counsel: “Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues; don’t look for their faults. Look for their strengths and their virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life.”

When members are not well grounded in the teachings of their own faith, how are they to resist being taught rather than teaching?  I ask this question in the light of this passage from the Doctrine and Covenants:

Doctrine and Covenants 43:15

Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit;

When all about me are trying to find common ground with the Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, etc. I get an uneasy feeling.  Can one always teach respect for another’s faith without putting himself into temptation?  If we spend much time in highlighting the good in the faiths and beliefs of others, is there a chance we will imply to the unsophisticated that one faith is about as good as another?  If the Methodist faith is so wonderful, why not be a Methodist? Surely God wouldn’t mind.  He loves all of his children.  And if I am a Methodist, I won’t have to quit smoking and keep the Law of Chastity.  Suppose I wanted to marry.  Suppose my future spouse is a Methodist.  What is going to best persuade me to marry a Latter-day Saint instead?  Will I do best by learning all the good things about Methodists and their teachings, or by learning what is false about their teachings?

This has puzzled me as long as I have been a Church member.  If I accentuate the false teachings of the sects of apostate Christendom, I am encouraged to cling to the gospel as a drowning man clings to a life raft.  If I do the opposite and look constantly for the good in their denominations and teachings, I will minimize the importance of the differences between us.  In which case, I might as well be a Protestant.

Joseph Smith had almost nothing good to say about the Protestant denominations of his day.  Just read his writings and sermons to confirm this.  The gospel was restored because traditional Christianity had become rank with apostasy and false doctrine.  Brigham Young and the other successors to Joseph Smith had this same negative and almost militant view of “the sectarians.”  Yes, there is a lot of truth in all religions.  Yes, there are good people in other churches and bad ones in the LDS faith.  Are these wonderful people in other faiths wonderful because of their churches or in spite of their churches?  I’ve also met wonderful atheists, agnostics, humanists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Muslims.

Whenever I hear someone complain that I express negative thoughts about this or that false teaching in another church, I am told that such negativity will cause us to lose new converts.  Maybe so.  But is there any danger that failing to emphasize the falseness of their teachings will cause some of our members to misunderstand and become confused about our own teachings? Many of our members are not particularly interested in doctrine and might decide various teachings of other denominations are superior.  Why should we worry more about bringing others into the Church than we do about keeping those we already have?

For a number of reasons, the Church is true.  The other churches are not.  There is more to it than that, but that is most basic.  The whole idea of a true church implies that the others are false.  Baptists don’t ever talk about this or that denomination being “true.”  I never heard that until I became a Latter-day Saint.

I think we need to love and respect people of other faiths.  That does not mean that we need to love and respect their false churches.  If we forget this, our ability to retain the members we already have will go down as the number of new members goes up.

Can we love the sinner and hate the sin?  Yes, of course.  Can we love the Baptist or Methodist without loving his false church?  I think so. Is this distinction too fine for some to understand? I hope not.

When I became a Mormon it was because I knew the Baptist faith of my childhood was teaching nonsense about the Jesus Christ.  Had the Church made an effort to underline the things we had in common, I would have seen no reason to become a Mormon.  If just being a good person is all God requires, I can do that anywhere.  I do not need to be a Mormon to do that.

Is the faith of the Latter-day Saints part of the ecumenical movement?  I left the Protestants behind because I knew that philosophizing, voting, participating in conclaves and conventions, and learning about other faiths has no bearing upon what is true and what is false.  Truth and falsehood need no excuses or explanations.  If a thing is true, it is true regardless of what the “ecumenical” opinion is.

I think it is wrong to think well of the false doctrines promoted by the other churches.   It is wrong and it is also spiritually dangerous. Please correct me if I am wrong.


Did McConkie Lead The Church Astray?

August 9, 2006

I wonder how many people realize that some of the entries in our Bible Dictionary, the one bound with our LDS Scriptures, are lifted verbatim from Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie? I wonder how many of them know the Chapter Headings in our standard works were written by him and to what extent they constitute a brief commentary on each chapter? In 1968 I was personally told by Hartman Rector, Jr. who was then one of the seven Presidents of Seventy, that whenever Church headquarters received inquiries on doctrinal matters, they were referred to the office of Bruce R. McConkie, and I’m not even sure he was a member of the Twelve at the time.

Apparently with the full approval of the First Presidency and the Twelve, Bruce R. McConkie probably did more to advance our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ during the 20th century than any other prophet in Church history with the possible exception of James E. Talmage. True, some of Mormon Doctrine is personal opinion and not “official Church doctrine,” but if Bruce R. McConkie’s personal opinions about doctrine were not true, then it might be accurate to say that he led the Church astray because many of the prophets and apostles seem to have believed his personal opinions including some who have since become President of the Church. Yet I have met a number of active, temple attending online saints who believe he did exactly that, and that as a result the Church is now “astray.” I do not agree. Such saints need to receive some personal revelation and get a testimony from the Holy Ghost.

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Midgley’s Response To An Attack On “Prying Into Palmer”

July 3, 2006

by Louis Midgley, guest contributor

When it was called to my attention that Roasted Tomatoes had posted on a blog an item entitled “Reviewing the FARMS Review: Midgley on Palmer,” I decided that I would respond. My first stab at doing this was reads as follows:

I rather like what 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” [FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 365-410]. 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 FARMS Review 18/1 (2006). This must be done this morning, and then I must attend a meeting of the 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. [This was obviously not possible.]

But I can say now that I agree with Roasted’s comments about Anne [Newport] Royall’s probably not being the editor of Paul Pry’s Weekly Bulletin. 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, as Roasted grants, is really not 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 accurately represented the explanation that Palmer recently provided on that [Dehlin] Podcast. He needs to make and then post a transcript of the relevant portions of that interview. 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 1985, he found that name in the theatre district. Palmer will have to demonstrate that he was in London prior to his having adopted the name “Paul Pry” to hide his identify 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 partly fueled his 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.

[Note: I have silently corrected a few infelicities and added a few things in brackets.]

SOME ADDITIONAL, PRELIMINARY REMARKS ABOUT ROASTED’S RECENT ATTACK ON ME AND ON THE FARMS REVIEW

I very much appreciate the opportunity to respond to Roasted Tomatoes (hereafter Roasted) who insists that he has identified “important errors” in my essay entitled “Prying into Palmer,” FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 365-410, and hence that my essay is flawed by important errors of fact. He insists that these errors demonstrate that my essay is unreliable, and then he suggests that he has thereby demonstrated a weakness in what is published in the FARMS Review. In making this leap, and it is a huge leap, he seems to have followed a talk given by John Hatch at a Sunstone conference, a version of which was immediately posted on the Signature Books webpage. That deeply flawed diatribe, entitled “Why I No Longer Trust FARMS,” is no longer posted on the Signature Book webpage. (No reason has been given for its removal.) Roasted does not seem to know that John Hatch is embarrassed by what he has admitted to me (in an email message that I am prepared, if challenged, to quote) was an immature rant. Read the rest of this entry »