Monday, September 28, 2009

Fake Plates

I read a response to a post ( in the Bloggernacle (Tabernacle + Blog + Desire to be considered clever) that caught my attention and inspired my response. It appears there exists a theory; Joseph Smith (JS) actually created fake gold plates to solicit the testimony of the 11 witnesses. (See the actual testimony of the three witness and the separate testimony of eight additional witnesses 8+3=11)

At first glance this could be a semi-probable hypothesis for the 8 who were given access to touch the plates directly by JS, but it doesn't quite explain the three who also claim an angel (Moroni himself - resurrected prophet, final engraver, and concealer) showed the plates to them and testified of the truthfulness of JS's calling and his translation of the sacred record. (Unless you also throw in the administration of hallucinatory drugs and the power of suggestion by some freak-of-nature, ego-maniacal, 23 year-old genius.)

In my response I am not sure that I came across as gentle or too sarcastic. (Feel free to interject.) I use sarcasm to make a basic point; the theory seems ridiculous to me. Perhaps I am therefore guilty of using ridicule in my reaction. It was thoughtless and unfeeling of me I am sure.

The point driven home to my head is this: The question of authenticity is, by design, incapable of any certainty. This is why faith is required of those fortunate enough to posses a copy of the Book of Mormon (BOM) and it is also the reason that so many are flummoxed when they desire to dismiss the book as patently false. Desperation rears its ugly head, and the claims for falsehood are just as fantastic as the author's claim for divine origination. Some say it was forged, or plagiarized, it came from Satan, it came from visiting aliens, a good friend, who was much smarter, wrote it, or JS was, in fact, some kind of religious prodigy with a thing for the phrase "and it came to pass." This is the first time I have heard of anyone claiming Joseph was, as his last name suggests, a smith. Who would have thunk it? The thought makes reason stare, but at least the theorist should get props for originality.

In the end, no matter the intelligence, whit, or study of the commentator regarding the contents of the BOM, (all due respect to Hugh Nibley, et al) each individual must do as instructed by Moroni. He must read the words for himself, ponder the meaning and import of its message, and take his feelings to God in prayer for the truth. The promise from the author is an answer that can change their life.

It has mine.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A good friend of mine in high school, and a few of the years following, was Catholic by birth, tradition, and practice (at least at Christmas and Easter.) For a few years in a row I would attend his parish's midnight mass with him. I watched the pageantry of a Catholic Christmas with genuine interest. I enjoyed the beautiful singing, the colors, and the smells. It was fast becoming a tradition of my own. I used to joke that all I would have to do is attend the Easter Mass, and then I would be just as Catholic as he was.

I thought then as I do now, the religious path you choose is a personal decision, even if it is heavily influenced by those you love and that surround you. If you are going to be a Catholic, then be a good one. There is no sense in doing anything, unless you strive to do it right. If you are going to claim allegiance to the Baptist church, then be all means live by its principles, learn its doctrine, and otherwise fully immerse (pun intended) yourself in the experience.

When the time came to serve as a missionary for my own church, I threw myself into the experience with all the zeal I could muster. I was absent from the lives of those I associated with for two years. When I returned, I looked up my friend. He decided to become an active participant in the Catholic church. He was attending weekly mass, and trying to live his religion. I was happy for him and I could tell he was a happier person driven with genuine faith.

I have a peer today. For years we worked in similar trades. He was raised by good Mormon "Stock" (related to pioneers of the 1800's, etc.) For someone who is only slightly older than myself, he comes across as well seasoned and wise. When he talks I listen. One day he asked me if I was a Mormon or a Latter-Day Saint. I had never been posed such an introspective question. The answer I stumbled out half jokingly was probably, "I'm only good enough to be called a Mormon who wants to be a Latter-Day Saint." Not that I hadn't noticed my shortcomings long before our conversation, but his question helped me to refocus my attention on areas in need of repair. It was apparent to me, and still is, that I needed to be more "immersed" in my religion.

My point, and I do have one around here somewhere, is to state my intentions to use this venue to better define my religious environment and to fine tune my thinking as it pertains to any issue that dovetails with my beliefs, philosophy, and faith. Personally I want to embrace the journey to be a Latter Day Saint, and not just a Mormon. I have no idea what other service my monologues will offer to the world outside, but I'm game for the experience. To coin a phrase so often visible on our own meeting houses, "VISITORS WELCOME."