Friday, March 31, 2017

General Conference preparation

One way to prepare for General Conference is to re-read favorite conference addresses from the past. I've posted a few on the bookofmormonwars blog lately.

Another way is to study the scriptures about how the Lord works with the prophets to teach the people. Each of the standard works explains different aspects of this process.

An interesting example is D&C 77, online here. This is a series of questions and answers. I think of it as a model for how we can ask the Lord for understanding of the scriptures when we read them. It's also an example of how prophetic leaders can help answer questions we may have as we listen to General Conference.

One verse in particular stands out.

6 Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?
A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

I looked up this verse in the scriptural index to General Conference and found the passage I highlighted in bold has never been quoted, but it was paraphrased three times.

Orson Pratt said, "We know that it was not six thousand years from the creation to the birth of Christ. How do we know this? God has told us in new revelation that this earth is destined to continue its temporal existence for seven thousand yearsand that at the commencement of the seventh thousand, he will cause seven angels to sound their trumpets."

Orson F. Whitney said, "But not only was John shown what should occur after the time in which he was living, but he was shown what had already taken place; not as the imperfect records of profane history have given it to us, but he saw it typified in its fullness. The events of the seven thousand years of the world's temporal existence passed before him, like the scenes of a mighty panorama. If you will read the book which he left, you will there find portrayed symbolically each of the seven thousand years."

Sterling W. Will said, "Then in programming the world's mortal or temporal existence, God gave it a time allotment of 7,000 years (see D&C 77:6-7), 1,000 years to represent each of the seven days of creation. The first 4,000 years began at the fall of Adam and ended at the birth of Christ. To this have been added the 1967 years that have passed since that time, so that on the divine calendar we are now living in the year of the world 1967, which is the late Saturday evening of the world's history. This divine time table as well as God's signs of the times indicate that the earth's Sabbath, which is the seventh 1,000-year period, is about to be ushered in."


I'll discuss this more in upcoming blog posts.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Timeline of First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve

Here's a wonderful graphical timeline to see the history of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Click on the link to see the interactive version.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

George Albert Smith on Cumorah

President George Albert Smith, speaking as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in General Conference, April 1906, discussed his visit to Cumorah.

“We visited the Hill Cumorah and were accorded the courtesy of going thereon by the wife of Mr. George Sampson, a brother of Admiral Wm. Sampson, who before his death owned the property. When we went up there and looked around, we felt that we were standing on holy ground. The brethren located, as near as they thought was possible, the place from which the plates of the Book of Mormon were taken by the Prophet. We were delighted to be there. Looking over the surrounding country we remembered that two great races of people had wound up their existence in the vicinity, had fought their last fight, and that hundreds of thousands had been slain within sight of that hill. Evidence of the great battles that have been fought there in days gone by are manifest in the numerous spear and arrow-heads that have been found by farmers while plowing in that neighborhood. We were fortunate enough to obtain a few of the arrowheads.” (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, April 1906, Third Day—Morning Session p. 56).

As readers here know, lots of war implements have been found on and near Cumorah.

President Smith's address was published in the Deseret News on June 30, 1906, here:


I think it's cool to see what the modern prophets and apostles have said about Cumorah, but as I've discussed before, there are LDS scholars who want members of the Church to reject Letter VII and the New York Cumorah. They are saying we cannot pay attention to what modern prophets and apostles have said about Cumorah, with only two exceptions: currently living Apostles and Presidents of the Church when speaking as President. So far as I know, no one in these two categories has mentioned Cumorah publicly.

In other words, these LDS scholars reject anything said or written

1) by modern apostles who have passed away and

2) by Presidents of the Church before they became President.

If that sounds weird to you, you're not alone. It sounds weird to me as well, but that's what they're saying. According to these LDS scholars, you're supposed to disbelieve what George Albert Smith said in General Conference because he was not President of the Church at the time.

The passage I quoted above was cited at, where it elicited a classic response from a Mesoamerican advocate. It follows the standard Mesomania format; i.e., 1) establish fake criteria designed to describe Mesoamerica that don't exist in New York, 2) deny the evidence that does exist in North America, and 3) ask why the Book of Mormon doesn't mention snow (it doesn't mention weather at all, with one exception, and it never mentions volcanoes, jungles, jade or jaguars (or any other Mesoamerican species.) You have to read it to believe it: They even posted clips from "In Search of Ancient Cumorah." It's awesome.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Reminiscences of Edward Stevenson

When you research the statements of David Whitmer, you often find references to a book by Edward Stevenson titled Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (1877). The book is difficult to find but it's on here:

This woodcut is from page 9. According to Stevenson, it was taken "from a painting made from a photograph which Apostle F. D. Richards had taken while on a visit to this historic hill and country."

Stevenson wrote, "Brother Edward Holt, of South Jordan Ward, had a vision of the hill (similar to the one the prophet Joseph Smith had,) and described it very minutely before seeing the picture of it. He said, just above where he saw a portion of the top of the stone box there was a tree, and upon this point I interrogated him closely, stating that only two years previous Bishop Black, Brother Andrew Jenson and I had visited the spot of ground, and there was no tree there; but he insisted that there was a tree just above the stone box, a clumpy tree, for he saw one there. It became necessary for an explanation before he should see the picture.

"At the period of the discovery of the gold plates, there stood upon the side of the hill, about fifteen feet above where the stone box had so long reposed, a lone, solitary, sugar maple tree, and there continued to grow until twenty-two years ago, just as described by Brother Hold, who was so highly favored of God as to see the whole scene in a vision or dream.

"What made Brother Holt's vision all the more deeply interesting to me was that in 1871 I had enjoyed the great privilege and pleasure of visiting the hill in person, and of seeing the very identical spot of ground where Mormon concealed the stone box and its precious records and where Moroni, his son, finished the writing and sealed up these records."

I'm curious what made Stevenson think Mormon concealed the stone box.

Stevenson interviewed David Whitmer in 1870, 1877, 1879 and 1886. He was acquainted with David in 1833 and in 1838, when David was disfellowshipped at Far West, Missouri. Stevenson made this interesting comment about what David Whitmer told him in 1877. It's on page 14 of the book.

"It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen this room and that it was filled with treasure, and on a table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they are translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there. At the proper time when greed, selfishness and corruption shall cease to reign in the hearts of the people, these vast hoards of hidden treasure shall be brought forth to be used for the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ."

We can ask ourselves, have we removed greed, selfishness and corruption from our hearts? Probably not, since we don't have these records yet.

Stevenson mentioned the Rochester Company on page 13. He saw cavities made on the east side of the hill by these Rochester treasure seekers.

He cited this account by David Whitmer to corroborate Brigham Young's June 17, 1877 statement about the repository of records in the Hill Cumorah.

President young said "I take this liberty of referring to these things so that they will not be forgotten and lost." Stevenson pointed out that President Young made the statement "just two months and twelve days before his death." Page 14.

A fun part of Stevenson's book is his belief that Lehi landed in South America and that the ruins in Palenque were one of the Nephite temples. Then he writes, "But who is there that is able to tell the story of those mound builders, excepting their own revealed history?"

It's an interesting point, because today archaeologist and linguists are uncovering and translating numerous Mayan records. We know details of dates and names for many of the civilizations in Mesoamerica. But the ancient inhabitants of North America left no record--except for the Book of Mormon.

Stevenson like his contemporaries believed in a hemispheric model of Book of Mormon geography. He claimed the Book of Mormon contained "an explanation of the ruins found in North, South and Central America."

Stevenson writes, "At one time a fierce battle was fought near where Buffalo, N.Y., now stands, wherein two million were lying strewn upon the earth, slain in battle and no one to bury them, till the stench drove them southward to the Hill Ramah, which was called Cumorah by the Nephite race."

Later, he writes, "Coriantumr, weak, wounded and alone, had to wend his way about 3,000 miles to Zarahemla, where he remained until his death and was buried by this strange people."

Of course, I think he only had to "wend his way" about 1,000 miles down the rivers to the land of Zarahemla, probably somewhere between modern-day Cairo, IL and St. Louis, MO.


On page 20, after relating the account from Lucy Mack Smith's History regarding Moroni delivering the plates to Joseph Smith, Stevenson writes "In 1834 I first listened to this Prophet of God, who related this vision he had been favored with. The honest and power of his expression carried conviction with it."

He includes this woodcut:

This is an awesome illustration you don't see often. I don't remember seeing it other than in this book.