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Robert F. Smith

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  1. Bear in mind, Pete, that John the Baptizer came and baptized, even baptizing Jesus. Then Jesus and his apostles were baptizing (Matt 3:11, Lk 3:16, Acts 19:3-5). Yet, even before John the Baptizer, the Essenes were baptizing, not only as a mode of purification, but also as a mode of membership into the covenant community. Even today, Jews require immersion baptism (mikveh) for new members of the Jewish community. In addition to that baptism of initiation, the Jews also perform regular ritual purifications through that same immersion in water (mikveh). Indeed, the rite of washing, anointing, and clothing goes back to ancient biblical times --- see for example Ruth 3:3, followed quickly by formal betrothal and marriage. As to the name of the church, that has always taken various forms: Hebrew ˁēdâ “congregation (of Israel)” (as in Ex 12:3,19,47, 1QS 5:20, 1QM 2:1,3,7, 3:4,11),[1] or qol qĕhal ˁădat yîśrāʼēl “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel” (Ex 12:6), and Greek LXX/NT synagōgē "congregation" (Numbers 27:17, 31:16, Matthew 9:35-36, Acts 13:43) = Syriac ˁedta "church" (early Semitic Christianity) = early Greek Chris­tian synagōgēn "assembly" (James 2:2, KJV marg rdg "synagogue") = Jewish "synagogue" (Mat 4:23, Rev 3:9) = Hebrew qĕhal/qāhāl, LXX Gk ’ekklēsia "an assembly called together,[2] congregation" (Deuteronomy 31:30, 1 Kings 8:14), "assembly" (Ezekiel 23:24) = NT "church" (ʼekklēsia Matthew 16:18. "my church", Revelation 22:16); cf. Acts 2:42 Greek koinōnia "fellowship" = Hebrew yaḥad (1QS 1:12) "union" as in ˁēṣet hăyaḥad "community council, united order"; Jeremiah 39:8 bêt-hāˁām “house of the people”; Psalm 74:8 môˁădêy-’ēl "syna­gogues of God" (KJV); meeting-places of God" (NKJV), "place(s) where God was worshipped" (NIV) = "synagogues" (LXX, Versions, and Midrash); TB Megilla 3:73; Josephus, Jewish War, II, 8, 3 (§122); Origen, Homilies 4:3, in Jeremiam (Patrologiae Graecae 13:287-288); Elath Ostracon bêt kenisa bî-Yrušalem "the synagogue in Jerusalem" (BASOR 84:4-5) — 1 Nephi 4:26, 2 Nephi 9:2, 26:26 ("synagogues" = "houses of worship"), Alma 1:7,19, 4:4-16, 21:16,20, 46:14, Helaman 3:26,33, 4:11, 5:35; Exodus 16:1, Leviticus 25:46, Numbers 14:5, 27:17, 31:16, 35:24, Deuteronomy 33:4, Judges 20:2, 21:16 (James 5:14), 1 Samuel 19:20, 1 Kings 8:65, Psalm 40:10, Lamentation 1:15, 2:6, Zephaniah 3:18, Joel 2:16; Acts 14:23, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 11:16,22, 2 Thessalonians 1:4, Revelation 1:4; D&C 63:31. [1] Apart from Qumran, ˁēdâ is not attested after the 9th century B.C., being replaced by qāhāl in the postexilic period (J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, 4-5). Cf. ancient Egyptian ˁdt “covenant-stipulations; conspiracy” = Akkadian adû, adē “vassal treaty, formal agreement” (Tawil, Akkadian Lexical Companion, 271-272). [2] LDS “Bible Dictionary,” 645.
  2. Evil is often nothing more than a value judgment, part of a set of preferences. I even heard a female masochist on KUER today vouching for pain as a good thing, which is reminiscent of that famous scene in which T. E. Lawrence seems to enjoy placing his hand in a candle flame. Lehi's Law of Opposition in 2 Nephi 2, however, seems to take very seriously the universal nature of opposites -- as part of natural law. Since LDS theology likewise describes God as subject to natural law, one begins to realize that He has limited powers. He and his human children are all necessary beings, rather than contingent, which means that they are each responsible for their own acts. At the same time, the natural universe is a very harsh and unforgiving place. Our only saving grace is that temporal suffering and death are not absolute, and all humans are eternal (and coeternal with God). There is nothing imaginary about human suffering, and human existence can be described as catastrophic in most instances. As Thomas Hobbes said: "which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Leviathan, i. xiii. 9). Somehow, the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ gets us off the hook, gives us a hope of returning to our Father in Heaven. The price? Acceptance of His grace. Thus, even though I fully agree with Hannah Arendt that evil is banal, I am not stuck in some existential dilemma with no exit.
  3. You may want to consider the profound theological nature of 2 Nephi 2:15-16,22-23,25, in which God, In the Divine Council, we all agreed to leave innocence behind and act for ourselves in the days of our probation on Earth. God did not create us as enemies to Him. We were already independent agents unto ourselves due to the divine spark which we all have and have always had -- intelligence, which is uncreated (D&C 93:36, Abraham 3:21-22). Only thus can anyone become an enemy to God, the father of our spirits, by disobeying Him. It is our free choice. This entails two of the most profound theological concepts ever known to man, placing the problem of evil in the hands of each individual, and not blaming God. How different from the severe problem of theodicy in normative Judeo-Christian theology.
  4. I lived on an Israeli kibbutz for two years, during which I noticed that couples would first get pregnant and then marry -- family means so much to the Jews. Just making sure.
  5. I was born and raised in California, so did not have much liking for Utah culture. I always considered Utah backward and stuffy, and have generally agreed with those who argued that the real Church can only be found outside Utah. Back in the 80s when I was living in Utah for a few years before returning to California, a friend and I visited an unfamiliar LDS ward on fast Sunday. I chuckled when one female member of that ward got up and asked those of us not from Utah not to allow the Utah members to drive them out of the Church -- a very perceptive comment. We need to fully respect cultural differences. They are real. She is wrong, of course. There is nothing for her to regret. For most of human history there was no marriage ceremony. A man would pay the bride-price to the father and the two would begin living together. They have the strongest pair-bond of all: Love. It is several years too late to start worrying about modern rules. The horse got out of the barn years ago. However, a person can be a member in good standing without ever going to a temple or even paying tithing. These are actually only options. We ought to be happy just to see our children go to Church each Sunday, where they will have a chance to hear the Gospel preached.
  6. Of course. LDS chapels get vandalized and burned all the time, and missionaries even die, but it does not seem to be an organized effort to destroy and kill. That does not mean that the bad old days won't return. It is only a matter of time.
  7. Book of Mormon Central is available in Spanish and Portugese. https://centralldm.es/
  8. Innocent martyrs always stand as a witness, as do the innocent children of Bethlehem slaughtered by order of King Herod the Great, or the Christian Deacon Stephen who was stoned to death for blasphemy under the supervision of Saul (later becoming Paul the Apostle). In this case, Alma 14:9 actually speaks of "martyrdom," and "glory" -- as is the case for innocent Jesus, who was also "received up into glory" (I Tim 3:16). Moreover, such acts do stand as a witness, as if speaking from the dust (Gen 4:10, 2 Ne 3:19-21, 2 Ne 26:16, 33:13). This includes modern martyrdoms, such as those of Joseph & Hyrum, or of the massacre at Haun's Mill.
  9. Your mistaken assumption here reminds me of two things, Jim: I. The Bible contains pure truth, even absolute truth, yet that is not all it contains. Brigham Young clarified that for us: II. Professor Richard Alpert of Harvard sought truth through drugs, and later through Hinduism in India -- being renamed by his Hindu guru as Baba Ram Dass, "Servant of God." Whenever his thoughts began to drift into memory and into side issues, the rule of mindfulness brought him back to the present, and that was the title of his very important 1971 book: Be Here Now! That lesson is so easily forgotten by those who have made past prophets their sole touchstone, so much so that they would rebuild Noah's Ark right here right now instead of listening to the prophetic voice they hear today. Jesus had that very problem with the observant orthodoxy of His day, which rejected His message in favor of past messages -- or so it seemed to those who demanded His crucifixion. They were learned men. How could they make such an awful mistake? How? By putting their trust in the arm of flesh, and by arrogating to themselves all knowledge, instead of relying upon the Holy Spirit. For as Brigham Young further said: We must depend upon the Holy Spirit, not on fallible humans.
  10. You are certainly correct to call attention to this. Among very cohesive religious communities (Hutterite Brethren, for example) one sees very little mental illness. The reason frequently given is that tight social support.
  11. There have been quite a few famous conversions from the Church of England priesthood to Roman Catholic priesthood, and those priests bring their wives and children with them. Being a Roman Catholic priest does not require celibacy, which is only a practice, not a doctrine. The only analogy I can think of is the recognition in the D&C of lineal descendants of Aaron, whose right to the priesthood of Aaron is separate from the LDS mode of passing on priesthood. In any case, such Aaronic priesthood holders may serve as an LDS bishop only with approval by the First Presidency. However, they already function with complete authority in Jewish synagogues, and will likewise be able to function in full within the future Jewish temple to be built in Jerusalem. The D&C suggests that such Jewish functions are the only case outside the LDS Church which possess full authority from God.
  12. It's probably still in someone's attic out in New England or upstate New York. If I had it, I'd ask a cool $million. Mark Hofmann planned to create the 116 pages, but don't know what he expected to ask for it.
  13. I examined all the 1830 editions in the RLDS Archives in Independence, and all those in the HBLL Special Collections. Had to check certain readings which varied within that one edition.
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