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Gospel Topics Review (Intro) Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
April 8, 2021 9:02 pm

Gospel Topics Review (Intro) Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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April 8, 2021 9:02 pm

This week we introduce a book review that we will do for the next three months, as each of the original 13 essays are covered in a book put out by Signature. For more on the Gospel Topics Essays, we invite you to visit

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In their own words, a collection of Mormon quotations compiled by Mormonism Research Ministries Bill McKeever is a valuable resource when wanting to know what Mormon leaders have said on a given topic. Pick up your copy at the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore or In 1999, Mormonism Research Ministries has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect.

And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. The Gospel Topics Series is a scholarly engagement. It's a book published by Signature, and it has a number of chapters in it written by various authors of different backgrounds. And the reason why we feel this is so important is because the Gospel Topics essays, we feel, are a very good source to use when witnessing to our LDS friends. But what's the history behind these essays?

And this is where the introduction that we've been covering this week, I think, spells out a lot of information that I admit can at times be confusing with all the names and the dates. But it's certainly important to know why the church was compelled to come out with the essays. Eric, you and I are of the impression that had not they been pressured to do so by men such as John de Linn, and as it also mentions in the book, a man by the name of Travis Stratford, who were trying to show the LDS leadership that the church has a problem, that people are leaving the faith because of doctrinal and historical issues they are reading about on the internet.

And as we mentioned yesterday, the leadership was very slow to recognize this was a problem. And as we talked about in yesterday's show, Quentin L. Cook, a Mormon apostle, actually chided members of the church in a general conference message who were reading controversial things about the church on the internet, actually calling on them to repent for doing so. So you can imagine what's going on in the minds of many Latter-day Saints. Well, through the efforts of Travis Stratford and others, the LDS church is going to finally come out with the first essay.

They did not come out all at once. The first essay was launched on November 20, 2013. Now, you would think something as groundbreaking as these Gospel Topics essays, that they would get a lot of fanfare and notoriety announcing to the membership where they can find answers to their questions. But on page 20 of this book, in the introduction, we find that that was not at all the case. It says the public rollout of the essays was deliberately low-keyed, demonstrating LDS leaders' ambivalence in exposing church members to controversial topics. Apart from a handful of interviews that Stephen Snow gave to journalists, and Stephen Snow at the time was the church historian, there were, quote, no news releases and no fanfare, end quote. Church officials strategically buried the essays on the church website in an effort to downplay them, according to reliable sources involved with the process. The church's presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, moreover, declined to sign the essays or publish them in the inside, the official church magazine. The essays received no exposure in general conference and minimal exposure in ward meeting houses. And that was a complaint that we had when they first came out, because they were difficult to find. In fact, we were telling people you would probably find these essays much quicker if you went to, because we did have a page listing where these essays could be found.

Now again, they came out incrementally, beginning at the end of 2013 and coming out until 2015. They did not all come out at once. But the book goes on to say that not surprisingly, the low-keyed release of the essays posed challenges for Latter-day Saints who tried to utilize them in teaching Sunday school classes. Quote, few Mormons seem to know about them, end quote, one report noted. Other church members rejected the idea that they bore the imprimatur of the church. This, in turn, led to confusion within the church, as when a Sunday school teacher in Hawaii taught from one of the essays which raised the ire of his local ward bishop who released the hapless teacher from teaching, accusing him of using unauthorized sources.

What does that tell us? What is being found in the essays seems to conflict with the general understanding that many faithful Latter-day Saints had regarding their own history. Now, it also says that as late as 2015, church leaders recognized this problem and began taking measures to address it. In September of that year, Apostle Russell M. Ballard promoted the essays at a regional conference in Utah, explaining that, quote, the church is dedicated to transparency and has donated precious resources to provide new insights and offer even more context to the story of the Restoration through the Joseph Smith Papers website and the Gospel Topics essays on, end quote. Five months later, in February 2016, Ballard endorsed the essays to a group of church education system teachers, counseling them to learn, quote, these essays like, you know, the back of your hand, end quote, adding that, quote, gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, don't worry about it, end quote.

And that was pretty much the response. And we've talked about that in previous broadcasts this week. But notice, February 2016, the essays start coming out in November of 2013. It takes till February 2016 for a Mormon general authority to actually go on record and say, hey, guess what?

We endorse these essays. I remember when they first came out, Eric, talking to Latter-day Saints about them, and there was so much confusion among many of the members because they weren't even sure if these were coming from the church. We heard all sorts of interesting things and read all sorts of stories on the Internet about Latter-day Saints even wondering if even the church website was hacked. And that's where these these evil essays got put up there that were contradicting what they understood true history to be.

It's almost as if they were, quote, unquote, anti-Mormon. I mean, the idea that they were reporting things that the church had never really officially taught and all of a sudden we're telling people on the streets about some of the things that are being said and they said that's not true. And you tell them, well, you can go to the Gospel Topics essays part in your website and you can find this. And I even one time had somebody deny that the essay on Joseph Smith's polygamy that he had 30 to 40 wives, so I copied it and I sent it over to this person to show them, yes, this is admitted by your own church. That story right there, Eric, I think proves the value of the Gospel Topics essay. You were able to point them to their own official website, which, of course, back then was

Now it's But what better way to try and show a Latter-day Saint some of these problem areas than directing them to go to their own website and read it for themselves? That certainly has an impact. But in the beginning, there was a lot of confusion. It says on page 23, but spreading the essays generated some concern among rank and file members. A BYU-Idaho student became disturbed after reading the essay explaining how Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a stone in a hat. He believed it was, quote unquote, false doctrine and vowed, quote, to pull up some primary sources, end quote, to prove the teaching wrong. He continued, quote, Once I started searching, I came across this recently published essay on

It talked openly about the translation process of the Book of Mormon. It shocked me. My issue with it was that the narrative it laid out was completely different from the one I'd grown up learning about. I frantically searched the footnotes of the essay for some sort of an explanation.

However, the more I searched, the more confused I became. Before long, the young man became disillusioned and left the church wondering why wasn't I ever told about any of this? Bill, we heard that from a lot of Latter-day Saints.

Yes, we did. We heard that from a lot of faithful Latter-day Saints wondering why was I not told about this? And especially when they would find out things on sites that were critical of the LDS church. Finding it from those kind of sources had devastating effects. And then to find out the church is now admitting to things that they were led to believe were nothing but lies.

You can imagine that this gentleman's story here is probably not at all unusual. But then the book goes on to tell a story about an LDS bishop in New Zealand. We wrote an article on this event as well. It was a story of a man by the name of Ganesh Cherian. It was an article titled, A Former Bishop's Doctrinal Dilemmas. It was posted on Kiwi Mormon, February 12, 2014.

What did Ganesh Cherian say, found at the top of page 24 in the introduction? He said, Though I haven't left the church, this shift to more transparency is a challenge for me. Not because I don't welcome these revisions.

They seem very fair and thoroughly researched. But like my fellow high priests, I too use these now-discarded explanations and doctrines throughout my leadership to teach, and now I'm left to wonder. As a former bishop, I am perplexed.

I have repeated stories to my ward to justify particular church practices. I have given the hard line on church policies and doctrines and have held people accountable. All of this has caused me to grapple with my own questions. Is it possible that I have hurt people with doctrines and dogmas that in the light of these essays seem to sit on shaky ground? I understand how essential it is to sustain the brethren, but these days I live with a caution that those ideals that I believe today could be dismissed by future first presidencies. That is a telling statement, that last sentence there when he says, I understand how essential it is to sustain the brethren, but these days I live with a caution that those ideals that I believe today could be dismissed by future first presidencies.

What is that saying to us, folks? Ganesh Cherian is recognizing that truth is in a state of flux in the Mormon church. What was true during the time of Brigham Young's reign as president of the church is not always the same truth that they find today.

A current leader could teach something right now, today, or even tomorrow, only to have what he is saying contradicted by another leader years down the road. And it goes on and it quotes two other Latter-day Saints. Here's one, given that they, the church leaders, were wrong and it has taken the brethren this long to admit it, what do we accept now as doctrine that might be repudiated in a few years time?

Where are the curriculum lessons that address our need to deal with institutional and even prophetic error? And another Latter-day Saint asked, where do we draw the line between prophet and man? And that's a difficulty, especially when you have that phrase that God will not allow the prophet of the church to lead the church astray. Do you think some of these people being mentioned in the book probably thought God's not going to allow the prophet of the church to lead the church astray? Well, it certainly sounds like I was led astray. They are personally experiencing this conflict. Next week, we're going to continue looking at this book and we're going to begin looking at the various chapters, the first of which is titled Are Mormons Christians? by Dr. Craig Blomberg, who is a professor at Denver Seminary. ... ...
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-03 15:29:53 / 2023-12-03 15:34:50 / 5

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