Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Journal of Discourses: Treasure Trove of Doctrine



The Journal of Discourses is not some shady, unreliable source of doctrine.
Put in context with an early, doctrinally evolving church, the "J.D." is not something to be shunned, or ignored, but rather embraced.
Sure, there are some speculative and opinion kinds of doctrines found within its 26 volumes, but then there was no Correlation Committee back then either!
Talks were often impromptu in the 1800s.
The Journal of Discourses are generally under-rated and yet offer glimpses of pioneer life in Utah and reveal what doctrines the church leaders and members at the time of the mid-19th Century were wrestling with.




I've even noticed that in the past 10 years, occasionally, an official church manual has quoted from the Journal of Discourses.
Now to be accurate, all the J.D. is are re-prints of talks by church leaders as originally published in the Deseret News.
(A game played in many past church manuals would be that instead of listing the more easily found Journal of Discourses as a reference, the actual Deseret News reference would be cited instead, as if that was more accurate ... when it was the same thing.)
Scribes, or clerks, (like George D. Watt), tried to write down the talks of leaders, like Brigham Young, and they were printed in the Deseret News for a wider, regional church audience to read.
The 26 volumes of Journal of Discourses compiled many of those talks. It was Brother Watt who received clearance from the First Presidency to publish the Journals, mainly as a way to provide him income, but also to send these talks overseas, to church members in Great Britain.



I've read all 26 volumes of the Journal of Discourses.
I've also made my own index of each volume, since the official index for the Journal of Discourses is very lacking.
Sure, I came across some "there is life on the moon" kind of things talked about therein, but if you've read the Standard Works and 
have some solid doctrinal foundation, then the J.D. would do nothing but expand your gospel understanding.
I've compared many of the key Journal of Discourse talks, particularly those by Brigham Young, with the Deseret News and found no disagreement between the two.
However, I once in a while noticed that Brigham Young would come back a week later in the Deseret News and state he thought he was misquoted, or didn't make a point clear the talk prior and then he would briefly try to clarify or correct it.
 Those "corrections/clarifications" are NOT included in the Journal of Discourses, however.



Today's church leaders have found it wise to not speculate like their 19th Century counterparts did in the Deseret News/Journal of Discourses.
But anyone who takes a shot at the accuracy of the Journal of Discourses is also taking a swing at the accuracy of the Deseret News.
No newspaper, even today, is free from errors, but even the opinion pages in newspapers spur thought and reflection.
So, keep reading the Ensign and General Conference Ensigns, today's counterpart for the old Journal of Discourses.
Yet, if you have the time, you will not regret reading the Journal of Discourses, for the doctrinal rewards they offer.
The J.D. is a lot easier reading than the cumbersome newspaper microfilm!
Note that while virtually all of the past 3 or so decades of the Deseret News are on-line and searchable by Google, the Journal of Discourse's era of the Deseret News issues are not -- and may never be.
(That's probably because Google-searchable would make some of the off-the-wall segments of the Journal of Discourses too easily found by church critics.)



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guns and The Gospel …





How about guns and the Gospel, or guns and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Of course, there is no official church policy, or stand on guns. That is left to the individual member. Gun control, or not, the church itself isn’t likely to take a stand on this controversial, yet timely  issue.
You can read the advice from some church leaders and the scriptures below and decide more on the issue for yourself ….
 Like most things though, guns themselves are not evil. They are tools and can be used for good, or for evil.
“Show me one principle that has originated by the power of the devil. You cannot do it.  I call evil inverted good, or a correct principle made an evil use of,” Brigham Young stated on May 6, 1855 (Journal of Discourses 3:157).
So, the Lord probably doesn’t care if we have guns or not, simply that we use them for good purposes -- and wisely.
Joseph Smith’s general inclination was that carrying a gun was not necessary.
Still, what follows are some of the Prophet’s thoughts on the guns – in context – (as many only quote  a line or two from this discourse and thus miss its overall message ):

“The Ancient Prophets declared that in the last days 

the God of heaven should set up a Kingdom which 

should never be destroyed, nor left to other people; 

and the very time that was calculated on,  this people 

were struggling to bring it out. He that arms himself 

with gun, sword, or pistol except in the defense of 

truth, will sometimes be sorry for it. I never carry any 

weapon with me bigger than my penknife. When I was 

dragged before the cannon and muskets in Missouri, I 

was unarmed. God will always protect me until my 

mission is fulfilled.


“I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up 

the kingdom of Daniel, by the word of the Lord, and I 

intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the 

whole world.  I once offered my life to the Missouri 

Mob as a sacrifice for my people, and here I am.  It 

will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll 

on: the power of truth is such that all nations will be 

under the necessity of obeying the Gospel. The 

prediction is that army will be against army; it may be 

that the Saints will have to beat their ploughs into 

swords, for it will not do for men to sit down patiently 

and see their children destroyed.”(History of the 

Church 6:364-365, May 12, 1844. Also quoted in 

“Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 365-366).





We have to remember too, that Joseph Smith had 

armed bodyguards around him often. He also started 

the Nauvoo Legion – a group of armed men.


On November 29, 1843, Joseph Smith confessed that 

he had softened his earlier stance on self- defense 

with guns:


“Said he (Joseph Smith) rose to make a confession, 

that he used all his influence to prevent the brethren 

from fighting when mobbed in Missouri. If I did 

wrong, I will not do so any more. It was a suggestion 

of the head. He would never do so again; but when 

the mobs come upon you, kill them. I never will 

restrain you again, will go and help you.” (History of 

the Church 6:93-94).


In addition, the Prophet was offered a smuggled-in 

gun in Carthage jail on June 27, 1844 by Cyrus H. 

Wheelock (who also wrote the words to the hymn, 

"Ye Elders of Israel")

the Prophet reiterated again his distaste for guns, yet 

took it and tried to protect himself and others from 

the mob. (History of the Church 6:607-608).


In fact, one account in History of the Church states 

that Joseph Smith fired that gun six times, although it 

misfired several times. (History of the Church 6:617-

618).

An account cited by historian B.H. Roberts in History 

of Church (who prepared six volumes of that series), 

indicates that Joseph Smith fired four shots and 

brought down an attacking man every time during his 

final stand at Carthage. (History of the Church 6:XLI).


Brigham Young later said the Joseph Smith wounded 

three of his assailants in that attack on Carthage Jail, 

where he died. (History of the Church 7:31).



Almost a century after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom and 

just before the outbreak of World War II, J. Reuben 

Clark, Jr., First Counselor, First Presidency, stated in 

General Conference, April 1941:


“We believe in peace. We are the devoted followers of the 

Prince of Peace. We abhor war, save in the actual defense 

of our homes, our families, our liberties. For we remember 

that when Peter struck off with his sword the ear of Malchus, 

the servant of the High Priest, the Lord said: ‘All they that 

take the sword shall perish with the sword.’ (Matthew 26:52) 

The Lord made no exceptions to his law. History has made 

none.”

The Nephites in the Book of Mormon often had to defend 

themselves from the Lamanites. They used swords and 

arrows, but that’s that era’s equivalent of guns.


The church has also encouraged young men in the past to 

support the draft, enter the military and defend their country 

and their freedom with guns and other weapons.


So, the Lord appears to condone guns for self-defense only. 

And. like anything, owning guns can be taken to an 

unhealthy, fanatical level, where a person may lose balance 

and elevate guns above most everything else in life.


What about hunting with guns (or hunting animals period)?


An official statement released from the Church Public 

Communications office in 1979, and approved by President 

Spencer W. Kimball, said the decision to fish or hunt is left 

to the discretion of the individual. It stated that the church is 

only against the unnecessary and wasteful slaughter of 

animals, not against hunting itself.

“And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth 

flesh and has no need.” (Doctrine and Covenants 49:21).


“And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save 

your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your 

hands.” (Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation, Genesis 9:11).


In the long term perspective, all guns and weapons of war 

will be destroyed, or converted to useful tools during the 

Millennium and Jesus Christ’s 1,000-year reign of peace 

(Isaiah 2:3-4). But the earth has to become a Terrestrial 

world first, for that to be the directive.

As long as the earth is in its Telestial state, it would appear 
that guns and other weapons are necessary to protect lives and freedom.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Journal Keeping: A Hit And Miss Practice! A 'Diary' Is Better!

I don't know how many hundreds of times I've heard it said in the LDS Church: "Keep a journal!"
The huge problem here -- that practice rarely works.
That's because we are victims of habit and only writing in a journal occasionally means one of two things: you either never write in it, or your rarely write in it.
Even when you do write in it, it is usually so far after some event or experience that you can't recall all the details.
The solution?
Do what I've done for more than 40 years -- keep a diary.
Now I don't mean those pocket size store bought diaries. I mean a full looseleaf size tablet or binder.

                                                   One of my typical Diary/journals


Write in it every day and you miss nothing. Some days it might be a few lines, others many lines or a half page or so.
That way it becomes a habit and your actually do it, like brushing your teeth -- I write in my diary/journal (what it really is) 99 percent of the time on that exact day. The other 1 percent I still catch up and thus it captures 100 percent of my life.
If I want to know what happened 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, I can find it in my diary/journal.
My handwriting was gotten worse over the years, but besides leaving accounts of my good and bad experiences in life for posterity, writing it down helps me cope with adversity better and helps me know where I've been.
These diary/journals have also settled arguments over events over the years and even fill in gaps in my memory.
If I re-read most entries, even those 40 years ago, the accounts usually help me recall that exact day.
I don't have a photographic mind, but these diary/journals do spark and enhance what memory I do have.
So, try it, or you'll leave what my Great-Aunt Iris left my mother, a 200 page "journal" with just two pages written on-- because there was no established habit for her to keep writing in it.
All those blank pages .....