Category Archives: Mormon Church History

When is a prophet a prophet?

Often critics of the Church will bring up something that a prophet or apostle has done that was wrong (in their opinion) and ask how a man of God could do something like that. Defenders of the Church often then reply with this quote from Joseph Smith:

“a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such”

History of the Church 5:265

I definitely understand the concept, but I have to admit that seems kind of like a cop-out. It kind of gives the impression that a prophet can be a prophet, and then decide to be mean, and just say that he wasn’t being a prophet while he was being mean.

I heard a quote mentioned on a recent FairMormon podcast that I think gives more clarity on this topic. The quote was, “when God makes the prophet, he does not unmake the man.”

The full quote is from David O McKay, and is as follows:

Someone has said that when God makes the prophet, he does not unmake the man. I believe that, though being “born anew,” and being entitled to new life, new vigor, new blessings, yet the old weaknesses may still remain. The adversary stands by, ever eager and ready to attack and strike us at our weakest point.

David O. McKay, “The Divine Church“, Conference Report, April 1962, pp. 5-9

For additional thoughts on this, check out this By Common Consent post from a couple of years ago

“Debunking that Quote about Brigham Young’s Greatest Fear”

Many of you are familiar with the quote from President Brigham Young that people use where supposedly he said:

The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.

Well, the Millenial Star had a  nice write-up about this recently. Apparently this is not a transcript from a talk, but a summary of a comment that Brigham Young most likely made. Interesting reading… check it out!

This day in history – The transcontinental railroad in the US is completed in Utah

I get an email from the New York Times each day with some top news stories, and also an “On this day” section. For today (Saturday, May 10, 2014), is has the following:

On May 10, 1869, a golden spike was driven at Promontory, Utah, marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.

I’m not much of a historian, but I remember something in the Mountain of the Lord video that mentioned how the completion of the railroad really helped with the building of the Salt Lake Temple.

The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum has a short article about the Mormons who helped finish the railroad.

No more asking for referrals at Church historical sites?

In the summer I wrote about our trip to Palmyra. You can read about it in the following posts:

If you’ve been to a Church historical site, you are aware that after sharing the message with you, the missionaries usually hand out a card of some kind and ask you to consider friends that you feel inspired to have the missionaries visit.

On Friday and Saturday we went back to Palmyra (the tours are usually much better when it is “off-season”) and had some great visits. I’ll write about those separately and post some pictures. The point I wanted to share was about the referrals…

On Friday at the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center, the senior missionary told us that rather than ask for referrals, they were asking for our own email address. He said he would send us some links to some sites that explain a bit of the history of the area. The next morning the email came in with the links he had mentioned. He suggested that we could invite someone over for a family home evening to learn more about the sites.

Then on Saturday at the Peter Whitmer Farm, the sister missionary there started to mention the same thing. Her little spiel about it actually used the word “creepy”, as in “it was kind of creepy to have a stranger call them up” and ask them if they wanted to learn more about a place they had never visited. We let her know that we were happy to give her an email address, but that we had already given it to the other missionary. She said that if we had already done that, then that was fine.

I don’t know if this is now the norm, but it was kind of nice. I appreciated the suggested links, and we didn’t feel the pressure that often accompanied one of those referral cards.

Kirby: Scrutiny of LDS Church history serves up surprises

Robert Kirby is a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribute. I don’t really know anything about him other than the fact that his columns seem to be commentaries with a bit of humour. One of his recent ones is about some of the “surprises” you find when studying Church history. I love reading the stories… warts and all. It never bothers me. I find it interesting, and if anything, it strengthens my testimony to know that these leaders were just men. They were trying to do what the Lord wanted them to do, but were influenced by family, friends, society, and more, and therefore sometimes made mistakes.

Anyway, Mr. Kirby has the following gem in that recent commentary:

Making a church is like making a hamburger. It’s all so yummy when presented in a bun on a plate — and something altogether different when you consider the back story involves bashing one of God’s simplest creatures in the head with a hammer.

Love it! It isn’t the most beautiful comparison, but is seems quite fitting. I love a good hamburger. I understand that in order to get that meat to my plate, sometimes things aren’t pretty, but the end result is tasty. I guess in a way the Church is kind of like that. Through the growing pains, and assimilation into the surrounding culture, things haven’t always been pretty, but the Church provides me with the bread of life, and the end result is good.

(I realize that this is a simplistic analogy. The things that have happened in Church history are much more complex. I’m just commenting that it is an interesting comparison, and one that I’ve never thought of before)

George Albert Smith suffered from depression

Once again referring to Elder Holland’s talk from the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference, he mentioned that George Albert Smith suffered from depression. I’m fairly well versed in Church history, but didn’t realize how sever it was until I followed some links online. Apparently while an apostle he had a 3-year battle that at times saw him rarely leave his bed. He seemed to hit rock bottom, and then he started to get a bit better, and ultimately became President of the Church.

Jana Reiss at Religion News Service has a great summary of his struggles, as well as a link to a Journal of Mormon History article that has more details.

Pamphlets and leaflets from around Palmyra

Note: This should be my last Palmyra relate post for a while.

As mentioned before, my family went to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, New York back in the middle of July. I have previously posted about the protestors as well as some pictures of the sites we visited. I’ve also scanned five of the pamphlets we picked up at the various sites, and I’ve posted them below.

Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site Grandin Building

Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site Grandin Building

The Sacred Grove and Joseph Smith Sr Family Historic Farm


The Sacred Grove and Joseph Smith Sr Family Historic Farm

Hill Cumorah Pageant


Hill Cumorah Pageant

The Hill Cumorah Historic Sites


The Hill Cumorah Historic Sites

The Museums of Historic Palmyra


The Museums of Historic Palmyra

Peter Whitmer Home and Visitors Center


Peter Whitmer Home and Visitors Center

Photos from Palmyra New York historical sites and pageant

As I’ve mentioned this week, back in July we went to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Here are some pictures. I took a lot more than this, but have selected a variety. We are hoping to go back in the Fall when things aren’t so busy and we can have the regular tours.

The Smith Log Home

The Smith Log Home

The kitchen in the Smith Log Home

The kitchen in the Smith Log Home

Inside the Smith Frame Home

Inside the Smith Frame Home

The kitchen in the Smith Frame Home

The kitchen in the Smith Frame Home

The view of the Palmyra Temple from the Smith Home

The view of the Palmyra Temple from the Smith Home

The Sacred Grove

The Sacred Grove

The Grandin Press Shop where the Book of Mormon was published

The Grandin Press Shop where the Book of Mormon was published

First Edition of the Book of Mormon

First Edition of the Book of Mormon

Angels at the beginning of the pageant

Angels at the beginning of the pageant

All the cast on stage

All the cast on stage

Nephi and the Tree of Life

Nephi and the Tree of Life

Jesus appearing to the Nephites

Jesus appearing to the Nephites

The remaining Nephites see the Savior

The remaining Nephites see the Savior

My report from the Palmyra Pageant

As mentioned yesterday, this year we went to the Palmyra Pageant as a family. It had been several years since I had last been. Previously, the main parking lot was across the street, so you would have to walk right past the protestors. Some of them were quiet, but others were loud and obnoxious. Since the last time we were there the parking arrangements have changed. Now you park on the same side of the street as the Hill Cumorah, so you never have to walk directly by the protestors. I was there on Wednesday, July 17, and it was probably the hottest day of the year. It could have been because it was mid-week, or because of the heat, but there were very few protestors out that night. They were making some noise until the opening prayer, and then I never heard them again.

I live about a two-hour drive from Palmyra, so we got there at around 5 pm. The pageant doesn’t start until after 9 pm, so we had a few hours to go and view the sites. Since there are so many people who visit the area during pageant time, there are no official tours offered at the various historical sites. There are, however, lots of missionaries and volunteers around to explain some things and answer questions.

Other than the heat, it was a beautiful day. The kids particularly enjoyed walking through the Sacred Grove. There was some steam/fog among the trees, so you could see the light coming through in visible beams. it looked just like something you’d see in a movie.

The pageant itself hasn’t changed much in several years. That is both a good and bad thing. I like it because it is comfortable. You know exactly how long it will be, and it is easy to tell the kids to pay attention to a specific part that is coming up. On the other hand, since it hasn’t changed it just didn’t feel as exciting to watch it this time.

Ultimately, we had a great day. My three kids thought it was awesome, and I guess that is what matters most.

I took a bunch of pictures and will post them tomorrow…

Hill Cumorah Draws Business and Protests To Streets of Palmyra

I’m a little late on posting this, but I still wanted to post it. A few weeks ago we went to see the annual Palmyra Pageant. It is always a fun day, and is pretty much the only time where I get to see any protestors against the Church. This article from YNN in Rochester shares a bit about this:

Jim Deferio has traveled from Syracuse and occupied the same street corner outside the bookstore for eight years.

Deferio spends the day preaching the Christian Gospel while holding a banner that says the Book of Mormon is full of lies.

“I don’t hate the Mormons, I hate their lies. I love the Mormon people because I was lost once too, so I just give them truth and I show them the contradictions in their own books,” he said.

Well, at least he doesn’t hate us 🙂

I’ll share more about my trip tomorrow…