long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The gathering and the Book of Mormon

I suppose that everyone who reads this blog knows that last Sunday, President Russell M. Nelson told young people around the world that taking part in the gathering of Israel is their most important purpose right now. 

There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing,” he said. “This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.”

Joseph and Oliver receive the keys
in the Kirtland temple
Surely his counsel applies to every member of the Church. 

In 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the keys of the gathering: "the Heavens were again opened unto them and Moses appeared before them and committed unto them the Keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth."

The prophets have consistently taught the importance of the gathering of Israel. We were instructed about this when I went on my mission many years ago.

President Nelson explained that “You and I are living to see, and will continue to see, Israel gathered with great power. “And you can be part of the power behind that gathering!”

This is the fulfillment of prophecy, and we're seeing it all around the world. Miracles are happening daily, as we all know and have experienced ourselves.

And yet, billions of people are not hearing the message. There are obstacles and impediments that we all hope to remove so more people will hear and accept the gospel message and be gathered in.

Forty years ago this coming October, President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that "The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to 'sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.' (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work."

In my view, one of the most serious impediments to the gathering of Israel is confusion about the Book of Mormon.

The tragedy is, we could remove this impediment simply by accepting the teachings of our prophets. But because of M2C, LDS intellectuals and employees at BYU/CES/COB refuse to accept what the prophets have taught.

Imagine being a sincere investigator. A friend, or a missionary, tells you about the Book of Mormon--a sacred record of ancient people in the Americas who were visited by Jesus Christ after his ascension to heaven.

You're interested, but a little skeptical. You've never heard of this before, which seems strange because pretty much everyone in the world, regardless of his/her religion, has heard about Jesus Christ who lived in Israel. Surely, you think, you should have heard about Jesus visiting America.

You ask where Jesus came. Your friend, or the missionary, replies, "We don't know. Just somewhere in the Americas. He visited an ancient civilization called the Nephites but they were all killed off around 400 AD in a big battle with their enemies."

"Where did this happen?" you ask.

"In a place called Cumorah."

"Okay, then where was Cumorah?"

"I don't know. But I know the book is true."

If you were skeptical before, you're even more skeptical now. 

Your friend, or the missionary, says, "You can know the truth also. Just read this book and pray about it."

Maybe you will. Maybe you'll read the Book of Mormon and gain a spiritual witness and become one of the 1.7% of Americans who are LDS, or one of the 0.2% of the world's population who are LDS. 

But statistically, the overwhelming likelihood is that you will investigate a little before accepting the message. 

You go to the Internet. 

You discover there is quite a lot of discussion about this Cumorah place. You find Mormon and anti-Mormon web pages debating the issue. You find even Mormon web pages debating the issue. You end up at a site such as this: http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/cumorah.htm

You quickly discover three things:

1. The Mormon prophets have consistently taught that Cumorah is in western New York. That gives you something to investigate further. 

2. You also learn that the Mormon prophets have said that they don't know the locations of other Book of Mormon places. But you know that there are still debates about the sites of Biblical events, too, so that's not a big deal.  

3. But then you learn that a lot of Mormons, even Mormon teachers at BYU, say their own prophets were wrong about Cumorah being in New York. They claim Cumorah is actually in Mesoamerica, or Baja, or Panama, or just about anyplace except New York. 

You think, "If Mormons don't believe their own prophets, why should I?"

The next time you hear from your friend (or the missionaries), you politely say you're not interested. You don't want to get into a debate that the Mormons themselves can't resolve.

I agree with President Nelson that there is nothing more important than gathering Israel. 

I also agree with President Benson that the Book of Mormon is the instrument prepared to gather Israel.

For these reasons, I hope all members of the Church can unite in supporting and sustaining the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

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