The ongoing renovation of the Salt Lake Temple reminds us of foundations.
|I took this photo in July 2021.|
"Sandy foundation" is another non-biblical phrase that appears three times in the Book of Mormon.* Several passages in the scriptures explain the difference between a foundation of stone and a foundation of sand or earth. [examples at the end of this post]
The Savior told the Nephites, "But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall...."
What constitutes a "sandy foundation" in our day?
Recently I had a conversation with yet another LDS Bishop who told me how he had called in a faithful couple to extend a calling but they explained they not only could not accept the calling, but they were leaving the Church over issues in Church history. They took several other families with them when they left.
In their cases, when the rain descends, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon them, their foundation of sand crumbled (or, as many like to say, their shelf broke).
By now, most faithful Latter-day Saints know lots of people who have experienced a "faith crisis" and who have either stayed in or left the Church. Some are PIMO (physically in, mentally out). Missionaries frequently meet people who consider joining the Church but are deterred by what they read on the Internet, particularly about Church history.
Among the sandy foundations, one of the most unstable is the claim that Joseph didn't really translate the plates but instead merely read words off a stone in the hat (SITH). After all, the 1834 anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed described SITH precisely as certain LDS scholars do today. Yet Joseph described that book as full of lies, and his successors repeatedly reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught about the translation--which was definitely not SITH.
The Preface to the Doctrine and Covenants explains how the translation of the Book of Mormon is one of the foundations for the Restoration.
29 And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon.30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness...(Doctrine and Covenants 1:29–30)
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery laid a firm foundation through their testimonies of
(i) the translation of the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim that accompanied the plates,
(ii) the divine authenticity of the account Joseph translated, including the fact that the final battles took place west of the hill Cumorah in western New York; and
(iii) the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, along with the keys to the temple.
Nevertheless, some leading LDS scholars claim that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about the translation and the historicity. Some even cast doubt on the restoration of the Priesthood.
A June 2013 report titled "LDS Personal Faith Crisis" discussed at length the issues that have led people to the type of faith crisis described by the Bishop I just mentioned. The report was a factor leading to the creation and publication of the Gospel Topics Essays. You can read the entire report here:
Page 31 features this graphic:
|(click to enlarge)|
By far, the top four reasons respondents gave for their loss of belief were they ceased to believe the doctrine/theology, they studied Church history and lost their belief, they lost faith in Joseph Smith, and they lost faith in the Book of Mormon.
Those reasons are axiomatic, really; few people leave the faith while still believing that Joseph Smith actually translated an authentic ancient record.
Instead, those who leave have concluded that Joseph did not translate any plates.
And yet, some of our leading LDS scholars are spending millions of dollars to convince everyone that Joseph didn't actually translate the plates, but instead employed SITH.
The scriptures have long warned about the dangers of building on a sandy foundation. There can hardly be a more sandy foundation than SITH.
* As additional evidence that Joseph Smith actually translated the plates, the phrase "sandy foundation" was used by Jonathan Edwards to contrast with the certain foundation of true faith, as when he wrote about "a false and sandy foundation for faith" in the 1808 collection of his writings that was on sale in the Palmyra bookstore around 1820. He also wrote about being "built on a sandy foundation."
Evidence that the non-biblical language in the Book of Mormon was part of Joseph's own lexicon supports Joseph's claim that he translated the plates.
Some scriptural passages:
24 ¶ Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
True faith is built on no precarious foundation; but a determination that the words of such a particular text, were, by the immediate power of God, suggested to the mind, at such a time, as though then spoken and directed by God to him, because the words came after such a manner, is wholly an uncertain and precarious determination, as has been now shown; and therefore is a false and sandy foundation for faith; and accordingly that faith which is built upon it is false. The only certain foundation which any person has to believe that he is invited to partake of the blessings of the gospel, is that the Word of God declares that persons so qualified as he is, are invited, and God who declares it is true and cannot lie. Religious Affections, Vol. 2, Part 3, p. 223; Kindle 29071
10. If it was possible for Christ to have failed of doing the will of his Father, and so to have failed of effectually working out redemption for sinners, then the salvation of all the saints, who were saved from the beginning of the world, to the death of Christ, was not built on a firm foundation. The Messiah, and the redemption which he was to work out by his obedience unto death, was the foundation of the salvation of all the posterity of fallen man, that ever were saved.... Also the dependence of those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, and waited for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25 and Luke 2:38), and the confidence of the disciples of Jesus, who forsook all and followed him, that they might enjoy the benefits of his future kingdom, was built on a sandy foundation. Freedom of the Will, Vol. 1, Part III, p. 287-8.