Elder David A. Bednar – and the wrong birthday

The following was taken from a post by hoserb2k from reddit:

In case you were not watching confrence closely, near the end of Bednar’s “load” speech, he proclaimed that April 6th was known to be Jesus’s birthday by “revelation” (link, go to 15:28[1] )

The problem with this statement is that the April 6 date was not revelation, but rather mormon fokelore. While some point to D&C section 20 1) The revelation was given on April 10, not on the 6th like the scriptures claim and 2) The bit about April 6th was the addition of a scribe later on as an embellishment. What is the source of all this? Some terrible anti source like mormonthink.com? Try the church’s newspaper, Desert News


Well you say, there must have been some later revelation by a Prophet and Seer that confirms that the 6th really was the date. You would be incorrect, in fact Prophets and Seers are on the record as not agreeing. Here are some mormon luminaries weighing in on the issue:

James Talmage: April 6, meridian of time

J. Reuben Clark: Early December, 4 or 5 B.C.

Bruce R. McConkie: December 5 B.C.

In modern LDS history, both the clergy and the academics of the the church have pushed away from the 6th date as impossible (BYU Studies[3] ).

I know that the general membership does not really care about this, but among the LDS historians and thinkers, this was a huge punch to the gut. The problematic april 6th date had been neatly solved for decades, and in a few seconds bednar again tears open the problem. You can head to the faithful sub and see how the debate will go (some upset, most rebuking them saying “how is this relevant to your salvation?”). A good friend of mine gasped when he heard bednar say this, and was convinced that it would be edited out of the conference report as an error. He was devastated when the report came out today and it remained in.

My point in bringing this up is that some LDS members really do care about facts, and do notice when events are misrepresented. As someone else posted, LDS editors notice when conference speakers steal quotes, and historians notice when you mess with history.


There you have it, B.S. from the pulpit in conference.  Accountability?  None.

Posted in GA Bullsh*t | 3 Comments

Summer of Decision

The Video

My Commentary (Read this in Joel, Crow and Tom Servo’s voices)

0:16 – Gosh I love volkswagon’s.  They look the same no matter the era.

0:27 – Frank Wise did the editing, I hope he was wise about he edited.

0:31 – Morris G. Rowley wrote this.  His accomplishments include: Finishing Highschool.  Serving a mission in the North West.  Marrying a girl in 1939who waited for him after his mission. A teacher and principle.  Interestingly enough he doesn’t seem to be a General Authority at all.  He was a teacher who wrote a story and BYU decided to publish it.  Adding the “G” initial to his name made him sound more official I guess.

0:34- Wetzel, dear Wetzel who produced Johny Lingo, Pioneers in Petticoats and “The windows of Heaven” known for his historical accuracy. I doubt I’d have this section on my blog if it wasn’t for his “insight” into filmmaking.

0:40 – This guy is so nervous it looks like he should be on “What to do on a date”.

0:49 – Handshake and inspection of the young man, leading to the interrogation.

1:24 – Do I know your father”, the beginning of a perfect “I did your mom” joke if ever I heard one.

1:30 – “What does he do in the church” ah yes, must be a member and an active one.  This is a byu production after all.

1:43 – The eight cow potential wife is on set!

1:48 – Your daddy kept me Sooo entertained…

1:56 – Wait, is this to get us to expect every father to be like a District Attorney.  If this guy is a special case, were we just illustrating he was being a dick to her dates?  I’m confused.

2:06 – He want’s the boy’s number so he can “entertain” him again after the date.

2:16 – ETA is 22:00 hours sir, assuming mission is accomplished in 5 minutes or less after parking, sir!

2:25 – Goodnight, go to bed, you’re never seeing your little girl again!

2:35 – Wait, he’s the new move in and they hold hands as soon as they are out of sight of the father, she’s a quick mover!

2:40 – Woah, Bill, dude, on camera in that outfit, no!

2:42 – “All kinds of fun”  Nudge nudge wink wink.

2:49 – And just like a library book you returned her slightly used, and with her pages ruffled, didn’t you, you dog!

2:55 – “.. on the porch for her” which is why we made out long before I took her up the drive.

3:10 – Notice that BYU is not an option he is considering.  Even LDS kids know that real education comes from eastern universities.

3:30 – College decisions should be set by pretty girls at home.

3:38 – is that a soda or a beer?  The way he says “Get a job” makes me think “beer”.

3:43 – Yes, mom and dad ain’t paying for ya!

3:55 – Eastern girls are dragons!  ohhh, what a dis!

4:00 – cut to dragon-women at eastern apparently.  Also, Dragons have LOTS of hair

4:12 – Pay attention in class, naw; letter writing time!  Reminds me of the MTC the way he hides his writing.


4:50 – He left the mormon bubble; he’s so dead.  SO DEAD!

5:00 – Only mormon.  Has to defend it, and goes straight to persecuted by people being incredulous.  No specifics, mind you, but let’s assume they’re talking about why black men can’t hold the priesthood and are lesser because of skin color.

5:30 – He says “Phenomenon” like Richard Dawkins.  Ah yes, it’s the MISSION they can’t believe.  What a zany belief to argue over, not say, throwing javalin’s through adulterers, or polygamy.

5:35 – So many straw men, the crows will never land.  Missionaries AND diet… preposterous.

6:06 – “pleasures of food and drink” that’s great screenwriting right there.  What all the kids say those days.

6:15 – Other religions are included, ince.

6:30 – Possible the church will modify its stand… to bad these are straw men or they might mention other positions the church has altered, or other religions that have altered.  Ya know, give some reasoning.

6:35- Blame the group for why you are uninformed, sure, not your leaders who after years of teaching you didn’t cover the basics.

6:50 – Scowl to not being sure about the church

7:00 – Obligatory prayer in school!  (institute)  Missionary effort for every LDS child

7:18- After school with the institute teacher… cue the guitar.

7:29 – being unsure about the church = personality change

7:46 – The answer to all problems, interrogation.

8:00 – No institute, no clubs, no way to extend the bubble. TROUBLE!

8:30 – Questioning bad, turning in your peer for having doubts to leadership, good!

8:44- Women in aprons, men tasting, how the church was meant to be.

9:08- Everything is decided by Football.  This is no way a discussion of BYU (state) vs. U of U by the way, it just sounds that way.

9:28 – Tickets to the game, but instead, parking.  Smooth!

9:35 – Take that old man and your losing football team.

10:20 – “Will you marry me?”

10:50 – Ask Daddy … you have to marry him too!

11:00 – Married the same day as we go to the temple… did you hear that.  It was only back to when this film was made that people were married civilly before a temple wedding.  Commonly on different days.

11:05 – Tis a silly place of masonic symbols and penalties, they’ve hidden from you.

11:20 – Answers BEFORE the temple, crazy talk!

11:25 – Stop repeating me

11:40 – The cult told me temple first, questions later.  It’s so hard to decide.

11:56 – Love me and have questions… preposterous!

12:00 – That’s right, do not marry someone who thinks.  #notACult

12:05 – She’s trying to fix you.  RUN BILL, RUN!

12:15 – Yes, go to a man he’s never met before, for advice.  He is totally irrational for turning that idea down.

12:35 – Your strange man, you’ve told me about before is so WRONG when the man I’ve never told you about is so RIGHT!

12:45 – “{Self-reliant” thrown back in his face, that’ll show him, thinking for himself instead of depending on the organization.  #notACult

13:00 – I’m ready for my close up

13:20 – He goes to someone to ask questions.  Good on Bill.  Pity we don’t see the discussion club influencing him on asking questions is a good thing.  Or “hearing both sides”

14:00 – Institute teachers never go home

14:20 – “I heartily recommend the institution” is a quote by Wilford Woodruff, who, incidentally had 7 wives.  You can hear this quote in “Mountain of the Lord”

15:00 – Nothing wrong with Good Honest Doubt.  Bravo!

 15:05 – “Period of doubting” ah yes, it’s something you grow out of. *sigh*

15:15 – “Are you attending your meetings” because that would help doubt… or not.

15:30 – Baptism covenant guilt trip!  You were a whole 8 years old, why don’t you keep what you agreed to when 8, like that you’d always watch cartoons your whole life?! #notACult

16:00 – only go to school within our reach

16:15 – It’s YOUR fault you don’t want to go to the temple.

16:28 – Clint eastwood eyes… GO TO YOUR BISHOP.

16:35 – Wait, he asked no questions and got no answers.  No one is going to actually help resolve concerns?

17:00 – Pajamas matter

17:30 – 6:30 and she’s dressed like that already.  Woah!

17:45 – Elopement wins!  Just like Joseph and Emma, ignore your father’s religious beliefs and get hitched!

17:50 – God told her it will be fine.  It’s a church that says you can get truth claims resolved by prayer.  No problem, right?

18:00 – Dig that car.  This is my mother and father’s era

18:18 – Isn’t he cute, folks?  Did he just make an “L” on his forehead?

19:00 – Elopement via Mormon bishop… totally allowed in the day

19:45 – No promises until sure… so crazy.

19:55 – Love = TEMPLE, #notACult

20:00 – Any other kind of marriage should be farthest thing… and he stands up for his bride and his decision.  Well done.

20:20 – Mormon bishop > other marriage forms because?

20:45 – Fighting comes from questions and doubts.  Remember that kids.

21:00 – Do you think this is what Emma said to Joseph?

21:30 – Seatbelts, foiling God’s plan for punishing kids who ask questions since they were required by law

22:00 –  yes, Death is an appropriate end to those who don’t follow the church.  #notACult

23:00 – Spooky mormon hell dream inducing weirdness.

23:05 – NO walk into the LIGHT!

23:15 – See mormons are inconsiderate to the non-believer even in death.  She doesn’t even say goodbye, or talk to him as he cries out.

23:30 – Hell is slow motion and 70′s lighting

23:40 – you know it was good writting when the twist at the end is “it was all a dream”.

24:20 – Hello, Nancy, I had a dream I did your mother last night, as well as that we should go to the temple.  I always trust my dreams so come right over… and bring your mom.

24:35 – Whine over technology- the telephone, no fucks given.

24:50 – Something is wrong with him.  he’s about to give up free thought in order to promise everything he will ever have to the organization under threat that his tongue might be ripped out and his bowels split if he ever talks about it, because he had a guilt dream.

25:18 – Was it like an erection?

25:30 – “I’ve been wrong”, because that’s the point of this little moral tale after all.

26:00 – At least he’ll get honest answers from the bishop, because they’re trained to have answers to hard questions right?  RIGHT?  That’s not going to backfire.

26:21 – A mormon film that ends with making out on the couch, and then they decided a shotgun wedding would be better than a temple wedding, and 8 1/2 months later Little Johnny was born, and That’s How I Met Your Mother.

Closing note: Notice there is NO discussion of a mission.  This is my parent’s generation.  It’s been that short of time that the entire organization has swapped to putting such peer pressure on young men that this girl would be seen as almost inactive for not demanding that he serve a mission before getting married today.  This is the power of correlation.

The End

















Posted in New look at old Church Videos | Leave a comment

Young Women’s – Roll model analysis and the Bechtel test

In the Sunstone article we find that women regularly exercised their priesthood up until Joseph F. Smith sent a letter in 1946.

Many people asked “how could correlation remove all knowledge of this in such a short time”.  I thought a fitting way to see how correlation is able to subtly modify views of members in the church would be to review and analyze leadership roles defined in Young Women’s.  My Hypothesis is that every woman’s story will be illustrating how she obeys a man, or how she was strong and independent and obedient to church authority.  There maybe be a margin of up to 5 examples without me rejecting the null hypothesis (figuring that maybe on days like Christmas, or Pioneer day they might break from it, 5 days out of 52 weeks or about 10% of the lessons).

Now I haven’t looked at a Young Women’s manual since the 90′s when I taught young women’s as a missionary (Long story, short version is it was a small branch and we did whatever was necessary to help out), so going into it, I could totally be proven wrong.

TITLE: Come follow me.  Women following a man;  okay, it’s Jesus, but not a strong name implying women’s strength like “As Sister’s in Zion”, or “The Handmaiden of the Lord” (Still subservient but a quote of what the Mother of Jesus said).  However I do have to say that “Come Follow Me” in context is what Jesus said to his apostles; encouraging them to leave the worldly and to serve as leaders in the kingdom.  In LDS connotation it is a phrase for every member so it is, in effect equalizing.  Not so bad so far.

Women Mentioned:

Lesson 2: Sister Orgando – Independant, Told originally by Pres. Monson, they give the woman her own voice.

Lesson 4 (Holy Ghost): They have a video where girls discuss conference talks.  Only a man’s talk is discussed.  Girls are asked to read “Teaching our Children to Understand“, about a little girl who is taught that when her brother won’t share she must pray to heavenly father.  The Story is not resolved whether the brother shares or not; but the girl “feels better” and that is enough.  However the girl does go to her mother for guidance.  Story 2 “Only upon the principles of righteousness” is all about how a man is able to tell his wife what to do, jokingly at first, but after about when he is able to use the priesthood to lead, although the less focuses again on a daughter turning to her mother for consoling feelings.  The final one “The Why of Priesthood Service” is about Uchtdorf being ordained in the Aaronic Priesthood.

Lesson 5 – Central article says “Our daily contributions of nurturing, teaching, and caring for others may seem mundane, diminished, difficult, and demeaning at times,” definitely pandering to the roles that women are to be set in. Her mother, being a single mom for 40+ years, could be a central strength and a story of being on her own, but instead “she relied on the power of prayer, priesthood, and covenant promises. ” and then the story defers to President Hinkley’s opinion of women. The video “Significant in Every way” is actually pretty woman-empowering.  Uchtdorf then gives a rendition of the ugly duckling, which he gives as a masculine version.  Another talk “the moral force of women” gives several examples of pioneer women without illustrating how they defer to men.

And with that, in the first 5  lessons I have to reject the null hypothesis.  Earlier lessons may have rewritten the past, and while there is no indication of priesthood use, it’s clear that women in the manual are allowed to be independent of thought, and to do good without having to defer to authority.  I’m really impressed on this one.  The Young Women’s manual passes the Bechtdel test with flying colors on almost every lesson.  Now there are Lots and Lots of quotes by LDS General Authorities that could fill up the full time, but it is there such that if a YW’s leader wanted to teach the lesson entirely from a woman perspective, it could be done in a majority of lessons.



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Top 5 reasons General Conference is not like a Ted talk

This link has shown up a bit on my facebook feed today: http://www.normons.com/why-you-shouldnt-be-scared-mormon-general-conference/ comparing General Conference to TED talks.

Very well, they compel me to go with them a mile, I will go with them twain.  The top 5 reasons that General Conference is NOT like a TED talk.

1. Heartsell is a trademarked technology used by the LDS church during general conference to help members feel what the speakers are saying.  Members mostly don’t know the technology exists, and it includes things like pipes on the organ so low that that you can’t hear when they are played, but the members can still feel it.  Bonneville Communications (Owned by the same corporation as the church and who’s board of directors consists of members of the quorum of the twelve apostles of the LDS church) sells this to other churches.  If TED talks were using subliminal techniques to make their talks a success, I’m sure it would be a scandal that would turn people off.

2. TED Talks are not allowed to push the person’s own product.  The head of Pepsi cola is allowed to talk about how jetpacks could be very helpful in the future or even how an initiative in his company helped poor children in africa, but he isn’t allowed to make health claims about pepsi cola and turn the ted talk into a half-hour commercial.  LDS general authorities speak exclusively about the product their organization pushes; the LDS faith.  They make statements that it is the one, true faith.  That no one can be a family without it.  Imagine a VP of Microsoft making a claim like that at TED!

3. TED talks are not correlated. Imagine learning that there was a group who edited and changed the talks at TED before they were given, with the purpose of making sure no one left 72 talking points.  Imagine that if someone did give a talk beyond those limited thoughts, they were forced to re-record their talk including a cough track so that those watching the video later wouldn’t know the talk was edited.  TED would become a laughing stock and no one would want to speak at it.  General Conference is correlated.

4. TED speakers are not paid.  General Authorities of the church are paid a modest living allowance that they, themselves have compared to CEO wages (Mormon Doctrine p. 510 and Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 42:71-73).  In addition they get exclusive book deals with companies like Bookcraft and Deseret Book, and sit on the board of directors of various companies simply by being male and having an apostolic calling.  Don’t get me wrong, being paid as a minister isn’t the problem, it’s that members constantly claim they have “No paid clergy” in the church; whereas TED talks really are not paid.

5. The use of fallacy. If I hear more than 4 fallacies in a TED talk, I turn it off.  I just don’t have time for speculation.  General Conference is filled with fallacy


Please, let’s keep science and open-minded ideas separate from the same classification as a sales message for religion.

Posted in Correlation, Current issues | 6 Comments

Lesson 5: Studying the Scriptures

The Original

This lesson begins with a “lost and found” exercise where the teacher asks them to search the room for something lost, and doesn’t describe it.  I remember actually having my instructor use this lesson back when I was in seminary.

Then it says

“After students have searched unsuccessfully for a brief time, describe what they should be searching for, and ask them to try again.”

This presumes that one will not find the answer, and that the students are not going to spend enough time to do an actual scientific inquiry.  In fact, it is a lesson that is Anti-science.

If one were to give the students a puzzle to be solved, say; a mixture of chemicals that turns purple when two clear chemicals are mixed together, today’s students could probably find the answer on google in seconds.  Without google, but with scientific inquiry, they might not find the compound’s exact name, but could perhaps test the original chemical’s PH, viscosity and other attributes, and narrow down the solution.  Students are bright.

“Guess what I’m thinking” is not really a good test of ability to find one’s own answers.  Nor is “I’m telling you what the answer you should find is” a good example of learning.  Instead, it is psuedo-learning, it is prepping people to only learn the desired answer, and goes along with leading questions and planting suggestions as bad technique.  This lesson begins with -10 points off the bat.

One cannot honestly study the scriptures without learning gospel principles because the scriptures have been written to preserve principles” (“The Message of the Old Testament” [address to CES religious educators, Aug. 17, 1979], 3, LDS.org ).

This is a funny lil quote, because it suggests that everyone who studies scriptures finds the same principles.  Despite the FLDS believing in Adam-God, or the Community of Christ having a different definition of tithing, or the Bickertonites and their codes of conduct, yet all these groups have the same scriptures.

“Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).

Despite these “principles” being concentrated truth, people get many different principles out of the same scriptures.  Here they make it seem as though everyone should get the same answers.

To put it another way, this would be like the English teacher who says there is only one way to understand MacBeth, and anyone who thinks about it differently is wrong.

Then the lesson makes this claim:

Explain that principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ are fundamental, unchanging truths that provide guidance for our lives.

To everyone who has ever used the phrase “He was speaking as a man” to excuse bad doctrine, I offer this; the CES, the official Church Educational System, is responsible for putting into kids heads that the principles are 1. easy to find, 2. immutable, and 3. unchanging.

No wonder so many members are shocked when they learn about the changes to the doctrine over the years.  Telling them “it wasn’t doctrine” when they were taught it was simple, and obvious to anyone who reads is not going to make them feel any better.

The lesson then compares the scriptures to a piece of fruit with one layer.  I rather think of them more like the epic of Homer, an ancient document that requires years of study, understanding of location and the nuances of ancient language in order to really understand, but one can enjoy even without training.

But this comparison of fruit implies that one can simply and easily understand the scriptures with just a bit of “guidance”.

The lesson then does explain the importance of historical setting which is laudable (+5 points).  Truly a lot of my love for studying early church history was kindled or at least fueled in seminary by learning details.

It selects D&C 121 for the students to learn about setting, and that it is set in Liberty Jail.  This isn’t about providing historical context at that point, but pushing emotional reactions into the children.

For example, think about how the historical context changes knowing the following:

1) Joseph Smith and Company had attempted to break out of jail at least twice by the time this revelation was given

2) Porter Rockwell and others shortly after broke Joseph Smith’s 6 year old son into the jail to give him a blessing

3) Joseph Smith had been convicted of illegal banking and ordered to pay $1,000 fine in Ohio, had ordered the burning of Gallatin, Missouri, and had sexual relations with a minor working for his family, Fanny Alger, by this point.

4. Mormon soldiers, under military titles such as “Captain Fearnot” and Joseph’s lead had fired upon state militia.  How would groups that lead military insurrection against state police or the national guard be treated today?

Do those change the context?  Could they be played just as easily to alter the emotions of students?  Historical setting can be used to push the learner to a desired conclusion through spinning the tale, or only telling part of the story.  The priesthood manual’s lesson on Honesty (lesson 31) says that omission is just as much lying as intentionally telling a falsehood.  By leaving out details surrounding Joseph Smith’s arrest, the seminary manual is manipulating students into emotionally reacting, while telling them they are studying history.  -20 points.

Point out that some words used in the scriptures may not be familiar. The Bible Dictionary, the Guide to the Scriptures, scripture footnotes, and a regular dictionary can help us learn the definitions of words and understand their meaning.

The omission of other places to search for meaning needs to be updated.  Wikipedia, encyclopedias, School libraries, published works on topics, and more can certainly provide context, and broader views than the church produced bible dictionary, guide to the scriptures, and the footnotes.  They at least threw in one outside source, “The regular dictionary”, but now with a world-wide database of all published human knowledge in the palm of every student-who-owns-a-smartphone hand, this is a very limited “Only what we print is a good source” narrowing of scope that should have been updated.  -20 points for not updating, but +5 for at least mentioning an outside source.

The lesson then engages in this weird discussion about identifying principles and separating out the circumstance.  I call it weird because it doesn’t give any hard guidelines, and this kind of study can lead people to make some really wrong conclusions.  For example, if one reads that one shouldn’t wear mixed-cloth garments in the bible, and decides that the principle is “one should not mix” they could conclude the temple is a fallen concept because one can buy Cotton-poly garments from the church.  Or if one reads about the tribe of Benjamin slaughtering the men of the town and forcing the women to marry them, one might conclude that rape can be divinely inspired.  The author of the lesson clearly had only particular principles in mind, without giving thorough guidance as to how to find those principles.  I’m going to guess that as we proceed into future lessons, the answer will be shown to be: “Whatever the LDS leaders are currently saying”.

This part is just bad form regardless.

“If [you] are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question—personal or social or political or occupational—that need go unanswered. (“Teach the Scriptures” [address to CES religious educators, Oct. 14, 1977], 3–4, LDS.org

Is it any wonder that there are over 200 split off groups from the mormon origins with thinking like this?  Find a scripture, identify a principle, and then apply it to every question in your life.  The scriptures are like a ouija board that if you open it up and select a random set of scriptures and then filter them, answers to all of life questions are mystically revealed.

I think this lesson was written poorly and without real thought that students have their own minds.  I think it is meant to prep students to only receive certain answers that are going to be spoon fed, and that it is given in a wrapper than the church has all the answers to life’s problems.  It creates dependence without thought, and that is one of the bad behaviors organizations should strive to remove.



Posted in Seminary Manuals | Leave a comment

Lesson 4: Doctrine and Covenants 1

By November 1831, Joseph Smith had received more than 60 revelations.

Including some already failed prophesies (such as selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon in Canada), but let’s skip past that.

 The Prophet convened a conference in Hiram, Ohio, to discuss publishing them as a book that would be called the Book of Commandments. A committee of elders drafted a preface to the book. Unsatisfied with this draft, those who attended the conference requested that Joseph Smith ask the Lord for a preface. After petitioning the Lord in prayer, Joseph received a preface by revelation.

So this book is the only one, to my knowledge, that has a preface written by God himself.  That’s an impressive and… extraordinary claim.  You know where I’m going, where is the extraordinary evidence?

Modern English version of D&C 1; or “Why does god sound like someone copying 1700′s English?)

V1: Everyone, Everywhere, listen up.

V2: No really, EVERYONE, hear this deep down

V3: People who don’t listen, it will be bad for you.

V4: I’m warning you through my chosen servants

V5: And nobody is stopping my servants

So, one thing we notice about God’s voice even by verse 5, is that He repeats himself, a lot.  He’s very poetic, and likes to threaten.

V6: I have authority, they have authority to publish this preface on this book. (God’s copyright).

V7: and this stuff is scary, yo.

V8-9: The people who bring this to you have power to seal on earth and heaven not to love and eternal life, but to wrath against the end of the world(Quite the statement!)

V10: Poetic description of second coming of Christ

V11: I’m saying this to all y’all.

V12-14: Cause I’m mad, do prepare all of you, and if you don’t listen it’s gonna bad.

Again, God repeats himself, loves poetic language and speaks like He is a century behind the times.

And what is it that gets God soooo upset that He would go on and on about how bad it’s going to be?

For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

Hmmm, yes, I can see why the lesson only mentions the scripture, but doesn’t go into depth about it.

When has someone sought to get your attention and warn you about something? How did you respond?

Given that it is now over 100 years after the original end times stated by Joseph Smith/Jesus and Wilford Woodruff, I’d say a lot like the people in the “Boy who cried wolf”.

How do you feel about that person’s efforts to warn you?

A real warning to a clear and present danger, grateful.  To a false warning that is just to get a rise out of my emotions, I get upset.  I have things to focus on, and simply getting hyped up because one can is off-putting.  I would say that putting hyperbole and poetry repeated over and over in order to warn people would fall into the latter category.

Display your copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, and explain that in this book the Lord provides warnings, commandments, and instructions that are crucial for our happiness and salvation.

Another extraordinary claim.  I’d like to see extraordinary evidence that people who had the Doctrine and Covenants are happier or saved more.  Go on, any evidence at all.

The gospel was restored through Joseph Smith to prepare the world for the calamity of the last days

That are TOTALLY going to happen.  Any day now.  I mean, just look at that mall built in SLC, clearly that means that the trip back to Missouri for the meeting at Adam-ondi-ahman is going to happen any day.

As well as the building of an apartment complex next to a temple on the east coast.  Yup, it’s a good thing that this voice of warning wasn’t just crying wolf or else people might question the need for all the dire speak.  But if they were willing to question that, they might also question 1700′s english from a God who speaks all languages.


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Lesson 3: The Great Apostasy

Oh boy, here we go.  Actually verifiable information that we can look up, post information about, and get into detail with.

“The Apostles, after the Ascension of Christ, continued to exercise the keys He left with them. But because of disobedience and loss of faith by the members, the Apostles died without the keys being passed on to successors. We call that tragic episode ‘the Apostasy’” (Henry B. Eyring,“The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 21).

The great question that needs to be asked is “When”.  When did this apostasy take place? When Peter went to Rome and became the first pope according to the Catholic historical record, had the apostasy already occurred?   When did the apostles die and who were the replacements that didn’t have authority?

The bible doesn’t tell us about any except for Judas ( Acts 12:2) and gives hints that John the Revelator (beloved) was the last alive.  But the 7 churches mentioned in revelations had not by that point, fallen into apostasy.

Eusebius, ”the father of Church history”, whose Ecclesiastical History was written in the early fourth century gives the best historical accounts.  Bishops traced their lines of succession back to individual apostles, who were said to have dispersed from Jerusalem and established churches across great territories. Christian bishops have traditionally claimed authority deriving, by apostolic succession, from the Twelve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle_(Christian))

So how does Mr. Eyring have an insight into the apostasy?  What Joseph Smith said Jesus said is the best I’ve got.  I’d love to know if he actually used any other source, but I find no evidence for it.  Appeals to authority, all the way up.

The Object lesson

Bring to class a mechanical part that is necessary for a machine or piece of equipment to work (such as a power cord from an appliance or computer, a chain or wheel from a bicycle, or spark plugs from a car). Show students the part and ask them what it belongs to and what it does. (If you don’t have access to a mechanical part, draw one on the board.)

This is a fascinating object lesson, because it implies that the church would stop without this essential component.  Perhaps most LDS mormons don’t know that the some of the seven early churches existed into the 4th century (such as the church of Corinth, destroyed in 375 a.d.) and Thessalonica survived to the modern day.

Further many of the early christian writings still exist and were there in and around the 1st and 2nd century BC. These mention subjects such as infant baptism (~100 a.d.) and female bishops/deacons (~2oo a.d.) only a few years after the book of Revelation was written (~80 a.d), and certainly taking place during the life span of people who knew and spoke with apostles.  It is very difficult to imagine such ideas springing up without the bishops/apostles knowing.

Apostles and prophets form the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ.

To help students identify another essential element of Jesus Christ’s Church, display the picture Christ Ordaining the Apostles (Gospel Art Book, no. 38)

It is interesting to note that in the bible it actually states that Jesus “Breathed on them” and never mentions the laying on of hands, something pretty key in the LDS church-commissioned drawing that is shown to the students.  Other churches state that the washing of the feet is the “ordination” of the apostles.  To be clear, the LDS faith shows a picture depicting the way they think it happened to the students to help the students “think clearer”.

in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority” (“The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensignor Liahona, May 2012, 86).

I propose a challenge to students and teachers of seminary alike:  Please write down what is and is not doctrine of the church.  Discuss how doctrine is defined, and whether the church has released any new doctrine in the latest 100 years.  Is the word of wisdom as given by Heber J. Grant (Weak drinks of barley -beer “forbidden” as opposed to “good” as stated in D&C 89)?  Is the proclamation on the family doctrine?  Is the manifesto doctrine?  What about the recent PR reports about homosexuality, or essays published on LDS.org.  Are they doctrine?

Show students the Basic Doctrines list found in the appendix of this manual or in students’ scripture study journals. Explain that seminary students are encouraged to gain a deeper understanding of the Basic Doctrines throughout their time in seminary.

Point out that this “Basic doctrines” list was not put together by prophets and apostles, and does not include key things that prophets and apostles taught such as the Adam-God doctrine taught by Brigham Young for over 37 years.  Point out the humor in that the “basic doctrines” list is, in fact, not doctrinal as a list of basic doctrines.

Discuss questions that are frequently asked (Evolution as the origin of life, the big bang theory vs. 6 day creation, etc.) and ask the children or teacher why prophets have not made statements of doctrine about these questions.

Further, point out these scriptures that define “doctrine” quite differently from “Whatever LDS apostles say”:

3 Nephi 11: 31, 40

Testify that in the Church of Jesus Christ we can receive ordinances that are necessary for our salvation.

What is interesting here, is that the lesson manual has, in fact, not gone into the LDS church history about the priesthood authority at all.  The fact that there is no date recorded for the Melchizedek priesthood, no mention that Elders used to be part of the Aaronic priesthood, and other questionable moments in mormon history is not covered weakens the supposition that the LDS prophets and apostles can be so precise as to know that all apostolic power was lost before, when they don’t even know the date they got it back.

 Jesus Christ leads and guides His Apostles through revelation.

This is problematic to leave this statement out there without definition.  There is no description of the process.  It makes one feel as though the Apostles make decisions day to day by interacting with a divine being.  However; there seems to be little evidence that this is so.  Even friends and family of apostles make no claims that the apostles have seen Christ since Lorenzo Snow made the claim in 1890.

As the students or teacher how they could identify a second apostasy today.  If apostolic priesthood power were lost, what changes would we expect to see in the church.  Might it refocus its efforts from salvation to building malls?  Would it perhaps be reflected in reduced charitable works to the poor and the needy (Today, only about $3-$4 per member per year of money given to the church for humanitarian works ever makes it to assist the poor and the needy).

 Apostasy occurs when people turn away from the true doctrine of the gospel and reject the Lord’s authorized servants.

Quotes that indicate the church is already in apostasy:

I would be surprised if ten percent of those who claim to hold the Melchizedek priesthood will remain faithful to the gospel at the time of the seventh president and that there would be thousands that think they hold the priesthood at that time, but would not have it properly conferred upon them. (Minutes of a meeting, September 7, 1886- probably the first presidency meeting.)

Brethren, this church will be led onto the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people, then God will send the one mighty and strong spoken of in the 85th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, to save and redeem this church. (Brigham Young quoted about D&C 85:7, Truth, March 1, 1936, 1:10, p. 135)

“The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith Pg. 205) (If anyone gives the argument that the church is big, and ergo the true church, this is a good counter argument)

“If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does” Wilford Woodruff JOD 13:165 – p.166

“I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that.” (Joseph F. Smith Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, pp. 28-31)

Ask the students or teacher, why, if there are so many indications that the LDS faith would be considered as “apostate” does the manual give the student no firm set of guidelines for testing for apostasy in the church other than “Follow the leaders”?

“James was killed in Jerusalem by Herod. Peter and Paul died in Rome. Tradition holds that Philip went to the East. Much more than this we do not know.

“They scattered; they taught, testified, and established the Church. And they died for their beliefs, and with their deaths came the dark centuries of apostasy” (“The Twelve,” Ensign orLiahona, May 2008, 84).

I know that SOME of you probably wondered about me quoting Eusebius, and listing it as as source.  But here we have Boyd Packer quoting Eusebius as though it were solid history and perhaps even doctrine.  But Esebius mentions Peter going to Rome to become Pope, which means that Boyd K. Packer has read the history and agrees with it, I guess, right up until the line “And Peter became the first pope”, and then he tosses it out?  Or maybe he has some secret source other than what the rest of the world has.  It’s a pity that apostles and prophets never cite original sources.

As the centuries passed, the flame flickered and dimmed. Ordinances were changed or abandoned. The line was broken, and the authority to confer the Holy Ghost as a gift was gone. The Dark Ages of apostasy settled over the world” (“The Cloven Tongues of Fire,” Ensign, May 2000, 8).

[CITATION NEEDED].  When did it flicker?  Was it 300 a.d. as Orson Hyde said? because then women bishops and infant baptism would be pre-apostasy.  Was it the day John the Revelation died/was translated/left the isle of patmos?  This quote seems to imply that false doctrines entered slowly over time, that the priesthood withered over generations.

Why do you think it is important to understand the Great Apostasy and its consequences?

Because it is important to question everything.  Even the very thought of the Great Apostasy.  If the great apostasy didn’t happen, then there was no need for a restoration, and Joseph Smith is a con-man, plain and simple.  The entirety of the set of mormon claims, including the LDS depend upon a rock-solid explanation of a great apostasy.  But here we are given no dates, no deaths, no explanation of what was lost when.  No details no citations, no history.

In fact, the entire lesson could be summed up as “The great apostasy happened because we say so, and priesthood authority was lost because we say it exists and only we have it now even though we give no dates or details.”  A very poor argument indeed.

You may think me harsh, but consider for a moment what this lesson is claiming.  That everyone, everywhere since about 300 a.d. (or earlier) has been absolutely wrong about God, except for the LDS since about 1830.  This is an extraordinary claim, and no where is discussed why God wouldn’t have restored the church before Joseph Smith.  No where is discussed why God would condemn so many individuals who patiently and respectfully worshiped him even giving their lives for their beliefs with Him refusing to give them so much as a shred of priesthood light.  William Tyndale, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther.  Martyr after martyr was insufficient for God to give them priesthood, when even the original apostles failed, according to this lesson, to hold together priesthood power for at most 400 years.

In the supplemental reading, Elder M. Russel Ballard states about the great apostasy:

Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and He wants them all to have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. Spiritual light is not lost because God turns His back on His children. Rather, spiritual darkness results when His children turn their collective backs on Him.  (“Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 32).

This is blaming the victims.  It is callous to write off every show of devotion to the christian god throughout history as mankind turning their backs on God.  As the fires burned under the martyrs who stood for what they believed and sealed their beliefs for their deaths, we are to understand they were still turning their backs on God.

This lesson has no sources, citations or history, while making auspicious claims that mankind was all fallen except for the LDS faith.  It is packed with hubris.  It ignores even the church’s own definitions of “apostasy” in order to turn children to redefine it as “anyone who doesn’t follow the dear leaders”.  It provides no tools for identifying systematic apostasy and blames individuals for guilt and sin (also defined as not following what the leaders say.

This lesson is a pure F.  It has little redeeming value and should be demanded to be re-written in its entirety by historical scholars and those who care about not using thought-control to generate devotion in the youth, rather than safeguard against actual “apostasy” as defined by previous church leadership.

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Ordain Women and cultish behaviors

Okay, I’ve read the press release, and I’ve heard the replies.  I have friends on both sides. So here are my thoughts for different groups outlined for each:

Ordain Women members:

I don’t get it.  I mean, I get wanting the priesthood, but why not just leave and go to the Community of Christ.  I’m not saying that you should leave, but I look at the testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and say, “It’s really similar”.  I mean, like your family has been shopping at Walmart for generations, but Target is in the same parking lot, and sells stuff that is very similar.  Why not switch?  Yes, stand where you are, but if you stop shopping at Walmart, and move your business to Target, it ALSO changes things.

I’m sure you are able to come up with reasons, but I want the point made, that you are sticking with this organization for reasons that may not be completely up to you.  Perhaps it’s the peer pressure on family.  Maybe you have a testimony of Mr. Monson specifically, (although I’d challenge you to pray over the leadership of the Community of Christ, after studying it out in your mind first).  But I think the main reason you are staying in an organization that disrespects you and your goals is because of cultish behaviors the organization used on you.

When groups use these behaviors, even when the group is wrong about end of the world dates, people become more committed.  And I’ve seen several facebook posts and Joanna Brooks statement that the church refusing to allow the protesters in has rededicated people to the cause.

Just think, Target is across the street, it’s cheaper; and you’d get beer in the deal.  Just saying.

To the LDS who rush to defense of the church

The billion dollar organization that had teams of researchers and marketing people on the payroll does not /need/ your voice bullying other members of the organization

Stop it.  Just stop it.  You’re bullying and supporting an organization that is bullying a minority.  Women who dare to want to ask for ordination are easy targets.

But further…

If you cannot state any reason why women should not be ordained beyond “The leaders said so” or “God says so” you’re making the church more cult-like.

NOTICE: I DID NOT SAY THE CHURCH WAS A CULT.  I am not attacking the church.  I’m attacking the behavior that drives the church to be more cult-like.

You see, the word “cult” is almost useless because of how emotionally charged it is.  However, there are behaviors identified by groups as harmful for being “cult-like”.  Here is the big 9 (source Cults 101 + the Human Givens institute for number 9):

  1.  The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader
  2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  3. Mind-altering practices are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  4. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel
  5. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (In this case, Men over Women)
  6. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  7. The leader is not accountable to any authorities
  8. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary.
  9. The group discourages learning

Now let’s see how the LDS who rush to the church’s defense create a cult-like atmosphere

First, they unquestioningly support the status quo.  They state that “God wants it that way” despite there being no scriptural backing for women not holding the priesthood (beyond perhaps 1 Timothy 2:12,  where it says that women shouldn’t even speak in church, but I don’t think any members seriously hold with that scripture or else the Relief Society would be a problem.).  Second, they are telling these women they shouldn’t question the status quo.  No doubt in how things are today is permitted.  I don’t think the third point applies.  But in the forth, I think that the Ordain Women press release did try to tell the members how to think and feel.   That they should accept their roles (or rolls) and not be unhappy about it.  I will wager that the church will even have a talk to this effect during conference.

But the LDS member who rushes in defense of the church commonly states something similar as well, saying “Women who want the priesthood are thinking wrong” or “They should be content”.  Thought and emotional control is implicit if not explicitly stated in most posts.

That the group that is “With the leadership” often uses tone of voice to imply they are better than (“I never wanted the priesthood!”) the other group is also cult-like in nature.  That posts and discussion of it often makes statements such as “He’s the prophet, no one should tell him what to do but Jesus” hits right on the head for the 7th and 8th traits of a cult.  The prophet should be held accountable to the membership, that’s what Joseph Smith taught in the law of common consent.  If the membership voted for something even against a revelation he let it stand.

And now the ever famous number 9.  This wasn’t listed on Cult 101, but it’s often cited that the number of degrees and love of learning of the LDS implies the religion is not a cult by members, so I wanted to cover it.

Specifically, if you are a scientist, or a lawyer or a historian;  if your profession is computer programmer or zoologist; and your reasoning is “Because God said so” or “Because the brethren say it should be that way” you are guilty of making the church more cult-like.  You have the learning, but you have to apply it.

Take your profession and apply it to the question at hand.  Would a computer programmer accept that only women can program in C++ because the CEO said so?  Does the historian simply ignore that women ordained and blessed people in the church until into the early 1900′s.  Does the seminary teacher ignore that there is NO revelation (That I’ve been able to find) actually stating that women are forbidden from the priesthod?  Does the scientist appeal to authority rather than construct an experiment (Double blind ordinations and healing where the person being blessed does not know if it is done by a man or a woman, for example to see if God heals at the same rate regardless of gender.  A/B testing with placebos, good enough for websites and penicillin tests, should also help with God, yes?)

My point is if you turn your brain off, shout down the voices that raise questions and rush to the status quo with blog posts and testimonies all based solely on a leadership decree, it’s bullying and making the church a worse place.

Please follow your leader’s advice and “Just Stop it”.

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Lesson 2: Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants

Original lesson here

We begin with the positive claim that the doctrine and covenants:

 “contain divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days” 

This is a positive claim that must be proven by the author.  Hence I will be evaluating future lessons for evidence that they were given to establish the kingdom of God in the last days.  All points cane be tested.

  1. They are divine revelations
  2. They establish the kingdom of God
  3. They are for the last days

Books of the world

The lesson manual asks the teacher to ask this question directly of the students:

  • What books do you think the entire world would benefit from reading? Why? (Consider displaying a few books that you would suggest.)

Please take a minute to consider this for yourself.  It’s a great question that really states “What knowledge matters most” to the person answering it.

The manual answers this question by a quote with Joseph Smith:

“The Doctrine and Covenants is] the foundation of the Church in these last days, and a benefit to the world, showing that the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of our Savior are again entrusted to man” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 194).

Another positive claim that needs to be backed up.  Certainly if alien life (Kolob-ians) had communicated with man and given him super powers to know the future and heal the sick, that would be something that should be read by just about everyone.  It’s a very key claim to make.

Another quote is given that the Doctrine and Covenants is

it is worth more to us than the riches of the earth

And certainly, I think Richard Dawkins and Niel Digrasse Tyson would give up everything they own for a chance to have such an interaction with alien life.

And I would bet that if actual aliens claimed to believe in Jesus Christ, that even Richard Dawkins would give up counter claims. This is big stuff, and the manual is right to bring it out.  These claims are truly extraordinary and thus, require extraordinary evidence.

The lesson is peppared with emotions instead of evidence however.  Statement after statement is having students talk about how the book has already helped them, or how everyone on earth would benefit from such a book or from stronger testimony.  These are sales pitches.

Imagine that a major magazine published an article that a scientist made contact with alien life, and granted to him super powers.  At first, it might seem to be the most important thing you could read, especially when it mentioned that the alien wants to give super powers to all humans if they will listen.

But then the magazine doesn’t give any specifics.  No dates, times or details about the communication.  Just testimony after testimony and lots of statements about how this will change mankind.  Now imagine that you close the magazine and find out that this was dated 100 years ago.  What might lead you to be skeptical of the claims in the magazine?  What changes in the world might you expect if the magazine’s sources were accurate?

The Lord

Then the lesson states:

You may want to explain that in the Doctrine and Covenants, terms such as “the Lord” or “God” generally refer to Jesus Christ.

This is interesting.  In the King James version, Jehovah was replaced with “The Lord” to respect the name of God.  Not knowing this resulted in shock on my mission when running into people of other faiths, and I can only see this as ill-preparing the youth for understanding how “The Lord” is viewed  by most of the world.  It is only the mormon faiths that view “Jehovah” as Jesus’s pre-existence name, and it is interesting that Joseph and the being he was talking to used the King James term “The Lord”, that doesn’t exist in any other language, as the name of Jesus when communicating back and forth.

Next the manual asks the teacher to show pictures.

What is interesting is that they show the actual real life portrait of Emma smith, but an LDS artist’s rendition of Joseph Smith instead of the portrait painted of Joseph at the same time

Joseph Smith. you can see the style matches the style used with Emma fairly clearly

Then the lesson gives an activity:

Display a piece of paper with the word You written on it. Point out that just like individuals from Church history, we also go through situations in which we need divine guidance.

At first I was all like “okay they are going to talk about how the individual can know these things”, but then no, it was more of the “imagine how awesome this would be for you”.  Again, no evidence, but lots of appeal to emotion.

These claims are not small, and they deserve to be critically and skeptically approached.  Even just a note “We will be reviewing evidence that Joseph Smith truly did have contact with God in later lessons” would be sufficient.  But in honesty the lesson never doubts or allows room to question IF Joseph did these things.  It makes every attempt to stop children from having thoughts about how to tell which “revelations are of man, which are of God and which are of the devil” (Something that Joseph Smith actually said) and instead assumes all of them are of God.


Finally the lesson states to

Invite students to summarize what they have learned

I’m not sure the students have learned anything.  Things have been claimed and stated at them, but there was no actual chance to learn anything.

Invite students to turn to the “Testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the Truth of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” which is in the introduction. Ask a student to read the first two paragraphs aloud

Without a mention that many of these apostles recanted their witnesses later, or that some had “fallen away” previous to this point.  Not even a qualification.

 Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how they hope the Doctrine and Covenants will benefit their lives and what they will do to help this happen

Over and over, “This will help you, tell me how it will help you; write down how you think this will help you”.  This is not objective thought and reasoning together, this is closer on the scale of cultish tools.  It is stating and restating over and over emotionally-focused self-convincing statements that push others to accept the conclusion before actual learning has occurred.

Commentary and Background Information

First is a statement by a prophet.  Just an appeal to authority.

The second discusses the history of the Doctrine and Covenants castigating the opponents as a “mob” without further background.  It leaves out changes made to the revelations which were the reasons that many of the leadership (including David Whitmer) left the church.  But they do discuss the lectures on Faith that were removed by name.  It seems that they KNOW the details, they just don’t share all of them; something defined as lying in lesson 31 of the Sunday school manual on honesty.

Finally after making numberous specific claims, they only reference the Joseph Smith Papers main website as a source. This is just poor scholarship.  They made the claims, they should list sources for each claim that link directly to a source about that claim.

SUMMARY: Emotion focused rhetoric ending with a lie and bad scholarship when making extraordinary claims.  Very poor lesson in deed.  See me after class.  0 points.


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Doctrine and History of the Church Seminary Manual Lesson 1: The Plan of Salvation

Lesson 1: The Plan of Salvation

The seminary manual begins with Boyd K. Packer’s quote about the importance of teaching the plan of salvation.  It correctly cites the source, although it is an appeal to authority, we’re going to have to accept that appeal to authority is going to be common here.

I’m tempted to doc points because this was a lecture to CES teachers, which makes it a circular reference.  It would be better to find some source of a quote outside the CES system.  Something like quoting the principle of one’s high school in one’s English paper.

The interesting bit, for me is that Boyd gives this reasoning for why to teach the plan of happiness:

“Young people wonder ‘why?’—Why are we commanded to do some things, and why are we commanded not to do other things? A knowledge of the plan of happiness, even in outline form, can give young minds a ‘why’”

Namely, controlling what people do or not do (or if you prefer the milder version, answer why individuals are permitted or not permitted to do things).  It straight out states that the atonement and the plan of salvation answers that question.

It then has a student quote from the Book of Moses as to the purpose of God’s activity (See Moses 1:39).  It has no description of where the book of Moses came from (there was no text translated from, it was simply Joseph Smith stating that this was scripture).  It does not discuss alternate purposes God states for himself in the bible, or what other faiths might believe the purpose is.  There is no alternative view.

Some of these scriptures:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalms 19:1 NASB)

The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory. (Psalms 97:6 NASB)

this is what the LORD says– he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited– he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18)

Which is to say, that God did it to show off His glory.

Perhaps this refusal to discuss other views, or other scriptures is an oversight… or maybe they just need to focus.  It’s the introduction after all.

Immortality vs. Eternal Life

But then the lesson focuses on this as the ONLY definition, and jump straight into a quote by Bruce R. McConkie:

“God’s life is eternal life; eternal life is God’s life —the expressions are synonymous” (Mormon Doctrine,2nd ed. [1966], 237).

Right off the bat we have a contradiction.  Are we supposed to believe in the book Mormon Doctrine, as it defines things?  Was there never a time when a prophet, from the pulpit, stated the difference between immortality and eternal life that wouldn’t cause a doctrine vs. non doctrine issue in the first lesson?  No wonder mormon doctrine is so difficult to define, when the church’s own education system uses non doctrine to define terms in the first lesson.

The Plan 

The plan as defined is given from a few verses in the Book of Abraham.  Despite it being rejected by virtually every other Mormon sect, and being dis-proven to be a funerary text by scholars, who have even directly rebutted the remaining explanations by apologists in published form.

So why use such a disputed source?  My answer is “Product differentiation”.  This is one of the main doctrines that holds the LDS faith different from every other faith.  The plan of salvation doesn’t really answer the question “Why did god make man”, it just pushes it back a generation (“Why did God’s father, grandfather, or the first God ever create creatures to become gods?  In fact it opens up a theological can of worms that there are no answers to: How did that happen?  Which came first, man or god? Could God be un-created by whatever made the first god?), but it does put forward one of the distinguishing characteristics of the religion.

So -2 points for claiming an answer that doesn’t answer the question, but I can accept that a sales pitch is a good way to start a teaching manual.


How were we different from our Heavenly Father in the pre-earth life? (He had a perfected body and character. We did not.)

I’ve always hated when a manual gives the teacher a single answer.  From everything my education-trained relatives have told me, it’s a really poor teaching methodology because it encourages teachers to stop students from giving additional answers.  -5 points for bad educational etiquette.

But further, this answer doesn’t even totally make sense (They worded it carefully to force the response).  The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead without a body.  He has all the powers of the Father.  Somehow he/she/it became a god/part of the title “God” without having to go through an Earth life and obtain a body.  So bad question formation -10 points

The diagrams… I’m not sure how those are supposed to help more or less than the standard “Plan of salvation” used for 30 years.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with them updating diagrams.  I just don’t see that this is necessarily an improvement.

Why did we need to leave God’s presence in order to become more like Him? (Students’ answers may include the following: to gain a body; to learn and grow by using our agency.)

Again, the answers given to the question don’t really answer the question.  The Holy Ghost has no body and is near God.  And in the war and heaven, agency was used; despite it being prior to this earth.  At least they said “Answers may include” to suggest there was more than one right answer.  Still poor form as compared to guiding the students to the next principle regardless of what answers are given, or heaven forbid, discussing the student’s answers and learning with them.

“God has given us a plan. He has sent us all to earth to obtain bodies and to gain experience and growth” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 25).

Again, whether this is a source for doctrine or not is really very questionable.  Why not find a quote from a prophet at conference?   Or are they implying that anything printed by apostles (Bruce R. McConkie never became a prophet) is doctrine?

According to President Kimball, what are some reasons God has sent us to the earth? (As students respond, they should identify the following truth: God has sent us to the earth to obtain bodies and to gain experience and growth.)

Despite the fact that this answer doesn’t really match the question, does it need to be the 3rd question with the same answer in a row?  I’m a big fan of “I’m going to tell you, I tell you, Here is what I told you” but this seems more like repetition for the purpose of almost chant-like responses.  This borders on cultish behaviors.  Imagine if you went to history class and you knew the answer to every question was “Because George Washington loves us”.  It becomes less history, and more patriotic  rhetoric.

What role do the challenges of temptation, sickness, sorrow, pain, discouragement, disability, and other mortal difficulties play in our efforts to receive eternal life?

Finally, a good question with a really deep answer.  I mean, this is the kind of thing that people of all religions and faiths discuss for lifetimes.  One can explain a lot of Mother Theresa’s activities by her answer to this question (In suffering we become nearer to God) + 5 points

(As students respond, help them identify the following truth: Sin prevents us from becoming like Heavenly Father and returning to live with Him. See also Moses 6:57, which teaches that through repentance, we can return to live with God.)

Here is another question but they use “Guide to the next principle” rather than one answer.  +5 points

According to these verses, why does sin prevent us from becoming like Heavenly Father and receiving eternal life? (Students may give a variety of answers. Help them identify the following truth: No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.)

And -5 for having a single answer again although they at least say “Help them identify”.  I mean some questions only have one answer; but if one takes the book of Job literally, then Satan and God speak together and even meet each other.  If no unclean thing can be in the presence of God, how did Joseph Smith see God during the first vision (was he cleansed?).  There is a host of theological material here, but we see a tendency to thought-stop.

Yes, I know the teacher has a limited time, but that does not excuse narrowing the discussion to thought stopping techniques rather than a broad teaching experience where all can be edified of all.  In fact, the manual should have topics to cover, and the TEACHER should control the discussion.  What we have here is a manual that attempts to control the teacher.

According to Doctrine and Covenants 76:40–42, what makes it possible for us to overcome sin? (Students may respond with different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Jesus Christ suffered and was crucified for the sins of all people.)

Theological differences between myself and the manual writers aside, this matches their thesis, and plays into their stated goals without dictating or controlling the teacher.  +10 points

if we are obedient to the principles and ordinances of the gospel, we can overcome sin through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

This is an interesting conclusion given the discussion so far.  It isn’t a conclusion that God loves us so much He redeems us.  It isn’t a discussion of the redemptive power of Jesus’s actions.  It isn’t even a decrying of Satan’s behavior.

No, the point of the lesson is obedience to the church.  And this is where we have another cult like moment.  This same lesson could have been taught a dozen different ways. Each one could glorify god, discuss how He is a great planner, or point out some other characteristic of God.  Instead we teach teenagers that salvation comes only through their actions (which they are probably going to screw up) as the main point of all of God’s plans.

The physical death section that follows is immediately cleaned up.  It isn’t an issue and that could be another moment of glorifying God, or discussing the physics of heaven, or how it could possibly be just for one god to die and clean up all the sins of the world… but it is used as a counter point to illustrate that the teenagers themselves really are all that stands between them and God.

To conclude the lesson, explain to students that in their study of the Doctrine and Covenants, they will learn many more truths related to the plan of happiness.

I wonder how many other lessons will end in obedience.

The commentary and background information is just quotes from apostles and prophets, at least all of them are from Church approved magazines.  So that’s something.

Supplemental Teaching idea:  This is very cultish in its nature.  Have students take five minutes and get each other to say that they now know the topic.  Again, imagine if in History Class you were asked to find students who believe in Bill Clinton’s NAFTA bill, the names of every student in the class, and who can explain why NAFTA was good for the US.  A little less like history and a little more like learning by propaganda.


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