Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The "First Vision" of the "Mormon Prophet"

Was Joseph Smith a prophet?

I recently read a fascinating article over at Meridian Magazine about the historical perspectives of Joseph Smith’s Theophany, or what we in Mormon parlance refer to as “The First Vision”.

For my non-mormon friends, here’s the story in a nutshell:

Joseph Smith, when he was a teen, was very confused about religion.  There were a lot of churches and preachers contending with each other and he couldn’t figure it all out.  One by one, his family members joined one sect or another, or stayed away from them all completely.

He read in James, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God...”, and decided to pray about it.

He went to a secluded grove of trees, knelt down and prayed.  At first he was surrounded by darkness, and after struggling against that, was surrounded by light.  He was visited by to glorious “personages” who he identified as God the Father, and Jesus Christ. They told him to wait, and that the truth would soon be restored.

You can read the accepted, canonized version of this story here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng

But, therein lies the trouble.  Because there are not one, but several different versions of the story, all of which are purported to be written by or spoken by Joseph Smith himself.  Many detractors from the church like to use that as the crux of proof that Joseph was a fraud and a liar.  The author of the Meridian article, Steven C Harper, studies the variations of accounts and sees a more affirming point of view.

Was Joseph Smith a prophet?

I kinda think the whole thing is fascinating.  I mean, really, it all comes down to faith, doesn’t it?  None of us were there in the grove, and none of us actually saw what happened.  Just like we weren’t there outside the tomb when the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary.  None of us were there when Moses parted the red sea, either, at least not in our mortal forms.

On a more micro-viewed level, none of us were there when each of those accounts was written or spoken, either.  We don’t always know who the audience was, nor what the purpose of the discussion. Atheist scholars for many years have said that the four Gospels prove that Jesus wasn’t the son of God because they all disagree, and they don’t tell the same story.  Believing scholars say that each Gospel was written to a unique audience, and for a unique purpose.  Both cite valid academic and historical arguments.

So, was Joseph Smith a prophet?

I, myself, believe.  I have seen many historical arguments that show me he was a complex, flawed human, just like the rest of us.  But I believe him when he said, “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God.”  D&C 76:22-23


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Update on The Mormon Malian

A lot of folks are talking about the troubles in Mali and Algeria these days.  It seems that Northern and Saharan Africa are the next big trouble spots, taking their places alongside the Middle East, and Afghanistan.

Not long ago, as I was listening to the news about the hostages and the attacks against the kidnappers, my thoughts drifted back.  “Wasn’t there some report once about a Mormon that was running for president of Mali?”  At first, I wasn’t sure if I had confused Mali with some other country there on western Africa.  There are a lot of countries there that I’m vaguely aware of, but unable to properly identify on a map.

I looked it up, and, sure enough, that was the report.  I’m not quite sure of the details, but apparently the election was interrupted by a military coup.  Yeah Samake (the Mormon in question) has been still pressing the current government to step down and to allow the civilian election to proceed.

You gotta believe, though, that if he somehow manages to get into the top spot there, he will have inherited a pretty big mess.  In the meantime, he’s still the Mayor of the community where he started, and is still advocating for his country.  I also found it interesting that although he's the only documented Mormon in his country, a nation that's 90% Islamic, he says he's not been persecuted for his faith.  The most recent thing I was able to find on his story was this interview dated Dec 5, 2012.  

You know, I wish him well.  It will be really interesting to see what opportunities for national service come to him in the current crisis.  I haven't met him, so who knows what he's like up close and in person.  But reading his words makes me think a bit about King Benjamin, and his political treatise in Mosiah...  Time will, tell, and I know I’ll be paying attention.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.


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