Whorled View

January 17, 2007

1st Vision Account Chronology

Filed under: Religion — lullabyman @ 5:26 pm

On Sunday I gave a talk on the first vision in Church (incidentally I’m a Mormon). In the process I thought I’d check out what was out there in cyberspace. I’ve known for dozens of years that there were different accounts, and each one seemed to reveal various things about the event. Critics of the church love to say that these variations constitute inconsistencies. I, of course, am a seeker of truth, while at the same time I choose to believe those things that bring about the most good since “by their fruits shall you know them”. And that logic combined with experiences that I’ve had give me license to explore just about anything without fear that my spiritual foundation is at risk.

With that in mind I set out to create a table showing what was revealed in these different accounts of the first vision, using only the 1st and 2nd hand accounts, with full confidence that I have nothing to hide or hide from. The “first vision” incidentally, lays the foundation for the LDS church, it being the very first (around 1820) vision that Joseph Smith had.

The table references those accounts that are mutually accepted by Mormons and Anti-mormons alike and shows the events that each account discussed. There already exists similar tables like this, but significant effort was made in this one to make it acceptable as an objective representation of the chronology that both Mormons and Anti-mormons could agree upon:1st Vision Account Chronology

Now this table is quite interesting for the simple reason that it shows everything that we know was revealed to Joseph in the first vision. That was the initial reason for creating it. This format also provides a nice birds-eye view of when different parts of it were revealed (whereas similar tables I’ve seen span many pages and seem worded to forward a particular agenda). Lastly, I wanted to use the most widely accepted sources and judging criteria to provide a starting point whereby the topic can be intelligently explored by critics, apologists, and everyone in between.

As I mentioned before, I don’t think mormons have nothing to hide nor do they have anything to hide from. To me much of the variation in the 1st vision can be explained by Joseph’s discretion with attention to his immediate audience and what he was instructed to reveal in each account (more on this below).

For example, it is rather easy to say an angel appeared to someone, as people frequently claim they spoke with a deceased loved one, while escaping any skepticism from even the most militant church-goers or ardent atheists. However, to publicly declare in printed word that God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, personally visited you is to invite persecution from all sides no matter who you are. I’m sure that dynamic hasn’t changed in the last 200 years, and surely it was something of which young Joseph (only 14 yrs old at the time) was fully cognizant. For the fear of a 14 yr old boy, for feelings of insecurity, or from a personal imperative to not allow the event to be mocked, surely he had to be careful what he revealed and when.

Same thing goes for when he told ministers that their church is false … surely Joseph observed this himself through scripture study after God revealed the fact of it in the vision. To tell a minister, however, that God personally revealed their falseness would be quite offensive to any minister – and historically Joseph was very friendly with multiple ministers and congregations in his younger years even though he openly challenged their teachings.

A quick glance of the chronology reveals that the most significant dynamic is that the later accounts revealed information that ministers would have found more explosive. It suddenly becomes clear that Joseph was practicing “milk before meat” the same way the original 12 Apostles taught (1 Corinthians 3:2,  John 16:12,  etc.).

And considering the original apostolic Church that Christ established, it seem people are so much more forgiving of them than they are of anyone who claims to have the same authority they did. Critics, and people in general, somehow expect a modern-day prophet of God to start out like the Son of God – pure, perfect, and undefiled. In contrast, Joseph as a youth was no less righteous and no more guilty of foolish pursuits as any other boy, and his boyhood character was well-regarded by all of his reputable critics. Still, being basically good wasn’t good enough for someone who would be God’s prophet – and so gaining a remission of sins was part of that process, as he claimed in his earlier accounts when that information was most vital.

And while considering his human side it’s only fair to also consider the state of mind of an insecure 14 yr old boy … one who has all the hopes and fears that any other 14 yrs old boy has. I’d be surprised if such a boy would even tell his parents the details of such an amazing event other than he learned for himself that Presbyterianism is false (which is precisely what he did say to his Presbyterian mother). Its foolhardy to think such a boy would gladly publicly declare that he personally experienced such a remarkable and religiously explosive experience. When he did mention the event privately to a minister who he respected, of course he was reprimanded. The “spiritualism” movement was underway and anything dealing with visions was repugnant to adherents of established churches.

I’m surprised with the notion that every account should be a full acount. In the 1838 account of the first vision, canonized by The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he makes it very clear that there were more aspects of the vision that he could not yet reveal. In otherwords, he never intended to provide a complete accounting for the event at any time – but only intended to reveal those things he was able to reveal.

Lastly I’d like to suggest that nobody is an expert on visions except those who’ve had them. I’ve never had anything so great happen to me as happened to Joseph Smith, and I doubt I’ve met anyone who has, and so I don’t think I nor anyone that I know is qualified to understand how revelation is received and interpreted in a way that man understands. The scriptures however provide a clue – and in this clue there is a wealth of information about revelation that provides considerable latitude for Joseph Smith’s different accounts.

Let me explain … surely God speaks all dialects, but I think the Bible makes it clear that scriptural utterances of God the father are put into our language by prophets and not by God himself. For example, throughout the Old Testament each book is called “the word of [some prophet]”, and is not always called the word of God. A precise example is in the beginning of Jeremiah 1: 1-2 : “ The words of Jeremiah … To whom the word of the LORD came”, then in verse 3 ” Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” This is basically a translation into English of what Jeremiah heard from God. Now I’m certain that Jeremiah wouldn’t call it a translation, but I’m also convinced that Jeremiah perceived the word of God as a message that he understood without a need for words. And while I could be wrong I’ve never found anything to suggest that God would need to use the actual language of the person receiving the revelation.

Furthermore, after it is translated into men’s words by the original prophet it is then translated into other languages also BY MEN, and it is still considered scripture regardless what language it’s in (yes, Anglican’s I’m afraid English is not the official language of heaven, *wink*, but neither is the “vulgate”). So the word of God is given to us in the words of men – but this does not invalidate the Bible as being the word of God.

The point is that revelation is given as “the Holy Ghost teacheth”, and “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (1 Cor 2:13), and then put into words with man’s wisdom teacheth so we can understand it. With this in mind, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the Holy Ghost started teaching Joseph with this first vision, but he wasn’t an instant expert on what was provided in that vision. Let me be clear that there can only be one correct interpretation – but Spirit imparts knowlege line upon line and precept upon precept and in this way there very well may have been revelations that occured during that vision that took Joseph some time to understand through the Holy Ghost (see above reference). It would have taken even more time to put it into words which man’s wisdom teaches.

Okay, I beat this topic to death. Anyway, I hope the table I created will provide a nice common ground where people can discuss the topic without getting creative to make it seem more or less consistent or inconsistent to fit their agenda.

January 11, 2007

Captain Moroni’s Plan for a Victory in Iraq

Filed under: Politics — lullabyman @ 2:52 am

I watched Bush’s new plan for Iraq, followed by the critiques, and I have to say I was disappointed with what everybody said, including the critics. I’m afraid Bush is mistaken … sending more troops with the same old strategy is not enough. It will help, but rebuilding the infrastructure faster only works if the infrastructure stays in the hands of the Iraqi people. I wish it did work, but “if you think what you’ve always thought, you’ll get what you’ve always got”, and we’ve been losing.

Pelosi is wrong too … merely sending more money while trying to “bring our boys home” with a blind eye to the consequences … things will only get worse. You can NOT have all our boys all home and have a surviving Iraq at the same time. What’s worse: Iraq is the litmus for global terrorism. The world IS watching. Duh!? And many of those watching are budding terrorists.

In short, we need a BETTER strategy against terrorism. Especially against a terrorist network that seriously threatens the existence of democracy. One that’s worked before. One that will work again.

What if I told you that modern terrorism was foretold over 2000 years ago in a record that surfaced in the early 1800s? What if I told you that it also gave a detailed account how to effectively defeat terrorism by strategy? What if I told you that the record itself documented how a group of people did it (after years and years of doing it the wrong way, like us)? What if the record claimed that entire purpose of the record was to help out a freedom-loving-people in the “last days” (our time) who would experience the same things as they experienced?

Regardless what you think about the Book of Mormon there’s one thing that’s obvious: It’s contains remarkable parallels with our current situation and it provides stunningly insightful solutions, especially to this situation.

In the Book of Mormon the terrorists from 2000+ years ago are called Gadianton Robbers. They have a secret society, built up for the sole purpose of personal gain at the expense of others. They live double lives, appearing as law-abiding citizens in daylight, and thieving murders at night to forward their own selfish causes. In many cases their members were part of an old aristocracy that has suffered when the public embraces sound moral principles and adopts a system of accountable judges instead of untouchable kings (sound familiar?).   At one point during the blooming democracy the secret criminals call themselves the “Kingmen” and demand an end to democracy, while their foes are are called the “Freemen” and the public debate is fierce.  Does that sound familiar – a public debate on the value of democracy in Iraq?

This is when they cause an insurgency and a war – even a sectarian war of sorts with religion playing a major part (freedom of religion vs. no freedom of religion). The result of this brings the criminals out into the public eye and they unite themselves with unsavory characters outside the city walls and start spending more time away from the city to foster their plans of destruction than within the city. During this time Captain Moroni, a military officer, raises a title of liberty that says “for our children, for our wives, for our god and for nation” during which time most of the king-men are driven out away from the city and it is at this time they are called the “Gadianton Robbers” (led by a master-of-secrecy, named Gadianton).

The murderous robbers are a festering problem that just gets worse. They threaten the survival of the entire civilization, and at one point it appears their numbers are greater than that of the law abiding citizens – and they nearly succeed in destroying the city. Their tactics seem all too familiar with us today. For example, doing most of their damage by waiting for people to leave the city to get food, and then they attack them (similarly, 90% of Coalition troop deaths have also occurred by roadside bombs).

Does any of this sound familiar? Then read on.

Moroni tries all kinds of things. One thing he learns won’t work is to fight them on their territory – the loss of life on his side is too great. Sound familiar? So he changes his tactics (novel concept – changing tactics if they fail). Essentially he commands his people to gather all the food they possibly can and store it into their main city, and then he builds a wall around the city (now I’m kind of blurring the time-line here, but that’s not important). Nobody goes in or out of the city – neither should they need to because they are up to thier gills in food.

Funny thing about terrorists … they’re ecologically stupid. They don’t know how to farm. Moroni’s people pretty much gleaned the foliage anyway of all it’s sustenance and stored it in the city, enough to subsist for years. So what do you think happened to the terrorists? They starved. Moroni would then bait and hook them – sending small battalions outside the city walls for a gander, after-which the ex-pulsed resurgents would attempt to attack. Of course, they were starving, and in no shape to fight, and were easy fodder for Moroni’s men. This went on until the Gadianton robbers pretty much dwindled to nothing.

Now, it didn’t stop there. Moroni exercises a twist to the starvation tactic -and a very significant one. Many robbers then united with another nation and inspired the other nation to go to war against Moroni’s people (sound familiar?). It was bloody, and the terrorists were so deft at war that they were made captains in the armies of the other nations (can you say Al Quaeda officers?). As a result, with their knowledge of Moroni’s tactics, and using the strength of the other nation they were successful at overtaking many cities leaving an amazing path of wonton destruction wherever they go. In response, Moroni started building great walls around the cities to make a safe havens. Now here’s the clever tactic: when a city is taken by the enemy (in some cases Moroni freely gave it up for this purpose) Moroni simply surrounds the city until they run out of food. He doesn’t fight them – he just picks them off as they try to leave to get food. Either the enemy gives up from starvation, or they try to fight their way out to food. Either way, it works. Even terrorists need food and water to survive.

Give up an empty city, let the terrorists invade it. Let the terrorists die of starvation. Go back and re-inhabit the city.

Okay now, back to today. There are other strategies Moroni provided us, but the one with food, and these sealed off safety zones are very significant and aren’t being adequately used in Iraq. I’m sure such things have been discussed, and have been exercised to a limited degree, but severe implementation has been dismissed for one reason or another – most likely because it would be inconvenient and the Iraqi people wouldn’t like it. Therein lies one of our biggest mistakes: the mistake of pretending life in a war zone can be and should be convenient. We are trying too hard to maintain a standard of normalcy in the free areas, and that is allowing the enemy to mix in among the Iraqi citizens. Those aren’t safe areas! They aren’t safe. Quit pretending that they are – or you’re aiding the enemy.

Let’s call a spade a spade and realize that if we want to destroy the enemy then we have to isolate them, like Moroni did. That means making some sacrifices in the coalition controlled areas. It means doing as Moroni did to drive the insurgents into the public view by demanding that everyone raise a title of liberty. Those who don’t raise the title must be driven out. Then resources can be controlled to weaken the enemy and strengthen the coalition.

The use of walls is very significant. We know Fallujah is the #1 stronghold. Seal it off (think West Berlin but in reverse: don’t go inside). Give the insurgents their own medicine: don’t let anyone enter or leave. People need food to survive. These are bomb-makers, not farmers. They will die eventually. It may take years, but if we keep them in Fallujah then they won’t be bothering anyone in the meantime.

In short, we’ve seen that the tightening of security in the states has been successful. We’ve successfully battled the war on terror in the homeland by making it a safe-zone. We need to do this same thing in Iraq, and that will require some drastic changes to the existing free citizens, but this is war. They’ll be safe and right now that’s what’s most important. It will mean the city declaring certain existing areas as being safety zones – and sealing off those parts of the city. This will result in a total evacuation of some cities, and crowded (however well supplied) other cities. The off-limit cities will be left alone, except that no food will be allowed in them. None. Period. People need food and water to survive.

If they want food – they must make an oath, and will be placed in a special safety zone where they cannot mix with the bulk of the people until the war is over.

Lastly – the Title of Liberty: Raise it for the Iraqi people. This war will either be won or lost in the battle of the air waves and it’s ridiculous that we’ve been loosing the airwaves. This is war, and in war “right-to-arms” doesn’t apply to the enemy – and what stronger weapon is there than the airwaves?! Since when did freedom of speech apply to the enemy who is trying to kill that freedom? Jam their signals. Raise among the Iraqi’s a radio-based title of liberty “for our children, for our wives, for our nation, for our right to worship according to our own dictates”. We have the technology. We can air drop millions of radios that tune only to a certain station, and jam certain Al Jezeer programs or any other station that promotes terrorism.

You don’t have to be LDS, or even subscribe to it’s doctrines to see the wisdom of Moroni’s strategies. Whether you think he was real or that he and his parallels with today were just an amazingly lucky guess on Joseph Smith’s part, you have to admit – he knew how to fight terrorists. Now, let’s fight. For we have a better cause: “Our wives, our children, our country, and our freedoms”. Raise the title among the Iraqi’s. Nothing could be more viral.

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