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Doctrine & Covenants 119 directs Church members to pay essentially two tithings—the first tithing being a one-time donation of all of their surplus property (meaning whatever they don’t have immediate need of), and the second tithing being an ongoing payment of one-tenth of what they would make in interest annually if they invested their total net …
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How does the Church justify putting over one billion dollars into building a mall in downtown Salt Lake City? And did they use tithing money to do so? Also, is it true that the Church has over 100 billion dollars in reserve? Why won’t Church leaders just disclose exactly how much they actually have? If it’s anywhere near that number, is it ethical …
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Zion has been defined as God’s people being of one heart and one mind, dwelling together in righteousness, and having no poor among them. Since Joseph Smith’s day Latter-day Saints have made continuous efforts toward this Zion ideal, including not only assisting the poor and needy, but going even further to help them eliminate poverty from their li…
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In his July 1838 tithing revelation, the Lord both affirmed the law of consecration and modified the ongoing way in which the saints were expected to consecrate of their money and property. Rather than following the 1831 system outlined in D&C 42 of legally deeding all of their property to the bishop and receiving back from him a legal lease of pro…
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In the aftermath of the significant 1837 failure of the Church’s banking business in Kirtland, Ohio and the subsequent fallout with several Church leaders—including death threats—Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fled Ohio to be with Church members in Far West, Missouri. Shortly thereafter, in April 1838, the Lord commanded the saints to build the Far…
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today owns and operates several successful for-profit businesses, from livestock and agriculture to publishing and digital media to real estate and many others. This has caused some to wonder, does a Church focused on bringing people to Christ have any business getting involved in business? Are busine…
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In the last few years the finances of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been in the media spotlight—and not always in positive ways. It’s no secret that the Church today has amassed an impressive financial reserve to ensure the accomplishment of its purposes. But it was not always so. There have been some narrow straits through w…
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What kind of thinking skills do we need to develop in order to gain and maintain the kind of robust faith we desire? This question is the central subject of a book by Dr. Anthony Sweat entitled, “Seekers Wanted, the Skills You Need for the Faith You Want.” In this book Dr. Sweat offers keen insights into many of the principles of truth-seeking we h…
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In this episode of Church History Matters, we are joined by special guest Dr. Keith Erekson, a Church Historian. Dr. Erekson wrote an important book entitled “Real vs. Rumor: How to Dispel Latter-day Myths.” It embodies many of the principles of truth-seeking we have been exploring throughout this series … and then some! Casey and I were excited to…
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“Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” Hebrews 11:1 reads, “the evidence of things not seen.” Hmm. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Does this mean faith is the evidence we have of things not seen? Or could we say it this way: faith is the level of confidence we feel toward a truth-claim or proposed reality which we have not seen bas…
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Facts don’t interpret themselves. People interpret facts. And the people best equipped to most accurately interpret facts are those who understand the contexts in which those facts were originally embedded. This is especially important in understanding Church History because a fact—especially a potentially shocking or scandalous sounding fact—isola…
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A fundamental moment in all good learning is that moment where we modify our assumptions about the world as a result of acquiring new and more accurate knowledge. This in turn hopefully primes us to make better decisions. On one level, it’s what learning is all about. Sounds pretty basic right? Well, it is. But it isn’t always easy. Church History …
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How can we confidently discern the difference between a reliable historical claim and an unreliable one? This is what Casey and I discussed in our last episode where we introduced five source critical questions we can all ask to carefully assess the reliability of a historical truth claim. In this episode of Church History Matters, we’re going to p…
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How can we know what actually happened in the past? Whose stories are true? Piecing together accurate history can be tricky business. People in the past, like people today, were diverse. Some were honest. Some were not. Some were straight shooting truth tellers who gave honest (though subjective) accounts of what happened. Others emphasized or omit…
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How can we confidently determine what is and what is not reliable doctrine so we can decide what to believe? This is what Casey and I discussed in our last episode where we introduced what we called the Three Doctrinal Lenses, or criteria, by which we can assess the doctrinal reliability of a truth claim. In today’s episode of Church History Matter…
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Just before he left home for college, eighteen year old Henry Eyring, the future world renowned LDS scientist, was invited by his father, Edward Eyring, to sit down for some fatherly counsel. After sharing his firm conviction that Joseph Smith was a true prophet whom God used to restore his church, Edward said to his son, “Now, there are a lot of o…
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What is truth? What does it mean to really “know” something? And what are the best methods and tools to come to know a thing? In today’s episode of Church History Matters, we begin our new series on Good Thinking where we explore the important role our brain and intellect play in truth seeking and the life of faith. Specifically in this series we w…
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There was in 2nd Century BC Egypt an indisputable multicultural sharing of religious ideas between Jews, Greeks, and Egyptians. How should that fact influence how we evaluate Joseph Smith’s interpretations of the Abraham facsimiles in general and individual hieroglyphics on the facsimiles specifically? On a related note, some of Joseph’s descriptio…
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So, the Book of Abraham is the touchpoint of some serious controversies—and we’ve talked about some of those in our last two episodes and we’ll probably talk about them more next week as well. But, to be clear, the Book of Abraham is also the source of some dazzling doctrinal gems which validate and expand upon other key restoration teachings. So, …
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In Joseph Smith’s interpretations of the facsimiles found in our Pearl of Great Price he ties all three of them to Abraham; yet, when some modern Egyptologists look at those same facsimiles today they say they have nothing to do with Abraham: one is simply an embalming scene, one a disk representing the eye of Horus, and one a judgment scene from a…
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The book of Abraham, Joseph Smith’s final translation project, is easily one of the most controversial books of scripture in the Latter-day Saint canon. And we want to talk about it. In this episode of Church History Matters, we dig into the fascinating story of how the exploits of a 19th century grave robber in Egypt ended up expanding our scriptu…
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Because of our location in time and good record keeping, we are privileged to have an up close and personal view of the production of modern scriptural canon. And it’s a bit of a rollercoaster! From its first publication in 1835 to its current version today the Doctrine and Covenants has undergone major additions, deletions, rearrangement, and text…
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One of the biggest criticisms of scripture generally is the extent to which humans were involved in its production. On the one hand, we can’t really expect scripture to be effortlessly beamed down from heaven to flawed and imperfect humans and then interpreted flawlessly and recorded perfectly, can we? But on the other hand, how “divine” and trustw…
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Did Joseph Smith ever consider his Bible translation work finished? Will the JST ever be canonized and replace the King James Version as the official Latter-day Saint Bible? Why haven’t any other of our prophets since Joseph Smith engaged in similar translation work? How can we reconcile Joseph Smith’s Bible revision work with Deuteronomy 4:2 and R…
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In his Bible translation project did Joseph Smith plagiarize the work of a prominent British scholar named Adam Clarke? Or, if you don’t want to call it plagiarism, did Joseph Smith “borrow” or appropriate phrases and ideas from Adam Clarke’s Bible commentary (without attribution) which are found in our JST footnotes today? This is the question at …
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Because there are no explicitly stated purposes of Joseph Smith’s Bible translation project—either by him or in any of his revelations—all explanations offered about or criticisms leveled at his Bible translation are based on assumptions and best guesses at best. But then, there’s nothing wrong with educated best guesses so long as we are not overl…
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Aside from his Book of Mormon translation project, Joseph Smith engaged in at least three other scripture production projects that we know of. The first was his ambitious Bible translation project we now know as the Joseph Smith Translation, the second was the printing of his own revelations which we now know as the Doctrine and Covenants, and the …
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Some people see a connection between the Church’s past restrictive policy towared blacks in the Church and the Church’s current restrictive policy toward gays in the Church—specifically prohibiting gay temple marriage. In what ways are these two issues similar and in what ways are they different? How can church members reconcile (a) the teaching th…
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Paul Reeve recently wrote: In June 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation which returned the Church to its universal roots and restored what was lost, priesthood and temple admission to people of African descent. This … did not mark something new as much as it reestablished a commitment to the founding principles of the Restoratio…
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In 1907, the First Presidency codified the Church’s official policy about black African participation in both priesthood and temple declaring that, “No one known to have in his veins negro blood, (it matters not how remote a degree) can either have the Priesthood in any degree or the blessings of the Temple of God; no matter how otherwise worthy he…
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Once people come to terms with the uncomfortable idea that Brigham Young committed an error in endorsing a priesthood ban on church members with black African ancestry, a puzzling question naturally follows: “If the ban was an error, then why didn’t it get corrected earlier than 1978?! There were nine Church presidents between Brigham Young and Spe…
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The historical record shows that Joseph Smith did not implement or endorse any practices or policies which specifically prevented Church members with black African ancestry from fully participating in priesthood offices or temple worship. But in 1847, only three years after Joseph’s death, attitudes and teachings of some church leaders began to shi…
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In the broader American culture in which Joseph Smith lived and led the growing Church of Jesus Christ, white attitudes and beliefs about the inferiority of black Africans dominated the scene. In this pre-Civil War context, exactly half of the states in the Union had legalized slavery and built their economies on it, while the other half did not. Y…
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There was a season in our Church’s history when members with black African ancestry were unevenly barred from both priesthood and temple privileges. This overtly discriminatory practice is one of the most challenging aspects of our history and, for many, is one of the most difficult to understand. How could something like this happen in a Church le…
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Did Joseph Smith have any regrets about plural marriage? Like, with full hindsight, if he could go back and change anything about the way he implemented plural marriage, what might he do differently? Also, more and more people are denying that Joseph Smith ever practiced polygamy or that he lied about doing so. Is there even a shred of truth to eit…
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In 1852, only eight years after Joseph Smith’s death, Church leaders in Utah publicly announced to the astonished world what some had suspected—that Latter-day Saints did indeed practice the principle of plural marriage. But now that it was out there in the open, it could be openly challenged and attacked. And it was. Relentlessly. For decades. In …
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In June and July of 1843 tensions ran high in the marriage of Joseph and Emma Smith. After she had tried but failed to embrace the principle of plural marriage earlier that May, and after Hyrum Smith had tried but failed to convince her of the rightness of plural marriage even with a copy of Doctrine and Covenants 132 in hand, records indicate that…
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As Joseph Smith quietly practiced plural marriage in Nauvoo in 1842 and 43, all was not well. Three people in particular complicated things for Joseph. The first was John C. Bennett, a highly gifted convert who’s meteoric rise to civic and church leadership in Nauvoo abruptly ended when he was exposed for his secret practice of “spiritual wifery,” …
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Did you know that Joseph Smith’s first attempt to obey the Lord’s command to him to practice plural marriage ended quite badly and ended up straining his relationships both with his first wife Emma and with his close friend Oliver Cowdery? And have you ever heard that Joseph was sealed to several women who already had living husbands? Was this a sc…
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Plural marriage—a form of religious polygamy (or polygyny to be technical)—is one of the most controversial and faith-challenging aspects of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was difficult when it was first introduced in the early Church and, although it was discontinued over 130 years ago, it is still a difficult i…
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The more carefully one studies the production process of the Book of Mormon, the more interesting the questions become. For example, since Joseph Smith never could read the original base language engraven on the plates, what did he mean when he said he “translated” the Book of Mormon? And was his translation best characterized as a “tight” translat…
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Aside from the text of the Book of Mormon itself and a personal witness from God’s Spirit, what is the best evidence for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? Different people might answer this question in different ways, but in today’s episode of Church History Matters Casey and Scott propose that the very best external evidence for the truthful…
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What would you say if somebody told you that a 23 year old farm boy dictated to a scribe a sacred text of 531 pages while looking down at stones placed in the bottom of his hat? And what would you think if they then told you that this book was dictated and written in one pass—from beginning to end—in approximately 60 days without any punctuation an…
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If we had video footage of the translation process of the Book of Mormon, what would we see? What would we actually watch Joseph Smith “do” during a translation session? Now of course we don’t have video footage, but we do have perhaps the next best thing—multiple eyewitness accounts of those who saw the process up close first hand. And what they s…
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After four years of waiting, learning, and personal refinement, 21 year old Joseph Smith was finally entrusted by the angel Moroni with the ancient record that for centuries had lain in waiting in a stone box embedded in a hill near his home. Recalling this time years later, Joseph said that almost as soon as he had received the plates “the most st…
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About three and a half years after his “first vision,” Joseph Smith experienced his “second vision.” It occurred on the evening of the 21st of September 1823 in Palmyra, New York, when Joseph was only seventeen years old. In this vision he met a stunning angelic messenger named Moroni who delivered an even more stunning message: that the preparator…
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The more carefully one studies Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the context of his world at that time, the more interesting the questions become. For example, if Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in a vision, does that mean he didn’t actually see them in reality? And what are we to make of the fact that other people around the time of…
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Thousands of people heard Joseph Smith’s testimony first hand. Some of those testimonies included him telling about his First Vision experience. Some of those people who heard his witness wrote down the details of what they heard. Luckily, a few of those handwritten accounts have survived until today and some of them contain even more details about…
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Did you know that the first time the story of Joseph Smith’s First Vision was ever printed was in a pamphlet written by apostle Orson Pratt and published in Scotland while Pratt was on a mission there in 1840? Intriguingly, Pratt's language from this pamphlet was used by Joseph Smith himself two years later, in 1842, when writing the story of his F…
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