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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Joseph Smith, Sausages, and My Testimony

by ldsbishop:

The West Wing episode "Five Votes Down" finds the senior White House staff in a race against time to find the extra votes they need to pass a gun control bill. Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff remarks, "There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em: laws and sausages."

I would add one more thing: religions.

I began to investigate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2002, in my early twenties. I would receive the discussions from the missionaries, and with my appetite sufficiently whetted, in between the scripture reading and prayer they asked me to do, I would turn to the internet to find extra information.

In some ways, I count myself very lucky that I was able to integrate the awkward issues surrounding Church history into my testimony. By the time I entered the waters of baptism, I was well aware of the issues surrounding polygamy, race and the priesthood, the Book of Abraham, DNA evidence for the Book of Mormon and various other topics, none of which the missionaries, I suppose correctly, discussed with me. I was able to discuss these issues with my future father-in-law who would honestly answer my questions based on his cavernous knowledge of Church history.

A rather crude analogy would be that I was able to apply the above sausage rule in developing my testimony of the restored gospel. OK, so some strange ingredients were around but the end results still tasted good to me and I wanted some of it.

I believe that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration and that by some means brought forth the Book of Mormon. To me, it doesn't matter how he did it: looking directly at the plates or with a stone in a hat. The book itself is the testimony to me. I feel as if it's the word of God when I read it. Joseph could have translated standing on his head while playing the bassoon, it doesn't matter to me. The means of translation are just sausage ingredients.

Polygamy was a sausage ingredient that we don't use anymore, thankfully. Whether or not it should have been a part of the recipe in the first place, or whether it was mixed in correctly is a matter of debate. I'm just glad I don't have to eat it.

It is a shame that an over-sanitised version of the restoration was presented by the Church until recently. I have lost too many friends from the Church that might have stayed if they were given honest information to begin with and honest answers when they started to question, instead of being dismissed as reading "anti-mormon nonsense."

I welcome the Church's recent essays on polygamy and other issues for the refreshing matter-of-fact honesty. A friend of mine spoke to me last week after reading the essays and remarked, "I've always been told that it was an anti-mormon lie that Joseph Smith married a 14-year-old, now it's on the official Church website."

If we do truly belong to the Church of Christ, we need not fear being honest about our history in the appropriate venues. I'm not advocating teaching dynastic sealing policies in Primary (although parents being honest with their children in their homes won't hurt at all), but when people come to us with questions, we have the resources to answer them without dismissing them.

Knowing that there is a God, that Jesus Christ atoned for me, and that His Church is restored are the foundations of my testimony. I am lucky because the "awkward" issues haven't shaken that faith, because I've always known about them. I hope that the new openness I see allows others the freedom to gain the faith that I have.

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ldsbishop grew up in the land of Shakespeare, Milton and Monty Python. Looking for some culture, he moved to Utah for a while where he seduced his future wife with his accent. They now live back in the UK. He was called as the Bishop of his ward in his mid-twenties. That's where the similarities between him and President Monson end, though he can also wiggle his ears. He and his wife are the parents of two sons, the type of boys that have people suggesting we need more talks on reverence. He keeps his sanity by tweeting his thoughts under @ldsbishop.
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