Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reapplying the Basics

When I was finishing up my undergrad degree I was part of a group of physics majors that had spent several years doing our homework together and studying for every test. One night someone observed that in all of our physics classes that we had taken we had learned nothing new since taking the first four introductory classes.

After some point we had not been taught any new physics. Our classes simply consisted of learning new ways of applying the same basic principles to ever more complex problems. Even today with my research I am not using a different set of basic principles. I am just applying the same basic principles to extremely complex situations.

To someone who is just starting their education it can be hard to see that the more complex problems are simply a different manifestation of the same basic principles and not a complete change of basis. Sometimes those who get too deep into the complex problems lose sight of the basic principles and are surprised when basic principles suddenly pop out of complex problems.

In my experience, both in my own personal gospel education and observing others who struggle with problems, the two things that cause more problems than anything else is either forgetting basic principles when confronted with a difficult problem or failing to see that the things that we don't understand can be solved by applying basic principles. On the one side if the fault of "knowing too much" and on the other the fault of "not knowing enough".

We can get too obsessed with complex that we lose sight of the basics and dismiss them, and we can fail to see how basic principles apply to complex situations and judge them to be inadequate and dismiss them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Keys of the Priesthood Held In the Church

Introduction

Almost four years ago I wrote a post about the keys of the priesthood. Since then the post has generated a bit of traffic to my blog. But ever since the talk given by Elder Oaks in the last conference I have noticed a significant increase in visits to that post. I have continued to think about what I wrote and prompted by the increase in visitors and also by the lesson that I had in my Elder's Quorum meeting last week I thought I should expand on what I wrote several years ago.

If we are to understand priesthood keys perhaps a good place to start is what is a priesthood key. Then we must know what priesthood keys we have in the Church and finally we can look into how the keys are held and used, including who holds them and how that impacts the individual members of the Church. I will also address the question of whether or not the Church has all the priesthood keys and if not which ones we do not have and what that means for us as members.

What are Priesthood Keys?

Priesthood keys are the power, or ability, and authority to perform certain actions using the priesthood. Without the keys no actions using the priesthood can be done. All things technically can be done by the Melchizedek priesthood but without an enumeration of powers which are allowed (i.e. keys) then nothing can be done. The keys effectively enumerate what priesthood holders are allowed to do. Additionally the one who holds the keys can determine how these powers are to be used. In some cases the powers are very general, but in others the powers are specific.

In order for anyone to do anything by the power of the priesthood then the priesthood keys need to be operative. That is, there needs to be a priesthood holder somewhere who holds the keys and allows the corresponding powers to be used in order for the keys to work. As pointed out in the recent General Conference talk given by Elder Oaks those who act under the authority of the priesthood, that is, under the authority of the priesthood keys, do not necessarily have to hold the priesthood. The ability to perform a work through the priesthood needs to originate with those who have the keys but once he who holds the keys allows it then any who are commissioned may do the work whether they have the priesthood or not. As an example, the priesthood key that controls the preaching of the gospel can be exercised by any man or woman called of God to preach the gospel. There is no restriction on who can be commissioned to preach the gospel as long as they do so under the direction (that is, in the manner proscribed by) of the one who holds the keys.

There are some restrictions on the powers associated with the individual priesthood keys and this is inherent to the power associated with that key. For example, the power to baptize is a priesthood key given to the Aaronic Priesthood. While this power can be given widely it is by its nature restricted to those who men who hold the priesthood and are of the office of a priest. This means that those who hold the key of baptism can authorize any priesthood holder to baptize but they cannot authorize a non-priesthood holder to baptize. They do not have the authority to change that any more than a police officer can appoint a judge to the bench.

While many men in the Church are given the priesthood they can do nothing with it if it is not allowed by those who hold the corresponding keys. Those priesthood holders who hold the keys can commission those with the priesthood to perform the actions that are restricted to priesthood holders and they can commission anyone and everyone else to act under the power of the priesthood regardless of whether they hold the priesthood or even if they are a baptized member of the Church.

The Listed Keys

There are a few priesthood keys that are explicitly mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants. I will give a listing of them below. This list is by no means exhaustive for reasons I will explain in the next section.

The Keys of the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 13 and D&C 107:20)
  • Ministering of angels
  • Ministering of the gospel of repentance
  • Administer baptism by immersion for the remission of sins
  • Administer in outward ordinances
  • Administer the letter of the gospel
The Keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 107:18-19)

  • The sealing and binding power (D&C 128:14, D&C 110:13-16)
  • The keys of the kingdom (D&C 81:2)
  • Spiritual blessings
  • The privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
  • To have the heavens opened
  • To commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn
  • To enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant
  • The keys of the Book of Mormon (D&C 27:5)
  • The keys of Elias, which are the keys of the restoration of all things (D&C 27:6, D&C 110:12)
  • The keys of the gathering of Israel (D&C 110:11)
  • The key of knowledge

Some of these are just different names for the same thing. While there is a definite difference in some of these keys, and as such they required different prophets to return to restore the keys (see D&C 110), there are others that are simply different aspects of the same power and authority. Before we even try to break down the keys categorically we should first seek a healthy dose of divine inspiration and understanding. In the end I think the distinction between the different keys will be less important than the actual working of the keys.

Keys Not Mentioned

There are a few keys that are not mentioned but are mentioned in passing in the Doctrine and Covenants as having been received from specific people yet what those keys are was not spelled out in the Doctrine and Covenants. I am not enough of a scholar of the writings of Joseph Smith to know if he added a few more keys to the list of priesthood keys that we know he received. If anyone has any information on that that they are willing to share with me I would be greatly appreciative.

In D&C 128:21 Joseph Smith mentions Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and "divers angels" as declaring their keys yet unlike Moses, Elias, and Elijah the powers associated with their keys are not explicitly given. If we are to know what those particular powers were we must either find out if Joseph Smith wrote anything else about the keys of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and the others, and failing that it is up to the current President of the Church, who holds the keys of "receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven", to explain those things. Anything anyone else says, while possibly informative, is still just their own understanding (even if it is inspired and true, it is not authoritative).

In addition to the keys alluded to, there are a few keys that we know of that we know that the Church does not have. As Elder Oaks mentioned in his talk of priesthood keys, "At general conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection." I might add to this the keys of Eternal Life, and the keys of Adam. Far from being a problem for the Church this is part of the pattern of heaven where all things are revealed in their season, line upon line, until we come to a perfect understanding. Any of claim that the Church is deficient or apostate due to the loss of keys indicates a severe lack of understanding regarding priesthood keys.

There is one more key that I wish to mention briefly here and will devote an entire section to it below, and that is the key of the Patriarchal priesthood. This priesthood, among other things, is mentioned in the Book of Abraham in the first four verses. It seems that this priesthood key was the key given to Adam. It is not clear that this key is in operation in the Church today for reasons which I will explain below.

Practical Explanation of Keys

Now that we have laid the ground work I think a practical explanation of priesthood keys is in order. I don't know how my Elder's Quorum President, Stake President and Bishop feel about being mentioned by name on my blog so I will just refer to them "my Bishop", "my Stake President" and "my Elder's Quorum President".

In my ward (and all other wards in the Church) there are three key people (hehe, pun) who hold all the local priesthood keys, my Stake President, my Bishop and my Elder's Quorum President. My Stake President is the local president of the High Priesthood and as such holds all the keys given to him by the general authority who set him apart. Just what keys were given to him depends on what keys the President of the Church was willing to delegate to the general authorities, who would in turn delegate to the Stake President. For example, I don't think my Stake President was given the keys of the Book of Mormon, yet he was given the keys of the kingdom* (*for the area of the world known as the Durham, North Carolina Stake). He also was not given the keys of sealing, but as presiding High Priest he was given the keys of the Aaronic priesthood.

If President Monson wanted to delegate, say, the keys of the Book of Mormon to Stake Presidents then he could do that, though I see no evidence of that having been done in an active way (see the section on passive vs. active use of keys below for further discussion on this). So some keys, particularly the keys of the kingdom were given to my Stake President to hold and to exercise within the bounds of his Stake. It is his stewardship in the Kingdom. As the presiding High Priest he has the keys to call, ordain and set apart Bishops. There was a time when Bishops had to be called, ordained and set apart by a general authority, that is that aspect of the keys of the kingdom were not delegated to stake presidents, but as the Church grew it became impractical for general authorities to ordain all Bishops so that power was delegated to the local presiding High Priest (though Bishops must still be approved by a general authority). The prerogative to extend that power or key rests solely on the President of the Church. He can extend that decision making ability and he can rescind it.

Because my Stake President has the keys of the kingdom that means that he can personally run every part of the Church, or he can choose to delegate that power to others. The extent that he delegates or keeps that power is up to him. It would be wise to delegate that power to others, but it technically is not required. As previously mentioned there are some powers that he cannot delegate to just anyone, but there are others that he can. What ever power he delegates carries with it the full power of the priesthood regardless of whether or not the person receiving the power holds the priesthood.

My Bishop receives his keys from the Stake President and as Bishop holds the keys of the Aaronic priesthood listed above. This means that he sets the terms for all the outward ordinances of the gospel. As an example I once had to miss sacrament meeting for another meeting with my Stake President. Because I still felt a desire to partake of the sacrament I approached my Bishop and asked if I could have that done outside of Church. As the holder of the keys he could determine when and where the sacrament would be administered. He quite rightly explained that he felt that he could not authorize me partaking of the sacrament just for having missed it for a meeting with the Stake President. He explained that he did not want to provide an exception to the rule because he did not want anyone to get the idea that they could miss sacrament meeting and then just take it later. But what he did do was authorize me to go over the sacramental covenants in my mind and reaffirm them. That act, because it was authorized by one who held the keys, was of as much efficacy as if I had partaken of the sacrament during sacrament meeting. The key is it was authorized (as a side note, if anyone tries to abuse this power then He who holds all the keys will not take kindly to it).

My Elder's Quorum President holds the keys of the kingdom pertaining to my part in the quorum. These keys he receives from the Stake President, not the Bishop. The Bishop only holds the keys of the Aaronic priesthood an as such cannot give or rescind the keys associated with the Melchizedek priesthood. Only my Elder's Quorum President has the authority to exercise the relevant priesthood keys. He has the authority to extend those powers to his quorum or restrict them. Because I am an active member of the Elder's quorum I have access to the keys of the priesthood if I were not an active member then my access to the power of the priesthood keys would be restricted. Because my Elder's Quorum President holds the keys of the kingdom I am allowed to give priesthood blessings to my family. I cannot give them by virtue of my being the father and husband in the home.

The keys of the priesthood delegated to the local Church leaders do not include the patriarchal keys, nor were they conferred on me when I got married. I was sealed by the sealing power but I was not given the patriarchal keys. So my ability to give priesthood blessings to my family is entirely predicated on the fact that my Elder's Quorum President (or Stake President if I were a high priest) holds the keys of the kingdom as part of his stewardship. Generally the exercise of the keys governing priesthood blessings is not restricted, except for disfellowshiping or excommunication, but in theory it could be restricted. This means that my Elder's Quorum President could restrict the members of his quorum in giving priesthood blessings either entirely or without his express permission. But because he doesn't want to get a phone call every time one of his elders needs to give a blessing that power or key is delegated passively to his quorum.

This brings us to the concept of passive vs. active use of priesthood keys.

Passive vs. Active Use of Keys

Some priesthood keys are held actively while others are held passively. I could also phrase it as the keys are held tightly vs. loosely. Keys that are held actively are restricted to certain people. In some instances those keys are only delegated personally by the one who holds the keys. The keys of the sealing power are one example of this. They are only delegated from the Church president to individual sealers, and even then the power to use them is only given to temple presidents. In this case is anyone wanted to use the sealing power they would actively need to seek out someone who held those keys and get them to actively take part in the use of those keys. This is why I refer to it as the active use of the keys. If anything is to be done with the keys then the one who holds them must act.

On the other hand there are some priesthood keys that are held passively. The power to give priesthood blessings is a priesthood key that is help passively by either the Elder's Quorum President or Stake President. It is passive in the sense that they do not need to do anything or even be aware of the fact that the key is operative in order for priesthood holders to exercise it. It is possible for them to change the key from being passive to being active, or change it from loose control to tight control. If this were to happen then all the members of an Elder's quorum or a Stake would need to seek out the permission of whomever held the keys in order to give a blessing. But generally we do not do this in the Church.

Then there are keys which are mixed. For example, the keys of "receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" are passive and are held loosely by local leaders. As long as my Elder's Quorum President is still breathing that key is still operative for me. I can receive whatever revelation God is willing to give me. My Elder's Quorum President does not even have to be aware of the fact that he holds that key for me to allow it to be operative. Just like other keys he can restrict it or actively extend it. This includes the keys of enjoying the "presence of God the Father, and Jesus". In the temple this is possible but in order for it to happen my Elder's Quorum President, or Stake President depending, needs to hold those keys. They can restrict them or even extend them (to you Elder's Quorum Presidents and Stake Presidents, think of that! You can extend the power to others to see God and Jesus Christ! Granted you can only do that as long as the power is held passively by the Church President. If he chooses to restrict it then there is nothing you can do, but as far as I know he has not done that.). But without any restriction on that key then it remains operative to the individual members and they can enjoy that blessing while attending the temple.

But these keys are mixed, which means that while the ability to receive the mysteries of the kingdom is passive and open to anyone who has the gift of the Holy Ghost, they cannot teach those things understood by the Spirit as authoritative without the express permission of the presiding High Priest. In almost all cases the presiding High Priest holds that particular power very tightly but there are a few instances where it has been delegated to others. So while you or I could receive all sorts of understanding and revelation, if it is not taught by the presiding High Priest then we do not have the authority to teach it as doctrine and in many cases we cannot teach it at all (see D&C 28:2-7 and  D&C 43).

Another example of a mixed key is the key of baptism. In the wards the key is held tightly, and is actively delegated. Anyone looking to baptize their eight year old child must first receive the permission of the Bishop. On the other had missionaries are under no such restriction except when their Mission President instructs them otherwise. Missionaries have the power to do many things, from baptizing and giving the Holy Ghost, to organizing branches and districts and all of this is held loosely. Generally the Mission President will restrict these powers to some degree but the control is loose and missionaries have passive access to many of the keys normally held by Bishops and Elder's Quorum Presidents. So while some keys are tightly held in the wards the missionaries are given loose control of the same keys.

The Keys of the Patriarchal Priesthood

Now I wish to address one final priesthood key that is occasionally mentioned in the Church but is at best poorly understood. What is perhaps so interesting about this particular key is that many men assume they have it even though I know of no evidence to indicate that the men in the Church hold this key. I certainly have never received this key through the laying on of hands. The key I am referring to I shall call the Patriarchal key of the Patriarchal priesthood.

Generally speaking the patriarchal priesthood is like all the other keys of the priesthood except that it extends the power of the priesthood out of the Church and into the home. "But wait!" you may reply. "Don't we teach that the priesthood should be in the home?" Well, yes we do, but the difference is that the priesthood should be in the home to bless those members of the family who are also members of the Church. This is part of the passive keys that I talked about above. The ability to bless the sick and to give blessings of counsel and comfort are all done by the priesthood, and as such need the authority of priesthood keys to be operative, yet there is no special authority given to the father or any other priesthood holder in the family that gives them additional authority or power in the family.

In a General Conference talk given in 2005 Elder Oaks told a story about how he thought that holding the priesthood mean that he had authority in his family, including authority over his mother. He relates his experience like this:
"My father died when I was seven. I was the oldest of three small children our widowed mother struggled to raise. When I was ordained a deacon, she said how pleased she was to have a priesthood holder in the home. But Mother continued to direct the family, including calling on which one of us would pray when we knelt together each morning. I was puzzled. I had been taught that the priesthood presided in the family. There must be something I didn't know about how that principle worked."
Elder Oaks then went on to explain how the priesthood, and priesthood keys operate differently in the Church than they do in the family.

"When my father died, my mother presided over our family. She had no priesthood office, but as the surviving parent in her marriage she had become the governing officer in her family. At the same time, she was always totally respectful of the priesthood authority of our bishop and other Church leaders. She presided over her family, but they presided over the Church...." 
"There are many similarities and some differences in the way priesthood authority functions in the family and in the Church. If we fail to recognize and honor the differences, we encounter difficulties.
"One important difference between its function in the Church and in the family is the fact that all priesthood authority in the Church functions under the direction of the one who holds the appropriate priesthood keys. In contrast, the authority that presides in the family—whether father or single-parent mother—functions in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys...." 
"However, priesthood keys are necessary to authorize the ordaining or setting apart of family members. This is because the organization the Lord has made responsible for the performance and recording of priesthood ordinances is the Church, not the family."
The keys of the priesthood, and hence all the power and authority of the priesthood, that is the power to act, direct, counsel, and bless, only are operative in the Church according to the rules, laws, policies and procedures of the Church. The authority to direct the family is not derived from the priesthood, nor does the priesthood or priesthood keys give additional authority to any priesthood holders in the home. While the priesthood keys may contain the authority to seal a family for eternity, it does not have the power to give the father or any other priesthood holder additional authority than that which they have by virtue of being the father.

There is a mistaken idea among some Church members that because the hold the priesthood, and because we teach that the priesthood should preside in the home, they have additional power and authority given to them not available to other fathers. This idea is patently false. Neither I nor any other priesthood holder I know has ever had hands laid upon their head and given the keys of the patriarchal priesthood (if you have, well let me know! But make sure you have the priesthood through the proper channels!). The idea that because men have the priesthood they have an additional measure of authority in their family is something that I call "Big Man" priesthood.

The image that comes to my mind when I refer to the Big Man priesthood is the family of someone I once knew. One time his family came to visit our ward and instantly I could tell that his father practiced the doctrine of Big Man priesthood. He sat in the middle of his large family, flanked by his priesthood holding sons. While the father was there his family moved together as a unit under his direction. I suspected that he considered himself to be like the patriarchs of old who commanded their children, and he could do it because he had the priesthood.

While it is admirable and desirable for a father to direct and keep his children in the way of truth, he should never conflate the power and authority derived through the keys of the priesthood with the innate authority he has as father to his children. The keys of the priesthood that are operative in the Church only extend to matters dealing with the Church, its ordinances, and spiritual blessings, and does not provide additional authority to a father in his family.

Passing the Keys

The final item I feel I should address is how priesthood keys are transmitted, and whether or not the previous key holder continues to hold the keys. All keys, as are all callings, blessings and gifts in the Church, are given by the key holder laying his hands on the head of the one receiving the keys. Generally specific keys are not mentioned when this is done, but rather a blanket statement of "All the keys, authority, privilege and power pertaining to this office and calling". If specific keys are given, such as when a temple sealer or temple president is set apart, then those keys would be specifically mentioned.

It should be noted that when keys are passed to another priesthood holder they are not given up by the one passing them, though their ability to exercise those keys may fall dormant. For example, when a Stake President sets apart a Bishop all the keys of the Aaronic priesthood for that ward pass to the Bishop and the Stake President will no longer exercise those keys, but he will not relinquish them. The Bishop can exercise those keys and administer the outward ordinances for the ward or empower others to do so. The Stake P
President still holds those same keys but they are dormant, which means he does not exercise them while the Bishop is still acting as Bishop. This is done because the Lord and the Church respects the stewardships of those who are given the keys and also so that there is order and not confusion in how things are done.

So while the priesthood holder who is currently authorized to hold the keys may use them that does not mean that the one who gave them the keys has lost them. This also means that the one who gave the keys can revoke them because they still hold them, even if they are dormant. What this means is that a Stake President can release a Bishop, but to call a new one he still needs permission from a higher authority. So there may be a situation where there is no Bishop and they can't call a new one, but the ward will still function since High Priests can function as Bishops, hence the High Priest group leader in the ward will act as the Bishop without being set apart and given the keys, but the scriptures make it clear that they should be set apart to do this. So the High Priest group leader acting as Bishop should only be temporary.

For the most part someone who holds the keys to a certain calling cannot pass those keys onto another priesthood holder. Hence a Bishop cannot ordain another Bishop, a Stake President cannot set apart another Stake President etc. This is because their keys do not come by virtue of their office but are given to them temporarily. Also when they are released they no longer hold the keys. Hence a Bishop who is released will remain a Bishop in his priesthood, but he will hold no keys. If he is called again to be a Bishop he must be set apart and given the keys but does not need to be ordained again.

But in the case of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the First Quorum of the Seventy as a group each one forms a body that holds all the keys that the others do. Thus an unanimous decision by the First Presidency can be taken to ordain another Apostle. If there is no First Presidency then the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles can ordain other Apostles. If there is no Quorum of the Twelve Apostles then the First Quorum of the Seventy can ordain Apostles. The decisions of these quorums must be unanimous, so no single member can ordain another to a position in the quorum nor give them the keys. These three quorums hold all of the keys given to the Church, though the President of the Church is the only one who can exercise, delegate or restrict the keys at any given time.

There is also a curious case where technically the counselors in the First Presidency do not have to be Apostles, which means that when the President dies and the First Presidency is dissolved the remaining members of the First Presidency no longer hold any priesthood keys, unless they are Apostles. If they are not Apostles and are just High Priests then on the death of the Church President they no longer can use the priesthood keys, nor can they join the Apostles in ordaining new Apostles or organizing a new First Presidency. This is an important point to know in order to understand some episodes in Church history.

So to sum up, local Church leaders cannot pass keys to someone of equal authority (i.e. Bishop to Bishop), only to those who are under them in authority (Stake President to Bishop). General Authorities cannot individually pass keys to another but only when the decision is made unanimously as a quorum. Also a a quorum they all hold the same keys that the other quorums hold. When keys are delegated to another they do not give them up, but they no longer will use them (hence the whole point of delegation).

Conclusion

When I started writing this I did not intend it to become so long, but I just kept writing and it turned into this. There were a few things that motivated me to write this (no I will not link to them since they are a bit contentious or apostate), and it is also something that Elder Oaks recently addressed in General Conference. So while this part is labeled "Conclusion" in this section I will now explain what priesthood keys are and it (hopefully) will now make sense. It just takes a lot of preparation and background to set it up. So here goes.

Priesthood keys are the authority from God to do certain things (see list above). For any given point in time and any one place there is always one person and only one person authorized to use the keys since all things must be done in order. Others may hold the keys but they act under the direction of the one who uses them. All keys can be delegated and those keys can be used generally by either the priesthood or all members (passive keys) while other keys are held tightly and require the permission of the one who holds the keys (active keys). Whether or not a certain key is passive or active depends of the decision of the key hold since he is the steward of those keys.

Some keys are restricted to priesthood holders since they involve the ordinances of the Church, while others have no such restriction. When someone is given a commission through the priesthood keys their actions, work and calling carry with it the full weight of priesthood authority even if they do not hold the priesthood. This means that both women and men can act with the authority of the priesthood, but neither women nor men can do so without permission from the one who holds the keys.

The Church is authorized through the keys to do many things (see list above) but there are a few things that we do not hold the keys for, such as resurrection and eternal life. We also should not confuse priesthood keys with familial authority. The Church may seal families but it does not give authority to family members in their respective positions in the family.

There is no divine authority outside of the priesthood. Without the keys of the priesthood we cannot do the work of God. We must have the keys and they must be exercised in the proper manner under the direction and authority of the one who holds the keys.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Original Chapters in the 1830 Book of Mormon and the Corresponding Chapters in the 1981 Edition

A few days ago I was reading a rather interesting article about changes to the Book of Mormon over the years and the author, Royal Skousen, mentioned that there were not as many chapters in the Book of Mormon as there are now. As a matter of fact Orson Pratt, when he reset the type of the Book of Mormon, broke the chapters up into smaller chapters and then broke them into the verses we have today.

I had heard previously that when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon he indicated when a new chapter should begin, but that the verses came later. I could tell that some of the verse divisions were quite logical but others were a little awkward and did not seem to follow the general rule of one sentence per verse. But because I had been told that the chapter divisions originated in the original text and came through the translation I assumed that the chapters as we have them now were put in place by Mormon.

But some of the chapter divisions did not make sense to me. As a matter of fact there were several chapters that seemed to go together naturally and the chapter divisions seemed rather arbitrary. Over time in my personal scripture study I began to group the chapters into groups of coherent thoughts/stories/sermons. I even thought that if I ever taught Seminary or Sunday School I would have my students learn to group certain chapters together because they just seemed to go together.

But then I found out that the chapters we have now were set down by Orson Pratt and non Mormon. In the post I linked to above I left a comment asking if anyone had a break down of which modern chapters corresponded to the original chapters. Someone responded and pointed me to a paper that was publish back in 1993 that gave the breakdown in an appendix. As I looked over the list I got excited because many of the original chapters encompassed modern chapters that I had grouped together in my own study just because they felt like they went together. These include Jacob 4-5, Alma 36-37, Alma 39-42, and many other sermons, stories or periods of time.

Below I have the list of the original chapters (using Roman numerals) and the corresponding modern chapters. An asterisk indicates that the chapter included the chapter or book heading that is shown in italics in the modern edition.
1830 Edition 1981 Edition
Chapter Chapter: verse
First Nephi
I*
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
1–5
6–9
10–14
15
16:1–19:21
19:22–21:end
22
Second Nephi
I*
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIV
XV
1–2
3
4
5
6–8
9
10
11–15
16–22
23–24
25–27
28–30
31
32
33
Jacob
I*
II
III
IV
V
1
2–3
4–5
6
7
Enos
I 1
Jarom
I 1
Omni
I 1
Words of Mormon
I 1
Mosiah
I
II
III
IV
V
VI*
VII*
VIII
IX
X
XI*
XII
XIII
1–3
4
5
6
7–8
9–10
11:1–13:24
13:25–16:end
17–21
22
23–27
28:1–19
28:20–29:end
Alma
I*
II
III*
IV
V*
VI
VII*
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII*
XIII*
XIV
XV
XVI
XVII*
XVIII*
XIX*
XX
XXI*
XXII
XXIII
XXIV
XXV
XXVI
XXVII
XXVIII
XXIX
XXX
1–3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10–11
12:1–13:9
13:10–15:end
16
17–20
21–22
23–26
27–29
30–35
36–37
38
39–42
43–44
45–49
50
51
52–53
54–55
56–58
59–60
61
62
63
Helaman
I*
II
III*
IV
V
1–2
3–6
7–10
11–12
13–16
Third Nephi
I*
II
III
IV
V*
VI
VII
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIV
1–2
3–5
6–7
8–10
11–13:24
13:25–14:end
15–16
17–18
19:1–21:21
21:22–23:13
23:14–26:5
26:6–27:22
27:23–29:end
30
Fourth Nephi
I 1
Mormon
I
II
III
IV
1–3
4–5
6–7
8–9
Ether
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
1–4
5
6–8
9–11
12
13–15
Moroni
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
VIII
IX*
X
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Dead Donkey: How seemingly unimportant facts lead to radically different conclusions

A little over a year ago the internet made a mountain out of a mole hill, like it always does, and expressed shock and outrage that the Google Street View car apparently hit and killed a donkey. We found out about this because the entire event was posted on Google Street View, or so it would seem. Below I have a few screen shots of the entire event.
Picture 1: Approaching the donkey.
Picture 2: The dead or dying donkey blurred under where the car is.
Picture 3: Looking back, the donkey roadkill now lying in the road.
There were several news sites (warning some of these links may lower your IQ) that devoted whole stories to the apparently deceased donkey. The whole thing really took off when "Dr." Sheldon Cooper tweeted about it. There were statements from Google, denials, counter arguments, conspiracy theories, accusations of a cover up, further denials, evidence sent to select people, but not released to the public, more accusations of secrecy and conspiracy, more denials and still more statements. The whole thing was quite comical.

So what actually happened? Did the Google Street View car run over the donkey? So consider this. The whole event happened in Botswana. So why it that important? Because in Botswana, unlike in the US, they drive on the left side of the road. That seemingly unimportant minor fact changes how to interpret what happened. Any US driver who looked at Picture 1 above would think that the camera view that I selected was the "forward" direction because it meant the car was driving on the right side of the road.

But because we know that in Botswana they drive on the left side that would mean Picture 1 is actually the image from the the rear facing camera, that is after the car passed the donkey. This mean that in Picture 3 above, which I gave the caption, "Looking back..." is not actually looking back but is looking forward and should actually be the first image in the sequence.

So some people, even people with advanced degrees, looked at the evidence and assumed that it clearly showed the Google Street View car hitting and critically injuring if not killing a poor defenseless donkey. Even after Google's explanation some people persisted in arguing that it clearly showed the death of a donkey. But just knowing that the pictures were taken in Botswana and that they drive on the left instead of the right means that what happened was the donkey was taking a nice dirt bath, getting a good backscratching, when it was disturbed by the oncoming Google car. When the car drove up the donkey stood up and walked off the road. You can go explore the whole Google Street View images here and convince yourself.

So what is my point in all of this? If I had wanted to share the story and not use it to make a point I would have just posted a link on Facebook and let people like it or ignore it. But I am writing about it on my blog which means that I intend to draw a conclusion and make a point with it.

The thing to remember here is that by knowing one seemingly minor, but critical, fact the interpretation of what happened quickly changes. We were not there to witness the events and all we have are a few snapshots of what happened. At times we have a relatively minor cultural preconception (in this case, that the "forward" direction has the car on the right side of the road) that we use to orient ourselves when we first are given the evidence. But sometimes this minor cultural preconception, while very useful, if not necessary in our own culture, causes us to look at the sequence of events and draw an incorrect conclusion (i.e. the donkey dies).

But if we consider the same evidence, but this time in context, and with a few minor and seemingly inconsequential pieces of information, the conclusion we arrive at is very different (the Google car interrupted a nice dirt bath). So there are times when we are confronted with certain problems and while they may seem very unsettling or faith shattering at the time, if we stop and take the time to orient and reorient ourselves properly, what we previously viewed as a problem suddenly becomes a non-issue.

There are many time people are confronted with problems or issues in regards to their faith and their religion that seems to be unsettling or maybe a bit shocking at first. But if we take the time to understand what is going on, to know the context, and to listen when someone gently points out that they drive on the left side instead of the right side, that seemingly minor fact may be the key to reorienting ourselves so that we can clearly see that what was a problem before really is not a problem. Sometimes it is easy, other times it is hard and takes time, but there are answers and there are explanations that will come. But we need patience, humility and a particle of faith, and the answers will come.

[Extra credit: Try and figure out this apparent murder in Google Street View. Hint, look at how the cars are parked and then go up and down the street at look at the "murderer" and the "victim" from different angles (points in time) to reconstruct the sequence of events. Which images came first and which images came later? Think traffic laws.]

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Population Growth and The Book of Mormon

Every so often I come across an argument against the Book of Mormon that I feel I have to respond to in some way. Some arguments are so trivial that they can be dismissed out of hand but there are a few that look damaging on first view but with a little thought and additional information the apparently damaging argument loses its bite. The hardest ones are the arguments that are presented in a seemingly logical manner with numbers, facts, figures and even references to reputable sources yet have some underlying, yet not immediately apparent failing that invalidates the argument. The thing that makes these arguments so hard to counter is the fact that they take time and lots of understanding to expose the underlying failing that is fatal to the entire argument.

A while back I came across an argument that attempted to prove that the Book of Mormon could not have occurred in the real world, that is, it was a work of fiction. There are many such arguments but for some reason this argument stuck with me, not because I believed it or thought it had any merit but because I could not come up with what I felt to be an adequate response to the argument. I could very easily point out the major fallacy of the argument but I was having a hard time arranging a sufficient counter argument with enough data to consider the issue settled.

The basis of the argument that I will be addressing is that given the number of people who arrived in the Americas with Lehi and Mulek there could not have been sufficient population growth by the time the major Nephite-Lamanite wars happened to make the losses reported on both sides unrealistic given the supposed possible population size. One anti-Mormon critic laid out the argument and then concluded,
"Even the most unbiased person must look at the facts and numbers that history and demographics provide and come to the undeniable conclusion that the numbers just don't add up. One can prove the Book of Mormon wrong by using a simple $1.99 calculator and a few books on world demographics. Sadly, even in the light of such obvious facts, some of the best and brightest and most sincere people the world has to offer have fallen for the lies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Well I don't have a simple calculator that costs $1.99. I have a $500 computer with some expensive software. So I guess that is why I came to a different conclusion than this particular anti-Mormon critic.

First let me establish the basis of the argument. As I mentioned above the basic criticism is that given the relatively small number of people that arrived in about 589 BC there could not have been sufficient population growth by the time the wars described in Alma happened to realistically support the number of losses reported in the wars. The crux of the argument comes when our critic proclaims,
"Population growth during this pre-agricultural period was virtually nonexistent, roughly .0001 percent per year or less. This is an established fact that can easily be confirmed. (Parsons, Jack. Population versus Liberty. London: Pemberton, 1971, 33; Miller, G. Tyler. Living in the Environment. 4th Ed. Belmont, MA: Belmont, 1985, 88-91; Ehrlich, Paul R., and Anne H. Ehrlich. Population Resources Environment. 2d ed. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1970, 6)"
Citations in the original text. So the essential part here is that in historic times the average population growth rate was very small (we will overlook the fact that he first cites the rate of 0.0001% which would only be true for a non-agrarian, hunter-gather society, despite the fact that there are ample references to Nephite and Mulekite societies being agrarian, non-hunter-gather societies and thus would have a higher average population growth rate).

 But as the critic goes on to point out,
"For the Amlicite-Nephite war of 87 B.C.E., Alma 2:17-19 reports a total of 19,094 fatalities. On the basis of these figures John Sorenson, a professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University, estimated the total Nephite-Lamanite population to be over 600,000 at that time (about 200,000 Nephites-Amlicites and over 400,000 Lamanites). For an original band of thirty reproductive individuals in 590 B.C.E. to proliferate even to 19,094 by 87 B.C.E. would require an average annual growth rate of 1.3 percent sustained over the span of five centuries. To reach the 600,000 level Sorenson determined to have existed at that point, the growth rate would have had to be 2 percent, again maintained for five centuries. This is a level never reached on a global scale until C.E. 1960 and fifty times the actual world rate of the pre-industrial epoch." (Emphasis added)
So here is the problem. Given the very small historic (or pre-historic) average population growth rate of 0.0001% (or 0.3%, or 0.04% depending on which part of the article you are reading, the author is never quite consistent nor does he settle on a number) it would be impossible for the less than 100 original settlers to reach a population of 600,000 people within 500 years. That would require a population growth rate of 2% (not 0.2%, 2.0%) which, as the author points out, is a rate practically unheard of until modern times. To make this case the author includes a table with "Average Percent Annual Global Growth Rates" from a variety of different sources. While there is some difference among the different sources they are all fairly consistent and agree that the "Average Percent Annual Global Growth Rate" before 1650 was 0.3% or lower, which is what our anti-Mormon critic seizes on to make his case.

When I first heard this argument I could tell it was fallacious on the face of it because it confuses the "Average Percent Annual Global Growth Rate" with a local non-average population growth rate. Given the concept of an average we should expect there to be years, or even several years, where the growth rate is above average, and several years where the growth rate is below average. This would be true for a specific location. When we take those fluctuations from location to location, all over the world, and average them together we get the global average. Local populations may vary from year to year, or from century to century, but on average the global population growth rate is fairly consistent.

So essentially the author is fundamentally misunderstanding (either intentionally or unintentionally is hard to tell) what the average global population growth rate really means. It would be like saying that the average temperature where you live could not have risen by 20 degrees over the past six months because the global average surface temperature is only rising by 0.3 degrees per decade. Our esteemed critic seems to have a hard time understanding the concept of a global average.

But what would be a reasonable population growth rate at that time? This is the question that had me stuck for a while. It is easy to point out that there is a difference between a global average and a local population growth rate, but is it reasonable to have a 2% growth rate in a pre-modern society?

To answer this let us look at the population of Rome during the Roman Republic. The history of Rome provides a good analog to the time period in question from the Book of Mormon because it happens at approximately the same time and has a few similarities that allow for a good comparison. To be sure there are some very important differences, but those differences can also play into our discussion here.

The Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC and officially lasted until Octavius was proclaimed Caesar Augustus in 27 BC. So just like in the Book of Mormon we have an agrarian society centered on a city state that covers approximately 500 years in the first millennium BC. Also during that time there are several wars, but also some territorial expansion and the integration of surrounding populations into the city state. We don't have population data for the Nephites and Mulekites but we do have some of the data for Rome.

Below I have a graph of existent Roman Census data. Blue crosses are census data with green lines indicating a year where war impacted the population of Rome. Red lines indicate years with major epidemics. I did not include years of economic crises. These census data are a bit complex because these only give the number of freemen who hold property and thus are eligible for military service. These numbers do not include slaves, women or children (generally, though there are a few censuses where this rule was not followed). The population ranges from about 100,000 men around 500 BC to more than 4 million in 14 AD.
Below I have the percent rate of population change per year calculated from the previous census.
The actual population of Rome is a matter of intense debate among scholars. There may also have been a few censuses where the numbers are different from the other censuses because they changed the way they counted freemen or citizens. But one thing we can see from the graph showing percent change per year is that there were several periods of a population decrease, no change, or population increase. Some of the percent changes are quite dramatic such as an average drop of -6% per year for five years. Others time periods, such as in the first century BC (from about 86 BC to 26 BC) saw an average population growth rate of 4% per year, for 60 years. During that time the population of Rome went from about 460,000 freemen to just over 4,000,000 freemen* (*some debate about whether or not this number includes women and children, but no hard evidence). Not an insignificant change.

The other thing to realize here is that during this time there were several major wars that affected the population of Rome. For example, in 387 BC the city of Rome was burned to the ground and almost abandoned. Yet a little over 100 years later Rome fought Carthage in the First Punic War which resulted in more than 155,000 Roman soldier deaths while fielding approximately 700,000 soldiers over the course of the 23 year war. Not to be outdone, 23 years later Rome and Carthage engaged in the Second Punic War in which Rome fielded more than 782,000 soldiers and lost more than 300,000. That war only lasted 17 years and saw Rome directly threatened by Hannibal. At this time Rome had a policy of using land holding, free (non-slave) soldiers in their armies. You can see significant drops in the population of Rome during these wars. At several points Rome was losing on average 4% of its population per year due to these wars. Yet the population rebounded within a few years to the point that in 200 BC Rome was invading Greece and beginning to take control of some of the lands conquered by Alexander the Great.

While the average population growth rate per year may fluctuate wildly we can also take the population data and by doing a linear fit of the data we can see that the population grew about 0.3% per year over the course of the Roman Republic (hmmm, so that is where all those historians came up with 0.3% per year for population growth before 1650). But this nominal rate of 0.3% per year masks some of the wild ups and downs of Rome during that time. It does not show the hundreds of thousands lost in the Punic Wars nor the incredible population growth in the lead up to the start of the Roman Empire and the end of the Republic. If you insist on a population growth rate of 0.3% or lower for all dates before 1650 then there are a great many empires and nations, and not just the Romans, who long would have been wiped off the map from war and disease.

Essentially if our anti-Mormon critic were to apply the same logic that he uses on the Book of Mormon to Rome he could very easily disprove the reality of the First and Second Punic Wars. "Even the most unbiased person" who insisted on a strict population growth rate of 0.3% per year could use his $1.99 calculator to disprove the existence of the Roman Republic and the later Roman Empire.

But wait! There's more!

Our critic may argue that Rome was a special case, or that the population of Rome was inflated by immigrants (never mind the fact that the Romans were picky about who could call themselves a Roman citizen, until the Empire came along that is). But there were so many other Empires throughout history with comparable losses in battle that without occasional periods of higher than average (0.3%) population growth we all would have died out long ago.

To our anti-Mormon critic the numbers may seems incredible but given our recorded history the numbers and approximate populations in the Book of Mormon should not come as a surprise.

So again we ask the question, how reasonable is a 1 or 2% population growth rate? Sure we have seen it over a period of 50 or 60 years in the Roman Republic, but over 500 years? In the book Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond was addressing the issue of how the world came to be populated by humans. In discussing this he said,
"One might also at first be surprised that the Americas evidently fill up with humans so quickly.... That population growth also proves unsurprising when one stops to consider the actual numbers.... [I]f the initial colonists had consisted of only 100 people and their numbers had increased at a rate of only 1.1 percent per year, the colonists' descendants would have reached that population ceiling of 10 million people within a thousand years. A population growth rate of 1.1 percent per year is again trivial: rates as high as 3.4 percent per year have been observed in modern times when people colonized virgin lands, such as when the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives colonized Pitcairn Island." (p.45.)
A population growth rate of 1.1% per year, sustained over 1000 years, Dr. Diamond calls trivial and notes that higher rates "have been observed in modern times when people colonized virgin lands". In the case of the Nephites and Mulekites in the Book of Mormon we have two groups of people moving into apparently sparsely populated, but not entirely empty land, and then 500 years later fighting wars that would require a total population of 600,000 people or more. Surely this is within the realm of possibility given what we know of demographics throughout history.

But wait! There is still more!

As a final example we can read in the Bible about the children of Israel who entered Egypt with 70 souls (plus Joseph and sons), yet when they left 430 years later they had 600,000 men, which would mean a total population of roughly 2 million people. These numbers would require an average population growth rate of 2.4% per year to accomplish this. While there may be some anti-Mormon critics who would have no problem using this fact to discount both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, I find it slightly satisfying that for those critics who hold to the Bible, and only the Bible, the numbers presented in the Bible require a larger population growth rate than the rate they claim disproves the Book of Mormon. By their own logic the Bible they hold so dear has been shown to be a fraud. Unless you use something more than a $1.99 calculator and a basic understanding of what an average population growth rate is.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Stories from My Mission: "It seems you have a lot of doubts"

This experience comes from my first area in the town of Bella Vista, Corrientes. I was with my second companion Elder Bullock (we also happened to have graduated from the same high school). One day while out tracting we ran into a man who did not seem interested in talking to us at that time but was very enthusiastic about us coming back later that evening. Because we didn't have anything else that evening we agreed.

A few hours later we arrived at his house and he was still eager to talk to us, and demonstrated his interest by bringing out a few books to use in the discussion. In retrospect I don't think any first discussion I had on my mission ever went well when the person was excited to talk to us. The discussion started like just about any other discussion. We talked about the Church and Joseph Smith. At one point we read a scripture from the Bible and the guy asked if he could see my companion's Bible. As missionaries we were aware of the common criticism against the Church that we use a different Bible (we don't, at the time we used the Reina-Valera 1960 version) so my companion handed over his Bible so the man could see for himself that we have a standard Bible.

The man quickly took the Bible, opened his own and began to compare the title page of his Bible to ours. He began counting the number of books and because he was comparing our Protestant derived Bibles to his Catholic Bible he came up with a different number of books (seven to be exact). Whereupon he handed back my companion's Bible and declared that it was wrong because it was incomplete. To which my companion replied, "Oh really? Do you know which books my Bible is missing?"

"No." he replied.

"Do you know what is in the books that your Catholic Bible has that mine doesn't?"

"No." again was the reply.

"Then how do you know that our Bibles are wrong?"

"But your Bibles don't have the correct number of books!"

"But if you don't know what is in those extra seven books then how do you know that we are actually leaving out something important?"

Realizing that this line of attack wasn't getting him anywhere and that it was actually demonstrating his ignorance rather than ours he switched tactics. He changed the topic by bringing up polygamy. He said that we could not be Christian since we practiced polygamy. My companion assured him that we do not currently practice polygamy. The man insisted that we still do practice polygamy.

Intrigued my companion asked where he was getting his information. At this point he pulled out a little book from his stack of books. Essentially it was a primer on different religions written from a Catholic perspective. The section on Mormons was, shall we say, severely lacking in logic and relevant factual information. He read us a few paragraphs from his book and in that selection he read a quote that essentially stated something to the effect, "There are X number of polygamists living in Utah. Of the people in the state Y% are Mormons. Therefore Mormons still practice polygamy."

Even at the tender age of 19, without ever taking a class on logic, I knew this was bad logic. I pointed this out to him and he became defensive. My companion, a bit amused at his lack of logical rigor, asked where his book got the quote from. He said something that neither one of us could understand. He read the source again from the book but we couldn't make out what he was saying. I asked to see the book and he handed it over. I found the quote and read the source. It was from the Ladies Home Journal, from the 1920's or 30's. At this point my companion laughed out loud much to the confusion of the man we were talking to. My companion had to explain what the Ladies Home Journal was to him (I think my companion called it "Chisme de las mujeras." "Ladies gossip."). Our adversary was beginning to realize that he probably hadn't picked the best resource for a gospel fight. He was about to learn that he was seriously spiritually out gunned.

We went back and forth for a bit but we realized that we weren't getting anywhere. He offered a few more arguments, but eventually his arguments devolved into general objections against religion and not just our religion in particular. He was also realizing that he actually didn't have any good arguments.

It was at this point that my companion commented and said, "It seems like you have a lot of doubts."

He hung his head slightly and admitted that there was a lot of things he had doubts about.

What followed was one of the most powerful testimonies I ever had the opportunity to hear on my mission. My companion leaned forward and said, "I know that what I believe is true. I know that what we have in the scriptures is the word of God. I have no doubt in my mind that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he translated the Book of Mormon. There is no doubt in my mind about God and His Church on the earth. You may doubt but I have no doubts about what I know and your doubts and what you don't know can never change what I do know and what I don't doubt."

The man, struck by the forcefulness of my companion's testimony compared to the weakness of his own doubts quickly shot back and threw up a defensive wall of, "No! I actually do know things!" and "I don't have any doubts." But it was to no avail we both had heard him say in all honesty and sincerity that he was full of doubts. We wished him a good night and left.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stories from My Mission: How I Knew the Book of Mormon Was True

I grew up in the Church which means I always remember going to church and hearing about the Book of Mormon. My family also had daily scripture study which mean that we would all sit together as a family and read at least a verse from the Book of Mormon. I learned about it in Sunday School and Seminary and it never entered my mind to ask whether or not the Book of Mormon was true. I never doubted that it was true or that it was anything other than it claimed to be so it never occurred to me to pray and ask if it were true. I might as well prayed to know if the sun was shining (considering I grew up in Arizona it is not something I would ever doubt).

For a good portion of my time growing up I got to hear the experiences and testimonies of young men and women who left on missions and then came back. I think there was a period of time when we averaged four or five mission farewells or homecomings every month. There were many, many return missionaries who talked about how they learned that the Book of Mormon was true. Some had very powerful life changing experiences that they related to us. Some had experiences that lasted an entire night. Others told how it happened very suddenly and could point to a specific time when they "knew".

Despite all of these stories I never had had a similar experience nor had a specifically looked for it to happen. I never thought about it because why would I ask about something that was as obvious as the sun?

When it came time for me to put in my mission papers I was just starting at BYU. I had had plenty of spiritual experiences in my life. There was a lot that I knew as a matter of fact and faith, but I had never attempted to pray to ask if the Book of Mormon was true.

After I entered the MTC I was submersed in a climate of faith and spirituality. It permeated everything we did. Everything we did became an extension of our faith. Everything, from our meals, to our sleep, to our service, to our exercise, to our learning was focused on faith and spiritual knowledge. We spoke it, we cried, we bore testimony. There was nothing that we did that was not infused with the spirit. It was at that time that many of the missionaries around me began to talk about how they had prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true and had received an answer. It was something mentioned in our language classes. It was mentioned in church, in testimony meetings, in devotionals, in choir practice. Everywhere we were reminded that we were to bear testimony of the the Book of Mormon and that we could not do that if we did not have a testimony ourselves of whether or not it was true.

I think at the time there were several Elders in my district who had had powerful experiences while in the MTC and told the rest of us about their experiences. Even though I participated in the testimony meetings and added my voice to theirs in witnessing that the Book of Mormon was true I had never prayed to know if it was true. I had never had a powerful experience confirming the truth of the Book of Mormon to me. I had never had my "Alma moment" as it were.

The more I thought about it the more I thought that I should ask God whether or not the Book of Mormon was true. But why would I ask about something that seemed so obvious? I wrestled with this uncertainty for a while (about two days, I tend to be indecisive) before one night I decided to pray to ask God if the Book of Mormon was true. I knew the pattern, I had to read it (check). I had to ponder about it (check). I had to remember how merciful the Lord had been (check). And then I had to ask.

After reviewing Moroni 10:3-5 again I knelt down and prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. Immediately I got my answer. God said, "What are you asking me for?!? You already know it is true!!

Immediately I felt silly for giving in to the "need to ask" mentality. I had always known it to be true so I never had to ask. I did not have to ask about something that I never doubted.

Since then the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon has been demonstrated to me in a multitude of ways. I have learned more than I ever thought I could and I learned things that I was not even aware that I did not know or understand. What God was trying to teach me is that I do not have to return to the same things that I already know but that He wants me to inquire after things that I don't know so that He can teach me. Line upon line, precept upon precept. I also learned that when we pray God will answer us in the language that we understand. He knows us so well that He can answer us in the way that will have the most impact and meaning to us. He would not say the same thing to others who ask but He said it to me because He knew that I would know and understand. That is the way of God and the voice of the Spirit that we must learn to recognize.