If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. – J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years, pages 24-26
Latter-day Saints know the importance of asking questions. The restoration began after Joseph Smith asked a question he sincerely wanted to know the answer to. Sometimes, we frown on those who ask questions. We think simply because they have questions means they doubt the truthfulness of the gospel or their faith is beginning to fade. On the contrary, many members ask questions because they study the scriptures, words of the prophets, and history of the church. As a result, their faith starts to grow stronger then they begin to have questions about things they hadn’t thought of before.
Below, we have a list of questions (that will continue to be added to) from faithful Latter-day Saints that are sincere in their efforts and are honestly seeking to know and live by the truth.
Joseph Smith taught that “ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.” (TPJS pg 308) Additionally, Brigham Young stated, “I wish you to understand, with regard to the ordinances of God’s House to save the people in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, there is no change from the days of Adam to the present time, neither will there be until the last of his posterity is gathered into the Kingdom of God.” (TPBY 3:347) Isaiah 24:5 specifically condemns those who change ordinances. Before Brigham Young died, he had Wilford Woodruff write down all the ordinances of the Church and how they were to be performed. When Wilford Woodruff finished this writing to the satisfaction of the prophet, he (Brigham Young) stated, “Now you have before you an ensample to carry on the endowments in all temples until the coming of the Son of Man.” (History of the St. George Temple, Its Cost & Dedication and the Labor Thereon) However, in 1922, Apostle George F. Richards noted in his diary that he “was in conference with the [First] Presidency for some time on Temple matters. Completed the rules and decisions for guidance of Temple Presidents and some changes in the ordinances… The ordinances are all being rewritten and a copy will be furnished each temple.” (George F. Richards diary, May 31, 1922) Again, he wrote, “Spent an hour or more with the First Presidency considering the ordinances & ceremonies of the Temple. Some changes made.” (Nov. 24, 1922) On December 5th, he noted, “All the temple ordinances have been considered and many changes have been made.” This, he considered “a splendid accomplishment.” (Dec 5, 1922) St. George Temple President, David H. Cannon, was told by George F. Richards to “gather up all the old rulings and instructions and burn them up.” (Minutes of a Meeting Held in the St. George Temple, June 19, 1924) Due to the sacred nature of temple ordinances, I won’t mention specifics, however, despite what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Isaiah taught, the ordinances of the temple have changed from years past. Wording has changed, covenants have changed, numerous things have been removed from the endowment, washings and anointings are done differently than they previously were, etc. So, my question is: were Joseph, Brigham, and Isaiah wrong? If yes, are they wrong about anything else and how do we know? If no, how do we explain the changes in the ordinances of the temple?
The church currently teaches that doctrines of the gospel do not change. Specifically, in regards to the priesthood restrictions of black people, the church states, “Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.” However, in 1949, after a discussion with the Quorum of the Twelve, the First Presidency issued a statement outlining the position of the church in regards to the priesthood restrictions. Part of the statement said, “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.” (First Presidency to Stewart Udall, 27 September 1961; also in For What Purpose?, President Alvin R. Dyer, Missionary Conference, Oslo, Norway, 18 March 1962; also quoted in letter from Joseph Anderson to Herbert A. Ford, 10 April 1951) If those explanations are not accepted today as official doctrine of the church, were they accepted before? If no, then why is the First Presidency issuing this statement explaining it to us? If yes, then has the doctrine changed?
John 3:45-46 in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible says, “And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and John saw, and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Jesus. And lo, he heard a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye him.” Article of Faith 1 states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” Being in harmony with the first Article of Faith, as believers in the restored gospel, we believe that God the Father is the one who spoke from heaven proclaiming Jesus as His “beloved Son.” Additionally, Brigham Young also taught, “Who was it that spoke from the heaven and said, ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him,’? Was it God the Father? It was.” (Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 19 February 1854) However, Joseph Smith taught that Adam / Michael is the person “to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from henceforth.” (TPJS, pg 167) This seems to contradict what the scriptures say. This also seems to contradict what Joseph Smith himself said about his experience in the sacred grove, “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:17) So, who is right? Was it God the Father that spoke from heaven during Christ’s baptism and who introduced Christ to Joseph in the scared grove? Or was it Adam who revealed Christ as Joseph taught?
RULE OR EXCEPTION?
The church teaches that “the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s standard, except at specific periods when He has declared otherwise.” With this teaching, I would assume that for the more part of history, the Lord’s people would be under commandment to have one wife, given it is “God’s standard.” However, when examining the teachings of the prophets, it seems to be the opposite. Brigham Young taught that polygamy was “one of the relics of Adam, of Enoch, of Noah, of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Moses, David, Solomon, the Prophets, of Jesus, and his Apostles.” (Journal of Discourses 11:328) Heber C. Kimball said that in order to be admitted where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are, men had to be polygamists. (Journal of Discourses 4:223) This would mean men like Lehi, Nephi, Alma, Moroni, Elijah, Isaiah, etc. Apostle George Teasdale taught that “the Church of Christ in its fullness never existed without [polygamy]. (Journal of Discourses 25:21) Additionally, Brigham Young taught that “monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of Heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire.” (Journal of Discourses 9:322) He also specifically stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, I exhort you to think for yourselves, and read your Bibles for yourselves, get the Holy Spirit for yourselves, and pray for yourselves, that your minds may be divested of false traditions and early impressions that are untrue. Those who are acquainted with the history of the world are not ignorant that polygamy has always been the general rule and monogamy the exception.” (Journal of Discourses 11:127) According to the prophets, polygamy has been taught since the days of Adam down to the days of Christ and the Apostles, and monogamy (as currently practiced) started with the Roman empire. So, the question is: which is the Lord’s standard? Polygamy or monogamy?