Episode 158: D&C 19 for Dummies

John is joined by Zilpha, Brandt and Matthew to discuss Doctrine and Covenants section 19.

Episode 158

91 comments on “Episode 158: D&C 19 for Dummies”

  1. JT Reply

    Lord: Behold, canst thou read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?

    Future ExMo:  Are you asking this rhetorically? Or do you really want me to answer?

  2. Robert Reply

    Hey guys great stuff! I have a question that nobody seems to bring up…
    Why does the Book of Mormon read so smoothly but Doctrine and Covenants is mumbled nonsense? I mean if Joseph was a Prophet then why can’t or shouldn’t D/C read like the BOM if both were the words of God given to man? In the very least if you don’t buy into the origins of the BOM you still understand the concepts, storyline and characters unlike D/C.
    Why was God so clear with the BOM  translation process?  Why are the Prophets in the BOM such good writers in terms of conceptualizing the ideas of deity? If Joseph was the Prophet of Prophets then shouldn’t D/C read more fluently?
    Why did God become so confusing
    Makes me confused???

    • Christian J Reply

      Just getting into the podcast, but enjoying it.

      Great question Robert. First, if the Bible is any sort of framework for how God uses his prophets, JS seems to be right in line (at times brilliant, at times incoherent). Your second observation – that the D&C and BoM are very different stylistically etc.  – is for me a big red flag for the “Joseph authored both of them” argument. Either someone besides JS wrote the bulk of the BoM  – or there was something special going on.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hey Robert – This is only my own take, but I found the rhythm and cadence of the Book of Mormon to fit quite nicely into the same mold as what we find in the D&C. Also remember that the typos in the Book of Mormon have been fixed over the years, most prominently in this century, while those found in D&C were only cleaned up for the 1835 production of the Doctrine and Covenants. One must also realize that the D&C and BoM have different audiences and are different forms. The Book of Mormon is largely a story, and the exposition must be contained within the narrative. The D&C, however, was given to specific people who were well aware of the context, and as such it is not usually explained within the revelation itself. 

      • Robert Reply

         i understand all the grammar changes but the concepts contend in the BOM are pretty deep but easily understood: for example an opposition in all things, hard concept but the flow makes it easy to buy into by adolescents and adults alike…
        D/C really doesn’t play that game well…
        How could JS be such a knuckle head in his mistakes= BOA/Kinderhok/firsvision 4 accounts…and yet write the BOM!! I’m still trying to wrap my brain about it??????   

        • brandt Reply


          I think the easy answer, the one that is most often thrown out, is that Joesph was a charlatan, someone so smart that he could crank out a book of scripture that has lasted for hundreds of years, but so dim-witted that he can’t keep his story straight, and poke holes in every little piece of character flaw they can find in Joseph. 

          I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I think something more had to have been there.  John made the point that the reason why Mormonism lived on was because Joseph died, and BY was able to lead the Mormons to Utah.  I can understand that.  But to say that there has been 180+ yrs of lies upon lies, with a religion that is stolen every whit, and there’s nothing to it is a bit extreme.  Sure, we can talk about inoculation, and we can talk about “brain washing” and we can talk about MIND CONTROL from SLC…..but really?  I mean, there’s a lot of very smart people who have stayed with the church, even after knowing the nasty bits. 

          Let me put it this way…If people decided to look at my life after I die, I hope they would take all aspects of my personality, all of my external surroundings, all of my experiences, and attempt to work out a more accurate view of who I am than taking a few isolated (embarrassing) incidents and making a determination on that.

          Now….I tried to be nice to the ex-Mormons, but that’s kind of how I feel.  Let the flame war begin.

          • brandt


            You’ve heard me on the podcasts – I can be a bit scatterbrained and all over the map.  Writing, on the other hand, can be much easier, if only for the fact that I married an English major who meticulously critiques all my arguments before they go to “press.”

          • Robert

            I agree, there is nothing like the LDS church, nothing! From the missionaries to the BYU football team,education, theology, the choir  to everything! How on earth is it all possible coming from JS alone? Wouldn’t the rest of the wackadoos be just a bunch of crazy men constantly making gross errors, not just in the church but in life as well? 

            Besides some changes in doctrine, and dumb press conferences remarks, and being tricked by forged papers…where are all the scandals coming from the con men? There is almost never any sex, drugs, financial, abuse, anger explosions etc… from any of the GA’s ever. Even with Paul Dunn  that’s still pretty good statistically!!  If its all made up and JS was just a creep then wouldn’t the current leaders be just like him?  Falling into the same traps?
            Again trying to wrap my brain around my religion…  

          • james hafen

            Brandt, I appreciate your point and know I have been haunted by similar thoughts “but… but… that guy over there is smart and HE still believes…”.  However, if we are validating a faith based on the number of smart guys that still adhere to its doctrine, Mormonism doesn’t validate very well.  Just sayin’…

            Not a flame.  I have really enjoyed your voice on the podcasts and think you bring much to the discussion.  

          • brandt


            I’m not saying that just because smart people stay in the church that THAT must mean it’s true.  Actually, I’ve gotten in some interesting argumen….err…discussions with a couple of cultural Mormons in my ward who told me that the missionaries aren’t going after smart people, they’re going after poor, uneducated, lower class people.  Hard to dispute that one. 

        • Anonymous Reply

          I really don’t see any real difference in the complexity/clarity of the BoM as compared to the D&C. You give here one example of the idea of an opposition in all things. This is neither complex nor very deep. As for the mistakes in the BoA/Kinderhook/First Vision …. I see no difference in these mistakes and the many mistakes made in the construction of the BoM. For example, see the last podcast at ME on the anachronisms alone in the BoM or Coe’s interview over at MS on the vast mistakes made in the BoM. FWIW I find both the D&C and BoM to fascinating books and profound in their own right, but I don’t see them as quantitatively and qualitatively different enough to try to make the distinctions you would like to draw here. I am open to further evidence, but as of now, I have not seen convincing data.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I think it is due to Smith education levels. In the BoM his vocabulary was rather limited. Later as time passed, and he was known to study other things, hís vocabulary developed and so did his writtings.

      God works through humans so what comes out these human end depends on who the person is, his education, what he understands, if he’s from a farming culture or frontier one or a city one likeMonson is today; so even if Smith had the same vocab throughout his lifespan the two books would still be different, one being to ancient farming peoples and D&C to modern frontiersmen.  The fact that it isn’t all the same is one of the items which helps to make it true for me.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      Q: Why does the Book of Mormon read so smoothly but Doctrine and Covenants is mumbled nonsense?

      A: Because the works that followed the Book of Mormon had a different primary author.

      The works that followed the BoM had Joseph Smith, Jr. as the primary author. 
      (or to be precise scribes transcripting Smith’s oral dictation and then editing and polishing it) 

      The primary authors for the BoM were (in this order): 1) Sidney Rigdon; 2) Oliver Cowdery; 3) Parley Pratt  

      This was the finding of the latest linguistic analysis study: http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/4/465.abstract

      And of this is excluding all the BoM verbiage that was directly plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding and the 1769 version of the King James Bible. 

      Haven’t you ever wondered why Joseph Smith never preached out of the Book of Mormon? Simply put he didn’t know the BoM was well as he knew the Bible and non-BoM the works that he was the primary source on. 

      And remember Rigdon was a college educated Clergyman, Cowdery was a School Teacher with publishing experience. Pratt’s prose speaks for itself – it’s really quite good.

      Further, Rigdon was familiar with Systematic Theology, Joseph Smith was a Folk Religionist.

      It all makes sense once you start examining the evidence:

    • giftedfish Reply

      I’d suggest that the difference lies in the fact that the BofM is primarily a narrative story (which Joseph was reputedly very good at telling orally), and the D&C is typically supposed to be the Lord talking first person in a very holy/authoritarian tone.  One may be able to write stories well without being able to write directives and commandments quite as well.  I believe the latter would be much more difficult to write in a coherent fashion.  

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        Then why does the linguistic testing reflective of the authorship as stated above.  And, again, this is EXCLUDING the verbiage that was directly plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding and the 1769 King James Bible?  

        Further, if you look at the few first person autographs that we have for Joseph Smith, Jr. they mirror the in-coherency (to reflect the obvious implication of your word choice) of Smith’s direct, first person revelations. 

  3. Anonymous Reply

    I have to totally disagree with John’s statement that this is “the new ass-kicking Jesus,” or some new perception of Christ that Joseph invented. This Jesus was not new to 1830 Americans. Yes, this Jesus is a departure from modern-day evangelical christianity, but the Jesus as shown in D&C 19 is very inline with the puritanical attitudes of Jesus during Joseph’s time. Read Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and you will see how 18th and 19th century Americans viewed Jesus (i.e., hellfire, damnation, endless torment, the wrath of God, etc.) Joseph didn’t depart from the predominant view of Jesus in the “Burned-Over District.” All of the religions in the “Burned-Over District” were heavily influenced by the ideas and doctrines that were taught in the first Great Awakening of New England.

    • brandt Reply

      I always figured the Jesus that we see from the D&C fits with the Protestant Jesus theologies prevalent in the second great awakening.  However, I’d be also interested to see the different “phases” of Jesus, from the OT views of Jehovah, to the post-death views of Christ, to the middle-ages views of Christ, all the way up until today.  I’d be intrigued to see if there are familiar patterns or trends in different “personality traits.”

    • Randy Snyder Reply

      Actually, from getting arrested Thrs night to giving up the ghost Friday afternoon, Jesus really only had a bad 24 hour period for our sins, not even a full 24 hours. I’m not impressed.

      • JT Reply

        I’ve have heard some speculate that Jesus’ crucifixion did not constitute his real suffering (normal humans have suffered far worse physically). That the real suffering occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane where he bled from every (interpolated) pore.  That might bring the time down to an hour or two. 
        On the other hand, the point may be that it was super(naturally) intense suffering.  But then you have to consider the “band-aid pulling” possibility – the quick yank versus slooooowwww (dare I say eternal) pull.  So was Jesus getting off easy? Hmmm … this is a tough theological nut to crack

        P.S.  How did the Mormon pantheism argument go over with your Dad and brother?

        • Randy Snyder Reply

          Yes, I made many, many impassioned sermons to the youth about the tremendous pain and suffering that would cause capillaries near the sweat glands to burst, mixing with the sweat of our Savior as he lay prostrate in agony for several hours baring the weight of our sins and also the sorrow of the world so he could succor us.  Man, I used to really believe in the Savior back then.

          Anyway, that trip with my dad and brother is the USC/Notre Dame game in South Bend which is not until October 22nd.  

    • Elder Vader Reply

      This has some real potential for action figures.  There’s ‘dear lord baby jesus’ from Talladega Nights.  You’ve also got ‘passion jesus’ – the catholic jesus suffering on the cross.  Then the D&C 19 ‘ass kicking jesus’.  My personal favorite – Ninja Jesus – he comes as a thief in the night. 

      All of these jesus action figures are bad with money.  They all need you to send money. 

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      I thought he just said “Ass-kicking Jesus” but maybe I missed the *new* part. Either way, I think the main point was that it is a very different Jesus from what we have today in the church.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      But ThisIsCrazy28 you seem to be implying that Joseph Smith’s work reflective of 19th Century sensibilities, values, and theology rather than anything from a divine, eternal, unchanging source!  

      Why that’s than obvious, er, I mean odd, thing!


  4. Anonymous Reply

    Just a minor comment. In the beginning of the podcast the participants discussed the Universalists ideas swirling in Joseph Smith’s environs. Joseph Smith’s grandfather and father were both Universalists, and according to the the family, both maintained their Universalists sentiments throughout their life. One of the main controversies in the Universalist movement of the day was in fact, despite a belief in Universal salvation, if there was also still a hell. This controversy raged in Universalist circles during the early 1800s with Hosea Ballou, the local Universalist preacher of Joseph Smith’s Vermont home, acting as a central character in the controversy. 

    The issue largely split the Universalist movement for an extended period of time. In fact much of the controversy ran around a verse which also would become important in Mormonism (1 Peter 3:18-20). “For Christ . . . being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison”. This scripture was interpreted by many Universalist believers as both proof of hell, but also of its temporary nature. Joseph Smith Sr. dreams during this period, and ultimately Joseph Smith’s Jr.’s view, seemed to side with the Universalists believers who advocated for a temporary hell with Universal salvation.

    D&C 19 discusses the word “eternal” as a title of God and “eternal punishment” as a temporary punishment which is instituted by the “eternal God”. This type of word play is also found in Universalists discussions of the subject during this time period. As such Joseph is largely just following the Universalist lead in his interpretation.

    • Anonymous Reply

      George, I can’t wait for the day that you publish a book. I’ll be first in line to purchase it. Love to read your comments.

      • JT Reply

        With regard to the interpretation of “eternal” – it is interesting that someone recognized that it needed to be capitalized in the History of the Church (see the heading to the revelation)  but was written as lower case (simple adjective) in the revelation itself.

    • Kevin Reply

      People are always comparing Mormonism with Protestantism. Yet the Mormon idea of hell as a place where people are purified before being admitted into heaven is very similar to the Catholic and Orthodox idea of purgatory.

      Mormonism can be “likened” to a lot of other religions. To me, it seems very similar Renaissance Catholicism. I once even freaked out some missionaries by showing them that Nephi is mentioned in KJV translation of the Catholic Bible (at the end of the first chapter of Second Maccabees, which is part of the Apocrypha for non-Catholics). Sadly, it’s not a proper name, and in modern editions is translated as “naphtha.”

      • Anonymous Reply

        Good point Kevin, however, I would point out that in Catholic thought that purgatory and hell are different conceptually. Purgatory is where men eventually bound for heaven will reside until they have “paid” for they sins. On the other hand, hell is eternal where those who will not be saved will reside for eternity. Joseph rejected the “Catholic” and “Protestant” versions of Hell. 

        Also keep in mind that during the first and second great awakenings that the Catholic presence in America was small. That being said, Joseph Smith’s extended family on his father’s side were largely Congregationalist, a group which is more similar to the Catholic church than the evangelical churches such as the Baptists and Methodists which swept through the burned over district.

    • JT Reply

      I wonder if this revelation was given for the benefit of Joseph Smith senior as for Martin Harris. 

      Was it on April 6th that Senior was baptized? (After the revelation?)”Oh! My God I have lived to see my own father baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ!”

  5. Randy Snyder Reply

    FYI, that bleeding “as it were great drops of blood” verse in Luke is not present in the earliest texts. It was added much later by a Christian redactor. Joseph obviously didn’t know that. Just another data point of evidence (amongst a hundred million others) that points to the conclusion it’s all bullshit folks. It’s all bullshit and it’s bad for ya…

    • Matthew Crowley Reply

      Randy, that point is not at all settled.  There are good arguments both for and against it being a later addition.  A good argument is comes later is here (not sure if these exist on the net so all I can do is give titles):

      The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43-44 BART D. EHRMAN and MARK A. PLUNKETT 

      And a response to the above paper is here:Luke 22, 43-44, the “Agony” in the Garden and Luke’s Gospel

      I wish this topic had fit better into the over all discussion.  I would have loved to dig into it more. It is fascinating. 

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        Well if Bart said it. I believe it. That settles it!

        (tongue firmly in cheek)

        Actually the Wikipedia article on this issue is quite good and, IMO, balanced. 

        And I would point out that even if the textual critics who argue for redaction  are correct it’s largely moot point since this passage is peripheral not central to the core message of the gospels.  Take it out and the orthodox, mainstream theology of the atonement remains untouched. 
        (as mentioned in the podcast)

        Of course the problem that modern LdS Theology has here is that the passage that they point to as THE atonement event could be from the very type of alleged manuscript corruption that they claim entered into the Biblical text through the Great Apostacy. 
        (as also mentioned in the podcast)

        Further, if this indeed WAS a text corruption then why when he was under inspiration didn’t Joseph Smith realize this and flag it as such like he did the Song of Solomon and the Apocrypha?
        (once again, as mentioned in the podcast)

  6. Hermes Reply

    The final discussion of religion as a symbiotic relationship between the prophet (or God, who speaks through the prophet) and the believer was excellent.  If I could summarize:

    “Religion is a lot like alcohol.  A little bit loosens us up, allowing us to take risks (as we must sometimes in order to survive).  A lot robs us of our judgment, sometimes with terrible results.”

    Thanks for another stellar podcast.  I think Brandt is a great addition to the believer team, a welcome compliment to Mike (whom he in no way replaces).

  7. Megan Reply

    Doesn’t arguing for the changeability of the word of God call the whole concept of truth into question? And what’s more, doesn’t it make God himself pretty mutable? Is doctrine really something that shifts to follow current beliefs – isn’t it supposed to be established for all people for all time, and shouldn’t it LEAD moral and philosophical thought and not follow it? I find arguing for this as a virtue of Mormonism really baffling.

    Speaking of which, I would LOVE to have you guys do a ‘The Nature of the Mormon God for Dummies’ some time because it’s something I don’t think I have a real understanding of – is God unchangeable? Is God omniscient? Omnipotent? Omnipresent? Omnibenevolent? As a physical being what are his restrictions, and how does that speak to the Mormon understanding of theodicy?

  8. Elder Vader Reply

    John’s comment about eternal punishment = god’s punishment being the nuttiest thing in Mormon doctrine.  I don’t know, I kind of like that.  Sure, it isn’t logically consistent, but don’t you guys like the dramatic contraction of hell that characterizes some parts of Mormon doctrine?  Eternal punishment isn’t going to last forever, there’s a way out (Jesus), and even the worst among us will inherit a kingdom of glory.  — I kind of like that. 

    Sure, it doesn’t square with a whole lot of what is talked about in the church.  Especially the more controlling aspects.  I’ve personally had people tell me that I’m breaking my covenants with Jesus by no longer wearing temple garments. 

    You don’t have to go far in mormonism before you crash into a wall of contradiction.  I think this is one of those places. 

  9. Dan Reply

    I have always wondered this…..God gives a revelation to Joseph telling Martin Harris to mortgage his farm, but not Joseph’s money or property is required. God gives revelation to Joseph that he is to take another’s wife…..Does the Lord reveal that Joseph is to give up Emma to another man?   In a revelation to members who didn’t completely follow the United Order, God “cursed them with a sore and grievous curse.”  Do we have a revelation from the Lord cursing Joseph for his mismanagement of the Kirtland bank, or for anything?

    Am I being unfair here?  Or is the Lord just being unfair….

  10. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    Once again thanks for all the work that goes into all this.  Great podcast. I have a few comments.  

    John when you ask why don’t Mormons freak when they read the Book of Mormon because it is so different then the Church.  I don’t have a good answer given these are the same people that would say that Adam and Even went to a three hour block of church on Sunday only half kidding, but I believe the same question applies to evangelicals that will tell you in the same breath that they just believe in the Bible and worn you of the rapture in the same breath, a non-biblical 15th century concept. Many protestant sects will claim what makes them different than the Papists is they only believe things taught in the Bible when clearly much of their theology is post Biblical and comes straight form Catholic ecumenical councils. 

    I also would like to make a comment on the changes made.  It seems that what starts out as a great theological idea sometimes makes people hard to govern.  That is why after the missionary discussion the church today do not talk a lot about Moroni’s promise “by the power of the holy ghost you may know the truth of all things.”  We talk about following the prophet in this there is safety in this there is truth.  Jews in the old testament times did the same type of changes and discover7 of old records that just happened to back up their current veiws.

    John on a related note.  Your rant (not meant derogatorily at all)  in which I agreed with as an active member about why do they not clarify stuff with revelation.  My point is most members I think believe that every time the GA opens their mouth they are clarifying with revelation and we are to disregard anything previously said that does not fit.  Almost like life is a foot ball game and we listen to what  the quarter back says with no regard what he has said in previous plays.  Don’t worry that earlier in the game we were going a different direction down the same  field.

  11. Elder Vader Reply

    You can think of Jesus’ suffering like the pain machine on Princess Bride.  It has different settings.  If you’re just suffering for your own sins you hook up to the pain machine and its set on 1.  But Jesus was hooked up to it for 24 hours, and it was set to infinity.  So… you can see where this is going. 

  12. cam Reply

    Oh Relief Society.  At last I get it.  It totally makes sense to me now.  I just thought it was all about table cloths and other “lovely” things.

  13. JT Reply

    Nephi and Jesus have a similar rhetorical styles.  Nephi was at least able to not leave sentences “hanging.”  Has anyone done this kind of work in a systematic way?

    I [, Christ ,] having accomplished and finished the will of
    him whose I am, even the Father concerning me – Having done this, that I
    might subdue all things unto myself – Retaining all power, even to the
    destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last great
    day of judgment, which I shall pass upon the inhabitants thereof, 

    judging    [therefore I judge]
    every man according to his works, and the deeds which he hath done.



    Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in
    all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course
    of my days –nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my
    days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of
    God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days; yea, I make a
    record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews
    and the language of the Egyptians.

    • JT Reply

      If someone could tell me how I can cut and paste text without the formatting throwing in random returns I’d appreciate it. 

      • Richard of Norway Reply

        If you are copying from WORD or some other word processor, I’m afraid it isn’t possible here. You would first have to strip the content from formatting, and then copy it. You could copy from Word, paste it in a regular text program, like WordPad (which doesn’t format for you), and then see how it looks. If it looks ok there, then it should look ok here.

  14. Randy Snyder Reply

    Brandt, you are truly a likable guy and quite a sport to come onto this podcast and subject yourself to the buffetings of John Larsen, but your comment was hilarious about wanting Jesus to come back and kick ass so you can say, “Ya baby!!!  I told you heathens and apostates he was real!!!!  Suck it bitches!!!  How does the sweet wrath of Jehovah feel????” (artistic licence taken).

    As an apostate as per John’s definition, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.  🙂  But seriously, you are a fine addition to the crew.

    • brandt Reply


      No artistic license needed.  That’s how I felt.  I’m done with the Greg Olson happy Jesus who likes to play with butterflies (bordering on blasphemy here).  For those that believe in Jesus (and I know I’m talking to a crowd  that’s all over the religious map), he’s pretty clear that those who follow him are going to be saved.  Now, I don’t want to see all my apostate friends burn to a crisp and be sent down to eternal torment and damnation.  I would be OK with just a little bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth, though.

      All with love 😉

  15. Anonymous Reply


    Strictly out of curiosity, why do you want unbelievers to pay?  What have we done to earn it?  It is simply due to our incredulity?  That’s enough to earn the wailing and gnashing of teeth?  Or is there something more?

    • brandt Reply

      It’s not so much I want to see people suffer.  I guess that was a bad way to put it.  But if you are a non-believer, especially someone who considers themselves an atheist, at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter, right?  So it’s not that I want people to burn, it’s basically the concept that if it’s not true, it shouldn’t matter, right?

      Besides, I have a low tolerance for the ultra-orthodox Mormon crowd.  If all the non-believers are toasted at the Second Coming, I don’t know how I’m going to manage.

      • Anonymous Reply

        You’re right that as an atheist the end-times theology doesn’t matter to me.  I don’t believe that some day I’ll be eternally tormented for my lack of belief.  I believe that someday my consciousness will cease and I will rot in the ground. 

        The thing I found a little shocking and troubling is that you are looking forward to what your theology says will happen to people like me, John, Zilpha, etc etc.  From what you said you it sounded like you were looking forward to us suffering for our lack of belief.  Obviously, as an unbeliever I don’t see a lack of faith as something warranting punishment.  In fact, I think it’s understandable (commendable, actually).  I don’t see it as something that God should come down here and punish me for (were he to actually exist).  So when you say you’re looking forward to a little wailing and gnashing of teeth, it comes across to me as you looking forward to my unwarranted suffering.  That’s why I asked if there was something more to it.  I was curious if you thought skepticism (or outright disbelief) is a sin worthy of suffering and punishment in and of itself.

        It’s not the idea of what will happen in the “last days” that bothered me.  It was your reaction to it.

        I still think you’re a great guy and I’m glad you’ve joined the podcast.  I wouldn’t think any less of you if you DID think that disbelief is a sin worthy of pain and suffering.  I was just surprised you felt that way.

        • Matthew Crowley Reply

          Heather I challenged Brandt on that when he said it, and I though he did a good job of clarifying that is was more that he would enjoy being proved right, finding out that everything he has done had been worth while.  Listen again to what he said after I made the same point you are.  I don’t think he is looking forward to folks like us suffering. 🙂 

        • brandt Reply

          I just went back and re-listened to what I said – and while I’d like to consider myself “different” than my ultra-orthodox peers, sometimes the inoculation creeps in.  Yes, I did sound like that.

          You know, it’s interesting viewing Mormons and Christians in general concerning their eschatology.  It seems as if many are just waiting for the day where they can be proven “right,” where all the sacrifices they made can be justified by seeing the suffering of others and, while of course frowning and shaking their head, saying “Ohhh if they just listened.”  It’s the same reason why I think many early-church Mormons were so wrapped up in the Second Coming – “Well, Christ will come, and he will validate us, and THEN we’ll see who was right and who was wrong!!”

          I think most people view it as validation – “I believed, they didn’t, I get the ‘reward,’ they don’t.”  I think that theology, especially Mormon theology, paints a very interesting picture of God that loves us, but still has commandments for us to follow, and we need to follow them to return to him, but we’re not perfect, but that’s what Jesus is for, but then again, Jesus can choose whether he wants to forgive us to wipe the “uncleanliness” away, and he’ll do that if we believe in him and try to follow blah blah blah.

          Although I’d be OK if there was wailing and gnashing of teeth for people who attend Ohio State University and people who are fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I have no tolerance for them.


          • Matthew Crowley

            Brandt,  I believe one of the reasons people feel as you do, even on a subconscious level, is that they know that a large portion of the church activity they are participating in is not enjoyable.  Endless hours of boring meetings, home teaching, visiting teaching, family home evening, Stake Conference, General Conference, Ward meetings, Stake meetings, inservices, enrichment night (or whatever they call it now), ad infinitum, ad nauseum. It’s less that you want to be there when the great and spacious building falls as it is that you hoping the fruit of the tree is really worth it.  Getting there is something people every Sunday have to really talk up as being fun and enjoyable because for the most part it is drudgery.  

          • brandt

            First, that’s the reason why I’m involved with the youth programs.  I get to play basketball and talk about Star Wars, and I sincerely like teenagers…so I’m good there.

            But I understand your sentiments.  I think it’s a bit more.  I think it’s less that it’s unenjoyable, and more that it seems that we sacrifice so much that at SOME point, we’ll get our reward.  I’m sure there are many out there who can say with a clear conscience “Well it’s not a sacrifice to me,” but that’s also because they’ve learned that it’s part of their life.  I’m not going to say it’s a huge sacrifice, but I’m not going to say that it’s a walk in the park.  Going for drinks with the co-workers and constantly having to explain WHY is a nuisance.  Heck, I work with teenagers at church – hearing some of their stories and knowing what they go through in a non-LDS area can be rough, especially being ostracized from their peer circles for following rules.  But that’s always been an aspect of religion, right?  Delay now for rewards far greater later?  “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven”?  I think that’s the mentality of many – couple that with the persecution complex and a bit of forced acquiescence, and you’ve got yourself a group of VERY interesting people, Mormons or not.

  16. Anonymous Reply

    I always understood that this section was addressed to those elect who will eventually end up in the celestial kingdom after repenting etc.

    Eternal Damnation I thought refers to all those who can not entre the celestial kingdom, so endless is their torment in that regard.

    And yes Joseph Smith as a judge in Israel is between Harris and God when passing judgement but to be excommunicated, for example, there will be a confirmation from the Lord to go ahead ie the Lords sword etc

    And yes, it is about repentence and although Harris is the first target, it is repentance aimed to all those who will entre exaltation. It’s actually rather a simple revelation and straightforward. John is giving this too many if’s and but’s .

  17. Anonymous Reply

    If God talks why keep changing?

    God changes according to what his children can take and accept. He changed from the gardin of eden to the telestial world. He changed after the flood promising to never do that again. He changed when giving the law of Moses because Israel couldn”t take the higher law. He changed the law of moses when he came and fulfilled it. He changed his law of divorce to what the lower law is……changed polygamy a few times…..

    God is actually a parent who adjust some things to what his children require and can tolerate. imho….

  18. Nikewales Reply

    This podcast got me thinking.  These sections where Joseph begins by quoting the “kick ass Jesus” as saying I am Alpha and Omega…remind of the Wizard of Oz.  He referred to himself as the “Great and POWERFUL OZ!”  This got me thinking more about the movie and mormonism.  I wonder if people in the Emerald City still looked for council by the Great and Powerful Oz after the guy left in the balloon.  I’m sure people were left wondering why the great and powerful Oz, all of sudden stopped making appearances.  All they were left with was the wisdom that had been previously spoken.  Would they have figured out the connection, or just gone on believing that Oz would speak again one day?  It is the same in mormonism.  Why don’t all the TBM’s figure out that once Joseph Smith was killed, all the great and powerful revelations stopped?  I have often wondered why there hasn’t been more continued revelation in our time, like in Joseph Smith days.  In the podcast John said it would be nice if we had prophets that could speak with God and clarify all these doctrines and issues that confuse the majority of the church.  Matt says he gives credit to the “prophets” because their lack of new revelation shows their honesty and true belief in what Joseph Smith claimed was the truth.  They continue to wait for the Great and Powerful Oz to speak again, not realizing that if no one jumps behind that curtain and pulls some levers, He will never speak again.

    • JT Reply

      That’s OK because, as the song goes…

      “That’s how we laugh the day away,with a ha,ha, ha, ha,ha, ha, ha, ha,
      Ha,ha, ha, ha,ha, ha, ha, ha
      In the merry old Land of Oz.”


  19. Kevin Reply

    Speaking as a believer, I doubt that most of us want atheists to suffer. After all, if you accept that faith is a gift rather than some kind of achievement, why would God want to punish someone for not having received a gift from Him? I think he just has atheists on a different path.

    If atheism can be considered threatening to believers, then it is in the moments of atheism and apathism that tempt all believers and can lead them to sin. These are the moments when belief can morph into hypocrisy. Hypocrisy — at least of the religous variety — is something that overt atheists need not fear. In fact, atheists should get some credit for taking a pretty bold leap of faith, since their belief is the only one that by its nature can never be proven true.

    • Matthew Crowley Reply

      Kevin, while it is true that some atheists believe that there is no God.  By definition it is the absence of a belief in God.  I don’t think it takes faith at all to say that you don’t believe there is enough evidence to believe a particular thing. Reason can get you there very easily.  The scary part is what the lack of belief implies (that someday your conscious and corporeal existence will be over).  But lack of belief does not require faith at all.  Even if I were an atheist who said “I think there is no God,” that belief would not require faith if I the evidence before me led to the conclusion that the likelihood of a God existing was so small that it approached zero.  That is a tiny logical step that has nothing in common with saying “I know there is little evidence for this but I am going to believe in it anyway.”  I think you would agree with me that it is equally impossible to disprove the existence of the flying spaghetti monster, and yet because of the total absence of evidence for one you would confidently say “no such thing.” That doesn’t make you a hypocrite at all.  It just means you scale how confident you are in your conclusions with the evidence. 
      I do agree, however, that secularism, and not any other religion, is the system that is most alluring to members. 

  20. Fred W. Anson Reply

    Tell you what, let’s run it through . . . 
    The “Joseph Smith Formula”
    (for revelation) 


    R = Revelation

    c = challenge

    d = desire

    t = threat intensity accelerator 
    (the bigger the threat the bigger, more grandiose, was the resulting R
    (see http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/06/21/revelation-by-numbers-introducing-the-joseph-smith-formula/

    . . . and see what happens. 

    Here we go . . .
    Historical Background
    President Joseph Fielding Smith gave the following background to this section: “This revelation was given some time in March, 1830 [in Manchester, New York]. It would seem that Martin Harris had come to Joseph Smith seeking further assurance in relation to his standing before the Lord, being sorely troubled in spirit because of his transgression. He had already been granted the privilege, on his earnest solicitation, of being one of the Three Witnesses, and that wonderful vision had been given. Perhaps out of this came much serious reflection and he sought further light. However, there is no indication in the History of the Church as to the reason why the revelation was given, and the exact day is unknown when it was given. It was without question a revelation of great comfort to Martin, and it is one of the great revelations given in this dispensation; there are few of greater import than this. The doctrine of the atonement of the Lord, as directly applying to the individual, and his exposition of ‘Eternal Punishment,’ as here set forth, give to the members of the Church light which was not previously known.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:85.)

    (source = LdS Church D&C Institute Manual; http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/dc-in/dc-in-011.htm

    D&C 19 analyzed via “The Joseph Smith Formula”
    R = Every man in general, and Martin Harris in particular, needs to obey God’s commandments or there will be – literally – hell to pay. 

    c = 1) The debt encured with the printer for the publication of the Book of Mormon needs to be honored or the publication of the book may not occur; 2) If the Book of Mormon isn’t published Joseph Smith’s credentials as a prophet can’t be publicly established; 3) The new movement needs a means of on-going capitalization, revenues from The Book of Mormon currently offer the best means of garnering such financing.

    d = 1) Joseph Smith desires to be “credentialed” as a legitimate prophet via the publication, distribution, and sale of the Book of Mormon: 2) Sales of the Book of Mormon could also lift the Joseph Smith, Senior family from crushing poverty that resulted from Joseph senior’s failed ginseng speculation (see http://historyofmormonism.com/2009/04/15/ginseng-venture/

    t = Critically High. Without this capital infusion by Martin Harris (who was risking his entire estate on the printer debt) the Book of Mormon is stillborn and so is Joseph Smith’s career as a prophet, seer and revelator.  Without the publication of the Book of Mormon the LDS Movement either comes to a grinding stop or is limited to yet another small, insignificant movement in the “Burned Over District”. 

    Therefore, one can expect extremely grandoise rhetorical language in D&C 19.   

    So there it is. Thoughts?

  21. Henning Müller Reply

    This is about the Jesus had a bad weekend statement and the ensuing discussion on the podcast.

    In the podcast, John essentially says that apart from the fact that God does not exist at all, the atonement does not make sense for a number of reasons that don’t line up to the effect that Christianity and Mormonism expect it to. I.e. that somehow the suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and/or the gruesome death on the cross provide a means that pays for man’s sin to render them sinless in some way.
    In this discussion Zilpha mentioned that the Cross may have just added “mooore suffering” to the suffering already experienced in the Garden, because to some cruel God the suffering already inflicted may simply not have been enough. 

    Whilst I have an issue with a ton of stuff in Mormon theology and also with Mormon understanding of the atonement (which is the defining root of, well, everything else in Mormon dogma and teaching), I do not have an issue with linking the garden experience with the crucifixion and giving each a specific meaning as to why each may have been necessary to make the whole thing theologically sound. I am not passing judgment on whether God is cruel or not and also this podcast wasn’t about that. This podcast was about D&C 19 and the unique and defining factors this section sheds on Mormon theology that make it distinct from non-Mormon Christianity (if you think that Mormons are Christian).
    Option 1: lets first assume there is a God who sets all things straight at a judgment day: 
    Mormon theology is right on when it assumes that if a God is perfectly just and perfectly loving and merciful then there is a contradiction that has its effect on a person’s eternal existence. Perhaps, God can be both merciful and just if he does not punish terrible wrong-doing that a person does in ignorance that may have had the effect of harming someone else. But when a person harms another person deliberately or is a menace to their community, then God would not be just if the perpetrator and their victim(s) were to receive the same reward and if God would not differentiate between the two based on his mercy. 

    Option 2: lets now assume there is no God who plays a role in this but that there is an eternal existence of spirit:
    For justice to take its effect on someone in the eternities it does not even take a God who passes judgment between the evil person and their victim. All it takes is eternal existence coupled with complete understanding. What if being in some form of existence after this life involves coming to an understanding of the consequences of one’s actions in the lives of people around them and themselves and the universe for good or for bad. That an action in my life was loving or unloving, or has made a person smile or made that person cry. What if that bad memory of your actions never goes away with nothing to cling to?

    Option 3: Lets ultimately assume there is no God and no eternal existence of spirit:
    Then, ethical behavior that is based on the fear of an eternal retribution was built on a lie and that person had better built their ethics on humanist values (which probably would have made them a better person in the first place, btw). However, that also renders the victim with the issue of having to claim justice and fairness for themselves. And if they are powerless to claim that justice they are victimized fully and utterly with no hope of anyone giving them justice or righting their wrong, ever (which makes the need for personal forgiveness even heavier).

    But lets assume that a God does exist and that God does care beyond a person’s earthly life and that he/she is perfectly merciful and perfectly just and that existence of spirit is indeed eternal. 
    Then we are left with the dilemma of scenario one and mercy and justice do contradict each other.

    …unless he himself shows that he is willing to pay the price he is asking others to pay, himself, i.e. by his son with whom he is one in love. (or in Joseph Smith’s early theology, Jesus IS God) God is not just sending someone else to take the whipping that he should be taking himself. God is sending the person that is a part of him, that he loves so deeply and so intimately that he is one with him. In that sense, he is sending himself and he is bringing perfect justice on himself.  Those who believe him, who love him and who want his friendship become one with him in love and he with them. The inevitable consequences of Option 2 would not follow their actions nor a just punishment of Option 1. But Jesus, who did not deserve a punishment and who would not have to suffer bad consequences from bad choices and actions, picked up the tab.

    That tab may not have been endless (as in D&C 19:12) but it sure may have been eternal (as in D&C 19:11).

    None of this makes sense if one does not understand what love is and how a person can become one with another person by the means of love.
    A person shows that type of love by trusting and acting upon that trust. A person that loves regards the genuine needs of the other person higher than one’s own. That type of dynamic and active trust is what scripture calls faith, without which, apparently it is impossible to please God. Hence, works-based perfection pleases no one. It does not create a bond of love between God and man. Only love and faith can create that bond; and based on a God who is not impersonal and who does not let someone else do his dirty work for him, but who picks up the tab, himself.

    Hence, regardless of whether Jesus actually did bleed from his pores, the Gethsemane experience may have been the moment of spiritual agony and the moment when God turned his face from sin and when divine protection was taken from Jesus. The moment when Jesus saw the full impact of eternal separation from God.
    The crucifixion then was the divine sacrifice, a murder perpetrated not by God but by the people he came to save and who had set their will on killing him.

    The rest is explained in Hebrews chapters 4-10.

    So, yes. A really bad weekend for Jesus. But its not like God had a very bad hair day.

  22. Wes Cauthers Reply

    “I decided that I must bear the pain now so she wouldn’t have to later.”

    “But some causes are worth dying for, or at least, suffering some personal losses that others might be free.”

    Beautiful post, John.

  23. Hermes Reply

    This is good.  I aspire to live out loud.  I hope nobody feels that any decision I make (whether it appears to support any church or not) devalues him (or her) as a human being.  I honor all people who follow their conscience honestly.

  24. Megan von Ackermann Reply

    Really good post – and an excellent analogy, because it acknowledges this this is not an insignificant choice, it is not something done lightly and it does involve real sacrifice. The problem is that this real sacrifice needs to be weighed honestly against the very real sacrifices that are involved in staying – including (as you say) those that will be forced on the next generations.

    For me the sacrifice was difficult because it wasn’t my own. I knew leaving was going to be very good for me, and it was. I was immediately far happier, and over time I have realized how much I have grown and evolved personally and how much stronger I am in my own ethics. But it was going to be extremely painful for my family, most especially for my mother. It’s one thing to be willing to shoulder your own pain, far different to be willing to inflict pain on another person.

    However, through this process I have realized a number of things:

    1) It was patronizing of me to think of my mother as weaker than she really is. 

    2) I was not trusting her to love me as I really was, in large part because

    3) she did not KNOW who I really was because I was unable/unwilling to share myself and instead presented the happy, faithful Mormon Girl facade she expected.

    4) I was doing her a disservice by not allowing her the opportunity to challenge and evaluate her own beliefs in a real and personal way. Whatever the outcome of that challenge is – whether she leaves or stays, I believe that (like me) she will find herself a stronger and more honest person for the experience. 

    5) I was also doing her a disservice by not modeling happiness outside of the church. 

    In other words, by sheltering her from my disbelief I was introducing a bizarre inequality into our relationship and I was also making sure that as time went on we were going to grow further and further apart simply because she knew me less and less. 

    I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m not saying she’s happy with my choices all the time, but we TALK as real adults, and we’ve reached a point of mutual respect. I will happily challenge her on certain things (polygamy recently for example), but I do it respectfully and gently. Being able to do so makes me more comfortable (I’m not having to be quiet and look like I agree with something I find abhorrent) and it gives her the opportunity to explain her own beliefs so that I better understand her.

    • AllentheShaw Reply

      Sorry, I forgot the link to my definition of the ego.

      What is Ego?The Ego is a separate entity from who you really are. It is something everybody has, and creates a life story of who you initially think you are. This happens in the realm of mind, and not spirit. Example: I am Bob Jones, I am a manager, I like cats and pizza and I am a BMW driver.

      You are not any of those things. These are just labels. If You – the being, were represented by a strong and substantial concrete wall, then the Ego would be a thin layer of wall paper covering and hiding the wall. When others look at you, you think they only see the wallpaper. You feel that you are the wallpaper.

      You are not! You are the wall The ego constructs itself by identifying with form. Example: The name given to you at birth (Bob Jones), the status of a job (manager), likes & dislikes (cats, pizza, etc), and the perceived benefits of identifying yourself with a brand or belief system (BMW, Mormon, etc).

      Ego is “that emotional and psychological knot in consciousness that is the fundamental cause of the sense of separation from all of life. From the spiritual perspective, this is defined as pride, self-importance, and the narcissistic need to always see oneself as being separate from others, separate from the world, separate from the whole universe.

  25. Mark Smith Reply

    This article brings a plethora of emotions for myself.  The first and strongest gut reaction is that I am really pissed at my Father. Traditionally I have been appreciative of his legacy of open mindedness, however, now days when I express my concerns and frustrations about the church he just shrugs it off and says, well when you get as old as I you will be able to sit in high priest group meeting and just kind of put it into perspective and find it entertaining. He has always been outspoken but (in my opinion) never really put his money where his mouth is. I on the other hand have been disfellowshiped, in and out of the church, major struggles with alcoholism and more. I think in many ways I can explain my current complicity, by saying that I try to protect my children from hearing what I think unless I am really willing to act on it. I don’t want them to be part of the vanguard the way I have been. I end up keeping a lot of opinions to myself and acting in passive aggressive ways which end up being mostly harmful to myself. 

    I guess in the end my father, myself and my children all have and will continue to be part of the vanguard. Whether we go with the flow or against the flow there is no way to really escape being part of the vanguard.  Is the collateral damage of leaving the church early because there was no way in hell I was going to sell that snake oil on a mission and then coming back into the fold ten years later and trying to find ways to come to terms with it, because I clearly hadn’t been able to find a proper structure for functioning otherwise really better or worse than Johns story?  I look at Johns experience and find it easy to think, “I wish I had went on a mission and BYU and etc, so that I could really have had a solid foundation to have actually been at a credibly stronger place when I chose to leave.” Maybe I would have been better able to maintain a solid self-actualization outside the church.  I don’t know John or much about his history, but I could say, “where the hell were you when I was outside and fighting the good fight? ”  I am at a point now where I would in many ways very much like to leave the church, but fear the collateral damage.  Also I do not wish to relocate Geographically or begin an entirely new career.  These are luxuries I do not currently possess.  John on the other hand, does seem to be in such a position, but ironically, that position may be a result of what he gained from staying in the church for as long as he did.  On the other hand, it may just be that he is of stronger character or poccesess more courage than myself.Nevertheless, I think I mostly agree with the general premise of this article, but do feel a little bit irked by the black and white conclusions that John makes about his current situation.  As a member of the First Vanguard I don’t appreciate being chastised by the Second Vanguard because I have chosen to temporarily retreat that I might live to fight another day.

    • Mark Smith Reply

      I think my above comment might come of as a bit overly defensive, while I do attend maybe half of the time, I am not so much in the way the article is talking about.  My bishop and other leaders are very aware of my personal beliefs or rather lack of beliefs.  I have been disfellowshipped for several years and don’t see that changing in that Joseph Smith and the B of M are things I totally disagree with the church about and I do make that clear.  However, I have become so comfortable in my current place and in fact even feel a sense of respect from leaders in a weird sort of way that I feel sometimes that I am somehow endorsing them.  I think the biggest frustrations relate to my children, and also to the fact that I really don’t have that much going on socially outside of the church.  Being a widower and raising kids I have found the Church to be there for my kids in a way that I appreciate and that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am selling out. If they are trying to be good neighbors, I don’t feel that I need to be afraid that they are going to brainwash my kids, even though they might, I’m sure my kids can figure it out.  Plus sometimes a good brainwashing may be just what is needed at certain times.  And well in my Fathers defense I must say that I am getting to be more like him all the time.  It is interesting that my first reaction to this article was so bristly, kind of like how I feel about the church at times.  Just because I don’t go stand up at the rameumptom and call it what it is in testimony meeting doesn’t mean I’m in bed with them.  It just means I respect them as flawed people and the fact of the matter is that I am so much more flawed in so many ways it would just be a matter of the kettle calling the pot black.  I honestly can say that I know my kids are better off with me keeping a foot in the door than they would be with me abandoning it all together.  They know why I don’t have a calling, and why I don’t take the sacrament and I think they respect me pretty well, at least as on can expect for teenagers. I think it is possible to reject the doctrine without entirely rejecting the people.  And maybe I am not fighting the fight some would like to see me fight, but I am trying to be respectful and pragmatic in my current situation.  It would seem that the courage to engage in the battles of my youth has mostly flamed out but I can still practice a little civil disobedience now and then.        

  26. Alyssa Reply

    P.S. I feel like it’d be great to do a podcast about possible exit strategies. Is there only one way to leave, in your mind? Personally, I feel like everybody’s circumstances are different and may require individual adaptation that is appropriate to their individual needs, lifestyle and temperament. For example, if you’re an 18-year-old vs. a 40 year-old, there’s inevitably going to be some differences in the approach that you take in your departure from the church.

    I’ve always been turned off by the fact that Mormonism preaches a one-size-fits-all life path. I would imagine that leaving the church is probably not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing either.

    • Paul Bradley Reply

      This is something that I would love to hear a podcast about.  I’m still trying to figure out how to share my choice to leave the church with a family of staunch believers while maintaining a place in their lives, it is an incredibly daunting task.

  27. Mark Smith Reply

    While there is much to agree with in this post.  My main critique would be that it sounds much like replacing one form of perfectionism with another form of perfectionism.  Give the Universe and yourself a break.  There was no battle in heaven and there is no battle here, get over it and get on with your life. There is much too much to enjoy than to die on this hill. 

    • Thisiscrazy28 Reply

      I totally agree, Mark. I tend to distrust any philosophy or movement that uses military metaphors to highlight their cause 🙂 Don’t “liken it unto” some great war. Personally, I would really hate to see the post-mormon community vs. the NOM community turn into the Sunni and Shia of Mormonism.

  28. cobble26 Reply

    Do you realize how insane you people sound  when you start discussing this revelation as though it should be taken seriously as from God rather than just another ludicrous example of Joseph manipulating people through the fraudulent ruse of God’s “voice”?  If I wanted to hear Mormon mumbo jumbo as though this revelation is serious business I could go to FARMS or FAIR. 

  29. sionpiensa Reply

    fifth column, will never win as you mention
    i think Romney will bring change, for the more radicalization of the Church
    only external influences will modify the Church. Imagine if Romney wins, the Church will be force to adopt a more strict view on abortion, the church will have difficult times seeing welfare programs cancelled. and justify a president that may start an illegal war.
    pssst Romney will be a GA and twelve soon enough, wanna bet?
    back to your topic. in my experience it may take years to see but the sacrifices in order to leave the Church are worth.

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