Episode 164: Articles of Faith for Dummies Part 1

137 comments on “Episode 164: Articles of Faith for Dummies Part 1”

  1. Richard of Norway Reply

    Just finished the podcast. Thanks for the shout-out guys! :p

    I’ll be glad to take Mike up on the challenge. The Norwegians will eat that stuff up. ūüėČ

    • Rich Rasmussen Reply

      Just don’t get set on fire by any of Mike’s Norwegian death metal bands, that would suck…I thought Norway kicked ass…maybe they kick ass even more than I thought,

  2. Randy Snyder Reply

    You guys reminded me of a conundrum in my mind when I was a believer. ¬†I never could figure a good answer for it and now, as a non-believer, I don’t really care anymore but Mike, if you’re reading this maybe you could give it a stab. ¬†It says in D&C 130 that the Holy Ghost does not have a physical body but a spirit body so he can “dwell” in our hearts. ¬†So, that got me thinking, what is a spirit body? ¬†Isn’t it roughly the shape of our physical bodies but of finer material? ¬†Then how the hell does the HG influence and “dwell” in the hearts of the saints all over the world at the same time. ¬†The answer I always got was his spirit body can only be in one place at one time sure, but his power and influence can be felt everywhere at the same time (not sure if there is an actual solid source for this). ¬†So, the next question in my head would always be, well why do you need the HG then?? ¬†Why can’t Elohim or Jehovah’s “power and influence” be felt all over the world at the same time??? ¬†

    I put that on the shelf as a believer but when the shelf collapsed, it got lost in the rubble of polyandry, BoA, etc…

    • Elder Vader Reply

      Randy.  I had the same conundrum.  And this was my gospel gymnastics version of the answer.  I kid you not. 

      Okay, so you’ve got the Father.¬† Elohim.¬† Ahman.¬† The God of the Universe.¬† He has a body so we want to be like him etc…¬†

      You’ve also got the Son.¬† Jesus.¬† Jehovah.¬† Son Ahman.¬† The savior of the world etc… He is the light of the world and sends his good energy out to the whole world, just like the Sun shines on the wicked and the good.¬† We are damned to be punished for our own sins unless we make a covenant with Jesus, who, if we make a covenant with him through baptism will ‘share’ his perfection with us, and get us into heaven, and in return we promise to do whatever the freak he wants us to do.¬† Even if it means go on a mission and bug people to join the church who aren’t interested.¬† Or do polygamy or whatever.¬† The covenant of Abraham was an archetype of this, and the benefit of this covenant connection with Jesus is so huge that its the one thing you can do that will change everything.¬† Oh, and by the way, God may talk a big talk about how you’re cursed if you don’t make this covenant, but you’ll get like a million chances to make this covenant, even if it means the missionaries have to track you down in the spirit world, and they have to baptize you for the dead.¬†

      Then you’ve got the Holy Ghost, who is extremely vague about making himself or herself known.¬† This being is the comforter, who will help you remember stuff.¬† He/she dwells in your heart.¬† The reason this part of the godhead is super-vague is because it isn’t a specific being, its more like an office.¬† So there are all these valiant spirits up in spirit paradise who are all bored because they’re waiting for the millennium to arrive.¬† Once the millennium arrives they will all get their bodies resurrected and they will be able to like, fly, and have group sex parties, and shoot laser beams out of their perfect resurrected eyes.¬† But up in the spirit world they’re bored, and their church calling is they are called to minister unto a group of people as that group’s personal holy ghost.¬† And I always thought of this as a family thing.¬† So if my great grandfather or grandmother was assigned to be the holy ghost for a certain number of people, I would likely get assigned to one of them.¬† And I’ve got some of their DNA in my heart, so that makes it easier for them to dwell in my heart.¬†

      The mortal parallel to this calling is ‘home teacher’.¬† So the holy ghost is like your personal home teacher.¬† And you get assigned one when you are confirmed and ‘receive’ the holy ghost.¬†

      That also explains why its better to have the gift of the holy ghost, rather than the light of christ.  When I was a teenager it would always confuse me when people at church would say that good people of the world have the light of christ, but mormons have the holy ghost, which is better. 

      This also accounts for that annoying phenomenon that happens when mormons pray about something, like whether or not to sign up for the latest multi-level-marketing scam, and they join, and later on it turns out to be a mistake.  You see, the holy ghost just flaked out.  Like a home teacher.  But sometimes, if you need to find your keys really really bad, and you pray, the holy ghost can show you right where they are. 

      I’ve never broken this out in sunday school or anything.¬† But I swear to you this is how I answered this conundrum.¬†

      In the name of Elder Vader.  Amen.  

      • Randy Snyder Reply

        That is good stuff Elder Vader.  I like your religion.  Where can I send a check?

        I must have had the slacker home teaching holy ghost that counts saying “hi” in the hallway at church or phone calls as home teaching because whenever I prayed to find something, I never found shit!

        My favorite Book of Mormon plot gaff that made me feel uncomfortable feelings as a believer was when Abinidi tells his story of going into the city to call them to repentance, he gets kicked out by the people. ¬†He then says that he put on a disguise and went back in and told the people, “Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying–Abinidi, go and prophesy…”

        Doh! ¬†So much for your disguise you dumbshit…

        • Megan Reply

          I never noticed that! (cue you-never-read-enough sound track)

          ‘Thus has [hath, tsk tsk] the Lord commanded me, saying – Mr Incognito, go and prophesy…’

          • Randy Snyder

            Megan, I use the New International Version of the Book of Mormon.

        • Elder Vader Reply

          Glad you like it.¬† I’m just totally amazed at all the screwed up stuff that my mind did to make mormonism work.¬† Letting it go and admitting it is just fake is just so much better.¬†

    • JT Reply


      The Holy Ghost makes use of the Dirac-Schwartzfelt quantum coherence
      principle. His spirit body is a quantum field that carries a
      cryptographic key for unlocking pertinent information stored
      holographically in what Adam knew as the Tree of Life. This means the
      Holy Ghost can interact with the specialized neuronal axons located in
      the human cingulate cortex that are stimulated to grow by the laying on of
      hands by Melch… (I forget how to spell it) priests. ¬† Since the Holy
      Ghost’s quantum field can accomplish these interactions without
      collapsing (i.e. maintaining coherence), an indefinite number of
      “Ghosted” people can receive the information simultaneously. Since the
      discovery of Bell Inequality violations in correlated photon spin
      measurements, we know that Einstein Special Relativity sets no
      theoretical barriers to this.  Also, while the amount of information to
      be transmitted may seem extraordinarily high, there are tremendous
      efficiencies realized by (1) opening worm holes between Earth and Kolob
      for intermittent microsecond intervals to co-join the intelligences, (2)
      off-loading the data in amorphous (Tree of Life) ring structures
      powered by the differential rotation of the earth’s core and mantle, and
      (3) limiting the interactions to extremely vague and ambiguous impressions that merely confirm
      preexisting information rather than downloading complex information.

      I hope this
      settles things for you.


        • JT Reply


          And I bow before your (and Ipse Dixit’s) 12th century gnostic heresy deconstructing nerdiness…

          … which is what inspired my quantum-theological musings.

          Just my humble attempt to¬†“Niblify” science in service of Mormonism.

          I will interpret no posted criticism as evidence that I am right. ¬†ūüôā

  3. Megan Reply

    I still have problems with Mike’s explanation of the Holy Ghost since it is demonstrable that the HG is a confusing and unreliable guide – even to the prophets. If this weren’t true then why would we have issues like the Adam-God ‘theory’ which was taught as true revelation by Brigham Young. Without a reliable guide as to what is ‘true’ revelation and what is, say, just an interesting idea that happens to accompany physical or emotional experiences that very closely or exactly resemble true revelation the whole thing loses the ability to be an opportunity for moral growth through clear choice. Instead it’s just a matter of blind obedience to a series of vague and easily misinterpreted signals.

    It’s particularly difficult since many of the ‘righteous’ choices evidenced in the scriptures are anything BUT moral when viewed outside of that context – Nephi’s murder of Laban being possibly the most obvious example.

    So the argument appears to be that god would set up a system where free agency is prioritized above many, many other things (such as prevention of suffering), AND where there is a clear punishment-reward system set up requiring appropriate excersizing of that agency AND THEN offers as the only guidance for making the proper choices a vague, disembodied spirit who, according to church publications a) makes itself known differently at different times and to different people, b) may be mistaken for something else entirely or c) may not answer at all even to the most basic of questions.

    Does that mean that someone who blindly follows every passing emotion, every ‘sign’ regardless of consequence is considered, under this plan, a more moral person than someone who tries to evaluate the effects of their actions and behave in a way that will cause the least harm and will alleviate the most suffering possible? It just seems… well contradictory in many ways and downright silly.

    And Mike, that’s not even going into the simple fact that I, whether in the presence of my sincere, deeply believing, moral, intelligent family OR NOT, not once, never once EVER felt the presence of the Holy Ghost – not once. No prompting, no message, no burning in the bosom, no still small voice, nothing at all. This is despite praying desperately, deeply desiring, from the time I was about six.

    • Robert Reply

      I hear you sister!! Its very confusing and my own confusion doesn’t lie(no pun intended) with church history but lies with this issue of the Holy Ghost, even though I’m still a believing Mormon and Manhattan Temple goer…

      I have felt the burning in the bosom and have felt the spirit about the BOM but at the same time and here comes the confusion part: I have also felt inspiration along with really bad decisions based on those inspirations which lead me to almost declare bankruptcy!! In-fact, I have more false revelations compared to true revelations(I need some Valium)  

      I can’t understand for the life of me why MY FATHER(God) hasn’t yet understood how to communicate to me, his son, in a way that is 100% conceptual to me????

      Why does it have to be a still small voice? One not a loud, clear, vocal voice? I mean, do we not turn up the volume while watching a movie? We don’t lower it to feel the movie better?

      If the 3rd member of the God-head is going to take the time out of his or her busy schedule to speak to me, shouldn’t it be in a way that I can actually comprehend it???

      We are told early on in life that communication is the key in all meaningful relationships and yet the most important one for me is the most frustrating, based on complicated communication!!¬† Shouldn’t my Father be the paragon of communication?? Shouldn’t He be the most clear and pristine communicator ever created??? Its kinda like this:

      ¬†I’m sitting down to talk to God about a serious problem I have and he pulls out a bag of marbles and puts them in his mouth and begins speaking to me! And then when I convey¬† my thoughts that I don’t understand him,¬† he pulls¬† out a blow horn and begins to blow into it, making it even harder to understand. Finally realizing that I’m upset, he blames me for not listening carefully enough through all the noise!!!

      He then says, all you had to do was turn on a small spiritual devise that I recieved a week after my baptism and its called the Holy Ghost. He shows me how to turn it on and I do. So again, He begins to speak loudly into the blow horn and yet still I don’t understand him, I start crying and my Bishop walks in and startles me and says, the Holy Ghost isn’t working for you because you were looking at that hot girl at the gym!! Go back and fast, prayer, read the scriptures and keep begging for help!

      Now that I’m all worked up I think I’ll workout and then go to the Temple…



      • Megan Reply

        When I was in the very worst throes of I-can’t-hear-God-he-must-HATE-me (which, just by coincidence, happened in the middle of teenage angst! Fun! Cope with puberty, middle/high school and a major religious crisis!) I was given a book of poetry – probably Pearson because who else do Mormons give poetry books by? – and one of the poems was all about a gorgeous metaphor where spiritual revelation is a radio and, guess what, if you’re not getting reception the problem is definitely NOT with the transmitter. That poem just summed up all the guild-laden, you’re not worthy, try harder, pray more, read more, BE BETTER stuff I was imbibing anyway and tied up in a pretty little package of self-loathing.

        I agree totally about the lack of clarity in spiritual communication. And if, as is argued, the idea is you get better and better at it through life, how does that explain things like ‘he’s speaking as a man’ when talking about people who are not only in their 70’s (and therefore should have a huge amount of practice at it) but are also specifically gifted as prophets, seers and revelators for the entire world and therefore MUST have a far greater ability to receive and understand promptings than the average joe!

        If SWK can’t tell the difference between ‘blacks should totally have the priesthood’ – good revelation, and ‘rape victims should choose being murdered over being raped’ – bad revelation, then how are ordinary folks supposed to? And what about ‘revelations’ that are preached, taught, published, and referenced for YEARS – implying that not just the originator but a whole slew of other people in various positions received revelation that this teaching was ‘of the spirit – and then you realize it’s been quietly removed and is not acceptable any more?

        I dunno – it just seems that if you set up a game where the stakes are so incredibly high (eternal life with your family and eternal progression or being a possibly genderless also-ran) the rules should be clear. People can follow the rules or not, that’s agency, but tell them what those rules are!

      • Randy Snyder Reply

        Robert, I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way or a way to trivialize your suffering or personal experiences but there are little girls begging God to please don’t let them be sold into sexual slavery and he turns a deaf ear on them.

        I use this example as just one of many examples of horrific suffering that God seems either unable to stop or indifferent to them even when the most fervent prayers are offered his way. ¬†He certainly isn’t answering most prayers of the horribly suffering people, especially children, of the world.

        But my main point is this: it all makes perfect sense when you let go of the notion of god. ¬†All your questions above are easily answered. ¬†My atheist missionary message of the day ūüėČ

        • Robert Reply

          Not offended at all Randy! Remember I’m a native New Yorker so I deal with rude people everyday lol, JK

          ¬†But I can’t wrap my mind around the church or God not being true due to the spiritual manifestations I have received over the yrs…they were not just emotions like getting goose bumps while watching Gladiator¬† or Rocky or the last 5 minutes of Dead Poets Society, they were truly transcending events that were not just good feelings…

          Yes, taking God out may explain the randomness of life and consequences of choices and not the hand of God but along with my spiritual answers there are many things that point to God for example what about feeling of love?
          We do love in a way that can’t be scientifically¬† tested…

          Where does love come from?

          That being said, I’m on a journey of truth and trying to figure out what I believe… Because I admit a lot of it is not rational and confusing and really hard to swallow…just talk to me God, please just talk!!!! ¬†

          • Megan

            I’m always fascinated by stories like this because I’ve never had such a transcendent experience so I literally have nothing to gauge by. I remember a seminary teacher (oh dear… I think it was my Mum actually…) giving a lesson on how a personal spiritual experience couldn’t be explained because it was like trying to describe the taste of salt without using the word ‘salty.’ I was so frustrated because, yes we are all different, but shouldn’t there be SOME foundation somewhere? Shouldn’t EVERYONE get a chance to at least once feel God?

            As to love – I’ve loved, and I love, deeply ( if rarely) but, again probably because I’m missing that important ‘spiritual detection gene’ I don’t see it as separate from myself, as externally imposed or derived. It seems very intimately a part of me and it makes total and wonderful practical sense to me that I love who and where I love (and that I don’t love, even if I want to, where I don’t). I’m not sure if I’m happy with the idea that human beings, on their own, without prompting from God, would not love each other.

            Do you have any opinions on the emotional lives of other primates? On the apparent emotion demonstrated by, say elephants at the death of an infant or a well-known herd member? Are they too driven by God to love, or is their apparent emotion an anthropomorphic fallacy and really just a genetically driven behaviour that we are misinterpreting?

          • Megan

            Note – erm, I do know elephants are not primates. There is a missing ‘or’ there which makes more sense… Sorry.

          • Randy Snyder

            I could respond with pedantic explanations on how neurotransmitters for “love” can be explained very well as well as explained evolutionary speaking and how transcendent experiences that are amazing and profound can be reproduced in a laboratory but that is a topic for another place and medium I think. ¬†And not everybody is interested in naturalistic explanations for their spiritual and transcendent experiences.

            I’m from LA but I love NY. ¬†Been there twice this year for the BoM musical and had the time of my life there.

          • Ipse Dixit

            Robert, you said you have received spiritual manifestations, and you are confident they were not just emotions or “good feelings.” You go so far as to describe them as “transcending events[.]” I respect that. I have had experiences I could describe similarly. But my biggest problem with the Holy Ghost discussion is how do we tell the difference between spiritual manifestations and emotions?

            Megan has mentioned the “What Does Salt Taste Like?” story, which comes from a Boyd K. Packer talk called “The Candle of the Lord.” It was popular in my mission, and I’ve probably read it twenty times. My solution to President Packer’s riddle would be to describe salt’s taste by comparison, and explain that salt (sodium chloride) tastes almost exactly like¬†potassium¬†chloride, a common sodium-free salt substitute. It does not taste exactly the same, but it’s near enough to provide a close approximation of the taste of salt while still staying in-bounds of President Packer’s hypothetical.

            Similarly, I would say that the Holy Ghost feels an awful lot like the strong emotions that one can experience while listening to uplifting music or watching inspirational films. Indeed, I have heard church members say that the emotions are the instrument the Spirit uses to communicate with us. And¬†therein¬†lies the problem: looking back on the “spiritual experiences” I’ve had, I can’t honestly say they were not the products of my own emotions rather than an outside spiritual agent. Now, it is possible that, just like with the salt substitute, the Holy Ghost feels slightly different than strong emotion, as I’ve heard Mike and others argue several times. However, how is one to define the nuanced difference between the two? How does one know that that¬†perceived¬†difference is not the product of selective interpretation or confirmation bias?

            Perhaps the most frustrating part of President Packer’s riddle is that, even if someone couldn’t describe it to me in words, I could always grab a salt shaker, eat some salt, and have an unequivocal, pure knowledge of what salt tastes like. Show me a simple test that will provide a similar pure knowledge of the Spirit’s influence‚ÄĒthat can’t just as easily be equated with an internal emotional response‚ÄĒand I’ll buy you a (caffiene free) Coke.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Yes!¬† It is very hard for me to imagine a more unreliable guide than the Holy Ghost–or, for that matter, any claims based on faith in divine inspiration or revelation.¬† The simple, undeniable fact that there are so many mutually contradictory belief systems based on such is the strongest evidence I can possibly imagine of the unreliability of that approach to any kind of truth!

  4. Megan Reply

    By the way – awesome out-takes, thanks for posting that stuff! Especially Mike, listening to that all of a sudden I liked you as a person (still a bit frustrated by you as a theologian, but hey I would bet you feel the same about people like me!)

  5. Glenn Reply

    I don’t think I have ever been so frustrated listening to you guys. ¬†It was such an awesome lively tangent-filled discussion that I just wanted to jump through my headphones and pile on. ¬†Right about when Heather said that the “less valiant” had their pre-mortal earth callings ripped up by God to become loathsome Lamanites, I just wanted to shout — HEY MIKE, A LOT OF GOOD **NO** VEIL OF FORGETFULNESS DID FOR THOSE GUYS AND THE WHOLE 1/3RD WHO FELL AWAY WHILE LIVING IN THE DIRECT PRESENCE OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER!!!

    Why doesn’t anyone ever bring that up in Sunday School when we get that stupid answer about needing to use faith in uncertainty instead of having a more clear understanding? ¬†There’s a big hole in that theory that no one ever drives through.

    What a fun discussion though.  I loved it.

    • Elder Vader Reply

      There is a lot of potential here.¬† I’m thinking skits at some future mormon expression event featuring people getting their pre-mortal earth callings.¬† Sibling rivalry.¬† Intrigue.¬† “Oh, how fortunate.¬† I get to grow up in Spanish Fork Utah!¬† How sad for you.¬† You’re being sent to rural china, and will never see a flush toilet your entire life.”¬†

    • Hermes Reply

      Glenn, I’m thinking that we just misunderstood how the heavenly plan really works.¬† See, we think we got sent here because we were more valiant, but what if it was really because God decided he wasn’t willing to live with a bunch of pansies who couldn’t do squat without bugging him to make the decision for him?¬† I’m imagining a conversation between God the Father and his Children that went something like this.¬† Heavenly Father, surrounded by a bunch of spirit-children groupies, begins:

      “OK, kids, who’s on board with this amazing plan I’ve come up with?¬† Are you willing to take all this crap just to be cool with God?”

      “Oh, yes, Daddy!¬† We’ll do whatever you say, no matter what!”

      “Really?¬† Even be born into this nightmare world where I won’t be there to hold your hand every minute?”

      At this point, some of the children in the back, who haven’t really been paying that much attention, come forward and look over a copy of the Earth blueprints.

      “No way am I going to this death-trap.¬† Nope.¬† I’d rather play outside in Outer Darkness all night long than be stuck in this place, mistaking my digestion for the will of an almighty being and having to watch others suffer and die for reasons I won’t be able to understand or control.¬† Why go through that?”

      “Are you sure you don’t want to go to Earth?” God asks, interested.¬† “What if I threaten you with Outer Darkness for the rest of eternity?”

      “Then we’ll have fun playing tag among the black holes!” some smarmy kid says, and all the rebels laugh.¬† God joins in.

      “We’ll go!” the groupies pipe up, eager for attention.¬† “We’ll do whatever you want, as long as you want it.”

      “Fine,” God sighs, “go and grow some balls, pansies!”

      And we’ve been suffering righteously in the celestial doghouse ever since, coming up with stories that make us the heroes of God’s little play. ¬† ¬†

    • Brady Andersen Reply

      Glenn, I wanted to jump into my iPhone and upload myself into the discussion when they were talking about free will and knowledge.  Mike claimed something like this:

      God is intentionally unclear in order not to take away our agency.

      I’ve heard this claim a lot with regards to faith and the Holy Ghost and I’m always puzzled by it. ¬†The claim implies that clarity (in this case I think we’re talking about knowledge) would undermine our free will and I have to ask ‘In what sense would our free will be compromised if God wasn’t unclear?’. ¬†I can think of two relevant senses. ¬†

      The first sense is this: if God were clear about his existence to me, then when he made his existence clear I would not be free to sincerely believe that he doesn’t exist. ¬†But, I have say, that seems pretty trivial and uncontroversial to me. ¬†When I enter a room I’ve never been in before my mind is suddenly filled with many new beliefs – e.g. ‘there is a sink over there’, ‘that shower curtain is blue’, ‘the lights are on’, ‘John Larsen is on the toilet’, etc. ¬†These beliefs seem to be forced upon my mind and try as I might, when I enter a room with, say, chairs in it I can’t for the life of me bring myself to sincerely believe that there are no chairs in it. ¬†It seems reasonable to me to think that a clear and waking appearance of God would in the same way force certain beliefs on my mind. ¬†My freedom to choose would be compromised in the sense that I wouldn’t be able to choose to believe that God does not exist. ¬†In this sense I think the implication of Mike’s claim is right. ¬†My response to this, however, is ‘so what?’. ¬†My freedom to choose my beliefs is compromised all the time by sensory information and I get along just fine. ¬†Sure, in many cases my freedom to believe against certain propositions is compromised, but, overall, I still seem to have a lot of freedom to *do* lots of other things despite not being free to *believe* or *disbelieve* some (very specific) things. ¬†And this leads to the second sense of how my freedom *could* be undermined.

      It could be the case that clarity on God’s part would not just undermine my ability to believe or not believe certain propositions (e.g. ‘God exists’), but would also undermine my ability to *do* or *not do* certain things. ¬†This sense seems a lot more interesting and controversial to me. Does knowing that something is the case take away my ability to behave against that knowledge? ¬†Going a little further I have to ask what it would be to behave against knowledge?

      I know that I am now in my house. ¬†What would it be for me to behave against the proposition ‘I am now in my house’, which I sincerely believe? ¬†I suppose I could enter a full sprint headlong in a eastward direction as if I were in a large open field, and I can conceive of this as acting against the knowledge that I am now in my house because my house isn’t that long in the eastward (or any other) direction and my behaving otherwise in the manner I described would soon bear that out if I were somehow confused. ¬†

      So, it seems what we‚Äôve arrived at is that behaving against knowledge would be to behave in a way inconsistent with what‚Äôs known. Of course, my example already brings out the relevant point – though I know that I am now in my house I don’t get the feeling that it would be *impossible* for me to full on sprint eastwardly as if I weren‚Äôt now in my house but were in an open field. ¬†That is, it seems perfectly possible for me to act inconsistent with the knowledge that I‚Äôm now in my house. ¬†I might find the consequences unpleasant, but nothing seems to be making it impossible for me to prove the point (maybe in a YouTube video or something). ¬†Likewise, if I suddenly found God standing before me I can‚Äôt think of any reason why it would be impossible for me to run at him as he weren‚Äôt even there. ¬†I‚Äôd be foolish for doing it, but why wouldn‚Äôt I be able to? ¬†In answering that question (Mike, if you‚Äôre reading this) please be careful not to confuse what I may or may not be *able* to do with what I probably would or wouldn‚Äôt do or should or shouldn‚Äôt do. Also, you might be tempted to say in this instance that God would prevent me from running at him and so I wouldn’t be able to. And, if God did that I certainly wouldn’t be able to. But, of course, in that case it’s not my knowledge that he exists that prevents me from running at him, rather it’s that he’s preventing me from running at him. ¬†This leads nicely into shoulds and shouldn‚Äôts.

      So, I‚Äôve just considered a hypothetical case involving a descriptive proposition, but what about normative propositions like ‚ÄėWe should not murder‚Äô or ‚ÄėWe should do all we can to enter the Celestial Kingdom‚Äô? ¬†I think the case with descriptive propositions and knowledge is a bit more abstract than the normative case because it seems to me that we typically *don‚Äôt* act against those bits of knowledge, though, as I‚Äôve suggested, there doesn‚Äôt seem to be anything keeping us from acting against them – in other words our agency to *act* one way or another is preserved despite our knowledge. ¬†The normative case is, I think, more accessible from our day to day experiences and I think it‚Äôs more relevant in this context. ¬†So, here we go.

      Simply put, it doesn‚Äôt take much reflection to discover that I sometimes know that I shouldn‚Äôt do something and yet I can, and sometimes do, choose to do the thing I’m certain I shouldn’t. ¬†In ordinary day-to-day experience there doesn’t seem to be anything that undermines my ability to choose to do something in cases where I know I shouldn’t do it. ¬†In college I knew we shouldn‚Äôt trespass into the water park after hours, but we did it anyway. ¬†Indeed, often enough people have experiences where they know how they ought to behave and yet behaving that way is a difficult choice for one reason or another – they aren’t immediately compelled to behave how they know they ought to simply because they know they ought to.

      From the Mormon perspective none of this should be surprising since there are a multitude of stories about people having clear divine experiences where they’re told how they ought to behave and yet they don’t behave that way (Laman and Lemuel come to mind).  Indeed, the whole pre-existence belief sort of implies that people can know what they ought to do and not do it.

      So what we’ve uncovered here is that there is a sense that clarity *would* undermine our freedom, but that it’s a trivial sense that we’re subject to all the time Рwe wouldn’t be free to *believe* God doesn’t exist if he made it clear to us that he does just as we’re not typically free to disbelieve that there are chairs before us when we walk into a room with chairs in it.  But, on closer analysis, it doesn’t look as if more clarity or even knowledge would negate our freedom to *act* in ways inconsistent with descriptive or normative knowledge.

      The claim that God is intentionally unclear in order not to take away our agency just strikes me as false for the reasons I’ve gestured at above.  Not only does it seem false from my non-believing perspective, it seems to me that believing Mormons should think it false for the same reasons I do plus reasons specific to Mormonism (stories in the scriptures that contradict the claim, including the whole idea of the pre-existence).  It just seems to me that believers offering this claim as a reason for God’s ambiguity and vagueness just haven’t thought this through all the way.  There are, internal to Mormonism, much better explanations for God’s lack of clarity (Alma 32:19).  To be fair to Mike, he did seem to touch on that.

      • Mike Tannehill Reply

        Thanks for the thoughts Brady. I think you are right, Alma 32:19 is an excellent scripture. I think what Alma says there did come up, we just didn’t quote Alma saying it. I think in the case where perfect knowledge is obtained the scripture¬†‚ÄúFor unto whomsoever much is given,‚ÄĚ much shall be required (Luke 12:48) would be applied as well. Who among us is ready for that burden?

        • Brady Andersen Reply

          So do you agree with me that knowledge does not take away one’s freedom to choose what to do?

          Also, I have to wonder, then, if a typical Holy Ghost witness’ purpose is to protect us from knowledge so that we aren’t immediately cursed by our inability to live up to that knowledge (Alma 32:19), why, then, do so many Mormons claim, on the basis of typical Holy Ghost experiences, not to have faith, not to merely believe, but to know that such and such is true(with every fiber of their being, without a shadow of a doubt, etc)? ¬†

          It would seem if the Holy Ghost’s typical witnesses are to protect us from damning knowledge that we wouldn’t be able to live up to, he’s doing it wrong; because I’ve never heard anyone say in testimony meeting that they don’t know and, rather, merely believe, have cause to believe, or hope that such and such is true on the basis of their¬†experience¬†with the Holy Ghost. ¬†It seems everyone who has an¬†experience¬†with him finds themselves knowing, which exactly doesn’t protect them from being more cursed (assuming Alma 32:19 is right).

          I’m confident that a poll of knowers would reveal that the vast majority of them also believe that they don’t live up to the standard that they know they ought to. ¬†If Alma 32:19 is right, then they ought to be seriously troubled by that.

          Finally, I have to wonder what perfect knowledge is versus knowledge. ¬†If it’s true that I know that I am in my house in what way can I more perfectly know that it’s true that I am in my house? ¬†If somebody testifies that they know that the Book of Mormon is an historical document without any shadow of a doubt because the Holy Ghost has witnessed that to them, can they more perfectly know that the Book of Mormon is an historical document?

          The standard theory of knowledge says that knowledge is justified, true belief. ¬†If perfect knowledge is something over and above knowledge, what conditions must be satisfied to have perfect¬†knowledge¬†that aren’t necessary for mere¬†knowledge?

          You might be tempted to say that perfect knowledge has the condition of being revealed from God in some specific way or another.  But, that would just be a specific type of justification and not a whole new condition of itself.

        • Resinchrist Reply

          So, the Alma 32:19 theory is that God hides himself to protect us from the burdens that accompany too much knowledge.

          So God is coddling¬†me,¬†shielding me from reality¬†— I am a¬†man-child living in God’s basement! ūüėČ

          • Brady Andersen

            If I protected my own child from, say, being struck by a car I don’t think it’d be right to characterize my protection as coddling.¬† Likewise, I don’t think that God protecting you from damnation should count as coddling.

          • Resinchrist

            Brady —

            What damnation?¬† We don’t have damnation in this church.¬† We have three degrees of glory.¬†

            Your child rescue analogy is misapplied here.  More apt might be a situation where a parent discourages a child from pursuing a medical degree because the parent senses the kid is not bright enough.  But why not give the kid a chance?  The kid might not become a doctor, but the unsuccessful pursuit of a medical degree will not kill her.

            Likewise, if God shows Himself to me, I might well fall short of His expectations, but what is the worst that¬†could¬†happen to me?¬† I’ll be¬†Mike’s valet for eternity — which,¬†if all this stuff is true, is likely to happen anyway.¬† ¬†¬†

            (Though the damnation approach has the virtue of making literally true a statement that I’ve made many times: “I’ll be damned if I ever see God.”)¬†

            Sorry, I am a difficult guy to have a serious discussion with.   

          • Brady Andersen

            Don’t read too much into my use of the word “damnation”. ¬†I don’t think your analogy get’s quite right the general type being displayed here.In the Alma 32 case God presumably protects us from certain bits of knowledge because we would be ominously “more cursed” if he didn’t. ¬†This, I think, is a specific type of something more general: ¬†Somebody doing something to protect somebody else from a serious negative consequence. ¬†Here’s another specific type of somebody doing something to protect somebody else from a serious negative consequence: ¬†Me pushing my daughter out of the way of oncoming traffic. ¬†If I don’t do that then my daughter will be seriously or fatally injured. ¬†If God doesn’t protect us from knowledge (presumably until we’re ready) then we’ll be “more cursed”.Your case of a parent giving a child a chance lacks the sort of imminent danger found in the other two cases and I think Mormons defending this view of why God is obscure would, and should, reject your characterization because it lacks this feature. ¬†To your question of “what is the worst that could happen to me?” Mormons should respond that you would be sufficiently cursed (if you don‚Äôt live up to what you know) such that your chances at the best possible afterlife are significantly diminished – in other words, the likelihood of spiritual death is increased. ¬†The negative consequence, on the Mormon view, is enough to justify God’s obscurity.Let me clear here, I‚Äôm not defending this view because I think it‚Äôs true (I‚Äôm agnostic about the existence of God in general). ¬†I‚Äôm defending it for the sake of argument, and because I think if Mormons want to give a reason why God is obscure it should not be the reason that clarity would negate agency, but should be the reason that clarity would increase the likelihood of spiritual death sufficiently that God‚Äôs obscurity is justified. ¬†The agency reason doesn‚Äôt stand up to scrutiny external and internal to Mormonism. ¬†The protection reason at the very least stands up to internal scrutiny. ¬†So, for Mormons wishing to defend God‚Äôs obscurity, it‚Äôs the better reason.

          • Resinchrist

            Yes, I agree with all that, Brady — I suppose the protection justification for hiding God is internally consistent from the pov of mormonism.¬†¬†

            Thing is, if God exists, I really want to meet the guy, or gal, or thing.¬† Certainly He grants exceptions to the “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” rule — Moses, Joseph Smith, Paul, the brother of Jared.¬† Why not me?¬† I’m just tired of God’s games.¬† I am the 99%.¬† OCCUPY KOLOB.¬† ¬†

  6. Resinchrist Reply

    Mike said, “The goal is that¬†with God completely out of the picture, you will act like your Heavenly Father.”

    This is also suggestive of a great strategy for me as an earthly parent: If I want my son to truly know me and emulate my finer qualities I should abandon him and let others raise him.  Nothing wrong with that thinking, right?   

    • Mike Tannehill Reply

      Sorry to hear that you’re still in your mom’s basement. Hopefully one day you’ll get a job and maybe get married (if you can find a girl with REALLY low self esteem)..

      • Megan Reply

        Mike, wasn’t that a bit low? I mean, you just attacked Resinchrist rather than the point. It’s an ad hominem fallacy and is poor argument as well as rather mean.

        The point is that without an example and a steady guide how can we expect to emulate a being we cannot comprehend? [note: as a woman this is particularly poignant to me since the personage I’m supposedly trying to emulate is completely and utterly invisible and unknowable – unseekable according to current church teachings]

        The obvious answer, and the one given by most Christians, is that this guide was provided by Christ – hence all the WWJD bracelets and stickers.¬† Mormons have a share of this too, don’t they? I know that in the podcast you guys focused on the atonement and the resurrection, but Mormons also believe that Christ came to demonstrate a good and moral life – right?

        And the Holy Ghost then is to give you extra help in deciding what are good and Christlike actions.

        The difficulty is that in Mormondom – and I don’t know if it’s doctrinal or not – the HG is taken as more than an aid to conscience (or as conscience itself) and takes on the role of personal practical revelator, aiding in life choices big and small. Think of all those stories people tell about getting a prompting to do something and then receiving a monetary or other temporal reward. People expect guidance on career moves, investments, real estate purchases, educational choices etc and the church – at least unofficially – teaches that on of the benefits of membership is that you have the Gift of the Holy Ghost which allows you to receive revelations on all these things.

        But honestly? According to what you were describing the role of the HG as that’s totally outside of what Mormons should expect! The problem is that your description, which I think is an interesting one and far more reasonable than career-guidance-car-key-finder-HG, is not really all that different from the light of Christ that the rest of the Xtian world claims – at least as long as it is experience in the nebulous form described officially by the church. Does the HG give individual members new doctrine? Not in practice – not ever as far as I know. Instead it’s the gift of discernment to know right from wrong, the give of receiving an assurance of the truthfulness (or not) of various teachings, and the gift of an awareness of the love and personal concern of God.

        At least those are the gifts as far as I understand – and again, that’s contrary to expectation as I’m well aware. But compare those three gifts of the HG with the claims for the Light of Christ or any other inspirational medium in other religions and see just how far Mormons deviate. Really? It’s hardly at all.

      • Resinchrist Reply

        Ouch. Javelin through my heart. The “you live in your mom’s
        basement and are unemployed and unmarried” reply. Deadly. ūüėČ

        Seriously, though, Mike, what about the issue? Do you see how one could get the impression that God, if he exists, is a kind of absentee parent? 

        Look, my¬†original comment is just¬†an extension of John’s point that it seems to make little sense for God to make such a big secret of himself (which he illustrated with the analogy of¬†asking the kid to take out the garbage).¬† Glenn’s comment above riffs on this point and really
        drives it home by illustrating that¬†free agency does not require God’s absence or a veil of forgetfulness.¬† (I note that neither Glenn nor John were accused of being unmarried, unemployed residents of their mother’s basements.)

        That said, the phrasing of my original comment was snark-heavy and for that I apologize.

        I would sincerely like to hear your response to the issue.¬† If agency does not require God’s absence, what in your view is the purpose of this divide?

        — Or we could talk about my mom’s basement instead ūüôā

        • Randy Snyder Reply

          Resinchrist, you didn’t need to apologize at all in my opinion to the tool that is Mike. ¬†You may have been a little snarky but you didn’t attack a person, you ridiculed (rightly) an idea. ¬†Mike, ever inept at critical thinking, responded by attacking YOU personally. ¬†Captain logical fallacy pulled his favorite, the ad hominem (as Megan pointed out), instead of addressing the issue itself because I’m suspecting Mike has nothing but a wind-up toy gospel answer. ¬†Now, I may have something to apologize for since I am attacking Mike personally ūüôā ¬†But I probably won’t because I think Mike has earned it.

        • Mike Tannehill Reply

          Sorry for the heavy handed response. I was trying to make the point that just as we frown upon man-children who refuse to leave their parents home we also would not expect to be led by the hand by God in our every action and thought process. We are supposed to be growing up.

          All of us are born with an innate value system. We should not suppose that we received no instruction in the pre-mortal existence. While we should expect to receive promptings and inspiration from time to time we should not expect to be awash in revelation. We can know we are on the right path, and we can appreciate occasional flash’s of light in our dark world that illuminate the path ahead to help us, but the struggle and the effort are our own.

          We can take Joseph Smith as our example. While he had the blessing and responsibility of a theophany he still had to grow up into the principle of revelation. Joseph failed to recognize the false prophecy of the need to sell the rights to the BOM in Canada. It was only later that he recognized that there is the voice of the spirit, the voice of our own mind, and the voice of the tempter in our sphere of influence, and we have to learn to align our judgement with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

          The Lord will also leave us from time to time to see what he will do with what he has previously given us. Joseph Smith had the heavens sealed to him form time to time, forcing him to use his own judgement. Like Joseph we have to learn to stand on our own, to act on faith, to use our best judgement. 

          • Megan

            Mike… if that was really the point you were trying to make then you inadvertently made quite a different one! Look, what happened when you answered a comment, unclearly, without making your point overtly, is that you came across as a bit of an arse! See, if you don’t communicate what you mean then your message is garbled and not only does your, totally innocent and sincere (as you say), meaning get lost but you, the messenger are left open to all kinds of judgment as to your character, intent and general moral background.

            Do you see how we, outsiders with no reliable path to your inner workings, might come to the wrong conclusion not only about what you were saying at that moment but about what sort of personage you were?

            Not to beat the point, but it seems that you are working very  hard to illustrate exactly the problem that the OP was trying to point out! Without an insight to your personal justifications for a rude and (sorry) rather nasty attack, it would seem that you were just being a jerk. Without a reliable witness Рand your Joseph Smith example points out EXACTLY the problem with the HG concept Рhow does a fallible human being figure out what is and is not godlike behavior simply by reading scriptures (filled with stories of murder, genocide, rape, theft etc) or observing the natural world (ditto).

          • Glenn


            Explain the role of the veil of forgetfulness again, and explain why Lucifer and one-third of the hosts of heaven chose to NOT keep their first estate even with NO VEIL — even with their perfect knowledge of living in the presence of God. ¬†

            In the meantime, I will follow your advice and look to Joseph’s example. ¬†I wonder if there are any single (or married, for that matter) ladies around town tonight looking for some further light and knowledge…. I have something new and everlasting I want to share with them.

            (The gospel, of course. ¬†Sheesh… what were YOU thinking!?!?!?)

          • Resinchrist

            Thanks for the response, Mike.

            Here’s my thing:¬† isn’t there some middle ground between being “lead by the hand” in every decision and having to decipher the ramblings of this fuzzy holy ghostie?¬†

            In our parent analogy, it is not necessary for me to leave home and never see mommy again to avoid the man-child basement dweller label.¬† I can still see my mom, right — say, on holidays and such?¬† It is not expected that she will only communicate with me via smoke signals.

            Why doesn’t¬†God seize some of this middle ground?¬† He could surely pop in (no pun intended, Mary) personally every now and then — say, on a semi-annual basis — to teach us correct principles and let us govern ourselves.¬† We would still be free to disregard what the old goat says — so it does not spoil the “test” part of the plan — and He would have vastly improved His communications strategy.

            What do you think?

  7. Hermes Reply

    So, Heather, I am thinking that we actually agree on Mormons and Christianity, if by Christianity you mean modern evangelical Protestantism.¬† As someone whose profession is history, I don’t talk this way.¬† For me, historical Christianity encompasses a wide array of cults (the term as I use it is not derogatory), including modern evangelical Protestants and Mormons (among many others).¬† Historically, these cults often disagree profoundly (and even violently: some of their spats make us moderns look really good, actually).¬† I don’t buy arguments like those advanced by the anti-Romney pastor that there is something out there called “historical Christianity” which unproblematically includes all believers since Nicaea.¬† If a modern evangelical Protestant were magically transported back to Augustine’s church (malfunctioning rapture!), he would almost certainly be a heretic (as would Martin Luther, as would Joseph Smith).¬† It is pointless to claim ancient Catholics as modern Protestants (as pointless as it is to claim ancient Jews as Christians: the Hebrew prophets were not worshipers of Jesus of Nazareth!).

    From a practical standpoint, the modern cults that do best in branding themselves generically Christian are those (1) that have been around for a long time or (2) that accept one another’s ordinances as valid.¬† Mormonism often gets the shaft for failing these two tests, and we sometimes deserve it (at least a little: historically, we like to distance ourselves a little snottily from other Christian movements, whose ordinances we pointedly reject; it is only recently that we became obsessed with looking like Baptists).¬† But none of this really changes the historical fact that we only exist as we do because of the larger Christian movement (which has informed every stage of our cultural evolution, including the phases where we gloried in our status as heretics).

    At the end of the day, Christianity is a description, not a definition.¬† There is not one true brand of blue jeans (despite what Levi’s or some other supplier may try to tell you), and there is not one true cult of Christianity (despite what enthusiastic preachers affiliated with this or that cult have been saying ever since the movement started).¬† Historically speaking, Christianity is incoherent: it includes all kinds of positions on all kinds of issues, some of which matter very much to certain people while not mattering at all to others (who may or may not even be aware of them: precious few of the modern faithful care at all about many of the ancient disputes that used to tear churches apart).¬† Personally, I think the particular creed one professes matters about as much as the particular brand of jeans one wears, and as long as those less relaxed refrain from blowing me up for this heresy, I am happy to let them worship as they will.¬† If believing that a particular arrangement of strange words on a page construes ultimate reality as perfectly as man can makes your individual life better, I am not going to make a point of butting in and pointing out that it is mostly nonsense.¬† But if you ask my opinion, or seek to turn your nonsense into something that we must all accept or else, then I will speak out and say that, in my opinion, Mormon nonsense and modern evangelical Protestant nonsense are demonstrably descended from the same historical tradition of nonsense, a tradition widely known as Christianity.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Good points.¬† ūüôā¬† I accept your explanation of Christianity from a historical viewpoint.¬† I guess I look at similarity of current beliefs to make my “groupings” and in that context, Mormonism (as well as Catholicism and many other faiths that believe in Christ) fall outside of the current use of the term Christianity.¬† But, it’s kind of a pointless minor distinction when you get down to the brass tacks.¬† ūüôā

      • Randy Snyder Reply

        Heather, my question to you is why do evangelicals get to have the coveted and concise term “Christian”? ¬†What did they do that gives them this right over Catholics, Mormons, and all the other permutations of Jesus Christ worshipers?

        I’m reminded of a line by Bart in the Simpsons when he is yelling at the Protestants and Catholics fighting over his allegiance: ¬†“It’s all Christianity people! ¬†Stop focusing on all the stupid little differences and focus on all the stupid big similarities!!” ¬†ūüôā

        • Anonymous Reply

          The honest answer might be because I just don’t care about it that much.¬† If I had a dog in the fight I might have a different opinion.¬† haha.

          But, my usual response is that I think the term “Christian” applies to a specific set of religions in 2 ways:

          1. Born of the Reformation directly as well as accepting a common creed (such as the Nicene creed).

          2. The supremacy of the atonement to make it to heaven.¬† Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses…. they all add extra stuff.¬† Mormons in particular.¬† It’s not enough to believe in Christ.¬† One must do a whole bunch of temple stuff.

          But you are right in a certain regard.¬† If the religion is based on Christ (regardless of the quibbling about whether or not they believe in the right version of Christ)… then it certainly could be called Christian if one wants to enlarge the tent that far.

          Maybe we could call the typical Evangelical types “Christians” and those denominations who don’t fit that mold can be called “Christians+.” ūüėČ

          • Anonymous

            Heather, you said:

            Maybe we could call the typical Evangelical types ‘Christians’ and those denominations who don’t fit that mold can be called ‘Christians+.’ “ūüėČ

            That sounds eminently reasonable to me, as long as the “+” appended to the second types of Christians doesn’t imply that they are somehow superior to or more complete Christians than the Evangelical types, which I know from familiarity with your previous posts you definitely did not mean to imply.:-)

    • Anonymous Reply

      Excellent comment, as usual! In your view, do you think there is room for reasonable doubt that Christ himself ever actually claimed to be divine during his mortal existence?

      • Hermes Reply

        Yes.  All the evidence that we have (whether in the canon or out) comes from various interpreters more or less removed from the historical Christ, who is necessarily an unknown quantity.

  8. Kevin Reply

    Great discussion, and welcome back, Mike.

    I get a little itchy when the theological convolutions get too complex. It sounds like we might not make it to heaven without the help of an attorney, or at least someone to help juggle the paperwork.

    But enough about that. Let’s get back to sex.

    I was surprised when Mike said he believed that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary in order to beget Jesus. I know Brigham Young taught that doctrine, but I thought it was one of those hoary things that was only brought out nowadays to shake up the evangelicals. Since you guys know way more Morm-lore than me, is it still widely believed by the people in the pews?


    • Hermes Reply

      I am someone recently in the pews who believed it.  I was also interested enough in church history to read (as a youth) the Journal of Discourses (which I did not finish in its entirety).  Lacking the insight that Brigham Young et al were no longer really cool prophets, seers, and revelators, I took a lot of what they had to say pretty seriously.

    • Hermes Reply

      I am someone recently in the pews who believed it.  I was also interested enough in church history to read (as a youth) the Journal of Discourses (which I did not finish in its entirety).  Lacking the insight that Brigham Young et al were no longer really cool prophets, seers, and revelators, I took a lot of what they had to say pretty seriously.

    • Lemniscate Reply

      Recently I asked my TBM in-laws whether they believed this stuff about God the Father and Mary having sexual relations, and even quoted from their own copy of Mormon Doctrine where this idea is stated in so many words.  One looked confused and eventually said no.  The other said yes.  I think it is rather common for people in the pews to believe it.

    • Megan Reply

      Do you think we could get Mike to post the sources for his story about Mary being set apart and anointed? There are a lot of Mariology out there but it is very, very dodgy as far as historical accuracy. Nibley is… generous with his interpretations of historic texts so I would really like to know what he was drawing from since the biblical record supports absolutely nothing of the kind and, so far as I know, Mormon scriptures make no addition to that story.

      Mike seemed to take the Nibley story as genuine? I don’t want to speak for you here Mike, but it did seem like you believe that Mary’s family did work in the temple and that she was set apart and ritually anointed by the current temple priests. I’m fascinated by this but since I’m not an expert I’m a bit confused. My understanding was that there was only one temple – that at Jerusalem – but that Mary came from Nazareth. Also I thought the temple was used for offerings and for ritual recitations and prayers – I don’t know much about anything like setting-apart or anointing. Hopefully there’s someone with some real expertise who could step in?

      And if, just supposing, it’s not historically supportable that Mary were set apart in that way in the temple, then what does that do to the belief in a physical conception of Christ? Did God have to marry Mary in some way for it to be sacred? And… isn’t she his spirit daughter, which makes things a little weird? And what about Joseph? Is Mary’s sealing to God annulled, or does she become polyandrous?

      • Mike Tannehill Reply

        Megan – It was not the temple priests but an angel that came to wash and anoint and clothe Mary so that she could be in the presence of the Father. The account in “Old testament and Related Studies” reads like this:

        “In the Bartholomew, there is some very interesting and personal stuff, some having to do with Mary. It is not the miraculous Mary literature in which the chariots of fire and that sort of thing happen. This is very homey, very natural. The apostles are having a prayer circle one day, and Mary asks if she might speak a few words. When she goes over to the altar, some of the apostles don’t like it. They say she doesn’t have authority, because she’s a woman. Should they allow her to speak? But she says, “I have something I want to tell you, something that happened in the temple, because this is the proper occasion for it.” Having finished the prayer, Bartholomew says, “She began by calling upon God with upraised hands, speaking three times in an unknown language” (the usual code introducing the prayer). Then, “having finished the prayer, she asked them all to sit on the ground.” She asks Peter to support on her right hand and Andrew to support on her left hand. Then she tells that just before the birth of Christ, the veil was rent in the temple. On that occasion she saw an angel in the temple at the veil. He took her by the right hand, after she had been washed and anointed, wiped off, and clothed with the garment. She was hailed by him as a blessed vessel. “And he took me by the right hand and there was bread on the altar in the Temple and he took some and ate it and gave some to me. And we drank wine together. And I saw that the bread and wine had not diminished.” (The same thing happened in 3 Nephi 20 at the administering of the sacrament.) All this happened in the temple. At this point, the Lord himself appeared and forbade Mary to tell any more, since all the creation, he said, had been completed that day.”

        This is comparable to Moses account in the PoGP where he tells Satan that he rejects the worship of him because to see God he had to be prepared, but to view Satan he only need use his natural eyes.

        In regards to the “awkward”question we understand and know that we are co-eternal with God. While God may have organized Mary’s spirit body her intelligence is co-eternal with Him. The Savior had to have a mortal mother, so that He was capable of death, and an immortal father, so that he could declare for Himself the time of his death so that it would be a choice. I would say that in order for the conception to be Holy God the Father would have to be sealed to her. So yes that would make Mary polyandrous.

        • Megan Reply

          Do you have his citations? “The Bartholomew” doesn’t actually help a great deal. There are the Questions of Bartholomew which is part of the apocrypha – the Gospel of Bartholomew is missing. If Nibley is using that as a source it’s a bit dodgy… I mean there are bits where Eve falls because she had sex with Satan, it talks about Christ going to Hades to rescue Adam – Christ says that a good 30,000 souls left the earth each day (nice round number).

          From what I read in Questions of Bartholomew she tells Peter to put his hand in her armpit, instructs John to ‘hold together’ her bosom and has Bartholomew brace her back and her shoulders before she goes into her story. There is no mention of her being clothed in a garment – and again, this is because I’m reading in translation, so if someone can correct me please do.

          It’s really, really important to go to original texts on these things, and to find a good, academically verified translation as well. Check the date – when were the Questions written? And why? Remember that there was a great deal of Mariology written after the dates of Christ perhaps because there was a need for a feminine goddess (the Jewish god incorporated both masculine and feminine but in the greater Mediterranean you had Greek and Roman and Egyptians who wanted a female aspect to match previous worship practices [NOTE: GROSS SIMPLIFICATION – MEA CULPA ALREADY]) and perhaps because there was a desire for a less demanding, more nurturing god than was being portrayed in some of the stories being spread.

          Nibley’s version, I can totally see, is enticing if you want to reconcile a physical conception with an ethical God, but it’s based on a VERY questionable reading (and I’m being generous) of a VERY late, VERY apocryphal text. It’s certainly not canonized by the Mormon church.

          Sorry, I just read this bit: Waaaiiiit – co-eternal? Are we God’s spirit children? Did he organize unorganized eternal matter and create us? Was Mary one of those created beings? Therefore was Mary one of those spirit children? Therefore was Mary, like us, a Child of God? I’m sorry, but co-eternal seems to be a happy semantic wriggle around the simple fact that Mormonism teaches that all creation (EG this earth, the visible physical universe) was organized by God and that all humans on earth are the spirit children of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Calling Mary ‘co-eternal’ with him does not change the simple fact that unless you want to play about with some special-case pleading (ie that she was NOT one of us but was Heavenly Mother incarnated) Mary was, quite simply a Child of God. Ew.

          • Mike Tannehill

            Megan – I dont see a reference in the version I gave you, but where he quotes the account in Temple and Cosmos it is listed as:¬†197.¬† A. Wilmart and E. Tisserant, “Fragments grecs et latins de l’√©vangile de Barth√©lemy,”¬†Revue biblique¬†22 (1913): 321, cited in Nibley, “The Early Christian Prayer Circle,” 45, nn. 11-13; in¬†CWHN¬†4:49-50, nn. 11-13.

        • Robert Reply

          Thanks Mike cool story, where is this located in the BOM? I’m so glad the BOM puts back in the plain and precious parts that were taken out of the Bible!!

          I mean in contains the fullness lost in the Bible right? The doctrine in the BOM prevents people from stumbling, tossed to and fro??

          The gold plates contained the Old Testament but they were never translated becuase we already have a Bible: but if the KJV of the Old Testament causes people to stumble wouldn’t the translation of a pure version of the Old Testament be nesscary? To compare and contrast? The same could be said for the new Testament why not give us a pure version of that as well?

          ¬†God preserved the Gold Plates so the saints of the American continent would not cry from the graves for vengeance but the saints and prophets from the middle east don’t matter?

          God had a back up plan for the lost 116 pages but no back up plan for the Bible?? God had to save JS’s reputation but not the reputation of Jesus himself???

          Wouldn’t Isiah found in the BOM read as a pure version? And not the KJV!

          I bring these points up because you mentioned some obscure scripture to prove Mormon doctrine, when in reality the BOM should be doing it for you…

          This is coming from a practicing Mahattan Temple goer…just asking some basic logical questions….


          • Mike Tannehill

            The Book of Mormon adds its testimony that Ordinances and Covenants are essential to the true worship of Christ. It testifies of the importance of the Articles of Adoption and the mission of the Savior. if you want a full account of what the Book of Mormon teaches us start with D&C 20:17 and just keep going.

            Why do we not have more accounts, such as all the work done in China by early christian missionaries, or the accounts of the people Balam came from? I dont know. But what I do now is that we have the living gospel right here right now and the blessings of the gospel available to us. 

            Stop saying the Church is true “but”, and start saying the Church is true “therefore”.

  9. Kyle Harris Reply

    Great episode guys. It struck me as I was listening that if Mormonism is true then it seems like everyone on this episode except for Mike is probably going to end up in the Telestial Kingdom. Mike might even end up there to, he is associating with apostates after all.  Anyway, I find that comforting because I will be there too, and I think we would have a helluva time. Do you think they have beer? And Mike, if you do make it to the top you can still come down and visit us heathens, we will try not to be too inebriated when you come.

  10. Anonymous Reply

    RE: Holy Ghost.

    I think the correct doctrine is that he gives witness to the truth, ie God or Jesus says something to you and the Holy Ghost bears witness that it is true so the person would hear that still small voice, from God or Jesus at times, and then the burning of the bossom is the Holy Ghost bearing witness.

    Plus the free will and compulsion points Mike makes is correct. Free will is critical in the process.

    Gravilty is a physical phenomenon, like burning a finger is. Not religious issue in my humble opinion.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Why should religious issues be any less supported by and subjected to critical, skeptical examination in the light of objective, physical evidence and sound reason than than non-religious issues?  Are they not supposedly more important than non-religious issues?  I simply cannot believe that God would be so stupid and unjust as to make the more important issues the harder ones to unambiguously verify. 

      I fully understand, however, why religious charlatans of all types would find it advantageous to themselves to convince their intended victims of that.  When they know that they cannot back up their bogus claims with clear, unambiguous evidence and sound reason, or refute compelling evidence against them, what else can they do to salvage the success of their scam?

      More and more I become convinced that the term “false religion” is inherently redundant.

  11. Lemniscate Reply

    Great episode.¬† I especially like how John brought out the ambiguity of Article 1.¬† I was surprised that no one mentioned, during the whole Holy Ghost stuff, about lecture 5 of the Lectures on Faith and how that doesn’t jive with modern Mormon theology.

    • Elder Vader Reply

      Yeah.¬† Good call.¬† If I remember correctly, lecture 5 pretty much says that God the Father has no body, Jesus has a body, and basically quotes the bible about the Holy Ghost.¬† It doesn’t jive with mormon doctrine at all.¬†

      And everyone in the church pretty much pretends the lectures on faith don’t exist, except when referencing them to imply that they did some serious studying a few years back.¬† And totally had lots of spiritual experiences and stuff.¬†

  12. Anonymous Reply

    OH God, goodness , no way.

    God had physical sex with Mary……NO WAY! you are way off there. Artificial insemination is a better option that P & V.

    NO physical sex in my book. That’s wrong, and I’m not convinced that we believed that either.

    And Mike is wrong on that one….bizzare belief

    • Anonymous Reply

      There’s something less creepy about artificial insemination?¬† Really?¬†

      • Megan Reply

        Test tubes. Very, very holy sacred test tubes. Plus just about every lab scene in movies I’ve seen has been all in white – coincidence? I think not. ALSO, the jelly they use for the Ultra Sound could be analogous to an anointing.

        I could go on but I think I’m about to be [already am] sacrilegious. Again. Sigh.

        • Anonymous Reply

          ” I’ve seen has been all in white – coincidence?”

          funny, sacrilegious but funny!

      • Anonymous Reply

        well less creepy but not necessarily the way it was. We don’t know how exactly only that it was via the Holy Ghost, so it was actually the Holy Ghost who did something -no sex- to let Jesus claim that he was a literal son of God the Father. We don’t know what that was.

        But I’m confident in saying that Brigham Young and other were wrong on this issue and that’s why it has never been canonized. Young was wrong on a lot of issues like Adam-God, black dieing on the spot if they married a white person, moon made out of cheese and people there to preach to etc etc, so I don’t have any hesitation when saying that he was just in these beliefs of Mary and her conception.

    • cam Reply

      I was totally taught to believe this although taught that it was not “official” church doctrine.

      • Megan Reply

        Didn’t Brigham teach this? I don’t own a Journal of Discourses – although my Dad did (and I never sat down with it as a youngster – what a waste of a life…). Anyway, it seems like one of those many things that are not doctrine, but were preached and taught and referenced, but are now embarrassing, so they never WERE doctrine, and – look, SPEAKING AS A MAN, okay??

        How long before eternal progression reaches this stage? I was taught the ‘create worlds without ends’ doctrine (ie the infamous ‘I’m agonna have my own planet’) and now it’s ‘I don’t know that we emphasize this’ and commenters and apologists everywhere are making embarrassed noises about how IF God was like us and IF we can be like him then MAYBE we could possibly one day… erm… create… thingies. So will Mormonism back off eternal progression entirely? Because that takes a lot of the fun out of the Celestial Kingdom v Telestial Kingdom thing anyway.

        BTW – Does anyone have any sense of the difference between Telestial and Terrestial? I’m always told that as a heathen I’m headed for Telestial, which is supposed to be way fun and better than earth, so I’m not really bothered, but if there’s an upgrade that comes without eternal spirit babies and multiple heavenly wives and all that I’d like to look into what I need to do to get there….

        • Anonymous Reply

          aparently brigham young believed this sex with mary thing. but if he did , he was just plain wrong.

          but we haven’t backed off eternal progression or the planets thing, just don’t have scriptures to point to that explain this fully.

          Telestial vs Terrestrial ; just the type of people in them and the visitor they will see. Telestial is only Holy Ghost territory while terrestrial -where most evangelicals and baptist will end up- will see Jesus and be ministered by him there. So their wishes will actuallly come true: seeing Jesus but not being married throughout eternity. And aparently the quality of the kingdom is higher in the terrestrial but Smith only got to see a bit of the Telestial and described it as been road paved with gold and beyond description as to its beauty, so we don’t know how the terrestrial differs from the lower kingdom.

          by the way, heathen don’t necesarily go straight to any kingdom, they still will have the opportunity in the spirit world to find their right place and where they actually belong.

          • Megan

            Thanks! I’m very interested by the Terrestrial because it always seems left out. I mean, if the really, really grotty people go to telestial but (if I remember correctly) we mortal types would die just to get there then the Terrestiial sounds pretty good actually, yet no one talks about it.

            Honestly, I find it interesting how Mormons dislike the entire idea of hell (something I totally understand). I’ve heard people say that eternal progression extends to everyone – that you might climb out of Telestial into Terrestrial eventually, or even from outer darkness into Telestial (although there was a lot of doubt cast here) because while the punishment might be eternal, that didn’t mean it was eternal for a given individual. Of course, they immediately drew the line at the highest of the highest kingdoms because only through a mortal life (or, I suppose an acceptance of post-mortal work) could one get into the top of the Celestial.

            Out of curiosity, I’ve heard rumors that there are supposedly even divisions in the Celestial kingdom and that only the very primo top of the cream of the crop will progress to be like God – is this doctrine?

        • Ipse Dixit Reply

          FYI, the best reference I‚Äôve been able to find to Brigham teaching about a Physical Conception is in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. I, pp. 50‚Äď51:

          “The question has been, and is often, asked, who it was that begat the Son of the Virgin Mary. The infidel world have concluded that if what the Apostles wrote about his father and mother be true, and the present marriage discipline acknowledged by Christendom be correct then Christians must believe that God is the father of an illegitimate son, in the person of Jesus Christ! The infidel fraternity teach that to their disciples. 

          ‚Ķ[skipping Adam‚ÄďGod nonsense]‚Ķ

          When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession. I could tell you much more about this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and over-righteous of mankind. However, I have told you the truth as far as i have gone.‚ÄĚ

          He seems to stop just short of saying ‚ÄúElohim [or Adam‚ÄďGod, depending] engaged in coitus with Mary,‚ÄĚ saying that such would seem ‚Äúblasphemous‚ÄĚ to the ‚Äúsuperstitious and over-righteous of mankind.‚ÄĚ Interestingly, as noted above, this sermon also contains one of his first‚ÄĒand the most often quoted‚ÄĒformulations of the Adam‚ÄďGod doctrine:

          ‚ÄúWhen our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wires, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken‚ÄĒHE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do.‚ÄĚ

          One of my favorite parts about Mormonism is its unification of the physical and the spiritual. Exaltation‚Äďwhich, in every meaningful way is the same as Salvation to mainline Christianity‚ÄĒrequires a perfected body as well as a saved soul. They are joined in mortality, so why not in the eternities? Doctrine and Covenants Section 132:22 states that ‚ÄúThe Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man‚Äôs.‚ÄĚ Physical Conception is perfectly consistent with this distinctly Mormon teaching. Why would the Father use some alternative method to create an earthly tabernacle for His Son when he has a perfectly functioning P, and Mary had a serviceable V? Adding an additional mystery to the Conception of Jesus is unnecessary within Mormonism, especially if you accept the idea that Heavenly Father could have been sealed to Mary, obviating any sticky “thou shalt not commit adultery” issues.

          Mike‚Äôs and darkmatter20‚Äôs opposing viewpoints on this doctrine raise an interesting question: If this is a false doctrine, why has the Church not repudiated it as vociferously as the Adam‚ÄďGod Doctrine ala Bruce R. McConkie in the Seven Deadly Heresies? I’m sure the Physical Conception theory is just as widely believed by the membership as Adam‚ÄďGod was and, as indicated by these comments, is equally as contentious. Why no clarification or renunciation?

      • Anonymous Reply

        Like we were taught many wrong things about the blacks too? They did get things wrong from time to time, like Kimball and a victim ‘contributing’ to her rape for example, just plain wrong.

  13. Anonymous Reply

    Great flood issue. Killing of children in the flood.

    From God’s side of things, the wicked are punished because they go to hell and suffer. But the innocent like small children continue life in a better place than earth, ie paradise and therefore are not punished by the flood until and if they stuff up in paradise once they grow up.

    So one could argue that if God loved his children he would actually take them out (kill them) and send them to paradise early. They already know what a physical body is like so no problem there.

    But God has a bigger plan and some of his children unfortunately have to live through all mortality, until they are 80 something, to show you apostates that one can find God in mortality. Unfortunately they have to sacrifice for you guys so you wont have any excuses in that great final judgement day.

    • Kyle Harris Reply

      Which is one reason why I don’t like organized religion. It makes this life, the only one we are sure we have, meaningless. People say atheists are immoral. But I have never heard one atheist try to justify the killing of innocent children. Sadly I have heard believers do it more times then I can count.

      • Anonymous Reply

        “It makes this life, the only one we are sure we have, meaningless.”

        Not at all. If you live to adulthood then eternity depends on this life so this life is far from meaningless.

        You should remember that I was pointing out what could be happening from Gods perspective. For him it isn’t ‘killing” but just moving his own children from a mortal and pain filled world into a paradise. the question is how does he manage to wait whilst seeing all this suffering happening in the world more than the justification of child killing -imho.

    • Megan Reply

      “But God has a bigger plan and some of his children unfortunately have to
      live through all mortality, until they are 80 something, to show you
      apostates that one can find God in mortality. Unfortunately they have to
      sacrifice for you guys so you wont have any excuses in that great final
      judgement day”

      Really? Seriously??

      A. I do not find this present life ‘unfortunate.’ I love it – with all its problems and pains and difficulties, I still love it. If I get 80 years (full compos mentis) then I’ll be grateful because that’s 80 years of hiking and camping and learning and seeing and listening and loving. That’s 80 years of growth and I want every last minute of it – and more – for my children.

      I know someone who’s small child has Tay-Sachs syndrome and will, inevitably, die by the age of 3. Ask her about how unfortunate a long life is please as she watches her baby – innocent, sweet, pure baby – decline into paralysis and seizures. Is this the product of sin? The willful act of God to ‘teach his parents an important lesson?’ Or the desperately tragic natural result of combinitive genetic reproduction?

      B. SACRIFICE? People who live long lives on this earth are sacrificing?? And it’s so that I and my fellow [independently moral] [socially ethical] heathen non-believers will have no excuse in the here-after as we are slung into the oh-so-happy-but-not-THAT-happy Mormon not-a-hell of the Telestial kingdom?

      I’m sorry, the whole doctrine that children who die terribly young are somehow MORE blessed than people who have the chance to rub their noses in this wonderful earth for a while really, really irritates me. It’s also incredibly contradictory with so many other teachings:

      a. We only come to this earth to get bodies. That’s why babies are totally okay because they got their bodies and they didn’t have a chance to muck it up.

      b. But we also came to learn, which is why we need hardships as well as blessings, so we can grow in a way that can only happen on this earth, in this world, without a sure knowledge of God

      c. Except the babies of course. Somehow they learned everything they already need even though it wasn’t on this earth physically. Or they will, after the second coming, when they’ll be on this earth but they’ll have a sure and certain knowledge so they still can’t mess things up, but it’ll totally still be important and valid learning JUST AS GOOD as the stuff that only comes with suffering

      d. And it was a real, true blessing that you were born into the church so you already know the truth so you will be way ahead of everyone else

      e. Except you won’t because everyone has a shot at accepting the gospel, only they’ll do it in the after-life when they have a sure-and-certain-knowledge of God, but it’ll still somehow be tot’s an agency driven choice

      f. Because how you are shaped by your experiences on earth and your choices is vital to who you will be in the afterlife, which is why if you are BIC you can’t stumble at all because then you won’t be able to be with your family forever, because it’s what you do on this earth with the knowledge you’re given that matters

      g. Unless you’re a baby. Or, you know, any dead person because even Hitler might choose to repent once given the chance, despite everything that he did in this world.

      And ’round and ’round we go…

      • Anonymous Reply

        ” Is this the product of sin? The willful act of God to ‘teach his parents an important lesson?'”

        No, I think you’ve misunderstood me. This life certainly is beautiful and full, and it should be for everyone however if we can compare our life and world to what the scriptures call paradise well then our perspective and beliefs can change.

        Off course parents will miss their baby, off course it hurts to see them die, more so because we can’t see where they are and it all depends of faith and so on but if , according to scripture, if we could see paradise for a minute we would all want to be there and prefer that life to this mortality. Fortunately we can’t see it that easily so we become content with the life we have here.¬†

        “That’s why babies are totally okay because they got their bodies and they didn’t have a chance to muck it up.”

        That concept is incorrect because, according to D&C 50 and others, obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel is the same whether in life or death ie whether on earth or in paradise. Babies will still need to one day go through the growing up process, many prophets have taught this to mothers that during the millenium they will have to raise their babies anyways, so no, babies still have a chance to muck things up later on. For now they are kept, being innocent, in God’s arms and protection but they will also have to learn by faith later on during the millenium and many probably won’t make it there, don’t know.

        • Megan Reply

          “That concept is incorrect because, according to D&C 50 and others,
          obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel is the same whether
          in life or death ie whether on earth or in paradise. Babies will still
          need to one day go through the growing up process, many prophets have
          taught this to mothers that during the millenium they will have to raise
          their babies anyways, so no, babies still have a chance to muck things
          up later on. For now they are kept, being innocent, in God’s arms and
          protection but they will also have to learn by faith later on during the
          millenium and many probably won’t make it there, don’t know.”

          Don’t you see how that totally invalidates your assumption that babies are more blessed by dying early? What you’re saying is that babies get NO EXTRA BLESSING by dying young AND their parents go through the agony of losing a child. They still could screw up! Yet just earlier you said that there was some intrinsic value in babies having not been allowed to experience life on earth!

          To put it simply:

          Supposition A: Babies dying young ensures that they die in a state of grace, having achieved the earthly goal of being embodied, and by dying young they are especially gifted by God which validates the otherwise seemingly cruel punishment on an innocent being AND their loving parents

          Supposition B: Babies dying young simply means that they skip this earthly life with all of its benefits of growth and experience, and their parents suffer the loss of a beloved offspring, but they still have to go through all of the vicissitudes and dangers of a mortal existence only in some unseen, unexplained post-existence

          Supposition A says that we, by living out extended lives, are somehow at risk or otherwise less blessed than infants who die young, supposition B says that infants dying young has none of the justification you used in the discussion of the flood above!

          Look – either this world with all of its difficulties is essential to our progression or it isn’t. Either we simply need to achieve bodies or we don’t. If we need life experience then the early demise of infants is a real problem that must be explained. If we don’t need life experience then having some people die terribly young and others live long lives invites a supposition of favoritism towards one demographic or the other (either it’s good to live and learn or it’s not). You have now argued for both camps.

      • Elder Vader Reply

        It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

    • Anonymous Reply

      On the issue of the killing of innocent Children before the age of accountability to insure their admission to Heaven (or God’s presence, there has been at least one instance (and almost certainly more) of highly religious mothers “lovingly” killing their chidren in the belief that by so doing they would prevent them from being corrupted by sin, and insure their place in the loving presence of God.

      • Anonymous Reply

        But remember that for the mother it would be a grave sin. God only has life in his hands and he only decides who goes from one phase to another such as from mortality to paradise.

        But yes, I know of cases of parents killing their children because of this world’s sins.

      • Chuck Borough Reply

        Interesting. These mothers sacrificed far more than Jesus. He sacrificed only his temporary physical life. She, I would assume, sacrificed the highest kingdom for something lesser. A greater sacrifice than the Savior’s – wow.

  14. Anonymous Reply

    Re: 1:04:00 Jesus broke the bond of death whilst atoning for Adam’s transgression in the garden of eden. So because Adam sined we are in mortality -as a consequence of Adam’s sin- and Jesus let Adam repent fully thereby taking away the mortal death Adam introduced away from everyone, worthy or non worthy.¬† All will resurrect once Jesus, who broke the bonds of death and has that power, as he showed with Lazaras, once Jesus says it is time for you to resurrect after death.

    Re 1:04:43 A seven year old not living the laws of the Gospel and dies.

    That seven year old has time on his side. He has the spirit world to learn concepts and live them, plus the millenium to put everything into practice if he wants too.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† According to D&C 58:2 reads “blessed is he that akeepeth my commandments, whether in life or in bdeath;”

    D&C 50:5 reads “But blessed are they who are faithful and aendure, whether in life or in death, for they shall inherit eternal life.” [formating changes when I copy/past]

    So clearly from Gods perspective it is the same whether we are in the world or in the spirit world up until the second comming actually happens I’d say. So the seven year old is in the same situation in the spirit world as he would be here on earth: has to grow , learn things, put them into practice, and grow in light and truth , as we commonly say.

  15. Ipse Dixit Reply

    Long time listner, first time poster…


    Fantastic episode! It has all my favorite parts about Mormon
    Expression, including Mike being Mike. Thanks for your input Brother Tannehill.
    You often make me want to pull my hair out, but at least you call it like you
    see it.


    Mike’s story about the sealing of Mary and the Father piqued
    my interest, so I thought I would dig into it a bit more. He referenced Hugh
    Nibley’s Temple and Cosmos, which the Maxwell Institute has available
    online.[1] There, Nibley asserts that The Father and Mary were married prior to
    the Divine Insemination. In support, Nibley quotes the following passage:


    and the veil was rent before the birth of Christ, and she
    saw an angel [mal’ak] in the temple at the veil. He took her by the right hand,
    and after she had been washed and anointed and wiped off and clothed in a
    garment by one who hailed me as a ‚Äúblessed vessel,‚ÄĚ took me by the right hand
    and took me through the veil. And there was bread on the altar in the temple,
    and he took some and he ate of it and then gave me some, and we drank wine
    together, and I saw the bread and wine had not diminished.


    Nibley sources the quote to:


    A. Wilmart and E. Tisserant, “Fragments grecs et latins de
    l‚Äô√©vangile de Barth√©lemy,‚ÄĚ Revue biblique 22 (1913): 321, cited in Nibley, ‚ÄúThe
    Early Christian Prayer Circle,‚ÄĚ 45, nn. 11-13; in CWHN 4:49-50, nn. 11-13.


    Archive.org has a PDF copy of the source document [2].
    Unfortunately, the quoted material is a reprint of a Hebrew text in a
    French-language journal. I don’t read either, so I can’t say whether Nibley’s
    quote is accurate or in context. But, even the brief passage as quoted has
    several problems, and does not support the conclusion that the Father and Mary
    were *sealed*.True, it does bear a superficial similarity to the LDS Washing
    and Anointing ordinance, as well as being taken ‚Äúthrough the veil,‚ÄĚ which is part of the sealing ordinance. However, while those acts relate to
    marriage within LDS theology, they contain independent significance in other
    faiths. Ritual purification and the donning of sacred clothing are part of many
    religions, including Judaism and early Christianity. Indeed, this particular
    reference could be alluding to the Deuteronomic necessity of the High Priest
    being washed, anointed, and clothed in his priestly vestments before passing
    through the veil into the Holy of Holies. My take is that this passage
    identifies Mary as a type of High Priest, which admittedly could have ties to
    LDS doctrines regarding gender and the place of women in God’s kingdom, but
    would also have had significance to early Christians who venerated Mary as
    herself a type of temple, and her offspring as the Great High Priest.
    Therefore, these superficial similarities to modern LDS ordinances‚ÄĒthemselves
    likely Joseph Smith’s synthesis of ancient (or assertedly ancient) ceremonial
    worship‚ÄĒdo not provide a good foundation for asserting that Elohim wed Mary
    prior to bedding her.


    Also, there is no mention here of the Father, only of an
    angel identified (either in the source or by Nibley) as mal’ak. According to
    Wikipedia, mal‚Äôak is a Semitic word for ‚Äúangel,‚ÄĚ not God, Father, or any other
    word that would unequivocally refer to the being the LDS identify as Elohim. If
    the Father were to be sealed to Mary, he would presumably have to be present.
    One could argue that the angel (or someone else) was acting as proxy for the
    Father, but why would the Omnipotent Creator need to be sealed by proxy,
    especially when He *would* need to be there to do the Divine Deed? The Father
    is not present in this account, and that is fatal to this document’s support
    for the divine marriage argument.


    Nibley was a very bright man‚ÄĒcertainly more so than I‚ÄĒand
    much of his scholarship is impeccable. However, he turned
    “parallel-o-mania” into his own special art form. I think that his
    interpretation of this particular excerpt is a clear case of confirmation bias,
    as the passage is open to other reasonable‚ÄĒand contextually more



    [2] http://www.archive.org/details/revuebiblique22ecoluoft

      • Anonymous Reply

        Ipse, try typing your comment in notepad (found in your accessories menu) instead of a word processing software like Word.¬† That solved the double spacing issue for me.¬† ūüôā

    • Megan Reply

      Brilliant! Thank you for chasing those down! Unfortunately my French is not up to this and my Hebrew nonexistent. I am hoping I can figure out what the dates of the quoted material are…

  16. Larrin Reply

    “Immaculate conception” was referenced several times during the podcast. Remember that immaculate conception refers to the conception of Mary not Jesus.

      • Larrin Reply

        The distinction is between “immaculate conception” and the virginal conception of Jesus. Immaculate conception refers to the conception of Mary without original sin, so that Jesus in turn would not be effected by original sin. It’s a Catholic dogma, not believed by Mormonism. I’m not trying to be pedantic, but I probably am. It’s a common error, but if someone knew the distinction they might think those on the podcast know it as well and are trying to talk about a belief in Mormonism that Mormons don’t have. I’m sure the Wikipedia or various Catholic websites could explain it better than me.¬†

        • Anonymous Reply

          Interesting!¬† In all the conversations I’ve had about Catholicism, I’d never heard of this before.¬†

          • Steven Stewart

            I’ve met “Easter/Christmas” Catholics who don’t get this concept. ¬†When I first heard this, I was pretty floored as well.

    • Megan Reply

      Good point. It’s a confusing bit of dogma for a lot of folks. Here’s the breakdown. According to the Roman Catholic Church there are four dogmata regarding Mary:

      1 Mary was conceived without original sin, making her the Immaculata. This was a particular favour through the grace of God who knew she would conceive Christ and would therefore need to be utterly without stain of sin. Since the RC believes in the inherited sin of Adam she had to be a special exception. This is what is known as ‘immaculate conception’ and should not be confused with ‘virginal conception.’ Mary was conceived normally (through sex) but immaculately (without her own onus of Adam’s sin) while Christ was conceived para-normally (without sex, per the RC and most of the Xtian world).

      2. Mary was a perpetual virgin – before, during and after the birth of Christ Mary remained virginal (take a moment here for poor Joseph). For some this involves some interesting little beliefs about Mary giving birth without pain by having her womb opened thus bypassing the hymen – you can thank Aquinas for that one.

      3. Mary was genuinely the mother of God which was felt to be an important distinction as some sects were teaching she was the physical mother of his temporal body only. That divided Christ into a god-being and a human-being which was Not On so the title Theotokos was appended to her.

      4. Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul. Current teaching is that she died before this happened, and it’s actually a pretty recently accepted dogma – I think in the 1950’s.

      • Anonymous Reply

        I should have read your post here before I commented on the issue.  Your explanation was much more comprehensive.:)

  17. Polly Anna Reply

    Mike made the podcast. So funny! Great one guys! I can’t wait to hear the rest of the series!

  18. Mike Tannehill Reply

    Ok, I have been rebuked for not posting the link to the mention of Mary in the Temple. Brother Nibley actually cites the reference in two of his books: “Old Testament and Related Studies” and “Temple & Cosmos”. The “Temple and Cosmos” mention states:

    “….In a new text, though, in which the apostles celebrate this ordinance after the Lord had left them, Mary tells them a story.¬†She says she wants to take the place of Jesus at the altar. There is some discussion whether she should be allowed to do it; they had rather an argument. “Well, I will lead you out anyway, because I will tell you something,” she says. She begins by calling upon God, raising her hands three times and speaking in an unknown language, a code. “El O . . . ,” etc. Having finished the prayer, Mary then asks President Peter (he is called “president”) to support her right hand while Andrew supports her on the other side, and then she tells them how it was at the birth of Christ. She was in the temple,
    and the veil was rent before the birth of Christ, and she saw an angel [mal’ak] in the temple at the veil. He took her by the right hand, and after she had been washed and anointed and wiped off and clothed in a garment by one who hailed me as a “blessed vessel,” took me by the right hand and took me through the veil. And there was bread on the altar in the temple, and he took some and he ate of it and then gave me some, and we drank wine together, and I saw the bread and wine had not diminished.197¬†
    According to this, she was married in the temple.¬†At this point, the Lord himself appeared and forbade Mary to tell them any more: “You’ve told them all that you can tell them now.”¬†It was all actually very secret.¬†Some of the apostles rebuked Mary for having told them too much anyway….”
    The reference number sites -197.¬† A. Wilmart and E. Tisserant, “Fragments grecs et latins de l’√©vangile de Barth√©lemy,”¬†Revue biblique¬†22 (1913): 321, cited in Nibley, “The Early Christian Prayer Circle,” 45, nn. 11-13; in¬†CWHN¬†4:49-50, nn. 11-13.

    • Megan Reply

      Thanks, that actually helps enormously.

      The original text apparently IS the Questions of Bartholomew which I think is first found in a 12thc manuscript. The original composition is probably 3rd or 4th c although there seems to be a bit of argument on that and it could be as late as the 6th c. This puts the original in a time frame of a huge frenzy of composition on the origins and story of Mary. This is where we get the apocryphal names of her parents – Joachim and Anna (there is some gorgeous art work based around them) and some of the early stories of her childhood.

      There seems to be no doubt at all that the authorship – of the apostle Bartholomew – is falsely attributed. It looks like it was associated with the early gnostic heresies and very quickly labelled as unreliable. Jerome says it’s not to be trusted and he’s first part of 5th c (if we’re assuming that Questions == Gospel). Interesting stuff!

      Mike, if you accept this Gospel as a sacred source do you think the entire thing to be inspired? Or is it just the bit that Nibley took and, from what I read, added to and re-wrote a bit. The Questions take a good bit of knowledge from the mouth of Satan and a lot of it is pretty weird from a standard Christian and also from a Mormon point of view, so I’m just wondering why this, quite late and obviously post-perversion (ie loss of true Gospel) time frame, is considered to be valuable and reasonable information given that the mainstream Mormon church certainly doesn’t teach it and has, to my knowledge, never once mentioned it as a good source of spiritual insight and inspiration

      • Ipse Dixit Reply

        The Questions of Bartholomew is available online at http://www.ricter.com/wordline/barth.htm

        The material Nibley and Mike cite is at Section III, Verses 13‚Äď22, about 1/3 of the way down the page.

        I’m no logician, but isn’t this a textbook example of the coincidental correlation fallacy? Coincidental correlation is a type of post hoc fallacy where the proponent argues that because two things are similar, they must have some sort of relation. Assuming the account quoted by Nibley is accurate (which Megan has done a great job of casting doubt upon), the only reason Mike and Nibley think the material supports the proposition that Mary and the Father were sealed is because the LDS sealing ordinance also has a ritual purification component: the Washing and Anointing. But, so do most other faiths (Judaism and Christianiy, just for starters). All this passage supports is that the author(s) who produced the cited document (many, many years after the death of Jesus and all the apostles, according to Megan’s research) probably believed that Mary needed to be ritualy purified either (a) before she could endure the angel’s glory, or (b) before she could become the vessel for the physical embodiment of the Israelite god.

        As I mentioned in a different post, a closer‚ÄĒand might I suggest objective‚ÄĒexamination of the quoted text adds nothing to the argument that Elohim and Mary were sealed. The passage contains (1) no mention of the Father himself, (2) no mention of marriage, except Nibley’s commentary, and (3) plenty of other doctrinal problems with the cited source that I think Mike, and the Church, would call heretical, such as the implication that Eve caused the Fall by having sex with Satan. The bare similarity between current LDS temple rituals and a single sentence in an apocryphal document is insufficient to prove Nibley’s and Mike’s proposition that Elohim and Mary were sealed.

        Incidentally, the pre-Impregnation ritual purificaiton of Mary is a great way of disposing of the theological issue of a mortal‚ÄĒand presumably sinful‚ÄĒMary becoming the conduit through which a sinless god could become physically embodied. If I’m not mistaken, the Catholic church gets around this issue by saying that Mary herself was the product of an Immaculate Conception, and thus free from Original Sin. I’m not sure the LDS Church has a convenient answer to this theological conundrum, except perhaps dispensing with the concept of Original Sin altogether per Article 2 combined with a unique view on the nature of god himself.

        • Megan Reply

          First – can I just say, I LOVE your name? Sorry… Latin nerd…

          Second, yes I think you get to the nub of the difficulties here. First, the text has to be very carefully cherry-picked to get to an LDS-friendly version of the conception (and even THAT is a bit of a stretch) and second, it includes a vast amount of really, really dodgy stuff that mainstream Christians, much less Mormons find totally antithetical to their teachings.

          So to accept a physical conception (P+V) one has to go to outside sources (ie outside of canonized and LDS scriptures) AND one has to re-write or interpret these sources in order to produce the necessary backup.

          But without it, what do you have? The assertion of a 19th c prophet who has been, let’s be honest, a bit uneven, on the ‘revelation’ front.

          Except… there’s that whole difficulty with the physical nature of God and the claim of paternity on the part of¬† Christ. If you reject the Nicean trinity and insist on a physical God and a distinct Christ then you really have to dig into the conception issue and there aren’t very many ways to go that don’t involve the HG and an ancient turkey baster…

          • Chuck Borough

            Problem with the turkey baster is that God would have to have masturbated – –

          • Chuck Borough

            The metaphor is nicer for me if they just made love, and that Mary was one of his many wives in the spirit world, come to Earth to do this job.

      • Mike Tannehill Reply

        Megan and Ipse Dixit- I love your comments, thank you very much for posting them you add a great deal to the discussion.

        All I know about it is that we have had numerous prophets comment on the fact that Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father, meaning the only physical child. They have stated this to mean that Christ was born the usual way, meaning there were physical relations between the Father and Mary. Note that 1 Nephi 11;18 declares that The Savior was conceived “…after the manner of the flesh.”

        In relation to this we have the understanding that Mary was purified by way of the Holy Ghost and that afterwards she was “overshadowed by the Highest” and “carried away for a time” (Luke 1:35, 1 Nephi 11:18-20). In other accounts we have the testimony of prophets that before they enter into the presence of God they are first made ready to be in His presence by being made clean through His Glory (Moses 1:2, 11-15). See also Matt 17:2-5, Exodus 19:21.

        While apocrypha does contain a great deal of nonsense, what we do have in this account is an example of both the Prayer Circle, the Washing and Anointing, the need of Proper Clothing, the Sacramental Meal (3 Nephi 18:9) and this was done no doubt so that she could be in the presence of the Father.

  19. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    According to Daymon Smith’s interview on Mormon Stories he said that the¬†Articles¬†¬†of Faith were voted on by the church right before the Manifesto. ¬†He claims it was a way to get support. ¬†When you make it scripture that we believe to be subject to government.

  20. brandt Reply

    I will just add a brief comment, seeing that I’m feeling a bit guilty for lurking and “liking” random comments instead of adding to the discussion:

    Mike’s line about John being the patriarch? ¬†I’d have to say that’s up there with one of the best Mormon Expression lines ever.

    As much as Mike gets a beating from the ex-Mormon crowd, I give the man a ton of credit. ¬†He keeps coming back, he stays firm in his belief, and frankly, he keeps a very good sense of humor. ¬†It wouldn’t be Mormon Expression without a healthy dose of Mike. ¬†And I really mean that sincerely.

    Now, back to the commentary.

    • Mike Tannehill Reply

      Thank you Brandt. It was a fun discussion. I hope a photo of Ziplha’s cross stitching shows up soon : )

  21. KC Reply

    Mormon expression is the best mormon podcast out there, funny, entertaining, sacrilegious, educational, sarcastic. You guys are hilarious.

    • Anonymous Reply

      LDS a “cult”? What about the “rapture”?

                     by Bruce Rockwell

      Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is “not a Christian” and Mormonism is a “cult,”
      according to Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Dallas (TX) First
      Baptist Church.
      ¬†¬†¬†¬† His “cult” remark is based on his belief that
      the Latter-day Saints church (which didn’t exist before 1830) is outside
      “the mainstream of Christianity.”
           But Jeffress hypocritically
      promotes the popular evangelical “rapture” (theologically the
      “any-moment pretribulation rapture”) which is outside mainstream
      Christianity (Google “Pretrib Rapture Politics”) and which also didn’t
      exist before 1830 (Google “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” and “Pretrib
      Rapture Dishonesty”)!
           And there are 50 million American rapture
      cultists (some of whom turn Wikipedia into “Wicked-pedia” by constantly
      distorting the real facts about the rapture’s bizarre, 181-year-old
      history) compared with only 14 million LDS members.
           The most
      accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history that I have found is
      in a nonfiction book titled “The Rapture Plot” which is carried by
      leading online bookstores. I know also that the same 300-page work can
      also be borrowed through inter-library loan at any library.
           Latter-day Saints believe in fairness, which is why I feel called to share this message.

      (Ran into the above while on the web)

  22. Japanguy Reply

    I loved the podcast and look forward to the rest. ¬†It seem that just when I find myself feeling alone(I am the only one of my 8 brothers and sisters that has left the church) and letting doubts about my decisions to enter my mind Mormon Expression comes to the rescue and saves the day. ¬† I honestly can’t believe that I believed all of Mormonism at one time or that more people don’t realize that they are living in a fantasy world(Mike wink wink). ¬†I still remember the day that I finally allowed myself to really open my mind and examine the world of mormonism. ¬†It didn’t take long to know that it was all bullshit.(sorry) ¬† ¬†You have to be willing to only accept some truths in order to be religious. ¬†You have to deny some truths like evolution, DNA and the indians, Egyptian papyri translations, age of the earth, etc. ¬†It amazing what people will do and think to keep their world view.

  23. Ozpoof Reply

    Every time Mike talks I have a stupor of thought. Why would a God come up with such a complicated system?¬†Occam’s Razor¬†Mike.

  24. Matt Reply

    Seriously!¬† Does the church have to much with a capitol “F” with every stinking document in it’s history!¬† There is no source material anymore.¬† These are not the droids you seek!

  25. Mark Smith Reply

    Strikes such a familiar lonely chord.  I know what it is like wanting a voice and fearing my voice, at once.  

  26. Heather_ME Reply

    I don’t think I have anything helpful to say.¬† This makes me very sad.¬† I hope things improve for you, Tierza.¬†

  27. Elder Vader Reply

    That’s the slow realization I’ve been coming to over the last several months. ¬†There’s no real compromising with this organization. ¬†Its not like the church will compromise with you. ¬†So whats the point? ¬†My actions (I’ll be more careful with my words) need to communicate that its over. ¬†

  28. Mark Smith Reply

    Sounds like you see more inherent good in the church than your bishop, given his view that if it is not true he would just as leave go fishing.   

  29. alancrist Reply

    I’m sorry to hear it’s not going well for you, Tierza. I’m someone who has always valued the approval of others. There is nothing that evokes more disapproval than going against the group, endangering the herd, challenging the accepted myths of the culture. It is a profoundly lonely and frightening journey. Even others who leave with you have trouble understanding because your journeys aren’t the same.¬†

  30. itscats Reply

    I understand and I overcame my fear and I left the Church. ¬†It’s been five years and now I am becoming the woman I was always meant to be. I am me. ¬†Not a copy cat of every other mormon woman. ¬†I listened to my spirit and it has set me free.¬†

     I now know that God loves us so much he gave us apart of himself when we came to Earth.  He gave us our divinity, our spirit that is directly connected with Him.  We need nothing else ever because we have a direct connection to God though our spirit. 

    Why would we ever give our own personal precious gift from God away to the Church and let the church control our lives instead of letting God guide us?  The Church cuts off our divinity, our intuition our ability to listen to our spirit.  The only way to truly connect with God is to know that we are divine and He wants us to listen to and magnify that divinity within.  We have a direct connection with and to Him.  That is our birthright because we are divine.  The Church takes away our birthright and makes us believe only it can help us become like and return to God.  This is sick and controlling and destroys our ability to magnify our divinity because we have to give up our gift from God and that destroys our soul.
    I am so sorry for your pain.  I hope you can take comfort that you are a very wise soul and few mormons can ever break through the decades of brainwashing and see the Church for the soul destroying organization that is it.  

    There is a reason Utah has the highest percentage of women on anti-depressants. You are not alone in your misery.  The data proves this.
    Utah also has the second highest rate of mental disorders, that need medication and extensive care.  
    Utah also has the highest percentage of young men committing suicide. ¬†This is what the Church does….it creates such misery.
    Utah also has the highest percentage of online subscription to porn, enough said.

    You are not alone.  After I left I talked with my husband and during the time I wanted to leave the church so did he but we both said nothing.  We were to afraid to be ourselves, we were just living a soul destroying lie and pretending to be someone we were not. 

    I wish you the best….smile and know that you are an amazing woman! ¬†Very few mormon woman have the courage to speak the truth. ¬†Say “no” ¬†to callings, sleep in on a Sunday and put yourself FIRST, feel the freedom to discover who you are. It is difficult but you can do it.
     Be proud that you know the truth about this soul destroying church and now you can make your own rules. 

    lot of love!!!!!!

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