I meant to say more about the Vineyard guy from Park City in my e-mail, but ran out of time. We met again this week. Our topic was "the nature of the Godhead." He, of course, is mired in the doctrine of the Trinity, which isn't really "doctrine," but needless to say it was an interesting discussion.
I turned every point of conversation (and I did it repeatedly throughout the night) back to the Prophet Joseph and his experience in the grove. I told him all the ideas about what God is or isn't don't amount to squat compared to the experience of Joseph in the grove.
If Joseph saw what he said he saw, if he did what he said he did, then it's a game changer. If you're just going to reject him out of hand as a tool of the devil, and one who introduced, as Paul warned, "another gospel," then so be it.
But what I said to our friend was, "You are obviously interested in Mormonism or you wouldn't be here talking to us, and you are obviously a sincere seeker of truth (I hope that's true, and for now I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt). You will not be able to meet with us much longer without having the curiosity to get down on your knees and ask God to tell you whether or not Joseph Smith is a grand and elaborate hoax, or if he's the genuine article. I'm going to do something I've never done before, and it's a little unorthodox, but I make no apology for doing it. Here's a copy of Preach My Gospel, which you can now obtain at any LDS bookstore or download it off the Church's website. Normally, Kerry would refer you to the missionaries and that would be the end of it, except for being involved during their teaching process. However, you are unique, and I'm making a gift of the Mormon missionary playbook so you can examine everything straight from the source without having to put it through a filter of any kind. We publish our message to the world without apology."
Needless to say, he was stunned and amazed. He will now be quickly discerned as sincere or just trying to unravel us.
It was a fun night. I asked him my three questions about Christ (I think I sent that to you), and his response was as predicted. When I taught him that Christ was the LITERAL Son of God, sired and conceived in the same way we are, it blew his mind, and he was on the verge of meltdown. Kerry tried to smooth it over, saying that he'd never heard that, and I had to gently tell Kerry that the teaching was correct, and I read to them five statements from the prophets that explicitly teach the doctrine. It was pretty obvious that I struck a raw nerve with what is correctly called "the doctrine of the Divine Sonship."
To our friend the "virgin birth" is a great and holy mystery that cannot be explained. To us, however, it is a simple matter that is explainable and supports the true identity of the Father and the Son, as they revealed themselves to the Prophet in the grove.
I love missionary work. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith. Either people will humble themselves and ask God about the Restoration and the veracity of Joseph Smith's audacious claims, or they won't. If they reject Joseph, they reject Jesus. The irony is that people like our friend proclaim their love for Jesus, but we are the true believers because we believe so much more about him without excuses for what we believe. When you know it, you testify boldly, and you don't leave any doubt in anyone's mind about where you stand.
There's no pussy-footing around with the way I teach people the gospel -- I don't have time to waste on nuances or political correctness. It's either true as it stands and you love the truth and will embrace it, or you are too bigoted and close-minded to entertain the thought that God might have actually appeared to a 14 year-old boy and given him directions on how to commence the Restoration of all lost truths. Which will it be? Are you sincere, or are you too closed off? Your choice.
Anyway, I was bold and I think I kind of took Kerry's breath away while I was teaching. Jim, however, seemed to be absorbing it all, and again was amazed that I wasn't pulling any punches. I said at one point, "This doctrine of the literal creation of Jesus Christ by His Father and a virgin mortal girl, is quoted extensively throughout all the anti-Mormon attacks with which I am familiar. The doctrine of the Divine Sonship is true and correct. It is inescapable that we believe it and have taught it throughout our literature and the sermons of our past leaders. There can be little doubt about it."
Kerry seemed to accept it with my explanation, but he admitted again after Jim left that he had never heard it stated as directly as I stated it ever before -- even my reference to calling it the doctrine of the Divine Sonship. We have much to do, I fear, in teaching the members of the Church what we really believe.
Here's a clear-cut declaration of the doctrine from President Joseph F. Smith. Notice, he explains it in terms the little children in the audience can understand, but for some reason we are loathe to entertain the idea in our minds today. It's just too weird to think of a God having sex with one of His spirit daughters -- too literal for our taste in our sophisticated twenty-first century minds, I guess. But anyway, here's the quote:
"You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers you all know that don't you? You cannot deny it. Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. The Christian denominations believe that Christ was begotten not of God but of the spirit that overshadowed his mother. This is nonsense. Why will not the world receive the truth? Why will they not believe the Father when he says that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son? Why will they try to explain this truth away and make mystery of it?
"Now if God is a man, a glorious perfected man-that is, perfect in all his glorious attributes, and infinite in power, there never will come a time when God the Father will not have power to extend His dominion and His Glory. He is the maker of Heaven and the Earth, on which we dwell, for He made this earth by his word and by his power. How did he make it? He called the elements that are invisible to our eyes. He formed the earth on which we dwell, and has formed millions of worlds, and they are peopled with his children, for there is no end to his dominions and the worlds he has created cannot be numbered unto man.
"Now, little boys and girls, when you are confronted by infidels in the world who know nothing of how Christ was begotten, you can say he was born just as the infidel was begotten and born, so was Christ begotten by his Father, who is also our Father-the Father of our spirits-and he was born of his mother Mary.
"The difference between Jesus Christ and other men is this: Our fathers in the flesh are mortal men, who are subject unto death; but the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the God of Heaven. Therefore Jesus, as he declared, received the power of life from his Father and was never subject unto death but had life in himself as his father had life in himself. Because of this power he overcame death and the grave and became master of the resurrection and the means of salvation to us all.
"Shall we as Latter-day Saints deny the truth and then claim that God made man in his likeness in the beginning? Shall we come under the impression that God possesses the power of creation, and yet did not literally create? He is not without his companion any more than I am without my companion, the mother of my children.
"These are truths and I wish they could be instilled into the hearts of these little children so that they will not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine and be confused by the teachers of atheism. Now, by and by you will be able to understand this far better than you can today. Some of us grandparents find it difficult to conceive the truth we want to think of something marvelous. We want to try to make it appear that God does not do things in the right way, or that he has another way of doing things than what we know, we must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot His son Jesus Christ, and He was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father." (Messages of the First Presidency, 4:329-30).
I'll send this to you in a letter, as well as this e-mail. It appears you went off line while I've been writing. I got sidetracked while I was writing earlier, then when I got back to it you had already posted your messages.