Sunday, March 20, 2016

Memo to Glenn Beck: No "White Horse Prophecy"

Glenn Beck at Cruz Rally in Utah, March 19, 2016

Yesterday in Utah at a political rally for Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck stepped up to the stage with mic in hand and admonished the predominantly Mormon audience to rise up and fulfill the "prophecy" allegedly uttered by Joseph Smith that someday the Constitution would "hang by a tread" and needed to be rescued by the "body of the priesthood." Memo to the people of Utah and to Glenn Beck - the informed priesthood will continue to look to their priesthood leaders for direction, not to you.

Beck fancies himself as a reliable historian, but in this instance he demonstrated his lack of understanding. He certainly didn't do his homework, or he never would have pulled out that card and played it. Or, maybe he knew full well what he was doing in the heat of the presidential campaign and was pulling out all the stops in his strident advocacy for Cruz among Christians whom he had criticized in other places for not rising up in support of Cruz. Whatever his reasons, he got this one dead wrong.

As reported by Breitbart, Beck said the following: “I want to speak to you about something that may be controversial. And it’s not something that I have said when I have been out for Ted [Cruz] and now Mike [Lee]. But it’s something that this crowd needs to hear – that Utah needs to hear. The body of the priesthood is known to stand up when the Constitution hangs by a thread,” Beck said.

“I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints,” he explained. “What attracted me was not only the truth of the message, but also the people like President [Harold B.] Lee and President [Ezra Taft] Benson who knew exactly who we were – knew who we were as a country,” Beck said, naming prominent past presidents of the LDS Church.

“I joined many times. What held me through was the prophesy that the Constitution will hang by a thread, and this People would remember what our Founders did. It is our responsibility to stand for the Constitution,” Beck said.

At this point, Ted Cruz and the audience gave Beck a standing ovation.

Now, before the hate mail pours in, let me make it clear that standing for the Constitution is something I believe we must do. But I guess this is what I hate most about political speeches. The ones we hear directed at Mormons often seek to blur the distinctive line between the Church and the political arena which the Church assiduously attempts to keep separate. Political speech is often drenched in emotional and often hyperbolic sentiment that crosses the borderline of fact and truth in the name of whipping up an audience into a silly patriotic frenzy that is more often than not misguided. 

I wrote about "The White Horse Prophecy" when Mitt Romney was ramping up his run against Obama in the 2012 election, and nothing has changed since my first post about it in 2010.

Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have heard about something called "The White Horse Prophecy," but few understand its origins and implications.

Beck forgot to look into the most recent invocation of this specious "prophecy" when an unwise Idaho gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Rex Rammell, the Tea Party's darling, was forming groups encouraging others to study "the White Horse prophecy" in depth. Only priesthood brethren were invited and were instructed to go home and tell their wives.  

In advance of the primary election, on January 6, 2010, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) to which Glenn Beck belongs, was compelled to clarify the matter with this statement:

Two weeks ago The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement regarding the so-called "White Horse prophecy" in response to news inquiries regarding comments made by an Idaho politician. The matter has received additional coverage in the news media of late and so we reiterate that statement here: 

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral and does not endorse or promote any candidate, party or platform. Accordingly, we hope that the campaign practices of political candidates would not suggest that their candidacy is supported by or connected to the church.
"The so-called 'White Horse Prophecy' is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine." 
Rammell's candidacy did elicit some support, if not entirely because of the controversy.  In the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, he lost, but the veterinarian was successful in beating incumbent, C.L. "Butch" Otter in two counties and tying him in another.
So fast forward to yesterday in Utah. In the topsy-turvy world of national politics this year, Beck continues to fan the flames of rumor that persist that Joseph Smith purportedly said something to the effect in a private conversation with two Church members that the day would come when the Constitution of the United States would "hang by a thread," and the "elders of the Church would be called upon to rescue it."  
Beck needs to read this page, however, and he would learn the veracity and accuracy of the report of that conversation has always been in question because the recollections of the two men, Edwin Rushton and Theodore Turley, were not recorded in a diary by their friend, John J. Roberts, until ten years later when they were old men. Roberts first heard about it in the 1850s. As far as we know, the Prophet Joseph never taught anything like that publicly.
I believe the best in-depth treatment of this topic, if you're interested, is available here.  
It is clear there are numerous historical statements in support of the ideas expressed, but for the most part they are no better than the foundation upon which they rest -- the journal entry of a man who heard what two other men heard Joseph Smith say ten years earlier. Not exactly reliable and sound investigative journalism.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Besides the incidents surrounding Rammel's ill-fated gubernatorial race in Idaho, it surfaced in the presidential campaign of Senator Orrin Hatch, and then when Mitt Romney ran for Governor of Massachusetts, and then again when he ran for the presidency in 2012. Both were also Mormons (yes, Donald J. Trump, Mitt Romney IS a Mormon). However, to their credit, both disavowed the so-called "prophecy" then and so did the Church. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) would do well to immediately disavow what was said in his presence yesterday and put himself on the side of the Church and a more accurate accounting of the history. 

Politically, it's a negatively charged idea that the Church and/or its elders and/or an elder riding on a white horse (there are many possibilities) is somehow going to swoop in and take over a contested national Republican convention in Cleveland, or eventually the federal government that needs rescuing in a time of trouble. Like most faith-promoting rumors, this one is lacking in substance when the facts are examined in depth.  
That we believe as a Church the Savior will return and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords is indisputable (see Revelation 17:14; 19:16 for example), but to say the Church is going to set up a replacement government before that time is irresponsible and unfounded on all fronts.

Once again, Glenn Beck fails to pass the accuracy test and reveals himself for what he is - nothing more than yet another false prophet, however well-intentioned.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Converting Power of The Book of Mormon

As is his custom, my father continues to write his "Heart Lines" message to his former missionaries in the California Arcadia Mission at General Conference time. Dad is now in his 95th year and continues to function well even with his physical limitations. I am happy to publish his latest missive on this page, believing it might be helpful and insightful to a wider audience:

April, 2016

At this season, Dear Friends –

- When all Mormondom is unitedly and simultaneously studying The Book of Mormon, I have some persistent observations. One pearl is that when properly approached, this amazing book has enormous powers of conversion. Without any embellishments or consultant commentary, the book’s powerful truths shine forth and are plainly evident.

Parley P. Pratt
This has always been true. In the earliest days of the restored Church, a young itinerant preacher, Parley P. Pratt, left his home for good to embark on a self-appointed mission to share the light he had received from his own personal search of the Biblical scriptures. It was the beginning of a marvelous ministerial career for him.

Amid his journeyings he paid full passage for his wife and him to travel by boat to Albany, New York. Midway, at Rochester, however, Parley had a spiritual nudge which changed his direction and his life. He wrote:

I informed my wife that, notwithstanding our passage being paid through the whole distance, yet I must leave the boat. . . Why, I did not know; but so it was plainly manifest by the Spirit to me. I said to her: “we part for a season; go and visit our friends in our native place; I will come soon, but how soon I know not; for I have a work to do in this region of country, and what it is, or how long it will take to perform it, I know not, but I will come when it is performed.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 18 – 20).

Parley went ashore and walked from village to village successfully imparting his convictions as he understood them from the scriptures. One day in his travels, a Baptist deacon introduced to him a strange and unusual book, The Book of Mormon, which made claims that were stunning and appealing to Parley. He wrote:
I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.

As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life. I soon determined to see the young man who had been the instrument of its discovery and translation. (Ibid.)

We were assimilated into this fabric-truth during our missionary days in California, 40 years ago. The identical story-theme we found true was represented by the conversion stories we were telling in those days. I repeat it now to demonstrate that the power is still in that awesome book, which when approached with humble sincerity and desire to love and live its truths still has its capacity to convert.

On a Thursday night, far across the world from here and many years ago, another conversion story materialized, as related by Elder J. Thomas Fyans, First Council of the Seventy, at a stake conference of the LaPuente Stake on May 28, 1978.

A chance encounter on a bus between a Mormon elder and a Methodist minister unfolded. The young elder spoke of a strange book, The Book of Mormon, and the minister, a graduate of Northwestern University, went home with the book determined to prove it false. The words, “prove it false, prove it false” were riveted in his mind, challenged to do so by his seat companion on the bus.

At home that night, he said to his wife, Betty, “I’m on a special project. I want complete solitude and no food. I’ll be fasting.” He pleaded with the Lord on Friday, and he listened to the town hall clock peel off hours of the day until it struck 6 p.m. Then he returned to the elder’s apartment and boldly stated: “I want to talk about baptism, and don’t get out your flannel board. I want to be baptized now!”

Amazed, the elders phoned their mission president and said, “He’s back! What shall we do with him?” President J. Thomas Fyans, president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission, answered, “Baptize him privately, then bring him to the mission home to see me.” Ninety minutes later the font was full and the elder baptized him.

On Saturday night, the minister phoned his wife, Betty, and announced, “I’m a member of the Mormon Church!” She laughed, unbelievingly. “It’s true,” said her husband. “I was baptized last night.” She asked so many questions and cried and cried. It was 3 a.m. before she settled down to seriously listen. It was agreed that he shouldn’t tell anyone until he reported to his superiors. So when he arose the next morning, Rev. Whitlock read in John 3:5 about Nicodemus’s visit with Jesus. He quoted that passage to his church leaders, saying, “Please study this passage, and next week I will come back and I’ll tell you the truth of this verse.”

The troubled couple then came to the mission home. Betty said, “I just can’t face our friends from our church.” They went as husband and wife into the President’s study to talk out their problems. Lunch intervened, and President Fyans opened the door and said, “I’ll not mention anything about the Mormon Church if that will make you feel better. But first, Brother Whitlock, would you like to hear the missionaries teach the gospel in the organized fashion we regularly do?” His wife, Betty, quickly answered, “You bet I would,” with her jaw defiantly set.

So the Whitlocks had one lesson taught to them every day. The plan of salvation brought happy resonance to Brother Whitlock all week. When the elders quoted 1 Corinthians 15:29, Brother Whitlock exclaimed, “Betty, I’ve wondered all my life about baptism for the dead, and they know the explanation!”

At the traditional Saturday night farewell for departing missionaries, this inspired elder tried to testify for the last time in the mission field, but he was overcome by his tears. In the presence of his converts, Brother and Sister Whitlock, he was without words. He couldn’t speak because of his joy. This was the elder, who on the bus had challenged Rev. Whitlock to prove The Book of Mormon false.

And so we say – The Book of Mormon is true! It will stand up to any scrutiny, even from those who are learned and think themselves wise, who want to disprove it.

Powerful witness also comes from Christ, himself, that the book is true (D&C 19:26), and that those who receive, read and believe the book shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).

Faithfully, your friend,

President L. Brent Goates