Stopping Time for the Unconverted

RussellAnti-Mormon, apologetics, apostasy, catholicism, Charity, christianity, church, curiosity, faith, God, grace, inter-faith, joseph, LDS, missionary, missions, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, questioning, restoration, theology 16 Comments

I had an interesting conversation with a woman today. Missionaries would call it a bash. I called it posing and answering meaningful questions. It prompted her to listen more than she would have.She had determined that Joseph Smith was a fraud, and she funnelled all new information through that lens.  I had a very difficult time believing that she was that closed to the Spirit that she would be unwilling to entertain the possibility he was not a fraud.  Perhaps it was the “false traditions of her fathers,” yet so many overcome such limitations.  Was it her agency? Well, that’s not very comforting. There must be a different explanation.

Orson F. Whitney explained it like this:

Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of his Church, to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else… Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of Truth, while others remain unconverted…the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in his own due time…God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter Day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people…We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.

One might compare these perceptions to a person’s reaction to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity concerning the speed of light and time perception. Basically, if one travels at the speed of light, then the perception of time slows down until time essentially ceases to exist to those outside one’s frame of reference. 

We must understand that we are asking investigators to do something similar, to stop time as it were.  The church’s claims may be possible, but they seem utterly fantastic, even absurd to the uninitiated.  So when they reject it, is it possible, as President Whitney said, that some are kept from the truth not only because they know not where to find it but also because the Lord would rather have them elsewhere for the time being?

If the Pope joined the Church (as we dreamed of during our missions), there would not likely be massive LDS baptisms, but charges of scandal, of madness, of intrigue.   If Mother Theresa had become a member, could she have retained her credibility as an international humanitarian?  Could it not be the Pope, Mother Theresa and others are/were doing their parts in the vast work of temporal and spiritual salvation?  While they might be introducing incorrect doctrines, isn’t it possible that the Lord plans on getting that straightened out later?  Maybe in the meantime, he needed Mother Theresa’s humanitarianism, Martin Luther’s defiance, and Isaac Newton’s mind right where they were.

Comments 16

  1. Please provide the source for the quote from Orson Whitney. I’ve seen it before but haven’t been able to find it since.

  2. I read an interesting blog by Russell today. He had determined that Joseph Smith was not a fraud, and he funnelled all new information through that lens. I had a very difficult time believing that he was that closed to the Spirit that he would be unwilling to entertain the possibility that Jopseph was a fraud. Perhaps it was the “false traditions of his fathers,” yet so many overcome such limitations.

    If Thomas S. Monson left the Church, there would not likely be massive LDS defections, but charges of scandal, of madness, of intrigue.

    Well meaning, deep thinking, intelligent individuals have run up against complex, contradictory propositions in church history and have come away with differing responses to them.

    Some stay, some leave. I am not saying Joseph WAS a fraud. I don’t have enough information. But we have to consider that Oliver had many of the same experiences as Joseph, saw the angels, etc, and left the church. Oliver had the Holy Ghost too. I am not prepared to believed only one side of the story. Both must be considered if we are to be truely objective in our search for truth.

  3. Dear Nobody Special

    Whitney Quote attribution:

    Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report April 1972, citing Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report April 1928, p 59

    Everybody is Somebody in the Kingdom of our God.


  4. Post

    Nobody Special:

    Enoch claimed that he was nobody special…in fact, he said that everybody hated him. So you’re in good company 😉

    I checked the April 1928 Conference Report. I confirm Mike’s assessment.


    I must admit that your charges of excessive bias and close-mindedness (I say excessive because it is inescapable) are somewhat strange given the context of this post. I am suggesting that we should give those who remain unconverted a great deal of slack…perhaps God doesn’t want them in the Church yet. Maybe not even until the next life.

    How can that be used to conclude that I am only “believing one side of the story”? How does giving them this credit make me so partisan as to deserve instruction that I must consider both to be “truly objective”? Furthermore, I don’t think you’re very familiar with the thought process I’ve gone through to come my conclusions (unless somehow you were watching me pour over anti-Mormon arguments at 2:30 A.M. during my adolescence). My story of intellectual development, while not quite Ensign material, is still far from what you seem to think. Especially jarring is that you would imply that I’m some hack who follows his parents lock-step. If I wanted to go inactive, I could and would.

    But I digress…more significant to me is that God’s plan is grandiose enough to where he has a divine purpose in those outside the faith. Not just where he has to work with what he has, but where he specifically commissions individuals to be born outside the Church. Remarkable.

  5. My words were simply yours reversed.

    All I am saying is that one can not suppose that we are waiting for god to convert those that do not believe the way that we do. That is a very biased my-side-is-right proposition. Maybe God is waiting for us to become converted. I believe that the truth must be somewhere in between. All of us make assumptions about the validity of our own beliefs when measuring the beliefs of others. The contrast between our two posts is just a way of pointing out how condescending it sounds when people accuse others of false notions or closemindedness or bias.

    I simpy pointed out by using your very words that you are making an assumption that her possition is wrong.

  6. Post

    Of course…I saw that they were simply my words reversed. And yes, I appreciate those who are insistent that we consistently suspend judgment, preferring the “middle way.” But that said, dja_ra, it is inescapable to make these assumptions…even the assumption that we should avoid making assumptions?? Even agnostics accept foundational assessments about our inability to gain knowledge. So if we’re trying to be coldly objective in an ultimate sense, we will have a difficult time of it.

    And frankly, where did I suggest that God is “waiting…to convert those that do not believe the way we do”? You suggest that my language assume her incorrectness…yet you don’t seem to be interested in the rest of the post. I (and Orson Whitney) explicitly argue that God is not waiting at all and doesn’t even think her to be “wrong”; he is actively “veiling” the gospel truths from their mind. I can feel nothing but appreciation for the good she does with this realization…after all, God might want her elsewhere, and who am I to question him?

  7. “Everybody is Somebody in the Kingdom of our God.”

    “Enoch claimed that he was nobody special…in fact, he said that everybody hated him. So you’re in good company ”

    Woah. You guys are taking the “Nobody Special” thing too seriously.
    Thanks. I try to be humble, but don’t worry about me. I’m not lacking in self-confidence for the most part.
    I have a twinge of self doubt now and again, but I know that I have a place in the kingdom of God.

  8. “That is a very biased my-side-is-right proposition.”


    Unfortunately, that is what a testimony does when you get one is that it sways you to a certain viewpoint based on revealed information to where you are now “biased.” Its a bit difficult to deny that when its the spirit that reveals it to you. What do you expect people that have one to do about that? Deny that they have it? I may not have all the trivia revealed to me, but some things I do, and I cannot apologize for it, nor water it down for the sake of seeing someone else’s point of view. I can respect that point of view, but that doesn’t mean that I must conclude that it is true, or even has the chance of being true when something contradictory has been revealed by the spirit of truth. It doesn’t make me better than anybody else, just because the spirit revealed it. I can’t help what the spirit reveals. Its not my fault that something the spirit reveals is what it reveals. The responsibility for that is on the spirit, not on my shoulders. After all, I’m “Nobody Special.”

  9. Well, we should be friends. It was not my intention to be adversarial. But LDS though begins with the assumption that we are god’s chosen church and that LDS theology represent his way of seeing thinking.

    I don’t know exactly what to think of your position because I thought that it was one of the tenets of LDS faith to assume that those who had an opportunity but refused baptism could not ever inherit the Celestial. The Terrestrial being the limit of their eternal progress in the hereafter. Therefore I do not know that I believe in a god that would somehow make it impossible to see truth for what it is, or to receive a witness of truth because somehow he needs a pope.

    If so, then having been true to popehood should guarantee him the same glory as someone true to apostleship.

    I was an extremely vigilant apologist for the church in my days. I was a no-death-before-the-fall-mcconkieite. But one day a person asked me if I had ever actually looked at the evidence for evolution. I said that I hadn’t and that I didn’t need to because JFSmith and others said that it was an absolute fallacy and that, since they were god’s mouthpiece and I knew that based on spiritual witnesses that I had recieved, there were some things that I didn’t even need to question.

    Years later, I did look into it, and had a spiritual experience, a testimony experience, that much, if not most of what was being taught by evolutionist was in fact true. It was almost as overwhelming an experience as my original LDS conversion had been.

    So, now I use more caution. My exploration of anti-Joseph and anti-church claims has not proven anything to me one way or another. So much is just so unclear. But I can not help but think that things are not as black and white as church leaders propose. It is not an either or truth or deception absolute god or absolute lie proposition. The church is right and wrong about many things.

    I apologize for seeming to have judged your intellectual or spiritual investigation of these things as being insufficient, but I simply wish to point out that unless you have seriously examined the possibility that God agrees with the anti and not the apologist, you have not actually considered both sides of the issue. Perhaps you have, perhaps not.

    As far as testimony goes. The islamists are pretty sure that there is no god but allah and that mohomed is his messenger. I take the witness of the spirit as proof for that person, but that does not meean that their witness should be proof for me. My spiritual witnesses have been diverse and at times very confusing. Many find that the trump card of the holy ghost is not actually a trump card at all.

  10. Post

    “If so, then having been true to popehood should guarantee him the same glory as someone true to apostleship.”

    I believe that there’s SOME truth to that…after all, Whitney does suggest that it will be a temporary “veiling.” And frankly, I can quite easily believe in a God who recognizes that the Apostasy had profound effects and that the work of rolling back the Apostasy cannot be rolled back single-handedly by a small group of people in Utah. And there is more to rolling back the Apostasy than simply getting them the ordinances. I see the apostasy as existing more on an individual level than on a societal level. If seen in that way, feeding a starving child could be seen as bringing them that much closer to the true principle of charity. And on the issue of terrestriality, I tend to place them within the context of section 138 where they essentially had to “take one for the team” by forgoing the gospel in this life. Of course, there are people who obviously reject it outright. I am just suggesting that God uses individuals in contexts foreign to the Church…and if those individuals, in doing so, don’t fully understand the gospel truth, we shouldn’t blame them.

    And it’s all good. I suppose I can only give you my word (and you might ask Arthur as well) that I am quite “edgy” in some of my views and am a hardliner for evidence as much as is feasible.

  11. dja_ra: First of all welcome. Love your “turn the tables” approach, which is always a good way to start a richer discussion. I don’t think it was unduly adversarial, either.

    On the issue of evolution, I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone at MM who is a creationist (anyone willing to speak up now that I’ve said that?), although it might be easier in your average ward, especially over age 70. I would still bet that you could find many who are evolutionists since evolutionary theory is taught at BYU. Unlike JFSmith, the church has no hard line stance on creationism and evolution.

    Russell – not sure I buy your theory, but it’s something we’ve all had to wonder at times. It just sounds a little too “predestination” to me.

  12. Yes, I suppose it does run that risk. I prefer to think of it in terms of placing the elect in the “nethermost part” of the vineyard.

  13. I still remember an interesting discussion I had with some people on my mission. They could feel the Spirit when we talked and they were very sorry that such righteous people were going to hell for such bad doctrine. They saw no connection between the Spirit witnessing when we talked and what we said, and just insisted we must be very righteous, very good people instead. It was amazing to me.

    Oliver had many of the same experiences as Joseph, saw the angels, etc, and left the church

    It is his return that is all the more impressive as a result. in 1848, Cowdery traveled to meet with followers of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve who were encamped at Winter Quarters, Nebraska and asked to be reunited with the Church.[27] On November 12, 1848, Cowdery was rebaptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve in Indian Creek at Kanesville, Iowa. Cowdery never again held high office in the church. Cowdery developed a respiratory illness, and on March 3, 1850 he died in David Whitmer’s home in Richmond, Missouri.[28]

    As I’ve noted before, the LDS Church gains a great deal of its strength from the narratives of its apostates who return.

  14. dja_ra (#9) – You said, “I don’t know exactly what to think of your position because I thought that it was one of the tenets of LDS faith to assume that those who had an opportunity but refused baptism could not ever inherit the Celestial (Kingdom).”

    I think you will find that the majority of Mormons define that “opportunity” very liberally (except, perhaps in Utah, where many assume non-Mormons living in Utah have had a legitimate chance). For example, I think most Mormons would say that just hearing the discussions from missionaries and/or attending Church might not constitute the type of opportunity that would exclude one who isn’t baptized from the highest kingdom of God. I can see all kinds of reasons why such might not be a adequate chance.

    I also have little problem with the premise of this post. To me, it doesn’t smack of predestination but rather foreordination. If god will foreordain some of His children to lead those within the the ancient House of Israel and the ancient and modern Church, I have no problem believing he will foreordain others of His children to lead those not within those groups. Gandhi, Muhammad, Confucius, etc. as foreordained doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Oral Roberts, otoh . . .

  15. “Oliver had many of the same experiences as Joseph, saw the angels, etc, and left the church.”

    But he never denied anything that he formally attested. He never denied the angels. He never recanted his testimony of the restoration. He never denied that JS translated the BoM by the gift and power of God. He never denied seeing the gold plates and other artifacts presented by Moroni (Testimony of the Three Witnesses). He never denied the revelations and visions that he received in conjunction with Joseph Smith.

    He parted ways with Joseph for various reasons. But the worst that Oliver said was that JS “_was_ a prophet, but not any more”, ie, the “fallen prophet” line.

    In other words, Oliver never lost his testimony.

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