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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 12:12AM #1
Unworthyone
Posts: 3,228

If you are currently in discussions with LDS missionaries, you may have stopped by here to gain a better understanding of what the LDS faith is all about.  Maybe you are hoping to get another perspective, particularly if the missionary's message seems too good to be true.


So, here is another perspective.


You've been told that a young farm boy named Joseph Smith was pondering which church to join, and he followed the counsel of James who admonished, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God ..."


You've been told that young Joseph sought out a quiet wooded grove and earnestly sought the answer to his question in prayer.  According to the story, Joseph was visited by God the Father and Jesus, the Son of God.  Joseph was told to join none of the congregations, as they were all false and their teachings and beliefs were "abominations" in the sight of God.


This official account of "The First Vision" as it is known in the LDS Church, was not published until over a decade after its alleged occurrence.  During the intervening time, Joseph was visited by the angel Moroni, who eventually led Joseph to some golden plates, on which was inscribed an account of ancient inhabitants of America.  Joseph, through the power of God, was able to translate these gold plates into what is now known as The Book of Mormon, a primary scripture (or standard work) of the LDS faith.  Afterwards, the golden plates were taken back by the angel Moroni, never to be seen again.


Joseph says he and a friend were also visited by Peter, James, and John, apostles of the New Testament in the Bible.  They ordained Joseph and his friend as priests, and they gave them the authority to re-establish Christ's church on earth.  Joseph then founded what eventually became known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


This church, according to Smith, is the only church recognized by God.  It is the only church authorized by God to act in His name, to preach the Gospel, to perform rituals such as baptism, ordinations, etc.


An objective study of Smith, the LDS Church, its history, and its current position in the world has led me to believe that Smith was little more than a charismatic con man who preyed on  unsophisticated and gullible rural people of the early 19th century. I speculate that Smith was actually simply a front man for a small group of connivers in the beginning of the con.  Eventually, the con took on a life of its own, and the charismatic Smith no longer needed the men who actually hatched the plot.  Many of these men eventually left the church.  The church likes to point out that these men never denied the truth of the church or recanted their testimonies.  I say of course they didn't.  It would have implicated them in the con, and they would have suffered the same consequences, or maybe worse, than that of Smith.


As I studied the history of Smith, both with books and documents sanctioned by the church, and with publications outside of the church, it became clear to me that the alleged theology of Smith evolved over time.  It is also apparent that Smith's aspirations and ambitions grew as his flock of followers grew into the thousands.  After a while, he was no longer satisfied being the spiritual leader of the faithful. He sought and obtained secular and civil authority, (mayor of Navoo) not to mention military rank as well. He formed the Navoo militia, and appointed himself the commanding general of this exclusively Mormon army. At the time, it was the single largest army on U.S. territory, second only to the U.S. army.  Before his death, it is also reported that he even had aspirations of becoming president of the U.S.


Before his death in 1844, Smith and his followers encountered a great deal of animosity wherever they settled.  The church would have us believe that this was simply due to people not liking the Mormons strange religious beliefs and strict rituals and practices.  I am of the opinion that the animosity had more to do with the failure of the saints to be good neighbors themselves, and that they saw anyone outside of the church as "gentiles" and to be avoided as much as possible.


In the early 19th century, as the American frontier expanded west, life was difficult, and people had to rely on one another, regardless of any differences they had.  I believe that Mormons were taught that they should avoid undue fraternization with outsiders, as this could lead them away from the true gospel of Christ.  They were taught that they should learn to rely on each other, and obey their priesthood leaders, as these men were appointed by God himself to lead the faithful and provide for their needs.  Loyalty to Smith was paramount.  This led to resentment among those "gentiles" and many small squabbles eventually led to outright violence, both on the part of Mormons and their non-Mormon neighbors.


In the last years of Smith's life, Mormons had pretty much control of the community known as Navoo, Illinois.  At the time, it was larger in population than Chicago.  Mormons controlled the city government, the key commerce positions, including the largest bank, as well as the local news paper.  They accomplished this, not because they were the majority, but because they used their collective influence and voted as a block, electing exclusively Mormons to key city posts, pooled their financial resources and took control of banks, commodity exchanges, etc.


Mormons were given favorable loan rates at the banks, while non-Mormons were charged higher rates and more stringent terms.  Mormon appointed or elected judges in civil disputes more often than not ruled in favor of the Mormon.  Crops and livestock sold by Mormons got favorable treatment whenever possible over non-Mormon farmers and ranchers. All this led to frequent violent clashes between Mormons and their neighbors.


All the while, Smith and his family served as heads of the church, being prophets, seers, and revelators.  Whenever there was a question, even a mudane question, Smith would 'receive' a revelation from God, answering the question.  During his life, Smith was a virtual ATM machine of revelations, covering everything from dietary laws to how to give one's property to the church.  More than once, Smith was duped into revealing his lack of power of revelation.  One such instance became known as the kinderhook plates fiasco, where a local farmer allegedly dug up some tin plates, similar to the description of the Book of Mormon gold plates.  These plates were brought to Smith, who declared them to be of the same time era as the Book of Mormon plates.  He then began to 'translate' the inscriptions on the plates, only to find out that it was all a hoax and these plates were fabricated with the express purpose of exposing Smith as a fraud.  This incident did little to dampen the faith of those loyal to Smith.


Another incident involves what is currently known as The Pearl of Great Price, another of the standard works or scripture  of the LDS Church today.  Smith acquired some Egyptian papyri from a traveling trader.  He declared that these ancient scrolls were the writings of Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch. At the time, no one had the ability to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.  Nevertheless, Smith 'translated' these ancient writings, and the text became holy scripture in the LDS Church.  Later, in the upheaval of the migration west, the original scrolls were lost, and thought destroyed in the great Chicago fire.  As it turned out, remnants of the scrolls were later discovered in the archives of a museum.  By then, scholars had developed the ability to decipher hieroglyphics, and their interpretation was nowhere near what Smith had translated.  According to Egyptologists, the papyrii were common funerary texts frequently buried with ancient Egyptian rulers and royalty, and they compared the texts with other known samples of the same type.  Nevertheless, the church continues to use the Pearl of Great Price as one of their primary scriptures.


During Smith's life, there were the rumors of some unsavory behavior on the part of the highest ranking Mormons.  The rumors flew that Smith and his closest friends were involved in adulterous affairs, some involving married women, and even under-age girls.


None of these rumors could be proved.  But then, some men from within the inner circle of Smith had some sort of falling out with Smith.  These men set up a printing press and published their accounts of what went on behind closed doors within the Mormon church and its temple.  These allegations so outraged Smith and his friends that they drew up a civic order calling the press a public nuisance and ordered it destroyed.


This set off a firestorm of violence throughout Navoo.  And non-Mormons called on the governor of Illinois to arrest Smith and his brother Hyrum for abusing their civil authority.  The governor dispatched state police to arrest Hyrum and Joseph.  Smith hightailed it out of Illinois to avoid prosecution.  Later, he thought better of it, and returned to be arrested.  Hyrum and Joseph were to be temporarily housed in the Carthage, Illinois jail, which was really just a two story house.  There were no bars or jail cells.  The small detachment charged with guarding Smith until his trial was released, and shortly there was an angry mob outside the jail intent on serving up some old fashioned frontier justice.  The mob stormed the jail, there was a gun battle (yes, Smith was armed) and Smith and his brother were killed.


Even though he denied it throughout his life, Smith was in the habit of practicing polygamy.  According to the church many years later, Smith was ordered through revelation by God Himself to take multiple wives.  Smith's only legal wife, Emma, was told by God in the same revelation that she had to go along with Smith's polygamy or God would destroy her.


Once Smith was dead, it was pretty much open season on the Mormons, and the Mormons had to leave the area or face certain annihilation.  The leadership of the church was fractured.  The majority of the faithful followed Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley in the Utah territory, while Smith's widow and others moved to Missouri.  Other smaller groups went their own way as well.


While the Salt Lake City church does not practice polygamy today, it has never outright denounced the previous practice of polygamy within the church.  The church discontinued the practice of polygamy when the U.S. Congress was considering Utah for statehood.


One of the more controversial practices of the church included the exclusion of blacks holding the priesthood until the policy was reversed by revelation in 1978.  Leaders of the church have admitted that the ban on blacks holding the priesthood was proving to be a hindrance to the growth of the church, particularly in Brazil, where a large percentage of the population has black ancestry.  While they had no shortage of converts, it was proving difficult to find men who were qualified to take local leadership roles in the church due to the ban.  Lifting the ban solved the problem.


Today the LDS Church is a multinational corporation, with the highest ecclesiastical leaders serving on the boards of directors of the church's many secular business enterprises.  The church also has controlling interests in many other companies.


When one is first introduced to the church, it is often through friends and neighbors who are members.  They present a very loving and family-oriented church, and they are.  However, many of the deeper and more controversial beliefs and practices of the church are withheld from the new prospect and member until they are fully immersed in the culture of the 'public' aspects of the church.  They call this practice "milk before meat" meaning as a new member of the church, one has to be properly prepared to learn of the deeper mysteries of the gospel, such as the sacred meanings of the signs and tokens one learns in the temple, as well as the importance of sacred garments one is required to wear from that point forward.  In order to be initiated into the temple ceremonies, one must demonstrate that they are fully faithful to the Mormon Church in both thought and deed.  In fact, before being allowed to participate in the temple rites, one must pass an interview with one's local bishop, who has final say as to whether one is ready and faithful enough to enter the temple.


Many Mormons and former Mormons report that leaving the church can be extremely difficult if not impossible.  Because the church becomes such an all-encompassing aspect of one's life, often including employment, career, and social contacts, to leave the church can mean being cut off from family, friends, and even one's job.  Many Mormons report the cost of leaving the church is just too high.


If you are considering joining the church, I encourage you to do some serious research into all aspects of the church before making the commitment.  Joining the Mormon Church is unlike joining any other church, and there is a great deal that they leave out of the missionary discussions.  Carefully weigh and evaluate whatever you learn.  Consider the credibility of the sources you encounter.  Many people antagonistic to the church make many unsubstantiated claims about the church.  It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between legitimate criticisms of the church and outright lies designed to mislead.


In this post, I have been careful to make it clear what is known and acknowledged as fact, and what I present as my own opinion.  All the facts I can substantiate, either with church approved publications, or with reliable outside sources.


Again, if you are contemplating joining the LDS Church, I encourage you to do so with your eyes wide open and with as much information as you can get.  And if there is a nagging doubt, resolve it completely before you make what could be the biggest mistake of your life.

Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.”
― Garrison Keillor

A friend is someone who will help you move.  A great friend is someone who will help you move - a body!
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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 10:41AM #2
Ironhold
Posts: 11,670

Acknowledged as fact by who?


 


It's well-known that many a critic of the church has been caught telling bald-faced lies, and it's equally well-known that critical statements are more likely to be put forth by random members of the general public.


 


If you're brave enough to make such a post, cite your sources.

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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 10:59AM #3
Jen_ks
Posts: 1,040

critics of the LDS church aren't the only ones who tell lies ;)


 

~host of the Mormon Debate Board~
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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 11:24AM #4
Truman47
Posts: 2,282

 


"It's equally well-known that critical statements" are more likely to be avoided in an organization like the church where it's highly discouraged for the sake of faith promotion. Surprised

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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 1:36PM #5
Unworthyone
Posts: 3,228

Sep 8, 2009 -- 10:41AM, Ironhold wrote:


If you're brave enough to make such a post, cite your sources.




Iron, all the regular posters here know that you believe any statement you interpret as being critical of the church is false.  We also know that you often prefer to attack the source of the statement rather than address the merits of the statement itself.


Point out a statement I've made as fact that you say is false, state why you think it is false,and I will consider citing a source.  Otherwise, don't waste my time.


 

Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.”
― Garrison Keillor

A friend is someone who will help you move.  A great friend is someone who will help you move - a body!
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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 1:58PM #6
Ironhold
Posts: 11,670

Sep 8, 2009 -- 1:36PM, Unworthyone wrote:


Sep 8, 2009 -- 10:41AM, Ironhold wrote:


If you're brave enough to make such a post, cite your sources.




Iron, all the regular posters here know that you believe any statement you interpret as being critical of the church is false.  We also know that you often prefer to attack the source of the statement rather than address the merits of the statement itself.


Point out a statement I've made as fact that you say is false, state why you think it is false,and I will consider citing a source.  Otherwise, don't waste my time.


 




How's about the entire textwall you posted?


You've made some awesomely big claims, and so the burden of proof is on you.

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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 2:31PM #7
Ironhold
Posts: 11,670

Owing to the fact that the quote tags are still somewhat broken, my own comments will be in orange.


So, here is another perspective.


A perspective based largely on wishful thinking.


This official account of "The First Vision" as it is known in the LDS Church, was not published until over a decade after its alleged occurrence.


According to Joseph's own recorded account - Joseph Smith: History - no one outside of his own family believed him at first, and in fact he was subject to harassment when he did try to tell other people.


As such, publishing it at the time would have done him no good; almost no one was listening anyway.


During the intervening time, Joseph was visited by the angel Moroni, who eventually led Joseph to some golden plates, on which was inscribed an account of ancient inhabitants of America.  Joseph, through the power of God, was able to translate these gold plates into what is now known as The Book of Mormon, a primary scripture (or standard work) of the LDS faith.  Afterwards, the golden plates were taken back by the angel Moroni, never to be seen again.


...which only makes sense considering that the region was so poor that such a large quantity of metal which appeared to have been made from gold could have been sold for enough money to make a man wealthy for life.


This church, according to Smith, is the only church recognized by God.  It is the only church authorized by God to act in His name, to preach the Gospel, to perform rituals such as baptism, ordinations, etc.


Inaccurate.


While the LDS faith is regarded as the only church with the proper authority, the good deeds of other faiths are recognized.


An objective study of Smith, the LDS Church, its history, and its current position in the world has led me to believe that Smith was little more than a charismatic con man who preyed on  unsophisticated and gullible rural people of the early 19th century.


Define "objective."


I speculate that Smith was actually simply a front man for a small group of connivers in the beginning of the con.  Eventually, the con took on a life of its own, and the charismatic Smith no longer needed the men who actually hatched the plot.  Many of these men eventually left the church.  The church likes to point out that these men never denied the truth of the church or recanted their testimonies.  I say of course they didn't.  It would have implicated them in the con, and they would have suffered the same consequences, or maybe worse, than that of Smith.


The least you could do is name the people who you suspect.


As I studied the history of Smith, both with books and documents sanctioned by the church, and with publications outside of the church, it became clear to me that the alleged theology of Smith evolved over time. 


News flash:


Mainstream Christian theology has evolved, too.


In fact, Christianity in and of itself is evolved Judaism.


He formed the Navoo militia, and appointed himself the commanding general of this exclusively Mormon army. At the time, it was the single largest army on U.S. territory, second only to the U.S. army. 


The Nauvoo Militia was formed in response to the violence that the members had endured while in Missouri. The church was largely caught off guard, and so this time around they wanted to be prepared in case similar violence broke out again.


Note that the state of Illinois was behind them in this endeavour, as the state government was the body who granted this authority.


Before his death, it is also reported that he even had aspirations of becoming president of the U.S.


Black LDS.org has his platform... a platform which proposed a peaceful end to slavery, the abolition of the death penalty in regards to peacetime military desertion, and other notions which even today rank as being enlightened.


As it was, Joseph's motivation to run for President was not for personal power. Rather, the federal government had so consistently turned its back on the church whenever it was in need that Joseph sought to shame the politicians by making a bid; although the odds were stacked against him, a strong enough showing would have been sufficient to notify Congress that the church was large enough to justify paying attention to.


I am of the opinion that the animosity had more to do with the failure of the saints to be good neighbors themselves, and that they saw anyone outside of the church as "gentiles" and to be avoided as much as possible.


Contrary to what critics of the church like to tell people, any faults on the part of the membership were marginal in contrast to the general bigotry, hatred, and fear that was displayed towards the church.


In fact, one of the key issues behind the violence in Missouri was the slave / free question. A Mormon majority in the state would have likely meant an end to slavery owing to the church's anti-slavery stance, something that slave-holding residents would not allow themselves to tolerate.


In the last years of Smith's life, Mormons had pretty much control of the community known as Navoo, Illinois.  At the time, it was larger in population than Chicago.  Mormons controlled the city government, the key commerce positions, including the largest bank, as well as the local news paper.  They accomplished this, not because they were the majority, but because they used their collective influence and voted as a block, electing exclusively Mormons to key city posts, pooled their financial resources and took control of banks, commodity exchanges, etc.


That's actually how a majority populace tends to work.


Mormons were given favorable loan rates at the banks, while non-Mormons were charged higher rates and more stringent terms.  Mormon appointed or elected judges in civil disputes more often than not ruled in favor of the Mormon.  Crops and livestock sold by Mormons got favorable treatment whenever possible over non-Mormon farmers and ranchers. All this led to frequent violent clashes between Mormons and their neighbors.


Proof?


One such instance became known as the kinderhook plates fiasco,


Bull.


Apologist Jeff Lindsay does a pretty thorough job of debunking this all-too-common claim, but since I doubt you'll read it I'll sum it up for you:


*None of the conspirators came forward while Joseph or the involved parties were still alive and could defend themselves.


*The primary source documentation from the day is inconsistent and contradictory, made worse by the fact that one of the documents discussing the translation taking place is believed to have been a forgery.


*Joseph wasn't in town the day that the plates were brought through, and so if anyone did make an offer to purchase them it was a person acting on their own w/o Joseph's sanction.


Between these and some additional details, this makes it highly unlikely that Joseph ever sat down to attempt a translation.


Another incident involves what is currently known as The Pearl of Great Price, another of the standard works or scripture  of the LDS Church today.  Smith acquired some Egyptian papyri from a traveling trader.


The PoGP involves more documents than just the Book of Abraham; it also includes writings that came about during Joseph's re-translations of Matthew and Genesis, Joseph's biography through to the first days of the church, and the Articles of Faith. That you equate the PoGP to one single book makes you look rather bad.


 


As it turned out, remnants of the scrolls were later discovered in the archives of a museum.


"Remnants" is the active word here.


Contemporary accounts indicate that the full papyrii, when spread out, could cover the floor of a good-sized room; the remaining bits only cover an average desk.


Additionally, at least some of the original papyrii that were translated were later cut up and mounted to thick paper; none of these documents have been recovered.


On top of that, the delay in adopting the BoA to the canon was due to it being a work in progress at the time of Joseph's death; he never completed it, nor did he indicate where he left off.


As such, it's quite plausible that the surviving fragments represent bits that weren't translated.


During Smith's life, there were the rumors of some unsavory behavior on the part of the highest ranking Mormons.  The rumors flew that Smith and his closest friends were involved in adulterous affairs, some involving married women, and even under-age girls.


If you're talking about Fanny Alger, the current scholarly hypothesis is that Alger was a "girl in trouble" and that Joseph took her in since she would have otherwise been a social outcast. DNA testing has proven that Joseph was not the father of Alger's child.


A variant of the hypothesis proposes that Philastus Hurlbut, and early critic of the church who was twice ex'd from its ranks for impropriety with the sisters, may well have been the father.


These allegations so outraged Smith and his friends that they drew up a civic order calling the press a public nuisance and ordered it destroyed.


No, the Nauvoo City Council drew up the charter.


You see, the Bill of Rights didn't go below the Federal level at this point; it wouldn't do so until a series of SCOTUS decisions in the early 1900s. The City Council thus relied on Illinois common law to determine a course of action, and the common law stated that "nuisance" presses could indeed be silenced.


The destruction of the press was, however, an accident; the original orders were to merely seize it, but the bailiff tasked with the job apparently got something backwards.


This set off a firestorm of violence throughout Navoo. 


Source?


Hyrum and Joseph were to be temporarily housed in the Carthage, Illinois jail, which was really just a two story house.  There were no bars or jail cells.  The small detachment charged with guarding Smith until his trial was released, and shortly there was an angry mob outside the jail intent on serving up some old fashioned frontier justice.  The mob stormed the jail, there was a gun battle (yes, Smith was armed) and Smith and his brother were killed.


Highly inaccurate.


Although the building was largely just an old house, it had in fact already been converted over to its purpose as a prison.


Additionally, the guard was not released; they deserted their posts in the face of the mob.


And the "gun battle" was Joseph using a tiny revolver one of the two visitors that day had with them in an effort to try and scare the mob off. He didn't fire until after Hyrum had already been gunned down.


Before you start into it, the historical accounts also disagree as to whether or not any of the mob members had been killed or if John Taylor had been lied to.


While the Salt Lake City church does not practice polygamy today, it has never outright denounced the previous practice of polygamy within the church.  The church discontinued the practice of polygamy when the U.S. Congress was considering Utah for statehood.


Ever actually read the text of the anti-polygamy laws or look at the societal circumstances behind them?


The folks back East hated the church and everything it stood for, in large part because they feared the fact that the church's rapid growth made it a considerable political powerhouse. The anti-polygamy laws went so far as to strip the members of basic human rights, something that no critic of the church has the moral courage to own up to.


The anti-polygamy laws also set back the womens' lib movement by several decades. Utah was actually the second territory in the nation to allow women the vote, and as a result Salt Lake City became a major hot spot for womens' lib groups. When the anti-polygamy laws rolled in, all women in the territory were stripped of their right to vote.


I'd love to see you try to justify that.


One of the more controversial practices of the church included the exclusion of blacks holding the priesthood until the policy was reversed by revelation in 1978.  Leaders of the church have admitted that the ban on blacks holding the priesthood was proving to be a hindrance to the growth of the church, particularly in Brazil, where a large percentage of the population has black ancestry.  While they had no shortage of converts, it was proving difficult to find men who were qualified to take local leadership roles in the church due to the ban.  Lifting the ban solved the problem.


Source?


Blacks held the priesthood in Joseph's day, and the decendants of one such person were allowed to continue holding the priesthood.


That you fail to make note of this forces me to question how "objective" your research actually was.


Today the LDS Church is a multinational corporation, with the highest ecclesiastical leaders serving on the boards of directors of the church's many secular business enterprises.  The church also has controlling interests in many other companies.


Name names.


I dare you.


In fact, before being allowed to participate in the temple rites, one must pass an interview with one's local bishop, who has final say as to whether one is ready and faithful enough to enter the temple.


The interview is a farce. It's largely the same questions a person is asked before they're baptized.

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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 2:32PM #8
Ironhold
Posts: 11,670

Anyway, I hope you're happy; because I stopped to deal with your text wall, I'm probably going to be late for class.

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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 3:02PM #9
Aka_me
Posts: 12,638

Sep 8, 2009 -- 2:31PM, Ironhold wrote:

The folks back East hated the church and everything it stood for



source?


Sep 8, 2009 -- 2:31PM, Ironhold wrote:

As it was, Joseph's motivation to run for President was not for personal power.



source?


heavy on opinion, light on sources!

the US exports death and corruption globally on a scale undrempt by Iranian authorities. war for corporate profits funded by taxpayers and soldiers' lives plus unofficial war funded by drugs to minorities. wave that flag of corruption in blissful ignorance of the orphans it creates assisting the rich to get richer. it's all good though cause we don't need to do ANYTHING to change... mother nature will create the necessary change.
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5 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2009 - 3:51PM #10
Aka_me
Posts: 12,638

Sep 8, 2009 -- 2:31PM, Ironhold wrote:

Blacks held the priesthood in Joseph's day, and the decendants of one such person were allowed to continue holding the priesthood.


That you fail to make note of this forces me to question how "objective" your research actually was.




and Brigham Young accepted slaves as tithing while arguing before the government to keep black people in slavery... because God made it that way.


that you fail to make note of this forces me to question how "objective" your research actually was.

the US exports death and corruption globally on a scale undrempt by Iranian authorities. war for corporate profits funded by taxpayers and soldiers' lives plus unofficial war funded by drugs to minorities. wave that flag of corruption in blissful ignorance of the orphans it creates assisting the rich to get richer. it's all good though cause we don't need to do ANYTHING to change... mother nature will create the necessary change.
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