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Elder Snow’s Role with Gospel Topics Essays (Part 2 of 4)

In 2013, the Church published a series of essays on controversial topics, such as polygamy and the race ban on black church members.  What was Elder Steven Snow’s role in that roll-out?

Elder Snow:  Well, it was something that when I was in the Presidency of the Seventy. I was aware for many years that this was something that the brethren felt like needed to be done. There had been some attempts in the past that had not worked out. They just hadn’t worked.

The renewed emphasis had been building under Elder Marlin Jensen’s tenure. He really wanted to do this, to really get it. So [it began] under his leadership, and I was apprenticing still.  There were six months when I got to work with Elder Jensen, after I was first called. So, I was called in December as Church Historian in 2011. Then I finally took over officially, August 1st of 2012. But during that six months I was with Marlin, we were stirring about that.  I think really, under his leadership, it was presented to the Quorum of the Twelve and to the First Presidency.  Twelve specific questions were identified. In May of 2012, the leading quorums gave the approval to move ahead. We had a committee of general authority Seventies and also scholars and historians from our department that reviewed all of the drafts that came in on all of these questions. Generally, the way it was done is we retained an outside historian to write the first draft–someone outside of church employment.

GT:  Now, why did you pick somebody outside church employment?  That’s interesting.

Elder Snow:  Well, we just felt it would [be best to] go to an expert, like Paul Reeve, for example, for Race and the Priesthood.  You can’t find anyone better than Dr. Reeve to do it. So, he was very helpful in getting us the first draft and the information we needed to go ahead. That’s just an example. So, that was the pattern for most of them and then they were reviewed by our department, the historians and scholars, as well as the general authority Seventies on the committee. And then they were gone through many, many times. Then, eventually were given to the Twelve and First Presidency for approval.

Was there a debate among the brethren about the essays?

Elder Snow:  Well, that’s very interesting, the debate. Just so I can give you a little context on what was happening was, “Do you advertise and make a big deal about a website that you can go to learn  everything weird you wanted to know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? You can go here. Or should we just kind of quietly release them?” The decision was made, kind of quietly to put them out there so that they’re accessible. Then at a later date, we could publicize them more if we wanted. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary.  Once Race and the Priesthood, and Nauvoo polygamy came out, it wasn’t necessary to publicize the Gospel Topics database. People began very quickly to learn about it.

GT:  Yes, yes. Well, and it doesn’t seem like, and I’ve heard anecdotally, and I don’t know how big of a deal this is. But it was kind of like what you said, “Do we tell the weird things about the church, or do we just let people find them on their own?” Have you heard that some people have lost testimonies?

Elder Snow:  That was that was the concern. We wanted to help a lot of people that were struggling on some of these questions. But you’ve got to understand that a large majority, a large percentage of the church could care less.  That really hasn’t been anything they’ve worried about. We have anecdotally understood that there have been a few that their world has been rocked by having learned in more detail some of these questions. Now, for the most part, I think they’ve been very, very positive.

Check out our conversation….

Elder Snow describes the thought process behind the Gospel Topics essays.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Elder Snow!

302: “I Just Love Church History!”

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False Prophecies are Possible! (Part 6)

Can a prophet make mistakes, even in prophecy and revelation?  William Bickerton, a prophet in the Church of Jesus Christ said yes, prophets make mistakes.  Dr. Daniel Stone will give us more information in this great conversation.

Daniel: William Bickerton especially towards the end of his life, recognized that prophets were fallible, even I believe it was during the Civil War.

So very early on his people, including him, can even recognize that men can make mistakes even though they’re considered a prophet of God. It is possible that a prophet can false prophesy.

GT: Wow, that’s very interesting.

Daniel: And that could just be from their own wants and desires. And even people in my tradition, I brought this up during a men’s class one time that I was teaching, and I tried to bring it up, when we were talking about the gift of prophecy. I said, there are instances in the scriptures were prophets get it wrong, but they’re still called prophets. I believe Nathan is one of them. I’d have to look. There was examples and I bring up William Bickerton for one of them. I personally believe Joseph Smith. I am a believer, so I’m going to take my academic hat off for a second and say, I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Because I have to believe in the Book of Mormon, which I do, to say that. But I think Joseph Smith might have let his mind get to certain things. And that’s okay because we read prophets in the Old Testament do that sometimes, quite often.

Do you agree?  Is it possible for a prophet to make a mistake in revelation and still be a prophet?

William Bickerton, prophet of Church of Jesus Christ in Monongahela, PA said prophet make mistakes, even in revelation. Dr. Daniel Stone tells more!
William Bickerton, prophet of Church of Jesus Christ in Monongahela, PA said prophet make mistakes, even in revelation. Dr. Daniel Stone tells more!

Check out our conversation, as well as our other conversation with Dr. Daniel Stone!

200: Civil War Prophecy Leads to Black Ordination (Stone)

199: Biblical Support to Ordain Women (Stone)

198: Bickerton Becomes Prophet (Stone)

197: Sidney’s Church Falls Apart (Stone)

196: Rigdon/Spalding Manuscript Theory (Stone)

 

 

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Is Polygamy a Ticket to Heaven?

Some Protestants, such as Born-Again Christians, believe that one can be saved in heaven—assured salvation.  Did early Mormons believe in something similar?  Was polygamy a ticket to heaven, not just for the man, but for his wives and children as well?  Dr. Bill Smith will talk about this in our next conversation.

Bill:  The idea is that the elite Mormon men, those with—maybe I should use the word assured salvation, like Joseph Smith, it was a great thing to be a child of somebody like that theoretically.  It was a great thing to be their child because as Joseph says, “On the other side of the veil, I will claim what I seal.”  In other words, anybody he is sealed to is guaranteed to go into heaven with him.  Because he is guaranteed in the revelation in fact that he’ll be going to heaven. So, this is important.  It’s an important story for important people.

That sounds doubly bad I guess in the present day.  It sounds sexist.  It sounds elitist, but in fact that’s the way it worked out.  A lot of people engaged in polygamy, a lot of women engaged in polygamy, not as many men of course, but it was really a story in terms of descendants, a story of elite Mormon men, because they are the ones that had 30 wives, or 15 wives, or 25 wives, or more.  Most of those men had children with most of those wives.

Dr. Smith talks about how the theology of assured salvation has changed over the years.  We will also talk about one of the major justifications of polygamy: raising seed.  If that was so important, why didn’t Joseph have children with wives other than Emma?

Bill:  I can’t really answer that except to say that the record on the ground seems to suggest that at least with some women, other than his wife, he was having sex. But I think it is impossible to argue beyond reminiscent accounts and that sort of thing, whether or not that was really going on.  I think it’s probably a sure thing that it did happen, but with who and how often?  That’s really hard to say.

Check out our conversation, along with our previous conversations about Emma Smith and Oliver Cowdery…..