Anti-Mormonism and YouTube

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One obvious but relatively benign example of anti-Mormonism online is found on YouTube. Below are a couple examples from the “I’m a Mormon” videos. Just because I’m Mormon doesn’t mean I have to like a particular video (although I’ve yet to watch one I haven’t liked but I like lots of things in life); I as a Mormon might even dislike one or all of the “I’m a Mormon” videos and give it a thumbs down. Being Mormon doesn’t mean I have to like them and not being Mormon doesn’t mean I have to dislike them. However, almost every video uploaded by the LDS Church receives a significant number of thumbs down. After a while the thumbs up sometimes overtake the dislikes and some videos never receive a majority of dislikes but most do – simply because they are videos by the Church.

Now, not all the thumbs down are necessarily by people who are anti-Mormon, some are by people opposed to religion in general, but I’d venture to guess that most of the thumbs down are people who are specifically anti-Mormon; they might even think that disliking the videos has any consequence, such as the Church might stop posting videos – they won’t until they are ready to move on to some other way of spreading the gospel. That’s why I said this is relatively benign anti-Mormonism – it doesn’t really matter whether or not a video gets a lot of thumbs up or thumbs down. Sure, we’d like everyone to like the videos but that’s not going to happen. Disliking them won’t stop the Church from posting the videos. Besides, anti-Mormons don’t bother us Mormons very much because we (as a church) have been dealing with them since 1820 (or, 1830 if you want to link them to the year the church was founded in modern times). Most of us try to ignore the tinkling cymbals and sounding brass – they will eventually run out of energy and wind. People hated and persecuted and killed the Savior but He rose triumphantly from the grave and will eventually return triumphantly to the earth where He will rule and reign. People hated and killed Joseph Smith but doing so only gave his testimonies greater power. The Church did not die with Joseph Smith, nor will it ever be lost from the earth for it is the Lord’s Church.

I just think it’s sad how much time and energy people spend hating other people or hating the Church (in the U.S. the LDS Church is one of the least favorably viewed religions) or hating Mormons; I’ve never understood hate in general though. I’m not saying that the people disliking these videos on YouTube necessarily hate Mormons, but it’s largely driven by anti-Mormon sentiment.

I know there are many worse anti-Mormon actions out there, including a number of videos on YouTube, but they’re not worth mentioning or addressing. A number of years ago I decided anti-Mormon literature and videos were not worth addressing or trying to correct because I don’t like dealing with the evil spirit associated with such material. That’s why I said these dislikes on YouTube are pretty benign – even if they are driven by negative prejudice – because they aren’t lies about the Church or half-truths; they are simply actions of people who have lots of better things they could be doing but don’t.

Cloven Tongues of Fire

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There is a phrase in the book of Acts – “cloven tongues of fire” – that describes an experience of great power. The context of the phrase is day of Pentecost. During this great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, many great sights were seen, many great sounds were heard, and many great feelings were felt. We read, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4).

I started thinking about the term “cloven tongues of fire”. What does that phrase mean? How it is phrased in Acts makes it seem like those present saw flames around them. This might be the case but we get clarification of what this phrase means in the Doctrine and Covenants, part of the canon of scripture for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We read: “Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost; let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof.” (D&C 109:36).

Cloven means split. Cloven tongues are like the tongues of snakes. But in this instance, the cloven tongues refer to speaking in tongues. This is a gift from the Holy Ghost. There are at least two ways of looking at these cloven tongues of fire.

  1. On the day of Pentecost, some people spoke in tongues – plural. They said something in one language but other people heard it in another. We know this is the case: “The multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilæans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:6-8). Thus, these cloven tongues are really just that – speaking in tongues (multiple) at the same time.
  2. Another interpretation (pun intended) is that tongues are cloven because there is the message of the spoken words and the message of the Holy Ghost. These two things are not always the same thing. What is said and what the Spirit teaches us can be different. Both interpretations are correct.

What’s important to keep in mind is that speaking in tongues is only effective if there is someone who can understand it or interpret it. Generally, it is not the case that the Holy Ghost will bless someone with the gift of tongues in order for them to speak some unknown language without an interpreter. That’s why people speaking gibberish purportedly under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost are not really given the gift of tongues. This is not to say that people cannot speak in an unknown language – such as Adam’s “pure and undefiled” language (see Moses 6:5-6:46) – but again, when this occurs there will almost always be someone who is able to understand and/or translate it by the same power of the Holy Ghost.

The gift of tongues – even cloven tongues of fire – is evident in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today as are the other miraculous events of the day of Pentecost. We have missionaries who learn languages quickly, who teach the gospel filled with the fire of God. There have been cases where missionaries or  apostles have said things they didn’t know how to say in another language or that those listening understood what was being said even though they did not understand the words.

What about someone like myself who served as a missionary in the United States, speaking my native English? The cloven tongues of fire is only one gift of many from the Holy Ghost. Still, there were many times when I spoke and the tongue of the Spirit spoke too – it was a fire that burned brightly within others and myself. Additionally, because of the blessings of the Holy Ghost, my command of English improved. This is not usually how we think of the gift of tongues but it can, and often is, the case that your own language skills will improve so that you can improve teaching the gospel.

“Cloven tongues of fire” is a phrase that provides powerful imagery. The most important implication of it is that it is a gift of the Holy Ghost. When the power of God rests upon us we can know, feel, and do great things. This is a power that touches many but was largely lost from the earth until the Priesthood and ordinances of God were restored to Joseph Smith. The gift (not just influence) of the Holy Ghost is one of the greatest and most important components of the Restoration.

In closing, Pres. Packer gave a great talk on this topic in the April 2000 General Conference. Pres. Packer said:

“In every language, the Spirit of God—the Holy Ghost—guides, or can guide, every member of the Church. Everyone is invited to come and repent and be baptized and receive of this sacred gift. Despite opposition, the Church will flourish; and despite persecution, it will grow. Joseph Smith was asked, ‘How does your religion differ from other religions?’ He replied, ‘All other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost.'”

The power of the Holy Ghost is real. When with us, we can receive great blessings so that we are better able to share the gospel with others and bless the lives of others. The flaming fire of the Spirit is a call to responsibility; it is a call to be lights on hills to others who are lost in the darkness of disbelief. It is a call to speak with the power of God so that others might bask in His light and love.

Liberty and Adversity

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Near the end of 1776, the American colonies were entrenched in a war against Great Britain. This was part of the war for independence. Things at that time were not going well for the Americans who were seeking freedom. They had lost a number of battles, forts, and cities, including Fort Washington and New York City. While he watched the battle of Fort Washington, General George Washington was dismayed at the loss of life. At the end of the battle he wept openly. It was a hard loss. The war was a series of defeats for the Americans. The cold fall with so much adversity might have seemed bleak and hopeless. Indeed it was for a number of people but many Americans found new resolve in their adversity. They strengthened their desires for freedom from what they saw as an oppressive government. In the midst of this adversity Dr. Benjamin Rush said, “Our republics cannot exist long in prosperity. We require adversity and appear to posses most of the republican spirit when most depressed.” (Source: David Hackett Fischer. Washington’s crossing. (2006). Oxford University Press, USA). To quote David Fischer, “It was a time when many Americans resolved to act in a way that made a difference in the world.” The revival in the resolve and hearts of those fighting the war of independence came from their defeats, not their victories. It was in the Americans’ responses to calamity and tragedy that their greatness grew. We don’t show our strength and character in times of ease, we demonstrate it by how we respond when all the world seems to be falling down around us.

How do you cope with adversity? Do you turn tail and run? Do you break down on the side of a highway and abandon your car? Do you end up shattered upon the jagged rocks of adversity? Or do you fight? Do you face the adversity and move forward? Fighting is not always the solution – there are some fights that are beyond us – but when faced with adversity we should strive address it as best as we can. Sometimes that might be by running away, like Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife. For Joseph, his running from adversity led him into greater adversity – being cast into prison. How did he deal with this potential tragedy? He remained true to who he was and became the most important man in prison. Through his righteousness and faith he faced adversity and overcame it, eventually rising to the second most powerful man in Egypt. We can say that Joseph was successful because of his adversity, not in spite of it. His liberty only came through his adversity.

Adversity is an eternal principle. We read in the Book of Mormon: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.” (2 Nephi 2:11). Opposition is adversity. It’s part of the gospel. It’s important for liberty. We also read in 2 Nephi: “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27). Opposition gives us the ability to choose eternal life or eternal death (spiritual, not physical). Choosing God brings happiness; choosing the devil brings misery. Our choices are important. We need to remember that adversity is necessary, even if it is difficult and painful. Jesus has been there. He understands all our pain.

“If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; if thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; and if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:5-8).

All our adversity is for our good, even if in the midst of it that might seem like a cruel sentiment. I have to add that there is plenty of adversity of our own making that comes from sin or unwise choices but if we repent and if we persevere and if we overcome that adversity, it will be for our good. Not sinning would have been better, of course, but all adversity can be for our good. Having faith in Christ gives us the strength to maintain this attitude and knowledge through even our darkest, most difficult adversities. We can hope against hope. Instead of becoming shattered upon the jagged rocks of adversity we can survive the shipwrecks in our lives. We might be stuck on an island for some time, even the rest of our lives, but we can build a new home there and make the best of whatever situation we are in. That is what the Americans did during the Revolutionary War. It was a war that looked like it could not be won. It was a war between a raw, weak army and a battle-hardened one. The Americans persevered through the dark days and won their freedom. Liberty truly came through adversity.