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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 23:12
Here are three. No, they're not THE Golden Plates, but they're as close to their description as has ever been found.


They're called the Pyrgi Tablets and were found in Italy in 1964. Written in Etruscan and Phonecian, these plates are very similar in size, description, and script to the ones Joseph Smith translated. They are thought to date from around 500 B.C., which is only about 100 years later than when Lehi left Jerusalem for the Americas carrying records engraved similarly on brass plates. The gold plates from which came the Book of Mormon weren't created until after Lehi's arrival in the Americas, but it's rather safe to assume that Book of Mormon gold plates were quite similar to these.


It's fascinating to compare the form and makeup of the characters on these plates with the ones copied to paper and shown to by Martin Harris Professor Charles Anthon at Columbia University. There are many similarities. One could be persuaded that perhaps Phonecian and Etruscan were related to or even a form of the Reformed Egyptian found on the gold plates.

See also: Golden Plates by William Hamblin
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Book of Mormon evidence, gold plates"
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Date: Friday, 10 Jan 2014 15:00
Could it be there were elephants in ancient America?


Key quote from the article:
While the jury is still out, there are a number of North American Indian traditions which recount legends of giant stiff-legged beasts which would never lie down, had a big head and large leaf-like ears, round footprints, forward-bending knees, and had a fifth appendage coming out of its head.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "apologetics, book of mormon, elephants"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 18:00
What about "horses" mentioned in the Book of Mormon?


Key quote from the article:
There are at least two possible resolutions to the “horse” problem in the Book of Mormon: (1) definitions were expanded to include new meanings and (2) horses were present but their remains have not been found.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "apologetics, book of mormon, horses, Pre..."
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 16:31
Why are there anachronisms in the Book of Mormon?


Key quote from the article:
The Book of Mormon has frequently been charged with containing numerous anachronistic items including certain animals, plants, metals, textiles, and weapons. In all instances, however, there is the possibility that (a) such things were once in the Americas but the evidence has either disappeared or has not yet been found, or (b) Book of Mormon labels are based on the re-labeling of New World items with familiar Old World labels. To claim that things did not exist because they have not been found is to commit the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance or silence. According to a famous and generally accepted archaeological dictum, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "anachronisms, apologetics, book of mormo..."
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 16:14
From Book of Mormon 1: Taken from other manuscripts?


Key quote from the article:
Even many years later, after Rigdon had apostatized from the Church, he denied ever having seen the Book of Mormon until it was introduced to him by the Mormon missionary Parley P. Pratt. Somehow the Spalding manuscript was lost and then resurfaced in 1884 in a pile of papers belonging to a man who had bought Howe’s business. Examining Spalding’s actual novel proved that the Mormons had been right all along; any similarities between the manuscript and the Book of Mormon were superficial.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "apologetics, book of mormon, spalding ma..."
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Date: Thursday, 16 May 2013 01:02
I get this question occasionally (not usually in a sincere way, and usually from folks who are trying to "catch me" in my words). The answer is that there is already a lot of archaeological evidence out there, but it has not been correlated to Book of Mormon texts by "mainstream" science. Secular scientists have no real compelling reason to examine Book of Mormon claims in light of accumulated archaeological findings because, well, the Book of Mormon is a spiritual text. They just don't see a need to delve into that relationship. They certainly cannot publish it and expect to have a career within the secular scientific community. The two are like oil and water.

That's why voices like mine and other faithful LDS apologists and scholars are necessary to the search for this knowledge through our interpretation of secular findings. And it's an important question to answer because the Book of Mormon has time and time again been proven to show that its origins can only have one of two explanations: either it is the most ingenious fraud ever concocted by one man (remarkable in itself), or it is the very word of God to people in the ancient Americas, recorded by the same.

Of course, I am irrevocably convinced of the latter explanation, with or without archaeological evidences, because the Holy Ghost has testified to me of its truth.

But one big reason we don't have more compelling physical evidences stands out in my mind. It has to do with the encroachment of modern civilization on the ancient remnants of American ruins.

It started with the Conquistadores, who brought Catholic missionaries with them who sought to bring the light of Gospel knowledge and salvation to whomever they could find. Their intentions, noble or not, were tarnished by their overzealous efforts to stamp out any remnant of pagan beliefs among the native Aztecs and Mayans. All but a few precious codices of the Mesoamerican people were burned to ashes and lost forever. Some oral traditions were later written down, several of which have astonishing parallels to and are riddled with motifs of Bible traditions. Some missionaries were intrigued by these stories and wrote them down to preserve them for study. Others, however, stopped at nothing to erase them from the collective conscious of the people they encountered. Even if that did lead to genuine faith in Jesus Christ among the natives, it was a crime against humanity to have censored all of that valuable history and those intricate origin stories.

An excavator destroys the main
structure at an archaeological
site in Caye Caulker, Belize. The
material excavated was used
for highway road bed fill.
As for artifacts, take, for example, this frustratingly tragic story from Caye Caulker, Belize. For convenience, here are the relevant quotes from the article:

Today we learned that a major Mayan Monument had been bulldozed for roadfill aggregate. 7news went to Orange Walk District, near the northern district boundary to find out that Noh Mul – or at least a large part of it – is no more. It’s a stunning development – and Jules Vasquez reports.
...
To give a broader sense of context – the site known as Noh Mul or “Big Hill” is scattered over a wide area about 12 square miles – and is estimated to have been home to 40,000 people between 500 and 250 BC. There are about 81 separate buildings – all on private property. But the one that has been destroyed is the namesake, the Big Hill – as it was the ceremonial center and main structure. 
...
"...this was around maybe 250bc and it would have been part of the ceremonial precinct, this would have been probably a public building or a building where the Nobels or the High Priest would have occupied. This building would have been probably the focal point. These mounds you are seeing around here and another group over there – they might have had connectivity between ceremonial administrative religious function here. This was sort of the epi-center of this settlement."
... 
"Like a huge palace or building or a huge temple it would have had many rooms in there, multi-layered rooms so you have rooms for people living and you would also had several tombs in there of the people who lived in this area here."
...
"Belize is 8,867 square miles of jungle. We are only around 16 personell in the department. We can’t be in the Chiquibul and at the same time being at La Milpa. We applaud whoever can help us. It is our herritage and we all have to chip in and when things like this happen – it affects all of us."

I'm sickened that this happens. I also know it's inevitable and that God has a plan to eventually reveal to us what was lost. But, I can't help but wonder in dismay at who knows how many pages of scholarship this site could have generated. Its main center of worship, and likely "library" of useful cultural knowledge, is wastefully and tragically gone.

There are thousands more sites just like Noh Mul in Mexico and Central America that are in similar danger. I just hope that enough young people, especially LDS youth, will get into the field of archaeology, and enough concerned (and wealthy) individuals and governments will come together to help save what knowledge we have left.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Belize, book of mormon, Caye Caulker"
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Date: Sunday, 30 Dec 2012 19:53
I had prepared a blog post to tell you all about my trip to Cahokia mounds

But Google's Blogger.com ate it.

I was going to tell you all about how there are some interesting links between the Cahokian civilization and the Mayan civilization of the Yucatan, only 1,200 miles to the south, including Cahokian belief in a "Pale Prophet" who taught them Judeo-Christian commandments.

But Google's Blogger.com ate it.

I wanted to show how modern science acts like some dogmatic religions with detail about a conversation I had with a museum docent at Cahokia Mounds State Park who said there were "absolutely no links to the Mayans" rather than "no links have yet been found". 

But I can't retrieve the work Google's Blogger.com and it's lame "undo" feature took from me when I was inserting one last image.

Instead, I'll provide some video and images below to let you draw your own conclusions.

While you do that, I'll start working on moving my blog to Wordpress and a new domain name.

Signs of Mayans in Georgia, USA?





Drawing of Cahokian Chunkey (tchung-kee) player

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Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "cahokia, codex, codices, mayan, mounds, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 12:37
Today, during an unrelated Google search session I was doing, I came across an article from the blog of Discover Magazine. The article summarizes (rather lengthily) the research done up to 2010 regarding the tracking of ancient Jewish populations to modern-day locations after the Diaspora.

What caught my eye was the headline: "Genetics & the Jews (it's still complicated)"  That certainly sums up the argument of LDS apologists. They continue to defend the Book of Mormon origins in spite of some of our detractors.  Those seeking to disprove a divine origin for the Book of Mormon insist that because no clear genetic link exists between modern bloodlines of native American populations and any tribe of the Jews, then no link ever existed.

To further expose the logical fallacy that flawed thesis presents, here are some of the concluding statements from the Discover Magazine blog post.
So what’s the bottom line here? I think the bottom line is that there isn’t a bottom line, and that we need to proceed on a case by case basis. I’ve focused on Middle Eastern Jews in this post, but let’s put the spotlight on the Indian Jews, the Bene Israel of Bombay, who were separated from the Jewish Diaspora, and the Cochin Jews, who were more well integrated... 
What likely occurred in India was that generations of admixture between Jews and non-Jews resulted in the elision of differences between the two groups, despite the persistence of a cultural distinction. 
I suspect that it has to do with the relative lack of a special relationship between Jews and the host culture in India as opposed to the world of Islam or Christendom. In India Jews were just another group, not subject to particular exclusion or marginalization. Non-Jews could, and did, move into the Indian Jewish community, while this was taboo in the Islamic or Christian world. A similar process seems to have occurred to the Jews of Kaifeng, who intermarried and eventually lost their identity because of their greater eventual isolation from the Jewish Diaspora in comparison to the Indian Jews, especially those of Cochin.
What anti-Mormon DNA "researchers" often cast aside is the additional complexity of tracking more than just the tribe of Judah. In our case we're tracking mostly the tribe of Manasseh through the house of Joseph of Egypt (his wife was Egyptian, so his offspring were half-Egyptian, and no record exists of all the combinations that likely happened thereafter). We're also tracking a superimposition of the unknown genetic makeup of the people that likely already existed in the Americas upon Lehi's arrival, plus their interbreeding with the even more ancient Jaredite (likely Olmec) population, also of unknown genetic makeup. Now throw in the mind-bogglingly large principles of chance where millions of genes are mixed with mutations, haplotypes, dominant and recessive genes, etc.

As the gene network visualization graph (snapshot above) clearly shows, just for one species of the genus mus (musculusthe common house mouse), the Foxa2 gene that dictates the cell maturation and endocrine system development of this tiny creature exhibits a dizzying array of complexity. There are just way too many variables for anyone to state that the science is settled. I expect it will remain that way for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Extrapolating that level of complexity to the scale of tracking ancient migrations of unknown population sizes of homo sapiens for whom we have no original genetic samples, it appears, as we've stated in the past...that not enough genetic information exists in populations today to make conclusions about populations thousands of years ago. Nobody has the evidence or tools to make a definitive claim one way or the other as to the genetic linkage between modern native American populations and migrations of Jews from the Holy Land.

Again, the Book of Mormon, being a spiritual record, as is the Bible (if one only looks at it objectively as true science demands) challenges us to accept its provenance based on faith and not on external evidences alone.

But that is what God intended for both books. As confirmed by Matthew 16:17...

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

...the act of believing by faith is much more sufficient to create strong conversion that leads one to salvation than is the act of believing by sight alone.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Book of Mormon evidence, DNA, faith, sig..."
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Date: Thursday, 06 Dec 2012 00:00
Book Of Mormon Scriptures
Book Of Mormon Scriptures (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking Mormons believe the Book of Mormon teaches everything there is to know about Jesus. I'm not sure how this myth got started, but it's certainly not something taught in LDS Sunday School or any other curriculum of the Church. Therefore, there's no reason for anyone outside of the Church to believe it either. 

Ironically, the Bible is also often held up against the Book of Mormon as a complete and perfect standard of all knowledge about everything...everything...about Jesus, even to the point that nothing more can or should be written. 

But that belief contradicts John 21:25, which says:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

The simple mathematical fact is that no one book can contain everything a person said or did. Any biographer can tell you this with 100% certainty. It's simply impossible for mortal ears and eyes to convert to writing the sheer volume of all events and speech in even one person's life. We were not meant to look at any work of scripture, Bible or Book of Mormon, as a universal compendium of everything there is to know about a person or events or even doctrine! 

Rather, the highlights and key events and doctrines in the lives and speech of the prophets and of Jesus Christ are recorded in these books as a way to unify truth into one great whole. 

More knowledge will be given to us later, if we can show that we're willing to believe and obey what we've already been given.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon included a statement by Nephi's younger brother, Jacob, about the fact that not everything the people of Nephi did could be recorded in one book, or even in many books.

Jacob 3:13

And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings.

Indeed, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon affirm that there are other nations that had been touched by Gospel teachings. Those experiences were recorded.

Jesus Carrying a Lost Lamb

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.
 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:
 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
The following instances in the Book of Mormon show where more is mentioned or said that was not actually written, or that was or is 
yet to be written, or that was written and was subsequently lost (the 116 translated pages that Martin Harris lost) or not included (material that Mormon simply summarized or just didn't include in his abridgment), or that was written and we just don't know about it yet.

1 Nephi 1:16-17
And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.
But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
1 Nephi 6:3
And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.

1 Nephi 10:15
And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.

1 Nephi 14:24-28
And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.
But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.
And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.
And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.
And behold, I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard; wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me; and I have written but a small part of the things which I saw.
2 Nephi 4:14
For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.

2 Nephi 11:1
And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me.

2 Nephi 29:10-11
Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
Jarom 1:2
And as these plates are small, and as these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites, wherefore, it must needs be that I write a little; but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations. For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.

Alma 9:34
And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.

Helaman 5:13
And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.

Ether 12:39-40
And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
 And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
3 Nephi 7:17
And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.

3 Nephi 27:25
For behold, out of the books which have been written, and which shall be written, shall this people be judged, for by them shall their works be known unto men.

Ether 4:5
Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

Moroni 1:4
Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord.


Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "bible, book of mormon, Jesus, Sunday sch..."
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Date: Monday, 22 Oct 2012 20:58
One way to come unto Christ is by seeking to learn essential truths with our hearts.
What does it mean to learn something by heart? We hear that phrase used when describing the experience of memorizing something. There is another meaning. In the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, learning something by heart means that you make an effort to connect your heart and your mind, and not rely on the mind alone for answers.

This is a strange concept to those who believe that knowledge is obtained by reason alone. It is often met with contempt and derision. Yet, I would argue that such persons rob themselves of the true process of gaining the kind of knowledge that turns into wisdom and which brings us closer to God. Faith, whether it be in the idea that an answer exists (scientific hypothesis) or in Christ, is an essential part of every learning endeavor.

Elder Walter F. González of the Presidency of the Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about what it means to learn with our hearts.




Whenever someone comes to me and says, "Yes, well I've read all your books and attended all your meetings and I still am skeptical about such and such," I feel very sad for them. They hold onto doubt as if it were a security blanket. In reality, doubt is like an anchor held fast to the bottom of the ocean while a storm threatens to capsize the ship. Cut that anchor free and allow God to teach you truth, rejecting doubts that the adversary would have you listen to. God is not an author of confusion and skepticism. He is the God of Knowledge. Whatever you ask of Him, having faith, it will be given to you.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "faith, heart, reason, testimony"
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012 11:55
President Thomas S. Monson, in his talk entitled "See Others As They May Become", told the men in Priesthood session of LDS General Conference that every woman deserves to be told she's beautiful. The young men in the priesthood have taken his message to heart and created this video as a dedication to the girls and women in their lives.



Here is the entirety of President Monson's talk:

Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "priesthood"
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Date: Monday, 15 Oct 2012 15:31

How do I find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

If you're wondering what the LDS Church is and how its members worship and understand its teachings, here are the steps I recommend. In general form (ignoring the LDS specifics below), these are the steps I recommend for when anyone is interested in learning the spiritual aspects of any religious organization and/or the truth of anything at all.

1. Use the Meetinghouse Locator to find and attend several meetings of your local congregation (called a "ward"). I suggest going for more than a month straight, so you can see broader picture (for example, differences between Fast and Testimony meeting on the 1st Sunday of every month vs. the regular sacrament meeting programs). 

2. Attend all three hours of each week's meeting block to hear what is taught in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, and Priesthood (or Relief Society).

3. Attend at least one cultural event or activity outside of a Sunday meeting. There's usually at least one per month in every ward. Ask a member or look in the program flyer each Sunday for the latest announcements.

4. Read along with the classes that are being taught. Start with the essentials of the Gospel, through the Gospel Principals manual. Study the Our Heritage book for an overview of LDS Church history. Then, move on to the Sunday School manuals. This year's class has been the Book of Mormon. The classes rotate annually over a period of four years: Year 1: Old Testament, Year 2: New Testament, Year 3: Book of Mormon, Year 4: Doctrine & Covenants.

5. Ask the missionaries to teach you. Tell them you'd like a member of the Church who is not a full-time missionary to accompany them so you can get a second perspective from a "regular" member. Meet LDS Church members online and at church meetings and activities.

6. Visit LDS.org/conference and listen to the most recent words of apostles and the prophet.

7. Read a Church magazine, such as The Ensign (adults), The New Era (youth), or The Friend (children) and The Liahona (international).

8. For any questions you have about doctrine, the entire library of everything we teach in all of our weekly meetings is found online at LDS.org/manual

9. Visit a nearby visitor's center, historic site, pageant, or temple. Learn how the Church takes care of the poor and needy via its humanitarian programDeseret Industries and provident living (welfare) programs.


MOST IMPORTANTLY

As you study and attend and discuss:

A. Set aside doubts long enough to feel the Spirit. "The Savior said, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28) and 'Knock, and it shall be [given] you' (Matthew 7:7). These are action verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism." (Faith—the Choice is Yours, Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric)

B. Live the teachings and doctrine (John 7:16-17) and pray to know whether what you've been taught is true. From Elder David A. Bednar's October 2012 conference talk on conversion:

"As Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He posed this penetrating question to His disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?”

"Peter responded forthrightly:

"'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

"'And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 16:15–17).

"As is evidenced in Peter’s reply and the Savior’s instruction, a testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children. Any honest seeker of truth can obtain a testimony by exercising the necessary 'particle of faith' in Jesus Christ to 'experiment upon' (Alma 32:27) and 'try the virtue of the word' (Alma 31:5), to yield 'to the enticings of the Holy Spirit' (Mosiah 3:19), and to awaken unto God (see Alma 5:7). Testimony brings increased personal accountability and is a source of purpose, assurance, and joy.

"Seeking for and obtaining a testimony of spiritual truth requires asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7; 3 Nephi 14:7) with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in the Savior (see Moroni 10:4). Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days."
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Are Mormons Christians?, books, Church o..."
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Date: Sunday, 07 Oct 2012 19:37
Salt Lake City - LDS Conference Center
Salt Lake City - LDS Conference Center (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

Why do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a General Conference?

Twice per year, for two days on a weekend, members of the Church gather in Salt Lake City, or in local LDS chapels and around radios, satellite TVs, and Internet media devices in other parts of the world. They get together to hear the words of a living prophet of God.

A living prophet of God?

English: The perform in the during General Con...
English: The perform in the during General Conference of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What if I told you that Moses or Elijah or Isaiah had come back from the dead and offered to speak at a special place and time? Would it be worth it to you to attend? Even just out of curiosity?

Mormons believe in the ancient prophets of the Bible. They believe God never changes, never forgets His promises to His children. They believe God always wants to speak to His children. They believe God continues calling prophets. He raises up worthy men whom He knows will faithfully follow Him and fulfill the calling to be His Voice on the earth just as He did anciently.

The first prophet of this dispensation (time of teaching the Gospel) was Joseph Smith. He was succeeded by Brigham Young, who was succeeded, in turn, by other men.

English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibb...
English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibbets (tibbets.org) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The present-day prophet (as of this writing) is Thomas S. Monson. We address him by the title "President". We believe that, just as Peter of the Old Testament was the prophet, seer, and revelator for his generation, President Monson is the prophet, seer, and revelator for our generation. He is the mouthpiece of the Lord on the earth and holds the same special authority as Peter had to administer the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

When people join the LDS faith, they are not converted to the prophet, but to Jesus Christ. The prophet is Christ's direct representative on the earth. When the prophet speaks, it is the same as if the Lord is speaking.

When is General Conference?

General Conference is scheduled regularly every six months, during the first weekends of April and October. It is structured into five separate sessions:  Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm MDT and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm MDT with a Saturday evening session from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm MDT. The Saturday evening session is only attended by priesthood boys and men or broadcast via satellite to a local chapel.

During every General Conference, Mormons anticipate eagerly the opportunity to hear what the Lord has commanded the prophet to say to them.

For example, during the Saturday morning session of October General Conference in 2012, President Monson announced two new temples would be built.

President Monson also delivered the groundbreaking announcement that the starting age of missionary service would be changed from 19 to 18 years of age for men and from 21 to 19 years of age for women.

The decisions that lead to these types of announcements, whether the changes be administrative or doctrinal, are not made solely by the prophet. They are revealed to him by God and to his counselors during private moments of inspiration and then proposed and decided upon collectively and unanimously in council with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

The Church is indeed a "living" church to which God continually reveals new knowledge, warns of impending adversity, and counsels us on how to live more virtuous lives in a world that is in constant moral decay.

If you would like to experience the counsels given to members of the LDS Church by caring and inspired leaders, you can do so in the same manner as the vast majority of members of the LDS faith. I invite you to watch the archived sessions found on the LDS.org website. Invite your family to join you, and then discuss what you have seen and heard. Post here in the comments if you have questions, or ask someone you know who is LDS. Missionaries can also answer your questions via the live chat feature of Mormon.org, or by talking on the phone at 888-537-6600 (U.S. and Canada only). You can locate a meetinghouse near you on Mormon.org.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Sai..."
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Date: Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 12:07
Joseph Smith had several dreams near the end of his life. As we commemorate his martyrdom today, our thoughts turn to those dreams and what they mean for us today.


Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "dream, Joseph Smith, martyr, vision"
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Date: Monday, 14 May 2012 18:40
Last night, as I drove around with two of my three rambunctious boys who watched church DVDs in the car while their mom had a moment to herself on Mother's Day, I was listening to "Lehi's Dream and Nephi's Vision as Used by Church Leaders". The talk was given Saturday, May 11th, at the 40th annual Sidney B. Sperry symposium by Mary Jane Woodger, who is a member of BYU's Church History and Doctrine department.

What a great talk it was! Practically every application of that scripture was considered, outlined, and summarized. Ms. Woodger reviewed many important statements by latter-day prophets on the vision.

I love Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life because everywhere you look, you can find an application for it. It's a painting for the mind and the soul and a guidepost on our way back to live eternally with our Father in Heaven.

My interest in Lehi's vision is amplified whenever a I see an article online that purports to shoot holes in the beliefs of those of us who believe in God.

A great example of a hubris-filled article, The Whys of Religion vs. Evolution, was written by evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago professor of ecology and evolution. He has made part of his life's career debunking religion, particularly creationism and the alternate framework of Intelligent Design.

Professor Coyne's work is one of many fulfillments of Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life. That it mentions evolutionary "trees of life" is ironic given the symbolism in Lehi's vision of the true Tree of Life (Christ, the Creator).

As if he were standing in one of the windows of the great and spacious building, Professor Coyne confidently states:
“If you live in a society that is dysfunctional and unhealthy, where people are doing better than you, you need solace from somewhere. You get it from religion,” said Jerry Coyne. “The thing that blocks acceptance of evolution in America is religion.” Coyne's talk, sponsored by the Harvard Museum of Natural History, was part of its “Evolution Matters” lecture series.
Coyne further concludes:
Despite this evidence, many Americans refuse to believe in evolution because they hold tightly to religious beliefs, most of which are taught in childhood well before young people learn of evolution, Coyne said. Three-quarters of Americans profess an absolute belief in God, and 63 percent believe in angels. 
The problem with evolution from a religious point of view, Coyne said, is that it doesn’t just assail religious views of human origin, it also erodes the religious underpinnings of the idea that humans are somehow special, that our lives have purpose and meaning, and that we need to be moral. 
... 
The answer, Coyne said, is to address society’s ills so Americans live in a more secure and level society.
This is a prime example of Lehi's vision in reality.

Additionally, it closely parallels the account of an encounter Alma had with a man named Korihor, who also distributed secular teachings as "truth". We read in Alma 30:

 16 Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.
 17 And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.
 18 And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms—telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof.
...
24 Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.
 25 Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents. [Today: "It's evolution!"]
...
 27 And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage...

While you read the rest of that story to find out what happened to Korihor (and Nehor and Sherem before him), I will go tend to my rambunctious boys.



Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "atheism, dream, great and spacious build..."
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Date: Saturday, 25 Feb 2012 22:08
This post actually serves two purposes: I'm using it to write a talk for giving at church this Sunday, and I'm writing it for those who need a comprehensive guide to how to get started using LDS online scripture study resources.

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A few years back, I had a strong desire to re-read the Book of Mormon. I got a copy of the book that missionaries typically hand out to people, the one with the navy blue softcover, and, using a highlighter and a pencil, wrote many notes in the margins and highlighted at least one verse on every page. My intent was to then use this as a master copy for marking up additional copies to hand out to acquaintances on trains, in airports, or people I knew personally who would enjoy reading a copy of the book "annotated" by someone who believes its message.

That study effort inspired me to create my blog, so I could create positive exposure to people searching for Book of Mormon keywords online.

When the Church began to publish study tools like the ones I'm about to describe, I saw it as an opportunity to move my master copy notes to a new, permanent, online home, and thus make this process even easier. I "rejoiced exceedingly". :)

Let's start with a look at the Study Notebook.

Study Notebook

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For those used to paper scriptures, the Study Notebook (notebook.lds.org) supplements, or even can replace, the notes you take in a physical notebook, in your scripture margins, or both. It's up to you how you combine and use everything. The online Study Notebook is simply another tool for helping you better understand the scriptures.

The Study Notebook is also secure. All of your information is "scrambled" or "encrypted" when it travels to and from the LDS.org servers and absolutely nothing is stored on your machine's hard drive. Just like all our membership and temple records, all your notes and journal entries will be stored, securely and confidentially, on the Church's computer systems. Nobody else online will see what you've written or highlighted or bookmarked. It's for you alone to have a permanent record for yourself of your progress and discoveries.

To use the Study Notebook, you need to first log in at LDS.org on your computer at home, at work, or at the library.

To log in, your Membership Number is required. Just ask your ward clerk for that number and, from the Sign In page, click the Register for an LDS Account link. Fill in your details, click the link in the confirmation email that is sent to your email account, and then go back to LDS.org to sign in with your new username and password.

The Share and Save bar that now appears at the bottom of the screen allows you to highlight, annotate content, write notes, and save media from any scripture, magazine article, conference address, or lesson on LDS.org. You may add tags and specify a notebook to save them to. You may then arrange them in the Study Notebook application to prepare lessons and talks, keep a journal, or to study the gospel.

To start, just browse to any Ensign article or scripture you wish to highlight, tag, or take notes on. A great example is Elder D. Todd Christofferson's excellent article "How to Study the Book of Mormon". Select text in the article or scripture with your cursor or use the buttons in the Share and Save bar for other media.



Once you've selected some text, a menu will pop up offering different highlighting colors, and button for underlining text, and an Add Note/Tag link. Clicking these will do the functions they describe, coloring or underlining the selected text, or adding a note.

In the Add Note dialog, you can choose a specific notebook, or create a brand new notebook just for this topic. For example, if the scripture is about charity, you could create a charity notebook to make notes about charity, in its own little notebook online, wherever you feel inspired to do so.

Also in the Add Note dialog, you can write tags or keywords to describe the theme of the note you're writing. This comes in handy later when you want to browse your notes based on topics as you remember them.

If you make a mistake and want to delete a notebook, just click the little trash can icon and it's gone.

On the Share and Save bar, you can click Share to share the item via email or social media.

You can also click Bookmark to save the article in LDS.org so you can easily return to it later.

If, while reading, you feel inspired to make a Journal Entry, there's a button for that, too, complete with tagging and notebook selection.

Sometimes you'll want to turn off highlighting and note-taking editors to better focus your reading , you won't be presented with the highlighting options. Just uncheck the Study Mode checkbox and those highlighting features will be temporarily disabled.

Reviewing the Study Notebook

When you're ready to review your notes all in one place, just click the Open Notebook link on the Share and Save bar at the bottom of the page.

On the page that appears, down the left you will see a list of your no
tebooks, types of study activities (bookmarks, highlights, journal entries), and a list of tags you've created. The numbers next to types and tags indicate how many of each you've made.

In the content area of the Study Notebook has summary list with text excerpts of all the study items you've created. Clicking a study item makes it display in full in the big content area to the right. Here you can edit, save, print, or delete the full item even further.

Anytime you need help, just click the Help link at the bottom right of the Study Notebook and you'll get a list of guided tutorials.

Mobile Devices

The Church has produced a suite of mobile device applications so that you can study anywhere and at any time. The Study Notebook features mentioned above are mostly available via the Gospel Library app. All highlights, cross-references, and tags you create using the Gospel Library app will synchronize with the notebook.lds.org site and vice versa.


At mobile.lds.org you will find the following apps:
  • Bible Videos - Read about Jesus and His teachings, explore biblical environments, watch scripture-based videos and photo slideshows, and discover interesting facts about biblical accounts. Bible videos are available only on Apple's mobile devices, such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
  • Gospel Library - Download and study the scriptures, general conference addresses, Sunday manuals, and other Church content. Gospel Library allows you to search, bookmark, annotate, link, and highlight content. The Gospel Library app is currently available for Android, Apple, Blackberry, and webOS devices.
  • Mormon Channel - Listen to Mormon Channel, the Church's 24-hour-a-day audio station featuring gospel-oriented programs, music, and interviews, as well as scriptures, general conference, and Church magazines. The Mormon Channel app is available for Android, Apple, Blackberry, and webOS.
  • LDS Tools - Download ward and stake directory information to your phone, as well as scheduled ward events from the Church's new calendaring system. You can use the LDS Tools app on Android, Apple, and Blackberry devices.
  • Scripture Mastery - This app, available for Apple devices only at this time, will help you memorize scripture mastery verses as well as the Articles of Faith.
  • LDS Youth - Get the latest content from youth.lds.org on your Android and Apple mobile devices.
  • LDS Music - Browse and search the Hymns and Children's Songbook, view the words and sheet music, and listen to hymns and songs on your Apple devices.
  • Ensign - Browse a tablet edition of the November 2011 Ensign on Android and Apple devices.

Scriptures

Of course, we can't forget the old standby online scriptures at scriptures.lds.org, which have been on LDS.org since at least 2002. The electronic text and audio recordings of the scriptures are now available at LDS.org and for mobile devices in many languages and are in process in many others. In addition to online reading and listening, you can also download and use the audio, ePub, and PDF files offline. The Church’s latest online scriptures site also facilitates easy sharing of passages and personal notes with others via e-mail and social media tools. The scriptures at LDS.org are currently available in 21 languages; mobile device applications are available in approximately 10 languages, depending on the platform.

The LDS Scripture Citation Index at scriptures.byu.edu, and which is also available for mobile devices, is my absolute favorite way of searching for quotes from prophets about certain passages of scripture. Developed by two BYU teachers, this tool allows you to select a verse of scripture and then see a list of all the times it has been referred to, directly or indirectly, in every written speech known to the Church.

For example, suppose you want to know who has cited 1 Nephi 3:7 in general conference. Click on the Book of Mormon link at the left side of the screen and scroll down to 1 Nephi 3; there you’ll find the answer.

Conference Talks

It has been fun watching the development of the availability of conference talks at LDS.org. When the conference section of LDS.org first came online, it used to be that you'd have to wait a week or more for speeches to be posted. But now, through the Church's streamlining of the translation and publication process, you can get the text and multimedia of conference talks on the same day they are given, often during the following session. I highly recommend much use of conference.lds.org in preparation of talks and lessons...as well as catching up on the talks you missed when you fell asleep on Conference weekend.

Blogs and Social Media

I hope that you actively seek out these resources as you study and share the scriptures with your friends online. Also consider using traditional blogs, like I am doing here, as a way to publicly convey your feelings about various scriptures. Blogs can be a powerful means of transmitting and testifying of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. Through conversations you'll have on your blog posts with your readers, you'll be able to clarify doctrine and resolve doubts and misconceptions about our faith. Some will be cantankerous and will not be convinced or persuaded. That is okay. At least they're being exposed to what we really believe, and that is enough. The Lord will do the rest when that person is ready to soften his or her heart.

Getting Started

The Church has published a series of Getting Started guides. Post any questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Apple, book of mormon, Church of Jesus C..."
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Date: Sunday, 18 Dec 2011 23:17
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Nov 2011 17:08
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 10:00
There are various primary criticisms that tend to be hurled at the Book of Mormon, but which have been addressed many times. One need only use Google to dredge them up, but similarly, Google can be used to find the counter-arguments. More people ought to do the latter when they see the former. This is the last article in a series of posts to represent my responses to those criticisms.   

Criticism: Getting a "testimony" or a "burning in the bosom" about the Book of Mormon or even the Bible goes directly against the Bible. 1 John 4:1 says "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." Besides, isn't "burning" something people do in Hell?


Response: Isn't it contradictory to say "do not ask God for an answer about scripture from His Spirit when you should just take it at face value" only to then quote a scripture which explicitly commands us to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God"? I don't follow this logic. And why would 1 John 4:1 conflict with James 1:5-6 and other scriptures which say "ask and ye shall receive" and "knock and it shall be opened to you"? Which doctrine, then, is true? Do we ask God for spiritual wisdom, or dare we not? If God is love, why would He reprimand His children for asking a question? Do we only ask Him for temporal knowledge and blessings and not spiritual knowledge and blessings?


Rather than accuse the Mormons of inventing what anti-Mormons consider to be Satanic-sounding "burning in the bosom" language, they should check the Bible first, particularly Luke 24:15-32.

Not every instance of "burning" in scripture is symbolic of or originates from Satan. If that were true, then the "burning bush" and "pillar of fire" stories of the Book of Exodus certainly need some revision or re-translation. Same with Elijah's duel with the priests of Baal and his miracle of calling down fire to consume the altar. Oh, and Elijah's chariot of fire would certainly be Satanic. Who ever heard of a flying chariot of fire carrying someone to heaven?


Do you see what I mean? Anything can be twisted to make it sound strange or wrong, even when it isn't.


I invite you to accept Moroni's simple promise.
Moroni 10:3-5
 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "anti-Mormonism, bible, Book of Exodus, b..."
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Date: Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 14:00
There are various primary criticisms that tend to be hurled at the Book of Mormon, but which have been addressed many times. One need only use Google to dredge them up, but similarly, Google can be used to find the counter-arguments. More people ought to do the latter when they see the former. This series of posts represents my responses to those criticisms.   


Criticism: DNA evidence conclusively shows that claims by Mormons that Lamanites are descendants of Israel are false.


Response: Inconclusive at best. Read all your opposition's research, then synthesize with your own research and form your conclusion. Start with Book of Mormon: Criticism - DNA and then go to DNA and the Book of Mormon for even more.

Author: "Rob Watson (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book of mormon, Church of Jesus Christ o..."
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