Sunday, January 7, 2018

Early Mormon history: an important paradigm shift - Part 1


Since my June 29, 2017 post on Mormonism (LINKI have been delving deeply into Joseph Smith’s alleged use of “seer” stones, as well as other items and practices, that may fall under the classification of magic and/or the occult. The time frame of this study is focused on the period just prior to “The First Vision”, through the completion of the “translation” of the Book of Mormon.

We are nearing almost two hundred years of analysis, debate, polemics, and theorizing on this relatively brief period of time. Of the hundreds of folk who have engaged in the task of investigating and writing on this unique interval of history, the vast majority have done so with a certain set of presuppositions that reflect the central foundations of one of three paradigms: the Mormon worldview, the non-Mormon Christian worldview, and the agnostic/atheistic/secular worldview. The first two worldviews share a number of presuppositions, which include belief in the divine origin of the Bible, supernatural beings─e.g. God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, angels, Satan, demons─in miracles, prophecy, heaven and hell, et al.; all of which are explicitly rejected by the third worldview.

Three primary explanations/interpretations of the historical period under investigation emerged shortly after the publication of the Book of Mormon, and have remained in place to this day (with a number of nuanced variations within each of the three). The first explanation I shall term 'Supernatural A', is the story advanced by Joseph Smith Jr.. The second, I shall term 'Supernatural B', promulgated by a good number of non-Mormon Christians who believe that a strictly 'naturalistic' explanation of the germane events fails to provide an adequate narrative of all that took place within the timeframe under discussion, maintaining that Satanic deception was involved. The third is the 'naturalistic' view, which excludes a priori any possibility of supernatural events.

Devout, faithful Mormons embrace the 'Supernatural A' explanation; non-Mormon Christians who take their faith seriously have been divided in their assessments, with a good number supporting the 'Supernatural B' interpretation, others the 'naturalistic' view, and some a combination of both. Secular, agnostic and atheistic folk emphatically reject the 'Supernatural A' and 'Supernatural B' explanations, embracing a strictly 'naturalistic' view.

As for myself, I approach our topic at hand with the presuppositions of the non-Mormon Christian worldview, but also as one who remains somewhat open to the remote possibility that the Mormon worldview may be the more correct one. As such, the claims made by Joseph Smith Jr. and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hold a high degree of importance to me.

In my June 29, 2017 post, I pointed out an important paradigm shift that I had personally experienced—i.e. a significant change in the method that Joseph used to translate the Book of Mormon as perceived by LDS missionaries and 'lay' Mormons. This paradigm shift concerning the understanding of the translation process of the Book of Mormon is inextricably linked to a much broader issue—Joseph Smith's involvement in magic/occult practices. As suggested above, the period of time concerning this paradigm shift is relatively brief—about ten years—and has been an intensely debated one between Mormons and non-Mormons.

However, since the mid-1980s, it seems that a new battlefront has opened up: a debate amongst believing Mormons between two opposing views concerning the time frame under investigation. The following selections from LDS authors reveals this internal debate. I shall begin with the assessment of an LDS historian who has been a major contributor to the paradigm shift, Richard Bushman, who penned the following in the forward of a book recently published by the Brigham Young University Religious Study Center:

This volume is first of what could be many potential histories coming out of the Joseph Smith Papers Project [link to official site]. Michael Hubbard McKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat have been editors of the Documents series, which is just beginning to appear. The results of this research can be partially found in introductions, headnotes, and footnotes of the Joseph Smith Papers volumes, but the findings will be properly valued only when integrated into the narratives of early Church history...

Books like this one will bring Latter-day Saint readers up to date on the results of the latest historical research...Working form original materials, the authors introduce readers to aspects of early of early Church history that are well known to historians [and anti-Mormons] but that are not necessarily common knowledge in the Church. MacKay and Dirkmaat also reveal brand new findings in this work. They speak at length, for example, about Joseph Smith's use of two seer stones in translation. In translating, Joseph probably first used the stones set in spectacles that came with the plates, and then, for most of the translation period, substituted one of the stones he had found. Joseph put the seer stone in a hat to exclude the light and read off the translated text by looking in the stone. All the while, the plates wrapped in a cloth on the table [most probably, the plates were in a locked wooden chest, not 'on the table'].  Apparently Joseph did not look at the plates through most of the translation.

This description will startle Latter-day Saints who are familiar with artistic depictions showing Joseph Smith with his finger on the plates while he writes down the words as they come to him [as well as some early written accounts of this same process]. The image of Joseph with his face in the hat as he translates is not so well known and is much less decorous, which may shock some readers. But it is essential that the Church at large become aware of what historians have discovered in the sources. Failure to acknowledge these factual accounts [an assumption that cannot be proved, and is contested by some LDS researchers], almost all of them in friendly sources, can devastate Latter-day Saints who run across them. Feeling that the Church has covered up the truth, they become disillusioned and even angry. This book is an attempt to repair the misconceptions so that the next generation of Latter-day Saints will be better informed. (Michael Hubbard McKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat, From Darkness unto Light - Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, 2015, pp. v, vi.)

In the very next paragraph of this same forward, Bushman relates to his readers what he believes has been a flawed/problematic approach by LDS scholars concerning early Mormon history; note the following:

For years Mormon scholars simply disregarded critical sources, such as the affidavits concerning the Smith family in E. D. Howe's Mormonism Unvailed. They felt the critical writings were too biased to be of any use. But in recent years, automatic exclusion of negative reports is no longer the practice. Everything has to be examined and evaluated. (Ibid., vi.)

It is the issue over how much value should be given to the "critical sources"—one must also add 'late sources' to the equation—that divides Mormons who accept the paradigm shift, against those who reject it.

In 2013, The Interpreter Foundation (LINK) published an essay that provides an account of the paradigm shift under investigation. The following are a few selections from this informative contribution:

This essay seeks to examine the Book of Mormon translation method from the perspective of a regular, nonscholarly, believing member in the twenty-first century, by taking into account both what is learned in Church and what can be learned from historical records that are now easily available. What do we know? What should we know? How can a believing Latter-day Saint reconcile apparently conflicting accounts of the translation process? An examination of the historical sources is used to provide us with a fuller and more complete understanding of the complexity that exists in the early events of the Restoration. These accounts come from both believing and nonbelieving sources, and some skepticism ought to be employed in choosing to accept some of the interpretations offered by some of these sources as fact. However, an examination of these sources provides a larger picture, and the answers to these questions provide an enlightening look into Church history and the evolution of the translation story. This essay focuses primarily on the methods and instruments used in the translation process and how a faithful Latter-day Saint might view these as further evidence of truthfulness of the restored Gospel. (Roger Nicholson, "The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat. and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer's View of the Book of Mormon Translation", Interpreter - A Journal of Mormon Scripture, vol. 5, 2013, p. 121; link to PDF copy - HERE.) 

After the above introduction, Nicholson then provides the translation process of the Book of Mormon that has been taught to the vast majority of active Mormons for decades:

As an active Latter-day Saint, I cannot remember a time when I was not familiar with the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon. The story with which we are quite familiar from Sunday School and Seminary describes Joseph using the Urim and Thummim (the Nephite interpreters) to look at the gold plates while screened from his scribe by a curtain. Joseph dictated the entire text of the Book of Mormon to his scribe, picking up the next day right where he had left off the day before, and the text was written without any punctuation. Joseph never required that any of the previous text be re-read when the translation started again the next day. The bulk of the translation was accomplished within a roughly three-month period, and the resulting text is remarkably consistent not only with itself, but with the Bible. The circumstances surrounding the translation and production of the Book of Mormon can only be considered miraculous when considered by a believing member of the Church. (Ibid. p. 122)

He then goes on to relate, "another story with which many have become familiar in recent years", which "story" is the translation process promulgated by various anti-Mormon sources, and a number of LDS scholars who are pushing the paradigm shift which has Joseph Smith 'translating' the Book of Mormon via one of the seer stones that he had found in the early 1820s, which he placed into the bottom of a hat to exclude any light and then put his face into it. During this process, the plates are not used at all, but rather, were stored away in a wooden chest.

Nicholson then writes that the, "twenty-first century has given us access to a wealth of historical sources that were simply unavailable to the average Latter-day Saint in previous decades", and then provides quotations from a number of these "historical sources" including some which describe the translation method from folk who had actually seen translation process firsthand—e.g. Emma Smith, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer. (Ibid., p. 124). 

Later on, Nicholson relates:

Prior to the appearance of the angel Moroni, Joseph possessed several stones that he used for the purpose of locating things, the most well known use being the location of lost objects or buried treasure. (Ibid., p. 163)

He seems to accept the above as fact, stating:

It makes logical sense that the Lord would choose to approach someone who would readily accept the idea that one could "see" using a stone. Joseph already believed that the stone could be used to "see" things, and the transition from using the stone to receive information to a means of receiving revelation from God would have been straightforward. Recall that to Joseph, the spectacles that he received from Moroni were simply a more powerful version of the stone that he already possessed. (Ibid., p. 164)

The following account of the translation method provided by Nicholson is worth repeating here:

The translation of the entire text of the Book of Mormon that we now have took place primarily at David Whitmer's home. Not only is the use of a curtain not apparent, but there is an actual denial that it was used in the process. David Whitmer's daughter Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery stated,

I cheerfully certify that I was familiar with the manner of Joseph Smith's translating the book of Mormon. He translated the most of it at my Father's house. And I often sat by and saw and heard them translate and write for hours together. Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe while he was translating. He would place the director in his hat, and then place his [face in his] hat, so as to exclude the light, and then [read] to his scribe the words as they appeared before him. (Ibid., pp. 173, 174)

Nicholson then continues with:

The fact that Elizabeth felt the need to make such a statement at all strongly implies that there was still a story in circulation among the Latter-day Saints that a curtain was used in the translation process. In 1887, David Whitmer, who two years earlier in the 1885 Chicago Tribune interview asserted the use of the Nephite interpreters and curtain, now also described the translation method using the stone and the hat.

I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man. (Ibid., pp. 174, 175)

On page 178, Nicholson starts a section under the title, "The Stone and the Hat Become Buried in History". This part of the essay is the most interesting for me because he relates to his readers the story of the LDS scholar Francis Kirkham, whose referenced works I own, and read years before the 21st century push to accept a paradigm shift in the understanding of Joseph Smith's translation process, and involvement in magic/occult practices. Note the following:

During the 1930s, Dr. Francis Kirkham endeavored to "gather and evaluate all the newspaper articles he could locate about the Book of Mormon." Many of these articles were obtained from newspaper collections located in the New York area and have recently been made available in an online database hosted by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

As we have seen, many of these news accounts refer to the use of the spectacles or stone together with a hat, consistent with the late statements of Martin Harris and David Whitmer. Kirkham, in the October 1939 Improvement Era, quoted the accounts of the stone and the hat given by Martin Harris and David Whitmer. Kirkham, however, did not accept the eyewitness accounts that Joseph actually used a seer stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon, concluding that "the statements of both of these men are to be explained by the eagerness of old age to call upon a fading and uncertain memory for the details of events which still remained real and objective to them." In his 1951 book A New Witness For Christ in America, Kirkham believed that "it may not have been expedient for the Prophet to try and explain the method of translation for the reason his hearers would lack the capacity to understand. It seemed sufficient to them at that time to know that the translation had been made by the gift and power of God." Kirkham goes on to say that, "After a lapse of forty years of time, both David Whitmer and Martin Harris attempted to give the method of the translation. Evidently the Prophet did not tell them the method." Despite the fact that elements of Harris's and Whitmer's story were consistent with each other, Kirkham simply refused to accept the idea that the accounts might have basis in the truth. (Ibid., pp. 178, 179.) [Nicholson provides THIS LINK to a 1984 Ensign article on Kirkham that is worth reading.]

Now, I find it more than a bit interesting Nicholson had previously stated in his essay (referenced above), that the, "twenty-first century has given us access to a wealth of historical sources that were simply unavailable to the average Latter-day Saint in previous decades". Perhaps he has the internet in mind, but then, a good number of those historical sources were provided by Kirkham clear back in 1937 (Source Material Concerning the Origin of the “Book of Mormon) and 1939 (Improvement Era), with many more added in 1951 (A New Witness for Christ in America, 2 vols.). I have copies of all of above contributions, and seriously doubt that the "the average Latter-day Saint in previous decades" would have had difficulty obtaining them.

And further, Nicholson seems somewhat puzzled by the fact that Kirkham, armed with the same information as 21st scholars approving the paradigm shift, "simply refused to accept the idea that the accounts might have basis in the truth." One could say that Nicholson (and a number of LDS scholars) have, 'simply refused to accept the idea that the critical and late accounts are not accurate, and should not provide the basis for truth assessments'.

Kirkham was not alone in his conclusions concerning value of the critical and late historical accounts that have Joseph Smith using a "peepstone" in a hat method to translate the Book of Mormon; sources which also have him in deeply involved in "money-digging" and magic/occult practices. A contemporary of Kirkham, Dr. Hugh Nibley, also placed little value on such sources. In his 1961 satirical book, The Myth Makers, he demonstrates that he was well acquainted with, and possessed a good grasp, of the critical and late historical accounts that Kirkham had compiled and published a few years earlier. Anyone who has read The Myth Makers, knows that Nibley had nothing but disdain for those accounts he takes to task.

The question that needs to be asked is: WHY has Kirkham's and Nibley's assessments been jettisoned by so many 21st century LDS scholars?

Nicholson himself points to what I believe is the root cause of the beginning of the reassessments of the extant historical sources: the forged documents of Mark Hofmann. Nicholson writes:

The visibility of these issues [translation method and magic/occult practices] among the general Church membership began to change significantly in the early 1980s as the result of a very unusual and tragic event: the exposure of the Mark Hofmann forgeries. Suddenly, newspapers were talking about salamanders and treasure guardians in association with some of the Church's founding events...

Hofmann's documents were so well crafted that they fooled a number of experts in the field, and they were all considered genuine for a period of time. During that period of time, a new wave of Latter-day Saint historical works were produced, taking into account the "magical" aspects emphasized in the Salamander Letter. There was also an effort to reconcile and integrate the new information with existing accounts.

Some of Hofmann's documents were created based upon existing eyewitness accounts regarding treasure seeking, and to some extent simply amplified concepts that were already known to historians. Once the forgeries were exposed, it became necessary to re-examine what had been written to support the now discredited documents. Although the Hofmann forgeries were discounted, the underlying legitimate historical accounts that fueled their creation began to become more well known among the general Church membership. Joseph's early involvement with treasure seeking, beyond what had long been documented in Church publications regarding his efforts with Josiah Stowell, became more well known. (Ibid., pp. 181, 182.)

Thirteen years prior to Nicholson's musings, Mark Ashurst-McGee—one of the prominent LDS scholars of the 21st century who supports and promotes the paradigm shift—pointed out that Hofmann's forgeries played an important role in the reassessment of the extant historical accounts. From his master thesis we read:

Spurred on by the Hofmann controversy, a number of Latter-day Saint historians began to reassess the historical record and to explore the context of time in which Mormonism emerged. Although the Hofmann documents proved spurious, historians discovered that Joseph's involvement in such practices had been substantial. Over the last two decades, a number of scholarly studies by devout Latter-day Saint scholars and empathetic secularists have concluded that Joseph Smith was involved in treasure seeking and an early American milieu of beliefs and practices that many modem Americans would label "magic." (Mark Ashurst-McGee, A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet, 2000, p. 9 - link to PDF copy HERE.)

On the same page, in footnote #26, Ashurst-McGee lists a number of those "scholarly studies by devout Latter-day Saint scholars and empathetic secularists", all of which I have been able to obtain and read. By far the most significant work he lists is D. Michael Quinn's, Early Mormonism and the Magic World, which was first published in 1987—an expanded and updated second edition was released in 1999. Though Quinn's book produced a few less than flattering reviews from some LDS scholars, for the most part, his contribution has been received as the 'cutting-edge', 'go to' work on the topic.

I suspect I have given folk who read this post plenty to digest; and with said, shall end here for now. Hope to have Part 2 up soon...


Grace and peace,

David

22 comments:

skholiast said...

I hope the shift you describe here really does take root. My experience in the LDS Church (I effectively left by 1987, but I was close with the Sunstone crowd through the early'90s, stayed in Salt Lake until 2000, and still have no axe to grind) was that openness to such things was quite variable. The most common response even among well-educated and secure LDS (the Institute and Seminary teachers I knew) was the Nibley line you describe. Others could be far more defensive or dismissive. Dialogue and Sunstone were not really things that could get you excommunicated, in themselves, but the vast majority of LDS I knew either didn't know of them or regarded them with mild disapproval at best. Only the ones who were already either resigned to being looked at askance, or were perhaps already on their way out -- at least, they were perceived this way -- read such things (or indeed anything pertaining to the Church that wasn't published by Desert Book or Bookcraft). Anyone in my ward who mentioned a see stone in a hat would have been quickly disabused of the notion that such talk was welcome. Boyd Packer's "faithful history" was the watchword. It made me very sad, because it was so clear to me that such defensiveness was self-defeating and needless. I didn't leave because of this, but it contributed mightily to my sense that I would never be at home there. If there's a shift underway that will let people be honest about history, that can only be a good thing. But I admit I am a little bit of the "I'll believe it when I see it" school.

David Waltz said...

Hello skholiast,

Thanks much for taking the time to share you personal experience/s with the paradigm shift under discussion in this thread. Quite informative...

Interestingly enough, the year you left the CoJCoLDS (1987,) was the year I began my in depth studies into Mormonism.


Grace and peace,

David

Dennis said...

Hi David,

I find it strange that you would consider Mormonism with any 'possibility', remote or not. Don't you believe that the Ecumenical Councils pretty much defined our faith & that they established the boundaries of Christology ? Also, hasn't the Canon been closed ?

Lending weight to one individual experience is the same as lending weight to Mohammed or any other guru. God seemed to reveal Himself over centuries to prophets & apostles, the prophets pointing forward. The narrative is complete. 2 nations, Jews & Gentiles. Not Jews, Gentiles & Americans.

Why would the American Gentiles get special treatment compared to others ? This seems to dovetail into the Legend of 'America has a divine mandate for human history'.

Cheers
Dennis

David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks much for taking the time to share some of your thoughts with me. From your post we read:

==I find it strange that you would consider Mormonism with any 'possibility', remote or not.==

As one who was born into the Jehovah Witnesses movement (4th generation), my search for God's one, true Church since 1975 has been a long and complex quest. The notion that a great apostasy took place in the early Church (Rev. 13:7; John 9:4; 2 Thess.2:3, et al.), had been ingrained into me, and has been a concept that I have had to battle.

==Don't you believe that the Ecumenical Councils pretty much defined our faith & that they established the boundaries of Christology ?==

John Henry Newman has greatly assisted me to lean strongly in that direction.

==Also, hasn't the Canon been closed ?==

The issue of the Canon has a long and complex history. The Catholic Church did not officially establish their canon until Trent. Marian messages given at Fatima and Akita further complicate the issue.

==Lending weight to one individual experience is the same as lending weight to Mohammed or any other guru. God seemed to reveal Himself over centuries to prophets & apostles, the prophets pointing forward. The narrative is complete. 2 nations, Jews & Gentiles. Not Jews, Gentiles & Americans.

Why would the American Gentiles get special treatment compared to others ? This seems to dovetail into the Legend of 'America has a divine mandate for human history'.==

Some excellent points Dennis.


Grace and peace,

David

Dennis said...

Hi David,

Regarding the canon, besides official statements if one follows the idea of Tradition that the Eastern church has, the canon has pretty much been established with some minor vagaries http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/scripturesinthechurch.htm.

As to Fatima, I believe children may have been swayed to accentuate certain dogma in a way that leads to an extreme under pressure. Only need to check the way paedophilia has been handled to make this a possibility.

As to Akita, it seems to have too many anti ecumenical statements making me think it's not totally "un-massaged" by the authorities at the time. Marian visions need to backup the whole church East & West otherwise abnormalities like the "co-Redemptrix" idea starts to get pushed.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Dennis,

Last night, you wrote:

==Regarding the canon, besides official statements if one follows the idea of Tradition that the Eastern church has, the canon has pretty much been established with some minor vagaries http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/scripturesinthechurch.htm.==

Interestingly enough, many Protestants also appeal to 'tradition' regarding the canon (though perhaps inconsistently given their notion of sola scriptura). In my readings, it is St. Athanasius' Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter that is usually invoked. [For the Greek and English of this text, see http://www.bible-researcher.com/athanasius.html.]

BTW, the Prots and EO seem to be at odds over what Athanasius said concerning the canon. From the site you referenced we read:

>> The books omitted by the Protestant King James Bible are I Esra, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiastical by Sirach, Baruch, the Epistle of Jeremy, the First, Second and Third Books of Maccabees, and parts of Esther and Daniel. These books were included in all the collections of the Bible since Saint Athanasios during the Fourth Century.>>

In the aforementioned letter, Athanasius stated:

>>There are other books besides these, indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read; nor is there any place a mention of secret writings. But such are the invention of heretics, who indeed write them whenever they wish, bestowing upon them their approval, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as if they were ancient writings, they find a means by which to lead astray the simple-minded.>>

==As to Fatima, I believe children may have been swayed to accentuate certain dogma in a way that leads to an extreme under pressure. Only need to check the way paedophilia has been handled to make this a possibility.

As to Akita, it seems to have too many anti ecumenical statements making me think it's not totally "un-massaged" by the authorities at the time. Marian visions need to backup the whole church East & West otherwise abnormalities like the "co-Redemptrix" idea starts to get pushed.==

Very interesting. I have an SSPX friend who is much more informed on the Marian messages than I. Will contact him, and see if he has the time to share some of his thoughts with us.


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Hey Dave. Hello Dennis.

Thanks for the invitation, Dave.

Dave I have to agree that Dennis makes a very interesting observation. Two nations...Jew and Gentile as far as the kingdom of God is concerned that is how it is divided up...not a third...America.I had never thought of it that way. Thanks Dennis.

You remember Peter Ruckman from the old days. The colorful KJV only guy who was off the rails, except that I think he was a more consistent "sola scripturist" than one usually meets. Remember how whacked his doctrine of God was? Sola scriptura. I think its hard to find the Blessed Trinity and the Monarchy of God the Father without just a smidgeon of Traditon. But back to America. Ruckman always said stuff that Americans were good at. Rockets to the moon for instance. Religion on the other hand was not an American forte (no accent mark, sorry). He always threw off on your Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons. The three American religions never, or barely get out of America.

I liked Dennis' remark about how it smacks of "America has a divine mandate for human history".

Rory

Rory said...

Ah...if I were only colorful like Ruckman...I would have said "Unlike American rockets, American religion never gets off the ground!"

Heh.

Rory

Rory said...

Secondly Dave,

Fatima and Akita make you have questions about the canon? I hope my own comments to you about Fatima have not prompted you to think it could be elevated to the level of apostolic revelation. The canon judges Fatima and Akita, and every private revelation. For the record Dennis, you seem to be addressing Dave as though he is Catholic. He is and he isn't. He is in the sense that given what he believes, he has nowhere else to go. He isn't in the sense that he is currently not a practicing Catholic. (Dave knows I think this.)

I am sure Dennis, that you will agree with me that the Church will never insist that acceptance of a post apostolic private revelation rises to the same level of authority as the canon accepted at the non-ecumenical Council of Carthage (4th Century), and finally confirmed once for all at Trent. (Goodnight, the Church can move slowly, or at least it seems like it to me.) Not until the heretical Reformers started tossing out books of Scripture, Holy Mother Church left the canon undefined (1100 years?). I guess we can thank Luther and Calvin and Cranmer for something!

So anyway Dave...I'll speak more about Fatima which I have studied, as time permits. I have only heard, and I thought it was Pope Benedict who said this, that Akita more or less reiterates Fatima. In any event, I am mostly unfamiliar with Akita. I want to be careful to emphasize the superior authority of the biblical canon as defined at Trent. But if Heaven is still sending messages for our times, that supplement and compliment the canon, as it appears to me has been happening since the times of the Protestant revolt (Guadalupe), the Catholic faithful should still take such messages with gravity, in the event that the Church judges that they are worthy of belief (although never mandatory). 2nd Maccabees will always rank higher in authority to orthodox Catholics than any post-apostolic Marian vision.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

So glad you were able to find the time to participate. Looking forward to your comments concerning Fatima. From some past discussions we have had, I know that you are much more knowledgeable on the event, and the messages, than me.

Now, until then, have a few comments on today's posts. You wrote:

==But back to America. Ruckman always said stuff that Americans were good at. Rockets to the moon for instance. Religion on the other hand was not an American forte (no accent mark, sorry). He always threw off on your Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons. The three American religions never, or barely get out of America. ==

Peter Ruckman...the guy was one of the best communicators I have ever experienced. He was also extremely bright, something most of his critics were/are unable to acknowledge. But, with that said, as you pointed out earlier in your opening post, his doctrine of God/the Godhead was "whacked".

As for Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons, I must disagree with your assessment that they, "never, or barely get out of America." Though it was just a couple of decades ago that more than 50% of LDS membership was outside of America, for well over half a century, over 80% of JW and SDA membership was outside of America (without checking, I think both are now close to 90%).

Moving on to more important issues, you asked:

== Fatima and Akita make you have questions about the canon?==

Not 'officially', for Catholic dogma firmly asserts that the canon is closed. But I do ask, are some of the Marian messages revelation?

== I hope my own comments to you about Fatima have not prompted you to think it could be elevated to the level of apostolic revelation.==

Apostolic, canonical revelation ended with the passing of the apostle John (circa 100 AD). But, with that said, does that mean that ALL revelation has ceased?

The following you wrote seems to deny that is has:

== But if Heaven is still sending messages for our times, that supplement and compliment the canon, as it appears to me has been happening since the times of the Protestant revolt (Guadalupe), the Catholic faithful should still take such messages with gravity, in the event that the Church judges that they are worthy of belief (although never mandatory).==

If God is, "still sending messages for our times, that supplement and compliment the canon", I most certainly want to know what those messages are.

Once again, looking forward to your comments on Fatima.


Grace and peace,

David

TOm said...

Hello Rory (and David and Dennis),
I am here to make your life difficult. I still love you though! I have been reading. I have been involved in thinking about the arguments of critics of my church for almost 15 years now. I have been unconcerned about stones in hats vs. divine spectacles for a long time. I joined the CoJCoLDS and became immersed in discussions from folks like Richard Abanes, Brett Metcalf, Dan Vogel, and … Together with Richard Bushman and others. I do not ever remember being shocked to move from spectacles through which metal plates were viewed to divine revelation coming to Joseph Smith via a stone in a hat. My first book on polygamy was Compton’s that I picked up at the local LDS bookstore. I see less messiness from 1830-2030 than from 33-233.
Anyway, what I wanted to comment on was:
Rory:
I hope my own comments to you about Fatima have not prompted you to think it could be elevated to the level of apostolic revelation.
TOm:
It is my position that one of the reasons that Catholicism is unlikely to be God’s church is because God’s church is LEAD by Revelation and was in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
I think I am correct when I remember that you, Rory, have responded to me that when I absolutely DENY that Catholics believe they can receive “supernatural public revelation” (meaning “supernatural corporate revelation”) that I am not as correct as I think I am. I know this position is regularly denied by exMormon Catholics. That being said, it is my position that you cannot reassure Protestants that Catholics do not embrace corporate revelation and tell LDS that you do. Only one position is true.
After Christ returned to heaven revelation continued, scripture continued to be written. In the 3rd century a brilliant Christian apologist didn’t believe that revelation ceased. Tertullian embraced the Montanist revelations as valid. I do not embrace the content of the revelation only the concept that revelation would continue. That being said the “orthodox” response to Tertullian was not just that the Montanist revelation was not valid, but that revelation had ceased. The “orthodox” didn’t receive it and neither did the Montanist. I think they were correct and this is one of the more clear things that needed restoration.
So my position is that apostolic revelation can and should be involved in the leading of God’s church on earth. That the Catholic position for 1700+ years is that public/corporate revelation ceased. That on some occasions when faced with a LDS who claims that one of the reasons the CoJCoLDS is more likely to be God’s church than Catholicism, some Catholics blur the consistent teaching that public/corporate revelation ceased (I have had Catholics tell me that “public revelation” ceased, but that “public” does not mean “corporate” it only has the “inside baseball” meaning of revelation necessary for Christian salvation/truth which is complete).

David (and Rory and Dennis), I would be interested if there was any ECF before those responding to Tertullian who claimed public/corporate revelation had ceased. I know that some point to Jude or other Biblical phrases, but these didn’t mean to Tertullian what they mean to Christians after Tertullian. Did any ECF point to these verses before the 3rd century as teaching that public/corporate revelation had ceased?
Charity, TOm

Rory said...

Hi Tom.

Its great to see my favorite monkey wrench back in the gears again!

So how would you suggest that faithful Catholic should explain to the Latter-day Saint that "public revelation" as it is usually called, has ceased, without being misleading.

1) You believe that the typical Latter-day Saint thinks that if public revelation has ceased, that God no longer communicates to His children according to continuing historical circumstances. Because of his background, the Latter-day Saint will mistakenly perceive an impoverishment in the Catholic religion.

2) You believe that God has revealed to His children a continuous stream of supernatural revelations given through various means from the times of the Apostles.

3) You believe that the foundational revelation received from the Apostles is the normative way to judge the prophetical claims of prophets and visionaries Montanus to Medjugorge in the case of false claims. Likewise, the Church is free to make a judgment that God indeed visits His people with dreams and visions that are worthy of approval.

4) The Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena is such a worthy supplement to the doctrine of the Apostles. The full title of this work is "The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin Catherine of Siena, dictated by her, while in a state of ecstasy, to her secretaries, and completed in the year of our Lord, 1370." My version is 344 pages long.

5) If we elevated all of the post-Apostolic revelations to a level of authority with the books of the Old and New Testaments it would probably fill a large bookshelf. By virtue of size alone, the work of studying all of God's revelation would be too daunting. Knowing our frailties, God in His wise Providence has condensed His written words. One can find in a single volume that can be carried in one's hand, all that is necessary for salvation.

-------------

You expressed some criticism because of a seemingly inconsistent explanation of the Catholic position depending on whether we are speaking to Protestants or Mormons. It is important for Mormons and Protestants to know the same things.

The Protestant needs reassurance that the biblical canon is finished and Apostolic revelation judges the worthiness of the prophetical voices in our times that beg to be heard. The Mormon needs to understand that it would be superfluous to elevate all of the worthy works which have appeared since apostolic times to the level of Sacred Scripture.

No one has mastered the apostolic revelations yet. Unmined treasures remain to be discovered in the 73 books of the Catholic canon. It seems very appropriate that the Church has judged that for the sake of the faith, the apostolic writings are adequate and I would even say, superabundant. I have read the Dialogue of St. Catherine, and indeed, as far as I could see, it was compatible with and even clarifies the apostolic writings, which are brief and sometimes obscure.

So how do I explain that revelation is closed but revelation is open? To be fully Catholic you MUST have it both ways. It is closed in that St. Catherine's Dialogue can never be Scripture. It is open in that dreams and visions are promised to continue in the Catholic Church.

We have all the truths we need. But sometimes Heaven prompts the faithful to visit old truths with a new light. It is not a new, unheard of revelation, when St. Catherine clarifies the apostolic teaching for those who might benefit when the Son of God tells her: "...if you examine, you will see that man has become God, and God has become man, through the union of the divine with the human nature."

Rory

Rory said...

So Dave and Tom,

I appreciate the concern for how Catholics should explain Catholic belief about revelation. I think I can make a case that it needs further definition. Obviously, the way we have spoken hasn't satisfied Mormons. They think we don't have any prophets or prophetesses. And on the other side, we have Protestants and schismatic Orthodox, for whom revelation has in every sense, ceased. Their own view of revelation forces them to be as skeptical about post apostolic revelation as any atheistical dogmatist.

The doctrine of the Church developed because of the episode between Tertullian and the Montanist heresy. I am not familiar with any Church Father affirming that revelation had ceased. But I would not expect for them to be talking about things like that before things like that arise. It seems certain that the judgment against Tertullian was correct, while the way it was expressed was perhaps imprecise, and too limiting. Subsequent revelations in the Church, whether it is the reception of the Rosary by St. Dominic, or the Miraculous Medal given to St. Catherine Labourre, or the miracles of Our Lady of Lourdes with its doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Roman Catholicism shows post apostolic revelations that are impossible to ignore.

Public and private revelation seems inadequate. 70,000 witnesses saw and experienced the Miracle of the Sun when the sky cleared and the muddy and rain-soaked fields of Fatima were mysteriously dried during the moments when the sun seemed to be falling from the sky. That's about as "public" as it gets.

The Mormon is mistaken if he insists that our faith is impoverished compared to his because we cannot increase the size of the Bible. If we would compare, since the times of Joseph Smith, the Catholic Church has been enriched by fulfilled prophecies that have enabled the faithful to remain calm in these troubling times, and unshaken in the storm that rages outside the sure ark of salvation, the Holy Catholic Church.

I cannot concede that Mormons have a leg up on Catholics, simply because Mormons profess a theoretical ability to receive further revelation to add to their Bibles. It is not so simple as yes or no, revelation has ceased. Yes or no, revelation continues. Given our experience and our practice, those who would properly evaluate the Catholic Church can not be satisfied to make a judgment without taking in to consideration the nuances that would make most Catholics say revelation is closed. At the same time, we must also consider the wide range of continuing prophetic utterances that Catholics understand as coming from heaven.

It is because of my own interaction with Mormons that I speak in a manner that could sound like a novelty. But it is not novel. The facts make it necessary for a thoughtful Catholic to admit that the Catholic Church has continuing revelation in a precise sense that needs explanation. This precision hasn't been as necessary before. Orthodox and Protestants didn't want anything except their Bibles.

So help me explain it properly. I don't know any of any Catholic work that deals with the questions raised by Mormons challenging previous formulae for expressing our teaching on revelation. Public and private doesn't work. I don't think there is any. So help me out. You both have to be able to see that it would be misleading, and it would be inaccurate, to leave a Mormon believing that Catholics don't believe in continuing revelation.

Thanks guys,

Rory

TOm said...

Hello Rory,
I appreciate very much what you put together. I am reminded of how I dialogue with Atheists vs. Catholics vs. generic theists.
I think most of what you share is pretty easy to classify into “public/corporate” or “private.” This is because the restriction upon public revelation is a restriction upon the CORPORATE nature of revelation. 70000 witnesses can create confusion when calling this “private revelation,” but I think within the Catholic framework this can be explained. I am not as well versed on Catherin of Siena, but would you say that her revelation changed the teaching and understanding of the deposit of faith?
I have aided in correcting LDS when they say “no revelation” means Catholicism is a dead faith. I agree that such a position is held and is wrong.
Other than the Tradition that there is no “public revelation” I can see no reason why God could not inspire Pope Francis concerning the truths causing so much controversy now. Should x or y be the position of the church? What happens when y is extended to z? The Pope and the college of the Cardinals can think and debate about this, but they cannot claim to receive revelation about the solution.
That does not mean that revelation on these big public/corporate problems comes easily or on man’s terms for the CoJCoLDS, but I believe it does come. I believe this is the pattern of the New Testament.
So, I think it is a solid Catholic position to believe that you Rory as the head of your household can seek and receive revelation for problems that your family faces. In my mind I see you counseling with your son concerning his life and his choices and I am convinced that God can and likely did inspire you as you provided this council. This is not a dead faith and my LDS brother and sister should not claim it is.
But, Peter received revelation/inspiration and wrote scripture. The Catholic successors of Peter cannot. This is a change and this is now what I point most strongly to when asked what was restored.
You didn’t mention this (and I do not know why), but let me point to an area where I cannot as easily define public/private/no revelation. The Catholic Church believes that the deposit of faith is protected and developed by God’s Church. That God infallibility guards the church from error as it develops the deposit of faith. The only way I can align this DEVELOPMENT idea (a development itself as I see it) with the idea of no public/corporate revelation is to use a via negtiva. When grappling with theological questions such as the infallibility of the Pope, the fathers at the council and the Pope will be precluded from promulgating error. Their solutions will ONLY be humanly derived, but errors are precluded by divine action. I do not think this is how Peter received truth, but it is important. Perhaps David can provide a solution.
Charity, TOm

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Before I begin commenting on your weekend posts, I would first like to provide a link to an online PDF copy of the book by St. Catherine of Siena that you mentioned:

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

[Interestingly enough, the link/pdf is provided by Brigham Young University!]

Now, to your posts; you wrote:

==So how do I explain that revelation is closed but revelation is open? To be fully Catholic you MUST have it both ways. It is closed in that St. Catherine's Dialogue can never be Scripture. It is open in that dreams and visions are promised to continue in the Catholic Church.

We have all the truths we need. But sometimes Heaven prompts the faithful to visit old truths with a new light.==

Well said. Your take provides a balance, and makes sense, of the Catholic understanding of revelation.

==So help me explain it properly. I don't know any of any Catholic work that deals with the questions raised by Mormons challenging previous formulae for expressing our teaching on revelation. Public and private doesn't work==

Personally, I prefer 'apostolic' and 'post-apostolic' revelation. Apostolic writings are foundational in nature/substance (see Eph. 2:20; 3:5; 4:11, 12; Rev. 21:14). A building (i.e. the Church) begins with a foundation, and once in place, is not repeated; as such, post-apostolic revelation does not make the foundation larger, but rather, builds upon the foundation.

So, for the Catholic, the foundation consists of 73 canonical works, while the building consists of works that fill "a large bookshelf".


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

So good to see you back! You asked:

==I would be interested if there was any ECF before those responding to Tertullian who claimed public/corporate revelation had ceased.==

Not to my knowledge. However, some do make a clear distinction between their own writings, and those of the apostles.

They also quote apostolic writings in an authoritative sense, similar to manner in which the NT quotes the OT.

As for canonical issues, it seems the it was the heretic Marcion who prompted the ECFs to begin listings those works that were to be added to the OT as part of the Christian canon. Apart from the Shepard of Hermas—some scholars date it to the early 2nd century, other to the late 1st century—I am not aware of 2nd century works that were being considered as additions to the canon.

You also wrote:

==Other than the Tradition that there is no “public revelation” I can see no reason why God could not inspire Pope Francis concerning the truths causing so much controversy now. ==

I think that most Catholics would argue that Pope Francis can receive divine inspiration. The RCC clearly teaches the Holy Spirit guides the Church, and in specific circumstances, does so infallibly—i.e. in Ecumenical Councils, and when the Pope speaks 'from the Chair of St. Peter'.

==The Catholic Church believes that the deposit of faith is protected and developed by God’s Church. That God infallibility guards the church from error as it develops the deposit of faith. The only way I can align this DEVELOPMENT idea (a development itself as I see it) with the idea of no public/corporate revelation is to use a via neg[a]tiva. When grappling with theological questions such as the infallibility of the Pope, the fathers at the council and the Pope will be precluded from promulgating error.==

So far, so good, but could you clarify a bit further the following you wrote:

==Their solutions will ONLY be humanly derived, but errors are precluded by divine action.==

Are you saying that Catholic dogma denies divine guidance by the Holy Spirit?

Have more to say, but shall wait for your clarification.


Grace and peace,

David

TOm said...

I am saying that a preventing of incorrect pronouncements is the only way i can align the "divine guidance" with the "no revelation to be delivered to the entire church.
Here are the words of Patrick Madrid in POPE FICTION pp140 (I think):
The only pope who was inspired and who received revelation from God to be given to the whole Church was Simon Peter. After he went home to his heavenly reward, all the subsequent popes have had to do their job of teaching and preserving the deposit of faith the old fashion way: They learned it.


I will try to respond to more things later.
Charity, TOm

Rory said...

Pope Leo XIII had a vision after celebrating Mass on Oct. 13, 1884 (thirty-three years to the day before the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima). In this vision the Holy Father heard alternatively the voices of Satan and God. Satan boasted that he could destroy the Church if God would give him time and more power over the souls who serve him (Satan). As when he wanted to persecute God's beloved servant Job, so it was given to Satan as Satan requested. Satan was given 100 years and more power over the souls that serve the devil. Thirty minutes later, the pope began composing the St. Michael prayer, with a shorter version that was to be repeated along with some other prayers after every Low Mass throughout the world. (This prayer has been removed from the New Mass)

Maybe Patrick Madrid thinks that somebody made that up. But I doubt it. What could anyone say about what prompted Pope Leo to add those prayers and instruct all the faithful to say them after Mass? I think it is more likely as was reported, that Leo turned all pale and collapsed after having a vision. I guess the skeptic could say it was some disease. But what diseases have ever been known to help explain events a hundred years later? I think I know what Patrick Madrid means with his language, and I think it is compatible with Leo XIII's vision and subsequent imposition of the St. Michael prayer for the whole church.

Strictly speaking, Leo's vision is not "...revelation from God to be given to the whole Church..." So what was it? I would suggest that it was a timely post-apostolic revelation to help defend the Church against the devil's final onslaught that was coming in the next century, and from which we are still suffering. Along with many other prophecies that express the same ideas, Leo's vision helps those Catholics of our times who would otherwise have been confused and very troubled at what has happened to The Barque of Peter. We have insight and perspective. It must have seemed unbelievable in the 19th Century that the collapse of Catholic moral and teaching authority could happen so swiftly.

Rory said...

continued from above...

Catholics should keep faith in the St. Michael prayer, and the efficacy of other post-apostolic weapons that have been recommended from Heaven. The Fatima messages assure us that in spite of the "diabolical disorientation" that would afflict the Church, that Our Lady's Immaculate Heart would eventually triumph. Without the eyes of faith, who could imagine today that the Church would ever recover from the apparent success of Satan's best efforts? The enemies of the Church have a pope they can fully embrace, and who seems to share their disdain for Catholics who believe what the Church has always believed.

It has all been prophesied. Jahel pounds a nail into the head of Sisera. A "certain woman" crushes the head of Abimelech with a millstone. Judith lops off the head of Holofernes. These are types of the devil and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Abimeleck is killed by a servant so that he won't die at the hand of a woman. Judith is called "blessed among women" as was the Blessed Virgin, by St. Elizabeth. We are told of the enmity between the seed of the devil and the seed of the woman in Genesis. We see the wrath of the devil against "the woman" in the Apocalypse.

There can never be a time to be a discouraged Catholic when God always gives us everything we need for every battle. Now is no different, even when the enemies of the Church seem to be in control. Everything seems to have collapsed, after the persecutions of the true Sisera, the true Abimeleck, and the true Holofernes. But the evil one who Leo XIII heard bargaining and bragging with God will be humiliated yet.

It must be bad enough that the Devil can not defeat a mere man, the Son of Man. But at least Jesus Christ was also God. The devil is pride personified, and as he has exalted himself, so he must be humbled. It is just and appropriate therefore that the downfall of Satan kingdom will be wrought by a woman, a mere creature. The devil, the greatest of God's creatures loses to Mary only because, unlike him, she is perfectly submissive to God. The humble crushes the proud.

The only daughter of Joachim and Anna has a significant share in the triumph which is approaching. It is revealed to us in the Holy Canon, from the first books to the last. The Scriptures are made more clear, relevant and current, when the faithful are mercifully forewarned through visions, prophecies, and promises about the way the Holy Scriptures are to be fulfilled imminently. Pope Leo's vision isn't Scripture. But Pope Leo's vision is truly Latter-day revelation. It has benefitted those faithful who have paid attention.

"St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits that prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls."

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks much for your last post(s) on Leo XIII's vision. I was totally unaware of this event, which prompted me to do a little research on it last night. I found a number of websites that quoted and discussed Leo XIII's vision, but the most interesting one for me was/is the following:

Marie-Julie Jahenny - Prophecies For Our Times

Literally dozens of prophecies are mentioned and discussed, including a book concerning Marie-Julie Jahenny. The following link provides some different formats of the book that can be read online, and/or downloaded for free:

Prophecies of Marie-Julie Jahenny


Grace and peace,

David

TOm said...

Hello Rory,
I am not sure what Patrick Madrid would say about Leo’s vision, but I expect he would say that it was not a vision that supernaturally directed the Holy Father to act in a certain way for the entire church.

Shortly after reading your post, I read through the following discussion on MDDB:

http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/70159-catholics-and-mormons-paradigm-shifts-and-an-open-canon/

It links to an article by George Weigel where he says:
[quote]So are there “paradigm shifts” in the Church?
We seem to have biblical evidence for one in the first chapter of the Letter to the Galatians, where St. Paul describes, very telegraphically, how he came to grasp an astonishing truth: that the salvation promised to the People of Israel in the covenants with Abraham and Moses had been extended to the Gentiles. Some might find another “paradigm shift” in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus of Nazareth is identified as the “Word” who “was in the beginning with God.”
These are matters of divine revelation, however, and as the Church has long believed and taught, revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. So the evolution of the Church’s understanding of the gospel over the centuries is not a matter of “paradigm shifts,” or ruptures, or radical breaks and new beginnings; it’s a question of what theologians call the development of doctrine. And as Blessed John Henry Newman taught us, authentic doctrinal development is organic and in continuity with “the faith once . . . delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). [/quote]

And the quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
[quote]Infallibility must be carefully distinguished both from Inspiration and from Revelation.
Inspiration signifies a special positive Divine influence and assistance by reason of which the human agent is not merely preserved from liability to error but is so guided and controlled that what he says or writes is truly the word of God, that GodHimself is the principal author of the inspired utterance; but infallibility merely implies exemption from liability to error. God is not the author of a merely infallible, as He is of an inspired, utterance; the former remains a merely human document.
Revelation, on the other hand, means the making known by God, supernaturally of some truth hitherto unknown, or at least not vouched for by Divine authority; whereas infallibility is concerned with the interpretation and effective safeguarding of truths already revealed. Hence when we say, for example, that some doctrine defined by the pope or by an ecumenical council is infallible, we mean merely that its inerrancy is Divinely guaranteed according to the terms of Christ's promise to His Church, not that either the pope or the Fathers of the Council are inspired as were the writers of the Bible or that any new revelation is embodied in their teaching.
[/quote]

So Rory, if you are telling me that I must choose between:
- What George Weigel claims has always been the teaching of the Catholic Church (but I would say became clear only in respond to the Montanists in the 3rd century). What Patrick Madrid says is Catholic teachings. What the Catholic encyclopedia says is Catholic teachings. And what I think I remember from the Vatican I documents.
or
- That Leo experienced revelation to be delivered to the entire church and then he delivered it.

I think I will choose the first.
cont...

TOm said...

As a LDS, I am faced with multiple accounts of the first vision. I am faced with increased emphasis upon the first vision at a later time. I am faced with a lot of things. But, there is a consistent narrative that the first vision happened and that revelation was and could be received by Joseph Smith AND can be received by his successors.

I am sure your message is not that Pope Francis can receive revelation to better address the problem of the divorced and remarried. And I submit that Patrick Madrid is correct that Peter could receive revelation for things like how to extend the gospel to the gentiles. I don’t think Pope Francis could receive revelation about how to extend the gospel to the gentiles and I think Peter could have received revelation about how to deal with the divorced and remarried.

Before Pope Francis, I believed it was superior to have a church that believed it could (and perhaps did) receive revelation even though it created some chaos over the last century as compared to a consistent faith that claimed to be infallible and to develop gradually because it possessed ALL TRUTH without “paradigm shifts.” Today I am still in a church that has some shifts over the last 100 years, but is fairly stable from year to year and ward to ward (and is largely orthopraxic in our unity anyway). And it would seem that a Catholic Bishop in San Diego or Chicago would teach something different than one in Philadelphia.

I am concerned that my ruler(s) is/are not graduated the same when I measure Catholicism and Mormonism, but at the same time I am unsure how to fix this if it is true.
Charity, TOm