Foundation and Apostasy

July 12, 2008 | 31 comments
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What if the historical evidence for the foundation of the early Christian church is indistinguishable from evidence for its apostasy? What if the early church and its scriptures only arose through processes of decay?

Priesthood authority is not directly observable by an outsider, particularly at a remove of 2,000 years, so there is no reason not to believe that Christ left Peter and the apostles in possession of perfect priesthood authority upon his ascension. But it’s rather more debatable whether or not the apostles were given the blueprints for a perfect church organization. The Acts record doctrinal dissension and organizational disunity, not decades or centuries into the life of the early church, but at the moment of its founding. There was no church until disciples had been sent out into all the world to gather the faithful, and so the early church was born with regional differences and cultural fractures. There was no sacramental ordinance until shortly before the savior was gone, and so questions about meetings and administration of ordinances were settled through the usual combination of inspiration, compromise, and muddling through. Disciples and loosely affiliated conventicles had to be organized into an international church that was not so much ruined but rather created by the events we refer to as the apostasy.

Something very much the same can be said about the early Christian scriptures. It’s probably a mistake to look for perfect scriptural texts at the dawn of the Christian era, and the textual histories of the New Testament do not point to the unfortunate corruption of Urtexts, but rather to Urtexts that were themselves created by combining, adapting, and expanding—or, if you prefer, contaminating—earlier texts. The Bible in its purity is not waiting to be dug up in some Judean cave, although there are undoubtedly textual variants yet to come to light. It’s not difficult to see any act of writing as a diminution with respect to the spoken word, and to regard the creation of meaning in written form only as a further distancing from the original. There is no early Christian canon until after the processes of canon formation, which, like sausage making, are best not too closely inspected by those who enjoy their Bratwurst.

This view of the Apostasy is not without its benefits for understanding the Restoration. One of the thorny questions about the Restoration is why God would wait so long to set things aright. Should we believe that God was sulking because the first try didn’t work out? That nothing is impossible for God, except for restoring his church in the eighth or fourteenth century? I’ve never liked those explanations. But if we regard the Apostasy as an essential, unavoidable process in creating a Christian church, then it becomes on the one hand more difficult to see the Restoration as the recovery of original forms and structures, but easier on the other hand to see the mission of Joseph Smith as fulfilling potentials and resolving contradictions that were inherent in Christianity from its beginning. The bargain struck with imperial power and monasticism and the Crusades and the suppression of heresy and promulgation of reform—they all become, in this view, essential predecessors of the Restoration, rather than things that happened while God wasn’t paying attention.

Joseph Smith’s revelation of new scripture probably tells us something similar about the Apostasy and Restoration. If the intent had been the recreation of the exact circumstances of the early first century, we might expect a restoration of biblical texts to have been the centerpiece of his prophetic writing, and more clearly textual-critical in nature. Instead, the JST is much more of an inspired commentary, and closer to a historical footnote than a core achievement. Instead of solely re-creating ancient scripture, Joseph Smith offered a prophetic commentary, and an act of miraculous textual creation in the Book of Mormon (such as we search for in vain with the New Testament), and revelation based on other ancient writings in the Pearl of Great Price, and the recording of his own revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. In short, what Joseph Smith restored was not a single perfect text to stand for all time, but rather an opening of scripture to constant additions and renewal, or an un-closing of the divine written word.

* * *

This wraps up a loosely related series of posts about Mormon beliefs concerning the Apostasy, beginning back with my first guest post:

A Preview, A Review
Orality, Literacy, Apostasy and Restoration
Did revelation cease?
Is priesthood authority a historical category?
History, apostasy, and faith-promoting rumors
What’s Wrong with Ancient Research in Mormon Studies

Thanks to everybody for all the comments, from which I’ve learned a great deal.

Dave also has a series of interesting posts on the Apostasy, and hopefully he’s not done yet:

Apostasy and the Dark Ages
Apostasy is Back on the Bookshelf

For posts a bit deeper in the archives, see Nate’s contributions:

The Problems of the Great Apostasy
On the Uses of the Doctrine of Apostasy

and also Julie’s review:

Book Review: Early Christians in Disarray

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31 Responses to Foundation and Apostasy

  1. Doug Hudson on July 12, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Question from a non-Mormon: why does the LDS church use the “New Testament” (specifically the KJV) as scripture, when it had to have been assembled after the Apostasy? I know that Joseph Smith was in the process of revising the whole thing, but have there been any other efforts to reconstruct pre-Apostasy scriptures?

  2. Todd Wood on July 12, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Doug, many do think that is exactly the purpose of the JST. I still don’t buy Jonathan’s post as authoritative until I actively hear it at least from one contemporary authority that the JST is not a reconstructive scriptural work.

    How can 2008 LDS reconstruct when no one has the courage among the living apostles to admit the flagrant errors of the JST and deconstruct it?

    On the other hand, I don’t think any new LDS scripture will be proposed in America. Those days are long gone – too much of a clash with the elites of American biblical scholarship, who seek to hold the real monopoly on American religious authority.

  3. Ugly Mahana on July 12, 2008 at 9:56 am

    One non-mormon answered by another. I love it! (Thanks, Todd, for providing a cogent non-mormon perspective on this aspect of mormonism.)

  4. Russell Arben Fox on July 12, 2008 at 10:43 am

    But if we regard the Apostasy as an essential, unavoidable process in creating a Christian church, then it becomes on the one hand more difficult to see the Restoration as the recovery of original forms and structures, but easier on the other hand to see the mission of Joseph Smith as fulfilling potentials and resolving contradictions that were inherent in Christianity from its beginning.

    I’ve come around this pretty much this exact view of things over the years, Jonathan; thank you for adding some hefty thought and analysis to what was, in essence, just a gut-level belief of mine.

    Of course, this insight just opens up more–but, I think, better–questions. If the Apostasy was “an essential, unavoidable process,” one which God was well aware of and had anticipated and made use of and, therefore, presumably oversaw in the same way He oversees everything…well, then, it wasn’t really an “apostasy” in substantive sense, was it? At the very least, our nomenclature is all wrong. What we have, arguably, is God working through the original Twelve to accomplish some things, and then working through the Church Fathers to do some other things, and then working through St. Benedict to do yet more things, and ultimately working through Joseph Smith to do more things still. Which also opens up the–again, in my view, very important–question: is there really that great a difference between St. Francis and the Brethren of the Common Life and Martin Luther and John Wesley and Joseph Smith? Or, if there is a substantive difference between what Smith was lead to do and what everyone had earlier done–and I will grant there probably is–is it a difference of great enough significance to overwhelm all the ways in which, in God’s eye, they may well have all been engaged in the same common project?

  5. Dave on July 12, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Fine post, Jonathan. Consideration of the JST does raise some messy peripheral issues, doesn’t it? I don’t see how to view the JST project as anything other than “re-creating ancient scripture,” or at least it would be accurate to say that’s what Joseph thought he was doing. By including JST excerpts as variant readings in the current LDS-published Bible, senior LDS leaders seem to be affirming that view as well. I wish it had just been rechristened as the JCOB (Joseph’s Commentary On the Bible) and left out of our Bible proper.

    The JST does seem to imply a belief in an original ur-text for each biblical book. That belief becomes more and more problematic as new scholarship looks at the whole process of scripture creation. F. E. Peters’ The Voice, the Word, the Books really opened my eyes to the problems that decades or centuries of oral transmission poses for the received view of the primacy of written scriptural texts. But I’m not quite sure how this newer view of early scripture creation feeds into the evolving LDS view of the Apostasy.

  6. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I for one would welcome more scripture. I doubt if I am alone. I imagine many of us would, in particular, love to get more of the Book of Mormon since we know we have only a fraction of the whole. The scripture most likely to be expanded is the Doctrine and Covenants which has had additions made throughout the history of the church, albeit rather slowly since the Martyrdom. In considering the Joseph Smith Translation, do not forget Pearl of Great Price includes two large pieces that are in no way footnotes. The Book of Moses reveals amazing points from the protohistory of our race and is extremely important in our doctrinal understanding. I am personally less sure of the influence of Joseph Smith-Matthew, but it is certainly a thorough re-write of significant length. The remainder of the Joseph Smith Translation is indeed provided as footnotes (or endnotes for longer passages) but I have found remarkable nuggets among them.

    Perhaps the most important idea that came from Joseph’s work on the Bible was his revelation of the fact of the omissions he filled and alternatively that not everything included there was inspired. He basically erased the Song of Solomon from the cannon from a doctrinal perspective—it is not inspired, just a love poem, and all the efforts make it allegorical about God and man are purely human invention. I love some of the stories in the apocrypha, and I wish we used it. The Greek Esther, for example, offers some neat fill-in detail that really enriches the story. But Joseph was told not to translate it so we omit it from our Bibles. Rats.

    The flood of newly discovered documents such as the dead sea scrolls are essentially treated as the apocrypha, though some of them may have as much right to a place in the cannon as anything approved by the apostatizing church leaders who assembled the Bible as we have it. We can profit from them, but really digging into them takes a lot of work I am not expecting our prophets to reveal that some newly found or rediscovered ancient text ought to be added to our Quads, but then it could happen.

    The prophet is more likely to add revelations from this dispensation. That has happened and will happen again. The biggest impediment to expanding the cannon is that we, as a people are still struggling to digest what we have. Until we drain the cup it is unlikely that we will get a re-fill. It is just topped-off now and again.

  7. Seth R. on July 12, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I first started thinking that things weren’t exactly doctrinally tidy in the primitive Christian Church when I read about the disputes and rivalries between Paul and the Church in Antioch, and Peter, James, and John and the Church in Jerusalem. Jonathan’s view of Apostasy being the method by which the original Church was formed makes a lot of sense to me.

  8. Jonathan Green on July 12, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Todd Wood, I note that your second paragraph insults Mormon leaders and scripture. I suspect that you are looking for love–or authoritative answers–in all the wrong places, i.e. here.

    Doug, the answer to your question probably lies in a different attitude towards scripture, both what constitutes it and what it is supposed to do.

    Russell, it may not be our terminology so much as our attitude towards history that could stand to change. On the other hand, appreciating others’ positive contributions at various points in history and the honor of their traditions does not necessarily imply a contemporary equivalence. Taking the ultra-high altitude birds-eye perspective tends to flatten distinctions, but we do believe in a God who knows everyone personally and individually, so that we must assume that God recognizes the same similarities and distinctions that we perceive, and most likely many more besides.

  9. Seth R. on July 12, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Todd, I haven’t seen any “flagrant errors” in the Joseph Smith Translation. I’m not sure what you are talking about.

  10. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I imagine that first century Christians wanted to know as much as they could about the church, its history and doctrines as we do today. The scripture they assembled answered that need. A competing desire to stave off the apostasy that they could see happening around them might well have been another motive. The problem is that that approach can fossilize false doctrine if it is seen even briefly as sound.

    I know the Community of Christ has a very different Doctrine and Covenants that branches off from ours. I would imagine that the FLDS and similar groups might have their own versions as well that would exclude OD-1 while incorporating words of John Taylor about “the principle.” Add a few thousand years with a new apostacy and dark ages in between and who knows which version would be the new discovery of the 41st century.

  11. Seth R. on July 12, 2008 at 11:54 am

    It also seems that the early Apostles were under the mistaken impression that Christ would be returning in glory within their lifetimes. Thus, their primary concern was to spread the word as far and as fast as possible. There really wasn’t a whole lot of care taken to maintain doctrinal purity.

  12. Ray on July 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    #1 – Doug, a few things to consider as a non-Mormon:

    1) “Assembled” and “written” are two separate things – as witnessed by all of our canonized scripture. (even the Book of Mormon was “assembled” long after most of it was “written”.) The time frame for the assembly of the NT is a total non-starter for Mormonism when discussing whether or not to use it.

    2) Joseph Smith wasn’t in the process of “revising the whole thing” – any more than the plethora of translations used now by Protestants constitute such a “revision”. As directly as I can say this, those who accept various versions of the Bible, that often include very different meanings for verses, have no room to condemn Joseph for doing exactly what they accept in their own worship.

    3) Todd is a good person who occasionally says things I hope he regrets later. #2 is one of those instances.

    4) Due to the expansive nature of “scripture” within Mormonism, it is incorrect to say that we have no new scripture. We simply haven’t had any canonized scripture for a while. That is a very important distinction, as we view “scripture” and “canonized scripture” as two very different things. If you don’t understand the difference, check the Bible Dictionary in the KJV that is available at lds.org. In the broad sense, we receive new “scripture” all the time.

    5) A very simple reading of the NT (especially the epistles) shows that much of that work was written explicitly to combat conflicting teachings and practices that arose in disparate congregations within the greater church organization. There was no “New Testament” to use as a “correlated curriculum”; rather, all they had to preach was Jesus resurrected and the impact that event had on the composition of God’s chosen people.

    6) The Restoration faced similar issues – bringing converts into a fledgling organization that relied almost exclusively at first on sharing the Book of Mormon as a testament of the calling of a new prophet – with the greater theology and structural organization to be worked out as the Church grew and progressed. It was only after decades of isolation and intense persecution that the LDS Church reached a point where systematic correlation could occur – but we still have maintained the core foundation of flexibility that drives other Christians nuts.

    7) If that’s how the modern Church developed, I can’t see why the early Church couldn’t have developed the same way – culminating when a systematic correlation was achieved by imperial dictate and secular compromise under the Roman Catholic Church. (The “universal church of the Roman Empire” – translated literally) With this view, the Restoration can be viewed as the shattering of the old correlation and the establishment of a new kiln to fire a new correlation – a process that requires molding and shaping of crude materials before a finished product appears.

    Nice post, Jonathan.

  13. Jim F. on July 12, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I am curious why anyone would believe that the JST represents a return to a NT Ur-text rather a prophetic, inspired (provisional because in-process) rewriting of the Bible.

  14. Dave on July 12, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Jim F. — for one, it is titled a “translation,” which implies a text that is being translated.

  15. Doug Hudson on July 12, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for the answers, very helpful. Ray, thanks for pointing out the difference between “written” and “assembled”, I hadn’t considered that distinction. Of course, that doesn’t explain why the KJV, but I know better than to open THAT can of worms : )

    I meant no offense by “revising the whole thing”, I simply meant that he was in the process of commentating/correcting the entire Bible, but didn’t have a chance to finish.

  16. J. Stapley on July 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    The Acts record doctrinal dissension and organizational disunity, not decades or centuries into the life of the early church, but at the moment of its founding. There was no church until disciples had been sent out into all the world to gather the faithful, and so the early church was born with regional differences and cultural fractures. There was no sacramental ordinance until shortly before the savior was gone, and so questions about meetings and administration of ordinances were settled through the usual combination of inspiration, compromise, and muddling through.

    One could easily make a similar series of statements about Mormonism.

  17. Jonathan Green on July 12, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    J. Stapley, then I guess it really was a restoration of all as at first!

    Jim, I haven’t spend enough time with the JST lately, but it sounds like you and I have similar ideas about what it represented. Dave seems to have another impression, but I’m not in a good position to work out the details at the moment. Dave and Jim, perhaps you could explain your take on the JST at greater length, either here or in a separate post?

  18. Ellis on July 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    The JST is more appropriately titled the Inspired Version. It is not used because the Church in Salt Lake doesn’t own the copyright on it. Additionally Joseph never finished. He spent many years working on it, but all of his troubles interrupted him many times. The RLDS, now known as the Community of Christ, gave permission to put it in the appendix of the KJV when that was done.

    I don’t know why we don’t call it the Inspired Version anymore. Perhaps it is because that name belongs to the Community of Christ as well as the actual manuscripts.

    I think the Doctrine and Covenants is more analogous to the “assembling” of the King James Bible. Although, even there it is not very close to what happened with the Bible.

  19. Doc on July 12, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    In regards to the common understanding of the word translation and the way Joseph Smith used it, I think Enigo Montoya said it best, “You keep on using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  20. Ivan Wolfe on July 12, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    it is titled a “translation,” which implies a text that is being translated.

    That’s not a very convincing argument. It’s pretty clear Joseph Smith didn’t mean the same thing by “translation” that we do. JS meant something more like “transmitted” when he said “translation” (unless you want to read the Articles of Faith as arguing for the inerrancy of the Textus Receptus).

  21. DavidH on July 12, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    The process of modern quasi-canonization of prophetic texts may be seen in the publication of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church. Reviewers assemble large volumes of statements, or reports of statements of writings, they review the likelihood of the accuracy of the reports, they review the statements’ consistency with current understandings of the core teachings of the Church, they consider their relevance to Church members today (therefore deleting most references to plural marriage), and then provide the quasi-canonized volume for study in Priesthood and Relief Society, and encourage exclusive or almost exclusive use of that volume and those words in the meetings.

    I think the assembly of the Doctrine & Covenants (at least in the post Joseph Smith editions) and Pearl of Great Price involved a similar process. My understanding is that the councils that compiled the Septuagent and the New Testament followed similar procedures. The only Mormon scripture under which essentially all the assembly was divinely organized was the Book of Mormon. And even in that case, Joseph, under divine inspiration, made revisions from time to time after the initial publication.

  22. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    One meaning of translation is simply to move things from one place to another. That means I translate the scriptures on a daily basis!

    Other than the typical meaning of the word in translating a text, we have Joseph pulling words out of ancient texts and damaged earthly translations over and again. We also talk in the church about translated beings. Translate is a portmanteau word in the church.

  23. Jim F. on July 13, 2008 at 1:48 am

    I don’t have enough material for a post on the question of the JST (though I am sure that others do). Just this:

    In Webster’s 1828, the first meaning of “translate” is “to bear, carry or remove from one place to another.” Second meaning: “to remove or convey to heaven.” Third: “to transfer from one to another.” Fourth: “to remove from one part of a body to another; as, to translate a disease.” Fifth: “to change.” Not until the sixth definition do we have “to interpret; to render into another language.”

    The Inspired Version (I agree that is probably a better name) is a prophetic re-reading of the text, bringing it–bearing it–from its ancient day into ours. It may restore ancient text. It may introduce new text. It may change the meaning of old text to fit the circumstances of the day better.

    To my surprise, long ago I heard Elder B. R. McConkie say the same thing about the Inspired Version. That doesn’t make this understanding of what it is true, but it certainly makes believing something like this acceptable.

  24. Clair on July 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    This post and discussion have been very helpful. I have been corresponding with a Catholic fellow who asked me exactly when the Great Apostasy started. He was expecting a date and a document as evidence. I have directed him to this thread. It is the best answer I have seen, and summarizes my thoughts quite well.

  25. Todd Wood on July 14, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Jim, if I may ask . . .

    Do you have any links where you have established that the “Inspired Version” may restore ancient text? I am thinking in particular to the three books I am studying – Genesis, Isaiah, and John.

  26. Jonathan Green on July 14, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Todd, please take a hint.

  27. Dave on July 14, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    A good summary of LDS thinking on the JST is the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry “Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible” by Robert J. Matthews. It includes the following paragraph:

    Joseph Smith often used the words “translated” and “translation,” not in the narrow sense alone of rendering a text from one language into another, but in the wider senses of “transmission,” having reference to copying, editing, adding to, taking from, rephrasing, and interpreting. This is substantially beyond the usual meaning of “translation.” When he said the Bible was not translated correctly, he not only was referring to the difficulties of rendering the Bible into another language but he was also observing that the manuscripts containing the text of the Bible have suffered at the hands of editors, copyists, and revisionists through centuries of transmission. Thus, the available texts of the Bible are neither as complete nor as accurate as when first written.

    The contrast Matthews puts on the malleable term “translate” is between transforming text of one language into another language (what he says Joseph was not claiming to do) and some process for recovering the meaning of whatever was contained in “the manuscripts containing the text of the Bible” before they were altered “through centuries of transmission” (what he says Joseph was trying to do). Recovering original text — that’s pretty much in agreement with my short comment in #5 above.

    I’m not ignorant of the fact that some modern discussions of the JST prefer to depict Joseph as doing an inspired commentary with no claimed connection to any original text. I just think that approach, however convenient or sophisticated, is not supported by the historical record. As I read it, that simply isn’t what Joseph thought he was doing.

  28. Jim F. on July 14, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Todd, I don’t have any in particular. That the JST restores ancient text has been widely believed by many for a long time pretty strongly suggests that “may be” is one reasonable possibility. I certainly take it to be one of the possibilities for the text. My own reading of the JST version of Romans 1 didn’t give me any examples where I thought “Restoration of an ancient text is the only possibility.” Neither, however, did it ever make me think “This couldn’t be restoration of an ancient text.” If you’re interested in a comparison of some JST and KJV verses, you might wish to take a look at my Romans I: Notes and Reflections.

    Dave, I don’t know the history well enough to speculate as to what Joseph Smith thought he was doing. I find it interesting, however, that Matthews makes a leap in his article, from giving us a fairly standard definition of what “translation” meant in early 19th-century America to telling us that means “he was also observing that the manuscripts containing the text of the Bible have suffered [. . . ]. ” I don’t disagree that the manuscripts have suffered. Who could? I don’t, however, think that Matthews can get that, as he tries to do, from widening the definition of “translate.” But perhaps I am not looking at Matthews work broadly enough. Perhaps he is not relying only on the definition, as this snippet makes him appear to do.

  29. Aaron Brown on July 14, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Sorry to threadjack, but I can just say how much more useful T&S would be than it already is if the powers-that-be over here would put something up on the sidebar that allows us to access old posts topically, like New Cool Thang does (among many others). Jonathan’s compilation of apostasy-related past threads is very helpful, but I wish I didn’t have to just stumble upon it randomly like I did right now.

    Besides, I know you all have nothing better to do with all your free time …

    Aaron B

  30. Todd Wood on July 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    thanks Jim

  31. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 18, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    The fact that the JST contains the Book of Moses, which explicitly asserts it is the restoration of an ancient text that had been hidden from the world, is pretty explicit evidence that at least some of it is precisely such a restoration of an ur-text that was at least one of the original sources of the text we now have in the KJV. The version of Matthew 24 that is in the Pearl of Great Price makes much clearer that Christ is explaining two different complexes of events, one in the near future and another, similar in some ways, in the more distant future preceding his Second Coming. The amalgamation of these two descriptions is one of the reasons Christians today think that the original apostles thought the Second Coming was imminent. The JST/Pearl of Great Price says it was not. I think it is just as easy to understand the apostles’ anticipation of “the end” as their awareness of the certainty of the apostacy, expressed explicitly by Peter and Paul.

    When we consider the apostacy, and the typical criticism of our view of it by traditional Christians, that God would not let his church fall apart, we Mormons need to remember that Christ founded his church and gave it its mission of redemption and missionary work in the Spirit World before he gave it to Peter. Within a few decades, almost all the apostles and the original saints were transferred to the Spirit World, where the great bulk of humanity already waited and where all of the people on earth, whether Christian or not, would eventually come. Since they still don’t have total recall of their premortal existence, missionary work, I assume, still requires the kind of cultural and language bridges we encounter on earth. By adding the members of the Restored Church to the missionary team, we begin spreading the gospel from the modern ages and backward in time, so to speak, as the early saints spread it forward. Perhaps the timing of the Second Coming has something to do with the need to reach a critical mass of conversions in the Spirit World in preparation for the Resurrection of the Just.

    The original apostles, the original Nephite 12, and all the Old Testament prophets are there, along with Joseph Smith, BY, and the modern apostles, up through Gordon B. Hinckley. The Church of Christ has had absolute continuity there for two millennia, and no one has missed out on the opportunity for redemption and eternal life because of the faultiness of the Christian churches on earth. The Second Coming can be viewed as the reuniting of the original Church with the earth, with the Restored Church mainly a small bridgehead that facilitates that reunion, when the nice neighborhoods of the Spirit World will be largely emptied of the righteous saints of all ages and they join us on an earth that has been raised to a Paradisaical state where glorified beings can dwell.

    This also means that all of the good Christians of past ages, including many of the early Fathers and later scholars, many of the Catholic Saints, are likely to be the fully franchised and ordained Latter-day Saints who are enjoying a more complete understanding of the gospel than they had in mortality. They don’t belong to the Mormons so much as we all belong to the same church, the Church of Jesus Christ that sent some of its members over here on a mission to ordain the locals and establish new branches of the Church back in mortality among people waiting for the fulness of the gospel, just as the priesthood and the Church were taken to Africa. When we consider the limits on ordination of Africans for 150 years, we might want to compare it to what we Mormons assert was the limitation of ordination of ALL mankind of all races for 1730 years. After all, until 1901, none of my Japanese ancestors could get the priesthood either.

    Does it seem egotistical that Mormons claim such figures of the past as our own? It obviously bothers some Jews and Catholics, which doesn’t make any sense unless they are at least a little bit afraid that we might be right about our connection to the Church in the Spirit World. After all, how does their own picture of the hereafter allow any room for Mormon vicarious ordinances to function? Their notion that they somehow have a copyright on the names of the dead, even when the dead have Mormon descendants, is itself a bit arrogant and egotistical, not to mention treats the dead as objects rather than real people who live on in the Spirit World and can perceive reality and exercise judgment. We don’t honor the wishes of a Catholic mother about not baptizing her son when he is an adult, so why should it be different when it is her deceased great grandfather, whom the son is receiving vicarious baptism for? Their view seems to be that freedom of religion is something that the dead are not allowed to have. Or is there an element of jealousy, that they cannot offer this kind of ultimate hope to the families of the deceased who did not have salvation as they define it?