Are Mormons Cessationists?

February 8, 2011 | 84 comments
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Over at FPR, BiV asks, Are Mormons cessationists?

The short answer is no.

Cessationism is the belief that miracles and spiritual gifts played some essential role in the foundation of Christianity (or in its restoration), but that the time of their active appearance has passed. A belief in cessation is one way to resolve the tension between a commitment to the Enlightenment and the rational world we see around us, and belief in scripture and the miraculous accounts recorded there. Cessationism is a discourse, a way of talking about the world, that attempts to include both belief in scriptural narratives and in a non-miraculous present.

Mormon discourse, with its restorationist claims, emphasizes the essential continuity between the founding narratives of Christianity and the present moment. Official Mormon discourse is quite insistent about the presence of spiritual gifts in the church, as is the unofficial discourse of testimony meetings and faith-promoting rumors. As a matter of simple observation, there is no way to label Mormons cessationists.

Now, it’s certainly true that Mormon discourse concerning gifts has shifted over time, and that it currently channels gifts into specific functions and contexts: the gift of healing as a priesthood ordinance, for example, or the gift of tongues or interpretation in the context of mission and international ministry rather than ecstatic glossolalia, or prophecy as ‘personal revelation’ in the spheres of family or church callings rather than predictions of future events. But spiritual gifts have always been embedded in ecclesiastic discourses. In medieval Catholicism, spiritual gifts were claimed both by saints and by heretics. The difference between the two was only how they positioned themselves, or were positioned by others, with respect to the church as institution. It’s trivial to observe that the Mormon discourse of spiritual gifts structures their expression, or that the structure has changed over time: such is the nature of discourse.  Mormons have become increasingly noncharismatic since Kirtland, but that is not at all the same as being cessationist.

It’s also entirely possible to maintain that true spiritual gifts are not found among the Mormons because the experiences Mormons report are illusions, or because the Mormon discourse of spiritual gifts is so different from some true manifestation (in ancient Palestine, for example, or nineteenth-century Kirtland) that the Mormon experience is something else entirely. But that is a matter of belief, not analysis. One is free to doubt or reject Mormon claims. But responsibility for that choice rests with the one who makes it and can’t be pushed onto the particulars of Mormon discourse, which strongly rejects cessationism.

84 Responses to Are Mormons Cessationists?

  1. BTD Greg on February 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Interesting analysis. I don’t disagree with any of this. But I do wonder if the drift in the Church is headed, either intentionally or unintentionally toward a form of soft cessationaism. There is still a lot of talk of having a living prophet, continuing revelation, etc., but rarely do you hear anyone talk of miracles. It seems like for at least a generation, there has been no discussion of prophets or apostles having visions or speaking directly with Jesus. Instead, we have very personal and moving personal testimonies from aging General Authorities that are heavy on conviction, but light on miraculous details. It also seems to me that there has been a de-emphasis of talking about personal spiritual experiences. Sacrament meetings are frequently tailored to specific general conference addresses, and even the counsel on testimony meetings seem to discourage straying from essential gospel topics. Similarly, teaching from Gospel Principles to the adults seems to have the effect of keeping discussions narrowly focused on basic principles.

  2. Joel on February 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm
  3. J. Stapley on February 8, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Jonathan, bingo.

  4. Ardis E. Parshall on February 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan. I’ve both experienced and witnessed the exercise of spiritual gifts. No cessationism here, or among the church members I know best.

  5. Bob on February 8, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I have never hear anyone speak in ‘Tongues’. But growing up in the 1950s, I would hear a lot (mostly in F&T meetings), of the protective powers of the Garments. How they had stopped bullets in war. How in a farming accident only the foot was hurt, etc. Also a lot more stories of major Healings.

  6. Chris on February 8, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    #1 BTD –

    I was sitting in the temple and the heavens were open, I felt as though my gaze could pierce through the veil itself and some miraculous things considering the eternities and nature of God as well as my own destiny if I remained faithful unfolded before me. The details I can not go into.

    I was at a baptism and while one of the missionaries was singing a hymn, for about 1-2 minutes it seemed as though the room was bathed in light…not a fog, or a mist, but a clear, glowing radiance that filled the room. I had the strong sense that not only angels were present, but also the deceased relatives of the baptized member.

    These were wondrous, actual experiences from my not too long ago. Providing these accounts is uncomfortable for me online anonymously. I can’t even imagine doing it in person and exposing something so spiritual to ridicule. I have just a slight glimpse of the feelings Joseph went through.

    I would hope my having shared this with you or others could be touching in some way, but generally it seems to me that people would be more inclined to think I’m exaggerating, imagining things, or just crazy.

  7. Aaron on February 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    What about when the early Mormon insistence on the practice of the charismatic gifts is considered? Does Mormonism today practice spiritual gifts like Smith originally expected a genuine restoration to? Where are the speaking in tongues and visions? Do Mormon prophets today overflow with prophesy in the way that Smith expected a prophet of the restoration to?

    I would argue that observing a “shift” in the type of gifts practiced, so incredibly domesticated and tamed, doesn’t escape the uncomfortable answers to those questions. I suggest that Joseph Smith would see 21st century Mormonism as little better than 19th century Methodism.

  8. Jonathan Green on February 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Joel, yes, the discourse of “speaking in tongues” has changed. One may be personally disturbed by that change, but the change does not support the charge of creeping cessationism. While the way we talk about spiritual gifts and the way we permit them to be express has changed, there is still no belief that glossolalia had its place in Kirtland, but that this gift was then withdrawn. Thus it’s incorrect to cite it as an example of cessationism, official or otherwise.

    BTD Greg, when you say, “rarely do you hear anyone talk of miracles,” that is something that does not correspond to my experience. I also don’t see any lessening of the emphasis on personal spiritual experience. Not in any way, actually.

    What is true, however, is that enthusiasm about spiritual gifts can get out of control, as can exaggerated expectations about the apostles. Trying to promote spiritual experience while at the same time keeping it channeled in a desired direction is the reason for the highly structured discourse about spiritual gifts, I think.

  9. Naismith on February 8, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “Cessationism is the belief that miracles and spiritual gifts played some essential role in the foundation of Christianity….”

    Thanks for the definition. I thought this had something to do with today’s news that President Obama has been tobacco-free for about a year.

  10. Jonathan Green on February 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Aaron, what did Joseph Smith think about the exercise of charismatic gifts in Kirtland?

    But let’s get back to the question of discourse. Do Mormons practice spiritual gifts like Smith expected? I think most Mormons would say yes; speaking in tongues, understood as a supernaturally-aided ability with a foreign language, is certainly part of Mormon discourse. You may not like that definition, but then perhaps you should argue for a different definition. Do Mormons have visions? I know many who report having perceptions they regard as inspired. Does the prophet prophesy? Again, it very much depends on what you regard as prophecy. “Let’s build a temple in Indianappolis” and “let’s call Dave as the second counselor” can reflect experiences that are perceived as dramatically and immediately inspired; whether someone else accepts them as such is up to that person. The people I have heard describe their personal spiritual experiences do not regard them as domesticated or tamed.

  11. DKL on February 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    The nature of miracles is that they are most frequently discussed in contexts removed from the current one. Miracles are generally something that we hear about happening to someone else. When they do happen to us, they tend to have occurred in the past, most often the distant past.

    Let’s say that I was miraculously cured of total paraplegia, so that after years and years of confinement to a wheelchair, I was suddenly able to walk as though I had never been a paraplegic. Let’s also say that I had photos and doctors’ statements attesting to my paraplegic condition. Which of the following 2 cases would make the story of my miraculous cure more believable: (a) if I claimed that it happened a decade ago, or (b) if I claimed that it happened just this afternoon. Of course, for most people, the answer would be (a). This intuitive estimation of credibility impacts the sort of miracle stories that are acceptable, and it ensures that all forms of spirituality have a cessationist bias.

  12. Alison Moore Smith on February 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Great topic, Jonathan, and very interesting comments. Thanks.

  13. Ray on February 8, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    We absolutely aren’t cessastionists. I’ve experienced the miraculous in my life more than once, as have many of the members I have known in my life – and we certainly believe in spiritual gifts, including the “classics” listed in our scriptures.

    I understand that argument; I just don’t buy it one bit.

  14. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 12:34 am

    When BTD Greg #1 wrote, “the Church is headed…toward a form of soft cessationism”, the following scripture came to mind:

    Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work. (2 Ne. 28: 6)

    Perhaps the church is not headed toward a soft cessationism. Perhaps we are headed toward a hard cessationism…

  15. Ardis E. Parshall on February 9, 2011 at 12:46 am

    That verse describes churches that are not “built up to the Lord.” Maybe that’s your cynical point, LDSA, but you ought to be open about it, and not so coyly hint by including yourself in the “we are headed” that cessationism would be a good thing.

    The good thing is that neither this verse nor that label apply to most of the Latter-day Saints I associate with.

  16. Bored in Vernal on February 9, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Thanks for the response, Jonathan. I guess you can tell by my post that I am not suggesting that we don’t experience miracles or gifts of some type in the Church today. (If you read it, you’ll see I’ve included one of my own experiences with gifts!) I just think it is rather interesting to see the redefinition and the downgrading of the charismatic aspects of the gifts. I asked if readers considered this cessationist, and you answered no, on the basis that we still experience gifts, be they differently expressed. I’m fine with that, and I don’t think these manifestations are illusions. But I wonder, if not cessationism, what exactly *is* our explanation for the shift? You do agree that modern LDS spiritual gifts differ markedly from what is described in the NT and BoM, don’t you?

  17. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 1:19 am

    Aaron: Does Mormonism today practice spiritual gifts like Smith originally expected a genuine restoration to?

    Joseph Smith at what time? As some quotes at FPR shows he became much more critical of many manifestations. We should also note that speaking in tongues was from an early time also associated with the common modern usage. As I noted at FPR there is also intrinsically a kind of bias since many 19th century accounts we have weren’t exactly public or widespread documents. I suspect that were we to have access to many private journals of GAs or other members that we’d get a very different perception. Instead all we have to go on typically are our encounters with peers and within the kind of discourse of our own particular ward. Rather biased, to say the least.

    I’d also note that there is often a strong sense that spiritual things shouldn’t be shared publicly if they are very private. There are plenty of scriptures pointing in that direction along with potentially certain readings of the December 19, 1841 discourse recorded by Woodruff. (I recognize the context is revelation, but it’s easy to read it more broadly) It’s interesting that there are many experiences by Joseph he kept private. (Say the details about the coming of Elijah)

    My sense is that people want to manifest a kind of romanticized portrayal of the early Church. Missing that it was Joseph who slowly organized practice, thereby limiting it. Indeed a lot of the D&C is that very movement. And many people left the Church precisely because they wanted something more anarchistic.

    Once again all of this is bracketing the question of when a manifestation is or isn’t real. Having served in a place with lots of various charismatic movements my personal opinion is that most of it is countefeit. I suspect, as with some of our own investigators, new converts in the early Church brought their existing practices with them. I know we had one investigator in our district who started speaking in tongues at their baptism, not because it was a spiritual gift, but because they’d been trained to react that way relative to religious experience. Which isn’t to dispute real gifts including speaking in tongues. Just that I’m very skeptical most today or in the 19th century were in fact such gifts.

  18. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Jonathan: Do Mormons practice spiritual gifts like Smith expected? I think most Mormons would say yes; speaking in tongues, understood as a supernaturally-aided ability with a foreign language, is certainly part of Mormon discourse. You may not like that definition, but then perhaps you should argue for a different definition.

    It’s important to note that the current LDS usage is Joseph’s. Since the FPR site seems to be down let me quote a few examples.

    Brother Joseph then proceeded to give an explanation of the gift of tongues: That it was particularly instituted for the preaching of the Gospel to other nations and languages, but it was not given for the government of the Church. 1He further said, if brother Gordon [the individual who had spoken in tongues] introduced the gift of tongues as a testimony against brother Carpenter, that it was contrary to the rules and regulations of the Church, because, in all our decisions we must judge from actual testimony . . . Brother Joseph advised that [we] speak in our own language in all such matters and then the adversary cannot lead our minds astray . . . (Joseph Smith, September 8, 1834, emphasis mine)

    Tongues. Were given for the purpose of preaching among those whose language is not understood as on the day of Pentecost &c, & it is not necessary for tongues to be taught to the church particularly, for any man that has the Holy Ghost, can speak of the things of God in his own tongue, as well as to speak in another, for faith comes not by signs but by hearing the word of God. (Joseph Smith, June 27, 1839, emphasis mine)

    It’s also interesting reading the editorial in Times and Seasons 3:743 which was (I think) ghostwritten by John Taylor for Joseph. It’s pretty critical of a lot of charismatic movements as countefeits. The early leaders clearly saw these sorts of counterfeits as done by the power of Satan although I’m not sure that interpretation is necessary for all such manifestations. I think human psychology is capable of doing this independent any such forces.

  19. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 2:05 am

    One last link and then I’ll bow out. It’s worth reading some of Brigham Young’s comments on spiritual gifts. Conveniently put in the recent priesthood and relief society manual. The quotes I gave from Joseph Smith plus many more are in the equivalent PH manual for JS as well. Spending a few minutes searching LDS.org I found almost all GA reference to tongues tends to simply quote Joseph Smith on the matter. An example that this notion of spiritual gifts is still important (and thus that Mormons aren’t cessationists is this talk of Elder Oaks.

    I recognize that some get upset that GAs don’t share their sacred spiritual experiences to all the Church. Some may even think this silence entails that they don’t have them. However I suspect many of us have been in circumstances where they were more open because they felt confident their words wouldn’t be spread openly. That said, as DKL noted, there seems to be a different stance towards manifestations in the past. (Consider this 1972 New Era article for example going through various spiritual manifestations of prophets (including the gift of tongues).

    It’s interesting that the prime focus on cessationist claims is always tongues, perhaps because there is such an active discourse of LDS claiming personal revelation, prophecy, healing, wisdom and so forth? Honestly, you don’t have to visit many different wards to hear people claiming spiritual guidance to overcome various obstacles. But even if you’ve somehow missed those wards you don’t have to read many LDS books or talks to find them. Just search for prompting or inspiration. Even if you think the gifts are gone, it seems impossible to claim the narrative of gifts isn’t an essential part of Church discourse.

  20. Jonovitch on February 9, 2011 at 2:59 am

    For a second I thought this had something to with South Carolina, or Texas. :)

  21. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Ardis #15, the verse I quoted (in #14) is a prophecy of the future, of future churches, not of the present, unified LDS church, nor of past or present non-LDS churches. Those future churches spoken of in that verse will be the remnants of the current, unified LDS church. The verse speaks of a hard cessationist doctrine among them.

    BTD Greg’s #1 comment brought to mind that scripture because of the possibility that the seed of that hard cessationist doctrine (of those future remnant churches) may have already been planted among us, eventually culminating in this scripture being fulfilled every whit. That BTD Greg could see a soft cessationism in the church could be the indication of a hard cessationist seed.

    I’m not sure how bringing to light the possible seed of the fulfillment of prophecy makes me a cynic, nor do I understand how you thought I was saying that “cessationism would be a good thing,” but I’m sure you had the best of intentions in your remark and felt you were valiantly defending something or other.

  22. Jonathan Green on February 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    BiV: I appreciated your original post, although I do disagree associating the manifestation of spiritual gifts with heretical groups rather than orthodox ones during the Middle Ages. I don’t believe Catholics would describe themselves as cessationists.

    My argument here is somewhat different than how you state it. Rather than asserting that Mormons still experience gifts, I’m arguing that Mormons say they still experience gifts; it’s the rhetoric that makes one cessationist or not.

    Now, your question about what might explain differences between modern experience and scriptural accounts is an interesting one. It seems to me that the place to start is with what we think about scripture creation, canonization, and its relationship to history. How accurately and completely do you think the accounts of Pentecost reflect the experience of many different people living at least several decades before the text as we have it was written? At best, the account is a radically simplified and highly incomplete representation of that experience. Have Mormons had experiences in, say, the last decade that could be represented in good faith a century from now with a similar value of miraculousness? I think so. While Mormon discourse does channel spiritual gifts in ways that are worth discussing and thinking about, I think the greater tension arises from how scripture is written and read.

  23. Jonathan Green on February 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    LDSA, I do not share enough principles of interpretation with you that would allow me to read 2 Ne. 28:6 in a similar fashion. I am sorry for my deficiency.

  24. Thaddeus on February 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I would agree that there might be a growing “feeling” of cessationism in the Church; kind of a lowering of expectations, but it’s more due to the pluralist culture we live in than a decline in manifestations. I’ll highlight the comments that struck a chord with me:

    #6 Providing these accounts is uncomfortable for me online anonymously. I can’t even imagine doing it in person and exposing something so spiritual to ridicule.

    It’s hard to talk about miracles, especially in a highly-networked culture of online skepticism. It’s becoming so that you can’t make any statement without scientific studies to back it up. While this is generally a good thing, it discourages the kind of openness that might make miracles seem more common.

    #8 Trying to promote spiritual experience while at the same time keeping it channeled in a desired direction is the reason for the highly structured discourse about spiritual gifts, I think.

    I read an article about why Joseph used a seer stone to translate and the question was posed, “Does the current prophet use it today?” The author didn’t think so. He saw the current mode of revelation (dedicated study, prayer, fasting, and the gift of the Holy Ghost) as superior. The seer stone was what Joseph needed at that time to jump-start his prophetic calling, lacking the 80+ years of preparation that President Monson has now.

    Likewise, the manifestation of glossalalia in Kirtland was the sign the local Rigdonites were anticipating, even if tongues usually has a more practical application than that. Our spiritual gift education is structured to lead us down the more effective route.

    #11 This intuitive estimation of credibility impacts the sort of miracle stories that are acceptable, and it ensures that all forms of spirituality have a cessationist bias.

    This was an interesting point I hadn’t thought about, but it’s true. You can make a case for cessationism in politics, too. Where are our glorious Washingtons and Lincolns and Caesars? We can believe in noble things from the Golden Age, but the here-and-now is full of clipping fingernails and bathroom visits (things that Lincoln never did). When did the world become so tedious? Must have been just before I was born.

    #18 [The gift of tongues] was not given for the government of the Church.

    This is an important point. Some churches are literally governed by these manifestations. In contrast, our church is, and always has been, governed by the priesthood and priesthood is bestowed independent of signs and gifts.

  25. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    LDSAnarchist Ardis #15, the verse I quoted (in #14) is a prophecy of the future, of future churches, not of the present, unified LDS church, nor of past or present non-LDS churches. Those future churches spoken of in that verse will be the remnants of the current, unified LDS church. The verse speaks of a hard cessationist doctrine among them.

    I don’t think that narrow interpretation is warranted. It seems more nartural (IMO) to see this as a discussion of the Churches of Joseph’s own era. In fact 28:3-4 parallels Joseph’s PoGP first vision account. It even relates a fairly common type of belief. There’s nothing to indicate these are breakoffs of the restoration. It might be interesting asking if the modern RLDS Church is cessationist, for instance. However most breakoffs I’m familiar with claim active spiritual gifts whether we think them countefeits or not.

    None of that is to deny we can apply the chapter to ourselves. We often do that with 24-25 and those who cry “all is well in Zion.” It’s a common scripture used by GAs to call the church to repenence.

  26. Russell Arben Fox on February 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    How accurately and completely do you think the accounts of Pentecost reflect the experience of many different people living at least several decades before the text as we have it was written? At best, the account is a radically simplified and highly incomplete representation of that experience. Have Mormons had experiences in, say, the last decade that could be represented in good faith a century from now with a similar value of miraculousness? I think so.

    Jonathan, this is a really superbly expressed distillation of a deep and complicated problem that anyone who wishes (or who is obliged) to think critically about scripture and religious experiences has to deal with. Thanks for writing it! I’m not sure if I agree with your conclusion; I think it is entirely possible that there have not been experiences from recent history (at least amongst the modernized and Westernized Mormons which make up the bulk of the readership of this comment) which might be someday “represented in good faith…with a similar value of miraculousness” as, for example, the day of Pentecost. I suspect the reason why I feel that way is because of things I believe about how modernity (and particularly modern economic life and technology) have structured how we think and what we think about; we have become, as Charles Taylor observes in A Secular Age “buffered” in our experiences in the world, whereas the pre-modern experience of the world was a more “porous” one; people were more open to recognize something outside themselves getting in than we are today. But I also recognize that, even if this is something I could defend through argument, I would be arguing about rhetorical appropriation, not the “actual reality” of spiritual manifestations themselves, and thus in that sense I’m in agreement with your response anyway.

  27. Justin on February 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Thaddeus #24:

    I’m wondering where you got that “priesthood is bestowed independent of signs and gifts” from.

  28. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Thaddeus, I have that same question. One way of considering priesthood is as an organization of the gifts and signs. In one sense priesthood is a gift.

  29. Thaddeus on February 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Yes, you could say that priesthood is given via the gift of prophecy, as in Articles of Faith 5; what I was really getting at was that exhibiting spiritual gifts does not make you the voice for God, as in some other groups.

    The bestowal of priesthood, while influenced by the gift of prophecy, cannot be accomplished without the authority of the priesthood (e.g. a deacon who exhibits the gift of prophecy cannot give anyone the Melchizedek priesthood). This is what I meant.

  30. Justin on February 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    When speaking on the oath and covenant of the priesthood, most speakers interpret the scripture to mean that if we magnify our calling, then we will become sanctified by the Spirit. Then they talk of ways we can magnify our calling so that we can become sanctified.

    The Lord is explaining how to discern between a faithful priesthood holder who is magnifying his calling, and a faithless priesthood holder who is not magnifying his calling. The key to that discernment is in the last phrase: the faithful ones are “sanctified by the Spirit“.

    Sanctification by the Spirit is always attended by the powers and gifts of the Spirit. Sanctification by the Spirit with the attendant powers and gifts is the key to determine the faith of the saints or the faith of the priesthood holders. This is why there are signs that follow those that believe on the Lord, so that we may determine who has faith and who does not.

    But, Thaddeus, if you were just trying to say: “a deacon who exhibits the gift of prophecy cannot give anyone the Melchizedek priesthood” — then I would agree with that.

  31. Thaddeus on February 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Yeah, I just meant that priesthood authority has governing priority over spiritual gifts. I shouldn’t have said they are independent.

  32. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Clark #25, the apostate churches mentioned in 2 Nephi 28 are headed by priests (verse 4.) Did the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians of Joseph’s day (those were the churches in Joseph’s area during that revival) have ordained priests? As far as I know, they didn’t/don’t. The only churches with the office of a priest are the Restoration churches and the Catholic church. Now, which of these churches talks of Zion (verse 21)? Only the Restoration churches. This chapter, then, is talking of us, at a future time.

    The only way to get around that interpretation is to assign an arbitrary, symbolic meaning to everything: priest does not mean priest (it means anything you want it to mean, such as pastor, minister, reverend, etc.), Zion does not mean Zion, etc. If you assign everything as a pure symbol then the prophecy can mean thing you want it to mean. But if you just look at the prophecy for what it says, with the words it uses meaning what these words typically mean, and what they meant during Joseph’s time, and then try to match the description to the churches which existed from the time of Joseph to now, only the Restoration churches could possibly fulfill it.

  33. Ray on February 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    “priest does not mean priest (it means anything you want it to mean, such as pastor, minister, reverend, etc.)”

    That quote, ironically, is correct as often as, if not more often than, it is incorrect.

  34. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    LDA, would Nephi have known what a reverend was? He’d describe that as a priest. In any case Joseph Smith regularly referred to them as sectarian priests. So if the language reflects Joseph’s language then that’s well within the use. Consider his first vision account:

    For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

  35. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    An other example from Brigham Young.

    I was acquainted
    with several learned theologians. One of them had so thoroughly studied
    the Bible, he said, that if every Bible in the world were destroyed, he
    could write another one, and not miss or misspell a word, or make a
    mistake in the pointing of a single sentence. I heard one of those very
    learned gentlemen preach at a [43] quarterly conference of the Methodist
    persuasion. He labored over two hours to define the soul of man. This was
    an item I wanted to learn something about. I could read the Bible with
    regard to the spirits of men, and the salvation of man, and concerning God
    and angels, and devils, and good men and bad men; but when the learned
    preacher took his text to preach upon the soul of man, I was rejoiced, and
    expected to be informed and edified upon the subject; and when this
    talented man, this great scriptorian had exhausted two hours, he wound up
    the whole with one grand, crowning declaration–that the soul of man is an
    immaterial substance. I was disappointed, and concluded that he was not an
    ignorant sectarian priest; but a fool.

    So yes in the idiom of the time Methodists did have priests.

  36. Brad Dennis on February 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Good observations about cessationism. However, I generally agree with BTD Greg (#1) that there is a sort of “soft cessationism” trending among many members of the church. I hear talk of wondrous visions and miracles, a la Chris (#6), more from the older generation that they younger (not to say that Chris is from the older gen.). While many in the younger generation certainly believe in miracles, talk of them is a bit more toned down. For instance one frequently hears the story of the speaking in tongues “mission miracle” (which I think can actually be explained quite naturally). But I don’t hear so much about fantastic ancestral visits. My mom won’t stop telling me about how she strongly felt the spiritual presence of my late grandpa when I was born, and my mother-in-law has similar stories (including a story about the 3 Nephites that all kids and in-laws secretly roll their eyes at) but I just don’t hear that so much from younger folks.

    The fact of the matter is that personal revelations (beyond simple inspiration), fantastic visions, healing miracles (beyond simple priesthood blessings), etc. not only generate an increasing number of askance looks from non-LDS but also younger generation LDS.

  37. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    There are more contemporary uses here.

  38. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Ray #33 and Clark #34, yes, the word priest has different shades of meaning. It can refer to the Christian priest, the priesthood of believers in which everyone is a priest, in which a priest is, in fact, called pastor, etc. But it can also mean someone who is set apart and ordained to perform sacred rites, etc., who holds the title of “priest.” Prophecy usually has multiple variables that, taken together, can point us in the right direction.

    For example, sure, we can say the churches of Joseph’s day were priests, in apparent fulfillment of verse 4, but were they preaching about Zion (verse 21)? Were they killing saints (verse 10)? Taken together, the prophecy does not match up to the churches of Joseph’s day, nor any churches since then to today. Prophecy, when fulfilled every whit, does not require guesswork. It exactly matches. Based upon what we know of the LDS church (and other Restoration churches), we’ve got all three terms in our church very prominently displayed: priest, saint and Zion. The prophecy points to these future apostate churches as possibly coming from our own ranks.

    Bringing this diversion back to the topic at hand: the prophecy points to a hard cessationism among them. And we’ve got an apparent soft cessationist trend among us now, pointed out by BTD Greg. This may mean nothing, or it may be a sign post telling us what is coming around the bend.

  39. Brad Dennis on February 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Clark (#17), I get the sense that fantastic visions and miracles were simply a part of the culture of JS’s day that just don’t exist as strongly now. Joseph Smith was very public about his claims to revelation, the D&C is a clear manifestation of this. While the brethren still make that claim to receive revelation, it is more in the sense of inspiration, rather than in the sense of a direct interaction with deity. Revelation as a fantastic experience only seems to occur when invoking the past, but is rare when referring to immediate events. Where are the specific prophesies, the claims of openly speaking with God or channeling God’s voice, etc.? “Revealed scripture” almost seems to be a thing of the past.

  40. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I’d simply note that the gifts don’t specify “fantastic experience” but I’d also say that people do have such experiences. Interestingly Cedar Fork has a collection of accounts of modern GAs on this matter. (Faith to Heal and Be Healed — note I’m not relaying any judgment on the quality of the book merely noting it’s a recently published work by a major LDS publisher) In any case my earlier comment was that GAs and most other people simply don’t give public accounts of such experiences. Not that they aren’t happening.

    My personal feeling is that people who see “soft cessationism” really are asking why aren’t fantastic experiences talked about publicly more. But I think it fairly easy to see why, in the modern era, people simply wouldn’t do so. It doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. I can think of many first person accounts relayed to me of fantastic experiences, including the gift of tongues. (None that I’d put in a blog comment) I also strongly dispute that the brethren only get vague inspiration and that there aren’t more dramatic events.

  41. Jax on February 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I read this post and can’t believe this scripture hasn’t come to someone’s mind

    Yea, awo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!

    (Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 29:6)

    and this one came to mind at one point

    19 And if there were amiracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he bchangeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

    20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do amiracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should btrust.

    (Book of Mormon | Mormon 9:19 – 20)

    And unfortunately this one comes to mind all to often when talking to some Saints. I point this one out because among many LDS people I have been around there aren’t any gifts, and it is because they have given themselves wholly over the the God of Mammon and have ceased to serve the Lord God of Israel!

    36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he awithheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
    37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that amiracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of bunbelief, and all is vain.

    (Book of Mormon | Moroni 7:36 – 37)

  42. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    LDSA, yes the persecutors of Joseph Smith and the early saints were preaching about Zion and were killing saints. The opponents of Joseph were often even former members of the Church. One doesn’t need to read much history of the Church to discover this. And yes, some of them were hard cessationists. Once again read that chapter in Nephi and then read the PoGP first vision account. The parallels are rather staggering to such an extent I rather suspect a rhetorical dependency.

    From the Wandle Mace autiobiography, for instance.

    She said, “during the day our sons would endeavor to get through their work as early as possible, and say, `Mother’, have supper early, so we can have a long evening to listen to Joseph. Sometimes Joseph would describe the appearance of the Nephites, their mode of dress and warfare, their implements of husbandry, etc, and many things he had seen in vision. Truly ours was a happy family, although persecuted by preachers, who declared there was no more vision, the canon of scripture was full, and no more revelation was needed.” But Joseph had seen a vision and must declare it.

  43. Jonathan Green on February 9, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Brad Dennis, I think you are mistaking the official discourse’s discouragement of sensationalism with a discouragement of spiritual experience. One useful comparison might be with polygamy, where there is an active (if not official, so far as I know) discourse of cessationism: Polygamy, one occasionally hears, was a part of the fullness of things that had existed among the Old Testament patriarchs and therefore had to be restored, but once its restoration was accomplished it was no longer needed. There just isn’t anything comparable about spiritual gifts: no one says we no longer need prophecy, or that charismatic speaking in tongues was necessary to complete the restoration, but is no longer useful.

    LDSA, now that you have explained your interpretation at greater length, I continue to find it unpersuasive. I’m reminded of something Martin Luther wrote: “Prophecy is usually fulfilled before it is understood.”

  44. Brad Dennis on February 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Clark (#40), I took a look at “Faith to Heal and Be Healed,” and it seemed to be indeed a manifestation of the softening of the meaning of revelation and miracle in the church.

    But to reiterate my points. I am not saying that fantastic miracles didn’t occur in the past and don’t continue to occur, what I am saying is that the claims to revelation, miracles, etc. have softened over time, and cessationism has become among many Mormons (not all) an increasingly accepted form of reconciling scripture with the modern day (even Jax #41 seems to be recognizing and lamenting this trend in Mormon culture, although not in the leadership).

    What was once the claim of revelation as direct interaction with God is now revelation as personal spiritual inspiration. What was once glossolalia, or the claim to speak a foreign language without prior knowledge, is now “mission miracle” language fluidity (from a language that the missionary has already spent time studying). What was once more public declaration of fantastic revelatory experience is more private.

    If Mormons’ (both followers’ and leaders’) perceptions of revelation and miracles are the way they used to be in earlier days, why is LDS scriptural cannon not being expanded regularly (Conference Talks, as far as I know, aren’t regarded to be on par with scripture)? Why is there no more public doctrinal theorizing among the LDS leaders (such as Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory)? How come there are no more specific future predictions (such as JS’s South Carolina prophecy)? My explanation for this is that even among the church leadership there may be an implicit, albeit somewhat minor, notion of “soft” cessationism. Church leaders, even the president himself, are constrained by other leaders to be too forward in declaring new personal revelations and doctrine. It is only with the consent of all of the twelve that changes are made.

  45. Oatmeal on February 9, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Some may call me on this, but I value the “everyday” kind of “inspiration” from the Holy Ghost as highly or even higher than the “miraculous” experiences I had on my mission and early life.

    I think that as we develop and grow, our values and perspectives evolve as well. And this may be true for both individuals and religious communities (the Church).

  46. Brad Dennis on February 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Jonathan (#43) “no one says we no longer need prophecy”.

    Good point. However, prophecy, and leaders’ and followers’ understandings of what prophecy is supposed to be, is not what it once was in the LDS church. So you are right, Mormons mostly are not cessationists in the big picture sense. But I maintain that modern day understandings of revelation, miracle, prophecy, have been reconciled over time.

  47. Raymond Takashi Swenson on February 9, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    My understanding of Terryl Givens’ hypothesis in his book “By the Hand of Mormon” is that the Book of Mormon functions to bring its readers into a world in which the revelatory and miraculous is part of the basic understanding of events. After reading 500 pages of it, we are hopefully ready to understand Moroni’s challenge to ask God for our own revelation of its truth and reality, with all the miracles its testifies of, as well as the miracles that brought it forth and were attested to by the 11 witnesses. Those who are not ready to live in a world of miracles will not receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.

    The connection between any two events, including prayer and the fulfillment of that prayer, is dependent upon our willingness to believe that God acts to answer prayers. Wonderful things may happen to us, but it ultimately depends on our willingness to believe that there is a God who listens to us and intervenes on our behalf for us to understand an event as a miracle, rather than simply an unusual event that happened for reasons random or unknown (as is true of so much of life).

    The willingness ot credit the Book of Mormon as a true record depends on our willingness to believe in the miraculous nature of the record. The list of what to me are amazing bullseyes in the text of the Book of Mormon, from the regional name Nahom to the existence of an oasis in the right location on the shore of the Arabian Peninsula, to the existence of unique surface deposits of iron ore nearby, and so on to the evidence in the text, such as extended chiasmus, in a book published at a ytime when not enough people existed who would recognize it, and so there was no motive for anyone to insert it, all are miraculous to me. My sense of the miraculous in present time is renewed every time I read it.

    Do the general authorities discourage viewing spiritual gifts as signs for the entertainment of those who are not exercising faith? You bet. But they also teach that “faith precedes the miracle”, that those who are faithful will experience miracles because they advance God’s plan for us, not so we can impress people with a parlor trick.

    Is there a milder version of the “gift of tongues” related to missionaries? Yes, I think so; I heard directly from Protestant missionaries in Japan, and through other missioanries with their own experiences, that the Protestants who spend five or six years in Japan trying to become fluent in the language before they preach are jealous of how well Mormon missionaries can do in a year of coming to the country. Maybe you don’t value that kind of gift as not being spectacular enough, but it gets the job done. And there is beyond that the occasions, like I experienced, when I became unaccountably fluent at certain crucial times. No, that may not be like the glossalalia that Charismatics experience, but it is not clear that they even understand what they are supposedly saying in most cases, so it bears little resemblance to the communication skill that the gift of tongues was on the Day of Pentecost. Even Paul cautioned the saints of his day to have an interpreter who could make sense of the things said in tongues so it would edify, build, the Church and its members. Being a disciplined exerciser of spiritual gifts, like Paul, is not “cessationism.” It is placing those gifts at the service of God and the Church, rather than using it to have the kind of thrill we might get from singing karaoke at a party.

  48. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Brad (44), I guess I don’t understand this claim given how often GAs talk about the gifts. Certainly some members may do this – although I’m really leery about appealing to anecdote to make a churchwise claim. Afterall my experiences in this appear to be quite different than some here. I recognize the Provo area may just be odd, but then I can think of lots of remarkable experiences and claims of experience on my mission and back in Canada too.

    As for that book, I have to confess I did no more than glance through it. I don’t see how it entails what you call soft cessationism though. Quite the opposite (which is why I linked to it) It looks like I accidentally linked to a particular search though but glance through the book and not just the bit on tongues. As I’ve said, I don’t see why so many think tongues as the be all and end all of spiritual gifts. In most cases I think them the least useful of all the gifts.

    Brad: Good point. However, prophecy, and leaders’ and followers’ understandings of what prophecy is supposed to be, is not what it once was in the LDS church.

    I really can’t agree with this in the least. I think some people seem to suggest that unless texts are being dictated that somehow there isn’t prophecy, which is an odd thing to say to me.

  49. Clark on February 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    why is LDS scriptural cannon not being expanded regularly?

    I could quote:

    Alma 12:9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

    or many other passages and talks making the same point.

    But the real honest answer is that it has been. I mean there were pretty major changes not that long ago to both the D&C and PoGP plus the inclusion of the JST. I suspect that when the Church gets around to doing a new version of the scriptures we’ll see more things added as well. I think most people think the Proclamation on the Family is quasi-scripture and probably will be added to the next revisions, for instance. Personally I can think of several conference talks of the last 30 years I wouldn’t mind seeing added to scriptures. Which brings me to your next point:

    (Conference Talks, as far as I know, aren’t regarded to be on par with scripture)

    Brigham Young disagreed

    I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually. In the days of Joseph, revelation was given and written, and the people were driven from city to city and place to place, until we were led into these mountains. Let this [discourse] go to the people with “Thus saith the Lord,” and if they do not obey it, you will see the chastening hand of the Lord upon them. But if they are plead with, and led along like children, we may come to understand the will of the Lord and he may preserve us as we desire. (JD 13:95, 2 January 1870)

    Brother Orson Hyde referred to a few who complained about not getting revelations. I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life. Not here, I do not allude to anything of the kind in this place, but in the councils of the nations — that Brigham Young has said ‘when he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them Scripture.’ I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible, and if you want to read revelation read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God, without any special command to one man to go here, and to another to go yonder, or to do this or that, or to go and settle here or there. ” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p.264)

    And Pres. Benson seemed to agree with Brigham. (See his 14 Fundamentals.

    I think this quote of Pres. Kimball is relevant:

    We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord. …

    Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, a light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption. (Ensign, May 1977, 78).

    My sense in all this is that people really aren’t concerned with gifts so much as spectacular miracles. (Not speaking of anyone here, but thinking of similar musings I’ve encountered with others) Pres. Kimball addressed this I believe quite well as well.

    The question is often asked by wondering or skeptical people: Why are there not the spiritual manifestations today, including healings, as in the days of the Prophet and the days of the Savior?

    The answer is clear: There are infinitely more healings today than in any age and just as wondrous. The religious history of the Savior’s ministry and the period following is written in a few short chapters, and as John said, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

    As the years of history were condensed, it would be expected that only the most spectacular of the healings would be chronicled, giving the impression that all miracles were spectacular ones and all who asked were healed. Little mention is made of the possible numerous times in Christ’s and the Apostles’ times when the blessings were not so outstanding, when a headache was stopped, when a recovery was greatly speeded up, or when agonies were relieved. Today the libraries would bulge their walls if all the miracles of our own time were recorded.

    I think that applies to today as well. Are there skeptics even within the Church who look back to some mythic time where things were so radically different? Yes.

  50. BTD Greg on February 10, 2011 at 1:02 am

    I posted my comment, then got busy at work and forgot about the discussion here and am just getting back to it.

    Chris (#6): I think your experiences must be very spiritually enlightening and uplifting. I wish that these types of experiences were more openly shared in the Church. I don’t quite understand the resistance in the church to sharing personal, spiritual experiences. Especially since the early history of our church is so plumb full of them.

    Jonathan Green (#8): “BTD Greg, when you say, ‘rarely do you hear anyone talk of miracles,’ that is something that does not correspond to my experience. I also don’t see any lessening of the emphasis on personal spiritual experience. Not in any way, actually.” This is interesting to me. I guess we’re all affected by our own perspectives, personalities and local spiritual and congregational mileau. Maybe my comment says more about me than it does about modern-day Mormonism.

    LDS-A (#14): I still think that the Church is committed to the *idea* of continued revelation and miracles, even if the occurrences seem much less frequent than they were 100-150 years ago.

    Brad (#36): You seem like a bright and reasonable person (because you agree with me).

  51. LDS Anarchist on February 10, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Apologies to Jonathan for the threadjack, but I gotta respond to Clark.

    Clark #42:

    LDSA, yes the persecutors of Joseph Smith and the early saints were preaching about Zion and were killing saints.

    Yes, but I wasn’t referring to that later period. When Joseph went into the grove, nobody was killing saints. Killing saints only started happening after the LDS church formed. Most LDS interpret 2 Ne. 28 as referring to the churches in existence at the time of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, but nobody, that I know of (and you can correct me if I am wrong), was preaching the doctrines found in verses 7 & 8. Also, nobody was saying, “All is well in Zion. Yea, Zion prospereth.” The prophecy contains many elements. If you take a single element, or even several of them, you might be able to make them fit the time period and the churches of Joseph’s day, but when you take all of the elements, the entire description, it doesn’t fit, at all. My understanding is that 2 Ne. 26 talks of the churches found during the time of Joseph Smith. All those elements were in place for that prophecy to be fulfilled. But 2 Ne. 28 doesn’t fit any periof from Joseph until now, therefore, it is still future to us.

    Once again read that chapter in Nephi and then read the PoGP first vision account.

    I took your advice and did. Again, at the time of the First Vision, nobody was killing saints. Yes, the clergy was fighting among themselves, but they weren’t saying that God “hath given his power (priesthood?) unto men.” That sounds more like Mormon (or Catholic) talk, than Protestant preaching. I don’t want to go into it point by point on this post about the gifts, so we’ll just have to disagree on this one.

  52. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 1:33 am

    LDSA Most LDS interpret 2 Ne. 28 as referring to the churches in existence at the time of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, but nobody, that I know of (and you can correct me if I am wrong), was preaching the doctrines found in verses 7 & 8.

    Actually if you read the secularist critics of Joseph Smith they actually attack him as commenting precisely on what was occurring around him. So, yeah, they were.

    You might enjoy reading Grant Hardy’s The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism especially around page 88 onward where he discusses some of these parallels in a fashion a bit more sympathetic to Mormons. For a less faithful oriented take check out Dan Vogel’s “Anti-Universalist Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon” in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon.

    As for when the saints were being killed, it’s true that they weren’t killed until there were saints. But it didn’t take many years before that was going on. From what I can tell they were largely the same churches both before and after the persecution began. Some I’m not quite sure the relevance that the killing hadn’t started when Joseph Smith entered the grove.

    BTW – yes the churches contemporary with Joseph Smith were saying that God had given his power to men. Most of the faiths at that time had a conception of the priesthood of all believers which is still a major doctrine for many Protestant sects.

  53. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 1:33 am

    LDSA Most LDS interpret 2 Ne. 28 as referring to the churches in existence at the time of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, but nobody, that I know of (and you can correct me if I am wrong), was preaching the doctrines found in verses 7 & 8.

    Actually if you read the secularist critics of Joseph Smith they actually attack him as commenting precisely on what was occurring around him. So, yeah, they were.

    You might enjoy reading Grant Hardy’s The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism especially around page 88 onward where he discusses some of these parallels in a fashion a bit more sympathetic to Mormons. For a less faithful oriented take check out Dan Vogel’s “Anti-Universalist Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon” in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon.

    As for when the saints were being killed, it’s true that they weren’t killed until there were saints. But it didn’t take many years before that was going on. From what I can tell they were largely the same churches both before and after the persecution began. Some I’m not quite sure the relevance that the killing hadn’t started when Joseph Smith entered the grove.

    BTW – yes the churches contemporary with Joseph Smith were saying that God had given his power to men. Most of the faiths at that time had a conception of the priesthood of all believers which is still a major doctrine for many Protestant sects.

  54. John C. on February 10, 2011 at 7:27 am

    I think that we get the miracles that we ask for. We don’t get eulolalia (sp?) because we don’t ask for that, we ask for ease in learning new languages. We don’t get people raised from the dead (that much), because we ask for people to have an easy death. We get healings, many quite dramatic, because we still ask for that. I think that you get the miracles that you ask for.

  55. Bored in Vernal on February 10, 2011 at 9:55 am

    (experimenting on #54. I’ll get back to ya)

  56. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Given that the scriptures outline a set of signs [gifts] that will follow them that believe:

    In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick; In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak; And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them; And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

    or

    And these signs shall follow them that believe — in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.

    Then how can we say we just “get the miracles that we ask for.”

    When 1 Corinthians says that: “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him,”
    then how can we say that “We don’t get [glossolalia] because we don’t ask for that, we ask for ease in learning new languages.” Ease in learning new language is not one of the scriptural best gifts, nor is it one of the signs that follow believers — how does this not suggest cessationism?

    We don’t get people raised from the dead (that much), because we ask for people to have an easy death.” — That we’ve ceased asking for people to be raised from the dead ought to suggest a level of cessationism among LDS, does it not?

    I think that you get the miracles that you ask for too, and when the miraculous works that follow them that believe are not being asked for [and thus have ceased from among us] — I can’t help but wonder [unless what defines a "cessationist" is what they claim rather than what they practice] how this post could have started with:

    Over at FPR, BiV asks, Are Mormons cessationists? The short answer is no.

  57. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Hey — Raymond Takashi Swenson — I just realized that I recognize your name from this post on LDS rebaptisms.

    There you had mentioned that should a person be in need of healing, “[God] can do it through the ordinance of Melchizedek Priesthood blessings,” — however, does this not indicate a shift away from the idea that faith to heal/be healed is a best gift of the Spirit [that then has all but ceased among LDS congregations]?

    Doesn’t the reliance of the church solely upon the use of two elders administering priesthood anointings for healing indicate cessation of the gift of faith to be healed [or possibly both healing gifts] — according to D&C 42:43-44.

    Were the gift of faith to be healed manifested freely by the membership, the leaders would not need to stress the use of priesthood anointings as the sole method to obtain healing — correct?

  58. Jonathan Green on February 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

    LDSA, I don’t mind the threadjack at all, because they have given Clark the opportunity for some of his finest moments.

    One way that I differ somewhat from Clark is that I don’t think of contemporary charismatic glossolalia or similar phenomena as counterfeit gifts, but rather as culturally conditioned ways of expressing authentic spiritual feelings. So I largely agree with John C. Spiritual experiences are strongly influenced by what we are conditioned (or read that “prepared”) to seek and expect. And that conditioning is good and necessary. Experience teaches that people really do have overwhelming spiritual experiences, and also that excessive enthusiasm can lead people to say and do very silly things. I don’t think that a decline in 3 Nephite stories is an ominous sign for the spiritual health of the church.

  59. Jonathan Green on February 10, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Justin, no, not correct.

    Also, one of the interesting things about this discussion is that many who see a decline in spiritual gifts, or some form of Mormon cessationism, rely on a maximal and literalist reading of scriptural texts to make their case. LDSA’s interpretation of 2 Ne. 28 and Justin’s reading of the NT both rely on a 1-to-1 rendition of ancient texts to modern implications without considering textual wrinkles or historical context. The same type of interpretation also gets you no death before the fall, by the way.

    We have a similar dynamic with respect to prophecy, where prophecy is restricted to predicting the future, and the complaint is made that Joseph Smith prophesied often but current prophets do not. But that’s far too narrow a definition of prophecy (see TYD’s 10 tidbits at FPR on OT prophecy here) that ignores the historical and textual problems. Joseph Smith’s prophecies of future events seem limited in number and tentative, and with their own textual and historical problems. The example that usually gets mentioned, and has been mentioned above, is D&C 87 regarding war between North and South. When was this first added to the D&C? Some critics of Joseph Smith regard D&C 87 as a reference to recent events of 1831 which did not lead to war. And, finally, one notes that the “Proclamation on the Family” doesn’t shy away from apocalyptic language on a global scale when it describes the consequences of changing the ways that families are organized.

    So, again, I don’t see a case to be made for Mormon cessationism.

  60. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    So you dismissed my reference to tongues based on a more nuanced reading of Paul — however, what of my other points not relying on 1-to-1 reading of the NT:

    That we’ve ceased asking for people to be raised from the dead ought to suggest a level of cessationism among LDS, does it not?

    or

    When the miraculous works that follow them that believe are not being asked for [and thus have ceased from among us] — I can’t help but wonder [unless what defines a "cessationist" is what they claim rather than what they practice] how this post could have started with: “Over at FPR, BiV asks, Are Mormons cessationists? The short answer is no.

    or

    However, does this not indicate a shift away from the idea that faith to heal/be healed is a best gift of the Spirit [that then has all but ceased among LDS congregations]?

    Doesn’t the reliance of the church solely upon the use of two elders administering priesthood anointings for healing indicate cessation of the gift of faith to be healed [or possibly both healing gifts] — according to D&C 42:43-44.

    To me, “considering textual wrinkles or historical context” to the extent that we spiritualize away real meaning a text may have had is a signpost a cessationism.

    Re: “that Joseph Smith prophesied often” — Joseph may have had the gift of prophecy, and if he did, it does not appear that he used it much, considering there are but a few prophecies found within the many revelations he received.

  61. Manuel on February 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Just to add to Clark’s response to J.Green:

    Mother Whitney was baptized in November, 1830, and from that time to her death was a faithful and devoted member of the Church. In its early days she was designated by the Prophet Joseph Smith as “the sweet songstress of Zion.” She was among the first members of the Church to receive the gift of tongues, which she always exercised in singing. The Prophet said that the language was the pure Adamic tongue, the same that was used in the garden of Eden, and he promised that if she kept the faith, the gift would never leave her. It never did, and many who heard her sing never forgot the sweet and holy influence that accompanied her exercise of this heavenly gift. The [p.564] last time she sang in tongues was on the day she was 81 years old. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 3, p.56

    I think J. Green’s definition is wrong, or very misinformed at best.

    “Do Mormons practice spiritual gifts like Smith expected? I think most Mormons would say yes; speaking in tongues, understood as a supernaturally-aided ability with a foreign language, is certainly part of Mormon discourse. You may not like that definition, but then perhaps you should argue for a different definition.”

    Green seems to be implying our modern focus of the gift of tongues is actually the focus of Kirtland era Mormonism. It’s not that people won’t “like” that definition, it’s rather that the definition is wrong. Perhaps he needs more reading on the issue.

  62. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Justin (57) Doesn’t the reliance of the church solely upon the use of two elders administering priesthood anointings for healing indicate cessation of the gift of faith to be healed [or possibly both healing gifts] — according to D&C 42:43-44.

    I don’t see how. Isn’t it just organizing the gifts? Why must gifts be anarchistic?

    Justin (56) then how can we say that “We don’t get [glossolalia] because we don’t ask for that, we ask for ease in learning new languages.” Ease in learning new language is not one of the scriptural best gifts, nor is it one of the signs that follow believers — how does this not suggest cessationism?

    How is it cessationism simply because some gifts are manifest more than others? In any case we have tons of examples of 19th century speaking in the Adamic language and very early counsel from Joseph Smith that this isn’t it’s prime function. (See quotes referenced in 18 & 19) It’s interesting you reference 1 Cor 14 since Paul there is clearly devaluing speaking in that sort of tongues in preference to the other gifts. Indeed Paul in this chapter sounds very much like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young who accepted speaking in Adamic but clearly saw it as not the prime function.

    I’d also throw out the obvious rejoinder that just because you don’t know of contemporary speaking in Adamic it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t happen. Even most of the 19th century accounts appear to have been tied to private affairs and come out of journals or the like. I’d also add that GAs don’t dispute speaking in Adamic, they just follow Joseph’s teachings in seeing it not as the prime function of the gift. As Paul says, those seeking to speak in an unknown tongue appear more concerned with edifying themselves rather than those seeking prophecy who edify the Church.

    Jonathan (58) One way that I differ somewhat from Clark is that I don’t think of contemporary charismatic glossolalia or similar phenomena as counterfeit gifts, but rather as culturally conditioned ways of expressing authentic spiritual feelings.

    I don’t think I’m saying that. I’m fine with modern glossalialia. I think, for example, that Zina Huntington’s use was fully real as was Brigham Young’s and others. In fact I honestly think it occurs today, but simply isn’t spoken of publicly. (I won’t relay stories since in terms of this phenomena it’s all third hand) As for your point about culturally conditioned ways of expressing authentic spiritual feelings, I fully agree. In this thread or the one at FPR I mentioned an investigator in my mission district who came out of the water while being baptized speaking in tongues because that was how she had been conditioned to respond to religious experience. Now I personally think it was countefeit in that it wasn’t a real gift of the spirit (i.e. I don’t think she was speaking Adamic, but just reacting instinctively to trained behavior) But it was clearly meaningful to her even if it was a bit of a scandal in the local ward.

    Further I think that speaking a language a person doesn’t know or understanding a language one doesn’t know is fully and absolutely an example of the gift of tongues. And I have heard rather amazing first person contemporary accounts of that. I actually think that happens far more often than some suspect and it isn’t just some missionary picking up a language quickly. Those who want to devalue this manifestation in preference to something more akin to a Pentacostal tent revival honestly confuse the heck out of me. I mean we have the gift functioning but it’s not enough for them?

  63. Adam Greenwood on February 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    John C.
    I think that we get the miracles that we ask for. We don’t get glossolia because we don’t ask for that, we ask for ease in learning new languages. We don’t get people raised from the dead (that much), because we ask for people to have an easy death. We get healings, many quite dramatic, because we still ask for that. I think that you get the miracles that you ask for

    Right. I’d add that even if we did ask for glossolia, we’re unlikely to get an answer because we lack the cultural context that makes glossolia spiritually meaningful.

    Someone could write a pretty darn good book on miracles/gifts from a Mormon perspective–why some are frequent, why some are rare, what they mean. I’d be interested.

  64. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Clark:I don’t see how.
    Let me go thru what D&C 42:43-44 says then:

    whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed

    “Faith to be healed” is one of the best gifts of the Spirit given to the LDS Church in D&C 46. So, this instruction is given if the case may come up that a person is sick, but is not in possession of that particular gift for whatever reason.

    but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.
    And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.

    If this member has [at least] the gift of belief [which is another best gift of the Spirit], then he/she shall be treated as described above — the treatment that includes our currently emphasized practice of calling the elders to administer.

    Because the above method is not any of the gifts of faith to heal/be healed, the scripture does not say that they will be healed, but it is offered as only some minor protection against dying.

    Using elder anointings as the method for administering to sick members is an acknowledgment that [at a minimum] the gift of faith to be healed as ceased from among us — for were that not the case, we would use the spiritual gift instead of what’s given in D&C 42:43-44.

    Further, Clark:How is it cessationism simply because some gifts are manifest more than others?

    In my example you quoted, it is not that some gifts are manifesting more than others — but that “Ease in learning new language is not one of the scriptural best gifts, nor is it one of the signs that follow believers.

    It is cessationism when a gift has ceased and been replaced with a lesser manifestation of the gift which is passed off as the real thing.

    In reply to:It’s interesting you reference 1 Cor 14 since Paul there is clearly devaluing speaking in that sort of tongues in preference to the other gifts.

    In my response to Proud Daughter of Eve on the original FPR post, I noted that Paul doesn’t so much as devalue the use of tongues b/c he says that:

    I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

    Why would he thank God for a useless/devalued gift of the Spirit? Are you saying that you find some of the spiritual best gifts to be not all that valuable?

    What Paul notes is that given the absence of someone in possession of the gift of interpretation of tongues, it is then better for a person with tongues to remain silent in church meetings.

    …let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;

    Thus, this [like the example above with the healing gifts] indicates that, at a minimum, the gift of interpretation of tongues has ceased among the LDS. Anyone in possession of the gift of tongues [if there are any] would be under a scriptural command to remain silent in the church.

    Finally:I’d also throw out the obvious rejoinder that just because you don’t know of contemporary speaking in Adamic it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t happen.

    Given that the purpose of all of the best gifts of the Spirit is to edify the church — by members gathering together to manifest their particular gifts in group meetings. Thus, not only would I be edified by a member of my congregation sharing his/her particular prophecy they had received by virtue of their spiritual gift — I could further be blessed by thereby being motivated to seek after the same manifestation for myself — so that I could see eye-to-eye with him/her in regards to the prophecy. This could, in turn, help me in going on to receive the gift of prophecy for myself so that I could use it myself.

    The meetings of the church are to be conducted by the best gifts of the Spirit [this is according to D&C 46]. When our congregations are not manifesting the best gifts during meetings [whether you want to say that we just "organize" them differently these days or whether you want to call that actual cessation] we run the risk of being:

    seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men

    I would say that our current practice of assigning everything before the meeting is based upon commandments of men [considering the Spirit works "in the very moment"], which is why there is no prophesying or healing or speaking in tongues, etc. during our sacrament and confirmation meetings — this is because the commandments of men are not attended by any manifestations of power.

  65. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Justin (60) That we’ve ceased asking for people to be raised from the dead ought to suggest a level of cessationism among LDS, does it not?

    Why do you assume this hasn’t happened? That book I linked to has a few accounts of this actually and I’ve heard of such as well. Some secular skeptics might dispute the accounts I’ve thought of since they involved hearts stopping due to drowning, electrocution or the like. And doctors and firemen obviously have raised the dead in those cases too. But it seems to fit the definition. However let’s assume for the moment that there weren’t such accounts. If the other gifts were operational exactly how would this entail any level of cessation? I don’t see how that logically follows.

    Over at the FPR thread LDSA was pretty emphatic that for the gifts to be gifts they have to all be around and have to all function on demand of the people with faith independent of God’s intervention. I just think that wrong and see no textual evidence for that. Given that if God decides to grant certain gifts only occasionally as the need develops for his purposes then what’s the problem? There clearly isn’t one. Especially not if the other gifts are reasonably common. My strong sense is that some want the gifts to be magical powers akin to living in a video game. My sense of reading both 19th and 20th century accounts is that God simply doesn’t work that way. And attempting to make the spirit work that way almost always leads to counterfeits.

    Manuel (61) Green seems to be implying our modern focus of the gift of tongues is actually the focus of Kirtland era Mormonism. It’s not that people won’t “like” that definition, it’s rather that the definition is wrong. Perhaps he needs more reading on the issue.

    It’s not Jonathan’s definition but an oft repeated one by Joseph both before and after Kirtland. Joseph obviously did accept a more expanded definition but clearly saw the main function to be miraculous functional use with human languages for practical purposes. (Once again see the quotes referenced in 18 & 19) He often was rather negative towards other manifestations although clearly he accepted them in some cases as with the Witney example you gave or obviously with the Kirtland temple manifestation.

    Justin (60) To me, “considering textual wrinkles or historical context” to the extent that we spiritualize away real meaning a text may have had is a signpost a cessationism.

    I tend to think those who neglect historical context simply are doing horribly bad exegesis. I can’t see how exegesical disagreements based upon relatively objective debates over context entail cesstionism at all. It’s like any disagreement with some more radical interpretation of gifts somehow automatically entails cessationism. It’s a very odd claim to me.

  66. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Why do you assume this hasn’t happened?
    First b/c what I wrote was in response to John C. [#54]‘s remark that, “We don’t get people raised from the dead (that much), because we ask for people to have an easy death.” My point there was that a community of believers in Christ would be asking for people raised from the dead [not for just an easy death] b/c that miracle is one of the signs that follow them that believe.

    Belief is one of the best gifts of the Spirit, which according to the fact that we don’t see the signs that are to follow them that believe, would indicate that the gift has all but ceased.

    Second, like LDSA in the original FPR comments, I too see a difference between a miracle happening to you or a best gift manifesting around you — and you actually being in possession of the gift.

    Without just repeating everything he wrote there — I’ll say that once God gives a person the gift of “faith to [Fill-in-the-blank-Spiritual-Gift]“, that person always has the faith to do [Fill-in-the-blank] unless he/she sins and thereby loses faith.

    Do doctors and firemen raise the dead by virtue of faith or by virtue of their study? “No one hath told me, save it be God” is the standard to determine whether a best gift is operating or not. Regardless of the gift, its legitimate operation must be by faith as a principle of power — meaning that if you speak words of wisdom, you must have gotten those words from God and no one else; if you speak words of knowledge, you must have learned it from God and no one else; if you heal the sick, the healing power must not be in the study at medical school but must be solely from God; if you work miracles, it must be a work done by you [such as Jesus turning water into wine] and not mere happenstance; if you prophesy, it must not be an educated guess based upon others’ speculations or study, but must be a prophecy received solely from God; if you speak in foreign or unknown tongues, it must not have been learned thru study for the same reasons, etc.

    Having a story about a best gift manifesting around you or in your presence is not necessarily a story of the gifts being possessed.

    Without the gifts and powers of the Spirit and the signs following them that believe manifesting as the scriptures describe them to be — what fruit are you using to determine who are sanctified believers in Christ [saints] and who are professed believers in Christ [Christians]? Warm feelings, good talks, amount of charitable donations given?

  67. matt b on February 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    In re: tongues, it’s worth noting that the most extensive scriptural discussion of the gift, Acts 2, is not about glossolalia, but rather about xenoglossy, that is, miraculous speaking in foreign languages so that others can understand the gospel. Thus, the MTC may be closer to these things than it seems.

  68. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Justin (64) In my example you quoted, it is not that some gifts are manifesting more than others — but that “Ease in learning new language is not one of the scriptural best gifts, nor is it one of the signs that follow believers.”

    It is cessationism when a gift has ceased and been replaced with a lesser manifestation of the gift which is passed off as the real thing.

    Who is claiming that ease of learning new languages is that though? Clearly though it can be a gift and clearly it is related to tongues. But I think you’re attacking a strawman here. I don’t think anyone in this thread nor any GA has claimed that the gift of tongues is purely the ability to pick up new languages faster. I’d also say “lesser manifestation” is in the eye of the beholder. If it’s a gift then it’s a gift and thus there isn’t cessationism. Once again you can’t cry cessationism just because you don’t like the relative distribution of gifts. I can understand not liking the distribution or the volume of public discourse of contemporary accounts. But let’s at least try to keep the language consistent. Pick a different term. There will be far less confusion. We should at least try and be clear what we’re arguing.

    Justin: Because the above method is not any of the gifts of faith to heal/be healed, the scripture does not say that they will be healed, but it is offered as only some minor protection against dying.

    Using elder anointings as the method for administering to sick members is an acknowledgment that [at a minimum] the gift of faith to be healed as ceased from among us — for were that not the case, we would use the spiritual gift instead of what’s given in D&C 42:43-44.

    No offense, but this seems a ridiculously strained reading. So a gift from God of healing where someone is healed by the power of God is clearly an acknowledgement that we don’t have the gifts. Huh? And priesthood healing is really just “some minor protection against dying.” What? Do you really think that’s how Joseph viewed priesthood blessings?

    First off it seems like your argument is primarily with Joseph Smith. I mean I could understand this line of argument from a Pentacostal arguing against the existence of priesthood. But it really makes no sense in this context.

    As for the idea that the laying on of hands via the priesthood isn’t really healing at all. That’s just an amazingly silly reading of that verse. (Not to mention it ignores the volumous 19th century writings on healing) Why not read the end of that verse not as having no ability to heal but rather the recognition that all gifts are tied to the will of God? i.e. that we can’t heal on demand. Unless you are following LDSA and sees gifts as a permanent ability on demand. In which case these readings make sense but is purely about what you are bringing to the text. It certainly is not stated by the texts in question. (Hint: if you’re going out proof texting it’s best to find proof texts in which both you and your interlocutor are apt to read the same way)

    I’ve said several times that one way to consider the priesthood is as the organizing of the gifts of God into a proper order. I recognize many just intrinsically don’t like that kind of organization. Indeed if you read the history of the early Church a lot of the early members fell away precisely because a priesthood was revealed. Now I can understand those who simply reject Joseph’s revelations on the matter. (i.e. say a protestant or even someone who holds to some early level of the Church and think Joseph went apostate) I can understand someone who disagrees with later organization (say from the time of Heber J. Grant or Joseph F. Smith) I honestly can’t understand those who seem to accept Joseph and Brigham yet keep making criticisms that go pretty much against what they taught. It’s just a tad odd line of argumentation to me.

    Justin Given that the purpose of all of the best gifts of the Spirit is to edify the church — by members gathering together to manifest their particular gifts in group meetings.

    I just don’t accept that is the purpose of gifts in the least. Yes they’ll edify the Church but I really don’t see it as their purpose is to make people feel good by having a magic show in sacrament service. Rather they are functional and based upon the will of God. They simply aren’t on demand functions nor are they intended to be primarily manifest in group meetings.

  69. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Justin Belief is one of the best gifts of the Spirit, which according to the fact that we don’t see the signs that are to follow them that believe, would indicate that the gift has all but ceased.

    Who’s this “we” Justin? I’ve been saying people are claiming to see such things. At best you can say you aren’t seeing such things. If the signs aren’t following you then that’s your problem and not the Church’s.

  70. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Clark:No offense, but this seems a ridiculously strained reading.

    “Whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed” — if the person had the best gift of the Spirit [the gift of faith to be healed], then he/she would no longer be sick [they would be healed as a manifestation of their gift of faith to be healed]. Thus, calling for the elders would not be necessary.

    That the church teaches that the approved practice for sick people is to call for two elders to lay hands on them seems to me to be admission that whosoever among the LDS are sick are assumed to not have the faith to be healed — and thus the standing orders are to follow D&C 42:43-44.

    In other words, I bring up those verses b/c they do not say:
    Whosoever among you are sick — let them call the elders b/c that is the way the best gifts of the Spirit for healing are manifested.
    rather b/c it says,
    If there are sick people among you who do not possess the spiritual gift of faith to be healed — then they can call on the elders if they need to.” — the promise is not that they will be healed, but that should they live or die — it’ll be unto the Lord. That is not a promise of healing and therefore that is not a scripture referring to the priesthood offering “a gift from God of healing.

    Widespread use of calling on two elders for administration to the sick is a witness of widespread cessation of [at least] the gift of faith to be healed.

    Clark:I just don’t accept that is the purpose of gifts in the least.

    Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
    For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
    And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
    For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
    To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

    Once a gift has been given to you, it is your gift to use according to your own faith. The principle purpose of saints gathering together is for a pool of these gifts so that each person may have access to the other best gifts that he or she has not yet received. A bishop is charged with being in possession of the gift of faith to discern all those gifts — lest there shall be any among a congregation professing to have the gifts, yet not actually having genuine best gifts from God.

    Clark:Who’s this “we” Justin?
    Assuming your congregation is filled with professed believers in Christ [as mine is], would you say that members operating by virtue of their faith and manifesting these following signs is routine among you?

    In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
    In my name they shall cast out devils;
    In my name they shall heal the sick;
    In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak;
    And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;
    And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

    Perhaps it is just me and my congregation then??

  71. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Justin “Whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed” — if the person had the best gift of the Spirit [the gift of faith to be healed], then he/she would no longer be sick [they would be healed as a manifestation of their gift of faith to be healed]. Thus, calling for the elders would not be necessary.

    If and only if God gives all the gifts to any person of faith and those gifts operate purely on the person’s control. Yet those are all assumptions I reject (and that clearly Joseph Smith rejected). You are explicitly ignoring D&C 46:11.

    For all have not every agift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

    Clearly if someone doesn’t have that particular gift, for whatever reason, then calling for the Elders is entirely sensical. Claiming that having the priesthood is proof of cessationism is entirely non-sensical.

    But in any case clearly not everyone does have extreme faith. Despite thinking I’ve had some miraculous events in my life I clearly don’t have the faith I might wish. However the fact the Church doesn’t as a whole have the faith of the City of Enoch says nothing about the faith we do have nor the spiritual gifts we have been given. Which is precisely what you are claiming. This all or nothing conception of gifts makes no sense to me.

    Justin Once a gift has been given to you, it is your gift to use according to your own faith

    Justin, you do see that nothing in those verses remotely says that, right?

    Justin Perhaps it is just me and my congregation then?

    Or perhaps it’s just you. I’ll lay really good odds you don’t know much of what all the members in your ward are doing when not around you. The fact they aren’t willing to let you in on their private sacred experiences says nothing about whether you are having them.

    You are assuming that the gifts are to be a show in your meetings. But as I said there’s simply no evidence for that and considerable evidence against that reading. Since you aren’t seeing the equivalent of a magic show in place of spiritual testimonies in sacrament you seem to be concluding that there is no manifestation of the spirit. To me that’s just bad logic.

  72. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Sorry, that should read, “the fact they aren’t willing to let you in on their private sacred experiences says nothing about whether they are having them.”

  73. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Clark: Lol

    Clearly if someone doesn’t have that particular gift, for whatever reason, then calling for the Elders is entirely sensical. Claiming that having the priesthood is proof of cessationism is entirely non-sensical.
    Except when that is what’s taught as the general/default practice for all members to do. D&C 42:43-44 is not the single piece of the point I was making — it was part one of a two-part point. In conjunction with D&C 42:43-44, I’ve connected the modern practice of across-the-board use of priesthood elder administration for all sick as my evidence for at least one gift no longer being possessed by LDS.

    Clearly, if it was known by the GA’s that the healing gifts were still so widely held among the various congregations — then defaulting to the “if you don’t have faith” manner for healing the sick would not be the generally promoted practice by the GA’s — would it not?

    when not around you…
    Wow — “that all may be profited thereby” — am I 1-on-1 reading the D&C and the NT? Manifestations of the best gifts of the Spirit are for the edification of the body [meaning the congregation to which I belong]. Keeping them to yourself [if that is what is going on, instead of a veil for not actually having the gifts] is contrary to the principle of charity upon which they should be administered.

  74. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Reading back at the OP — since I think Clark and I can agree that we aren’t going to convince each other — I saw this:

    Cessationism is the belief that miracles and spiritual gifts played some essential role in the foundation of Christianity (or in its restoration), but that the time of their active appearance has passed.

    And it made me think of this:

    Q: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?
    A: Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received.

    Now, if a problem should arise on which we don’t have an answer, we pray about it, we may fast about it, and it comes. Quietly. Usually no voice of any kind, but just a perception in the mind
    Now that’s the way it works.

    Yes — if you ask an LDS whether or not the “gifts of the Spirit” are still accepted/had among LDS, then they will answer in the affirmative.

    However, [and I think this may have been part of what BiV was getting at in her post] I think it’s common for LDS to explain differences between scriptural accounts of the best gifts and current practice/use of the best gifts in terms of what Hinckley said in that interview: i.e. “There was a lot of that in the time of Joseph Smith/time of Kirtland/time of the pioneers/etc. — but we don’t need stuff like that today — Now this is the way it works.

    It seems that many try to make what experiences they’ve had fit onto what the scriptures describe as the best gifts [e.g. studying and learning a new language at the MTC vs. Pentacostal manifestation of tongues] — instead of being motivated by the promises of the Lord in the word and seeking after the same powers and gifts that the ancients recorded.

  75. Jonathan Green on February 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Justin, to get back to an earlier point, you write: “unless what defines a ‘cessationist’ is what they claim rather than what they practice…”

    That is, in fact, exactly what I’ve been saying all along. Cessation of miracles is something one might claim to observe; cessationism is a rhetoric about miracles. And it’s abundantly clear that Mormons don’t have a cessationist rhetoric.

    Now, what you and LDSA are arguing is that spiritual gifts have ceased among the Mormons. As I mentioned in the original post, one is certainly allowed to hold that view. Your arguments for your view are quite intricate, but I don’t share with you enough principles of interpretation or agreement concerning textual authorities for me to follow them very far, let alone come to the same conclusions, and your language of argument relies on distinctions (“gifts” vs. “best gifts”) that are not part of my formulaic inventory.

    This has been an interesting and hugely entertaining thread, but I think we’re starting to repeat ourselves. I’ll let things go another round or so, in case something new and interesting turns up, but eventually I’ll close this thread.

  76. LDS Anarchist on February 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Jonathan Green #59:

    Also, one of the interesting things about this discussion is that many who see a decline in spiritual gifts, or some form of Mormon cessationism, rely on a maximal and literalist reading of scriptural texts to make their case. LDSA’s interpretation of 2 Ne. 28 and Justin’s reading of the NT both rely on a 1-to-1 rendition of ancient texts to modern implications without considering textual wrinkles or historical context.

    Lol. The LDS interpret 2 Nephi 27: 6-10, 12-22 literally, skipping over verse 11, to which they assign a figurative or symbolic meaning. Then, in chapter 28, they continue to assign symbolic or figurative meaning to it. Picking and choosing what is literal and what is figurative, as it suits them. LMAO.

    Why do the LDS give a literal interpretation to 2 Nephi 27: 6-10, 12-22 and not to verse 11 or the rest of the prophecy? Because that portion of the prophecy has been fulifilled every whit. When prophecies are fulfilled every whit, we finally can see the literal nature of the prophecy. Prior to that (its literal fulfillment,) what we see in current or past events is a mere shadow.

    So, again, the modus operandi of the LDS is that any prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled every whit (it is still future) is given symbolic interpretation, while any prophecy that has been fulfilled every whit is given literal interpretation.

    So, when a person, such as myself, explains that the portion of prophecy that you think is symbolic has a literal, future fulfillment, we are accused of relying on a maximal and literalist interpretation, despite the fact that the accuser does the same thing in the previous chapter (2 Nephi 27: 6-10, 12-22.) Lol.

    So, in 2 Ne. 27: 15, when it says the man says, “Read this,” the LDS interpret this literally as the man asking the learned one to read something. And when in the same verse the learned man says, “Bring hither the book, and I will read them,” the LDS interpret this as literally meaning that the scholar tells the man to bring the book to him and he will read it. But in 2 Ne. 28: 21, when the churches say, “All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well,” this is considered figurative. It doesn’t literally mean that they are saying these words, just that they feel this way, etc. Lol.

    Or, after the words of the book are read (translated) and the book is sealed up again (2 Ne. 27: 22), when we find the Lord telling the same man who read the words of the book, “Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men” (2 Nephi 27: 25), the LDS assign a figurative meaning to this. Did the Lord say these words to Joseph after the Book of Mormon was translated? If so, when? If He did, what people was He referring to? These questions have no clear answers, so the LDS just assign this prophecy to an earlier time, before the translation of the Book of Mormon (recorded in Joseph Smith-History 1: 19.) Again, this is just flip-flopping around to try to make the still future prophecies fit other churches, and not this people (us.)

    Whatever interpretative measure you use, should be used throughout the prophecy. If you flip-flop around, you create arbitrary rules. The prophecy begins in 2 Nephi 25: 7 and continues to 2 Nephi 30: 18. That is a lot of flipping around to do.

    The reason why prophecy is disputed, is because it has not, yet, been fulfilled every whit. When prophecy is fulfilled every whit, “men shall know of a surety” (2 Nephi 25: 7) and will no longer argue over it, as we do these passages. So, the very fact that we argue over the meaning of these passages is evidence that the passages still pertain to the future, and that what we are seeing is a mere shadow fulfillment. No one argues about 2 Nephi 27: 6-10, 12-22 because everyone can see its fulfillment in Martin Harris and Professor Anthon.

    Btw, this time around I’m not sorry for the threadjack because you gave me permission. Besides, my words can once again give both you and Clark the opportunity for some of your finest moments.

  77. LDS Anarchist on February 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Justin #66:

    Without just repeating everything he wrote there — I’ll say that once God gives a person the gift of “faith to [Fill-in-the-blank-Spiritual-Gift]“, that person always has the faith to do [Fill-in-the-blank] unless he/she sins and thereby loses faith.

    Getting a gift of the Spirit is like learning to ride a bike. Once you learn to ride the bike, you no longer need to re-learn it each time you get on. You always know how to ride a bike and are able to do it (unless your legs get broken.) Gifts are the same way, unless you lose faith, you can use them whevener you want.

    This is why Paul instructed those who had the gifts of tongues to not speak in tongues unless there is one who has the gift of the interpretation of tongues present. No such instruction is needed on Paul’s part unless the gifts are available to be used at will. If the gifts are not used whevener you want, the Spirit would simply not manifest such tongues except in cases when an interpreter was present and no one would need such instruction from Paul. But Paul gave such instruction because the gifts are meant to benefit/edify the entire congregation and tongues cannot benefit the congregation unless interpretation is also present.

    Also, the scriptures distinguish between the gifts and the powers of the Holy Ghost. The power(s) of the Holy Ghost can come and leave, without notice or control or the right to have them with us always. The gifts, though, remain with us always, as long as we do not lose our faith. Just as receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to always have the Spirit to be with us, so receiving any of the individual gifts of the Holy Ghost is the right to manifest it always, whevener we want to. Everything, though, is done according to our faith.

  78. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    LDSA (76) As I said it’s not just LDS. Critics of the Church read it the same way. But, following Jonathan’s point we’re all going around in circles here I’ll bow out.

    As for verse 11, it merely says the day comes when the sealed portion will be revealed. Clearly that is pertaining to the future but it doesn’t entail all the chapter takes place then. Indeed this appears as an aside. Especially considering verse 12 is talking about when the book is given to Joseph. Now we know the sealed portion hasn’t been revealed but we know the bit about the three witnesses is passed. Therefore your claim about how verse 11 affects the whole chapter’s interpretation makes little sense to me. (And not one is reading it as figurative or symbolic that I can see – disagreeing with your reading doesn’t mean we’re treating it as figurative)

    As for your claim about the nature of the gifts of the spirit, I can but say it’s a claim I see no support for and considerable support against. Consider TPJS 243.

    We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of tongues, and also the gift of prophecy are gifts of the Spirit, and are obtained through that medium; but then to say that men always prophesied and spoke in tongues when they had the imposition of hands, would be to state that which is untrue, contrary to the practice of the Apostles, and at variance with holy write; for Paul says, “To one is given the gift of tongues, to another the gift of prophecy, and to another the gift of healing;” and again: “Do all prophesy? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” evidently showing that all did not possess these several gifts; but that one received one gift, and another received another gift–all did not prophesy, all did not speak in tongues, all did not work miracles; but all did receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; sometimes they spake in tongues and prophesied in the Apostles’ days, and sometimes they did not. The same is the case with us also in our administrations, while more frequently there is no manifestation at all, that is visible to the surrounding multitude; this will appear plain when we consult the writings of the Apostles, and notice their proceedings in relation to this matter. Paul, in 1st Cor. 12, says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant;” it is evident from this, that some of them were ignorant in relation to these matters, or they would not need instruction.

  79. Jonathan Green on February 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Justin, sorry, we were posting at the same time. It’s an interesting citation, isn’t it? If it were me, I’d bold the part that reads Now, if a problem should arise on which we don’t have an answer, we pray about it, we may fast about it, and it comes and end up in exactly the opposite place compared to your reading.

    LDSA, like I mentioned, your arguments are relying on assumptions that I don’t share, so I don’t follow or understand them.

  80. L W Reyes on February 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    While the Church itself may not be cessationist, the membership (in general) has become so, at least in attitude if not in actuality. Miracles do occur, but are more and more often being kept private. Why? For one thing, when someone testifies of a miraculous healing or vision or what have you, don’t “we” automatically doubt the validity of their experience? Do “we” think that maybe they are eccentrics, or overly zealous, or even a bit nuts?

    Of course we do. This is because no matter how much we preach about being in the world but not of the world, or about how much we rely on faith and how faith can move mountains – the reality is we live in a world that has come to disbelieve such things. From our earliest school experiences, to the media, to our dealings with all our non-lds friends, we cannot help but be of the world – to have adopted (even if involuntarily) the world’s anti-miracle attitudes.

    So those who do experience miracles either speak of them and run the risk of being labeled a wacko (even by their fellow saints) or keep it to themselves, maybe sharing it with only a select few, who then pass the story along, and it becomes one of those rumors we hear about that keeps our faith in miracles alive somehow.

  81. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    LW: I’d like to point something out [even though I agree with the over-all point in your comment] — “While the Church itself may not be cessationist, the membership (in general) has become so,

    How is “the church” not the membership in general? I assume by “Church” you intend to mean the leaders — but the church is the general membership, isn’t it?

  82. Clark on February 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    L W, I think the context in which an experience is shared matters a lot. You are right though, if someone in sacrament told me they saw an angel I’d probably not believe them. If someone I trusted told me that in confidence I almost certainly would.

  83. Ken on February 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    If you are interested in a modern day apostle describing personal experiences with spiritual gifts and miracles, go read the new autobiography on Thomas S. Monson, “To the Rescue” by Heidi L. Swinton. Some very moving descriptions of miraculous events–mostly during his long apostolic ministry–are detailed from his personal journals; not the kind of thing you hear in conference talks very often.

  84. Jonathan Green on February 11, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Thank you for all the comments. I’m closing the thread now.

WELCOME

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