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Contested sacred space USA: Conflict and cooperation in the heartland

An LDS youth group from Lenexa, Kan., tours the Temple Lot in Independence, Mo., on June 23, 2017. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot), left, owns the 2.5-acre field, with the Community of Christ Temple in the background. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (RNS) — There is an open patch of grass at the intersection of River Boulevard and Walnut Street in this Kansas City suburb. It looks like a vacant lot — no structures, no landscaping, no fence.

But this 2.5-acre site is sacred to a number of religious groups, all of which trace their origins to Joseph Smith Jr., the Mormon prophet. It is here, Smith declared in 1831, that Jesus will return — and soon — to rule his kingdom from a beautiful temple.

For now, there is no temple — construction never got past the laying of cornerstones. But the three largest Mormon denominations have presences in and around Temple Lot: The 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints runs a visitors center on one corner across the street; the Community of Christ, with 200,000 members, has its world headquarters and an auditorium on two other corners; and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), which has just 5,000 members, has a low-slung sanctuary a few steps away.

RNS reporter Kimberly Winston explains the competing interests for Temple Lot in Independence, Mo.

The world has no shortage of contested religious sites. From the Temple Mount and Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the former Babri Mosque built on the site of an ancient Hindu temple in Ayodhya, India, different faiths have both tried to share — and waged bloody conflicts over — spaces considered sacred to their traditions.

Here in the U.S., the three Mormon denominations present at Temple Lot have found a way to peacefully share the contested space, as well as two other sites nearby.

The roots of their disputes may not be as deep as the ones that entangle contested sites overseas. But they are certainly complex and emotional, and the Mormon factions’ efforts to come to terms with their conflicting claims has only come about through gestures of magnanimity and evolved thinking on the part of believers who follow the same founding prophet.

“You know the old saying, ‘There’s no fight like a family fight?'” said Steven L. Olsen, senior curator for historic sites for the LDS church and a seventh-generation Mormon. “I think we have gotten over that because we realize there are bigger issues than the sectarian issues that divided us. We can accomplish a lot more together than we can by fighting each other.”

Shared history

Since Mormonism was born in America and splintered into dozens of religious groups, it may not be surprising that some of the places that figure in the Latter-day Saints’ founding stories are subject to competing claims.

Current estimates range between 30 and 100 active denominations that trace their lineage to Smith’s revelations, recorded in The Book of Mormon in 1830.

Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Ill., on April 18, 2017. Photo by Dennis Piepergerdes

Yet today, the three largest of these may have more theological differences than commonalities. The LDS church and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) retain their belief in a literal and imminent return of Jesus to Independence, while the Community of Christ does not.

The LDS church has “temple ordinances” — sacraments and rites performed in temples for baptism of the dead, marriage and “sealing” families as “eternal.” Neither of the other two has these ordinances.

And only Community of Christ ordains women and accepts noncelibate LGBT people as full members.

Though Smith’s “Latter-day Saint movement” is 187 years old, only 14 years of that is shared.

“For 14 years, there was a common tree trunk,” said Lachlan Mackay, a Community of Christ historian. “Then the splintering happened.”

And with it came the contested sacred places.

Kirtland Temple

One of them is the Kirtland Temple, near Cleveland, the first temple Smith established.

The white, steepled structure wouldn’t be out of place in New England.

The Kirtland Temple near Cleveland is owned by the Community of Christ. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Ken Lund

In April 1836, Smith claimed he saw Jesus standing at one of its two pulpits. Smith believed Jesus was accepting and blessing the temple and his followers. In other visions at Kirtland Temple, Smith claimed “heavenly visitors” gave him the “keys” — the authority — to conduct temple ordinances.

For LDS church members, this event is sacred scripture, incorporated in their Doctrine and Covenants in 1876. They believe Jesus literally stood at the pulpit of the Kirtland Temple.

But in Community of Christ terminology, Smith’s visions were more spiritual experiences than actual events — they do not teach Jesus literally stood in the Kirtland pulpit. They hold only one of Smith’s several visions — his first, in a New York forest in 1820 — as important because, they believe, it shows the healing of God and the mercy of Jesus.

And it is the Community that owns Kirtland Temple.

David Howlett, a Community of Christ historian and author of “Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space,” said relations there have always been cordial, if sometimes strained. During tours in the 1960s and 1970s, members of the two denominations would sometimes confront each other on the priesthood, plural marriage and more.

“I know from talking with guides from the 1970s, they were ready to go to war,” he said. “They knew what to hit their LDS guests with and they were ready to tangle.”

But the last 20 or so years have seen a change.

Community of Christ allows its “Mormon cousins” to hold worship, prayer and meetings in the temple’s sanctuary. Together, they hold joint Thanksgiving and Easter services and the annual Emma Smith Hymn Festival, named for Smith’s widow. The LDS church has funded a roof replacement and some structural studies as well.

Steven Olsen of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints history department. Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The LDS perspective of events is included in the tour guides’ script, and they always point out the pulpit where Smith said he saw Jesus stand.

Olsen, the LDS historian, recalls when, in 2003, then-church President Gordon Hinckley was given a tour of Kirtland Temple. The elderly Hinckley asked for a few minutes alone in the sanctuary. It was against the rules, but …

“They ushered everyone out and President Hinckley got to spend an hour in the temple contemplating what we call the ‘solemnities of eternity’ that transpired there,” he said. “That was an amazing act of generosity.”

Howlett says it is not so much that everyone gets along as that what they disagree on has changed.

“For Community of Christ, it doesn’t matter whether this or that really happened at Kirtland,” he said. “It is more about the community Kirtland represents. That makes cooperation easier for them both.”

Nauvoo

There is an old joke among Community of Christ members that their historical sites exist to ruin LDS family vacations.

That’s no longer true in Nauvoo, Ill., the small pioneer town Smith and his thousands of followers founded along a bend in the Mississippi River.

Competing billboards for LDS, top, and Community of Christ, bottom, are removed in Nauvoo, Ill., in April 2013. Photos by Lachlan Mackay

Here, the two churches share the log, clapboard and brick buildings. Community of Christ owns the Smith-related sites while the LDS church owns sites associated with Brigham Young and other early church leaders. Visitors cross denominational lines without even knowing it.

But there once was a kind of border crossing — two billboards facing opposite directions had the effect of announcing “You are now entering” each church’s territory.

The billboards came down five years ago after a discussion over chips and salsa at a local Mexican restaurant.

“Steve Olsen (the LDS historian) was there and I was there and one of us said, ‘Hey, if we take ours down will you take yours down?'” said Mackay, the Community of Christ historian and overseer of the church’s Nauvoo sites. “It was silly, in the middle of historical sites, to have these billboards.”

That cooperation extends to the Red Brick Store, built in 1841 by Smith to house his dry goods business and owned by Community of Christ. The second floor was the de facto headquarters of the early Mormon church and is sacred to both groups, but for competing reasons.

Perhaps in a small office with windows toward the river, Community members believe, Smith made his son, Joseph Smith III, his spiritual successor in a ceremony involving an anointing and a laying on of hands.

Community of Christ historian and guide Lachlan Mackay speaks to guests on the second floor of the Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Ill., on Oct. 29, 2016. Photo by Dennis Piepergerdes

But the LDS church recognized Brigham Young as Smith’s successor. To them, the second floor is sacred because it is where Smith established temple “endowments” — a “gift of power from on high” that is the highest sacrament of the faith and can only be performed in temples.

Community of Christ does not have endowments, but it includes the historical information in tour materials and signage, and its tour guides are instructed in endowments’ importance for LDS visitors.

More problematic is an issue that roiled both denominations and kept them apart for at least a century. The Red Brick Store is where Smith recorded some teachings about plural marriage, which he secretly practiced as early as the 1840s and the LDS church practiced until 1890. The LDS church sanctified these teachings as scripture, Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Community of Christ has always rejected plural marriage. For decades, many members insisted Smith never practiced it.

“Really, we were here to challenge the idea that Joseph Smith was a polygamist for much of our existence,” Mackay said from his office, a short walk from the Red Brick Store. “That is not what we are here to do to today. We are here to tell a powerful story of a people who believed life in a community is better than a life alone.”

What changed, Mackay said, was the Community of Christ’s attitude toward history. In the 1960s the Community began accepting what outside scholars were arguing about Smith — that he married about 30 women (but fathered children with only one of them, his first wife, Emma, according to modern DNA testing).

“Historians looked at our story; we embraced their work,” Mackay said. “It didn’t happen overnight and it was very painful. It came down to, if you had to choose between something Jesus said and something Joseph Smith said, what would you choose? And the answer for us, of course, was Jesus.”

Lachlan Mackay, left, of the Community of Christ shakes hands with LDS Elder M. Russell Ballard during the Aug. 6, 2016, commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, Ill. Both serve as members of the board of trustees for the Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family Foundation. Photo by Lindsey Orton/Deseret News

Olsen, who often visits the LDS-owned Nauvoo sites, including the house where Brigham Young planned the Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Basin, said the two groups realized that when they played their disagreements out in the Nauvoo sites, “the people who were victimized were the visitors.”

And “we got to know each other,” Olsen said. “Once we came together in academic and not sectarian forums we came to a mutual appreciation. We realized there is more that brings us together than drove us apart. There have been extraordinary things accomplished since we reached this detente.”

Last year, Mackay, a great-great-great-grandson of Joseph and Emma Smith, and M. Russell Ballard, an LDS elder and a great-great-grandson of Joseph Smith Jr.’s brother Hyrum, jointly laid a wreath at their ancestors’ graves near the Red Brick Store — something that wouldn’t have happened a generation ago.

“That symbolizes our relationship now,” Mackay said.

Temple Lot

Nowhere is this relationship played out more clearly than at the grassy field in Independence — about 275 miles west of Nauvoo — known as Temple Lot.

When Joseph Smith purchased Temple Lot in 1831, some Mormon elders dedicated the site to God.

“This spot is the center of the earth,” a resident recorded of the dedication in his journal. “This is the spot of ground on which the New Jerusalem is to be built.”

The contested space in Independence, Mo., centers on Temple Lot, 1, which is owned by Church of Christ (Temple Lot), 2. The Community of Christ Temple, 3, and Auditorium, 5, dominate the landscape. And Mormons coming to the LDS Independence Visitors’ Center, 4, make up the majority of tourists. Map courtesy of Google

But Mormons laid only the cornerstones — on view in the tiny museum in the Church of Christ (Temple Lot)’s building. Smith and his tens of thousands of followers fled the state in 1838 after its governor declared Mormons be “exterminated.”

After Smith’s death at the hands of an angry crowd in 1844, a breakaway Mormon sect called the Hedrickites came into possession of Temple Lot. The Community of Christ, then headed by Joseph Smith III, sued them for the deed.

The legal battle lasted from 1891 to 1896. In the end, the Hedrickites — by then renamed the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) — won. Both the Community of Christ and the LDS church made occasional offers to purchase it, but Church of Christ (Temple Lot) officials proclaimed they would never sell.

“It is not for sale at any price … to the LDS Church in Utah, nor to any other division of the Restoration,” church Apostle Clarence Wheaton said. “We hold (it) as a sacred trust before the Lord.”

Members of Church of Christ (Temple Lot) stand on the boundaries of the proposed temple on the Temple Lot in Independence, Mo. Photo courtesy of Church of Christ (Temple Lot)

The land is still not for sale. Nor is it fenced in or guarded. On any summer day, busloads of LDS teens can be seen praying at the site, while Community of Christ members stroll over from a conference or service across the street.

Church of Christ still plans to build a temple on the site, but current efforts are hindered by money and local zoning laws.

There is speculation the LDS church would very much like to buy the lot. Olsen acknowledged the LDS church has the assets and likely the inclination to purchase the land, should it be for sale. In the meantime, the LDS church has given funds to Church of Christ for the land’s upkeep and restoration.

“It is a good relationship,” said Roland Sarratt, a Church of Christ (Temple Lot) leader and historian who presides over its tiny museum on Mondays. “They respect us even though our beliefs are quite different. It is like Christianity in general — we have a common belief in God and Jesus Christ and that belief keeps us from being at a sword’s point on various things.”

Sarratt, who is 82, remembers the old battles over the site — a “defense thing,” he called it. Now, he can walk across the Temple Lot, stand in the footsteps of Joseph Smith Jr. and see something else.

“I have hope, because the way the world is going, we don’t know what the Lord has in mind,” he said. “We don’t know how the temple will ever be built. But the Lord knows. That’s where we’re at.”

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

40 Comments

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  • I grew up in the RLDS church but went my separate way after I converted to Christ. I could no longer believe the church’s historical analysis of Christianity, the BM or DC. Now the RLDS rebranded itself as the Community of Christ (extreme liberals on par with the UCC and TEC) and how they treated the conservatives was little short of pure meaness. I hope their church fails and is consumed in the ash bin of history.

  • Nice article. A correction though. The article states”the former Babri Mosque built on the site of an ancient Hindu temple in Ayodhya, India,..” as a fact. In fact what would be accurate to state: “the former Babri Mosque built on the site of an ALLEGED ancient Hindu temple in Ayodhya, India,..”

    The reporter is requested to provide a correction. Regards

  • Many years ago I remember visiting the RLDS with an interfaith clergy group. Having heard little about them since, it’s good to have an update and the new name. Now I know they haven’t faded into oblivion.

  • Mormons should ask themselves whether Jesus would.return to Independence,MO. I mean… Really? There not a better place for Jesus??

  • I love it when these little biographical details leak out, it helps round out the image of the folks I’m interacting with. I never would have guessed in your case. These days, with so many sects using similar denominational names, I’m not certain what Evangelical Church you’re referring to (You can’t tell the players without a scorecard). I was a member of an “The Evangelical Church” which was quite conservative in fact, and it appeared that the associated regions in the United States within that church were the same. Do you have a website or something related to the TEC to which you refer so that I can sort this out?

  • Leaving the RLDS church was particularly difficult as conservative rlds families are usually very close, and mine was. My rlds family history went back generations. We had missionaries in our family and an apostle. One of JS’s children married an ancestor of mine. So you just don’t leave without tears. But I did and it was hard – especially on my parents – but rlds theology casts doubt on the veracity of the word of God, and it was the word of God that changed my life so dramatically. That is one reason I won’t go to a church if they wobble on the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s word.

  • Thank you! That clears up a bit of confusion for me. Though if memory serves, you have made that point before. A bit of data my retrieval system dropped.

  • Thank you for the great article. It is a very interesting situation. I do have one clarification, if I correctly heard in the video. I believe it was said that the revelations of Joseph Smith concerning the temple location are recorded in Book of Mormon. If I heard correctly, this would not be correct. The revelations of Joseph Smith are in what Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed “Mormons”) call “The Doctrine and Covenants.” The Book of Mormon is about a people who left Jerusalem about 600 BC and came to what we now call the Americas. They were Israelites and grew into a mighty nation that collapsed in about 400 AD due to civil war.

  • Thank you Kimberly Winston for this fascinating history and account … I hope it’s all based on facts, but your credibility becomes a little suspicious when you state that, “the former Babri Mosque built on the site of an ancient Hindu temple in Ayodhya, India” … This is not an accurate or factual statement … yes, some people have claimed so, but there is no evidence to back up that claim or allegation … hope you may correct that or acknowledge the error …

  • Why sorry? I’m fine, Eddie. Not just fine, though, but fine and dandy. One is rarely both fine and dandy at the same time. Sometimes I’m fine. But I’m not dandy. I might be close to dandy. I might be approaching dandy. I might even be in the general vicinity of dandyhood. But not quite fully dandy. Other times, I might indeed be highly dandy. However, not fine. One time, back in 1978. August. For about an hour. I was both fine and dandy at the same time. But nobody asked me how I was. I could have told ’em, “Fine and dandy!” I consider that a lost opportunity, so I choose to share with you now that I am, currently, both fine and dandy.

    So, if you’re going to apologize for anything, it should be for your weirdly creepy use of “thee” and even creepier insistence on telling me about Jesus’s stalkeresque unrequited love. Pervert.

  • Thou, thee, thy and thine are the second person singular pronouns. Since I assume thee is one person, and not more than one person, I used the singular pronoun. Too bad they no longer teach that in our schools.
    Yeah, Jesus keeps stalking us. What a pervert!

  • Unless you’re performing Shakespeare In The Park, thou, thee, thy and thine are terms typically used by simpletons trying to sound more intelligent than they really are. Sort of like all those neck-beards using “m’lady” all the time as if that’s going to help get them laid (you’re one of them, aren’t ya Eddie? LOL). The contemporary term you should have used is “you”.

  • I don’t know much about Shakespeare, other than he was an English playwright from the late 1500’s to early 1600’s, and I have no Idea what thee is referring to with “neck-beards” and “m’lady”.
    You, your, and yours are the second person plural pronouns. But we should be glad that it is not a capital offence to use the plural pronoun in place of the singular pronoun. The world is crazy enough as it is.

    Cheers!

  • Thee dost not knoweth much ado about The Bard of Avon, but thee tryeth to orate in his manner? Too bad they no longer teach that in our schools.

    Actually, “you” is the pronoun of the second person singular OR plural, used of the person OR persons being addressed, in the nominative or objective case (check the dictionary, Eddie). Perhaps you need to go back to grammar school, neck-beard.

  • James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

    The question is whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet sent by God. If he was, then his message (the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Doctrine and Covenants and teachings of Mormonism built on this message) would be valid. If he was not a prophet sent by God, then his message (see above list) would not be valid.

    So how do we know? Should we use James 1:5 and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet and then wait for some kind of confirmation as Mormonism teaches? Or pray for wisdom and use the test God has already given us in Deuteronomy 18:21-22? “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’. If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”

    We have two ways to test Joseph Smith. Pray for wisdom and confirmation, as Mormonism teaches. Or God’s test in Deuteronomy 18.

    Acts 4:19, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”

    Romans 3:4, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

    Trust God and follow His instruction.

    https://downtownministries.blogspot.com/2015/04/we-thank-thee-o-god-for-prophet.html?m=1

  • You can trust God directly or you can trust your interpretation on the Bible. I have already pointed out to you before that many prophets in the Bible spoke things that arguably did not come to pass and I have already listed for you multiple instances in which Joseph Smith correctly prophesied and I have shut down your alleged failed prophecies.

    The problem with your favored test of a true prophet is that it depends on starting from the assumption that the Book of Deuteronomy is the word of God. How does one come to accept that? Your method is therefore logically incomplete.

    http://www.mormon.org

    https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Does_Joseph_Smith_fail_the_%22prophetic_test%22_found_in_Deuteronomy_18%3F

  • You and I did have discussions about the reliability of the Biblical Scriptures. I remember you wanting archaeological evidence of the Exodus, until I provided that evidence.

    There are archaeological finds on an almost daily basis proving the validity of the Scriptures. But I have a question for you. Since Joseph Smith set out to translate the Bible (without manuscripts), and even went as far as to write himself in as a future prophet in Genesis chapter 50, why didn’t he correct what you call an error in Deuteronomy?

    And as far as Joseph Smith’s prophecies go, the plot of ground talked about in this article is talked about in your Doctrine & Covenants 84:1-5 (see link below). It is his prophecies that this temple would be built in his lifetime, and he would christen it.

    https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/84.112

  • Yes, our discussion on arachaeological evidence centered around your use of a double standard when something applies to the Bible. You provided evidence that was only accepted by a small group of apologists, and yet did not accept similarly backed evidence for the Book of Mormon that was accepted only by a small group of apologists.

    You do the same when it comes to Joseph Smith and Biblical prophets. I present the following (from a Jewish source, not a Mormon one):

    “The true prophet, as intercessor, was ready to risk a confrontation with God, in contrast to his counterpart, the false prophet. The problem of distinguishing between them was indeed perplexing, as shown by two separate passages in Deuteronomy…The answer given is that if the ‘oracle does not come true, that oracle was not spoken by the Lord; the prophet uttered it presumptuously.’ This, however, cannot serve as an infallible criterion, because there are several occasions when an oracle delivered by a true prophet did not materialize even in his own lifetime. Such unfulfilled prophecies include Jeremiah’s prediction of the ignominious fate of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:19), which was belied by 2 Kings 24:6, and Ezekiel’s foretelling the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 26:7-21), which was later admitted to have failed but was to be compensated by the Babylonian king’s attack on Egypt (Ezekiel 29:17-20)” Shalom M. Paul, “Prophecy and Prophets”

    “It is his prophecies that this temple would be built in his lifetime.” I assume you mean this because D&C 84 says the temple will be reared “in this generation.” So, was Jesus a false prophet when He said, referring to great calamities and His triumphant return, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”?

    Further, you consistently misunderstand me. I don’t think that Deuteronomy 18 isn’t correct; I think your interpretation of what it means is incorrect.

  • Yes, but Joseph Smith said the temple would be built in his lifetime and he would christen it. Very specific failed prophecies.

  • It’s the exact same language Jesus used! You are truly unbelievable.

    Edit: It occurs to me that you might be getting caught up on the following: “and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith Jr.” If that is indeed the case, your problem is grammatical. Here’s the whole verse:

    “Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.”

    This passage is not prophetic, but descriptive. The temple lot had already been dedicated by Joseph Smith “and others with whom the Lord was well pleased” (7 others, to be precise) on August 3, 1831.

  • No. I have re-read the passage. I’m not misunderstanding it. It was to be built in his generation and he was to christen it.

    But I’m not interested in comparing the words of Joseph Smith with the words of Jesus (if you read the whole passage concerning what Jesus said, you will understand that He was talking about the generation that existed when the signs of the end were happening.) And I’m not interested in comparing Joseph Smith to Jesus (although Joseph Smith did not see a problem with comparing himself to Jesus):

    “God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil–all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days
    of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”

  • “No. I have re-read the passage. I’m not misunderstanding it. It was to be built in his generation and he was to christen it.” I parse words for a living, Dave. There is no mention of Joseph’s lifetime, and the reference to the dedication (not “christening”) employs the past tense. If you have grammatical evidence, say it. Until then, your response is nothing more than a childish “na-uh”.

    “if you read the whole passage concerning what Jesus said, you will understand that He was talking about the generation that existed when the signs of the end were happening” Employing the Davey Tiffany standard of argumentation, I could leave my response at “No. I have re-read the passage. I’m not misunderstanding it.” Nevertheless, I will point out that I have read commentaries from more than a dozen scholars on this passage, and none use your interpretation assigning “this generation” to the generation of the signs. Instead, they either interpret the generation to mean an age, or they interpret “all these things” to mean the destruction of Jerusalem. “But there is no necessity for assuming any unusual meaning in the term “this generation.” Its plain and obvious reference is to the contemporaries of the speaker.”

    As for your quote, you are merely changing the subject because you don’t have anything else to say on the topic. I’m not interested in debating this point, but if you read the entire discourse, it’s obvious Joseph is praising the Latter-day Saints and engaging in the same kind of rhetorical fire Paul used to turn around the taunts of his enemies.

  • Look, Dave. You’re deflecting from the original argument in order to make an argument you think is stronger. I’m not going down that road.

  • No, Dave, you either address or concede the prior points, then we move on to the next topic. I’m not playing this game of look at the next shiny object with you.

  • It has everything to do with the previous points, Zampona. This plot of land is right where this person, Joseph Smith, who claimed to be a prophet of God, said a temple would be built in his lifetime and he would christen it.

    These prophecies failed , proving him to be a false prophet. A false prophet who went as far as to boast that he did more to hold the church together than the Son of God. A boast never taken up by a true prophet of God, or a true Apostle of Christ.

    This man claimed to be a prophet of God when God did not send him. He brought a message that did not originate with God. And he claimed to do more than the Son of God.

    Where is his boasting now.

  • No, Dave. As I have already pointed out–and backed up by evidence–Joseph Smith did not say that the temple would be built in his lifetime and that he would christen it. Before we go anywhere else, you have to support that notion. You can’t simply repeat it without addressing my rebuttal. I am happy to address the quote from Joseph Smith that you have ripped from its context, but you have to address those other points first.

  • And I have already shown you based on a) grammar and b) identical language that you yourself interpret differently that it does not.

  • There you go Dave! Evidence forming the foundation of an argument. Why is it like pulling teeth to get you to do that?

    Anyway, I’ve been without Internet access and have now lost interest in this argument, so let me address a few things and then I’ll be done.

    Your linked article does a good job of exemplifying the typical double standard among sectarian critics of Mormonism. It points out prophecies made by Joseph Smith that appear to have failed and biblical prophecies that appear to have been fulfilled, but fails to mention Smith’s prophecies that appear to have been fulfilled (e.g. civil war) and biblical prophecies that appear to have failed (there are lists, but see 1 Samuel 2:30 for just one acknowledged revoked prophecy).

    As for Joseph Smith’s contemporaries and theor interpretation, they were simply wrong. A theme in the history of prophecy is that others will misinterpret it. The same is true for Christ’s prophecy of his own return, which used the same language as the prophecy regarding the Independence temple (see, e.g., 1 Thesselonians 4:15-17).

    Your source raises two particularly interesting points. First involves the JST of Matthew. The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants routinely use the language of the King James Bible in order to communicate ideas with which the heater would already be familiar. The JST of Matthew 24 was not accepted as canon by the LDS Church until 1880, and had only been published recently at the time of D&C 84. The Latter-day Saints and the world were more familiar with the King James phrasing, and so the prophecy used that phrasing. The second interesting point involves the quote from Joseph Fielding Smith. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to his book right now, but the quote in your source appears to lack context.

    As promised, since you addressed your original arguments, I will address your point regarding the Joseph Smith quite. I don’t have time or energy to get into a complete explanation, but the upshot is that Smith never claimed to be better than Jesus, at least not sincerely. The quote you cite is Joseph Smith “speaking as a fool” a rhetorical device employed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 (“I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.”) How do I know that? (Edit: that Joseph was “speaking as a fool.”) Because this is precisely the scripture Joseph Smith cited immediately before launching into the quote you find so offensive.

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