28 March 2013

Mormons: A Short History on Beards

LDS Beards Then and Now

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..."[i] and God at least portrayed by the earliest artists has been portrayed as having both beard and long hair. According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both God the Father and Jesus Christ, our exemplars, are pictorially displayed as having beards and long hair. Israelite beards were even mandated from heaven with specific commands to grooming techniques.

In the book of Leviticus, we read of a divine command by God that banned the shaving of the beard. "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard."[ii] The book of Samuel revels that the shaving of the beard was a sign of humiliation. Some of King David's servants were being abused by the Ammonites and were forced to shave their beards. After they fled away and met up with David, he told them, "Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return."[iii]

Moses, Jacob, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, James and John are also "known'' to have beards in both early and late paintings. Most of the early LDS Apostles and Prophets are known through the evidence of old daguerreotypes to have had beards. So what happened? Why are Mormon missionaries and temple workers today, not allowed to grow beards? Why do leaders and members encourage each other to be clean shaven? 

Two Worlds

This research paper became a lot bigger and more difficult than I had initially anticipated. In my quest of finding an explanation for the dramatic shift we see in Mormon culture in regards to how beards were looked at in the early restoration of the church and how they are regarded as shocking and undomesticated today, I have found that this research paper is two-fold. There are two worlds we need to look at to find this shift in Mormon culture. There is the world of BYU and the world of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In so doing, I hope to find a reason and time frame of the so called, "Beard Policy" that Mormons "must" adhere to in order to be regarded as "True Members" of the LDS faith. 

The World of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

21st century leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its dedicated members have developed a social constructivist tradition that has in some areas of the church, sophisticated itself into that of a policy. In the early and mid 19th century of Mormon culture we can visually see that beards were not only in fashion but also displayed a man's maturity. According to Salt Lake Tribune editor Peggy Fletcher Stack, "When LDS apostle Heber J. Grant arrived in England in 1903 to oversee the Utah-based faith's evangelizing abroad, his predecessor had required missionaries to grow beards as a symbol of their maturity and dignity."[iv] 

Though historical evidence shows references to the prophet Joseph Smith as having a "beard of some three days growth,"[v] he was usually clean-shaven and never was known to have a heavy-set beard. On the other hand, the first seven prophets of the LDS church after the Prophet Joseph Smith were known to have heavy-set beards or a well-groomed goatee. 

By 1951 church President David O. McKay directed efforts to transform the look of Latter-day Saint men.  One hypothesis is that President McKay wanted to modify the image of the church to escape the depiction and correlation between Mormon men and polygamy. Mormon polygamist leaders were known for having beards.

With the loss of polygamous activity with George Albert Smith, (David O. McKay's predecessor) we can see a drastic transition from bearded polygamists to clean shaven monogamists. Although there is no written statement, the hypothesis makes sense logically. Nevertheless, is there any statement made during this time that can aid us in understanding why beards were no longer a part of Mormon culture? 

In 1977, we hear for the first time in a General Conference that beards are unacceptable in Mormon Culture. Victor L. Brown (Tenth Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) stood up in Conference and told a story to the world that has now bound the LDS church to its teaching. President Brown quotes Prophet Harold B. Lee from a BYU Devotional Address, 

“Now may I make a personal reference, which I’ll try to treat in such a way as to preserve the confidentiality? It involved a beautiful, young wife and mother from a prominent family. She had gone away from her home and was now in the East. She had gone out into an area where she and her husband had taken up with those in the ghetto, and she wrote me a rather interesting letter, and I quote only a paragraph: ‘Tomorrow my husband will shave off his long, full beard. Because of the request of the stake president and your direction in the Priesthood Bulletin, he must not have the appearance of evil or rebellion if he is to get a recommend to go to the temple. I have wept anguished tears; the faces of Moses and Jacob were bearded, and to me the wisdom and spirituality of the old prophets reflected from the face of my own spiritual husband. It was like cutting out for me a symbol of the good things my generation has learned.’ Then the letter concluded with a challenge to me: ‘We are prepared for clear, specific, hard-line direction as youth. Wishy-washy implications are not heard very well here. We look to you to tell it straight.’

“I don’t know whether she knew just what she was asking for when she asked me to tell it straight, but these are some things I wrote to her: ‘In your letter you address me as, “Dear President Lee,” and in your first sentence you refer to me as the Lord’s prophet. Now, in your letter you tell me that you are saddened because with the shaving off of the beard and the cutting of the hair, which, to you, made your husband appear as the prophets Moses and Jacob, he would no longer bear that resemblance. I wonder if you might not be wiser to think of following the appearance of the prophets of today. President David O. McKay had no beard or long hair; neither did President Joseph Fielding Smith; and neither does your humble servant whom you have acknowledged as the Lord’s prophet."[vi]

In February 1993, the LDS church posted an article in its Ensign magazine stating, "Church leaders, recognizing that fashions go in cycles, are sensitive to the rich cultural diversity within the Church. For example, they have recently held that clean, neatly trimmed and managed beards …are acceptable for the temple, provided they are not inherently offensive or vulgar."[vii] However, by 2001 being clean-shaven "became policy for those who work regularly in LDS temples."[viii]

Boyd K. Packer stated that even though policy is policy, "When a leader knows the gospel, he will have loyalty toward the instruction in the handbooks…"[ix]

Not until 2007 do, we again hear an LDS Apostle stand up in General Conference and give a talk under the title, "Raising the Bar," do we again hear to be clean-shaven. L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the twelve apostles pleaded with saints to improve "your physical appearance." He then asks the saints, "to dress a certain way, projecting a clean-cut appearance that includes an appropriate haircut; being clean-shaven."[x]

The last reference to date was last year in an October 2012 conference by Prophet Thomas S. Monson wherein he referenced in a story of how a missionary looked at potential converts as already Mormon. "The young man said that he attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything—particularly religion—the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind, he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and white trousers… "[xi]

The World of Brigham Young University

In January 1949, students of Brigham Young University along with "The Blue Key Fraternity," established an honor code system that all attendees were required to accept and adhere to with consequences for those who were disobedient to its policies.[xii] According to John J. Hunters book, "History of the Formal Honor System at Brigham Young University During the First Ten Years (1950-1960), there is no record whatsoever that BYU had a beard policy. In fact, the LDS church established Ricks College in Idaho, which in 1952 held a whisker contest that enabled men to grow their beards and win a prize.[xiii] 

The closest one can come to the BYU beard ban is December of 1971 when President Dallin H. Oaks of Brigham Young University made mention of it in the New Era magazine. President Oaks specifically designates beards as "...associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards ...may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent."[xiv]

LDS Beards Today

Today the LDS church considers beards unethical for those participating in priesthood callings and ordinances. For example, those desiring to work in the temple must be clean-shaven with short hair. The youngest and largest missionary force in the world are those of the LDS church who sends teenagers out in the world with the demand of being clean-shaven. Those who act in rebellion to this mandate stick out like a sore thumb and are considered "to prove a disturber and an annoyer of [the Lords] kingdom"[xv] 

But are those ultra-orthodox members of the LDS church who consider this as "doctrine" or "divine policy" propose a Pharisaic threat of tradition and policy trumping over doctrine and salvation? Are we liable as becoming like the Pharisees who were more apt to follow traditional policies rather than the commandments of God? 

In 1973, LDS Scholar Hugh Nibley said, "the worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism... the haircut becomes the test of virtue..."[xvi] 

[i] Genesis 1:1
[ii] Leviticus 19:27
[iii] 2 Samuel 10:4-5
[iv] Stack, Peggy F. "Will Mormons Stop Bristling at Beards? | Following Faith | The Salt Lake Tribune." Faith Blog RSS. N.p., 9 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.
[v] Roberts, B. H. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 2:350. Provo, UT: Published by the Church, Brigham Young UP, 1965. Print.
[vi] Brown, Victor L. "Following the Living Prophet." N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.
[vii] King, David S. "I Have a Question - Ensign Feb. 1993 - Ensign." I Have a Question - Ensign Feb. 1993 - Ensign. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. .
[viii] Stack, Peggy F. "Will Mormons Stop Bristling at Beards? | Following Faith | The Salt Lake Tribune." Faith Blog RSS. N.p., 9 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. .
[ix] The Things of the Soul 1996, p.66
[x] October 2007, L. Tom Perry "Raising the Bar" General Conference
[xi] October 2012 General Conference, See Others As They May Become, President Thomas S. Monson.
[xii] Hunter, John J. "1." History of the Formal Honor System at Brigham Young University during the First Ten Years (1950-1960). N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.L. Tom Perry Special Collections (BYU)by John J. Hunter. L. Tom Perry Special Collections chapter 1 "introduction to the honor system history"
[xiii] 1952-11-04 The Viking Scroll Vol 65 No 7
[xiv] Standards of Dressing and Grooming, December 1971 Dallin H. Oaks.
[xv] Pearl of Great Price- Joseph Smith History 1:20
[xvi] Waterman, Brian and Kagel, Brian Kagel. The Lord’s University: Freedom and Authority at BYU. Signature Books. 1998. ISBN 1-56085-117-1).

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21 March 2013

MIA Bans The Twist

In the 1960's Chubby Checker created a song and dance that was looked at by many conservatives as too provocative. The lyrics were interpreted as a threat to both family and religious values. "My daddy is sleepin' and mama ain't around... were gonna twisty, twisty, twisty till we tear the house down... she knows how to rock!" This was too much for the MIA general boards and executives to just leave alone and on February 3, 1962 the Deseret News published their decision to ban the "twist" from all church activities. 

"After careful consideration and discussion, the executives and general boards of the MIA have issued the following statement: The 'twist' should not be done in the cultural halls of our Church. This dance is not up to the standards of good taste. Since it is a self-expression dance, it is felt that even if it were taught in a dignified and modest manner, the participants through their self-expression could make it undignified and immodest. We feel therefore, that it should not be done at our dances and should be discouraged at all times among our young people. Encourage our young people to be leaders of high standards of conduct and not follow the world in lower standards of conduct." If you would like to read the newspaper article follow this link

Joseph F. Smith caused much injury to the subject of dancing when he said, 

"No Latter- day Saint needs to be told that two or three dances a week for his children are out of all sense of reason. Too fre- quent dances are not only injurious to stability of character, but they are highly detrimental to good health." (Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith 'Amusements and Fashions p. 401)

There was a strict moral in the early 1900's. In 1907 a women by the name of Annette Kellerman was arrested in Massachusetts for indecency because she was wearing a one-piece bathing suit at the beach. Many places would check women's bathing suits to make sure that they were not showing too much skin. 

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29 January 2013

The Outward Appearance not as Important as the Inward

Your Appearance Reflects the Inner You

Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only. [i]

We all know that first impressions are important. The cosmetic and fashion industry’s financial success in both men and women’s categories tells us something about how much emphasis people in today’s society put on appearance.

People from all over the globe take great pains to enhance their image. They focus on the face they want to show to the world.

However, in doing this, often times people forget to consider that their appearance is something that should reflect their inner self in a way that will accurately portray their unique, individual identity.

In Who's Image are We Created?

The Bible and the Book of Mormon tells us we are created in God’s image. That means, as His children, we are truly special and unique. When thinking about our appearance, it is important that we remember our identity with our Heavenly Father. When we stay true to the Biblical principles of who and what we are, we begin to see that our outward appearance should reflect our inner selves.

Fashion Focus: A Long History of Judgmental Culture—or Couture

Our world is captivated and intrigued with the concept of appearance, fashion, design and style. We live in a judgmental culture that is socially structured to view worldly stature based upon a polished and enriched outward appearance.

This is not a new concept. It has been going on for thousands of years.

Almost 2,000 years ago, we learn of a parable, which we today call, "Parable of the Good Samaritan." Even the highly, religiously "chosen" were condemned by Jesus for focusing too much on the outward appearance. In the parable, both the Priest and the Levite (who by the way were coming home from temple worship) were guilty of "passing by the other side" of a man who was hurt and in need. Why is that?

Because religious purity and sanitation of the outward body became more important than the liberation and deliverance of another human being in need. We see in Jesus' parable that he condemns both the Priest and the Levite who appear clean on the outside but "inwardly unclean."

He says, “For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion” [ii]

By saying this, Jesus makes the critical distinction between those whose good outwardly appearance reflects their goodness inside verses those who only appear good, but are inwardly immoral, unethical, corrupt and iniquitous.

If you look closely enough, you will see strands of Jesus' parables condemning the outward appearance, which in my view describes the disadvantage of focusing only on someone’s appearance—and judging them based solely on that—rather than looking for the substance found in the heart of that person, whether it is yourself, or someone else.

Jesus Cares about Our Inner Appearance

There are five classic examples of this found in the following:

The relationship between this parable and our outward appearance is that the way we look and behave may cause us to look like weed, or “Tares” to the rest of the world. Because we have a goal of reflecting our true image in our Heavenly Father’s eyes, it is important for this distinction to be made. Jesus used this parable to show his disciples that outward appearances can hide the true nature of a person or thing. In the Parable of the Wheat and Tares we understand that, at least from a distance, Tares look like Wheat.

·         The Parable of the Foolish Ten Virgins,[v]

This parable talks about being prepared. All ten virgins seemed to be prepared to meet the Bridegroom at first glance. They were decked out in their finest clothes and had all brought their lamps.

However, as the night unfolds, the true character of the Five Foolish Virgins is revealed. Their appearance was a bit deceiving; they looked ready, but they were not. In the Parable of the Foolish Ten Virgins we understand that a person with his lamp lit and burning with plenty of oil looks like a person with his lamp lit and burning who did not bring enough oil for the night.

·          The Parable of the Fig Tree, [vi]

In this parable, we can think of the fig tree as ourselves, and the fruit as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus looks at us, he looks to see if we are bearing “fruit.” He looks not at our fashion sense, hair style, the shoes we wear, or our jewelry and fragrance, but at our hearts. Do we respect the commandments? Do we participate in gossip? Do we help a friend in need? Do we seek His guidance for our daily lives through prayer and acceptance of His will? The fruits of the spirit are many, and if we are truly walking our talk, Jesus will see that no matter if we wear clean but serviceable clothing, or are blessed with more expensive clothes to wear.

Remember that Jesus knows that a person can disguise themselves in pretty clothes, even when their heart and character do not match the clothes they are wearing. In the Parable of the Fig Tree, we understand that at least from a distance a fig tree with fruit looks like a fig tree without fruit.

·         The Parable of the Plough, [vii]

The Parable of the Plough (or Plow) depending on how you spell it, talks about our commitment to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In the telling of this parable, Jesus makes a distinction about our words and behaviors versus the true nature of our hearts. Are we committed in our heart of hearts? Or are we just giving lip service, and professing to walk with God, when in reality, the work seems to be too much trouble and we turn back at the first sign of rocky ground?

It is important to remember to evaluate others, as well as ourselves to see if there is “looking back.” Are you looking back while you are plowing the soil of your own character?

In the Parable of the Plough, we understand that, at least from a distance, a person who is ploughing looks like another person who is ploughing while looking back.

·         The Parable of the Good Samaritan.[viii]

Do you care more about what other people think than you care about what your Heavenly Father thinks?

Will you pass by someone in need because you are afraid to be associated with that person based on how they appear to you and others?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we understand that the Priest and the Levite were more interested in the ritual purity and sanitation of the outward body than doing what really mattered. Like the Priest and the Levite, many of us today are guilty of judging others simply by how they appear on the outside.

Long before Jesus was born, Jehovah told his servant Samuel, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

In all five of the previous parables, we can recognize and identify the seriousness of, "judging a book by its cover." According to these parables, it is neither reliable nor reasonable to judge a man by what is manifested on the outside.

The choices we make reflect what we look like on the inside. And the choices we make come with outcomes, results, and consequences. These outcomes can be disguised with clothing and the “right” clubs and the “right” friends, but they will not go away.

God sees the choices we make, and sooner or later, we will have to acknowledge the results of those choices.

So, Does This Mean I Shouldn’t Care About My Appearance?

Not at all. But it does mean we should remember to look deeper into our own hearts and into the hearts of others.

As one man so eloquently put it, There's nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you've been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.”[ix]

Don’t Miss the Ocean for the Beauty of the Waves

Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are no strangers to this idea either. The Islamic traditional understanding of appearance is three fold based upon idea that, “Allah does not look at the outward appearance or wealth of any one of you, but He looks at your hearts and deeds.”[x]

The three-fold understanding can be summed up in the following way:

"One of which is commendable, one is blameworthy and one of which is neither. The kind of beauty which is to be commended is that which is done for the sake of Allah, to help one to obey Allah and fulfill His commands, such as when the Prophet sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam made himself look beautiful (i.e. handsome) when meeting the delegations that came to him. This is like wearing armour or battle-dress when fighting, or wearing silk and showing off (in front of the enemy). This is commendable because it is done to make the word of Allah supreme and to support His religion and annoy His enemies. The blameworthy kind of beauty is that which is done for the sake of this world, for reasons of power, false pride and showing off, or to fulfill some (selfish) desires. This also includes cases where beauty is an end in itself for a person and is all he cares about. Many people have no other concern in life. As for the kind of beauty which is neither commendable nor blameworthy, it is that which has nothing to do with either of the two purposes mentioned above (i.e., it is neither for the sake of Allah nor for the sake of worldly purposes)." [xi]

The Judaic God seems to have desired that His creations benefit from a life in which our corporeality would not position ourselves to internally define us.  

The passage of Leviticus can better explain this, "do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly...You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor, but incur no guilt against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."[xii]

In other words, we will live a beneficial life by remembering that our outward appearance (i.e. being rich or poor) should not internally define who we are in the heart.

The Buddha is also on par with this approach for according to the Buddha, people make judgments according to rūpappamāṇa or the outward appearance.

The Buddha was very much against judging others by how they look. This is of great interest to Buddhist. Speculating about the karma of another person is frowned upon by the Buddha.

For example, some Buddhist may well ask within themselves, "I wonder what that person must have done to such a condition as that?" Once when the great Buddha caught wind of one of his followers arbitrating the destination of a man based upon his karma the Buddha said, "Who is this...to know the complexity of the human character?"[xiii] He then later he added, "Do not be a judge of others, do not judge others. Whoever judges others digs a pit for themselves."[xiv]

We can also find many similarities in the great religion of Hinduism. Hindus believe that they have a moral duty to concern themselves with the welfare of all others regardless of how they look. In fact, altruism (unselfish service) and universality (showing respect and favorable tolerance for everyone) is part of the Hindu law. Any deviance to this law would require one to fall into the snare of suffering which is the ultimate goal of the Hindu to avoid.

It is Okay to Transform Your Outward Appearance—Jesus’ Way!

This does not mean you should disregard your outward appearance! We are, in fact, told to transform our image and countenance in the persona and likeness of Christ. [iii]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have always been focused on both the outward appearance but more importantly the inward.

There are in the LDS church "Missionary Standards" of both inward moral cleanliness and "dress codes" that aid a member, "to be lively, vibrant, and beautiful both in your dress and in your actions."[1] There is even a whole website dedicated to LDS Missionary dress standards.  

Fashion Tips From the Latter Day Saints

In the LDS "True to the Faith" pamphlet we read that, “clothing expresses who you are. It sends messages about you, and it influences the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you can invite the companionship of the Spirit and exercise a good influence on those around you.”[1] A focus has been placed upon the Youth to be clean both morally and outwardly. See Here

Both the inward and outward have been a focus for the Latter-Day Saints,"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? … The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."[2]

·         The First Presidency of the LDS Church states, "Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him. Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.

·         Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.

·         Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports. The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change.

·         Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.

·         Show respect for the Lord and yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities. This is especially important when attending sacrament services. Young men should dress with dignity when officiating in the ordinance of the sacrament.

·         If you are not sure what is appropriate to wear, study the words of the prophets, pray for guidance, and ask your parents or leaders for help. Your dress and appearance now will help you prepare for the time when you will go to the temple to make sacred covenants with God. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”[3]

Strict in its observance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has gone to radical measures to ensure that it's Ensign magazine readers are shown good wholesome images that would not deter from its dress codes and policies. There are times wherein the Ensign has specifically censored what they would consider harmful and objectionable images to its viewers. In the December 2011 Ensign we can see the practice of adhering to dress standards as displayed on page 54. Carl Bloch's painting had been censored to show modest dress standards and the doctrinal
belief that angels don't have wings. A close look at the two angels shows that the bare shoulders and the triceps and flanks have been covered by sleeves. 

[i] Samuel Butler, Erewhon

[ii] Matt. 23:25-28
[iii] 2 Corinthians 3:18; Alma 5:19
[iv] Matt 13:24
[v] Matt 25:1
[vi] Matt 21:1
[vii] Luke 9:62
[viii] Luke 10:25-37
[ix] Dave Barry
[x] http://islamqa.info/en/ref/islamqapages/2
[xi] http://sunnahonline.com/library/purification-of-the-soul/200-allah-is-beautiful-and-loves-beauty
[xii] Leviticus 19:16
[xiii] A.III, 351
[xiv] A.III, 351

[1] Thomas S. Monson

[1] True to the Faith page 107
[2] 1 Corinthians 3:16–17
[3] (For the Strength of Youth: Dress and Appearance.)
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The Outward Appearance Not As Important as the Inward by Michael A. Hickman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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19 January 2013

Temple Square and the Visitors Center

Salt Lake City, Utah
As someone who lives in the sheltered outskirts of Mapleton the city of Salt Lake is always an adventure in and of itself. The trip would have invoked emotions of anxiety except for its suppression by this morning's pill of Celexa. After tediously finding a free parking spot I stepped outside to what seemed to be an over-sized world filled with super massive buildings. I felt like the buildings looked down on my puny body in a condescending way. In fact I could actually hear their voices telling me how powerful they were. They told me that they were more important than me because of how many important people they housed. They told me how influential they were by their design and structure. They told me how high ranking and prominent they were because of their titles. The Conference Center, the Church History Library, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Visitors Center told me that  I was small.

Scaled Down City of Jerusalem
As I entered the Visitors Center I was greeted with holy angelic music as I stood upon a landing raised so high that I could gaze the whole of the 1st story building. As I stood there I found before me a massive scaled down rendition of the entire city of Jerusalem that made me feel large and important. With the music playing, my standing on the raised landing coupled with the scaled down city of Jerusalem, I felt for a few seconds almost godlike. I made my way down the steps and past the modeled Jerusalem to find massive colossal paintings of Jesus Christ ordered from his birth to his resurrection. Comparable to the buildings outside I soon felt small but the contrast of feelings that I experienced here were far greater and uplifting than what the buildings outside had to say to me. I was mostly impressed with the painting labeled, "Jesus Appearing to the 500," by Grant Clawson. As I sat on a surprisingly comfortably cushioned chair my mind became occupied, my heart began to have feelings and my eyes became heavily fixed on the painted Jesus. As if my thinking was previously disabled through some kind of imperfection and flaw of mine, I felt an activation and motivation of ideas that which never occurred to me upon the looking at the previous paintings. The fact that I had to look up at the titanic sized painting was symbolic in a way that we need to look up to God as he is the source of all strength. The painting was boxed in by two large columns painted with stripes of gold signifying power, importance, prestige and prominence. Jesus was portrayed in the middle being taller than anyone else of his disciples which even they like me had to look up to see his face. His arms were opened widely which told me to, "come unto him."
Paintings at the LDS Visitors Center

My six year old daughter came to my side and I asked her if she could identify who Jesus was. She said, "the guy in the middle." I asked her why she thought that and she replied, "because he is in the middle and he's wearing white." This provoked me to take a second look at all of the paintings to see if there were similarities of what Jesus looked like. There were a total of eleven paintings. One as an infant, one as a boy and then nine of Jesus in his prime adulthood. All of the paintings accept for one were created by the world renowned Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch. The nine paintings of Jesus' adulthood had many similarities. Each painting had Jesus taller than any other human which used to ornament the story being told. He wears a white robe which distinguishes from the rest of his disciples. In every painting Jesus is portrayed as having long hair, a beard, pale skin and blue eyes. Exactly how I remember him as a child. This I could relate to because it was embedded in my culture as the only correct and true visual of Him. Any other painting not describing Him this way would be distasteful, foreign and offensive to my experience, understanding and involvement with what I consider to be sacred and holy. It's not that the painting is in and of itself holy, for it is just a material piece painted by a man with colors. It's the coupling of the painting and the surrounding elements that make it holy and sacred. As a child my teachers would hold up a painting of Jesus and, "bear their testimony," express their love, sing songs of praise and glory thus compelling and binding me to its image. I ask myself the question: "Does Jesus really look this way?" and I answer, "Does it matter?" It's the experience that we have, the love and honor we feel, the involvement we are engaged in and the familiarity we develop through a combination of forces. Whether one believes Jesus to look one way or another should not matter as long as that person absorbs himself/herself in His teachings of love, compassion and service to others.

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02 January 2013

Joseph Smith Jr. Smoked Cigars: Probably Not

Inside This Article: The Debate About Joseph Smith Jr. and Cigars

Because Joseph Smith Jr. was the founder of the LDS church and its doctrines, it is important that the facts surrounding this issue are presented in such a way as to show readers the true nature of the situation. This article approaches this as follows:

1. An exploration of the character of Joseph Smith Jr.
2. The Words of Wisdom Revelation, and why it is important to this issue
3. The facts
4. A defense of Joseph Smith Jr.
5. Conclusions


This article stands as a defense to the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith Jr and to him only. Because he was a prophet, and it was through prophecy that the church was founded, the arguments that follow are heavily based on Smith’s revelations. I do accept the fact that the word of wisdom should not be held in the same light as it is today; therefore, I am not comparing the 19th century LDS church to the standards of the LDS church today.

According to my own studies and also my own Mormon biased views and opinions I am persuaded that the claims about the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith smoking cigars are misleading to the character of his "divine" calling of what Mormons consider to be a Prophet of God.

The history and genesis of this story all depend on what one is inclined to believe, and which I will provide evidence for.

Childhood Character of Joseph Smith Jr.

To begin, we must rewind the history and life of Joseph Smith from his childhood to his revelations.

For some, it is clearly evident that the story begins early in the days of Smith’s childhood. As early as eight years old Smith’s reputation was known as not only having a discerning and insightful attitude, but an overly zealous and extreme guardianship for rejecting addictive behavior.

As an eight year old boy Smith was extreme in his views about what was to be taken into the body even to the point of refusing medicinal aid from the world's most renowned and eminent Harvard and New England doctors and medical educators.[i] At the age of 8 years old, he contracted a serious bacterial infection in his leg caused by an abysmal flood of the typhoid fever. The infection was so terrible that a total of 11 doctors decided to surgically remove the infected bone by chipping and drilling away bone fragments.

According to Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, the doctor asked Joseph if he would drink some brandy, [ii] to which Joseph replied, "No, not one drop."[iii]

The doctor then asked, "Will you take some wine? You must take something, or you can never endure the severe operation to which you must be subjected."[iv]

Joseph replied that he would not. According to his mother, he said to the doctor, "I will not touch one particle of liquor."[v]

With the accompaniment of 11 doctors[vi] they "bored first on one side of the bone, which was affected, then on the other side: after which, he broke it off with a pair of pincers; and in this manner, took away large pieces of the bone."[vii]

Having read this unique and undisputed history of Smith,s surgical journey, how could anyone believe that Josephs future "prophetic mantle" would lessen his feelings towards addictive behavior? However, having said this let me provide some biased evidence of why I am convinced that the said Smith never was an advocate nor a campaigner nor at any time a supporter of cigar smoking.

Joseph’s Character As He Grows Into Adulthood As Joseph grew, he grew in maturity and responsibility. There came a time when he was commanded by God to translate the Book of Mormon from the plates found in the hill called Cumorah, but with a strict command not to show the plates to anyone. The study of Joseph's lost 116 manuscripts give us deep insight into the character of Joseph Smith, relating to his strict and prompt obedience to God's instructions. He did not linger about as a slothful servant.

The 116 Lost Manuscripts
Martin Harris
His scribe at the time was Martin Harris who, on bad terms with his wife, greatly desired to look at the plates, but was declined upon the basis of revelation. To this, Martin asked to at least show the translated manuscripts to his wife and others as to pacify their feeling towards the so-called "duped" Martin Harris. After asking God two times, the answer came that Martin was not to take the manuscript. A Lesson Learned the Hard Way Both Joseph and Martin, not being content with the answer, asked a third time. This time the request was granted—but with restrictions. (History of the Church, 1:20–21) And In the end, the manuscripts that were entrusted to Martin were lost! Joseph asked through prayer what he should do, and was severely chastised for having, "...set at naught the counsels of God." (D&C 3:13) Then the Lord in the same revelation rebuked him for also having "...suffered the counsel of thy director to be trampled upon from the beginning." (D&C 3:15) From this experience that came early in his life, and the consequences suffered from his resistance to God’s answer to that first prayer, Joseph quickly learned to obey God’s instruction the first time it is given. Why This Experience is Important This is critical in our study of Joseph’s claimed cigar smoking episode after a revelation counseling him not to use tobacco for smoking. Did Joseph learn to be obedient to the revelations, revealed as a "word of wisdom"? A revelation "not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God." (D&C 89:1-2)

What Smith Learned: The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
Smith received the revelation called, "The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood" (See the 1832 D&C 84) BEFORE the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. (See the 1833 D&C 89) Because of this fact, let us view Joseph’s revelation about regarding both the councils and words of God—not as council, but as a strict commandment to those who obtain the priesthood. 

Purpose of the Revelation
One of the purposes of the revelation was to teach that "every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God," (D&C 84:44) must be adhered. "And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." If the revelation on the word of wisdom was not by way of commandment, then surely it fell into the category of a holy directive needing to be observed. Having Smith ride upon his horse smoking a cigar, "immediately afterward," (VIII) seems totally out of character of Joseph’s lessons and revelations to adhere to the revelations not only the first time but as a commandment to, "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." Brigham Young once stated that the leaders of the Church were a lot different than what they were in his time as a prophet. He says, "I have frequently thought, what would be the consequence  in this community, were we to be as strict now, as the authorities of the church once were? For it used to be, if a man did not obey counsel after it was given him, he was cut off from the church." (JD Volume 1 page 78)

The Day The Word of Wisdom Was Revealed
After thinking about the brethren’s use of tobacco in their early meetings, Joseph prayed about it. On February 27, 1833, at Kirkland, Ohio, God revealed his answer to Joseph. The answer he received from God is now known as the Word of Wisdom.
Zebedee Coltrin
Zebedee Coltrin can and ought to be used here for Joseph's defense since Mr. Coltrin was not only an active member, but present in the School of the Prophets at the time Smith revealed the revelation on the word of wisdom. He was a devoted General Authority and High Priest until the day of his death.
On October 3, 1883 Zebedee Coltrin participated in a meeting before Presidents John Taylor, and George Q. Cannon, Apostles Erastus Snow, Brigham Young, Francis M. Lyman, and Heber J. Grant. During this meeting, he stated, "When the Word of Wisdom was first presented by the Prophet Joseph, (as he came out of the translating room) and was read to the School, there were twenty out of the twenty-one who used tobacco and they all immediately threw their tobacco and pipes into the fire." (Minutes, Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, October 3, 1883) 

The Genesis of the Story
Abraham H. Cannon
The genesis of this story stems from a 1895 diary entry made by an active Apostle by the name of Abraham H. Cannon. This entry to Cannon’s diary was made a full 18 years after the death of the accuser, Amasa Lyman. Abraham H. Cannon is the only source stating that Amasa Lyman saw Joseph smoking the cigar. Mr. Cannon states that according to Joseph Smith's councilor in the First Presidency, Amasa Lyman, that he, Joseph Smith, gave a sermon on the Word of Wisdom and,"immediately afterward ... rode through the streets smoking a cigar."[viii] Lyman said Joseph did this to try "the faith of the Saints..."[ix] However, this behavior does not seem congruent and compatible with Smith’s afore-mentioned character. Thus far in his life, there is nothing to indicate that he would be one to flaunt the idea of cigar smoking as being reputable, or ignore the revelation as it was revealed. Because of this, a couple of factual points need to be clarified here:

Important Facts About The Case

Fact One: Amasa Lyman was Excommunicated and Bitter Against the Church
Amasa Lyman
It is important that we ask the question, "Why would Amasa Lyman state that Joseph Smith smoked cigars?" Mr. Lyman was stripped of his Apostleship and position in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for repeatedly teaching false doctrine. After Lyman was excommunicated from the LDS Church he wrote that Joseph Smith smoked cigars.

Fact Two: The Diary of Abraham H. Cannon
 Those who are biased in either destroying the character of Smith or simply to prove a point are the first to use this document as authoritative, since it stems from an active Apostle of the LDS church who served faithfully till the end of his life. There are some factual points to consider here as well:
  • The personal diary of Abraham H. Cannon is... well... exactly that...his personal diary. 
  • Amasa Lyman is somehow "quoted" but with no source as to where Mr. Cannon had either heard or read it. 
  • Mr. Cannon is quoting a bitter excommunicated member of the LDS faith 
  • Mr. Cannon's journal entry was 18 years after the excommunication and death of Amasa Lyman.
Joseph Smith Jr. Files a Complaint
Fact Three: Almon W. Babbitt was Bitter Against the Church
Almon W. Babbit
On the 19th of August 1835, Almon W. Babbitt was brought before the church's high council on three charges. One of the charges was "not keeping the Word of Wisdom." Babbitt stated "that he had taken the liberty to break the Word of Wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith,Jun., and others, but acknowledged that it was wrong."[xi] Points for Consideration: After Mr. Babbitt blames Smith for not keeping the word of wisdom Joseph Smith writes a complaint against him for slandering his character. On the 28th of December 1835 Joseph Smith" submitted a complaint before the church's high council that Babbitt had been 'misrepresenting' him to a number of Latter Day Saints."[xii] Joseph writes: "Brethren, Almon Babbitt has been misrepresenting me to certain of the brethren. I therefore prefer a complaint to the council that the subject may be investigated, that my character and influence may be preserved as far as it can in righteousness. Yours in the bonds of the New & everlasting covenant. Joseph Smith Junr."[xiii] A unanimous vote: At the conclusion of the council held against Almon W. Babbitt, the entire council submitted that he, Almon Babbitt,"has spoken things falsely to the injury of J. Smith Junr."[xiv]

Fact Four: Gary Dean Guthrie’s Master Thesis Quotes Cannon’s Diary Member of the LDS faith, Gary Dean Guthrie wrote his 1969 M.A. Thesis, "Joseph Smith as an Administrator.” In this thesis, Guthrie also wrote that Joseph rode through the streets smoking a cigar. However, Mr. Guthrie is quoting Abraham H. Cannon's hearsay of a bitter excommunicated Apostle named Amasa Lyman. (See above.)

Fact Five: No Indication of Tobacco Use in Carthage Jail In the History of the Church, Vol. 6, page 616 we are given the story of Joseph Smiths last moments in Carthage Jail. The story is as follows:
“Before the jailor came in, his boy brought in some water, and said the guard wanted some wine. Joseph [Smith] gave Dr. Richards two dollars to give the guard; but the guard said one was enough, and would take no more. The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail soon after the jailor went out. Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as brother and the Doctor, and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out.”[xv]

Careful Reading Reveals the Truth
According to the story above Joseph Smith and those with him never partook of smoking tobacco. If you read the account carefully as historians should, Mr. Smith gave a dollar to the guard to get some wine, but the historical account says that guard came back with wine, pipes and tobacco. It does not say that Smith smoked the tobacco. It does say that Richards opened the bottle and presented a glass to Joseph, gave the wine back to the guard who then left.
  • Where does it say that Joseph smoked tobacco? 
  • Could it be that the jailer kept the tobacco for his own use? 
  • What authority is there in this passage that demonstrate that Joseph smoked? 
  • Are insinuations, implications, suggestions, and hintings now established as authoritative historical events?
Bruises in Carthage Jail? If we look once again at the Words of Wisdom, we see in verse 8 that the Lord revealed that tobacco was to be used for bruises, and for cattle. While the men were in Carthage Jail, is it reasonable to assume that they may have had bruises? Might they have applied a poultice to those bruises, according to God’s instruction from the Words of Wisdom?

My Own Conclusion In my biased opinion, Amasa Lyman said this about Smith because Mr. Lyman was stripped of his Apostleship and position in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for repeatedly teaching false doctrine. After Lyman was excommunicated from the LDS Church he wrote that Joseph Smith smoked cigars. This is critical to note:
  • Why didn't Lyman make this statement during the time of his active service in the church? 
  • Why did he reveal this after his excommunication?
    Catholic Harvard professor Krister Stendahl understood the inexorable importance of asking, "the adherents of that religion and not its enemies."[x]
    It is critical to the religion and to yourself that when making judgments and conclusions-- especially about a religion—that an inquiring person fairly formulates his evaluated conclusion based upon active practicing members of that religion and not by a biased enemy who has been released of his former membership practice.

    How to Draw a Fair Conclusion
    • Consider the facts 
    • Consider the quality of the witnesses 
    • A disgruntled witness may be inclined to be dishonest 
    • Examine the evidence. 
    • Is hearsay evidence? 
    • What does the evidence tell us 
    • What does the evidence NOT tell us 
    • Check assumptions for validity
    To make this easier, I have developed and attached an informative graphic representation to aid us in our decisions. (Graphic shown below)

    Draw Your Own Conclusion
    I now invite you to draw your own conclusion based on careful examination of the evidence. Was Smith,or was he not, an advocate of disobedience to his own revelation and the "order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days— ..." [xvi] and did he deny the, "principle of promise,"[xvii] for the sake of "testing the people"?

    [ii] The History of Joseph Smith by his mother Lucy Mack Smith pg. 60
    [iii] The History of Joseph Smith by his mother Lucy Mack Smith pg. 61
    [iv] The History of Joseph Smith by his mother Lucy Mack Smith pg. 61
    [v] The History of Joseph Smith by his mother Lucy Mack Smith pg. 61
    [vi] http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705381677/Joseph-Smiths-doc-only-man-who-could-save-leg.html?pg=all
    [vii] The History of Joseph Smith by his mother Lucy Mack Smith pg. 61
    [viii] Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, vol. XIX (October 1895 entry)
    [ix] Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, vol. XIX (October 1895 entry)
    [x] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krister_Stendahl
    [xi] History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 252.
    [xii] Minutes of December 28, 1835, Kirtland High Council Minutes
    [xiii] Minutes of December 28, 1835, Kirtland High Council Minutes
    [xiv] Minutes of December 28, 1835, Kirtland High Council Minutes
    [xv] History of the Church, Vol. 6, page 616
    [xvi] D&C Section 89:2
    [xvii] D&C Section 89:3
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