Tuesday, October 13, 2020

D&C 32: Missionary M. Mandates

Here's a name everybody loves:  Parley P. Pratt.  It's so fun to say and it sounds completely fictional, like he's the industrial magnate supervillain in some comic book I've never heard of.  But Parley P. Pratt was indeed a real guy.  In fact, he was so real that he even merited a personalized revelation from God.

Geneticist G. God
I'm far from the first to point this out, but this section pretty clearly identifies Native Americans as Lamanites. Depending on how widely accepted—or widely understood—DNA evidence becomes down the road, apologists are going to have a more and more difficult time getting around scriptures that call church members to missionary service among the Lamanites. I suppose they could always rewrite the section header to omit the comment that Joseph Smith was asking the Lord "whether elders should be sent at that time to the Indian tribes in the West" and leave verse 2's declaration that the elders should journey "into the wilderness among the Lamanites" to stand on its own.  That would make the connection slightly less obvious, but since it's not exactly a church history secret that Joseph Smith sent men on missions specifically to the Native Americans, the conclusion that God thought that Native Americans are Lamanites is pretty inescapable.

Mixed M. Messages
Verse 4 seems to indicate that the early church needed a correlation committee:

And they shall give heed to that which is written, and pretend to no other revelation; and they shall pray always that I may unfold the same to their understanding.
After some trouble with people thinking they could receive doctrinal revelation, we needed to specify that the missionaries stick to the approved source materials.

But this also contradicts modern church teachings.  Since when should we only receive revelation from written scriptures?  Whatever happened to receiving answers to our prayers concerning anything over which we have stewardship?  Shouldn't a father receive revelation about his family?  Shouldn't a Relief Society President receive revelation about her calling?  Shouldn't a high school student receive revelation about choices for her academic future?  Shouldn't a missionary receive revelation about how to best persuade his investigator?  We have been repeatedly taught that we can receive daily revelations for personal experiences that have never been chronicled in scripture.

Elder Oaks even recently acknowledged that people have received personal revelations specifically about things they haven't found in the scriptures because the scriptures don't address these questions.  He said this in last year's October General Conference:
Beyond these basics, our canon of scripture contains very little about the spirit world that follows death and precedes the Final Judgment. So what else do we know about the spirit world? Many members of the Church have had visions or other inspirations to inform them about how things operate or are organized in the spirit world, but these personal spiritual experiences are not to be understood or taught as the official doctrine of the Church.

Many members have had personal revelations about the spirit world, because very little detail on the subject is contained within, as D&C 32 calls it, "that which is written."  But if we're not to pretend to any other revelation—because obviously there can be no insight from a non-scriptural source unless it's pretend—then why is Oaks legitimizing people who have received revelation about non-scriptural concepts?  Sure, he doesn't want those people sharing what they've learned, but he's not saying they're fake revelations—he's just saying they're personal and should be kept private.

So who do we believe?  Joseph Smith or Dallin H. Oaks?  And why should a church that claims its god is the same yesterday, today, and forever even present us with that dilemma?

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