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Apparently there is a deepening connection and tie between the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter  Day Saints and those of the Muslim faith.

I mean the real Muslims, not the extremist ones that seem to be getting all of the press as of late.

According to an article in the Deseret News by way of the Los Angeles Times, nationwide there is an increasing feeling of brotherhood and common ties between these two faiths.

I was not aware until recently that Muslims had/have a familiarity or friendliness with the LDS faith.

Apparently there is a statement from a cabinet minister of Egypt according to Howard W. Hunter.  “A cabinet minister of Egypt once told me that if a bridge is ever built between Christianity and Islam it must be built by the Mormon Church. In making inquiry as to the reason for his statement I was impressed by his recitation of the similarities and the common bonds of brotherhood.”

The web page that quote comes from does not cite a source, but it does claim to quote other LDS prophets and general authorities regarding our mission to reach out to those of the Muslim faith and the similarities between our religion and theirs.

The quotes do seem to be authentic.

I hope for all of our sakes that missionary work will go forth and we will be blessed for reaching out to more of our brethren, even the unpopular ones.

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“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  — Isiah 55:9.

“And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.”       — Abraham 3:19.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” — James 1:5.

“And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.

And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.” — Ether 2:19-20.

Epistomology is “a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.”  Part of it is a discussion of  how we know things, or what to believe.

There are eight basic methods of knowing what to believe:

  • Empiricism – believe it because you know from scientific experimentation.
  • Revelation – believe it because it is revealed from God.
  • Reason – believe it because it makes sense through logic and thinking.
  • Aestheticism – believe it because it is beautiful.
  • Historicism – believe it because of historical study.
  • Pragmatism – believe it because it works in a given situation.
  • Credentialism – believe it because an expert in that field says that you should.
  •  Mandarinism – believe it because an ‘official’ said you should.

I’d like to add two more to this list:

  • Trustism – believe it because the person who has told you is trustworthy and is otherwise knowledgeable about it.   One example of this is in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where Lucy and Edmond have gone through the wardrobe into Narnia and have returned.  Lucy is excited and is telling her older siblings about Narnia and Edmond lies about it.  Professor Kirke explains that because Lucy always tells the truth and Edmond does lie that what Lucy has said must be true.  (It also probably helped that Professor Kirke had already been to Narnia and in his allegorical part as Adam brought the White Witch/Satan into Narnia in The Magician’s Nephew.)
  • Canonism – believe it because it is scripture from God.  This is really an extension of Revelation, but still worth noting.

As there are several competing ways to determine what to believe, as a practical matter we must seek out what is the best way to know what to believe because our actions are always an extension of our beliefs.  Even if we do something bad it is at least because we thought it was an OK idea at the time.

The primary and best way to know what to believe is Revelation.  There is no better source of knowledge and it always has a reason or purpose behind what is revealed.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks (1) wrote about eight purposes of revelation “to testify, to prophesy, to comfort, to uplift, to inform, to restrain, to confirm, and to impel.”

The other methods of what to believe have their place and are proper methods for exploring knowledge, laws of nature, and other things.  The biggest problem that the world has with regard to truth is that science is the new king.  Empiricism has won the day in many hearts in popular culture, if it can’t be observed, weighed, measured, calculated, evaluated, tested, or otherwise empirically defined then it does not exist.  One question for people who think that way: How do you know that someone loves you?  Is love real?  It cannot be scientifically defined and scientists need some love now and then too.

It is important for any thinking or religious person to consider our sources of knowledge and to evaluate which sources are primary or secondary or even tertiary.  In a world with confusing and contrary messages a person must decide what sources of information they will follow.

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(1) Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], p. 24.

There are a couple of opinions about the matter but they mostly come under either two Cumorahs or one.

If you think there may be two of them, one in central America, and one in the west part of the State of New York, then you are in company with some BYU Scholars(1) and author Chris Heimerdinger.

Several Church Authorities (2) have described the Hill Cumorah as being near Palmyra, New York.  The only one.  Perhaps the best enunciation of this doctrine is from Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3:232 forward.  Here are some highlights:

Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico-the isthmus of Tehauntepec probably being the “narrow neck” of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama. . . .

It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon. 

Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery. Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history. . . .

Perhaps this matter could rest at this point, but the question of the territory now embraced within the United States having been in possession of Nephites and Lamanites before the death of Mormon, carries some weight in the determining of this matter. In the light of revelation it is absurd for anyone to maintain that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess this northern land. While Zion’s camp was marching on the way to Jackson County, near the bank of the Illinois River they came to a mound containing the skeleton of a man. The history of this incident is as follows:

“The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thickset man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or at least, in part-one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.”

And on it goes.  It is well written with lots of documentation to show that the Hill Cumorah is only one hill, near Palmyra.  The book uses some scientific and scriptural citations and information to show that this is so.  Of course, to the doubter it will never be enough (just like it never is).

There are also several accounts of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery returning the gold plates to the Hill Cumorah, this one is from the Journal of Discourses(3).

When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

Presumably, these are the records that Mormon hid up in the Hill Cumorah as referenced in the Book of Mormon although some people continue to say that there are only second hand accounts of the event, or that it may have been in vision and not in reality, or other such things.

On the one hand, scholars seek to find things based on the evidence that is present now while Prophets seek revealed truth from God.  I’ll stick with what the Prophets have to say about where the Hill Cumorah is, and whether there is only one of it.

Comments Welcome

(1) John L. Sorensen, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1985], p. 44.  Sidney B. Sperry,  Book of Mormon Compendium,  [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968] pp. 6-7.

(2) James E. Talmadge, Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], p. 231.  B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930], 1: 75-76.   George Reynolds, A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: J. H. Parry].

(3) Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 19:38-39.

According to Apostle, Seer, and Revelator M. Russel Ballard we need to use the new media including blogs “to contribute to a national conversation about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.  This injunction was given in a commencement speech at Brigham Young University – Hawaii in December of 2007.  Part of the concern is based on inaccurate stories and other information about The Church.  We also need to be cool about the conversation.  From the Church’s website reporting on the commencement speech:

Elder Ballard said there were too many conversations going on about the Church for Church representatives to respond to each individually, and that Church leaders “can’t answer every question, satisfy every inquiry and respond to every inaccuracy that exists.”

He said students should consider sharing their views on blogs, responding to online news reports and using the “new media” in other ways.

But he cautioned against arguing with others about their beliefs. “There is no need to become defensive or belligerent,” he said.

This is important for every Latter Day Saint to help along with the effort in giving proper and correct information about The Church.

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Some 17,000 people and more have accepted the Hinckley Challenge.  In honor of President Hinkley people are accepting the challenge to read the Book of Mormon in 97 days because President Hinckley was 97 years old when he died.

To sign up, go to http://www.hinckleychallenge.com.   I may just try to read it twice in that time.  Just because.

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