There comes a point in everyone’s life when he or she just snaps and they stop caring about causes that before hand they had staked their life on. Take for example my conservativeness. Up until recently I fervently argued the points and the topics of the day with liberals. I used reason and facts to support my statements and usually at least got the other person to concede a little ground if not just call it a fair draw. But this process took hours, headaches, and above all, constant bombardment of arguing from the other-side. I then realized that no matter what, the irrationality and the ill founded arguments would never stop. I might win one person, but there would be no shortage of his friends to take his place. And so at some point in the last few months I just gave up trying.

I tell you this example for the simple reason that I feel the same kind of snap coming on when it comes to christianity. Everyday, from all sides, I am bombarded with criticism, direct and indirect, about my choice in religion. It doesn’t matter how much research and soul searching I have done in my life because, since I’m christian, I am an ignorant, brainless drone who is one of those people who is a stick in the mud. And from the other side as well I receive constant criticism for not being christian enough because i don’t attend church regularly or condemn all manners of immorality in a vocal and confrontational way. it doesn’t matter to which side i turn, I am just plan wrong.

When it comes to talking to atheists, agnostics, pagans, whatever, about religion, I try to do the one thing that i think 99% of christians out there would positively rather die than do: i talk to them about it. I try to do so in the most understanding way possible because I know that if I am to even dream of planting the tiniest seed of light in their mind the first thing i must show is an openness to listen to their arguments and their concerns. I have to come to them with an open book of not only my religion and its history and teachings, but also my personal life open so they can see that I am not being hypocritical when I try to explain behavior to them. In this state, I leave myself very vulnerable to attack. All I have to defend me is the logic of the arguments I am presenting. If thats not pressure in a conversation I don’t know what is. Yet what does it net me in the end?

Perhaps I have planted that seed in some people, but a vast majority of non-christians I talk to want nothing of the sort. They see any pro-religious rhetoric as propaganda spread by liars and the stupid to further their grasp on how people think. They see christians, and by extension, myself, as pushing their unwanted dogma down their throat. And so, even though I may have a few people who I can say I got to start thinking seriously about religion in general, and maybe one or two thinking about christianity, all the others have attacked me, dogmatically and personally. They may not mean to do it, but I still have to bear the brunt of the attack. I am chided as stupid, ignorant of the “facts” of history, brainwashed, one of “them”, etc. It has gotten to the point where I am reluctant to even pronounce my faith in any public forum before anyone knows me well enough to know that if i do pronounce it, I’m not just a “jesus freak.” Otherwise, any argument I put forward will instantly be shot down under the premise of other stupid christian.

On the other-side of the fence, when I try and goto christians to ask for help/guidance on the issue and maybe even try and persuade them to be not as insane towards the non-faith, I am equally abused. For instance, should i goto a fellow christian and say “I’m tried of being called a jesus freak. i have to wait in debates to declare my faith” I am met with “is jesus not good enough for you? you want to hide him!?”. If I goto church, “thats the guy who hangs out with those immoral types.” if i try to debate with them, “why cant you just believe the bible literally?” it doesn’t do me any good. Perhaps there is some truth in the belief among the non-faith that christians are insane little zealots. Unfortunately, everyday I am met with more and more evidence that that presumption is true. Its gotten to the point where I feel ostracized by my own people; partly because they don’t want me there, and partly because i feel ashamed of being a part of them.

How can I effectively tell an avowed atheist that I believe christ loves everyone when we have christians who want nothing to do with not just non-christians but christians from some other denomination? How can I say “Christianity is born of logic, reason, and learning” when a huge majority of the christian community rejects blatant evidence that the earth is older than 6000 years? How can I tell someone God cares about them when there are hundreds of christians waiting in line to cast the stone at one another?
and to be fair:
How can I tell christians not to hate atheists when all they spit is venom and hatred at the mention of jesus? How can I tell the faithful to take in a sinner who thinks that they are all nothing but mindless drones speaking rubbish about love and invisible friends in the sky? How can I take the atheist’s claim of “open mindedness” seriously when I mention religion and he shuts his ears automatically?

The answer to all of these questions is: I cant. I try very hard, have tried very hard and I am met from all sides with a distain the like of which would all go away if I simply wasn’t christian anymore. If I was a weak minded drone, I would have given it up completely by now. If I wanted to fit in, I would have fully joined one or the other side and just given up my independent thought and gone along with the flow. If i didn’t firmly believe that Christianity (true, first century, christianity) then I would have rejected it by this point. Yet here I am, sick of debating and arguing, but not past helping someone who actually wants to talk, from either side.

Do i think that I am better than both sides? I would by lying if i said i didn’t. I think I’ve reached a point where I can communicate effectively, perhaps not positively, with both sides. But I have only done so at the cost of my own reputation as a christian leader or an effective speaker among non-believers. I have also probably not been the best of christian role models or practitioners. Nor have I had the fun that comes with rejecting moral codes all together. So instead, Here i am writing a ranting article about my position in life.

Perhaps this article was more be venting that anything. Maybe it was a fishing scheme to see if someone out there empathizes with my position. Maybe i want someone to see me was some kind of martyr. I don’t know. What I do know is that regardless of why i wrote this and made it public, its what I believe and feel about my life and the two huge forces I am stuck between. If i could have it my way, it would all just vanish, but I am not that lucky.

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Restoration of American Christianity

Author’s Note: This paper was written for a course on the history of American religion. There is no spirituality in this paper. It is an objective view on the Restoration movement of 1800-1840. It focuses on the two main groups that formed in this period: the New Testament Christians (Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church, or Church of Christ) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). It looks at the beginnings and growth of these groups and puts them into the context of a public yearning to feel its own power in a democratized setting rather than being told by an authority, as well as how each movement, in its own right, turned itself into a somewhat ironic and self contradictory form of what it originally had set out to be.

That being said, if you do not want to read all 20 pages (when printed), then I wouldn’t blame you. It is admittedly long and tedious and I had to research and write it. However, if you are, or ever were, or plan on being a member of a Restorationist Church, I highly recommend this paper for your consideration. Knowing your roots, even if its just a very fast overview and analysis, can empower you to not only learn of your heritage, but perhaps spawn a longing to take more research upon yourself. If this paper causes you to become curious or perhaps even a little doubtful of the meaning of your church’s dogma, then it has done its job. I do not mean this as a criticism of any religion in particular, only an analysis on what their purpose originally was in the context of the time. I hope you understand this.

Restoration of American Christianity

In the early part of the nineteenth century, Christianity took a turn. The Christians at the time saw around them a sea of confusion and of man made authorities. The quest for unity in the church was a daunting one but one that was undertaken by some of the most famous theologians in history. The restoration movement sought out to unify the church under a single banner of Christianity and return it to a primitive, pure state which scripture was the only creed and God the only authority. Two groups, the New Testament restorationalists and the Mormons, who shared this same end, but whose paths took radically different roads, attempted this goal.

It could be said that the restoration movement started several decades before historians normally say it began. The entire idea behind the restoration flowered within the bed of a rich pot of ideas that had been brewing since the Revolutionary War. After America gained its independence, the culture of democracy abounded throughout the new nation. Gone was the rule by monarchs and authority figures chosen from outside the popular rule. In its place was the new philosophy of rule by popular representation. The power in the country was placed not in a social elite, but instead in the hand of everyday people (( Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University, 1989), 127. )).

The move to the popular power was the key component in several major religious movements at the time. The reason that movements took root because of this radical change in thinking is simple, and there are two reasons for it. First is the realization of the parishioners that the ministers in the pulpit could be subject to their views and not the other way around (( Ibid., 133. )). Should dissent arise within a church due to scriptural or dogmatic issues, members could simply pressure the minister or leadership to resign and replace them with someone with more appeal to their wants and needs. It was not uncommon during this period that churches would disagree within the membership. In such cases, instead of bending to the will of an arbitrary authority to work out the differences and have a final say in the matter, members would simply leave that church and found their own with a minister sympathetic to their views (( Ibid., 170. )).

The second reason for these movements with the revolutionary idea of democracy flowing over the young America is the want to move away from anything resembling British authority. For the most part in pre-revolutionary America, people were indifferent towards the Anglican and Catholic churches. Afterwards, however, there was a major move away from these churches towards the other smaller American Protestant faiths. The reason for this was rooted in the same idea of the need to get away from authority, but this reason was aimed at a specific brand of Christianity. These versions were not only identified with the enemy of America during the war but also with supreme authority. The king was the foremost power in the Anglican Church and the Pope in the Catholic. With the advent of democracy, bending to the will of these powers was something that did not go over well with the religious ideals of the day in America.

With this philosophy in mind, and the numerous splinters appearing in the Protestant denominations within America, Christians and those thinking of converting were becoming increasingly concerned. Each of these splinter congregations was proclaiming to be the true way to salvation. In addition, in order to carve out an identity for themselves, these congregations would define themselves by denouncing all others as heretical. For the lay-person, these allegations flying between churches and with all the definitions of truth to choose from, questions arose about who exactly was right. Without the authority of an overarching power to quell dissent between churches, any church was able to proclaim that they alone were the holders of absolute truth. People then were forced to choose with virtually no clue as to who was proclaiming the real truth. But a choice was often felt necessary because of the fear instilled by various churches that if the people did not follow their particular brand of truth then they were destined for hell.

Certainly there was a need for unity within the American protestant churches. The need for this unity spurned several attempts outside the denominational boundaries to reel in the fringe congregations. However, more importantly the restoration movement, at this time, there were also attempts within denominational sects that looked to define a more over arching authority to rule over the branches. In particular, the Methodists were keen to place a superintendent in charge of the boards of the Methodist church (( Paul K. Conkin, American Originals: Homemade Varieties of Christianity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 4. )). This move towards autocracy angered one preacher perhaps more than any other. His name was James O’Kelly, a Methodist minister from Virginia. O’Kelly saw this move back towards a authoritarian structure as analogous to moving back to something resembling the Catholic Church (( Everett Ferguson, The Way of Life (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1967), 68. )). He decried it as a move meant only to favor preachers’ prestige and power within the church.

The Methodist proposal for a superintendent troubled O’Kelly so deeply that in 1792 he presented to the Methodist convention appeals taken from ministers who sympathized with his objection. Unfortunately for them, the measure was voted down, but this did not stop O’Kelly and his supporters from using the democratic method. As a result, the “Republican Methodist Church” was formed as a breakaway sect of Methodism (( Conkin, American Originals, 4. )). In 1794 at the suggestion of Rice Haggard, the group renamed itself simply “Christians.” This movement, curiously, was a claim to unity rather to division. O’Kelly was after a unifying force other than a human-created authority. He was seeking authority from heaven. As such, the newly formed sect adopted several principles that in time became the foundation for the entirety of the New Testament restoration movement. These principles included the ideas that Jesus Christ was the only head of the church; second, the name “Christian” was a term that referred to all those in the church, regardless of denomination; third, the only creed that the Christian should follow is that of the Bible; fourth, Christian character is the only test needed for membership in the church; fifth, the right of private judgment and liberty of conscience is the privilege and duty of all (( Ferguson, Way of Life, 68. )).

As stated before, the newly formed “Christian” church was as move towards unity in the eyes of O’Kelly and the other ministers who were sympathetic to his cause. The ideals behind the reasons for unification are clear from the five main points proposed by the leaders of the new church. They were looking to move the church back to a doctrine that was pure and unaffected by he centuries of human intervention in the way dogmatic law was interpreted. In short, they were looking to restore the church to a more primitive state. However, as the idea was close to what would later be the full-blown restoration, the O’Kelly movement and the Christian church did not fully intend to move the church back to a form of church that was later to be termed the “New Testament Church.” Instead, they simply wanted to remove from church tradition the idea of authority vested in a single man or man-made body. Turning to the Bible as the only creed and Jesus as the only head gave the authority in the church back to the divine and out of the hands of men.

This trend, however, was not limited to the northeast of American thought. In the south, like-minded congregations learned of the movement in the north and sent a letter to a Christian newspaper published by Elias Smith in New England (( Conkin, American Originals, 5. )). In this letter the congregations sent greetings and wishes of fellowship with their New England brothers. The response was positive and in 1811 a conference was held in Virginia for talks of union between the two groups. Smith was the only representative for the New England congregations but this did not hamper the discussions of fellowship. Unfortunately, due to the small number of representatives and the relatively few followings of the new movement, the union was not so much a conglomeration as it was a meeting to show that two like-minded groups geographically removed from each other shared a common ideal (( Richard T. Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America (Cambridge: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1996), 12. )).

The southern sector of the Christian movement was lead in part by Abner Jones, a Baptist minister with an extreme dislike of anything smacking of Calvinism. Jones met Smith in 1803 during a meeting in Portsmith, New Hampshire. Jones was the man who first proposed a total change in the way the new Christian church was run, from one of simple biblical authority to a total restoration of a New Testament type church. Later in 1803, he would form his own church to cement his teachings into reality. Smith and Jones eventually set forth together on the trend of annihilationsim, that is, to tear down everything and to start over with nothing but the New Testament as a guide to what the church should actually look like. Eventually though, Smith grew more and more friendly with the Unitarians in the region, mainly due to the fact they shared his views concerning the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, Smith being antitrinitarian. So much so, that after a while Smith left his own congregation to lead a cause to unify the New England Christian church with the Unitarians in creating a new seminary. A small number of churches followed his lead but by the time it was all said and done they gave so little support that the seminary become totally Unitarian (( Conkin, American Originals, 6-7. )).

The path that Smith took is almost mirrored verbatim by Barton Stone. A Presbyterian minister in Kentucky, Stone had deep reservations, almost hatred, of John Calvin, a central figure in Presbyterian doctrine. He regarded Calvin’s doctrines as complete fabrication when juxtaposed against scripture. During the 1801 revival at Cane Ridge, Stone revealed his convictions in a sermon that insisted on having the only Christian creed be the Bible as the prerequisite to salvation (( Hughes, Reviving, 96. )). This stance aligned him with Jones but alienated him from the mainstream Presbyterians. Dissatisfied with the response, Stone founded the Springfield Presbytery in 1804 to further his doctrinal studies. While Presbyterian in name, the Springfield Presbytery was not active within the larger Midwest presbytery (( Conkin, American Originals, 7. )). After much examination of scripture and doctrines, Stone and others from the presbytery decided that in order to cement their beliefs, and in part to stay the Romanization of their organization, they would dissolve the Springfield Presbytery. This action was instigated by the writing of the “Last Will and Testament of The Springfield Presbytery,” a half-serious, half-satirical commentary on the shortcomings of Presbyterianism and the need for churches to align themselves with Christ instead of with denominational doctrines (( Ferguson, Way of Life, 69. )). This move was highly symbolic in that it showed Stone’s resolve to make congregations autonomous and to need for a return to the New Testament church. After dissolving the presbytery, Stone opted to call his new following the “Christian” church, a move done by Smith around the same time and again at the behest of Haggard (( Hughes, Reviving, 108. )). He also began showing signs of antitrinitarianism, a personal move on his part that left him more in line with the Unitarians than with his own movement. However, Stone was now allied with both the southern congregations of Jones and the northern congregations of Smith, laying a widespread foundation for the most significant phase in the New Testament restoration.

Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander are generally regarded as the fathers of the restoration movement. While this is not entirely true, as seen by the preliminary material above, they did play the most important role in the movement insofar as they unified and cemented the doctrines that would eventually be the core of all restoration church dogma. Thomas Campbell was a Presbyterian minister from Scotland who came to American in 1807 to try and get his poor health under control (( Ferguson, Way of Life, 70. )). He found work in the ministry in Pennsylvania and quickly came into trouble with the local Synod, or church council. Campbell had a knack for going up against the Synod for his peculiar way of understanding the scriptures and also for his unwillingness to adhere to creeds set forth by the Presbyterian Church. In 1809, Campbell withdrew from the Synod and he, along with several sympathizers, formed the “Christian Association of Washington (Pa.)” which, while itself not a church, promoted nondenominational Christianity within existing churches (( Ibid. )).

Thomas Campbell’s son, Alexander, had been left in Scotland by his father, along with the rest of the family, while Thomas made arrangements for them to join him in America. After a shipwreck, the family was forced to stay an extra year in Scotland. Alexander took this opportunity to study at Glasgow where he soon came under the guidance of the Independent Christian church. This experience moved Alexander from his Presbyterian roots to a position that was close to that of his father. In 1809, Alexander finally got the chance to reunite with his father in America where he soon learned of his father’s ideas. Thomas showed his son a document he had written and presented to his association called a “Declaration and Address” in which he outlined a type of constitution for the association as well as a plan to unite all the churches (( Conkin, American Originals, 15. )). Thomas firmly believed that he could start a movement that would finally reunite all the churches under a broad banner of Christianity, for he saw only one church unified by the belief in Jesus Christ. He wanted a church that was made up of all who believed in Christ and who obeyed His commandments. Thomas’ plan therefore was to strip Christianity down to its barest essentials and begin again with the New Testament as a blueprint.

Alexander was completely sympathetic to his father’s views and in 1810 began delivering sermons to the association’s churches to try and relate it to the masses. He was not the most eloquent speaker, nor the most inspiring. Alexander was, however, a born debater and used his logic and preparation to deliver stunning sermons (( Ibid., 18. )). Through a logical progression of ideas and scriptural analysis, he hoped to define what the New Testament church should be. In 1811 the Christian Association of Washington renamed itself the “Brush Run Church,” with Alexander as is minister. The church quickly, yet somewhat reluctantly, joined the Redstone Baptist Association as Alexander’s popularity as a speaker and debater grew. In 1816, Campbell made a groundbreaking sermon in which he denounced the convictions of the Calvinists as a total depravity. He also argued that the church was to rest only upon the authority of Jesus and that the Mosaic law no longer applied to Christians because Jesus had fulfilled that law (( Hughes, Reviving, 23. )). He did this in part because the way he read scripture told him it was true, but also he had been brought up watching difference denominations, even difference congregations picking and choosing which Old Testament moral codes to follow and which to disregard. In his one fell swoop, Campbell simply took all authority away from the Old Testament and gave total authority to the New Testament.

Even with the Campbells’ popularity, the movement they started did not move at a fast pace for some time. It wasn’t until 1823 that their movement really picked up speed and grew rapidly. In that year, after much rhetoric against the Calvinists, Alexander was running the risk of having his church removed form the Red Stone Association. Fortunately for him, a small Baptist association in Ohio known as the Mahoning Association contacted Campbell and asked him to join their association (( Conkin, American Originals, 22. )). He jumped at this opportunity, leaving the Red Stone Association before it had a chance to discharge him officially, but while technically a part of it. During this time, Alexander began publishing a monthly magazine called “The Christian Baptist” which allowed him to spread his doctrinal ideas in a well-organized debating style to people far from his home congregation. In this magazine he lashed out at all forms of ecclesiastical organizations and formalized clergy. He argued that no special authority should be given to ministers with scholarly training, ordination, or any kind of special calling by the Holy Spirit. He also denounced instrumental music and preached about the inherent equality of all Christians to one another (( Hughes, Reviving, 30. )).

In 1825 the Red Stone Association finally took action against Campbell and forced his congregation out. The Mahoning Association dissolved five years later leaving the congregations autonomous. Sensing the need for continuity between all the now- independent churches, Alexander renamed his movement the “Disciples of Christ.” He then dropped the name “The Christian Baptist” from his journal’s title and replaced it with the “Millennial Harbinger” (( Ferguson, Way of Life, 72. )). The name was significant because it reflected not a millennialist idea of the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth after the tribulation (an idea Campbell fervently detested); instead, his choice of title was to reflect his wish for a millennium of peace and happiness for the church under unification as a New Testament church. This journal became the vehicle for Campbell’s movement as he was able to use it to settle disputes between new congregations, cement doctrine, and evangelize to outsiders. Indeed, Campbell used this journal to act as a de facto bishop over his new church (( Conkin, American Originals, 26. )).

Stone and Campbell had met once before in 1824 during Campbell’s trip to Kentucky from Ohio and the two struck a chord with one another, seeing that their two movements closely resembled one another. Over the next seven years the two would trade correspondence. Despite sharing exchanges that indicated some jealousy between the two regarding who was playing a more prominent role in the move to a New Testament church, they announced the union of the two movements into a single force in 1832. The combination of the two into the Christian-Disciples movement was the biggest boost to the growth of the New Testament restoration (( Ibid. 28-29. )).

The New Testament restoration was not without its problems though. Despite sharing of the ideal of unity, the Christian-Disciples disagreed over several doctrinal issues. The foremost of these was the issue of baptismal immersion. While not going into specifics over who believed what, it is important to note that this issue caused many congregations to leave throughout the entirety of the movement.. To add to this, it should be pointed out that the Christian-Disciples movement eventually split apart (( Hughes, Reviving, 192. )). The union between the two was never a fully unified effort by either side and was more symbolic than it was functional. In the 1840’s the two sides began to argue over what could be considered trivial issues such as the use of instrumental music in worship. While it was not official, congregations began ceasing fellowship with each other. The official divide did not happen until the early twentieth century at which time three churches emerged: the liberal-minded Disciples, the instrumental Christian Church, and the Churches of Christ who only allowed a cappella music. Since then, these three major denominations have further split into about thirty distinct flavors of restorationalist churches (( Ferguson, Way of Life, 73. )).

The irony of he entire New Testament restoration movement is that the dream of restoring the church to its primitive form and unifying all Christians under one church roof never was realized. In fact the opposite occurred. Campbell and Stone ended up creating just as much doctrinal red tape, then they had hoped to dispose of by restoring the church to its “original” form. Consequently, the authority they used to justify their movement, the New Testament, was used also to undo the unifying effect they strove for. By appealing to their quest for the true church of the New Testament, they condemned other denominations for breaking with it in the first place. They alienated themselves from other congregations and became an elitist-like denomination in direct opposition to what they had set out to achieve.

As stated before, the restoration movement of the first half of the nineteenth century followed two radically different yet intimately connected paths. Both paths sought to end the confusion and the discord present in the Christian church at the time. The first of these paths was a restoration of the church to a primitive state, owing all authority to the New Testament. The second, however, took the path of creating entirely new scripture to be the basis of authority. This second path of restoration of the church was the Mormon movement.

The sole leader of the Mormon movement during its conception was Joseph Smith Jr., the son of a poor farmer. His father had lost all the family’s money on a speculative venture and remained a frequently moving tenant the rest of this life. He spent much of his time and effort trying to rebuild a fortune and to redeem the family name. The family was never deeply involved with religion. Smith himself was seen once or twice attending the local Methodist church and he enjoyed greatly learning about the occult. One of his pastimes was to use the three seer stones he possessed to locate treasure and underground water for people for a price. He was a frequent visitor of treasure hunters and was always interested in new ways to making money, just like his father (( Conkin, American Originals, 163. )).

Smith was admittedly wary of all types of religion. He viewed the church at the time to be in a confused state with no one sure of what to believe. This was the same conclusion drawn by the restorationists of the New Testament restoration. Authority in religious matters seemed to be a huge issue at the time (( Marvin S. Hill and James B. Allen, Mormonism and American Culture (New York: Harber & Row Publishers, 1972), 16. )). Smith was deeply troubled by this, and by his own account he went out in 1820 to a field near his hometown of Palmyra, New York, to meditate on what he should do. It was in this field that Smith would receive the answer to his question of who to believe in this time of confusion.

While meditating in the field, Smith claims to have been visited by both God and Jesus in the flesh. They blessed the young Smith and shared with him their concerns over the state of the church. They told him that he should not affiliate with any sect as they had all strayed form the path they were supposed to have taken, and he himself would be the new prophet who would lead the Christian church back to the right path (( William E. Barrett, The Restored Church (Desert Book Company, 1977), 22. )). Three years later, the angel Moroni, who had once lived as a human on the American continent, visited Smith. He told Smith of a history that was written on a set of golden plates which Moroni had himself helped to compile that chronicled the history of early. The history was to be a completion of the gospels as Jesus had revealed Himself to the ancient Americans. Moroni showed Smith where he had hidden the plates and two seer stones (identified later by Smith as the Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament) accompanied the plates to allow Smith to translate them (( Conkin, American Originals, 164. )).

According to Smith, he went to the place Moroni had showed him (a hill only three miles from his home) and discovered the plates just as promised, but he could not remove them from their resting place. He was told in a vision that he was not pure enough to take the plates and that he had to purify himself in order to be free of the world. For four years after, Smith would meditate and resist the temptations of the world so that he could possess them. In 1827, Smith returned to the hill and successfully removed the plates and took them home (( Barrett, Restored Church, 24-25. )). The plates were in a metallic, book-like binding which reportedly weighed about fifty pounds. They were inscribed with Egyptian-like hieroglyphs but were in actuality an ancient form of Hebrew. The two seer stones were fastened into a frame that resembled eyeglasses. However, when observed translating, Smith would only use one stone that he placed into his hat and then covered his face with it (( Conkin, American Originals, 164. )).

The first translation of the book of Mormon was done with the aid of Smith’s wife Emma, who transcribed what he dictated. Eventually, their neighbor, Martin Harris, came to take over the transcription while Smith was concealed behind a blanket (( Barrett, Restored Church, 34. )). Harris was the first convert outside of the immediate Smith family and was nearly the new religion’s undoing. Harris sought out two Orientalist, one at Rutgers and one at Columbia College, to look over the translations and to authenticate them. At Columbia, Professor Charles Anthon authenticated the writings until he learned of the nature of the plates and their origin. He then reportedly tore up the certificate of authenticity and denied all claims Harris had made. This did not stop Harris from believing that Smith was a true prophet though. He went back to Smith and asked to borrow some of the translations to show to his doubting wife. Smith agreed, but while Harris had them, they were lost. Some stories abound that Harris’ wife burned the work, but the official Mormon account is that they were stolen. Smith then had the plates taken from him by Moroni as punishment. The material that was lost covered about 400 years of the ancient Jewish people who had come to America and was the opening segment of the history written by Mormon. Smith was reluctant to translate the plates again as he reportedly had fears about the other version resurfacing and his enemies finding discrepancies between the two (( Conkin, American Originals, 165-166. )).

Guided by a vision, Smith was told that he could not retranslate any plates once they were translated. Therefore he was told to translate a new set of plates, the plates of Nephi, which held the same information as the Mormon history. Harris left the transcription job and was replaced by Smith’s cousin, Oliver Cowdery (( Barrett, Restored Church, 35. )). Cowdery, Harris, and several others were chosen at that time to see the plates for themselves. After intense meditation for several hours, the men saw a vision of the plates. After witnessing this they wrote a statement to the fact which was later included in the Book of Mormon. When the first edition was finished, the book was published by a Palmyra printer and went on sale in 1830 at which time Moroni took the plates back again (( Ibid. 38. )).

The actual content of the book is much too complex to be discussed here in any fair way. Suffice to say it chronicled the journey of an ancient Jewish people to America and their subsequent spiritual life (( Conkin, American Originals, 168-173. )). The book was not an especially a rousing success. Its confused wording and numerous grammatical errors made it laborious to read. However, it was still sold if for only curiosity on what the notorious Joseph Smith had written.

The origins of the Mormon Church can be traced to 1829 when Smith and Cowdery were directed by the angel of John the Baptist to baptize each other for the remission of sins and had bestowed on them the priesthood of Aaron (( Barrett, Restored Church, 69. )). The church itself was organized by Smith who was guided by revelations and turned out to be extremely disorganized. When baptizing new converts, Smith would give them titles such as elder, priest, or teacher, titles which did not hold any meaning at the time and which would later become no more clearer as Smith’s doctrines fully emerged. The church was set up to be a restored church that had been purified of the worldly ills that had befallen all the other Christian sects (( Hill, Mormonism, 22. )). Smith’s doctrine for the most part was simple and easy for the layperson to understand. He even agreed with Alexander Campbell on some major points. While the doctrines will not be covered here, they were in some ways a nod to the other restorationists at the time, but were also a departure from mainstream Christianity.

Mormonism was not without its critics. To be sure, critics at the time far out numbered the believers. Their criticisms were varied but a few major points were made in objection to Smith’s new religion. First there was the problem of Smith himself. Critics citied numerous examples of Smith being involved in treasure hunting and other get-rich-quick schemes. The entire religion therefore was nothing more than a very elaborate hoax. Smith had even gotten involved in several defrauding and banking schemes well into his prophetic career, helping boost opposition to him (( Conkin, American Originals, 163, 182. )). Second was the problem of the history Smith had proposed. There was no archeological evidence to support an ancient offshoot of Jews in America (( Harry L. Ropp. Are the Mormon Scriptures Reliable? (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 55. )). Nor was the history even logical. One example given to support this is the description of the boats used to cross the ocean by the Jews in the book of Ether, an appendix to the book of Mormon written by Moroni. The boats are submarines with holes in the top and in the bottom that were to be opened when they needed air, but closed again if water should come in (( The Book of Mormon, Ether 2:20. )). Third was the book itself. Smith had translated it in secret. He was not allowed to go back and review translations. When some of the translations were stolen, he conveniently got a new set of plates. The text was often seen as more of a rant than a real document (( Ropp, Reliable?, 34. )). Finally, the plates on which the book was written were never actually seen by human eyes save for Smith. Cowdery even later recanted his statement about seeing the plates, although his statement remains in the book (( Ibid. 21. )).

As with the Campbell-Stone movement, the Mormon restoration ended up becoming an irony. The authority Smith was supposed to be subverting, he himself assumed. At one point, Smith was basically the king of a Mormon city with a militia at his command (( Conkin, American Originals, 203. )). The man who wanted to put all faith into scripture ended up using that scripture to put all faith into himself. Regardless, Mormonism became a dominant force in America soon after Smith’s death in 1844 (( Barrett, Restored Church, 192. )).

In the end, it can be argued that restorationalists, both New Testament and Mormon failed in their goal of uniting all of Christianity under the banner of scripture. Their causes have lived on through the decades since, but the end result of their dreams is nowhere in sight. Christianity still is splintered into factions and sects and denominations. Even the New Testament restoration church itself has fractured into numerous sub-sects. Human nature being what it is, it seems that the dream of unity will, for now at least, remain just that—a dream.

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So heres the thing. Now that im working full time -and- going to school -and- trying to have a social life -and- trying to find a girlfriend, I have little time to do much else of anything. So instead of trying to write an article every week, Im going to shoot for every two weeks, which means this Thursday. In the mean time, here is an excellent article (that I didnt write) which discusses not only why taking the bible comepletely litteraly is a stupid idea, but also shows why there is a need for organized religion in sofaras an authority on how to read the bible.

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Lets talk about Sex

Warning: This article contains references and bad puns relating to SEX. If you have an aversion to such matters, I suggest you read this article anyway because I specifically mention you in it.

So apparently the not so “clean” among us all are pining for my views on a naughty little subject. I guess it comes as no surprise to me that every return on my invitation to pick a topic for me wanted me to spend time illuminating my views on the pros and the cons of good old copulation.

Where to begin. I mean really, this subject is probably the one thing above all that seems to alienate potential converts to the church. You tell someone as they are coming to finally believe that they now have to give up either the continuous act of sex or the idea that they wont be a virgin till they are old and ready to marry. It has sparked huge debates within the church and within its members. Is sex outside marriage a total sin? Is it forgivable? Is gay sex OK? Why is it that the stigmata of having had sex in the past haunting people within the church after they give it up? Who cares? Is abstinence just a waste of time?

While I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers to these questions I am going to at least try to touch on all of them. And all without citing the bible (cause if I did, I’m sure some “open-minded” person would have a fit of no logic being portrayed in this article.) But before I get into all of that stuff, what is it that makes sex not just appealing (it is), but that makes it perhaps the one thing that gets under everyone’s skin (pardon the pun).

When most of us christians hear the word “sex” or anything thats associated with it, more often than not, hordes of us squirm in our seats. Red faces abound, ladies titter, men cough, and old women gasp. For some reason, the one thing that makes our race possible seems to be the biggest elephant in the room. How is it we got to this point? If all those red faced and tittering women (no pun intended) were objecting to the fact that sex exists they wouldn’t be here, and neither would their children. Its as if the basest action of all should not be spoken of.

I have often wondered why so may christians seem to think that sex, or talking about it, is such a “horrible” thing. The only thing I have come up with that makes any lick of sense is that they are embarrassed because sex is a drug to them, their biggest weakness. A lot of christians have grown up in families where the speaking of sex was discouraged or even forbidden. Questions from teenagers to their parents over the workings of the birds and the bees are often met with the red face, the stuttering, and a “go ask your father” who then becomes angry that their child is thinking such things. Therefore the child grows with ever widening curiosity and wonderment at this forbidden thing their parents seem to want to hide from them. As anyone knows, tell a child that something is forbidden and all the more they want it.

And so little Johnny or Susie, aged 14 – 18 decide to go into the world and find out themselves. THey get mixed up with people who, like them, want to discover the forbidden thing. And so after much touching and awkward fumbling with clothes the fruit is discovered and the juices overflow (sorry). Now what we can all agree on, virgin and non-virgin alike, is that sex feels better than anything apart from illicit drugs. And as these children have been brought up in a home where talking about sex is a sin in and of it self, they now have no guidance, no map with which to follow. All they have are those good fashioned teenage hormones which are more than willing to take hold of little Johnny or Susie and lead them around by the genitals.

And so they grow up having known nothing but the addiction to sex. Eventually though, in their late twenties, after their wild and illustrious college days, they discover that their addiction has been a vice for them, that all emotion, or at least most of it, has been drained from the experience. They settle down, start a family, the addiction still playing in their mind trying to get them to start up again. And then one day their child comes to them asking about sex and they make the mistake of saying “go ask your father.”

Ok, so thats an over simplified version and a stereotypical one at that. We all know that they might have learned from their experience and taught their children otherwise. IN all actuality thats probably what would happen. The problem is with their peers. As these children grew up, their christian peers would have their parents tell their children “see susie? She’s a whore because she had sex, look at her now”. These are really the children who start the cycle again.

At any rate, the problem here is simple. Christian parents seem to think that sex is morally wrong, that its dirty, and that they should protect their children from it. THere is a fear of wanting to discuss it, like its some kind of sin to avoid, like its some kind of vice that if they speak it or hear it they will suddenly become a despot sex addict who will walk the streets in New York turning tricks by the dozen. This of course leaves the child with no where to turn but to their own hormones which don’t really have much to say other than “i want! I want now!”.

I say that parents need to talk to their kids about sex, often, and be accessible to them when they have questions. Ok maybe you don’t always need to explain to little Bobby why those two men are hugging each other like that when he’s only 12, but you get the idea. Let children know what sex is, what a great thing it is, and why its a good idea to wait to have any of it. Let them know that they are special, that they are worth waiting for. If you instill within them some self-respect they will realize that their virginity is something that should only be given to someone who really deserves it, not some guy who they just met the first day of college. With a little guidance, children learn that maybe having sex isn’t necessarily the best way to learn about it.

Which brings me to the next point. Why wait? Why deny ourselves the pleasure of sex? If two people are willing to give their bodies over to each other, what does it matter? To be honest, once you move out of the house, and once you are on your own and an adult, I don’t really care if you wait or not anymore. I’ve learned that at that point the person is going to be pretty much made up in mind about whether or not they are going to wait anymore. And at that age I would suppose they are able to grasp and deal with any and all consequences that rise from their actions (though few do sadly enough). My problem is with society at large telling teens its totally OK for them to bang each-other like rabbits. We not only tell them that, we encourage it. In high-schools everywhere, sex Ed is taught with emphasis not on “hey its probably a good idea if you wait, but if you cant wait heres how to be safe about it” but on “waiting is for losers, heres not only how to be safe but how to get more”. Condoms are passed out as high-schools like candy. Abortions on demand are common place for teens who wind up with an “inconvenient” consequence of their actions. And all this is perfectly OK.

My question is, these kids are still kids aren’t they? We ban child pornography in the U.S. We don’t let kids buy cigarettes cause they might be dangerous. We don’t let them have guns. But shoot fire if we don’t let them have sex at age 12. Heck, what they do is their business right? What have we disintegrated into? Like it or not, this pleasure seeking is playing with lives on a major scale. Not only am I saying here that the unborn are being played with, but the participants lives are being played with as well. Sex is a deeply emotional attachment in any relationship, especially to women. Having someone else enter their body for the first is a very meaningful experience. And today, more often than not, the person they made that attachment to dumped them like yesterday’s newspaper. What does that do to them emotionally? How are their future relationships affected? I can tell you one thing, its not a positive influence.

But thankfully this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people learn from their mistakes and decide that while sex is great, it should really be saved for someone who they really love, like a husband or wife. however, even if they do note the errors of their ways, these poor souls are normally the object of more ridicule in their church if they are Christians than if they were just loose and everyone knew it. Why? Because they are a hypocrite, especially if they ever relapse and fall into the trap again. What kind of encouragement is that? Pitiful if I do say so myself. I have seen more than my share of girls and guys, girls mostly, in churches become the objects of scorn because they messed up once than those who are known to be an easy lay. (mostly Pentecostals by the way)

So I Guess so far in this survey of sex I’ve skipped the most important question, is sex a good thing or not? Heck yeah its a good thing. Sex is the ultimate culmination of a relationship. After sharing thoughts, idea, dreams, tears, and laughter, you give your partner your very body. There is nothing more you can give them past this besides your life. It is no coincidence that God made sex an extremely pleasurable experience. And for those of you who are screaming “evolution!” let me just point out that humans are the only mammals that do no have a penis bone. What does that mean? it means that humans are the only mammal that needs mental and physical stimulation to become aroused. We aren’t designed to mate on demand as other species are. We have to have that mental stimuli. And yes, i, as a man myself, know how “stimulating” just the sight of a naked women is, but ask any married person, in all honesty, who fooled around before getting married, if sex without commitment was better or worse and almost to man they will tell you that with commitment is far better. The sensuality of being with someone you love rather and someone you “want for the night” is much, much greater.

So why wait? Why not just bang the chick you “love” right now? Well… you could, I guess. But why? Jumping into bed may sound like a good idea but is it really? Do you know how your relationship will fair if you bring that element into it? THe answer in most cases is “no” or “oh it will make it even better!” or worse “it will save the relationship.” In my years of talking with peers and others I have learned one thing: sex in a non-committed relationship leads to nothing but trouble. Sex for the sake of sex in the relationship can quickly degrade the couple into nothing more than “friends with benefits”. They keep each-other around just to pleasure themselves. If you think it will make it better consider what-else could make it better first, cause once you pull out the old sex card there’s not really much to top it except for marriage itself. Are you willing to skip all the appetizer and entrée and go straight to desert? if you think it will save the relationship, you are dead wrong. Its already doomed if you are at the point of considering this. All you will be doing is giving yourself a false sense of hope with the ultimate gift with the foreknowledge (and not the realization) that its going to end soon anyway. You are just delaying the inevitable.

So what if you are in a committed relationship? Is it really that committed? Heres a good test: would you let your significant other have control of your bank account? If not, then you’re not committed enough. If yes, and if you are really considering marriage and you are both adults, well, whatever. I cant stop you. All I can say is that you are old enough to realize the weight of your decision. I would still have to say its a bad idea though, why not just wait till the marriage? “We cant get married yet! I don’t have enough money! it’ll be some years off! ” yeah well… whatever. Knock yourself out I guess, but don’t say I didn’t warn your =P

So what have I ranted about here? To sum up this incoherent article on making love: talk to your kids about sex and why they should respect themselves enough to give their virginity to someone who deserves it, don’t sleep around, sex is good, and you would wait!. I think that sums it up pretty well. I know I didn’t cover everything I said I was going to talk about at the beginning of this article, but if you would like to know something more specific, just email me or ask.


Coming tomorrow

Yeah, so ive been put up all day with one of the most severe neck aches/spasms ever. Im going to try and writing tomorrow after work.

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