Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Review of "A Struggle to Peace"

Cindy Benson has written an undated work called "A Struggle to Peace". It would be the story of just another morally compromised drug and alcohol abuser who finally figures out what life is about except for Ms. Benson's penchant to distort the facts of LDS doctrine and history and her unwillingness to accept personal responsibility for her bad habits. It is the fault of that darned Mormon Church for everything that goes wrong in her life. Some examples:

Her dad leaves the family when she is age 11 to go join polygamists in Southern Utah. First it is the LDS Church's fault for changing doctrines that rips her family apart. Then it is those darned hypocritical ward members who shun them because her family is obviously of some kind of polluted seed, now that daddy is a serial adulterer.

Or when she is sleeping with her boyfriend, doing drugs and constantly drunk, that is because the LDS Church explained only that she was breaking the Church's rules, not God's laws. She feels guilty and unworthy because she is breaking the Church rules, not because she has compromised all of her values, destroyed her self-esteem, let down her mother who was destroyed by a father equally unfaithful to his beliefs.

Some other observations.

First, it is not clear why Cindy Benson's husband, Richard, is listed on the booklet as a co-author. The entire book is written in the first person by Cindy. Richard appears to be "the editor" on the last page of the book, and who knows who created the straw-man charts between page 24 and the end of the booklet.

Second, the supposed sources cited for documentation don't usually refer to the supposed doctrines they point to. The first such example is in their foot note #2, supposedly stating the doctrine that as a Mormon she was "becoming a
goddess along with my husband becoming a god over our own world." Reading the authorities she cites, we see citations in Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie (their most frequently cited authority), Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball, Journal of Discourses in a talk by Brigham Young (not listed in the citation), and finally Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. None of them state we are to become gods of our own planet. In fact, I did a search of LDS Infobases 2009, and no such statement is found in any of the 1,000+ works and volumes contained in the database.

In fact, I had never heard of such a doctrine until I became a defender of the Church, and suddenly I became aware of all kinds of things apparently everyone who leaves the Church knows, but to which the unwashed masses in the Church are oblivious.

Footnote #3 supposedly supports the assertion that "we served the god of this world, whose name is Elohim". The phrase "god of this world" is a Biblical phrase referring to Satan (2 Cor 4:4, and unlike their non-literal citations of supposed LDS sources, this phrase is word-for-word in this passage). Their citation is intended to depict the LDS view of God as a small, regional deity who is actually modeled after Satan.

Let me admit I am not sure exactly how to depict a negative in terms of evidence in their citations. Since none of the sources she cites use the phraseology she uses to describe her representation of LDS doctrine, I can only say you need to read her citations. They don't contain this doctrine, just as footnote #2 does not provide a single source which depicts us as becoming regional gods over a single planet. In fact, the passages she cites indicate we become like our God in terms of creating worlds without end, the exact opposite of a regional, parochial caste hierarchy of gods she describes as the LDS concept of exaltation.

Footnote #3 in no way reflects the LDS view of who God really is:
D&C 14:2 "I am Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth..." Not exactly a limited geography God, or maybe the heavens (i.e., the Universe), is a limited location.

D&C 76:24 "That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." So not only do the LDS believe God created the Universe by Jesus, but that Jesus is the Savior of all the beings created on all those worlds.

Moses 1:33 "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten." Where in LDS teaching does it say God is NOT the God of any other planet? Worlds "without number" God has created, making the God of Mormonism somewhat larger than just a regional deity who is modeled after Satan.

D&C 29:31-34 31 "For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal-- ...32 First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work-- ... unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed. 34 Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual..."

This last passage is truly awesome in its scope of describing God as Mormons understand him. He is eternal, without beginning. He created all things, since He notes "all things unto me are spiritual", which He created through the power of His Spirit.

These statements also happen to be in one of the definitional documents of LDS doctrine, the D&C, which trumps all statements of explanation, by any person, except the LDS President, and then only when revealing new doctrine.

In other words, rather than trying to find a statement from LDS writers which she can take out of context to describe LDS doctrine in a denigrating manner, had she actually been a member of the LDS faith with some maturity and depth of understanding (which I will get to in a moment to show she admits she was not), she would not be making such statements which EVERY believing Latter-day Saint knows is false, and can demonstrate from its documents of its faith. This booklet, however, is not written to people who know the LDS doctrines, but rather is designed to attack and scare away people who do not. Examples are on practically every page where they clarify what the LDS community does, which is unnecessary for members of the LDS faith. By contrast, there are no insights to be found in the booklet aimed at the LDS believer which are not in virtually every Anti-Mormon book on the market.

In LDS thought, the "New and Everlasting Covenant" is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (See: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, page 78). There is also "The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage", which is about marriage for eternity, not specifically about polygamy. Yet Cindy Benson writes "Joseph SmithCalled polygamy the "New and Everlasting Covenant," and said that all those who are not living it would be damned. fn32" Again, how to prove a negative. She cites D&C 132:4,6. So let's read them:

132:4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
132:6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

In fact, the discussion in these verses pertains specifically to covenants not sealed by the Holy Spirit by one in authority (D&C 132:7). But the first time they discuss the covenant as it pertains to marriage is verse 15. There, it is about a singular marriage. It then goes on in verses 19-20 to describe marriage in the Covenant between a single woman and man, and states "if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant," that if they keep the covenants "then they shall be gods". Did you notice the phrase "a wife". Not wives. Not polygamy. That comes in verse 34 and thereafter.

On page 8 Cindy explains how her father had taken a 15 year old girl as his second wife. She repeatedly states that he was following the original teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. But of course, he was not. First, and most obviously, Joseph and Brigham taught that the priesthood authority to authorize such marriages resided in the president of the Church and the Apostles, and nowhere else. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, claim their authority comes from an undocumented transfer of authority by John Taylor to a John W. Woolley, who received a secret priesthood. There is no physical evidence for this, as in records in the 1st Presidency's office or journal recordings, and he never claimed this authority. His son made the claim of this ordination AFTER his father's death. Remember, the D&C 42:11 states that

"it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church."

Like father, like daughter. Don't apparently read the official LDS doctrine well enough to understand or tell others what it really means. No way for John Woolley to have received a special priesthood. (There is a great website which covers these issues at www.mormonfundamentalism.com , I highly recommend it.)

Second, the manner of practicing polygamy required the husband be "called" by a person in authority acting under the authority of the President of the LDS Church. Since that is not taking place, what we have is not a man following the original doctrines of the LDS Church, but an apostate of the faith reinterpreting history to meet his personal desires.

Cindy makes the comment that her father had promised her mother "everything--even eternity together. fn33" The thing is, again, we have a footnote with no bearing at all to the content of the statement she makes. She cites Mormon Doctrine, and the pages are all about things which are "celestial". But there is nothing which would not make her father out to be a liar. Promising eternity is like promising the moon. Some people may claim they can do such a thing, but they have no ability to deliver on such a promis.

So then we get to an interesting timeline. She claims that while a senior, she sees her Sunday School teacher enter a drug house, where she follows, and cathes him in the act with booze and a cigarette. Sure she did. But so what is her point? That the Church allows imperfect people to teach, or that imperfect people are members of the Church, but sometimes lie about their imperfections?

But like every good LDS young women, she ignores the advice of her leaders to avoid bad environments, and meets the future father of her child, and subsequently her future husband. It is important to carefully read to see how she distorts her commitment to the LDS Church. As a person who joined the LDS faith when 16 1/2, I realize there are many, many temptations out there. As a 17 or 18 year old, she had never read the New Testament. That is part of the seminary course of study, not to mention would have been part of her Sunday School curriculum (she was too busy catching her teacher breaking the Word of Wisdom to apparently notice). She does relate that she had a spiritual experience, which she does not try to explain away, confirming her faith. Yet she characterizes the promises of the Book of Mormon to reveal truth to the sincerely seeking person as being false because they are about a religion, not about Christ. As usual, her citations don't match the evidence. The promise is the Spirit will testify of truth, including the Book of Mormon, not the LDS Church. Still, she cites John 15:26 and says the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus, not a Church. Another convenient distortion. John 16:13 tells us the Spirit shall guide us into "all truth". Just like Moroni 10:3-5.

More specifically, I have never heard anyone say they read the Book of Mormon and read Moroni's challenge, and they got a spiritual answer that the Church is true. That is not what the passage promises. It does promise a testimony of scripture, just like that other passage thoroughly ignored by anti-Mormon critics like Mrs. Benson: Luke 24:32:

"Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures."

Darned heretic Luke. Luke, the Mormon lapdog you can almost hear them regaling.

Anyway, Cindy graduates as a hypocritical "fun" date from high school. Now everyone has weaknesses. Most don't blame their church for defects of character. That was not the point. She just cannot bring herself to stop having sex, drinking and drugs, because that false Mormon Jesus just has no power. Never mind that after she is born again, nothing changes in terms of her behavior.

In drug treatment, its called hitting bottom. She eventually gets there. Blaming the LDS Church all the way, and either being completely ignorant of real LDS doctrine, or not wanting to present the actual doctrines. Surely she knows "The Seer" is not an accepted LDS work. Condemned by the Church AND its author publicly in the 1860's, it is hard to know why she finds it to be the best source to substantiate (secret) official LDS beliefs.

Anyway, she re-demonstrates her lack of commitment to hard things when she gets through cosmetology and decides to work in day care. Way to go. But we see a pattern here. She probably can somehow tie cosmetology to the LDS Church, and condemn that darn hair school. But seriously, when is she going to get to the good parts. She is rarely attending Church, has no commitment to its standards, has not read its foundational documents of faith, and has serious father figure issues leading her to rebel against her family's faith.

That darned Jesus said if you want to know if his doctrines are true, you must live them (John 7:17). Now the darned Mormons have even tricked Jesus into their silly doctrines.

But that just doesn't fit with the story of captivity she wants to tell. One where she is so spiritually captive that she tells us the Church rejects her because her father became a polygamist. Where she is so captive and connected that she and her shack-up decide to use a justice of the peace instead of her bishop.

It's all like this. There were a couple of her citations for which I don't have all of the documents she cites, but I looked up every other one, more than 95% of the cited works. Please, her husband's business partner and Mr. Benson's contention that the footnotes prove her assertions is just manifestly false. I am not going to write a 50 page review of her footnotes. Patterns emerge after the first five which, if this were an LDS book being reviewed by an Anti-Mormon, would place it as a 12 on the Richter scale of dubious truth content. But just like her view of the LDS doctrines of becoming gods of a planet, this is make-believe. It deserves to be in the fiction section of any bookstore, at least as concerns the details of the LDS faith.

This is a work in progress, so I will publish this now, and add more over time.


Anonymous said...

I pasted “Cindy Benson, A Struggle to Peace” into my browser and your blog spot was number one on the list, way to go!

No one on Amazon has reviewed Cindy’s book yet, maybe you could copy and paste blog there to give others a warning before they buy it.

Anonymous said...

Alright this is a huge blog post, but there is one thing I wanted to comment on.

In your response towards the claim that we become Gods and have a world of our own, you state: “I had never heard of such a doctrine until I became a defender of the Church, and suddenly I became aware of all kinds of things apparently everyone who leaves the Church knows, but to which the unwashed masses in the Church are oblivious.”

I was born and raised into the LDS religion and this was always central aspect of it. I looked forward to it, to be honest. I was even planning how my planet would look and everything. It is clearly doctrine, and I’m amazed you don’t believe it, but are a practicing Mormon.

Just one reference on it:

Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.48:
“The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fulness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring. We will have an endless eternity for this.”

My LDS wife, who doesn’t know the religion all that well, has tried to get me to come back by saying that we will become Gods and have our own planet. So I’m amazed that she would know something you didn’t.

Its stuff like this that annoys me with LDS apologetics, you are clearly defending your own version and interpretation of Mormonism that doesn’t exist beyond your own reality. Seriously, if Mormonism is right, what is wrong with becoming Gods? Why all the effort to hide it and act like it doesn’t exist? It clearly fits within LDS theology.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Can I tell you how much I appreciate your response? Thank you so very much. You and I are actually on the same page, I think. I of course know about the doctrine of exaltation, creating worlds, etc. That, however, is not what I am commenting on. The concept that we become gods of some little planet, like some Greek god Mars or Neptune or whatever, is very much what I am saying is NOT LDS doctrine. The statement from JFS which you cite is actually one of the references I would cite. Living on a planet, a single planet, has to do with our mortal probation. Becoming like God has as its core endless creation, "And worlds without number have I created" (Moses 1:33).

The thing is this is not "new" doctrine, from a Biblical standpoint. I am working on that part of the response now. But check out non-LDS scholar Margaret Barker's December 2008 lecture on Melchizedek and the temple in ancient Israel. The line which grabs me out of her talk is this:

"In temple terms, this implies a ritual in the holy of holies, the place of the angels, in which the human became divine."

(Paper delivered by Margaret Barker, "Who was Melchizedek, and Who was His God", Dec. 2008, page 5, to the "Temple Studies Group". You can get the entire paper online at http://www.templestudiesgroup.com/Melchizedek_Barker.pdf )

Barker is not Mormon, but she is very aware of LDS doctrine (see the bottom of page 11, the second time she has used an obviously LDS phrase in a major address). Her insights and comments on Christianity's missing the point of the temple and the Melchizedek priesthood to change humans into the sons of God is therefore even more telling.

But thanks again for the comment, and please feel free to respond further. There is no LDS doctrine of becoming a god of our own planet. We become like God our Father, with endless creation, and yet one with Him.

As for your dislike of LDS Apologists, I would say give me a chance. I don't duck or pull too many punches here. But I am emphatic that I don't care about anyone's opinions about LDS doctrine, even LDS presidents, if they fall outside of the area of established doctrine. Yet it doesn't bother me one bit for them to speculate, since it is when we inquire of the Lord that we find answers.