Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » When One Prophet Supersedes an Earlier One

When One Prophet Supersedes an Earlier One

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 12, 2010

Yesterday Sean G, J. Stapley, and kevinf had an interesting exchange on J.’s thread Readings in Mormon History at BCC. In part:

kevinf says:

In response to Sean G (lurker123), J, I’m just reading Prince and Wright’s McKay bio, and already in the early chapters, we have President McKay not wanting to publicly say anything about Elder McConkie after the publication of Mormon Doctrine for fear of undermining his authority as a Church leader, in spite of what apparently he and other General Authorities considered to be hundreds of doctrinal errors. To supersede a previous prophet’s doctrinal expositions (or other general authorities) appears to be something that is approached with great reluctance, if approached at all. Instead, we have a much milder response along the lines of “We pay more heed to current prophets than dead ones”. That kind of strikes a middle ground, and might seem to be motivated by a desire to not create anxieties or questions among newer converts, or members with fledgling testimonies.

This reminded me of the occasion in 1894 when Wilford Woodruff introduced perhaps the most significant change made in this dispensation to existing temple ordinance practice and doctrine.

Until that date, to the limited extent that Latter-day Saints were sealed to anyone in the parent-child relationship, they were sealed to prophets and apostles rather than to their own parents. This practice arose, I am convinced, through the early Saints’ incomplete understanding of Joseph Smith’s teachings: They recognized that they needed to be sealed into the eternal family of God with clear patriarchal lines extending back to Adam. But if their parents were unbaptized, they did not hold the priesthood. There was no point in sealing yourself to a father who was not incorporated into that eternal patriarchal line.

But Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young, or any one of a number of other prominent priesthood holders – that was a different matter. However such men traced their patriarchal lineage, they were certain of a place in the celestial chain. Seal yourself to one of those men and you were linked into the network, guaranteed. Thus arose the practice, hedged about by theological speculations that were not necessarily quite what Joseph taught, of “adoption” into the families of prominent leaders. (J. Stapley and, I think, Sam MB have a greatly different understanding of the origin and growth of adoption; I won’t argue with them – I know when I’m outgunned, even when I believe I’m right. That isn’t the point of this post, and I offer my own explanation simply because readers who might be unaware that early Saints were not sealed to their own parents need to understand that point for this post to make any sense.)

In 1894, Wilford Woodruff announced a revelation related to all this:

Now, what are the feelings of Israel? They have felt that they wanted to be adopted to somebody. President Young was not satisfied in his mind with regard to the extent of this matter; President Taylor was not. When I went before the Lord to know who I should be adopted to (we were then being adopted to prophets and apostles,) the Spirit of God said to me, “Have you not a father, who begot you?” “Yes, I have.” “Then why not honor him? Why not be adopted to him?” “Yes,” says I, “that is right.” I was adopted to my father, and should have had my father sealed to his father, and so on back; and the duty that I want every man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every man be adopted to his father.

But announcing such a change, so basic to the Saints’ conception of their eternal salvation, was a tricky thing. If this announced revelation to Wilford Woodruff was true, why had not Joseph received it? Would this development weaken the Saints’ confidence in Joseph Smith, or, more likely, cause them to doubt Wilford Woodruff?

President Woodruff began by reminding the Saints of the importance of the task assigned to them to redeem the dead. “If we did not do it, we should be damned and cut off from the earth, and the God of Israel would raise up a people who would do it.” Through the quoting of scripture and his own elaboration, he reminded the Saints of the principle of continuing revelation. “The Lord would not permit me to occupy this position one day of my life, unless I was susceptible to the Holy Spirit and to the revelations of God. It is too late in the day for this Church to stand without revelation.”

He spoke of the developments during Joseph Smith’s ministry concerning redemption of the dead – how the Saints had first baptized randomly in the Mississippi River, and how Joseph soon understood that baptism for the dead belonged to the Temple, and that witnesses should be present and a record kept. Joseph had not received a complete understanding of baptism for the dead in a single moment, but rather received it in stages.

President Woodruff then reminded the congregation that, unlike the patriarchs of old who had lived to nearly a thousand years, Joseph had had only 38 years to do his work – only 15 of which he had held the priesthood. Yet in that short time he had accomplished so very, very much. President Woodruff ticked off a list of the things Joseph had done, and those that had been continued by succeeding prophets.

Who could expect him, during the short time he lived in the flesh, to do more than he did? I received my endowment from under his hands. He brought forth all these ordinances that have been given unto the Latter-day Saints. In fact, it is a marvel and a wonder that he performed as much as he did. … [Brigham Young] organized these Temples and carried out the purposes of his calling and office. He laid the foundation of this great Temple on this block, as well as others in the mountains of Israel. What for? That we might carry out these principles of redemption for the dead. But he did not receive all the revelations that belong to this work; neither did President Taylor, nor has Wilford Woodruff. There will be no end to this work until it is perfected.

It was time, President Woodruff said, to go ahead with the work. “I want to say, as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that we should now go on and progress. We have not got through revelation. We have not got through the work of God.”

And with that groundwork laid, both protecting the prophetic stature of earlier prophets and establishing his own authority to extend their work, President Woodruff went on to present and explain his new understanding.

I say let every man be adopted to his father; and then you will do exactly what God said when he declared He would send Elijah the prophet in the last days. Elijah the prophet appeared unto Joseph Smith and told him the day had come when this principle must be carried out. Joseph Smith did not live long enough to enter any further upon these things. His soul was wound up with this work before he was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ. He told us that there must be a welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation to another. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that was given to him. In my prayers the Lord revealed to me, that it was my duty to say to all Israel to carry this principle out, and in fulfillment of that revelation I lay it before this people. I say to all men who are laboring in these temples, carry out this principle, and then we will make one step in advance of what we have had before.

I don’t know whether anyone in 1894 was upset over the development, or whether testimonies were shaken. I suspect there probably were casualties – there have been at every change of administration, every major doctrinal development. It’s clear to me that Wilford Woodruff was aware of the potential misunderstandings. By giving his listeners the answers to their questions first – by reminding them of the gradual development of the work – before he announced his “supersed[ing] a previous prophet’s doctrinal expositions,” in kevinf’s words, he provided a careful model for future prophets and future developments.

Wilford Woodruff’s talk and the supporting talk by George Q. Cannon are both posted here for your convenience.



  1. Excellent post, Ardis.
    Thank you.

    Comment by psychochemiker — August 12, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  2. Thank you for this post!
    This is actually the first time I get to read the speech by WW on this topic. I’ve heard references to it so many times, so it’s nice to have a chance to read the whole thing now.

    Comment by Niklas — August 12, 2010 @ 7:26 am

  3. I have a copy of the Woodruff speech in my files, but until I read your post, I didn’t think to check on the status of one of my ancestors’ temple work.

    The following is lengthy, but I’ll include it because it is a case study of the change in the temple work procedures.

    My British ancestor Charles DeFriez joined the church and ended up in St George. His mother Mary Anne DeFriez came to America but his father Joseph DeFriez remained in England, much antagonistic to the church.

    Charles was sealed in 1878 to George and Ann Jarvis, a British couple he met in St George. He changed his name to Jarvis and married George and Ann’s daughter Margaret Jarvis.

    It looks like his father’s temple work was done in 1902, many years after he died and right after the mother Mary Anne died, but the family did not have Joseph and Mary Anne sealed until 1935.

    Charles DeFriez Jarvis’s biography quotes the Wilford Woodruff talk and says, “After [he heard] that, Charles expressed a doubt to some of his children, that he had done the right thing in changing his name [and being sealed to George and Ann Jarvis]” but he never bothered to change his name back or be sealed to his birth parents. I wonder if anyone in the family has ever redone the sealing. New Family Search just lists the 1878 sealing.

    Comment by Amy T — August 12, 2010 @ 8:16 am

  4. I hadn’t really understood how this practice of adoption to church leaders was actually ended, so you’ve filled in a gap for me.

    This also seems to be a step in a more egalitarian view of the gospel, the concept that being sealed to your own parents is more important than being sealed to a church president or apostle (unless, of course your father was an apostle). It predates but parallels the changing view of prayer circles from groups privately invited by stake presidents and other prominent leaders to a common part of our regular temple worship.

    I’ve got reading Wilford Woodruff’s biography by Thomas Alexander up next, and I am really looking forward to it.

    Comment by kevinf — August 12, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  5. kevinf, please post a review somewhere of Woodruff’s biography, as I am greatly interested.

    Ardis: Well written! I’ve always thought this revelation also impacted Woodruff’s understanding of the doctrine of Polygamy, but was not sure of the chronology. It seems I was mistaken as OD1 predates this by 4 years…

    Comment by Matt W. — August 12, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  6. This is a great write-up, Ardis. As you mention, I’ve spent a lot of time with this, but I don’t think we disagree. Though Brigham Young felt very convinced of his path, at least initially, he expressed the understanding that he didn’t have the whole picture. That seemed to change with time, but your overall reasoning is pretty much what I think happened as well. As a side note, both Sam’s and my papers (he is doing up to 1844 and I am doing 1844 and beyond) will be published in the summer 2011 issue of JMH. Matt, I think with the Manifesto and then this revelation, the relationships of the Saints went through a pretty radical transformation. I have only found accounts of relief and joy at the news (on adoption).

    Amy T, Jarvis is a name that comes up a couple of times in my healing research. Kristine and I use the story of Eleanor Jarvis as the introduction to the Baptism for Health article, but here is one about George:

    Brother George Jarvis was a very sick man. He had to be carried to the Temple and was laid on a pallet on the floor in the reception room. He was carried into the font, where he was baptized and confirmed for his health, and was healed, being able to walk home from the Temple. His house is a little over four blocks or over half a mile from the Temple.(M. F. Farnsworth, “Temple Manifestations,” Millennial Star, 57 (June 6, 1895): 356. [reprint from the 1894 Contributor</em)])

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 12, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  7. Thanks, Ardis. This was a great summary for a guy like me.

    Comment by Martin — August 12, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  8. Thanks for the anecdote, J.!

    I mentioned Eleanor Jarvis recently here on a post about cotton, and another Jarvis daughter-in-law was one of the women baptized for Wilford Woodruff’s Eminent Women.

    Do you know how frequently members of the church were sealed to other members who were not in the church leadership?

    Comment by Amy T — August 12, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  9. [sorry for the threadjack] Eleanor’s diary is at the UU and I have a couple autobiographic sketches if you are interested.

    While I worked with annual temple stats and individual cases, Gordon Irving did a more systematic analysis of the individual data:

    The records show that 66 percent of the living and 77 percent of the dead who were adopted were adopted to general authorities. Roughly half of those who were not adopted to general authorities were adopted either to temple officials who were not general authorities or to other prominent Church officials living in the area.

    Most of the general authorities to whom considerable numbers of persons were adopted were apostles many having also served in the first presidency. Of the seventeen apostles who died in the faith prior to 1894 fourteen had persons adopted to them. Of sixteen (including the first) presidency living in 1894 only nine were so favored while none of the four chosen between 1894 and 1900 had people adopted to them. Related to this is the fact that of those adopted to general authorities 60 percent of the living and 68 percent of the dead persons were adopted to deceased general authorities. (“The Law of Adoption,” 309.)

    I would just add that there were no adoptions or child to parent sealings performed from 1847 to 1877, so the data would be rather skewed. Moreover, from 1890 to 1894, adoption began to be debated in the higher quorums. Also from the accounts that I have accumulated, it looks like those prominent families were often first adopted to a GA, then they accepted adoptions.

    I would

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 12, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  10. My 2nd great grandfather, Samuel Whitney Richards, had his father-in-law John Parker Sr adopted to him, at John Parker’s request. I always thought that was a bit strange. I enjoyed reading more on the early adoption process.

    Comment by Maurine — August 12, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  11. Ardis,

    This is an interesting thought and I quite like it. This could help explain something about this speech which has always puzzled me. In your link where you post the whole speech it has this passage:

    We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. * * * This is the will of the Lord to his people, and I think when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be true.

    I have previously read a version in which the * * * had additional content. I have it at home, not here at work, but it said something like: “…run this chain through as far as you can get it and then have that last person sealed to Joseph Smith. I have always wondered what the basis of that idea of sealing the last person to Joseph Smith was and what ever became of that directive. As I read this post it seems that this could be seen as a softening of the change as well, a sort of middle ground where they would keep the old practice in some sense even while he changed it.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 12, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  12. Jacob, that would be interesting. The only place I have ever found the text of this talk was in the Genealogical Magazine as cited, with the old fashioned *** ellipses as shown. I’ve wondered what was cut out, and why.

    “Sealing to Joseph” would negate the run-the-line-back-to-Adam logic, as well as the hope expressed in the talk that we’d be able to run our lines back to someone who had held the priesthood in a previous dispensation. But as you say, it could also be seen as a softening of the change. I really need to find an authoritative source for the original text, perhaps from your version, if you can find it easily enough.

    After a few decades of watching the laziness and sloppiness of human nature even in such an important work as identifying the dead and completing their temple ordinances, I have no doubt how a directive such as you outline would have worked out in practical terms: The vast majority of Latter-day Saints would have invested 45 minutes, maybe written one letter, and traced their pedigree for two generations. Then they would have thrown their hands up, saying “That’s it. That’s as far as I can go. Time to seal Grandpa to Joseph.”

    Someone must have thought better of that fairly quickly (before it was published in the Genealogical Magazine). I’d love to know who, when and why.

    Thanks. You’re pushing me to continue the search for a complete transcription.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 12, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  13. I get into this a bit in the paper. The full transcripts are available in:

    Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon, “The Law of Adoption,” Deseret Weekly, April 21, 1894, 541-5


    Collected Discourses, 4:67-75

    The DNews version is available in google books.

    You’ll find that the Church sources always cite the Genealogical Magazine because of the ellipses.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 12, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

  14. Here is the google books Deseret Weekly link. It is also available at the Utah Digital Newspapers archives.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 12, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  15. Thanks J, that’s got the full version:

    Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. When you get to the end, let the last man be adopted to Joseph Smith, who stands at the head of the dispensation. This is the will of the Lord to this people, and I think when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be true.

    The patriarchal priesthood (and adoption is intimately connected with that doctrine) put a big stress on dispensation heads and you can see that coming through in the quote above. But it always seemed impractical for the reason you said, Ardis, of sealing Grandpa to Joseph Smith as well as the problem of the person who was successful in their genealogical hunt who would now be sealing someone, say, from the 1500s to Joseph Smith as the head of a dispensation they were not a part of. Either one seems odd, so this was something I puzzled over when I was studying adoption a decade or so ago. Your post gave me an idea for a new possible solution which I really liked.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 12, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

  16. Thanks so much for this write-up. Interesting stuff.

    Comment by Michelle — August 13, 2010 @ 3:02 am

  17. I get the point you are making, but must admit that I think you paint to broad of a stroke. The example you raise will explain one occurrence of why doctrine changes from prophet to prophet, but it can’t explain the hundreds/thousands of other examples.

    1st. I have have a hard time understanding why this young prophet who was visited countless times by angles, beings, and God himself would not get this one right the 1st time. Look at the revelations in the D&C where it is specific instructions from the Lord about where a missionary is to go, how to get there, what to do once he gets there.

    2nd. It doesn’t take into account the numerous changes in doctrine that can not be explained by mis-understanding of prior prophets. Recent temple changes and the huge temple changes in 1990 are good examples.

    I do think you raise a very good example, but I don’t think it holds water. Your point about 38 years vs thousands of years is a great example. These older prophets did not have a magic elixir to grant them long life. I think if you study this, it will be explained in a “As far as it is translated correctly” status, thus throwing more water on Pres Woodruff theory.

    I think you are experiencing confirmation bias and a bit of cognitive dissonance in your reasoning. As a researcher, I would ask you to consider those as reasons you will grasp for any logical answer that confirms what your brain is screaming at you to reject.

    Comment by Found at Last — August 13, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  18. I am in receipt of a lengthy comment from an unknown person who is dissatisfied with this post and with Mormonism generally, it would appear. His or her reasons for dissatisfaction are unclear — something about magic elixirs, and throwing water at President Woodruff, and about God himself not getting it right the first time, or something. S/he believes s/he has a crystal ball that can see into my brain, which is apparently screaming at me to reject Mormonism. Or something.

    This is as good a time as any to remind first-time would-be commenters that Keepa has a comment policy, which you may read by clicking the “About” link at the top left-hand corner of the page. Attempted comments contrary to this policy will sometimes be left for my amusement in the spam filter where the commenter — but no one else — can see them. My brain is indeed screaming at me to reject something, but that something is this foolish comment, not Mormonism.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 13, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  19. If Ardis’ supposition is correct (in the OP) I find it curious that WW tried so hard to “soften the blow” of modifying the law of adoption, when I think ending the practice of polygamy was such a much more radical change.

    OTOH, maybe the lack of unanimous support for OD1 was the motivation to so carefully lay the groundwork in this 1984 talk.

    In any case, great post and comments. I enjoyed reading it immensely.

    Comment by Clark — August 13, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  20. Clark, the polygamy change was big, but the motivation was obvious when you had the leadership in hiding and people being arrested. I think the dynamic of that change was very different for that reason. The passages about what Joseph accomplished which Ardis points to in the OP are quite striking and seem (to me) to be well explained by the her suggestion.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 13, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  21. I don’t think Woodruff was trying to soften the blow at all. The reason he thought the new system would work was because, “There will be very few, if any, who will not accept the Gospel.” This was coupled with the new belief introduced with the revelation that God would not let injustice stand and everything would work out. The Chain still needed to be complete. BY solved the problem by saying that there wouldn’t by much child-to-parent sealings/adoptions beyond active church members until the Millennium. He basically said, the chain won’t be complete until then, and while we wait, lets focus on links we know are viable.

    It took a couple of decades for the Justice of God idea to overcome all other concerns, but it grew to be, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest driver of popular and institutional belief and policy with regard to our relationships.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 13, 2010 @ 11:28 am

  22. I agree — I don’t think it was a matter of softening a blow in the sense of making a change that the people didn’t want and wouldn’t support, but rather softening the potential disorientation that could result from wondering who was right, Joseph or Wilford? This explanation given by President Woodruff let people understand that Joseph wasn’t wrong, just incomplete, and that President Woodruff wasn’t challenging Joseph’s stature as a prophet, only extending the scope of Joseph’s work.

    I think we might have a little more unanimity in the Church today on race issues if there had a been a bit more Woodruff-style explanation given in 1978. As it is, some in the Church believe that OD-2 represents a development in correct, revealed priesthood policy (that is, that God has gradually extended the families to whom he gives the priesthood), while others believe it represents the overturning of a false practice and incorrect interpretation that should never have been present in the Church in the first place. (Please, let’s not argue the merits of either position here; it’s just another illustration of a major change in Church doctrine and practice where the method of announcement possibly shaped its reception by Church members.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 13, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  23. Ardis, the priesthood ban was on my mind when I made the comment over at BCC, but didn’t want to interject it here necessarily right off the bat. I agree that a little more explanation may have helped some and reduced a lot of the continued misunderstandings about the ban.

    I suspect that there were two elements at play at the time of the 1978 announcement. One was that this indeed was a major revision of policy that would be seen as a change in doctrine by many, and that by not saying that previous prophets were working from incomplete information, lack of definitive revelation, or were just plain wrong would potentially have been more difficult in the short run. Not to mention that everyone was still getting their heads wrapped around a lot of the recent research on the ban.

    The other was that it appears the sheer magnitude of the revelatory outpouring that the First Presidency and the Apostles that were there experienced was unlike anything that they had ever witnessed before. The positive emotions may have made it a little more difficult to apply purely rational thought to how the whole thing should be announced. Both in the short turn and the long run, the effects of “superseding” previous prophets on this topic were viewed to be nothing but good news, and a lot of other explanation at the time would only raise questions that they felt they might not be able to answer easily.

    Obviously, that’s my own conjecture, but it makes some sense to me.

    Comment by kevinf — August 13, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

  24. “something about magic elixirs, and throwing water at President Woodruff, and about God himself not getting it right the first time, or something. S/he believes s/he has a crystal ball that can see into my brain, which is apparently screaming at me to reject Mormonism. Or something.”

    Wow… talk about putting words in my mouth that I didn’t even come close to saying.

    For the record, I’m an early morning seminary teacher. Hold a current recommend and have been around for quite a long time. I disagree with your evaluation and how you apply it to all church doctrine that follows this one example.

    The D&C is full of detailed revelations that clearly showed Joseph speaking for the Lord. If the Lord could speak to Joseph so abundantly and specifically about about small matters, how is it that he would be so vague and confusing regarding the major doctrines of the church? Why would the temple ordinances require so many revisions? Why would key and essential doctrines such as polygamy and the idea that man can become like God be introduced only to be abandoned a century later?

    I see a bunch of your readers accepting this as an explanation for many things in the gospel, when I don’t even think it is an answer for one thing, much less many things.

    Also, it is amazing how you can take an different point of view and completely make up lies about what I posted. Wow.. You don’t have to post this, but your blog loses credibility by your dishonesty. “magic elixirs, and throwing water at President Woodruff, and about God himself not getting it right the first time,” Your words, not mine.

    Comment by Found at Last — August 13, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  25. I think part of the reason Woodruff’s approach was so successful was that 1) everybody was confused by the older practices and 2) No one had invested in defending it. There were essentially no efforts to popularly explain it. Woodruff and Cannon’s narrative (it was actually Cannon that first brought up the parallel to Baptism for the Dead in earlier meetings) therefor had everything to win and not much at all to lose.

    Now compare that to either polygamy or the priesthood restriction and it is a very different prospect. Church leaders had invested a lot of institutional capital to maintain the position with emphatic statements, little confusion, and wide understanding.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 13, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  26. So … my whim is to post Found at Last’s comments (17 and 24) after all, in hopes somebody else can make sense of the words of one who claims to be a seminary teacher yet doesn’t seem to have heard of the concept of line upon line, precept on precept.

    What do you propose as the answer to your questions, Found at Last? Come on, be blunt. For the record.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 13, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  27. I think Found at Last has found a coherency FAIL. Besides the cowardice of anonymous (albeit incoherent) critique, I find what I can understand of it to be reductionist hooey. Unfortunately, it appears that service as an early Mormon seminary teacher isn’t prophylactic against such things.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 13, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  28. You’re asking me to tell you how I really feel??

    I must say, I’m totally impressed by the fact that you went ahead and posted my responses to your post. I was a bit unsurprised, but you bought back some cred points by going ahead and posting my responses. Good on ya.

    “claims to be a seminary teacher”
    Yup. Done that. Early morning for 5 years now. I totally get line upon line and precept upon precept, but am amazed at how we apply it to some doctrines, teachings, history tidbits and then ignore it on other important areas.

    Personally, I’m in favor of consistency of thought and logic. It was to your original point and the purpose of this thread. That if we were to learn from Pres Woodruff teaching us new doctrines about something from 50 years earlier, than and 3 prophets later than we need to see if that concept of learning can be applied in other areas of the gospel. It is in that area that it starts to fall apart.

    As members, we have an amazing amount of faith, but we also need to realize when we are looking for parallels that do not exist. We are so convinced that we have “The Truth”, that we are willing to use any plausible reason to justify the final. Even if it doesn’t make sense. This, in my humble opinion (if a seminary teacher can be humble) is something that we should not do.

    I just did stumble upon your blog and I’m 100% a newbie here. Thanks for letting me disagree with you. We are all part of the greater whole and don’t have to agree. See ya on Sunday!

    Comment by Found at Last — August 13, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

  29. I’m always a bit confused by dangling modifiers, and I’m not sure if Found at Last’s “As a researcher, I . . . ” means what the sentence means in English–that Found at Last is a researcher, or if he or she meant “As a researcher, you . . .”

    Whichever is the case, we already have one Researcher here, and it could get awfully confusing to start calling others that. : )

    As to “line upon line, precept upon precept” I would add the apostle’s “now we see through a glass darkly” and just for good measure throw in some general commentary on the way in which revelation is received–in response to questions and after studying it out in your mind, usw.

    I’m not even going to make a snarky comment about visitations by Angles–next it’ll be ancient Picts and Saxons and, who knows, Leif Ericson himself.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 13, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  30. I thought about saying something in response to Found at Last, but upon a second reading, I am not quite sure what the concern is.

    But I can make two points here that may be worth noting.

    First, think of a blog as a conversation between friends. Entering a conversation with fists flying (metaphorically speaking) would probably result in everyone involved in the conversation turning to look at you with disbelief, and perhaps asking you to leave. It’s much politer to introduce yourself and get acquainted with the people involved in the conversation, making comments from time to time, and ask (polite!) questions as necessary. It’s always nice to see new faces and hear new opinions!

    Second, I don’t know if I’ve ever disagreed with Ardis in any substantial way, but to know that there is a professional historian working as intimately with the source material of the church as she does, and that she is still a practicing, believing member of the church and has not lost sight of the divinity of the work, is a valuable thing.

    Comment by Amy T — August 13, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  31. When I invited you to explain, and to be blunt, Brother Found, I was asking you to clarify whether the intent of your questions was to say that Joseph wasn’t really a prophet or he would have gotten it right the first time, or to say that Wilford Woodruff and other more recent church presidents were not prophets because Joseph got it right and they departed from his path. Your undiagrammable sentence structure, as Mark B. points out, makes your intended meaning impossible to decipher.

    So who’s the false prophet? Or is it just me?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 13, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

  32. Re comments 20 and 21, thanks, just wanted to let you know that I read them.

    Also, in comment 19, it should be 1884, not a century later. Sorry for the late correction…

    Comment by Clark — August 13, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  33. Found at Last, your last comment will not be posted. You don’t answer the questions put to you, you use words that are too big for you to use correctly, and you continue to violate comment policy in the second worst possible way, in my view, by implying that one or more unspecified presidents of the Church were/are fallen, failed, uninspired, or otherwise false prophets.

    As for having visited my Elders Quorum one Sunday, I’m stumped. Was it the week I taught, the week I was sustained as president, or the week I blessed the Sacrament in the absence of the priests? Or if you meant (it’s impossible to sort out the garble) that you were visiting this coming Sunday, do introduce yourself, please. You’ll recognize me as the only Elders Quorum member wearing a dress.

    Bye-bye, and heaven bless the seminary students in your ward.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 13, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  34. Post 6 & 8 mention Eleanor Jarvis. I am looking for stories about St. George Jarvises of that generation to add to the Jarvis Family Association web site, Any pointers to sources of information will be appreciated.

    Mark Jarvis

    Comment by Mark Jarvis — August 29, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  35. I had reason to reread this comment thread today, and on a whim I Googled the email address left by “Found at Last.” That very quickly led to his identity, not as a Latter-day Saint, but as an Evangelical Protestant leader of a Christian Youth Theater group in the Northwest. He misrepresented himself either by claiming to be LDS at all, or by neglecting to mention that he was no longer LDS.


    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2013 @ 5:54 am

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