Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Foundations of Faith: Treasures from the Historical Collections of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

It is Tuesday, September 2, 2014. I came to the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to look at a copy of Personal Writings of Joseph Smith.

The inside doors were closed because guests were visiting, and I was requested to return at 1:30pm.

To my surprise a new exhibit was on display, and members of the general authorities had been the visitors. The entire First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ and most of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to launch the exhibit. Relief Society leaders came in an hour or so later.

The Brethren seemed to be enjoying the visit, lingering about the treasures. When the doors opened about 1:40, I went to find my book. But I couldn't resist peeking at the treasures fitted into little black cases tucked up against the far wall. Drawing near to one, lights came on in a flash--treasures!

Because I was first in, I might as well jump a review of Foundations of Faith. The press comes tomorrow, and Friday marks the official opening, but I have a few thoughts of my own I wish to share.

To select from the vast archives but a very few treasures clarifies the matters of deepest import to every member of the Restored Church: the Foundations of Faith. Copies of translations of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, at the end of the exhibit, suggest how Latter-day Saints may continue to build on those firm footings.

Most lovely of all seems to me the battered 1832 record book of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Here, in bold character, written partly in Brother Joseph's own hand, we glimpse the first record of the Visitation of God--"I am the Lord of Glory"--of Moroni declaring the coming forth of new scripture, and of other heavenly messengers restoring priesthood authority. I had seen the book before. Here it is again!

Next comes a page written in the hand of Oliver Cowdery: the dictated Book of Nephi, translated from the golden plates by the "sight and power" of God.

I found printing plates for the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham. I had seen these before, along with a papyrus showing Min's Daughter tete-a-tete with a strolling snake (Oh the glory!) in a prior, untrumpeted exhibit. I saw a copy of Elder Franklin D. Richards' first edition (1851) of what he called the Pearl of Great Price. The booklet was opened to Abraham Chapter 3; facing, was a large unfolded page with the hypocephalus and its Explanation: A Fac-simile from the Book of Abraham. No. 2. Franklin Dewey Richards is my lineal ancestor, and I rejoice at his love for the translations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In his last doctrinal discourse, June 16, 1844, Joseph Smith quoted from Abraham Chapter 3 and said he got it "by translating the papyrus now in my house."

The exhibit booklet also prominently features Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, and states:

"The Pearl of Great Price was canonized by unanimous vote at the general conference on October 10, 1880."

It continues as Scripture today.

The exhibit will last five years. After these expire, the Book of Abraham, including Joseph Smith's inspired Explanation of Facsimile 2, will still be "canonized" by The Church of Jesus Christ.

Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, life-size both in plate and print as a big bold circle, stands forever as one of the Treasures of The Church of Jesus Christ. Its accompanying Explanation is inspired Translation, and is Scripture.

I am put in mind of the last book of Hugh Nibley (posthumously completed by Michael Rhodes).

One Eternal Round opens with a question: The Fatal Mistake?

"From time to time various critics of the Prophet Joseph have triumphantly announced the discovery of his most egregious blunder. All proclaim that the supreme indiscretion of Smith was the publication of three Egyptian documents, Facsimiles 1, 2, and 3 of the Book of Abraham, along with his own supposedly inspired interpretation of them. Even more daring, though attracting less attention, was the accompanying autobiography of Abraham to which the facsimiles were illustrations. And yet every one of these attempts to discredit the Prophet has struck out."

Hugh Nibley calls, one by one, the three strikes of 1860, 1912, and 1967. While much criticism, both triumphantly announced and supremely proclaimed, continues in 2014, it but repeats the previous attacks, especially that of 1967. That last attack "was supposed to deliver the fatal blow to the Book of Abraham. Instead, it opened astonishing paths of research that vindicate its authenticity," One Eternal Round, 2.

The exhibit, officially opening Friday to the public and free of cost, affirms the foundational claims of The Church of Jesus Christ. Online videos about the exhibit and the history of the Church will also be available starting Friday.

As Robert Frost says: "You come too."

After reviewing both treasures and booklet--and I leave the visitor to discover the specifics--I come to one conclusion: the following true points of doctrine lie at the heart of the Restoration forever:

Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in 1820.

Moroni came to Joseph Smith as a messenger of restoration and further witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Divine messengers restored priesthood authority so that saving ordinances might be shared with all who have faith unto repentance through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon is the Word of God, and many translations of this additional Testament of Jesus Christ flood the earth today

The Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelations of Christ to Joseph Smith and his prophetic successors.

Joseph and Hyrum Smith were unjustly and unlawfully persecuted and put to death for "telling the truth": bearing testimony of Jesus Christ and proclaiming His Word.

The Pearl of Great Price teaches the Father's Plan of Happiness and testifies of Jesus Christ as Creator and foreordained Redeemer of all mankind.

Abraham, Enoch, Adam, and Moses were ancient prophets who saw Jesus face-to-face. From Him they received essential and saving truths about the creation and organization of the earth and other heavenly places in Christ Jesus as the Eternal Home of the Father's spirit sons and daughters. These prophets taught their posterity about the universal Creator and His "worlds without number."

The Book of Abraham, written in Egypt on papyrus, is true--a "correct translation" says Joseph Smith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will never back away from that eternal truth.

Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ teach and warn today as anciently (Elders Franklin D. Richards, Parley P. Pratt, and Wilford Woodruff, later President of the Church, are examples).

The Relief Society is an order or organization set up under prophetic direction and operating with priesthood authority.

Brigham Young held the keys of the priesthood after the death of Joseph Smith, and was a prophet of God and apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson, prophet and apostle, holds and exercises the same priesthood keys in our day.

I so testify by the power of the Holy Ghost.

2 September 2014
Church History Library