Bearing False Witness?

Bearing False Witness? – On Obscuring the Earthly Source of Temporal Resources, and on Seeking Our Own Spiritual Riches Rather Than Co-Opting Someone Else’s 

By Ken K. Gourdin

A couple of instances have me wondering what people must be thinking when they obfuscate so that something “of good report or praiseworthy” (see Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1:13, available here and last accessed May 24, 2014: they wish to promulgate cannot be traced back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In one case, a non-LDS (presumably Christian) group relabeled goods which the Church of Jesus Christ provided in the course of aiding victims of Hurricane Katrina.  My thread at Mormon Dialogue & Discussion about the incident is here: (last accessed May 24, 2014).  The Salt Lake Tribune article about the new Central Storehouse for humanitarian aid goods, in which the relabeling incident is discussed, is here: (last accessed today).

And in the other case, someone (presumably a non-LDS Christian) removed specifically-Mormon details from a story told by a father of his toddler son’s visit to the afterlife after the son was injured (and died clinically) when a garage door closed on his chest.  The Snopes account of this incident and its retellings is available here (last accessed May 24, 2014):    My thread about this is here (last accessed January 25, 2014):

With respect to the instance of food relabeling, I ran across an old thread I started at Mormon Dialogue & Discussion in March 2012.  A non-Mormon (presumably Christian) group had relabeled food originally produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so as to obscure its origins before distributing it to those who sought aid from the group.  (Personally, I think that’s hilarious – seriously!)

Upon learning of the relabeling, an indignant LDS sister missionary providing assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina called the Church’s Humanitarian Aid office in Salt Lake.  Manager of the Church’s Central Storehouse, Richard Humpherys, took the call.  When she explained the situation to him, Humpherys asked, “What’s the problem [meaning, what’s the overriding problem you’re there trying to solve]?”  She replied, “People are hungry.”  He said, “Exactly”—meaning, it doesn’t matter that people don’t know where the food really comes from; the only thing that matters is that it satisfies their needs.

Another poster pointed out that federal law requires that labels be affixed indicating where the food came from.  To another poster, who claimed I was advocating the position that any good the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does needs to be trumpeted as loudly as possible from every rooftop, I responded that I believe the Savior’s admonition that those doing good works should avoid doing them simply to be seen of men, but I also believe in avoiding bearing false witness.  (And, while I didn’t point this out in my response, I also believe in “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s” by obeying both divine and mortal law, including truth-in-labeling laws, whenever possible.)

Imagining what might have happened if the relabeling had simply involved placing a new label over the one originally affixed by the Church of Jesus Christ, and if someone had chanced to find the original label, I wondered (tongue-in-cheek, of course) if someone making such a (horrid!) discovery might have said, “Quick, Honey!  Load the kids up in the car!  We need to go to the hospital so we can all have our stomachs pumped!  We just ate some [Gasp!] . . . Mormon peaches!”  When another poster suggested that perhaps the Church of Jesus Christ itself ought to relabel the goods, I suggested (again, with tongue firmly planted in cheek) a label reading “This nourishment brought to you by a Devil-worshiping, soul-destroying Cult!  Bon apetit!”  Then later, I added, “Or, if you prefer, you could always fast!

To those who suggested that perhaps it would have been in the best interest of the Church of Jesus Christ to initiate litigation (or even to file a criminal complaint) against the group responsible for the relabeling, I responded that such action was unlikely to serve the Church’s best interest: the group which relabeled the food already was ill-disposed enough against the Church that it went to great lengths to obscure the true source of the relief goods it distributed, and filing suit (or filing a  criminal complaint) wouldn’t change that.  Indeed, it likely would have the opposite effect, causing people who already were ill-disposed toward the Church to harden in their views and ensuring that even if the Church won the legal battle, it would lose the public relations war, at least partly by being seen as Goliath in a David-and-Goliath situation.

Then, of course, there is the account of the young boy, Brian, his encounters with angels, and his visits to the interior of LDS Temples, which occurred when Brian’s spirit temporarily left his body and he was escorted on that journey by angels.  Please forgive a lengthy background explanation, which I believe is integral to an uninitiated reader’s understanding of Brian’s story.  As Latter-day Saints, we believe that God joins (“seals,” “sealed,” and “sealing” are the terms we use) families together, not just “until death do us part,” but “for time and for all eternity.”  Many people believe an interpretation of Matthew 22:23-30 (and analogous synoptic accounts) that precludes this opportunity.  While many others believe, in contrast, that, such unions endure beyond the grave notwithstanding the seeming finality of the former phrase and of the interpretation of the scripture mentioned above, to the best of my knowledge, Latter-day Saints are the only ones who practice an explicit rite joining couples and families together forever (both in mortality, for those who have the opportunity to have these ordinances performed for themselves in this life, and by proxy for those who have passed on before receiving such an opportunity).  For one view as to why the scripture in Matthew 22 does not preclude sealing by proxy of families whose members have passed on, see here (last accessed today):

Latter-day Saints believe that Christ meant what He said when He told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5).  We also believe that while authorized baptism and bestowal of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, for example, are earthly ordinances, they, too, can be performed by proxy in Temples for those who did not have an opportunity to receive them in this life.  We believe that Paul meant what he said when he spoke to the Corinthians of baptism for the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:29).  We believe also believe that Paul performed a necessary ordinance when he conferred the Holy Ghost on “certain disciples [at] Ephesus” (see Acts 19: 1-6), and that Peter meant what he said when he spoke of Christ preaching to the spirits of those who died without the Gospel (see 1 Peter 3:18-20).  We also believe that receiving all of these ordinances is part of what Peter meant when he spoke of the spirits of the deceased being “judged according to men in the flesh, but liv[ing] according to God in the Spirit” (1 Peter 4:6).

In short, it makes no sense to me (nor, I believe, to most all believing Latter-day Saints) for a loving, just, and merciful God to say that certain ordinances and opportunities are necessary and available to those who have departed this life (e.g., baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost), while other ordinances and opportunities (e.g., marriage which continues after death) are not.  Through his experience in the spirit world following his temporary departure from this life after his accident, Brian learned this firsthand.

The overriding question I had after reading Brian’s account (along with its “watered-down” versions, from which the details unique to a Latter-day Saint understanding of the afterlife [and of the role of Temples in that understanding] has been removed) is, Why is there apparently such a poverty of spiritual experience and encounters with the divine in the lives of those who altered this account that they couldn’t use one of their own (or one from someone who shares their religious convictions), and had to co-opt an account from a Latter-day Saint, instead?

One poster (an Evangelical whom I respect tremendously, as I hope can be seen from the cordial tone of the thread) theorized that perhaps a Latter-day Saint, wanting to extend the appeal of this account to a general Christian audience, removed those details in a later recounting.  I replied that most Latter-day Saints would see such details as fundamental to the account.  There are plenty of accounts of near-death experiences and encounters with the divine that, for whatever reason, lack details specific to LDS belief.  Why not use one of those accounts instead of fundamentally altering an account that originally contained explicitly LDS details?  I could be reading too much into the apparent co-opting and dilution of this account, but perhaps such co-opting and dilution speaks, sadly, to a certain poverty of one’s own spiritual experience.

And what of accounts of encounters with the afterlife and with the divine that don’t square with Latter-day Saint belief in some (or in many) particulars?  Stephen R. Covey once said that “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”  We each bring our own past experiences, unique perceptions and perspectives, and perhaps our prejudices, to bear on anything we experience in the present.  It stands to reason that if we don’t see even the present as it is, it is that much more challenging to see things that are even more opaque (such as the past or the future) as they are.  This is true of everyone, regardless of the faith path he follows.  As Paul put it, we all “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  Latter-day Saints are counseled to exercise great care in sharing encounters they have with the divine with others.  Part of the reason for this is because attempting to reduce an experience which transcends words to human language may change that experience fundamentally, and may limit it in the minds of listeners in ways that its teller does not intend.  Brian experienced this in a way, when he had difficulty finding the words in his limited vocabulary to share what had happened to him.

Perhaps part of the answer for why details differ can be found in sources which Latter-day Saints revere as holy writ.  In one such account, a former apostate and agitator against the Lord’s people, Alma, is miraculously converted, and then desires to cry repentance with angelic zeal.  After expressing that desire, he says, “[But] behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true” (Alma 29:8 in The Book of Mormon).  Latter-day Saints believe that Christ visited the American Continent following His resurrection and preached the Gospel here, just as He had done in the Old World.  At one point, He tells the people during that visit, “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time” (3 Nephi 17:2 in The Book of Mormon).

In any event, as I’ve said elsewhere on the Blog, I don’t believe God gives me bread, fish, and fruit when I ask for spiritual sustenance while giving my non-Mormon brothers and sisters stones, serpents, thorns, and thistles  (see Matthew 7:7-11, 16-20).  Bread is bread, fish is fish, and fruit is fruit – period.  He gives all of us “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30 in The Book of Mormon).  To sum up, as I said in the thread about Brian’s experience, here’s to all of us seeking and obtaining our own experience with the divine.


About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bearing False Witness?


    Did the apostle Paul validate the practice of being baptized for the dead?

    1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (NKJV)

    What did the apostle mean when he said baptized for the dead? I do not know what he meant. I do know what he was not saying. Paul was not implying that people can be baptized by proxy after they have died.

    If dead men can be baptized by proxy, then other facts must be evident.
    1. You could believe for the dead. The dead could believe Jesus was the Messiah by proxy.
    2. You could repent for the dead. The dead turn from their unbelief and make the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God by proxy.
    3. You could confess for the dead. The dead could confess that God raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus was the Son of God by proxy.

    If the dead can be baptized by proxy.
    1. Then unbelieving living infants can be baptized by proxy.
    2. Then atheists who are alive can be baptized by proxy.
    3. Then those who are living, but who reject baptism for forgiveness from sin can be baptized by proxy.

    The truth is only those who are alive, those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, those who repent, and those who are immersed in water can be saved.


    The dead cannot meet the terms for pardon. Only living adults have that option.


  2. kenngo1969 says:

    Mr. Finnell:

    Alas, It’s a pity I’m barred from posting on your blog because you apparently prefer an echo chamber where your own thoughts and opinions are parroted back to you. Otherwise, I would have been happy to post this on your blog, since the odds of your returning here are virtually nil. Be that as it may, lest anyone think I believe you have successfully refuted anything I had to say in the original post in your reply, here is my response to you:

    If you don’t know what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke of baptism for the dead, how can you know what he didn’t mean? Also, you haven’t provided any evidence for your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. You’ve merely asserted, even though Paul’s terms are plain and unambiguous, that he simply can’t mean what that plain, unambiguous language actually says. And I don’t see how your other assertions logically and necessarily follow from this particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29:

    1. I have no need to believe for the dead. As spirits, they retain the sentience and free will to make
    their own choice to believe, or not. See 1 Peter 4:6.
    2. I have no need to repent for the dead. As with belief, they retain the sentience and free will to make their own choice to repent, or not, and so can repent for themselves.
    3. I have no need to confess for the dead. They will confess for themselves. Like you, I believe the scripture, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (see, e.g., Philippians 2:10-11).

    And again, I don’t know how your additional assertions logically and necessarily follow from the premise of 1 Corinthians 15:29:

    1. You may disagree with the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29 proffered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that interpretation doesn’t necessitate infant baptism, which the doctrine of the Church strongly rejects. See Moroni 8:10-21 in The Book of Mormon, available here:
    2. Again, you may disagree with the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29 proffered by the Church of Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t necessitate baptism of living atheists by proxy. They have free will and can choose to reject their atheism and choose to accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, or not.
    3. Those who reject the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ have exercised their free will in doing so. I’ll let God worry about the welfare of their immortal souls and any of the choices they make, whether those choices are made as a mortal or as a spirit.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with what you call the terms for pardon in John 3:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9, and Mark 16:16, but you offer no evidence for your assertion that only the living can meet those terms. Thus, we’re back to what you said in the beginning: “I don’t know what Paul meant”—even though what he said was clear and unambiguous—yet somehow, you know what he didn’t mean.

    We’re obviously not the first two people to disagree with respect to the interpretation of Scripture. Any disagreement notwithstanding, I wish you well. I hope you (continue to) have a very Happy Holiday

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s