Monday, June 27, 2011

Is Mormonism a Cult? A Stake President Responds

A student named Alethea contacted me saying she was studying cults and wanted to write a page about Mormonism in her report.  I was quite taken back until she clarified that she didn’t know whether our religion had cultish traits or not and simply wanted to meet with a leader to get clarification.  I invited her to meet with me personally explaining that while I don’t speak for the church as a whole, I would be happy to attempt to answer her questions as accurately as I knew how. 

She emailed me this link ahead of the interview saying that it listed the common characteristics of cults and that her questions would be based thereon:

For those not wishing to click on the link, here are the first few characteristics mentioned on the site:
  1. The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
  2. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  3. The group is preoccupied with making money.
  4. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished………….etc
Alethea also told me in that email that most people in cults (including many who are very intelligent) don’t realize it and would think the idea absurd. She said that people who join cults gradually lose their free-agency to conformity.  (Thankfully this is not something that we see at all in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). 

When Alethea arrived at my home I offered to get something for her to drink and she asked for a cup of coffee.  I said that coffee was not permitted in Mormonism as part of our health code which greatly intrigued her. Our conversation went something like this:

Alethea: So if a Mormon were to drink coffee would there be a punishment attached?

Bill: Well they wouldn’t be allowed to hold a recommend which allows members access to the most sacred places on the earth, our temples.  Also certain positions in the church require one to have this recommend as a basic show of worthiness; so someone who partakes would be relieved of that position. 

Alethea: ….and this is all for just drinking an occasional cup of coffee? You know rigid rules and regulations are mentioned on the site I emailed you as common characteristic found in cults.

Bill: Obedience is a very important principle Alethea.  We follow this and many other teachings given to us by our leaders.

Alethea: I understand; may I have a cup of tea instead then?

Bill: Well the thing is Alethea, we don’t drink tea either.

Alethea: Oh. Well to be honest I’ll be just fine with my bottle of water, assuming that is permitted?

Bill: Of course. 

Alethea: Bill you mentioned obedience to leaders earlier which leads me to a question I had in mind to ask you. As per the website I sent you cult leaders often claim new revelation from God and that they, alone, speak for God. Is this the case in Mormonism?

Bill: Keep in mind that the adversary mimics God in many ways Alethea. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the face of the earth according to our holy scriptures.  New revelations from God with regards to mankind as a whole come only through our prophet.

Alethea: I see.  Bill please tell me a little bit about the person who leads the Mormon religion. Would you say that Mormons are focused on a living leader to whom they display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment? 

Bill: We are not excessive at all towards our leader Thomas S. Monson, but we do accept him as a prophet of God. In fact we raise our hands to sustain him several times a year (General Conferences, Stake conferences, Ward Conferences, and this is confirmed in temple recommend interviews etc) as a prophet seer and revelator and as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all the priesthood keys necessary for the salvation of mankind.

Alethea: I see.  Are members expected to obey his counsel?

Bill: Absolutely.  Apostle Robert D. Hales in his 2010 General Conference talk entitled ‘Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life’ asked the following question:
My brothers and sisters, are we hearkening with exactness to the voice of the Lord and His prophets?

Alethea: And how do members in general feel about this prophet?

Bill: We love him dearly. A favourite hymn of mine that we often sing has these words “We thank thee O God for a prophet to guide us in these latter days….”

Alethea: So Mormons sing this song of worship regularly?

Bill: We do indeed.

Alethea: If ever the group or the leader is criticized or questioned is this characterized as "persecution" Bill?

Bill: It is. And we are very used to this sort of persecution. 

Alethea: Calling it persecution is a common trait mentioned on the website I sent you, but let’s move on to another subject. We have found that cults have a preoccupation with bringing in new members.

Bill: Well I wouldn’t call it a preoccupation so much as I would call it a duty. Every member is a missionary and is encouraged to talk to his friends and neighbours about the church Alethea.  We encourage all families to have a mission plan where they plan how many people they will invite to church. In addition our young men consider it an honour as priesthood holders to serve the Lord full time for two years throughout the world as missionaries.
Alethea: Yes I have encountered these young men from time to time! Another cultish trait we find is that groups are preoccupied with making money. How does your church finance its operations?

Bill: Well we are certainly not preoccupied with money in our church.  The Lord doesn’t require our money, just our faith. 

Alethea: Well that’s good. Most cults withhold certain privileges to people who aren’t willing to fund the operation.

Bill: That’s terrible. Our faithful members willingly obey the law of tithing paying 10% of their incomes to the Lord.  They also have the option of giving even more money to assist other inspired church programs.

Alethea: That is wonderful Bill.  May I ask if this 10% is mandatory or in other words are there any punishments to not paying for example?

Bill: Oh it is definitely not mandatory, but members who don’t pay simply don’t get the same blessings as those who do.

Alethea: What sort of blessings?

Bill: Well God promises blessings to the obedient Alethea.  Plus access to our temples and the holding of certain leadership positions require members to pay this tithing.

Alethea: What if someone feels like they can't quite afford 10% and they 'only' give 9% of their income to the Mormon church - would they be able to hold leadership positions and enter the temples?

Bill: I have never come across this specific situation but the answer is no; the Lord requires us to have the faith to pay a full tithe Alethea.

Alethea: So can I write down that someone who doesn’t pay 10% of their income to the Mormon Church cannot hold certain positions and cannot attend the most holy places? And can I accurately add that this would affect their standing within the community?

Bill: Well, yes if you want to put it that way.

Alethea: Well how would you put it Bill?

Bill: Those who do not pay tithing are welcome in the church but do not enjoy all the blessings the Lord would give unto them.

Alethea: I see. Another thing I wanted to ask you about is that as per the link I sent you “no cult wants its inner workings exposed, although sophisticated cults may curry media interest or even employ public relations consultants and ad agencies to manage their image”.

Bill: Well I don’t see what’s so cultish about using ad agencies to manage our image.

Alethea: Do you know the inner workings of the church from a financial perspective?

Bill: I do.  The church discloses everything online here in the UK and over in Canada.

Alethea: Well it is by law that this is done in the UK, though I can’t speak for Canada. The head quarters of the Mormon Church are in America where the law doesn’t require disclosure of financial details. Do they disclose them anyway?

Bill: We get a confirmation at world wide General Conferences to the effect that all the money is accounted for and has been used legally and properly.

Alethea: But you don’t get to see details such as how much money leaders take as incomes or anything like that?

Bill: No we don’t see any of that.  I wish we did as there are many critics who claim that the top leaders are highly paid (half a million dollars a year according to one person who said they used to be in a position to know such things).  I would like to see the look on their faces when they see that the hard earned tithing money of church members would never go to help enrich those good honest men leading the church.  

Alethea: Of course.  Another thing that happens in some cults is that individuality is removed. This is often done by demanding conformity to the group dress code.  I have noticed that Mormons tend to look alike.  The men for example are all clean shaven and wear business suits with white shirts – is this conformity mandatory?

Bill: No not at all. There are many members that do not conform to the inspired guidelines given by our loving leaders, but they are still welcome among us.  Leadership positions in the church are not given to those who do not conform and I personally released one of my leaders as a stake high councilman for growing a beard recently, but I understand other stake presidents are not so strict.  As a people we try to emulate our prophets and apostles in the way we think, talk, act and look all the while maintaining our individuality.

Alethea: Right. Moving on then; another trait we often see is that questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. How does your church deal with those who leave?

Bill: Well we have an extensive reactivation program in place and do all we can to lovingly help people overcome their weaknesses so they can be brought back to the fold.  

Alethea: So someone who leaves Mormonism is considered to have a weakness?

Bill: Oh absolutely. Satan works hard on our weaknesses and doubts and we must ever be watchful lest we fall away.
Alethea: Very well.  This leads me to another question from the website I sent you; if someone provides sound evidence against the groups teachings, are members taught to question the motivation of the presenter? In cults we often find that sound verifiable documentation is ignored because of doubts over the presenter's motives.

Bill: Well I consider myself an apologist (defender of the faith), and one of the main things apologists do is verify the background and motivation of the person presenting the evidence in order to show their personal weaknesses.  This helps most faithful members decide to ignore the lies being presented. 

Alethea: Can you give an example?

Bill: Well I’m not too familiar with all the details but there is a man called D. Michael Quinn who wrote some books that ‘apparently’ contain accurate but damaging information about the church.  The church excommunicated him, which surprised some people but we now know that he is in fact gay. 

Alethea: and…

Bill:  So if a member were to express an interest in reading his books I would be able to state that I have not read the books and nor would I since he is homosexual and has been excommunicated by righteous church leaders. 

Alethea: Okay so if a former member presented good, solid, well researched evidence that showed a flaw in the way Mormons think or in a particular teaching you would be more interested in the personal life and the motivation behind the presenter than the actual evidence.

Bill: You cannot get good fruit from a bad tree Alethea.  If the presenter has left the church or been excommunicated it can only be at the instigation of the evil one and I would do all I could to expose the person and the weaknesses that led to his demise. 

Alethea: Some would see this as attacking the messenger rather than dealing with the issue.

Bill: Well it’s important that information comes to us from faithful members Alethea.  We have a living prophet and authorized leaders who act as “watchmen on the tower” for us.  We want members to see church teachings from the church’s point of view and not from the view of those who would harm and deceive.
Alethea: I was always taught that in order to find truth one should consider all points of view, but let’s move on. One trait from the site I sent you is that the group and its leader are the exclusive means of knowing "truth", no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Bill: Well our leaders are inspired men Alethea and we are all encouraged to pray and obey their counsel until we receive a personal testimony of their divine calling. Once this testimony has been achieved we come to know that the Lord would never allow our leaders to lead us astray. 

Alethea: I completely understand. Well I think I have a pretty good idea now of where Mormonism fits with regards to my project and would like to thank you Bill for taking the time to meet with me.

Bill: It was my pleasure Alethea.  I realize there are many destructive groups that try to control people and I am happy to have had the opportunity to clarify the teachings of our church in order to show that we are not to be associated with such groups.

Alethea: It is much appreciated.

Bill: Oh and Alethea if in your research you come across anyone that is in a cult and doesn’t realize it, as is usually the case, please let me know so I can send our missionaries over to teach them the truth. 

Alethea: Umm I will keep that in mind Bill.  Thanks again for all your help today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Verily, Do Mormons Marry too Young?

One of the many complaints against the church is that we encourage people to marry when they are far too young. Critics claim that this is a major cause of divorce and unhappiness amongst our members.  They also claim that people need to know “who they are” before marriage and say that the church does not recognize this need.  This of course is absolute rubbish and is completely unfounded.  Allow me to share a story right from the Aaronic Priesthood Manual given to young men the world over on this topic.*
“Tim was seventeen and Kathy was fifteen when they became married. Their life together became very serious when their baby was born with a heart defect. Tim had to work two jobs, and Kathy spent many anxious hours at the hospital during two different operations on their baby. Both were relieved when the doctor found that the operation would give their child a normal life. But he would require extra care for at least a year.

Kathy watched her friends going to school as she hung clothes on the line. All Tim could see were hospital and medical bills. The future for him didn’t include basketball or other activities, at least not the near future.”

After this sobering story the following instructions are given to the teacher:
Explain that Tim and Kathy chose to marry before they were prepared spiritually, emotionally, and practically. It takes a certain amount of experience before we know who we are and who would be best for us.

Ask the young men what experiences of value might Tim and Kathy miss or have difficulty in acquiring by having married so young?
Record the young men’s responses on the chalkboard. These may include—
1. Mission. (I like that this was the first suggestion as to me this is the most important)
2. Further education.
3. Further social and emotional development.
4. Development of talents.
5. Ability to acquire the desired livelihood.

We see from this example that the church is clearly against marrying too young. As a Stake President I would challenge any critics to show me otherwise. 


President Paternoster


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

President Paternoster Teaches a Linguist Professor

One thing I love about being so knowledgeable about the gospel is that one can speak intelligently about many areas of research in the world.  For example a non LDS linguist professor Damon and I were discussing the great variety of languages as we played golf the other day.  I explained to him that our ability as humans to use language so expressively is a distinguishing feature that belongs to no other living thing upon the earth and proves beyond doubt that man was made in a separate creation. Yes animals communicate but we are the only living things that could make known to another for example that “yesterday my grandmother crossed the road and almost got hit by a lorry”.

Damon asked me as a prominent Mormon what my view was on how all these languages came to be.  I could tell that he was very impressed by my knowledge on the subject, which as a man of faith likely outranks his own.

I told him the world’s 6,000 or so languages are the result of a long history which began with a single first language known in scripture as the pure tongue of Adam. This tongue was spoken in the Garden of Eden located in the United States of America*.

Adam and the early patriarchs had this perfect language which was both spoken and written**.

Damon admitted that even linguists are aware that written language dates back some 6,000 years. I told him that this coincides perfectly with the time of Adam’s appearance on the earth.

I went on to inform him that at the time of the tower of Babel the Lord confounded the languages of the people and scattered them to the four corners of the earth.  As human populations migrated to new places on the planet each groups version of the language changed in different ways, until there were several languages where there was once one. Eventually there were thousands.

I talked to him about the many clues available to scientists on the migration of people that are available from the linguistic evidence.  Damon asked me whether Mormons take the story of the tower of Babel literally.  I confirmed that we do. In Gen 11:1 we learn that the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech which is compatible with modern day revelation.  I further clarified that a group named the Jaredites were guided by the Lord to the Americas as recorded in the Book of Mormon. I told him that if the tower of Babel story is just myth then so must be the Book of Mormon, which would be absolutely ridiculous.  I could tell that he was impressed at my confidence in the record of the scriptures.  

I mentioned further that in opposition to the Jaredites (who followed the Lord), among nonbelievers it appears that there was an intellectual retrogression, so that many peoples subsequently have been without the blessings of a highly cultured spoken and written language**.  I have always felt sorry for the poor people of the world who do not have languages as highly cultured as English.   

The spirit came upon me and I promised Damon in the name of the Lord that perfection in language and writing will return in the future with the full establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth**.  I further clarified that as a preparation for this event we are seeing what some call an extinction crisis among many of the world’s languages.  In fact it is estimated that 5,500 of the world’s 6,000 languages will no longer be spoken in the year 2100.

I gave Damon a copy of the Book of Mormon and am sure he will read it with great interest and anticipation after the great discussion we had.

I love the gospel Brothers and Sisters and look forward to the millennium where the pure undefiled tongue of Adam will be spoken once more.

Shared with the great love of your humble servant, even the Stake President, Bill Paternoster

For further edification please read the scriptures referenced in the above links

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Church Guidelines Finally Allow Susan to Meet her Birth Mother

I had a situation that started in 2004 that I wanted to write about.  A sister named Susan asked to meet with me saying that she had researched and now was very close to identifying her biological mother.  She wanted to meet with her but wasn’t sure if she should.  She didn’t want to meet for medical reasons but simply out of curiosity, a longing get to know her birth mother and to understand the reasons behind why she was given up for adoption.

I wasn’t sure how to counsel her so in preparation for our meeting I looked in the manual of instructions (the 1999 version) where I had remembered seeing something on the topic. I love the manuals provided by the church and refer to them often. The instruction given is that local leaders should discourage adopted children from seeking to identify their natural parents (the full text is added to the bottom of this blog post for your convenience).

The manual didn’t tell me how I was to go about discouraging Susan from identifying her Mother.  This is the part of church leadership that can become difficult and where personal opinions come in to play. One leader may say one thing and another may take a completely different approach.  The end result should be the same throughout the worldwide church though in that we discourage the adopted from seeking to identify their natural parents. 

When we met I told Susan that since she was sealed to her adopted family who have always loved her and who raised her in the gospel she should be very considerate of their feelings.  I explained that if I had adopted a child I might feel that I had been an inadequate parent if my son or daughter told me they wanted to find their “real” parents.  Had I not been real? Had I not loved and raised them? Susan thanked me and said she had kept that in the forefront of her mind throughout the process.  She had actually discussed the issue with her parents and assured them that they are and will always be her ‘real’ parents.  She let me know that her parents were completely comfortable with her finding and getting to know her biological mother.

I then asked her to consider how upset her birth mother might be.  I explained that she has likely moved on and raised her own family by now.  Contacting them might only cause embarrassment and stress to all involved.  Susan agreed that this scenario does happen sometimes in cases such as this.  She also let me know however that her mother had registered with an adoption agency indicating that she would like to have contact with her daughter if ever the opportunity arose.  

As a last resort I showed her the counsel in the manual and then asked her to fast and pray about the decision. I did make it clear that the decision was hers and hers alone to make.  I felt like I had done my best with regards to my duty of following the instruction given by my inspired leaders to discourage her from identifying her Mother.  The rest I would leave in the Lords hands.

Being a woman of great faith and strict obedience Susan came back a few days later and said that she just couldn’t go against the counsel of church leaders and feel right in her heart at the same time. She decided to not contact her birth mother. 

I thought this was the end of the matter and was surprised some two years later when Susan asked again about it.  She was aware that a new manual of instructions had been created (in 2006) and wanted to know if the counsel was still the same.  I confirmed that the exact same words were present. 

I thought long and hard about this guideline after she came to me that second time but felt in the end that ‘The Brethren’ in Salt Lake City are inspired and know what is best for people.  I understand (as did Susan) that there is no doctrine or scriptural counsel against seeking out ones biological family but many church members simply feel safer living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of the Lords servants whether it be a guideline, a policy or simply a teaching.  Susan actually said to me that “if church leaders are inspired enough to know that people will ask such questions and think it important enough to give guidance in the matter (in an official leaders manual) then it must be there for a good reason”.  I couldn’t argue with that.    

However whilst going through the new 2010 manual in November I was immediately drawn to the same section and noticed a significant change.  Allow me to quote:
“Questions regarding the exchange of information and contact between adopted children and their biological parents should be handled with sensitivity. The legal rights and emotional needs of all relevant parties should be considered.”

I immediately picked up the phone and rang Susan to let her know of the change – that the manual no longer instructed me and other leaders to discourage people from identifying their birth parents. She was in tears and thanked me for letting her know of the change.   

I am happy to report that with the assistance of the adoption agency Susan and her mother were reunited on December 20th 2010.  The mother was cancer stricken and in hospital but was able to let Susan know that she had always wondered about her first beloved daughter and had thought about and prayed for her daily. Seeing her was an answer to many a prayer. They were able to speak twice before the mother passed away (which occurred peacefully in her sleep).

Susan’s ‘new’ half sister Lisa asked about the process by which she was able to locate her natural mother.  Susan explained that she had thought about making contact way back in 2004 but was advised by leaders of her church not to do this.  Lisa asked why this was so and which church had felt it their right to advise her on such a personal issue.  This gave Susan a chance to talk about prophets and apostles being on the earth again today and the blessings she has received from following their guidance in all things.

Lisa couldn’t hold back the tears as she thought about the moments that could have been had Susan made contact 6 years earlier when their mother was in full health.  Lisa felt it was an absolute tragedy that those years had been needlessly without contact. 

Of course Susan and I know that the Lord has his own timetable and purpose for things. In fact we see it as nothing short of a miracle that this guideline change was made and then noticed by me just in time so that she could meet her mother. 

I know that the Lord blesses us as we seek to follow our leaders from the local level right up to our loving church president even Thomas S. Monson, and I leave these thoughts with you in the sacred and holy name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

*This is from the 1999 and 2006 manual (in the church policies section). This instruction remained in force until November 2010 when a new manual was provided (I can provide screen shots of these pages if requested):

Adopted Children and Their Natural Parents
Local leaders should discourage adopted children and their adopted parents from seeking to identify the children’s natural parents.

When adopted children have genetic or medical problems, the family may seek medical information about the natural parents but should be discouraged from seeking their identities.

Here is the same section in the new 2010 manual:

Adopted Children and Their Biological Parents
Questions regarding the exchange of information and contact between adopted children and their biological parents should be handled with sensitivity. The legal rights and emotional needs of all relevant parties should be considered.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Evolutionary Biologist Investigates the Church

The missionaries have been teaching an evolutionary biologist named Stephen.  Stephen is a committed Christian and is enthralled by the Book of Mormon.  He has prayed and feels good about its authenticity.

He asked the missionaries what the Church’s position is on evolution. He wants to know if he can accept the science as it relates to evolution and still be a member of the church. 

Being a man of science and of faith I invited him and the missionaries to my home. We had a wonderful discussion and he asked me what the position of the church is on the matter concerning him. 

Firstly I confirmed to him that being a believer in evolution certainly shouldn’t deter him from being baptized and didn’t make him ineligible in any way.  I explained that we are more concerned with how people live and what they do than the specifics of what they believe.  Having said that though, I also wanted to share with him our teachings on the matter to ensure he didn’t join the church under any false pretenses.  He had a question and I had an obligation to answer as honest and forthrightly as I could.    

I thought about sharing with him the part in the book Doctrines of Salvation by our beloved past prophet Joseph Fielding Smith where he said that if evolution was true then the church isn’t, but then I thought better of it.  While there has been much debate on the subject within the church over the years I thought it best to only use quotes that can be found on our current website (I do hope none are offended at this approach).

I explained to Stephen and the two Elders that evolution is a theory and is based on an understanding that life and death have been around for millions of years upon the earth. Stephen agreed with this.  I then had us turn to the Bible dictionary which says*:
"Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48).”

Stephen agreed with me that the fall of Adam took place some 6,000 years ago, but let us know that he didn’t really take it as a literal event but looks at it more symbolically.  I then had us read together 2 Nephi 2:22 from which we learn that if Adam had not transgressed he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created (in a perfect state such that they could not die) must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

As mentioned Stephen has a more scientific view and seemed quite comfortable with the fact that his views are often at odds with the more literal interpretation of ancient scriptures such as the Bible and Book of Mormon. This is how I hoped he would react as I have no issues with people joining the church that see things like this in a different light.  

We then moved on to the specific issue of evolution.  As already mentioned I didn’t want him to join the church without a full understanding of today’s teachings on the topic so we read from the current Old Testament institute manual as follows**: 

 “It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was ‘the first man of all men’"

“Of course, I think those people who hold to the view that man has come up through all these ages from the scum of the sea through billions of years do not believe in Adam. Honestly I do not know how they can, and I am going to show you that they do not. There are some who attempt to do it but they are inconsistent—absolutely inconsistent, because that doctrine is so incompatible, so utterly out of harmony, with the revelations of the Lord that a man just cannot believe in both.

“. . . I say most emphatically, you cannot believe in this theory of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other, for they are in direct conflict and there is a gulf separating them which is so great that it cannot be bridged, no matter how much one may try to do so. . . . “

This seemed to concern Stephen.  He had read online that some of our leaders had debated evolution but didn’t realize there were current teachings against it.  I told him not to worry and assured him that with time he will come to see that the leaders of the church are prophets, seers and revelators and can be trusted in their interpretation of scientific data.

I mentioned that the quotes from our Old Testament manual are completely in line with what we see in the Ensign magazine. Do you remember the special Ensign from March 2008 all about Jesus with that nice cover on it? I have a copy at home and always keep several in my office at the stake centre.  I asked one of the Elders to read the following from Boyd K. Packers address found therein***:
“We are taught in Genesis, in Moses, in Abraham, in the Book of Mormon, and in the endowment that man’s mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation. Had the Creation come in a different way, there could have been no Fall. 

How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do not look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and by millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance. And this they are free to do, for agency is theirs.

But agency is ours as well. We look up, and in the universe we see the handiwork of God and measure things by epochs, by aeons, by dispensations, by eternities. The many things we do not know, we take on faith.

This we know! This simple truth! Had there been no Creation and no Fall, there should have been no need for any Atonement, neither a Redeemer to mediate for us. Then Christ need not have been."

Stephen was quite taken back by this statement and asked if he could re-read the part about learned men looking down at animals and stones to find the origin of man.  He considered this a personal attack on his profession and was quite surprised that something like this would be found in our writings and on our official website. He enquired as to who the author of this article Boyd K. Packer was.  I told him that Boyd K. Packer was the President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and will become the next prophet and Church President if he outlives 83 year old Thomas S. Monson.

Stephen then sincerely thanked us all for our time and said he had another appointment to be at so we promptly closed with a prayer. 

I noticed he left his Book of Mormon on my front doorstep on the way out. He must have been tying a shoe lace and accidentally left it there in his haste.  I asked the missionaries to return it to him at their earliest opportunity so he can continue to ponder the message it contains. I am confident that Stephen will be baptized very soon and look forward to having his perspective amongst the latter-day saints in my stake.

Lovingly shared by Stake President Paternoster