Saturday, February 19, 2022

My Interview At Mormon Book Reviews Podcast

Previously: Is The Vaccine Mandate The Mark of the Beast?

Steven Pynakker is an interesting guy. He is not LDS and never was. What he is, is an evangelical Christian living in Florida. Yet I'd wager he is better informed about Mormonism than the average member of the LDS Church. And he's certainly more knowledgeable about our religion than those in the anti-Mormon camp who think they have us pegged dead to rights, but are mostly just echoing each other.

Steven is proprietor of the podcast Mormon Book Reviews where he has interviewed over a hundred of the most interesting people within all branches of Mormonism. Here is where you'll find those fascinating interviews:
Mormon Book Reviews Youtube Channel

And here's where you'll find one of those interviews that is not the least bit fascinating: the one involving me. Click on the screen below (I'm the one on the left).

I gotta be honest, folks: It was painful for me to watch myself this time around. In real life I'm known for encouraging people to "stay on point," yet what I see in this video is an aging, addlepated old doofus constantly wandering far off-topic. I mean, Yikes! That was a revelation.  

Oh well. If nothing else, this episode will serve to document my cognitive decline. If I keep on like this, the Democrats may try to run me for president.

Anyway, in case anyone is interested enough to watch me deteriorate in real time into a stammering, doddering old coot, in the space below I'm providing links to the earlier posts that were referred to in this interview, as well as any other notes and miscellanea that were referenced by either me or Steve. Go ahead and watch the interview if you've a mind to, but my feelings won't be hurt if you pass on this one.  

So, To Begin
First, a picture of my mother's parents, along with her brothers and sisters. That's my mom top row left, the one who looks like her arm has been amputated (Her arm was fine, someone just did a poor job of cropping the original photo.) Front row center is my Grandma and Grandpa Law. Grandma, the former Elsie Reichert, was apparently of the tribe of tribe of Judah, but it's likely she never knew that as her parents never told her. Once the family arrived in America (when Elsie was five years old) they chose to hide their ethnic background. So my family's bloodline was unknown until uncovered by my mother and her sister, my Aunt Rose, who were both assiduous genealogists.

Funny, they don't look Jewish. (Oh wait...yes, they do.)

There in the middle next to Grandma is her husband Ray Law, descended from Charles Law, one of the many handcart pioneers from England who crossed the plains to Utah. With Charles were his wife and his wife's four sisters, the youngest of whom was nine years old at the time. Upon arrival in Utah, as each sister came of age, Charles would take her as his plural wife until all four sisters were literally his first wife's "sister wives." 

That awkward arrangement may be the reason my mother never told us kids we came from polygamous stock.  By the time I was in high school, Mom started traveling to Utah from our home in Anaheim to attend large family reunions and come back telling me about the many "cousins" I had, which was strange because I knew the handful of relatives quite well.  But these were people I had never heard of , with last names that didn't match any of my mothers OR my father's sides of the family. I had always known I was descended from pioneer Charles Law, but was never told he was a polygamist or how many branches there were to that family tree. (Dad's family was not LDS; he had a father, a mother, and one brother.)  Dad's brother Lloyd sired my only cousins on the Waterman side (three of them) and I knew them very well. That small family, along with my own parents and siblings, made up the entire  Waterman clan on my Dad's side.  So it was a mystery how I suddenly had hundreds of relations in Utah I never heard of before.  I didn't know my great-great-great Charles Law had been a polygamist until I learned it from my cousin Dennis Law just a few years ago, shortly before Dennis died. 

So I grew up completely unaware of two realities: I'm secretly descended from polygamists on my grandfather's side, and I'm descended from Jews on my Grandma's. My Grandpa's surname, "Law" also hides a secret.  When some members of the Scottish Clan McLaren moved South to settle in England centuries earlier, they hid their Scottish ancestry by abandoning the name "McClaren," adopting instead the more British-sounding surname "Law." 

Now here's the kicker: since Grandpa Law's ancestors are Scottish, according to some scholars his bloodline likely contains DNA from the tribe of Judah. further muddy things up, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica and other authoritative sources, many scholars would argue that Jews of Eastern European descent are not strictly Jews per se; that is, they were not distinctively Hebrews descended from Abraham through Judah, but represent a class of Middle Easterners who were converted to Judaism around the 10th century AD. So ultimately I may be an Ashkenazi Jew like most American Jews whose Yiddish-speaking ancestors also came through Ellis Island, and not a pure descendant of Jacob's son Judah.

On the other hand, there appears to have been sufficient intermarrying between the tribe of Judah and those Jewish converts who later emigrated to Poland, Russia, Germany, Lithuania, etc, to allow their descendants to be considered Judahites by blood. So that's what I'm claiming. Because, after all, I do look Jewish (especially when I'm wearing glasses).  But I'm equally proud to be descended from Ephraim as well. (My dad's ancestors are from England, and Anglo-Saxon stock is considered mostly Ephraim with perhaps a touch of Dan by way of the Nordic tribes.)

All that having been said, I'm a Reichert on my mother's side, and proud to be not-so-distantly related to Rabbi Irving Reichert, who in his day famously opposed the creation of a "Jewish State" which he warned would result in the corruption of the Jewish religion. He was right, and quite a number of orthodox Jews in Israel today continue to insist that God will not bless a nation that believes it has the divine right to exact violence upon its neighbors. So in that respect, although I am a devout Mormon by way of my religious beliefs, I also claim the label of orthodox Jew in the best sense of the meaning. I stand firmly with these guys:

Moving on, here's the Trailer for my favorite movie of all time:

At twelve years old, I had no clue who John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart were. But I was caught up in the story, and it affected me like no movie had before. (I saw Old Yeller when I was seven, and I recall it was kinda sad that the dog died, but The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was the first film I remember actually having a deep emotional impact on me, which I suppose was because I was old enough to understand the story.) If you have never seen this film, well, now you have your homework assignment. It's the best.

Just as an aside (and this was not touched on in the interview above), I'd have to say my second favorite film of all time would have to be the romantic comedy Return to Me. (Yes, I'm in touch with my feminine side and really dig romantic comedies.)

I base my favorites on the following criteria: no matter how many times I have seen a film I like, if I happen to walk into a room while that films is playing, if I sit down and end up watching that film to the end even though I never intended to, that film goes onto my mental list of favorites. (Another example of that kind of film I know a lot of people would agree with: Galaxy Quest).  Return to Me is so perfectly executed that if I was teaching a class on film, Return to Me would be the example I would hold up as having an absolutely perfect script, perfect pacing, perfect cast, and perfect performances all around.  If you haven't seen it, do yourself a big favor. 

As I mentioned in the interview, as a kid, I wanted to be Jerry Lewis, but as I got older I found his films insufferable.  A few weeks ago Connie and I sat down to watch Cinderfella, and it was bloody awful. Even our ten-year-old grandson begged us to take out the DVD and choose another.  And that film was made before Lewis began directing his own movies, which were all much, much worse. The man was an certifiable  narcissist who thought everything he did was hilarious, and in every scene, the camera stays on him long after the gag has ceased to be funny -if it ever was funny, which it almost never was.

Can you imagine sitting through 91 minutes of bits like this?

Want more? Click here for 7 awkward moments with Jerry Lewis when he's simply being himself.

Okay, let's get into some of the links I discussed with Steve:

"The Religion of the Fathers" is where Denver Snuffer puts the whole Book of Abraham controversy to rest. Below is a video of the talk itself, but if you're like me you'll want it in book form because it's chockfull of sources and citations. You can find it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but but the epub "Nook" format is the best price for only $2.99.

"Vengeance and the Latter-Day Saints" is a piece I posted wherein I show how Church leaders have completely missed what all those war chapters in the Book of Mormon were really about.  Indeed, they have turned those teachings completely upside down so that now members are told they mean the opposite of what the ancient prophets actually taught. 

"Who Died and Made HIM President?" was written just after Russell Nelson was installed as the new Church president following the death of Thomas Monson. In it you'll see how the Lord had nothing whatsoever to do with the installation of Nelson to that position, and how all the claims of the current leaders completely contradict what Jesus Himself actually told us was how these things were to be done. 

"Have You Voted For The New Church President Yet?"  A companion piece to the the one above, and shows how Latter-day Saints were tricked into sustaining a man who had not even been ordained at the time, and still never has been to this day.

Here's a link to "This is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology" by Charles Harrell. 

And here's a link to "Obscure Mormon Doctrine: Uncommon Beliefs of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" by Chris Jensen. 

Both books are extremely helpful in separating true doctrine (that which comes from Christ through his chosen servants) from things we've been brought up to believe simply because we have been taught them. I highly recommend them both. And you can see Steve Pynakker's interview on the Mormon Book Reviews Podcast here:

"Evil Speaking of the Lord's Anointed" is where you'll find the Harold B. Lee Story as well as scads of other info you're sure to find of value. This is one of my personal favorites.

"Misquoting God" is where you'll find McKay Platt's correction on the commonly held belief that the LDS Church is the "true" church.  Jesus said no such thing, and McKay walks us step by step through what the Lord was really saying and how all this time we've been getting it wrong. 

Baptist preacher Lynn Ridenhour exclaims "The Book of Mormon: How Baptist Can You Get?"

And here's a link to Ridenhour's book, "How To Share The Book of Mormon With a Baptist."

Twice during the interview with Steve I struggled to recall the name of a certain general authority who has now gone on to meet his maker, and I do not envy his having to face the Lord.  Boyd K. Packer.  That's the guy whose name I couldn't recall: Boyd K. Packer. He's the one (unless I'm still mistaken) who taught that the baptism of fire comes incrementally over time.  So it's clear he never experienced the baptism of fire.  Which he should have, seeing as he was a bloomin' apostle, for cryin' out loud!

Here's a video of the lackluster Gordon Hinckley leading the congregation in a pathetic attempt at giving the Hosannah Shout:

Leaving One Important Question Unanswered
One last thing: Because I was all over the map with my answers to Steve in the podcast, I forgot to provide the answer to a vital question he asked, which was this: "If I were to join your organization would I be required to be baptized?"

I responded correctly that we don't have any sort of "organization" but I did not address the question of baptism, which is something we Mormons incorrectly assume is synonymous with "joining the church." We have all been raised to believe that when a person comes to accept the Book of Mormon, he is expected to align himself with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that the act of baptism is the process of initiation by which he becomes a member of that church.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, it is essential that all believers in Christ be baptized.  Baptism is essential, but it has nothing to do with aligning yourself with a particular religious denomination. Let me repeat that: baptism has nothing whatsoever to do with aligning yourself with a particular religious denomination. Mormons deserve to change their thinking on this, because we were wrong to assume baptism means anything other than what it is. To cite just a small portion from Charles Harrell's previously referenced  book, 
"Scholars note that baptism was initially performed by John the Baptist and Jesus's disciples as a cleansing rite to prepare them for the coming kingdom of God, which was perceptually distinct from the Church." ("This is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology.")
As I've written in a previous post, it appears that equating baptism with joining our particular denomination is something we picked up in the 19th century from the protestants, as it was not an issue in the primitive Christian church. As LDS religion scholar Kevin L. Barney explains, "[Baptism's] full significance as a rite marking formal initiation into the church is a later Christian innovation." (Quoted in Harrell, ibid.) In other words, if a person came to Christ through the efforts of Methodists, he tended to be baptized by Methodists and naturally joined with the Methodists after being baptized. If he was converted and baptized by Presbyterians, he tended to become a Presbyterian. Thus, when candidates are converted by Latter-day Saints and baptized by Latter-day Saints, they usually end up joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But the ordinance of baptism is a separate thing from membership in any Church, as evidenced by the confirmation process which is a separate ordinance that often isn't even performed until the following Sunday.  When you are confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that is when you become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You were not "baptized into the Church," as your baptism is not about joining this church or any other.

And finally, here is the link to "The Constitution of No Authority" at Book of Mormon Perspectives. Like I said in the podcast above, this is the stuff I would be writing if I was a lot smarter. And remember, when you're looking for that blog, you must type the exact url:, or you will end up somewhere in internet limbo. 

Finally, kudos to Steve Pynakker for putting up with my incessant rambling. He's a very interesting man and I'm honored to call him friend. For his sake, please make sure you click on the actual Youtube video and give it a like; it helps the algorithm.

Okay, that's it for now. See you next time. 

(If there is a next time.)


Telavian said...

Thanks for doing the interview. I personally find written language a lot easier to keep coherent than spoken. It is easy to lose track and think while speaking and then trip up over yourself.

However you did a fine job.

PNW_DPer said...

Probably more appropriate for one of your previous covid posts, but I'm just wondering how Ensign Peak Investments is doing now.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

That looks to be a valuable resource, PNW. Thanks for the link.