Sunday, October 22, 2023

How Mormons Should Think About The War In Israel

Douglas Casey recently described what’s happening in the Middle East as "a dog's breakfast."  That's a 19th century British colloquialism you don't often hear these days, but I've never seen it used so aptly.  No matter how disgusting the carnage before him, a dog will mindlessly attack and devour his chosen meal even it it utimately kills him.  You can't pull a determined dog off or get him to slow down. 

So as we consider this current dog's breakfast of a mess in Palestine, let us begin with two undeniable truths:

1. Hamas is wicked, vengeful, bloodthirsty and brutal.  

2. The government of Israel is wicked, vengeful, bloodthirsty, and brutal. 

Neither side is willing to slow down or take a breath and consider the chaos they are causing. Both sides are wholly focused on only one aim: to devour without stopping to pause. 

Notice I'm not blaming the Jewish or Arab people for this mess.  On both sides, it is the people who are  suffering and dying, not the leaders of Hamas and certainly not the Zionist government of Israel.  The Arab people of Palestine did not elect Hamas to represent them, yet the payback for the initial attacks that have brought on this war are falling squarely on the heads of the people living in Gaza. In return, countless innocent Jews will be slaughtered.  And on and on it will go, back and forth, back and forth, drawing entire nations into the fray as everyone assumes they must choose sides.

So what should be our response as members of the body of Christ? 

That should be simple: God commands us in Doctrine & Covenants 98 to "renounce war and proclaim peace," and to "turn the hearts of the Jews unto the prophets."  Most importantly (and the part of that section most Mormons are wont to overlook), is verse 32, where the Lord makes clear that His people are not to go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people unless the Lord Himself commands them. What we definitely should not be doing is choosing to take one side over another in this war of annihilation.

And yet I'm seeing and hearing from devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ demanding retribution against the Palestinian people for a horror most of those people had nothing to do with. I hear some of my Mormon brethren cheering on the state of Israel with cries of "crush them!" "wipe them off the map!" "we should finish them once and for all!" and other alarming cries for revenge. 

Seeing these bloodthirsty calls for vengeance reminded me of why the prophet Mormon threw down his sword and refused to continue as leader of the Nephite armies. After a successful series of battles wherein the Nephites had successfully driven back their Lamanite attackers, they got all full of themselves and decided that merely driving the enemy back was not enough. They aimed to go into the borders of the Lamanites and completely destroy that entire civilization. "Cut them off from the face of the land" is how they put it.

That's when their general called it quits.  Defending against invaders was one thing. Becoming the invader and taking a war of vengeance into the enemy's borders was something else.  It would result in the mass murder of Lamanites -including women and children- who had never come against the Nephites in the first place. Mormon simply would not have it. In case you don't remember what happened, this aggressive action on the part of the Nephites resulted in the complete annihilation of their entire civilization a mere ten years later.  Today there are no Nephites on the American continent. But the Lamanites are still here.  I'd say there's a lesson in there for us.

Now, I don't want you to get the impression I'm siding with Hamas in this controversy.   When it comes to this war between the residents of Gaza and the pretend "State of Israel," as Mormons and as Americans we should not be rooting for either side.  And as an American and a Mormon who has read the scriptural warnings, I also take that position as a descendant of Judah.

My Secret Life As A Crypto-Jew  
My maternal grandmother, Elsie Reichert, was five years old when she arrived at Ellis Island with her parents and siblings sometime in the late 1880s. Her family were Prussian Jews, come to America to escape the constant pogroms in the old world.  Like many other Jews at the time, the Reicherts chose to hide their Jewish heritage right then and there. Being a Jew had become just too much trouble for a growing number of Eastern Europeans, and some of them simply gave themselves a new name when passing through the immigration process.  A new country meant a new life; why not start out with a completely new identity as well?

Unlike other crypto-Jews, Great Grandma and Grandpa Reichert didn't have to change their last name in order to pass as gentiles. The surname Reichert was a neutral cognomen; it wasn't a name like Feldman or Finkelstein that instantly marked one as being Jewish.  Back in the old world there were Jews named Reichert to be sure, but there were also plenty of Germans with that same last name. Or maybe all those teutonic Reicherts were actually Jews secretly hiding their identities, who knows?   I can only tell you that when I was young I was told that my mother's family came from Germany. Even that story was false; they came from Prussia.

The fact that we actually derived from Jewish stock was unknown to us kids while we were growing up, although looking back there were plenty of clues I was too young to notice.  But Grandma hid our true heritage from the family so well that I don't know if she herself even knew she was a Jew; it's possible her parents never told her.  We kids found out after we were grown up, long after Grandma had died.  My mother and my Aunt Rose were the family geneologists, and that's how the secret leaked out. As Aunt Rose cryptically put it, somewhere back in our family tree "there was a Jew in the woodpile."

Under Jewish law and custom, if your mother was Jewish that makes you Jewish as well. Grandma Reichert Law gave birth to my mother, which under the law makes my mother Jewish. When I passed through my mother's birth canal in the Naval hospital at Oceanside, California...L'Chaim! I arrived in America an instant Jew!  Although I embrace Mormonism as my religion, by birth I am considered to be of the tribe of Judah. That's how it works. 

This Land Ain't Mine
My reason for bringing all this up is that, like a lot of Jews (and an overwhelming number of evangelical Christians who have misread the scriptures), I bought into the fable that in these modern times God desired His people to return to their Jewish homeland. "This land is mine," goes the stirring song from the 1960 film Exodus, "God gave this land to me."

Well, no it isn't, and no He didn't. God allowed the Assyrians and the Babylonians to take it away from us thousands of years ago when Judah and the other eleven tribes of Israel rebelled against Him. As much as that song still plays on my emotions to this day, I now recognize it as simple propaganda.  The fact is, this push to create a politically constructed homeland for the Jews in Palestine is antithetical to the will of God as clearly demonstrated in scripture. That is the stone-cold truth, and no amount of sentimental movie making is going to change that reality.

As a descendant of the tribe of Judah, when I have a question about Jewish orthodoxy, I don't look to mawkish songs and movies for my doctrine.  If I want to know whether God intended for the Jews to return to Palestine and push out its current residents, I'll look to the Torah, as these and many other orthodox Rabbis have been doing for decades: 

You may never have been told that hundreds of thousands of devout descendants of Judah assert that Zionism is diametrically opposed to Judaism.  They recognize that the phony Zionist "State of Israel" is a violation of the covenant that all of Israel made before God, and have for decades worked to expose the fraud.   A distant relative of mine, Irving Reichert, was the prominent Rabbi of San Francisco's Temple Emanu-El and he made headlines back in 1943 when he issued a Yom Kippur warning against the growing Zionist threat to Judaism. 

This was a good five years before the United Nations decreed, without consulting God, that the land of  Palestine was forthwith to be the new Jewish homeland.  Rabbi Reichert was alarmed at how many American Jews were already being taken in by the smooth-talking promoters of Zionism behind that decree.  Let's face it, even though the idea contradicted scripture, the idea of the Jews once again having a homeland of their own was very appealing.  As for Zionism: who wouldn't be attracted to the idea of a return to Zion?  "Zion!"  The very name is familiar to all Jews from their scriptures; it evokes images of peace, protection, rest, and refuge. 

But Israel today is far from a place of refuge.  And how could it be? The early founders of Zionism were not religious Jews, and they didn't have anything resembling a true Zion in mind. These early promoters were euphemistically known as "secular Jews," which is a nice way of saying they were Jews by birth but that they didn't practice the religion. Many of them were avowed atheists not motivated in the least by religious Judaism. For secular Jews, the religion of Judaism holds little appeal.  What they wanted was a massive tract of real estate and the power that goes with being in control of a country.  Theodore Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin -these were all unbelievers tirelessy working to deceive the believers.  Even the Prime Minister of Israel today is an atheist.  His real name isn't even Netanyahu, it's Mileikovsky. "Netanyahu" is a made up name meaning "God has given us."  This faker leads his followers into believing God has given him to them as some sort of modern messiah. This man who has the effrontery to incorporate God's name "Yehu" into his own is a liar and a mass murderer who will deserve his final reward.

It should be noted that prior to the establishment of a political "state of Israel," there were already plenty of Jews, Arabs, and even Christians living together in harmony in the Holy Land. In his 1943 Yom Kippur address, Rabbi Reichert made clear that he was in favor of continued opportunities for all persecuted and uprooted peoples of Europe to re-establish themselves in that area if that is what they want.  Jews have always had the right to move to the Holy Land if they want to.  They are simply prohibited by Torah from arriving in might, or as Jewish law puts it, to "go up as a wall" to claim a divine entitlement to be there, or to displace those already living in the area.

According to the Rabbi, individual Jews and their families were entitled to live whereever they could peacefully dwell, but for the Jews to establish a political nation was sinful and a violation of the religion of Judah.  Rabbi Reichert reminded his followers that the basis of unity among Jews is religion, not political nationalism. He contended that Jews should and do consider themselves nationals of those countries in which they live, and those various lands their homelands. He saw the Jewish problem, tragic and appalling as it is, in the last analysis a part of the world problem. Eventually it will have to be settled in those countries where Jews reside. The creation of a Jewish state in Palestine will not solve the problem of Jews living in other countries, Reichert maintained. On the contrary, he said, it may well aggravate them.

Well, the good Rabbi was certainly prescient on that last point. Relations between Jews and non-Jews the world over have never been worse than they have been since the creation of the State of Israel.  And remember, Rabbi Reichert said all this eighty years ago, long before American Jews would ever suspect their beloved land of Israel would one day become a bloody war zone, or that members of their own tribe here in America would angrily demand the wholesale slaughter of Judah's neighbors.

The Law vs. The Myth
Nearly everything the Zionists have proposed contradicts Jewish law as embodied in the Torah.  If you want to have your eyes opened on this subject, just dip in anywhere at the website True Torah Jews.  I particularly like the page that features Rabbinic Quotations, which go as far back as 1050 A.D., all of which give the lie to the scam currently being perpetrated by the Zionist State counterfeiters. Here are just a few I've chosen that prove the Jews are not permitted to return to the Holy Land and there create a political state complete with armies and navies as they have now done:

(Note: for those not familiar with Hebrew, "Eretz Yisroel" means "the land of Israel."  "Yaakov and Esav" are "Jacob and Esau," "Mitzvah" is one's duty to obey God by behaving kindly toward others, "Hashem" means "the name" and is simply a common way some orthodox Jews refer to God so as to not risk profaning His name.) 

Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, the Ramban (1194-1270):
The Ramban holds that permission granted by a gentile government for Jews to return to Eretz Yisroel does not nullify the oaths they have taken to obey Hashem.
Rabbi Ishtori Haparchi, author of Kaftor Vaferach (1280-1366):
The book Kaftor Vaferach, written in 1322, details the geography of Eretz Yisroel and discusses the great mitzvah to live there: "It was taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: Whoever establishes his residence in Eretz Yisroel, speaks the Holy Tongue, eats only ritually clean food and recites Shema morning and evening is guaranteed the World to Come (Yerushalmi Shkalim 14b). However, they must not go up with the intent of conquering until the end arrives, as it states in the end of tractate Kesubos: Do not arouse or awaken... Rabbi Zeira says: This teaches that Israel must not go up as a wall." (Kaftor Vaferach chapter 10, p. 197)
Rabbi Yehuda ben Maharam Chalava (1300's):
What happened to Yaakov with Esav will happen to us in all generations, and we must prepare ourselves with prayer and gifts, but not with war. Scripture has prohibited this under oath.
Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Lehren, Jewish community leader in Amsterdam (1844):
We also believe in what Chazal say (Kesubos 111a) that one of the oaths that Hashem made Israel swear is not to rebel against the nations of the world, and we are not permitted to take any action to come to the Promised Land. Even if we had 1,200,000 soldiers bearing swords and trained in warfare, we would not be allowed to ascend and conquer Eretz Yisroel; rather we must wait and hope until Hashem desires to redeem us and bring us to the inheritance of our forefathers, and all the nations will see that Hashem Tzevaos [the God of Armies] is our Redeemer. (Emphasis mine.)
Let me close out by sharing a recent twenty minute interview with one of my modern heroes, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, who succinctly summarizes the problems -and the great evil- represented by those who would convert the religion of Judaism into the force for destruction it has now become.

Meanwhile, I'm not done with this topic. Come back to this page in a week or two and I'll discuss what became of the lost tribes of Israel. (Spoiler alert: they're not as lost as you might think.)


Sunday, October 1, 2023

What The Book of Mormon Says About Abortion

Previously: This May Herald The Beginning Of The End For The Vaccine Scam 

Over the decades I've accumulated quite a number of books related to the Book of Mormon, but nothing I've ever read has prepared me for the information presented in the book you see in the illustration on the left.  Kendal Anderson described this book as "groundbreaking," and the first review that appeared on Amazon, by one Kim S. Peterson (no relation to the author) simply says it is "the most important book sold on Amazon."

I don't consider either of those descriptions to be hyperbolic. This is far and away the most incredible, most jaw-dropping exegesis on the Book of Mormon I have ever read. And I mean Ever. I hope every believer in the Restoration orders a copy of this book right now and reads it immediately. I believe it is essential that you do. A copy belongs in the home of every believer.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "What are you talking about? The Book of Mormon doesn't mention abortion anywhere in its pages!"

Well the truth is, the Book of Mormon not only does mention the horrible slaughter taking place every day in America, it screams about it. Literally. What do you think Jesus meant all those times he spoke of the great numbers brutally murdered whose blood cries up from the ground? Who do you think he was referencing when he spoke of the cries of the slain "fair sons and daughters of this people"?

Yes, the blood of innocent babies actually does cry up from the ground. Jesus can hear it even if we refuse to notice.  As author Amberli Peterson reminds us, 

"The Hebrew word za'aq is translated by the English words 'cries out' - to shriek from anquish or a sense of danger. It is a distress signal.' This word for distress signal is mentioned frequently in connection with the land."

Breaking The Code  

The reason I could read the Book of Mormon countless times and never notice the clear and blatant warnings about abortion was because I was reading it wrong. I wasn't paying attention to the true meaning of the words being used. For example, in the account of the ancient Jaredites, when "secret murders" were condemned, I just automatically assumed those passages were describing wicked instances of political intrigue, as some line of rulers always seemed to be getting themselves assassinated by their enemies.  And when the Nephites were later condemned for their secret murders, I just naturally assumed those murders referred to political power plays of one bad guy against another.

But in her book #Ripened, Amberli perfectly lays out the case that secret murders took place in ancient America on a massive scale, all for the purpose of getting rid of the evidence of what the prophets referred to as whoredoms and abominations among the people.  These murders were called "secret" for several reasons, not least because these were murders that no one ever knew about other than the victim's mother (and perhaps one or two others who may have been complicit).  A secret murder leaves no evidence, no call for an investigation, no missing person to report, and of course no trial.   It's the perfect crime, and with the currently popular view in our day such murders aren't really crimes at all but actually rights to be joyfully celebrated, anyone who still has a concience would instantly recognize such murders as among the vilest of evils.  

Amberli reminds us that plenty of books exist today documenting the history of abortions in every civilization, going at least as far back as Babylon. The Greeks and Romans were probably the most thorough in documenting the practice, naming the toxic plants used as abortifacients, and containing instructions for inserting poison-filled pessaries into the uterus.  Every civilization on earth knew the ways in which a woman could secretly dispose of an unwanted baby.  The practice is as old and as wicked as human sacrifice, which is what it has really always been. 

Saints And Sinners

What really caught me up short when reading this book was how thoroughly I misunderstood what the scriptures were trying to teach me when referring to the word "saints."  I naturally assumed that when Jesus spoke of the blood of the saints crying up from the ground, "saints" referred to the slain Nephites who had been members of the church in that day. I could not have been more wrong. 

When Jesus appeared among the Nephites in 34 A.D. he repeatedly referred to "saints" as the ones whose blood had been crying out for vengeance. And as Amberli shows, "until Jesus used that word on the great and terrible day of destruction in 34 AD, the term 'saints' had scarcely been used at all in the record."

Amberli walks us through the definitive proof that when Jesus, Nephi, and Moroni referred to "saints" they were not referring to people like you and me. I could only do her argument justice if I quoted from the entire book, but here is a small sample of a conclusion she makes after citing all the relevant scripture verses supporting this conclusion:

The term, “saints” is used in several different places in the Book of Mormon, but in the narrower context of a series of prophecies which this book will examine, the term “saints” is almost without exception, linked to blood. As in, “the blood of the saints.” Therefore, it is imperative not only to know who these “saints” are, but also why their blood plays very prominently in the prophecies of destruction.

Most people in today's world tend to equate the word "saint" with bearded holy men sprouting halos as portrayed in paintings and statues. But Joseph Smith, as with most literate 19th-century Americans, knew the meaning of saint as Noah Webster defined it in his 1828 edition of the Dictionary. That edition reflects the contemporary lexicon of Joseph Smith, the translator of the Book of Mormon, and therefore can equip modern-day readers with a more historically accurate sense of the word in question. With that in mind, according to Webster's 1828, the definition of a saint is,

"A person sanctified; a holy or godly person; one eminent for piety and virtue."

This definition has been lost on most Latter-day Saints as we have become used to a much broader, and hence diffused meaning which has completely crowded out the narrower, more precise meaning, the meaning the word is given when used in prophecy: a person who is sanctified, holy, pure -and most especially innocent. In view of that, it can be said with certainty that all babies, born or unborn, are sanctified, holy, and pure and, thus, qualified to be labeled as saints. Especially considering their wholly innocent state, which makes them incapable of sinning until they reach the age of accountability. This is not to say that other groups of individuals do not qualify as saints under that definition, just that babies certainly do.

I wish I could do this book justice by summarizing it here but there's just no way to duplicate the methodical scriptural proofs that Amberli provides without pretty much reprinting the entire manuscript.  All I can do is encourage you to read the book and and see for yourself.  But having read my feeble summary I'm sure some of you may be thinking, "is the author of this book sure those verses are referring to unborn children?"  

I understand your bewilderment. If you are the typical Mormon, like me you probably skimmed over those verses all your life thinking they were talking about the ancients who identified as members of the church of Christ in the ancient world. After all, aren’t you a member of Christ’s church today? And doesn’t that make you a “saint” here in these latter days? After all, the full name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is it not? Isn’t that label -”saint”- one we would expect the scriptures to use to identify any follower of Christ?

Well, kinda. Sorta. Maybe. But it was never used in that regard in the Book of Mormon.

Please pardon the following digression, but after reading Ripened I was very interested in finding out how it was the church I was raised in misled me into believing I was an actual "latter day saint" simply because I was taught to call myself one.  That false assumption can be laid at the lap of Brigham Young after he took over leadership of the Church.  Brigham used the term "saints" as though it were synonymous and interchangeable with "members," which it most assuredly is not.  If followers of Christ in book of Mormon times were saints, the Book of Mormon would have called them saints. Instead, they were known as -are you ready for this? "Christians." (See for example Alma 46: 15)

At the risk of digressing further, here's something else I found interesting: In Alma 14 we read of a group of helpless women and children -followers of Christ- who were burned to death in front of Alma and Amulek for no other reason than cruel spite by the governing authorities. Now, if anyone deserved to be called saints, wouldn't you think it would be these hapless martyrs?  In fact, right there in verse 11 we are told that the Lord had received these victims unto himself in glory and that the blood of these innocents would stand as a witness against their sadistic executioners at the last day, "that the judgments of God which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath shall be just."  

And yet, for all that, the narrative never refers to these victims as saints. Why do you suppose not?

I'll tell you why: because even though these poor victims were ultimately received in glory, they had not been sanctified by God or made holy at any time in their lives before they were murdered.  The appellation "Saint" is not a mere title; it actually means something.  It designates someone who has at some point actually been sanctified by God.  It should not be something we toss around like a handy label or some dandy nickname. 

Time Out!
Okay, right now I'm going to do something completely unprecedented. I'm going to ask you to stop reading this blog, and immediately jump over to two other sites.  You can come back here later, but what I have written below is very much a digression and nowhere near as important, nor informative, nor even a tiny bit as interesting as what you'll see in the two links I provide below.  If you want, you can come back and finish this blog after you have feasted on what I'm about to provide you now.  So go ahead, I'll be here when you get back. 

The first link is to the blog Book of Mormon Perspectives, where the proprietor has provided a much better overview of #Ripened than I was able to come up with here. That blog is the one you should be reading instead of this one, and I really mean that.  It's the place where you will really find out why the book is so important. Here's the Link:

                      Book of Mormon Perspectives: A Blood-Stained Nation

The second link will send you to a video of a presentation that Amberli Peterson, author of #Ripened, gave last month on the date her book was launched.  In this clip Amberli gives a fascinating overview of the contents of her book in a way that is much, much more informative than I was able to provide in my brief summary above, along with a description of the journey that brought her to this day.  

Okay, Time In!
Still with me? Good. Back to my wandering digression:

I was privileged to be able to read the manuscript of Amberli Petersos's book a month ahead of publication and I was so overwhelmed by its contents that I have spent the past few weeks scouring the writings and speeches of Joseph Smith in order to learn how often he himself referred to the fledgling members of the church as saints. Guess what I found in those sources? When Joseph referred to the members in his sermons he rarely referred to them as saints, but rather tended to refer to them as "this people." On those few times when he referred to "the saints" it was not because he believed the members had attained anything approaching sainthood, but rather he spoke in the context of encouraging "this people" on how to aspire to become saints. Newly converted members did not automatically become sanctified and made holy simply by dint of joining the church and moving to Missouri.

Sanctification was a process that necessitated direct involvement by God. There were particular requirements that individuals would have to meet before "this people" found themselves worthy to become what Joseph referred to as "saints in Zion." He taught that there would indeed be a gathering place for the saints, but not until a sufficient number of them had proven worthy to be sanctified and made holy so they were eventually able to gather.

When referencing "the saints," I noticed that Joseph usually spoke in the future tense, not so much in the status of where the people presently abided. "The saints should be a select people," he declared, "separate from all the evils of the world; choice, virtuous, and holy." He further said that the Lord "was going to make of the Church of Jesus Christ a kingdom of Priests, a holy people, a chosen generation, as in Enoch's day, having all the gifts as illustrated to the Church in Paul's epistles and teachings to the churches in his day." In this sermon and others, it is clear that God had not yet accomplished that task with this particular people.(History of the Church 4:570).

By contrast, the prophet Joseph openly acknowledged that mere membership in the church does not make a person a saint. Said he, "I shall speak with authority of the Priesthood in the name of the Lord God...Notwithstanding this congregation profess to be Saints, yet I stand in the midst of all [kinds of] characters and classes of men...Yes, I am standing in the midst of all kinds of people...We have thieves among us, adulterers, liars, hypocrites...The Church must be cleansed, and I proclaim against all iniquity."(History of the Church 4:588)  

That rebuke was issued by the prophet on the 9th of April, 1942, a full twelve years since the church was founded. Does that sound to you as though the members had yet been sanctified and made holy? Joseph had two more years to live before he was violently assassinated and there is nothing to be found in our history that would indicate that the people who called themselves "saints" had ever lived up to the title. The list of requirements that would have had to be met in order for the members to be made holy centers mostly around selflessness and unconditional love toward others, qualities that existed in some of the members -Joseph comes to mind, as well as Emma and Joseph's brother Hyrum and a few others. From my reading of Mormon history there does not seem to have been many who deserved to be called saints. And, I might add, within the LDS church today there seem to be even fewer still.

In December of 1959 I found myself entered onto the rolls of the church at eight years old never having experiencing sanctification so far as I can recall.  And yet I was constantly assured that I was an actual, bona fide saint of the latter days, deserving to be recognized as such. More than half a century later I'm beginning to suspect I ain't no saint.

So let's think about how close the average member of the church is to truly being sanctified today.  Well, it would appear from Joseph's teachings that if it happened to you, you would know it, as Christ Himself would have done the honors face to face with you the way Joseph assures us took place with actual saints in the past. Joseph often named Enoch as a saint, as well as "Ezekiel, John, Saint Paul, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born." (History of the Church 3: 380-81) 

It was Brigham Young and others who later constantly -and incorrectly- referred to members of the church as saints.  In contrast, when Joseph referred to "the saints" it was to encourage the members to understand what was required of them before they could become saints.  A person can't just join the church and roll out of bed next morning all holy and sanctified. 

So Here's How It Happened
Let’s take a step back and look at how it came to be that members of the Restored Church took to calling themselves “latter-day Saints” when the vast majority of them had never actually earned the label.

As far back as the days of Mosiah we learn that believers were collectively known as the Church of God, or alternately, the Church of Christ. (Alma 46:15) Then centuries later when Jesus appeared among the surviving Nephites, those in the land of Nephi who were baptized in the name of Jesus were again called the Church of Christ (2 Nephi 26:21). Nowhere in the narrative are any of these members of Christ's church referred to as saints.

It is clear that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery picked up on the name of the church as given in the Book of Mormon, because in their subsequent writings they refer to themselves as belonging to the Church of Christ, even before the church was formally organized in 1830 (which, by the way, was completely appropriate; a formal autonym was not required for one to identify as belonging to the Lord).

A year previously, in June of 1829, Oliver Cowdery was drawing up articles for the incipient church based on what was written in the Book of Mormon and according to instructions he personally received via the revelation in D&C 18.  It was from what we know today as 3rd Nephi 26:21 that Oliver obviously took the cue for the name of the 19th century iteration of Christ’s church that he and Joseph were in the process of forming, i.e. "The Church of Christ.” Indeed, when the church was formally organized on April 6, 1830, the Lord acknowledged the name in a revelation to Oliver Cowdery “that thou mightest be an Elder unto this Church of Christ bearing my name.” (D&C 21)

There was a bit of a problem with that name, however. There already existed other denominations in America that went by the name Church of Christ, and no really good way for the restorationists to distinguish themselves from those protestant sects. So at an 1834 meeting of the Elders of the church in Kirtland, Sidney Rigdon proposed that the name of the church be henceforth known as “The Church of the Latter-day Saints.” That motion was formally adopted by those in attendance.

Sidney Rigdon was keen on referring to followers of Christ as “saints” because he had been a prominent preacher in the Campbellite movement, which was a group of frontier religionists looking to find an existing church that was patterned after that of the early Christians in the century following Christ’s ascension. Rigdon was attracted to Joseph Smith’s fledgling religious society because this one seemed to fit the bill. Rigdon’s proposal for changing the name to Church of the Latter Day Saints made sense to his fellow Elders in the Restored church of Christ because it would distinguish the modern latter day saints from the previous saints -those being the earliest Christians who lived prior to Christianity being co-opted by the medieval Catholic church.

There never were any revelations showing that God approved of the name change promoted by Rigdon which eliminated any reference to the Lord Himself. Had Jesus not already asked the Nephites, “how be it my church save it be called in my name?” Rigdon did not seem to have considered that question.

It should be noted that not every member of the church approved of the name change, either; in fact many ignored it, continuing to refer to themselves as belonging to the Church of Christ or the Church of God. Decades later, David Whitmer wrote, “we obeyed His commandment, and called it the CHURCH OF CHRIST until 1834 when, through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, the name of the church was changed to ‘the church of the latter day saints,’ dropping out the name of Christ entirely, that name which we were strictly commanded to call the church by, and which Christ by His own lips makes so plain.” (David Whitmer, An Address To All Believers In Christ, Richmond, Mo. 1887, pg 73)

Eventually, in April 1838, four years after Sydney Rigdon's genius idea for a name change, Joseph was told on April 26th, 1838 in Far West Missouri, “For thus shall my Church be called in the last days, even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” (D&C 115:4) And so the matter was settled. In more recent times the Corporation of the President added a hyphen between the words “latter” and “day” so they could copyright the name.

So, you might ask, why did God seem to acquiesce to that tag at the end that reads "of latter day saints?"  Well, I think he didn't really care.   Our God seems willing to allow his people to make their own choices and in this case as long as the first part of the name of the church included the name of the being we worship, why should the rest of it matter?  The modern LDS church is free to call themselves whatever they want, and that includes going by the longest and most awkward name of a church in all of Christendom. At any rate, Oliver Cowdery seems to have understood that "saint" could describe either a heavenly being of any description (such as perhaps an unborn child?) or be used as a helpful appendage to the name of the church of Christ when he wrote that the name was “meant to represent the people of God, either those immediately dwelling with Him in glory, or those on earth walking according to His commandments.” (“Saints–Again,” The Evening and Morning Star, June 1834, [emphasis mine].)

In the handful of revelations in which the Lord refers to the saints, those revelations don't strike me as an affirmation, but rather a subjunctive.  In other words, "sainthood" was a possibility, not an established fact, much like the way the oft quoted -and ever misunderstood- subjunctive clause in D&C 1:30 wherein the Lord is thought by some to have declared the LDS  church to be "the only true and living church on the face of the earth," a false teaching that was put to bed six years ago by McKay Platt on this very forum. 

In the end I agree with the author of #Ripened: all babies are quite obviously sanctified before they are sent down here to join us. So although not all saints are babies, all babies do arrive here as saints:
"There is no question whether they can be considered 'sanctified, holy, or godly.' Indeed, it is the very reason Jesus said we must become as little children. He does not say we should merely become like a child, but as a little child. A little child is in the purest, most holy state imaginable. When you hold a tiny baby in your arms, you know you are holding a being who is pure, freshly arrived from heaven, a brand-new human being so completely lacking in guile that it cannot even fathom what guile is. You are looking into the eyes of a creature that is as near to an angel as possible. Indeed, you are looking into the eyes of a saint.

"When Noah Webster defined the word in 1828, he wasn’t just pulling the meaning out of a hat. He understood the etymology, which unfortunately too few latter-day saints do. The first century saints (from the Latin sanctus) understood it to mean that by covenanting to follow Christ, they were sanctified by His blood, made holy, more perfect; or at least purified to the degree possible for a person constantly subject to sin.

"Absent our being sanctified (made holy) by the Lord, which He can do if we are prepared to let Him; the appelation 'saint' is otherwise suited to describe a person who has not yet completely arrived on this earth; one who is in a perfect state from the beginning; one who has been sent from heaven and is still in the process of being formed; one not yet tainted by sin. An unborn child."

These days when I read the Book of Mormon, my translation of choice is the one intended to go out to the Jews, the version that goes by the title The Stick of Joseph In The Hand of Ephraim.  For those unfamiliar with this fairly recent translation, it is an English translation that has been methodically prepared by Messianic Jewish scholars so that, wherever possible, the text retains appropriate Hebraisms in place of many of the English words that gentile Americans were familiar with in the 1830 English edition but that would have been unfamiliar to Jews. I favor this "Jewish translation" for two reasons: first, my family is descended from both Judah and Ephraim, and I have long had an affinity for Judaica;
and secondly, I just like to think the Hebrew words are a bit closer to what the Nephites would have used in scripture than the later English words which have been handed down from the King James tradition.  I also like this translation because it eschews Jacobian language such as "cometh," "receiveth," "sayeth," and so on which I have always found annoying because pronouncing words like that aloud makes me feel like I'm reading in the voice of Daffy Duck.

We don't know what the Nephite word was that Joseph Smith saw when he was translating the plates that meant "to sanctify or make holy," but the Hebrew equivalent would have been k'doshim which translates into English as "made holy."  When I'm reading The Stick of Joseph I find k'doshim a more satisfying word than saint, which comes to us from the Latin sanctus (sanctified) and the Greek hagios (set apart, holy). Whatever Nephite word Joseph saw on the plates that Mormon had used to denote innocent unborn children, the closest English word that came to Joseph's mind was saint, which in the Hebrew would have been K'doshim. I think most etymologists might agree that saint is the perfect word in English to denote a sacred, holy, unborn innocent child. 

Knowing what I know now, I have to admit to being embarassed for describing myself as a saint all these years, whether latter-day or otherwise.  Strictly speaking, except for those who have actually been sanctified, these days I feel that word should really only apply to the true holy ones: angels, newborns, and yet-to-be-borns. 

At the same time, though, weak as we are, becoming a saint remains something we should all aspire to, since the blood of Christ does have the power to sanctify us if we’ll ever get serious enough to allow it to.