I mentioned in my previous post that Mormons have offered two similar but incompatible explanations for the fact that a temple was not built in Independence, Missouri, as Joseph Smith had predicted in 1832:

  • The enemies of the Mormons goofed (from the Mormon perspective) by preventing the Mormons from doing what they were supposed to do to bring about the prophecy’s fulfillment.
  • The Mormons goofed by failing to do what they were supposed to do in order to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy.

From what I have seen in the literature, these two explanations are the most common of those offered by Mormons.

Michael Fordham, in a lengthy article on the website of the Mormon apologetics organization FAIR, claims the Mormons’ enemies were to blame:

D&C 124:49 states, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of man to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept their offerings.” The Latter-Day Saints were driven out of the area by the mobs that violently persecuted them. In light of this scripture, the mobs are responsible for the temple not being built, not the LDS or God.

Notice that Fordham asserts here that the enemies of the Saints, “not the LDS,” were “responsible for the temple not being built.” That seems simple enough. But in the same article, further down on the very same web page, Fordham has this to say:

Why would God give instructions for the building a temple if He knew the Saints would be driven out of Missouri? God changed His mind because the Saints were not obedient. The Lord can change His mind depending on the obedience, or disobedience, of His children…. Obedience is the basis upon which all blessings are received. The Saints in Missouri were promised that they would prosper, become great, and not be moved out of their place if they would be obedient unto that which the Lord required of them in this revelation. Unfortunately, the Saints did not act as they should have, and as a result, were driven from Missouri.

If you’re confused, it’s because you’re paying attention. Fordham asserts both that the Saints were not responsible for the temple not being built and that the Saints’ disobedience was responsible for the temple not being built. Nor does Fordham even seem to be aware of the apparent discrepancy between these two assertions.

It is, of course, possible for both the Mormons and their enemies to have been wicked, or disobedient, whether in the same or different measures. Unfortunately, that won’t help here. Fordham, like many Mormons, understands Joseph’s revelation in D&C 124:49-51 to mean that the Saints were prevented from staying and building the temple in Missouri because of their wicked enemies. Well, according to this same passage, the Lord did not hold the Saints accountable for not building the temple but was obliged “to accept their offerings,” that is, to accept their diligent efforts to build the temple as meeting their obligation to him. The revelation states that if the people “go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence,” then the Lord accepts those efforts and does not “require that work” from them any longer. If this passage applies to the inability of the Mormons to build the temple in Independence, then it flatly contradicts the explanation that they were unable to build the temple because of their own disobedience.

The only LDS writer I have found who has seen the difficulty of combining both explanations is Jeff Lindsay, who writes:

In applying Jeremiah 18:7-10 to the issue at hand (though I’m not sure it should be applied), one could argue that the Latter-day Saints in Missouri did not repent of their transgressions (as a community, anyway, though many individuals did) and lost the privilege of building the temple at the time (see D&C 105:2-6). However, the Lord later said to those who had sought to build it that their offering had been acceptable in the face of opposition from others and that it was not then required to attempt to build the temple at that time (see D&C 124:49-51). Different groups appear to be addressed in these two passages from the Doctrine and Covenants, so both may be compatible if we wish to apply D&C 105:2-6 to the issue of the temple. But I think the best approach is just to consider the issue of delayed fulfillment.

The two revelations in D&C that Lindsay cites were delivered seven years apart (in 1834 and 1841), but they appear to refer to the same thing—the delay in the building of Zion, which was to begin with the construction of a temple in Independence. I suppose one could argue that in 1834 the problem was the disobedience of the Saints while in 1841 the problem was the opposition of the Saints’ enemies, but this is a strained harmonization at best. A straightforward reading of D&C 124:49-54 is that the Lord told the Saints to build the temple, they made every effort to do so (“with all their might and with all they have…and cease not their diligence,” v. 49), but their enemies prevented them. There is no room in this revelation for the idea that the Saints actually had an opportunity to build the temple but failed to do so because of their own disobedience. This may be why Lindsay is not confident about the use of D&C 105:2-6 to explain why the temple was not built. Still, there is apparently some basis in Joseph Smith’s revelations for both explanations, as difficult as it is to harmonize them.

Both explanations presuppose that the Missouri Temple prophecy was conditional, that is, a prediction that the temple would be built if certain conditions were met. In my next post, I will address this argument and draw some conclusions about these two particular explanations.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2009 at 10:07 pm and is filed under Mormonism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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