Mexican Martyrs: Another Mormon Myth Bites the Dust

May 21, 2012

I have had a vague memory of seeing a cheesy church-produced film in my youth involving two Mexican men who were executed by Emiliano Zapata’s guerrillas during the Mexican Revolution.

According to the film, these men were killed because they refused to renounce their Mormon faith. Here is the account as told in the current Book of Mormon teacher resource manual:

“A neighbor of the Monroys, fiercely opposed to their religious activities, went to the Zapata headquarters and denounced Rafael as a Carranzista and as a Mormon.

“Soldiers surrounded the Monroy house. Rafael was arrested together with Vicente, a member of the Church who happened to be visiting there. ‘Give up your arms,’ the soldiers demanded.

“Drawing from his pocket a Bible and a Book of Mormon, Rafael answered, ‘Senores, there are the only arms I ever carry. They are the arms of truth against error.’

“The two men were tortured, threatened and told to renounce their religion. ‘My religion is dearer to me than my life and I cannot forsake it,’ Rafael declared.

“He spent the afternoon in jail reading and explaining the scriptures to his fellow prisoners and to the guards. At 7 p.m. his mother brought some food. Rafael blessed it, but did not eat. ‘I am fasting today,’ he said.

“Moments later he and Vicente were marched to a large tree on the outskirts of San Marcos. They were offered their freedom if they would forsake their religion and join the Zapatistas. They refused.

“Rafael was allowed to pray. He knelt, and asked protection for his family, for the little branch. Finally, he prayed for his executioners, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’

“Rising and folding his arms, he announced, ‘Senores, I am at your service.’

“‘Never have I seen men die more courageously,’ the soldier said” (“Two Members Died Courageously for the Truth,” Church News, 12 Sept. 1959, 19).

As a boy I was deeply impressed by this story of faith. Truly these men were martyrs for the cause.

The problem is that it’s not true. According to an article by Mark Grover of BYU, the men were killed because they had been accused of being supporters of Venustiano Carranza, Zapata’s enemy, and of having a hidden cache of weapons. Further, they were known to have associated with American missionaries and businessmen, which made them suspect to the Carranzistas.

Their religion was involved only tangentially. According to Monroy’s mother:

“As the days pass we are finding out little by little that also in this town there were false witnesses that helped to condemn to death my son saying that he perverted the people and taught a kind of religion and that he was a mormon and that word that they had not before heard they interpreted as some very bad thing and hatred and ill will follow us with the stories.”

The Zapatistas had never heard of Mormons, making it unlikely that the men were told to deny their faith; and there were no witnesses to the execution other than the Zapatistas, who didn’t mention anything about renouncing faith.

So, where did this incredibly faith-promoting story come from? It was related by mission president Rey Pratt, who seems to have laid things on more thickly with each telling.

It drives me crazy that, every time I dig into these faith-promoting stories, they turn out to be completely bogus. Brigham Young transfigured into Joseph Smith? Nope. Seagull miracle? Nope. Mexican martyrs? Nope.

Concise Dictionary of Mormonism: M (part 2)

May 9, 2012

Missouri: See Garden of Eden.

Missouri Conflict: In the 1830s, members of the LDS church began settling in Missouri, which Joseph Smith had designated to be the site where the New Jerusalem would be built in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Without warning and completely unprovoked, the Missourians began killing, raping, and pillaging their way through peaceful Mormon communities. Despite attempts by some anti-Mormons to explain that the conflict was complex, with blame on both sides, it is clear that the Missourians simply decided to follow Satan and try to destroy God’s true church.

Modesty: Generally, modest dress is that covers the parts of the body covered by temple garments. The sight of naked shoulders and midriffs is enough to drive otherwise stalwart priesthood holders to tamper with their little factories, endangering their souls and possibly driving them toward homosexuality,

Mormon: A derogatory nickname for church members deriving from their belief in the Book of Mormon. The church prefers that press reports refer to “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” except when the church wants to use the term, such as in the “I Am a Mormon” ad campaign.

Mormon Battalion: As church members traveled west toward Utah, the US government asked them for volunteers to travel to California to fight in the Mexican-American War. The battalion was a great blessing to the church, providing needed money and allowing women and children to make their way across the plains alone.

Mormon Handicraft: A division of Deseret Book where you can buy kitschy Mormon crap that you can’t get at Deseret Book.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir: An American institution, the choir continues to make itself relevant by butchering “Negro spirituals” and bad pop songs. A long-running television program highlights the few token “minority” members of the choir.

Mormonism: A broad term referring to any branch of restorationist religion that considers Joseph Smith a prophet and values his writings as scripture. Does not refer to apostate polygamist sects, who are in no way associated with Mormonism, especially not to the LDS church.

Mormons, Image of: 1) The view among church members that Mormons are a respected, influential group looked up to as an example of all that is good in the world. 2) The view among non-LDS that Mormons are a small, insular group who believe in some strange things, such as sacred underwear and the obvious appeal of Mitt Romney. (Note: this assumes that non-LDS know anything about Mormons, which is not a given.)

Moroni: The last writer of the Book of Mormon who retrieved his father’s plates from the hill Cumorah (in Central America) and then wandered for many years before burying the plates in the hill Cumorah (in New York). Moroni–or maybe it was Nephi–returned as a resurrected being to Joseph Smith and showed him where the plates were buried. Little-known fact: Moroni, not being sure which hill he left the plates in, appeared to fourteen-year-oldJose Saavedra in Quezaltenango, telling him he had been chosen to translate the Book of Mormon into Spanish and restore God’s true church. Informed of his error when he “returned and reported,” a sheepish Moroni returned to Jose, saying, “I should have known. I was looking for a white guy!”

Moroni, Captain: A man inspired of God to lead the Nephites against the wicked king-men. He rent his clothing and hoisted the “title of liberty” encouraging the people to follow him in fighting wickedness. He was so inspired that he initially took up arms against the chief judge, whom he accused of being a slacker.

Moses: A chosen prophet who led his people out of bondage in Egypt, though a few masochists stayed behind because they liked it. Modern revelation tells us that the ancient prophet Joseph knew of Moses by name; and being the sole author of the five books of Moses, Moses was sure to include this prophecy of himself.

Mosiah: Son of King Benjamin, he decried monarchy and set up a system of judges. Concerned about a group who had gone to the land of Nephi, Mosiah sent an expedition, which discovered the people of Zeniff. Remarkably, the record of the people of Zeniff is essentially the story of the Nephites and Lamanites in condensed form. This Book of Mormon redux is foreshadowed in the record of the Jaredites.

Mosiah, Sons of: Wicked sons of King Mosiah, these young men went from city to city, preaching against the true church of Christ, much as the Apostle Paul did as recorded in the New Testament. Also like Paul, they were visited by a heavenly being and converted to the truth, after which they traveled preaching the word in a Paulesque manner. (Note: This story bears only superficial resemblance to the story of the Apostle Paul. If anything, Paul was a knockoff of the sons of Mosiah.)

Mother in Heaven: In the nineteenth century, revered as equal to “Father God.” In the twentieth century, Mother in Heaven became so revered that any mention of her beyond “O My Father” could result in one’s excommunication.

Motherhood: The ultimate destiny of all women, motherhood is a great gift provided as a relief from the responsibilities of leading the family and holding the priesthood.

Mountain Meadows Massacre: An unfortunate tragedy that is so poorly understood that no one is to be blamed, and no one will take responsibility, especially not the LDS church. The tragedy may be understood as an event where church members interacted with an emigrant wagon train from Arkansas; mysteriously, 120 people died violent deaths, and children under the age of 8 who survived were charitably brought into Mormon homes. As President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “No one can explain what happened in these meadows. …. We may speculate, but we do not know. We do not understand it. We cannot comprehend it. We can only say that the past is long since gone.” Given the complete lack of information about how this confusing event unfolded, the LDS church cannot apologize for something it isn’t sure it’s responsible for. “We don’t use the word ‘apology,’” a church spokesman said. “We used ‘profound regret.’”

Murder: To take the life of an innocent or defenseless person. (Note: Does not apply if an angel orders you to kill, unless of course your name is Lafferty.)

Music: If restricted to Correlation-approved hymns, music can be an uplifting part of worshiping God. (Not to be confused with popular music, which is designed to arouse the senses and get people to tamper with their little factories to speed up the production of lifegiving substance.)

Mysteries of God: Doctrines revealed through endlessly repeating the same rote ordinances in the temple.

Concise Dictionary of Mormonism: M (part 1)

May 7, 2012

Magazines: 1) Wholesome and uplifting sources of God’s truth, as published by the church. 2) A tool of Satan used to corrupt the minds and hearts of young men and women.

Magic: Sorcery or sleight of hand tricks that are wholly unrelated to spiritual gifts, such as the use of divining rods and peepstones.

Magnifying One’s Calling: A conscious decision, approved of the Lord, to put your church responsibilities ahead of your family.

Man’s Search for Happiness: A film masterpiece originally produced for the 1964 World’s Fair that, as the Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes, “is less than fifteen minutes long, yet explores every man’s search for meaning in life: the whence, the why, and the whither.” Not to be confused with Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which is kind of a downer.

Manifesto: 1) The 1890 statement by the church that plural marriages would no longer be authorized or performed. 2) The 1904 statement by the church that this time they really meant it.

Mankind: The children of Adam and Eve, our literal first parents, unless you believe in Evolution, which is a devilish and false teaching that is wholly incompatible with the gospel, but the church has no position on it, so … oh, never mind.

Manuscript, Lost 116 Pages: First transcript of Book of Mormon translations, covering the Book of Lehi. Lost by Martin Harris and said to have been burned by his wife, the pages were not retranslated because of the wicked designs of conspiring men and not because Joseph couldn’t remember what he’d dictated.

Marriage: 1) The union of one man and one woman as ordained of God. 2) The union of one man and multiple women, as ordained of God. 3) The union of more than one woman with Joseph Smith and her “other” husband.

Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith: see Carthage Jail.

Mary, Mother of Jesus: Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, Mary became pregnant with Jesus, who was the Son of God. (Note: Brigham Young and Bruce McConkie explained that “overshadowed by the Holy Spirit” refers to having had sex with God.)

Masochism: Sitting through all ten hours of general conference.

Masonry: A secret society with origins among medieval builders’ guilds in Europe. Its tokens, signs, penalties, oaths, and symbols (such as the compass and square) are completely unrelated to the tokens, signs, penalties, and symbols (such as the compass and square) of the LDS endowment.

Masturbation: A grievous sin condemned by “prophets anciently and today [that] induces feelings of guilt and shame, … is detrimental to spirituality, [and] indicates slavery to the flesh. … No young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice. What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness). Statistics bear this out. Recent studies have shown that over 99% of men masturbate, so it is a fact that 99% of gay men have masturbated. Boyd K. Packer has clearly defined masturbation in no uncertain terms, explaining that our sex drive is like a “little factory” that produces a “lifegiving substance.” Tampering with the factory speeds up the process of creating the lifegiving substance. “You must leave that factory alone long enough for it to slow down.” Although masturbation is a regular topic of priesthood interviews of Aaronic Priesthood-age boys, missionaries, and even married males, the only people obsessed with this sin are apostates, probably because they tampered with their little factories.

Matter: Uncreated materials used by God to create the universe. Refined matter is known as “spirit.” What the difference is between matter and refined matter is anyone’s guess.

McKay, David O.: Ninth president of the LDS church. A career educator, McKay became known throughout the world as the principle script advisor for Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and as a friend and confidante of Lyndon Johnson, who reportedly said, “Damn, McKay, that’s one hell of a good gig you got there.”

Meat: A food to be eaten sparingly and in times of famine. Just kidding.

Meetinghouse: A building dedicated to religious observances, such as sacrament meetings, basketball games, and pinewood derbies.

Meetings, Major Church: Gatherings of church members for their edification and instruction. Larger church meetings, such as general conference, are televised so that members can sleep in the comfort of their own homes.

Melchizedek Priesthood: The authority to preside in the church and administer the higher ordinances of the church. The priesthood is organized just as it was in Jesus’ time. Consequently, the church was governed by high priest councils until 1834, and then in 1835 the First Presidency was organized and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was added. The addition of the office of Seventy completed the organization of the priesthood, though God took the next 150 years to tweak the organization, organizing, dropping, redefining, and reassigning the Seventies until He got it perfect sometime in the 1990s.

Membership Records: Meticulously kept records of every ordinance, church disclipinary action, and deaths for a particular member. (Note: “Member” refers to anyone who has ever been born to a church member or was baptized so they could play baseball, including unreported dead. Knowledge of one’s membership is not required.)

Men, Roles of: Men are to emulate the Savior and preside in their homes. as well as officiating in the ordinances of the priesthood. True masculinity is exemplified through white shirts and ties and lack of facial hair.

Mental Health: The restored gospel has great effects on the mental health of church members. Any evidence of positive mental-health benefits can be directly tied to the church, whereas anything negative, such as depression and suicide, is completely unrelated.

Mercy: A godly quality that cannot be given freely unless someone gets punished.

Mercy Killing: Ending stake conference ten minutes early.

Messenger and Advocate: An official publication of the church between 1834 and 1837 intended to proclaim church doctrine. (Note: The Messenge and Advocatet is no longer considered official or doctrinal.)

Michael: The name of Adam in his premortal life, Michael helped Jehovah create the earth. A native of Missouri, Michael will be making a special appearance with Jesus, followed by a six-week booking at the Osmond theater in Branson.

Millenarianism: The belief that the Second Coming of Christ and the Millennium are imminent, these being the last days, at least until an apostle tells us it won’t be happening anytime soon. Thanks, President Packer!

Millennium: The last 1000 years of the earth’s 7000-year temporal existence, the Millennium can be seen as the Sabbath coming after the long week of mortal earth. Satan will be bound, and the righteous will come forth in the first resurrection before the start of the Millennium. Just like a normal Sabbath, the Millennium will be a busy time of getting kids ready for church and attending meetings, lots of meetings. This will also be the time to correct all the mistakes in the church’s genealogy records.

Minorities: Broadly refers to anyone who isn’t a white American. According to the Book of Mormon, God invites “all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God” (2 Ne. 26:33). Because all are alike, church members are counseled to “marry those who are of the same racial background” (Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3).

Miracle: A beneficial event brought about by divine intervention, such as finding lost keys or surviving a handcart expedition despite the poor judgment and planning of leaders. Miracles occur because of the faith of the recipient, unless the miracle isn’t granted, in which case it is God’s will.

Miracle of Forgiveness: A 1969 book by then-apostle Spencer W. Kimball outlining various sins and the imperative to “triumph” over them all. The book explains that when Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light, he meant that forgiveness comes only after strenuous effort and a lot of pain and suffering.  The book focuses in part on sexual sins, whether petting, the more-grievous heavy petting, and the gateway to homosexuality, masturbation.

Missions: A commitment to spend 18 months to 2 years full-time preaching the gospel, developing welfare projects, serving as tour guides at church historical sites, or operating game-hunting reserves for wealthy clients.

Mission President: A man who is chosen to preside over missionaries in a geographical area. Typically mission presidents are high priests who have shown their faithfulness through church service and success in their business or professional life.

Missionary Training Centers: Church-operated centers in various locations around the world in which missionaries are taught to preach the gospel using the “commitment pattern,” avoid difficult questions by answering the questions their investigators should have asked, and repent of any unresolved sin they might be carrying, lest they not have the spirit.

Another Review of My Book

May 3, 2012

It does my heart good to know that people are enjoying the book. And it’s reassuring that non-Mormon readers have connected with it. Anyway, here’s the review:

Concise Dictionary of Mormonism: L

May 1, 2012

LDS: A highly addictive and very expensive drug that causes users to believe that happiness is found in obedience to someone else.

LDS Family Services: A department of the LDS church that provides counseling services to church members, along with other services such as adoption. For a fee, LDS counselors visit with church members to counsel them and provide discussions of BYU sports and gossip.

LDS Foundation: A department of the LDS church that calls church members asking them to will their money and property to the church when they die. Surviving family members will be comforted by the knowledge that their loved one has consecrated all that he or she had to build the kingdom of God.

LDS Student Association: An umbrella organization that sponsors activities for college-age church members, as well as a fraternity and sorority (these terms are used loosely).

Lamanites: Descendants of Lehi and Ishmael, two Israelite men who came with their families across the ocean to the Americas. The text of the Book of Mormon initially names as Lamanites the descendants of Laman and Lemuel, two sons of Lehi whose posterity was cursed “with a skin of blackness.” At various times, the term Lamanite refers to the wicked and unbelieving descendants of Lehi. Joseph Smith reported being told by an angel that “the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham.” In 2006, the Correlation committee corrected the angel’s false information by stating that Lamanites were “among” the ancestors of Native Americans.

Last Days: The days leading up to 1891, when Joseph Smith said the Savior would return and “wind up the scene.”

Law: Rules and guidelines enforced in society to govern behavior. For church members, God’s law is higher than human law, but we assured that “he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land” (D&C 58:21). (Note: Does not apply to plural marriage, banking, or destroying a printing press).

Law of Adoption: All humans must belong to the House of Israel spiritually before they can dwell in God’s presence. Literal descendants of Israel, such as Jews and pure Ephraimite Joseph Smith, belong to the House genealogically but must become spiritually Israel. Gentiles who convert to the LDS church are adopted into the House of Israel.

Law of Chastity: Church members vow in the temple to keep the Law of Chastity, which is that husbands and wives are not to have “sexual relations” (previous to 1990, it was “sexual intercourse”) “except with [their spouse] to whom [they] are legally and lawfully wedded.” (Note: Does not apply to Joseph Smith.) Sexual relations include necking, petting, heavy petting, and intercourse. For gay church members, sexual relations also include holding hands, hugging, kissing, or having a friend of the same gender.

Law of Consecration: In the temple, church members covenant to obey the Law of Consecration, “that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.” Although many Mormons believe the Law of Consecration has not been in force since the abandonment of the United Order, bishops, Primary teachers, and chapel cleaners know that it has.

Law of the Gospel: Church members covenant in the temple to observe and keep the Law of the Gospel, which is never explained but is contained in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Along with this law, a “charge” is given “to avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice.” Essentially, this law covers anything and everything not included in the other laws and covenants; this helps keep church members on their toes.

Law of Moses: The lesser law given to Moses at Mount Sinai, including the ten commandments and specific rules and ordinances, such as blood sacrifice. This was a temporal law suited to a people who were not ready to live the higher law, which would be brought by Jesus Christ. The New Testament informs us that Jesus’ coming and sacrifice fulfilled the Law of Moses; since that time, the Law of Moses has been abrogated and does not apply to Christian life, except when it condemns gays.

Law of Obedience: In the temple, church members covenant to obey God’s law. Before 1990, if you were female you covenanted that “you will each observe and keep the law of your husband and abide by his counsel in righteousness.” The change has led to no appreciable difference in the submission of men to their wives’ counsel.

Law of Sacrifice: In the temple, church members covenant to “acrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the kingdom of God.” From the days of Adam servants of God sacrificed the firstfruits of the field and the firstlings of the flock, until the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “which ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood.” (Note: The practice has been ended until it is practiced again before the Second Coming of Jesus.)

Lawsuits: Legal attempts to obtain justice in non-criminal matters. Lawsuits were a great blessing in early church life, as avoiding litigation compelled Joseph Smith to seek and obtain newer and more suitable gathering places for the Saints.

Leadership Training: All church members are well trained to perform their callings, usually by receiving a manual and attending a few meetings a year. Priesthood leadership training meetings are often broadcast from Salt Lake, where general authorities give inspired counsel. There is no truth to the rumor that these broadcasts are intended to be punishment for slothful servants.

Lectures on Faith: A series of seven lectures on the doctrine and theology of the LDS church originally given in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. The lectures were included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as being representative of “our belief, and … the faith and principles of this society as a body” and accepted as canon by unanimous vote of a general assembly of the church in August, 1835. Accordingly, the lectures were deleted from the canon in 1921 because “they were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons” and definitely not because the lectures conflicted with current doctrines.

Lee, Harold B: Eleventh president of the church, Lee is notable for setting up the church’s welfare program and for blocking an attempt to rescind the church’s “Negro” doctrines and policies in 1969. As Delbert Stapley noted, such an attempt to contravene the will of the Lord would have resulted in Lee’s premature demise; Lee served a term just short of eighteen months and died at age 74.

Lehi: An Israelite man who brought his family to the Americas some 600 years before Christ. Although Lehi inexplicably doesn’t mention them, there were at the time millions of Native Americans inhabiting the land, and Lehi and his family were quickly assimilated such that no trace of them remains.

Lehi, Book of: A record of Lehi, abridged by the prophet Mormon and translated by Joseph Smith using seer stones. Unfortunately, the wicked scribe and honest Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris allowed his even more wicked wife to see the manuscript, which disappeared. Miraculously, God had been prepared for this event, and when Joseph Smith was unable to retranslate the book, he was given a different version written by Nephi, thus thwarting the efforts of evil and conspiring men to alter the manuscript.

Levitical Priesthood: The priesthood held by Levites not descended from Aaron, making the Levitical priesthood the “lesser part of the Aaronic Priesthood.” Since no priesthood holders are known to be descendants of Aaron, this is a meaningless distinction, but nevertheless one important for the restoration of all things.

Liahona: A compass, or director given to Lehi to guide him in his journeys through the wilderness and to the promised land. Described as a brass ball with two spindles, the Liahona pointed the way the family should go and also provided written messages, such as “Lehi U there? Nephi S tied ^ agn, bt dats OK coz he lyks it. totL perv.” Plastic liahonas are available at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City; for the more discriminating prophet, metal liahonas with working compasses are avaiable for much more.

Liberty Jail: For five months in late 1838 and early 1839, Joseph Smith and some of his colleagues were imprisoned in a miserable jail cellar on charges of treason stemming from the Mormon attack on a unit of the Missouri state militia in what became known as the Battle of Crooked River. In a long letter to the Saints in March 1839, Smith discussed the injustice of his imprisonment and his expectation that he would be exonerated. Portions of this letter were later canonized as revelations (D&C 121, 122, and 123). Today, a partially reconstructed Liberty Jail stands as one of Mormonism holiest of sacred spaces.

Libraries and Archives: The church has long followed the revealed instruction to keep records (D&C 21:1) of God’s dealings with His church in the latter days. The main repository of these records is the Church Historical Library in Salt Lake City. In the spirit of openness and accountability, church archives have long been open to the public, except for information that might be embarrassing to the church or that might contain truths that are not very useful. Rumors that the First Presidency maintains a private vault are just that: rumors.

Lifestyle: A choice involving how you approach life. Church members are free to choose an acceptable lifestyle, preferably one that looks like a Leave It To Beaver episode. It is important to remember that heterosexual desire is, like gender, ordained of God and provided naturally to all humans. Homosexual attraction is a lifestyle choice for those who choose the easy way out and invite ostracism, scorn, and bullying.

Light and Darkness: All light comes from God, and darkness comes from the devil. Light from our sun is borrowed ” from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions.” Sadly, modern science has not advanced as far as this revealed truth. Mentions of white and dark skin in the scriptures are purely metaphorical, as prophets such as Brigham Young and Spencer Kimball have taught since the early days of the church.

Light of Christ: The conscience, or knowledge of right and wrong, given to all humans. According to some Mormon apologists and prophets, the great test of this life is to overcome the Light of Christ and obey one’s church leaders, even if they tell you to do something that is wrong.

Light-Mindedness: Trivializing the sacred, such as telling Jesus jokes or waving off a question about man’s potential godhood with “I don’t know that we teach it.” This concise dictionary is an excellent example of light-mindedness.

Literature: Members of the church have a rich tradition of artistic and literary achievement, from the homespun poetry of Eliza Snow and Orson Whitney to the usefully true novels of Gerald Lund and the inspired musicals My Turn on Earth and Saturday’s Warrior. President Boyd K. Packer has called for a renaissance in LDS literature, which seems to have been answered in the teen-vampire novels of Stephenie Meyer and the homophobic rantings of Orson Scott Card.

Lord: A confusing term in the scriptures that may refer to God the Father or to Jesus Christ. Thankfully, Joseph Smith has clarified that “less ambiguous term[s]” are Ahman for God the Father and Son Ahman for Jesus Christ. Use of these terms should eliminate any confusion, though they may provoke bemused chuckling among non-Mormons.

Lord’s Prayer: A prayer given by Jesus as an example of how to pray; apostate Christianity has unfortunately turned the prayer into a vain repetition of the kind that Jesus condemned. True Christianity does not involve rote prayers or ordinances, except for the sacrament, baptism, blessings, ordinations, or temple ceremonies.

Lost Scripture: Prophetic and inspired writing that has been lost but, if discovered, would completely support LDS beliefs and practices.

Lottery: A state-sponsored exercise inspired of God. When jackpots are high enough, large numbers of Utah Latter-day Saints drop what they are doing and congregate in long lines in Southern Idaho and Northwestern Arizona as a practice run for their eventual exodus to Jackson County, Missouri.

Love: The foundation of true religion. Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Love is kind and long-suffering, humble, “seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (Moro. 7:45; cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Above all, true love is conditional. For example, God’s love is conditional on our doing what we are told. The belief that God’s love is infinite and unconditional is a “false ideology … used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception” (see Russell Nelson, Ensign, February 2003).

Love Bombing: An outburst of friendly visits from ward members who hardly know you, random deliveries of baked goods or crafts, and letters, emails, and visits from church leaders. Love bombing usually begins when someone hasn’t been to church in a few weeks and ends the second they show up in sacrament meeting.

Lucifer: A name meaning “light-bearer” that by the third century AD was given to Satan because of a mistranslation of a passage in Isaiah. This mistranslation appears to have been inspired of God, as modern revelation indicates that Satan was known as Lucifer as far back as the Garden of Eden.

Lying for the Lord: Also known as “theocratic ethics,” this doctrine taught by Joseph Smith explains that prophets and apostles are not bound by earthly laws or ethics but by a higher law. Among the ethical behaviors that were not to be respected was honesty, exemplified by Joseph Smith denying his plural marriages both publicly and to his wife, Emma. Recent prophets and apostles have been diligent in following this commandment, such as when Gordon Hinckley and Hugh Pinnock denied knowing Mark Hofmann, or when Dallin Oaks denied Boyd Packer’s involvement in the excommunication of Paul Toscano.

Lyman, Amy Brown: Founder of what later became LDS Family Services. Served as Relief Society General President from 1940 until 1945, when she asked to be released because of her marriage problems.

Lyman, Richard: Ordained an apostle in 1918. In 1903. after the birth of their second child in 1903, Lyman’s wife, Amy, “informed Richard that their relationship from that point on would be celibate, living in amiable harmony.” During the 1920s, he was tasked with helping Anna Jacobsen, who had been excommunicated for unauthorized polygamy, to return to the church. A strong bond grew between the two, and Lyman suggested that, when one of them died, the survivor should be sealed to the other in a postmortal polygamous union. On November 11, 1943, apostles Harold Lee and Joseph Fielding Smith accompanied Salt Lake City police officers to Jacobsen’s apartment. Breaking down the door, they discovered Lyman in bed with Jacobsen. Lyman is the last apostle to be excommunicated to this date.