Morning Musings

I was thinking about somethings, and in particular about how my faith has evolved over the past 4-5 years. 

And as I reflected on the way I’ve come to realize that reality and history are much deeper and more complex, and human interaction much more messy than I wanted to believe growing up, I was reminded of something that always used to bother me in mathematics but something that I’ve readily accepted in my everyday interactions with people and history. 

And that is that sometimes in Math there simply isn’t enough data to solve for X or Y or whatever and the simplest terms that you can express things in still incorporate and require unknown variables and expressions. 

This doesn’t make the principles of math errant or false it means we don’t have sufficient data to solve for the variable. 

And yet that is viewed as the acceptable correct thing to do, to say this is the best way to express that equation. 

But we don’t say that doing such is putting that equation on a shelf, or that the equation and the incorporation of the unknown into the simplest terms is mental gymnastics or done to avoid dissonance. We recognize that not every data set provides enough information to solve for each variable. 

I’m really not great at math, but if I’m honest with myself religion is a compilation of various data sets that will one day form a complex and comprehensive proof, but at present there exists in nearly each data set some unknown variable that at present cannot be solved for and thus the proof cannot be completed. 

But we can look for and seek out existing data that will test our theory or hypothesis, and if it is a sound hypothesis or theory then data will come back to us demonstrates our hypothesis to be correct and our theory can be shown to be sound. 

And if we are lucky the data that comes back helps to solve for some of those unknowns, but often it can introduce new variables that we will have to account for and rewrite some equations from time to time. 

I know Christ to be the Son of God as surely and definitively as anyone can based on subjective confirmation methods. And yet that knowledge, is as sound and real and outside myself as is the understanding of 4+4=8. I wouldn’t be more convinced that Christ was the Savior and Son of God if He stood before me than I am now. 

I can no more deny that knowledge of my Savior than I can deny 4+4=8 

The same goes for the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, living Prophets, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being God’s kingdom upon the earth. 

And I would make myself just as much a liar to say that 4+4=9 as I would to say that any of the above aren’t what they claim to be.


Lessons from the Exodus

One of my favorite stories from the OT due to its applicability to today is the story of the Spies sent to scout the promised land. 
In the record found in Numbers 13 & 14 The Israelites are encamped just south of Caanan and are poised to enter the promised land. 12 spies (one from each tribe) are sent to gather intel on the region and what the land and people are like.

Caleb and Joshua return and tell if a land of milk and honey, and that they should enter the land straightaway, and that though there are mighty people there The LORD is with them and they will overcome.

However the 10 other scouts while seeing the milk and honey are only able to focus on the perceived obstacles and the size of the task ahead of them and they bemoan their situation complaint against Moses & Aaron, and say but it would have been better for them to perish in the wilderness or to stay as slaves in Egypt, and they say that they should choose a new leader and travel back to Egypt, and they should stone Moses and Aaron, and Caleb and Joshua.

It is at this point that the Lord appears, and asks Moses, how much longer He should be patient with the children of Israel. The Lord says He will destroy them and raise up through Moses, a new and greater nation (essentially here He is saying He will reestablish the promise made to Abraham but rather it will be established through Moses.)

Moses intercedes and the wrath of God in destroying Israel is assuaged, but the Lord makes a decree that none of the current camp of Israel who had seen the miracles and wonders of Egypt and the glory of God at Sinai aged 20 and older shall inherit the promised land, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, and that their children shall inherit the land, but first they shall suffer wandering in the wilderness 40 years, and then they shall possess the land. That because of their complaints and rebellion and insistence on focusing on the problems and complaints they will NT inherit what was promised to them.

And this then begins the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the trial and suffering all because they lacked the faith and trust to stay true to The Lord and His leaders and plan, because they became obsessed with the challenges before them and d focused on the shortcomings they knew rather than in the Power of the Lord to overcome those shortfalls.

Now this event has great applicability both for us personally and collectively as a church.

I think in many ways the modern church stands at this cross roads at the precipice of truly inheriting what was promised, and kept from it by those who desire to return to by gone days and who focus on the shortfalls and challenges rather than the goodness and strength of God that can overcome, and make it possible for us to prevail.

I think it should be recognized that Caleb and Joshua saw the same challenges and those who rebelled also saw the milk and honey, but the difference was Caleb and Joshua trusted the Lord would see them through, and the other railed against Moses, said he wasn’t fit to lead and they needed knew leadership to lead them back to where they had been.

And as a result they were kept.from what they were promised from what they truly had supposed they wanted, and the blessings were put off to the next generation.

We must look beyond the challenges and realize and understand the Lord is with us, and if we want the land of milk and honey, then we must trust the Lord, and His chosen leaders, and give a good report one that recognizes the challenges but also that we have on our side the ability and power to overcome those challenges.

And how we give voice and express our recognition of the mighty host (problem) before us matters, and shapes the response from the Lord in helping us overcome. 

Public Violence is a Symptom

I’ve said it before and will say it again public violence is a symptom. Guns are merely a tool used in perpetrating the violence. 
Public violence is a multi faceted problem, one that can’t be pinned down to anyone source. Nor should we attempt to.

That being said looking to solve public violence by further restricting a single tool, is like someone having bacterial menegitis and all we want to do is give Tylenol to address the fever. 
We have to look comprehensively at solutions to each cause all along the way, and yes ultimately if that means more regulations of guns so be it. 
But we shouldn’t look to curb freedom as the first resort, it should be the last resort hail mary after all other avenues are exhausted utterly and completely. 
You’re welcome to disagree in fact I encourage you to disagree. But do so rationally and objectively, and not emotionally. 

We need to address social services, mental health, culture, media portrayal and messages, and access. Not just access. 

My heart goes out to the victims, I hope we can look at ourselves seriously and each side be willing to give and sacrifice for the common good. 

Let us find ways to beat our sword into plowshares and Spears into pruning hooks


In the “Things Christ never said files” we have the concept of Once Saved Always Saved.

In order to illustrate this there is a number of ways that we could go; however, I think that it is only necessary to look at what Christ remarked about endurance, specifically what He said about enduring to the end. There are several places in which Christ talks about this in the NT and the Gospels, one that we might look at is the parable He gives to the Apostles in John 15 where He describes believers as branches on a vine (presumably grape vines).  And just as the branches can’t bring forth fruit of themselves, if you cut a branch off the main vine it withers and dies, so too we must stay connected to Him, the main vine, in order to produce fruit. He then says that those who don’t produce fruit would be cut off.

Now here is where many would interject and say “wait Sarge, those who get cut off weren’t true branches to begin with.” And I say show where Christ makes that distinction in His parable and discourse, He doesn’t so we shouldn’t.  Further this is just a dodge invented to try and skirt around the reality of personal apostasy, and the fact that invariably it happens, hopefully rarely but it happens, and it is a fallacious pile of garbage to claim that well prior to that they weren’t really converted and weren’t sincere.

Especially when we’ve seen the fruits of the Spirit in the lives of these individuals, and real evidences of them having been reborn as disciples of Christ. What is more I don’t think that is a road that any Christian wants to go down, because it could then mean their conversion isn’t sincere despite their feeling like it is and if they were to die in that moment, who knows what would happen to them, such errant dogma actually does the opposite of what it sets out to. (provide security of salvation)  And instead give no one any security because they could be somehow insincere themselves, additional it sets us up as the judges of man’s hearts and that isn’t something we are qualified to do.

Don’t get me wrong there is salvational security and Christ outlines where it comes from, and how we can be confident that we are secure, that is through keeping the commandments and living the life of Discipleship, with His yoke and burden firmly and squarely upon our shoulders. The question isn’t whether “true Christians” can’t fall away, it is a matter of they won’t fall away.
I won’t waste time elaborating on the reality that even though we do this our trust is still in His Atonement and Grace and the power He has to overcome our weakness and not in any personal ability we have to be obedient because remember His standard is still perfection and we will all fall short.  But let’s look at what Christ has actually said on the topic.

Now since Christ didn’t limit His words and revelations to just the Bible neither will I though certainly we will look there, but I would first like to look at modern revelation.

D&C 14:7  And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

D&C 18:22 And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved.

1 Nephi 22:31 Wherefore, ye need not suppose that I and my father are the only ones that have testified, and also taught them. Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.

2 Nephi 33:And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.

Mark 13:13 / Matthew 10:22 13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

D&C 20:25 That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved

3 Nephi 15:9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. 

Now there is something that all of these have in common beyond telling us to endure to the end. They say that those who endure are the ones who will be saved.

That’s the Crux of the matter, Christ said IF we endure THEN we are saved.  Not those who are saved will then endure.

For additional reading on this topic See these additional resources

My Favorite

A great read

Some thoughts on Mercy, and Forgiveness. 

I’d like to briefly discuss a recent … Let’s call it paradigm shift I’ve had, and a bit of back story on how I got there. 

I’m my various dealings and conversations with friends, acquaintances, and critics in life and social media, I’ve run across various bold assertions about my beliefs (LDS) and the beliefs of others, and seen many labels applied to all of them:

Heresy, Apostasy, False Gospel, Idolatry (God crafted in my image) etc. And occasionally, someone will remind others not to judge. 

The reality is, that Christ admonished us that we should judge, but to beware, because we ultimately will be judged based upon what metrics we use to judge others.

Matthew 7:1-2

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (See also Luke 6:37 & 19:22)

Once upon a time I was pretty strident and narrow regarding what I viewed as acceptable standards of belief, not only of others but also of people in my own faith. 

Over time and due largely to reading and trying to apply the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon and Bible. I’ve come to realize, that as one who desires leniency and mercy from God in how I live and believe I needed to do a better job of granting that to others. 

Now don’t get me wrong there are still lines and boundaries that ought not to be crossed, however I’ve come to realize that within those lines and boundaries there is room and allowance for people to hold various individual views on various individual topics. 

As Elder Jeffery R. Holland has said here, the line and boundary drawn is whether they are upholding their covenants and staying faithful to those and to the cause of Christ. 

I won’t get into things and actions that I feel violate those boundaries because that isn’t the point here. 

Rather the goal and focus here is to remind others that what we all want from the Lord is forgiveness, mercy, and a bit of leeway for our own shortcomings and differences compared to Him and His perfection, of which we will assuredly fall far short of. 

It hasn’t been easy adjusting my outlook and changing the way in address and interact with others, and it has no doubt caused others to view me differently and friends to become concerned I’ve changed and potentially am losing my way. 

In truth I have changed, I also don’t fault them for their views and opinions regarding my new found outlook. My only hope is they are prepared and willing to accept the standards they apply to others to be applied to them. 

My prayer is that we all grant each other some leniency, and instead of trying to determine who is right and who is wrong, we look beyond our differences to come together and work towards solutions and the betterment of all, and ultimately the establishment of Zion, a place where unity of purpose is the functioning principle, despite differing ideologies, and viewpoints. 

Angels, Ad Hocs & Assumptions

The ever entertaining Rob Bowman has recently updated an article rife with special pleading regarding the visit of Moroni to Joseph Smith. In the article Bowman discusses how it is quite implausible that Joseph could have a visit from an angel, and yet none of the brothers whom he shared a room with noticed or were awoken by it. He does so while ignoring such Biblical instances of Elisha’s servants and the heavenly army that basically utilize the same principles. 

Firstly let’s recognize that even the appearance of an angel to a human feels like an implausible scenario, so that the implausible did happen, let’s not limit ourselves to having the implausible happen but only being able to happen in a way that agrees with our 21st century sensibilities. 

Never mind that as previously mentioned in the OT and NT there are cases presented where one party is aware of angelic visitors and other parties have no idea they are there. This flaw was pointed out to Bowman previous to his update, and it seems he hasn’t done anything to change that issue or address it. Rather his update spends considerable effort reinforcing the reality of his special pleading. 
He has also incorrectly stated our views on angels or perhaps inadequately stated 

3. In LDS theology, angels are not incorporeal beings that appear to people in temporary visible manifestations. They are understood to be resurrected human beings possessing immortal, glorified physical bodies. Moroni, specifically, is said to have been a resurrected Nephite prophet and the son of the Nephite prophet Mormon; Moroni is identified as the man who finished his father’s book and eventually deposited the gold plates in the hill near Joseph Smith’s home. Thus, a visitation by such a physical being (as distinguished from a vision of such a being) would be presumed to be visible and audible to anyone in a physical location to see and hear unless the account stated otherwise.

Actually Rob in LDS theology not all angels are resurrected beings, there are plenty that are simply spirits, though one should remember here that the physical laws of earth don’t exactly apply to them, resurrected or not, the same way they apply to us. So standing in the air and being visible to only some are well within their abilities. 

One is left to wonder why an angel that is a physical being suddenly operates via different rules than one that isn’t. 

Does Rob have a copy of the employee manual for angelic beings? Would he kindly share why he presumed automatic visibility and audibility?

Was it simply to help his narrative, something put together on the fly as it were to adjust for data or is there something else that lends support for differing rules for Moroni?

Rob would have us believe that Moroni can find away to stand in the air but doesn’t have the ability to only appear to Joseph. An odd assumption, notice also Bowman admits his conclusion that Moroni would have been naturally visible to the other brothers is an assumption, and the only supporting data for that is basically that he thinks it must be that way.(Again he must have a copy of the angels employee manual or maybe the union agreement) And yet in the same breathe he accuses Mormon apologists of forwarding ad hoc responses. 

(Phone rings) “Hello”

(Voice on the other end) “Yes Hi, is this Kettle?”

“Yes this is the kettle what can I do for you?”

“Yeah this is the pot and I was just calling to let you know you are black m’kay!” (Hangs up)

Now this type of hypocrisy and double standards is a hallmark of Bowman’s work, but let’s not dwell on it let’s move back to his article. 

Bowman spends the next portion of his article trying to act like his special pleading regarding Joseph’s brothers isn’t special pleading because in the example used against him where Elisha sees the chariots of the Lord standing with them and his servant doesn’t (see 2 Kings 6) the servant is mentioned and in Joseph’s claim his brothers aren’t. 

So see guys it isn’t special pleading still because…. oh wait you mean Rob is still making an allowance for the miraculous on a tale he feels is true while not making room for that same miracle with Joseph and therefore it is special pleading whether one story explicitly mentions the there or not?

Again remember it is Bowman accusing LDS apologists of ad hoc responses, and yet Bowman only asserts the invalidity of comparison between Joseph and Elisha AFTER his special pleading has been pointed out to him.

Of course you’ll have to forgive Joseph for not mentioning his brothers considering how they played no role in the experience and Joseph is detailing what transpired between him and Moroni. 

Apparently it seems angels only have the power to conceal themselves when everyone who is there later gets mentioned. That’s important information to know I’m glad Rob filled us in on that tidbit. 
But let’s break down how Rob arrives at this supposedly none special pleading non ad hoc solution. 

The narrative makes it quite clear why he did not at first see the supernatural forces: they were not naturally visible beings. 

Yes, and in Joseph’s case glorified resurrected beings from heaven are just always walking around town naturally visible to anyone… Oops my bad again they aren’t. So right off the bat we have two scenarios with the same premise going on let’s continue

Elijah’s servant had to be granted the ability to see those supernatural beings. Notice that the servant is not rebuked for lack of faith or anything along those lines; his not seeing the supernatural beings was not his fault, because they were not natural entities that would be normally visible to human eyes. 

See it was Joseph’s brothers fault because Resurrected glorified beings from heaven are floating around town visible to everyone like we previously established so the brothers of Joseph not seeing Moroni is totally on them and their failure to just use their natural eyes. 

God had to “open his eyes” to see them. The fact that the account reports that the servant at first did not see the supernatural army and then did see it is explained in the account itself as involving the miraculous. The reader is not forced to this explanation ad hoc to resolve some external difficulty; it is what the text actually says.

Yes God had to open their eyes to see it. But God didn’t have to open Joseph’s eyes to the vision cuz Resurrected glorified beings from heaven are just floating around town for everyone to naturally see all the time. 

I would like to take this moment to thank Rob for outlining his special pleading in perfect detail and showing the say reader just guilty of hypocrisy and double standards he is. It was actually quite humorous as I read though I was like 

Anyways Bowman instead of solving the problem of special pleading in his update merely served to outline exactly how he is guilty of it all while arguing that he wasn’t doing it, that’s good stuff 

If you want to check Rob’s actual article to see his assumptions presumptions and double standards in action do so here

Sometimes I feel like Bowman’s articles need a waring sign like this

Or as another associate of mine said

“What he’s doing is very clever.  Since Joseph Smith didn’t mention how his brothers were kept from seeing the vision, ANY theory put forward to explain how that could be possible can, and will,  be dismissed as “ad hoc.”  In his reasoning, the very act of trying to explain it defeats the explanation.  Ergo, no explanation can exist; ergo, he needs do nothing else to win the debate other than state his starting assumption.

What a hack.”

Answering Bowman

Recently through Facebook I answered a poorly written (as usual) article from one Rob Bowman, which itself was a response to something written by Dr. Daniel Peterson. 

Mr. Bowman claims that several items in LDS doctrine don’t have a clear postion on them which is rather incorrect. I shall endeavor to respond to each of his points some of which are quite inane (see entry on Mary’s virgin birth.)

Did the Father become God after passing through a period of testing and exaltation, so that he was not always God but rather became God? 

There is no official position on this but if one pays attention to the King Follett Discourse Joseph uses Christ as the archetype of how the Father experienced mortality, seeing as how Christ was divine even in mortality it is obvious Joseph is declaring the same of the Father, the part he states with the Father not being God and enthroned eternally is not a reference to any lack in being theos, but rather that there was a time when the Father wasn’t actively ruling and enthroned. No more no less. However given that we have no official position on the topic members themselves are free to take whichever view they choose. Bowman may not like the position the church takes a firm “we don’t know” but an answer is hardly non existent or unclear. 

#2. Was the Father a sinner during his mortality? Could he have been a sinner? 

Here again is something the church takes no official position on, which while not really answering is different than having an indeterminate position on the topic the postion is determined as “we don’t know, and such is irrelevant, as He is God now.”

Is the Father still progressing in knowledge or power? 

Define knowledge and power and then we’ll talk, we believe God knows all that can possibly be known and has power to do that which is possible to do. Once again the position is quite defined and determined. 

What is the relation of the Holy Ghost to the Father? Is the Holy Ghost another spirit son of the Father? If not, who is he? 

Yes we hold that the Holy Ghost is another spirit son of God, hard to believe with all the claimed knowledge of Mormonism that Bowman asserts that this has somehow alluded him. My 6 yr old son answered this readily.

#5 Was there a God before our Heavenly Father who was his Father? Was there a Father before that one, and so in, in an infinite regress of divine Fathers? 

Irrelevant frankly, additionally another instance where the church position is decidedly “we don’t know” which is again different than a we don’t have a clear answer.

#6. Is Heavenly Mother a God (or Goddess)? Yes (see Section 132) This is quite clear in LDS theology. Again one wonders if Bowman even pays attention.

<6 continued>

If so, why shouldn’t we worship her, since she is our divine Mother and is even the divine Mother of Jesus Christ? Why isn’t Heavenly Mother a member of the Godhead?

Again the answer here is quite obvious, God has commanded that we worship Him in the name of the Son, or that our worship is given to Father, Son and Holy Ghost as a unit as they are one God.

Is worship properly given to the Father only, or to the Father and the Son? 

See the extension of my previous answer worship is properly given to the Father in the name of the Son, the Son can also be worshiped due to the principles of divine invesiture as can the Holy Ghost as part of the functioning Godhead.

#8. Were we actual self-conscious, individual persons from all eternity, or did we become such persons at some distant point in the past preexistence? 

See Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Which answers this question. Our eternal essence of who we are is just that: eternal. That said, essence clothed in a spiritual vessel or spirit body doesn’t change the fact that it was already a self aware agent unto itself capable of choosing for itself. Again one wonders if Rob has even paid attention. 

#9. Did our heavenly parents literally procreate us as their spirit offspring, and again, what did that change about us if we were eternally preexistent? 

Answered more or less in my previous response, but I’ll go further and ask why Rob supposes literal procreation as necessary or even the method by which spirit bodies are organized? Could Rob please tell me the gestation period of a spirit fetus?

We don’t know the process or methodology use nor do we claim to, we do declare that the only change was our eternal essence or intelligence was clothed upon by a spiritual body, itself being composed of eternal existent elements. This is pretty basic stuff yet again. 

. If our heavenly parents literally procreated us as their offspring in the preexistence, why did they procreate us as spirits rather than as physical beings like themselves? 

Again Bowman is begging the question here on literal procreation, which itself is also something we don’t claim and represents somewhat of a strawman. If Robert would like to rephrase his question so that it is no longer reliant upon fallacy I would be happy to address why we were clothed upon with only spirit first of all. (Hint: God intended it that way)

#11. If mortality and exaltation are essential steps in attaining Godhood, how did Jesus Christ become a God in the preexistence when he was Jehovah, before he had become mortal and attained exaltation? (He just did, okay? That seems to be the usual answer.)

Laying aside the flippancy here, actually the answer is again found in Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Christ was with God from the beginning by virtue of who He was. His intelligence or eternal essence was always in perfect alignment and willing submission to the Father, thus He was theos (or God or Divine a qualitative designation) inherently, where as we aren’t. However this inquiry from Bowman begs the question that being theos requires exaltation, which isn’t the case. One can be theos or God and also not yet exalted as is the case for the pre-existent Christ, and the currently spirit form of the Holy Ghost. While it is true one can’t be exalted without becoming theos, it isn’t true that one must first be exalted in order to become theos. 

#12Mormonism affirms that Jesus Christ is the literal son of Heavenly Father and of Mary his mother in the flesh, actually “sired” by Heavenly Father. Is it consistent with this doctrine to infer that the Father impregnated Mary by physically uniting with her, i.e., is there anything in LDS doctrine that actually denies that this happened?

I’ll interject here and say yes our affirmation of the Virgin Birth, again one wonders if Rob really knows Mormon beliefs like he claims. He does however pull a classic Bowman and beg the question that physical union is the only way that the Father could’ve been the literal sire of Christ. Never mind that modern science can now produce literal offspring of two parties without direct physical union between them, but 2000 years ago the supreme ruler of the universe that simple speaks worlds without end into existence couldn’t manage to combine genetic material from Himself and Mary and place it in her womb without direct physical union… smh is all I’ve got there. 

<continting with the initial question>

 If that is not how Jesus was conceived, how was he conceived such that he is the Father’s literal physical offspring?(Peterson’s “question” on this topic is, “Was Jesus the son of Joseph?” which neatly sidesteps the problem. Mormons usually take offense at these questions, however politely they may be asked, rather than offering any answers to them. Orthodox Christians don’t have this problem because their theology absolutely precludes the notion of God uniting physically with Mary.)

Neither do Mormons have this issue as I’ve explained. 

#13. Is the hill where Joseph Smith discovered the gold plates the same hill called Cumorah in the Book of Mormon? 

No. The New York drumlin was called Cumorah later by the saints starting with Oliver Cowdery, but there really isn’t given a careful reading of the text reason to view the hill where Moroni buried the record as the same hill they fought their final battles at, or where the other records kept by Mormon were buried. Though again the church takes no official position regarding geography which is different than indeterminacy that Bowman asserts. 

#14. Is the Book of Abraham a translation of text that appeared on one of the papyri that the LDS Church bought in 1835? 

Yes, though it ought to be noted that the fragments that we now have don’t come from the material Joseph translated for the Book of Abraham, such material is no longer extant. 

. Is the Bible missing any books that are actually extant today, and if so, why doesn’t the LDS Church include them in their editions of the Bible? 

If they are currently extant why would they be missing? Kind of a silly question eh Rob?

Undoubtedly there are books out there that could have warranted inclusion in the Bible, but weren’t, the purpose of the restoration isn’t to restore every lost book to the Bible but rather the lost teachings and understandings and authority. Speaking of which…

. Why did the early church become apostate—because the Christians were bad, or because of persecution, or what? (Mormons have a tough time with this question. It’s a dilemma:

Actually no it isn’t a dilemma the apostasy of teachings was slow and gradual over time, the loss of authority (which our contention of apostasy is more about anyways) and specifically apostolic authority was actually fairly rapid seeing as they were killed off faster than new ones could be called. 

#17. If the purpose of polygamy is to “raise up seed,” then why did Joseph Smith apparently not have any children by his plural wives? 

Only one purpose of plural marriage was to raise up seed, also never mind that raising up seed doesn’t mean simply many total overall children, but rather more children into specific families.

It is also interesting the Lord uses the phrase raise up seed in speaking of His covenant with Abraham, that would seem to me that raising up seed is the increase in covenant families and generations of the church. Nevertheless as Section 132 states raising up seed is but one of many reasons for it. 
In the end this is a classic case of Bowman wanting to be right vs wanting to get it right. 

With actually very little time and effort the answers to these questions could have been had, most of them likely through conversation with some 10 yr olds. 

It is always unfortunate when polemics takes precedence over the facts and getting it right.