Mike Parker, a self-styled Mormon apologist, has been corresponding with Reachout for some time, challenging what we do and say, and posting the results on his web site. From what he writes and the arguments he espouses I suspect that he is of that new generation known as liberal Mormons. For the uninitiated I should explain that this is something of a contradiction in terms – a bit like saying Protestant Catholic. Sadly, although on first sight his pages look impressive, with excellent links to serious and interesting sources, Mr Parker seems willing to post just about any nonsense on his site as long as it shows Reachout and Mike and Ann Thomas in a poor light. His basic assumption is that if his source is Mormon the information is de facto correct, whilst if Reachout is the source the information is incorrect. This undermines his credibility enormously. His glorying in what he calls “cheap shots” does him no credit and is simply an attempt to trivialise all that dare to challenge his faith. Those of us who have studied Mormonism for many years will be familiar with his “don’t listen to the message, shoot the messenger” approach to debate. Nevertheless hope springs eternal and it is in that spirit that I post this reply to some of the points he raises.

First I will deal with a misconception he has about the work we do. Reachout Trust might be commonly known as an “anti-cult group” but this is something of a misnomer. The term is very negative and makes us sound as though we are thoroughly against something or another but not for anything in particular. Mike Parker also calls us “anti-Mormons”; a common and not so clever ploy that suggests that Mormonism itself is our whole motivation and reason for being. It is telling that to people in “the church” – Mormons always arrogantly refer to “the church” as though it was the only one – others are viewed according to their attitude to “the church”, whereas to a Christian people are viewed according to their attitude to Jesus. There is in fact no such thing as an anti-Mormon, and certainly not in Reachout. The way these terms are used by our critics is quite derogatory and negative and does not reflect the very positive nature of the work in which we are engaged.

On our letterhead we are described first and foremost as An International Christian Ministry. We are Christians then and not anti-Mormons and, like all Christians we have a very positive message, which is that through the atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved, by trusting in him. The description goes on that upholds biblical truth. This is very important because our role is to stand in defence of our faith rather than simply in contention with the faith of others. The case of Mormonism illustrates this point very well. The primary and most important claim that Joseph Smith ever made in this respect is that “all churches are corrupt and an abomination” in the sight of God. Systematically the LDS Church has attacked Christianity from that time.

John Taylor, third president of the church stated:

We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…it is as corrupt as hell; and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century. – Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.167.

LDS Apostle Orson Pratt declared:

all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God…Both the Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon’ whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickednesses. – The Seer, p.255.

Bruce R McConkie echoed these sentiments in the 20th century when he wrote:

[Nephi] designated the Catholic Church as ‘the mother of harlots’ (1 Nephi 13:34; 14:15-17), a title which means that the protestant churches, the harlot daughters which broke off from the great and abominable church, would themselves be apostate churches. – Mormon Doctrine, 1958, pp 314-15.

Today that same message is brought to the doors of millions of people by more than fifty six thousand LDS missionaries, who clearly teach that Joseph restored the gospel which was lost after the apostles were killed. Since which time, it is claimed, “the Christians” have twisted, corrupted, added to and taken from the word of God. It is a message in which the Book of Mormon is presented as the book of the restoration, “the most correct book of any book on earth” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church). But a message in which the Bible is presented as the book of the apostasy, into which many errors have crept and whose dependability is confined to those parts that agree with the “restored gospel” of Mormonism.

In the face of this blatant attack on “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3) we stand as watchmen on the towers, sounding a clear warning (Ezekiel 33: 7-9), “upholding biblical truth”, and snatching from error those confused by deception (Jude: 22-23). This is a positive activity and one for which we do not apologise.

Finally we describe our work as one of building bridges to those in the cults. We appreciate that people are more apt to build walls and so we teach and practice bridge building. Of course anything approaching the challenging of other faiths in the course of our work leaves us open to the accusation of being destructive rather than constructive. A word that is bandied about a great deal in this respect is “polemical”. So-called anti-cult writings are labelled polemical with the clear intention of representing them as altogether negative, ill meant, and mischievous. The noun polemic is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and in Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, as “the art or practice of disputation”. The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage defines “a controversial discussion, argument, or controversy, esp. over a doctrine, policy, etc.”

To Mormons, of course, “contention is of the devil” (3 Nephi 11:29). Typically this contrary to what the Bible has to say on the subject (Jude 3; Philip.1: 27). Following the injunction of scripture the Apostle Paul reasoned in the synagogues, earnestly attempting to convince people of the truthfulness of his message, “contending for the faith”. Those who heard did not always receive him well either, accusing him of being a troublemaker (Acts 17:1-10). It has ever been so because bridge building is not conceding the other person’s viewpoint, and contending for the faith involves contention. That’s why it is called contending for the faith!

To simply concede the other person’s view is to stand on the same bank of the stream with them. If we stand there then there is no need for a bridge. But we stand on the opposite bank because our views are quite different. To insist that they make their way over to us because we believe the bank on which we stand is firm and trustworthy while theirs is crumbling under them is not “destructive” as Mormons fondly believe. If we simply point to the bridge and invite people to cross to us we only do half a job. We lead them to believe that we are merely offering them an option and if they wish to stay where they are then that’s ok too. We must point out the danger they are in if they stay where they are otherwise they will not cross to us and be saved. Ironically that is what Mormons do when they witness at the doors. They offer people a bridge into the Mormon Church and point out the danger people are in if they stay in the world, or in the churches that God has declared, through his living prophets, to be corrupt. The third missionary discussion represents Christianity as apostate, telling that the hope God has provided is through the restoration. Mormons build bridges by espousing their faith and decrying all others. Look no further than the quotes above, which are not polemical but hot headed and belligerent.

What Mormons Believe

A thorny issue for Mormons at the moment is that of authority, and the question of who speaks for the church and who is speaking from their own personal convictions and human viewpoint. This is a very important point for us because we are forever being accused of misrepresenting the church and its teachings. One way of ensuring that we get it right is by knowing and using reliable sources. Attempts to clarify this issue often include the following quote:

The only works that are authoritative and binding on the church and its Members are the four books of scripture: the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price (collectively known as the standard works), and official pronouncements from the First Presidency, the church’s three-Member governing body.

On the face of it this is not an unreasonable statement. There has to be a measure, or plumbline, a local vertical if you will, by which all other claims to truth can be judged. For the Christian it is the Bible, for the Muslim it is the Koran, for the Jew the Torah. The above statement seems reasonable as a final standard by which to judge truth, or at least Mormon truth. It is a clear statement with apparently no equivocation. Mike Parker illustrates this point by reference to Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R McConkie.

Thousands of books have been written by Latter-day Saints over the last 166 years. Some of them are well-written and accurate, some contain merely the personal theories of the writer. But just because a Latter-day Saint writes something doesn’t mean what he writes is correct or speaks for the church.

A case in point is a work widely accepted by Members of the LDS church: Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. In this encyclopaedic work, McConkie attempted to explain in detail what Latter-day Saints believe about more than 1,100 gospel topics. Unfortunately, some of his interpretations and beliefs were not correct, and the second edition of his book had a number of, what were termed in the preface, “changes, clarifications, and additions.” McConkie, as great a man as he was (and I will quote him later), was imperfect just like the rest of us.

These two statements seem to clearly define the contrast between “scripture” and those writings, statements, commentaries made by Mormons about scripture and truth. For the Latter-day Saint, however, there is a problem here.

From the earliest days of Mormonism remarkable claims of revelations, prophecies etc. have been the norm. Even though the LDS church started with a book, nevertheless what was written has always proven insufficient and “the saints” have been encouraged to look to “living prophets” for guidance and direction. In a defining statement Ezra Taft Benson said:

The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us today. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has need of the ancient scripture plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece. – Conference Report, Korea Area Conference, 1975, p.52, quoted in 1989 Priesthood Manual, Seek to Obtain My Word.

Essential to Mormon thinking is the belief that the heavens have been opened once more, and that God, through his servants the prophets, directs and guides the affairs of his people. Continuous revelation is understood to be the lifeblood of the church. Members are encouraged to believe that the affairs of the church are guided on a daily basis by revelation through living prophets.

This being the case, when the average Latter-day Saint looks to his leaders for guidance and clarity he hardly expects to have to pick carefully through a selection of teachings, comments and pronouncements, weighing each one. He certainly is not encouraged to even consider the possibility that apostles and prophets would be found wanting in clarity and accuracy in bringing the true “interpretation” of church teaching to their congregations. Listen to Mormon apostle Orson Pratt:

Have we not a right to make up our minds in relation to the things recorded in the word of God, and speak about them, whether the living oracles believe our views or not? We have not the right. – Journal of Discourses 7:374-375.

Brigham Young declared:

I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them to the celestial kingdom, as I know the road to my office…I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. – Journal of Discourses, vol.13, p.95. Also see vol.13, p.264.

Joseph Fielding Smith said:

Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voices of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord. An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voices of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. – Ensign, July 1972, p.88.

It has long been understood amongst the Latter-day Saints that “when the prophet speaks all debate is ended”. Indeed, if you had to define the seminal message of the Mormon Church it is that men may once again look confidently to prophets and apostles to guide them unerringly in their lives and devotion to God.

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan – it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. – Improvement Era June 1945,p.354.

Contrast this with another quote from Joseph Fielding Smith:

You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. – Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, ed. by Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft), 1956, 3:203-4.

But surely what makes the “authorities of the Church” authorities is their dependability and their insight into the business of God. It is almost a given that their comments, in whatever form, will be “in accord with the revealed word in the standard works”. Their humanity will surely show through in tone and presentation, but surely not in content. If this is not the case then they are no “authorities”. Of course an individual may hold an opinion that has no bearing on eternal verities, e.g. ‘should a Mormon drink Coke?’ and this opinion we may choose to ignore. However, when a “prophet” speaks, even as a man, touching gospel principles then, even as a man, his opinion should be in accord with revealed truth. We should be able to trust him. If we are to sift and check, harbour doubts, speculate and essentially question him then how does he differ from the Dalai Lama, Rajneesh or the Archbishop of Canterbury? How could you square such thinking with statements like this from Spencer W Kimball:

Apostasy usually begins with question and doubt and criticism. They who garnish the sepulchres of the dead prophets begin now by stoning the living ones. They allege love for the gospel and the Church but charge that leaders are a little ‘off beam’… Next they say that while the gospel and the Church are divine, the leaders are fallen. – The teachings of Spencer W Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982.

How can we trust a leader whose personal opinions differ from his official pronouncements for God? Surely we have been promised that such a thing would never happen?

Of course the problem here, typically, is that the Mormon Church is trying to hold two mutually exclusive positions simultaneously. The traditional position of the church is that God once again speaks through prophets and that, in contrast to a dead tradition, the “true church” is in a state of growth and development, a state of flux. The Mormon canon of scripture is not a complete canon but a founding canon, clearly identified as the “standard works” of the church, but the whole canon is not fixed since it is purported to include further revelations and announcements up to the present day. Hence the statement, “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age.” This makes Gordon Hinckley and the rest of the “general authorities” of the church more important to current church members than Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Peter James and John, or even Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. ‘Watch the prophet’ is the phrase sometimes used. Spencer W Kimball criticised the practice of some that, “return to the pronouncements of the dead leaders and interpret them to be incompatible with the present programs.” The message, clearly, is that one should test the past by the present.

On the other hand, as the church grows more sophisticated, in an increasingly sophisticated world, it is apparent that these prophets are more closely scrutinised by a people who are ever more critical and discerning. Leaders can no longer make pronouncements that are xenophobic, confrontational or overtly triumphalistic in nature, and expect to get away with it. Nor can they any longer make ridiculous claims about archaeology and the Book of Mormon, the imminent fate of the United States Government, or the inhabitants of the moon. The answer is to have a fixed canon of scripture, controlled from the centre, against which everyone, even the prophet, is to be tested. This is the current thinking. The message here is that one should test the present by the past. The position of the church has shifted. Surely, though, in a church that claims continuing revelation, and promises unerring guidance there should be perfect accord between prophets past and present?

It has long been apparent that the phenomenal success of the Mormon Church is in no small measure due to its ability to change and adapt. Mormon leaders have long been image conscious and anxious to own the correct reputation. Such concerns have been the driving force behind some remarkable changes in policy and practice over the years.

The nineteenth century Mormon Church was isolationist and aggressive, much in the traditional style of new religious movements. Speeches and statements from church leaders frequently reflected inflated ambitions to “rule every nation”. In that rare atmosphere of triumphalism all sorts of wild statements of doctrine and belief were made, leaders never imagining that the world would change so much as to be able to put Mormon claims to the test (a singular absence of prophetic foresight here). One classic example is the following extract from a contemporary journal:

Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the quaker Style & are quite general in style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; comeing [sic] generally, near a thousand years. This is the description of them given by Joseph the Seer, and he could “See” whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see. – Journal of Oliver B. Huntington.

And again, from the Journal of Discourses we have this from Brigham Young:

Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it. It was not made in vain. – Journal of Discourses,vol.13,p.271.

Thinking that their 19th century world-view would endure they never imagined that one day “the most learned” would land on the moon and find it barren and uninhabited. Trusting in their splendid isolation amongst the Rocky Mountains they defied the world and developed many of the doctrines and practices for which they are still famous. One notorious teaching was Brigham Young’s Adam/God doctrine. Young stated on April 9th, 1852:

Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth…When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives with him…He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days!…He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. – Journal of Discourses,vol.1,pp.50-51.

Today what the church calls the Adam/God “theory” is stridently denied and those who teach it are excommunicated. Along with polygamy, blood atonement, and men on the moon, Adam/God was dropped, and the church buried its 19th century mistakes with its 19th century dead. One commentator observed that “The [Mormon] Church entered the twentieth century in anxious pursuit of respectability.”

This century, however, has also seen the Mormon Church face controversy. One notable hangover from the days of Brigham and Joseph has been the church’s stance on Negroes. One noted Mormon leader stated:

As a result of his rebellion [in a pre-mortal existence], Cain was cursed with a dark skin; he became the father of the Negroes, and those spirits who were not worthy to receive the priesthood are born through his lineage. – Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p 102.

Another leader declared:

Is there any reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of the worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life?…We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in the pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments. – Mark E Peterson, Race Problems – As They Affect the Church.

According to performance in a pre-mortal state men and women are born into different races. The Negro is the lowest of these and not deserving of Mormon priesthood blessing. Clearly to be born White, Anglo-Saxon, and LDS puts a person at the top of this caste system.

In 1978 the then prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, announced that “all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard to race or color”, claiming to have received revelation on the matter. This has opened up a whole new mission field to the church, which is now expanding at a phenomenal rate amongst African nations.

Once again the Mormons are digging graves for past mistakes. Dead and gone are key portions of the temple ceremony. Notably the blood oaths were removed in 1990, and a controversial section portraying the typical Christian clergyman as a lackey of Satan, who taught a “ridiculous and incomprehensible” philosophy, which he called “orthodox religion”, was removed. The Journal of Discourses was once a key source of doctrine. It has recently been demoted to the position of interesting but uninspired teachings, which may, or may not, be reliable. Many of the problems they are trying to bury are from this, once unimpeachable, source. (The preface to volume eight of the Journal states “The Journal of Discourses deservedly ranks as one of the Standard Works of the Church”)

Bruce R McConkie simply shares the fate of all past prophets. While his writings were once essential reading in every seminary and institute class, he is increasingly marginalised as his teachings fall behind current Mormon thinking. As with the prophets of the nineteenth century, the Mormons seem to be burying their 20th century mistakes with their 20th century dead.

So here we are quoting McConkie and Tanner and Talmage etc. as authorities, naively thinking that they are endorsed by a church that itself extensively quotes them. In manuals, periodicals and journals we are led to believe that, if an apostle says it then it must be so. But I am afraid the Mormon Church wants the penny and the bun. It wants apostles and prophets but it does not want to be held accountable for what they say when what they say is no longer politically correct.

Where are we to look then when we wish to know “what Mormons believe”? Perhaps the writings of apologists like Dr. Stephen E Robinson of Brigham Young University might help us. He is certainly the flavour of the month as author of Are Mormons Christians? and co-author of How wide the Divide? No help here I am afraid. In the first mentioned volume he writes in the preface, “It should be understood that I do not speak officially for the LDS church or for Brigham Young University.” Perhaps we can look to Mike Parker for some authoritative teaching on Mormonism? No luck here either I am afraid. A similar disclaimer is found on the Mike Parker LDS Library, “Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its presiding authorities.”

So you see, when a Mormon jumps up and declares “but I don’t believe that Joseph Smith is as important as Jesus”, he must of course be believed. We must also believe, however, that he does not speak for the church and therefore is only an authority on what is both Mr Robinson’s and Mr Parker’s favourite subject – “what I believe”. He is not an authority on “what Mormons believe”. That honour is claimed and jealously guarded by a group of elderly gentlemen in Salt Lake City. We will then continue to quote them, and their predecessors, and show the world “what a tangled web [they] weave”.

Meanwhile it should be categorically understood that Mike Parker does not believe that Joseph Smith is as important as Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it is the opinion of Mr Parker that no Mormon of his acquaintance believes it and he further believes, in his own opinion, that should any Mormon subscribe to and teach it then they would be in danger of excommunication from the church.

Joseph Smith

Dealing, then, with Mike Parker’s Response to Reachout Trust pages he asks ” which LDS writer has claimed that we believe ‘Joseph Smith is as important as Jesus Christ,’ as your web site states?” We do not “quote” any LDS authority making that specific statement. What we do, in Truth Restored-4, is allow the prophet to speak for himself:

Joseph Smith said of himself,

I combat the errors of the ages; I meet the violence of the mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth diamond-truth; and God is my “right hand man – History of the Church vol.5, p.467.

If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster; I shall always beat them… I have more to boast of than any man had. I am the only man that has been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jesus ever did. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day saints never ran away from me yet. – History of the Church vol.6, pp.408-9)

I might add these words by Joseph’s successor:

Well now, examine the character of the Savior, and examine the characters of those who have written the Old and New Testaments; and then compare them with the character of Joseph Smith, the founder of this work – the man whom God called and to whom he gave the keys of Priesthood, and through whom he has established his Church and kingdom for the last time, and you will find that his character stands as fair as any man’s mentioned in the Bible. – Journal of Discourses, vol.14.p.203.

We allow his followers to explain what they think of him:

Mediator of the Restored Covenant

In [an Ensign] article Robert Millet says,

The life of Joseph Smith was in some degree patterned after that of his Master, Jesus Christ. That pattern holds true even when extended to its tragic conclusion. Like his Master, Joseph Smith also shed his blood in order that the final testament, the reestablishment of the new covenant, might be in full effect” (see Heb.9:16).

Hebrews 9:16 is a reference to the death of Jesus releasing to his beneficiaries (all who believe – Rom.10:9) “the promised eternal inheritance” (v15), thus making him “the mediator of the new covenant” (v15). Mormon theology teaches that such benefits were lost in apostasy (a complete falling away from the truth) before the end of the second century and that a restoration was necessary.

It was necessary, then, that there had to be a shedding of blood once more in order to re-establish that which was once lost. The blood of Joseph, it seems, was deemed sufficient to achieve once more that for which the blood of Christ alone was once thought to be sufficient. Joseph, then, becomes the mediator of the restored covenant.

Mike Parker may, of course, not wish to believe what Robert Millet is saying about Joseph Smith, although he was published in the Ensign. I know that the editors publish the usual disclaimer but it is hardly credible that they would include something if it were so very wide of the mark. He may not wish to subscribe to what Joseph Smith said of himself, i.e. that “God is my right hand man”, and that he had more to boast of than any man, including Jesus, (Jesus was in that list of people who failed where Joseph succeeded wasn’t he?). I am confident that there are many things Mormons wish Joseph and Brigham had not said, but they did. We did not, indeed could not exaggerate the prophet, nor did we misrepresent what Robert Millet wrote. If Joseph’s blood had to be shed “in order that the…[re-established] covenant might be in full effect” that makes him the mediator of the re-established covenant. Without Joseph’s shed blood the covenant would, effectively, not exist. The direct comparison with Jesus’ role described in Hebrews 9:16 could not be clearer.

Therefore, although we did not quote any source as saying it, nevertheless it is as clear as crystal that Joseph Smith is as important as Jesus Christ.

In His Genealogy

The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon his progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. – Discourses of Brigham Young.

As a Mediator:

The life of Joseph Smith was in some degree patterned after that of his Master, Jesus Christ. That pattern holds true even when extended to its tragic conclusion. Like his Master, Joseph Smith also shed his blood in order that the final testament, the reestablishment of the new covenant, might be in full effect” (see Heb.9:16).

And as a Judge:

No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol.14, p203.

I would finally point out the wording of the typical Mormon testimony:

I bear you my testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that a living prophet stands at the head of the church and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth today.

This is a testimony about Joseph, not Jesus!