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Religion Today

Martin Tanner explores religious and spiritual topics that matter to Utahns, and especially members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

  • Abortion - A Religious and Moral Look at the Issue
    Recently laws were passed in New York and Virginia allowing abortion through the time of delivery, and in come cases, immediately after delivery.  In response, the legislatures and Georgia and Alabama, this week, passed laws that prohibit abortions after six weeks, the time a heart-beat is typically detectable in a fetus or unborn child.  What are the religious and moral arguments for and against abortion?  What, if anything, does the Bible say about the issue?  An important verse from the Didache, a book in the "Apostolic Fathers," directly on point is discussed, as well as the teachings of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ on the subject.

Monday, May 13, 2019

  • The Jewish, Early Christian and Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven
    There is indisputable evidence that preChristian Jews believed in a Hebrew Goddess.  (See, e.g., The Hebrew Goddess, by Prof. Raphael Patai; Did God Have a Wife", Prof. Wm. Dever).  Princeton Prof. Elaine Pagels convincingly demonstrates with many citations, that early Christians also believed in a Mother in Heaven.  Some early Christians believed in a different sort of trinity or triune God:  Heaven Father, Heavenly Mother and Jesus the Savior.  Thus we see, the idea of a Heavenly Mother, found in belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not unusual at all.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

  • Historical Development of the Trinitarian Concept of God
    Today, the Trinitarian concept of God is the orthodox view for nearly all of Christianity.  Its development is fascinating, beginning with the desire to distinguish Christianity from paganism, by having only one God, like Judaism.  The concept was fine tuned with the idea of Jesus being both God and man, but distinguishable from God the Father.  Finally, with the Nicean Creed of 325 AD, convened to keep both the Roman Empire and the Christian Church from fragmenting, the Trinitarian concept was solidified to mean:  God is comprised of three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but of one undivided substance, a complete understanding and explanation of which remains a mystery.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

  • Easter Sunday Sri Lankan Islamic Terrorist Bombings
    On April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, Islamic terrorists, in a coordinated effort, bombed Christian churches and also some hotels.  Well over 300 were killed.  Well over 700 were injured. Why is it that 99% of violent acts done in the explicit name of a religion are done in the name of Islam?  Answer:  There are many verses in the Quran which tell Muslims to kill "infidels" non-Muslims, which would include non-believers, Christians and Jews. What does the Quran teach?  Ask yourself why do we hear of self-radicalized Muslims, but not self-radicalized Jews, Catholics, Protestants or Mormons?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

  • Easter - Resurrection of Jesus, others and details of the concept
    Resurrection comes from a Greek word meaning to "rise again" or "stand up again."  In the OT the concept is like sleeping.  As those asleep awake, so the dead will also wake.  In the NT we find descriptions of the resurrection of others in addition to Jesus.  Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and others have left descriptions of many resurrected beings.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

  • Steel, Horses & Elephants in the Book of Mormon - Anachronisms?
    The Book of Mormon describes Laban's steel sword, which would have existed in 600 BCE.  Were there steel swords in Jerusalem then, or is the Book of Mormon wrong?  The Book of Mormon also mentions horses during the Nephite period and elephants during the Jaredite period.  Is the Book of Mormon wrong on these points or is there scientific evidence to back it up? The earliest known steel sword (iron plus carbon) currently known in the world, was found in archaeological digs at Jerusalem, and dates to about 650 BCE.  Steel swords in Jerusalem in 600 BCE in the Book of Mormon have thus been vindicated. National Geographic, Scientific American, and excavations at the La Brea tar pits near Los Angeles, California, demonstrate Woolly Mammoths (elephants) and horses existed in the New World af

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

  • New Movie - The Fighting Preacher by Film Maker T.C. Christensen
    Martin Tanner interviews film-maker T.C. Christensen, director and producer of acclaimed movies:  17 Miracles, Ephraim's Rescue, Cokeville Miracle and The Work and the Glory.  T.C.'s latest film "The Fighting Preacher" is a true story about Willard and Rebecca Bean's 25 year long mission in 1915 to Palmyra, New York.  At the time, the Hill Cumorah had been entirely deforested and dug-up by treasure seekers, and the Restored Church of Christ owned virtually no property in the area.  The Fighting Preacher chronicles how slowly, Willard and Rebecca Bean turn Palmyra residents from antagonists to friends; and, how they help the Church purchase the Hill Cumorah, the Smith Family Farm, Whitmer Farm, Martin Harris Farm and other properties, as well as replant trees on the Hill Cumorah.  The

Saturday, March 30, 2019

  • The Shroud of Turin - Is it the Authentic Burial Shroud of Christ?
    The Shroud of Turin, housed in a Cathedral in Turin, Italy, houses a relic, known from at least the 13th Century, as the burial shroud (cloth) of Jesus.  It is a sheet of rectangular linen about 14 1/2 feet by 1 1/2 feet, on one side the negative (as with a photographic image, dark is light and light is dark) image of the nude front of an adult man, about 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 1 inches tall. On the other side is the nude back of the same adult man.  Injuries are consistent with those of Jesus of Nazareth when crucified.  Carbon dating approximates the linen from about 1240 to 1360 AD, but due to contamination and handing, should be considered inconclusive.  Query:  How could anyone, before the invention of photography in the 1800s, produce what is in effect a photographic negative

Saturday, March 23, 2019

  • The Ark of the Covenant, Part 2 - Where is the Ark today?
    What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?  Precisely what happened to it is unknown after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 597 BCE.  Some sources say the Babylonians took the Ark and its contents to Babylon.  Other sources say the Ark of the Covenant was stored away and hidden under the Temple Mount so the Babylonians would not take it.  Other sources, including 2 Maccabees, say the Ark was hidden in a cave on Mt. Nebo, in present day Jordan.  A strong claim is made by the an Orthodox Church in Ethiopia, in a small city called Axum, the Ark is kept by them in their Church.  There are many other claims as well.  The three most plausible claims are (1) the Babylonians took the Ark in 597 BCE; (2) the Israelites hid the Ark under the Temple Mount; and, (3) the Ark is hidden in a

Saturday, March 16, 2019

  • The Ark of the Covenant - Part 1
    The Israelite Ark of the Covenant was a sacred object constructed by Moses based on a design revealed by God.  The Book of Exodus explains its dimensions were about 4 1/2 feet in length by 2 1/2 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet high.  It was made of Shittim wood and overlaid with gold.  It had a metal ring on each corner through which two long wooden poles, also covered with gold, were placed, to carry the Ark. The Ark had representations of two Cherubim (angels) on the lid or cover.  In the tabernacle, a portable temple, God is said to have stood on the Ark between the two angels (cherubim) when he spoke to Moses. The Ark was instrumental in the overthrow of Jericho, when the walls of that city were leveled by miraculous means.  The Ark was instrumental in other military conquests.  When it

Saturday, March 9, 2019

  • Noah's Ark, The Evidence
    Noah and the Ark is a fascinating Biblical story beginning in Genesis 6:6 and ending in Genesis 9:17.  Was there a global flood?  Was there a massive, but local flood in the ancient Near-East?  (The current state of the evidence favors the latter).  There are many ancient accounts from various civilizations, the earliest one currently known, is the "King List" dating to about 2,300 BC.  Perhaps the most famous is the Epic of Gilgamesh, dating to about 1,600 BC or so. Many today, particular evangelical Christians, associate Mt. Ararat in present day Turkey as the place Noah's Ark came to rest.  But Genesis 8:4 says "the mountains of Ararat" not a specific mountain.  The mountains of Ararat are associated with a series of mountain in the ancient kingdom of Urartu, not today's Mt. Arar

Saturday, March 2, 2019

  • Has the Tower of Babel Been Found?
    Has the Tower of Babel been found?  If so where is it and what do we know about it? The Tower of Babel, or the ruins of it, date to the 8th century BC, and are located about 50 miles south of Bagdad, Iraq.  It is attested in many ancient sources, including one of the oldest known pictures with inscriptions on obsidian.  It was known as Etemenanki, meaning the "tower connecting earth with heaven."  It was a stepped pyramid, or ziggurat, the precursor to flat sided pyramids.  It consisted of seven levels and was about 300 feet wide, 300 feet deep and 300 feet high.  The top level was a temple to the Babylonian god Marduk. The Jewish historian Josephus mentions the Tower of Babel, as do many other ancient peoples and historians.  Ancient stories and myths similar to the Tower of Babel

Saturday, February 23, 2019

  • Lost 10 Tribes - What happened to them? Where are they now?
    The Lost 10 Tribes of Israel.  What happened to them?  Where are they now?  There have been six major times Israel has been scattered and gathered.  The first was by famine, when the brothers of Joseph, who sold him into Egypt, went to Egypt to escape famine in Israel.  The Exodus is the story of their return or gathering in Israel.  The second major scattering was in 722 BC when the Neo-Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and led about 40,000, approximately 20 percent of the 200,000 or so of the 10 Tribes into captivity.  The other 80 percent stayed behind or fled into the southern kingdom of Judah.  The lost 10 Tribes are not lost in the sense they are gone, but they have for the most part lost their identity as the 10 Tribes.  Most Christians and some Jews believ

Saturday, February 16, 2019

  • Sodom & Gomorrah - Have they been found?
    The Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have likely been found.  In a survey of the Jordan Valley in 1924, conducted by famed archaeologist and Biblical scholar William F. Albright, five ancient cities were found off the south-eastern shore of the Dead Sea, in the general location the Bible places Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (Zoar).  (See, Genesis 14:1-5).  Two of the five ancient cities, sites now known as Bab edh-Dhra (likely Sodom) and Numeira (likely Gomorroh) have been excavated and show destruction by fire circa 2,300 BC.  The destruction left a layer of ash and charcoal about one and a half foot deep covering both of these ancient cities.  There are two caveats.  Genesis 14:1-5 says Sodom and Gomorrah were later underwater, covered by the Dead Sea.  But perhaps

Saturday, February 9, 2019

  • Where Was the Garden of Eden Located?
    Because of Doctrine and Covenants 78:15, 107:53-57 and 116:1, many Latter-day Saints believe the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri, or in Daviess County, Missouri.  But these scriptural references are to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, the place where Adam and Eve lived after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  They may have traveled a short way or a very long distance, perhaps thousands of miles, after they left the Garden of Eden.  Genesis describes the location of the Garden of Eden by reference to four rivers.  We know the location of three, the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile rivers.  This would place the Garden of Eden at the Northern end of the Persian Gulf, east of ancient Babylon, present day Iraq.  But precisely where, we are unable to say, and will probably never know. I