Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Truman Show

Truman

Truman is going about his happy, uneventful life when out of a clear blue sky a stage light falls onto the street.  This peculiar event is the beginning of Truman discovering the truth about his false reality.

Truman’s “creator” Christof (a suitable name) sees himself as a messiah figure, having saved Truman from what “might have been” a sad, painful life as an unwanted child.  Christof works day and night to keep Truman believing in this false narrative.  His success, after all, depends upon it as millions of viewers, thousands of actors, and countless other commercial entities all have an interest in Truman remaining faithful to this great deception as well.

At the end of the movie, Truman stands in front of a dark unknown doorway at the top of the stage set above the “ocean.”  Christof, now entirely desperate, speaks from his hidden lunar command center, makes one last attempt to keep Truman from leaving the “Show.”  (You can watch the clip by clicking below.  It’s classic.)

The story of Truman is really the story of every man.

We are each born into this world with certain traditions that inform our reality and our perceptions.  Because we are born into a fallen world, no one’s reality is devoid of lies, false traditions, and darkness.

The goal of every man is to become a “True Man” — a Man or Woman in Christ, reborn to Him, enlightened, passing through the doorway (the veil) of unbelief and into a new spiritual world that will eventually endow us appropriately to successfully enter into His presence — in this life — as well as in the life to come.

We are warned, however, that in the last days we will be especially vulnerable to being misled and deceived as Truman was.  As members of the church we mustn’t assume we are exempt.  Anyone who teaches otherwise is a false messenger, leading astray and perpetuating a false reality that eventually destroys souls.

They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.  (2 Nephi 28:14, my emphasis added)

I recall an experience as a bishop in one of my first priesthood stewardship interviews with my stake president.  He had served in that calling for many years and as a new bishop I looked to him for counsel and advice.

During the interview my stake president spoke of a recent private lunch he had with one of the 12 Apostles.  He was actually good friends with this particular apostle and had known him for forty years or more.  My stake president was also friends with another apostle, who he had spoken of getting together with regularly.  His very close relationships with two apostles prompted my question:

“President, how do they become special witnesses?”

He seemed perplexed.  “What do you mean by that bishop?”

“Well, I know they have stood in Christ’s presence and that’s why we call them special witnesses, right?”  (I was trying to clue him in that I was in the know about such things) “How do they spiritually get to that point?”  I asked in all sincerity.

A very concerned look came across the stake president’s face as he gravely responded.

“Bishop, I need to warn you to never pray for or seek to be in the presence of God or Christ!”

My stake president’s comment was as much a scolding as a warning.  It was as if he could not believe I would ever be so foolish and careless to think that this was what these men had actually accomplished.

“But, I thought we were commanded to seek to make our callings and elections sure and to each become special witnesses of Christ in this life?  As the Prophets and Apostles have done?  Right?”  I now questioned somewhat desperately.

That question seemed to further aggravate my stake president’s sensibilities.  Now determined to correct the record and make sure I never taught such foolishness as a bishop, he replied:

“Bishop, NEVER, EVER pray for such things because almost every man who has seen Christ or angels has fallen away from the church!  And if for any reason you do see Christ and then turn away from Him, you will become a son of perdition!”

This man was in my ward.  He was a very educated and dedicated individual.  He enjoyed a very long pioneer genealogy in the church.  And yet the first thought that came to my mind was that as his bishop, it was ironically my priesthood responsibility to try to correct him.

Without trying to make him feel badly, I referred to Paul and Joseph and others who taught this doctrine openly.  I pointed out that every man who became a prophet in the Book of Mormon, had witnessed angels and had entered into the presence of God.

He was not deterred by my arguments and continued to warn me of the dangers of seeking Jesus in this way and warned me to never discuss these ideas with anyone, ever again.  My experienced file leader then proceeded to instruct me how the Brethren held the keys and how they lived by the Spirit.  “Our job was to obey them” he said “as if their words came directly from God” and was not to seek heavenly visitations.  I left feeling rebuked, dazed, and confused.

The stake president’s words became for me, the proverbial stage light falling out of my clear blue sky onto the street of my church reality.

This new “idea” challenged everything I believed and had been taught.  Why would someone who knew these men so well, who joined with me in calling them “special witnesses,” actually try to dissuade me from doing what they had themselves done?  UNLESS of course, they were not witnesses the way I had believed them to be.  Was that even possible?

This was something I had never before considered or had ever allowed myself to consider.

In my mind, Jesus’ admonition and warning to the pharisees and scribes of old applied to Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and Muslim mullahs, BUT NOT TO OUR church leaders!

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.   (Matthew 23:13)

I became physically ill in my contemplations.  Could the church actually be keeping people from seeking true messengers?  Why would they do that?  Was it possible that they were not seeking these experiences for themselves either, out of fear that “almost all men who had ever seen angels or the Lord had left the church?”  My belief system was being turned upside down.

I was born into the church to good parents who are both converts.  At a very young age they instilled in me a strong love for the restored gospel.  By the age of 14 I began to feel very much drawn to the invitation I found in scripture to literally come unto Christ.  I truly believed D&C 93:1 and read it often.  I believed the words of Moroni found in the book of Ether and took his invitation very seriously:

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;  And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.  And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.  (Ether 12:39-41, my emphasis added)

Like perhaps many of you, I had been led to believe that The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with the Savior often in their sacred weekly meetings in the Upper Rooms of the Temple.

I relied upon the final testimony of Bruce R. McKonkie and believed his witness to be literal.

I began at a young age to look for and listen carefully to the “key words” the brethren used to refer to sacred experiences they often only alluded to, that apparently, despite being “special witnesses,” they could not specifically discuss publicly.

I took Religion 333 after my mission at BYU and was led to believe that the leaders of the church were of a special and more elevated status than the average member of the church.  I was taught the Brethren were to be “reverenced, sustained, emulated, and honored.”

These men were spiritual giants for me.  I believed they could lead me to the Savior.  Logically if they were Special Witnesses, and yet were once just like me, then maybe they could show me how to get there too!  This was my most fervent desire.

I watched them ever so closely.  I studied their words as much if not more than the scriptures.  I was taught and believed that the “living oracles” were more important than the dead ones, that they could not lead us astray.  I took that to mean that Elder Neal A. Maxwell was more relevant and important than Isaiah.  So I read and listened to Elder Maxwell, and President Hinckley and any living Prophet in priority over even the Book of Mormon.

When the Brethren came to speak, I made sure to never miss them.  In some cases, I drove hours to be in their presence.  When they walked into the room, I stood out of reverence for them.  Out of reverence and respect, I only sat down when they were finally seated.  I once witnessed the rushing silence that overtook the entire Marriott Center when President Benson entered from an obscure portal near the stage.  I was sure this was a spiritual confirmation of his very real witness of the Savior.

I was with Elder Bednar when he boldly told us bishops and stake presidents — “I AM A TRUE MESSENGER!”  I took that statement literally.  I believed him to be a special witness who stood in God’s presence as did Peter, James, and John, with a message of life and salvation for God’s children lost in the lone and dreary world.  I had no reason to believe Elder Bednar would seek to mislead me.

On a different occasion Elder Bednar said, “I know God lives beyond the five senses.”  Again I believed him and logically could only assume what this meant — that he knew God greater than touch, greater than sight, greater than smell or taste or sound.

But, then my stake president dropped the stage light.

What if Elder Bednar was simply stating that he knew God “by the feelings of the Holy Ghost?”  Maybe he’s suggesting the Holy Ghost is not considered one of the five senses?  Was this just a clever way of saying that he had a testimony just like me?  That he had never actually “touched, seen, or heard” the Lord?  That thought had never crossed my mind before.

Up until then, these men were holy, anointed, special, and above all, they knew God, literally!  I sought to touch the hem of their garment, so to speak, to shake their hands, to be hugged by them, to be taught by them.  Again, because I believed it was their mission to teach me how to do what they had done.  For this is life eternal, that we all might know Him and His Son whom He hath sent (John 17:3) with the help of those who are true messengers.

And so perhaps strangely, as a bishop, I began a prayerful and at times painful study to know whether or not these men were truly witnesses of God, in the literal sense.  This time I began with a different set of questions than those I had ever allowed myself to consider:  “What if, these men have never seen God or been taught by Angels?  What if they are just like me?  Is it possible?  If so, what would that mean?  What would that change for the church and for me personally?”

I studied.  I pondered.  I fasted for many days, on countless occasions.  I went to the Temple zealously.  I served as faithfully as I knew how as a bishop.  I tried to be a good husband and father.  I feasted upon the scriptures and I prayed like I’ve never prayed before.

I studied the journals and other accounts of these men.  I scrutinized all the stories of prophets such as President Snow, where he allegedly met the Savior in the Temple.  I now questioned these stories and sought to discover whether they were real or not.  Were these just contrived “stories” invented or exaggerated to encourage me to believe?  Was I being played?

You see, for me, everything I believed the church to be, rested upon the idea that its leaders were simply a continuation of Joseph Smith.  That every leader from Joseph forward was a veritable witness of God, Angels, and of Christ JUST as Joseph was.

For me this principle was too important to dismiss or set aside.  Now I needed to know the truth.  I could no longer be led on by fables and endless genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4).  Was my “faith” in these men’s witness real or was it some fantastic illusion?

Joseph Smith taught:

Now I will give you my testimony.  I care not for man.  I speak boldly and faithfully and with authority.  How is it with the kingdom of God?  Where did the kingdom of God begin?  Where there is no kingdom of God there is no salvation.  What constitutes the kingdom of God?  Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not…The plea of many in this day is, that we have no right to receive revelations; but if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God; and if they have not the oracles of God, they are not the people of God.  But say you, What will become of the world, or the various professors of religion who do not believe in revelation and the oracles of God as continued to His Church in all ages of the world, when He has a people on the earth?  I tell you, in the name of Jesus Christ, they will be damned; and when you get into the eternal world, you will find it will be so, they cannot escape the damnation of hell.  (TPJS, pp. 271-272, my emphasis added)

If these men were not receiving revelations, were not acting as prophets and as living oracles of God, and had not in fact seen the Lord and been anointed and ordained by God Himself (TPJS), then I could not, at a minimum, simply continue to trust in their words as I had.

In my research that continued on for some time, I became quite surprised to find so few reliable post-martyrdom church accounts of a man or woman entering into God’s presence, as Joseph and Hyrum and Sidney had.  This despite the charge made by Apostles Oliver Cowdery in 1835 to the Twelve which was later abandoned because apparently at some point church leaders saw it unnecessary.

It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.’  (Read more on this subject here)

I was saddened and quite surprised to find that many of the stories that were close encounters with the other side of the veil such as President Snow with Christ at the staircase and Brigham transforming into Joseph over the pulpit, the Founding Fathers appearing in the Saint George Temple, etc. appeared to be nothing more than exaggerated folklore-ish stories, no different than ones we share today.

Sometimes these stories are seemingly harmless such as the tale of Nephite hitchhikers warning people to get food storage (here and here) before the big Utah earthquake or the rumor that Lionel Ritchie finally joined the church.  Other times it’s everyday stories like “When Elder Bednar spoke in Gabon, the rain stopped, and the sun appeared only on his face as he spoke.”  I even heard such a legend repeated the other day in church, one I had not heard for a long time:  “Did you know there is a chair in the Salt Lake Temple that is reserved just for the Savior?  And that it’s worn out from use?”

In my study, I found few, to none of what would be called revelations by the standard of Scripture or Joseph Smith.  In fact, I was discouraged to find the example of an aged “prophet” who testified under oath before Congress that he had never had “real” revelations.

I will not include here all the details of my personal study that support my new conclusions about the Brethren and their “witness.”

But I will say that my study has led me to conclusions that have changed my life and have led me to a dark doorway on the church’s stage, that I did not know was ever there.  Entering that doorway has led to some of the most rewarding and difficult experiences of my life.

I have keenly and literally felt the pressure from the show’s producers — the lightning, the waves, and the storms from people very “high up.”  I have come to see the truth and irony of Christ’s words to those seeking to truly be His disciples:

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  (Matthew 10:34-38)

I have come to believe we must all seek truth and not fear the unknown world beyond the doorway.  I believe that as we find and embrace truth, we will be led by Him to more and more light, until that perfect day.

Joseph taught:

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.

If we fear to contemplate the darkest abyss, the deepest contradictions and the most awkward ironies, or to consider the depths and the effects of our traditions that form our false realities, we will never commune with God.

The stake president who chastened me for wanting an audience with the Savior was eventually called to serve as a mission president and is destined for the red, chief seats, so I’m told by those who would know.

One might ask, but don’t the Brethren teach truth?  What does it hurt to follow their counsel if it’s “good?”  Just because they have not been in Christ’s presence doesn’t make them evil or any less capable of teaching the gospel like anyone else…Right?

Sherem, one of several anti-Christs in the Book of Mormon, sought to confront Jacob the prophet who had been in Christ’s presence, in order that he might “overthrow the Doctrine of Christ.”

And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.  (Jacob 7:2)

The Doctrine of Christ is at the core of this very important question.  It is in fact at the very core of what we say we believe as Mormons.  And yet it is the most neglected and most misunderstood of all doctrines, in my experience.  So much so that even in Nephi’s day he lamented after speaking on this topic for three chapters:

And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.  (2 Nephi 32:7)

I have no problem with the Brethren or anyone trying to teach truth.  But the precepts of men (my own included), no matter how well-intentioned, will mislead us, especially when we treat them as the words of God delivered by special servants (which I do not profess to be).  They will entrap us in a false bubble of reality, a bubble that may even seem peaceful and safe and that for a time may be calm and happy.

If and when the Brethren diligently share scripture and seek the spirit in expounding it, while I believe this to be a better result than what we usually see in General Conference, it is not to be a substitute for the Doctrine of Christ, which Jacob and all True Prophets in the history of the world have attained unto.  Only one speaking with the Tongue of an Angel, following the pattern of the Doctrine of Christ, can deliver a message that brings about a complete change of heart.  (2 Nephi 33:1, Mosiah 5:2).

As children of God, it is our duty to discern between true and false messengers, who come in the Lord’s name.

I have looked past the lighting, the tremendous stage, the make up, the rehearsed one liners and teleprompters, the emotion, and the stories and I have sought to know whether these men stand in the presence of God or not.  For me, this matters a great deal.

Is it possible that these men now unwittingly promote a deception regarding what they know and who they know because they feel the pressure to keep the show going?  Do their lives, their fortunes, their jobs, their traditions, and their identities not depend upon it?

If it’s not the Doctrine of Christ shared by the power of the Holy Ghost by true messengers who have been in His presence, then we each must decide whether we shall remain deceived or whether we will look to cross the stormy sea to find the stairway that leads to the door of our escape into a new awakened state of reality, wherein then and only then we can find the True Messiah, our True Creator, even Jesus Christ.  We must listen closely and we must choose.  Our very salvation depends upon it.

P.S.  For those of you wondering why I am including the above clip, I invite you to watch it juxtapose to the other Truman Show clips.  Are we relying too heavily on drama, lighting, emotion and music?  I am especially troubled about Elder Holland’s praise of President Monson, suggesting he knows NO other man who has done more for the poor than this man who shuffles through the airport in his slippers publishing peace.  Just maybe that’s a confession worth contemplating. 

 

 

 

Defending Joseph

joseph grove

Joseph Smith was told as a young man by an angel of God that his “name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (History of the Church).

Unfortunately much of the evil spoken of Joseph arises from within the church and comes back to the topic of polygamy.

I have a few friends who are otherwise active and “faithful” members who go as far as to say they “dislike” Joseph Smith and/or that “he was a pervert.”  “Sex was his weakness or downfall” they say.  One such friend serves in a stake presidency.  You will never hear him speak of Joseph over the pulpit.  I think this is a tragedy.

Now, I know not everyone feels this way about Joseph in the church.  I certainly don’t feel that way.  But, like most Mormons I’ve had to rely upon the church and its approved Deseret Book list of authors to answer my questions on this issue to inform my opinions.  I know some personally have who left the church after reading Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.  A Deseret Book approved author.  I think the church has done a very poor job in resolving most people’s concerns regarding Joseph and polygamy, despite its best efforts.

In reading some of the church’s recent teachings, it seems apparent why many are still left with very unsettled feelings over this very strange period in our history.  Here’s a sampling of the church’s handling of the subject:

Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God’s purposes for instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage during the 19th century. The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30). Plural marriage did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes.  It also shaped 19th-century Mormon society in other ways: marriage became available to virtually all who desired it; per-capita inequality of wealth was diminished as economically disadvantaged women married into more financially stable households; and ethnic intermarriages were increased, which helped to unite a diverse immigrant population.  Plural marriage also helped create and strengthen a sense of cohesion and group identification among Latter-day Saints. Church members came to see themselves as a “peculiar people,”covenant-bound to carry out the commands of God despite outside opposition, willing to endure ostracism for their principles.

And so as an LDS person growing up in a convert family outside of Utah, these were the best arguments we could imagine or muster, always informed by our study of the church’s teachings and in the end always justifying the practice of polygamy all while defending pioneer ancestors I could not claim as my own.  I admit, it was always awkward and usually humiliating.

“Well, why don’t you practice polygamy today?” I was invariably asked.  “Because it’s illegal now and because the Lord revoked the commandment a long time ago.  Oh and back then Utah was not a state”  I might respond.  “But, it was illegal then too wasn’t it?  Isn’t that why the U.S. Government was challenging your church?”  “Well, yeah, but…..”  Always, always awkward.  And at the end of the day, Joseph came out as the perverted scoundrel that started the whole mess.  That impression is too often left in our minds also, as much as we try to ignore the feelings, those seeds are planted if we trust the church’s narrative.

I have family members who, to do this day, while active in the church, despise polygamy and are not comforted by the church’s teachings or essays.

In fact, a young active latter-day saint recently posted his feelings on his blog about his concerns over polygamy and his understanding of D&C section 132.  He concluded polygamy was a false principle and is now facing church discipline with his wife as a consequence.

I find this very disappointing since the church came out just recently and said LDS people will not be disciplined for supporting same sex marriage online.  But apparently if you support traditional marriage online, you will face discipline.  Am I missing something?  Now, I understand there may be other factors related to additional doctrinal disagreements held by the Van Allens.  But, why not simply let people believe as they choose and continue to patiently teach them?

Allens

Kirk and Lindsay Van Allen – Facing Church Discipline for Rejecting Polygamy (D&C 132)

Such is the incredible confusion and comedy of errors over this and many other topics, further exposing the church’s inability to lead in matters of doctrine.

This last week, however, I came across the best and most logical defense of Joseph Smith regarding “polygamy” that I’ve ever read.  Ironically this defense is made by a man who the church recently excommunicated.

I highly recommend this 48 page essay to anyone and everyone.  Far too many people have erred too long on this subject.  Joseph’s name has been spoken evil of in far too many wards and stakes throughout the church.  The church itself has left Joseph hanging, by promoting its view of the truth.  It has not properly defended this man (with the truth) to whom we owe the restoration of the gospel.  The very man whom our Lord has anointed as choice seer, as true prophet, and as the legitimate key holder of this last dispensation.

Joseph Smith wrote the following from Liberty Jail after receiving letters from his loved ones.  His words endear me to him and inspire me to want to be one of his friends.

“We need not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were lifted and our eyes were a fountain of tears, but those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling . . . until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers, ‘My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.'”  (History of the Church, 3:293; the last portion of this paragraph was later canonized in D&C 121:7–8.)

Far too many of us have been inspired to lock Joseph in the cells of uncertainty (at best) in our minds and hearts because of false teachings allowed by those who ought to be more informed on these issues.

Joseph also wrote:

I have no enemies but for the truth’s sake. I have no desire but to do all men good. I feel to pray for all men. We don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and get more. What if all the world should embrace this gospel? They would see eye to eye, and the blessings of God would be poured out upon the people, which is the desire of my whole soul.  (History of the Church, 5:259.)

I love our prophet Joseph.  I stand to sustain him and invite any who doubt his mission or who believe him to be a fallen prophet to especially read this essay from Denver Snuffer.  A man the church should thank for his brilliant defense of a prophet we should all give the benefit of any doubt.  A prophet who gave his life for the church, even when the Lord had commanded him to escape.

“If my life is of no value to my friends,” he said, “it is of none to me.”  God I love that man.  His words should both inspire and haunt us at the same time.

martyrdom

Obama Sustains the Brethren

Obama meets with Mormon leaders including Eyring at his hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah

For the first time since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he made an unprecedented visit last Thursday to the State of Utah to meet with top LDS leaders in Salt Lake City.  His visit came on the eve of the holiest weekend of the year for the LDS Church celebrating Easter, General Conference, and Christ’s and the Church’s birthday.  Is such a visit by the world’s most powerful leader and his fully staffed entourage, to a state that has traditionally despised him and voted against him and all of his policies, just a coincidence?

Obama’s stated purpose for the visit was very carefully worded by White House Press Secretary John Earnest:

“I know the president also is looking forward to the opportunity that he’ll have to meet with some leaders in the LDS church who are in town for the conference there, so I know the president’s looking forward to that opportunity….Obviously, we’ve got Christians all around the world who are celebrating Easter this weekend, and so it’ll be a good time for him to spend a little time with the LDS leadership as well.”

Please note the words Christians, LDS Church, Easter, “good time” and LDS Leadership.  Also keep in mind that the President’s visit was Thursday night and only lasted for 20 minutes.  He would leave town very quickly the next day and well before Easter.  But, the way Press Secretary Earnest said it made it seem like Obama was going to be a special guest at General Conference.  Obama did not even stay, however, for the very weekend they claimed was the reason the president came.

Does anyone else smell something fishy here?  One thing is certain — Obama is clearly “thanking” the LDS Church by going out of his way to call us Christian, to mention Easter in the same sentence as LDS, and to throw his public support behind the church’s leaders.  These are definitely not the usual positive comments we get from uh… well, hardly anyone… anywhere, let alone from the man who got less than 10% of the vote in Utah in back-to-back presidential elections.  This has all the ear markings of a political payback.

There are at least two reasons I can think of that would rise to the level of a special presidential thank you / payback visit.

1) The LDS Church has recently come out strangely in favor of LGBT rights and

2) Utah / the Church is poised to be an otherwise unlikely advocate for further Immigration “reform.”

Let’s take the LGBT issue first.

While the nation’s eyes have been on Indiana for their bold and controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which activists say does not protect LGBTs from discrimination, and while other individuals are standing up against the same sex marriage movement such as the Pizza company who says it will not cater a gay wedding, President Barack Obama is meanwhile thanking the church for its leadership in Utah’s new Religious Freedom, Anti-Discrimination law. 

In its own news release, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the president also “expressed his appreciation for the church’s leadership role in seeking a balance between religious freedom and nondiscrimination,” referring to the recently passed law that bans housing and job discrimination against gays and lesbians (SLTribune – Read here).

Keep in mind, the meeting only lasted 20 minutes.   The stated purpose for coming to Utah was to meet with LDS leadership during Easter.  Thus, anything and everything beyond initial niceties represents an agenda item for President Obama.  Noting the LDS Church’s leadership role in favorable LGBT legislation is both deliberate and important.

As a side note, should LDS people or any people of faith be heartened by an endorsement from a pro-gay marriage president, who is also possibly the worst president in American history when it comes to every important issue including religious freedoms ?

Check out this short clip highlighting the issue in Indiana, where Governor Pence is still under fire from huge names such as Apple’s CEO, Angie’s List and countless others, some of whom were calling to boycott Indiana business including the NCAA Tournament.

After I watch this video I find myself wanting to stand with Indiana!  Isn’t that what the church has ingrained in us?  To stand up for free speech and fight for freedom!  Indiana’s law, ironically, is the same as Illinois’ Religious Freedom law as well those of other states.  Religious Freedoms laws were actually heavily promoted by Bill Clinton in the 90’s and many states established such laws, in bi-partisan fashion.  But now apparently, all those laws are outdated.

So what’s the big difference between Indiana’s and Utah’s legislation?  Doesn’t the Utah bill allow for religious rights of conscience exemptions, like Indiana’s?  Why are so many people demonizing Indiana while President Obama and many of the people and organizations who support him, praising Utah and specifically the church?  I’ll leave that for your research, but for me it ‘s a huge red flag.

Now let’s talk about LDS Support of Immigration Reform.

In addition to discussing the faith’s international humanitarian efforts, he spoke with Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the governing First Presidency and apostles L. Tom Perry and D. Todd Christofferson about what a White House spokesman called the “broken immigration system”  (SLTrib).

I can almost imagine how this played out.  Elder Eyring was asking President Obama some off-topic question in the last 30 seconds of their 20 minute visit, when the White House spokesman nicely interrupted to make sure they covered the agenda items.  Talking point number two: “Broken Immigration System.”  That’s code for “We appreciate your support and look forward to our continued work together on more ‘reforms.'”

Utah is a strange ally in Obama’s fight against legal immigration.  Up until 2011 the church maintained a position of neutrality on this controversial issue.

In an article entitled The Mormon Church and Illegal Immigration, PhD Ronald W. Mortensen, a retired career U.S. Foreign Service Officer and member of the LDS Church, lays out the history of why the LDS Church has mostly been against illegal immigration.  But he points out in his article in 2011 that:

Members who oppose illegal immigration fear that the Church is abandoning its traditional, unwavering support of the rule of law. They also express concern that the Church appears to be biased in favor of illegal immigrants and that it is increasingly taking positions that weaken the rule of law and move the Church closer to a social justice position.

This fear and trend is now being realized.  Most intelligent people see right through the ulterior motives of people like Obama who have no regard for the rule of law and who are only looking to increase their electoral base.  And apparently our good leaders in the LDS church are now getting behind Obama in his corrupt politics.  After all, it’s a new era of “building bridges” and “finding common ground.”  Stand with everyone, be nice, make friends, be popular, and ultimately stand for nothing.

To best illustrate the background on the church’s sudden interest in immigration as well as its most recent support of LGBT laws, I am including the following article by Carl Wimmer, a former LDS Utah House of Representatives member.  His blog and this post can be found at An American Dream Revealed.  This is a must read!

The Role of The LDS Church in Utah’s Politics

 Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just passed a pro-LGBT piece of legislation in Utah.

Does that sound odd to you? It does to me, but it is essentially true.

For years, there have been those in the Utah legislature who have pushed for statewide legislation that would prevent businesses and landlords from prohibiting homosexuals from working at their business or renting a home from them; they called it a “statewide anti-discrimination” bill.

And for years the legislation failed.

Year after year the bill sponsor would bring the bill forward simply to have it die before it got off the ground, but this year was different. This year the most powerful entity in the state of Utah, the LDS Church, endorsed the legislation.

This year the legislation passed.

Having served in the Utah legislature, I have been asked several times what role the LDS Church really plays when it comes to Utah politics, and until now I have remained largely silent. While in the legislature I was a faithful member of the LDS Church; to speak of things that might bring embarrassment to the church would have been unwise, not to mention political suicide. Today, the issue is very topical with the recent passage of the pro-LGBT legislation, and I feel it is time to break the silence and provide some insight.

carl in washington2

Chris with Elder L. Tom Perry in Washington D.C. in 2011

A common question from people is whether or not the LDS Church leadership gets whatever they want when it comes to Utah politics, and the answer is a resounding, “Yes; if the LDS Church wants something in Utah politics, they get it.”

To be absolutely fair, they rarely want things badly enough to engage openly. The church is very selective regarding the legislation they engage. This is due to the fact that because most of Utah’s legislators are LDS members, the majority of legislation already aligns with the LDS Church position without their influence. During the three terms I served in the Utah House of Representatives, I was only approached twice by the LDS lobbyists for a vote.

John Taylor and Bill Evans are full-time employees of the LDS Church and their job is to monitor the Utah Government, and to act as the paid lobbyists on behalf of the church. They regularly meet with legislators behind closed doors, (as do other lobbyists, this is nothing nefarious or unusual,) to push the agenda of their employer.

When the LDS lobbyists contact a legislator, the conversation goes like this:

We are here to discuss such-and-such bill. We have received our orders “directly from the top,” and we want you to vote for this bill.

They mention that they received their orders “from the top,” so that the legislator would know unequivocally that the LDS Church’s First Presidency sent them.

The first piece of legislation they contacted me about dealt with alcohol. For better or worse, it is an unarguable fact that legislation regarding alcohol never gets passed without the express consent of the LDS Church. They control all changes to the state alcohol laws.

In 2008, SB 211 was proposed to remove “flavored malt beverages” from grocery stores and place them for sale in state liquor stores only. The day the bill was to be heard in the House of Representatives, I was summoned to the hall, where I was met by the LDS lobbyists. They gave me the “from the top” introduction, and then asked me to support the bill. I told them no. Although not a drinker, I simply could not bring myself to take a profit-producing legal product out of the hands of private business owners and give it to the state to sell. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

Keep in mind, that in 2008 I was a faithful Mormon with a current temple recommend, and had only recently been released from my LDS leadership position as an Elders Quorum President. To tell my church leaders “no,” was anathema to how I was raised. As I turned to walk back into the chambers, one of the lobbyists said to me, “Don’t worry, voting against us will not affect your church membership status,” I was relieved.

SB 211 passed.

Learning how powerful the LDS Church was politically, several pro-life legislators and I set up a meeting in my office with the two LDS Church lobbyists. Our intention was to recruit the LDS Church in the battle for the right-to-life. For weeks we had worked on legislation that would prove to make Utah the leader in the fight against abortion. We presented our idea and expressed our eagerness to have the LDS church help in the fight to pass a bill that had failed the year before. They turned us down flat, telling us that “the First Presidency has made it clear to them that they will not engage on abortion issues.”

We asked them why they had come out so strongly on alcohol use, but would not engage in the fight for the life of a baby. And in what can only be described as a brief, unguarded moment, the head lobbyist expressed his confusion as to the apparent misappropriation of priorities, but they stuck to their guns.

Then came 2011; the year my rose colored glasses regarding the LDS Church got scratched a bit.

HB116 was an extremely controversial bill dealing with illegal immigration and proposed issuing state worker cards to illegal immigrants. For at least two weeks prior to the final passage of HB116, the two church lobbyists practically lived in the back halls of the state capitol and in the office of house leadership. I was vocally opposed to the legislation, but was still contacted repeatedly by both lobbyists who attempted to change my opposition. The calls became frequent enough from the LDS Lobbyists, that I stopped taking them.

What bothered me most was when my local ecclesiastical leader contacted me and attempted to persuade me to vote for the bill as well. When I asked him, “Who from the Church headquarters had asked you to contact me?” he simply confirmed that he had been asked, but would not say by whom.

The night HB116 was debated for final passage was insane. There was intensity I had never felt before or after on the house floor. It was the intensity that comes only from political bullying, and it killed me to know that this time the “bully” was my own church.

I was approached by a younger representative who was on the verge of tears. He expressed to me that he had just gotten out of a “PPI meeting” and asked if I had had mine yet. I knew what he meant and I was sorry for him.

A legitimate “PPI” or “Personal Priesthood Interview” is conducted within the confines of the LDS Church. It is an ecclesiastical meeting between an LDS leader and a male member under their “authority.” When I was an Elders Quorum President, I held PPI’s with the elders under my charge. A PPI is used to check on the spiritual welfare of the man being interviewed, and to make sure they are on the “straight and narrow.” But that is not what this legislator meant…

What he had just experienced was an intense, closed-door meeting with select members of house leadership and the LDS Church lobbyists who made it abundantly clear that when HB116 came up for a vote, he was to support the bill, period.

Sometimes, if the legislator felt strongly enough about the legislation, they would allow him to vote against it, but ONLY after the bill had the necessary votes recorded to ensure passage. This was the deal this particular representative was under, and both he and I knew it. He was clearly shaken and expressed that he had no idea that his “church would do this kind of thing.” I hurt for him.

House leadership was split on HB116, so when I saw a member of house leadership who I knew was opposed to the bill walk onto the house floor, I went up to him and engaged him in conversation. The following is our word-for-word conversation:

Me: Hey, (name of House leader) how much of what is going on tonight regarding HB116 has to do with the LDS church?

Him: All of it; I hate this.

Me: It’s going to pass isn’t it?

Him: Yes, and in fact if the vote is close, I have to vote for it, I have no choice.”

Me: You had a PPI?

Him: Yep…(walks away).

HB116 passed as the LDS Church lobbyists looked on from the gallery.

I was not in the legislature this year, but the look and feel of the passing of HB116 and the current non-discrimination bill are quite the same. One can only guess how many legislators had “PPI’s” before the vote on the church-endorsed LGBT legislation, but there is no doubt in my mind, that as legislators read this blog, one or more of them will know precisely what I am talking about.

So, what role does the LDS Church really play when it comes to Utah politics? From my experience, it all depends on how badly the church wants a specific piece of legislation passed.

-Carl

My Conclusions:

Obama’s visit and show of support is nothing more than a political payback for the church’s role in pro-LGBT and pro-illegals legislation. This should concern us all deeply.

Telling our elected officials how to vote, and to vote against their beliefs, which are ironically often inspired by past church leaders teachings, is frankly unconscionable.

But the good news is the church has Obama’s sustaining vote, and I guess that’s all that matters.

Dissenters

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Mormon Policy Review

MPR

For any who have not yet seen this website, I highly recommend it.  The URL is www.mormonpolicyreview.com.

I have not met the author of this blog, but I find his work fascinating.  I know nothing about him other than his name is Joe Murff and he is a member of the Boston, Massachusetts stake.  I perceive him to be thoughtful, professional, tactful, humble, and charitable.  At least that’s how he comes across to me in his comments and writings.

Like many of us, Mormon Policy Review (MPR) seeks to positively influence the church through honest feedback, thoughtful criticism and requests for more transparency.  I greatly appreciate this project and plan to keep following it.

In the Book of Mormon before the coming of Christ, “there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth, standing among the people in all the land, preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people…” and “there were many of the people who were exceedingly angry because of those who testified of these things; and those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges (the leaders), and they who had been high priests and lawyers (lots of those in the quorums of 70 and 12); yea, all those who were lawyers were angry with those who testified of these things” (3 Nephi 6:21-22).

I can only assume that those who in the church just before Christ’s coming saw the bold words of those preaching against their sins as “unkind, overly critical, and apostate.”  Maybe we should begin to read the Book of Mormon as if it does actually apply to us rather than using it to boast of our greatness.

I hope the kind author of MPR will not mind me re-posting one of his comments here.  I also hope you will also take the time to look at his website and begin to vote as his Voting Portal becomes available.  I want to highlight his comments here because I think they capture the way many of us feel who find ourselves in disagreement with some of the church’s policies.

I also think the author’s story is one that needs to be heard.  Especially given that the church will “vote” this coming weekend for (or against) the church’s current leadership.  I think this brother’s experience and the response from his leaders aptly summarizes the mockery of our voting tradition, which apparently disregards agency, seeks no accountability or feedback, and is only a vain repetition intended to further puff those up who lead us.

To add just a little context, Joe’s comment came in reply to something said by a reader named Randy who takes general  issue with my blog (Even my detractors appreciate Joe’s approach).  It’s long, but very much worth the time.

Randy,

I appreciate your reply to some extent, but you are mistaken when you say that my post “follows the church’s policy”.

I truly wish that the church’s policy did allow posts like mine, but it doesn’t. Our current definition of apostasy is a Spanish Inquisition type spider web of anti-free-speech entrapment:

“Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders…”

https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/june-first-presidency-statement?lang=eng

I am absolutely certain that the present leadership consider posts like mine to be apostate in nature. If apostasy in our Church was punished by torture and/or death, my tongue would have been cut out of my mouth a long time ago, and I would have barely avoided the death penalty.

Here is some background:

In 2010, I started voting in opposition to the First Presidency when my vote was asked for during conferences. The Handbook of Instructions makes allowance for opposing votes and requires that such votes be handled by the stake president. He is supposed to determine if those being voted against are guilty of anything serious. (My reasons for the opposing vote are noted on Mormon Policy Review).

My stake president met with me and acknowledged that I had the right to vote in opposition, but said he would not forward my vote to the Presiding Bishop. I had asked him to forward my vote because the Presiding Bishop is the only officer in the Church who has the authority to investigate and discipline members of the First Presidency by means of a disciplinary council (D&C 107:82–84).

I asked my stake president if he would check with the Area Seventy, to let him know about our difference of opinion, so that my vote could be forwarded to the Presiding Bishop if the Area Seventy agreed that was the right thing to do. My stake president said he would contact him. It ended up taking him several months to make the call — he was reluctant to do it.

In the meantime, although we had this disagreement about how my vote should be handled, we were still on good terms overall, and the stake president renewed my temple recommend shortly after October General Conference 2010, when it was due for renewal. He acknowledged that I met the minimum requirement of sustainment: I believe the presiding officers’ keys are valid. This doesn’t mean I have to vote in favor of them remaining in office. They can be released, the keys can be taken away from them and given to others. In effect: recognizing that King Noah received a valid priesthood/kingship ordination doesn’t mean I have to bow and scrape and give my approval or consent for him to remain king.

According to many authoritative statements by past leaders (John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, J. Rueben Clark, and others) providing members the opportunity to vote in opposition is not a rhetorical formality. It is an actual opportunity for those who are not comfortable with the existing officers/policies to make that known. If our current leaders don’t want to be bothered with public opposition, the logical move would be to stop asking for opposing votes in public meetings. However, if they were to do that, they would be violating D&C 124:44, as well as several other D&C passages which command that voting be used.

The meeting with Area Seventy finally took place. It turns out he didn’t agree with my stake president’s decision to renew my recommend. He gave me an ultimatum that I must stop voting in opposition or I would lose my recommend immediately. I was not willing to change my vote, so he took my recommend. At that point, I asked for a meeting with his superior (a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy). He told me that was unnecessary for two reasons: he had already cleared his decision with that superior, and he (my Area Seventy) already had first hand knowledge that none of the current First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve believe that voting is a chance to offer public disagreement with policy. Instead, they consider the vote to be a promise to obey the presiding officers, with an affirmative vote being mandatory for full fellowship. This speech that was given four years after our meeting is good evidence that he had a good understanding of their position:

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/sustaining-the-prophets?lang=eng

In the meeting, I complained that the interpretation of voting he had described to me contradicts what is in the Handbook and other official literature. His response was that there are any number of doctrinal contradictions that can be pointed out with regard to written doctrine vs. current practice, and that I needed to overlook those things and fall into line with the norms favored by presiding officers. [In effect: the real-time practice/interpretation of the presiding officers is the de facto official policy, regardless of what appears in the official publications, Handbooks, etc.]

He also told me that I could not publicly express criticism about the First Presidency’s use of various public relations tactics, (their use of those tactics is one of my reasons for voting against them). He indicated that such criticism was by itself grounds for removal of my recommend, no matter how I voted.

Returning to the original point: is it fair to say that my post is in line with the current acceptable practice? I would say no, although an argument might be made that it does fall within the letter of the official written policy. Even then, it is not a strong argument. This is because the general principles outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants have been tortured into several competing interpretations within the Handbook of Instructions, the Institute Manual chapter on voting, and various General Conference, only some of which support my position.

In order to operate the Church, the limited general guidelines found in the D&C must be converted into specific policy rules. The result of converting general theory to real life practice is that, in many cases, competing interpretations are alternately championed and abandoned by high level sponsors, which creates a policy mess.

If you felt that my post was in keeping with the Spirit, then the conclusion should be obvious: the current policy/practice with regard to apostasy is misguided and not inspired. Members should be able to express their concerns in public and follow the example of Jesus, who boldly expressed his opinions in public about the high priests who presided in the holy temple during his mortal life. The comparison of the ancient Jews to our modern organization has merit:

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 237-38).

You make a distinction between Anon Bishop and myself,– that he doesn’t believe that the leaders hold valid authority to carry out ordinances, while I do. I don’t know precisely what he believes or doesn’t believe on this point, but regardless of any differences on that point, there is something important that he and I have in common, which you seem to have missed –we have charity for church leaders who have been seduced into an infallibility mindset of “always follow the mortal leaders”. They were born into it, and it is deep in their minds and worldview, and they aggressively perpetuate it. We want them to wake up and do better.

I invite you to investigate this matter with real intent: to what extent does Anon Bishop have charity for the current leaders of the Church?

If you read his posts carefully and with an open heart, I believe that you will find he possesses that kind of love in good measure: it is the motivating impulse of his blog.

This motivation of his (the pure love of Christ) matters more than all the priesthood offices and keys and prophecies and visions and miracles that have ever been or ever will be.

Our current leaders also have a measure of charity, but in my opinion not as much as they should have. In several important aspects of the gospel, they have hard hearts and closed minds, and this leads them to misguidedly persecute innocent members.

Your assertion that Anon Bishop is trying to destroy people’s faith in the LDS Church and it’s current mortal officers is, I suppose, a basically accurate assertion from a certain point of view, but I think that you misunderstand the implications. Anon Bishop’s core position, to the best of my understanding, is as follows:

“Look to Christ. Seek diligently to identify and obey his commandments. This is the one and only path to safety.”

To the exact extent that people take that message seriously and apply it in their lives, the Holy Ghost will strive with them. If they follow it with enough virtue and diligence, the Spirit will reveal to them to what extent and in what manner they should participate in the LDS Church. In that regard, Anon Bishop is ultimately helping the Church, if it is the true Church, and is not harming it.

Meanwhile, the current leaders of the Church have a position that is essentially this:

“Look to us to be your light. Submit to us and obey us in all things and you will be saved.”

This is a very serious matter, to be teaching faith in this way. In my view it is a gross perversion of the gospel and should be adamantly opposed.

Elder Oaks wrote in his 1985 “Criticism” article that complaints against leaders should always be handled in private. This makes sense with regard to private transgression, but he mistakenly extends the rule of privacy to doctrinal disagreements, which by their very nature deserve to be discussed openly — because the leaders have already announced their doctrines openly in the first place. Disciples of Christ shouldn’t shy away from sharing their concerns and disagreements in public, by way of seeking for resolution and understanding. Those who insist on zero public opposition don’t seem to have a good understanding of common consent.

If and when Anon Bishop reveals who he is, the proper response from the leaders would be to thank him for his constructive criticism and to tolerate his writings. Nothing he has written is mean spirited or dishonest. He is voicing heartfelt concerns and he believes what he writes.

Meanwhile, the current policy is to punish public criticism in the most extreme way possible. We are habituated towards intimidating people into silence and obedience with our overkill definition of apostasy: “You will lose your salvation if you oppose the mortal officers of the Church”.

The Venn diagram that applies to this situation is a very simple one. One circle has the words of the presiding officers, another circle has the words of God. The overlap is not perfect, it is up to individuals to determine what the overlap is by virtue of their own connection with the Holy Ghost, and to obey accordingly. In the words of J. Rueben Clark:

“We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.”

In my mind it is a relatively significant issue that Anon Bishop believes that the current leaders don’t have valid keys to carry out ordinances (AB, please correct me if I misunderstand this).

That being as it may, it certainly doesn’t mean he should be cast out. It is important to have hard-core critics like him and Denver within the group, who challenge the most essential elements of our culture and beliefs. If we are not willing to keep them as members in full fellowship and to tolerate their opinions, I would suggest that we are not acting like true disciples of Christ. They have done nothing to merit being punished. They are expressing their understanding of the gospel, and there is much that is positive and enlightening in what they have to say, regardless of whatever mistakes they might be making.

The Gamaliel Principle is relevant. If they are wrong about what they are teaching, they will come to nothing in the end. If they are right, we are fighting against God if we take harsh measures against them.

If you have evidence that Anon Bishop is a witting liar, a criminal, a womanizer, or even a mean-spirited mocker, then I will reassess what I think about him and his membership status.

Until then, I will continue to consider him to be one of the truest and most sincere Mormons I have ever come across. From my perspective, he is seeking Christ will real intent and is trying to live the gospel without compromise.

Perhaps you will agree that there are many confusing and contradictory things within Mormonism. Joseph Smith once said: by proving contraries the truth is made manifest.

I think that one of the “contraries” that can be proved with abundant evidence is this: that the mortal servants whom God calls or allows to rise to the top official positions of power among his Chosen peoples (the Israelites, Jewish people, Mormons, Nephites, Jaredites) quite often act in ways that do NOT lead people to Christ. These divinely appointed (or divinely tolerated) servants sometimes are willfully ignorant and become unwitting zombie agents of the devil, and God allows this. He allows the appearance of a divine stamp of sanction to exist when things are going very wrong. That is a painful contradiction to deal with, but it must be dealt with. Why would God allows officially appointed servants of his to lead people astray and create such chaos and unrighteousness?

I think the existence of this problem tells us something about the nature of God, and about the conditions that are necessary for certain kinds of progress to occur among his children. God wants us to become spiritually independent beings. He wants us to unlock the divine power within ourselves and to reach a point where we can make righteous judgements without being micromanaged by mortal authorities or censors. In order for this progress to occur, there has to be a relatively strong appearance of divine sanction when things are going wrong. Only with this paradox in play is it possible for individuals to be fully tested and become spiritually independent.

I invite you to stop worrying so much about “Church policy”, and to start worrying a lot more about what God’s will actually is, in any particular matter. There is sometimes a 180 degree mismatch between God’s will and official church policy.

A small sampling of questions to consider:

Is it God’s will that you vote in approval of officers who teach members to put their faith in mortal guides?

Is it God’s will that you vote in approval of officers who employ a definition of apostasy that outlaws respectful public disagreement?

Is it God’s will that you accuse Anon Bishop of “fault finding” in the pejorative sense?

Are you 100 percent confident that Anon Bishop is leading people away from Christ?

Are you 100 percent confident that we as a people are not seriously off course with regard to how we are applying the law of tithing, how we treat the Word of Wisdom, and how we interpret other important matters?

If you are willing to study these things out diligently and with openness, and then go to the Lord with real intent to find out if the conclusions you have come to in these matters are correct, you might obtain truths that are not exactly comfortable to live with.

It may well take a long time to achieve the required diligence, openness, or real intent. It depends, I think, on how much spiritual strife and humiliation you are willing to experience in order to achieve a child like state of being with regard to these issues.

——-

Full disclosure: in asking the Lord about what Denver S. has taught, I haven’t yet received a definitive answer one way or the other. I suppose this means that I haven’t yet asked in the right way.

I am trying to approach the question with an open mind, but my investigation is not yet complete. To some extent, I hate and fear all of the potential answers:

1. If Denver is in the mists of darkness leading people astray, it would mean that someone who once enlightened my mind on several important issues (the Second Comforter being one of them, which he wrote about while he was in full fellowship in the Church and which provoked no official censure to my knowledge); and who helped me to become a better person than I used to be, is either a lunatic, a witting liar, or has been deceived. I allow the possibility that one of these conditions is the case, but it won’t be painless to accept whichever one it might be.

2. If Denver is right, it would mean that my worldview concerning priesthood authority is misguided, that I have been arrogant and misled in some areas of the gospel; that I will have to start from scratch with regard to some of the most basic things that I have long felt to be true. This is a humiliating and frightening thought. The social repercussions associated with any kind of “restart” of this kind are extremely distasteful and painful.

3. Some third answer that might be as equally discomfiting as one of the first two possibilities.

——

Being willing to identify these emotions publicly is perhaps a necessary step in getting to a legitimate answer. Experiments are what lead to progress. Seeds cannot be tested without investment and risk.

I’d like to know if you have struggled with any of the above issues, and if not, upon what basis have you avoided them? To what extent have you investigated the matter? Are you willing to stake your eternity, without hesitation and without further introspection, on the answer that you currently have in tow?

Your reply to my post was in some ways a catalyst for my publicly articulating, for the first time, these difficult issues and emotions. For that reason, I owe you thanks.

I also owe thanks to AB. For whatever reason, the format and tone of this blog has motivated me to seek the Lord with more diligence and honesty than I have previously done in my life. I don’t take this to mean that AB is right about everything he writes, but I do take it to mean that he is not a raging wolf with the blood of innocent Saints dripping from his fangs.

I believe that the following kind of asymmetry can and does exist: even though Brigham Young was a violent, racist, power-abusing, and misogynistic person in some areas of the gospel, in other areas of the gospel he was child-like and inspired. I think that several of his most under-appreciated and forgotten speeches contain truths that are very important, and are not available anywhere else.

If nothing else, the existence of this kind of asymmetry should deter us from lumping people into simplistic good/evil categories. I want to learn all I can from any honest person who is willing to share what they know, and that is because I believe this axiom from Joseph Smith: “A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.”

I return to you a roughly parallel statement to the one you wrote, albeit mine has the reverse meaning:

“We all know that those who profess to be Saints are not perfect –Anon Bishop’s intent is to help perfect them. He does this by offering constructive criticism and analysis, ever mindful that he himself is not perfect, but nonetheless striving for that perfection and motivating others to strive for it as well.” (cross ref, Matthew 5:48).

Sincerely,

JM