Monthly Archives: March 2017

RESTORATION SCRIPTURES ANNOUNCEMENT

A couple weeks ago I was asked by a friend to post this announcement when it came out.  As I support the project and believe it to be of great worth, I gladly keep that commitment and include the entire announcement here without further comment:

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RESTORATION SCRIPTURES ANNOUNCEMENT

March 18, 2017

Although what is to be announced may be viewed by most people as a modest achievement, I think history will eventually reflect this as one of the greatest steps forward after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum.

What I’m about to announce will generate a considerable number of questions. To reasonably manage them, we’ve set up an email address where you can send your questions & suggestions. That address is:

RESTORATIONSCRIPTURES2017@GMAIL.COM.

Your questions will be reviewed this evening, and then tomorrow, a number of the major questions will be answered in front of this body. Any that aren’t answered immediately will be replied to after the conference ends.

One of the first ways a dispensation becomes corrupted is by compromising the scriptures used by believers in that dispensation. Therefore when a new dispensation begins, one of the first orders of business for believers is to adopt a new set of scriptures which restore, insofar as it is possible, a correct version of the material they regard as scripture.

Just like the saints of the New Testament adopted a new body of teachings, the Book of Mormon people preserved and added to sacred writings. And while Joseph Smith lived, there were both corrections to old scripture and new scripture was added. Likewise for us, there is a need to remove errors, correct texts, and add to the body of scripture to guide us. This assembly – that is, this worldwide body of believers – must also decide what we accept as scripture. It is our right and sacred responsibility to address this need.

To that end, a new edition of the scriptures is proposed. They are divided into three volumes that have been produced through a unified effort by two independent bodies of volunteers, separately driven to approach the scriptures anew.

Initially the members of these two groups felt individually inspired to revisit the scriptures in an effort to prune away some of the uninspired alterations of man so that they might have a more correct version of scripture for their study. Over time, these individuals were led to one another, combining and harmonizing their efforts. What began as two wholly separate groups, each forming at the same time, both unknown to one another, resulted in separate projects that were completed at the same time, and what was learned from their independent efforts identified issues that needed to be addressed.

On the last day of 2016, less than 2 weeks after discovering each other, these two groups held a meeting, facilitated by Denver Snuffer, and determined to unify their efforts, each bringing to the table differing components for a greater outcome than either project possessed alone. On the first day of the new year, the two became one as work began, preparing what would become this Restoration Edition of the scriptures.

Moving forward, the united team has worked closely with each other, with the Lord, and with His servant, to produce a more accurate record that is true to the Lord’s intent and to the Restoration. We are on His errand, not our own.

In September 1832, the Saints were condemned by the Lord and commanded to “repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.”

We often see this as the Lord rebuking the Saints for failing to do according to that which He had written, yet assume that the Saints had been correctly saying what He had written. But the Saints did not say, and have failed to accurately preserve, what the revelations God provided to them said, because their texts became corrupted. This means that the first step towards emerging from condemnation is to try and do exactly what is being accomplished through this scriptural work now underway. While the full purpose of this project was initially unknown, it has begun a best effort to “repent and remember the new covenant.” If done right, we will at least accomplish the first step: recovering what the Lord provided so we can “say” what He has revealed. Then the challenges increase as we are called upon “to do according to that” which God has revealed.

A future conference must then be held with the intent of approving the final content of the Restoration Edition and sustaining that edition as canon for this assembly.

The following is a summary of what is contained in this Restoration Edition of the scriptures:

ALL THE SCRIPTURAL WORKS SHARE THE FOLLOWING CHANGES:

  • Verse numbers have been eliminated and the text has been formatted into paragraphs. This provides greater context for individual passages and removes the isolation of a statement that is caused by restricting it to a verse. The only exception to individual numbering is in Proverbs where each proverb has been numbered.
  • The chapters have been regrouped based on contextual themes rather than staying as they have existed historically. Our team recognized that since chapters were originally organized by man and not by God, we were free to reorganize them. Some paragraphs in some of the books have been combined or divided as well, based on their context. However, in the Book of Mormon, chapters were designated by Joseph Smith himself and those have been preserved.
  • Very minor standardization and spelling correction has taken place. Care was taken to respect the text.
  • Punctuation can clarify, but it can also restrict. Therefore punctuation has been significantly reduced in all of the volumes in order to free up the text for greater possible interpretation.

INDIVIDUALLY

VOLUME 1 IS THE OLD TESTAMENT

  • Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible (the JST) is the base text.
  • The Song of Solomon had been removed since Joseph indicated that it is not an inspired text.
  • Proverbs now includes Proverbs of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Proverbs of Denver Snuffer,

VOLUME 2 CONSISTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE BOOK OF MORMON

  • In a letter to the “brethren in Zion” on 21 April, 1833, Joseph Smith stated, “…it is not the will of the Lord to print any of the new translation in the Star, but when it is published it will all go to the world together in a volume by itself, and the New Testament and The Book of Mormon will be printed together.”
  • Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible is the base text for the New Testament.
  • The 1840 edition of The Book of Mormon is used as the base text and was already formatted into paragraphs. This version was chosen because it contains corrections given by Joseph Smith to what was originally published in 1830 and 1837.

VOLUME 3 CONSISTS OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS & PEARLS OF GREAT PRICE

  • The new D&C returns the Lectures on Faith to its original place, along with those sections and revelations identified as coming through Joseph Smith. These have been painstakingly compared to the manuscripts found in the Joseph Smith Papers Project:
    • The order of the sections has been restored to thematic groupings rather than simply being presented chronologically. These groupings are: Restoration, Organization and Worship, and Revelations to Individuals.
    • Several LDS sections have been removed for the following reasons:
      • Sections 2 & 13 are extracts from JS-History and are therefore redundant.
      • Section 20 was written by Oliver Cowdery and constitutes church articles and covenants used to begin to structure the early church organization. They no longer apply.
      • Section 101 on Marriage, from the original 1835 Kirtland Edition, is not being reintroduced because it is not a product of either Joseph or Hyrum. However, pertinent points are included in another area.
      • Section 110 is completely unverifiable as a true revelation/vision. The three individuals with some information about the section, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and Warren Cowdery, left no statement or explanation about Section 110. Further, in listing those who visited with them in their respective testimonies, neither Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery mention Elijah as having come. Finally throughout the Nauvoo time frame, including a month before his death, Joseph Smith spoke of Elijah’s return as a future and not a past event.
      • Section 129 was a struggle. Initially it was revised by taking the shorthand notes from Joseph Smith’s journal and fleshing them out with bridge words and phrases to make them into comprehensible sentences. However, once attempted, that effort was abandoned and the section was completely removed for the following reasons:
        1. The shorthand is just sketchy enough that some of the bridge wording is clearly debatable.
        2. The instruction we have through the Book of Mormon is sufficient on its own to allow us to discern evil spirits.
        3. This section, if relied upon alone, is apparently not sufficient to defend against lying spirits.
      • Section 134 is a declaration on laws & government written by either Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon, not Joseph Smith.
      • Section 135 is simply the announcement of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum.
      • Section 136 is from Brigham Young.
      • Section 138, Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the dead, is restricted by copyright and cannot be used.
      • Official Declarations 1 & 2 are declarations made by a different church.
  • Several LDS sections have been revised for the following reasons:
    • Section 107 was an amalgamation of content, with only one portion traceable to a revelation before the 1835 publication of the D&C. That portion has been preserved. The 1835 published version bears hallmarks of revisions by the hand of man. Therefore only a portion has been extracted, and then added to by revelation, to explain the establishment of dispensations and reflect the direction of this current dispensation. It is placed as the last section in the new D&C.
    • Sections 121, 122 and123 came from a letter written from Liberty Jail and are presented within the context of the entire letter written by Joseph Smith.
    • Section 132 on celestial marriage is now represented as it is posted by Denver Snuffer on his blog, containing the redactions suggested there to make the document internally consistent and reflect the earliest descriptions of the original.
  • More than 40 new sections have been added for the following reasons:
    • Nearly all of these new sections are verified revelations given through Joseph Smith that simply were never sustained as scripture.
    • Restoration Edition Section 98 is President Hyrum Smith’s epistle to the church.
  • The new D&C also includes an insert in the Appendix called A PROPHET’S PREROGATIVE, an example of an extremely valuable method of comparative study that can significantly help your understanding. The example used is Isaiah 29, and includes an introductory explanation.
  • The Pearl of Great Price – has had its name changed to Pearls of Great Price, reflecting and implying further expansion, and the following portions have been removed, revised or added for the following reasons:
    • (A Proposed Set of) Governing Principles is a rewritten statement of principles and practices – similar to LDS Section 20 – that reflects this assembly’s efforts to preserve the Restoration. This statement is not yet completed. It requires additional inspired input from you.
    • The Articles of Faith have been replaced by The Wentworth Letter that they were copied from, in order to provide context to those articles.
    • Joseph Smith – History has been slightly expanded to the same extent as it was originally published in the Times and Seasons.
    • The Book of Moses and Joseph Smith – Matthew have been removed because they already exist in the New Translation of the Bible and are redundant.
    • The Book of Abraham remains as is.
    • The Revelation of the Testimony of St. John – as given through Denver Snuffer, Jr. – has been added. It will not replace the existing Testimony of St. John found in the New Testament, but will stand as it’s own book.
    • Continuing Revelation – is a section which consists of visions and revelations given through Denver Snuffer, Jr. to be made public. This portion of the Pearls of Great Price is expected to be the place where new revelation will be added as it is received, which, you will see, has already happened.
    • A Glossary of Fundamental Terms is at the end of the final volume. Currently it’s blank, except for a single sample definition. We encourage all of you to consider emailing us terms for the glossary using the following criteria:
  1. The definition must be scriptural, not your opinion.
  2. The terms need to be those that are critical to seeing things correctly. LDS and Christian culture have so skewed many religious terms as to render them not just wrong, but spiritually dangerous in that they point people in the wrong direction. This will not become a “bible dictionary,” but is an attempt to explain words as the Lord has intended, not “Gospel speak” or Mormonese.

Given that this body must declare to the Lord what records they intend to hold sacred, a Preview copy of these volumes of the Restoration Edition are available as of right now for download, in PDF, ebook and other requested formats, from www.scriptures.info, an online library that has been established for materials pertinent to the Restoration. There are a number of interesting tools and features that have been developed for this site, but now is not the time to go into them. However, I will say that scriptures.info is specifically built with tools to aid in comparative study. That’s why the Isaiah 29 example is at the back of the D&C – to kickstart you. So take a tour of that important site on your own. Those of you who may have content pertinent to the scriptures that you wish to contribute, those of you who are looking for research material or tools, and those of you who are just curious, be sure to visit the ABOUT page on that site for direction.

A hard copy of each volume is already available for purchase on Amazon.com and Amazon Europe. Search Restoration Scriptures Preview or the title of each work and you should find Vol. 1, 2 and 3. This copy is NOT formatted completely – it still has minor flaws in it. In fact, if you are happy to use the electronic copies that are available, you may want to wait until the scriptures have been sustained and scrubbed before buying a copy, as they may change. A final version will be produced that incorporates any changes sustained by this assembly and has been scrubbed of formatting errors.

Additionally, since Amazon won’t allow us to sell the copies at cost, the minimal royalties from the copies sold will be donated to the temple fund.

A quick side note: The reason the Creative Commons copyright for these scriptures is in my name is only because I am acting as the public face of this project. There are dozens of people that have contributed to it besides me.

A Research version of these scriptures is partially completed and available for download on www.scriptures.info as well. Unlike the printed scriptures, this Research version will remain in electronic form – at least for now – and will differ in the following ways from the print copies:

  • Though retaining the new chapter groupings, all of the books have LDS chapter and verse numbers inserted to allow for easier research and for comparison with other versions of scripture.
  • The JST and D&C include both strikethroughs and additions visible in their original manuscripts.
  • The Book of Mormon footnotes all significant changes from the editions that were published during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Any editions after his death were not approved by him and therefore have been ignored.
  • Items removed from the printed copy can be preserved in this copy for research purposes, including, for example, section 129.
  • Items of historical or educational significance deemed helpful may be added to this version. Recognize that the Research version is intended to expand details of the sustained scriptures, not supplant them.

We do have plans for a fancier set of scriptures being produced with bible stock paper, leather or faux leather covers, and so forth. That process is already underway, but anyone familiar with the process is invited to email us and lend a hand. I’m not sure of a time frame other than we’d like to have those available by the end of the year. But we won’t print any until after the sustaining conference.

For those who honestly can’t afford around $40 to purchase a set of these scriptures and can’t use electronic copies for now, if you have a local fellowship you meet with, ask them if they can provide you with a set. If they can’t meet your need, please use the email address given to request a set. We have several free sets available for the truly needy that are here at the conference. If there are those in need who could not attend, but would like a copy, please place a request at that same email address and a copy can be sent to you or your local fellowship.

THE NEXT CONFERENCE, which has been mentioned during this announcement, will be held in Boise, ID, Labor Day weekend, September 2-3, with the intent of approving the final content for the Restoration Edition of the scriptures and sustaining that edition as canon for this assembly. Today is the “open to public view” step of the process. Our team simply got the ball rolling. You will now have approximately 6 months to digest, critique and react to what the Lord has offered.

Please carefully consider what is being offered to us. Zion is the Lord’s work. So getting it will not depend on the goodness or desires of men and women, but on their submission to the Lord, who intends to accomplish it. WE can’t force it, cause it, bring it, or hope it into existence. What we can do is submit to the Lord in a way that encourages Him to continue to use us for His purposes. There is no need for an immediate, knee-jerk reaction to this announcement. You will have time to consider all of it before making a decision.

No sustaining or debate of the scriptures will take place during this conference. But your input is necessary and required. An email address has been provided specifically for that purpose. Please use RESTORATIONSCRIPTURES2017@GMAIL.COM to send in questions you have about what has been announced and provided. There likely won’t be enough time tomorrow to answer all the questions that get sent in, but any that aren’t addressed during tomorrow’s Q&A session will be replied to. But there’s no rush. If you have an immediate, burning question, please send it in quickly so that we have time this evening to prepare responses for tomorrow. Also, this same email address will be used over the next 6 months for additional questions and ongoing feedback in preparation for a sustaining conference. So if you don’t have a question or suggestion until June, you can still submit it and it will be addressed. But please refrain from pointing out formatting issues unless it is alarming. We will be combing through the books again to find them all.

If there’s a particular issue in these scriptures that is critical, in your opinion, email your concern and your reasoning to support your argument. It will be posted for others to view and consider. If you think that there is something else that belongs in this edition, feel free to email that suggestion as well. For example you might feel inspired about a principle that needs to be added to the Governing Principles statement. However, realize that what this edition now contains has been under the Lord’s direction for the past year and a half and He has provided, at times, direct input. And there is a rigorous set of questions to assist you in determining whether you should submit new material.

The PRELIMINARY SUBMISSION & CRITIQUE PROCESS works like this:

  1. Questions, suggestions, criticism and requests get submitted to restorationscriptures2017@gmail.com.
  2. From the end of the St. George conference until the 4th of July, a SUBMISSIONS list will be maintained on scriptures.info.
    1. The items on the list will come from emails submitted.
    2. That document will list the specific items that have been pointed out as concerns to be removed, modified or added to the Restoration Edition. The points made by the submitter will also be given. Please be aware that your reasoning will be significantly refined if you submit a long explanation, so keep things brief. And make sure that what you submit is scriptural, not simply personal opinion.
    3. If you have very strong feelings about any of the items on the list, email us and let us know. If you’re fine with what has been proposed today or if you don’t care one way or the other about the items on the list, don’t email us. Only those who are strongly opposed to an existing item or strongly in favor of adding or amending an item should email us during those first few months.
    4. The SUBMISSIONS document will be updated as needed.
  3. As of the 4th of July, a final SUBMISSIONS list will be posted which also includes the total number of emails for/against an item. We will then wipe the slate clean.
    1. From then on, no new items will be added to the list.
    2. People who are strongly advocating or opposing can again email their vote about the item(s).
  4. That new voting period runs from the 4th of July to the end of August.
    1. A final tally will then be taken.
    2. If there is no significant number of emails in opposition of an existing item or advocating a missing item or amendment, that item will be dropped.
    3. And if you email us 6 times, it still only counts as one vote for any item.

Benefits of this process are:

  1. We are using simple, easy to reach technology. Anyone can go online to do this – even if they have to go to a library or a friend to do so. And this can be done from anywhere in the world.
  2. By providing the reason why an item is listed, opposing voices get the chance to be heard and perhaps to persuade.
  3. Doing 2 rounds of voting gives everyone the chance to be persuaded over time and therefore find confidence of their final decision.
  4. Everyone gets an opportunity to be involved if they feel so inclined.

2 CRITICAL POINTS:

  1. Remember that what is important is the message, not the messenger, so focus on the content of this gift, not how it’s delivered.
  2. The most important lesson for our group was expressed in the course of our emailing back and forth. Someone said this: I would rather submit to the decision of the group than insist that my view be followed. For me harmony between brethren is more important than getting what I think best to be followed. I believe harmony can lead to much greater things than can merely enforcement of even a correct view. I know how difficult it is to have a correct view, because of how often I have been corrected by the Lord. Sometimes I am humiliated by my foolishness when the Lord reproves me. Humiliation can lead to humility, but my experience is that the humiliation is accompanied by shame, whereas humility can proceed with a clear conscience. My experience with others leads me to conclude that if we can have one heart first, eventually we can likewise come to have one mind. But if we insist on having one mind at the outset, we may never obtain one heart together.

So I make a request to all of you – from all of us: Kaai sent the team an email 3 weeks ago, just after we had submitted the final volume to our formatter. We had begun to consider this next step. So he wrote: One of the ways to hopefully mitigate the sheer volume of emails will be to encourage fellowships to meet together and come up with a consolidated list of questions/suggestions/ concerns/etc… If there are individuals not associated with a fellowship, then they’ll follow the standard process [on their own]. If they make it a matter of prayer and forethought, first as individuals, then families, then fellowships, and submit in that manner, we may be able to keep the volume manageable. It will allow fellowships to meet together for a directed purpose and importune the Lord for revelation. It will draw them closer together in the bonds of love as indicated in the General Principles preamble and make them accountable to each other for the questions raised. I think it also reinforces the manner in which the Lord would want us to approach any challenge or issue presented.

Please consider these points as you consider what you choose to advocate in the scriptures.

Given the experiences many have had with organized religion, it’s only natural for some people to have an aversion to “official” scriptures. But these volumes are not set in stone; rather, they are presented to you in the appropriate manner, and with sufficient time for the group’s collective review, critique, support, and, possible sustaining. The Lord deals with His people by covenant; accepting these scriptures as comprising the history, teachings, doctrine, and covenants of our faith represents another step in our collective journey towards having our hearts bound together. And this should remain a labor of love and devotion to God. Those involved in this work do not present these volumes with any other expectation than that we are to be called to answer to every principle advanced, and we hope and pray that this continued effort to preserve and honor the word of the Lord will be accepted by Him, and by you.

In closing, I’d like to read a journal entry from one of our team members from Feb 18th:

I checked the scripture email and saw that volume 2 had been formatted and is now ready to print. Upon opening the file and viewing the document I was filled with joy and with the Spirit and was given a prophecy by the spirit saying,

“These scriptures will go to all the world and teach every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, to bring in the children of Israel from the four corners of the earth.”

How Shall I Know?

If one takes the temple endowment seriously, discerning between true and false ministers and messengers is unequivocally paramount to our salvation.

To Adam’s credit he asked the three Angel strangers, “How shall I know that you are true messengers?”  Think of the audacity on Adam’s part to pose such a question that demonstrated he either A) did not perceive these messengers to be angelic beings from a different world and/or B) did not care.

Adam was firmly committed to KNOWING if these were the same messengers his Father promised to send, who would instruct him on how to re-enter into the presence of the Lord AND he simply would not be fooled.

The Messengers seemingly took no offense to Adam’s questioning, in fact, they commended him for his integrity and were all the more pleased to find in him such firm-mindedness.

Satan had apparently fooled everyone else, “Except for this man” who had discerned his false priests as only capable of sharing “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.”

With them Adam would have done as the scriptures teach — he would have listened to their words (the seed), with a soft heart (good soil), and would have pondered and prayed with real intent (water/sunlight) and then would have waited sufficiently to see if the seed that was planted was good.  If it was good it would grow and eventually, with time and continued care, produce fruit. If it was bad, there would be no plant and no fruit.

With fruit a person can then KNOW and like the people at the time of King Benjamin would have been able to proclaim:

Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (i.e. the fruit, see also Galatians 5) (Mosiah 5:2, my emphasis added).

But, during Adam’s time, there were no authorized teachers before the three Messengers appeared.  There was no Holy Man named King Benjamin or Melchizedek or anyone else. Only Satan’s false priests and worldly philosophers.

The first of all the Holy Prophets was yet to fully awaken to his pre-mortal High Priest status (see Alma 13).

So, God, according to His plan, would make his Doctrines known unto Adam by the mouth of angels directly (Alma 13:26) and as he had been the Chief Angel in God’s presence, he would also would be the world’s first Holy Man a.k.a. the First Father.  Then, and only then, would Adam be able to share the Heavenly message with others by the Holy Ghost in such a way that the message would carry unto the hearts of the children of men (2 Nephi 33:1).

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.”

Holy men (including women and even sometimes children) can also speak with the Tongue of Angels after having been sanctified by and filled with the Holy Ghost.

This is the pattern or template (notice the word Temple in template).  This is how we make our way back.  I think it’s especially interesting that as Nephi is describing this Doctrine of Christ he seems to become frustrated and declares that the Spirit “stops his utterance and he is left to mourn,” because his audience seems to not be getting the message. They’re hearing it, but perhaps NOT totally understanding it. Right before he “stops” he says something I think is key:

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do (2 Nephi 32:6).

I take this to mean that the whole purpose of the Doctrine of Christ is to bring mankind into the presence of Christ in this life.

See Ether 13:3:

And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

And so like Adam, once we decide rightly on the ministers, eventually messengers will come. This is where D&C 129:4 will be important:

When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.

And hence how Adam KNEW they were True Messengers.  They gave unto Adam the sign and token (handshake) that only they could give as resurrected beings who had authority. (Think about that one for a while).

For most of us, discerning between true and false ministers, is our current dilemma.  Angels will only come to those firm-minded in every form of Godliness (Moroni 7:30) and it would seem to be that NOT proving to the Lord that we are capable of accurately detecting true ministers from false, will preclude us from receiving further instructions from Heavenly messengers. This seems to be the pattern.  And it also appears that Gentiles are especially prone to not being able to discern between truth and error and are not known for our great faith.

In fact the only reason we have the Book of Mormon is because of the faith of some of its authors who had compassion on us, who they saw the Lord would use to bring their record to their future posterity.  Otherwise we Gentiles may not even have been given the Restoration.

Ether 12:22-28 says:

 22 And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren through the Gentiles; therefore the Lord hath commanded me, yea, even Jesus Christ.

 23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;

 24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.

 25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

 26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

 27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

 28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

It seems apparent that even those who prayed for us to receive latter day scripture had very little confidence that we would believe it and overcome our great Gentile tendencies.

It’s interesting to note that this was believed to be the last thing Hyrum read before he and Joseph were killed at Carthage.  The top corner of the pages of Ether 12, folded over.  Was this Hyrum’s fear as his life concluded?  That we the Gentiles (The Church) would mock, all while believing we are more righteous than everyone else?  D&C 84 reminds us that we are in fact under condemnation precisely for doing as Moroni and Nephi and other prophets feared we would.

I don’t know about you, but I find all this to be very humbling.  If Adam (Micheal, the Archangel) asked “How shall I know?” and labored to discern, then surely I, a lowly Gentile prone to mocking and being critical, have an uphill battle.  And the scriptures testify to me that I am prone to skepticism, doubt and unbelief. How am I to find hope in Christ? How am I to trade my weakness for strength? Did Joseph have my skepticism in mind when he said: “I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never heard of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.” (TPJS p. 374.)

I also worry about the warning from Joseph that “The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” (TPJS p. 181.)

How do I know that my revolting or my disbelief in some idea or to some preacher is not because I am in the devil’s power?

In looking more closely at why the Gentiles would mock it would be because of a true prophet’s weakness in writing.  What does this imply?

Is it possible that a true prophet can deliver a message in such a weak fashion that the natural tendency would be to not believe even though the message is true?

As one interesting example, look at the message from John the Baptist to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith as recorded in Joseph Smith History.

In this particular case, both Joseph and Oliver were worthy recipients of a message from an Angel.  But, their messages are both worded very differently when they each go to record them.  One could argue that because their messages vary even slightly from one another, that neither is reliable.

Look at the two different passages:

Oliver’s Account:

Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!

Joseph’s Account:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

I’m guessing that when Oliver read Joseph’s version, he very well may have felt inferior to Joseph.  Perhaps frustrated by his weakness in writing in a way that properly conveyed what he saw and heard.  But at the same time, I assume Oliver read every word of what Joseph recorded and agreed it was “accurate.”

In that heavenly realm it seems as though things are conveyed by thoughts rather than by words and so it’s more likely that they each “heard” the message differently and recorded what was conveyed to them in their own “weak words” with BOTH messages being “true” in every way.  Joseph, being perhaps the more fine-tuned instrument, appeared more able to describe the account.

Many of us give the benefit of the doubt to our late prophets. We assume that two different testimonies from Matthew and Luke’s accounts or from Isaiah and John the Beloved, do not negate the truthfulness of the message.  We trust that Oliver and Joseph were both reliable in their differing accounts from John the Baptist.  The same goes for Joseph and Sidney when experiencing the heavens being opened in section 76 who may each have had different words BUT who each had the same experience.

Maybe what’s important is that we learn how to discern whether someone is delivering a message from Heaven or not by some other method than simply mocking what is written.  Maybe the message, and its effect upon the hearer, are more important than the typos or other weaknesses.

If Joseph Smith were to be judged on typos alone, there would have been no believers in his day.  The original Book of Mormon had plenty of typos as scholars such as Mark Twain pointed out. Remember Symonds Ryder, or was it Simons Rider? Because misspelling his name shattered his confidence in Joseph.  How many are like him today?

As history has shown, God does send messengers and they are rarely recognized and embraced by their contemporaries.  If we believe in Alma 13, they are foreordained to come down to this fallen world.  They condescend from an exalted state.  They come with great advantages (D&C 130).  God speaks to them as He has throughout history.  He provides them with messages to be shared.  It then becomes the responsibility of those they preach to, to figure out if these witnesses are from God or not.

Non-Mormons, for example, are often quick to find the faults of the Book of Mormon.  Or at least what they perceive to be mistakes and contradictions with other scripture.  For this reason they “mock” when they receive it.  We plead with them to do as Moroni suggested but often to no avail.  Why would I “ask with sincerity” or “plant a seed into a softened heart” when I know this is all BS?  That it’s from the devil?  Would that not be an insult to God?  An unnecessary temptation?  I already know it can’t be true, because the Bible says no one can add to it!

Do we do the same today?

I also suppose that some members in Joseph’s day found his “re-translation” of the Bible to be silly.  Surely that was the last straw for some of his critics.  “I mean he’s just changing words willy nilly!  Who does he think he is?  This is the proof I needed. Now I know he’s fallen or a fraud.”

Or how about the Book of Moses?  He pulled that one out of thin air?  Or the Book of Abraham, which very few appreciate in our day even among the LDS faithful.  Joseph surely would have been mocked online in our day.

Hugh Nibley showed that the entire Church more or less ignored the Book of Mormon’s existence until the 50s when he became the Church’s premiere apologist.  This was especially true at the time the Spalding Letters were placed in the Library of Congress and accepted by many scholars as fact.  Many Mormons were ashamed to admit they believed in the Book of Mormon during this timeframe.  They felt it had been exposed by the world’s leading scholars as a fraud and some hoped it would simply go away.

Do we think we are so much better or smarter than those who have lived at the time of Joseph?  Would you have stood by Joseph’s side when his critics shouted their loudest arguments against him?  And when he replied with hand written letters that showed he could scarcely spell his own name?  Would you have stood by John the Baptist or even recognized him in the first place?  When the crowds mocked his attire and made fun of his diet?  John the Baptist was like a homeless man, who as Chris Farley would say, “lived in a van down by the river.” Would you have noticed him?

Joseph lamented:

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.

My hope is that we will each turn to the Lord with a willing heart — one that is soft (usually broken), open to a new message, sincere — and with real intent — applying, nourishing, planting a seed we may be unsure of — with perhaps only the desire to believe — with only a thought it just might be true — if it should be that we receive these things.

I believe that then and only then will we be able to discover if some minister be of God or not.  If not from God the seed will lead to nothing.  If true the seed will become a plant, and then a tree, and will then bear fruit and will lead to further messengers that we will also need to pass by (discern) who will stand as sentinels.

This in my view is how we partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life — It must be from our own Tree that has grown in our hearts. This is how we partake of HIS LOVE and enter into His presence.

But if we don’t properly plant the seed AND if our hearts are hard and the message just happens to be true:

…the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word;

On the other hand:

…he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:10,11)

I have planted the seed and have witnessed tremendous fruits thusfar that I cannot and will not deny, lest God damn me for unbelief.

May we remember that:

To become a joint heir of the heirship of the Son, one must put away all his false traditions. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.321)

AND that:

The devil has great power to deceive; he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.227)

May God bless us all. This will likely be my last post for some time.

True Repentance

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you (Alma 34:31, my emphasis added).

And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men (2 Nephi 33:1, emphasis mine).

He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever (D&C 88:41).

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy (Alma 36:18-21).

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead (Alma 22:18, emphasis mine).

I love the scriptures, particularly these few I have included. I don’t read them enough. I certainly don’t feast as I should. They give me hope when I make them my focus.

At the end of the day, it’s not about what we think we know, it’s about WHO we know.  The scriptures testify of redemption through the atonement of our Savior.  All things point to Him. The only way out of this creation is through Him.

No matter where we are we can turn to Him. He is our Redeemer.  I don’t think He cares so much if we are a liar, fornicator, drunk, or hypocrite.  He simply wants us to seek His redeeming grace, come unto Him, and to be healed of our sins and tendencies.

I’m overwhelmed to think that we can give Him our baggage. That He has already paid the price.

I spoke to a Christian minister this week who runs a bookstore. He is convinced that Mormons will go to Hell simply because they believe that they must “work out their salvation.”  I guess I agree that we must somehow figure out how to receive His grace, rather than His justice, BUT I cannot wrap my head around the idea of simply “accepting” His grace.  In his mind, just accept His grace and don’t worry about the rest.

I offered the idea that maybe our “work” is to surrender to Him, He rejected the idea of anything that involved “work.”

I don’t know about you, but “working” out our salvation — to me — seems require some effort on our part and takes an enormous amount of the sweat of the brow.

Look at the comments on this blog as an example: So many ideas and voices for how it works.  Bishops, former bishops, leaders, lay members: people of all persuasions and nationalities, effectively disagreeing on what is and what isn’t. All of us trying figure out how it works.  What ideas are correct and incorrect.  Who is a fraud and who is sent.

When it comes to the idea of works, here’s where I am today — I think it all comes down to what does our faith produce?

Do we have works that follow after our faith?  Do we possess the fruits of the Spirit of God?  See Galatians 5:22-26:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Are you loving?  I don’t care if you think you have some important position or reputation, if you do not show me love, perhaps you do not possess the Love of God or the Spirit as you may suppose.

Are you joyful?  Despite the trials?  Despite the pain?  Is your pain swallowed up in your joy?  (I struggle with all these but this one in particular.  My lack of joy at times seems to mirror my lack of trust in God)

Do you have peace?  Despite your longsuffering?  What do you know about suffering?  Do you often wonder what tomorrow will bring?  Do you feel vulnerable?  Have you been falsely accused?  Falsely slandered? Mocked?  Brought to the tribunal by your enemies?  Have you suffered pain beyond description? Unsure if you will make it?  Unsure if you will be able to provide for those you love?

Are you gentle?  Or are you quick to injure?  Do you retaliate when you feel threatened?  Or do you respond with kindness and humility?

Are you temperate?  Have you overcome the passions of the flesh?  Or do you define yourself by what your flesh still yearns for?  Falling into the trap of assuming your desires and appetites are greater than who you really are.

In my opinion, IF YOUR IDEAS DO NOT BRING FORTH THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, then your seed just might be dead, your faith non-existent, your works of no worth.  The only thing that seems to matter is whether we obtain faith unto salvation or not (1 Peter 1:5).  Notice FAITH comes before repentance.

We can all talk a good game and we can hold onto our gospel hobbies and ideas, BUT if we do not REPENT of our sins, WITH FAITH preceding REPENTANCE, then we will remain in our present state, with no redemption, experiencing no true change in our nature.

We will remain self-righteous and pompous — sounding good (sounding brass), BUT WHO KNOW NOT GOD.

I’m humbled by these ideas.  I’m not there yet.  But somehow I believe that the scriptures can help us learn true repentance. Not repentance by the definitions we often employ.  But a true change in disposition.  A rebirth.

I think that learning to distinguish between truth and error is a key.  We must discern between true and false messages and messengers.

I also believe our faith will come as a result of our willingness to sacrifice.  In some cases that sacrifice may come as a result of our having chosen to believe an obscure witness, as did Alma with Abinadi.

“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation”  (Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator).

Church Bubbles

This is an image you’re going to see a lot of in the news and around the bloggernacle.  It’s from a leaked powerpoint presentation (UPDATE – the LDS Church has issued a take down notice to Mormon Leaks) that was given to the 12 Apostles in December of 2015.  It highlights what Church leaders deem as the most important issues or ideas causing Church members to be “lead away from the gospel.”

Might I just say at the outset of this post that I truly respect these men who are sincerely trying to grapple with very difficult issues confronting the Church.  I know many of them. Some are my friends.  I do not envy their positions.  I believe them to be as sincere as I ever was as an active LDS person, or more so.

But might I also suggest that this bubble chart is very much the stuff of the corporate realm.  Where paid data analysts and middle management folks do the research and then present a well-thought out proposal to their VPs and CEOs.  As you know, this is one of my issues I have with the Church.  I feel like the Church operates too much like a business rather than by revelation.

I did find it interesting that this particular page of the powerpoint refers to people “leaving the gospel.”  I can’t speak for others, but I see some of these bubbles on this chart as reasons why people may leave the Church (although not necessarily), but who in many cases as a result of their “issues” may actually find the gospel.

As one example, the chart speaks of “pornography, chastity, and lack of righteousness” as to why many people are leaving. And yet we learn in scripture that the Lord gives us weakness that we may come unto Him:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27).

I can personally testify that God gives us weakness (one might say the tendencies of the natural man) — that we may be humble — that we may turn to Him.  Or you could say, turn towards the Gospel.

Perhaps the Church is too worried about people’s weaknesses and should see them more as God’s hand in our lives. This reminds me too much of the obsession we have as Mormons to be a part of the Not Even Once Club.  It’s almost as if the Church would prefer no one ever make a mistake rather “learn by our own experiences to choose good over evil.”

I love the verse in the D&C that shows how our Lord uses our weaknesses and trials to His advantage:

And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them (D&C 112:13).

It is usually when I feel most broken (often from my sins and weaknesses) that I experience the Lord feeling after me.  And of course the best part, it is most often then that I become more converted to Him and more healed by Him.

The Church seems to be more concerned with Church activity as a way to measure righteousness.  Some of my most spiritual experiences with ward members have been in hospitals, prisons, at grave sides and in the homes of “inactives,” where in many cases sin or other tribulations have brought someone to their knees.

I spoke to a family member recently for example who is inactive.  Her bishop asked her the other day if she has been praying.  His insinuation was that she was not, because after all, she is “inactive.”  She replied in disbelief and in tears, “I have never prayed so hard in my life for answers.  I have never cried so hard to God.”  She then added that she had recently and for the first time in her life, screamed at God to not let a person she loved, die.  I asked her if it helped.  She explained that although the person did die, something powerful had taken place in her heart in the process of yelling at God.  There was a new trust developed.  A new understanding.  New healing despite the heartache.  All this from someone who has “left” the gospel according to the bubble chart.

Perhaps a better title for this powerpoint page might be “Issues and Ideas Leading People Away From The Church.”  Or “Leading People To The Not Paying Tithing Category.”  I think it would be a more accurate title based on what I think is their goal — to keep people active in coming to Church.

I’d like to spend a minute on what I think is the most important and interesting bubble on the leaked powerpoint:  Denver Snuffer.

Denver is unique on this chart.  He claims to have seen the Lord.  Other people on the chart may be interesting, but in the case of John Dehlin, my understanding is he’s more progressive and would like the Church to change or adapt to more popular and modern positions.

I personally like John Dehlin.  I think he does a great job helping people tell their stories.  He encourages and embraces dialogue.  While I don’t always align with his ideology, I generally find him interesting, intelligent, and compassionate.

But interestingly, Denver seems to want to lead people to the Gospel.  He makes the case that by focusing on the message of the Book of Mormon, all can have and should try to have the same experience he has had.  In fact, Denver, more than anyone else, defends the Restoration and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and the Lectures on Faith etc.

I personally always struggled defending the Church narrative when it came to issues such as Polygamy, Blacks and the Priesthood, and Mountain Meadows.  I made awful excuses that justified awful things because I believed the Church version of its own history.

But Denver HELPS the Church enormously.  He makes a great case for example that Joseph never had sexual relations with Fanny Alger (14 years old) or with anyone, save Emma. One would think that IF this was true, the Church would want to exonerate Joseph from all the awful accusations of pedophilia, polygamy, fornication, and adultery.  Can you imagine how many people would be relieved and overjoyed — who perhaps would “Know brother Joseph again” if Snuffer is right?

Snuffer also makes a great case that blacks should have never had priesthood withheld from them.  At least not the priesthood the Church has and gives.  Can you imagine how much easier it would be IF the LDS Church had not discriminated against Blacks up until 1978?  Joseph was campaigning to free the slaves in the 1800s! and was giving them priesthood. That all stopped with Brigham Young, the self-professed Yankee Guesser.

Denver Snuffer also offers a very compelling reason why the LDS Church is still under condemnation, culminating with the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage, fulfilling the promise from the Lord in D&C 124 and reflecting the idea of Moses being taken from Israel as is depicted in D&C 84.  Joseph is described by Nephi to be like unto Moses is he not?  (2 Nephi 3:9).  Maybe Joseph was taken because we, like Israel, wanted something less than the Higher Priesthood and the Fulness of His Glory?  This sure makes sense to me.

Everything I have read from Snuffer suggests to my mind a return to what the Lord was trying to restore through the prophet, seer, and revelator Joseph Smith.

Everything the Church seems to do today is with the goal of saving the Church and with keeping people coming to Church.

Admittedly the Church has a very difficult path.  If it exonerates Joseph from polygamy, it throws Brigham and ALL prophets and Church leaders up to the present under the bus. Wilford Woodruff included, who said, “Keep your eye on the prophet, he can’t lead you astray, the Lord won’t let him.”  (Wink, wink.)

If the Church admits that Brigham was the real culprit in polygamy (misunderstanding Joseph’s doctrine of sealings completely), and in denying Blacks the priesthood and in Blood Atonement — the teaching of lawful killing to help save the sinner, i.e. a mixed race couple, then it admits that everything post Joseph is unreliable at best and must be seen as condemned by the Lord rather than condoned.

And hence the dilemma.  Good men generally, who find themselves at the helm of a massive corporate organization, without a Joseph-like connection to heaven.  They believe it is the Kingdom of God on Earth as did I for 40+ years.

I love them. I am sad for them.  Because they rely upon research rather than revelation.  And because they simply cannot consider a more beautiful and truthful narrative that restores and preserves the restoration itself, because it very may well undo the Church.  It certainly would undo the confidence many have in the Brethren, which as Denver has noted is the last doctrine left of the LDS Church.  We hear it over and over in Conference:  “Stay on the Ol’ Ship Zion and look to the Brethren, who can’t lead you astray.”

In my view, Denver Snuffer is the most reliable witness of our day.

Many of my questions, many of my concerns, many of my issues regarding deep and important questions about the gospel and eternity HAVE been answered by this obscure and interesting man the Church sees as a threat.  Denver ironically has kept me in the gospel when I might have otherwise been tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater as so many have when I discovered harsh truths about the Church.  Truths the Church seemed to deliberately keep from me.

I hope the Church will come to see Snuffer as a friend to Mormonism.  IF Snuffer has seen the Lord and IF Snuffer has been called to some work in these the Last Days (another dangerous bubble apparently) THEN perhaps we should at least read and consider what he is saying and ask God if it is from Him or not.

When I read his books, it makes me want to be a better person, turns me to scripture and makes me want to come unto Christ. If the Church determines that is “dangerous” then I am guilty as charged. Guilty of wanting to repent, be redeemed, and to have no more disposition to do evil.

God damn me I suppose, but for now, I’m inspired to hold fast to the gospel, in large part because Denver Snuffer helped me not throw away the restoration along with my many concerns I have with the Church.  This is why I see him as unique.  One the Church should see as a friend, if in fact they care about people not leaving the Gospel.