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Boy Scouts “Kind of Left Us”


In a recent statement Elder Ballard said the following regarding the Church’s decision to end its 105-year relationship with Boy Scouts of America:

“The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us… The direction they were going was not consistent to what we feel our youth need to have…to survive in the world that lies ahead of us.”

But, did the Boy Scouts really leave “us”? Is that a fair description of what actually happened? And is BSA really heading in a different direction than we are as a church?

A Little Bit of Background

For over 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America was an iconic defender of Constitutional principles. They won case after case before the Supreme Court that reaffirmed their right to allow or disallow participants, based on their own criteria for affiliation. Their victories established important case law and legal precedent for other institutions that sought the same protections.

But then all of a sudden, the Boy Scouts decided to vote on whether to allow openly gay scouts into their organization. This went against 100 years of Court victories that gave them that right and to many members of Scouting and of the Church, this came as a huge surprise.

At this same time, two of my sons were literally only a Court of Honor away from getting their Eagle Awards. I was the official Charter Leader in our ward, was an Eagle Scout myself, and was over Scouting as the bishop.

I was certain the Church would vote against the proposal and knew they represented a very large voting bloc and funding source within the organization. Surely BSA could not pull this off without the Church’s full support.

To make sure my voice was heard, I did all the things my Church had taught me to do to be “involved” in such important matters. I wrote letters to the Church and to the Editor of our local newspaper and gave reasons for why I believed the Church would/should vote NO on this progressive proposal. I was very open about my views with ward members and with local Church leadership. In fact, I received letters and phone calls from people in my town, even from strangers, thanking me for my letter to the paper. One elderly man said, “I agree with every word you wrote.” Another gentleman said, “When I saw your letter in the paper I thought to myself, ‘oh no, he’s going to be excommunicated.’ Then I read it and now I think you’re going to be called as a general authority.” (Not very prophetic obviously). The point is, many LDS people of all walks of life had very strong feelings about this issue and were opposed to caving to the pressures of the progressives.

Like many of you, I could see this for what it was. It was never about young boys or girls being discriminated against. Not even for a moment. It was always about taking down an iconic conservative institution. And I wasn’t going to just sit idly by. I was hopeful the Church would do the right thing — back then in 2013 — and pull out of Scouts if everyone else voted in favor of the measure.

Eventually, when the Church and other Scouting Board members voted in favor of the above proposals, I refused to sign the yearly ward Charter and refused to support Friends of Scouting. My boys, to their credit, refused to continue in an organization that suddenly seemed confused about what it meant to be morally straight.

Our family left Scouts in 2013 and I was very perplexed why the Church wasn’t doing the same.

The Rapid Demise of Scouting

The great conservative thinker John O’Sullivan once said: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing (conservative) will over time become left-wing (liberal).”

The Boy Scouts is now among countless other institutions that have fallen prey to O’Sullivan’s First Law. They officially filed for bankruptcy in February of this year.

And Yet…

For 105 years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had partnered with the Boy Scouts. Scouting literally had been the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. It shared our same values. We were literally joined at the hip.

Both the LDS Church and the BSA had become synonymous with conservativism. In fact, I challenge you to find two more conservative institutions at their pinnacle.

But, at the same time Boy Scouts was moving left, it seemed the Church was moving left too. Here’s just a quick list of things the Church has done in the last 9 years that clearly represents their own change in direction:

  1. The Church changed its position on illegals.
  2. The Church abandoned its formal role in the fight against Gay Marriage.
  3. The Church unwittingly paved the way for gay marriage by introducing protections for LGBT people in Utah. A plan they hoped would be the new model for the nation. This upended legislation that had protected landlords and employers previously to be able to choose who they rented to or who they employed.
  4. Mormonsandgays.com, later changed provocatively to “Mormonandgay” was put online by the Church.
  5. The Church published numerous videos highlighting people who are gay, but who are trying to not act out on it.
  6. The Church changed its position on whether a person could be born gay or not.
  7. The Church helped fund the Hale Theater and tacitly endorsed the very pro-gay, anti-Mormon, Book of Mormon musical coming to Salt Lake City.
  8. The Church removed its ban on children of gay parents being baptized (They flip-flopped on this one thank Goodness).
  9. The Church-owned BYU changed its rules to allow gay ballroom dancers.
  10. BYU seemed to change its policy on same-gender affection. Then “kind of” reversed it back.
  11. The recent Cosmo the Cougar came out as gay without any retribution or official response from the Church.
  12. BYU’s valedictorian came out as a “gay son of God” in an approved valedictorian speech. The audience erupted in applause.
  13. And now they are in favor of decriminalizing polygamy.

The list of policy adjustments and talking points by the Church that veer progressive is much longer than what I’ve listed here. But, the evidence presented is sufficient to show that the Church is on the same course as Boy Scouts when it comes to “leaving” its more conservative principles.

Is it really fair to say that Boy Scouts left us? Even “kind of”?

Couldn’t the Church have voted against the Boy Scout proposals? Wouldn’t that have made a difference? Some estimated that the LDS Church represented 40% of BSA funding. Shouldn’t the Church have left Scouts in 2013? What part about BSA’s direction finally made the Church uncomfortable? How can the Church now say that the Boy Scouts left them, when they supported all the very liberal changes being proposed? When, even worse, the LDS Church was pushing its own progressive changes in the Church, I.e heading in a very similar “direction.” To the left.

One would think that all this capitulation and appeasement would mean that Boy Scouts would now have gay kids and gay leaders and girls and transgenders all lining up at their doors and that membership, even with the loss of the LDS Church, would be through the roof, instead of in bankruptcy. The very argument Scout board members were making was that they needed to “expand their base.” “Make the tent bigger.” “Be more inclusive.” Surely part of their reasoning, if not all, was to grow their membership by making these changes.

The Church has also suffered from a numbers and growth standpoint since they changed their course it would seem.

The church’s reported membership as of December 31, 2019 was 16,565,036. The growth of 1.21% in 2018 was the lowest annual percentage growth since the 0.93% in 1937.

Wikipedia

Interestingly, since 2013, while the Church has been shifting further left, it has only been growing at an abysmal rate of somewhere between 1 and 2% compared to 8.74% when I was a missionary. The focus then was “flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon” rather than focusing on progressive policy adjustments. Coincidence? It just reinforces the idea that people want to focus on doctrine. The average growth rate in the last 40 years has been well over 4% — that is at least until the Church started trying to be more “inclusive.”

Careful What You Wish For

One thing is certain–the same people who defeated Boy Scouts are demanding more changes from the LDS Church. They demand that we abandon what they view as hate speech and discrimination among other things.

Will we continue to give in as a Church? Mormon Prop 8 picketers have been replaced by LDS pro-gay marriage protestors in a period of just a few years. Is that a coincidence? This picture from this website is the new face of Mormonism when it comes to these progressive issues.

In Closing

I’ve always been intrigued by what Ezra Benson said he was told by a visiting Soviet leader. I think the same applies here and I think the Church would do well to consider the implications of its movement left:

I have talked face-to-face with the godless Communist leaders. It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Khrushchev for a half day, when he visited the United States. Not that I’m proud of it — I opposed his coming then and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor. But according to President Eisenhower, Khrushchev had expressed a desire to learn something of American agriculture, and after seeing Russian agriculture I can understand why.

As we talked face-to-face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under Communism. After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his, and all other grandchildren, would live under freedom, he arrogantly declared, in substance:

You Americans are so gullible. No you won’t accept Communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you’ll finally wake up and you find you already have Communism. We won’t have to fight you. We’ll so weaken your economy until you fall like over-ripe fruit into our hands.

–1966 address at Brigham Young University

Is the Church heading down the same road as our nation? Of Boy Scouts? Will it fall into the devil’s hands like over-ripe fruit? Is it doomed to move completely to the left? You can bet that these youth in our Church pictured above will push for Equality of Temple Sealings at some point. And at this rate, they’re bound to eventually get what they want.

One could reasonably ask, “Is the Church leaving us?”

Remembering Him

I’ve added a page to this website with a link to the recorded Sacrament prayers for people who may not currently have access to a fellowship where Priesthood Holders are available.

For more information you can click here.

Trifling With Souls

C. S. Lewis on the Coronavirus

Picture from the gospelcoalition.org website

In trying times such as these there are many voices clamoring for our attention.  Crises present opportunities for self-interested people to sell their wares.  Often it’s an ideology that’s for sale,  fueled by a vain ambition to be popular or to feel important and validated.  It presents a challenge to expose the impure motives of such a person when there is no money trail.  But, look closely enough and you’ll find that the tokens being sold are of greater value to the seller than today’s currency– they yield followers, flatterers, validators, comforters, listeners– in short POWER and VANITY.

For the seller, he/she is led to believe by the adversary that what they have to share is of great value.  “You are great.  Your message is great.  You’re an enlightened soul of this last great and best generation.  The ‘Lord’ speaks to you!  If you don’t display courage and share your message, then who will?”

But, such fools are trifling with the souls of men.

Lately, fear has been peddled and in great supply.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  When fear is your product, you stand to make tremendous gains.  Somehow because you sell fear, those who buy into it will also trust you to get them through it.  You set yourself up, people look to you, and you extract your needed coin from the sycophants you produce.

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware 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. Your mind, O man, if you will lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse. You must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God than the vain imagination of the human heart? None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. (T&C 138:18, emphasis added)

Joseph Smith warned of those who would trifle with the souls of men.  Their fanciful and flowery ideas, their fearmongering, their lies; we should be aware of and surely guard ourselves and others against.

I read Joseph Smith’s quote to say:  If we have NOT communed with God, in other words, seen Him and partaken from Him and been redeemed by Him, then we must be extremely careful in what we say, teach, and share lest we too trifle with souls and damn them and ourselves to hell.

Someone online recently called me a coward because I don’t put my name on what I write on this blog.  One of the many reasons I blog anonymously is because I don’t want attention drawn to myself.  As you’ll notice, I write very little and very infrequently.  I don’t believe that I have much of true value to share.  I have not communed with Heaven.  What I do share is my opinion and is not meant to be followed as if prophetically inspired.  I don’t ever want to trifle with the souls of men, nor do I wish to lead them, where I am a blind guide at best.  For all the times I have trifled with men’s souls, I plead for forgiveness.  It is wrong and it is evil.

The above-mentioned person recently made the statement online that “more than 7 million Americans will die from the Corona Virus this year,” (paraphrasing)  among many other dire and bold declarations.  He also said that 2% or more of the world’s population would die from the virus.  That’s 180 million people!  He posted all this and much more on social media for all to see.  I told this individual I believed he was wrong (a) and (b) that he should not be fearmongering.  I would have hoped he would at least say that this was just his opinion rather than to put such shocking things out there that may cause people to panic, or heaven forbid do something extremely rash.  People can be very fragile especially at a time like this.

In that moment, I was angry and feel bad that my anger was directed towards this individual.  I was angry because this person spoke “as if it was so” — as if his every word would be vindicated because he was “brave” enough and inspired enough to publish it to the world under his name.  I was the coward, but he was the bold and brave one.  I should not have taken it so personally.

If and when only 50,000 to 100,000 people die from the Corona Virus this year in the U.S. for example, will this individual admit he was wrong?  Will he repent for trifling with souls and ask for your forgiveness?  Will he reimburse you for the extra toilet paper or other supplies you bought?  Or will he compensate you for sleepless nights and other distress you experienced imagining 180,000,000 people dying?  Wondering who in your own family might die…

More importantly, will YOU cease to give your time to such foolishness?  Will YOU see this as a fruit of a false messenger and repent of your false belief?

Just because someone puts their name on something does not make them courageous.  There is nothing more foolish or more cowardly in my view than to lead people astray with pretended authority from God.

Joseph Smith said:

A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery, and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage, and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed. The Turks, the Hindus, the Jews, the Christians, the Indians — in fact all nations have been deceived, imposed upon, and injured through the mischievous effects of false spirits. (T&C 147:5)

At a time when the Lord is doing His work to bring forth His Kingdom, it is only expected I think, that we will see an increase in such opposing messages.  An increase of false statements and false ideas inside and out of the Church.

I’ve been very clear as to where I stand regarding such messengers.  It’s not intended as unkind.  I am doing what I believe is my duty regarding anyone who proclaims to have a message from God — to discern their fruits and if I believe they are not from God, then to warn others.  It’s not my duty because I’m someone special, it’s OUR duty to NOT be deceived and to help each other figure these important things out.

In my view, subscribing to these types of titillating false messages, whether the example of “prophetic” fearmongering above, or the fables of Bishop Koyle’s Mine, or the Visions of Glory, or the Brazilian Gold Plates — ALL OF THIS HURTS us far more than them.  They, as individuals, will answer to God.  He will be their Judge.  He knows their hearts.  BUT, WE will never be of one mind and one heart while such fecal matter occupies our heads and WE will never be able to find refuge in Zion – let alone help build it.  We must become more firm minded and we must cease giving our time and attention to such false messengers.  In my opinion.

We may be nearing the end times, but surely there have been other times of great uncertainty in this world’s history.  While fools have peddled fear, great souls such as C.S. Lewis peddled faith.  Here is what he said during World War II to comfort the thousands of people who respected him:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb (Corona Virus). “How are we to live in an atomic (Corona Virus) age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb (Corona Virus) was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb (the Corona Virus), let that bomb (virus) when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.  (See full use of text at gospelcoalition.org)

Another message I have found of great worth recently was given by Denver Snuffer, who spoke a few weeks back just as CoVid19 was shutting things down and the world was beginning to panic.  Contrast his message to the many others you hear.  As always, we are forced to discern and we are forced to choose.  Will we choose fear or we will choose faith?  True messengers or false?

You can follow the link below to Snuffer’s remarks.

The Heavens are Open 

Silver and Gold Have We Tons

Mormon Wealth

Bare Record blog pointed to an interesting article recently on the Church’s Newsroom website that was taken down apparently at about the same time the news broke that the Chuch is being accused of misusing and hoarding over $100,000,000,000.00 in cash.  (I’ve posted the text of the article below).  The article removed by the Church News reports on Elder Neil Andersen’s somewhat recent trip to Zimbabwe where he told their vice president, “We are not a wealthy people but we are good people, and we share what we have.”

I suppose one could argue that Elder Andersen was referring to the members of the Church in Zimbabwe when he said: “We are not a wealthy people …”  I don’t think this was the case especially since now that the Church has buried the story altogether, but it is possible.

There are an estimated 23,000 Mormons in Zimbabwe and it’s very likely they are very, very poor.

Zimbabwe’s per capita GDP is $600, the third lowest in the world. The average wage is $253 a month—and that’s for the 30 percent of the population who are employed. The highest government salary is $508 per month.  (Source)

And yet, Zimbabwe is one of the most expensive countries to live in.  This translates to — members of the Church, like most people in that country, living in absolute squalor.

Image result for Zimbabwe poor

Zimbabwe is the second most impoverished nation in the world. Click on image for source.

In my travels to Africa, I had the opportunity to visit with some of the members of the Church in another nation considered richer than Zimbabwe.  I was overwhelmed by the poverty I witnessed there.  I was told I could not give money to the people in the streets by my LDS escorts.  I ignored their demand and was richly blessed by sharing whatever I could when they weren’t looking.

Members in that nation often worked for the Church in some capacity and while the Church did often pay slightly more than the going rate to many of them — most of them did not even have clean water to drink and still lived in abject poverty.  In fact, the Stake President at the time did not have running water in his home (nor did any members in his stake) and in his case, he was lucky enough to have a water faucet on his small lot, although the water was not potable.  No toilets in the homes either, just a hole in the ground a few feet outside the home if lucky.  His home was very small and was built with cinder blocks.  It had one bedroom and one other room.  Their “kitchen” was a gas burner on the porch.  Their shower consisted of taking a small bucket of cold dirty water from the faucet, with a sponge and some soap and pouring it on yourself while squatting in a filthy dirty concrete 2′ by 3′ shed.  This was preferable to bathing in the river.

My business colleague and I were not allowed at first to travel by ourselves.  We were driven around by a white LDS driver from compound to compound.  When we entered the Mission Home, the guard checked our van for explosives as we entered the armed gated small office complex.  When we went anywhere it was with this kind of security.  The Mission Home I’m guessing was a $10,000 or more per month property, based on prices I saw for comparable spaces there.  The Mission President and many of the couples serving with them lived in beautiful luxury apartments equipped with anything you’d enjoy in the US.  Washer, dryer, dishwasher, 4+ bedrooms, beautiful furniture, etc.  Clean water!  Clean dishes!  Showers, bathtubs, toilets, flooring, A/C!  Heat!  These were things that NO member of the Church in that region of Africa had.  Even members who worked full time for the Church lived in shacks.

We finally decided to shake our security detail and went to see the real Africa.  We hung out in the streets, we visited small businesses, and we went to a Christian church where members were singing praises to God.  There was no piano, no musical instrument, no anything.  They just had their angelic voices and they had their faith.  It was then that I felt the Spirit of God —  among the people with no security.  Not dressed up like clergy or businessmen.  Among the people who the white leaders were afraid to visit and to whom they refused to give their money.

I imagined all the things I could do for these people if I just had more resources.  What a difference it would make to have access to clean water, a toilet, plumbing, electricity.  How easy it would be for the Church to spend money on making these poor people’s lives a little better.  At least for the members who they are taking tithing from.  Build a hospital!  Build a city in Africa instead of in Florida.  Build affordable clean small homes where members can live with some dignity and comfort.  Create a huge garden and only send service missionaries who live among the people.  Bring modern medicine.  Bring compassion.

Fast forward to Neil Andersen’s visit with the president of Zimbabwe.

“We are not a wealthy people but we are good people, and we share what we have.”

I could be wrong, but this comment seems more likely to align with what I experienced first hand in Africa.  Otherwise stated:  “Don’t let them know you have money, or they will mob you.”  I find it truly sad if this is the selfish sentiment behind the mask of feigned love and generosity.

We should be spending billions of dollars around the world to help alleviate suffering.  Here and abroad.  Just hoarding that kind of money to me is sinful, especially considering that the money doesn’t even belong to them anyway.  The greatest portion belongs to those who give the most.  And the widow’s mite goes to members you’ll find in Zimbabwe and in Provo alike who simply have nothing to give but who are compelled to give in order to receive the blessings of the Temple.

Elder Andersen, they are not a wealthy people and they are sharing all they have with you and those around them.  But what are we doing for them?  With 100 Billion Dollars, we could literally change their world.

I personally hope there’s an accounting from the Church for those sacred funds.  I don’t care if the funds are somehow called non-sacred because they’ve been laundered through the Stock Market.  It’s still all tithing money and we as members have a right to know what it’s been used for.

Imagine if the accusation is true that the Church took money from these sacred funds and used them to bail out the failing City Creek Project allegedly to the tune of $1.3B.  That’s over a Billion Dollars wasted on empty mall and condo spaces.  How many homes could be built with that money alone?  Even at the high cost of $250 a square meter in Zimbabwe, a beautiful clean little home or apartment could be built for $30,000.  This would mean that with 100B, you could build more than 3.3 million homes, one for every active member of the Church.

The Church is defending itself as is expected.  I can’t speak to whether they have done anything illegal, but I can say that hoarding and stockpiling the widow’s mite is repulsive especially while pretending to be poor and humble.

 


Retracted article from Church Newsroom

News Release

Elder Andersen meets with Zimbabwe’s Vice President Mohadi, pledges support

A Historic Visit

Elder Neil L. Andersen, a member of The Quorum of The Twelve Apostles from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has concluded a historic visit to the office of Zimbabwe’s Vice President, His Excellency K. Mohadi.

Elder Andersen discussed with Vice President Mohadi plans to assist with development, education, improvement of health services and strengthening of families. He pledged support and love for the people of Zimbabwe, noting that the Southern African country was now home to more than 30,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Elder Andersen was accompanied by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, and by Elder Joseph W. Sitati, 1st Counselor in the Africa Southeast Area Presidency, and his wife Sister Gladys Sitati, and by President Phillip Mathemera, president of the Zimbabwe Harare South Stake.“One thing we have learned as being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we put more on what we feel than what we see, and when we are with the people of Zimbabwe, we feel the love of God for them, and we feel their goodness,” Elder Andersen said in an interview following the meeting of November 14, 2018.Elder Andersen said the significance of the meeting with Vice President Mohadi was to “express to him our desire to help improve Zimbabwe.” He noted that Vice President Mohadi had made a specific request for support with the development of clean-water wells in more remote areas of Zimbabwe.“We want to help in every way we can,” said Elder Andersen. “We are not a wealthy people but we are good people, and we share what we have,” he added.Before meeting Vice President Mohadi, Elder Andersen briefly met with Hon. Minister Davis Marapira, who expressed gratitude for Elder Andersen’s visit and reiterated the government’s desire to revive the economy, attract investment and drive rural development.Marapira is the former Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.

Elder Andersen said he expected to meet with Zimbabwean President, His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa during his visit to Harare, however, the planned visit coincided with a trip by the President to Kenya.“We wish him well. We are thankful for his attitude and his desire to help this country.  We pray very deeply that he can be successful. We know he’s a believing man, and we pray that he will pray, and that the blessings of Heaven could be upon him, upon his leaders and the people and that there can be progress economically in this country,” said Elder Andersen.Elder Andersen also shared with Vice President Mohadi news that the Church planned to begin construction of the Harare Temple in late 2019, an edifice that will bring special blessings to the people of Zimbabwe.The current number of Temples either operating, announced, or under construction in Africa is nine.

The Dark Shepherd

Black Aqeeq/Black Onyx/Black Agate Stone/Black Stone Natural Certified Natural Gemstone 8.70 Carat by AKELVI GEMS

We often forget that Hiram Page was one of the eight witnesses of the Golden Plates.  Hiram is best remembered for his peep stone and the revelations he was receiving in 1830, a short time after becoming a witness.

I had forgotten that Oliver Cowdery along with David Whitmer and his family, initially believed in Hiram Page’s revelations.  Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for the young prophet Joseph?  Here were several men who were supposed to be sober and firm minded, who were not only witnesses of the Golden Plates, but some of whom had also beheld an angel of God, AND YET EVEN THEY COULD NOT DISCERN that Page’s experiences were not from God.

What should WE learn from this?

Here is part of the testimony of the Three Witnesses:

And we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from Heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes.

It doesn’t get much stronger than this in terms of witnesses.

Contrast this true witness with the account of Page’s deception summarized on Wikipedia:

While Page was living with the Whitmers in Fayette, New York, Smith arrived in August 1830 to discover Page using a “seerstone” to receive revelations for the church. The only available detail about the stone was that it was black. The revelations were regarding the organization and location of Zion. Cowdery and the Whitmer family believed the revelations Page had received were true. In response, Joseph Smith, the first president of the church, received a revelation during the conference in September of that year to have Cowdery go to Page and convince him that his revelations were of the devil (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 28:11). At the conference there was considerable discussion on the topic. Page agreed to discard the stone and the revelations he received and join in following Smith as the sole revelator for the church. The members present confirmed this unanimously with a vote. Later, the stone was ground to powder and the revelations purportedly received through it were burned.

In dealing with this matter the Lord tells Joseph:

And again, you shall take your brother Hiram Page, between him and you alone, and tell him that those things which he has written from that stone are not of me, and that Satan deceives him, for behold, those things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church, contrary to the church covenants, for all things must be done in order and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith. And you shall settle all these things according to the covenants of the church, before you shall take your journey among the Lamanites.

Joseph’s ability to discern and get revelations from the True Source, restored peace to the new Church.  But, not for long.  Page and the Whitmers and eventually Cowdery and many others would turn on Joseph and leave the Church or be excommunicated.  Page was later ordained a high priest into the Whitmerite Church of Christ in 1847.  He was killed when his wagon tipped over on him years later.  Page never denied his witness of the Book of Mormon.

I find it interesting that Hiram Page was not a fraud per se.  He was simply deceived.  Somehow he obtained a stone, much like Joseph’s, that he was able to receive revelations from.  Hiram Page was passionate about knowing where Zion would be and in his zeal, he seemed to be trying to imitate the Lord’s servant Joseph.  Hiram knocked and someone answered.  “What is wanted?”  “Who are you?”  “I am the god of this world…”  Make no mistake — this stone worked!  Hiram was absolutely receiving revelations!  Just not from God.

I can scarcely blame Hiram and those who believed him.  Would I do any better?  Do I do any better?  The adversary so often mimics the truth in a way that even the very elect are deceived.

Speaking of the Lord’s elect, look at Mary Magdelene.  She was possessed by devils before her Lord healed her.  We don’t know the backstory as to how she became filled with devils nor do we know what it may have looked like.  None of that is really important.

Image result for mary magdalene

Being under the influence of the adversary in this world is not something to be ashamed of.  It happens to all of us I believe, at some point, in some way.  But, it is essential that those demons be cast out.  That we discern them as false and want them to be cast out.  Their possession of our house prevents us from entering into His presence.

The Lord’s True Messengers will do much more than just receive a few so called revelations.  They will do more than produce a few signs–a peep stone, a staff, a book, a blog, a sword and some “plates.”  If you want polaroids of “angels” there will be many who shall come with such signs who will teach the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

But if you wish to discern, true messengers will speak with the tongue of Angels and their words, once feasted upon, will produce in you, a change of heart where you lose your desire and disposition to do evil.  If we stay on this course, those same angels whose message we accepted through true messengers, will appear to us and we shall give unto them the signs and tokens (Try the Spirits) and we shall hopefully pass by them successfully into the presence of the Lord.

Sadly discernment is a scarce commodity in a world so filled with darkness and there are many who think they do the Lord’s work, who are employed by the devil.

Maurico Berger, whose name ironically means “Dark Shepherd,” is just another deceived servant of the god of this world.  There are many others just like him who will continue to lead souls away from the truth using counterfeit tactics that mimic and mock God.

The Sealed Portion – Follow Up

Image result for brazilian book of mormon

Actual Photo of the alleged Golden Plates

I’ve received a few messages since my short post on this topic. Most have agreed with my initial assessment. One person fairly prominent online however, has tried to persuade me that this is all real. He is, in my view, sincere.

Since there may be others who still believe there’s something to this claim, I want to share just a few more observations.

I have since my last post, spent many more hours reading and pondering the alleged Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon translated by a Brazilian man named Mauricio Berger.  I admit that I still do so with some measure of skepticism, in part because there are way too many overt things that continue to bother me.  Just like I would read the so called prophetic exhortations of Warren Jeffs or Ghandi or Mohamed, with a healthy dose of skepticism, I do so here.  I think we set ourselves up to be deceived when we follow the opposite course.

I also know too well how conformation bias works. One of the 8 witnesses admits as much when he said the following:

In the end, could I with the physical things of this earth, know that they were the plates of Mormon? Sadly, I had to say no. There is no amount of examination that will ever get me there. But as I hefted those plates, and I held those (about 50 pounds). My brother Tyler was using my camera, taking pictures of me. I held those precious plates. And I just let God know. I cannot know whether these are the plates of Mormon. It is beyond my means to make that determination. And as I pleaded, the help that is there right present, for God is at hand at all times, is when those plates became weightless for a moment. And presence of God rested upon me. And I knew, I was given to understand that these were the very plates of Mormon. And there was a smile that broke forth on my face.

This kind of thing could easily happen if you’re holding any item. Someone could feel such emotions or adrenaline if told for example that the terracotta pot in their hands was from Abraham’s village at the time of his youth. Just because you feel the emotion or excitement of that moment doesn’t make it an authentic relic. But the feelings you had may still have been sincere and amazingly heart felt although not necessarily a confirmation from God or the Spirit of anything.

The first thing I notice as problematic is as I mentioned in my last post, there is nothing in the contents that is greater or even equal to that which I find already in scripture. The excuse thus far has been that somehow it sounds better in Portuguese. I’m sure the Book of Mormon would sound best had it been written in Hebrew rather than Reformed Egyptian, but somehow even when I read it in French, which is three languages removed from its original form, it still has a power to it that is unmistakable. Everything I’ve read of that which “has been held back” until now because of our collective unbelief, simply is beyond unimpressive. It’s boring.  It’s uninspiring.  It’s clunky.  It contains NO profound teaching.

It’s not even as interesting as the false Nephite endowment from the Mentinah Archives and I definitely have found greater light reading apocryphal writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Jasher, the Enochic Texts, etc. But this is not that. Believers argue that the best is about to come if we can just have the faith. So we apparently had enough faith to view pictures of the golden plates and sword of Laban and to get 155 translated pages, but we don’t have enough faith for the full release.

I don’t believe the original record was sealed simply to tease, as if there’s just more info that will eventually be revealed. It’s not more info that matters, it’s greater info that matters. These are the kind of words and teachings that were too sacred to share and too great to impart. This is not more ironically, this is less. In any language.

I also find it strange that when Joseph Smith received the record from Nephi the Angel (resurrected being – i.e. not Moroni), and eventually was able to show it to others, no drawings or sketches I’m aware of were made available to view.  Perhaps they were not permitted to.

In the Brazilian plates case, there are pictures of the actual golden plates and sword of Laban. These plates and their pictures have become a sign seeker’s spectacle. I’m surprised there’s not a picture of the angels as well. It’s just odd and it’s opposite of the pattern the Lord uses.  Here you have not 3 or 8 witnesses, but a billion. But now after gawking over the records online we’re suppose to have more faith so that a seer named Mauricio can translate the rest. I just don’t think God works that way.  God doesn’t give you “proof” first and then with more faith, give you the substance.  He tries our faith first.

And now as I said concerning faith—afaith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye bhope for things which are cnot seen, which are true.  (Alma 32:21)

I also noticed in the testimony of the one of the witnesses that they couldn’t feel anything when running their fingers over the writings on the sheets of the plates.

Joseph Frederick Smith said in 2017 in his witness:

The plates were very smooth.  When I first looked at them I guessed about 5X8 sheets, but it’s more like 6X6, I think.  I could see the hieroglyphics on them, but you couldn’t feel them.  . . . The sealed portion had two straps across it.  They work something like a belt.  They opened them up.  I took one of the straps, because they were metal and very flexible. . . .

That strikes me as odd. If the process was painstaking as it mentions in the record, then why would there be no sign of the manual struggle? I wouldn’t think it would be smooth but rather more like a reverse Braille. Etchings and engravings imply there to be texture and lack of smoothness.  Contrast with the descriptions from some of the original witnesses:

“[The plates] were filled with … characters … small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving.”23—Joseph Smith Jr., Orson Pratt

“There were fine engravings on both sides.”24—John Whitmer

“We also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.”25—Eight Witnesses

One of the original witnesses in Joseph’s day said the etchings were filled with a black substance. This made it easier to see the characters. The pictures of the Brazilian plates don’t show any black in the characters and don’t seem to be engraved upon or indented at all.

“Upon each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings, which were stained with a black hard stain so as to make the letters more legible and easier to be read.”26—Orson Pratt

Look at this picture of an actual engraved plate from the Plates of King Darius etched at about 530 BC.

Image result for golden plates found

Even from this photo one can see the antiquity and craftsmanship of this ancient golden record.  Strangely none of the witnesses of the Brazilian plates use the words, “ancient, craftsmanship, antiquity, or fine workmanship.”  No one seems to say that they look really old or that the craftsmanship is remarkable in Brazil.

Among the Brazilian witnesses who supposedly saw the angel Moroni, none said anything of a brilliant light.  Here is their official testimony:

Testimony of Three Witnesses

By the power and mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Master and Redeemer, yes, Jesus Christ, we bear our witness to all nations.

The nature of this testimony is to briefly describe what we have seen, heard and touched:

After some time with Mauricio Berger, who told us about the events on Mount Agudo, we decided to accompany him to the mountain. We can say that everything we have seen there has an extraordinarily sacred character. The prayers and praises offered to the Lord in that place, seeking to do the will of the Father, resulted in the visit of celestial beings; the instructions received directly from the Angel Moroni, are events that have marked our lives forever and ever. We squeezed his hand and received from him the Golden Plates, the translating stones and the Sword of Laban, formerly in possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. This sublime circumstance had a powerful effect on our beliefs by enlarging our perception of this great and marvelous work.

We affirm that, by the power of God, the Sealed Book of Mormon will be translated, contained in the plates.

We know, therefore, that the translation will take place in two time periods. The first part that belongs to Maurício Berger (in fulfillment of the prophecy of 2 Nephi 27: 21-26 LDS, or even 2 Nephi 11: 143-147 RLDS), with the intention of calling His people again to repentance. Upon completion of the translation, we understand that will be fulfilled what is written in 2 Nephi 30: 3 LDS, or 2 Nephi 12:80 RLDS – where it is clear this Record will be sealed back to the Lord in accordance with Ether 4: 7 LDS or Ether 1: 101 RLDS. Qualifying your people to receive the second part.

We place our witness at the disposal of the world, with a deep sense of gratitude and a total sense of responsibility towards God who directs this work. We solemnly affirm that by our fidelity to this testimony our garments will be clean at the last day.

In vain will be the one who stands up against the work of God. Honor and glory be for ever and ever, the Father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, in whom we entrust the conclusion of this glorious work. Amen.

Joni Batista, Valdeci Machado, and Wagner Zeppenfeld

And yet, here is how the encounter was described by David Whitmer in 1829.

“It was in the latter part of June, 1829, Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and myself were together, and the angel showed them [the plates] to us. . . . [We were] sitting on a log when we were overshadowed by a light more glorious than that of the sun. In the midst of this light, but a few feet from us, appeared a table upon which were many golden plates, also the sword of Laban and the directors. I saw them as plain as I see you now, and distinctly heard the voice of the Lord declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.”

Image result for brazilian sword of laban

Picture as shown on www.thesealedbookofmormon.org

I’m also a little perplexed about the sword of Laban. It was supposedly made of precious steel with a solid gold handle. Interestingly there is no drawing that exists from those in 1829 who saw it.  (Again, notice the contrast that doesn’t focus on the object itself).  Nephi said that Laban was wearing a fine sword made of “precious steel” with a hilt of “pure gold.”  If in fact precious steel, it is not likely to be in such good condition as this one shown above. Look at this steel sword from 600 BC from Jerusalem:

This sword from Jericho dates to about 600 BC and is on display in the Israel Museum. Photograph by Jeffrey R. Chadwick

The handle on the one from Brazil doesn’t look as though it’s separate from the blade either. It looks to be entirely molded from one sword and not as if it’s two pieces. And even if somehow preserved from the natural elements, it still does not look special or ornate in the least.

It’s also strange to me that Mauricio claims the angel Raphael came to introduce Moroni. Why does Moroni need an introduction? And if Moroni is an unresurrected being then how would anyone be squeezing his hand as the witnesses claim?  For it is not in the nature of a just man made perfect awaiting the resurrection to deceive and therefore when you ask him to shake his hand he will not. It is however in the nature of the adversary to try to deceive and to make you feel and see things. And it’s not certain that when he extends his hand to you that you won’t feel anything. He just can’t give you the tokens and signs to prove he’s a true messenger as I understand it. But make no mistake, he can deceive even the very elect.

But back to “why does Moroni need an intro” — If they’re all fellow servants then why the intro? Again, just seems inconsistent and like a strange embellishment.

It’s also curious that so early in, there are actually witnesses who either couldn’t tell while holding the plates that they were authentic – one said he had no ability to know – and 2 of the 8 have already backtracked on their witness. Both of these facts smack of a hoax. The circumstances of seeing the plates and holding them apparently is already wearing off after such a short period of time and the so called Fire in their breasts was not enough to stay believing only a year later.

Those in Joseph’s day may have left the Church and betrayed and even came to hate Joseph, but their testimonies did not waiver so easily as these.

Some have suggested that they can’t imagine how or why anyone who is just a normal guy could or would ever try to concoct such a scheme. How could this simple car salesman from Brazil afford to pull off such an elaborate and expensive scheme? “No one would do that!” So they say — “not without money or fame or something.”

There is a history however for people doing this kind of thing. Look at the Mentinah Archives. The Salamander Letters. The Koran. I’ve heard more than one person in my own life claim they’ve seen an angel or the Lord where I believe they are mistaken. Why on earth would anyone lie about that? Or embellish that? How could they and why would they? Only God knows that but the fact is they do. And they do it all the time.

Why did Mark Hoffman love creating forgeries so much? Was it just for money? Or did he derive some perverted pleasure in how good he was at it? Why do people get a thrill from shoplifting? Why did the magicians in Pharoah’s court love magic and producing signs? How did they do it? Why are people crazy? Why do angels of light appear in order to deceive? Why do people say the Lord comes to them when He doesn’t? Why did an angel come to Korihor? Why couldn’t Laman and Lemuel repent after seeing an angel? I don’t know the answers to all of these questions, but I’ve given up trying to be so open minded that my mind becomes beelzebub’s playground. It has led to nothing but psychosis in my life.

One more example. Annalee Skarin. She wrote some great books that one would think were filled with love and light. She prayed and fasted and knocked, so she says, as hard as anyone ever did. If you take her at her word, she was translated and left her and her husband’s clothes in a way to make it look like they vanished. Some fake their own death, they faked their own translation. So what do I do with her books so filled with interesting insights and what I thought was light? I throw them in the trash heap and say “I’m looking for the true messengers Father promised to send me.” You give that garbage a room for the night and you’ll entertain more crazy guests than you ever thought existed.

Image result for anna rountree dances with jesus

Another example. Anna Rountree. This one is one of thousands of Christians who say they’ve seen Jesus. This particular woman had such an awe inspiring relationship with Jesus that included riding horses on the beach and dancing endlessly in the rain with our Lord. This Jesus has all the time in the universe to play and sing and dance with Anna Rountree but apparently doesn’t think to tell Anna to get baptized by one with authority or that the Book or Mormon is his new covenant for this land.

Image result for did anyone ever see james strang plates of laban

Perhaps the best example is that of James Strang.  Here is an account of his “inspiration” from the Wikipedia:

Book of the Law of the Lord

James J. Strang, one of several contenders to succeed Joseph Smith during the 1844 succession crisis, asserted that he had been given the “Plates of Laban” in fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy. His translation of selections from them was published in 1851 as The Book of the Law of the Lord: Being a Translation from the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai.[22] In its preface, Strang clearly identifies the “Plates of Laban” as the source for most of his book.[23]

Strang’s Book of the Law comprises a constitution for a Mormon monarchy, wherein the Prophet-leader of the Latter Day Saint church equally rules as king over God’s kingdom on earth. His 1856 expanded version also contains other revelations and teachings by Strang to enhance understanding of the work. The Book of the Law was seen by Strang as making up only a portion of the Plates of Laban, rather than the whole, showing that it was a more complete bible that included books now lost. The Book of Mormon also claims this in reference to works by Zenos and Zenock, prophets who lived in Jerusalem, but are now unknown to history.

Seven witnesses testified to having seen and handled the plates Strang claimed to possess. They described the plates as being eighteen in number, each measuring approximately seven and three-eighths inches wide, by nine inches long. The plates themselves were “occasionally embellished with beautiful pictures,” and all appeared to be of “beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages.”[24]

The subsequent history of Strang’s “Plates of Laban,” and their current whereabouts, is a mystery.

The Book of the Law of the Lord is not viewed as sacred scripture to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Brighamite) or Community of Christ (Josephite) churches, the two largest factions of the Latter Day Saint movement, although the Community of Christ (then RLDS) was formed primarily of Strang’s followers under Joseph Smith III, and held the book as sacred until Strang was official decanonized due to persecution and the scandal surrounding polygamy.

There are countless Indian gurus and 8 foot tall brothers of Jared walking around the earth giving fantastical revelations to special people. Some of them have had NDEs and write their visions or glory. What am I to do with all this? I’ve looked at some of it and now can see quickly if it contradicts the Lord’s pattern which is NOT sensational. So I throw it away. I don’t try to take a little light from each source or glean some incredible mystery—I throw it away once I discern it’s not from the right source. I’ve been burned too many times and simply refuse go down these strange roads if I can avoid them.  If Satan gives a great speech with many truths are you going to try to take the good from it?  I hope the answer is no.

There are so many more examples. Way too many to mention and way too many that deceive people. It’s as if there’s this great sign seeking spirit among us.  A person sometimes joins some group with all the zeal and evangelism of a new convert. And then there’s this new book or new guy online from Australia or India or Brazil or Canada or Montana or Southern Utah. “There’s more light” they cry! “More prophets!” Itching ears! Sorcerers and peeping wizards. More titillating information! More pieces to the puzzle! Some try to make it all fit and cleave to multiple beliefs or organizations. Others leave one group disappointed only to join another with their new friends in the newest and next best offering.

This one has THE SEALED PORTION. And pictures to boot! Doesn’t get much better than that. Previous ones had super power seminars where for a reasonable fee you could learn to bend forks with your faith. Still others sold revelations directly from the great prophetess who walks with Mahonri Moriancumr. Learn how to cast out devils for the low low price of $40 a session from another. I wish these were embellishments. They are not. Some are content to just sell books while others just share their “crazy” for unknown benefit and unknown reasons.  It doesn’t really matter why they do it.

Maybe we should ask ourselves IF we actually have faith or if we are an adulterous sign seeking generation. Because all of this is adulterous in my opinion. It breaks a covenant with God to be faithful to Him and to His words.

Because there is no money being made on this latest Mentinah scheme does not mean it’s from God. I don’t know this Mauricio fellow nor do I know his adherents, but I can tell you that I believe that none of it is from God.

Anything that is NOT from God, no matter how enticing or appealing, will take you away from God. But that’s a lesson we each have to figure out for ourselves and sadly too often the hard way. The scriptures show clearly that we ultimately always get what we want. God allows us to have things that we can’t understand because we seek them.

As a side note, If you happen to be someone who thinks Denver Snuffer is telling the truth, then you may want to re-examine why and how you can also believe this Brazilian tale to be true. He’s written about this here and here. They can’t both be true. If you’re more drawn to the effort in Brazil then you ought to follow your heart and become a part of that group. It’s likely you’ll be happier there. If you have doubts or are uncertain then I would take that stupor of thought as something to not ignore and I would beg the Lord to clean your house and fix your heart and mind.

It’s also interesting to note that during the time of translation in Joseph’s day, it was as if the legions of hell were enlisted to steal the plates from Joseph. The angels did not prevent him from having to hide the record to keep it safe. He was required to run through the woods, dislocate his thumb, move his family, hide them in various places, fight mobs, and almost lose them time and time again. But this group has some special protection?  Or maybe it’s because Satan does not cast out Satan?  (Matthew 12:26)

In my mind I see this as yet another sad opportunity to be unfaithful to the Bridegroom. I believe the perpetrators of this fraud will eventually be exposed and sadly souls will be drawn away into the dreary waste.

*Update. It’s been brought to my attention that a much more exhaustive critique of Mauricio’s scheme can be found here:

https://restorationbookstore.org/Brazil_Plates_Labans_Sword_v2-4.pdf

The Sealed Portion

I was recently made aware of a group in Brazil who claim to have the sword of Laban, the original gold plates, and the Urim and Thummim and that a gentleman named Maurício is a modern day seer who used the ancient seer stones to translate the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.

I’ve taken time to read over the said translation and believe it’s a hoax.  It reads a little like the Mentinah Archives, but far less interesting.  For the record I believe the Mentinah Archives are also a machination of the adversary.  But, don’t take my word for it, you can find both online to review for yourself.

There is nothing in this 155 page translation that seems like some greater portion.  It just reads like an embellished mish mash of disconnected ideas.  Surely the sealed portion will be greater than the Book of Mormon we already have.  This is absolutely not.

The unsealed Book of Mormon carries a spiritual power like none I’ve ever known.  It is scripture.  In my opinion this is not.

Mormon Idol?

One of the definitions of the word idol is “an object of extreme devotion.”  The term is most often used today when referencing movie stars and other famous people.

In the scriptures, we’re taught to not have idols or graven images and are commanded to not even trust in the arm of the flesh.

I think we often assume that idolatry can only exist when we give praise or devotion to someone or something that is wicked.

Is it possible, though, that we as Mormons have allowed our leaders to become idols and are practicing idolatry without realizing it?  Do we give excessive devotion, praise, money, time, energy, and attention to our church leaders?

How much money was spent on President Nelson’s 95th Birthday party a couple of months ago for example?  How much attention and extreme devotion was given to him on that occasion?

But it’s not just the President of the Church that gets special reverance.  Many if not ALL of the Leaders of our church get this kind of praise.  Certainly members of the 70 and up.

When any member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles walks into a room, people stand in reverence.  When meetings are adjourned, people wait for them to stand before they’ll stand.  When they leave a room, people often also stand and wait for them to exit the building or will line up to try to meet them / get a picture with them. 

When the Prophet recently came to BYU, MANY of the students wore church dress clothes to classes that day.  100s of people waited at the doors of the Marriott Center starting in the wee hours of the morning to make sure they got in to see the prophet.

Is any of this healthy?  Would it be wrong to NOT stand when an apostle enters the room?  It was recently pointed out by a General Authority that according to Church policy or tradition, it is, in fact, wrong to NOT stand when an Apostle enters a room.

I recall an Apostle coming to our ward.  It was shortly after he’d been called and was returning to his home ward for the first time since his call to the Quorum of the Twelve.  I was surprised when a hush came over the congregation and when everyone stood up and reverenced this man we all had known for so many years.  It was very uncomfortable for me.  I couldn’t bring myself to stand and found myself feeling even more uncomfortable when I was the only one still sitting down.

What might the scriptures teach us about this type of reverence towards a man?  King Benjamin would remind us that he was no greater than those he served and that he worked to support himself and his own family.  I think also he’d remind us that as humans we are less than the dust of the earth.  His words, once properly understood, would bring us to the dust not bowing to a man, but bowing to God in a plea to be saved from our filthiness.

The scriptures also remind us of what happened when John the Beloved tried to give an Angel a reverential greeting:

And he says unto me, Write: Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, Do you not see that I am your fellow servant? And of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus? Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 7:10).

My interpretation of the Angel’s words are “Get up, please don’t worship me or give me praise!  Praise God and worship Him alone, I am just like you, a servant of the Almighty.”  (It’s interesting how even the word servant takes on new meaning when we exalt them).

I would love to see an Apostle so uncomfortable when a congregation stands in hushed reverence for him that he motions them to sit down and pleads with them to please never stand for him again because he is intended to be our servant not our Master.

When they speak in Conference and elsewhere, their words are considered Scripture.

I recently spoke to a man who had been married to a current Apostle’s daughter.  Sadly it ended in a bitter divorce.  He told me that his ex-wife and her siblings printed out the General Authority talks and put them in binders to be studied thoroughly for the next 6 months.  They taught the words of these modern-day leaders to their children as if every word came from God Himself.  Their words are considered Holy Scripture for many Latter-day Saints, more important than the Standard Works because they are viewed as Living Oracles.

In my own experience, this is absolutely what I believed for many years.  It’s also what I was instructed to do by my leaders.  But, are their words Scripture?  Or are their words just precepts of men?  Things they’ve learned along the way…

I can think of many reasons and examples for why this teaching might promote idolatry and how treating their every word as scripture could cause many to be led astray.

Let’s just look at some obvious examples:

Brigham Young on Polygamy

Brigham Young taught in General Conference that if the Church ever abandoned Polygamy, it would lose its Priesthood and fall.  He said, “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266).  Also, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

Are these words of scripture?  Does the Church still stand by these words of a prophet?

Brigham Young said he had never given any counsel that was wrong

“I am here to answer.  I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people.  If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason.”  (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 161).

And yet he taught people that Adam is God the Father:

“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner!  When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him.  He helped to make and organize this world.  He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days!  about whom holy men have written and spoken–He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.  Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).

And he prophesied falsely:

“In the days of Joseph [Smith] it was considered a great privilege to be permitted to speak to a member of Congress, but twenty-six years will not pass away before the Elders of this Church will be as much thought of as the kings on their thrones,”  (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 40).

The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet

More recently we see other words that were taught as Scripture from Conference in homes all around the world by prophets ONLY later to be overturned by the Living Prophet.

Here’s an excerpt from an article published in Rational Faith:


A bomb went off in Salt Lake City in the 1980’s.

But this bomb wasn’t set by Mark Hofmann. It was set by Ezra Taft Benson, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The trigger was his famous speech, The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, which he delivered to a packed house at BYU’s Marriott Center on February 26, 1980. But the bomb itself went off in President Spencer W. Kimball’s office at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City when he heard of it.

President Kimball was “concerned about Elder Benson’s February 1980 talk at BYU” and wanted “to protect the Church against being misunderstood as espousing . . . an unthinking ‘follow the leader’ mentality.”[i]

President Kimball required Elder Benson to explain himself to a combined meeting of all general authorities the following week. Additionally, President Kimball asked Elder Benson to apologize to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but they “were dissatisfied with his response.”[ii]

A Little Background

What was it about Elder Benson’s talk that made President Kimball concerned it would be “misunderstood” as espousing “an unthinking follow the leader mentality”?

A brief survey of the talk should answer that question.

President Benson told his audience of 25,000 that the “grand key” to being crowned with God’s glory and being “victorious in spite of Satan’s fury” was to “follow the prophet.” President Benson then broke this one “grand key” down into fourteen “aspects” which he summarized at the end of his speech as follows, adding that “our salvation depends on them.”

  1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
  2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
  3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
  4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
  5. The prophet is not required to have any IMG_2427particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
  6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.
  7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
  8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
  9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
  10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.
  11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
  12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
  13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.
  14. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

It is easy to see why President Kimball would be exercised at the content of this speech. He had just been portrayed to the world as a man whose words were more important than the standard works; more important than any other prophet in history; more important on any subject than what anybody else has ever said anytime or anywhere, regardless of their expertise; and whose every word could be considered scripture.

In effect, Elder Benson had just bestowed on President Kimball the thorny crown of infallibility. IMG_2425Elder Benson had presented a false depiction of the true nature of prophets. His Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet were actually Fourteen Fundamentals in Falsifying the Prophet.

And President Kimball was none too pleased about it.

But other than his private vetting of concerns and complaints, President Kimball apparently took no action to publicly repudiate, clarify, or distance the Church from Elder Benson’s fallacious statements.


Most recently Elder Gary Stevenson said this of President Nelson:

Commandments and Blessings

How might you find this heavenly help, even as Moses did, and not be deceived or give in to temptation? A clear channel for divine assistance was reaffirmed in this dispensation by the Lord Himself when He declared: “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments.”12 Using simpler words, we might say that the Lord, who knows “the end from the beginning,”13 knows the unique difficulties of our day. Therefore, He has provided a way for us to resist challenges and temptations, many of which come as a direct result of the deceitful influences of the adversary and his attacks.

The way is simple. Through His servants, God speaks to us, His children, and gives us commandments. We could restate the verse I just quoted to say, “I the Lord … called upon my servant [President Russell M. Nelson], and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments.” Isn’t that a glorious truth?

I bear solemn witness that the Lord did in all reality speak to Joseph Smith from heaven, beginning with the grand First Vision. He also speaks to President Nelson in our time. I testify that God communed with prophets in past ages and gave them commandments designed to lead His children to happiness in this life and glory in the next.

God continues to give commandments to our living prophet today. Examples abound—a more home-centered, Church-supported balance in gospel instruction; the replacement of home and visiting teaching with ministering; adjustments to temple procedures and ordinances; and the new Children and Youth program. I marvel at the goodness and compassion of a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, who restored the Savior’s Church to earth once again and have called a prophet in our day. The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ offsets perilous times with the fulness of times.

What’s most interesting about this quote from Elder Stevenson is how he presumes that no one should have any issues with comparing President Nelson to Joseph Smith. Nephi does tell us to liken the scriptures to ourselves, right?  But is this what is intended by that invitation?

Can we simply input our names anywhere in the scriptures and have it be true?  Could I put my name in Joseph’s place and also have it be true?  Could we put Russell M. Nelson’s name where Noah’s name or Abraham’s or Jesus’ or Korihor’s name appears and have it be true?

I know what idea Elder Stevenson is preaching and it’s always felt wrong to me. He’s suggesting that because President Nelson is a prophet, anything said of Joseph as a prophet can also be applied to him—since they are both of this same Holy Order, so to speak.

This concept has never totally resonated for me. For example as a missionary I shared the glorious story of Joseph Smith‘s first vision and how the heavens were literally opened to this young boy. He actually saw God the Father and His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ and an innumerable host of angels. Just prior to that his soul was almost lost in hell it seemed and he was nearly overcome with darkness. Evil thoughts filled his head and he was sure he would perish. But then a pillar of light descended upon him gradually.

I often shared that Joseph was a special young boy. At a tender young age he went through an illness and surgery with no medicine that led to bones being cut out of his leg. He limped the rest of his life. He lost his dearest brother Alvin at a young age because of Doctor malpractice. His family was so poor they moved several times. His father had their life savings stolen from them in a ginseng deal gone bad. Etc.

Joseph’s life was and is one I consider amazing. He was tarred and feathered for his vision and beaten by mobs too many times to count. He lost 6 children, one of which was caused by a mob breaking into his tiny home. And of course he would eventually be betrayed by nearly every convert and every friend he ever had and would give his life for the church.

And then as a good young missionary I would say in effect “And as a result of Joseph’s vision, Joseph became a prophet and God established His true church through him.”  ……. “and because God restored his authority to earth and set up his true church, we have a true prophet today just like Joseph smith. His name is Ezra Taft Benson.”

I always felt a little guilty especially when I’d share this teaching and the person’s response was one of awe and reverence. “A true prophet on the earth today? Wow!” And all this was achieved by sharing the wonderful story about Joseph.

So when Elder Stevenson makes the stretch that we can simply place Russell M. Nelson’s name in wherever we find Joseph’s in scripture should not be a surprise to anyone.  Even if illogical and not based on doctrine.

It’s ironic how we teach that today we need a modern prophet to receive revelation for our time. Noah received revelation pertinent to his day and his time. Moses to his. But our times are not their times.  So we say. And yet at the same time, we conveniently apply the revelation given to Joseph to our prophet today.  

Likening the scriptures to ourselves is so we can humbly apply powerful lessons or teachings to our lives, not to elevate ourselves.

1 And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?

2 Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.

We might say “Let us be faithful as was Jesus when He did not shrink from the bitter cup” which takes nothing from our Lord and in no way elevates us. Such a likening can give us strength. But to say Russell M Nelson is just like Christ because he drank from the bitter cup of being our prophet is simply blasphemous.

No wonder so much opportunity for idolatry. We assume too much of ourselves and those who lead us. We give them too much reverence. Too much of our devotion.  Joseph would reject such devotion. His teachings led to his death as most true prophets messages do. If people are standing and cheering for you when you walk into a stadium or into a room then your message may not be from God.

1 Nephi 22:23

23 For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.

Alma 1:3

3 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.

Pierre Delecto

While many view him as a modern-day Judas, Mitt Romney sees himself apparently as Peter, the perfect stone — “Pierre Delecto,” a secret pen name chosen by his truly.

This is not the first time Mitt Romney has come off as self-righteous or strange. Remember when he was asked what his greatest weakness was as a presidential candidate?  His reply was that his greatest weakness was that he “had so few weaknesses.”

Is this kind of self-delusion a common theme among Mormons?  If so, what causes it?  Do we think ourselves superior because “we have the truth?”  Is it a feeling that we’re somehow extra special as God’s children with a manifest destiny to convert the world to Mormonism?  Is it because we’re clean-cut, well dressed, success-driven, and don’t drink or smoke?

Mitt Romney, sadly, is a terrible example of Mormonism in my opinion (and this is coming from someone who defended him and voted for him every time there was the opportunity) — he is traitorous, petty, self-righteous, lacking in discernment and judgment, duplicitous, backstabbing and disloyal.  In real life, he may be a really nice guy, but he is a pathetic advocate for truth at a time when our nation needs inspired leaders.  Maybe he does really like to hunt squirrels, but surely he will never ride a white horse and save the Consitution.

There are some today, apparently, who see themselves as beautiful stones in the Lord’s hands.  I don’t feel such a confidence in them or in myself.  Pierre Defecto would be a truer description for myself.

False Christs

I’ve always been curious about this idea of False Christs.  I personally have never heard anyone falsely claim that they were the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’m not familiar with any historical figure who believed himself to be the Savior, besides the Lord Himself.  I assume they exist, but surely it’s not a very common occurrence.

And yet in the scriptures, we’re warned to beware of False Christs that will come in the Last Days.

For in those days there shall also arise false christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake (Mark 6:4).

The Words of Mormon 1:6 describes how pernicious these false christs were in ancient American times:

And it came to pass that after there had been false christs — and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes — and after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people — and all these having been punished according to their crimes — and after there having been much contentions and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people — for behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority, and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people — wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.

So what is a false christ exactly?  Does a person need to proclaim they are Christ in order for them to be a false christ?

A friend of mine recently shared the following helpful idea regarding this question:

Those who claim “leadership” and want people to ”follow” them put themselves in the place of Christ. They are, in effect, a false Christ. It was prophesied they would come in the last days to deceive the “very elect” as false Messiahs (see Matthew 11:3,6).

I also recently learned that “christ” simply means anointed or made holy.  Jesus Christ is simply the Greek form of “Joshua the Anointed.”

If we change the word to more aptly fit our day, we might say:

“Beware of people who say they are Anointed by God, but who are not, and thus who are false prophets and false christs.”

The 16th Chair

I think it would be a true statement that our leaders are “anointed” if in fact, Jesus visits them and personally anoints them.  Joseph Smith taught that a prophet of God is ordained by God Himself and not by a man.  If this is or was the case with our prophets, I think calling them anointed or Christened would be appropriate.

But IF they are not…

I was reminded this week that some members still believe Jesus DOES visit LDS Church leaders on a regular basis.

I met with a man who worked as a contractor in a Salt Lake Temple remodel.  He said he had been in the very room where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet on Thursday mornings.  This is the room referred to when the Apostles speak of the Upper Rooms of the Salt Lake Temple.  It’s always referred to by them very reverentially.  This contractor told me he was puzzled when he counted the chairs in the room and noted there were 16, not 15 chairs.  He remarked that the large ornate chair in the middle was the one he assumed the Prophet sat in.

Then this man stated that he was related to an Apostle through marriage and at a later date was able to ask him why there were 16 chairs in this room. The Apostle then went on to explain that the large chair in the center was the Lord’s and that “He always attends those meetings.”  He went on to say that he was told “unequivocally” by this Apostle that the Lord leads those meetings, looks over blueprints, tells them where to buy land, makes political decisions, etc..  This sweet man, who I know has many personal trials in his life right now, became teary-eyed as he bore his testimony to me of these truths.

I looked at this man inquisitively and tried to have an open heart and mind.  I wanted to believe him.  I would have believed him 10 years ago before I became the bishop of a prominent Church leader.  And then came a flood of thoughts that quickly created quandaries for me:

If the Lord is literally in those meetings and is leading the Church in such a personal way, then why does the Church get so many things wrong?  E.g. Why flip flop on children of gay parents being able to be baptized?  Why struggle to know if we should stay in Scouting or not?  Why the need to make so many adjustments in the Temple ceremony?  Or to the structures of the Church?  Why change the garment?  Why remove threads and screenprint the marks?  Why buy the wrong websites, i.e. LDS.org?  Why use the word Mormon incorrectly for so long when referring to the Church? Why does the Church do things that seem politically expedient if being led, literally, by the Lord?

So, here’s where I think some Mormons make a very big mistake.  They have so humanized this Jesus, that they believe He is not much greater than the rest of us.  He’s our “Elder Brother” not much further along than ourselves.  Prone to mistakes and bad judgment apparently.  So human that He puts on His spectacles and rolls up His sleeves and sits in that 16th Chair and leads the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ.org as THE CEO.  Surely He is never late to those meetings and hopefully, He wears the uniform of the Priesthood–a white shirt and a tie and a finely twined suit from Mr. Mac’s.

Is this why we see ourselves as Pierre Delecto rather than Dust Defecto?  Because Jesus is our CEO and we are not much less than Him as His leaders?

Pierre Delecto, I shall never vote for you again.

Taken

175 years ago Joseph and Hyrum were taken from our midst.  This day is always a solemn one for me.  I love those men who communed with Jehovah.  They left behind them their wives and young children.  They died willingly and offered themselves up as a sacrifice, I believe, for us.  I am always moved to tears by their mother Lucy’s account of what must have been the most painful moment of her life:

“After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes, we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul, and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family and the cries of ‘Father! Husband! Brothers!’ from the lips of their wives, children, brothers, and sisters, it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.'”

Joseph only 38 and Hyrum 44 went as lambs to the slaughter.  I think it is accurate to say they died for the Church.  Joseph’s last words are haunting as he looked upon members and friends who had betrayed him:  Oh Lord my God…  Had he been able to finish his sentence it might have continued to say … Is there no help for the widow’s son?

The Masonic call of distress recognized undoubtedly by brother Masons he saw before him, perhaps a part of the mob, from whom he sought mercy.

The more I study, the more I’m becoming sympathetic to Emma’s version of the facts regarding the charges leveled against Joseph and Hyrum over polygamy.  I think they were innocent of those whoredoms that were conveniently blamed on Joseph after his death.

Emma was true to Joseph and said after his death:  “If there is no Joseph there is no church.”  Is it possible she was right?  Did losing Joseph and Hyrum equate to our collective condemnation being fulfilled?  D&C 84 makes it clear in 1831 that we as a church were placed under condemnation.  Section 124 states clearly that if we did not build the Nauvoo Temple in the space of time granted, we would be rejected as a Church.  Maybe Emma was right.  Maybe the fact we took the words and works of Joseph so lightly led to him being taken from us.

Emma, who we are told by the Lord was an elect lady, was not so revered by Brigham Young and his followers.

In the October session of General Conference 1866, Brigham Young made these comments:

…”To my certain knowledge, Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman; but she will continue in her wickedness. Not six months before the death of Joseph, he called his wife Emma into a secret council, and there he told her the truth, and called upon her to deny it if she could. He told her that the judgments of God would come upon her forthwith if she did not repent. He told her of the time she undertook to poison him, and he told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told here where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he ‘You got that poison from so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.’ When it entered his stomach he went to the door and threw it off. he spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses of this scene all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him.”

I do not believe Brigham Young and find his account inconsistent with all that was ever recorded by Emma or Joseph or their family about their relationship.  I find his account as ridiculous as the one charging Emma with the attempted murder of Eliza Snow, who was said to be pregnant with Joseph’s child.  She allegedly miscarried and yet was teaching school the next day after being pushed down the steps by Emma.

It’s perhaps more interesting to contemplate why Brigham might feel so threatened by Emma as to slander her so openly.  Did he fear her?  Did he fear Joseph’s son coming to take his position in the church?  After all, Brigham had campaigned to be president with the promise that he would only be the church’s caretaker until Joseph III was old enough to take his rightful position as the Church’s leader.

I’ve said it before, I stand with Emma and the Smith family.  I will not speak ill of Joseph, for I know he is anointed.  I do not speak ill of Emma out of admiration and respect for all she suffered and did and I believe she was a woman of great valor.

I was curious today to get an email from LDSLiving promoting a book profiting on the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum.  It’s not a new book, in fact the entire story was a republication of an ad pushing this book two years ago.  The pitch has the flavor of something you might find on the cover of a popular magazine.  “6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Plot to Murder Joseph Smith.”

“For more great insights like these, check out Mark Goodmansen’s book Conspiracy at Carthage: The Plot to Murder Joseph Smith, available at Deseret Book stores or deseretbook.com. For more information, check out markgoodmansen.com.”

I decided to see what might be on the Church’s official website about the importance of today. I was actually quite stunned when I saw that there was nothing. Not even a mention of the Martyrdom of Mormonism’s founder on the 175th anniversary of their passing.  I find this truly sad.

I did notice an article about Presisent Nelson’s birthday celebration coming up in September however.

“Guest artists for President Russell M. Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration, scheduled for early September, have been announced. Latter-day Saint performing artists Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four, GENTRI, The Bonner Family, Nathan Pacheco and Donny Osmond will join The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for the evening celebration on Friday, September 6, 2019.”

“The gala celebrating the influence of the Savior in the life of President Nelson and his lifelong service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints begins at 8:00 p.m. mountain daylight time in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. The performance will be broadcast live on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Facebook page and YouTube channel. Additional channels and broadcast and rebroadcast times are pending.”

Sad on so many levels.  And what a truly unfortunate oversight by the Church.