Category Archives: Main

RESTORATION SCRIPTURES ANNOUNCEMENT

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

____________________________________________________________

RESTORATION SCRIPTURES ANNOUNCEMENT

March 18, 2017

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

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

RESTORATIONSCRIPTURES2017@GMAIL.COM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALL THE SCRIPTURAL WORKS SHARE THE FOLLOWING CHANGES:

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

INDIVIDUALLY

VOLUME 1 IS THE OLD TESTAMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The PRELIMINARY SUBMISSION & CRITIQUE PROCESS works like this:

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

Benefits of this process are:

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

2 CRITICAL POINTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Shall I Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Ether 13:3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ether 12:22-28 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the two different passages:

Oliver’s Account:

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

Joseph’s Account:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we do the same today?

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

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

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

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

Joseph lamented:

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

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

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

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

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

…the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word;

On the other hand:

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

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

May we remember that:

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

AND that:

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

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

True Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church Bubbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue

One of the main reasons I started this blog a couple years back was so that I could express my views anonymously and without retribution from the Church.  It was at a time where I was struggling and needed to vent.

As most of you know and as I have documented here numerous times, I have issues with the direction the Church seems to be heading.  Discovering that the wonderful Church of my youth is flawed and is “not true” to some of its founding principles and doctrines has been at times a very painful experience for me. Expressing why I feel that way and getting your feedback has been therapeutic.

I can’t say, however, I’ve had the same open-mindedness from Church leaders or generally from most Church members.  More times than not, even as a bishop, I was told to just be quiet, in some cases, to be more politically correct or sensitive or to repent.

I recall one of my own counselors while I was serving as bishop telling me I needed to be more careful about the things I said and felt.  I later found out that he reported me to my file leader for some things I had shared with a friend.

I have always disliked this idea of holding back what we’re really thinking.  Now, I understand that care must be taken to share or not share certain things in the presence of children or with those who may not be ready or wanting to contemplate certain ideas, but my experience in the Church is that we simply cannot talk about anything that may be viewed as controversial. Certainly we cannot do so in a civil and loving way.

This has made my Church experience lately even more difficult. I also think it has created a culture in the Church which is antithetical to open dialogue.

And so seeking to more openly vent my thoughts, I began this blog.  Here I wanted to be free to openly share whatever ideas I may be having.  I certainly can’t share my concerns about the Church’s decision to stay with Boy Scouts, an organization I view as broken and apostate, at Church or with many Church leaders or members.  Although I sure tried to as a bishop.  In fact, as bishop, I refused to sign the Scout Charter as Charter Head of the Troop and I refused to do Friends of Scouting.  This did not go over well with some, and with the wrong stake president, my tenure as bishop would have surely been shortened.

Now, having mentioned that, I was careful how I said what I said to the ward generally.  But, I was also very honest when I felt I could be.  I did not impose my ideas on others, however. As bishop I could have simply not called a scoutmaster or could have put someone in who hated scouts.  But because I knew Scouting was important to many of our ward members, we called the best person for the job and I supported ward members in their desire to have this program, despite the fact that I was opposed to it.

Other topics are taboo at Church as well.  Take the Word of Wisdom for example.  We had three or more adults addicted to opioids while I was bishop.  These were prominent people in the community and they were (likely still are) completely hooked on this awful drug.  BUT, as LDS people, especially in Utah, we don’t like to talk about our addictions.  And so a bishop who may wish to address such issues is likely to offend people in the ward.  And you certainly can’t tell the ward that you favor medical marijuana over opium use, as the Church has made it very clear that Utah will not allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for their patients experiencing chronic pain.  If not careful, you will be viewed as out of line with the Brethren on an issue.  So the unfortunate reality is silence or consequences from leadership.

And yet, many Mormons are so imbalanced when it comes to the Word of Wisdom.  The “world” drinks coffee, Mormons drink Coke and Red Bull and Monster.  Which is worse?  The world drinks alcohol, Mormons take anti-depressants or eat excessively.  (I recognize that non Mormons do this too, but Utah is the capital of anti-depressant use in the world).  The world watches rated R movies, while many Mormons struggle with pornography.  The list of moral and physical issues goes on and on.

As a bishop, from time to time, I suggested a person or two try to get off their meds (which they told me they and their doctors wanted them to) and to do as their LDS doctor was prescribing–to drink a cup of coffee in the morning to help them feel energy and to get out of bed.  In one instance a poor sister all but screamed at me and began to quote things about how blessed she was for “never” having broken the Word of Wisdom.  Not even once.  “Hidden treasures and running without being weary” etc.  Yet, this poor woman was so frail and unhealthy.  I did not perceive great wisdom in her, but rather great sadness and darkness.  Someone so obsessed with the letter of the law that she would rather die than consider to reason.  Mormons are not open minded in general about such things and we surely can’t talk about them.

Why?  Because we have a culture of not really “talking” to each other.

Well, it would be my preference–to be able to talk about most things in Church (that are appropriate for that setting) and most things with Mormon associates IN A WAY that is healthy. Healthy dialogue.

Most of you know that I have a sense of humor that often gets the best of me.  I post pictures that are at times a little shocking and I bring up controversial topics and share my ideas.  While doing so, I make an honest effort to use reason and logic, but I am quick to confess that my ideas are not always valid.  I admit that I do a little name calling when referring to certain people.  I shouldn’t call Elder McConkie “Bruce Almighty” for example.  It’s not nice.  But, I don’t do so angrily.  I don’t hate Elder McConkie. In fact he was one of my favorite leaders as a young man.  I would certainly show respect to him if I was having a conversation with him or was in a Church setting.  I employ such titles to be funny, because I despise the unearned and undue reverence we give to the Brethren.  Heck, if my name was Bruce (and it might be 😉 – and you called me Bruce Almighty, I would think it was funny, especially if I knew you loved me.

I wish I was more like some of you.  I love it when someone replies to my posts with a thoughtful counter argument.  Some of you do that so well.  So much better than I do.  Whether you know it or not, you persuade me.  If nothing else, you persuade me to be more like you in your approach.  More loving, more kind, more intelligent.

Most of you know that I lean conservative / libertarian.  But I have plenty of friends and people who I love who are more liberal in their ideas.  It’s true we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but we respect each other.  We may even tease each other.  But we love each other and try to persuade each other. I love it when these friends of mine are persuaded by some of my ideas and when I am able to perhaps better understand where they’re coming from.

This is what I love about this blogging experience.  I feel comfortable bringing up a topic and I love to see the healthy dialogue back and forth.  I’m disheartened, however, when someone says something like “Well, AB I thought you were awesome, but after this post, I just wanted to tell you, you’ve lost a reader.”  I don’t mind that you won’t read anymore.  I don’t mind that you disagree with me.  I admit that I’m a nobody just sharing his ideas.  BUT, I wish you would try to persuade me.  I wish you would share why you think I’m wrong so that I can learn from you.  I don’t intend to offend, but you simply prove my point that as Mormons, we can’t discuss anything when you throw in the towel so easily.

I personally don’t like to argue.  I took a harsher than normal tone with a commenter the other day who I felt was just mocking.  I feel badly and I apologize to that sister.  I’d love to hear her thoughts on why she believes allowing girls into Boy Scouts is a good idea.  I’d love to hear her reasons for why the Church should or shouldn’t support such an idea.  But, to simply laugh at my ideas or to threaten to never come back, robs us all of the opportunity to engage in healthy discussions, that I for one, don’t think exist at Church very often, if ever.

With that, I extend to all of you, my hand of friendship.  I know we think differently.  I know we are each just trying to figure things out in life.  I support you and love you.  Even though I don’t know many of you.  I thank you for being here and for supporting me as I vent and share.  God is good and Christ is our Savior.  I am pretty sure that most everyone here will agree with that.

Peace to you all,

AB

GBSA?

 

So it was like 100 years ago where some really nice person decided to form an all girls organization that would encourage among many things, female solidarity and women’s roles and virtues.

Way back then, no one seemed to care whether those private groups quote unquote discriminated against the opposite sex in such an endeavor.  In fact, for many years back then, many women didn’t even care that only men could vote.  Why? Because most men that owned land had a wife who more times than not, informed her husband’s views and balanced his ideas out.  Call it old fashioned, but the man generally voted for his family and their collective interests.  Just like the man went to war (for his family and his country) or went to work at some factory, while his wife took the harder job of staying home raising kids, running a small farm, and taking care of a busy household.

But somewhere along the way the concept of female “equality” came into the discussion.  Never mind that men and women are different.  We’ve now evolved into more sensitive and enlightened and openminded humans.  So openminded that our brains have fallen out.

We’ve broken the glass ceiling alright.  In fact we’ve broken the whole damn building.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that immediately after the Boy Scouts decided it was the right thing to do to let transgender children participate in scouting, the National Organization for Women (NOW) petitioned BSA to also allow girls into Boy Scouts.  Here’s the story for anyone who may have missed it.

The article begins with:

After many years of divisiveness, the Boy Scouts of America have opened their ranks to gay and transgender boys. Yet a different membership dispute persists: a long-shot campaign to let girls join the BSA so they have a chance to earn the prestigious status of Eagle Scout.

Just last week, after the BSA announced it would admit transgender boys, the National Organization for Women issued a statement urging the 106-year-old youth organization to allow girls to join as well. NOW said it was inspired by the efforts of a 15-year-old New York City girl to emulate her older brother, who is an Eagle Scout.

This despite the fact that girls ALREADY have their own organization!

Meanwhile the LDS Church is still pondering thoughtfully what it should do about the transgender issue.  That’s code by the way, for they’re waiting to see if there’s any huge groundswell of anger against BSA before it makes any rash decisions.

Does anyone really believe that the Church was not notified by BSA before changing such an important policy?  One they knew could affect the vital, mammoth support of its largest donor?

What’s interesting about this new twist is there is a work around for the NOW girls:  They simply need to tell their little girl applicants to say they are boys.  Kind of like a border crosser who speaks no English but somehow, when being arrested, knows how to scream and spell the word “asylum” with no hint of an accent.

“Transgender” is the new code word I suppose for these girls who feel left out.

On a serious note I’m very saddened that this little girl’s parents would allow their daughter to decide at age 9 that she’s a boy! She has not even hit puberty yet!  My gosh, how many little nine years olds would even know what any of that means!  You can’t buy cigarettes at age nine.  You can’t drink or drive or vote or have legal sex, BUT you can decide that you are a different sex than your body parts indicate, apparently.

Shame on her mom (not sure where dad is) for allowing her daughter to discuss what it means to be transgender at such a tender, innocent age.  My kids still believe in Santa Claus at that age.  Oh and by the way, cut any little girls hair and guess what! They look like a cute little boy!

Shame on Boy Scouts for supporting this mother and for now encouraging God knows how many other young, confused children to make such a serious decision so early on.

Shame on the Church for not running from BSA like a person would run from a fire.  It’s almost too late to run at this point, without the Church being criticized for having stayed in so long. Could you imagine if Planned Parenthood was the “activity arm” of Relief Society?  That’s about the equivalence of where we are with Scouting.

I assume that eventually some young man who got cut from the NBA will claim he’s now a woman and be able to be the star of the WNBA.  Why not?  I’m just waiting for that lawsuit.

Did you read the recent article about the transgender guy who went to prison with the ladies and who was “moved” because “she” was having consensual sex with all the women?  I’m not sure where they moved him/her but I’m guessing he’s meeting with ACLU lawyers as we speak.

At this point, how does the Church in good conscience say they have no sympathy for the Ordain Women movement?  The Church gives 10s of millions of dollars to an organization that allows “girls” (who say they are boys) to participate in what the Church considers to be the activity arm of the priesthood.

Maybe it doesn’t allow transgender children to participate in LDS troops (yet), but those same kids will be having activities in the Thomas Monson Lodge and at Church paid for campsites all over the country.

For kids not in Utah, who are wanting to get their Eagle award — They WILL likely have to more closely affiliate with these new individuals and in will be placed in these awkward situations.

I guarantee you the Church is not going to soften its emphasis on young men receiving their Eagle award.  Just like 4 years of seminary, getting your Eagle is one of the check boxes expected of a young man in the Church before entering the MTC.

I’ve said it before, but if nothing else the Church should at least eliminate the affiliation question from the temple recommend interview.  Anyone who affiliates with Boy Scouts of America in any way today, affiliates with those who oppose our teachings and beliefs.  Boy Scouts HAS become an apostate organization, unworthy of our investment and clearly an unworthy partner in rearing our young men.  Both gay, straight, or other.

Just as a side note, as someone living in Utah, I’ve noticed a lot more LDS people jumping on the LGBTQ and women’s rights bandwagons of late.  Like many of you I could not believe my eyes when I looked at the pictures on the news recently of people with huge “female parts” on their heads here in our very state in parades marching against President Trump, who they ironically say does not respect women and their parts.

As Wayne would say, “Exsueeze me?”  HE doesn’t respect women?!  HOW about you parading around with an exposed larger than life female organ on your head might not be respecting women?!

(Even I can’t bring myself to add a picture here)

And yet, somehow more and more LDS folks seem to be jumping on the bandwagon for these progressive issues.  I say go for it, it’s your God-given right and I don’t condemn you. But, Church leaders may want to take note.  Because I think it’s been since they “changed their stance” on such issues that more LDS people have started supporting these causes.  I could be wrong.

I laugh a little though because some of these Molly Mormons have no idea what door they are opening.  Maybe one of them should go to Berkeley with a Trump hat on as a social experiment to see what kinds of people they are teaming up with.

These people protesting conservatism (or Trump or whatever) wouldn’t even let a gay man, Milo Yiannopoulos, speak at Berkeley and they PEPPER SPRAYED this beautiful, intelligent young, courageous woman peacefully expressing her opinions!  Not to mention millions of dollars damage to taxpayer subsidized property.

So if you’re an open minded, progressive, LDS person, these are your contemporaries.  These are your amazing civil rights leaders.  Maybe you should spend some more time with them next time before you go buy that organ costume online.

As for me, I say it’s a sad day where evil is called good and good called evil.  Anyone who does not see this “slouch towards Gomorrah” is blind and the Church does not seem to be helping the situation by towing the PC line.

Zeus and the Zormonites

A friend of mine gave an excellent talk last week in his ward about the Zoramites.  His humble prayer was that his audience might see some of the parallels between them and us as Latter-day Saints.  Sadly, the message fell upon deaf ears.

I ask the same question my friend posed in his talk: Are we like the Zoramites of old time?  If so, how?

In Alma 31 we find the account.

 13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person. (Is this so different than our “stand”?  Set above the congregation, whereupon only the most faithful sit and speak?)

 14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:

 15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.  (Surely this was not what truly displeased Alma — the Zoramites were simply expressing their acknowledgement of God’s holiness.  And to say He is Spirit is also not a contradiction to our beliefs.  Remember Ammon’s response to the Lamanite king asking if God was the Great Spirit?  Ammon’s response was “Yes!”  Of course Mormons will emphasize that God is also flesh and bones, resurrected, etc. BUT to say He is also Spirit cannot be what angered Alma.)

 16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.  (Now is where I think Alma becomes truly upset.  But as LDS we too often speak of how blessed we are to be “set apart” from everyone else — the only true and living church — elected and foreordained to come forth in these the last days as God’s most valiant spirits.  With Holy Prophets, Seers, and Revelators — rejecting the Childishness of our Gentile Fathers who, per Bruce R. McConkie, not only had it all wrong, but who worshipped Satan and were members of the Church of the Great Whore who sat upon the Waters.  Truly WE are a chosen people.  Now on the issue of there being ‘no Christ,’ this would have upset Alma too, IMO, BUT are we any different if  we do not know how to speak of Him or if we do not properly worship Him?  Do we, like the Zoramites, accidentally deny Christ because we believe that “God has given his power to men” so that He is no longer needed here?)

 17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.  (Much of the same.  Elected, special, most valiant, set apart, better than all others.  But I will say that our ‘damning to hell’ of other faiths has softened over the years.  As a young man I recall a much greater urgency to preach the gospel because we feared that any who rejected or did not accept the gospel in this life would go to hell.  BUT today us Mormons teach a much nicer message.   As funny as it may sound, the Zoramites actually may have been more correct than today’s Mormonites who teach that there is no hell.  Just glory for everyone.  Oh and by the way, we will do your work for you when you die, so no worries.)

 18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.  (We do this a lot too.  ‘Thank you Lord that we are chosen and that we live in this blessed Valley, away from all the Gentiles, set apart able to teetotal without anyone making fun of us.  White shirted and long skirted.  I.e. Special.’)

 19 Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.

 20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.  (Do we offer the same vain and repetitive prayers?  Let’s be honest.   I say the answer is yes.  ‘Please help us to get home safely and bless all those who are not here that they can come next week and bless these cookies to nourish and strengthen our bodies.  We’re grateful that we are so blessed, that we have the truth and that we cannot be led astray by our holy prophets.’)

And so I ask again, are there parallels between us and the Zoramites?  Would Alma and his brethren be impressed or saddened and angered by what they would observe in our meetings?  Or would they be more likely to agree with Joseph Smith who said:

How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.137)

Today in fast and testimony meeting, I think there was only one testimony that even spoke of Christ.  But, even that testimony ended in how blessed we are to have a prophet to guide our Church that can never be led astray.  All the other testimonies were about our bishopric and about the leaders of the Church, especially Thomas S. Monson.  Funny enough the comment in one of the last testimonies said it best: “There has been a good spirit here today.”  What does that even mean?  Is it a confession that THE Spirit was not present, but that some Casper the Friendly Ghost spirit was in fact, in attendance? Who made us feel sleepy and happy and warm?

Bruce Almighty, aka Zeus McConkie

The god of Mormon Doctrine is no other than Bruce R. McConkie.  He not only “wrote the book” on doctrine but he was also the son-in-law to Joseph Fielding Smith, a man also known for his “doctrinal prowess.”  Surrounded by other great Mormon scholars and academics such as Hugh Nibley, Eugene England, Mark E. Petersen, and N. Eldon Tanner, Bruce set himself apart and became the doctrinal go-to-guy of his day.

This last week I read a great blogpost about McConkie’s beliefs on Jesus Christ.  Keep in mind as you read this that this is the same man who said only two weeks before he died:

And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.

And yet in McConkie’s talk he warned us that we should NOT worship Christ or seek some special relationship with Him! Here is a part of that talk as quoted in the blog titled, Peace in Paradise:

The Mainstream of the Church

Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. It will seem to them as though I am speaking out against mother love, or Americanism, or the little red schoolhouse. But I am not. There is a fine line here over which true worshipers will not step.

It is true that there may, with propriety, be a special relationship with a wife, with children, with friends, with teachers, with the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky and the lilies of the valley. But the very moment anyone singles out one member of the Godhead as the almost sole recipient of his devotion, to the exclusion of the others, that is the moment when spiritual instability begins to replace sense and reason.

The proper course for all of us is to stay in the mainstream of the Church. This is the Lord’s Church, and it is led by the spirit of inspiration, and the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture.

And you have never heard one of the First Presidency or the Twelve, who hold the keys of the kingdom, and who are appointed to see that we are not “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)—you have never heard one of them advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.

You have heard them teach and testify of the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus, using the most persuasive and powerful language at their command. But never, never at any time have they taught or endorsed the inordinate or intemperate zeal that encourages endless, sometimes day-long prayers, in order to gain a personal relationship with the Savior.

Those who truly love the Lord and who worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit, according to the approved patterns, maintain a reverential barrier between themselves and all the members of the Godhead.

I am well aware that some who have prayed for endless hours feel they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before. I wonder if this is any or so much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us they have been saved by grace and are assured of a place with the Lord in a heavenly abode, when in fact they have never even received the fullness of the gospel.

I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church.

Let me remind you to stay in the course chartered by the Church. It is the Lord’s Church, and he will not permit it to be led astray. If we take the counsel that comes from the prophets and seers, we will pursue the course that is pleasing to the Lord.

Would it be amiss if I reminded you that Jesus maintained a reserve between him and his disciples and that he did not allow them the same intimacy with him that they had with each other? This was particularly true after his resurrection.

For instance, when Mary Magdalene, in a great outpouring of love and devotion, sought to embrace the risen Lord, her hands were stayed. “Touch me not,” he said. Between her and him, no matter what the degree of their love, there was a line over which she could not pass. And yet, almost immediately thereafter, a whole group of faithful women held that same Lord by the feet, and, we cannot doubt, bathed his wounded feet with their tears.

It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood (my emphasis added).

Okay, I’m sorry but this is where I become a little unhinged. Ironically a large part of this talk was written to rebuke George Pace for having written about our opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Christ.  Much like the time when McConkie reprimanded Brother England with a letter that said in part:

It is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent.

I shall write in kindness and in plainness and perhaps with sharpness. I want you to know that I am extending to you the hand of fellowship though I hold over you at the same time, the scepter of judgment.

I say it’s Elder McConkie who deserves to be rebuked.  For teaching false doctrine.  And the Brethren who never corrected his false doctrine openly.  (A committee found almost 1100 errors in Mormon Doctrine, very few of which were corrected)

I hope any reading this will have the courage to stand with me against such unrighteous dominion.

Since Elder McConkie is now on the other side of the veil, he can answer to the true Holy Prophets who said the following things in scripture that contradict his words that we should NOT worship Christ:

2 Nephi 26:12

And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.  (It almost appears that McConkie’s statements on behalf of the Gentile Church were foreseen by Nephi — He obviously needs to be convinced that Jesus is GOD and is worthy of our worship!)

And then there’s Jacob 7, where Sherem calls out the Nephites for “the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence.” 

2 Nephi 25:26

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins… And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

There are so many more scriptures that contradict McConkie. You can read them in Jacob 4, Mosiah 18, Alma 7, Alma 15, Alma 21, Alma 22, Alma 31, 34, 44, 45, 3 Nephi 2, 11, 21, 4 Nephi, and in many other places in the scriptures.

The example in 3 Nephi when those in attendance prayed to and worshipped Him.  Or in the New Testament when while still in mortality, women and apostles and others bowed down and worshipped the King of Kings, with their tears and their oinments and kisses.  Jesus did not rebuke them as did the angel when John bowed to “his fellow servant.”  There was no fine line as McConkie warned — just worship of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Now, in fairness, I am not a doctrinal go-to-guy.  I admit that I don’t know exactly who it is we pray to.  I don’t know exactly how to worship God the Father and His Son.  But the scriptures tell me, and my heart tells me to seek this God Jesus who died for me.  To fall down at His feet and to praise Him.  He is my God and I want Him to be my Father.

As for Zeus and the Zormonites, I invite you to repent of your worship of men.  Of your idolatry.  Of your vain repetitions. Your holy pulpits and your teleprompters.  Of your fine twined linen — your nice suits – that which you call the uniform of the priesthood.  Of your grinding upon the faces of the poor by building up your fine sanctuaries with funds that should be consecrated to bringing meat into the the Lord’s storehouse.

May we repent together and come unto Him.

The Profit

I’ve mentioned before that I have two deal breaking issues with the Church.

  1. Do the Brethren see the Lord or not?
  2. And are they or are they not a part of the lay ministry we boast about?

A recent comment on this blog sums up my concern better than I can on the issue of the Brethren’s “special witness.”  In part he says:

“I would call the current situation one of ‘deception by omission,’ because the top officers must know that many members believe that divine visitations are common among the higher ranks. The leaders allow this perception to exist and be perpetuated without challenge. Growing up in the church, I was taught by low and mid-level teachers and officers that the first presidency and the apostles know Christ personally, and that divine appearances in the temple are not uncommon.”

This idea of deception by omission, when I first considered it years ago and contemplated its implications, became a turning point for me.  That was when the wheels started to fall off my paradigm.

Up until that point, not only did I believe that their witness was literal, but I also believed that they had achieved their witness by possessing strong faith and by having a firm mind in every form of godliness (Moroni 7:30).  Which as you know is the pre-requisite for seeing Angels.  To see the Lord, the Brethren must practically be Angels…  So I thought.

But instead I began to feel mislead.  I began to see this issue as an honesty issue.  What kind of person would lie or mislead someone about something so sacred!?  That idea began to stir in me and caused me tremendous grief.

I became curious about the idea of a lay ministry. Having served as a bishop and in bishoprics and on high councils, I knew first hand that we were not paid.  Not at the local level.  But as a bishop I began to notice some very strange things about the way certain people in my ward paid tithing.  I noticed that General Authorities didn’t pay tithing through the ward at all. For that matter, they didn’t come to me or my counselors for their temple recommends either.  Not seeing their tithing, I had no idea whether they were paid by the Church or not.

It wasn’t until I came across the leaked Mission Presidents Handbook that my suspicions on their “non-layness” were confirmed.  Interestingly at about the same time I discovered this Handbook, I asked a member of my ward, who I had recommended to serve as a mission president, and who had just received his call, IF this was all true.  My friend turned beet red and began to stutter.  He eventually said, “I’ve sworn to secrecy that I will not discuss this.”

Well, that confirmed it.  I had to then assume that the Brethren above Mission Presidents were also paid.  But how much?

Admittedly, I assumed that some of the Brethren had to be paid something.  I did not begrudge them some kind of housing, food, and travel assistance.  I eased my mind by considering that they likely lived the Law of Consecration — a rumor I had heard many times.  It made a lot of sense to me too.  After all, if they were meeting with Jesus every Thursday, why would they not be living a higher law?  Even if only among themselves.

I envisioned that men like Gary Stevenson would come into the Quorum of the Seventy and would give all they had to the Church.  And that anyone among the Seventy or the Twelve that needed some minimal assistance would be able to receive it from the consecrated funds.  Someone like Thomas Monson after all would not likely have a valuable pension or social security benefit when he became an apostle at the age of 36.

So to receive “assistance” to live a modest life was never an idea that bothered me.

But then I began to hear rumors that the Brethren were paid exorbitant amounts of money.  Like, millions of dollars — Signing bonuses, huge salaries, pay increases for advancement and seniority, black credit cards…

These rumors alarmed me and made me want to know whether I had accidentally lied to all the people I’ve ever told, while holding up a picture of the leaders of the Church, that we were different (better) than all the other churches because “No one in our Church was paid to do anything.  It’s a completely lay ministry.”

Back to this idea of “deception by omission” — I was concerned enough as it was about possibly being wrong about the Brethren’s benefits, but now I was confronted with the idea that they let me, in fact, they encouraged me to mislead people by never correcting the record.

Well, in the last few years I’ve been able to confirm a few more details on what our Church leaders make, which has now been corroborated with the most recent news. 

Here is my opinion today what they do and don’t make and what benefits I believe they have:

  • No signing bonuses
  • No mortgage or debt pay offs
  • No unlimited Black Amex benefits
  • No pay increase or pay disparity among the Brethren.  Once a 70 or higher, they receive the same “living allowance.”
  • “Living allowance” is $120,000 per year.
  • Great health benefits.
  • Free tuition at BYU or tuition paid at any university for children under age 26 up to the equivalent value of BYU’s tuition cost.
  • Great life insurance so their family is taken care of when they die.
  • Car allowances.
  • House allowances.
  • All travel, and lodging, food and entertainment while traveling are paid for.  This includes First Class airfare.

I’m also left to assume that there is some tax benefit to calling it a living allowance from a 501c3.  This is hinted at in the Mission President’s Handbook by the direction given to NOT report these benefits to tax advisors or on a tax return.

Now the argument I hear even from some is that most of these good men were wealthy before their callings and that full time Church service was not only a sacrifice in every way, but also represented a huge pay cut.

This argument is spelled out by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby entitled Wait’ll You See How Much the Mormon Church Pays Me.

I find Kirby’s piece humorous, but I think his overall point is to downplay the amounts the Brethren are paid as kind of a “Well, that’s nowhere near enough money for me” and so no one should have a problem with it.  He says:

Now that we seem to know what LDS leaders are paid, it’s still OK with me. I say this because I wouldn’t do it for that much. Not even close.

If you were to pay me for wearing a necktie even to bed, while simultaneously trying to keep people on the straight and narrow without a machine gun, it would have to be at least seven figures, each and every one of them a nine.

I earn a lot less than that as a newspaper columnist. How much? Well, it’s none of your *&#@% business, is it? I do what I do for what I make because it’s an acceptable bargain between myself and a tough editor.

Sadly, I think we Mormons are conditioned to say the kinds of things Kirby says.  I actually happen to know thousands of people who WOULD do what these men do and they would do it for FREE!  They would do it for the glory, prestige, power, and/or for the value of service.  In fact many elderly couples do do this sort of thing for free, without any glory, all the time.  The Church sells it to them as a wonderful opportunity to live in Africa for the low low price of only $1400 per month.

Stake presidents and bishops, many or whom work 40-60 hours per week already and then have added to them 20-30 hours of church service, do it for free already Mr. Kirby.

This argument that these men do something special and that they took a pay cut for, frankly, ticks me off.  They should want to do it for free.  Since when do we need to justify that Apostles of the Lord should be paid large salaries?  Most of them are called when they already have pensions and retirements and social security in place.  So why are we talking about pay cuts? Do we really want to believe that President Monson, who is paid the equivalent of $240,000 or more a year, WOULD BE MAKING MORE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR?  AT AGE 89?  I’m sorry but anyone willing to pay Thomas Monson in his current mental state and at his age $240k a year is a complete moron.  The argument is disingenuous at best, especially given that we boldly declare that these men are not paid anything.

A great blog post was recently written on this topic.  I highly recommend it.  In it the author covers the history of minister salaries in the latter-day Church.  But, for me the biggest issue is that we all are taught and are encouraged to teach that there is no paid ministry — the Brethren know we teach this — and NO ONE CORRECTS the record.  This is a dishonest omission of facts.

Simultaneously Senator Gordon Smith argues in the executive committees of the 12 that the other Christian religions participate in the dangerous practice of priestcraft, all while we are apparently innocent of such abhorrent practices.  Why did the Brethren not correct the record with Senator Smith, in that private setting?

I’m sorry my friends, but $120,000 per year in “living allowance” plus all the other great benefits adding up to at least $240,000 per year is a far cry from a lay ministry.  I wish the Church would at least be honest about it instead of misleading everyone.

For Alma it was far more cut and dry:

And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time (Alma 30:33).

Our church leaders have taken millions of senines and yet some of them still profit from their personal enterprises as well. Doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice to me.  It’s certainly not what we preach it to be:  A Lay Ministry.  In fact, I wonder if LDS Church leaders actually make more than other various religious leaders around the world.  Either way, the leaders of the Church should come clean and set the record straight on the issue and allow Church members to decide for themselves if the money we pay them is appropriate or not.

Too Sacred

touch-his-side

In following Mormon tradition that “some things are too sacred to share,” perhaps we should remove from our canon and our speech all references to any man or woman beholding the resurrected Lord.  We should eliminate Mary’s testimony from the Garden Tomb.  It’s simply too sacred.  We should take out the experience of the Road to Emmaus of Cleopas and the unnamed disciple who walked with Him for nearly the whole day where they were taught by their Lord in a way that caused their bosoms to burn within them.  As Donald Trump would say, “Take ’em out.”  Sacred speech is kind of like hate speech after all because it makes people feel uncomfortable.  The story of Stephen as he’s being stoned, seeing the Risen Lord even on the very right hand of God.  Saul, meeting the Lord on his way to Damascus.  Peter and the Twelve eating with the Lord, who entered the room by walking through a wall.  Thomas bowing to kiss His feet and touch His hands after doubting His resurrection.

Then of course there’s the Book of Mormon.  Lehi seeing our Father on His Throne.  Nephi being taken to a very high mountain by our Lord and becoming a witness to all of His Creation.  Jacob who saw Him face to face.  Enos, who prayed all day and all night until the Lord called Him Blessed and forgave him of his sins.  Alma, Benjamin, Mosiah, Alma the Younger, Ammon, Amulek, Omner, Himni, King Lamoni and his father, and their wives and their households, ALL of whom beheld Him and were taught by Angels and who were redeemed by our Lord.  Mormon, Ether, Mohonri, Moroni and many many more.  All too sacred.

There is a new and more appropriate, sophisticated way of sharing such experiences:

“There are things simply too sacred to share, but I AM a special witness of Jesus Christ.  An apostle.  A seer.  A revelator.  I  KNOW He lives.”  “As if I had been there…”  “I would know Him no more then, than I do now…”

This way, nothing sacred is cast before swine and even better, because you do not provide detail — those listening are able to imagine wonderful and special things in their minds that remain as vague as our doctrines and as boring as our meetings have become.