Tag Archives: False Doctrine

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.

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.

I Know Nothing

Every so often I hear myself communicating with some measure of implied or assumed authority.  I apologize for the times I do.  The truth is I really don’t “know” anything or at least I know very little.

Even as a bishop I did not like to say in my testimony that “I know God lives, or that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Book of Mormon is true.”  I prefer to say that I believe, perhaps even with all my heart, that such things are true.  But I don’t like to say “I know.”  The truth is, I only believe most things.

I don’t mean to criticize anyone who believes they do know things.  Some of you may “know” much.  For me though, I believe, and I want to believe more and receive more and don’t want God to think I have all that I want.  I love the example of Abraham who “sought Him earnestly.”  This seeking seems to suggest that he did not stop searching.  That he was inquisitive and unassuming before meeting the Lord.  His reward?  “My name is Jehovah…” and the incredible knowledge that followed, not the least of which was the knowledge of God and the receipt of his Exaltation.  Or the example of Moses who said:

I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

Too often I think we beat each other over the heads with our testimonies.  As a missionary we were instructed at times to dust our feet, so to speak, in leaving our testimonies with someone who disagreed with us.  What a mistake that is in my view.

I think the end result for most of us still in the “belief” stage who share our testimonies in this way, or our perceived “knowledge” is to offend the receiver of our words, rather than to convert them.

Sadly, I think we Mormons tend to be very passive aggressive although we may not realize it.  I believe one of the chief reasons that we can’t discuss anything in church is due to this tendency we have.  I see the same in many comments online, including on this blog.

For many years I found myself arguing with others in gospel discussions, which in looking back I think we can all agree, goes counter to all that the gospel actually is.  I think part of my problem was that I often felt threatened by the ideas or decisions of others, especially those I loved.  Now I see that I was insecure and full of pride, not full of love, as I had thought.  I want to be better at discussing ideas with others and in loving people despite differences of opinion.

I also no longer like it when someone says “The Lord told me to do or say such and such…”   Again, I don’t mean to be critical.  Most of us have done this to one degree or another.  I certainly have.  But, again, I think the effect of this practice generally shuts down communication and ends what could be healthy conversations and relationships.

I would so much prefer to hear someone say, “I think the Lord is trying to tell me to do such and such…”  Or “I feel very strongly that I’m being guided, but I simply don’t know… I’m acting on faith…”

One of my best friends in life is so good at this.  Ironically, I believe he is closer to the Lord than anyone I know.  And yet he rarely uses the Lord’s name in such a way.  When we discuss gospel ideas, and I know he knows what he’s talking about, he is still very careful to not force his ideas on me with such statements as “the Lord revealed to me that this idea is true… etc.”  I love this trait in my friend.  He reminds me that anyone’s ideas may have merit and to be careful to not simply dismiss them, even if they are just free lancing as most of us are.

As I look back upon certain statements I’ve made over the years, I’m embarrassed.  Perhaps I’ve informed a congregation that the Lord or the Spirit has just revealed something to me.  Or that the Lord has told me to call them or that the Spirit told me to go somewhere.  Am I doing this to set myself up as a light?  To elicit an effect?  To make myself look good?  To appear more in tune than others?  Do I speak with assumed-authority and throw scriptures at people to beat them down instead of lift them up?  I’ve been there and still repeat such mistakes.  I seek forgiveness.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we aren’t ever guided.  It’s not that the Lord can’t or doesn’t speak to us.  But, perhaps often we think He is speaking where He may not be.  Or perhaps He is communicating something with us that we simply misunderstand.  Or worse, some other force may actually be inspiring us and we think and claim it is the Lord.  Why not simply err on the side of complete humility unless the Lord commands otherwise, literally (not maybe).

I seek to engage with others in a way that is more kind and patient and unassuming.  Less authoritative.  After all, what do most of us really know?  We are less than the dust of the earth are we not?  We are nothing, which thing perhaps we should begin to suppose.

Now, some of you may be saying “Well, AB what about you and your criticisms of the church and some of its leaders?  Isn’t that unkind?”  I think that’s a very fair question.

It’s a challenge for me because like many of you, I’ve learned some things about the Church that have been hard to digest.  I have experienced something akin to what I’d call the mourning of the loss of something very dear to me.  Like most of you, the Church was my identity for almost my entire life.

I spent a few years very angry when I began to realize the Church wasn’t as true as I had thought.  Not true to the restoration at least.  Not true to Joseph Smith or to the Book of Mormon.  Or to the Savior.  Or to the truth.  And frankly, not true to the poor or to the sick or to those struggling in so many ways.

This discovery for me of truth that had been withheld or perverted inspired some anger, I admit.  I don’t feel that way so much anymore.  But the mourning stages for me were real and were painful.

An important distinction I make though is that the Brethren AND any other man or woman who claims to be a prophet places a burden upon those in their midst to discern if their message is true or false.  Beware of false prophets we are taught!  That goes for Thomas or Denver or any human who makes claims of open veils and revelations.  It becomes our duty to expose or to believe.  It is my understanding that choosing wrongly, leads us to unbelief and misjudgment, things we will held accountable for.

I’m always reminded of how hard it must have been to believe Joseph was a true messenger.  Even many of those who first believed, ended up betraying him in the end.  Are we any different or better?  And then what about John the Baptist?  Or Jesus?  Even the Son of God came in such a way that most did not believe His message.  It must have been even worse for Isaiah and Jeremiah and Lehi and Nephi and all the other holy prophets.

So if I am critical and am sinning, I ask for your forgiveness.  For God’s forgiveness.  But for now, I believe it is my duty to discern and expose and/or believe and share.  I don’t do so with any authority and I attempt to only do so in an unassuming way — in a way that hopefully helps others seek the Lord, and not men.  Certainly to not follow men in an idolatrous way as we are so prone to do.

I am hopeful that this year God will bless us to love better and to grow in greater light and knowledge.  Especially those of us who claim or think we are awake.  Who are here reading these blogs.  I hope that as we discuss these things together it can be in a way that is thoughtful and profound.  So much is at stake in discovering the truth and in being redeemed.

God bless us all in 2017,

AB

The Last Demon

I’ve always thought it interesting that in Mosiah he states that Jesus will come and “shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.”  This teaching seems to suggest that most of us have evil spirits which possess us.  Notice it does not say “evil spirits which may dwell, or who dwell in some or in many….”  It simply and plainly suggests that evil spirits dwell in our hearts.

Perhaps the Temple depiction is most correct where Satan promises that the spirits which follow after him shall possess the bodies that God creates for Adam and Eve.

I think many of us will agree that it seems odd that there is such an emphasis on “evil spirits” during Christ’s ministry, but nearly no emphasis on the subject today save but for the few Catholics who are seen as less than emotionally stable for their exorcisms.

And yet even Mary Magdalene was possessed with devils.  Seven of them to be exact.

What if all of us have demons which possess us?  And what if this is why and how we sin?

I love the story found in Mark chapter 5:2-20:

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.  And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.  And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.  And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.  And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.  And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

This story seems to suggest that some people have more than one evil spirit.  Can you imagine, that perhaps this man had 2,000 devils or evil spirits that dwelt with him?  One for each of the swine?  I wonder what influence each evil spirit had in this man’s life.

There are so many great stories in the New Testament that can instruct us on how to deal with evil spirits.  For example, Jesus scolds his disciples when they failed to cast out an evil spirit from a small child:

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.  (Mark 9:29)

I’ve wondered lately if evil spirits aren’t not only more common than we think, but that rather they are the reason we feel tendencies towards certain sins.

What if when I am quick to anger, it is a rogue unredeemed spirit that may even be a deceased ancestor of mine, who seeks to “help” me or influence me?  Would my deceased ancestor not qualify potentially for a spirit who has chosen to follow after the devil and who is in his power in his current state?

What if I am feeling especially carnal?  Worldly?  Judgmental?  Dishonest?  Depressed?  Arrogant?  Sexual?  Could these not be evil spirits trying to influence me?

It’s funny how we assume so much.  We’d rather assume that such vices are due to our own fallen nature than to contemplate that such influences may be coming from the devils sworn to inhabit and control our bodies.

It is my current opinion that we, as mortals, are subject to being possessed.  And that the only remedy is that we fast and pray that Christ casts out the evil spirits that dwell in each of us.  I do not recommend paying for some person or for some conference that “teaches you” how to cast them out.  I invite you to turn to the Master in fasting and in prayer.  He and only He can assist you in overcoming these evil spirits.

I am humbled by the idea that even when our house is clean, then and especially then, are evil spirits most desirous to possess our house.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.  And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.  Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.  (Luke 11:24-26)

Christ is our healer.  He can cast out the evil spirits that dwell in us and prevent us from redemption.  That is master mayhem’s goal after all, to keep us from Christ’s redemptive powers.  If he can do so through deceiving even the very elect, by inspiring the teachings of the precepts of men, as inspired by his false priests whom he has raised up on the other side of the veil, then he will find happiness in his victory for a season and we shall lose our souls.

Perhaps many of our ills are inspired by his evil forces who find the chinks in our armor. Perhaps the goal is to overcome every demon until they are all cast out.  And we become new creatures?  To go no more out?  Maybe that’s what it means to receive the Holy Ghost?  Maybe our spirits become awakened and unencumbered in that state?   With no more disposition to do evil?

God help us as we strive to have Satan overcome in our lives and as we seek to receive the Holy Ghost.

A Few Thoughts On Conference and Prophets

monson

I was able to watch or read most of Conference this past week.  I listened carefully hoping to be inspired by messages delivered by those we call prophets, seers, and revelators.

I thought some of the talks were okay.  It seemed as though there was an added emphasis on the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith which for me is always a good thing.

Below are a few observations of things from Conference that did not overly inspire me.

  • Elder Ballard’s reference yet again to the Same Ol’ Ship Zion.  (He just seems to really cling to themes, i.e. Counseling With Your Counsels, Raising the Bar, and now Same Ol’ Ship.)
  • Elder Ballard promised “In the name of the Lord, that the God would never abandon His Church.”  Some may argue that this was a “powerful and bold witness” from a prophet, who needs to do nothing but speak the scripture that comes to him.  But some of us are left wondering then why the Savior would quote Isaiah and other prophets in making such proclamations.  Or why the D&C would say that if the Nauvoo Temple was not completed the Lord would reject us as a church, if in fact such a thing was impossible.  Brigham Young also made some pretty bold statements (most of which I don’t agree with btw) about the Lord rejecting the church and the priesthood for things we have now allowed, i.e. ending polygamy and giving priesthood to all worthy males.  Where are we promised that this church or any church can never fall?  In the Book of Mormon?  Just the opposite.  In the D&C?  Nope.  Maybe His Kingdom, which has never been of this world will never fall.  But not a church, even the very one Jesus restored.  Otherwise God would cease to be God for He would take away the agency of man.
  • I dislike it when the brethren endlessly quote each other.  Although I noticed that no one quoted the living prophet when discussing the Book of Mormon.  Instead a couple of different GA’s quoted Ezra Taft Benson, a dead prophet, likely because the living prophet has said very little of the Book of Mormon in his tenure.  But why does Elder Ashton need to quote Elder Christofferson for the most mundane of ideas?  For example: “this ‘power of godliness’ comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost.”  Why not quote Moroni?  Or the Savior?  It feels so unnecessary, idolatrous, and patronizing.  Jesus quoting Isaiah regarding the fulfillment of ancient prophecy shows much more humility and is very different than men quoting their colleagues higher in rank than themselves.
  • I did not like the part from Sister Reeve’s talk where she referenced a sister missionary from her and her husband’s mission who thought she could “circumvent the repentance process” and try her hardest to serve a valiant mission and then confess her sins a few days before leaving the mission field.  She said her confession “lacked Godly sorrow.”  First of all, why would the mission president’s wife know anything about a missionary’s confession given to her priesthood leader?  Is that information NOT meant to be kept confidential?  Secondly, how do you think this poor sister feels hearing this talk?  Is that how you help someone who is struggling?  Kick to the face.  How many missionaries just never confess their sins?  Especially since Elder Ballard raised the bar?  I can promise you that many missionaries lie to get out, lie to stay in and lie when they get married in the temple.  What if this sweet sister had confessed her sins to the Lord?  I assume she pleaded day and night with Him!  Dedicating her service to Him!  And what does she get when she confesses?  A mission president who breaks her confidence and blabbers her “lack of Godly sorrow” to his gossiping wife.  What if God actually does forgive sin without the need to confess to some dishonest priesthood holder and his wife?  I vote that the church edit her talk and fire the guy from the Correlation Department who was responsible for approving it.
  • Elder Christoffersen suggesting that God’s love is not unconditional.  What kind of message does that send?
  • Elder Holland’s talk calling out the home teachers who left when they saw the family was “busy.”  Why lead with a bad example of someone else, who is hopefully listening to your talk?  Isn’t that a little ruthless and unkind?  I prefer hearing someone tell of their own failure to prove their point.  While I was moved by his second story of the man who lost his child tragically, I did not love that Elder Holland made his talk about home teaching.  Why not just talk about loving our neighbor, period.  Did the Savior turn his parable of the Good Samaritan into a talk about home teaching or some other church program?  No, his talk, funny enough, was about how the non-member (the loathsome Samaritan) stopped when the two leaders from the Church (Priest = bishop, Levite = temple worker) did not.  They were apparently running late for home teaching or to their temple shift.  Maybe the real message from our Savior is to have compassion on ALL of God’s children and to make time to do what we can to help people especially in distress, WHO WE ARE NOT ASSIGNED TO, who we happen upon along our way.

I just have to add that the format and tradition of Conference is not one that I like.  Talks read from teleprompters practiced and rehearsed countless times, delivered by those whose hairs and clothing and makeup are all in perfect order.  The format seems to make people nervous.  One poor brother looked like he might die, seemingly paralyzed by complete stage fright.

frozen-ga

And yet, these men and women travel the world giving speeches and hopefully interesting messages to members everywhere.  But in Conference, I believe because of the rigid format they are required to follow, many of them freeze up and become boringly robotic.

I suppose the inspiration behind reading talks from a teleprompter, approved by Church curriculum is to make sure no one deviates from Church doctrine or says anything controversial that has to be changed and apologized for after the fact.  Of course some will also argue that General Authority talks are scripture and must be read as to not deviate from the revelation they have received and recorded.

Either way, I find the format stifling.  At least in the olden days when someone like Apostle Matthew Cowley would speak, no one was sure what interesting ideas might be shared.  He’s the one who was told as a new General Authority to never prepare a talk.  His talks often included firsthand accounts of incredible miracles he witnessed over his lifetime, especially with the Maori people in the many years he served in the South Pacific.

This idea of not writing and reading a talk seems to better conform to the commandment from the Savior to His disciples:

Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.  (D&C 84:85)

But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.  (Mark 13:11)

Joseph Smith as far as I know, did not prepare 20 minute long talks that he read word for word.  Joseph, like most prophets in scripture, spoke for hours at a time, with some notes I assume, but with an emphasis on the words given from the Holy Ghost in the very hour.  When Joseph spoke, even if at a funeral, he was expounding doctrine, and saying interesting and insightful things that challenged and inspired the saints, without any teleprompter or script.  I can’t imagine those talks were boring.  They certainly aren’t as I read and study them 190 years later.

Is anyone else not bored with the format of today’s Conferences?  I challenge you to be honest, at least with yourself.  I’m concerned we have created a culture of such fear of men that we are not honest with how we truly feel.  Don’t get me wrong, the messages are “nice” enough at times, but I ask in all sincerity, where is the power?  Where is the prophecy?  Where is the excitement?  We are living in the Last Days!  Where is the urgency to repent?  To prepare?  To be sanctified?  To be endowed with Priesthood power so as to survive the Burning that will come?

Do we as Latter-day Saints take the Savior’s charge to judge the fruits of those who call themselves prophets?  Honestly, do we?  Or are we too lulled and complacent to do so?  Too fearful that doing so puts us on the highroad of apostasy?

Below are some very interesting excerpts from Hugh Nibley from his The World and the Prophets.  As you read, I invite you to ask yourself if today’s LDS prophets pass the test of what a prophet will teach and if they are generally received by the world and the church as were true prophets of old.


In the dealings of men with each other, any assumption of infallibility or even superiority is sheer arrogance; we mortals are highly fallible.  For that very reason, Peter insists, it is all-important to prove that a prophet is a true prophet and not one of the swarming impostors.  We must, he says, “before all things try the faith of the prophet by every possible test.”  A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him.  God is no authoritarian: He asks no one to believe; but invites the world as the prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”

When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not.  Early in his mission he was met by certain devils who begged him to leave them alone: “They cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?  Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”  The devils could not ignore him; his mere presence was a “torment” to them.  And it was the same with men, for when the people of a nearby town heard what had happened, “behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts” (Matthew 8:29).  Apparently his presence made men uncomfortable as it did the devils, for while the Lord was in their midst, they could not be neutral regarding him.  Only after he had left the earth could Christians have an “open mind” regarding Christ’s mission.  Of such people he said through his prophet John, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).  The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding his calling.

Before considering the test of a true prophet, we must make clear the fact that a prophet is a witness, not a reformer.  Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world.  Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest ones often know it best.  To denounce human folly has been the avocation of teachers and philosophers in every age, and their reward, surprisingly enough, has not been death but usually a rather handsome fee.  The age of Christ, like the nineteenth century, was a remarkably tolerant one as far as ideas were concerned.  On the one hand we find quacks, impostors, and miracle mongers flourishing throughout the Roman empire; and on the other, traveling philosophers and high-powered professors indulging in the most unsparing and outspoken criticism of all established institutions, sacred and profane, while the world applauded.  It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord.  It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned.  In the age of Apollonius and Dio Chrysostom people liked nothing better than to sit in fashionable congregations while being scolded by picturesque crackpots.  No Christian writer ever made such devastating attacks on prevailing manners as the pagan satirists did; no Christian apologist ever debunked heathen religion as effectively as Cicero did—with perfect safety….

What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage?  They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heard.  That was all.  It was as witnesses endowed with power from on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11).

…To come down to modern times, why were people so furiously angry with Joseph Smith?  It was not for being a reformer or rebuking a naughty world.  In his day, the most popular preacher was the one who could denounce the manners of the times most fiercely and paint the most lurid picture of the wrath to come.  Nobody led militant campaigns against even the most rabid preachers of hell-fire or swore to drink their blood.  We have said that the world in which Jesus lived was full of quacks and and impostors who carried on unmolested.  So in the time of Joseph Smith, the country was full of strange separatist cults as the Mormons were falsely accused of, but no one thought it virtuous to burn their settlements or shoot them on sight.  In what did the modern prophets’ deadly offense consist?  In the summer of 1833 a much-publicized mass meeting was held in Missouri to protest the admission of Mormon immigrants into Jackson County, and this was the official objection: “The committee express fears that … they will soon have all the offices in the county in their hands; and that the lives and property of other citizens would be insecure, under the administration of men who are so ignorant and superstitious as to believe that they have been the subjects of miraculous and supernatural cures; hold converse with God and his angels, and possess and exercise the gifts of divination and unknown tongues.”

… Before we even consider the question of whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet or not, the uniqueness of his position deserves respectful attention.  Because, true or false, he was the first man since the days of the Apostles to claim the things that real prophets claim.  The modern prophets who excited the laughter and contempt of the world exactly as the ancient prophets shocked and amused the friends of Justin were the first men since ancient times to talk of what they had seen and heard in the presence of God and angels.  What could they expect but a prophet’s reward?


And so I ask you, as nice as Conference may have been, did any of those we call prophets speak with power and authority?  Did they speak of their visions or revelations from Angels or from God?  Did they speak in tongues or share their own prophesies?  Did they reach out to the throngs of people who stand when they enter and stand and wait when they depart, to heal the sick and afflicted?

I don’t ask these questions to be gratuitously critical.  I ask these questions because we are commanded by the Lord to prove and test those who call themselves prophets and who speak in His name.

I think it’s fair to say that today’s messages are much less hell-fire and damnation as perhaps they once were, as that has become perhaps politically incorrect or seen by the world as uneducated and unrefined.  Today’s messages are nice sermons which gently call for reform while encouraging virtues.  One could argue that the Savior did likewise on the Mount.

But, the Savior did not stop there, nor does any true prophet in the recorded history of the world.  They bare solemn and unmistakable witness of seeing Him and knowing Him, testifying to the world that He and His Angels have physically ministered to them.

And they performed open miracles for many if not all to see.  We will be judged on how we judge and discern these things.

Profits, Sewers, and Elevators

elevators

Words matter.  When today’s 15 Apostles of the Church use words to describe themselves such as “true messengers, special witnesses, sure witnesses, certain witnesses, prophets, seers, revelators, and apostles” it becomes our sacred duty to determine if they are being misleading or telling the truth.  Especially given that we pay for undisclosed salaries and benefits packages and give them 1/10th of all we possess.  The duty to discern their words falls upon us members.

They call themselves prophets, seers, and revelators.  But whether they prophesy, see, or reveal remains to be seen.  In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

Did Brigham prophesy correctly when he said the Church would no longer be true if it abandoned polygamy or gave priesthood to the blacks?

Did Thomas receive a true revelation to not baptize children whose parents have made lifestyle choices we disagree with?

Did Gary receive a revelation to allow for gay leaders in Boy Scouts?

Did Spencer receive a revelation to give blacks the priesthood or was the Church worried it would lose its non-profit status with the IRS?

Where are the additional sections of the Doctrine and Covenants formalizing all the revelations they receive?  Where are the prophesies of these men we adulate?  Which of them possesses stones through which they see?  Why will none of them declare as do prophets of old that they have seen Him even on the right hand of God?  Why do they continue to speak in parables using vain and ambiguous language because some things are simply “too sacred” to share?

We have allowed time and tradition to warp and distort the true meaning of words.

I am curious by show of hands (comments) which of you who consider yourselves to be True Blue Mormons, believe that these men see God.  Or at least Angels.  I have heard the Brethren say that they are sure witnesses of Christ and that they know Him as well as the ancient Apostles.  What do you think these words mean?  Elder Anderson said at a funeral this last week that his witness was “certain.”  What does he mean by this?

Can we at least agree that some of these men lead us to believe, by their words, that they have seen Him?  That they converse with Him face to face?  And that it would be a grave and tragic issue, if in fact they have not?

I think there is no greater question that can be asked of these men than, “Have you or have you not seen the Lord?”  If you have not, then shame on you for leading us to believe that you have!  If you have, then where are your revelations?  Your expounding of scripture?  Your bold testimonies that carry to the hearts of the children of men?  Why do you take surveys when you have the keys to revelation?  Why are you using our sacred funds to build malls and cities rather than help the poor?

If we have 15 prophets among us, why have we not created Zion?  Where are the signs that follow after you?  Where are the tongues, the Angels, the miracles, the prophesies, the additional scriptures, or even the doctrinal dissertations?

I do not look forward to the teleprompter talks this next week, written by paid speech writers and assistants who worship them.  Parables of pickles and talks about following the Brethren even when they are wrong and of the Old Ship Zion.  Same old Ship, different day.  To me it has all become noise.  Words no longer have meaning.  And messages from these men do not have the power to change hearts.  They only seek to control and to keep others from entering in.

I invite you to contrast their words to the words of scripture.  If ye lack wisdom, ask God, not men.  Follow Christ, not the Brethren.  He is a real Man.  Sadly “they” are all effeminate impostors.  Might as well be Profits, Sewers, and Elevators, for they have corrupted the Holy Church of God, and their titles no longer mean anything.

God bless you as you seek Him, not them.

AB

The GA Awards

GA Awards

Did anyone else struggle with the general mood permeating this weekend’s Conference?  Did it feel like an Award Ceremony for you?  There seemed to be a lot of extra back slapping and testimony bearing of one another.  Fun press conferences and lots of thank yous and I couldn’t have done this without yous coupled with I’m so blessed and “humbled” and oh did I mention I’m a multi-generational Mormon?

I don’t think it was intended to be conveyed but the message for me was “I’d like to thank my mom and dad and my wife and kids and grandkids and mission president and college classmates and all of you, who have made me into the amazing man I am today.”

Holy HoldingsI was also perplexed that there was so much commercialization taking place on KSL in-between sessions, especially on Sunday.  KSL of course is owned by the Church and ad spots during Conference are not cheap.  I was taken aback when I saw a commercial for Icon Health and Fitness just after the Sunday session Elder Stevenson spoke.  He is the founder of Icon and I believe he still has a financial interest in that company.  Was that just a strange coincidence?

Juxtapose the commercialization on the Sabbath to the new hobby theme of “keeping the Sabbath day holy and making it a delight” being mentioned in nearly every talk.  Any issues for you there?  Should the Church be running for-profit ads on Sunday in between the words of “prophets”?  Why not just say, “This next talk by President Monson is brought to you by Lehi Roller Mills” and have the company logo displayed on the screen below him?  It’s not like the Church has no say in the matter.  They could have just as easily chosen to promote nothing during Conference.

Since I first published this post, I have received word from commenters and in email that Elder Devin Durrant used his position and his talk to try to sell merchandise.  I highly recommend reading this story from KUTV.  It may surprise you.

ponderize being released

Apparently Elder Durrant tried to capitalize on the word ponderize, a word he invented that he would introduce to the World Church in his upcoming Conference talk.  Apparently they bought the domain name in September 2015, “ponderize.us” and began printing t-shirts and making wristbands to be promoted the moment Elder Durrant finished his talk.  His son Ryan is listed as the contact agent of the domain name (see whois listing).  Elder Durrant has apologized for “letting his son” go ahead with the idea, but only after a lot of criticism and after a lot of family planning to design and order inventory.  To say this is an example of the commercialization of our religion would be an understatement.  As a member, I say shame on us.

I don’t point these things out just to be negative.  Each of us has an obligation to decide if these men who call themselves prophets, seers, and revelators are in fact acting as such.  Do they stand in the presence of God?  Are their words inspired by angelic ministrations?  Have they knelt at Jesus’ feet?  Do they teach others to come unto Him in the same manner?  Or are these just “good” men doing the best they can with the precepts of men?  I don’t condemn them if so.  I pray for them to receive mercy.  I know a few of them and I love them.  BUT, we will be judged if we cannot discern whether they are true prophets or not.

When Adam was being taught all manner of false doctrine by the leaders of churches in his day, he stood firm.  The god of this world trained his leaders to teach the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture (2 Nephi 28:31) and they perfected the craft so that the teaching was received very well by nearly all.  “Except this man,” Adam would not believe what was being taught.  Why not?  Because he had been promised (as we are all promised) that God would send true messengers (Moroni 7:22).

Adam undoubtedly listened to their talks and may have even felt warm inside as church leaders shared stories and comforting words.  But it was not enough for Adam, and so he sought greater blessings.  He remembered God’s promise to His children and despite the pressure, he did not give in to men.

Even when the angels finally appeared and began to speak, Adam questioned their authenticity.  “How shall I know you are true messengers?”  Do we question messengers sent to us today?  We are warned that in the last days, there will be false prophets (3 Nephi 14:15, 1 John 4:1).  Who shall proclaim all is well (2 Nephi 28:21) and that the Lord has done his work and thus now he gives his power unto men (2 Nephi 28:6).  These men will preach there is no hell, only kingdoms of glory (2 Nephi 28:22).  They will preach to get gain (Alma 30:35).  They will wear costly apparel (Alma 31:28).  They will say they “know” Him and will perform many wonderful things in His name.  But, will we question them?  Will we be blessed because we don’t?

Elder Bednar has taught that they are true messengers.  Would Adam have trusted Elder Bednar?  Should we?  Should we look to men (the arm of the flesh) for a message from heaven?  Is that the pattern shown in the temple and in scripture?  Or should we consider ourselves as if Adam and Eve respectively and do as they have done?

When I hear these men speak, I pray God will help me discern.  I believe God expects us to become sanctified that in Christ we may be perfected, in part by discerning between truth and error.  But there are those in red seats who may disagree:

05-GCoct-SundayPM-updated

The October 2015 Gen Con Memes are already out, to be tweeted, shared, and promoted so that the digital rock that has been carved out without hands may fill the earth. I sure hope they are doctrinally accurate.

We can choose to believe words that make us feel better or we can choose to believe Christ.  Either way, we do choose, and will be saved or damned by our choices.

If Ye Lack Wisdom, Ask Trained Scholars

BalklardElder Ballard spoke last week to a very large crowd in the Marriott Center.  You can read his entire talk here.

In his remarks, Elder Ballard spends a significant portion of his time “praising the Saints” he says “as Paul did” in Biblical times.

Elder Ballard suggests that the Utah County saints are the most faithful, most affluent, and most blessed among all of God’s people.  He makes the case that our vast wealth in Utah County, and access to hospitals along with our great athletic teams and the Arts and Universities and spacious buildings are the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the desert would blossom as a rose.

It quickly becomes clear that this talk is meant to be of the Boise Rescue variety, wherein Elder Ballard begins to focus on false prophets (i.e. Denver Snuffer) and the need to follow the Brethren, who, as he reminded us in his last conference talk, “cannot lead us astray, the Lord will simply not allow it.”

But there’s a feigned change to his tone when Elder Ballard expresses sympathy for those of us with unanswered questions or concerns:

We have heard stories where someone asking honest questions about our history, doctrine, or practice were treated as though they were faithless. This is not the Lord’s way. As Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man [or woman] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”[9]

We need to do better in responding to honest questions. Although we may not be able to answer every question about the cosmos or about our history, practices, or doctrine, we can provide many answers to those who are sincere.

I have to chuckle when Elder Ballard says “We have heard stories…”  as if to suggest he and the Brethren have had nothing to do with the way Denver Snuffer, Adrian and Tausha Larsen, Rock Waterman, and dozens of others have been treated for “their questions.”  Denver Snuffer’s Passing the Heavenly Gift, for example, is one of the most honest books I’ve ever read that asks sincere questions about the Church’s history.  Is he not being treated by the Brethren as “faithless”? all the while ironically, attempting to provide answers the Brethren have not provided, with the hopes of keeping people from leaving the Church.

But here is the revealing highlight for me from the talk.  Elder Ballard explains what he does when he has questions:

When I have a question that I cannot answer, I turn to those who can help me. The Church is blessed with trained scholars and those who have devoted a lifetime of study, who have come to know our history and the scriptures. These thoughtful men and women provide context and background so we can better understand our sacred past and our current practices.   

Now I get that some of you may rightly argue that Elder Ballard doesn’t mean to suggest that he never asks the Lord when he has a question.  But, don’t you find it peculiar that one who calls himself a “prophet” doesn’t go out of his way to emphasize that when he has a question, he asks the Lord, with whom he speaks regularly?  That’s what it means to be a prophet right?  Is this not the message of the restored Gospel?  That God once again speaks, even face to face, with His servants the prophets…?

This is certainly Nephi’s counsel when his brothers had interesting and difficult historical questions about the House of Israel and the Olive Tree from Lehi’s dream?

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?  And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.  Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?  Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you (1 Nephi 15:8-10)

What’s interesting is that Nephi doesn’t ask his brothers if they’ve asked the prophet Lehi for an answer to their question.  And he doesn’t ask them if they’ve thought about writing a letter to the Rabbinical scholars from Jerusalem for an answer.  He asks, “Have you inquired of the Lord?”

Conversely, Elder Ballard teaches us that when they have tough questions, they don’t always take those questions to the Lord, they often take them to trained scholars, but remind us to rely upon them, the “living prophets,” for the answers.

Maybe soon the Brethren will just cut to the chase and teach: “Follow the Trained Scholars” for they cannot lead us astray.

Elder Ballard concludes his talk with:

It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.

Well, that would be because it’s a lot easier (and safer) to go online to see what trained scholars say than it is to get an appointment with an apostle who apparently is only going to defer to the trained scholars anyway and who might just instruct your stake president to excommunicate you.

The best advice from this talk is to consult the scriptures and I would add “the Lord” as we have questions.  Despite what others may say, He is the only one we can trust.

“I Am Scripture”

Bednar

In a recent meeting Elder Bednar was supposedly asked a question by a sister missionary about women and the priesthood. He’s said to have given his own thoughts about the subject and when he concluded, the sister asked a follow up question.  “Are there any scriptures that talk about this subject?” Elder Bednar responded, “I am scripture.”

Now in fairness to Elder Bednar, I’ve heard this account from two different sources both in attendance at this meeting, and thus I relate the story relying upon second hand information.  If any readers have also heard this same story, please correct or confirm the details.

My first reaction to such a statement is not good.  Yet I fully understand as an LDS person raised in the church, that Elder Bednar is only stating what we teach.  “When a ‘prophet’ speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is scripture.”  Elder Bednar obviously considers himself a prophet and many of us sustain him in that calling.

But, we are also taught that “when any person speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is scripture.”

So why give more credence to the words of Elder Bednar than say… someone else claiming to speak by the Holy Ghost?  The standard LDS answer is “because God’s house is a house of order and that’s why keys are so important.  Whoever has the keys AND speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost is who you listen to.”

For nearly 170 years (post-Joseph), these men we sustain as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators have been able to more or less say “Let it be written, for I am scripture.”  Their Conference talks are immortalized and their words are given as lessons and talks and made into refrigerator magnets all around the world for years and decades to come.

Abundance Oaks

The Immortalized Words of General Conference

But to what end?

For me when someone (and I mean anyone, besides The Lord) says something akin to “I am scripture” the effect is to shut down any and all further communication or questions. The same can be said of many statements we tend to make as Mormons.

I’m reminded of a missionary companion who liked to one-up investigators who disagreed by “boldly” bearing his testimony. Its effect? The conversation usually stopped awkwardly. He taught other missionaries this principle too.  “Whenever you can’t answer a question, just bear your testimony (really hard).”

One time we were having a great discussion with a Catholic gentleman. He was hung up on The Book of Mormon. His questions and concerns were sincere. Then it came. “Sir, I know The Book or Mormon is true beyond a shadow of any doubt and that this church is the only true and living church on the whole earth!” This man replied with his own testimony. “Well, I know The Book of Mormon is NOT true and that your church is NOT the only true church on the whole earth!” My companion was taken aback. I waited for him to say “IS NOT!” like a 4-year old who has no logical arguments left. Fortunately he didn’t.

To be fair, our investigator wasn’t saying he “knew” anything. He was merely demonstrating how strange and immature such grand statements sounded to him and how off-putting they were.  The conversation usually just ends.

Even to members of the church familiar with such bravado, the effect of these traditional tactics can be very damaging.

To say “I know God lives,” five times in a row, for example, while increasing the pauses in between sentences, while climactically raising the tone of your voice each time, may just lead someone to believe you have literally stood in the Lord’s presence. This was a technique I observed from the late Elder Loren C. Dunn. If he had not actually seen God, would this be a good thing to do? Might this cause people to treat someone as a light and heap upon them their praise?

Monson

I spoke to a brother recently who provides security detail for the Brethren when they come to his area. He is a trained police officer. He told me that when an Apostle, Prophet or even a Seventy come nowadays, there are members who try to find out what hotel they are staying in so they can stalk them and try to meet them. He recently had to rescue a visiting GA from an overly excited LDS crowd, literally removing him from danger. The spared GA told this brother that it’s getting worse and worse as they travel around the world.

Curious, I asked why he believed members reacted like this around the Brethren. He said “It’s like they’re rock stars and people think that because they know the Savior, that if they can just touch them, something amazing will happen!” He then went on to say that a full grown man from his stake boasted that he shook Elder Ballard’s hand and was “never going to wash it again.”

Such adoration and idolatry is anti-Zion and anti-Christ. All of us can learn a lesson from this. Maybe you or I are not tempted by GA celebrity status, but our own claims may cause others to look to us as a light instead of to Him.

The Savior’s Example

The Savior of the world epitomized meekness and humility. When he was called “good,” he objected and deflected all praise to God (Matthew 19:17). When he gave talks, he quoted scripture, giving all recognition to the prophet he quoted. This despite the fact that it was He, the Great Jehovah, who had given the quote to begin with.  Unlike any mortal, “prophet or not,” Jesus IS literally the Word of God.  He, and only He, is Scripture.

When Jesus taught He did not often make bold self-promoting proclamations to induce obedience or to enhance his bona fides. Clearly He was entitled to, but He more often said:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. (Matthew 5:21) or “Blessed are the meek…”

He could have just as easily said “I am the Great Jehovah who once commanded you, Thou shalt not kill…” or “I the God of Heaven and Earth command you to be meek now before I pull your temple recommend.”

Jesus does not use His power and authority to compel obedience and adoration.

Although perfect Himself, He invited others to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Jesus speaks in plainness and humility.

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things… (Ether 12:39)

Notice that Moroni’s claims are also plain, overt, and factual. He doesn’t leave the audience guessing whether he did or did not see the Lord.

Some Ideas to Consider

Whether leader or layperson, none of us is perfect.  We can benefit from each others’ feedback and prayers.  It’s a humbling and difficult experience to recognize or be made aware of our weaknesses.  The Brethren need not feel threatened, condemned or judged by our feedback.  They deserve our help as much as we deserve theirs.  Furthermore, it is incumbent upon us to discern when they or anyone act and speak in the Lord’s name, otherwise we do them no favors and we only damn ourselves.

Here are just a few suggestions that I think would help us as members to NOT idolize the Brethren as well as to not set ourselves up as lights unto the world (2 Nephi 26:29).

We should never mislead people about what we know. We should not exaggerate our claims. If we haven’t seen Jesus or Angels, we should not make people believe we have.  We should not mislead others about it by speaking in circles or by emphasizing how special our witness is. Let’s be honest and humble and direct ALL praise to our Lord.  Only He can save.

Most of us can all do better in deflecting compliments and praise. Jesus said we should not even call one another Rabbi, which is to say Master or Teacher (Matthew 23:7). In my ward the CES contingency take turns suggesting that the other is one of the “Great Master Teachers of the Kingdom.” I believe such things to be devilish and destructive and yet all of us are tempted to heap praise upon each other.  It’s our culture.

We should not often call people by their full names preceded with titles. Let’s drop the words president, elder, beloved, prophet, seer, revelator, general authority, etc. from our vocabulary when addressing someone. EVEN Jesus said to not call Him good! Do we really suppose He would have liked to be called Our Beloved President Jesus (add initial) Christ, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, while in mortality?  To do so is to desecrate Him; His calling. Why should we be greater than He?   He was called “Jesus.”  That should serve as our model when speaking to or about each other, no matter our calling.  Titles and initials inflate egos.

Church Leaders not speaking at General Conference would send a powerful message if they did NOT sit on the stand. In fact, they could even dress normally, i.e. not to the nines in expensive suits and dresses (fine twined linen?) and they could serve as Ushers and Parking Attendants and assist the infirm. They should consider standing at the doorways rather than sitting in plush red seats where all can see. Didn’t the Savior teach us to be servants especially when we are viewed as greatest?  (Matthew 32:11).  Let the poor and the elderly sit in those seats.

General Authority families should not be given preferential seats at General Conference. They should not occupy the entire front section of the Conference Center as they currently do. These people should get in line with the rest of us for tickets.  Why not let first year converts or investigators sit in those seats?  Or the handicapped?

NO calling in the church should EVER BE REMUNERATED nor should anyone receive a stipend who teaches or serves in the church (Mosiah 18:24). The church knows that its 80,000+ missionaries and its 3+ million active members of the church tell everyone that what makes us different from all other churches is that no one is paid.  The Brethren KNOW this is what we tell people.  And yet some of us KNOW this is not true.  It’s simply wrong to encourage the lie by not correcting the record.  It’s dishonest.  It’s immoral.  It would be one thing perhaps if the brethren were merely being supported.  This is simply not true.  They earn very large sums of money as a direct result of their callings.  The church needs to come clean and set the record straight and deal with the consequences.

ALL transactions and expenditures ought to be made available for members to see.  Every contract, every piece of property bought or sold, every trip, every personal expense, every stipend, every salary, every bonus, every royalty ought to be made public.

Church leaders should not fly First Class as I have witnessed on more than one occasion.  For those of you that don’t think this possible, here is a recent picture of President Nelson.

13k_Nelson

He’s apparently on an International flight from SLC to Germany, traveling with Elder Hallstrom accompanied by their wives and someone who appears to be Elder Nelson’s bodyguard (far right in the picture) ALL flying First Class.  Retail price of each ticket?  $13,000.  Coach price?  $1300.  What would be wrong with sitting in a regular seat with normal folks?  It would sure save a lot of tithing money.  One ticket at this price is equal to two years of tithing for a person who makes $65,000 per year. Fifty people could have flown for the price likely paid for these five tickets!  One ticket would pay for an entire mission for a young man or young woman who cannot afford it.

Are these men so frail and so important that they can’t sit in a normal airplane seat?  Why not just pay the extra $100 for more leg room?  “But everyone would bother them if they were in coach” one might argue.  But, isn’t that their calling?  To preach the gospel whenever they can?  I’ve heard more than one apostle say we should pray when we get on a flight that we will be able to share the gospel with someone seated next to us.  How does the future prophet of the church do that here surrounded by his wife on his right and protected by hired muscle on his left?

Church leaders should not be served the sacrament first, but rather should bless it and administer it as servants to the congregation as the D&C teaches.

There are many small but important changes the church could make that I believe would both help the church to better conform with scripture as well as prevent people from leaving.  Again, brothers and sisters, it’s our duty as members of Christ’s church to sustain these men in their callings by sharing our concerns.  We need not be angry or revile against anyone.  We can share our concerns with love.  If we don’t, then who will?  Anti-Mormons?  It is far better that we encourage positive change from within by “common consent” than have it imposed upon us by the wrath of God, when it’s likely too late.  We who believe in the Restoration must open our mouths.  Those in the chief seats would do well to stop trying to silence those who offer their concerns.  It’s our church too.  The Savior’s message to the church leaders of his day seems to still apply to us in our day.  Will we heed the call of our Master?

And Jesus said unto his disciples, Beholdest thou the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the priests, and the Levites? They teach in their synagogues, but do not observe the law, nor the commandments; and all have gone out of the way, and are under sin.  Go thou and say unto them, Why teach ye men the law and the commandments, when ye yourselves are the children of corruption?  Say unto them, Ye hypocrites, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  (JST Matthew 7:6-8)