Tag Archives: False Doctrine

Defending Freedom

Washington

It is my belief that the Constitution is an inspired document akin to scripture.  As Latter-day Saints we ought to be particularly mindful to defend its principles, knowing that the failure to do so will lead to our destruction.  This is the message and warning of the Book of Mormon to the Gentiles who have inherited this land of promise.

A man I respect greatly recently admonished that “If you can see the problem, you should speak up. Help others to understand the path we are on will end with collapse and violence.”  He was addressing other issues, but I think the advice to speak out applies to ALL topics affecting our Constitutional freedoms.

The following letter was written and sent to the First Presidency.  I share it with permission from the author who wishes to remain anonymous.  I think the letter is outstanding and lays out a very compelling argument that needs to be heard and considered.  I applaud his courage and hope the Brethren will not retaliate for his sharing his concerns.  I also hope more freedom loving people will express their concerns to the men tasked with leading the church in these matters.

Dear Brethren,

I write to you regarding the Church’s position taken in Utah regarding the rights of the religious to determine whom they will hire and to whom they will rent. As I understand, some of the general authorities of the Church influenced the legislature to take the position that it is permissible to force employers to hire LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders) and for landlords to be forced to rent to the same group, even if they object to doing so because of religious reasons. I also believe that the Church similarly supported exempting religious and educational institutions from this requirement.

Assuming I have my facts straight, I would urge you to reconsider. D&C 134 is considered scripture by the members of the Church. Verse 2 states:

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

All subsequent mention of verses will refer to D&C 134, unless otherwise specified.

If we believe that the right and control of property is an essential aspect of freedom, why did the Church’s leaders move to restrict such? And if the leaders thought there was some good reason to support such a restriction, why did they exempt their own organization? Are the rights of the People somehow subordinate to the rights of one group which they have created?

This section in the D&C talks of the need for the government to respect the conscience of the People. Surely men and women have the right to follow their conscience in this matter. Surely man-made laws, such as public accommodation laws, do not trump God-given laws in this matter. If a person is not permitted to allow his/her religion to inform his conduct in this matter, where is such informing allowed? And what boundaries does the government have to respect? If the right to control property is excepted in this instance, is there really any such right?

Verse 7 talks about the need for government to protect the “citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief“. If Latter-Day Saints or Catholics or Baptists feel a need to manifest that belief in their landlord or employer duties, is not the government duty bound to protect them? Is it not their property/employment position? Do they not have the right to determine to whom it goes? And if it does not go to a certain individual, the latter’s rights have not been violated because it is not their property or position. Why, then, have you supported the government violating its duty?

And while this law supposedly applies to members of all religious societies, so that all of them are affected, has not this law enabled the denial of individual rights of the members of all societies, which is spoken against in verse 9 (We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby … the individual rights of its members, as citizens, [are] denied)?

Verse 10 talks about the conduct of religious societies, how they have not the right to “try men on the right of property“.

10 We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

Yet it seems to me that you have done just that, only using the arm of the law to accomplish what by scripture you could not do. If you thought the act of denying rentals or jobs to LGBT was against our religion, why did you not simply excommunicate the offenders, or instruct stake presidents and bishops to do so?

This action, that you have engaged in, is sad from another perspective. Normally men/women are to appeal to the civil law when the right of property is infringed (verse 11 – We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed). But what does one do when the infringer is the law itself? Furthermore we are warned to not engage in sedition and rebellion, while protected in our rights (verse 5 – We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly). So what are citizens to do when the government itself is the aggressor and offender of rights?

I come to you as a convert and member of 46+ years. I served a mission in xxxx and have served the Church in various callings over the years. I’m just an ordinary member. For most of my life I would never have dreamed of writing such a letter to you. But I learned my love for the constitution by reading talks of earlier leaders such as J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay, Ezra Taft Benson and others. These verses in the D&C became some of my favorite ones:

D&C 98

4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.

5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.

10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

D&C 101

77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

D&C 109

54 Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.

I served my country on active duty for 7+ years in the Army (and later in the Army Reserve) and taught soldiers under my care about the Constitution which we had all sworn an oath to defend and protect.

Never in my life would I have imagined that the leaders of my Church, who are acknowledged as prophets, seers and revelators, would become the enemies of that same Constitution which I hold as sacred and which I pledged to defend and protect.

So I am in a quandary. I know the teachings of not correcting someone who is higher in authority than myself. I also know this scripture:

D&C 88:81 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.

I have been moved in my heart to so warn you. I know I am nothing but the Lord is the Almighty and He will not be mocked. When I asked Him about telling you these things, He said:

“warn your brethren that their course leads to hell and the enemy of their soul. It is not of Me.”

Brethren, I want the best for you. Please consider these things.

The Boise Rescue

Boise Rescue

Some of you are aware that Elder Oaks and church historian Richard Turley made a special trip this weekend to Boise, Idaho to try to resolve questions of faith apparently prevalent in that area.  You can listen to the presentation made by Elder Oaks and Brother Turley by clicking here.

I’ve listened to the presentation in its entirety and will just summarize some of the main arguments made which I’ve paraphrased or quoted below.  I make some comments in parentheses following the emboldened points:

  • For apostates “It’s always, ‘I have a better way than the current leaders.'”  (Apparently Abinadi, Lehi, Alma , John the Baptist, and Jesus were apostates by this definition because they disagreed with church leadership.  Thank God Jesus believed He was “the Way” and was willing to show us His better way.  Did Joseph Smith seek to provide a better way than the churches of his day?)
  • Some people say that Brigham Young didn’t hold keys to have authority over the church? ‘Answer – Well then who had them!? If he didn’t then there was no authority on earth.’  (I don’t find this answer very satisfying – it’s as if to say “Because we claim authority, then we must have it.  This shows me the church is unwilling to consider another narrative even though other possibilities may be more accurate and might just help us better understand God’s plan for us.  I wish Elder Oaks had addressed the controversies surrounding the succession in more detail.  If the argument is Brigham had the keys all along then why take 3 1/2 years to make Brigham President?  If Brigham always had the keys then why did he say “We’ve lost the keys…” when he heard Joseph was killed, followed with “Oh wait, the 12 have the keys”?  If the 12 had the keys, then why didn’t they transfer them to Brigham, or ordain him?  If the 12 had the keys, wouldn’t it be important that the 12 unanimously sustain BY?  And then ordain him?  John Taylor and other apostles opposed BY succeeding Joseph.  Does that matter?  Addressing the authenticity of section 110 added many years after Joseph’s death, addressing why Emma and Lucy didn’t believe BY to be fit to succeed Joseph, discussing how BY in the beginning argued the succession belonged to Joseph III and that anyone coming in as president would do so as caretaker until Joseph III was old enough…  So much more that should have been discussed in my opinion.  This is a really important issue for people struggling with their testimonies as it pertains to keys.)
  • The idea that the current prophet has strayed and needs to be replaced is a tool that Satan has always used.  (And yet it is Jesus who teaches us to beware of false prophets and to judge whether a prophet is true or false by his fruits.  When Apostle Lyman committed adultery/bigamy as a “prophet” for 18 years before being caught and excommunicated and Spencer Kimball replaced him in 1943, were those who replaced this prophet using a tool of Satan?  The church now conveniently disparages Brigham Young regarding his views on race.  Is the church using a tool of Satan by suggesting BY strayed on this issue?  To argue that a “prophet” is infallible is an issue for many people in and out of the church, myself included.)
  • It’s okay to not see the Savior in this life.  Those who teach otherwise are using a common technique deployed by apostates.  It’s great to want to see the Savior, but it’s not necessary.  (I wish Elder Oaks had used a single scripture here to justify his statement.  The Book of Mormon seems to strongly disagree.  How is this desire apostate?  Doesn’t such a question deserve more attention rather than just saying this is an apostate technique.)
  • Modern apostles are called to witness of the name of Christ. Not a personal witness. Witness His name is to witness of the plan of Christ.  (A little confusing.)
  • Of course Apostles are also witnesses of Christ as are all members of the church because we have the Holy Ghost.  (So how is their witness any different than most members if at all?)
  • Today we are counseled to not tell people that we have witnessed Christ. Otherwise people can put it on the Internet and that will violate Savior’s commandment to not cast pearls before swine.  (One of my biggest issues with the church is this endless back and forth, double speak…  Have you seen the Savior or not?  If you have, and don’t want to have sacred things mocked, I respect that.  But if you have NOT seen the Lord and yet clearly lead us to believe you have by providing these kinds of responses, then when members read LDS history and find that LDS prophets generally aren’t seeing the Lord, this becomes a significant stumbling block.  Frankly it makes people feel like they’ve been lied to.  It seems fair to say that likely not all the 12 and 70 have seen the Lord.  So why don’t more of them tell us they have not rather than lead people to believe they have?)
  • Following someone other than Lord’s servants is a sign of apostasy.  (Why not following someone other than the Lord is apostasy?  Again, provide some scriptures here please.)
  • When you follow false prophets; when you are on the road to apostasy, you are on the wrong side.  “I know about being on the wrong side. One time I sat on the wrong side of the cow when I was milking it.”  — Elder Oaks
  • If we stay with and follow the current leaders of the church we will receive salvation and eternal life.
  • The number of our latter-day temples is a sign of the truthfulness of the church.
  • “Reasonable questions are okay, doubts are darkness.”
  • Apostasy is chaos.  The example of the pharisees of Jesus’ day was used to suggest that these apostate leaders pointed to Abraham as their father.  (I think a better example would be to say that Jesus’ apostasy from the Jewish Church was viewed as dark and chaotic by the wicked men who did not realize they were apostate).
  • “They are not to teach their own doctrines. They are to teach from the scriptures…further they are to teach church articles.”  (I’m not sure what Elder Oaks intends here, but if it is to say that we should teach the General Conference edition of The Ensign or The Handbook of Instructions, over the Scriptures,  I’d have to disagree.)
  • The Lord’s principle of order is… church led by prophets, authority comes from prophets, prophet voted for and sustained by members, teach what prophets tell you, come in by gate known to prophets, not some secret gate.  (The only gate I’m aware of that matters is the one where He employs no servant.)

I’ll be interested to see what others’ thoughts are on this special Boise meeting and the contents of the presentation.  I find it interesting that the efforts of the church do not seem to be to reclaim those they consider apostate, but rather only seem intent on preventing others from leaving.  If the effort was to reclaim those they’ve lost they would do so with patience and persuasion without calling them preposterous and apostate and other names while not addressing their sincere concerns.  I know many good people who do have faith in the Restoration, in Joseph Smith’s mission, in The Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price, who are looking for reasons to stay in the church.  I think not digging deep to make more compelling arguments is short-sighted.

 

 

The Truman Show

Truman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“President, how do they become special witnesses?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, then my stake president dropped the stage light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Smith taught:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph taught:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Defending Joseph

joseph grove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph also wrote:

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

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

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

martyrdom

Will I go to Heaven? YES!

Will I go to heaven

Do we believe in hell? Click here to read more…

I went out with the missionaries tonight and ended up having a very interesting discussion.  Over the course of our conversation one of the young elders said he believed that because God is a God of mercy, most of His children would be saved in the Celestial Kingdom.

He said he viewed it as an upside down triangle where most people enter in and only a few go to “Hell.”  Curious, I asked what brought this missionary to this conclusion.  He said he’d been taught this idea at BYU by his religion professor and by many others in the church throughout his life.

The church states the following on its website on the topic of Heaven and Hell:

“Will I go to heaven?” Yes! God will judge all men fairly and reward them appropriately with a place within His kingdom.

Will I go to heaven 2

Click above to go to website

I think the declaration on its website, using an exclamation mark that “Yes!, everyone will go to heaven,” begs the question, “Do Mormons really believe in Hell?”  Based on the church’s comment above coupled with prevalent teachings I hear from others in the church, I’d have to say we technically do not.  But is this truly what the scriptures teach?  For example:

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. (2 Nephi 28:22)

I should make a caveat here.  I do not believe the church is teaching, like my young missionary friend, that all or most will go to the Celestial Kingdom.  I think the church is claiming that ALL will go to a kingdom of glory, or in their own words, all will enjoy a degree of Heaven, far better than this earthly existence.

So where did this teaching or idea come from?  All of us are familiar with the faith promoting rumor often attributed to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young “that if we could see the Telestial Kingdom, we would be tempted to kill ourselves to get there.”  Here’s what a quick search on Holy Fetch brings up to provide some background on this teaching:

“There may be some truth to this statement, but the only record we have of it being uttered, unfortunately, is a third-hand account from Charles W. Walker in 1877. He wrote the following in his journal:

And on Friday last while speaking at the Funeral of Matilda Moody [Brother Woodruff] said we should improve the present time and do all we could for our dead ere death called us away. He referred to a saying of Joseph Smith which he heard him utter (like this) That if the People knew what was behind the vail, they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there, but the Lord in his wisdom had implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their creator.”

You’ll note that this statement was recorded more than 30 years after it was allegedly originally said, and that it’s Brother Charles Walker, saying what he “heard” Brother Woodruff at a funeral, recall what he heard Joseph Smith say.  That makes this statement now (coming from me) fourth hand information.  Yet, the idea the Telestial Kingdom is a kingdom of incomprehensible glory it seems has become our doctrine.  This is in large part, in my opinion, because of this idea from what we “heard” Joseph once taught.

Despite disagreements over how many are saved in each kingdom, I think most of us agree that all of God’s children do go to one of the three kingdoms of God, namely the Telestial, Terrestrial, or Celestial, save those sons of perdition (D&C 76).  But, the question becomes whether the Telestial Kingdom is a literal kingdom of glory or if it is Hell, where its entrants experience eternal torment and endless punishment.

Endowed members will recognize the statement that the Telestial Kingdom is “the world in which we now live.”  I think this is a very strong clue.  Is this fallen world glorious?

I like Paul’s and other prophets’ descriptions on the subject.  There are those whose “bodies” are Celestial and Terrestrial, who condescend to this world with great advantages, and yet who will make great sacrifices for the progression of less advanced spirits being tried and proven in this dark and fallen world (see 1 Nephi 1:9-10).

I think if we had any idea what the eternal implications of our being “sentenced” to here were (rather than “called” perhaps), I think we would preach day and night to ensure that NO ONE, not a single SOUL, would be required to come here without great protection and advantages.

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. (Mosiah 28:3)

I personally do not believe that all of God’s children go to “Heaven.”  I am of course using a different definition than the church for the term in question.  I disagree with the general way this doctrine is now taught and apparently understood in the church.  I sincerely believe it is dangerous to faith and to our growth.  If in fact true, ironically, the LDS Church may be the only church I know of that does not believe in Hell.

Here are some more good scriptures on this topic:

2 Nephi 28:8,9,22, 23

Matthew 7:13-14

2 Nephi 33:9

3 Nephi 14:14,21

Helaman 3:29

Luke 13:23,24

Luke 18:25-27

D&C 132:25