We often forget that Hiram Page was one of the eight witnesses of the Golden Plates. Hiram is best remembered for his peep stone and the revelations he was receiving in 1830, a short time after becoming a witness.
I had forgotten that Oliver Cowdery along with David Whitmer and his family, initially believed in Hiram Page’s revelations. Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for the young prophet Joseph? Here were several men who were supposed to be sober and firm minded, who were not only witnesses of the Golden Plates, but some of whom had also beheld an angel of God, AND YET EVEN THEY COULD NOT DISCERN that Page’s experiences were not from God.
What should WE learn from this?
Here is part of the testimony of the Three Witnesses:
And we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from Heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes.
It doesn’t get much stronger than this in terms of witnesses.
While Page was living with the Whitmers in Fayette, New York, Smith arrived in August 1830 to discover Page using a “seerstone” to receive revelations for the church. The only available detail about the stone was that it was black. The revelations were regarding the organization and location of Zion. Cowdery and the Whitmer family believed the revelations Page had received were true. In response, Joseph Smith, the first president of the church, received a revelation during the conference in September of that year to have Cowdery go to Page and convince him that his revelations were of the devil (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 28:11). At the conference there was considerable discussion on the topic. Page agreed to discard the stone and the revelations he received and join in following Smith as the sole revelator for the church. The members present confirmed this unanimously with a vote. Later, the stone was ground to powder and the revelations purportedly received through it were burned.
In dealing with this matter the Lord tells Joseph:
And again, you shall take your brother Hiram Page, between him and you alone, and tell him that those things which he has written from that stone are not of me, and that Satan deceives him, for behold, those things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church, contrary to the church covenants, for all things must be done in order and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith. And you shall settle all these things according to the covenants of the church, before you shall take your journey among the Lamanites.
Joseph’s ability to discern and get revelations from the True Source, restored peace to the new Church. But, not for long. Page and the Whitmers and eventually Cowdery and many others would turn on Joseph and leave the Church or be excommunicated. Page was later ordained a high priest into the Whitmerite Church of Christ in 1847. He was killed when his wagon tipped over on him years later. Page never denied his witness of the Book of Mormon.
I find it interesting that Hiram Page was not a fraud per se. He was simply deceived. Somehow he obtained a stone, much like Joseph’s, that he was able to receive revelations from. Hiram Page was passionate about knowing where Zion would be and in his zeal, he seemed to be trying to imitate the Lord’s servant Joseph. Hiram knocked and someone answered. “What is wanted?” “Who are you?” “I am the god of this world…” Make no mistake — this stone worked! Hiram was absolutely receiving revelations! Just not from God.
I can scarcely blame Hiram and those who believed him. Would I do any better? Do I do any better? The adversary so often mimics the truth in a way that even the very elect are deceived.
Speaking of the Lord’s elect, look at Mary Magdelene. She was possessed by devils before her Lord healed her. We don’t know the backstory as to how she became filled with devils nor do we know what it may have looked like. None of that is really important.
Being under the influence of the adversary in this world is not something to be ashamed of. It happens to all of us I believe, at some point, in some way. But, it is essential that those demons be cast out. That we discern them as false and want them to be cast out. Their possession of our house prevents us from entering into His presence.
The Lord’s True Messengers will do much more than just receive a few so called revelations. They will do more than produce a few signs–a peep stone, a staff, a book, a blog, a sword and some “plates.” If you want polaroids of “angels” there will be many who shall come with such signs who will teach the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.
But if you wish to discern, true messengers will speak with the tongue of Angels and their words, once feasted upon, will produce in you, a change of heart where you lose your desire and disposition to do evil. If we stay on this course, those same angels whose message we accepted through true messengers, will appear to us and we shall give unto them the signs and tokens (Try the Spirits) and we shall hopefully pass by them successfully into the presence of the Lord.
Sadly discernment is a scarce commodity in a world so filled with darkness and there are many who think they do the Lord’s work, who are employed by the devil.
Maurico Berger, whose name ironically means “Dark Shepherd,” is just another deceived servant of the god of this world. There are many others just like him who will continue to lead souls away from the truth using counterfeit tactics that mimic and mock God.
One of the definitions of the word idol is “an object of extreme devotion.” The term is most often used today when referencing movie stars and other famous people.
In the scriptures, we’re taught to not have idols or graven images and are commanded to not even trust in the arm of the flesh.
I think we often assume that idolatry can only exist when we give praise or devotion to someone or something that is wicked.
Is it possible, though, that we as Mormons have allowed our leaders to become idols and are practicing idolatry without realizing it? Do we give excessive devotion, praise, money, time, energy, and attention to our church leaders?
How much money was spent on President Nelson’s 95th Birthday party a couple of months ago for example? How much attention and extreme devotion was given to him on that occasion?
But it’s not just the President of the Church that gets special reverance. Many if not ALL of the Leaders of our church get this kind of praise. Certainly members of the 70 and up.
When any member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles walks into a room, people stand in reverence. When meetings are adjourned, people wait for them to stand before they’ll stand. When they leave a room, people often also stand and wait for them to exit the building or will line up to try to meet them / get a picture with them.
When the Prophet recently came to BYU, MANY of the students wore church dress clothes to classes that day. 100s of people waited at the doors of the Marriott Center starting in the wee hours of the morning to make sure they got in to see the prophet.
Is any of this healthy? Would it be wrong to NOT stand when an apostle enters the room? It was recently pointed out by a General Authority that according to Church policy or tradition, it is, in fact, wrong to NOT stand when an Apostle enters a room.
I recall an Apostle coming to our ward. It was shortly after he’d been called and was returning to his home ward for the first time since his call to the Quorum of the Twelve. I was surprised when a hush came over the congregation and when everyone stood up and reverenced this man we all had known for so many years. It was very uncomfortable for me. I couldn’t bring myself to stand and found myself feeling even more uncomfortable when I was the only one still sitting down.
What might the scriptures teach us about this type of reverence towards a man? King Benjamin would remind us that he was no greater than those he served and that he worked to support himself and his own family. I think also he’d remind us that as humans we are less than the dust of the earth. His words, once properly understood, would bring us to the dust not bowing to a man, but bowing to God in a plea to be saved from our filthiness.
The scriptures also remind us of what happened when John the Beloved tried to give an Angel a reverential greeting:
And he says unto me, Write: Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, Do you not see that I am your fellow servant? And of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus? Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 7:10).
My interpretation of the Angel’s words are “Get up, please don’t worship me or give me praise! Praise God and worship Him alone, I am just like you, a servant of the Almighty.” (It’s interesting how even the word servant takes on new meaning when we exalt them).
I would love to see an Apostle so uncomfortable when a congregation stands in hushed reverence for him that he motions them to sit down and pleads with them to please never stand for him again because he is intended to be our servant not our Master.
When they speak in Conference and elsewhere, their words are considered Scripture.
I recently spoke to a man who had been married to a current Apostle’s daughter. Sadly it ended in a bitter divorce. He told me that his ex-wife and her siblings printed out the General Authority talks and put them in binders to be studied thoroughly for the next 6 months. They taught the words of these modern-day leaders to their children as if every word came from God Himself. Their words are considered Holy Scripture for many Latter-day Saints, more important than the Standard Works because they are viewed as Living Oracles.
In my own experience, this is absolutely what I believed for many years. It’s also what I was instructed to do by my leaders. But, are their words Scripture? Or are their words just precepts of men? Things they’ve learned along the way…
I can think of many reasons and examples for why this teaching might promote idolatry and how treating their every word as scripture could cause many to be led astray.
Let’s just look at some obvious examples:
Brigham Young on Polygamy
Brigham Young taught in General Conference that if the Church ever abandoned Polygamy, it would lose its Priesthood and fall. He said, “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).
Are these words of scripture? Does the Church still stand by these words of a prophet?
Brigham Young said he had never given any counsel that was wrong
“I am here to answer. I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people. If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 161).
And yet he taught people that Adam is God the Father:
“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken–He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).
And he prophesied falsely:
“In the days of Joseph [Smith] it was considered a great privilege to be permitted to speak to a member of Congress, but twenty-six years will not pass away before the Elders of this Church will be as much thought of as the kings on their thrones,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 40).
The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet
More recently we see other words that were taught as Scripture from Conference in homes all around the world by prophets ONLY later to be overturned by the Living Prophet.
But this bomb wasn’t set by Mark Hofmann. It was set by Ezra Taft Benson, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The trigger was his famous speech, The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, which he delivered to a packed house at BYU’s Marriott Center on February 26, 1980. But the bomb itself went off in President Spencer W. Kimball’s office at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City when he heard of it.
President Kimball was “concerned about Elder Benson’s February 1980 talk at BYU” and wanted “to protect the Church against being misunderstood as espousing . . . an unthinking ‘follow the leader’ mentality.”[i]
President Kimball required Elder Benson to explain himself to a combined meeting of all general authorities the following week. Additionally, President Kimball asked Elder Benson to apologize to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but they “were dissatisfied with his response.”[ii]
A Little Background
What was it about Elder Benson’s talk that made President Kimball concerned it would be “misunderstood” as espousing “an unthinking follow the leader mentality”?
A brief survey of the talk should answer that question.
President Benson told his audience of 25,000 that the “grand key” to being crowned with God’s glory and being “victorious in spite of Satan’s fury” was to “follow the prophet.” President Benson then broke this one “grand key” down into fourteen “aspects” which he summarized at the end of his speech as follows, adding that “our salvation depends on them.”
The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
The prophet will never lead the church astray.
The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.
The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
The prophet may advise on civic matters.
The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.
The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.
It is easy to see why President Kimball would be exercised at the content of this speech. He had just been portrayed to the world as a man whose words were more important than the standard works; more important than any other prophet in history; more important on any subject than what anybody else has ever said anytime or anywhere, regardless of their expertise; and whose every word could be considered scripture.
In effect, Elder Benson had just bestowed on President Kimball the thorny crown of infallibility. Elder Benson had presented a false depiction of the true nature of prophets. His Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet were actually Fourteen Fundamentals in Falsifying the Prophet.
And President Kimball was none too pleased about it.
But other than his private vetting of concerns and complaints, President Kimball apparently took no action to publicly repudiate, clarify, or distance the Church from Elder Benson’s fallacious statements.
Most recently Elder Gary Stevenson said this of President Nelson:
Commandments and Blessings
How might you find this heavenly help, even as Moses did, and not be deceived or give in to temptation? A clear channel for divine assistance was reaffirmed in this dispensation by the Lord Himself when He declared: “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments.”12 Using simpler words, we might say that the Lord, who knows “the end from the beginning,”13 knows the unique difficulties of our day. Therefore, He has provided a way for us to resist challenges and temptations, many of which come as a direct result of the deceitful influences of the adversary and his attacks.
The way is simple. Through His servants, God speaks to us, His children, and gives us commandments. We could restate the verse I just quoted to say, “I the Lord … called upon my servant [President Russell M. Nelson], and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments.” Isn’t that a glorious truth?
I bear solemn witness that the Lord did in all reality speak to Joseph Smith from heaven, beginning with the grand First Vision. He also speaks to President Nelson in our time. I testify that God communed with prophets in past ages and gave them commandments designed to lead His children to happiness in this life and glory in the next.
God continues to give commandments to our living prophet today. Examples abound—a more home-centered, Church-supported balance in gospel instruction; the replacement of home and visiting teaching with ministering; adjustments to temple procedures and ordinances; and the new Children and Youth program. I marvel at the goodness and compassion of a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, who restored the Savior’s Church to earth once again and have called a prophet in our day. The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ offsets perilous times with the fulness of times.
What’s most interesting about this quote from Elder Stevenson is how he presumes that no one should have any issues with comparing President Nelson to Joseph Smith. Nephi does tell us to liken the scriptures to ourselves, right? But is this what is intended by that invitation?
Can we simply input our names anywhere in the scriptures and have it be true?Could I put my name in Joseph’s place and also have it be true?Could we put Russell M. Nelson’s name where Noah’s name or Abraham’s or Jesus’ or Korihor’s name appears and have it be true?
I know what idea Elder Stevenson is preaching and it’s always felt wrong to me. He’s suggesting that because President Nelson is a prophet, anything said of Joseph as a prophet can also be applied to him—since they are both of this same Holy Order, so to speak.
This concept has never totally resonated for me. For example as a missionary I shared the glorious story of Joseph Smith‘s first vision and how the heavens were literally opened to this young boy. He actually saw God the Father and His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ and an innumerable host of angels. Just prior to that his soul was almost lost in hell it seemed and he was nearly overcome with darkness. Evil thoughts filled his head and he was sure he would perish. But then a pillar of light descended upon him gradually.
I often shared that Joseph was a special young boy. At a tender young age he went through an illness and surgery with no medicine that led to bones being cut out of his leg. He limped the rest of his life. He lost his dearest brother Alvin at a young age because of Doctor malpractice. His family was so poor they moved several times. His father had their life savings stolen from them in a ginseng deal gone bad. Etc.
Joseph’s life was and is one I consider amazing. He was tarred and feathered for his vision and beaten by mobs too many times to count. He lost 6 children, one of which was caused by a mob breaking into his tiny home. And of course he would eventually be betrayed by nearly every convert and every friend he ever had and would give his life for the church.
And then as a good young missionary I would say in effect “And as a result of Joseph’s vision, Joseph became a prophet and God established His true church through him.”……. “and because God restored his authority to earth and set up his true church, we have a true prophet today just like Joseph smith. His name is Ezra Taft Benson.”
I always felt a little guilty especially when I’d share this teaching and the person’s response was one of awe and reverence. “A true prophet on the earth today? Wow!” And all this was achieved by sharing the wonderful story about Joseph.
So when Elder Stevenson makes the stretch that we can simply place Russell M. Nelson’s name in wherever we find Joseph’s in scripture should not be a surprise to anyone. Even if illogical and not based on doctrine.
It’s ironic how we teach that today we need a modern prophet to receive revelation for our time. Noah received revelation pertinent to his day and his time. Moses to his. But our times are not their times. So we say. And yet at the same time, we conveniently apply the revelation given to Joseph to our prophet today.
Likening the scriptures to ourselves is so we can humbly apply powerful lessons or teachings to our lives, not to elevate ourselves.
1 And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?
2 Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.
We might say “Let us be faithful as was Jesus when He did not shrink from the bitter cup” which takes nothing from our Lord and in no way elevates us. Such a likening can give us strength. But to say Russell M Nelson is just like Christ because he drank from the bitter cup of being our prophet is simply blasphemous.
No wonder so much opportunity for idolatry. We assume too much of ourselves and those who lead us. We give them too much reverence. Too much of our devotion.Joseph would reject such devotion. His teachings led to his death as most true prophets messages do. If people are standing and cheering for you when you walk into a stadium or into a room then your message may not be from God.
1 Nephi 22:23
23 For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.
3 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.
While many view him as a modern-day Judas, Mitt Romney sees himself apparently as Peter, the perfect stone — “Pierre Delecto,” a secret pen name chosen by his truly.
This is not the first time Mitt Romney has come off as self-righteous or strange. Remember when he was asked what his greatest weakness was as a presidential candidate? His reply was that his greatest weakness was that he “had so few weaknesses.”
Is this kind of self-delusion a common theme among Mormons? If so, what causes it? Do we think ourselves superior because “we have the truth?” Is it a feeling that we’re somehow extra special as God’s children with a manifest destiny to convert the world to Mormonism? Is it because we’re clean-cut, well dressed, success-driven, and don’t drink or smoke?
Mitt Romney, sadly, is a terrible example of Mormonism in my opinion (and this is coming from someone who defended him and voted for him every time there was the opportunity) — he is traitorous, petty, self-righteous, lacking in discernment and judgment, duplicitous, backstabbing and disloyal. In real life, he may be a really nice guy, but he is a pathetic advocate for truth at a time when our nation needs inspired leaders. Maybe he does really like to hunt squirrels, but surely he will never ride a white horse and save the Consitution.
There are some today, apparently, who see themselves as beautiful stones in the Lord’s hands. I don’t feel such a confidence in them or in myself. Pierre Defecto would be a truer description for myself.
I’ve always been curious about this idea of False Christs. I personally have never heard anyone falsely claim that they were the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not familiar with any historical figure who believed himself to be the Savior, besides the Lord Himself. I assume they exist, but surely it’s not a very common occurrence.
And yet in the scriptures, we’re warned to beware of False Christs that will come in the Last Days.
For in those days there shall also arise false christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake (Mark 6:4).
The Words of Mormon 1:6 describes how pernicious these false christs were in ancient American times:
And it came to pass that after there had been false christs — and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes — and after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people — and all these having been punished according to their crimes — and after there having been much contentions and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people — for behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority, and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people — wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.
So what is a false christ exactly? Does a person need to proclaim they are Christ in order for them to be a false christ?
A friend of mine recently shared the following helpful idea regarding this question:
Those who claim “leadership” and want people to ”follow” them put themselves in the place of Christ. They are, in effect, a false Christ. It was prophesied they would come in the last days to deceive the “very elect” as false Messiahs (see Matthew 11:3,6).
I also recently learned that “christ” simply means anointed or made holy. Jesus Christ is simply the Greek form of “Joshua the Anointed.”
If we change the word to more aptly fit our day, we might say:
“Beware of people who say they are Anointed by God, but who are not, and thus who are false prophets and false christs.”
The 16th Chair
I think it would be a true statement that our leaders are “anointed” if in fact, Jesus visits them and personally anoints them. Joseph Smith taught that a prophet of God is ordained by God Himself and not by a man. If this is or was the case with our prophets, I think calling them anointed or Christened would be appropriate.
But IF they are not…
I was reminded this week that some members still believe Jesus DOES visit LDS Church leaders on a regular basis.
I met with a man who worked as a contractor in a Salt Lake Temple remodel. He said he had been in the very room where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet on Thursday mornings. This is the room referred to when the Apostles speak of the Upper Rooms of the Salt Lake Temple. It’s always referred to by them very reverentially. This contractor told me he was puzzled when he counted the chairs in the room and noted there were 16, not 15 chairs. He remarked that the large ornate chair in the middle was the one he assumed the Prophet sat in.
Then this man stated that he was related to an Apostle through marriage and at a later date was able to ask him why there were 16 chairs in this room. The Apostle then went on to explain that the large chair in the center was the Lord’s and that “He always attends those meetings.” He went on to say that he was told “unequivocally” by this Apostle that the Lord leads those meetings, looks over blueprints, tells them where to buy land, makes political decisions, etc.. This sweet man, who I know has many personal trials in his life right now, became teary-eyed as he bore his testimony to me of these truths.
I looked at this man inquisitively and tried to have an open heart and mind. I wanted to believe him. I would have believed him 10 years ago before I became the bishop of a prominent Church leader. And then came a flood of thoughts that quickly created quandaries for me:
If the Lord is literally in those meetings and is leading the Church in such a personal way, then why does the Church get so many things wrong? E.g. Why flip flop on children of gay parents being able to be baptized? Why struggle to know if we should stay in Scouting or not? Why the need to make so many adjustments in the Temple ceremony? Or to the structures of the Church? Why change the garment? Why remove threads and screenprint the marks? Why buy the wrong websites, i.e. LDS.org? Why use the word Mormon incorrectly for so long when referring to the Church? Why does the Church do things that seem politically expedient if being led, literally, by the Lord?
So, here’s where I think some Mormons make a very big mistake. They have so humanized this Jesus, that they believe He is not much greater than the rest of us. He’s our “Elder Brother” not much further along than ourselves. Prone to mistakes and bad judgment apparently. So human that He puts on His spectacles and rolls up His sleeves and sits in that 16th Chair and leads the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ.org as THE CEO. Surely He is never late to those meetings and hopefully, He wears the uniform of the Priesthood–a white shirt and a tie and a finely twined suit from Mr. Mac’s.
Is this why we see ourselves as Pierre Delecto rather than Dust Defecto? Because Jesus is our CEO and we are not much less than Him as His leaders?
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 nomoredisposition 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 mightyin 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:
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!
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?
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)
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.
Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you (Alma 34:31, my emphasis added).
And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men (2 Nephi 33:1, emphasis mine).
He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever (D&C 88:41).
Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy (Alma 36:18-21).
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead (Alma 22:18, emphasis mine).
I love the scriptures, particularly these few I have included. I don’t read them enough. I certainly don’t feast as I should. They give me hope when I make them my focus.
At the end of the day, it’s not about what we think we know, it’s about WHO we know. The scriptures testify of redemption through the atonement of our Savior. All things point to Him. The only way out of this creation is through Him.
No matter where we are we can turn to Him. He is our Redeemer. I don’t think He cares so much if we are a liar, fornicator, drunk, or hypocrite. He simply wants us to seek His redeeming grace, come unto Him, and to be healed of our sins and tendencies.
I’m overwhelmed to think that we can give Him our baggage. That He has already paid the price.
I spoke to a Christian minister this week who runs a bookstore. He is convinced that Mormons will go to Hell simply because they believe that they must “work out their salvation.” I guess I agree that we must somehow figure out how to receive His grace, rather than His justice, BUT I cannot wrap my head around the idea of simply “accepting” His grace. In his mind, just accept His grace and don’t worry about the rest.
I offered the idea that maybe our “work” is to surrender to Him, He rejected the idea of anything that involved “work.”
I don’t know about you, but “working” out our salvation — to me — seems require some effort on our part and takes an enormous amount of the sweat of the brow.
Look at the comments on this blog as an example: So many ideas and voices for how it works. Bishops, former bishops, leaders, lay members: people of all persuasions and nationalities, effectively disagreeing on what is and what isn’t. All of us trying figure out how it works. What ideas are correct and incorrect. Who is a fraud and who is sent.
When it comes to the idea of works, here’s where I am today — I think it all comes down to what does our faith produce?
Do we have works that follow after our faith? Do we possess the fruits of the Spirit of God? See Galatians 5:22-26:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Are you loving? I don’t care if you think you have some important position or reputation, if you do not show me love, perhaps you do not possess the Love of God or the Spirit as you may suppose.
Are you joyful? Despite the trials? Despite the pain? Is your pain swallowed up in your joy? (I struggle with all these but this one in particular. My lack of joy at times seems to mirror my lack of trust in God)
Do you have peace? Despite your longsuffering? What do you know about suffering? Do you often wonder what tomorrow will bring? Do you feel vulnerable? Have you been falsely accused? Falsely slandered? Mocked? Brought to the tribunal by your enemies? Have you suffered pain beyond description? Unsure if you will make it? Unsure if you will be able to provide for those you love?
Are you gentle? Or are you quick to injure? Do you retaliate when you feel threatened? Or do you respond with kindness and humility?
Are you temperate? Have you overcome the passions of the flesh? Or do you define yourself by what your flesh still yearns for? Falling into the trap of assuming your desires and appetites are greater than who you really are.
In my opinion, IF YOUR IDEAS DO NOT BRING FORTH THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, then your seed just might be dead, your faith non-existent, your works of no worth. The only thing that seems to matter is whether we obtain faith unto salvation or not (1 Peter 1:5). Notice FAITH comes before repentance.
We can all talk a good game and we can hold onto our gospel hobbies and ideas, BUT if we do not REPENT of our sins, WITH FAITH preceding REPENTANCE, then we will remain in our present state, with no redemption, experiencing no true change in our nature.
We will remain self-righteous and pompous — sounding good (sounding brass), BUT WHO KNOW NOT GOD.
I’m humbled by these ideas. I’m not there yet. But somehow I believe that the scriptures can help us learn true repentance. Not repentance by the definitions we often employ. But a true change in disposition. A rebirth.
I think that learning to distinguish between truth and error is a key. We must discern between true and false messages and messengers.
I also believe our faith will come as a result of our willingness to sacrifice. In some cases that sacrifice may come as a result of our having chosen to believe an obscure witness, as did Alma with Abinadi.
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator).
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).
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 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.
I’ve mentioned before that I have two deal breaking issues with the Church.
Do the Brethren see the Lord or not?
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.
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.
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:
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 onesenine 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.