Tag Archives: Joseph Smith

How Shall I Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Ether 13:3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ether 12:22-28 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the two different passages:

Oliver’s Account:

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

Joseph’s Account:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we do the same today?

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

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

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

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

Joseph lamented:

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

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

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

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

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

…the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word;

On the other hand:

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

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

May we remember that:

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

AND that:

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

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

A Temple

There’s been a lot of discussion of late regarding a new temple fund that both members and non-members are donating to.  Before the LDS Church established tithing as the mechanism to pay for temples, “temple funds” were very common.

In the early days of the Church and according to Malachi, tithing was for the purpose of bringing “meat into the storehouse” so as to care for the poor.  Whereas a temple fund was for the purpose of building “a” temple.  Once that temple was completed (i.e. Kirtland), the temple fund was no longer needed.

Of course today, the Church has decided to bring the temples to the people.  This is a subject for a different day, but suffice it to say that this idea does not seem to reconcile with scripture nor with anything Joseph Smith taught.  There is no prophecy I know of that says temples will dot the earth, from Joseph, Jesus, or in the Holy Scriptures.  The prophecy as I understand it, is to build temples in two places, New and Old Jerusalem.

Understandably there are many who are worried that some random group starting a temple fund seems premature at best and inappropriate (and/or crazy) at worst.  After all, “we don’t have the authority to build a temple or to create Zion, that’s the Church’s stewardship”… right?

I can certainly relate to those who have concerns about this project.

On one hand, it’s amazing to think that at some point if we’re lucky enough in our lifetime, a new temple will be built in the New Jerusalem on this the American continent.  And a city will be built up to the Most High God called Zion.  Like many of you, I’ve yearned for this day and have prayed many times that me and many others would be so lucky to live to see it.

On the other hand, what if this is all a hoax and people are being led astray?

Like many of you, for most of my life I’ve assumed the Church would build both temples in New and Old Jerusalem and would establish Zion.

I used to ask Hugh Nibley (whose ward I belonged to for a brief period) questions about this very topic.  I had just read his book Approaching Zion.  “What event will cause the Church to move its headquarters to Independence?”  I would ask.  “Does the Heber C. Kimball prophecy of ‘not even an old yellow dog being left to wag its tail’ need to be fulfilled first?”  “Will an earthquake hit Salt Lake City, thus cleansing the inner vessel, and cause the Church to go back to Missouri?”

Brother Nibley was always cordial about my questions but would usually quickly act as though he had other things to do.

My questions and ideas are very different today however.

I do not seek to offend anyone reading this, but I don’t see the Church as currently being capable of building Zion.  Nor do I see Zion being in Independence, Missouri.  And sadly, I don’t believe that a prophet, like an Isaiah, or a John the Baptist, or Joseph Smith can rise up in leadership in the Church today.

And so how will it work?  How will it all happen?  How will Zion come to pass and how will a city and temple be built?  To be completely honest, I’m not sure.  What will the forerunner of the Messiah’s second coming look like?  What will he say and do?  How many will believe that messenger or those servants that are sent?

I’m generally a skeptic.  Like many of you, I’ve been disappointed by men many times before.  But if a group of people seek to raise funds to build what they believe will be the Temple of the New Jerusalem, why should I want to stop them?  Or want to see them fail?

I’d rather be foolishly trying to support Zion than to accidentally fight against it.

Let’s say for example that the people involved in this project raise $5M and end up running off with the money.  Or build some strange building that looks like a compound in Waco, Texas.  For me, that would be a great way to see if the Lord is truly in this effort or not.  I’m assuming the Church has wasted our money in the past.  Why would this be any worse?  If this is from God, we will know soon enough (Acts 5:38).

Some of you may be especially sensitive to the concept of church waste since just this last week we discovered that the Church leaders are paid very healthy salaries.  At least $120,000 each, putting our “lay ministers” in the top 10% income bracket in the U.S.  Add amazing health insurance and life insurance and pensions and social security benefits and reimbursed travel and food and education for their families and book royalties to this package and these “lay ministers” cost us tithe-payers (directly or indirectly – it’s all the same source of money) more than $5 million a year that’s for sure.  The saddest part about this is that most of us have been led to believe or have been told that our church leaders are not paid anything.  See Thomas Monson website as one example.

So for me, giving to this effort seems to be a no-brainer, especially given that it can be done anonymously.  I’d certainly consider giving money to a homeless person to build a house.  Or to any sincere group of people trying to raise money to build a synagogue or a church building or Masonic Lodge or a food pantry.  No one here is being asked to sacrifice their china, sell their home or their cars.  No one is being asked to make a sacrifice that hurts or to even donate at all.

So why not?  Why not give to this effort and see what happens?  What would be the worst thing that could come from it?

I love the quote from Joseph Smith who said “It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition.”  I’d rather give in this case than not, just in case this is the Lord’s project.

In fact, it would be a great strategy for the Church to fund this project.  It would be the quickest way to see if this movement is from God or not.  The Church donates money to other organizations all the time — to Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, to rodeos, businesses, posh theaters, and to the BSA etc., all of whom by the way, have motives not always aligned with our own, or with the church’s vision of building Zion.

So why not give?  What do we have to lose?

If 100,000 people all give $100 to this effort, they’d raise $10,000,000, which I’d think would be enough to buy some land and build a temple.  Would you pay $100 to find out if this effort will lead to Zion?  I would.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.  1 Nephi 13:37

Do We Still Believe Anything Joseph Taught?

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The Second Comforter

The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.

When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.

Note the 16, 17, 18, 21, 23 verses: [Quoted.]

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.

Calling and Election

Now, there is some grand secret here, and keys to unlock the subject. Notwithstanding the apostle exhorts them to add to their faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, etc., yet he exhorts them to make their calling and election sure. And though they had heard an audible voice from heaven bearing testimony that Jesus was the Son of God [Mt 17:5], yet he says we have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light shining in a dark place. Now, wherein could they have a more sure word of prophecy than to hear the voice of God saying, This is my beloved Son?

Now for the secret and grand key. Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their calling and election was made sure, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promised sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation. Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

Salvation through Knowledge

It is not wisdom that we should have all knowledge at once presented before us; but that we should have a little at a time; then we can comprehend it. President Smith then read the 2nd Epistle of Peter, 1st chapter, 16th to last verses, and dwelt upon the 19th verse with some remarks.

Add to you faith knowledge, etc. The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and every one that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned. The principle of salvation is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  (TPJS)

Why are we so quick to assume that we are saved or will be saved merely because we have joined the Church, participated in ordinances, and are enduring to the end through home teaching, church service and temple work?

Why does the Church now openly condemn those who prefer Joseph’s admonitions over today’s Church leaders’?

Why would the Lord allow all the prophets of scripture including Joseph Smith to openly testify they have seen Angels and the Lord, only to then instruct all of Joseph’s successors to never testify of the same?

Is it possible today’s Church leaders have never entertained Angels or been in the Lord’s presence?  If they have not, what would this change?  If they have not, why would they lead people to believe they are special witnesses?  And have a “sure knowledge”?  Why would we still call them Prophets, Seers, and Revelators?

Is it possible that Joseph’s words below apply to our Church today?:

Compare this principle once with Christendom (the LDS Church)? at the present day, and where are they, with all their boasted religion, piety and sacredness while at the same time they are crying out against prophets, apostles, angels, revelations, prophesying and visions, etc. Why, they are just ripening for the damnation of hell. They will be damned, for they reject the most glorious principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and treat with disdain and trample under foot the key that unlocks the heavens and puts in our possession the glories of the celestial world. Yes, I say, such will be damned, with all their professed godliness. Then I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you obtain it. (TPJS)

Are we “crying out against prophets, apostles, angels, revelations, prophesying and visions, etc.”?  Is that what today’s leaders are doing when they warn us that making calling and election a focal point is a “tactic of the adversary?”  (Dallin Oaks)  Are they crying against Joseph Smith and his revelations?

Why do we assume that God is not just IF only a few are saved?

And it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he said unto his disciples: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it; but wide is the gate, and broad the way which leads to death, and many there be that travel therein, until the night cometh, wherein no man can work (3 Nephi 27:33).

Is it because we assume that God cannot damn most of His children and still be just, merciful, and loving?  Do we ignore the scriptures at our own peril?  Do we not understand eternity and eternal progression?

One of my dear friend’s keeps reminding me, “Joseph taught a fundamentally different gospel than the one we teach today.”  I think he’s right.

Behold Thy Mother

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One of the most touching scenes I can imagine is that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, standing at her son’s feet, beholding His death as Jesus instructs John to care for her.  “Don’t just take care of her, care for her as I would,” I imagine him implying as He said the sacred words to his disciple, “Behold Thy Mother.”

I think we may fall short in our reverence for that Woman in the Mormon faith.  On this Mother’s Day, I praise and thank God for Jesus’ faithful Mother Mary.  I can’t imagine what she endured.

I am especially touched by this artistic rendition that shows those few disciples who stood by Him while he suffered the Cross.  The other Mary, who many of us believe was more than just a disciple, appears to be at her Master’s feet.  Completely devastated and yet completely there.  There is no fear in her love for Him.

John is also fearless for whatever reason.   While others fled and hid and were afraid, John, Jesus’ “beloved,” stood faithfully by and watched.  Oh what a privilege to even try to contemplate this kind of love, that “casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16).

And yet I imagine also that the pain, the irony and the contradictions were felt most acutely by them on that day.   After all, Joseph taught that Jesus experienced more irony and contradictions than any man.  I assume that any sincere follower of Christ, especially those who watched on the day of Crucifixion, also taste of such ironies and contradictions relative to their devotion.

This love between Mother and Son and between Husband and Wife and between Savior and Disciple is what inspires me this Mother’s Day morning.  Thank You Lord for showing us “How it is done.”  (Enos 1:7)

Joseph also demonstrated John-like love.  He too was fearless.  Parley said of Joseph:

‘It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

‘It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity. . . .

‘It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his [family]. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband. . . .’ (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1968, pp. 297–98.)

I thank God for Joseph on this Mother’s Day as well.  Where would we be without his connection to heaven?

I don’t think we hear enough good spoken of Emma or Lucy in the church today.  I’m not trying to be critical.  It’s simply an honest observation.  It’s curious that these amazing women, who were clearly disciples of our Savior, who stood by Joseph and Hyrum, chose to not follow Brigham Young to Utah, or to come later for that matter.  I hope I would have honored Joseph by trying to care for them, even if it meant staying behind.

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Can you imagine the scene in the parlor where Joseph and Hyrum were displayed, lifeless, to be viewed one last time in mortality?  Lucy recorded in her own words as she came down the steps and saw her grandchildren clinging to her own sons’ necks:

“I was left desolate in my distress. I had reared six sons to manhood, and of them all, only one remained … as I entered the room and saw my murdered sons … it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.’

“As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, ‘Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph’” (“History of Joseph Smith by His Mother,” my emphasis added).

Lucy, you amazing Mother, I bow my knee on your behalf this day and ask our Lord to bless you and Emma and your entire family, both living and dead.  Thank for your sacrifices for us often ungrateful members of the church!

I of course also think of my own mother this day.  She brought me into the world and has made many sacrifices for me and my siblings and others.  Her lot has not always been easy.  I have caused her great stress over the years.  And I am grateful to her for doing all show knows how to do on our behalf.  I don’t think my mother reads this blog, but in case she does, Mom, thank you.

My most heartfelt thoughts I leave of my wife.  She is my soul mate and my best friend.  I have watched her sacrifice her life for me and our children in ways that go beyond a calling or title.  She, like the Marys of old, stands by us in the darkest of hours.  Selfless.  Never complaining.  Always there.  I praise the God of Heaven and Earth for you on this day my love.  I cannot thank you or Him enough.  It is my greatest desire to be redeemed so that we may have some shred of hope of being together as a family after this life.  Thanks for standing by me and for not giving up on us.

One final thought on this Mother’s day from a true and faithful prophet of God on the sacred topic of families.  Joseph taught:

“The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory, and go ahead, and not go back, but use a little wisdom, and seal all you can, and when you get to heaven tell your Father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven, according to his promise. I will walk through the gate of heaven and claim what I seal, and those that follow me and my counsel.” (Joseph Smith, TPJS Section 6, p. 340, my emphasis added)

It is my testimony that the greatest way to honor our mothers and our families is to seek to receive sealing power.  Receiving sealing power must be “individual.”  It requires more than just a temple marriage and “faithful” church service.  We cannot rely upon a church to magically cast a spell upon our families and expect nothing more will be required except to “endure to the end.”  Receiving true sealing power requires our very hearts and souls.  We must be stretched as was Abraham.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice & offering, & that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.  It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.  (Lectures on Faith)

May we honor Motherhood this day by working in all diligence to preserve our families and loved ones in the eternities.  God help us in this effort before it is everlastingly too late.

 

 

 

 

Defending Joseph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph also wrote:

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

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

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

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