Tag Archives: RE Scriptures

Nothing Varying

In attempting to answer the question “What have I learned and what ought I to have learned?” —

I’ve learned just how incredibly difficult it is to arrive at a consensus in a group without the assistance of a leader, teacher, or arbiter.

In referring to one specific teacher, it’s his message, and his message only, that has united us and has helped us become more of one mind — up to this point. No other messenger and no other message unites us the way this one does and has. We, collectively, recognize his message is from the Lord.
I quickly learned as he was commanded to not participate in the Statement of Principles, just how hard it is to “receive” revelation either alone or as a body. Much like Oliver Cowdery wanting to translate and his subsequent disappointment when he found out that it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
I also observed that even with the best of our tools we could not build the house the Lord had commanded us to build. We have PhDs among us as well as many other intelligent, educated, and wise people. And yet, all our efforts using those tools failed to accomplish the Lord’s project. We had wrongly assumed there would be wood to build with and so our tools were of no use.
I also observed that we have an amazingly beautiful array of diverse traditions and life experiences and cultures among us—foundational blocks that are core to what and who we are. Those “stones” also failed to produce our desired success. We had wrongly assumed the Lord wanted a stone house.
Gratefully, the effort that did succeed, came from a group who many of you were a part of. Your group interestingly, when arriving at the site, had no assumptions and was the only group to notice how beautiful the location was. You marveled at it and it inspired you.

When the servants arrived at the site, they too saw there was no stone for a stone house, neither was there wood for a wooden house. They pondered why their master should choose such a place for his house. Looking about they saw the place was high and lifted up, as if the whole world could be seen from the wondrous place. An approaching enemy could be spied from a long distance. They said, Surely the master has chosen a place of safety, peace, and beauty. Our master was wise in choosing this spot. He must also have been wise in commanding we build here his house. What are we to do? (T&C 176:6)

As we all know, this group ended up using the clay they found at the site that had united them there together. This effort produced the edifice required by the Lord.

I place myself in each group of people in this parable, although I was not chosen with the drawing of the Lots.

I tried to use my perceived skills (tools) to help produce the required document and voted in favor of at least one of many scholarly produced efforts. And I’m guessing that when those scholarly efforts failed, that I went about picking up stones with others trying a different approach.

Like you, I was so hopeful we could figure out a way to accomplish our assignment, but the further we went along, the less likely it seemed we’d ever get the voice of the people agreeing on both methodology and end product.

For me, it was not until I read the Lots’ document that I was again hopeful and that I finally felt we may have something beautiful to present to to the Lord. I loved the faith-filled, humble approach this group took, trying to include as many people as possible in the project (or at least giving everyone an equal chance to be selected by Lots who wanted to be). And I loved the end product. To me it is a beautiful document that I treasure.

It’s my understanding that some among us do not share my love for this document. I’d just like to share the main reason why I do—

Every other effort previous to the Lots, represented some person’s or group’s effort to put on paper their own inspiration, intelligence, tradition, or revelation, thus to some degree, using their own words. While I voted for many of these documents, it was only with the hope of accomplishing the assignment and for the sake of unity (I.e. spirit of the Epigraph). None of them got me excited or gave me the hope it would get us across the finish line.

The Lots’ document, however, was different. In writing it, they ONLY used the words of the Lord and His two latter day servants. Words we ALL believe are true. Words our hearts are or should be ONE in.

For me, this approach is symbolic of the clay that has united us at this particular site, to hear the words of the Lord’s true messenger. The many words (the clay) found right below the debris the group worked to remove, have metaphorically been like the clay the Lord used to anoint the eyes of the blind, thus healing our blindness, giving us new eyes to see. Or like the clay of the Potter’s wheel, with each of us as a vessel being shaped by His Words as He turns us and molds us, hoping to make us into something beautiful. Perhaps the “House” was always about us becoming something worth saving — shaped by the words we all found delicious at the site we were led to…

Our blindness, our deafness, our sickness, our lameness and even deadness in some cases — have all been healed by these amazing words of eternal life from Heaven! This, after all, is how the Doctrine of Christ is supposed to work. Many of us have come to proclaim: Hosannah, Blessed be the name of our God!

We have been brought together, united and most of us have become even of one mind when it comes to this message… nothing varying. It’s when we seek to vary the message that I think we lose that oneness.

I am guilty of such variations (every time I open my mouth) and apologize to all of you for my weaknesses and foolishness. It’s hard to convey the love I feel for this little diverse group and I am truly sorry for all the times I am wrong in my thinking and/or have caused any single one of you offense. My prayer is for all of us to be saved in these coming days.

I don’t post on this topic again, casually, or with any desire to hurt anyone reading. I recognize I may be wrong in my thinking. But I do feel it’s important to state our beliefs and to try to embrace truth.

I do want to thank those who went “without knowing beforehand.” You know who you are. I thank the Lots group for producing a document using only the words of the Lord, nothing varying. In my opinion, this is the only reason it pleased the Lord.

Surely the prophet Nephi who had raised his brother Timothy from the dead, could have preached his own sermon, but when it came time to preach, he did not do so. And all the chosen disciples followed this commandment. (See “Pattern for Understanding” below from the RE Glossary for more on this).

And it came to pass that they arose and ministered unto the people. And when they had ministered them same words which Jesus had spoken, nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken, behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus; and they did pray for that which they most desired. (3 Nephi 9:2, my emphasis added)

There’s another example in the Book of Mormon that illustrates this same principle:

And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every fifty of their number did he ordain to preach unto them and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets. Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people. And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God. (Mosiah 9:9, my emphasis added)

And of course we have the example of every angel who ever ministers, including the Lord Himself, who do nothing but quote and expound Scripture when they appear (See RE 3 Nephi 10 and 11 as one of many examples).

When we deviate from this principle, and to be clear there were many deviations made in most of our failed efforts to produce the Statement of Principles and the Guide and Standard, we could not be united, could not come to a consensus, and would not thus become the children of God… in other words, His people.

I am so thankful for all the efforts made by everyone in this difficult and humbling project. I especially thank the Lord for accepting ALL our labors, many of which (my own included) were wrong and stubborn and were based on our wrong assumptions and false traditions.

I lovingly invite those who feel angered or feel like you are not being heard, to drop your stones as many of us have had to do, that the Pathway to the House may be that much more beautiful.

The desire to undo or to redo the labors already approved by the Lord and to continue disputing is not and cannot be, in my opinion, from God.

Some Additional Reading


Pattern for Understanding Truth

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 14:3). This is the pattern adopted by the writers of the New Testament Gospels. Christ explained how to understand His ministry by using the law and prophets. The Gospels would not be written until decades after this, and they were composed following the Lord’s pattern (found in the discussion that took place on the road to Emmaus) to vindicate Him as the promised Lord and Redeemer, and thereby, fulfilling scripture. This framework appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They all wove into their records how Christ fulfilled the prophecies. Christ proved He came and suffered to fulfill the prophets. He opened the scriptures unto them so that they understood (see Luke 14:7). The Gospel writers followed this same pattern. “Our Lord could have testified by revealing 10,000 new truths to these two disciples [on the road to Emmaus]. He could have disclosed to them new visions and predictions. Instead, He expounded the scriptures concerning Himself. That is how He wants us to learn the truth. When the Lord first spoke to me, He expounded the scriptures. When He rose from the grave, except for these two disciples, His visit with everyone that day was brief, even perfunctory. With others He proved He had risen. But with these two, the Lord took hours, walking and talking in a discourse wherein he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 14:3). They did not recognize Him, but they were moved by the content of His sermon. When they arrived at Emmaus, He entered the house because they asked Him to stay. If they had not asked, He would have passed by. The Lord does not force Himself upon us. We must invite. At the end of this encounter, they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 14:4). It is not necessary to reveal any new thing in order to open eyes to everything the Lord has, and is, doing. Nothing apart from expounding the scriptures is required. He did not think it was necessary even when He arose from the dead. In the First Vision, Christ quoted or paraphrased Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Paul. Like His discourse on the road to Emmaus, in the First Vision our Lord expounded scripture. This is the condition of the world. Today is when mankind searches the earth and does not find the word of God, while the scriptures are available and ignored. When [Nephi] visited Joseph Smith, he quoted prophecies from Malachi, Isaiah, Peter, and Joel (see JS-H 3:1–12). The pattern used by the Lord to reveal new truth is the same in every generation. The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. His path is straight and His course is one eternal round. Truth is best advanced by opening the scriptures.”1See also STUDYING THE SCRIPTURES.


What about disputing? (Blogpost)

I got emails and phone calls asking about Christ’s statement in 3 Nephi: “there shall be no disputations among you, as there hath hitherto been, neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there hath hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the Devil, who is the father of contention; and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”I replied that you can disagree without an angry disputation. You can have good humor even while you detect a false spirit and reject it. You can wish people well as they go on their way, while altogether condemning their message as originating in a malignant source.It is not required that you attempt to persuade every person of their errors. If you make it clear you do not want to participate in their errors, that is enough.And you can do all those things without ever becoming angry and allowing your heart to become stirred up to contention and argument.If you refuse to make your rejection of false spirits clear, then you are contributing to evil. It is impossible to stand for the truth without rejecting errors and false spirits when they come to confront you. Christ expected us to do that. He even rebuked Peter, telling him: “Get thee behind me, Satan” when Peter opposed the will of the Father. Yet the same Christ announced the doctrine that we are not supposed to “contend” in “anger” with one another. The only conclusion we can reach is that Christ followed the principle He taught, and we can do so also while standing firm and detecting a false spirit when confronted by it.

The Lord’s Strange Act

After Joseph and Hyrum were killed, the Church was confronted with a veritable succession crisis.  We don’t appreciate this dilemma well today and the Church never discusses it, but it was the quandary of a lifetime for the newly forming Church.  Could you imagine leaving your home country to join the Church, leaving all you possess, potentially being disowned by your family and loved ones, making the long and dangerous journey to Nauvoo… only to find that the Church’s beloved founding Prophet and his successor had just been killed and no one knew what to do?  For three and a half years!

Brigham and Sidney were among those putting their names in the hat for who would be the Church’s custodian until Joseph’s son, Joseph III (only 11 years old at the time) was old enough to be the Church’s leader.

Most, if not all, factions proposing succession solutions, believed the Smith family had some lineal right to lead the Church.  I know this idea doesn’t resonate for most LDS people today.  I recall many times in my Church experience the idea being conveyed that this was one of the things “wrong” with the Smiths and with the RLDS.  “They simply didn’t understand that authority doesn’t just follow some family line… That’s just not right — they’re not entitled to anything.  That’s nepotism and the Lord doesn’t work that way.”  Of course, this disagreement is what truly distinguished the LDS and RLDS churches. This and polygamy, which were the main points of contention between Brigham and Emma / Joseph.

When Joseph died, Brigham’s first words were, “We’ve lost the keys.”  Emma went on to say shortly thereafter, “If there is no Joseph, there is no Church.”  Both of these comments from two of the most important remaining Church leaders (The president of the Quorum of the Twelve and the president of the Relief Society), point to the fear that in losing Joseph and Hyrum, they had potentially lost the ability to continue as a Church.

After 3 1/2 years of the Church not having a leader, Brigham persuaded a large enough portion of the Church that he, as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, should be entrusted to lead the Church… until Joseph III was old enough.  That group eventually migrated West with Brigham and the Utah LDS Church was born, while Emma and Joseph III and many others stayed back or went elsewhere.

But before getting to that point, Brigham’s dilemma would be satisfying the concerns of those loyal to Joseph and sympathetic to Emma.  Emma and many others did not trust Brigham and Brigham despised Emma as the “most damnable liar.”  Eventually the RLDS Church would be formed where Joseph III would became its leader, but in the meantime, while the Church was still in full succession crisis, and perhaps in order to appease the Josephites, in May of 1845 Brigham, as Senior Apostle, ordained William Smith (Joseph’s and Hyrum’s brother) as Presiding Church Patriarch, thus replacing Hyrum.

Brigham would later excommunicate William for apostasy who then went on to become the Presiding Patriarch for the James Strang LDS branch. Brigham replaced William Smith with “Uncle John” Smith, Joseph Smith Sr’s brother — all of which corroborates the belief at the time that “a Smith” needed to be had in this position, whether in the LDS, RLDS, or Strangite branch of Mormonism.  William went even further and claimed that as a Smith, he had some sort of right to preside due to the “doctrine of lineal succession.”  (Source)

“Smith’s relationship with Young remained strained until Young’s death in 1877. Smith believed that Young had arranged for William’s older brother Samuel to be poisoned in 1844 to prevent his accession to the presidency of the church.”  (Source)

Hyrum had been the Church Patriarch when he was killed and he was given a “lineal ordination” by his father Joseph Smith Sr. who at the time was literally on his own deathbed.  Hyrum, as Church Patriarch, was the rightful successor to the Prophet Joseph when he died. 

So, Brigham and the LDS Church, it would seem, “honored” the Smith family by giving this High Office of Church Patriarch to a Smith descendent in 1845 and 1849 and thereafter.  This person would eventually ordain the next prophets and on the Church’s hierarchy charts would be shown as equal to the First Presidency, although he would no longer be next in line for succession.

Photo from here

But, in 1979, the LDS Church decided to discontinue the calling of Presiding Patriarch.  Can you imagine?  Discontinue the office of the man they believed held the keys to ordain the new President of the Church?  And they did so without consulting the Office of the Patriarch.  Eldred G. Smith was the Patriarch at that time and it’s been reported that he was livid.

I had a friend who in 1979 was just beginning his new career as a full time seminary teacher. He said that Eldred Smith was scheduled to speak to a group of seminary teachers at Timp View High School, when he received the news of his office being made emeritus.  My friend confirmed that Smith was very upset and told this group that “the Church has no idea what it’s done.  They can’t take away my authority even if they kill me!” Smith reportedly said.  My friend also said that after Eldred Smith’s remarks, there was a lot of frantic damage control to reassure these seminary and institute teachers that the Church was still true.

Nonetheless, for the next 36 years, Eldred Smith was given a small office and was allowed to give blessings and to travel around the Church with Smith family relics that his family owned, independent of the Church.  The box the Gold Plates were kept in.  Emma Smith’s footstool.  Hyrum’s clothes he wore when he was killed.  His pocket watch that was hit by a bullet, etc.  (Source)

Image from KSL.com

Image from KSL.com

Smith died at age 106 on April 4, 2013 and he was not replaced with any member of the Smith family line.  As a result, the Lineal office of Presiding Patriarch that had been established by the Lord was no longer being honored by the LDS Church in any way, shape, or form.  The Smith family and the “keys” or authority it held, were now officially being set aside and disregarded, without a revelation from the Lord in 1979 and now in 2013, the Church had effectively snuffed out its Patriarchal connection to Joseph and Hyrum Smith, completely.

Is it possible that the death of Eldred G. Smith at the age of 106 on April 4, 2013, was some sort of sign regarding the LDS Church’s authority?  Or perhaps a sign regarding the condemnation the Church was / is under for its role in the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum?

The best interpretation I’ve read for what Eldred Smith’s passing could signify is given by a man who happened to be excommunicated shortly after Eldred Smith’s passing.  He had been a member of the LDS Church for 40 years to the day.  You can read more about this here. 

This man, Denver Snuffer, wrote a letter of appeal to the First Presidency, which was denied.  Snuffer did not want to be excommunicated and pleaded with the LDS Church to not commit the offense of cutting him off.  I was there when this all took place and I can testify that Joseph and Hyrum have no greater mortal advocate than Denver Snuffer.  The Church was wrong by cutting such a man off.  Denver’s writings on Joseph and on the Restoration are remarkable.

As we commemorate 177 years this week since Joseph’s and Hyrum’s martyrdom, I’m incredibly grateful that there is some person and some group that is trying to honor the work of the Restoration which began with Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820.  Praise God for His Strange Act now again under way.