I write as a bishop in the LDS Church. I am told it is my priesthood office and title for life. I served for more than 4 years and was released not long ago. For now I choose anonymity. Not because I fear men, retaliation, or criticism, but because I do not wish for me or my family to become the focus of attention, for good or for bad.
I plan to proceed responsibly, knowing that I may someday put my name on the things I write. I also know that when and if I do, it may sadly cause concerns for some within church leadership. I hope this is not the case. I think it would be unfortunate. I think we need to be far more patient and tolerant of other peoples’ points of view. Disagreement does not equal apostasy and the thoughtful discussion of complicated and important topics which, are often faith-challenging to otherwise faithful members, can be of great benefit.
In my years as a bishop and over a lifetime in the church, I have met many of the Brethren. More than one very prominent such authorities resides in my ward. I know many of them and I love and sustain them in their callings. But I have come to recognize by their words and their deeds that many of them do not have a message directly from Heaven as did prophets in times past. I have a deep love for the Book of Mormon. My study of that book has reinforced my conclusions. I now witness that the message and example of prophets from scripture differ from those of today in the church. I can no longer close my eyes to that reality. Nor do I think God will excuse me in doing so.
I do not make such bold statements to challenge the authority of the Brethren to lead the church. I wish them no ill-will, nor do I condemn them. On the contrary, I pray for them and hope they will live up to their sacred callings. I believe the survival of our church depends upon it.
I’m simply stating what I believe to be true. I believe the scriptures warn us to not follow the arm of the flesh, most particularly the precepts of men, who do not receive such angelic manifestations from God and His Son.
As a direct result, I have sadly come to the conclusion that the general message of the church today is unwittingly “anti-Christ” (Alma 30:6) and promotes the unintentional worship of men and their precepts. Let me clarify so there is no misunderstanding. I do not believe the church does not believe in Christ, I simply believe the church often places itself and its leaders in the way of Christ and preaches, in many cases, against his “coming” to individuals who seek Him.
We preach that such a pursuit of Christ and the Angels who precede Him is dangerous and leads to apostasy. The excuse being that we “should never pray to see an angel” because every man who did so in the early days of the restoration, left the church. Whether we admit it or not, I believe this is the precautionary message of our day, thus encouraging a different, “safer” course, to honor the “keys” and follow the Brethren rather than personally seek Heaven.
Elder Ballard recently made this very clear:
Recently, I spoke at the new mission presidents’ seminar and counseled these leaders:
“Keep the eyes of the mission on the leaders of the Church. … We will not and … cannot lead [you] astray.
‘And as you teach your missionaries to focus their eyes on us, teach them to never follow those who think they know more about how to administer the affairs of the Church than’ … Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ do through the priesthood leaders who have the keys to preside.” (October 2014, my emphasis added)
This is one example of many one can find today of what I view as an anti-Christ, pro-Brethren message from church leaders.
I have had to ask myself the very difficult question of whether Nephi was warning the church or not when he said:
And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; (2 Nephi 28:5).
The answer has come to me by the Spirit and with incredible clarity, that the Book of Mormon is a warning to us, particularly the gentiles who form the Gentile Church and to its leaders. If we can’t apply its message to ourselves, we fulfill condemning prophecies leveled against us thousands of years ago up until Joseph Smith.
I love the church and I try my best to love its people. I have raised my family in this church. It has been a significant part of my life. I have served in the church more times and for more years than I can currently recall. I am currently active in the church. I do the best I can to encourage others to come unto Christ, and to turn people to the Book of Mormon for the greatest assistance in that effort.
I share the belief of Joseph and other prophets that if we do not literally come unto Christ in this life, we cannot be exalted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I personally seek that audience with Him and humbly invite all others to do the same. I have deep concerns the church no longer teaches this doctrine. I will provide examples in later posts demonstrating this point.
My sincere hope in sharing some of my observations is twofold:
1) To thoughtfully provide my honest and candid feedback to the church; its leaders and its members in matters of policy, tradition, and practice. I hope this feedback is not simply dismissed as inappropriate or unnecessarily critical. I believe such feedback is crucial in maintaining doctrinal integrity in our church intended to be directed both by revelation and by common consent. I do not profess that all of my observations will be “true.” I look forward to your comments which I believe can help us all better come to a knowledge of the truth, both as members and as a church.
2) To share my faith of Jesus Christ and of the restoration of His gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. In so doing I hope to share and discuss doctrine, scriptures, faith, ideas, and all sorts of interesting and uplifting gospel topics. I hope to challenge and be challenged as I believe it will help me to grow and gain greater knowledge and understanding. I also plan to challenge the teachings of “doctrine” in the church. I will not do so with the intent to attack anyone personally. When and if I do so or am perceived as doing so, I ask for your forgiveness in advance.
I look forward to our experiences together.