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.
I’ve received a few messages since my short post on this topic. Most have agreed with my initial assessment. One person fairly prominent online however, has tried to persuade me that this is all real. He is, in my view, sincere.
Since there may be others who still believe there’s something to this claim, I want to share just a few more observations.
I have since my last post, spent many more hours reading and pondering the alleged Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon translated by a Brazilian man named Mauricio Berger. I admit that I still do so with some measure of skepticism, in part because there are way too many overt things that continue to bother me. Just like I would read the so called prophetic exhortations of Warren Jeffs or Ghandi or Mohamed, with a healthy dose of skepticism, I do so here. I think we set ourselves up to be deceived when we follow the opposite course.
I also know too well how conformation bias works. One of the 8 witnesses admits as much when he said the following:
In the end, could I with the physical things of this earth, know that they were the plates of Mormon? Sadly, I had to say no. There is no amount of examination that will ever get me there. But as I hefted those plates, and I held those (about 50 pounds). My brother Tyler was using my camera, taking pictures of me. I held those precious plates. And I just let God know. I cannot know whether these are the plates of Mormon. It is beyond my means to make that determination. And as I pleaded, the help that is there right present, for God is at hand at all times, is when those plates became weightless for a moment. And presence of God rested upon me. And I knew, I was given to understand that these were the very plates of Mormon. And there was a smile that broke forth on my face.
This kind of thing could easily happen if you’re holding any item. Someone could feel such emotions or adrenaline if told for example that the terracotta pot in their hands was from Abraham’s village at the time of his youth. Just because you feel the emotion or excitement of that moment doesn’t make it an authentic relic. But the feelings you had may still have been sincere and amazingly heart felt although not necessarily a confirmation from God or the Spirit of anything.
The first thing I notice as problematic is as I mentioned in my last post, there is nothing in the contents that is greater or even equal to that which I find already in scripture. The excuse thus far has been that somehow it sounds better in Portuguese. I’m sure the Book of Mormon would sound best had it been written in Hebrew rather than Reformed Egyptian, but somehow even when I read it in French, which is three languages removed from its original form, it still has a power to it that is unmistakable. Everything I’ve read of that which “has been held back” until now because of our collective unbelief, simply is beyond unimpressive. It’s boring. It’s uninspiring. It’s clunky. It contains NO profound teaching.
It’s not even as interesting as the false Nephite endowment from the Mentinah Archives and I definitely have found greater light reading apocryphal writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Jasher, the Enochic Texts, etc. But this is not that. Believers argue that the best is about to come if we can just have the faith. So we apparently had enough faith to view pictures of the golden plates and sword of Laban and to get 155 translated pages, but we don’t have enough faith for the full release.
I don’t believe the original record was sealed simply to tease, as if there’s just more info that will eventually be revealed. It’s not more info that matters, it’s greater info that matters. These are the kind of words and teachings that were too sacred to share and too great to impart. This is not more ironically, this is less. In any language.
I also find it strange that when Joseph Smith received the record from Nephi the Angel (resurrected being – i.e. not Moroni), and eventually was able to show it to others, no drawings or sketches I’m aware of were made available to view. Perhaps they were not permitted to.
In the Brazilian plates case, there are pictures of the actual golden plates and sword of Laban. These plates and their pictures have become a sign seeker’s spectacle. I’m surprised there’s not a picture of the angels as well. It’s just odd and it’s opposite of the pattern the Lord uses. Here you have not 3 or 8 witnesses, but a billion. But now after gawking over the records online we’re suppose to have more faith so that a seer named Mauricio can translate the rest. I just don’t think God works that way. God doesn’t give you “proof” first and then with more faith, give you the substance. He tries our faith first.
And now as I said concerning faith—afaith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye bhope for things which are cnot seen, which are true. (Alma 32:21)
I also noticed in the testimony of the one of the witnesses that they couldn’t feel anything when running their fingers over the writings on the sheets of the plates.
Joseph Frederick Smith said in 2017 in his witness:
The plates were very smooth. When I first looked at them I guessed about 5X8 sheets, but it’s more like 6X6, I think. I could see the hieroglyphics on them, but you couldn’t feel them. . . . The sealed portion had two straps across it. They work something like a belt. They opened them up. I took one of the straps, because they were metal and very flexible. . . .
That strikes me as odd. If the process was painstaking as it mentions in the record, then why would there be no sign of the manual struggle? I wouldn’t think it would be smooth but rather more like a reverse Braille. Etchings and engravings imply there to be texture and lack of smoothness. Contrast with the descriptions from some of the original witnesses:
“[The plates] were filled with … characters … small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving.”23—Joseph Smith Jr., Orson Pratt
“There were fine engravings on both sides.”24—John Whitmer
“We also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.”25—Eight Witnesses
One of the original witnesses in Joseph’s day said the etchings were filled with a black substance. This made it easier to see the characters. The pictures of the Brazilian plates don’t show any black in the characters and don’t seem to be engraved upon or indented at all.
“Upon each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings, which were stained with a black hard stain so as to make the letters more legible and easier to be read.”26—Orson Pratt
Even from this photo one can see the antiquity and craftsmanship of this ancient golden record. Strangely none of the witnesses of the Brazilian plates use the words, “ancient, craftsmanship, antiquity, or fine workmanship.” No one seems to say that they look really old or that the craftsmanship is remarkable in Brazil.
Among the Brazilian witnesses who supposedly saw the angel Moroni, none said anything of a brilliant light. Here is their official testimony:
Testimony of Three Witnesses
By the power and mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Master and Redeemer, yes, Jesus Christ, we bear our witness to all nations.
The nature of this testimony is to briefly describe what we have seen, heard and touched:
After some time with Mauricio Berger, who told us about the events on Mount Agudo, we decided to accompany him to the mountain. We can say that everything we have seen there has an extraordinarily sacred character. The prayers and praises offered to the Lord in that place, seeking to do the will of the Father, resulted in the visit of celestial beings; the instructions received directly from the Angel Moroni, are events that have marked our lives forever and ever. We squeezed his hand and received from him the Golden Plates, the translating stones and the Sword of Laban, formerly in possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. This sublime circumstance had a powerful effect on our beliefs by enlarging our perception of this great and marvelous work.
We affirm that, by the power of God, the Sealed Book of Mormon will be translated, contained in the plates.
We know, therefore, that the translation will take place in two time periods. The first part that belongs to Maurício Berger (in fulfillment of the prophecy of 2 Nephi 27: 21–26 LDS, or even 2 Nephi 11: 143–147 RLDS), with the intention of calling His people again to repentance. Upon completion of the translation, we understand that will be fulfilled what is written in 2 Nephi 30: 3 LDS, or 2 Nephi 12:80 RLDS – where it is clear this Record will be sealed back to the Lord in accordance with Ether 4: 7 LDS or Ether 1: 101 RLDS. Qualifying your people to receive the second part.
We place our witness at the disposal of the world, with a deep sense of gratitude and a total sense of responsibility towards God who directs this work. We solemnly affirm that by our fidelity to this testimony our garments will be clean at the last day.
In vain will be the one who stands up against the work of God. Honor and glory be for ever and ever, the Father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, in whom we entrust the conclusion of this glorious work. Amen.
Joni Batista, Valdeci Machado, and Wagner Zeppenfeld
And yet, here is how the encounter was described by David Whitmer in 1829.
“It was in the latter part of June, 1829, Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and myself were together, and the angel showed them [the plates] to us. . . . [We were] sitting on a log when we were overshadowed by a light more glorious than that of the sun. In the midst of this light, but a few feet from us, appeared a table upon which were many golden plates, also the sword of Laban and the directors. I saw them as plain as I see you now, and distinctly heard the voice of the Lord declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.”
Picture as shown on www.thesealedbookofmormon.org
I’m also a little perplexed about the sword of Laban. It was supposedly made of precious steel with a solid gold handle. Interestingly there is no drawing that exists from those in 1829 who saw it. (Again, notice the contrast that doesn’t focus on the object itself). Nephi said that Laban was wearing a fine sword made of “precious steel” with a hilt of “pure gold.” If in fact precious steel, it is not likely to be in such good condition as this one shown above. Look at this steel sword from 600 BC from Jerusalem:
The handle on the one from Brazil doesn’t look as though it’s separate from the blade either. It looks to be entirely molded from one sword and not as if it’s two pieces. And even if somehow preserved from the natural elements, it still does not look special or ornate in the least.
It’s also strange to me that Mauricio claims the angel Raphael came to introduce Moroni. Why does Moroni need an introduction? And if Moroni is an unresurrected being then how would anyone be squeezing his hand as the witnesses claim? For it is not in the nature of a just man made perfect awaiting the resurrection to deceive and therefore when you ask him to shake his hand he will not. It is however in the nature of the adversary to try to deceive and to make you feel and see things. And it’s not certain that when he extends his hand to you that you won’t feel anything. He just can’t give you the tokens and signs to prove he’s a true messenger as I understand it. But make no mistake, he can deceive even the very elect.
But back to “why does Moroni need an intro” — If they’re all fellow servants then why the intro? Again, just seems inconsistent and like a strange embellishment.
It’s also curious that so early in, there are actually witnesses who either couldn’t tell while holding the plates that they were authentic – one said he had no ability to know – and 2 of the 8 have already backtracked on their witness. Both of these facts smack of a hoax. The circumstances of seeing the plates and holding them apparently is already wearing off after such a short period of time and the so called Fire in their breasts was not enough to stay believing only a year later.
Those in Joseph’s day may have left the Church and betrayed and even came to hate Joseph, but their testimonies did not waiver so easily as these.
Some have suggested that they can’t imagine how or why anyone who is just a normal guy could or would ever try to concoct such a scheme. How could this simple car salesman from Brazil afford to pull off such an elaborate and expensive scheme? “No one would do that!” So they say — “not without money or fame or something.”
There is a history however for people doing this kind of thing. Look at the Mentinah Archives. The Salamander Letters. The Koran. I’ve heard more than one person in my own life claim they’ve seen an angel or the Lord where I believe they are mistaken. Why on earth would anyone lie about that? Or embellish that? How could they and why would they? Only God knows that but the fact is they do. And they do it all the time.
Why did Mark Hoffman love creating forgeries so much? Was it just for money? Or did he derive some perverted pleasure in how good he was at it? Why do people get a thrill from shoplifting? Why did the magicians in Pharoah’s court love magic and producing signs? How did they do it? Why are people crazy? Why do angels of light appear in order to deceive? Why do people say the Lord comes to them when He doesn’t? Why did an angel come to Korihor? Why couldn’t Laman and Lemuel repent after seeing an angel? I don’t know the answers to all of these questions, but I’ve given up trying to be so open minded that my mind becomes beelzebub’s playground. It has led to nothing but psychosis in my life.
One more example. Annalee Skarin. She wrote some great books that one would think were filled with love and light. She prayed and fasted and knocked, so she says, as hard as anyone ever did. If you take her at her word, she was translated and left her and her husband’s clothes in a way to make it look like they vanished. Some fake their own death, they faked their own translation. So what do I do with her books so filled with interesting insights and what I thought was light? I throw them in the trash heap and say “I’m looking for the true messengers Father promised to send me.” You give that garbage a room for the night and you’ll entertain more crazy guests than you ever thought existed.
Another example. Anna Rountree. This one is one of thousands of Christians who say they’ve seen Jesus. This particular woman had such an awe inspiring relationship with Jesus that included riding horses on the beach and dancing endlessly in the rain with our Lord. This Jesus has all the time in the universe to play and sing and dance with Anna Rountree but apparently doesn’t think to tell Anna to get baptized by one with authority or that the Book or Mormon is his new covenant for this land.
Perhaps the best example is that of James Strang. Here is an account of his “inspiration” from the Wikipedia:
Book of the Law of the Lord
James J. Strang, one of several contenders to succeed Joseph Smith during the 1844 succession crisis, asserted that he had been given the “Plates of Laban” in fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy. His translation of selections from them was published in 1851 as The Book of the Law of the Lord: Being a Translation from the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai. In its preface, Strang clearly identifies the “Plates of Laban” as the source for most of his book.
Strang’s Book of the Law comprises a constitution for a Mormon monarchy, wherein the Prophet-leader of the Latter Day Saint church equally rules as king over God’s kingdom on earth. His 1856 expanded version also contains other revelations and teachings by Strang to enhance understanding of the work. The Book of the Law was seen by Strang as making up only a portion of the Plates of Laban, rather than the whole, showing that it was a more complete bible that included books now lost. The Book of Mormon also claims this in reference to works by Zenos and Zenock, prophets who lived in Jerusalem, but are now unknown to history.
Seven witnesses testified to having seen and handled the plates Strang claimed to possess. They described the plates as being eighteen in number, each measuring approximately seven and three-eighths inches wide, by nine inches long. The plates themselves were “occasionally embellished with beautiful pictures,” and all appeared to be of “beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages.”
The subsequent history of Strang’s “Plates of Laban,” and their current whereabouts, is a mystery.
The Book of the Law of the Lord is not viewed as sacred scripture to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Brighamite) or Community of Christ (Josephite) churches, the two largest factions of the Latter Day Saint movement, although the Community of Christ (then RLDS) was formed primarily of Strang’s followers under Joseph Smith III, and held the book as sacred until Strang was official decanonized due to persecution and the scandal surrounding polygamy.
There are countless Indian gurus and 8 foot tall brothers of Jared walking around the earth giving fantastical revelations to special people. Some of them have had NDEs and write their visions or glory. What am I to do with all this? I’ve looked at some of it and now can see quickly if it contradicts the Lord’s pattern which is NOT sensational. So I throw it away. I don’t try to take a little light from each source or glean some incredible mystery—I throw it away once I discern it’s not from the right source. I’ve been burned too many times and simply refuse go down these strange roads if I can avoid them. If Satan gives a great speech with many truths are you going to try to take the good from it? I hope the answer is no.
There are so many more examples. Way too many to mention and way too many that deceive people. It’s as if there’s this great sign seeking spirit among us. A person sometimes joins some group with all the zeal and evangelism of a new convert. And then there’s this new book or new guy online from Australia or India or Brazil or Canada or Montana or Southern Utah. “There’s more light” they cry! “More prophets!” Itching ears! Sorcerers and peeping wizards. More titillating information! More pieces to the puzzle! Some try to make it all fit and cleave to multiple beliefs or organizations. Others leave one group disappointed only to join another with their new friends in the newest and next best offering.
This one has THE SEALED PORTION. And pictures to boot! Doesn’t get much better than that. Previous ones had super power seminars where for a reasonable fee you could learn to bend forks with your faith. Still others sold revelations directly from the great prophetess who walks with Mahonri Moriancumr. Learn how to cast out devils for the low low price of $40 a session from another. I wish these were embellishments. They are not. Some are content to just sell books while others just share their “crazy” for unknown benefit and unknown reasons. It doesn’t really matter why they do it.
Maybe we should ask ourselves IF we actually have faith or if we are an adulterous sign seeking generation. Because all of this is adulterous in my opinion. It breaks a covenant with God to be faithful to Him and to His words.
Because there is no money being made on this latest Mentinah scheme does not mean it’s from God. I don’t know this Mauricio fellow nor do I know his adherents, but I can tell you that I believe that none of it is from God.
Anything that is NOT from God, no matter how enticing or appealing, will take you away from God. But that’s a lesson we each have to figure out for ourselves and sadly too often the hard way. The scriptures show clearly that we ultimately always get what we want. God allows us to have things that we can’t understand because we seek them.
As a side note, If you happen to be someone who thinks Denver Snuffer is telling the truth, then you may want to re-examine why and how you can also believe this Brazilian tale to be true. He’s written about this here and here. They can’t both be true. If you’re more drawn to the effort in Brazil then you ought to follow your heart and become a part of that group. It’s likely you’ll be happier there. If you have doubts or are uncertain then I would take that stupor of thought as something to not ignore and I would beg the Lord to clean your house and fix your heart and mind.
It’s also interesting to note that during the time of translation in Joseph’s day, it was as if the legions of hell were enlisted to steal the plates from Joseph. The angels did not prevent him from having to hide the record to keep it safe. He was required to run through the woods, dislocate his thumb, move his family, hide them in various places, fight mobs, and almost lose them time and time again. But this group has some special protection? Or maybe it’s because Satan does not cast out Satan? (Matthew 12:26)
In my mind I see this as yet another sad opportunity to be unfaithful to the Bridegroom. I believe the perpetrators of this fraud will eventually be exposed and sadly souls will be drawn away into the dreary waste.
*Update. It’s been brought to my attention that a much more exhaustive critique of Mauricio’s scheme can be found here:
I was recently made aware of a group in Brazil who claim to have the sword of Laban, the original gold plates, and the Urim and Thummim and that a gentleman named Maurício is a modern day seer who used the ancient seer stones to translate the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.
I’ve taken time to read over the said translation and believe it’s a hoax. It reads a little like the Mentinah Archives, but far less interesting. For the record I believe the Mentinah Archives are also a machination of the adversary. But, don’t take my word for it, you can find both online to review for yourself.
There is nothing in this 155 page translation that seems like some greater portion. It just reads like an embellished mish mash of disconnected ideas. Surely the sealed portion will be greater than the Book of Mormon we already have. This is absolutely not.
The unsealed Book of Mormon carries a spiritual power like none I’ve ever known. It is scripture. In my opinion this is not.
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.
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 (seeMatthew 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?
175 years ago Joseph and Hyrum were taken from our midst. This day is always a solemn one for me. I love those men who communed with Jehovah. They left behind them their wives and young children. They died willingly and offered themselves up as a sacrifice, I believe, for us. I am always moved to tears by their mother Lucy’s account of what must have been the most painful moment of her life:
“After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes, we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul, and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family and the cries of ‘Father! Husband! Brothers!’ from the lips of their wives, children, brothers, and sisters, 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.'”
Joseph only 38 and Hyrum 44 went as lambs to the slaughter. I think it is accurate to say they died for the Church. Joseph’s last words are haunting as he looked upon members and friends who had betrayed him: Oh Lord my God… Had he been able to finish his sentence it might have continued to say … Is there no help for the widow’s son?
The Masonic call of distress recognized undoubtedly by brother Masons he saw before him, perhaps a part of the mob, from whom he sought mercy.
The more I study, the more I’m becoming sympathetic to Emma’s version of the facts regarding the charges leveled against Joseph and Hyrum over polygamy. I think they were innocent of those whoredoms that were conveniently blamed on Joseph after his death.
Emma was true to Joseph and said after his death: “If there is no Joseph there is no church.” Is it possible she was right? Did losing Joseph and Hyrum equate to our collective condemnation being fulfilled? D&C 84 makes it clear in 1831 that we as a church were placed under condemnation. Section 124 states clearly that if we did not build the Nauvoo Temple in the space of time granted, we would be rejected as a Church. Maybe Emma was right. Maybe the fact we took the words and works of Joseph so lightly led to him being taken from us.
Emma, who we are told by the Lord was an elect lady, was not so revered by Brigham Young and his followers.
In the October session of General Conference 1866, Brigham Young made these comments:
…”To my certain knowledge, Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman; but she will continue in her wickedness. Not six months before the death of Joseph, he called his wife Emma into a secret council, and there he told her the truth, and called upon her to deny it if she could. He told her that the judgments of God would come upon her forthwith if she did not repent. He told her of the time she undertook to poison him, and he told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told here where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he ‘You got that poison from so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.’ When it entered his stomach he went to the door and threw it off. he spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses of this scene all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him.”
I do not believe Brigham Young and find his account inconsistent with all that was ever recorded by Emma or Joseph or their family about their relationship. I find his account as ridiculous as the one charging Emma with the attempted murder of Eliza Snow, who was said to be pregnant with Joseph’s child. She allegedly miscarried and yet was teaching school the next day after being pushed down the steps by Emma.
It’s perhaps more interesting to contemplate why Brigham might feel so threatened by Emma as to slander her so openly. Did he fear her? Did he fear Joseph’s son coming to take his position in the church? After all, Brigham had campaigned to be president with the promise that he would only be the church’s caretaker until Joseph III was old enough to take his rightful position as the Church’s leader.
I’ve said it before, I stand with Emma and the Smith family. I will not speak ill of Joseph, for I know he is anointed. I do not speak ill of Emma out of admiration and respect for all she suffered and did and I believe she was a woman of great valor.
I was curious today to get an email from LDSLiving promoting a book profiting on the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. It’s not a new book, in fact the entire story was a republication of an ad pushing this book two years ago. The pitch has the flavor of something you might find on the cover of a popular magazine. “6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Plot to Murder Joseph Smith.”
“For more great insights like these, check out Mark Goodmansen’s book Conspiracy at Carthage: The Plot to Murder Joseph Smith, available at Deseret Book stores or deseretbook.com. For more information, check out markgoodmansen.com.”
I decided to see what might be on the Church’s official website about the importance of today. I was actually quite stunned when I saw that there was nothing. Not even a mention of the Martyrdom of Mormonism’s founder on the 175th anniversary of their passing. I find this truly sad.
I did notice an article about Presisent Nelson’s birthday celebration coming up in September however.
“Guest artists for President Russell M. Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration, scheduled for early September, have been announced. Latter-day Saint performing artists Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four, GENTRI, The Bonner Family, Nathan Pacheco and Donny Osmond will join The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for the evening celebration on Friday, September 6, 2019.”
“The gala celebrating the influence of the Savior in the life of President Nelson and his lifelong service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints begins at 8:00 p.m. mountain daylight time in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. The performance will be broadcast live on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Facebook page and YouTube channel. Additional channels and broadcast and rebroadcast times are pending.”
Sad on so many levels. And what a truly unfortunate oversight by the Church.
Written by LDS author Brian Hales (anesthesiologist) who clearly wants Polygamy to be true.
More young people are leaving the Church. I’m not sure anyone knows the exact number, but it’s safe to say that most people know someone under the age of 40 who has left in the last year. There’s a common theme for those leaving—Concerns over the Church’s “truth claims.” In large part, these concerns begin with or are made worse by what the Church teaches about Joseph Smith and polygamy.
The Church’s claims about their founding prophet are incompatible. On one hand, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.”
On the other hand, he was secretly practicing polygamy, which included having sex with other women, some as young as age 14, some of which were married to other men, ALL while simultaneously openly teaching that polygamy is an abomination and while excommunicating others for doing the same.
This flagrant contradiction makes it very hard for an honest and moral person to believe Joseph was worthy to do God’s work and to be His servant.
After all, the scriptures teach that adultery is wrong; that polygamy is wrong, that pedophilia is wrong; that orgies and whoredoms are wrong. These are all things, ironically, the Church today teaches as wrong and unlawful. Our youth today are taught to not even watch rated R movies or to wear immodest clothing, but somehow whoredoms were commanded by God for almost 100 years in the Church. It’s a hard idea for most to reconcile. (If you think whoredoms is too strong of a word, then I would cite you to Jacob chapter 2.)
No wonder, based on the Church’s claim that polygamy was started by Joseph Smith, so many conclude the Church simply cannot be true and that he cannot be a true prophet.
Consider how you might feel today about Warren Jeffs and his followers. Many of us will conclude by their fruits that he is not a true prophet and that his people are deceived. If we who are active LDS feel so biased against today’s polygamists, then how can we expect that some of our own will not come to the same conclusions about our polygamous history? Do you feel inclined for example, to read Warren Jeff’s revelations he’s getting in prison? Why not? “Because his fruits are evil. He’s a pedophile. He’s a womanizer. So why even insult God by considering his teachings…” Right?
Hence the Church’s great dilemma. This is how many of our youth are now seeing this issue of the Church’s claim that Joseph started and practiced polygamy. And why wouldn’t they? After all, can good fruit come from a bad seed or from a completely immoral and unworthy man?
But was Joseph really practicing polygamy?
I know for some that sounds like a silly question because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many other historians have been so “clear” on this subject. Why would the Church say Joseph Smith did practice polygamy if he in fact didn’t? Why be dishonest about something so unflattering? These are good questions, but let’s start with the obvious:
If Joseph did not practice Polygamy as did Brigham his successor, then the LDS Church’s claim of being “true” and of having the Keys, is seriously undermined.
It’s a curious idea—If the Church had evidence that showed Joseph never actually practiced polygamy and was always faithful to Emma and cleaved to none other, what would become of the Church?
I posed this question to a young man who left the Church recently who had just read the CES Letter. His initial response was: “The Church and its leaders would be so relieved!” I gave him an inquisitive look. Being a very smart young man he corrected his response to: “The Church would be ruined.” That’s exactly right sadly. Why would it be ruined? Because where a jury may not be able to convict Joseph of polygamy on evidence, it clearly can convict all the Church leaders after him up to 1945. And if polygamy was wrongly practiced after Joseph’s death, then today’s LDS Church has a much harder argument proving it was worthy to procure or keep the all important Keys it claims to have from Joseph.
Let’s pause at 1945 for a moment. As a missionary I was instructed to tell people that polygamy was outlawed in 1890 and Mormons stopped practicing it abruptly, then. This is one of the Church’s “truth claims.” But is it completely accurate? I won’t turn you to the many troubling stories of what happened after the Manifesto in 1890, but anyone who has delved even a little will find that Mormons were winking and nodding for many years thereafter. Members and leaders alike were going to Mexico to be married to plural wives. One elderly prophet engaged in a plural marriage to a woman several decades younger than himself off the West coast, on a boat (international waters), many years after 1890. And then there’s President Heber J. Grant, the last polygamist prophet of the Church who died in 1945. He had been married to 3 women at the same time, but all of them died before he became the leader of the Church. So technically, the last prophet of the Church who actually believed in and taught AND practiced polygamy died when my dad was 2 years old.
When a young missionary or young Mormon person is led to believe that polygamy came to a hard stop without resistance because it was made illegal in 1890 and because President Woodruff had a revelation, and because “we believe in honoring the laws of the land,” they are often confused when they find that technically a man who was prophet of the Church until 1945 was an avowed polygamist and that many so-called law abiding Church leaders before him were disobeying the laws of the land that they swore to honor.
The other truth claim aforementioned is that polygamy only ended because a prophet received a revelation or had a vision. This truth claim is also troubling to many honest thinkers. On one hand we have Brigham Young who prophesied that Polygamy was the only way for a man to enter the Celestial Kingdom and unequivocally stated that if the Church ever abandoned the practice, it would lose its Priesthood and be destroyed as a Church. On the other hand, we have Wilford Woodruff receiving a “revelation” contradicting Brigham’s teachings and prophesies. Which is it? Again, an honest person recognizes the dilemma. And then we add to the dilemma of prophets contradicting one another, the historical facts that strongly point to Mormons being forced by governmental pressure to abandon polygamy all the way down to the Manifesto being written by a non-LDS lawyer and the requirement that his words (the Manifesto) be added to the Doctrine and Covenants so that Church members would be more inclined to take it seriously. Do you not find it strange that such an important revelation is only a footnote in the back of the D&C rather than its own section? Same for blacks and the Priesthood?
So here’s the second question I posed to my young friend who just left the Church: “What if Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy and never had sex with anyone but Emma and was telling the truth about the abomination of polygamy? Would that change how you feel about the other concerns you have?” His response was predictable. “That’s impossible. History proves Joseph was a polygamist. It’s not even a question.” So I asked a follow up question. “But, where does this most of this ‘unquestioned history’ come from?” The answer of course is that it largely comes from the Church itself. I continued, “Did you know that not only did Emma not believe Joseph was ever a polygamist and gave that testimony until her death, but neither did Joseph’s mother or Joseph’s children believe it? In fact, none of the believers of the future RLDS Church seemed to believe that Joseph was a polygamist nor did they believe polygamy was a revelation from God.”
As members of this Church we are generally unaware of the great schisms that existed upon the death of Joseph and Hyrum. Brighamites, Josephites, Strangites, Cochranites, Rigdonites, etc. This hints at another truth claim regarding succession that we won’t go into completely now, but that is often troubling for those hearing it for the first time. Many have no idea that Brigham Young was never ordained by the 12 (or anyone) for example, and was not unanimously sustained by them either. Nor do many know that the Church was 3-1/2 years without a President. Or that Brigham campaigned on the promise that he’d never be the prophet and would only act as the Church’s custodian until Joseph III was old enough to be the Church’s rightful leader. Or that Brigham all but abolished the Relief Society during this time, because he saw Emma and her organization as a threat. He actually blamed the Relief Society for the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, in part because she was advocating for monogamy and morality. Or that Brigham’s first thought by his own words upon hearing that Joseph was gone was “We’ve lost the keys…” The succession crisis was just that– a succession crisis– but the Church does not offer a lot of transparency on this topic thus causing some honest and often young minds to see the Church as dishonest about its history.
This crisis led to the formation of several new branches of Mormonism. Emma, Lucy and much of the Joseph Smith family refused to follow Brigham. Emma confronted Brigham on the topic of polygamy and reaffirmed that Joseph had told Brigham in her presence that it was not of God. To say that Brigham and Emma did not like each other would be an understatement. What divided them? Polygamy among other things.
In fact, an argument could be made that Joseph lost his life because of the charges of polygamy being leveled against him and subsequently the Church split into fragments largely based on the differing beliefs surrounding polygamy.
And yet, as I mentioned earlier, Joseph cannot be convicted of polygamy. Consider the following facts and ideas:
There is zero DNA that links any child or descendant to Joseph Smith.
This despite the teaching that the Lord commands polygamy (see Jacob 2 and case of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) in order to raise up seed.
There is nothing but hearsay evidence, often decades later from less credible, uncorroborated sources. If you don’t think people won’t lie for what they think is for the greater good then I cite you to the recent Justice Kavanaugh hearings where at least one woman literally lied about events that never took place. Perjury in order to advance a narrative and agenda. Lawyers and a propaganda machine funded her and stood by her side because they needed her story to be true. Why would it have been any different in Brigham’s day? Their religion, their society, and their very way of life were dependent upon being able to pin polygamy to Joseph, the founder of their religion.
There is no eye witness that caught Joseph in the act of being unfaithful. No bath house, group massage, group-anything experience. No hotel owner or inn keeper. No setting in which Joseph is seen with a woman in a sexual or unfaithful situation. Never seen walking down the streets of Nauvoo with some other woman inappropriately or in some back alley. All this while male secretaries are following him and recording his history.
Even Joseph’s own wife is positive Joseph was not a polygamist. Why would she lie? Especially if she wasn’t going to be a part of Brigham’s group? In her mind she was going East and would likely never see Brigham and the LDS Church again.
Why would Emma as the Church’s most prominent female leader, edit and publish the Voices of Innocence, a publication bashing polygamy, adultery, and fornication, and have that document sustained by 8,000 members of the Church in 1844—a document Joseph wrote?
Why would Joseph be tried in Far West by the Stake for “the girl business” in 1838 only to be exonerated by that Council? If he was guilty and there were witnesses, then why was he not convicted?
Why was section 132, which is the Church’s only document from Joseph on polygamy, not published in the D&C until 1852, years after Joseph’s death? Why is it not all in Joseph’s handwriting? Why did the Church edit it? Add to it? Subtract from it?
When in the history of the world has the Lord commanded an entire people to practice polygamy? (See Brigham Young’s teachings) Will Nephi not be exalted because he was not practicing polygamy? Paul? Peter? Isaiah? Others?
If polygamy was intended to be the Church’s new law and was the only way into the Highest heavens, then why would Joseph receive section 49 that teaches a man must have only one wife?
Why would Joseph point to the former D&C section 101 that teaches against fornication and polygamy when defending himself against John C. Bennet? For that matter why did Brigham Young remove section 101?
Did the LDS Church have pure motives in the Temple Lot case when it provided affidavits against Joseph as a polygamist in order to try to prevent the RLDS Church from getting the Independence Temple Lot?
Why doesn’t the Church release the William Clayton diaries? Or other records that might shed light on the subject? If the William Clayton diaries convict Joseph, that would only help the Church’s narrative.
Interestingly, Joseph’s own grandson Israel Smith says the following on the subject:
“Joseph Smith was the greatest victim of fraud and conspiracy of the last 500 years. Nothing like it in recorded history. He was simply lied about when something had to be done to justify … Utah Mormon polygamy.”
Is it possible that Joseph was in fact a victim of fraud and conspiracy? Is it possible he was telling the truth the whole time? Was there motive from the polygamist Cochranites and those they persuaded that spiritual wifery was of God, to push this system on Joseph and on the Church? Are there holes in the testimonies of those who followed Brigham? Can we really trust the witnesses of women who were supposedly once married to Joseph but then who subsequently became Brigham’s wives? Would they not have an agenda to pin polygamy on Joseph? For the “greater good” and to preserve their way of life?
If Joseph is exonerated of being a dishonest and immoral man, then the Church sadly has the most to lose. If Brigham was an adulterer and polygamy was an abomination, and Joseph was doing neither, it’s hard to argue that Keys can be transferred upon such principles of unrighteousness. But, if Joseph is exonerated, it’s also far more likely that people will not be so quick to throw away the Book of Mormon, the teachings of Joseph Smith, the D&C and Pearl of Great Price, and most importantly, the restoration itself.
Sadly, the LDS Church needs Joseph to be as guilty of polygamy as was Brigham and the Church needs to continue to push the teaching that polygamy came to Joseph as a revelation from God. If they lose that argument, they may just lose the Church. Yet, by holding onto it, they lose great people whose consciences no longer allow them to believe that an immoral man is one of God’s true messengers.
For those interested in reading more on this topic, I’d recommend strongly the following links, which provide far better research than what’s contained in this short blog post.
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.
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.
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).
Might I just say at the outset of this post that I truly respect these men who are sincerely trying to grapple with very difficult issues confronting the Church. I know many of them. Some are my friends. I do not envy their positions. I believe them to be as sincere as I ever was as an active LDS person, or more so.
But might I also suggest that this bubble chart is very much the stuff of the corporate realm. Where paid data analysts and middle management folks do the research and then present a well-thought out proposal to their VPs and CEOs. As you know, this is one of my issues I have with the Church. I feel like the Church operates too much like a business rather than by revelation.
I did find it interesting that this particular page of the powerpoint refers to people “leaving the gospel.” I can’t speak for others, but I see some of these bubbles on this chart as reasons why people may leave the Church (although not necessarily), but who in many cases as a result of their “issues” may actually find the gospel.
As one example, the chart speaks of “pornography, chastity, and lack of righteousness” as to why many people are leaving. And yet we learn in scripture that the Lord gives us weakness that we may come unto Him:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weaknessthat 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 (Ether 12:27).
I can personally testify that God gives us weakness (one might say the tendencies of the natural man) — that we may be humble — that we may turn to Him. Or you could say, turn towards the Gospel.
Perhaps the Church is too worried about people’s weaknesses and should see them more as God’s hand in our lives. This reminds me too much of the obsession we have as Mormons to be a part of the Not Even Once Club.It’s almost as if the Church would prefer no one ever make a mistake rather “learn by our own experiences to choose good over evil.”
I love the verse in the D&C that shows how our Lord uses our weaknesses and trials to His advantage:
And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feelafterthem, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them (D&C 112:13).
It is usually when I feel most broken (often from my sins and weaknesses) that I experience the Lord feeling after me. And of course the best part, it is most often then that I become more converted to Him and more healed by Him.
The Church seems to be more concerned with Church activity as a way to measure righteousness. Some of my most spiritual experiences with ward members have been in hospitals, prisons, at grave sides and in the homes of “inactives,” where in many cases sin or other tribulations have brought someone to their knees.
I spoke to a family member recently for example who is inactive. Her bishop asked her the other day if she has been praying. His insinuation was that she was not, because after all, she is “inactive.” She replied in disbelief and in tears, “I have never prayed so hard in my life for answers. I have never cried so hard to God.” She then added that she had recently and for the first time in her life, screamed at God to not let a person she loved, die. I asked her if it helped. She explained that although the person did die, something powerful had taken place in her heart in the process of yelling at God. There was a new trust developed. A new understanding. New healing despite the heartache. All this from someone who has “left” the gospel according to the bubble chart.
Perhaps a better title for this powerpoint page might be “Issues and Ideas Leading People Away From The Church.” Or “Leading People To The Not Paying Tithing Category.” I think it would be a more accurate title based on what I think is their goal — to keep people active in coming to Church.
I’d like to spend a minute on what I think is the most important and interesting bubble on the leaked powerpoint: Denver Snuffer.
Denver is unique on this chart. He claims to have seen the Lord. Other people on the chart may be interesting, but in the case of John Dehlin, my understanding is he’s more progressive and would like the Church to change or adapt to more popular and modern positions.
I personally like John Dehlin. I think he does a great job helping people tell their stories. He encourages and embraces dialogue. While I don’t always align with his ideology, I generally find him interesting, intelligent, and compassionate.
But interestingly, Denver seems to want to lead people to the Gospel. He makes the case that by focusing on the message of the Book of Mormon, all can have and should try to have the same experience he has had. In fact, Denver, more than anyone else, defends the Restoration and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and the Lectures on Faith etc.
I personally always struggled defending the Church narrative when it came to issues such as Polygamy, Blacks and the Priesthood, and Mountain Meadows. I made awful excuses that justified awful things because I believed the Church version of its own history.
But Denver HELPS the Church enormously. He makes a great case for example that Joseph never had sexual relations with Fanny Alger (14 years old) or with anyone, save Emma. One would think that IF this was true, the Church would want to exonerate Joseph from all the awful accusations of pedophilia, polygamy, fornication, and adultery. Can you imagine how many people would be relieved and overjoyed — who perhaps would “Know brother Joseph again” if Snuffer is right?
Snuffer also makes a great case that blacks should have never had priesthood withheld from them. At least not the priesthood the Church has and gives. Can you imagine how much easier it would be IF the LDS Church had not discriminated against Blacks up until 1978? Joseph was campaigning to free the slaves in the 1800s! and was giving them priesthood. That all stopped with Brigham Young, the self-professed Yankee Guesser.
Denver Snuffer also offers a very compelling reason why the LDS Church is still under condemnation, culminating with the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage, fulfilling the promise from the Lord in D&C 124 and reflecting the idea of Moses being taken from Israel as is depicted in D&C 84. Joseph is described by Nephi to be like unto Moses is he not? (2 Nephi 3:9). Maybe Joseph was taken because we, like Israel, wanted something less than the Higher Priesthood and the Fulness of His Glory? This sure makes sense to me.
Everything I have read from Snuffer suggests to my mind a return to what the Lord was trying to restore through the prophet, seer, and revelator Joseph Smith.
Everything the Church seems to do today is with the goal of saving the Church and with keeping people coming to Church.
Admittedly the Church has a very difficult path. If it exonerates Joseph from polygamy, it throws Brigham and ALL prophets and Church leaders up to the present under the bus. Wilford Woodruff included, who said, “Keep your eye on the prophet, he can’t lead you astray, the Lord won’t let him.” (Wink, wink.)
If the Church admits that Brigham was the real culprit in polygamy (misunderstanding Joseph’s doctrine of sealings completely), and in denying Blacks the priesthood and in Blood Atonement — the teaching of lawful killing to help save the sinner, i.e. a mixed race couple, then it admits that everything post Joseph is unreliable at best and must be seen as condemned by the Lord rather than condoned.
And hence the dilemma. Good men generally, who find themselves at the helm of a massive corporate organization, without a Joseph-like connection to heaven. They believe it is the Kingdom of God on Earth as did I for 40+ years.
I love them. I am sad for them. Because they rely upon research rather than revelation. And because they simply cannot consider a more beautiful and truthful narrative that restores and preserves the restoration itself, because it very may well undo the Church. It certainly would undo the confidence many have in the Brethren, which as Denver has noted is the last doctrine left of the LDS Church. We hear it over and over in Conference: “Stay on the Ol’ Ship Zion and look to the Brethren, who can’t lead you astray.”
In my view, Denver Snuffer is the most reliable witness of our day.
Many of my questions, many of my concerns, many of my issues regarding deep and important questions about the gospel and eternity HAVE been answered by this obscure and interesting man the Church sees as a threat. Denver ironically has kept me in the gospel when I might have otherwise been tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater as so many have when I discovered harsh truths about the Church. Truths the Church seemed to deliberately keep from me.
I hope the Church will come to see Snuffer as a friend to Mormonism. IF Snuffer has seen the Lord and IF Snuffer has been called to some work in these the Last Days (another dangerous bubble apparently) THEN perhaps we should at least read and consider what he is saying and ask God if it is from Him or not.
When I read his books, it makes me want to be a better person, turns me to scripture and makes me want to come unto Christ. If the Church determines that is “dangerous” then I am guilty as charged. Guilty of wanting to repent, be redeemed, and to have no more disposition to do evil.
God damn me I suppose, but for now, I’m inspired to hold fast to the gospel, in large part because Denver Snuffer helped me not throw away the restoration along with my many concerns I have with the Church. This is why I see him as unique. One the Church should see as a friend, if in fact they care about people not leaving the Gospel.