Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Upcoming Election

"Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

"And I give unto you a commandement, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God" (D&C 98:10-11).

As I have considered the nearing election, this admonition from the Lord has been helpful.  It bestows a responsibility upon each of us to discern honest men from liars, good men from bad, and wise men from foolish.

Earlier today I read part of a letter from George Washington to Alexander Hamilton.  It was written a year prior to his acceptance of the presidency:  

"Every personal consideration conspires to rivet me (if I may use the expression) to retirement.  At my time of life, and under my circumstances, nothing in this world can ever draw me from it, unless it be a conviction that the partiality of my countrymen had made my services absolutely necessary, joined to a fear that my refusal might induce a belief that I preferred the conservation of my own reputation and private ease, to the good of my country.  After all, if I should conceive myself in a manner constrained to accept, I call heaven to witness, that this very act would be the greatest sacrifice of my personal feelings and wishes that ever I have been called to make.  It would be to forego repose and domestick enjoyment for trouble, perhaps publick obloquy; for I should consider myself as entering upon an unexplored field, enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness" (Bancroft, The Life of George Washington, vol. 2, p. 81, quoted in Awakening to our Awful Situation.).

Following his election Washington recorded in his journal:

"About ten o'clock, I bade farewell to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestick felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call..." (Ibid, p. 82.).

Our current two major presidential candidates appear different than Washington.  There is almost a clawing to get on top.  The candidates both utilize slander as a tool; tearing down to get ahead.  Then again, there is a lot to attack.  Who can blame them?

These are terrible times.  Now more than any time in our history we are "enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness."  Though we might soon lose control, the Lord never has.  Whoever ends up in office, our only hope for a better life is to come unto Christ.    

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Last Mention Of Gentiles

In giving to us the record of the Jaredites, Moroni left behind a record of invitation and warning.  

The history of the Jaredites began with a prophet who conversed with the Lord through the veil, entered his presence, and was given the vision of all (Ether 3:25).  He received these blessings because of his faith and because of his knowledge (Ether 2:15, 19-20; 12:20-21).  The story begins with intimate contact between God and man, and degrades over time to secret combinations, conspiracy, politics, envy, and wars.  It is reminiscent of our day.

Moroni's inserted warnings to the latter-day Gentiles throughout the Book of Ether are, in fact, the last time the Gentiles are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  He finishes his warnings by saying this:

"And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles...until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall now that my garments are not spotted with your blood.

"And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;

"And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.  Amen."

"And now I, Moroni, proceed to finish my record concerning the destruction of the people of whom I have been writing..." (Ether 12:38-39, 41; 13:1).

Moroni was a true prophet.  He knew Christ.  He wrote about other men who knew Christ.  He saw our day (Mormon 8:34-41).  He wanted to help us see clearly what our inheritance is, and discern the reality of the problems we face.  He tells us that our only hope for redemption is in Christ.    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Pursuit Of Revelation

In March 1904, Joseph F. Smith as president of the Church was summoned to the witness stand in the Reed Smoot hearings.  He was examined for three days.  During that examination he testified to the court that he "never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations" (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, p. 99).  

If you read the text of the case, it appears he was sincere.  He chose not to overstate his own experiences.  He had the chance to falsely present himself in order to create the image that he was more revelatory than he really was.  He chose instead to be honest.  Notice, his right to guide and direct the Church as president remained intact.  Members' perceptions of him as president didn't seem to be diminished as a result of his honesty.  He was held in high esteem by those who worked closely with him, and by future generations.  Some of the text from the hearings follows: 

Senator Dubois - Have you received any revelations from God, which has been submitted by you and the apostles to the body of the church in their semiannual conference, which revelation has been sustained by that conference, through the upholding of their hands?

Mr. Smith – Since when?

Senator Dubois - Since you became President of the Church.

Mr. Smith - No, sir; none whatever

Senator Dubois - Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became President of the church under your own definition, even, of a revelation?

Mr. Smith - I cannot say that I have.

Senator Dubois - Can you say that you have not?

Mr. Smith - No; I cannot say that I have not.

Senator Dubois - Then you do not know whether you have received any such revelation as you have described or whether you have not?

Mr. Smith - Well, I can say this: That if I live as I should in the line of my duties, I am susceptible, I think, of the impressions of the Spirit of the Lord upon my mind at any time, just as any good Methodist or any other good church member might be. And so far as that is concerned, I say yes; I have had impressions of the Spirit upon my mind very frequently, but they are not in the sense of revelations (Ibid, pp. 483-484).  

In April 1904, President Smith issued the "second manifesto" regarding polygamy; this time with the intent not only of stopping the practice publicly, but privately as well.  It, like the previous manifesto, was a change in policy and not a revelation.    

Many years later, and just weeks before his death, he had a series of visions that became D&C 138.  

Now, here is a man that had chosen not to put up a facade.  He admitted to the truth of the matter about which he was questioned.  Significantly, he's the last president of the Church from whom we've received a written revelation that has been the result of direct communication from heaven.  His honesty is a good example. 

Perhaps the most valuable thing you or I can learn from section 138 is not about the world of spirits at all, but about the process Joseph F. Smith personally undertook to obtain revelation of God for himself (D&C 138:1-11).  Maybe if we choose to be honest about our standing before the Lord, and do not pretend to speak for him when we have no message from him, we can be brought into his trust.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Visions and Visitations

Bruce R. McConkie taught this:

“Through supernatural means, by the power of the Holy Ghost, devout persons are permitted to have visions and to see within the veil. They are enabled to see spiritual personages and to view scenes hidden from ordinary sight. These visions are gifts of the Spirit. (Seventh Article of Faith.) They come by faith and vanish away when faith dies out. (1 Sam. 3:1; Isa. 29:9-14.) Thus they stand as an evidence of the divinity of the Lord’s work in any age. If the Lord is giving visions and revelation to a people, such group constitutes the people of God. If visions and revelations are not being received by any church or people, then that group is not the Lord’s people. By this test the identity of the true Church is known. (Moro. 7:30-38.) … Visions serve the Lord’s purposes in preparing men for salvation. By them knowledge is revealed (2 Ne. 4:23), conversions are made (Alma 19: 16), the gospel message is spread abroad, the church organization is perfected (D. & C. 107:93), and righteousness is increased in the hearts of men. And visions are to increase and abound in the last days, for the Lord has promised to pour out his ‘spirit upon all flesh,’ so that ‘old men shall dream dreams,’ and ‘young men shall see visions.’ (Joel 2:28-32.)”
 (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 745, 747).

Friday, October 19, 2012

He Maketh War

I once overheard someone wonder whether an encounter they'd had with a creepy individual was in fact an encounter with somebody who was possessed by a devil.  If there's a question mark over your head, then the person is not possessed.  

During the night of December 23-24, 2003, I was unexpectedly visited by a woman possessed with devils.  This sorely unpleasant meeting lasted for around 45 minutes.  I hadn't known the woman previously, nor have I seen her since.  I now know her name, and that she was a member of the Church.  To this day I am unaware of what or who she was involved with that precipitated Satan's seizing control of her.  

It became quite apparent throughout the confrontation that this sister had at least been communicating with, and attempting to aide these spirits (whom she was able to see and I was not).  They had deceived her.  She was utterly overcome and displaced.

I remember keenly the emotions I felt, every individual that was there, the room we were in, the sight and sound of it all, etc.  I've spent considerable time pondering over what transpired.  The details of that night matter to me, but are not suited for a blog post.  Really, it's not something to talk much about.  Dwelling upon evil invites darkness.

Though this woman had been completely violated, her damnable experience did not damn her.  When she left that night she had returned to herself, and her tormentors had departed.  As I reflect upon that night, it seems she would thereafter have had every opportunity to press forward in faith and repentance, seeking Christ.  Perhaps the blatant nature of her experience encouraged such a turn toward light.    

Satan maketh "war with the saints of God" (D&C 76:29).  The servants of Satan uphold his work (D&C 10:5).  If the war he waged were as outwardly diabolical and horrifying as the encounter I had that night, not a man, woman, or child would be ignorant to the fact that there is indeed a war.  They would avoid it at all costs.  Yet, he is far more cunning than that.

The war Satan wages is for the souls of men.  He leads souls carefully down to hell (2 Ne. 28:21).  The tools he uses are pride, popularity, materialism, and the lusts of the flesh (1 Ne. 22:23; 3 Ne. 6:15).  In fact, those things are not scary at all.  We are encompassed about by them (D&C 76:29).  They are exciting, enticing, titillating, and thrilling to the carnal man.  Satan will by and by claim those who belong to his kingdom (ibid.).  It is these who "need fear, and tremble, and quake," for they "must be consumed as stubble" (ibid.).

Because Satan's tactics are careful, he is able to grasp them with his awful chains and his victims know it not (2 Ne. 28:22).  His victims even take delight in their position, their popularity, and their riches.  From this there is no deliverance, because there is no recognition (ibid.).  They are blind because they are filled with darkness (1 John 2:11).  Though they claim to worship Christ, they comprehend Him not (D&C 10:58).   

Because Satan seeks to rule with blood and horror on this earth, he will not cease his efforts until the wicked destroy the wicked (Psalm 34:21).  Our hope lies in Christ, not in the father of lies.  He would flatter you (2 Ne. 28:22).  Christ desires your repentance (3 Ne. 30:2).  Awake and arise to your awful situation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

He Is Fallen

Joseph Smith gave to us a remarkable account of his vision of the eternal worlds that we scarcely understand.  He explained that if God willed it, and if the Saints were prepared for it, he could have revealed a hundred times more about the eternal kingdoms than he did in what is now D&C 76 (see HC 5:402).  

Juxtaposed with the view of eternal glory is a view of eternal damnation.  Joseph saw both.  You don't encounter the one without encountering the other.  You do not encounter God without also encountering Satan (Moses 1:9-12; JSH 1:15-17).  

After testifying that he and Sidney saw the "glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father," he explained that he also witnessed Satan:

"And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,

"And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him - he was Lucifer, a son of the morning."

"And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!

"And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ - 

"Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about" (D&C 76:25-29).

Joseph Smith learned more about this than we are comfortable considering.

Satan was an angel of God.  This is one of two types of beings in heaven (D&C 129:1).  He was in authority in the presence of God.  What does that mean?  Is this the same kind of authority the great and noble ones had "in the presence of God" (Abr. 3:22-28)?  What kind of authority must one have to organize a kingdom in heaven in opposition to the Kingdom of the very God of heaven?  "[T]he Devil Lusifer also organized his kingdom in opposition to overthrow gods kingdom & he became the son of perdition" (WJS, p. 8).  How could he have supposed he could "take" the kingdom of our God and his Christ?        

How is it that "many followed after him," and "the heavens wept over him" (ibid.)?  What kind of authority and persuasion must one possess to convince a third part of the hosts of heaven that God's plan was not perfectly just and merciful (D&C 29:36)?  That they should not trust in Christ, the eternal God?  

What does it mean to be a son of the morning?  The morning of what?  

What does it mean that he fell?  Fell from what?  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Question About Blacks And Priesthood

I have been asked what my point was in my last post.  

I didn't make a point.  I only intended to provide the interview for you to decide if there was anything of value in it for you.  I didn't intend to spend more time on it, really.  I found the interview valuable, but it is only one man's public accounting of what took place.  Without looking at other testimonies it is impossible to come close to an accurate picture of what happened.  

It is difficult to find accounts detailing the experiences of each of the brethren who were involved in the June 1st meeting in which the decision was made.  Perhaps Elder McConkie's remarks and feelings have been most often quoted, and are most widely known.  His are also the most spectacular.  He and LeGrand Richards seem to me to have had different experiences.  David B. Haight said all were overcome with emotion when the decision was made, and recalled that he heard Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson say they had never "experienced anything of such spiritual magnitude and power."

There is no written revelation that was produced that day.  There were no visits, visions, voices, etc., and hence nothing to write down and publish.   However, more than not say they felt the Spirit witness to them in a powerful way that they should proceed in their desires, and that the change was pleasing to God.  All of the brethren who have described their experience tell of the feelings that came to them.

The most explicit explanation came from Elder McConkie.  When compared with what others said, it appears to be overstated:

"The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.  From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet… And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord."


"[T]he Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced." 

Elder McConkie also explained why he believed some members of the Church were disappointed with President Kimball's revelation (or presumed lack of one):

“Many of them [Latter-day Saints] desire to magnify and build upon what has occurred, and they delight to think of miraculous things.  And maybe some of them would like to believe that the Lord himself was there, or that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to deliver the revelation … Well, these things did not happen." 

Gordon B. Hinckley explained:

"No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with a certainty into our minds and our very souls."  

I intentionally withheld my views about the history of the entire matter.  There are articles and books written about the topic, all expressing various viewpoints.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Interview With LeGrand Richards

Since mentioning the issue of race yesterday, my mind reflected upon an interview I'd read some time back.

A couple of months after the Church announced all worthy males would be able to hold priesthood, apostle LeGrand Richards was interviewed about the matter.  Few members of the Church are aware of that interview.  Because we do not have much information available about the meetings of the Twelve during the period of time these things were decided upon, I thought some may be interested in Elder Richards' views.

Interview with Apostle LeGrand Richards
By Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos
16th August 1978 Church Office Building

WALTERS: On this revelation, of the priesthood to the Negro, I've heard all kinds of stories: I've heard that Joseph Smith appeared; and then I heard another story that Spencer Kimball had, had a concern about this for some time, and simply shared it with the apostles, and they decided that this was the right time to move in that direction. Are any of those stories true, or are they all?

RICHARDS: Well, the last one is pretty true, and I might tell you what provoked it in a way. Down in Brazil, there is so much Negro blood in the population there that it's hard to get leaders that don't have Negro blood in them. We just built a temple down there. It's going to be dedicated in October. All those people with Negro blood in them have been raising the money to build that temple. If we don't change, then they can't even use it. Well, Brother Kimball worried about it, and he prayed a lot about it.

He asked each one of us of the Twelve if we would pray - and we did - that the Lord would give him the inspiration to know what the will of the Lord was. Then he invited each one of us in his office - individually, because you know when you are in a group, you can't always express everything that's in your heart. You're part of the group, you see - so he interviewed each one of us, personally, to see how we felt about it, and he asked us to pray about it. Then he asked each one of us to hand in all the references we had, for, or against that proposal. See, he was thinking favorably toward giving the colored people the priesthood.

Then we had a meeting where we meet every week in the temple, and we discussed it as a group together, and then we prayed about it in our prayer circle, and then we held another prayer circle after the close of that meeting, and he (President Kimball) lead in the prayer; praying that the Lord would give us the inspiration that we needed to do the thing that would be pleasing to Him and for the blessing of His children. And then the next Thursday - we meet every Thursday - the Presidency came with this little document written out to make the announcement - to see how we'd feel about it - and present it in written form. Well, some of the members of the Twelve suggested a few changes in the announcement, and then in our meeting there we all voted in favor of it - the Twelve and the Presidency. One member of the Twelve, Mark Petersen, was down in South America, but Brother Benson, our President, had arranged to know where he could be reached by phone, and right while we were in that meeting in the temple, Brother Kimball talked with Brother Petersen, and read him this article, and he (Petersen) approved of it.

WALTERS: What was the date? Would that have been the first of June, or something?

RICHARDS: That was the first Thursday, I think, in May. [June?] At least that's about when it was. And then after we all voted in favor of it, we called another meeting for the next morning, Friday morning, at seven o'clock, of all the other General Authorities - that includes the Seventies' Quorum and the Patriarch and the Presiding Bishopric, and it was presented to them, and there were a few of the brethren that were out presiding then in the missions, and so the Twelve were appointed to interview each one of them.


WALTERS: Now when President Kimball read this little announcement or paper, was that the same thing that was released to the press?


WALTERS: There wasn't a special document as a "revelation", that he had and wrote down?

RICHARDS: We discussed it in our meeting. What else should we say besides that announcement? And we decided that was sufficient; that no more needed to be said.

WALTERS: Was that the letter you sent out to the various wards?

RICHARDS: And to the Church; and to the newspapers, yes.

VLACHOS: Will that become a part of "scripture"?

RICHARDS: Yes, I've already thought in my own mind of suggesting we add it to the Pearl of Great Price, just like those last two revelations that we've just added.

WALTERS: Will this affect your theological thinking about the Negro as being less valiant in the previous existence? How does this relate? Have you thought that through?

RICHARDS: Some time ago, the Brethren decided that we should never say that. We don't know just what the reason was. Paul said, "The Lord hath before appointed the bounds of the habitations of all men for to dwell upon the face of the earth," and so He determined that before we were born. He who knows why they were born with black skin or white and so on and so forth. We'll just have to wait and find out.

WALTERS: Is there still a tendency to feel that people are born with black skin because of some previous situation, or do we consider that black skin is no sign anymore of anything inferior in any sense of the word?

RICHARDS: Well, we don't want to get that as a doctrine. Think of it as you will. You know, Paul said "Now we see in part and we know in part; we see through a glass darkly. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away, then we will see as we are seen, and know as we are known." Now the Church's attitude today is to prefer to leave it until we know. The Lord has never indicated that black skin came because of being less faithful. Now, the Indian; we know why he was changed, don't we? The Book of Mormon tells us that; and he has a dark skin, but he has a promise there that through faithfulness, that they all again become a white and delightsome people.  So we haven't anything like that on the colored thing.

WALTERS: Now, with this new revelation - has it brought any new insights or new ways of looking at the Book of Abraham? Because I think traditionally it is thought of the curse of Cain, coming through Canaanites and on the black-skinned people, and therefore denying the priesthood?

RICHARDS: We considered that with all the "for's" and the "against's" and decided that with all of that, if they lived their lives, and did the work, that they were entitled to their blessings.

WALTERS: But you haven't come up with any new understanding of the Book of Abraham? I just wondered whether there would be a shift in that direction. Is the recent revelation in harmony with what the past prophets have taught, of when the Negro would receive the priesthood?

RICHARDS: Well, they have held out the thought that they would ultimately get the priesthood, but they never determined the time for it. And so when this situation that we face down there in Brazil - Brother Kimball worried a lot about it - how the people are so faithful and devoted. The president of the Relief Society of the stake is a colored woman down there in one of the stakes. If they do the work, why it seems like that the justice of the Lord would approve of giving them the blessing. Now it's all conditional upon the life that they live, isn't it?

WALTERS: Well, I thank you for clarifying that for me, because you know, out in the streets out there, there must be at least five, ten different stories about the way this happened.

RICHARDS: Well, I've told you exactly what happened.

WALTERS: Right. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

RICHARDS: If you quote me you will be telling the truth.

WALTERS: Ok, well fine. You don't mind if we quote you then?


WALTERS: Ok, that's great!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Dilemma Of Trusting In The Arm Of Flesh

The following letter was written to local church leadership from an inactive member of the Church:

"In 1977, we purchased a set of the JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES, and that purchase changed the entire course of our lives. As you know, the JOURNALS consist mostly of conference reports and other addresses by the General Authorities of the Church. Members of the Church are encouraged to be concerned only with the reports of current conferences, because, since it is only necessary to “follow the living prophet,” no one need be concerned about the teachings of former prophets. Most members who buy the 26 volumes of the JOURNALS leave them unread on the shelf. Well, we not only read them but studied them, and this has made all the difference.

"As we continued studying the JOURNALS, they led us to other sources of information about the teachings and practices of the Church and its leaders in the 19th Century. Over the months and years, it gradually dawned on us with an ever increasing awareness that the Church we belonged to as mid 20th Century Mormons was not the same Church as that founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith and perpetuated by Brigham Young. In spite of the constant reassurances by contemporary Church leaders that, only procedural matters of “form and policy” have changed, we began to realize that the changes have been much more extensive and profound. In fact, there have been drastic doctrinal changes, including total reversals of official Church position. How could this occur in a system based on the revelation of absolute, unchanging and unchangeable “truths” to prophets of God? Could one of the “prophets” have been wrong? Or both? Or maybe all?

"For years we attempted to work it all out so that it all made sense. The more we studied and prayed, the less the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit, and the greater became our concern and our dismay. Eventually, however, we came to realize that the reason the pieces did not fit was because they were pieces to different puzzles. The Church had changed so much from its 19th Century origins that it was no longer the same.

"To list the changes of which I speak and to document them would lengthen this epistle into a volume of unwieldy size. Some of the more outstanding areas of concern, however, include the identity of and nature of Deity (“Adam God”); Jehovah of the Old Testament and Christ; consecration, united order and tithing; the nature of eternal progression; the temple endowment; eternal marriage, polygamous and monogamous; Negro and priesthood; the priesthood garment; priesthood offices, particularly that of Seventy; blood atonement; preaching by the spirit vs. written speeches; method of missionary work; trusting our salvation to human leaders; world and national politics, government and friendship with the world; infallibility of the President of the Church; the nature of revelation; gathering of Israel; rebaptism; adoption; laws of God and laws of man; establishment of the Kingdom of God; sacrament; and more. In all of these areas, the present teachings of the Church are not the same as they were before the great transition in Mormonism which occurred just after the turn of the century" (Anonymous letter, fall of 1997).

Though it includes firesides, funeral sermons, etc., the 26-volume Journal of Discourses is essentially a compilation of Conference addresses.  Latter-day Saints once accepted these addresses as the word of the Lord "through God's anointed," and as "standard works" or scripture, when they were given.  They were at least encouraged to accept them as such (see George Q. Cannon's preface to the Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, and Albert Carrington's preface to vol. 15, for just two examples).

The Church now calls those teachings "speculative," and good for "practical advice," but certainly "not an authoritative source of Church doctrine" (see here).  There seems to me to be a constant fluctuation over what the truth of different matters is.  What man or woman is there among you who considers this kind of guess-work more important than the scriptures?  
The unnamed family who wrote the letter left the Church because of their discovery that the leaders of the Church have taught for doctrine different things at different times.  Doctrines changed, ordinances changed, attitudes changed.  The only constant they found was change. 

In a recent statement from the Church about previous teachings on race we were taught we can't be sure previous leaders spoke by revelation and that their statements do not represent doctrine:

"'The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine'" (Mormon Newsroom article, emphasis mine).

What happens when in twenty or thirty years the Church tells you the instruction you received in the October 2012 general conference isn't to be understood as doctrine, that it was merely opinion and speculation, and that what matters is what the current leaders are teaching?  At what point does this eventually stop?  Where do you draw the line?  Is it your right to question the truthfulness of what is taught?  Since we are asked not to accept everything 19th century leaders taught, should we be so quick to accept all the teachings of today's leaders?  If previously they spoke "in the absence of direct revelation," though many times they claimed to be speaking the mind of God, how much more are we to believe that today they speak by the power of revelation, though they do not claim to do so?

This makes me think of Elder Benson's point that the most important reading you can do is in Church magazines.  Do you believe that?  If you do, how much time do you spend reading those each day?  "Beware of those who would tell you the scriptures and canonized revelations of Joseph Smith and the other dead prophets are more important to you than our Ensign articles."  Is the Spirit of the Lord in that? 

You must not believe that kind of thing.  Do not believe it though a man in office may teach it.  I think that anybody willing to engage in such thoughtless obedience to their leaders shouldn't claim rank among intelligent beings (Millennial Star, Volume 14, No. 38, Pages 593-595).  But don't take my word for it.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Awake And Arise Blog

Many have asked for information regarding the blog from which I shared this morning's post.  The author has chosen to keep access to his blog limited.  However, if you're interested in reading it, email him at  The web address is

Differences Of Administration

The following was written by a friend.  I've posted his writing on my blog once before (here).  Whatever you decided you may have learned during conference, I hope his insight will benefit you as it has me.

"Differences of Administration": Understanding the Gifts of God in the Church

The thing that has been impressed upon me during this conference is that the men who lead this church, like all of us, have particular strengths and weaknesses.  President Monson speaks from his experiences of following spiritual promptings and of service.  That is the context in which he understands the gospel.  For him, this gift is so primary to his worship.  Elder Holland's talk helped me to understand that he has a great gift for oratory combined with a gift of a very sincere understanding of the fundamental need in this world of selfless service and sacrifice.  I understood through Elder Packer's talk the importance of the Atonement.  Elder Oaks has a gift for crying repentance to those who struggle with perversions of every kind.  His context is the sanctity of marriage and the integrity of the family.  I realized that some of us who are frustrated with some of the things that we see going on in the church have also been blessed with a gift, that of an open mind.  Not everyone has this gift, and not everyone is meant to be so naturally inclined to pragmatism.  Surely it is meant to be cultivated by diligent study, but "to some is given one, and to some is given another."  Those of us who have this gift have been given it by God.  The openness of our minds certainly has been cultivated and watered, but it is "God that giveth the increase." 

It creates a tension between those who have this gift and those who don't have it when those who do try to force it upon others.  We often think of those around us as being asleep, but they are awake in other ways.  They are alive according to the gifts that they possess.  We get in trouble when we begin to believe that because we have a gift that we need not nurture and develop other gifts.  Indeed, the gift of open-mindedness is important, and it will be unfortunate for those who have neglected to even acknowledge it and who fight against it.  On the other hand, to have this gift and neglect mercy and charity is likewise a failure.  If we fight against others as they fight against us, without provocation and without regard for their magnifying of their gifts, we will fail.  Other gifts will open our eyes and help us see other people with a Christlike perspective.  I lament sometimes that the gift of open-mindedness is not shared by more in the gospel.  Most see this gift as counterproductive and apostate.  However, I believe that one day when the church is rent with confusion and discord in the coming calamities, our gift will prove to be valuable and will help to strengthen the faith of others in order to save them from the prophetic warning which says that men will "curse God and wish to die."

If one thing has been revealed to me during this conference it is that despite some of the mistakes that we have made as a church, as a people, and as a world, the Lord's hand still moves in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I sensed a rhetorical "party-line" in the messages of some of the speakers, but from the majority of speakers I felt an honest desire, which prompted me to be a better man.  Elder Holland wasn't saying things that he did not believe 100% to be true, nor did Elder Packer, nor did President Monson.  The pathway to hell is paved with sincerity and good intentions, but let us not set aside a good thing because it does not conform to our expectation.  Their messages were spoken from the perspective that they have gained through their exercise of the gifts that God has given them.  Like you and I, they still lack some gifts, and, as I sensed in Elder Holland's talk, they still face with sober contemplation an uncertain but hopeful judgment from God.

My perspective expanded this weekend as I realized that our church is becoming rent with discord because we desire a uniformity of gifts and pridefully clamor for our gifts to be placed at the forefront and receive primary attention.  We likewise seek to suppress the gifts of others because we see them as less important.  It is fulfillment of the scriptural mindset which caused James and John to seek the chief seats in the Father's kingdom.  Our gifts ought to edify us and our brethren and sisters in the church, not divide us.  If we have a gift that is not yet invited, or whose utility is not yet recognized, we ought not to force it to the forefront without instruction from God.  When he is ready for our gifts to bless the lives of others, He will ask for them, and the call will be clear.  If you have received such instruction, I suggest you follow it.  I have not.  In the meantime, God will show us ways that we can use these gifts to bless our families, our friends, those whom God has prepared, and to work for our good and our own salvation.

Let us not spurn at others because they lack the gift we hold so dearly.  The church does seem to be failing in its progress.  I heard the call to repentance more in this conference that I have in others.  Nevertheless, I think we are generally on a downward slope.  In times past I have been too quick to criticize the men who lead the church, but if I was asked today, "So if you think you can do it much better, do you want to give this a shot?", my answer would be no.  I too am a man, and would not have any more capability with my limited gifts to turn things around and fix the problems in our midst.  I am still too much of a stranger to God.  We're all a bunch of messed up mortals trying to figure out how to live in and administer something of value.  Our weakness is apparent, but it is a collective weakness, not one that is localized at the top.

Let us show mercy to every man.  Let us cultivate our gifts and use them according to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Let our gift be a benefit to the church rather than a platform from which we offer broad and unjust criticism that reaches the eyes and ears of the unprepared (There is such a thing as just and appropriate criticism).  The Lord has not abandoned the church.  I heard much truth in the past two days.  I cannot believe that someone who would beg members to wake up and finally love their God, as Elder Holland did, is lying and trying to lead men astray.  That is just simply not the case.  Perhaps some of these men are confused, but they are not all corrupt, as some may believe.  The church may not be perfect, and we may have some serious repentance to do, but the Lord still honors truth with the still small confirming voice of the Holy Ghost--even if it comes from the most weak and confused amongst us.  The title of this blog continues to be "Awake and Arise."  My invitation is that those of us who are buried in the mire of the supposed faults of other men open our eyes and appreciate their gifts.  My invitation is to wake up and see the broad array of gifts that God has sprinkled throughout the field of this world and within the church.  This requires a more expansive view and, I believe, more open eyes.  If we want to see mens' faults, we may close our eyes to their strengths.  If we want to show mercy toward that man, we may close our eyes to his weaknesses.  If we want to see a man for what he is, we may open our eyes and fully see.  Do not stop developing your own gifts.  Do not judge a man for having not yet developed your gift.  Be patient, but do not stagnate.  The time will come when the tares (the real hypocrites) are removed from among us and God will gather in the fruitful shafts of wheat.  Then we will see how the gifts of God were carefully strewn in the field for the salvation of His children.  He is still a just God, and we cannot turn a blind eye to evil, but we can recognize things for what they really are without judgment and without malice and without enmity.

Friday, October 5, 2012

So Shall It Be

"And he said: Thus saith the Lord God - Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (Alma 45:16).

Nephi, quoting Isaiah, prophesied saying:

"And then, O house of Israel, behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.

"Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

"But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me - but he will show that he hath not.

"For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?  Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

"Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

"Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee" (1 Ne. 21:12-17).

The Lord will make an end of all nations (D&C 87:5-6).  Destruction will come upon this land from the east.  It's inhabitants shall be smitten, driven, and taken captive.  It's as though none shall escape it.  Men's hearts shall fail them (D&C 45:26).  Men will curse God and die (D&C 45:32).  The Gentiles will then be trodden under foot by a remnant of the house of Israel (3 Ne 16:13-15).  Then Isaiah's words shall be fulfilled, and the Lord shall bring again Zion (3 Ne. 16:17-20).

The Lord will soon make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and as I have said so shall it be.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Greatest of These Is Love

Mormon described the struggle he had working with a people who had once been enlightened by the gospel but had hardened their hearts against it.  Because of their accomplishments they became proud, and boasted in their own strength.  They sought revenge for the evils brought upon them by their enemies.  They desired blood, and went to other lands to destroy.  Thus, Satan had great hold upon their hearts.  

"And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abominations.

"Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts" (Morm. 3:11-12, emphasis mine).

The prophet Mormon admits that though he continued to pray for his people it was without faith.  He understood the prophecies, and knew the final outcome.  He not only knew the destiny of the wicked, but knew that his people would ultimately fail to repent and would be destroyed.  He could not exercise faith in their behalf.  In other words, faith failed.  Love remained intact. 

Mormon made a point of alerting his readers that even though his preaching would have no effect upon his people, he believed we could learn from their example.  "Therefore I write unto you Gentiles, and also unto you House of Israel..." (Morm. 3:17).  He reminds us that we will indeed stand before Christ to be judged (v. 20).  He writes to help us "believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ" (v. 21).  He desires to persuade "all ye ends of the earth to repent and prepare" for the judgment which shall come (v. 22).

After seeing that his people were on the verge of becoming extinct, Mormon goes forth to lead them once more. 

"But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them" (Morm. 5:2).

Their efforts were "all in vain" (v. 6).  If they had repented they might have been "clasped in the arms of Jesus" (v. 11).  Mormon desires to help us understand these things.  In case the meaning is lost upon us he helps us with his own commentary to the Gentiles:

"And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways?

"Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?  Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?

"Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you - lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver" (Morm. 5:22-24). 

Though faith and hope failed him, love did not.  Mormon prayed without faith for his people, and led them without hope.  It seems, however, that he held out hope for us.   

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fourteen Fundamentals, Conclusion

I could continue to address other points from the talk but I believe there are other things to talk about that are more important.  My intention in writing about the talk was to draw attention to teachings that have crept in among us that are damaging.  

It is important to understand the context of the revelations.  Know the questions that drew out the answers.  Learn to whom the revelations were addressed.  It is good to liken the scriptures to yourself, but sometimes it just doesn't make sense (D&C 132:49).  Not all revelations that refer to Joseph Smith refer to succeeding presidents of the Church.  In fact, most probably don't.  Pay attention.  Ask meaningful questions.             

On a related note, I'm looking forward to general conference this weekend.  It is important for us to pay attention to what is said.  Prayerfully seek the spirit of the Lord for discernment.  Seek to find that which is good and points to Christ.  Beware of messages that invite you to put unnecessary trust in men.  Look for the message of repentance.  Watch for messages of flattery.  When you discern a message to have originated from man, judge it as such, but do not harbor resentment or harsh judgment.  Love the truth; it is of Christ (John 14:6).  Love your brother; he is your flesh (Isa. 58:7).  Blessed are those who make peace; for they shall be called the children of God (3 Ne. 12:9).    

President Benson should get in the last word:

"Certain individuals within the Church may go astray and even fall away. This may happen even to a person in the Church who is in a position of some influence and authority. It has happened in the past. It will happen in the future. If our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in the arm of flesh, then we will know that we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ and not the church of men" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 90).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fourteen Fundamentals, Part 5

[Words in blue are from this talk.  Commentary follows in black.]

Fourth: The [president of the Church] will never lead the Church astray.

President Wilford Woodruff stated:

“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212–13. emphasis mine)

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:

“I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’” (Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78.)

I've written about this idea before.  You can look here to begin with.  I will not rehash those same thoughts on this post.  

It is too bad the Lord did not have this system in place for his people in every other age of the world.  This could have spared a lot of folly, right?

The idea that you can't be led astray by men, that the thinking has been done and what's said by those in charge goes; the idea that the ability to discern between right and wrong, truth and error need not be exercised because of the office of the man speaking, or that if you just "stay in the boat" with all the Saints you'll end up being exalted; the idea that you should follow a man even if what he teaches is wrong, is Luciferian.  Those who teach these things are "leading the Church astray."  Those who grasp at these teachings are deceived.  Satan takes pleasure that these teachings are received so well.  

Following his talk at BYU, Ezra Taft Benson was summoned by president Spencer W. Kimball to a meeting with the general authorities to explain himself, and to "apologize" for what he said.  The twelve were "dissatisfied" with his response.  Edward Kimball said his father (who was then president of the Church) "was concerned about Elder Benson's February 1980 talk at BYU."  He continued by saying that president Kimball wanted "to protect the Church against being misunderstood as unthinking 'follow the leader' mentality" (Quinn, Extensions of Power).

Unfortunately, none of this was ever made public knowledge by the Church.  It's as though some folks didn't want these teachings to go away, despite the fact that the president of the Church and twelve were displeased with what had been taught.  For instance, who was it that decided this talk was to become the "First Presidency Message" in the June 1981 Ensign?  President Kimball was still president of the Church.  Had he changed his mind about the talk?  These days it is seemingly more and more difficult to disseminate the truth to the public when there's such a strong desire to save face.