Independence Missouri Talk

The Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) held their Worldwide Conference this last week. On Wednesday I spoke at the Harry S. Truman Library to a group of them in Independence. The talk was recorded and available through this link:

Celebrating the Family of Joseph Smith

There is a growing gulf between some rank-and-file members of the Community of Christ and their central leadership. Their leaders are pursuing a more tolerant, inclusive and permissive form for their faith. They ordain women, including to their highest offices, openly accept homosexual relations, de-emphasize the Book of Mormon, and have greatly reduced their regard for Joseph Smith Jr.

The results of their changing attitude is reflected in attendance at the Old Stone Church. That building was built during Joseph Smith III’s presidency. Just a couple decades ago that church was home to two branches that met there every Sunday. Both Sunday services were attended by approximately 700 people. Today there is only one service each Sunday, and it is attended by approximately 140 people.

Religion has value to people who want to learn how to improve their lives, increase their connection to heaven, and feel the inner sanctity that comes from increasing light and truth. When religion tolerates darkness, allows foolish and destructive behavior without correction, and neglects light and truth, it loses its value and consequently any appeal. When religion is just another outlet for worldliness and wickedness, it has lost its savor and is good for nothing but to be trodden under foot. (NC 3 Ne. 5:20)

Wickedness never was and never will be happiness. (NC Alma 19:10) When religion fails to produce happiness by denouncing wickedness, it fails. People lose interest. The Community of Christ is not the only denomination seeing their attendance erode because of the drift away from light and truth.

Updates on Scriptures

After years of painstaking work to get the details correct, last week the scripture committee met to do a final review of the labor. As far as any of those involved could report to each other, the work had been completed and reviewed for errors, and was now ready to typeset and publish.


Bids have been gathered and samples of work have been purchased to make a decision on a printer for a leather-bound, high-quality version. This will allow a lighter, more portable copy to be carried in hand.


After the meeting I was asked to petition the Lord for approval of the completed project, which I did and April 6th obtained the Lord’s word approving the finished project. However, given the fact that more is expected to be revealed, it may not be appropriate to use the word “finished” for these scriptures. But the recovery project is coming to an end.


In the upcoming conference in Colorado the scripture committee will be giving a report on the work. They also hope to have a sample of the selected printer’s work to show to those interested in purchasing a leather copy. There are also a few matters to be voted on to determine if they should be added before printing.


The new scriptures finally publish the New Testament and Book of Mormon as a single volume, as Joseph Smith planned. They include the most correct version of the Book of Mormon, the first complete Joseph Smith Version of the Bible, and the most accurate version of the revelations and letters of Joseph Smith.


The upcoming conference in Grand Junction Colorado set for April 19-21 has a website linked here: Conference: A Hope in Christ: The Temple

Sealed Book of Mormon

I received a copy of the Brazilian-produced “Sealed Book of Mormon” and spent a few hours reading it. I gave it fair consideration. If you read it for yourself consider the following five questions:

  1. Does it conform to the predicted content the 1830 published Book of Mormon explains was withheld for a wise purpose?
  2. Does it make sense to you that this content should be sealed and withheld from public scrutiny until there will be faith enough to receive it?
  3. Does the content conform to or contradict other existing scripture, including the Book of Moses restored through Joseph Smith?
  4. Does it edify, enlighten, and increase light and knowledge about God?
  5. What new sacred and important things does it teach about the plans of God for these last days?

Predators

I was asked this last weekend about what a fellowship should do when a predator or threatening individual comes among them. Apparently some people think that you must allow anyone to participate, no matter how argumentative or threatening they behave.

The adulterous and predatory almost always cannot be reformed, and must be excluded. They will victimize and destroy. We are commanded to cast out those who steal, love and make a lie, commit adultery and refuse to repent. The Teaching & Commandment we have been given instructs us:

[Y]ou shall not kill; he that kills shall die. You shall not steal, and he that steals and will not repent shall be cast out. You shall not lie; he that lies and will not repent shall be cast out. You shall love your wife with all your heart and shall cleave unto her and none else, and he that looks upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit, and if he repent not he shall be cast out. You shall not commit adultery, and he that commits adultery and repents not shall be cast out; and he that commits adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsakes and does it no more, you shall forgive him; but if he does it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out. You shall not speak evil of your neighbor or do him any harm. You know my laws, they are given in my scriptures. He that sins and repents not shall be cast out. If you love me, you shall serve me and keep all my commandments. (T&C 26:8, emphasis added.)

This is still binding. If your fellowship includes those who ought to be “cast out” you have the obligation to do so rather than encouraging evil by tolerating it. Be patient, but be firm. If a person refuses to repent and forsake sins, end fellowship with them and invite penitent others who are interested in practicing obedience and love.

Christ’s gospel is not impractical. It is designed to give those who seek righteousness to be able to achieve it. Tolerance and compassion are needed. But tolerance and compassion do not include acceptance of sin. Particularly the sins listed in the above revelation.

I would not go out of my way to uncover the sins of others. But if they wear their sins openly, you have an obligation to “cast them out.”

Failures

I was emailed a paper that evaluated and condemned a number of things about the efforts now underway to recover and continue the restoration. It made many good points. I responded to the fellow who emailed it to me with the following:

An “accuser” is always going to find plenty to condemn. Even Christ was continually condemned. Much of the criticism of Christ was justified and legitimate, in the sense that it was grounded in religious conviction, based on observable conduct that could be accurately interpreted against Christ as failures or lapses. The opposition Christ encountered from the religious society in which He lived ultimately resulted in Christ’s death and the scattering of the flock. In short, if you want to see Christ’s life as a failure, it was certainly possible to do so by that generation.

Like it is so often the case, there is plenty to accuse and condemn among the people I associate with. There will always be plenty to accuse and condemn. Those who choose to focus on the shortcomings will have enough and to spare in their search to find something to condemn.

It is much harder to unite people, and appeal to their sense of the greatest self. To have people aspire to unity of heart and purpose is, above all else, an almost unattainable end for humanity in general and gentiles in particular. Patience, love, persuasion and pure knowledge are unneeded when a person chooses to condemn and accuse. All that is needed is a flaw, a crack, or a discernible mote in the other’s eye. And in this world, there will always be some flaw, some crack, or some mote invariably present. It is the accuser who works the flaw into a failure by their worm-tongue. It is the accuser who uses the crack to divide and break. It is the accuser who dismisses the mote as utter blindness.

Christ, however, seems to help the flawed, and encourage them onward. It is Christ who helps to patch the crack and strengthen the weak. It is Christ who points out all the glory still visible to the one having the mote, and encourages they to wash away their own failure to see. This Christ does all the while refraining from belittling and condemning, and while teaching the one with the flaw, the crack, and the mote to struggle onward. He counsels the weak to not cast about to see and dismiss others’ weaknesses. While weakness is always on display, Christ advises against taking advantage of it.

I think the criticism and the condemnation is fully justified. It would be naive to think the people are ready for Zion.

I think the work remains undone to help these flawed, cracked and partially blinded people to become better. It requires patience and love and gentle encouragement to change men’s hearts.

Of course, those who want to remain in a library and look down from the upper floors of the library building will never experience the challenge of stretching their own hearts, tugging and straining their joints and sinews to help lift others. They can enjoy the folly they behold from their vantage point. That will spare them from the bruises and bleeding of the people laboring outdoors beneath them. But the academic will never live the experiences required to actually put into practice the lofty ideals about which they pontificate. They will never embed in their joints and sinews the scars and callouses required to become like their Master. They will not choose to know Him by walking beside Him, with the few who are the humble followers of Christ. They will arrive with soft hands and fragrant bodies. The laborers will arrive with rough hewn and bruised hands, and God will then judge between them.

This effort is messy. It will continue to be messy. It is hard. It will be much harder. It will probably fail, because in this world noble ventures are overwhelmed by the darkness that prevails here below. But even if it fails to accomplish the fulfillment of prophesy, those who labor the hardest will find themselves the most “added upon” by their labors. They will also find they have not developed any skill in accusing others, for they have not spent their time in that way. They are likely to have the greatest charity for others, because they will understand that they sought for heaven, and having only scaled a great mountain will feel themselves humbled by their shortcomings. But I suspect the Lord will regard them as “true and faithful” and be delighted at their scaling of a great mountain that only few have managed in mortality.

Godliness is a very rare thing among mortals. But it is godliness we seek. And charity toward all men. Therefore we ought to have little time to compose accusations and judgments, and when we encounter them we ought to humbly acknowledge we are worthy of condemnation because we only imitate our Lord, we are not Him. We only seek to obey Him, but know we will unwittingly disobey.

Thank you for sending the paper. It makes many justified criticisms. I always appreciate knowing more fully the errors among us–errors I share and labor continually to repair.

March 3 Talk

I will be speaking this Sunday at 3 pm at the Centerpoint Legacy Theatre located at 525 North 400 West, Centerville. The talk is free to the public and everyone is invited to attend. The main theatre seats approximately 550 people.

I want to extend an invitation to those who have a negative opinion about me.

The doors will open at approximately 2:15. Beginning at about 20 minutes before the talk there will be a video presentation about the Restoration.

If you are interested but unable to attend, arrangements have been made to record the talk and make it available on-line later that evening.

Eight Essays

Here is a link to a new book containing essays:

Eight Essays

It contains eight essays, seven of which are already available on this website as a downloadable pdf. The seven essays are: The Lost Piece of Silver, Cutting Down the Tree of Life, Was There an Original, Other Sheep Indeed, Shattered Promises and Great Hope, The Holy Order, and Our Divine Parents. The eighth is a short essay titled, Problems in Restoration History.

I have received requests to move books into hardback format. This book is hardback and a test to see if there is any demand for material already available to the public, but available in a hardback option. Hardbacks are more expensive than paperbacks, and if there is an actual demand, books that are now only available in paperback form can be printed as hardbacks.

Unfolding Past Failures

The failure of the restoration offered in Joseph Smith’s lifetime happened despite repeated warnings from the Lord. In September 1832 there was this, “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation rests upon the children of Zion, even all, and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon, and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do, according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s Kingdom. Otherwise, there remains a scourge and a judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion, for shall the children of the Kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, verily I say unto you, Nay.” (T&C 82:20)

At that point, vanity, unbelief and hypocrisy were polluting the land. The cure would have been to repent and remember the Book of Mormon as a covenant, and honor that covenant.

In February 1834, this additional warning came, “if they shall pollute their inheritances they shall be thrown down, for I will not spare them if they shall pollute their inheritances.” (T&C 104:3)

In April 1834 the failures to repent included even the members of the United Firm, “Therefore, inasmuch as some of my servants have not kept the commandment, but have broken the covenant, by covetousness and with feigned words, I have cursed them with a very sore and grievous curse.” (T&C 105:1) The failure extended to the saints who had moved to “Zion” in Missouri, “The covenants being broken through transgression, by covetousness and feigned words[.]” (Id. 12)

In 1835 Joseph published the Lectures on Faith to try to elevate the saints. (T&C 110)

The objective was to help the saints understand their transgressions, abandon their covetousness and no longer pollute the land.

In January 1841 at another location, a final opportunity was given the people by the Lord, “build a house unto my name for the Most High to dwell therein. For there is not place found on the earth that he may come and restore again that which was lost unto you, of which he has taken away, even the fullness of the Priesthood. …I command you, all you my saints, to build a house unto me, and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me, …if you do not these things, at the end of the appointment, you shall be rejected as a church, with your dead.” (T&C 141:10-11) The final opportunity included this warning, “if my people will hearken unto my voice and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, They shall not be moved out of their place. But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blessed, because they pollute my holy grounds, and my holy ordinances and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them. And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name and do not the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfill the promises which you expect at my hands, says the Lord. For instead of blessings, you, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies and by all your abominations which you practice before me, says the Lord.” (Id. 13-14) A short time later both the men the Lord appointed (Joseph and Hyrum) and the entire community of Nauvoo, were “moved out of their place.”

Should those involved be able to detect their own covetousness? Could they see they were transgressing the ordinances? Did they know their minds were darkened because of the failure to remember the Book of Mormon? Is there a difference between “saying” and “doing” the things God commands? Is that difference easy to see?

Their history is in plain view for us to see and understand. We are supposed to learn from and avoid those past failures.

March 3rd Talk

On Sunday, March 3rd, I will be giving a talk in Centerville, Utah at 3:00 pm. Everyone is invited and it will be free to the public.

Critics have offered many reasons to feel discouraged about the restoration of the gospel. Many are discouraged. But if you continue to believe God was behind the work that began with Joseph Smith, the upcoming talk will help encourage you in that belief. If you have lost hope, and would like to reclaim it, the talk will give you reason to hope again.

I hope that fundamentalists, former-Mormons, curious Christians, and active Latter-day Saints will attend. There will be something in the talk for everyone.

Development

The pathway to the ideal always requires a walk through the practical. It is not a single leap to become Zion. It is a journey, filled with challenges and opportunities. Time, planning, resources, faith, labor, sacrifice, and patience along with compromises and temporary steps will be taken before we get there.

The first increments are perhaps the most important on the journey. In the parable of the 10 virgins, by the time the wedding party arrived it was too late for half the virgins to enter.

Those who stand back and await to see what will be produced rob themselves of the chance to prepare now. Then when the crisis comes, it will be too late.

Time, careful and difficult steps are required beforehand. No one lacking the preparation will be able to endure the society of those who did prepare beforehand.

However modest and simple the steps now underway may appear, they are vital. They are leading to something much greater.

We are on the pathway to the ideal, but for the present must deal with the practical. Those participating have begun the journey already.

Power in the Priesthood

I was asked yesterday about a definition for the term “Power in the Priesthood” and I responded:

Power in the Priesthood: Generally, having heaven acknowledge the priest’s acts as authorized, such as in baptism and blessing the sacrament. But also includes any endowment conferred directly by the Lord upon a person to accomplish an act, deliver a message, perform a mission, or labor on the Lord’s behalf with His authorization. Not every act done by men claiming authority from God is acknowledged by God, but only those acts with power in the priesthood belong to Him. Hence the Lord’s saying, many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name have cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I say, You never knew me. Depart from me, you that work iniquity.

There is another, related term, Blessings of the Priesthood:  This refers to the results of receiving an authorized priesthood holder’s administration to a recipient. The blessings of the priesthood endure even after the death of the priesthood holder. Although Joseph Smith died in June 1844, the blessings he conferred while here endured until early in the 20th Century.