Month: April 2010

“… for it shall be sweet unto them.”

I received another inquiry (in the form of a comment on this post) about the subject of self-defense, citing various scriptures from the Book of Mormon as proof I have a flawed view.  This is the comment:
“I have thought it would be so nice and easy to just let them kill me and go to the spirit world scot free as it were! Clasped in the arms of Jesus again! No blood on MY hands…
But then I read in the Book of Mormon, the commandment of Jesus:

“And again, the Lord has said that: “Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” ” Alma 43:47
Very clear. So I do not think I am obedient to Him if I refuse to take up arms. How do you reconcile this, Denver?

There is a further warning from this marvelous Book for our day that is apropos:
Alma 48:24: “they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by … barbarous cruelty”

You see, I cannot ignore the high probability that I will need to defend my wife and children from “massacre by barbarous cruelty” in the Last Days.

I plead with you NOT to suffer to just lay down your life and watch as you see them massacred.”
I debated over whether to let the subject die or to respond.  I decided I’d give the following reply:
The Book of Mormon history of an escalating arms race between the smaller Nephite people, against the greater Lamanite people, teaches us many things.  First, technology can level the playing field.  The Nephite technological adaptations kept them safe from Lamanite aggression.  Second, an arms race continues after each encounter.  The Nephites began using armor. The Lamanites adopted the use of armor.  Later wars included this technical advance on both sides of the battlefield. The result was still more innovation by the Nephites, with controlled fortifications, limited points of entry, and kill-zones with cross fire from towers aimed at the aggressive Lamanites.  All of this reads like the modern Military-Industrial Complex (to use Pres. Eisenhower’s term).  It ended badly, however.
Ultimately, it was not the force of arms that brought about peace. It was conversion of the Lamanites, and the Divine power in judgment to destroy the wicked.  Conversion allowed some Lamanites to survive the destruction.  But the hand of the Lord was what ended the widespread wickedness, killing and disorder.
The conversion of the Lamanites was greatly accelerated when the group converted by Ammon determined to lay down their arms, even at the cost of their lives.  Over a thousand of them were killed before the killing stopped.  When it stopped, however, more were converted than had been killed.
When the Lord visited them and they experienced a two century long hiatus from warfare, their Zion did not have arms, killing or war.  When they divided again, they set in motion a return to the earlier cycles, ultimately ending in the complete destruction of the Nephites.  They left a record.  Their advice cannot be divided from their history.  Their history was filled with violence.  It ended in the genocide of the “good guys.”  The end of the record is referred to by Mormon all throughout his abridgment of the records.  We should not miss the end of his story as we read the unfolding story.
Death is not the end.  John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded.  He suffered no loss.  He returned to minister to Joseph and Oliver and bestowed upon us a lost priesthood.  Peter and James were martyrs.  They suffered no loss either.  Stephen was stoned to death, and had the heavens open to him and a visit with the Father before his death.  He died forgiving those who stoned him, as he was at that moment filled with grace and charity toward others.  Stephen suffered no loss.  Joseph Smith was killed by a mob.  He suffered no loss.  He moved to his inheritance.  Isaiah was put inside a hollow log and sawed in two.  He suffered no loss.
Killing is not as easy as the theoretically-macho may think.  It changes a person. My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944.  On the morning of June 7, 1944 he was the only one of his company who was able to continue fighting.  He was there at the liberation of Paris.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  He killed men.  It affected him.  He could hardly speak about it.  What few comments he made were separated by years in between.  A sentence here, a comment there.  Even when asked directly, he wouldn’t offer more than a paragraph.  It wasn’t a memory he could either forget or bring himself to discuss openly.  It is a great and terrible thing to kill another. 
Using popular culture to illustrate the point, there is a younger partner of Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven.  He talked about how much he wanted to kill someone.  After he had finally killed a man, he said to Eastwood’s character,  “I’m not like you.”  Meaning that he couldn’t reconcile himself to having taken a man’s life.  That is only a movie and Hollywood and perhaps overwrought.  But it nevertheless touches upon something absolutely true – killing is irrevocable.  There is no repair for having taken another’s life. Those who do carry that to the grave.
You can toss about quotes from anyone you please.  But when you cause another’s life to end you have done something irrevocable.  You have crossed a line which, even with all your prayers and regrets, you cannot reclaim. 
Given the choice between killing and being killed, I think a perfectly rational person can decide they would rather be killed than kill.  And I think the Lord could respect a decision of that kind, as well.  Death can be sweet for those who are prepared.  (D&C 42: 46.)

Ultimate Source

I really appreciate my status as a lay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I’m no-one who any of you should think important.  I’m just like you.  I offer my opinions and they are yours to consider as you try and sort out the challenges of this life.  The ultimate source for light, truth and salvation is the Lord.  Not me.  Not even an institution.  Not some other man.  You should be dependent upon the Lord for your knowledge and Him alone.  The Spirit brings you words from Him.
As you listen to any man speak, measure what he has to say against the standard found in the scriptures and against the whisperings of the Spirit to you.  Any man who tries to come between you and the Lord is seeking to make themselves an idol and they will lead you astray.  There is no-one who can stand between you and the Lord.  He alone is the keeper of the gate, and He does not now and never has employed a servant there.  (2 Ne. 9: 41.

You should obtain your own independent knowledge of everything another man tells you.  If you don’t then you are surrendering what should never be surrendered: your own agency and responsibility.

The traditions of men, part 3


This subject causes a great deal of anxiety for saints.  The fact it causes anxiety is proof that the saints have become conditioned to a mythology which requires everything to be good, all to be well, our current path a direct line to Zion itself, and all questions concerning the current state of affairs to be wrong.  More than “wrong,” questions are evidence of weak faith and the road to apostasy.

From the questions which started as soon as this subject began, I see I need to reiterate what I said at the first.  I have a testimony, I am active in the church, and I am not in a position to change things.  I support the brethren, pay tithing, serve where called and do not challenge the right of the regularly constituted authorities to manage the affairs of the church.  I rise when President Monson enters a room I am in, I sustain him with my vote, my prayers and my confidence.  I admire him.  I posted about him a few days back.  I meant what I said.  I do not envy him nor aspire to church leadership.  I am not called and do not anticipate I would ever even be considered; in part because of things like this subject appearing on this blog and concerns raised in books I have written.
I love the church and I am content as a Latter-day Saint.  I love my ward and serve gladly wherever I am called.
The fact that those clarifications need to be added again, although it should have been apparent from the beginning remarks, is again revealing how shaky the saints are today.  We do not have a foundation that allows us to consider alternatives.  We have a single “on/off” switch for all subjects and for our testimonies.  That is NOT as it should be.  We should be able to confront dilemmas, difficulties, troubling news and failures by leaders while we suspend judgment and tolerate dissonance.  We want instant messages, instead of having the patience to see the Hand of the Lord work over decades to bring good things from bad.
An open, candid and critical look at ourselves is not possible with people who are so insecure that they feel threatened.  The progression of these insecurities will be disastrous unless at some point it is reversed.  When those who raise questions are excluded, told they are weak in the faith and are on the road to apostasy, eventually everyone who is thoughtful is chased away from the church.  Instead of celebrating their critical thinking and working to understand issues better, we chase some of the best minds out of the church.  I wish all our critics were active members.  I wish all our discussions were open enough to allow the marketplace of ideas inside the church to air everything.  As I have said before, I believe the truth will prevail.  You can knock it down, burn it, pave it over, kill it and threaten it, but it will prevail.  A whisper of truth will overcome a hurricane of opposition.  It endures. It will triumph.
I’ve only touched on a few matters here.  I’m not going to go further at this point. However, the greater mischief we face at present is the de-emphasis of doctrine.  We are raising a new breed of Latter-day Saint today whose familiarity with doctrine is negligible.  They understand only a fraction of what has been restored, and for many of the doctrines, their understanding is incomplete, or so skewed that they are incorrect.  Doctrine has become less important.  We feed upon “inspirational stories” that salve the emotions, but do not edify the soul or bring the personal changes necessary to return to God’s presence. More and more of the saints grow up inside this new environment and have never even gained a fundamental command of the doctrines which Joseph Smith restored.  Gospel Doctrine classes rehash the same material every four years, which is quite challenging to those who have a memory which goes back decades.  The format adopted for teaching involves group discussions, and the teacher becomes a “discussion leader.”  Little is learned.  The group is made to share fellowship, and feel better for having attended, without any forward momentum in understanding the doctrines of salvation and exaltation.
When, over time, the leadership is replaced at all levels by those who are raised in the current milieu, the church will have completed a transformation back into a Protestant, powerless body of good people who want to do right and feel good about themselves.  But the power of godliness will have fled them.
President Packer again sounded the alarm in General Conference.  It was a brilliant talk.  I use the term “brilliant” to describe the light within it.  He said we had done a “good job of correlating” the priesthood “authority” but we had failed to disburse any “power” in the priesthood.  I think it was a wonderful talk.  What I would like to see discussed is whether there is a cause-and-effect between the correlation process on the one hand, and the admitted failure of priesthood power on the other hand.  That discussion, however, cannot happen in the current environment.  To ask the question about the underlying wisdom of the correlation process would be to directly challenge the “inspiration” of the prophet Harold B. Lee, who created this process.  Therefore, any questions about correlation demonstrates that the one asking questions is weak in the faith and on the road to apostasy.  So the discussion cannot occur.  That is until we become a little more secure in our faith and are willing to de-mythologize the cult of personality and recognize that questions are the first step to getting answers.
I love the church, and my fellow saints.  I mourn many of the changes.  However, I also celebrate the fact that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its gifts, privileges, opportunities and power remains still on the earth.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints administers the fundamental ordinances of that Gospel.  How far you take it is up to you.
There was a talk in General Conference given by a Seventy named Poleman, in which he distinguished between the church and the gospel.  The talk is still available on-line in its original form.  However, he was required to re-record the talk to conform to the correlation department’s challenge to any statement which distinguished between the church and the gospel.  Right now testimonies within the church recite the mantra “I know the church is true.”  The correlation process has made the church into god.  People’s testimonies of the “church” have supplanted their testimonies of Christ.  Read any Ensign issue of any Conference held within ten years after the triumph of the correlation process, and consider how many of the talks focus upon the church and the church’s processes and goodness, in contrast to how many of the talks focus upon Jesus Christ and His doctrines.  Christ’s role has been diminished by the emphasis upon the correlated church.
These are trends and traditions.  They are at their incipient stages.  We are a 180 year old church.  Barely out of the cradle, so to speak.  But trends endure.  Add another 200 years of progression of these trends and you will vindicate the fellow who said:  “When Mormons have been Mormons as long as Catholics have been Catholics, the Mormons will be more Catholic than the Catholics.”  If you want to see the future of the church in its present course, attend Mass this Saturday evening (held on Saturday so as to keep your Sunday open for basketball playoffs and MLB play now starting).

The traditions of men, part 2

Originally, the view of personal revelation or any visionary experiences was quite different than what many believe today.  In fact there are those who claim that ANY vision, visitation or revelation not received by the Prophet (meaning the president of the church alone) should be viewed as false.  God speaks to the Prophet, and only to the Prophet, and we are to wait to hear what God wants us to know from the Prophet. This is an extension of the adoption of the term “Prophet” and the resulting cult of personality.
During Joseph Smith’s time, he welcomed the revelatory experiences of others.  He neither discouraged them nor felt threatened by them.  His enthusiasm for what others told him of their revelations, and the acceptance of others’ revelations is readily apparent in the first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers.  Today the tradition is quite the contrary.  Today, if anyone has a revelation they are advised to keep it to themselves. When others hear about them the cautionary attitude adopted is – ‘if it were something important then the Prophet of God would have told you about it.’
The effect of the adoption of the term “Prophet” for the living church president has been far ranging and dramatic.  There has been a dramatic change in people’s expectation of personal revelation, as a result of this title shift. The result is, of course, if you do not expect revelation you are not going to receive it.  The expected charismatic gifts of the Spirit during the early church is now replaced by the assumption that charismatic gifts are driven by office and position.  Bishops get revelation for wards (and by extension no one else does or can).  Stake presidents get revelation for stakes (and by extension no one else does or can).  Mission presidents get revelation for missions (and by extension no one else can or does—except in the notable case of the recent earthquake in Chile, as I mentioned before).  What has always been true is that presiding authorities alone are the final say on revelation or guidance for their calling.  What is not true is that no-one else can, has or does get revelation.  Revelation comes to those who are prepared.  It comes in response to seeking, asking, knocking, and not automatically as a result of a new office or position.  Now someone called to office may humble themselves, begin seeking, asking and knocking and then get revelation.  But the revelation was always available, and the same information is available to all, “even the least of the Saints” as Joseph Smith put it.  The proposition that there is a control over available revelation is one of the results of the post-1955 development of the cult of personality centered on the President as the Living Prophet of God.
Another change now firmly in place is the administration of temporal affairs within the church.  For example, the Presiding Bishop’s office controlled the operations involving all the church’s construction projects until the David O. McKay presidency.  As a result of some problems (beyond the scope of this), the First Presidency decided to take construction over as part of their duties.  One of the members of the First Presidency got involved in some difficulties (again beyond the scope of this), and to placate the Quorum of the Twelve, the responsibilities were shared.  The result was that the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve now have budgetary involvement with the church’s building program.  This is a massive undertaking.  It involves worldwide construction of church facilities.  It is a major duty devolving upon these men.  However, it was one time an Aaronic Priesthood assignment, and the duty of the Presiding Bishop’s office.  Temporal concerns are associated with that order of Priesthood.  On the other hand, the higher Priesthood is involved primarily with the spiritual concerns of the church.  It’s all in the D&C.  But the shift of Aaronic/temporal concerns onto the shoulders of the Melchizedek Priesthood leaders has its effect.  The extent of that effect has been reflected in comments made by those who serve in the Twelve or First Presidency.  They hardly have time to do more than move from one meeting to another.  One said he never had time to reflect or meditate.
The original Twelve Apostles of this dispensation were given a charge by Oliver Cowdrey that their ordination was not complete until they had received an audience with Christ.  That audience was what would entitle them to be a witness of the resurrection.  The charge was given to newly ordained Apostles from the time of the first called Twelve until 1911, when the charge was discontinued.  It was discontinued because so few of them had ever received an audience with Christ.  Since then the Apostles have been encouraged to bear a witness of Christ based upon their spiritual conviction that He lived, died and rose from the dead.  The manner in which this is done is to suggest an actual witness of His resurrection.  But the words are carefully chosen.
When he was put under oath by the Senate Confirmation Committee, President Joseph F. Smith was asked directly if he was a “prophet of God.”  His response was, “my people sustain me as such.”  The senator asking the question didn’t understand the answer, and asked again.  After some back and forth, President Joseph F. Smith was asked directly if he had ever had a revelation; to which he responded that he had not.  He added a bit later that he, like all other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a testimony that Joseph Smith was a Prophet and Jesus Christ had appeared to him.
[Now as an aside, this testimony was in 1905.  Later, in 1918 President Joseph F. Smith received the vision now published as Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants; the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead.]
The church holds the tradition that the First Presidency and Twelve are sustained as “Prophets, Seers and Revelators” and as a result of that sustaining vote they must necessarily have all seen Christ.  This idea/tradition is so widespread that even when the brethren clarify what their testimony consists of most members of the church won’t listen to, or accept what they say.  I’ve posted about President Packer’s talk on his own testimony a little while ago in another post.  There are those who don’t believe him, and insist he is holding back because such things are just “too sacred to be revealed.”  However, the calling of an Apostle, as set out in Section 107, is to bear witness of Jesus Christ.  There isn’t anything “too sacred” about bearing testimony of Him that would prevent an Apostle from stating without equivocation they are a witness by having seen the Risen Lord.  President Packer has been truthful, forthcoming and honest.  I accept what he says at face value and I respect and sustain him all the more because of it.  He is indeed an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  And he is also an honest witness of Him.  However, he has essentially explained what his testimony consists of honestly, truthfully and fully in General Conference.  People continue to ignore his words and substitute the myth for the reality.
The terms “prophet, seer and revelator” come from scripture where the president of the church is to “be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God.”  (D&C 107: 92.)  The way this is read in the church today is that any person who holds the office of President of the High Priesthood is ipso facto a “seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet.”  Meaning the office defines the gifts.  What if that is not the intent of the scripture?  What if the scripture means, instead, that a person who is these things is the only one to be called to the office?  That is, unless the person “be” such a person possessing these gifts, he is not and cannot be the President?  Such questions are not even possible to be asked today.  They are, according to the current reading of that verse, evidence of weak faith and evidence someone is headed for apostasy.  Therefore a discussion about this verse’s meaning and possible differences of meaning are excluded and no other view is possible to be discussed.
President David O. McKay did not get a testimony of the church until sometime after he had been called as an Apostle.  President Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked about revelation, said “I don’t know that we need much revelation anymore.”  President Packer has defined revelation as when the presiding authorities reach an agreement.  President Nibley (a counselor in the First Presidency and Hugh Nibley’s grandfather) said if an angel were to appear to him he would jump out the window.  There are other examples, but the point is that there are many statements which have been made by the highest authorities in the church which contradict the popular myth that the Lord has and does regularly appear to, meet with, and speak face to face with the presiding authorities.  Despite this, there are people who presume the Lord is in the weekly meeting in the Temple, every Thursday, telling them how to run His church.  In contrast, President Young said when he asks the Lord for guidance and then he receives nothing, he will make his best judgment and proceed.  And the Lord is bound to sustain him in his decision, since he asked for guidance.  That approach is healthy, and allowed President Young and others to move forward.  However, it is one thing for men of good faith and decency, who are making honest and worthwhile efforts to manage the church to have our prayers, faith and confidence; and quite another to assume these men quote the Lord with their every breath.  As a church this subject is just not discussed.  As a result those who suspect that the brethren are making great efforts and are good men, but who may not have had an audience with the Lord are kept from asking the question.  When a Gentile reporter has the impertinence to ask such a question, they are rebuked and told things like that are sacred. 
A Prophet of God is not required to have seen Him.  A prophet can and has been inspired to speak for the Lord by the inspiration of the Spirit.  But when the scriptures use this phrase “and the word of the Lord came unto me, saying…”  This formula assures the listener that the words which follow originate from the Lord and not a good and honest man’s best advice.  All this has happened in the past and therefore you cannot discount a prophet’s calling because the word of the Lord comes by the Spirit, rather than from a personal visitation.  Visitations are rare.  However, the calling of a prophet in scripture was not institutional.  The Lord was directly, personally and individually involved.  Moses was told by the Lord, directly, as the Lord stood in a pillar-cloud at the door of the tabernacle: “Hear now my words:  If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.”  (Numbers 12: 5-6.)
When the Church was led by a president (from the death of Joseph Smith until 1955) there was no cult of personality around the church president.  He was the presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood.  When the title shifted, things began to change.  Today a discussion about this process is not possible because the subject matter is too charged. 
The difference between good men doing good things in good faith, who are entitled to our support in their calling and efforts on the one hand, and a prophet of God whose words are questioned at the peril of eternal damnation on the other hand is the overwhelming difference which now plagues the church.  We cannot have a discussion that questions the wisdom of church policies, procedures or decisions.  When even obvious mistakes are made, people who notice are not to speak of it, and if they do they are told that they are weak in the faith and on the road to apostasy.  Criticism is essential to a healthy mental state.  Without feedback and criticism you cannot raise a normal, healthy child. Try raising a child to whom you lavish only praise, and to whom you say, without regard to how bad, poorly or evil an act they commit: “You are inspired!  You are right!  It was good of you to have done that!  God Himself inspired that act!”  What you would raise up would be a monster.  Without criticism and challenges to decisions made, no-one can ultimately become anything worthwhile.
We have a church in which those who love it the most, and whose perceptions may be the keenest, are required to take a host of questions, suggestions or criticisms and never give them voice.  The only negative feed-back must originate from either outside the church, or if inside they are cast out because they are weak in the faith and on the road to apostasy.  This was the inevitable evolution from the cult of personality.  It is still unfolding.  It will progress in a funnel which narrows over time until, at last, when the work has been fully completed, we will have a Pope who is infallible.  Not because he is always inspired, but instead because he holds the keys to bind on earth and in heaven, and as a result God is bound by whatever he does.  History assures us this will be the case.  UNLESS, of course, we open things up to a more healthy way of going about our Father’s business.
Well, this is too long.  I’m not done.  But I’ll add more later.

The traditions of men, part 1

I received this question in a comment: “You often refer to incorrect traditions that you see members following. Can you give me a few specifics?”
This is a potentially sensitive question and I want to answer it with care.  Before doing so, however, I want to clarify some initial matters:  First, I sustain the church’s leaders and I do not challenge their right to preside, make decisions, direct the affairs of the church, control tithing and call leadership.  I “fall in line” behind them and do not question their right to lead.  Second, I have a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of President Monson as the only one authorized to exercise all the keys within the church.  Third, I do not think that observations about the church, even if they are critical of it, are proof that someone is misled, under Satan’s influence, or on the road to apostasy.  In fact, there are many active Latter-day Saints who have concerns, but who are content to remain active, faithful and supportive members of the church.  Concerns are not the same thing as rebellion or rejection.  Fourth, I do not either expect or advocate any changes being made.  When or if changes are made they will happen as a result of someone else’s actions, more than likely someone who would be in a position of authority within the church.  I am not such a person.  

Also, I want to be clear that I may personally make a value judgment about what has changed and mourn the loss, but another person may look at the same events and say they are good, developmental and preferred to what was there before.  So these are MY opinions, and not necessarily the view you should adopt as your own view.  You will have to decide such things for yourself.  That having been clarified, here are some of the things which have changed dramatically and are the product of accepted tradition now, but were entirely innovative when they happened.

The discarding of the Presiding Patriarch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There is no scriptural authority for this change and there was nothing in the original order which suggested that a change would be made.  Now the current state of things is equivocal.  We actually have still a Presiding Patriarch who is still living.  He is emeritus.  Whether the church intends to terminate the office upon his death is unclear.  If they do, that will be an innovation and (in my personal opinion) unfortunate.
The alteration of the Presiding High Priest’s status from “President” to “Prophet.”  From the time of Joseph Smith until 1955 the term “Prophet” was used exclusively to refer to Joseph Smith.  It was changed in 1955 to apply to the living President, David O. McKay.  Before then no living man was ever referred to as “Prophet” within the church, other than Joseph Smith.  When the word “Prophet” was used after Joseph’s death, it was understood the term meant Joseph Smith.
The result of this change was to create a “cult of personality” around the church president in much the same way that the Catholic Church has created a “cult of personality” around Mother Mary.  You need to understand that whole subject before you get too excited by my putting it that way.  If you do not understand this technical description then you need to become acquainted with it to be able to comprehend what I am saying here.  To briefly touch upon the subject, the Catholic view of the “cult of personality” around Mother Mary is positive.  It does not get viewed by them as a defect or some terrible aberration.  Pope John Paul II considered himself a part of that “cult” involving Mary. 
In our context, what has happened as a result of this alteration is that the former significance of the church’s president was administrative, and priestly.  He was a final arbitrator and judge, a presiding authority and a leader whose words were to be considered carefully.  He was NOT considered infallible or to be invariably inspired.  In fact, during the presidencies of the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Brigham Young and President John Taylor, they all spoke against any notion of infallibility of the church’s president.  President Young was particularly cautionary about trusting church leaders instead of the Holy Spirit as your guide.  President Young said too much trust of a church leader would bring the saints to hell.  
President Woodruff was so criticized by members for the Manifesto that he defended himself by claiming that the Lord wouldn’t let him make a mistake on that order.  He said that the Lord just wouldn’t let the church’s president lead the saints astray.  That comment was what would later be used to buttress the notion popularly believed today that the “prophet is infallible.”
President Heber J. Grant was an unpopular church president.  One of the problems with getting the saints to respond to the church president’s counsel was solved when the president of the church became the living “Prophet.”  You can reject or question counsel from an administrative authority.  But to question a “Prophet of God” was to invite the damnation of hell.  So the change in nomenclature worked a mighty change in the perceptions of the Latter-day Saints.  The “cult of personality” was an inevitable result.  Everything the president did would be done as “God’s Living Prophet.”  No matter what decisions were made, no matter their wisdom, goodness or undesirability, the result was the same: “They MUST be inspired.  We may not have the human capacity to see it, but God’s ways are higher than man’s after all.  To question is to lack in faith.”

The change put the president into a league in which at a minimum criticism was disrespectful.  Worse, if you were convinced that he made a mistake, it followed almost as an inevitability that you were absolutely forbidden from saying so because to do so revealed a “weakness in the faith.”  In fact, there are General Conference talks which speak about criticizing the church president (or “Living Prophet”) claiming that the criticism was due to a weak faith, and it would lead to apostasy unless a person repented.

This cult of personality has grown as a result of internal structural changes, including correlation.  The outcome is particularly dramatic with respect to the tolerance of women’s inspiration.  Whereas, in the early years a woman could be regarded as a “prophetess” (Eliza R. Snow, for example), today that recognition would be offensive to correlation, where all functions are combined under priesthood, and all priesthood is subject to the president alone as final authority.

The changes have been evolutionary, and over a single person’s lifetime not all that dramatic.  However the cumulative effect from the start to now is dramatic.  Right now the church views any revelation or miraculous event originating with a woman as suspicious.  It was so markedly contrary to this trend when a mission president’s wife foretold the Chilean earthquake, and the Meridian Magazine covered the event without any notice that the message came through the wife, that I linked to that article on this blog.  The article presumed the propriety of the inspiration.  But the message came to the wife, not the mission president.  That would be an un-correlated event today, and there is an existing infrastructure that would frown on that.  Happily the event was not questioned, but instead celebrated.
The “cult of personality” has been extended to cover everything.  You name it it is now covered.  Take any complaint at all:  The chapel paint is hideous!  Well, there are those who will argue that the chapel’s paint is chosen by the regular authorities of the church, who are chosen by the prophet, and your complaint about the paint color is really questioning the Prophet of God’s authority.  Therefore you are on the road to apostasy….
It doesn’t matter the subject.  The argument works by extension to everything.  The Bishop cheated his business partner:  You shouldn’t question that because … yada, yada, .. you’re questioning the Prophet of God.  Therefore you are on the road to apostasy.
Try: My child was molested by her primary teacher.  Oddly enough it even works there, too.  At least there are many people willing to apply that by extension to every ridiculous proposition advanced.  So the cult of personality has now assumed a front and center position to curtail discussion, debate or consideration of even healthy alternatives to the way things are.  EVERYTHING is inspired.  EVERYTHING, by extension, is happening because a “Prophet of God” has made it so.  Therefore unless you concede that “All is Well in Zion” you are questioning the “Prophet of God” and on the road to apostasy.

The stifling effect of this is pernicious.  It is not a view shared at the top.  In fact, the brethren preach against this notion, but to no avail.  I have coined the term “Brethrenites” to describe the result of this cult of personality in my book Eighteen Verses.  There’s a chapter in there that discusses this problem.

Crap, this is going to take longer than I thought.  Well, here we go again.  This will be “Part One” and I’ll continue this with something more. 


I have been surprised by the level of excitement which some of my posts have caused.  My views are an extension of the faith I hold.  It is not possible to take one issue and isolate it from the whole of what I know to be true.  Therefore, if you want to understand the view, you need to take the time to read what I have written, which explains fully what I know, and why I know it.
To understand it will be necessary for you to study the faith as restored through Joseph Smith.  I have explained what I believe and why I believe it in six books now.  Rather than attempting to argue me into another position, it might be helpful to first understand what I have written.
However, I realize some people will not do that and therefore I attempt to respond piecemeal here to questions asked.  But there are really two dialogues going on here.  One is between those who have read what I have written and know why I am responding as I do.  The other is between those who have no background from which to understand my answers and who make presumptions about them.
I appreciate the convictions of others, including those who disagree with me.  I am thankful to the people who raise questions about what I have written.  The level of excited rhetoric is something I do not find personally offensive, but I worry that those who use it will later regret doing so.  I put up a quote from my father a little bit ago about never speaking a word in anger that he did not later regret.  I would extend that to words spoken in haste, or in overwrought judgmentalism.  Oftentimes at a later point a person regrets saying them.  So I was extending to the authors of the comments a few days to reflect on whether they wanted them to be put up before them appearing here, as a courtesy to those who wrote them.
I am a trial lawyer.  Everything I do for a living is opposed by someone who is paid to oppose my positions, my arguments, my reasoning.  Therefore I do not get upset when someone holds a contrary view and expresses it.  I live with that daily.  My concern lies with those who express forcefully and judgmentally things which they may, upon second thought, realize reflects more about them than they would like.
In any event, I do want to note that there are at least two different dialogues going on here at any given time.

Lectures of Faith No. 6

This is an excerpt from the Sixth Lecture in the Lectures on Faith.  This was at one point a part of the Doctrine & Covenants.  They were prepared for the School of the Prophets and approved by Joseph Smith.  Their presence in the scriptures was the reason for the change in the title from Book of Commandments to Doctrine and Covenants.  The “Doctrine” portion of the book was comprised of these lectures.  They were subsequently removed from the D&C.  Below is an excerpt which I think is needed to be understood by anyone who would like to comprehend the faith restored through Joseph Smith:
An actual knowledge to any person that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God, without which no person can obtain eternal life.
It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more “enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34). 
Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods and the wasting of their substance joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing (not merely believing) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Such was, and always will be, the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; for such has been, and always will be, the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God, against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven (the only thing which ensures eternal life), that they will persecute to the uttermost all that worship God according to his revelations,

receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will, and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven,and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge; realizing that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
For unless a person does know that he is walking according to the will of God, it would be offering an insult to the dignity of the Creator were he to say that he would be a partaker of his glory when he should be done with the things of this life.
But when he has this knowledge, and most assuredly knows that he is doing the will of God, his confidence can be equally strong that he will be a partaker of the glory of God.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.

When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.
Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God.
And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God, is obtained by offering sacrifice.
And in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Ps. 50:3-5, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant unto me by sacrifice.”
Those then who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled through faith to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.
All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him.
And through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.  
But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their minds; and where doubt and uncertainty are, there faith is not, nor can it be.
For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.
So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak; and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.

Why the Second Comforter?

I was asked why my list of essential books included The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil, but omitted my other books.  I responded:
If someone understands the message of The Second Comforter, they will be able to get for themselves everything else contained in all the other books.  The Second Comforter is not about me, it is about the reader.  You should apply that book to yourself, which will lead you inevitably back to the presence of the Lord.  The Lord will then instruct you in all things needed to be prepared to be presented to the Father.
Beloved Enos is a description of the results of that audience.  If you understand and apply The Second Comforter you will receive those results.
Come, Let Us Adore Him is my testimony of Christ.  But my testimony is not as important as your own.  It may help you to develop your own, but without your own testimony borrowing from another can never be the end of the journey.
I wouldn’t write a book unless I believed it to be important and to contain truth coming from a higher source.  Nevertheless, it is what you know, not what I as an author may know, that will save you.  It is the salvation of others, not the attention of others, that concerns me.  If I can help point them to the Lord, then I have some limited use.  Beyond that, I have no purpose.
Since all that we hope to receive from the Lord flows from the discussion in The Second Comforter, it is that book which I believe to be most important.

Truth = Truth

Truth is a knowledge of things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come.  (D&C 93: 24.)  As a result, truth is really not subject to debate.  We either know the truth or we are deceived.  If we know it, we have an obligation to declare it.  If we are deceived, we have an obligation to be humble enough to at least consider the truth before we reject it.
When we dispute in anger, we move away from truth.  “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of  contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”   (3 Ne. 11: 29.)  The truth is not being taught when men argue in anger with one another.  When they do, the Spirit withdraws and learning ends.
Truth should appeal to the heart and mind.  It should bring joy.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;” (D&C 11: 13.)  I do not believe there is any past scriptural precedent for angry people bearing a threatening message about vengeance and revenge who then proceeded to build Zion.  I doubt we will see such an unprecedented and unscriptural event occur in the future.
Words that describe Zion include: 
No poor among them
Presence of God among them
Only people not at war
Singing songs of everlasting joy
Of one heart
It is an odd thing how those who learn about the possibility of Zion think that possessing that awareness entitles them to live there.  Before anyone will be admitted to Zion they will necessarily have to bring it into their own lives.  Gathering a crowd without considering first who has been chosen by the angels who possess the keys for this gathering, and those who have been sealed in their foreheads by those angels, is just another foolish and futile act.  (D&C 77: 11.)
Hugh Nibley wrote an article in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless titled: “Zeal without Knowledge.”  That title was taken from Romans 10:2.  In that article he wrote: “We think it more commendable to get up at 5:00 a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one.  That is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs and barren minds.”  Nibley could be so hard on us at times.  But then again, he also hit the nail on the head.
For some particularly unsuited people to talk expectantly about Zion when they are utterly unprepared to understand the subject is beyond irony.  For them to be stirred to anger about the subject because they disagree with another’s view about Zion must provoke both bemusement and despair for the gods.  

Seeking for and obtaining gifts – part of the expected pattern

I received this comment and question:

As I have learned more about the scriptures, I have come to find many “anomalies” in the lives of the prophets are actually not anomalous but part of the expected pattern. Examples of things I once thought exceptions which I now believe are expected steps along “the way” include Moses’ struggle with the devil, the 2nd Comforter, the sealing power, Christ’s willingness to give Nephi anything he asks, John’s vision of all, Abraham’s astral journey and John’s entering into the temple in heaven.
The appearance of the Liahona in the Book of Mormon seems anomalous, a physical object of divine origin given to aid his servant in completing his journey. But is the Liahona in fact, an anomaly or can any righteous member expect physical tokens from heaven to aid them on their own journey before they arrive in the celestial kingdom?

I would agree that there is a pattern, it is universal, and the prophets are trying to give that pattern to us in the history they record, the examples they teach, the parables they offer and the commandments they reveal. There is one, universal system which everyone will receive as part of their journey back to God. In order to pass the angels who stand as sentinels along the path you must proceed in an orderly fashion through the veil. It will be one by one.

Yes, I agree there are physical tokens given as an aid to getting there. Take the gift of seership, as an example. We know there was an instrument given to Joseph to aid him at the first. He used it to gain an understanding even before the translation of the Book of Mormon plates commenced. He would tell his family stories about the ancient inhabitants, their customs, manner of dress, etc. His mother, Lucy Mack Smith records this in her history. This understanding came as a result of Joseph’s possession and use of the Urim and Thummim, making him a “seer” in the sense of the term used in Mosiah. (Mosiah 8: 13-17.)

Eventually Joseph developed the independent gift of seership, and no longer required the physical instrument to be used in order to exercise the gift. He became, like Enoch, able to “see” without use of the instrument. (Moses 6: 35-36.)

We tend to think this a great rarity and grand exception. Yet we also find that everyone who enters into the same state of exaltation as God will be required to possess this same gift. (D&C 130: 5-11.) If possession or development of this capacity is expected for all those who reside with God, then the gift is intended to be universal among the exalted. Therefore, we should not delay seeking this as one of the best gifts to desire. (D&C 46: 8; 1 Cor. 12: 31.)

Since whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto will rise with us, and you will have so much more the advantage if you have gained greater light and truth by your heed and diligence than others who have failed to show such diligence, there is no reason to delay. Just as Moses wished all men were prophets, I wish all men were seers.

Your proposition is right.

Pax Americana

Prof has left a new comment on your post “The battle is the Lord’s“: 
I’m particularly interested in what you mean by this:
“We live in a world today in which Pax Americana has established controlled violence the world over. The fear of destruction holds forces at bay which would gladly destroy one another if permitted. The key to replacing the current world order with another one, as many insurgencies the world over recognize, is the destruction of Pax Americana by destroying American hegemony. A lot of people are working on that, both inside and outside the United States.”
Do you support “American hegemony” in order to maintain “Pax Americana”?  And from what source did you get these terms?
Those are really several questions.  I will try and answer briefly.  This is a very cursory explanation to the inquiry.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, there followed the universal recognition that there only one surviving super-power.  I think the truth was that even prior to the Soviet breakup there was only one real superpower, but the international propaganda machine and the eastern European subjugation by the Soviets essentially formed such a land barrier and controlled such a population base that they were accepted as a second super-power.  The reality was somewhat different, but in this world perception is everything and so long as everyone believed there were “two” the world acted consistent with their being two. 
Now the world acts consistent with there only being one.  As a result of there being one, political pacts, economic alliances, trade, military alliances, treaties, social mores, entertainment, language, corporate interests and sea lanes are all governed by what the United States tolerates or accepts.  Even China has so limited a military sphere of influence that they can “control” Tibet and the upper Korean Peninsula, but have no ability to project power over active American resistance.  That does not mean they aren’t working on it.  They are.  But they can’t compete at present.
Whatever other strengths other nations may possess, they cannot compete with the total inventory of American power.  Economically the entirety of Europe is not able to compete with American economic power.  There are other members of the nuclear power states, but none with the delivery systems, proven capabilities and demonstrated will to use nuclear weapons in combat.  
A full elaboration of the unique American combination of power is far too great a subject to cover here.  Just one other example: Al Jazzera was launched as a counterpart to CNN, Fox News and the BBC.  These networks dominate international news.  An earthquake in Istanbul happens and residents there turn their TV’s to CNN, Fox News or the BBC to find out what is happening.  Al Jazzera is an attempt to get another cultural perspective different from an Anglo-American vantage point.  To possess the dominate vantage point in the news is to possess the advantage.

Why are Turkey and Greece not in combat with one another despite their long lasting territorial disputes?  They are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) founded by the US at the end of WWII to attempt to avoid another land war in Europe.  Why is the Korean Peninsula not back in combat?  The fear is that it would draw the US and China into direct conflict and that would be a disaster for the whole world.  So an uneasy peace endures.  Why is Taiwan not overrun at present by China, when they claim sovereignty over it?  It is because China has not yet reached a point of development where they feel safe to have a direct conflict with the US.  Again, there could be many examples, but the world stage is set by American interests which dominate other considerations.  
The resentments pile up and attempt to organize.  Chavez has high hopes in Venezuela, just as Castro had high hopes in the 1950’s in Cuba.  But just like Castro, Chavez is having a difficult time keeping the lights on in his energy rich country.
The current American president candidly admitted “whether we like it or not, American is the world’s sole superpower.”  He’s taking flack for that right now.  But it was a correct statement.  America is the dominant power, and its interests influence the world over.  Foreign aid props up many countries which would not exist without it.  
There are many people who would like to see American power end.  You would have to have never seen the news to not hear that rhetoric coming from critics the world over.  And inside the American political landscape there are those who want to see an end of American foreign entanglements.  The most outspoken may be the Libertarian Party, whose candor about the need to withdraw from the world stage is part of their every campaign.
I have not evaluated the wisdom of the reality.  I’ve only commented on its existence.  How America got here is a product of history and decisions made in past generations.  President Washington’s Farewell Address cautioned against “foreign entanglements” which would cost us lives and treasure.  He was right about what he foresaw.  President Eisenhower warned against the “military industrial complex” (a term he coined), and how it would eventually control such economic interests that it would skew our national policies and priorities.  I think he was right as well. 
The terms are taken from Roman history and applied to American history.  We are re-living the Roman model, without borrowing wisdom from those who saw its decline and fall.  Gibbon is still good history, and a model for modern historians as well.   The parallels between these two empires are so striking that even the element used by the Lord in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream are similar.  The Roman being iron, and the American being iron and clay.  The parallels are unmistakable to any student of history.

We repeat history.  We are living with the past and cannot see ourselves outside the forms we have inherited from our past.  Tradition controls even the way we read scripture.  Therefore we are blind to what they tell us until it has been fulfilled, at which point we see in hindsight only what things we have forfeited.  Zion is alien here, and therefore we have a difficult time envisioning it without putting it into Babylonian/Roman form.  Zion, however, is without ambition, competition and aggression.  It has fled.

A student of the Lord

Our obligation is to conform our opinions to the Lord’s instruction.  That requires us to be careful about how we listen, how hard our hearts are, how much we want to let in, and how loyal we choose to be to traditions.  It is rare for any man to be an eager student of the Lord’s.  The scriptures give us only isolated examples.  Abraham was one of them.  He WANTED to receive and obey commandments.  (Abr. 1: 2.)
Resistance to truth prevents us from obtaining it.  The Lord will not force us to understand Him or His ways.  Instead He invites us to come and learn from Him.  Joseph Smith made this remarkable statement: 
“We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same.”  (TPJS p. 51.)
Closing your mind to the Lord’s agenda before He has had an opportunity to fully instruct you is damnation.  Damnation merely means the end of progress.  So when we fail to progress in our understanding, we voluntarily damn ourselves.
The Lord’s system, however, involves gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.  It requires patience and pure knowledge.  (D&C 121: 40-42.)  Before we can elevate anyone else’s understanding we have to stand on higher ground.  To lead a soul to salvation, as Joseph put it, required the following:  
“Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”  (TPJS p. 137.)  
Given this requirement for a man to be able to lead another soul to salvation, it would seem that few are really qualified.
Choose your teachers carefully.  Accept any truth you are offered and you will be offered more.  Reject a truth given to you and you close down the opportunities given to you for learning.
Someone asked the question a bit ago: “Humility = light?” and I haven’t responded till now.  The answer is humility allows someone to be taught.  We are all ignorant, but not all are willing to let in new understanding.  We must be taught about the things we do not yet know for us to be saved.  Without humility we cannot be taught, and therefore we cannot gain light.  Humility is so fundamental a requirement for gaining further light and truth that without it we cannot grow.  The two are so intimately linked together they form a near equivalency.

Violence and the Violent

There has been an abundant outpouring of vitriol by those who disagree with my view about “the battle is the Lord’s” (an earlier post).  The comment moderator has asked me about them, because she’s reluctant to put some of them up.  They claim the view I hold is either Satanic or else I have been deceived by the Devil.  They insist I have a duty to kill people rather than refrain from doing so when there is a threat of violence directed at me or my family.  They claim Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both require me to begin killing enemies under appropriate circumstances, rather than submitting to being killed.

From time to time someone writes something which they later regret and they send another message asking for the comment to either not be put up or to be deleted if it had already been posted.  I reminded her of that and suggested that she wait a few days and see if people decide to withdraw them before making any decision.  Ultimately I leave it to her to decide.

I did want to add a comment about the use of violence.  First, I trust the inspiration of a non-violent man, constrained against his will, when he determines the Lord requires him to act far more than I would trust the judgment of someone prone to violence when they suggest the need to kill, take violent action or attack.  Throughout history all those who have made claims their violence was excused claimed they were “defending” themselves.  There is a chapter on this subject in Eighteen Verses, which covers the topic a bit more than I am inclined to do again here.

I would comment about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and its sad legacy.  The recent publication by the Assistant Church Historian as co-author of yet another new treatment of the unfortunate moment when Brigham Young’s clamor for “defending” the Saints got out of hand.  The book is called Massacre at Mountain Meadows. The book reiterated how mistaken and regrettable that moment was in LDS history.  It is the great example pointed to by anti-Mormon sources as proof that Mormons are capable of all the depredations of Historic Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Puritanical excesses that killed those who offended them.  The church has issued an official apology, and President Hinckley visited the site and dedicated a monument as an act of Latter-day Saint contrition and regret.

That single moment in church history is something which all our prayers cannot take back.  We cannot restore those lives which were taken.  We cannot explain we are really Christ’s disciples to the descendants of that party of victims.  They continue to hold resentments which have festered for generations and still call out condemnation for our act of violence and murder.

If we had suffered then, as we had in Missouri and Illinois we would have been better.  If given the opportunity to suffer again for our faith, we would be better remembered by history if we learn the lesson of Mountain Meadows.  We are ennobled by our sacrifices.  We are detested for our revenge and violence.  In General Conference a few sessions back, President Faust gave a talk titled The Healing Power of Forgiveness.  Unfortunately, his great example came from the Amish, whose young daughters were killed by a murderer, whom they forgave.  It was not taken from our own conduct.  I would commend that talk as a more recent and more reasoned statement on violence and the violent than the comments of Brigham Young who Latter-day Saint historians now admit had some role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Not because he approved it, he did not.  Indeed, he sent a message to let the entrapped party go.  But his message arrived too late.  The violent attack had already taken place.  The violence having been rationalized, at least in part, by Brigham Young’s own militant comments in the preceding years.

I am not trying to persuade anyone.  Go ahead and resolve this issue for yourself.  I am only setting out my own view.  Take it for what you think it is worth.  If you think it is “of the Devil” or “Satanic” then of course you ought to reject my view.  But I have considered the quotes of Brigham Young before reaching my view, and find them in a context which even I believe he grew to regret.