The LDS Church has been extremely important in my journey back to God. I am grateful to them, even if others do not understand this. I doubt that I could have succeeded in understanding much at all about God if not for the LDS Church.

However, I realize now that the LDS Church has been a pantomime portraying the truth, and not the real thing. It is possible to learn from watching an illusion. The illusion portrays truth. It equipped me to visualize the true pathway and to lay hold on it through faith. A church that can accomplish that for its members is a valuable thing indeed.

When mimes act out a pretense that there is a wall on the stage, the audience accepts the premise because it is portrayed by the actors as such. When a new character enters the scene and walks toward the pretended wall, we all expect a collision. We know there is a wall there. The new character doesn’t. They can’t see it, but the pretense governs the action. Sure enough, when the character hits the wall and falls down, we all laugh. We know there is a wall there because we’ve seen how every one of the actors have portrayed it to us. They’ve touched it, pushed against it, and walked around it. They made it “real” to us. We laugh at the new character who was unaware of it and had to be knocked down before joining in the group awareness of the pretended wall.

In the Broadway play Harvey (later a Jimmy Stewart movie), the title character was an imaginary giant rabbit. His existence was dependent on pantomime by the other characters. Pantomime is not confined to comedy. It can be used to stage anything, including history. The art is valuable because it allows imagination to provide the walls, chairs, dishes, telephones, food and drink, all at no cost.

The LDS Church has been extremely useful in depicting a house of order, prayer, fasting, faith, learning, glory and sacrifice. We can visualize God having a controlling hand in it. We can imagine what it would be like to have a prophet to guide us in these latter days.We can imagine mantles put on, staffs of power wielded, and unseen forces supporting the rolling forth of a great work. It is a great act. There is value in beholding it. It can ignite with fire our ability to see that it is possible for God to provide the real thing. Even if we must substitute one for another, we can use brick, mortar, gold and silver as if it were spiritual achievement. Because of our worship of wealth, we are easily led to substitute one for the other. If the pretense succeeds, this should be temporary.

I admire and appreciate the LDS Church. It has been indispensable for me to develop faith in God. I hope it lasts for some time yet, and succeeds in keeping its programs and publishing scriptures. I hope it keeps its temples running and performing the rites done there. I hope great numbers participate in the pantomime and pretend they are God’s chosen people as they faithfully serve within the organization. No one is hurt from serving others. The pantomime is based on something true, and represents what we might have if we are faithful. I expect that as faith in God increases, the pantomime will give way to truth. The LDS Church is a useful tool, and should be used. But the true connection to God should be at the end of that path.

One pantomime used by the church is the pretense of “keys” (although that is not well defined, merely claimed). In the LDS Church all of the “priesthood keys” are claimed to be held exclusively by the highest officials (First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve) who are sustained as “prophets, seers and revelators.” The church has published, as the copyright holder, a volume of teachings by President Joseph F. Smith titled Gospel Doctrine. This was originally compiled as a priesthood manual. It was recently abridged and reused as a Melchizedek and Relief Society Manual, part of the teachings of the presidents series. I mention this because the quote fits even the very narrow definition given by a member of the church correlation committee last week at BYU’s Education Week. It was from a President of the Church, given in general conference. It was then published by the First Presidency, approved by the First Presidency and Twelve, used in official church teaching to Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and therefore “doctrine” in even the most narrow of definitions

Here is a quote from Gospel Doctrine (which I could not find in the most recent manual) from President Joseph F. Smith about priesthood:

Then again, if it were necessary, though I do not expect the necessity will ever arise, and there was no man left on the earth holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, except an elder–that elder, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty, could proceed, and should proceed, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in all its perfection, because he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. 
(Gospel Doctrine, p. 148.)

Any and every elder could completely and fully organize the church. Implied is that nothing special would be lost. No keys would go missing. Any elder could do it. What is the pantomime? What is the pretense? The great pantomime of “keys” held only by the president of the church in a fullness, is, when reduced to its final substance, the right to run the entire organization because of common consent. Brigham Young was right after all. He claimed he acquired his authority by being elected to the same office as Joseph Smith. People have been testifying they “know” Brigham and his successors have the very things claimed about them. The pantomime has become reality.

The Book of Mormon has a great deal to say about “keys” because of what is NOT there. The book contains the “fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” but only mentions the word “keys” a single time. That mention is to the servant of Laban who had the keys to the treasury where the brass plates were stored. (1 Ne. 4: 20.) If “keys” were essential to the fullness of the Gospel, we should expect a great deal more to be said in the Book of Mormon on the topic.

To define “keys” Elder Oaks recently in General Conference could not do so without resorting to using the word “authority.” He stated: “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.” Yet the scriptures contradict this definition. They state plainly “no power or influence can, or ought, to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” (D&C 121: 41.) The priesthood is only to be used by “constraint.” It belongs to God alone. Unless He directs, we cannot act. Alma taught this in an example where lives were lost because he would not use priesthood due to constraint. (Alma 14: 8-11.) Christ’s disciples would “judge” the people, but only according to the judgment given to them by the Lord. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) Moses was required to perform a specific service in a specific way, and failed to do so. As a result, Moses did not pass over Jordan with the Israelites. (Num. 20: 7-13, also Deu. 31: 2.)

The “keys” are never defined by scripture. They get used as a shorthand way to refer to a number of very different subjects with apparently very different meanings. In one instance, they are called the “keys of the mysteries.” (D&C 28: 7: Joseph Smith was given “keys of the mysteries” allowing him to receive revelations which were otherwise sealed. D&C 35: 17-18: Joseph Smith had the “keys of the mysteries” to unseal knowledge kept hidden from the foundation of the world.) This appears to be a way to describe what Joseph could do as part of his ministry. It was apparently not transferable or even repeatable.

Other scriptures refer to the “keys of the holy priesthood” which were to be given in the Nauvoo Temple. (D&C 124: 33-34.) Although the revelation of January 1841 says the temple was necessary, the LDS Church claims it has these “keys,” and got them in Joseph’s red brick store. This theory negates the language of the revelation (D&C 124: 28). The LDS Church’s claim involves the temple endowment, which has been widely published. Therefore, if the claim were true, every endowed Latter-day Saint and every voyeur on the internet now hold these “keys.”

Scripture also refers to the “keys of the kingdom” in an answer to questions Joseph asked God concerning the meaning of verses in Isaiah. These, however, were “lost” and would not return until a specific descendant “unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom” would come. This was a future event during Joseph Smith’s life. (D&C 113: 5-8.) Joseph had these keys and they were his to keep even if he died. (D&C 90: 2.) But the references to “kingdom” are confusing, having been used by various people using different definitions. It once meant the Council of Fifty. Then it meant the State of Deseret. Then it meant the political division over which Brigham Young was Governor. Then it morphed into the LDS Church. Now it is almost universally used by the LDS Church to mean the LDS Church, but the LDS Church is not the institution God will preserve and protect. God’s protection is over “the church of the Firstborn.” (D&C 93: 22; 85: 5; 76: 67; Heb. 12: 23; D&C 107: 19.) Nephi also refers to the “church of the Lamb” with apparently the same group in mind. (1 Ne. 14: 10-14.)

The priesthood is for service, not control. The greatest priesthood holder was Christ. He condemned the gentile tendency to rule, control and exercise lordship. He came only to serve and offer His life as a ransom for others. (Mark 10: 42-45.)

It is easier to seize control and demand obedience to authority than to persuade using gentleness and pure knowledge. (D&C 121: 41-42.) So the pantomime of “keys” substitutes organizational control for common consent, amalgamates authority and then demands uniformity. At some point perhaps the saints will tire of the pantomime, obtain control through common consent, and repent. But if not, the Lord has the ability to move His great work forward with or without a pantomime running alongside. He has something real to accomplish. When He does, we will all be required to choose between the pantomime and the reality.