I love the response to the lectures (one talk). But I must stand aside now or wound this process. There are still important things left for me to do. Taking a role in establishing communities would harm, not help. I have had numerous requests to baptize people. When I refuse, then someone else will step up. They will ask God for authority, receive permission by the power of the Spirit, and gain familiarity with a process they need to help them. A process that will empower others through that first step to take another step, and then another. I’ve spoken with the Lord face to face, as one man speaks to another. Now you need to do likewise.
Some are going to be seduced by false spirits. They may or may not repent. Whether they repent and press forward to be ministered to by a messenger from God, and then find God, will depend on how closely they follow truth and light. False spirits prop up egos and pride. Anything of that sort will lead to darkness.
True messengers and true messages conform to a pattern: “Behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7: 13.) More importantly, they have a central focus that will NEVER change: “Every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth man to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil[.]” (Moroni 7: 16.)
Any preacher, leader, bishop, president, apostle, seventy or elder who asks you to believe in men, trust men, accept authority of men, is most certainly not of Christ. (See D&C 76: 99-101.) Anyone who points you to Christ, asks you to seek to know Christ, invites you to struggle to hear and follow Christ, you can know is of Christ.
Those who boast of their own spiritual prowess as a credential to have you notice them are dangerous. Those who testify of Christ, preach of Christ and ask you to know Him, while admitting their own insignificance, are worth hearing. Everything I believe is anchored in the scriptures.
Those who are deceived as they struggle to find Christ can repent as soon as they realize they have listened to a false spirit. Joseph was overcome by “thick darkness” before he called upon God and was delivered. Lehi walked behind a man dressed in white for the space of many hours in a “dark and dreary waste” before he called upon God and was delivered. When Adam built an altar and called upon God, it was Lucifer who replied, “I hear you, what is it you want?” Adam had to refuse the offer and await true messengers sent from the Father.
You will encounter false spirits, as well as true ones if you will persist. You need to be familiar with both in order to choose. These opposing forces are part of the process of becoming competent and adept. No one lacking knowledge of these things can be saved. “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power.” (TPJS, p. 217.)
Do not fear learning and experience. Fear ignorance. Ignorance will damn you.
I got an email asking why I thought this new direction would be any better than the many prior attempts launched through Joseph Smith. My response is given below:
Unlike the institution Joseph left us (which may not have been the end of his work had he gone to the Rocky Mountains), the new opportunity is diffused, non-hierarchical, incapable of central control, and free to permit the Spirit to guide.
There are two opposing powers which use two different forces. There is love and fear.
Love invites, encourages, waits, supports and rejoices in progress. Love is undeterred by setbacks. Instead, love finds a way to address obstacles and tries again. Love creates.
Fear inhibits, controls, discourages and limits progression. Fear offers setbacks and looks for obstacles to end creativity. Fear rejects what love offers.
If we were all motivated by love, we would never demand anything of one another. Instead we would request, and then be grateful when we received.
Love allows differences in religious views to be shared in a mutual search for harmony. Fear prevents this. Indeed fear causes religious differences to descend into hatred.
Religion cannot bring Zion if it uses fear. It must reject it and allow itself no tool other than love to overcome this world. God is love.
Sir Thomas More titled a 1516 book Utopia, coining a term used forever after for an ideal society. Sir More may have coined the term but Utopian ideas go back to Plato’s Republic for scholars, and Enoch for Christians and Jews. Fiction writers often try to describe an imaginary perfect society, and Hollywood regularly uses the theme. Mankind yearns for it.
There will be a latter-day Zion. The scriptures give little description, and the smallest of criteria for Zion. “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18.) That is the list:
-dwelt in righteousness
-no poor among them.
Seems simple. The list is so short it begs the questions: Why haven’t we done this? Why aren’t WE doing this?
There are a lot of “rich, learned, wise and noble” (D&C 58: 10) who think they are going to be residents of Zion because, well, they’re rich, learned, wise and noble. They believe they came here with noble heritage making them elect, special, chosen and endowed with great power. I hope they gather. I hope they move right into their Utopian experiment and get to enjoy each other’s prideful company.
The ideas given by a kind and patient Lord in Mesa were not mine. I am trying to understand them myself. Here is what I think at present in my struggle with the material:
Families need to develop independent and strong faith in God by worshiping together, praying together, studying the scriptures, performing ordinances like baptism using power given by God, and the sacrament. They should pay tithes and help those in need among them. If there is excess, reserve it for a worthy purpose. There will be some challenges, and some divisions will no doubt require study, faith, prayer and humility to overcome. Eventually they will become one.
When families expand by marriage the new sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and their families should likewise fellowship with one another and practice their religion. As soon as anyone new joins an association, everything fractures again. But time, patience and careful repetition of what went before will eventually restore unity.
If several extended family groups unite in fellowship, disunity returns and rough edges will need to be smoothed out, feelings respected, and different views discussed. Because families have an existing order and likely have a father whose priesthood is known and respected, these groups will require some mechanism for resolving cross-family priesthood questions. Outside a family, a man does not get an automatic recognition to perform an ordinance or render priestly service. The means for recognition of a man’s right to serve was provided in Mesa. No fellowship automatically respects any man’s claim. Approval will need to be given. Unlike present methods, in these fellowships since only men will have recognized priesthood, they will receive approval to perform by the sustaining by at least seven women. Once this has been done, the combined groups of multi-family fellowships have the means to continue to perpetuate religious service, perform unifying ordinances and worship God together.
At this point I think of the early experiences Joseph Smith had. There was an outstanding, well educated, and politically astute man who helped negotiate the Nauvoo Charter through the Illinois Legislature. He impressed everyone. He was admired, trusted and immediately accepted by the Saints. Joseph added him to the First Presidency. He was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. He was the Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion. All of Nauvoo took pride in John C. Bennett and thought themselves blessed by having a man of his stature among them.
His meteoric rise ended in May 1842 when he was excommunicated for adultery. In addition to adultery, he was suspected of polygamy, homosexuality, and performing abortions. The abortions were part of the underground practice of polygamy, terminating unwanted pregnancies to prevent public notice of these sexual improprieties. Joseph Smith learned of these underground sex rings as he presided over Nauvoo High Council proceedings. He was later accused by some of the participants of having approved it in the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor.
I also think of the earlier ambitious and enthusiastic Mormon converts who shone brightly for a brief season, then turned cold and dark. Kirtland itself rose in spiritual splendor and promise, only a few years later to drive Joseph and Sidney away under the cover of dark, while a mob gave chase for 200 miles. Kirtland became a community-wide failure.
What has changed? How have we become so much better than they? It is because we have abandoned communitarian ideals and are now stratified into economic divisions, educational divisions, hierarchical divisions, and the “haves” take their status for granted while the “have nots” accept their fate while awaiting a glorious afterlife? Is it because we have pseudo-stability? We have an accepted status quo? Is it because we tolerate a disparate society and that is proof we live in peace?
But one heart? One mind? Living in righteousness? No poor among us?
We are no better than Kirtland, and may be a lot worse. There are just as many Wilson Laws, John C. Bennetts, Chauncey Higbees, William Marks and Ezra Booths among us today as during Joseph’s time. Our pride and haughtiness is just as fractioning now as you will find in any generation among any people. We will have to LEARN to be one. Such a distant and guarded mountain peak seems unlikely for us to scale. (At least without considerable individual Divine assistance.)
We have a chance, but only a chance. Required work begins among the people who are the very closest to you – your own family. There you begin to develop the skill to work out interpersonal conflict and resolve turmoil. These are the people you are closest to and should have the greatest willingness to compromise with to problem solve.
We grow incrementally. We develop in stages. We learn skills then use them to solve greater problems using the same skill set we learned through experience.
There may be some great, towering lights who do not need to develop skills at problem solving and who are ready to found Zion today. If so, they should do so. Let us all stand back and admire them. Surely they have much to show the world. Many of these self-proclaiming great ones never sacrifice their name by stepping forward and letting themselves be identified, their reputation attacked, their motives questioned, and their church membership threatened or lost. As the Lectures on Faith inform us, without sacrifice we have no faith, for faith comes by sacrifice and in no other way. Read the Lectures on Faith.
The lecture in Mesa drove many people away and will continue to do so. That is a good thing. Those leaving will not make the required sacrifice, and therefore will not develop faith. They will not be able to gather. God will not allow it.
The lecture, parts 1 through 10, give us the means to develop incrementally. It was to help those who, like me, are not part of the great, towering nobility needing no refinement. It allows me and my fellow poor, lame, blind, and deaf associates (D&C 58: 11) a chance to grow as we struggle to overcome our weaknesses and many shortcomings. I need to work on a great deal. To me, it does not seem easy.
There will be imposters. They will be exposed so they can repent, or they will be sent away. There will be those who are cruel, proud and unkind. They need the opportunity to overcome their character flaws. If they refuse to reform, eventually they will stop associating with us and we with them. Malignant hearts are not easily concealed. Ambition and pride destroy, not build, communities.
I have had high hopes in the past for some seekers I have met. People who have made strong, favorable impressions, at first. A few years later, some of these people I had high regard for prove themselves proud, controlling, dictatorial and unworthy.
Similarly, I have seen some who did not stand out at first but who, over time, have proven themselves godly, self-sacrificing and brave. Time and experience change people. Even now some who are “great” stand in peril before God and may fall. Those who exalt themselves have never been candidates for Zion. Gradually, by degrees, we will see maturity, repentance, kindness and even charity become part of these communities.
The great ones who can bypass such effort should do it now, if they can. They should be the shining example so we can learn. They ought to point the way and let us admire their greatness. Show us Utopia, ye noble and great! I won’t ask to be permitted to come in, I only want to admire your accomplishment in the hope I may learn from you.
As for the residue, where I believe I remain, I hope to work out my own development with fear and trembling before God. One day I hope to be gathered. If that day comes, I hope to present no threat to the community because of ambition or pride. I hope to come already disposed to be of one heart and mind with them, having made enough sacrifices along the way to crawl in upon my knees as one of the least. I hope to have developed the skill to be an adept problem solver and an aid to my fellow saint by practicing the things I learned in Mesa in the ways suggested there.
When there is a gathering, I do not think the people invited will believe they are better than others. I doubt very much they will think they have accomplished anything extraordinary. Instead they will marvel at how simple it was to work it out peacefully beforehand, and wonder why mankind has not lived in peace continually since the fall of Adam. Zion will not be proud of itself, because it cannot.
Small choices change destinies. Those who gather before skills have been refined, and before the proud, learned, noble and rich have left, will produce nothing other than Kirtland, Jackson County, Nauvoo and Salt Lake. People need to be driven away, and people need to be refined. This happens simultaneously. It is for a good and wise purpose.
I gave a talk about Zion years ago. In it, I took note that the description in 4 Nephi of the Nephite generations of peace following Christ’s visit included three levels of harmony:
“there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.” (4 Ne. 1: 2)
“And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land;” (4 Ne. 1: 13)
“there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1: 15).
I think this pattern will need to be repeated. We will not get to a third level of harmony among us unless we first work out and resolve contentions in our families, and then in fellowship groups before we have the ability to do so as a gathered community. Zion must have
-dwell in righteousness, and
-no poor among them.
If that is not us then we are not Zion.
Joseph was undeterred by the persistent failures. He believed anyone could rise up if they were taught how. Joseph believed it was ignorance that damned us and a man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge. Boise lecture.
Rather than throw his hands up at the failure, he set to work compiling a series of lectures to be given to these prospective “prophets” in a School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. By 1835, he carefully edited the lectures to print them for the entire church. The Lectures on Faith were the first part of the Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1835, and vouched for by Joseph Smith. This was the Idaho Falls lecture. The Lectures tell you what the religion was designed to accomplish. They were composed in an effort to get the early church to rise up and reclaim power from heaven.
I have never claimed, in public or private, to be anything other than a weak and foolish man.
The notion that I think I am anything other than that repulses me.
For years I have said that until someone actually accomplishes something, they have no right to claim they are something great or wonderful, that they fulfill prophecy, or are God’s chosen anything.
Nobody has accomplished anything since Joseph Smith. There is a great hill to climb. Until someone climbs it and serves to guide others, we are left with pretenders, ego-maniacs, fools, impostors and villains.
Something is underway. Nothing has been accomplished. You need to participate. Starting a project, and getting 1% of it accomplished, and then claiming you are a “great” anything is not just a mistake, but it takes the eye off of the unfinished project – a very difficult project. Getting to your own 2 yard line still leaves 98 yards to go.
Without the refining of a transition phase, we will be utterly unprepared. But the refinement itself will be very hard, and there will be many who fail.
If a few succeed, then those can be gathered. Once gathered, there is still work to be done. Those who believe we can take a giant step do not comprehend how natural the evolution of God’s work is. It requires effort every day, and will require as much of latter-day Zion as was required for Enoch and Melchizedek. It’s difficult to imagine how much needs to be left behind and how much needs to be added.
If you think I’m something great and important, you miss altogether what is YOUR responsibility. The restoration belongs to YOU. No one is going to invoke a magic spell and spare you the development, maturity, selflessness, patience, growth and determination needed to be part of a healthy, functioning society worthy of the presence of God and angels. It is They (God and angels) whose company we seek. Not mine.
The Phoenix/Mesa transcript is up on Scribd. Also, I fixed the link for the St. George lecture. You can find links for them on the right hand side of the blog under DS talks.
The final lecture will be on Tuesday beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Mesa. The time is local, which in Mesa is Mountain Standard.
Each of the lectures make sense as a “stand alone” but the final installment assumes anyone attending will be familiar with the content of the nine prior talks.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ARIZONA DOES NOT HAVE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS. THE TIME IS ALWAYS LOCAL AT EVERY LOCATION.
We lost the first announced location in Phoenix because, as Doug informed me:
“Due to threats, nasty phone calls & emails, Rockin R Ranch has cancelled the venue. Will get another. Ward & stake people threatened to boycott the business if they allowed the talk at their place. Phone calls with the same thing.”
We now have a replacement and will be signing the agreement later today. When it is locked down we will announce it here.
For those who made suggestions for replacement locations, we appreciate it. And we bear no animosity for the Rockin R Ranch and hope they are not discomforted by anyone who was disappointed by their refusal to allow the talk to happen there.
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.
On the topic of receiving the Holy Ghost, there is more said and far more claims made about the “priesthood” than the scriptures justify. As I have explained, the lowest form of priesthood was given primarily to condemn those who received it. It involves performing outward ordinances, and regulates physical conduct. I will add that because of intermarriage, there is almost no one alive today who does not have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Judah and Levi in their ancestry. Levitical priesthood is almost universally available to every male alive today, no matter their ethnicity. The bloodlines are there, even if the man is unaware of it. This is why declaring a lineage in LDS Patriarchal Blessings is appropriate and invariably merely selecting one out of twelve (thirteen if you separate Manasseh and Ephraim) possibilities.
If you go back far enough, there is a tradition in my family that we had a line of Rabbi’s on the German side. I’ve been back through the 1400’s and so far haven’t identified any Rabbinical predecessors. WWII destroyed much of the records from the time before that. My Scottish side seems safely Ephraimite in their ancestry. There are so many mixtures in all of our ancestries that I doubt you can find someone alive who is not part-Israelite. Ironically, because of the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests, almost all of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan are more Israelite than the nation of Israel today, because the Diaspora put Jews into all parts of the globe. These “Arabs” and “Persians” reject and fight against their own bloodline.
Higher priesthood is a rare thing, appearing only intermittently in scripture and history; never persistent or widespread. The greatest success, from Adam to Melchizedek, involved ten generations and was the longest single perpetuation of the authority. However, those Patriarchs served among a small, righteous population overshadowed by the larger, wicked population. By time Adam came to his end of days, all the righteous could gather into a single valley.
The purpose of these Patriarch’s original priesthood was (and is) to bless and protect. The temptation to use authority in ways that would offend God makes this original priesthood (belonging to the Patriarchs) something few men have ever been given and easily forfeited for the protection of the recipient and mankind generally. The original twenty-three given high priesthood in June 1831 distinguished themselves by near-uniform failure.
We must learn from this recent history. We must avoid repeating what clearly cannot work. If we take the same path, the destination will not change. Zion must be found by traveling in a different direction.
The Holy Ghost is not controlled by man. Even when the High Priesthood is given by God to a man, that man must obtain heaven’s approval before conferring any blessing. He must not ask for something based on self-will, ambition or personal glory. He must be a servant. He must be like our Lord, in that sense, or his ordination will be revoked.
Returning to the original question (in the first of these three posts):
Because the Book of Mormon was restored through Joseph Smith, I think it is necessary to respect his status as a messenger used by God to do a work. But the question “Should you have to believe in Joseph Smith to be baptized” was phrased such that I have a problem with answering “yes.” I do not think anyone needs to “believe in Joseph Smith” because that implies men are worthy of our “belief.” It is God alone who is the object of our adoration, belief and faith. Joseph was an instrument, and therefore belief in him will not yield anything of value and could well be an impediment to developing faith in God.
That having been said, God’s message through Joseph Smith is something we need to believe. There was no coherent statement of Christ’s Gospel in existence before Joseph Smith’s ministry. Therefore, to know how to obtain salvation, we need to “hear the True Shepherd’s voice” in the ministry of Joseph Smith. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. We cannot ignore the knowledge restored through Joseph.
Joseph was flawed. But God used him to accomplish some necessary things. It is the Lord’s message, using Joseph, we must believe.
The other question (Should you have to stop drinking coffee and tea to be baptized) involves the Word of Wisdom which was not given “by commandment or constraint.” (D&C 89: 2.) Therefore, it need not be obeyed as a condition of baptism. It would be wise to do so, but not as a mandatory condition prior to baptism. In saying this, I refer only to the scriptures and language of Section 89, not to the mandates of the LDS Church. To be baptized by a representative of the LDS Church you must stop drinking coffee and tea, because that is how they manage their organization.
I think “hot drinks” refers to “strong drink” meaning whiskey, bourbon, and similarly “hot” drinks (one time called “fire water” by Native Americans). (D&C 89: 5, 7, 9.) I do not think it refers to coffee or tea. Pioneers were expected to include coffee and tea in their supplies. Even handcarts had space for hauling coffee and tea.
I think “mild drinks” using barley and grain refers to beer, and that is approved in Section 89. (D&C 89: 17.) Likewise, “wine” refers to alcoholic wine, not grape juice. (D&C 89: 5.) In New Testament times the presence of alcohol in the drink was hygienic, and purified the water by killing unwanted organisms. Praise for the quality of the “wine” produced by Christ in John’s account of the wedding at Canan, is praise for an alcoholic drink of quality and effect. (John 2: 1-10.)
I think wine is to be used for “sacraments” (plural, see D&C 89: 5) which include wedding celebrations, an association the New Testament makes. (John 2: 3.) It makes for conviviality and joy in celebration. We are prudish about this because of our history of amending the Constitution to adopt Prohibition. LDS sermons delivered in support of the amendment and opposing its repeal are how we became prohibitionist teetotalers, not because of the scriptures.
That having been said, I also believe “wine is a mocker” (Proverbs 20: 1) and alcohol can do a great deal of damage if used improperly and in excess. The drunken fight in the Kirtland Temple, for example, was something those involved regretted. They used wine for the “sacrament” and “drank to their fill” after fasting all day beforehand. It proved to be a foolish combination and resulted in fist fighting in the newly completed temple. Therefore I conclude that if we must choose between making ourselves foolish or being a teetotaler it is best to adopt the LDS Church stance and refrain altogether. If a person can use wine and mild drinks moderately, prudently and not in excess, then there is nothing in the Word of Wisdom to condemn it. There is language which recommends it. But let me reiterate, this is what the scriptures say, not what the LDS Church says. If you belong to that organization, you ought to respect their rules and do as they expect as a condition for receiving their fellowship, Temple Recommend, etc.
I do not believe, however, the scriptures can be used to support a requirement to avoid coffee, tea (at all) or avoid alcohol in wine and beer as a pre-condition for baptism.
Understanding the scriptures sometimes requires more than just study. In my case I gained understanding by experience which then reshaped my understanding of scripture. I received the Holy Ghost immediately following baptism on September 10, 1973 as I knelt on the cold beach sand beside the Atlantic Ocean. It has departed briefly only on two occasions (when I failed to testify of the truth and was rebuked by its withdrawal).
When excommunicated forty years to the day from baptism, I wondered if the church’s proceeding would have an effect on my access to the Holy Ghost. It did not. In many respects the series of talks I have given this year required a greater outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It has been given.
It took life’s experiences for me to look deeper into the scriptures to understand in what way my own experiences were consistent with the pattern there. Had these experiences not been given I would not have looked and found the truth of these matters. As things unfold, they become rather self-evident.
The best explanation of the relationship between baptism and the Holy Ghost comes from Alma’s record. He is an odd source, however, because he had been “consecrated a priest” by the wicked King Noah. King Noah chose him because he was “lifted up in the pride of his heart.” (Mosiah 11: 5.) Therefore, using some of our present false belief system we would conclude his “authority” was compromised and his heart too hard for God’s purposes.
Repentance is a wonderful thing. Clearly it was Alma’s repentance which then qualified him to be useful to the Lord. Although he was one of King Noah’s priests (Mosiah 17: 1-2), when he heard the testimony of God’s messenger, Abinadi, he knew what he heard was true. (Id.) Therefore he knew he must respond to it, despite his record of wickedness and unbelief.
Alma recorded Abinadi’s testimony, and then taught it to others as the truth. When a small number began to believe, Alma followed the pattern we saw in the last post. He asked God for the necessary authority for his own (and those who believed him) to repent. He asked God to recognize their baptism as a sign of repentance, and to send the Holy Ghost to be with them:
And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord. And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts. And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart. And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. And again, Alma took another, and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water. And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon; and they were in number about two hundred and four souls; yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God. (Mosiah 18: 7-16.)
Alma did not baptize until he first, just as Christ instructed His twelve to do, prayed in “mighty prayer” asking for God’s acceptance and approval. God gave it to Alma as He would later do with the twelve disciples. Then, with the Spirit of the Lord upon him, Alma had God’s authority to act. Or in other words he was qualified by God’s priesthood to proceed. Thereupon “having authority from Almighty God” Alma baptized. The efficacy of the ordinance was proven by the result it achieved: Helam came out of the water “being filled with the Spirit.” Or, in other words, the baptism resulted in the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This ordinance performed by Alma was exactly as Christ’s ordinance at the hands of John the Baptist. a baptism that was recognized and accepted by heaven and proven effective because the Holy Ghost was the witness.
The 4th Article of Faith says: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We do believe that, don’t we? However, the way the “Laying on of hands” is to happen must be in conformity with the Gospel of Christ. Meaning that if Christ lays hands on a man and commissions him to do this work, and then instructs him to pray to the Father in mighty prayer to be authorized to proceed, and the man follows through and obtains that authorization from the Father, it is possible for him to then “lay on hands” and bestow the gift. If it were otherwise we would have a “changeable God” (Moroni 8: 18) and He would “cease to be God” because He cannot change. (Mormon 9: 19.)
Christ’s Gospel requires man to connect with God for it to be effective. Baptism is an ordinance belonging to heaven, and is designed to reconnect man to heaven. Baptism does not induct a person into an organization. It is between the individual and God.
The LDS Church may perform baptisms, but when a candidate has been baptized they are not yet a member of the LDS Church. It requires a “confirmation” to induct the person into the LDS Church. If it were otherwise, then participation in the organization would be paramount to salvation, It is not.
Baptism remains independent of organizational membership and participation. A person could be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and never belong to any earthly church organization (LDS, RLDS, COC, FLDS, etc.). This is in spite of what all these organizations may claim for themselves or how much they may want to control people, beliefs, and the resources of believers. Believers and converts may be told there is a need to belong to an earthly organization, but that is not required if the Book of Mormon is true. Saving belief is predicated on a relationship between the individual and God. Baptism demonstrates this is the case. Even an LDS Church baptism demonstrates this truth. If a convert were baptized, and then refused to be confirmed a member, they would still be baptized. If they were repentant and had faith in Christ, they would still receive the Holy Ghost. However, they would not be a member of the LDS Church if they are not “confirmed” as a member.
Now in the case of Alma above and in Christ’s instructions about baptism (3 Ne. 11: 25), the ordinance is performed by someone who has “authority” given to them from Christ. The ordinance as Christ directed it to be performed requires these words: “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (Id.)
In contrast, the baptism rites of the LDS Church do not use these words, but substitutes the word “commission” for “authority.” The LDS ordinance is as follows: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (D&C 20: 73.)
This LDS baptism can be effective, if the conditions of repentance and faith in Christ are met by the candidate. However, it is not effective if these conditions are not met. The same Section of the D&C describe the conditions to be qualified for baptism: “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.” (D&C 20: 37.) These are the same conditions Alma referred to before he performed baptisms at the Waters of Mormon.
The “confirmation” process used by the LDS Church requires laying on hands to “confirm [you] a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and is accompanied by the admonition to “receive the Holy Ghost.” This is done by church elders holding the office of “elder” through common consent.
There is no such thing as “elder” priesthood. Elder is a church office. It is obtained by common consent, just like relief society president, and sunday school teacher, and scout leader. There is no priesthood called “teacher” or “deacon” or “patriarch” or “seventy” or any of the other offices in the church associated with priesthood. There are three kinds of priesthood. The LDS Church claims to have two: Melchizedek and Aaronic (including the Levitical) priesthoods. This is based on the language in Section 107 describing the priesthood that was in the LDS Church at the time the revelation was given: “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.” (D&C 107: 1.)
This statement in Section 107 would be akin to saying: “Obama is the President of the United States.” It is true – at this moment. It will not be true after January 2017. But it is true at this moment. Likewise, it was true in April 1835 that there were, at that moment, some people in the church as then constituted who had been given the Melchizedek Priesthood, and others who had been given the Aaronic Priesthood. But it is equally true that not EVERY member of the church in April 1835 had one or the other. Nor is it true that the condition of the church in April 1835 is the same as it is at this moment. Something that is a fact at one moment can change in the next. It is not appropriate to quote a statement about April 1835 to claim something in August 2014.
In the preceding post is a list of the twenty-three men who received High Priesthood (later called Melchizedek Priesthood) in June 1831. Their history shows that most of them abandoned their right to High Priesthood. If they could lose it, then anyone could. If you doubt that then you do not believe the scriptures. Do you really think Section 121 is untrue? Do you really believe once it is conferred it cannot be lost? Have you not likewise learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose, will begin to immediately exercise unrighteous dominion? Do you think they remain approved by the Powers of Heaven when they exercise control, dominion and compulsion on the souls of men? If you believe the conditions in the LDS Church today are exactly the same as in April 1835, or was even was the same on the morning of June 28, 1844 when we lost Joseph and Hyrum, then you do not understand the scriptures. (D&C 121: 34-41.)
We lost Joseph and Hyrum June 27, 1844. This changed the authority inside the church. The survivors thought they needed a leader. They voted to follow Brigham Young and the Twelve. No one attempted to resolve the question by revelation from God. Once they gave common consent, we forever after have proceeded on the assumption that was enough to keep intact everything heaven gave through Joseph Smith. Even more, we thought we could then forget, ignore, discard, contradict and/or change what heaven gave to us through Joseph Smith, even when the revelations commanded us not to do so.
The offices of the LDS Church have been filled by common consent, and the office holders have gone forward relying on a “commission” from Jesus Christ to perform LDS Church ordinances for nearly two centuries. When a candidate comes forward repenting of their sins, believing in Christ, and asking for God’s approval of their baptism, they qualify for baptism. Then the gift of the Holy Ghost comes upon them and they can progress in truth and light by obedience to the principles of the Gospel of Christ. This is His Gospel.
Baptism and the Holy Ghost happen prior to and independent of membership in any church institution, even in the LDS Church’s process. The organization does not get to assert itself until the person is “confirmed” into the church. Once that happens, the person is entitled to all the benefits of membership in the organization, including common consent voting to fill offices in the church. However, removing them from membership cannot affect baptism. That ordinance came before their confirmation and before they are members of the LDS Church. Throwing a person out of the church may remove entitlement to vote in common consent proceedings, but cannot affect the person’s repentance, gift of the Holy Ghost, or standing before God. Some LDS Church members have conflated all these things into one and then allow the hierarchy to insert themselves between them and their salvation. That is Telestial, false and will damn those who believe it, and greatly condemn those who teach it. Ultimately they will suffer God’s wrath on this earth and eternal fire when dead, being filled with regret for their misbehavior. (D&C 76: 99-104.)
The Gospel requires God’s direct involvement. It always has and always will. Commandments and promises given to others in the New Testament do not belong to us. Likewise, specific individuals given specific promises by God in Joseph’s day do not belong to us. We do not “inherit” covenants belonging to others. We must have God’s covenant given to us if we are going to be saved. Otherwise we are no different than the Lutherans, Presbyterians and Catholics denounced by Christ as teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, only having a form of godliness lacking power. (JS-H 1: 19.)