Laying On Hands

An interesting question:

Are you familiar with when the church decided to combine receiving the gift of the holy ghost by the laying on of hands and confirmation into the church? Reading 2 Nephi 31 I do not understand why these 2 are linked. I know Joseph explained that being baptized and not receiving the Gift of Holy Ghost  it is like baptizing a bag of sand. But was he talking about conformation? or receiving the commission to receive the holy ghost? Or did Joseph truly have the power to give the Holy Ghost (because of his true priesthoods) and it is different now because we only act as ordainers and do not truly have the power thereof? The reason I wonder these things is because I feel that the church is damning itself and the missionaries by having them go out and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and then set forth rules to be baptized because not only are you being baptized but joining the organization. Should the 2 go together? Should you have to believe in
Joseph Smith to be baptized unto repentance? Should you have to stop drinking coffee and tea to be baptized for the remission of your sins? To me baptism, receiving the holy ghost, and confirmation into the church should be separate. But what do I know?

Baptism and the Holy Ghost have always been linked together, but laying on hands has not always been included. Baptism and the Holy Ghost are linked whether or not there is someone who can lay on hands to give the gift. Understanding the scriptures and our history is necessary. The answer will contradict the traditional narrative. For many, traditions are preferred. Speaking the truth makes people uncomfortable, afraid and accusatory. If you replace the traditions with studied truth and give an answer that challenges the false tradition then you are “preaching false doctrine”, or you are ignorant. Those who believe false traditions think everyone is as ignorant as they are. Those people never take the opportunity to study and discover the truth.

Baptism precedes the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost always follows if the baptism was proper. The only condition for receiving the Holy Ghost is sincere repentance before baptism. If a person is sincere, then the gift follows automatically.

Nephi taught this plainly. His teaching was based on a dialogue between him (Nephi) and Christ and Christ’s Father. [The fact this conversation involved all three tells us a great deal about Nephi’s ascent up Jacob’s Ladder, because conversing with both Christ and the Father is only possible once a man has made the ascent. Another topic.]

On baptism and the Holy Ghost, Nephi relayed the truth: And he [Christ] said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. (2 Ne. 31: 10-15.)

Therefore, according to Christ and the Father, as reported by Nephi, the steps are:
1. Repent
2. Be willing to take upon you the name of Christ
3. Be baptized
4. If you do then the Holy Ghost will come upon you.

There is no mention of laying on of hands because the process and promise given by Christ and the Father does not require laying on hands. It only requires exactly what Nephi reported from conversing with Christ and the Father.

Likewise, in modern revelation the Lord explained His Gospel while omitting any requirement for laying on hands for the Holy Ghost: And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. (D&C 39: 5-6.)

Similar to Nephi’s explanation, Christ makes no mention of laying on of hands in this revelation to Joseph because it is not required.

In another revelation it is revealed: Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; (D&C 33: 10-12.)

Three verses following this, the laying on hands to confirm into the church is then mentioned, along with the Holy Ghost. But the formula given in the verses above is not changed by confirmation.

This was the pattern when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized. The JS-H account makes it clear when they received authority from John the Baptist that it had no authority to lay on hands for the Holy Ghost.

He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. (JS-H 1: 70.)

Despite this, when they were baptized both Joseph and Oliver immediately received the Holy Ghost (without the laying on of hands).

Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. (JS-H 1: 73.)

This leads then to the question asked about laying on hands to give the Holy Ghost. This practice does appear in the Book of Mormon, and did start during the restoration. In the Book of Mormon it began when Christ personally laid hands on His Twelve and gave them this authority.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of these sayings, he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one, even until he had touched them all, and spake unto them as he touched them. And the multitude heard not the words which he spake, therefore they did not bear record; but the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne. 18: 36-37.)

What Christ said to these Twelve is later reported by Moroni.
The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 2: 1-3.)

Even when Christ gave this “authority” it was conditional and required the Twelve to take these steps before they could act on this commission:
-Call upon the Father
-Using Christ’s name
-In mighty prayer
-Only then could they have the right to give the gift (through authorization from Christ’s Father).

If you understand what is involved it makes sense for this right to come directly from both the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost is the “mind of the Father and the Son.”

...possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son. These three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things. (Lecture 5, P. 2.)

Christ set the example. He was baptized and immediately received the Holy Ghost. No one laid hands on Him. The gift was given because of His qualification for baptism. But there have been those who were given conditional authority to bestow the gift. They could only do so by consulting with the Father and Christ beforehand to insure it was God’s decision, not man’s, to give the gift.

In the restoration, the practice of laying on hands began in June 1831, the same month the “High Priesthood” was restored. The “High Priesthood” was restored in a meeting of elders that month, but was only later called the Melchizedek Priesthood. At the time of the conference it was correctly called the “High Priesthood.”

This event has been misinterpreted by the LDS Church, and re-characterized as restoring the office of High Priest. That is wrong. The office of High Priest has always been an Aaronic Priesthood office, held throughout the Dispensation of Moses by the eldest sons of Aaron in a line of succession. By New Testament times it was a political office, bought and sold by Roman influence, and belonged to the house of Caiaphus. This Aaronic Priesthood office had one occupant at a time. He presided over all the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood holders and ran the Temple at Jerusalem. Sidney Rigdon wanted the office of High Priest. According to David Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon persuaded Joseph to incorporate it into the church as an office which could be held by many, not just the presiding Aaronic Priesthood official. So today there are numerous “High Priests” in the LDS Church, all claiming they are of the Melchizedek Priesthood order, completely contrary to the Old and New Testaments. Another topic.

As to the laying on of hands, when the High Priesthood (later called Melchizedek Priesthood) was restored in June 1831, Joseph Smith recorded: “The authority of the Melchizedek priesthood was manifested and conferred, for the first time, upon several of the elders” at the June 1831 conference. (See JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 320, citing JS History Vol. A1, p. 118.)  This also clarifies that “elder” is a church office (not related to the High Priesthood because these church “elders” were already serving in their church offices before the High Priesthood was restored. Another subject.)

In the June 1831 Conference Joseph Smith ordained five, and Lyman Wight ordained eighteen, for a total of twenty-three. The results which followed were not altogether satisfactory. Subsequent performance by the ones ordained did not prove to mirror Melchizedek or Enoch. Of the five Joseph ordained,
-Lyman Wight was excommunicated in 1848
-Harvey Whitlock was excommunicated in 1835
-Thomas Marsh left the church in 1838, signed an affidavit against Joseph and contributed to his imprisonment by Missouri and was excommunicated in 1839
-Parley Pratt apostatized and was excommunicated in 1842, but reinstated in 1843.

Of the eighteen Lyman Wight ordained,
-John Whitmer was excommunicated in March 1838
-Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated in September 1844
-Edward Partridge died in 1840
-Ezra Thayer refused to follow the Twelve following Joseph’s and Hyrum’s deaths
-Joseph Wakefield was excommunicated in January 1834
-John Corrill was excommunicated in 1839
-Jacob Scott denied the faith
-Wheeler Baldwin joined the RLDS Church in 1859
-Martin Harris left the LDS Church, followed James Strang, but returned to the LDS Church and was rebaptized in 1870.

It is apparent that “ordination” to even the High Priesthood cannot guarantee a recipient will have faith sufficient to gain power in the priesthood. For that, like every other blessing, it is always required for the man to obtain it directly from heaven. The priesthood is predicated on a relationship with “the powers of heaven.” If the one ordained does not secure such a relationship with the Powers of Heaven, then the ordination will not produce the expected results.

Brigham Young was not among those who received this authority.

The first mention of the practice of laying on of hands to give the Holy Ghost followed the June 1831 Conference when, on June 14th, convert WW Phelps was told he would receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. (See JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 337, D&C Section 55.) This was because he was given the gift by one having the authority.

WW Phelps was promised the Holy Ghost (he was to receive it from one of those who received the authority earlier that month). But he was also told he would be ordained a church elder, and then he could likewise conditionally give the Holy Ghost to others if they repented and were first baptized and “were contrite” before God. (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 339, D&C Section 55.)

The High Priesthood had been forfeited by the LDS Church (but not by Joseph Smith) as of January 1841. (See D&C 124: 28.)

Today church elders “confirm” new members and admonish them to “receive” the Holy Ghost. This is much like WW Phelps was told he could do in June 1831. For a man to hold the right to confer it, however, it must come by being given to the man by Christ and then confirmed by Father following “mighty prayer.”

In D&C 20 this right is confined to “an Apostle”– meaning one who qualified like the Twelve during Christ’s ministry to the Nephites. It says: An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize; And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons; And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ— And to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures; And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost; And to take the lead of all meetings. (D&C 20: 38-44.)

The LDS Church does not read that as limiting the power to do this to “an Apostle,” but instead focuses on “an elder,” and then extends the right to every man holding the church office of an elder. However, the Gospel, like God, is the same yesterday, today and forever. The language in Section 20 should be read to mean what is reported in 1 Nephi (in the dialogue between Nephi, Christ and the Father), 3 Nephi and Moroni, as set out above. Otherwise the Gospel changes.

In any event, the “gift” as given today by LDS elders is entirely conditional. It is an admonition to the newly confirmed member to “receive” the influence. It is much like what is available to anyone, anywhere, including investigators. If the Holy Ghost were not available to everyone then the promise in Moroni 10: 4 would not be given. No one could pray and get an answer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost if they were required to first have hands laid upon them.

There is no single denomination and no valid incantation that provides access to the Holy Ghost. No authority can remove it from the honest in heart. Nor is there authority, apart from that given by Christ and the Father (following mighty prayer and supplication) which can confer the blessing as a gift to a recipient. But the commandment to be baptized, when done in faith following repentance, will bring this gift to everyone. This is Christ’s Gospel.

Sunstone Q&A

Below is a transcription of the Q & A from Sunstone. It will make more sense if you have read the paper first (which is on Scrib’d and titled Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge) because the questions were provoked by the presentation. These questions were asked and these answers given immediately following the paper and response:

Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge
Question & Answer – Sunstone Symposium
8-2-14  Denver Snuffer
[NOTE: This is the question and answer period that was held following Denver Snuffer’s talk and after Dan Witherspoon’s rebuttal. I chose not to transcribe Dan’s rebuttal because I do not have his permission to do so and therefore leave it out. I insert some clarifying words in brackets to make what was meant more clear.]
Tim Malone: Dan, thank you for focusing on the fruit of the Tree of Life. I was looking for that in Denver’s remarks, but let me ask this question of Denver. My take away is that you stated that the LDS Church has changed fundamental doctrine, is changing, and will continue to change because of submission to social and governmental pressure for fear of losing tax status. Is that a correct take away?
Denver: The definition of fundamental doctrine is not something that I applied to the Church, it’s what the Church has advocated (or defined) on its own (and for itself). I’m contrasting what the Church said at one time was fundamental doctrine, with what it has done to abrogate, denounce, renounce and even condemn unequivocally out of their own mouth, their prior practice. Their motivation for accomplishing that transition was the focus of the paper. I’m not trying to make a moral judgment. I’m trying to understand the events against the backdrop of why the events took place. Why change when they said it would be right or wrong (to do so), when they said it in the name of Jesus Christ, like the comment of Brigham Young that I read. I read his claim on purpose because he was stating, “I’m telling you this as my status as a prophet of God. I’m telling you this in the name of Jesus Christ, and I’m telling you this will never change,” and (it has been subsequently) changed. And now the Church, after making the changes, has turned around and said, “We unequivocally condemn that.” That’s the purpose of the paper and also to highlight the fact that institutionally, this is a problem. The problem is that truth and love and purity does exist, but it exists primarily in a form that is not (and cannot be) institutional. According to the scriptures, there are only two ways, “there are save but two Churches only.” And one church, if it’s going to subject itself to institutional control, vagaries of the law, the pressure of the tax code, and everything else; that church will necessarily become sullied and soiled, tossed and pulled, and ultimately wind up contradicting itself. But there is another church that can remain pure, unsullied, untouched, untaxed, and unregulated. That purity can exist in your heart. That purity can be found between you and God. I think any institution is going to suffer the exact same history.
Voice: My question is, if the fruit of the Tree of Life is not available to homosexuals and to women once they are embraced within the Church, what will they find instead?
Denver: The problem addressed in the paper, and the turf upon which I feel very comfortable discussing, is the problem of Church doctrine, with fundamental positions being taken as if they were out of the mouth God Himself, and then contradicted (by church presidents) later. That is done to illustrate the problem of the institution. I don’t think that I can, or ever should, have looked for institutional approval for my relationship with God. There was a time I did. There was a time I cared a great deal about that. But the institution has rendered that now an impossibility, because I can’t serve within the church. That hasn’t done a thing to deter my conviction, my relationship, my fidelity to God. Likewise, I think in every individual’s life, this world is a terrible place, and this world is a wonderful place. It is precisely wonderful because it is so terrible. It doesn’t matter what circumstances you find yourself in, everything down here is going to pull away at you. Eventually everything is going to wear out, and break down. There are going to be disappointments, challenges, disagreements and arguments. The comfort that you find, like Joseph Smith in Liberty jail, “Peace my son, this is only going to be for a small moment, and if you endure it well your going to be rewarded on high.” I don’t think that an institution can embrace with love, everyone, because some of us hate some others of us, and the institution would like to (claim that it) love(s) us all. And those who get control, get to use the bully pulpit for their purposes, and those that don’t have it, get to resent it. I don’t think, ultimately, that the fix will be institutional. I think it will be personal, and I think it will be individual, and I think there will be a gathering, and that gathering will be called Zion, and it will happen because the prophecies foretell it. But I don’t think it’s going to be after the fashion of something that can regulate or take control of others, because anytime you manage to get control, you wind up in politics and economics.
Dan: His (Denver’s) fear of institutions, I argue the same sort of thing. But it’s important that we work these things out in community with each other. So the fact that we have an institution that provides the buildings, that provides some of the structures in which we meet and interact with each other and learn from each other, to me, shouldn’t be outweighed simply by this. But again, I think both of us would be in agreement, no matter what is said there, it’s you and your relationship with God. It’s you and your relationship with the fire yourself, that has to be able to drive it, to not be simply interacting with it so far down the mountain where it’s cooled, and that you can hardly tell that’s it’s there. So I do want to shout out that it’s important that the primary actors in the world are not institutions, the primary actors in the world are people, and we’re complex, and we go forward and we go backwards, and we halt and we run fast, and we stumble. When I see an institution changing the way the Mormon Church is, even though it’s frustrating that it’s not changing anywhere near the direction I want, and when they say stupid things that just make me want to go crazy, I still see it as an advance, because we as people are advancing. We are meeting each other, we are learning from each other, we’re engaging, we are understanding what’s going on, and this is sure revelation. This is sure revelation simply unfolding in a messier way. So again, I want to get us together as often as possible.
Voice: I think we can learn a lot from the community process, and discuss things, but that’s not revelation. My question is, usually the best we can do with personal revelation, whether it is lay members or leaders, is a yes or no, magic eight ball kind of a thing. And I don’t want to denigrate that, I’ll take what I can get, but how do you move from that, to getting a complete sentence out of the Lord? [laughter]
Dan: I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think the Lord speaks in sentences. Seriously.  Every powerful spiritual experience I’ve had has been so overwhelming, so much bigger, and beyond any kind of language. It’s the downhill, it’s the explaining it to you, to my friend, to my congregation or something, is where we put the words on it. And that’s why it’s so important to go back and constantly do the dialog. I honor Isaiah,  I honor Abraham, and I admire them because they’re examples to us of going straight to the Lord and having that face-to-face relationship that Genesis describes Adam had with God in the Garden. I’m with that process, but just as I don’t accept the cosmology of a flat earth, sitting on waters below and a firmament held up by the pillars of heaven, I don’t except Abraham’s pronouncements on cosmology. I don’t feel the need to honor everything that they say. I honor their interaction with God, and I try to look at that as a model for my own life. And even in an institutional setting, we have to remember this, we have to go straight to the source.
Denver: You know, I was raised by a Baptist mother and got Bible verses read at me every morning before I went to school throughout my childhood. When Mormon missionaries came and told me about the Joseph Smith story, and when Mormon missionaries assured me that Joseph saw God, and that, if you follow James 1:5 and you ask God, He will give you an answer, and if you will pray about the Book of Mormon, God will make it known to you whether it’s true or not. I accepted that. I was young, I was still a teenager, but I accepted that as literal. I accepted that as possible. I had faith that that could happen. I’m not a theologian, but I do believe God not only talks in sentences, but can make himself known to man. Literally! I believe all that. I believe that God did appear to Joseph. I believe that He did appear to Isaiah. So having that understanding, I did not think that there was anything unusual when an angel appeared to me, because an angel did appear to me. I thought that was the normal, usual, every day way that Mormon religion was practiced. Sitting in a Ward as a teenager, looking out at all these experienced Mormons, listening to the General Authorities, I thought they all were talking to God in the temple every Thursday. I thought this was common, ordinary stuff. I presumed that was what everyone (experienced and therefore) walked around with (as their religion). It took a long time before I mentioned anything about any of the experience that I had had, before I realized that that’s not usual, that’s not normal, and that’s not customary. And so, I’m (now) trying to make it usual, I’m trying to make it customary, I’m trying to say, Yes God is real! Because if I have seen Him, I think you can see Him, and (likewise) ought to. I think everyone should make the fiery ascent to God’s presence. I think it should not be limited to an occasional “here,” or an occasional “there.” I think we should have an abundance of witnesses.  And the prophecy that Moroni spoke to Joseph Smith, that the time is going to come when no one needs to say to anyone else, “Know ye the Lord, for they shall all know Him,” needs to be fulfilled. It is lying dormant (still and should not be). [applause]
Dan: You can go with your symbol system, you are going to go with your expectations. A Buddhist will never have the experience with the angel, with Jesus, and things like that. What Denver is having is not the same experience as what Hershel had, what Mohammed had, and things like this. And so when we talk about whether God speaks in sentences, what language does He speak in?  He speaks in the systems of ours that open up to this sort of level of presence. A deep dive through one symbol system is wonderful and it’s pretty hard to get out of it, but I think we need to stay aware that there are so many people diving and meeting God, meeting the divine and so many other different ways. I honor Denver’s experience, but I can’t limit God to that single system. I’m with Mormonism’s expensive views.
Denver: This much I know: The angel said, “On the first day, of the third month, in nine years, your ministry will begin, and so you must prepare.” Those are the words! I can quote them still. He spoke in a sentence.
Voice: The more these situations are going on, I feel so strongly, more and more, I just keep getting that this is all about unity, and it’s an opportunity for us. And if unity is about “agreeing” then frankly God did a terrible job. So the more I see of this, what I keep going to is, the quest for Zion seems to me, to be the quest for open heartedness, and charity, and unity. And so when I see one side that says, An actively gay person will never come into the presence of God. This person will go to hell. And then on the other side, I see a person who is an active Mormon, or a person who doesn’t approve of homosexuality, who is an awful person because he’s a hater. And I see those two things. And I see Christians say that Mormons are going to hell. It seems to me that we more dig our feet in and say, I’m right, and I’m trying to push this agenda…we are working away from God, and away from Zion. More and more I think that if we could say, This is my experience, this is what I believe, and let me hear where you are, and what you believe, and let’s talk and consider. I think that’s great. Even though I may disagree with you and think you’re wrong, I trust God to lead you to what is right, and I trust the atonement of Christ to take care of whatever you’ve got wrong, just like I trust that for me. I think that truth exists, but I think when we all know all truth, we’ll all agree. And in the meantime we are trying to find a way. So my question is, first of all, is that possible? I mean do you agree?
Denver: I agree very much. In the first book I wrote I said, “Religion was intended to be applied internally only.”  
Voice: Thank you. My other question is, my theology for the issue of our day, homosexuality, is that I believe that homosexuals are a gift to us, to teach us great things. I think we need to learn charity. I also believe that God does have a standard, but I want to know if those two things can coexist. Can we say, I truly love you, I’m thankful for you, I accept you, but this is my theology and morality. Can we be in this place where we love each other and seek unity without agreement?
Denver: I grew up in a little town in Idaho. Homosexuality in the 1960s was almost a nonexistent issue (and even though it existed, it was not a source of fighting). There was a restaurant in Mountain Home, Idaho that was owned by a gay man and his boyfriend, who lived together (in a house about two blocks away from my parents’ home). Everyone knew that they were “funny.” They were comfortable living in a community that was full of a bunch of retired military and active military people in Idaho in the 1960s, where I suppose, they were just as Republican then as they are in Idaho now. It was known, it was not talked about, I mean there might be a passing reference, but that was it. I worked in those guys’ restaurant. One of my first jobs was washing dishes in a restaurant owned by a gay fellow and his live-in lover. It was no big deal. There was no politics involved, there was no agitating on the issue.
One of my law school classmates is here. A few years ago he wound up on a drive (to a business meeting in) Idaho with a fellow who was gay. (The gay fellow) announced (to my classmate) that he was attracted to him. It was one of those awkward moments. [laughter] 
When (he and I subsequently talked about it), we kind of chuckled about it. But the fact of the matter was that both he and I had a business relationship with that fellow and (his announcement) was essentially a nonevent. It was strange. It a was, (however, merely) “Thanks, but no.”
I think we ought to be ginger about the way in which we deal with one another’s weaknesses and problems. I think we ought to be firm in what we believe, and apply it rigorously internally, and then have compassion on every idiot you are going to meet– because we are all idiots, myself included. I agree with you.
Dan: I agree with you too, but where you pushed to be a little too far is when you said, “I love you but these are my standards” To me, I’m simply willing to say, I’m going to hear you, I’m going to be with you, I’ll see as much of your life as you will show to me without trying to have a resolution. When I talked about the Hegelian dialectic, it’s a process, and I’m completely fine for it taking forever in my own heart.

Cathleen Gilbert (Moderator): We are out of time. Thank you to Denver Snuffer and Dan Witherspoon. [Applause]

September 9 Mesa Location

The final talk will be held:
Sept. 9, 2014
9:30 AM
Rockin’ R Ranch
6136 E. Baseline Road
Mesa, AZ  85206
This location holds 700, plus, and is a semi-outdoor location. You might want to bring a pillow, as the seating will be at picnic tables.

Messy History

History is very messy. While it is lived there are no “themes” the people actually living through the events can detect. The journals of the living record haphazard daily events, never knowing what comes next. These accounts are far more valuable than the later narratives written by historians (and apologists) retelling the events to prove a “theme.”

Joseph was at the head of a church for 14 years. Brigham Young for 33. At the time of his death, Brigham Young’s influence was far greater on every living Latter-day Saint than Joseph’s ever was. Brigham Young faced challenges, overcame obstacles, fought wars (against both the US Army and Indians), kept order, and attempted to win court cases. He was a very busy man. By the end of his life the scope and sweep of his accomplishments overshadowed every Latter-day Saint and informed all their beliefs. Every stupid act, failed prediction, criminal act and embarrassing miscue was forgotten because of how very much the man accomplished. His greatest achievement was to preserve an organized church. Sheer force of personality made him indispensable for the survival of Mormonism. Even opponents and critics needed Brigham Young to help them to preserve their organizations. Nothing rallied splinter groups like Brigham’s success. Even today, many splinter organizations try to mimic Brigham’s rugged patriarchy as if it were the very example of God’s “true religion.”

By the time Joseph III and his brother David were a threat to Brigham’s organization, every Latter-day Saint living in the Utah Territory had an interest in Brigham winning the argument against the “Reorganized” church. It was imperative they proved the right choice had been made when the vote was taken in August 1844.

Affidavits were gathered from one to several decades after the events which “proved” Brigham was right and Emma and her sons wrong. It does not matter to LDS apologists that the affidavits are contradicted by earlier journals and diaries. They are “proof” and were given “under oath” and therefore, unquestioned. Sermons were preached defending the choices made in Nauvoo following Joseph and Hyrum’s deaths. Histories were written to defend the faith as it was changed by Brigham Young and his followers.

There are now libraries of material supporting both Brigham Young’s leadership and the religion as he modified and handed it down. If you want a large bibliography, then the work of 170 years of Latter-day Saint apologists will win every time. Sheer bulk favors these traditions.

How, then, can someone now really claim these traditions fail to tell the whole truth? How is it possible for a believer in the Restoration through Joseph Smith to question these well-established “truths” held up as the very handiwork of God?

The only reason to question any of it is if you believe the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s revelations. If you do that, and you let scripture tell you the “themes” of these events, then despite the great weight of LDS historical documentation, you can still sort it out correctly.

What is most surprising to me is the diaries and journals written while the events were unfolding contradict much of the apologist’s “themes” and corroborate the scripture and prophetic account of the latter-day Gentile failing. If you want truth, you need to have a strong stomach. None of this is fun or cause for celebration. If you love the Latter-day Saints, as I do, then you find yourself torn between the truth and your sentiments. It is better to be in the company of God and the truth, than even good friends who believe falsehoods.

Thankfully, God is not jealous of the truth. He does not have a vested interest (despite claims to the contrary) in seeing a false tradition win the argument. He is a God of truth and hates even well-intentioned lies.

Anyone who attempts to undo beloved, but false, religious traditions will be hated in their generation. Thankfully, in the long run the truth will win out. God has decreed it. Therefore, even the smallest group of believers will ultimately not suffer from being outnumbered by disbelievers. God did not establish the Restoration through Joseph Smith to have it end in a pack of half-truths manipulated to support a false and incomplete narrative. The Restoration will, just as Joseph predicted, roll forth to fill the earth. But that prophecy does not establish a wealthy franchise, nor predict corporate success. The “Church of God” has always been beyond man’s ability to control; no matter what enthusiastic claims men may make to the contrary.

God’s hand is moving again. He will win the argument. Be patient and let Him finish what He has started again.

Preparation for Phoenix

There is one talk remaining. I’m trying to get the transcripts up for the last two. The final talk in Phoenix will mean more if you have read or listened to the first nine talks. All ten are one talk, delivered in installments. The conclusion will presume the audience is already acquainted with what went before.

I speak at Sunstone on Saturday. Some time that evening I will put the paper up, linked on this blog. That paper will likewise be helpful to read before the final talk.

Pacific and Mountain Time Zones

The talks in Las Vegas and St. George this Friday and Saturday will be in two different time zones. Both talks begin at 9:30 a.m. But in Las Vegas that is in the Pacific Time Zone (an hour earlier) and in St. George it is in the Mountain Time Zone. Therefore if you plan to come, the scheduled times are in the local time zones.

Only One Doctrine Left

This is a personal message for one of the men on the High Council who advocated my excommunication. He is a friend. I spoke with him yesterday and, after reflecting on it overnight, have something to say to him and anonymous comments on my blog espousing similar beliefs:
In LDS Mormonism there is really only one doctrine left. Everything else is subordinate and changeable. But this single demand is paramount. If you disbelieve this position, then LDS Mormonism has no place for you. The doctrine:

We follow a man whom we call a prophet.

If you disbelieve this, and think you ought to follow Christ first, and the church’s “prophet” is secondary, then you are insubordinate and a threat. Believing Christ comes first opens the possibility that Christ could tell you the “prophet” is mistaken. That is intolerable.

In LDS Mormonism it is allowed for the current “prophet” to criticize and denigrate a former “prophet.” This happens frequently. Even editorials now appear on website rejecting Brigham Young’s teachings as wrong, even immoral. The new, living leader has the “keys” and the contradictions are viewed by blinded followers to be “proof of continuing revelation.” Therefore these contradictions are valued by the deceived. An unchanging God has error prone key-holders who can guarantee his contemporaries their salvation. This is even if later key-holders proclaim the earlier leader’s mistakes. All of this is only consistent if you believe the central, single doctrine. If you question it, the whole construct begins to look foolish and riddled with error.

When I joined LDS Mormonism there were many doctrines. None of them put President Spencer W. Kimball into a position of a dictator. Indeed, President Kimball earned our loyalty and respect by his meek example and the content of his sermons. He denounced modern idols, and criticized the war-like nature of our country. But no one demanded a loyalty oath, insisting that veneration of him took precedence over worship of Christ. I believe if President Kimball heard of such a thing being taught he would have vocally and immediately spoken against it. He denounced Ezra Taft Benson’s sermon about Fourteen Fundamentals for Following the Prophet. But today these are taught in General Conference!

LDS Mormonism has changed since I first joined. So much so that I no longer belong in an organization that holds one and only one doctrine as its bedrock. I believe Christ alone is worthy of veneration. I do not believe I must follow a man to be able to follow Christ. I do not believe I should look to the example of some man in order to be able to see Christ.

This radical and false shift of the religion has happened in my lifetime. I never engaged in this idolatry while among the LDS organization, and I refuse to accept that kind of religion now. It is false. I reject it.

Insofar as the LDS Church “believes” in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the revelations through him, including the D&C and Pearl of Great Price, I honor them. Insofar as they testify of the Book of Mormon and preach from it, I believe and accept it. Therefore I see some considerable merit to the LDS Church. However, their current single fundamental doctrine is false. Utterly false.

If you extend the fundamental LDS doctrine to its logical conclusion, it is also satanic. It abrogates free will, requires obedience to a man even if he tells you to do something which you know to be wrong (a principle that has been taught in General Conference), and requires you to abandon your own agency. Since I believe everyone will be accountable before God for their choices in the Day of Judgment, the paradigm is false and will not protect you. You may think the “key holder” will absolve you of your mistakes, but God will judge you. If you are asked to do something wrong, and you do it out of veneration for a “prophet” you will not be spared, but you will be judged and condemned.

There are many good people in the LDS Church. There is also some considerable good done by the LDS Church. But when adulterers, liars, idolaters and the ignorant who preside in wards, stakes and areas of the church insist their personal unworthiness is excused because they are loyal to a priesthood line of authority, as we presently find in the church, then someone needs to proclaim faith in Christ and repentance. Even if only one voice will speak up, God will vindicate faith in Him in the end.

The Great Whore will always outnumber the few who are Christ’s sheep. But that cannot detract from Christ’s affection for those who hear His voice and defend His religion.

Joseph Smith’s Revelations

There is a passage often quoted from the D&C to support the idea that the president of the LDS church is entitled to have his teachings regarded as if they were God’s word. The language is as follows:

Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from my own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21: 4-6.)

This revelation is referring to Joseph Smith. Period. Not to anyone who later happens to be elected by the vote of a group to become his successor. Doesn’t apply and didn’t apply to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Warren Jeffs, Ervil LeBaron, Rulon Allred or any number of other pretenders. It applied solely to Joseph Smith.

The revelation uses the personal pronouns “he” and “his” to refer to Joseph Smith throughout. If you want to put someone else into the passage above, then “he” must likewise heed all the requirements of D&C 21.

Wherefore it behooveth me that he [Joseph Smith] should be ordained by you, Oliver Cowdery mine apostle; This being an ordinance unto you, that you are an elder under his [Joseph Smith’s] hand, he [Joseph Smith] being the first unto you, that you might be an elder unto this church of Christ, bearing my name.” (D&C 21: 10-11.) So “he” will then need to ordain Oliver if “he” is to be mentioned by the revelation.

It was Joseph Smith who “wept for Zion” (D&C 21: 8). It was Joseph Smith who was “inspired to move the cause of Zion” forward (D&C 21: 7). It was Joseph Smith whose “diligence I [God] know, and his prayers I have heard” (D&C 21: 7).

Therefore it was Joseph Smith whose words we are required to “give heed unto” and it is the “commandments which he [Joseph Smith] gave unto us” we are now required to obey. When we do not do this, then the “gates of hell shall prevail” against us, as they most certainly have.

From the beginning, all the various off-shoots uniformly disobey this commandment. Not only do they all refuse to “give heed” to what God revealed and commanded through Joseph Smith, but they have compounded their error by allowing others to interpose their commandments “as if they were from God.” The landscape today is exactly as it was when the Lord appeared to Joseph. We see churches who deny the power of God, and who teach for commandments the doctrines of men, having only a form of godliness, which heaven does not respect. The pretenders’ lack of power is for our protection. If it were otherwise, we would be damning one another.

Today and Yesterday

In Kirtland, Ohio the saints were too proud, foolish and vain for Zion to be established.

In Nauvoo, Illinois the saints were too proud, foolish and vain for Zion to be established.

In Salt Lake City, Utah the saints are too proud, foolish and vain for Zion to be established.

Those who are thinking about this topic today believe themselves to be something other than proud, foolish and vain. But if you read the historical events and compare our conversations, our ambitions, our desires and our self-promotion, you will see we are no better than they were in their own day. WE are not even appreciative of what was restored. When we are asked to remember what Joseph Smith taught, it is opposed by traditions, fears and competing ambition.

Just like in Kirtland, there are many unclean spirits who will deceive you. Unless you anchor what you are taught in the scriptures, and require all truth to measure up, you can be deceived. That is as true now as then. Some people are so thrilled by having any spiritual experience that they accept anything.

Lying spirits appeal to your pride and vanity. God will chasten you and require you to be meek and serve both Him and your fellow man. Lying spirits will tell you that you are some great and mighty person. God will remind you that only He is strong, but He uses the weak things of this world to accomplish His work. Therefore, no one can take credit but Him for whatever is accomplished.

Proud, foolish and vain people have never built Zion. Only the penitent, the meek, and the humble can qualify to be around as God does His work.

Mormon In Context

Mormon, the abridger of the largest portion of the Book of Mormon, has an important context. He abridged the entire collection of prophetic and historic source materials. From Lehi to the time of King Benjamin, however, the abridgment was translated by Joseph Smith and then lost. That work was replaced by the Small Plates of Nephi, which he did not abridge.

Beginning with Mosiah and concluding with his own book, his abridgment remained intact. We now have that in the current Book of Mormon. His son completed the book, adding his (Moroni’s) abridgment and translation of the record of Ether. Then he added his record.

Who was Mormon? What were the circumstances under which he compiled and abridged this lengthy volume of scripture? What things motivated his work?

Mormon was only 10 years old when he learned about the tradition of record keeping among his people. The records were handed down generation to generation. In his day, the previous record-keeper came to him and asked him to continue the work.

Mormon was chosen at 10 years old because he stood out. He was a “sober” minded child. Meaning he could contemplate serious matters in a mature way. He was also “quick to observe,” meaning he would both understand what was needed and be willing to do it. (Mormon 1: 2.) Society, at the time the hand-off to Mormon took place, was undergoing collapse. They were violent and “exceedingly wicked.” There were so few left who would respect the old religion it had essentially vanished from the earth. (4 Ne. 1: 45-46.)

Mormon’s immediate predecessor (Ammaron) is referred to in only three verses before Mormon’s record begins. (4 Ne. 1: 47-49.) Ammaron was inspired to hide the records from the people. He was then inspired to choose Mormon as the new record-keeper because of the qualifications set out above.

Mormon was told to get the records when he was twenty-four years old. (Mormon 1: 3.)

When he was 11, his people fought a war and many died. (Mormon 1: 6, 8.) War only hardened the Nephites, and the Lord withdrew the resident angels so they ministered no more among Mormon’s people. (Mormon 1: 13.) When they withdrew, miracles ceased. When the angels left and the gifts ended, the Holy Ghost also withdrew from the people. (Mormon 1: 13-14.)

In contrast to the damned people all around him, Mormon was “visited of the Lord” and therefore he “tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.” (Mormon 1: 15.) Like Joseph Smith, Mormon tasted the fruit of the tree of life while still a teenager. He “knew” Jesus and therefore, despite the fact that the people were in darkness, Mormon stood in the light. Darkness among a larger population never hinders an individual from coming into the light.

When Mormon tried to preach to the people, the Lord stopped him. They had willfully rebelled, and were consigned to destruction. (Mormon 1: 16.) If the Lord had permitted him to preach, it would have been an indication the Lord would still allow them to repent. Once the Lord forbid Mormon from preaching, the people were left to their destruction.

Mormon’s people were filled with mischief, looking for power from the wrong source. When the Holy Ghost withdrew from them, they craved its presence and resorted to conjuring and witchcrafts to invoke the only spirits that would give heed to them. (Mormon 1: 19.)

Mormon was only 16 when he was asked to lead the people into war. He knew Jesus, was prevented from preaching the truth about Christ, and he was living a life of violence and warfare. (Mormon 2: 1-2.) The war was bloody, the losses were great, and the people Mormon led were humbled by their losses. Mormon saw this terrible downfall and destruction as vindication of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecies against the rebellious Nephites. (Mormon 2: 10.)

When the people cried out in anguish from the burdens imposed on them by their awful circumstances, Mormon thought their cries were a hopeful sign. He supposed that perhaps the Lord would forgive them and reclaim them. (Mormon 2: 12.) But these people were not repentant, merely self-pitying because God would not support them in their wickedness. (Mormon 2: 13.)

Instead of looking to God and repenting, they resented God and cursed Him. (Mormon 2: 14.) For them, “the day of grace was passed with them” and they could no longer be saved. (Mormon 2: 15.)

There is a limit on the Lord’s forgiveness. When people claim they understand the Gospel, have the fullness, and therefore deliberately rebel against God’s messengers, driving the Holy Ghost out from among them, then the day of grace has passed.

Mormon was the great abridger of the Book of Mormon. But his life was lived in a society that was corrupt, vile, violent and void of the Holy Ghost. Yet he lived with God’s grace, as well as knowledge from Christ. These wicked and corrupt contemporaries were unable to even feel the Lord’s grace, but Mormon lived as one of the Lord’s friends.

From this, we can see just how little the social decay of a population affects the lives of the Lord’s followers. An entire nation can be blind, but that does not prevent disciples from seeing. Neither religions, traditions nor governments keep an individual from repenting.

Mormon was the perfect candidate to abridge the book. He lived at a time in where it was possible for him to understand us perfectly. He explained: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envyings, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8: 35-36.)

I’ve received complaints from several people, including Symons Ryder, pointing out Mormon 8 was written by Mormon’s son, Moroni.

Email Response “Second Time”

I received an inquiry about my comment in the Ephriam talk about God’s hand “the second time.”  The inquirer referred to a letter Joseph wrote, directed my attention there, and asked about the “second time.” My response appears below:

God may yet set His hand a second time in still another generation (or generations, depending on the reaction today), if the work required is not done today.  When God begins to speak, we are obligated to inquire, listen and heed.  At present I do not expect any success in the present generation.  This world is so captured by a faithlessness and hardness that even the trump of an angel would fail to reach those alive today.  If mankind knew what He offers now, we would all make the necessary sacrifice to receive it.

Joseph spoke as the Elias sent to prepare.  He accomplished all that was required in his day.  But he did not accomplish what might have been done if those who lived in his day had been faithful.  There will come another with the Spirit of Elijah, whom Joseph foretold.  When that window opens it will require better response than in Joseph’s day, or another generation will pass away un-redeemed, but not un-warned.  Right now the question is whether we are willing to still receive what Joseph in the spirit of Elias gave us.  Hence the present series of talks.  They are designed to let us remember.  Before the Spirit of Elijah will be permitted to be heard, we must remember.  God cannot give more when we forget what we already have received.  

Then still another will come who is the Messiah.  But all these are part of “the second time” in the Lord’s economy.  Likewise, they will all minister to a “generation” in the language of prophecy, while in the reckoning of men it involves generations.
I got a response saying the writer was trying hard, but seemed to be spending too much time with things like changing diapers to get any real breakthroughs.  I responded:

changing diapers and being a husband and father are EXACTLY what will bring about both what you seek and what God wants to happen as well.  

Daily, small acts of service to others, and in particular inside the family, are what we lack.  We need better husbands and better fathers, more loving marriages and healthy families most of all.  I will not get to that topic for two talks.  But it is coming.

Too much attention is being paid to matters outside the family, where we have no control.  It is family life, above all, where God’s great work gets done.