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.)
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:
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.
The St. George transcript is up on Scribd. Because of some trouble with Blogger, I am unable to create a DS Talks link. I will have that done as soon as the problem is fixed.
Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden is up on Scribd. You can find the link on the right side of the blog under DS Talks.
The Las Vegas transcript is up on Scribd. Link is on the right side of the blog under DS Talks.
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.