Bloom’s Article

Harold Bloom is a serious student of religion. He one time admired Mormonism. The article I linked to earlier today is a reflection of his disillusionment because of the changes which the faith has undergone since the 1990’s. What he once thought would be a revolutionary religion, with vitality that would revolutionize the world, is now gone.

Mormonism was designed to change the world, not to be changed by it.

Mormonism was intended to alter how people understood and relate to God; not to become an Americanized version of Roman Catholicism with a magisterial hierarchy viewed as God’s “Vicars” holding keys to heaven through which sycophants could obtain Divine favor.

Bloom laments the transition and, because of it, has let the tarnishing recent changes to Mormonism alter his earlier, much more positive assessment of Joseph and the faith founded through him.

Bloom’s conclusion that Mormonism is now just another Protestant religion is a conclusion he was disappointed to reach. But, having reached it, he does not hold back on his disappointment.

When it began, Mormonism denounced the idea of following men. It captured in rapid prose the idea that following men, even inspired men who were authentic prophets who spoke with God, merited damnation to hell alongside the wicked: “For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel… will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the Firstborn, and received into the cloud. These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth. These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.” (D&C 76: 99-105.) Joseph Smith elaborated on this idea in a sermon to the Relief Society in Nauvoo, telling them: “the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 238.) Today we have inverted that idea. Now if you do not “depend on the Prophet” you are considered to have a darkened mind.

It is a fundamental principle of fourth phase Mormonism that all anyone needs to do is “Follow the Prophet” (meaning the President of the church) and everything else will take care of itself. There is little else required. Tithing and some dietary restrictions, and a few meetings are needed.

Today if there is the slightest hint by someone that “Following the Prophet” as your primary faith will merit only “the wrath of God on earth” and “the vengeance of eternal fire” because we must not say we follow any man— well that is taken as weakness of faith, or worse. It can be regarded as a substantial error in doctrine or understanding. Or, worse still, as evidence that you don’t believe God at all. You are, therefore, damned.

Well, Bloom’s criticism is biting, to be sure. But it is borne from his disappointment in what we’ve become in only a few short years of transition. The pace of the changes are accelerating, too. In another two decades it will be even more difficult to recognize Mormonism as the faith restored through Joseph. The caretakers now point to change as evidence of inspiration; instead of worrying change may be provoking ire. (See, e.g., Isa. 24: 5; also Malachi 3: 7.) Fortunately, for us, there is no need to really consider the ideas which arise from anywhere other than the recognized authorities. We can always trust that God will protect us with a mighty hand. Our freedom to err has literally been circumscribed by His power and commitment to save us. We are not free to apostatize from His ways, but are instead guaranteed we cannot fall away as was the case with every earlier dispensation of God’s Gospel. Any idea we can do the same thing as every earlier era of man’s interaction with God belittles God’s power. It challenges His overriding hand which has restored the truth for the last time to the earth, and nothing can ever change His determination to keep it here. Even our neglect, rebellion, sins and stupidity is nothing compared to God’s commitment to letting us keep the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We got it. We’ve got keys that cannot tarnish. And, all of this is to the envy of every other Christian denomination; because there’s just nothing anyone can do to change that. Not even us. Right?

Reactions to Passing the Heavenly Gift

I had a conversation this morning with a friend whose years-long alienation from the church has been healed through reading Passing the Heavenly Gift. I have also had a discussion yesterday about how another man was deeply offended by the content and thought it was nearly apostate to have written it. One man who withdrew from membership in the church told me he could not finish reading it because it was too “faith promoting” and “apologetic” and could not be regarded as true history because of its pro-church bias.  Another man told me that it finally told the truth and liberated him to continue in church activity while feeling at home again among the Saints. I also heard a woman bear her testimony for the first time in years, in part because of the book’s effect upon her heart.

The book has been praised as inspired, by a reader who told me they felt close to the Holy Ghost as they read every page; and it has been denounced as the product of an evil and aspiring man.

Well, I’m not going to react to the reactions. But I want it clear that first, the only motive I have is to deal honestly with what I know is a current problem friends I know are struggling to solve. People who want to believe in the Restoration, but who cannot find any peace in the details of the history. I have looked at the problems and the book is an honest explanation of how I cope with the issues.

No one needs to read the book. Anyone who does read it is put to the inconvenience of buying or borrowing a copy. I do not advocate it, but only offer it. If you are untroubled by church history issues, then go your way and give it no thought. If you struggle with problems from the church’s past, then I offer it to help.

I do not advocate any position. I offer my understanding for whatever value someone may take from it. I never speak up in church and argue my views. I sit silent for the most part and leave people to enjoy their own understanding. On occasion I’m asked to teach or talk in Sacrament. When asked, I teach the assigned topic in the way I think brings the greatest understanding to the topic. As far as I know, there are only a very few people in my home Ward who are even aware I have written a single book. And of those who may know, I believe most have not read anything I’ve written.

I have no following, as far as I am aware. If there is anyone who claims to be following me, the only advice I would give them is to quit. I do not want a follower. Like any other Latter-day Saint, I offer my testimony and I give what I hope will help others understand difficult issues. If there is anyone worth following it is the Lord alone. I know of no man who can help anyone be saved. It does no good to claim you are “of Paul” or are “of Cephas” or you are “of Moses” or “Apollos” or some other man. That merits a Telestial condemnation comparable to what is merited by the liars, and whoremongers and adulters. (D&C 76: 98-105.) Therefore I do not commend any man as someone to claim you follow.

Draper Temple Visit

Last week we took our Priests to the Draper Temple to do baptisms. It was a busy evening. I talked the Bishop into doing baptisms, and I was able to do confirmations. This left me dry.

Then I rushed home to pick up my wife and we returned to attend the last endowment session of the evening with her brother. He was taking out his own endowment for the first time in a “live session.”

A neighbor of mine was in the Celestial Room as a worker and he told me the temples were all overbooked for weddings last Friday. The 11-11-11 date was in high demand for weddings. He had a sheet with numbers on it. I forget the totals, but it was to be the largest single day of weddings in the Draper Temple history. Apparently there was a lottery for the 11:00 time frame.

The Draper Temple is quite lovely. I liked the Jordan River Temple (which was our district before the Draper Temple was built). It was very efficient. With six session rooms you can get a session every 20 minutes. I liked the convenience of that. When we lost that district assignment, the Draper Temple was so busy that I started going to the Oquirrh Temple. That is an amazingly beautiful facility. It was the temple I attended temporarily. It had a wonderful spirit about it. Then the police shot and killed that fellow on the temple grounds and I haven’t been back. It’s a personal thing, I suppose.

We helped with the Draper Temple Open House as a stake and as a family when it was first open. We enjoyed that experience.

The Temple I like most is the Manti Temple. Like Salt Lake, it is live with real people instead of a film. It is not crowded. The pioneer workmanship is interesting and beautiful. I also think the outside architecture is among the most beautiful of any of the Temples.

The Priests were taught today about how to find ancestors for whom work can be done through the “Ancestry.com” website. The hope is that between the visit this week and the information provided in today’s lesson, these young men will find themselves interested in finding their ancestors. That would be good. Our lives are not ours alone. Our ancestors have an interest in how we live and what we do with the time we have allotted to us in mortality. As Joseph put it: “The spirits of the just are enveloped in flaming fire,…are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.. and are often pained therewith.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings, p. 326.)

Temples can remind us we are not living for our own interests, but also owe an obligation to those who went before in our family lines.

Jesus’ Doctrine

Jesus complained to the Nephites about their religious arguments. He called such disagreements over religion “contention” and said it was His doctrine that “such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11: 30.) Seems we want to believe in Christ, but reject His doctrine. He was quite unrelenting on the point: “Verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Ne. 11: 29.)

It is interesting how He did it. Because He disagreed with the presiding authorities of His day on almost every particular of their then-current religious observances. But He managed to declare what He believed, to teach what He thought comprised the higher, underlying purpose of the law, without contending. He answered their oftentimes hostile questions forthrightly, and unequivocally but not through contention.

He goes on to declare His doctrine, which is the doctrine given to Him by the Father: “I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everwhere, to repent and believe in me. And whosoever believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.” (3 Ne. 11: 32-36.)

His doctrine is to “bear record of the Father.” And His doctrine is the “Father will bear record of Him.” And the “Holy Ghost will bear record of both Him and the Father.” For they are all one.

It is nice, I suppose, when someone bears their testimony. I do it. I hear others do it. I see some folks swooning when they hear someone they think holds an important office in the church bearing a testimony. But we are supposed to get our testimony from Christ and from the Father and from the Holy Ghost.

We are all told by Christ that “all men everywhere” are commanded to repent. That is all inclusive. There isn’t some special, elect few who are so nigh to heaven they are not required to repent. Everyone. Relentlessly. We are all in desperate need of repentance. We don’t need a healthy self-image. We don’t need reassurance that we are loved, even doted upon by God. We don’t need to be indulged in our sins, told we are just born with problems we should accept, or given any excuse to turn away from facing our weaknesses. They are, after all, gifts from Him to humble us. (Ether 12: 27.) They were given to humble us, to drive us onto our knees, and to commend us to Christ. We are commanded to repent from them, and they are a gift to remind us of our dependence upon Him.

When someone cries out that we are in desperate need of repentance today, however, they are called “negative” and “unkind” and “not at all like Christ.” They imagine Christ as a limp-wristed, happy-go-lucky chap who is indulgent and promiscuously forgiving. I do not imagine such a being; but instead a Counselor of Righteousness, whose every word is designed to make me become more like Him. Whose every sacrifice was designed to bring greater light into my mind and heart. Who stretches and pulls me relentlessly forward and upward, bringing me to my knees as I view in horror my many failings. I see a Man of Holiness who cannot tolerate any degree of unrighteousness; but who is ever ready to heal and instruct. A God indeed. Who works to bring others to become like Him.

“Wait!” shouts someone, “I have a testimony of ‘the church’!” Well, that’s nice, I suppose. I find the church important, too. I fellowship there every Sunday. I enjoy immensely my ward. But that isn’t Christ’s doctrine. My testimony should come from Christ bearing record to me of the Father, and the Father then bearing testimony or record to me of the Son, and the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to me of the Father and the Son. That is His doctrine. And Christ is quite emphatic on that point, as well: “And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.” (3 Ne. 11: 40.)

I’ve been bearing testimony of Christ in books I have written for some time now. But the testimony I bear is that He lives and is altogether willing to bear testimony to you. And the Father, also, is willing to do so. And also the Holy Ghost.

I do not believe God was meant to be experienced second and third-hand. I do not believe we are supposed to “know about God” but were instead, according to Christ’s doctrine, to “know God.” He will make Himself known to you. Not vicariously through a Pope, or a Bishop, or an Archbishop, or a Cardinal, or a Stake President, or some other preacher. He, Christ, and He, the Father and the Holy Ghost are the ones who are to declare themselves to you. Then you aren’t building on the sandy, unstable foundation comprised of the many varieties of the hireling intermediary who gets acclaim here, praise and adoration here, as an inappropriate surrogate for He alone who can save. When men get put between the individual and God almost every individual immediately begins to exercise control, and dominion and compulsion over others. It is a wise God who restricts His delegation of “power” to such a degree that it cannot be exercised unrighteously. (D&C 121: 41.)

God is knowable. He comforts.

Our Many Cares

Our many cares often focus on things which do not matter. Christ told us what matters. It is not what we can get from God, but what we do for Him, what we give up for His sake, that has value. If we lose our fathers and mothers–are rejected by those we are closest to in this life– for His sake, we are in the right way. (Matt. 10: 35-39.) When we are entrusted with something by Him, it is not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others while in His service. (Matt. 25: 14-30.) In the parable about the talents, the talents were given for the Lord’s sake, not the servants. The servant was accountable for what he did for the Lord with what was given. It was not about the servant, nor the pride of being entrusted, nor the praise of men. It was only about doing the will of the Lord and glorifying Him.

When we claim we’ve done great things in the Lord’s name, we miss the point. (Matt. 7: 21-23.) The kingdom, and the power and the glory is the Fathers, not ours. (Matt. 6: 13.)

What little we have must all be given to Him if we hope to please our Lord. (Luke 21: 1-4.) Until we give all we have to Him, we have nothing.

This is more than enough to occupy all our days. How is it then we have time to fret about so much else? How do we have time for endless debate and group discussions which circle about but fail to reach the truth; without ever noticing how little we have given to Him? Why do we ever contemplate with pride what we’ve received, what we own, what office or station we occupy, or how great we have become down in this dark well? What use is it to succeed here? What great thing is it you have here that will endure for even a thousand years? “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8: 34-37.)

Borrowed Doctrine

I’ve just finished a conversation with a daughter who is in college in another state. Some doctrinal issues were on the agenda stemming from interpretations of the Book of Revelation. She had an encounter with a Relief Society teacher who introduced her to some ideas which are largely borrowed from Evangelical sources, adopted by Mormon writers, and now being repeated as if they were true. That conversation provokes this post.

We should be careful about importing doctrine and interpretations from other traditional Christian sources. The reason “the professors [of traditional Christianity] are all corrupt” is not because they are bad people. (JS-H 1: 19.) It is because their doctrine is wrong. They do not have the truth. They entertain ideas which are not informed by heaven, and rely upon men to speculate about meaning, without knowing a thing about heaven.

Joseph remarked that “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world.” (TPJS p. 217.) The meaning of “knowledge” is, of course, the key to that statement. For the only “knowledge” which can save it to “know God” for yourself. (See, John 17: 3; D&C 132: 24.) The means of knowing this God is, of course, revelation and His personal ministry. His personal ministry will bring the faithful to the Father, as well. Both the Son and the Father will take their abode with you. (John 14: 18, 23.) This is the knowledge that saves.

The Christian world cannot save, their doctrines are corrupt, because they do not have the required knowledge to be able to teach. Therefore, they are “all corrupt” because their minds are corrupt. They cannot save themselves, much less inform us of anything which will aid us in knowing God.

Even reading Joseph’s teachings will not save us. His knowledge and his covenant is not ours. We must find the required knowledge for ourselves. “Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God.” (TPJS p. 324.) Even Joseph’s revelations, and Joseph’s scriptures are inadequate. They must be obtained by each individual or they will be left without saving knowledge.

How do we get good doctrine, good information and a valid covenant with God for ourselves? It is through knowledge from Him. “could you gaze into heaven five minutes you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (TPJS p. 324.) This is true because we then gain knowledge that saves us. We know God.

I don’t give a fig for lengthy quotes of man’s speculation about the “truth” as they understand it. I care only for the revelations from heaven. Men who have never gazed into heaven simply do not know the truth. Good men, honest men, and men of the highest intent who know nothing about the heavens cannot help anyone to find their way to God.

There are, of course, disappointments along the way when you gain knowledge. You find that you learn things you do not want to know. You become disconnected with this world as you attach to the higher world. I read the Doctrines of Salvation from Joseph Fielding Smith as a convert to the church, believing it to be filled with truth. I accepted the notion he advances that “Christ has himself declared that the manifestations we might have of the Spirit of Christ, or from a visitation from an angel, a tangible resurrected being, would not leave the impression and would not convince us and place within us that something which we cannot get away from which we receive through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. Personal visitations might become dim as time goes on, but this guidance of the Holy Ghost is renewed and continued, day after day, year after year, if we live to be worthy of it.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol 1, p. 44.) I believed that at one point. I thought it good doctrine. I was troubled and disappointed to learn this was wrong. I did not want to know Joseph Fielding Smith was in error. But I learned it. Visitations are more, not less, powerful than the Holy Ghost.The scriptures prove it. For an angel will not come to visit you without being fully armed by the power of the Holy Ghost. Indeed, they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost when they visit. (2 Nephi 32: 2-3.) I wish I did not know Joseph Fielding Smith was wrong. I wish I did not realize he had never been visited by an angel, for only by lacking such an experience could he make this error. But we seek “knowledge” to be saved, and therefore we should find ourselves informed by heaven alone, and not men, even very good men, trying to tell us about things they can only guess to be true.

There is a great deal of difference between saving knowledge, which comes from heaven, and error, speculation and man’s own doctrine, which cannot help us. We should never find ourselves among those who “teach for doctrine the commandments of men.” (JS-H 1: 19.) Get connected to heaven and you needn’t be dependent upon any MAN for your salvation. Not even Joseph Smith wanted you to do that by depending on him. Such things make you darkened in your mind, because you neglect the duty which God has imposed upon you. (TPJS p. 238.)

I do not point to me, or to another man, or to any group of men, no matter how well intentioned. I point to Christ, who alone can save you. You will not be rescued by another. No office can do it. No ordinance can do it. Only Christ has the power to save. (Mosiah 3: 17; Mosiah 5: 8.)

The most dogmatic and well studied Mormons are often the furthest away from heaven. Proud, confident, insistent they possess great knowledge, all the while little more than a child of hell, bound in darkness, and unable to recognize the truth. They will, as Joseph put it, “be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world,” (TPJS p. 217.) because they are already captive by a spirit of contention, which Christ told us all is of the devil. (3 Nephi 11: 29.)

We should declare the truth, point to Christ, and say what we know to be true from our knowledge. It is up to others to accept or reject what is true. We cannot be saved; NONE of us can be saved unless we have saving knowledge which comes from Christ. You would know this if the heavens were opened to you and angels ministered to you. This is why the Book of Mormon authors so often confirmed their message did not originate from them, but came as a result of the Lord or His angels requiring the message to be delivered.

I do not care if anyone believes a thing I have ever said or written. But I do care if someone decides they will close the gate of heaven by the false things they preach, all the while declaring they are Christ’s. How can they know the Master when they oppose knowledge of Him? It is more than an enigma. It is a tragedy.

The Power of God’s Word

I’ve been reflecting on the power of God’s word. It is so remarkable a source of power that Christ was called the Word of God, because He embodies the Father’s will so completely. (John 1:1.)
 
God’s word alone is what ordains to Melchizedek Priesthood. See JST Genesis 14:27-29. “It was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice…”
 
God’s word alone conferred sealing authority upon Nephi. Helaman 10:3, Helaman 10: 5-10.
 
God’s word along conferred the sealing authority upon Joseph Smith. D&C 132:46.
 
God’s word is the only constant, which will never fail, whether He speaks it or He authorizes someone else to speak it, it is the same. D&C 1:38.
 
In a very real sense, the power of the priesthood consists in obtaining God’s word. For when He will answer you it is possible to have His word on all things. D&C 132:45 (for Joseph); D&C 124:95 (for Hyrum); Helaman 10: 5 (for Nephi).
 
Those who have God’s word know how to proceed in all things. Those who do not are always uncertain what they should do and what their standing is before Him.

History of Elijah Doctrine

The talk on Elijah given in Spanish Fork and posted on this blog last week is a continuation of the development of information found in Passing the Heavenly Gift. The foundation for why the Elijah issue required further discussion is found in the book. Some people have listened to the talk without first reading the book. Therefore they are unacquainted with the background information which shows the importance of re-examining the Elijah tradition inside the church. I will give a brief explanation here, although you won’t really understand the reason for the talk unless you read the book.

Briefly, and without repeating all the historic records, journals and sources from which the history is explained in the book, this is what happened: Elijah came to visit the Kirtland Temple in 1836 according to the third person account written by Warren Cowdery in the back of the 3rd volume of revelations in Kirtland. It is the last entry made, and the source of all the later claims made about Elijah, his purpose and appearance. The account is third-person, (i.e., The Lord appeared to them… said to them…., etc.) but when it was later discovered it was reworded to the first person (i.e., The Lord appeared to us…. said to us…, etc.).  You can read the original document, actually see a photostatic reproduction of the original, in the Joseph Smith Papers. I give the cite in Passing the Heavenly Gift.

The record Joseph Smith left makes no mention of Elijah’s appearance. The record Oliver Cowdery left makes no mention of Elijah’s appearance. Joseph died without every explaining anything about the event, or making any mention of it. Oliver also. Both of them testified about visitations they received, and wrote about who had come to empower them, but neither of them ever mention Elijah.

In talks in Nauvoo, Joseph refers on every occasion he mentions Elijah as a future event. Not as a past event. He explains Elijah “will return,” not that he has returned.

Joseph Smith received the sealing power in a revelation given sometime in the early 1830’s, which was recorded in 1843. I take some effort to lay out the chronology in the book, and the information can be reviewed there.

When Joseph Smith died, there is no contemporaneous source to verify the appearance of Elijah in 1836, and the appearance was not known at that time.

There is no mention of the Elijah appearance in 1836, nor 1837, nor 1838 nor ’39, ’40, ’41, ’42, ’43 nor in 1844, though Joseph does say there will be a future return. After Joseph Smith’s death, there was nothing said or known in 1844, ’45, ’46, ’47, ’48, ’49, ’50 nor for years thereafter. When the Kirtland Revelation Book was reviewed in the 1850’s the first notice resulted in the revelation being published for the first time in November of the year it was found. Along with the publication was an explanation given by Orson Pratt explaining it was quite significant. He garbles the chronology in that article, and the chronology ever since was taken from his first editorial. Since then the chronology has remained the same as Orson declared, even though he erred in attributing the revelation recorded on July 12, 1843 to having been given on that date.  The revelation was received much earlier, the first part in 1829. I also walk through that in Passing the Heavenly Gift.

Since the 1850’s when the revelation was found (which is now Section 110) about the Kirtland Temple appearance of Elijah, and then published for the first time in the Deseret News, there have been hundreds of statements which rely upon Orson Pratt’s original analysis accompanying the announcement of finding the record.

By the time the words were discovered, Warren Cowdery who wrote it down was dead. He could not explain where it came from because we couldn’t ask him. Oliver died shortly before Warren, and he also could not be asked. And, of course, Joseph died before either of them, and so he could not be asked either. Therefore the two witnesses left nothing about it, could not be asked, and the scribe who recorded it could not be asked either.

I walk through all these events using the historical records, scriptures and lengthy explanations. It is a topic which takes a lot of material to set out in full, but has been done in the book.

The talk on Elijah’s mission posted on this blog was taking the topic and discussing what the still future mission of Elijah would necessarily involve. Since Joseph expected it to happen in the future when he spoke about it in January and March, 1844, there must be a future mission for him. Because if Joseph, who was present in the Kirtland Temple in 1836 when the Warren Cowdery recorded event took place thought there was still a future mission for Elijah, then it would be important to notice that and give some thought to what it could involve. I’ve done that. Hence the contents of the talk.

Now, if you disagree with history and you are perfectly content with what Orson Pratt bequeathed us as the accompanying commentary when the account was discovered, then you needn’t give this one further thought. There have been generations come and go with that explanation regarded as the absolute truth and the basis for our Temple work. So you’ll be in good company. But there are those serious minded individuals who are trying to sort this out right now at high levels of the Church who know these are important issues which are NOT as settled as the past pronouncements make it appear. In fact, I doubt the current explanations will last much longer because the record simply does not support the conclusions we have urged. The place to start is not after the 1850’s discovery, when there were conclusions leaped to by Orson Pratt which then became the operative explanation thereafter. The place to start is instead from 1836 to 1844 in the records of that time. What was Joseph saying? What was Oliver saying? Why did both of them leave out mention of Elijah in their testimonies of who had come to visit with them? Where did Section 110 come from? That is, who did Warren Cowdery consult with to learn the material he wrote into the book? I work on that in both the book and the talk.

I think Elijah has a ministry still future. I think it is connected to the very things Joseph Smith was speaking about in January and March, 1844. And I explain what that is in the talk linked on this blog.

An Email Response

I got another email inquiry which I responded to yesterday I thought I ought to put up here: This inquiry related to Passing the Heavenly Gift:


[The email linked to several conversations of some length.]  Well, that’s a lot to read.  I did scan some of it, but not all.  I do not mind being criticized, nor people disagreeing with me.  They’re free to do so.  And I mean both criticize me and disagree.  The problem is that criticizing me is sort of a misadventure, because doing that detracts from the underlying real questions.  Who cares a fig about me?  I hope no-one.  But the stuff I write about– meaning an attempt to discuss the Gospel –that is important and certainly worth spending some time thinking about and discussing.

Without the benefit of reading all those posts (I stopped reading when it got noxious), I’ll respond as follows:
First, I’ve explained in what I’ve written (some approximate one million words now) what I think and why.  There’s no reason to re-write it again to answer questions.  If they’d read what I wrote they’d know the answers.  They’d even know the reasons for the answers.  It’s lazy to try to shortcut things and just interpose questions based on false assumptions and interpretations that are, in many cases, so off kilter that even answering is distorting.  I think every one of these questions are answered in what I’ve written far better than in the responses below.
Despite this, and really even anticipating that these answers don’t contribute anything to the discussion, here’s a brief reply:
Does he actually claim in the first quote that all the keys of the priesthood are not held by Thomas S. Monson?
No.  I don’t take a position on that.  In one chapter I entertain the possibility of that and discuss how important the church remains anyway.  As to whether he has them all, that is a matter between him and the Lord.  When he became President, I prayed and was told to sustain him and I do.  That’s enough for me.  The Book of Mormon clearly identifies us (the Latter-day Saints) as gentiles.  Joseph Smith said we were “identified with the gentiles” in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple (D&C 109: 60).  Book of Mormon prophecies clearly indicate there will be an apostasy or sorts by the gentile church (us).  We either have (in the past) or will (in the future) reject the fullness. I show how a reasonable interpretation of our history could reach the conclusion it was in the past.  If it isn’t then it is in our future.  But if the Book of Mormon can be trusted on the point, and I think it can, then we’ll reject the fullness of the Gospel at some point.  But that’s a quick and altogether distorted treatment of a topic worthy of so much attention and so much care that I’ve written a 170,000 word book on the subject which will do a better job than a snapshot. 
Does Bro. Snuffer actually believe that the sealing power is not with the Church and was lost?
No.  Don’t take a position on that, either.  The sealing power is conferred in one way and that way is described in the scriptures.  I take some lengths to explain, using scripture, the matter.  Beyond laying out the process I never say anything about what the church has.  I do explain the church’s claims.  And I also use the church’s explanations to show where the church’s authority comes from.
That the GAs over the Church’s curriculum are not teaching what God has instructed them to include in our Church manuals?
I’m not sure I understand this question.  Where has God instructed someone to do something about curriculum?  There are committees that do this stuff.  In the fourth phase everything is attributed to the president, and that process is laid out in the book.  This question is a product of that process.  But I really don’t understand the question.  So far as I’ve seen, there is nowhere a claim made that God was involved in writing or developing the church’s curriculum.
We have a ‘devalued gospel’ in the LDS Church?
There are a list of 72 approved subjects allowed to be taught, as a result of the Correlation process.  The Gospel allows everyone to learn all the mysteries of God.  It is, you know, given unto many to know the mysteries of God.  And those who will give more heed to the matter learn more, those who give less heed learn less.  (Alma 12: 9-11.)  By the Spirit we can know the truth of all things.  (Moroni 10: 5.)  Limiting the scope of discussion to the list of approved topics is removing some of the great, even important topics from our permitted discussions.  Therefore the most important subjects have now gravitated away from Sacrament, Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society and into the Internet.  I have seen unapproved subjects on your blog’s index.   

I have also shown that David O. McKay was not the champion of Correlation, but was instead concerned it would lead to the church’s apostasy.  Now Correlation claims he was the one who was inspired to bring it forward, even that it was revealed to him by God and is proof of revelation to the church’s President on the matter.  These claims are opposite to President McKay’s concern that it was both wrong and would endanger the church of apostasy by consolidating power in the hands of the top, when people were always intended to be free to learn, discuss, believe and act consistent with what they understood.  That’s all laid out in the book as well.  And giving a cryptic response is really more misleading than helpful.  Read the book and you’ll have the answer.  And answers to many other things about which we should be open and free to discuss among friendly, believing Saints.
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That is the end of the email response. I should note also that in the first 7 books I wrote I presumed the church’s traditional narrative is true and accurate. I wrote them in contemplation of the church’s traditional claims about history, and therefore anyone who reads those will not have their understanding challenged on the matter.

Reply to Questions

I was asked in an email to clarify some topics. I am posting this in response:

The appearance in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple does not appear to have fulfilled the return of Elijah. This is a topic the church is grappling with at the moment. Not at the bottom, where I live and write, but at the top. Though there are continuing statements made in public, behind the scenes there is a debate going on over the meaning of Elijah’s appearance, when Joseph Smith received the sealing power, how he received it and whether the history should be revisited and clarified. I am setting out what I believe. It is for others to decide for themselves what they believe. But this is not as settled a subject as some public statements made for generations by the church make it appear.

Why does Joseph Smith omit mention of Elijah in his letter to the saints in September, 1842 (Section 128) if Elijah’s return was completed in Kirtland in 1836?

Why does Oliver Cowdery never mention Elijah in his testimony about the restoration, though he does mention Moroni, the voice of God, John the Baptist and Peter, James and John?

Why does Joseph Smith speak of the return of Elijah as a future event in both January and March of 1844 if the Kirtland appearance satisfied the promise made in Malachi?

These are serious questions. There are people trying to answer them right now. I’ve provided my answer. Anyone is free to disagree with it. Anyone is free to decide it for themselves.

I don’t think I am Elijah, and that’s so stupid a proposition that I have a hard time even dignifying it with an answer. I want to say: “Are you serious???!!” But I’ll leave it with, “no.”

The sealing keys came to Joseph, like they came and were conferred upon Melchizedek and Nephi the same way. I explained it in Passing the Heavenly Gift. I’m not going to repeat it again here. It comes in only one way, that is by the Voice of God.

I’ve never said any church leader was “evil” or “of the devil.” On the contrary, I’ve continually said they are the only ones entitled to lead the church, and no one has a right to interfere with their leading. No one has the right to call someone to any office in the church, collect tithing, or lead people away from the church. But EVERYONE has a duty to testify of the truth and to teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom. Therefore we are all under some obligation to declare what we believe, explain why, and defend it using the scriptures and declarations of the prophets. As to the analogy of church presidents to “Popes” that is J. Reuben Clark’s terminology, as you can see in the book, and is not mine. I defer to him for that characterization. It is relevant to see how a member of the First Presidency viewed the role of the President and for that reason was included. I do not say whether I agree or disagree with his characterization, I only provide it. In fact, I do very little evaluating or concluding in Passing the Heavenly Gift. I merely set out what was said, done or written with the exception of one chapter which presumes, for purposes of that chapter, that the things promised in Section 124 were not delivered. Then, in light of that presumption, I explain what would then be the case. The book is an alternative view of history, which people are free to consider and reject. It is proposed as a way to grapple with inconsistencies and glaring problems which are not adequately reconcilable with the current stories we tell one another. I believe it is faith promoting. Particularly for those who are aware of the problems with our history. But, it is only faith promoting if you read the entire book. Reading only the first part will not be faith promoting, because it acknowledges the many problems and acquaints readers with the reasons why there is a crisis of faith among some of the most serious students of our history. I do not try to hide anything. It is or should be clear I’m not trying to shirk from difficulties. After setting it out, I then explain why I believe God’s hand still lingers over the church and the saints. What is amusing to me is that one apostate reader thought it was too much an apologetic work (i.e. a defense of the church) for him to finish reading it. In other words, he thought it TOO faith promoting.

I do think the words of a dispensation head, in any dispensation, are binding upon all who follow. I do not think any prophet subsequent to Moses had the right to change Moses’ teachings, for they were binding upon them. Until the Lord makes a change and opens a New Dispensation (which I expect Him to do personally), what Joseph Smith brought us is binding upon everyone, including all following prophets. We are told to be obedient to what we have received from him. (D&C 28: 2-3.) I believe that is still true. Meaning that no one, regardless of position or rank, can ignore what came through Joseph Smith except to their peril. Until a New Dispensation arrives, what Joseph Smith launched is supposed to remain intact.

“Elias” for our day is, I believe, Joseph Smith.

I expect Elijah to return the same way he departed. That’s one of the great assignments to him. He must return because he will reopen the way through which others will follow. It will be, I believe, the same person as departed and not someone who self-proclaims or self-identifies as being “Elijah.” It will be him. Not another. Anyone making that claim would (to me at least) be someone who does not understand the scriptures and is not to be take seriously.

I think that covers it. But I have to say the mischief comes from speculating, interpreting or emotionally reacting to the words I’ve written or spoken. Not in the words themselves. I try to be clear. The words are not attempting to “suggest” anything. Only to explain what I believe and why I believe as I do. They are the result of a great deal of work, which is set out in the text or footnotes, or bibliography.

Technical Transcription Challenge

I do intend to post a transcription of the talk eventually. The voice recognition software which was to do the greatest part of the process has difficulty recognizing words correctly because of the large area in which it was recorded, with an echo, and background noises. So I’m going to have to get it physically transcribed by a person doing the work.

Once that is done, I’ll edit it. I noticed some problems as I listened to it, for example when reading about Enoch from the Book of Moses I once referred to “Enoch” as “Moses.” That sort of thing will be cleaned up as I edit it. I also omitted citing the scriptures being read, and I’ll add those as I edit it.

There were also thoughts which, because of time, were not complete. I did not explain, for example, the reason it was John the Baptist and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration was because these two were the opener and the closer of the preceding Dispensation. Moses, who opened, and John the Baptist, who closed, the preceding Dispensation were there to “hand off” (so to speak) to Christ. These two witnesses, along with the three living mortal disciples, answered all the requirements to end one and begin another Dispensation. The Mount was also where these disciples received their instructions on the heavenly ascent, or endowment. But those are details I didn’t touch upon. I may do so in the edit when it is transcribed.

In any event, I will put it up here. But I make no promises about how long it will be before it is finished.

Talk Write Up

There’s some silliness going on about the talk I will give at Confetti Books tomorrow. I promise I will write up the talk and put it on this blog. When I do, there will be citations, and probably more information than will be covered in a spontaneous discussion tomorrow. It’ll be no doubt better organized than will the talk. I never write a talk in advance, I just give it. But I’ve also written up talks after they were given, and have made them available to anyone interested.

I want to make clear a couple of things:  First, I assure you I’m absolutely unimportant and not worth your notice. There are ideas, doctrine and history which are important, but for the most part you can find them in the scriptures and in Joseph Smith’s writings. You don’t need me for that. So if you’re really interested in the truth, you would probably be better off spending the time with your scriptures and Joseph’s writings than listening to me. They are original, I am merely derivitive.  Second, the ideas are the only things which are important, and you don’t need me for them. They come to anyone through the Spirit. So if you’ll do as Moroni tells you and ask God, you can “know the truth of all things” from Him, directly. (Moroni 10: 4-5.) I am utterly unimportant, irrelevant, and without any merit whatsoever. The doctrine is what matters. You can get that from God.

As the last book also made clear, the only ones who have any right to manage the church are those who are sustained by common consent and therefore hold office in the church. You should listen to those you’ve sustained and give heed to their counsel because that’s the system established by revelation and which is still in operation today. I am absolutely not someone who has any authority over anyone, but am, like you, subject to their rule in the church. Therefore, although I can offer some views from the scriptures, they are my views and set out my understanding and you are free to accept or reject them. But if you decide to accept them I would remind you that you need to have the Spirit or revelation confirm something before you decide I’ve said anything worth even considering.

No one needs to travel, interrupt their evening, or go to any inconvenience to be there tomorrow. Everything will be put up here in writing, and I’ll personally make a digital recording and make it available. For that I haven’t figured out if I can do it through this blog, or if my wife is going to have to send email attachments to anyone interested. But I promise I’ll make it available. Along with a written version. And the written version will be better. So you don’t need to be there.

Finally, I don’t want any videos taken. I’m not worth notice and don’t want to be noticed. Photographs and videos tend to distract from what is important (doctrine) and refocus attention to someone who does not matter. You have church authorities who are known, whose images are available for you to notice and recognize, and I’m not one of them. I don’t want your attention. If an idea helps you, that’s a good thing. But as for me, I’m irrelevant.

Ticketing

I got an email this morning telling me the following:

 > You need to contact Confetti about tickets (which they are
> requiring). That allows them to keep it organized somewhat.

That allows them to make a lot of money.  According to their Facebook
page “To get tickets you must call us at 801-798-0137 and Order Denver’s
latest book Passing the Heavenly Gift ($28.95) via phone,” which gets
one 2 tickets.  It might help your blog readers if you post Confetti’s
phone number and mention the purchase requirement.

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Although I do not make a living selling or writing books, there are those who do. All throughout the book industry there are those who spend their lives making it possible for things to be put into print. They invest time, resources and effort, which in turn makes it possible for them to support their families. I do not begrudge the fact that, for example, Mill Creek Press makes money on what I write, CreatSpace makes money printing the books, Amazon makes money by marketing the books, the Bench family makes money selling them through Benchmark Books, and Confetti makes money by purchasing them, stocking them, and selling them. I do not have copies except on rare occasions. When I get them I do so with the intent to give them away. But it is an expensive proposition to give them away, and therefore the numbers have been reduced from the first book (I gave away 200 copies) to the last book (I gave away 35 copies).

I wish it were possible to show gratitude without raising ire. But here, in this world, those who want to be offended will always be offended; while those who are grateful for the service of others are grateful to help them and show gratitude by their acts as well.

I do not rely upon book revenues to support my family, but the people at Confetti do. Therefore they have determined to charge for admission; though my appearance there is donated and without any fee paid to me. I believe they have rented a space for that evening, and are using what they make from the book sale commission to pay the rent on the space for the evening. But those are details I am unacquainted with and really do not intend to concern myself with. I will be there from 6:30 to 8:30 to talk.

There are two other interesting things happening at the same time. The Sacred Geometry conference was announced on this blog, and I believe has an admission charge. But Benchmark’s event with Terryl Givens is free, I believe. I think either of those would be worthwhile and you would be edified by attending either of them. I believe there is going to be a recording of the things I have to say, and I’m anticipating it will be made available. If I can figure out how to accomplish it, I’m hoping to make it a digital recording which gets put on this blog for anyone who cares to listen to it. I cannot guarantee that will happen, however, because I’ve never attempted to do such a thing and am therefore not confident I can figure out how to accomplish it. Nevertheless I intend to try.