Category: Joseph Smith

Christian Apostasy

Irenaeus lived approximately 130 a.d. to 202 a.d. The exact dates of his life are not known. Nor is the exact date he wrote his greatest work, a five-book series titled Against Heresies. His outline of heretical teachings is known to have been composed late in the second century. Until the discovery of the gnostic gospels at Nag Hammadi in 1945, it was from Against Heresies that most information about the gnostics was learned.

Irenaeus provides us a glimpse into the state of Christianity less than a century after the death of the apostles. What is revealed through that glimpse, is a bizarre bunch of conflicting views. Many of the teachings he condemned are so alien to today’s Christians that we would regard them as perverse aberrations. Yet they competed in the early Christian market place for converts, and claimed to be a true reflection of Christ’s teachings.

Christ foretold there would be “children of the wicked one” who would be planted among His “wheat” while they both grew together. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.) The apostle Paul was astonished at how quickly the church at Galatia was corrupted with perverse teachings. (Gal. 1:6-7.) He predicted the entire falling away (apostasy) of the Christian church. (2 Thes. 2-3.)

While the apostles were alive and preaching, Christians divided themselves into contentious factions. Some followed one teacher, others another, and they emphasized their disagreements rather than their common beliefs. (1 Cor. 1:11-13.) “Ministers of Satan” were actively teaching inside the earliest bodies of Christians. (2 Cor. 11:13-15.) Paul lamented that “all of Asia” had fallen into error and rejected his teaching. (2 Tim. 1:15.) John warned of false spirits and false apostles who were spreading falsehoods that misrepresented Christ. (1 John 4:1-2.) By Nicaea, 324 a.d., the denial of Christ coming into the flesh was so widely accepted that a newly adopted and false teaching of the “Trinity” completed the overthrow of true doctrine regarding Christ who lived as a man in the flesh among us.

Even if falsehoods supplanted Christianity, John’s vision foretells that God’s patience will finally come to an end and the religions that worship devils, and gold, and silver and idols will be destroyed. (Rev. 9:20.)

If Christians were to examine the history of Mormonism, they would better understand how unclean spirits and false prophets overtook Christianity. (Rev. 16:13; also 2 Tim. 11:13-15.) Joseph Smith began Mormonism under the influence of one spirit, but upon his death, Brigham Young followed under the influence of another.

As a true shepherd would, Joseph gave his life for the sheep. (John 10:11.) Brigham Young declared he would flee and never surrender his life, a sign of a false shepherd. (John 10:12-13.) He proclaimed he was unwilling to lay down his life as Joseph did:

“But woe, woe to that man who comes here to unlawfully interfere with my affairs. Woe, woe to those men who come here to unlawfully meddle with  me and this people. I swore in Nauvoo, when my enemies were looking me in the face, that I would send them to hell across lots, if they meddle with me; and I ask no more odds of hell to-day.” (July 26, 1857.)

“A mob killed Joseph and Hyrum in jail, notwithstanding the faith of the State was pledged to protect them… I have broken no law, and under the present state of affairs, I will not suffer myself to be taken by any United States officer, to be killed as they killed Joseph.” (August 12, 1857.)

“Do you expect to stand still, sit still, or lie still, and untimely let them take away my life? I have told you a great many times what I have to say about that. I do not profess to be so good a man as Joseph Smith was. I do not walk under their protection nor into their prisons, as he did.” (August 9, 1857.)

Brigham Young advocated controlling people by holding economic power over them.  He explained how he envisioned keeping people in line and subordinate to him by getting them to consecrate their property to the church he led:

“If any man is in darkness through the deceitfulness of riches, it is good policy for him to bind up his wealth in this Church, so that he cannot command it again, and he will be apt to cleave to the kingdom. If a man has the purse in his pocket, and he apostatizes, he takes it with him; but if his worldly interest is firmly united to the Kingdom of God, when he arises to go away, he finds the calf is bound, and, like the cow, he is unwilling to forsake it.” (April 6, 1852.)

Brigham Young defied the US Government when its representatives were critical of his authoritarian rule in the Territory of Utah:

“What says the United States? ‘Let us send a governor there; let us send our judges there.’ But what do they cry? ‘We have no influence or power, for there are other men there who rule, and we cannot help it; they have the reins of government and turn the people whithersoever they will, and we cannot help ourselves.’ What did a gentleman say to [US President] Mr. Fillmore? Said he, ‘You need not send anybody there, for Brigham Young is Governor, and he will govern the people all the time; and there is no other man that can govern them.’ If there is any truth in this, it is, he will do so as long as the Lord lets him.” (October 3, 1852.)

On June 9, 1853, he threatened to kill any apostates or non-believers who opposed him in a public discourse. Beginning in 1855, God’s wrath at Brigham Young and his followers became evident in a series of natural disasters that caused famine and severe hardships. In response to these afflictions, Young increased his threatening and began a bloody period known as the Mormon Reformation. The Mountain Meadows Massacre was as a result, at least in part, by the fiery rhetoric Brigham Young preached during the Mormon Reformation.

Like the early Christians who were overcome by deceiving spirits, (Mark 13:5-6; 2 Tim. 3:13; 1 Cor. 15:33-34; Eph. 5:5-6) Mormonism was overcome by the lusts, appetites and ambitions of Young, who was animated by a very different spirit than Joseph Smith. The result of leading by that spirit is aptly described in the Book of Mormon:

“For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.” (1 Ne. 22:23.)

LDS Mormonism not only has been built up to get gain, but is a a multibillion dollar empire, able to undertake a trillion-dollar development for housing, and employing a population of 500,000 people in Florida on 133,000 acres. The LDS church is only partly religious, and has built a $2 to $5 billion dollar shopping mall-condominium housing-office complex across the street from its Salt Lake City temple. (The total cost depends on whether the retail establishment alone or the entire project is valued.) The LDS corporate church is now completing a similarly ambitious project in downtown Philadelphia adjacent to the temple it completed in September 2016.

Millions of faithful Mormons are entirely oblivious to the dramatic gulf between the scriptures, revelations and teachings of the founder Joseph Smith, and the replacement religion created through Brigham Young. That transition mirrors what happened to early Christianity. By the time only one Christian orthodox faith survived, it was also making merchandise of men’s souls. The description of Babylon the Great whore in John’s revelation accurately describes both the false Christian religious empire founded in Rome in the fourth century and the false Mormon empire founded by Brigham Young in the late 1840s:

“The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.” (Rev. 18:12-13.)

Christianity did not survive the second century. Mormonism did not survive it’s third decade. The answer to the question ‘why’ is the same: Both became more interested in getting economic gain, power over the flesh, becoming popular in the eyes of the world, and infatuated by the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, than in practicing and preserving the faith taught by Christ. The Book of Mormon describes the corrupting influences infecting churches.

Christ’s religion requires sacrifice. Its reward is later, after this world. In this world, if we practice the faith taught by Christ, “we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19.)

How can we support with our donations the false ministers who preach for hire and neglect the poor among us? How can we assume we will be saved by the smooth things we hear from our hireling priests? (Isa. 30:10.) How would we even recognize the truth after being taught lies pretending to define what it means to be “Christian”?

Christians Should Study Mormonism

Between the death of Christ’s apostles and the Council of Nicaea, Christianity changed dramatically. It is impossible to account for all that happened to cause the changes. Although some of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Christian leaders before Nicaea) have been preserved, the records are wholly inadequate to understand everything that happened, and why it happened.

A new religion rarely appears in history. When one does, it presents a unique opportunity for us to study the process.

Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult to replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

William James explained the process:

A genuine first-hand experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish corporate designs!” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902, Lectures XIV and XV: The Value of Saintlessness.)

Mormonism was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith who claimed that ten years prior to founding a church he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the intervening years between the first visit and the time a church was organized, Joseph claimed to have been visited by an angelic messenger who delivered to him a new volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have received revelations before founding the church, and then many more after its organization.

Whether you believe Joseph Smith’s claims or not, he and his followers give a unique opportunity to witness how founding a religion sets in motion a series of predictable events that happen every time a new religion begins. Perhaps the best way to decipher the transition of Christianity from the original Primitive Christianity to its replacement, Historic Christianity, is to study Mormonism. Similar to the way the Primitive Christian church passed away after the death of the apostles, Mormonism has passed away following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The same process was at work in both.

Primitive Christianity and Mormonism set out to change the world, and after some initial success, both enjoyed worldly success. Their success diverted attention from saving souls to managing people and property. Paul observed, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) A new religion is not profitable for the first believers. They are persecuted. They sacrifice their lives and property to follow what they believe to be God’s burden laid on them. Because of their sacrifices, they have faith and know they please God. Without sacrifice, it is impossible to obtain the faith required for salvation. Founders make sacrifices, successors enjoy the fruit of those sacrifices.

In time, the founding gives way to popular approval. John Wesley observed the price that is paid for popular acceptance is the loss of the Spirit.

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;…From this time they almost totally ceased;…The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens….This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.Churches all come to depend on money for survival.”

Churches, like the men who belong to them, are just as vulnerable to the “love of money” which leads to “all evil.” People can have the gifts of the Spirit, or they can acquire riches in this world, but cannot have both.

Catholicism grew wealthy from the offerings of its members. When it owned most of the European lands and ruled over all people within Roman Catholic boundaries, it was cold, corrupt, violent and cruel. The transition from persecuted minority to dangerous majority took three centuries. With that status the original was lost.

Mormonism has followed the same path and achieved the same end in less than half the time. If a Christian wants to know how Primitive Christianity was lost to apostasy, the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is where it can be found. Mormon beliefs are so unstable that they now “unequivocally condemn” 10 of the first 11 of their church presidents, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and David O. McKay.

In order to progress forward, we must go back. Since we have no way to recover enough information to understand Christianity’s trek from Jerusalem to Rome, Mormonism allows Christians a view into the transition from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Both paths followed the same tragic topography.

Addressing Christians

In response to email inquiries for more information about my proposed talks to Christians in California, Texas and Atlanta, I have been providing the following information:
I’d prefer to speak in a theology school or church, if one can be made available. The intended audience would be those who either know little of Mormonism or think they know enough to be “anti-Mormon” because they regard it a false cult. I will pay my own way there and back, and all costs for hotel, food, etc. I do not expect any compensation for speaking.
If possible, I’d like to have 55 minutes to speak. If that is not possible I would like as close to that length of time as is permitted.
In answer to questions about me and addressing Christians, I have provided the following in email responses:
Do you consider yourself a Christian or a Mormon?
A Christian.
Do you think you are saved by grace or works?
It is by grace we do the required works to be saved. As explained in Philip. 2:13: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do his good pleasure.”  As Paul explained in Romans 6:1-2 concerning those who are born again through Christ: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” We must escape sin by the grace of God and then do the works that testify we are in possession of God’s grace.  As James explained in James 2:17-20: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But will thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” If we are saved by the grace of God our works will testify of that grace within us. Without the works of righteousness, put within us by being born again, a new creation of Christ’s, we may claim to have been saved by grace, but it is without proof.
What do you think about the Book of Mormon ? Do you think it holds the same level of authority as the Bible?
I believe the witness of John: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God”
The Bible testifies of Christ, and I believe its testimony of Him.
The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ, and I accept its testimony.
Where is your teaching different from the LDS church ?
The LDS church claims it speaks for God. I do not believe that claim to be true.
The LDS church claims it alone offers salvation to mankind. I do not believe that claim to be true.
The LDS church asks believers to pay tithes of 10% to them. I believe they misuse the widow’s mite and rob God.
I believe the LDS church lies about its history, wrongly conceals its financial misdeeds from the public and encourages and practices idolatry.
What do you want to talk to the Christian churches about?
How the story of Joseph Smith has been misused, mischaracterized, and misunderstood by the LDS corporate church to falsely claim authority for themselves. That the Mormon followers were responsible for persecuting, opposing, and ultimately murdering Joseph Smith. That he believed and taught from the Bible. It was the Bible that was used by Joseph Smith to preach all his public sermons, and that his entire message can be summed up by James 1:5.
______________________
I’m going to offer an introduction to Mormonism by introducing Joseph Smith as a Christian thinker and Biblical preacher.
Below is a description taken from the cover of my last book about Joseph Smith:
 “Smithsonian Magazine identified Joseph Smith as the most significant religious figure in American history. Yet he remains misunderstood by most Christians, primarily because his legacy has been regarded as Mormon property. In many ways his life mirrors the Apostle Paul. He belongs to the Christian community as much as St. Francis of Assisi, Luther, Tyndale, Wesley, Knox, Williams and Calvin. His worst critics were and are Mormons. They abused him, led mobs against him, conspired to have him imprisoned and ultimately murdered. Mormons have slandered his memory with false histories. Joseph declared to the Mormons in April 1844 (two months before he was murdered): “You don’t know me; you never knew my heart.” That audience and its descendants have been self-interested custodians of Joseph Smith’s legacy. This book separates him from the interests of any institution, and allows him to explain his heart, in his own words. When allowed to speak, he is very different from the Mormon version. This book covers Joseph Smith’s three watershed failures and his written responses. The historical stage is set; then he reacts to the trials. The three episodes are: The quest and failure to distribute priesthood, the quest and failure to establish a community called “Zion,” and his half-year imprisonment in Missouri. He has been vilified and praised as the founder of Mormonism. Over eighty-four different religious sects claim him as their founder. But he is seldom thought of as a Christian thinker, writer and preacher. He taught almost entirely from the Bible. Christians can benefit from knowing his struggle to follow Christ while facing discouraging opposition, betrayal by friends, mob violence, imprisonment and repeated failure. He responded with faith, hope and charity.”

All or Nothing, 4

Despite Almon Babbit’s April 4, 1844 concern about a “king” representing apostasy and rejection of God’s rule, the minutes of the April 11, 1844 meeting confirm that Erastus Snow,

concluded by offering a motion that this honorable assembly receive from this time henceforth and forever, Joseph Smith, as our Prophet, Priest & King and uphold him in that capacity in which God has anointed him. The motion was seconded and accepted unanimously. …Whereupon the council adjourned agreeable to E. Snows motion with shouts of Hossanna to God and the Lamb Amen and Amen. (JS Papers Administrative Records, pp. 95-96.)

At this point, work on the constitution for a government by the “kingdom of God” abruptly ended. A new revelation on April 25, 1844 made anything further irrelevant, by declaring:

Verily thus saith the Lord, yea are my constitution, and I am your God, and ye are my spokesmen. From henceforth do as I shall command you. Saith the Lord. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 137.)

Apparently, once Joseph Smith was made their king, there was nothing further God could clarify for that group about the “kingdom of God.”

Perhaps the April 11th coronation was a mistake, and the April 25th revelation recognized there was nothing further that could be done in developing the “kingdom of God” among people who chose Joseph, instead of the God of Heaven, as their “king.” There are two potential problems with making Joseph Smith “king” over the “kingdom of God.”

First, there is a phrase coined by Bruce Porter that expresses an impediment to king-making: This land has a ‘restrictive covenant’ prohibiting a king. The Book of Mormon explains God’s intention for this land: “And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.” (2 Ne. 10:11.) Making Joseph a “king” violated the restriction.

The most that can be established in the Americas is a steward who holds a stewardship in trust for the Lord. Christ is the God of the land and it belongs to Him alone as the King. (Ether 2:12.) Apparently, the council only considered the Old Testament example of the apostasy of ancient Israel by appointing a king and rejecting Samuel, raised by Babbit on April 4th. No one thought to consult the Book of Mormon and consider its prohibition.

A proper stewardship holding Christ’s place belongs to someone appointed by God to hold dominion over the earth. The same as was first given to Adam by God. When planning the creation, God intended for the first man to be given dominion: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26.)

To the first man and woman God commanded: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28.)

The right of dominion over the creation belonged to God. God gave that right to Adam and Eve. It does not automatically transfer to all their descendants. It was transferred from Adam to his first appointed heir, Seth. [Cain would have been the first heir (Moses 5:15), but because he rebelled, he lost his position. To prevent that loss, Cain slew the next heir, Abel, but it did not accomplish the ambition. Cain was ultimately replaced by Seth.] Seth was given the right belonging to the first father, Adam, and through him down generations to Enos, and his son Cainan, and his son Mahalaleel, and his son Jared, and his son Enoch, and his son Methusaleh, and his son Lamech, and his son Noah, and his son Shem who was given the new name of Melchizedek. This right is called the “patriarchal priesthood” or right to hold dominion over the world as the steward, or father, or patriarch over all creation. (See D&C 107:40-55.)

Following Melchizedek, an apostasy of generations lost the right, and there was no successor for Melchizedek with dominion over the earth, nor a right to be the father of nations (meaning families). Though separated by generations of apostasy, Abraham sought to obtain the right and retrieve what was nearly lost from the world. As father Abraham explained:

I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me. (Abraham 1:2-3.)

Abraham obtained the kingdom of God, the patriarchal priesthood, and the right of dominion belonging to the first man, Adam. It remained through descent from Abraham for five generations. Then the restoration ended, and apostasy returned. The apostasy then lasted for generations until Moses. Between Moses and Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God was lost, and only a remnant kingdom of the Jews remained. That remnant was completely overthrown by John the Baptist, who was appointed to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews. Moses and John the Baptist, on the Mount of Transfiguration, transferred the kingdom of God to Christ. He died not only as the rightful “king of the Jews” but also as the rightful heir of Adam, holding dominion over all the earth. In His death, the rightful Heir was sacrificed.

There will be a “kingdom” established in the last days to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel. But the initial approach taken in Nauvoo was a false start, and appointing Joseph Smith as a “king” aborted the endeavor.

There was a second error, also, in making Joseph a “king.” Although Joseph may have had the authority to appoint, he never had the right to appoint himself. The appointment had been made by God earlier. Hyrum held the legal right before Joseph. Therefore, if a “king” or steward, or more correctly a patriarch, were to be chosen while Joseph was alive, it needed to have been his brother Hyrum. Three years prior to the meetings in 1844, the Lord did appoint Hyrum to the office of “priesthood and patriarch:”

that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right; That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph; That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery; That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever. (D&C 124:91-96.)

Hyrum was older than Joseph. After Hyrum’s death, this office passed momentarily back to Joseph because he was the eldest surviving heir. But with Joseph’s death, the two dispensation heads fell. What remained was confusion, usurping, ambitious men, and disorder. Now the Lord has abandoned that remnant to begin something anew.

The work begun through Joseph Smith remains incomplete. The structure, order, authority, organization, laws, and means belong entirely to the Lord. When He establishes the last day’s “kingdom,” it will be His. Even if put into the hands of stewards, they cannot usurp the Lord, who is the God of this land and of the whole earth. Even if God again gives to a man:

[T]he voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope! (D&C 128:21)

anyone who receives this delegation will need to realize they are only a servant-steward, holding in trust for the Lord all the rights which originated with Him and must be returned to Him when Adam, the ancient of days, returns for a meeting. That gathering will be in the New Jerusalem, or Zion, where Adam-ondi-Ahman–or in other words where Adam and Son Ahman (Christ) come to meet. The purpose will be for all stewards who have obtained this right to return to Christ the right to hold dominion over the earth. Christ will take authority over the entire world at the Second Coming in a lawful and orderly act that respects what He ordained in the beginning. His house is a house of order. He is the same, from the beginning to the end. His path does not vary, and His course is one eternal round.

Joseph Smith Papers, Conclusion

Though practically endless fodder exists for comment about the disparity between the historical texts published in the Joseph Smith Papers project and the LDS Historian’s Office commentaries and footnotes, I plan to make this last observation and leave the topic alone. Readers should be aware the Historian’s Office is blinded by an LDS tradition which they defend, even when it is contradicted by the documents they are publishing. Readers should make their own careful assessment of both the documents and the Historian Office’s running commentaries.

A number of people have already pointed out that the latest publication of the record of the Council of Fifty meeting does not support what is called in the LDS tradition “Joseph Smith’s last charge” to the twelve. Briefly the issue is this:

The twelve claim they were given a mantle by Joseph Smith that put them in control of all things LDS. This event purportedly happened 26 March 1844, because this is the only possible date that fits all the various claims about the event. The Historian’s Office editorializes about the 26 March 1844 meeting of the Council of Fifty:

A significant event likely occurred in this meeting, probably in the morning session, about which the minutes are silent but which council members discussed a year later in connection with a written summary prepared by Orson Hyde. Clayton’s brief note that JS spoke “on heavenly things and many other important subjects” likely marks what was later referred to as JS’s “last charge.” This may have been an extension of the charge relating the history, purpose, and rules of the council that was typically given to new members and that JS may have delivered in this meeting. The most complete recorded version of this charge was written down by Thomas Bullock in December 1846. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 63.)

Did you get that? An event “likely” happened “probably” in the morning, but the records do NOT mention it. But this missing information “likely marks” something (that later got manufactured to defend claims by the twelve) and “may have” happened even though nothing in the record supports the claim. Then 33 months later Thomas Bullock wrote the “most complete recorded version” of what may likely have possibly happened.

Checking Joseph’s journal, we get this report of the day on which the possible event may have happened:

Tuesday Ma[r]ch 26–1844 fr[o]m 9 to 12. in council from 2 to 5 P.M. in coun[c]il– [9 lines blank] warm some wet  (JS Papers Journals Vol. 3, pp. 208-209.

The Historian’s Office adds footnotes to the record in order to insert other retrospective accounts that put Joseph’s “last charge” (as it is called) into the footnotes. Presumably so the reader is reassured the LDS traditions are supported–just not by anything that Joseph Smith was connected with recorded contemporaneously.

This fuss to support the twelve’s claim to have the right to control all things LDS ignores an obvious problem. Even if one believes the retrospective accounts, and supposes that what “might probably” have happened, really did, it doesn’t amount to anything. Traditions not only blind the Historian’s Office, they defy common sense.

The “kingdom of God” is not the LDS Church and the LDS Church is not the “kingdom of God.” They are separate:

Joseph Smith stated that the “literal kingdom of God [that is, the Council of Fifty], and the church of God are two distinct things” as “the laws of the kingdom are not designed to affect our salvation hereafter.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. xxiii.)

So if Joseph rolled the “kingdom of God” off his shoulders and onto the twelve, it has nothing to do with the giving the twelve jurisdiction to assume complete autocratic control over the church. There was already a revelation in place (D&C 107) that confirmed the role of the twelve in the church to co-equality with the seventy, stake high councils, and gave them no jurisdiction within an organized stake. So the assertion that the charge allowed them expanded jurisdiction contrary to and in violation of, Section 107 is not justified when the “kingdom of God” and the church are two separate things. The “kingdom of God” is “not designed to affect our salvation” and therefore did not, indeed cannot, subjugate the church.

Further, even if you accept the charge given to the twelve, rolled to them the “kingdom of God,” they abandoned it.

The final meetings of the council were held in the mid-1880s. Thereafter the council’s records appear to have remained in the custody of the Office of the First Presidency. In 1922 church president Heber J. Grant reportedly entrusted Joseph Anderson, who served as secretary to Grant and the First Presidency, to safeguard the records. In 1932 Grant and Franklin S. Richards–the last two living members of the council–met together and read through some of the Council of Fifty records. The minutes were also accessed in the late twentieth century. In 2010 the First Presidency transferred the Nauvoo-era record to the Church History Library. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 6.)

Thus died the “kingdom of God” which, Joseph Smith probably may have charged the twelve to possess. They neglected the “kingdom of God” because they were preoccupied with acquiring complete, unfettered control to dictate over the church and hold at defiance any who dared to challenge them. They reign over the seventies and high councils with impunity. Their autocratic control holds the approximate 30% of those who remain nominally active in the church in complete submission. They have the “keys of the kingdom”–which kingdom has lapsed into complete oblivion. But they’ve parlayed that into dictatorship over the other organization, the church.

Ask yourself: Why would Joseph, knowing the “kingdom” and the “church” were entirely separate, choose to have himself anointed a “king and priest” in the Council of Fifty, and NOT in the church? There is something important to be found in the answer. An answer you will have to find for yourself because very few LDS know much about this. Unfortunately, they are too busy “not being led astray” by men who claim to probably have the “keys of the kingdom,” (at least most likely may have–probably from the morning of March 26, 1844).

Nephi/Moroni Questions

In response to questions about the prior post concerning Nephi visiting Joseph Smith in September 1823 I add the following:

In the “Historical Introduction” written by the LDS Historian’s office for what is now D&C 14, they mention the first witness of the plates (other than Joseph Smith) was the mother of David and John Whitmer:

Whitmer later recounted that during their journey to Fayette, he, Cowdery, and JS briefly encountered a ‘pleasant, nice looking old man’ whom JS identified by revelation as a heavenly messenger transporting the plates. Whitmer also recalled that soon after their arrival in Fayette, his mother, Mary Mussleman Whitmer, was met ‘by the same old man, ‘who showed her the plates.’ (Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 1: July 1828-June1831, p. 67.)

This witness (Whitmer’s mother) knew the angel’s name as “Nephi” -just like Joseph Smith in his 1838, 1839, 1840 and 1842 writings. Her grandson wrote,“I have heard my grandmother [Mary Musselman Whitmer] say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi.” (Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, article titled Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates, found in Vol. 10; (2014), p. 37.)

In footnote 56 (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 223) the Historian’s Office also cites an article in the Elder’s Journal in July 1838 as a reason to rename “Nephi” to “Moroni.” However, this is a reference to an answer by Joseph of a specific question involving the source of the plates (and not the angel who appeared in September 1823). The question and answer are:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the Book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. (Elder’s Journal, July 1838, pp. 42-43.)

The plates were deposited by Moroni, not Nephi. The fact Moroni was involved in delivery of the plates does not mean it was him who appeared to Joseph in 1823. Since Moroni sealed the records to prevent their discovery by an unauthorized party (Moroni 10:2), the records could not come from their secure location without his (Moroni’s) consent to open the seal.

Of course Moroni should have been among the “many angels” involved between 1823 and 1827. But Joseph and Mary Mussleman Whitmer both testified it was “Nephi” who appeared at the beginning (1823) to her and to Joseph. Moroni consented to allowing Joseph possession of the plates–as was his right to do. And both Nephi and Moroni were required (the alpha and omega of the Nephite dispensation) to hand off their dispensation to Joseph–as explained in D&C 128:21.

Authority And Abuse

Part 2 of 3:

When men get a little authority almost all will immediately begin to abuse their supposed right to control others. (D&C 121:39.) Assuming there is any right belonging to the priesthood, it can only be exercised by “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge[.]” (Id., v. 41-42.) If authority is abused because it is “the nature and disposition of almost all men” to do so (Id., v. 39) then a solution is to revoke the right to control. Revoke the right to preside. Revoke the right to lead. Once that is done then the only method a man has to function as a minister is by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and pure knowledge. There is no other method or means left for the minister. He is powerless to control, dominate, gratify pride, or obtain vain ambition. He can be ignored–unless his pure knowledge and persuasion attracts the heart and leads people closer to the Lord.

Joseph Smith’s dispensation denounced and destroyed the consolidation of power. He set in order a system that would have precluded any man from insisting he could control others. Two days prior to the revelation in D&C 107, Joseph Smith gave a discourse about fractured authority within the church. The discourse was reported in minutes kept by several different scribes, including one written by William McLellin and copied by Warren Cowdery into Minute Book 1.

If the pattern given by Joseph Smith were followed, there would be no “President of the Quorum of the Twelve.” Instead each member held no greater right than any other. Joseph “stated that it would be the duty of the twelve to appoint the oldest one of their number to preside in their councils, beginning at the oldest and so on until the youngest has presided and then beginning at the oldest again, &c.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 4, p. 301.) In other words, the right to preside rotated from the oldest to the youngest, then back again to the oldest. This rotation of the role to preside made all of them the presiding authority in turn.

The twelve were missionaries, whose administrative authority only existed outside organized stakes. Joseph explained, “the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council.” (Id.) When the twelve were outside the stakes, and among unorganized areas of the world, they had administrative authority there. However, it required a “quorum” of them (at least 7) to take administrative action. Joseph taught that “where there is not a quorum they will have to do business by the voice of the Church.” (Id., p. 302.) Meaning that any administrative action taken where the twelve did have jurisdiction could only be done if 7 were involved. If less than 7 of the twelve were present, then the administrative authority was in the “voice of the Church” and not in any presiding man or men. In any organized stake, the highest authority was the high council. The seventy were another body of missionaries who assisted the twelve. The members of the seventy were called by the “seven presidents of the first seventy” (Id.) and were independent from the twelve.

Joseph never moved any man from the twelve into the first presidency. Joseph did not call or ordain the twelve, they were chosen and ordained by the three witnesses. The twelve, in turn, did not have authority to call the seventy. Their members were called by the seven presidents belonging to that quorum.

This splintering of authority precluded any single man or small body of men from dominating and dictating to the church. Ultimate authority was vested in “the voice of the Church” who could revoke any man’s position or authority. This is similar to the Constitution which divided authority between co-equal branches of government. This form of government was designed to weaken power of any single branch so as to preclude any single man or group from gaining autocratic control. Freedom (or agency) is protected best by any system that prevents one man or group of men from controlling others. Unfortunately, in both the Federal Government and the various restoration churches, autocratic power has accumulated and the voice of the people has been subverted.

Two days after the March 1835 conference, D&C 107 was presented to the church. Like Joseph’s earlier explanation, authority was splintered among equal bodies with limited jurisdiction. The person with the duty to administer spiritual things, dispense spiritual blessings, have the heavens opened to them, and to enjoy the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ was the president of the high priesthood, who belonged to a presidency. The presidency consisted of him and two counselors. (D&C 107:9-22.) These men were never part of the twelve during Joseph’s lifetime. The twelve were “equal in authority” with the first presidency. (Id., v. 24.) Although the twelve had no rights inside an organized stake, in the mission field they were equal to the first presidency (provided there was a quorum of 7 acting). The seventy were also “equal in authority” with the others. (Id., v. 25-26.) And the stake high councils were likewise “equal in authority” with the foregoing. (Id., v. 37.)

In this organization, the greatest authority was vested in “the voice of the Church.” But administratively, the authority was fragmented between co-equal bodies of a presidency, twelve, seventy (which could be unlimited in numbers) and high councils (which could also be unlimited in number). The discourse by Joseph and the follow-on administrative outline in Section 107 diffused the authority in that dispensation. It was not consolidated or amalgamated into the hands of any single man or men. It contemplated such divergent and potentially opposing bodies that it would be impossible to manage such an arrangement unless the person or persons who tried to control the direction of the body were to use persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and pure knowledge.

There was one other office (it no longer exists) which was held by a single man. He held the office of “Priesthood and Patriarch” (D&C 124:91). The twelve eliminated that role in the 1970s and its last occupant died in April 2013.

The diffused authority died with Joseph, and the twelve assumed administrative control over the church. Their oldest member now gets the automatic right to own and control everything. The voice of the church is limited to saying “yes” at conferences. A “no” will not change decisions or the right of the twelve to control the church.

The essential division of authority, and its obvious inefficiencies, are easy to criticize. It clearly did not have an objective of making the church easy to control. The pattern was a behemoth that fractured the organization into such potentially competing parts that there is little surprise it did not last long in practice.

Trading diffused authority for consolidated control made the management of the Mormon religion efficient, effective and powerful. But it came at an astonishingly high price. The religion founded on revelation, angels and communing with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ traded its spiritual core for earthly mammon. The world envies the bargain. Modern Mormon factions are all surprisingly wealthy–even the small fundamentalist groups. There are two great principles this history has proven. First, a body of believers who are equal are not easily governed. If the only tools to employ are persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and pure knowledge, it will require the wisdom of God to keep believers together. As soon as they are allowed “to govern themselves” there will be ill-defined margins and straying believers in need of teaching, preaching, persuading and long-suffering. Second, it is easy to aggregate power, wealth, influence and authority if religion is used to control people. If one claims to speak for God and there is a population who accepts that claim, outrageous abuses can be perpetrated; and power, wealth, influence and authority can be retained.

From these two principles comes a conclusion that almost all men will choose the second principle over the first. (D&C 121:39.) Even if a man who would give his life to follow Christ were to found the organization, as soon as he is taken, the organization will remain behind. It will fall into the hands of other men. Dispensations are founded by Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Peter, and Joseph, but they quickly become the property of Pharaoh, the priests of Baal, Eli, Caiaphus, Annas, Constantine and Brigham Young. The pattern is so inevitable that it seems self-evident it would be foolish to repeat a failed pattern.

If Zion is to have people of one heart and one mind, who live in righteousness with one another (Moses 7:18) then however cumbersome, inefficient, difficult or daunting it may prove, only the first principle can be chosen. If it fails, then there is no residual institution to add another abusive tool for the god of this world to employ in deceiving and chaining men using another inherited false tradition.

The Law of Moses did not produce Zion. The New Testament Primitive Christian church did not produce Zion. Modeling after either of these, as the church established by Joseph Smith did, has likewise not produced Zion. Zion will be produced by a journey begun in equality, pursued by equals, with no man able to command another man’s actions. Persuasion, meekness, unfeigned love and pure knowledge are the only tools necessary for Zion.

Missionary Outreach

The purpose of A Man Without Doubt is to allow those with a desire to open a conversation regarding the restoration with non-Mormons to have a resource to invite questions. The best way to introduce new religious truths is by answering questions. The book explains Joseph Smith in his own words. He explained his beliefs simply, forthrightly, and persuasively. When he is allowed to speak, he does not appear to be the fanatical despot most non-Mormons conjure as their imagined character.

I’m giving copies of the book to others in the hope they will want to learn more. It is intended to be a resource for anyone to use with non-Mormons. We all have an obligation to others. When we are informed about how God is advancing His last-days work, we are obligated to inform others, “it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81.)

2016 Sunstone Symposium

This coming Friday, July 29, I will be speaking at the Sunstone Symposium at the University of Utah. I speak at 5:00 p.m. The lecture is titled: Was There An Original?

The lecture will examine how Mormonism changed during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. By taking a few topics to illustrate the overall phenomena, I hope to provide some additional insight into Joseph’s ministry and how to put context to the restoration. It was an incomplete work-in-process. There is a great deal left to be done.

New Book For Christians

A new book addressed to Christians is now available on Amazon. The book is titled A Man Without Doubt.

It is intended to be readable. There are no footnotes, and it is just under 200 pages. The book introduces material written by Joseph Smith by laying the historical setting that produced the document. Then Joseph is allowed to speak to the reader in his own words. The book was reviewed by non-Mormon readers beforehand, and their comments and suggestions were solicited and considered in finalizing it.

If you know of a Christian who has a negative opinion of Joseph Smith, you may want to lend them a copy of this book to see if influences them in a positive way.

Mormons may not appreciate the book. There is very little about the history leading to each of the three writings that is particularly flattering. The book first explains the frustrations and disappointments Joseph encountered in trying to convey to others the higher priesthood. In response to the failure, Joseph set out to address the lack of faith. Lectures on Faith were given in the School of the Prophets, then canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants to address the crisis of faith early Mormons experienced when the higher priesthood did not work as expected.

The second crisis began in 1837 and lasted through 1838. The collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society, the many members angry at Joseph, his flight to Missouri to escape the Mormons who intended to kill him, and the troubles in Missouri leading up to the Mormon War are explained as background. When John Whitmer, the historian of the church, left with the history, Joseph began a new composition in 1838 to replace the one Whitmer took. The background is prelude to the Joseph Smith History, and explains why Joseph wrote many of the comments in his history.

The third crisis was when Joseph was taken prisoner in the Mormon War. For six months in 1838-1839 he was confined in Missouri while Mormons were scattered from the state under threat of extermination. The background explains the circumstances in which Joseph wrote the letter from Liberty Jail.

After introducing the events leading to the three Joseph Smith compositions, the reader is allowed to read Joseph’s response to the crises. Everyone is allowed to form their own opinion of Joseph by considering how he reacted.

There is a glossary to help those unacquainted with Mormon language and leading figures to familiarize themselves with events, persons and texts of early Mormonism.

Most of the opposition Joseph Smith encountered had either disaffected Mormons leading or participating against him. His responses are all the more remarkable because of how positive he remained throughout.

If you know anyone, including Christian ministers, who could benefit from reading the book, please share it with them. Nothing in the book attempts to convert anyone to Mormonism. Its only purpose is to introduce Joseph Smith as a Christian figure whose life, in many ways, was like the Apostle Paul. A quote from Paul in the beginning of the book supplies all later chapter titles.

Now Christians

I finished and submitted for print a new book addressed to Christians. The book is an attempt to re-introduce Joseph Smith as an important Christian figure, separate from institutional Mormonism. It is time he became relevant to all Christians, and no longer regarded as the property of Mormonism. The new book should be available on Amazon by early August if anyone is interested.

The time has come to give attention to Christians who are not part of the Mormon tradition. Other faiths need to be invited to think about what God is doing to finish His work. Christians have barriers, including prejudices and traditions, but all need to be invited to consider how great things the Lord has done for mankind.

For several months I have solicited the opportunity to speak at several theological schools. Although I did get invited to speak to a group of “Mormon Studies” graduate students in California, they are not who I need to address. The other efforts have not proven successful. Accordingly, I thought it appropriate to make it public. I am looking for an opportunity to speak to a Christian audience, and enlist help from others.

If anyone knows of a Christian venue that meets the description below, please contact me and let me know:

I would like to give three talks, one in California, one in Texas and one in Atlanta. I will pay my own travel costs, and do not expect or want to be compensated for speaking. The audience should be comprised of Christians, and not Mormons. I would like to record the talks and make them available on-line for others to hear. The size of the venue is unimportant. I would prefer a theological school, but would welcome any venue with a Christian audience, including a church if one were available. Below is a brief biographical description you can use to solicit the invitation:

I converted to the LDS church when 19 years old, and served faithfully for 40 years. Among other things, I was an Elder’s Quorum President, Sunday School President, Bishop’s counselor, Ward Mission Leader, High Councilor, and Graduate Institute Instructor. I taught for three years at BYU Education Week on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah. I graduated from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University in 1980, and have practiced law for 36 years. I have authored 15 volumes on Mormonism, including Mormon history and doctrine. I was excommunicated for publishing a book challenging the traditional LDS church narrative of its history, and offering a new interpretation of the events. My excommunication was directed by Elder Russell M. Nelson, current President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church.

I will be addressing the topic of Joseph Smith as a significant Christian figure, worthy of considering alongside all other important Christian thinkers, writers and martyrs.

You can send a response to dssnuffer@gmail.com.

The Martyrs

Hyrum fell first, and as the eldest brother led the way. Joseph died moments later. Today is the anniversary of their martyrdom.

Exactly as the angel foretold, the name of Joseph Smith is “had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (JS-H 1:33.) Just as the Lord affirmed to Joseph in Liberty Jail, “fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1-2.)

The evil spoken of Joseph now comes from the LDS Church, which claims him as their founder. It comes from Brian Hales, who claims to be an accurate biographer. It comes from anti-Mormons, and Christian ministers, and fundamentalists who have created a caricature they claim to be Joseph. There is little difference between these people and William Law, Charles Ivins, Francis Higbee, Chauncey Higbee, Robert Foster and Charles Foster who published the Nauvoo Expositor.

It would be good if some (or all) of those who claim Joseph was a sexual predator and adulterer for impregnating another man’s wife, were to apologize and acknowledge there is no compelling proof Joseph ever had sexual relations with any other woman other than Emma Smith. Even the putative last suspected daughter, Josephine Lyons, is now ruled out as his descendant. I have not read any apology for the false accusation that he was the father from Hales, the church, or any of his accusers.

In the aftermath of John Bennett’s misconduct, Joseph pursued an effort to track down what had happened in Nauvoo. By May 21, 1842, the high council met and, “[A] charge [was] [preferred] against Chauncey L. Higbee by George Miller for unchaste and un-virtuous conduct with the widow [Sarah] Miller, and others.” (Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, p. 414, all as in original.) In the trial, “Three witness[es] testified that he had seduced [several women] and at different times [had] been guilty of unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with them and taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women if it was kept secret &c and also taught that Joseph Smith authorised him to practice these things &c” (Id., pp. 414-415, as in original.)

On May 25 the charge was preferred “against Ms. Catherine Warren by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with John C. Bennett and others. The defendant confessed to the charge and gave the names of several other [men] who had been guilty having unlawful intercourse with her[,] stating they taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women and that the heads of the Church also taught and practiced it[,] …learning that the heads of the church did not believe of [the] practice [of] such things[,] she was willing to confess her sins and did repent before God for what she had done and desired earnestly that the Council would forgive her.”(Id., p. 417, as in original.) She furnished the identities of the several men involved, resulting in more church court proceedings to stop the spread of Bennett’s mischief.

On September 3, 1842, “[A] charge was preferred against Gustavius Hills by Elisha Everett[,] one of the teachers of the Church[,] for illicit intercourse with a certain woman by the name of Mary Clift by which she was with child[,] and for teaching the said Mary Clift that that the heads of the Church practiced such conduct & that time would come when men would have more wives than one &c” (Id., p. 424, as in original.)

The next day, September 4, 1842, “Esther Smith gave evidence that [the] defendant [Gustavius Hills] told her that it was lawful for people to have illicit intercourse if they only held their peac[e] & that the time would it was agreeable to the practice of some of the leading men or heads of the Church.” (Id., p. 425, as in original.)

Yet more courts were held as the effort to round up those who were involved in this practice. John Bennett, in response to the treatment given him by the church, set out to tell another story in which he was the hero and Joseph was the villain. He wrote, lectured and campaigned against Mormonism, first to salvage his reputation, but ultimately as his profession.

Joseph left a record of public and private actions taken in opposing the plural wife system. These included: “I preached in the grove and pronounced a curse upon all adulterers and fornicators, and unvirtuous persons and those who have made use of my name to carry on their iniquitous designs.” (Joseph Smith (Sermon at the Grove; Apr 10, 1842)

Then there is the obviously altered Joseph Smith journal for Thursday 5th October 1843, which confirms there was an effort to alter documents to conform to later events and practices:

(ORIGINAL) Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this Law. Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of— No man shall have but one wife.

(REVISED) Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this law for according to the law i hold the keys of this power in the last days, for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power? and the keys are conferred – and I have continually said Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of No man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise

          Someone revised the content at a later date. Once revised at a later date, it was “on” again, and perhaps retroactively “on” since the original alterations were not possible to detect until the Joseph Smith Papers project made the original available for public view.

There was a published denunciation of polygamy in early February 1844 in the newspaper edited by Joseph:

“As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan. This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.”  (Joseph Smith & Hyrum Smith, Times and Seasons Vol. 5 (February 1, 1844).)

The Relief Society later put out a more detailed document titled A Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo that offered an even stronger denial of plural marriage. It was penned by W. W. Phelps at the request of Joseph Smith. The document was presented to a general meeting of the church at which Joseph presided in March 1844, three months before he was killed:

“A vast assembly of Saints met at the Temple of the Lord at nine o’clock a. m., by a special appointment of President Joseph Smith, for the purpose of advancing the progress of the Temple, &c. The Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, was present; also of the Twelve Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith; also the temple committee and about eight thousand Saints….[later in the meeting] an article was also read by W. W. Phelps, entitled, A Voice of innocence from Nauvoo, and all the assembly said ‘Amen’ twice.” (DHC 6:236, p 241.)

I tire of hearing Joseph’s name associated with evil. Particularly from those who claim to honor him as a prophet. On this day I would defend his honor and affirm he is exactly who and what he claimed. He was a virtuous man, in love with his wife Emma, and opposed to adultery, immorality and dishonesty.

Adam’s Religion

I participated in a fellowship discussion with a group of people a few weeks ago about the ministry of angels. I have been reflecting on that conversation since then. I think the ministry of angels is an indispensible part of the gospel, but angels are subject to God, who commands their ministry. (Moroni 7:30.) The angels have a specific ministry. They call men to repentance and fulfill and do the work of God’s covenants. (Moroni 7:31.) We approach God (not angels) and then God sends angels as His ministers.

Adam had a pure religion taught to him directly by God. It contained the full gospel message while other dispensations, depending and their worthiness and readiness, were given portions of it. In a very real sense mankind began with the religion of God, which was lost through disobedience, lack of interest and unwillingness to study. Righteous men have been trying to recover that original religion ever since.

It is the same challenge today. The original religion Adam practiced needs to be recovered. It was prophesied that it would be recovered. It, along with the original priesthood, is destined to return at the end of the world. (Moses 6:7.)

A Book of Remembrance was prepared beginning with Adam (Moses 6:5). Enoch also wrote a book describing the original religion (Moses 6:43-46). The records prepared by those fathers were passed down for a time through heirs, but were relegated to disuse and neglect until restoration came in the time of Abraham. That restoration was needed because Abraham’s immediate forebearers had lost the original teaching through their changing of its doctrines (Abr. 1:31). It was because Abraham obtained the original religion that he was able to practice it in an uncorrupted form. It brought him back into God’s presence.

Although he did not have the complete records, the first Pharaoh did not invent a new religion. Instead he “imitated” and tried to carry on that original which belonged to the fathers. (Abr. 1:26.) Pharaoh was righteous, but he descended through a line that forfeited the birthright and did not have the right of priesthood presidency, or the right to govern the family of God. But the right to that order will return. (Moses 6:7.)

Abraham reestablished the order. Because of this, he could correct and teach the Pharaoh of his day (approximately 2000 years after the first Pharoah), and whose own religion had, by Abraham’s time, lost its way. (See Facsimile 3, final note.)

Once a religion begins to drift, it is very difficult to recover the original. During Abraham’s time, the task was impossible. Egyptian culture, art and government were based on a religion which had changed over 2000 years, despite the intention to preserve its authentic teachings. Even if Abraham could correct everything for the Pharaoh, it would be impossible for that Pharaoh to even reclaim his nation. Once errors have hardened into hierarchy, institutional tradition, wealth, power and governing systems, a single man, even a king, cannot change its course.

Egypt drifted, but was founded by a king “seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father.” (Abr. 1:26.) The religion was not merely faith, repentance and baptism. It was also an “order” which governed. Those holding it, including Adam and Noah, had the right to “reign” or govern. Without God’s full authorization as the foundation of his government, Pharaoh never had the right to govern. He could only “imitate.”

Egypt’s imitation included many truths mingled with errors. The religion of Egypt preserved a slightly better understanding of portions of the original gospel than others. For example, Egypt understood the hierarchy of heaven better than do we. They acknowledged the “four sons of Horus.” They are real. There are four great angels who have power over the four parts of the earth. (D&C 77:8.) We know them as Michael (Adam), Gabriel (Noah), Enoch (Raphael), and John (Uriel), whose control is over air, water, fire and earth—the four parts of the earth. They have “power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to case down to the regions of darkness.” (D&C 77:8.) In spite of their ministry, we are not to worship them, nor to pray to them. Egypt may have identified and understood them better, but they erred by exalting them to worship and prayer along with other heavenly beings the Egyptians called neteru and the Hebrews called angels. These comprise the host of heaven led by Jehovah. The first error God corrected for Moses was this idolatry of angels, who are not to be worshipped, but are to be recognized and respected as God’s messengers and servants. (Exo. 20:3-5.)

Egypt knew of a great god they identified as “Amon” (also Aumn, Ammon—a name given to several individuals in the Book of Mormon) which Joseph Smith identified as “Ahman” (see D&C 78:20, 95:17; and which is associated with Adam being in the presence of God—Adam-ondi-“Ahman”). The Egyptian father, Amon, had a wife identified as Hathor. Their son was identified as Horus. In the oldest form of the Hebrew faith (before they were excised by the Deuteronomist reformers) the godhead included a Father, Mother and son. The Tabernacle and Temple had an image of the Divine Mother that was removed during Josiah’s reforms and never returned. In the restoration, Joseph taught that exaltation of man required sealing of a man (husband/father) to a woman (wife/mother) to allow for the continuation of the seeds (son/heir). (See D&C 132:19-20.) From eternity to eternity the cycle repeats. If you understand the destiny of those who attain exaltation you understand the nature of those who were exalted before.

Egypt acknowledged one of the exalted angels as “the great scribe,” and identified him as Thoth. His real identity is clarified in the writings of Moses as Enoch. (Moses 6:5, 46.) Enoch ascended to heaven. But we do not worship him.

Egypt’s religion erred by turning true angels into gods, to whom they prayed and whom they worshipped. Angels are sent by God and minister the truth to man, but are forbidden to become the objects of worship. Egypt turned mere angelic servants of God into deity and worshipped them.

Throughout the Bible record, the angels clarify their limited role. In the temple, the angel Gabriel clarified his limited role as a messenger. (Luke 1:19.) When the apostle John beheld the angel sent to him, he fell to worship him. (Rev. 22:8.) The angel forbid it, declaring “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: Worship God.” (Rev. 22:9.) John has now become a ministering angel. (D&C 7:6.)  When John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver he declared himself only a “fellow servant.” (JS-H 1:69.)

Angels may occupy positions of authority before God, and may have ministries entrusted to them (D&C 130:5), but only God is to be worshipped. Only God’s word will survive into the afterlife. Even if one of the four great angels establishes a covenant, unless God ordains it as His, that covenant will fail. (D&C 132:13.)

We can recover lost information from studying relics left from the past. Egypt left a great body of evidence we can sort through to help us in our search. But as the search is undertaken we must always remember that their religion had through millennia of practice undergone change and corruption. By the time of Abraham, and still more by the time of Moses (and nearly completely by the time of Isaiah), Egyptian religion had become something very different from that of the first Pharaoh who endeavored to maintain the teachings of the “First Fathers”. We must avoid the errors of Egypt that transpired as their doctrine and rituals changed. “The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof; and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.” (Isa. 19:14.) When reckoning through Egyptian wreckage, therefore, our guide must be the truth. We measure truth against the standard of the Book of Mormon, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and confirmed in the teachings and revelations given through Joseph Smith.

We no longer have Adam’s language. It was corrupted at the time of the tower, and lost to all but the Jaredites. Their record was written in the original language, but by the time Moroni translated the record he required the seer stone to make the translation (Ether 1:1-2; Mosiah 28:11-14.)

We do not have possession of their plates, but the Jaredites wrote in the original language of Adam (Mosiah 28:17; Ether1:35). It is interesting that the last people to have written in the original language of Adam were the Jaredite colony whose record is now part of the Book of Mormon.

We do not yet have the original religion taught to Adam. It also was lost long before Abraham, and was restored to him. He had the advantage of possessing the “records of the fathers” and therefore knew what they wrote in the first generations from Adam till Enoch describing the gospel taught by God to Adam.

No society has preserved the original religion. Joseph Smith was called by God to begin the process to restore the original. Through Joseph, we obtained some significant portions of the gospel which had been lost. He was killed before it was completed. What he left has become a muddled mess requiring a great deal of work to understand it. What Joseph restored must now be recovered. Even then, more must be returned before we finally arrive back at the beginning.

The Book of Mormon was translated “by the gift and power of God” and is an essential part of the restoration of the gospel fullness. Indeed it “contains the fullness of the gospel” because it gives account after account of those who were brought back to God’s presence and redeemed from the fall.

All the ancient world’s earliest religions had accounts of man returning to God through ceremonies and rites. But it was Israel who was visited by God. And the Book of Mormon contains the most clear and vast array of examples of successfully entering God’s presence. Lehi (1 Ne. 1:11), Nephi (1 Ne. 11:7, 2 Ne. 11:2), Jacob (2 Ne. 11:3), Enos (Enos 1:5, 7), Alma (Alma 36:22), and many others returned to God’s presence as part of the narrative of the Book of Mormon. It is indeed as Joseph Smith described it: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (DHC 4:461; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194.)

Many trails remain that point backward to the earliest times and the first religion. Some of those trails are in the Apocrypha which was commended to us for study in modern revelation. (D&C 91.) Joseph, followed by other early saints, were eager to read beyond the closed Biblical canon advocated by their Protestant neighbors. Hugh Nibley followed in that tradition. Joseph Smith did not have access to the Book of Enoch. The materials in the Nag Hammadi were not available until 1945. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not available until they were discovered beginning in 1946 and continuing until 1956. Many ancient texts have been recovered after Joseph’s death. Additionally, scholarly Islamic works have been published in English after Joseph’s death. The sources now available for us, but which were unavailable while Joseph lived, fill libraries. Like the Apocrypha, these newly recovered ancient documents have many things which are true. (D&C 91:1.) They also can be understood through the Spirit. (D&C 91:4.) But without the benefit of the Spirit they can be misleading. (D&C 91:5-6.)

We do not yet have the gospel as taught by God to Adam. That is still to be restored. It will be entrusted to those few people who will hearken to the Lord and live by every word that proceeds from His mouth. (Matt. 4:4—Christ quoting Deu. 8:3.) It will return. But it will be given to people who are worthy of it, and will abide by its requirements. They will be meek, humble, patient, submissive, gentle, or in other words, Christlike.

 

Great or Malignant Sins

Joseph Smith’s 1838 history did not originally have these words:

“In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been.” (JS-H 1:28.)

Instead his original draft ended with this confession:

“I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling (with) all kinds of society I frequently (fell) into many foolish errors and displayed the weakness of youth and the corruption of human nature which I am sorry to say led me into divers temptations to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God.” (JS Papers, Histories Vol. 1: 1832-1844, p. 220.)

The history of Joseph Smith was first published in the Times and Seasons. This part of his history was printed in an installment on April 1, 1842. (Times and Seasons, Vol 3, p. 749.) The explanation that Joseph was not guilty of “any great or malignant sins” had not yet been added in April 1842.

The month following publication of this installment of Joseph’s history, on May 11, 1842, John C. Bennett was excommunicated from the church for adultery. Bennett did not go quietly, and therefore public notice of his excommunication was announced in print on June 15, 1842. Bennett got louder and more accusatory and on July 1, 1842 a full account of John C. Bennett’s misconduct was explained in the Times and Seasons.

Because Bennett began his public accusations against Joseph Smith in 1842, on December 2, 1842 a note was added to Joseph’s history. The LDS Historian’s Office explains the note clarified his sins “were of a minor nature.” (See, JS Papers, History, Vol. 1, p. 221, footnote 55.) The addition they describe is in Willard Richards’ handwriting, and reads as follows:

“In making this confession, no one need suppose  me guilty of any great or malignant sins: a disposition  to commit such was never in my nature; but I was guilty of Levity, & sometimes associated with jovial company &c, not  Consistent with that character which ought to be maintained  by one who was called of God as I had been; but this  will not seem very strange to any one who recollects  my youth & is acquainted with my native cheerly Temperament.” (Manuscript History, Note added December 2, 1842.)

The addition of this clarification appears to be directly in response to John C. Bennett’s adultery, the discovery by Joseph Smith of a “spiritual wife” system being practiced in Nauvoo, and the accusation that he was aware of, believed in, and practiced adulterous relationships. As Joseph Smith stated publicly months later in a meeting in Nauvoo:

“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” (DHC 6:411, May 26, 1844.)

I had not noticed this timing until called to my attention this week. Joseph denied committing “any great or malignant sins” in response to scandal brought to Joseph’s attention through the John C. Bennett affair. Put into context it is clearer. His denial was related to the “spiritual wife” system of adulterous relationships practiced in Nauvoo which was being attributed to him.

Guarding the Pathway

The Lord limited Nephi by commanding that, “the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write”(1 Ne. 14:25.)  This may have been to prevent different prophetic accounts from introducing errors, disputes and open conflict. Both Oliver and Joseph described and quoted John the Baptist. But their accounts relate it differently. They quote the angel differently:

Joseph: “…and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” JS-H 1:69. [Implies it will remain until an event, and then be removed.]

Oliver: “..which shall remain upon the earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!” JS-H footnote, taken from the Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, October 1834, p. 14-16. [Implies it may be here to stay, and will accommodate a righteous offering by Levites while here.]

It is not a significant difference. But it is just such different accounts that have produced disagreements, and disputes follow disagreements, and those grow into fanatical opposition between religious communities and eventually we have wars.

What if the Lord’s instruction was not to limit Nephi, but it was instead because God recognizes us as insecure, hasty and foolish beings. What if Nephi could have given a cogent retelling of the same events that were assigned to John. But since John was going to retell them so differently using cosmic imagery, drawn from heavenly constellations,(dragon-Draco; woman with child-Virgo; altar-Ara; the lamb-Aries; the lion-Leo; pouring out judgments/plagues-Aquarius; etc.) that we would make mush out of reconciling the two different approaches. Nephi talks about gentiles, waters, wars, books, and history in much simpler metaphors. Nephi may have understood Jewish learning, but he tried not to use it apart from quoting Isaiah.

Nephi may have understood the cosmic plan as well as John. John wanted to point to the testimony above, in the stars. Nephi may have given even a plainer version of it than did John. But Nephi was required to couch everything he taught in the words of those who already “had written them.” 1 Ne. 14:26. So Nephi employed Isaiah to teach his (Nephi’s) message. Thus a seeming conflict between two visionaries was averted–for our benefit.

Similarly, today we have people whose notions, visions, dreams and experiences are being promulgated through blogs, lectures, seminars, books and sermons. Most are unanchored in scripture. Because the scriptures are not being used to anchor these messages, there are widely disparate views of what is going on now and what is supposed to happen in the future.

What if the Lord restricted today’s visionaries the same way he restricted Nephi? What if the visionary information was used by the recipient to explain, expound and preach from holy scripture? Things would be much clearer for His people in these last days if we were given the assurance that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is the message of the scriptures. The scriptures are how God gets His word out to His people. Using the scriptures to expound the word of the Lord is not an antiquated notion. What if the Lord wants His word vindicated by referring to them now? Using them now? Expounding them now? What if the Lord’s example on the Road to Emmaus is to be taken seriously? His example was to teach using the law and all the prophets to show how in all things He was to suffer as He did.

It should be relatively plain to judge between what the Lord commissions and wants preached and what comes from the foolish imaginations of men and women. Apparently the best way to sift sheep and goats is to allow every wind of doctrine to come upon mankind and see which are wise and which are foolish virgins. Who keeps themselves unspotted and who runs to and fro with itching ears to consume on their lusts every new thing.

What a perfect test we are taking. Everyone knows they ought to be grounding themselves on a rock, but then mistake sand, leaves, air, wood and dung for the rock. There are people waste-deep in excrement who are certain they are standing on holy ground.

How much sooner might we be able to agree on the things that matter most if we put our understanding into words of scripture? How can we ever come to unity if we do not share a common scripture; an anchor to hold us together?

The pathway back is guarded by shiny trinkets that get all the wayfaring fools to step off a cliff to their ruin. Just because you are in the largest crowd leaving the pathway doesn’t mean the landing is going to be any less destructive. To stay on it the iron rod is needed.