More Ado About Church History And Race

We have yet another pronouncement concerning the church’s past ban on priesthood for blacks. This is the most recent church statement:

“The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that ‘no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.’ Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject: ‘The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.'”

If this is altogether accepted as a carefully considered, inspired and accurate statement of the truth, it raises some interesting questions about the church today and in the past:

President Hinckley’s statement, reiterated again today, is that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ.” If this is correct, how are we to now regard Brigham Young?
[“In the preisthood I will tell you what it will do. Where the children of God to mingle there seed with the seed of Cain it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the preisthood upon themselves but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an ungaurded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say cut off my head, and kill man woman and child it would do a great deal towards atoneing for the sin. .. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants. …Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; we will sommons the first presidency, the twelve, the high counsel, the Bishoprick, and all the elders of Isreal, suppose we summons them to apear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed, with the black race of Cain, that they shall come in with with us and be pertakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to desstruction…” (Address to the Legislature by LDS Church President and Territorial Governor Brigham Young, Feb. 5, 1852, spellings not corrected.)]

John Taylor?
[“Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? . . . He needed the devil and great many of those who do his bidding just to keep . . . our dependence upon God, . . . When he destroyed the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he [the devil] might be properly represented upon the earth (Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, Oct. 29. 1882, p. 336)].

Many others, even President J. Reuben Clark who objected to pictures in the Deseret News showing black and white children mingling together, made disparaging remarks. What of them? Are we now to regard them as not true disciples of Christ? If so, then what does that do for the church’s status? Did the church pass through a lengthy era of being led by those who were not true disciples of Christ and yet retain all of our blessings, entitlements, power and priesthood? How did that operate? Can a non-true disciple of Christ pass along priesthood authority? Or is President Hinckley’s declaration an overstatement because it proves too much? Does any of this raise the possibility that church leaders can in fact “lead us astray?” Or instead is it that we are never led astray, but they can make mistakes? If so, how are we to distinguish between mistakes, and errors so serious they cannot be regarded as “true disciples of Christ” and yet preclude leading us astray? Doesn’t something have to give? Were the church members who opposed the ban “true disciples” even though they were out of harmony with their leaders? If that is the case, how can we know where “true disciples” are to be found, if there is a possibility for the lesser, dissident members who are out of harmony with those leaders to be “true disciples of Christ?” Does it mean we can have “true disciples” led by those who err in teaching for doctrine the commandments of men? Isn’t this the problem the Lord intended to solve in His opening statement to Joseph Smith? Are there some leaders now serving who are “not true disciples of Christ?” How do we distinguish between those who will be regarded as “not true disciples of Christ” at some future point but who are now serving in leadership? When do we know we are being taught for doctrine the commandments of men?

These are very interesting questions. What a great opportunity this presents for more study and careful contemplation by us all. Should I agree with President Hinckley and think the worse of earlier leaders? It seems harsh to think them “no true disciple of Christ” on the one hand, but on the other their remarks are quite disparaging of those of another race. Actually, disparaging of one specific race, not other races generally. Should culture bend a “prophet’s voice” or does a “prophet’s voice” require culture to bend? Were they originally just reflecting social values when speaking disparagingly about the race, and are they doing the same now there is widespread antipathy for racism? If that is the case, then do we really need anything more than popular opinion to guide us then and now?

If these church leaders spoke “in the absence of revelation” how were they “revelators?” Or weren’t they? If they were sustained as “revelators” but spoke in the absence of revelation and were wrong, how often has that happened? How often does it happen? How do we tell the difference between truth and teaching for doctrine the commandments of men? Aren’t we told essentially everything coming out of the hierarchy is entitled to respect as if it were the Lord speaking? Does that apply when they speak “in the absence of revelation?” What a fascinating assortment of issues the church has now given us to ponder.

Does our eternal salvation require us to resolve these things correctly?

There are so many more questions I can think of now that the church has given this new announcement. I wonder why they weren’t addressed in the latest announcement.

The Whole Not the Parts

There are a few important ideas that define my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These are the ideas that make the Gospel whole, and not just a group of disconnected thoughts. Until these were part of the core of my understanding, I was left with disconnected dots and no overall harmony from which to orient myself.

First and foremost is that we are not to follow any man or men. No man is worthy of discipleship. Not me, not another. There is only one who is worth following. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 16). Beside Him there is no other person who can save you (Mosiah 3: 17).

This first principle is what has motivated all I have written. It is a mistake to think there is a departure in Passing the Heavenly Gift from the topic begun in The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. They are both necessary. They do not reflect a change in my testimony or commitment to the truth, only an elaboration on the essential core principle that we are not going to be saved by following men. Rather, you will become “darkened in your mind” if you do so. (TPJS p. 237.)

Second and equally important, it is not the depth of your study that matters, but the quality of your connection with heaven that matters. Expounding doctrine is not only insufficient, it is oftentimes a distraction from what matters. We go from unbelief to belief when we learn truth. Not every source, including institutional sources, can be trusted to tell you the truth. Only the light of Christ, followed by the Holy Ghost is a reliable guide to distinguish between unbelief and belief. We go from belief to faith as we take action consistent with belief in truth. Faith is a principle of power. It will lead you to receive angels who still minister to those of a sound mind, not given to flights of fantasy or unstable behavior (Moroni 7: 30). We are brought from faith to knowledge as angels prepare us through their ministry. (Moroni 7: 31; Moroni 7: 25; Alma 32: 23.) Knowledge comes from contact with Jesus Christ. (Ether 3: 19.) This is the knowledge that saves, and nothing else. (John 17: 3.) The idea that knowledge of Christ through His personal appearance to you is now unavailable is an old sectarian notion and is false. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3.)

Third, there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell you all you must know. You can only know the truth by having it revealed to you from heaven itself. (D&C 76: 114-118.) This is the reason Joseph said if you could gaze into heaven for five minutes you would know more than you would by reading everything that has ever been written on the subject. (TPJS p. 324.) Either you do as James says, and ask of God, or you will forever remain ignorant of the only knowledge which can save a man. (JS-H 1: 13, referring to James 1: 5.)

Fourth, the truth is intended to save us. We should welcome corrections. Too often, however, we are offended and think the truth is a hard thing to endure. (1 Ne. 16: 1-3.) That is a product of pride and arrogance. It is impossible to learn what must be learned unless we are willing to be corrected. (Mosiah 3: 19.) Therefore, only the qualified will arrive at the gates, because the rest are unwilling to take the trip required of them.

Fifth, this is a personal journey which each must take for themselves. It cannot be shared. You must approach the Throne yourself. Joseph was alone when he met the Father and Son. Moses was alone when he ascended the Mount to meet the Lord. Enoch was alone when he was caught up to heaven. Elijah was alone on the mountain when the whirlwind, lightning and earthquake preceded the Lord’s own voice. Daniel alone saw the vision of the Lord. Paul alone saw the light. Nephi alone saw his father’s vision. Enos was alone in the wilderness in his encounter with God. Abraham was alone when the Lord spoke to him. Jacob slept alone when the ladder to heaven descended for him. You will also be alone should the Lord come to visit you. This cannot be borrowed from another.

These are the core. This core is what faith, repentance, baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost are meant to bring about. The religion of heaven always involves heaven. It does not involve men and administration and popularity. It is solitary, between you and God. The proud, however, are content to proclaim their righteousness and sit in judgment of others. They live without God in the world (Mormon 5: 16), and their end will be destruction. They think their own imagination is revelation, and they foolishly value only their conceit. (Proverbs 26: 11-12.)

I will never flatter you. But I will never lie to you, either. My faith in the Gospel is stronger now than the day I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My fidelity to the church is greater now than it has ever been. It offered me baptism and I gladly accepted. If offered me scriptures, and I gladly accepted. It offered me ordination, laying on hands, washings, anointings, covenants and sacraments, and I gladly accepted them all. It gives me fellowship, and I value it. But my faith is in Christ alone.

2 Nephi 32: 1-2

2 Nephi 32: 1-2:

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts? Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?”

It is the program of the Gospel that communication and understanding of God’s will should be obtained through revelation. That revelation comes from contact with, and communication by, the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is able to tell you “all things.” (Moses 6: 61; Moroni 10: 4.)

You don’t need another source once you are in contact with the Holy Ghost. It possesses the “record of heaven.” (Moses 6: 61.)

Nephi is assuring us that we can come into possession of the fullness of truth by the means he has been explaining as the “doctrine of Christ.” As a central, active part of that doctrine, the line of communication between you and God is opened. It is another reminder of counsel found in Deuteronomy 30: 11-14: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”

Forget all the cultural assumptions and extras you hang on to. Leave them all behind and keep it simple:

You were a spirit before you were born.  (Abraham 3: 22-28.) You were there when some were chosen to be “rulers,” or in other words, teachers. (2 Nephi 5: 19.) You have within you a spirit that was in that group. You saw and participated in what went on, and have that somewhere still inside you. It is kept from you by the “veil of flesh” now covering your spirit. (Heb. 10: 20.) Somewhere within you lies the “record of heaven.” Or more correctly, the Record of Heaven. (Moses 6: 61.) If you gain access to it, it has the capacity to teach you the “truth of all things.” (Moses 6: 61.)  Within it is such an abundance of truth that the things of God are not hidden from you, neither far off. It is not in heaven, so that you ask: who will go to heaven to bring it to us.  It is not beyond the sea that you should ask who can go to bring it to us? But is is very close to you, in your own mouth, in your own heart, that you can do what is asked of you. (Deut. 30: 11-14, above.)

Hence the saying of Christ that the Comforter will bring things to your remembrance. (John 14: 26.)

Christ taught the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17: 20-21.)

Why is it that the body is animated, with power of thought and communication, alive and vital while there is a spirit within it? But when the spirit departs, what then of the body? The power to live and breathe and move and do according to your will is gone at that point.  But from whence came that power? (Mosiah 2: 21.) If it is God who is “lending you that power” then how closely are you connected to God? How immediate is His presence within you?

If you can gain access to God, will you need to go out, or will you instead need to go within?

Our minds are corrupted. I’ve spent time dealing with the corrosive influence of cultures from Babylon to today in Nephi’s Isaiah. All that must be “ground to dust” and blown away. (Daniel 2: 34-35.) That will occur within you. You are the battleground where the conflict is being fought. You are potentially the Temple of God. (1 Cor. 3: 16.)

Awake and arise! Come to yourself and realize who you are. This “doctrine of Christ” will teach you all things you must know for life and salvation. But you ought not look to another to find what you already have. You must instead repent and return to God, who is your home.

2 Nephi 28: 30

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more, and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
Here Nephi shows he is the prophetic precedent upon which others would build. We often quote Alma for this idea, because Alma lays it out more completely. But Alma’s teaching has its root in Nephi’s warning here. (See Alma 12: 9-11.)
Notice the Lord’s promise that He will “give unto the children of men.”  He is liberal and does not upbraid us for asking. (James 1: 5-6.) Indeed, He admonishes us to seek, ask and knock.(Matt. 7: 7-11; D&C 88: 63.)
Notice that “unto him that receiveth” is the singular.  It isn’t “those” but “him.” Meaning each of us individually may come to Him and ask and receive. However, “from them that shall say, We have enough” is plural.  Meaning, there are many who could have been taught, had they not shut the doors. The collective will resist new revelation, even when it continues. They will shut their minds and not tolerate learning of truths.
When, however, groups close their minds it becomes impossible to keep what they have. It is inevitable that “from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”  Meaning, that we are either in a process of restoration or apostasy. The instant we stop restoring truths, we begin to lose them. You cannot just keep what Joseph restored to you. That will be lost. You either continue on and receive on-going revelation and new visions, visitations and restoration, or else you begin to forfeit what you already have. So soon as you walk away from one precept, from one doctrine, from one ordinance, you have begun the process of apostasy or falling away.

This environment is not static. It is always in change.  Either it is being built up, created and newly formed, or it is decaying, dying and falling apart. It never holds static. This is because the things of this world testify of Christ’s Gospel. (Moses 6: 63.) The path is only upward.  So soon as you stray from it, you lose the path. This is why you take the shoes from off your feet and put them on again as a symbol that you accept the path. You never remove them again, because once upon that path you are to remain so. The path is accompanied by greater light and truth, going from grace to grace until you receive a fullness. (D&C 93: 19, 26-28.)

Nephi is telling us how to receive the fullness. It comes only through revelation and the opening of heaven. You may be anointed to become kings and priests, but the realization of these blessings depends upon your faithfulness. If you are true and faithful the time will come when you will be called up and anointed, whereas now it is all conditional. Only Christ can remove the conditions. To have Him do that requires Him, as the Word, to intercede on your behalf. It requires Him to confirm by His own voice from heaven that you are His, and to establish His covenant directly with you.
Whether it is the words of an old book or the words of an older ceremony it is the same. They can’t save you. Only following the exact same path as the ancients followed can result in arriving at the same end. As the Sixth Lecture from the Lectures on Faith states:

“When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.  Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.  It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.”
What role does revelation play? Without it no person can be saved.

Who must receive the revelation? Each person for themselves.

What happens when revelation stops? To the person for whom revelation has ended, there is no salvation, (Moroni 7: 37-38) and they will immediately begin to lose what they were previously given. (Verse above.) To the people who refuse to receive more, “from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
Nephi has declared it, using authority from God to do so.  We either accept his counsel and warnings or reject it at our peril.

2 Nephi 28: 29

“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” 

This general principle is addressed first. Nephi will build on it in the following verses. But the first statement is the broadest.

An earlier “wo” was pronounced upon those who rely on the uninspired teachings of men who use their own precepts. Now he adds a second “wo” to those who also deny the need for continuing revelation. We claim we are unlike all other faiths because we believe in the concept of continuing revelation. However, that notion is greatly modified by us to the point where the continuation of revelation is so limited, so curtailed, and so distrusted that we are generally unacquainted with any new revelation.

Do we hear of visions and visitations? Not much, if at all. We think that such things are reserved for leaders. For example, if Elijah were to return with a message to someone, we would expect the person with whom he would visit would be the church President. If it were someone other than the church President, we would instantly be suspicious because Elijah wasn’t following the “chain of authority” as we expect. [Interestingly, as soon as you know Elijah was involved you should consider that another line of authority may be created.] So even if we heard from Elijah, it would cause us trouble and likely be rejected as too irregular. This would be true of other heavenly messengers, as well.

What visitations could we tolerate? Pretty much we’d only think it appropriate for an ancestor to visit with a descendant to give a family message. A deceased great-grandfather coming to bring a message about one of his descendants would seem to fit within the whole “chain of authority” model we have created. Family business. Seems to be acceptable. However, even then, we would expect the person involved to “keep it to themselves” because it was inappropriate to share things like that. Too personal. Too sacred. Too much information of a deeply personal nature to warrant talking about it with others.

What if the great-grandfather were Abraham? Would that fit the model? What if his concerns ran to all who are living?  Would that family be large enough to warrant talking about it with almost anyone? Oops, we’re back to the whole “chain of authority” argument again, and would expect Abraham to limit his visit to the chief Mormon-in-charge. So a visit by Abraham would be suspect as well.

What if the message were from John the Beloved? He has a continuing ministry to visit with people and bring them to salvation. In fact, his ministry includes visiting with those who will be “heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.” (D&C 7: 1-6.) Still, if a person had him minister to him, we would not want to hear about it, would question the propriety, and wonder why John would come when other perfectly authoritative men are living on the earth inside the church holding the same keys as John. So, that would be questioned and regarded as irregular as well.

So as Latter-day Saints we believe in the continuation of revelation, visitations, visions, etc. so long as they conform to our limited model, come to the right person, and don’t disturb anything we have going on at the present.  Which is to say we don’t believe in continuing revelation much at all.

What about Christ? Can He visit with anyone whom He deigns to visit? That’s a little closer call, because He seems to have promised to come to all. He also displayed remarkably democratic tendencies both on the day of His resurrection, and when visiting the Nephites. (I’ve explained His disregard for the church hierarchy He established on the day of His resurrection in Come, Let Us Adore Him.) He seems much less interested in respecting established religious authority than we do. So we might allow the Lord to visit with someone, but, then we wouldn’t want to hear many details because that would be wrong for some reason. Probably “casting pearls before swine” or “profaning” or “disrespecting the line of authority” or something. Not sure which one, but there’s got to be a prohibition against it somewhere.

So we have tendencies that are difficult to put into a hard and fast rule, but I’m going to attempt it

Rule 1: We believe in continuing revelation; predicated upon the following:

(a) Mostly to the President of the church;
(b) But with others whenever:
–(1) It is a grandparent who lived sometime during the restoration or had some unique reason to be coming back, but never
—(i) an ancestor so long back they would be Biblical, because that puts us back into (a) above;
—(ii) if they have a message which would be of general interest, because that puts us back into (a) above;
—(iii) if the visit involves knowing something or clarifying something which might be sacred, because such things are wrong to discuss or acknowledge.
–(2)  It is the Lord, but that’s because He pretty much gets to do what He wants to do; except if it’s important we’d want Him to explain why He didn’t follow (a), above—and it better be a pretty good reason or else we’ll have to question the report.

Well, We believe all that God has revealed to authorized people in positions of authority, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal to the proper channels many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God; and that once it has been reviewed by the Correlation Department and published by Deseret Book it will become something which we can all accept as being from an authorized source and reliable.

Until that happens, we have absolutely received enough of the word of God and we don’t need any more of the word of God. And, by damn, if someone comes claiming revelation or an independent apostolic witness of the Lord’s resurrection we will want them to cut off an arm or some other member of the body and then restore it again, so that we may know he has come with power. I’m quite confident that ought to satisfy our need to see a sign before we will believe a proposition.

Now we know for certain Nephi’s warning is to those other faiths that do not accept continuing revelation and not to us. However, as to those, Nephi has pronounced a prior “wo” for their acceptance of the precepts of men, and now a second “wo” upon them for their refusal to accept continuing revelation. These begin to mount up and ought to worry those to whom these concerns are addressed, whoever they may be. Perhaps Nephi should have written his book for those people, instead of us good folks who read the book and know for certain that we’re alright.

2 Nephi 28: 6

“Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” 

This lack of faith in receiving answers to prayer from God leads to skepticism about any other manifestation by God. If the leader isn’t having any experience with God, then they distrust claims by anyone else. Everyone is a fraud, if the leader can’t receive an answer to prayer.

The root of this is jealousy and envy. But it is completely unfounded. Revelation received by another person has no limiting effect on what personal revelation you can receive. The Lord is willing to share with all. However, it is predicated on the same principle. If the leader were willing to humble himself and seek in the prescribed manner, he would receive the same result. Everyone is invited. No one is excluded. 

Nicodemus came to Christ in the dark, and Christ taught him the same way He taught others. There are some sources which suggest Nicodemus was ultimately converted. If he was, there is little doubt that after his conversion, the spiritual life he had as one of the Lord’s disciples was greater than that of a member of the Sanhedrin. The Lord was not unwilling to share with the Sanhedrin, but they were unwilling to receive Him. When one (Nicodemus) changed his heart, the Lord came to him.

This seething distrust and accusation of any who claim to experience the miraculous leads in turn to denouncing the gifts of God. When denounced, such gifts depart from us. We no longer hear about miracles, healings, visions, tongues, visitations, or other gifts experienced by those we read of in scripture. Therefore, when the presence of the gifts end, the record of scriptures ends. There is nothing to add, and so nothing is added.

Eventually the end of this spiritual journey into the dark is to denounce all things coming from the “hand of God.” No “miracle wrought by the hand of God” will be acknowledged, but will be denounced instead. The position becomes unalterable:  “God is not a God of miracles anymore.” You must trust leaders and leadership.  You will be deceived if you profess revelation or the miraculous. And so the approach into hell is carefully laid by argument, emotion and fear.

Nephi foresaw this. He is warning us against it. We should not be seduced into thinking God has finished His work. He hasn’t. He is in the middle of fulfilling promises made generations ago to the “fathers.” We inherit from the Lord the promises He made to them. Now is a great day of miracles, visits, visitations, dreams, and healings. The heavens are open, if you will ask with a sincere heart having real intent, He will manifest the truth unto you. God remains the same. His blessings remain predicated upon the same conditions.

Seek. Ask. Knock. It will all be unfolded to you. He is no respecter of persons.

Roles and Limitations

My wife is gone and I have access to the blog, so I will add a thought to this line of discussion as an aside:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a role in the Gospel, but not the central role which some have tried to make it assume.  It prints copies of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.  It conducts Sacrament Meetings at which an essential ordinance is performed.  It provides missionaries an opportunity to teach, and then gives the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  These are important and I do not think there will be any freelance practice of these rites so long as the Church exists.  All of these things take place at the lowest level, where the hand of the Lord is still apparent.  Elder Oaks’ examples of the Holy Ghost come from that lowest level of the Church.  It was at this level I first received companionship of the Holy Ghost as a gift, and not merely a visit to bear testimony of the truth.


The Church above this local level, however, has become somewhat of a deterrent to the Saints’ progress and happiness.  Mandates and control from an increasingly distant hierarchy more often than not detract from what could be enjoyed.  The Church has first sought to obtain the ability to micro-manage every member’s lives through the correlation process, then upon securing that ability has felt duty-bound to exercise that control.  Now it is a matter of whether you are a “good member” if you conform to the central authority’s direction on everything from opening your scriptures in Sacrament meeetings, to engaging in an order of prayer in the privacy of your home, to your lesson’s content when permitted to teach in a class of the Church.  The color of the priests’ shirts, the length of their hair, their dietary habits and dating restrictions are all weighed against programs like “Duty to God” and conformity to “Church Standards.”


The standards and conditions ALWAYS have as their goal the betterment of those involved.  But the results are to mislead those who conform into thinking they’ve become better as a result.  The practice of universal conformity becomes a distraction in which the distracted believe their strict Church regimen pleases Christ; when it was the heart He was always after.  It was the religiously scrupulous who persecuted and killed Him.  His persecutors were careful about their diet, dress, language, behavior and conformity.  We may be reminding Him of His mortal opposition when we engage in this conformist behavior.  He captured the hearts of fishermen, outcasts, prostitutes, tax collectors, the heretical and rebellious.  Their outward behavior may not have conformed, but their hearts were in the right place.


The Church has something to add, to be sure.  But what it adds comes to an end, so far as I can tell, once you move above the ward level.  As LeGrand Richards quipped: “Everything above the Stake is just talk.”  He’s right, but I would have said the Ward instead of the Stake.  And some of that “just talk” actually interferes with the development of the Saints’ hearts.  It would be better to remain silent than to speak up and justify interference by a flawed program between a man and his God, or a woman and her Lord.


I am active, but not merely in my weekly Church attendance.  I am active also in my daily obligations to the Lord.  It is my daily service which I consider the more important of the two.

If you love me, receive instruction from me

John Hall and I were recently discussing the Gospel of John. He pointed out that Christ’s words: “If you love me, keep my commandments” appear several times in the Gospel.  He thought the words could be better translated to mean:  “If you love me, act as a sentinel (or guard) ready to receive further instructions from me.”
 
The current King James translation was based on the recognition that the cannon of scripture had closed and revelation had ended. Therefore they took those things into account as they rendered their translation.
 
For us, at least in theory, the cannon of scripture is not closed. Also, in theory, revelation is still possible.

There is an effort underway to redefine revelation and circumscribe its acceptable bounds. The coming view will be that revelation should only be expected which confirms that the church’s authorities are speaking for God, and anything direct from God has ended. God has finished His work, and now given His authority to man.  (2 Ne. 28: 5.)  If Nephi was a prophet (and he was) then that will become the church’s position at some point.

 
It is our responsibility to receive revelation.  It is also our responsibility to keep the narrowing boundaries as wide open as possible. Whatever the line is, you should live at that line to prevent it from drawing even tighter.

If you love Christ, stand as a sentinel ready to receive further instructions from Him.

Personal Revelation

On the 13th of November, 1835, Joseph was instructing, and made the following comment (which has been often repeated:

“[I]f God gives you a manifestation, keep it to yourselves.”  (JS Papers; Journals Vol. 1, p. 98.)

This statement has been quoted as a basis to support the position that any person’s revelation should NEVER be shared with another person; other than of course a revelation given to the church president.  The statement needs to be understood, however, in light of later statements recorded by Joseph in the same volume of the JS Papers.


On page 170 Joseph recorded that “angels ministered unto them, as well as myself.”  A little further down on the same page:  “My scribe …saw in a vision the armies of heaven protecting the Saints in their return to Zion.”  Still on the same page: “The vision of heaven was opened to these also, some of them saw the face of the Savior; and others were ministered unto by holy angels, and the spirit of prophesy and revelation was poured out in mighty power.”


On page 171 Joseph recorded that those who were present “spent the time in rehearsing to each other the glorious scenes that transpired on the preceding evening, while attending to the ordinance of the holy anointing.”


On page 174 Joseph recorded that his brother, William, “saw the heavens opened and the Lord’s host protecting the Lord’s anointed.”


On page 182 Joseph recorded that Zebedee Coltrin “saw a vision of the Lord’s House– and others were filled with the spirit and spake in tongues and prophesied.”  Later on that same page, in footnote 361, this is included:  “Oliver Cowdery also recorded that ‘many saw visions, many prophesied, and many spake in tongues.'” citing to Oliver’s Diary for 6 Feb. 1836.


It is apparent that Joseph’s comment did not result in these early Saints not speaking of the manifestations they received.  Nor did Joseph exhibit any disapproval or concern about hearing of others speaking of their spiritual manifestations.  His comment, therefore, needs to be understood in the context of the overall manner in which spiritual experiences were experienced and shared among the early church, even within a couple of months of the statement used to justify criticism of any person saying anything about any manifestation they received.


Oddly, I do not think anyone should share anything with anyone else unless the Lord, who gives manifestations, directs.  When He does, then I think objections are made at the peril of disrespecting the Lord’s command.  (See e.g., Alma 8: 25; 3 Ne. 23: 9–where the Lord required some of what Samuel had said to be added to their scriptures which the Nephites had neglected to record.)

Different traditions, different interpretations

In Stephen’s testimony just prior to his martyrdom in Acts, he gives an account of Moses which does not appear in our version of the Old Testament.  In Stephen’s explanation, he attributes to Moses the knowledge that he was going to be a deliverer of Israel even before he killed the Egyptian.  (See Acts 7: 24-25.)  According to Stephen, Moses was frustrated that the Israelites failed to recognize him as their deliverer.
 
Our account instead tells us that Moses was called by God, to his surprise.  When called, Moses responded: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  (Exo. 3: 11.)

This goes to show that there were different traditions reflected in the biblical accounts.  Just as there are references to scriptural books which we no longer possess.
 
The relevance of personal revelation, and the need for continuing revelation, remain apparent even if you want to understand the very scriptures we believe in.  Hence the almost immediate reaction of Joseph and Oliver to receiving the Holy Ghost and how scriptures took on new, even previously hidden meanings.  (See JS-H 1: 74.)
 
I was taught from the New Testament all my childhood by a mother who was a Baptist.  When hands were laid upon my head after baptism, I re-read the New Testament and thought it was a new book.