The purpose of the faith restored through Joseph Smith was not to enshrine mere men as idols. It was to proclaim that all men, every one of us, can know God. The whole of Joseph’s message can be summed up in the proclamation that God is no respecter of persons, but will give to all men liberally who ask of Him. It is James 1: 5: God does answer prayer.
This message came to me from the Mormon elders who taught me about the Restoration of the Gospel. These young men were not “slick,” but quite homespun. They used flannel boards and paper cut-outs. One of them was from Nephi, Utah. He was inarticulate, butchered grammar, and spoke with an odd accent. For several lessons, I literally thought he was saying “p-r-i-e-s-t-e-d.” A few weeks into investigating, I was a bit chagrined when I realized he was actually trying to say “priesthood.” Later, Elder Black (who baptized me) presented a better image. Some 39 years after baptizing me he is still a friend.
I did not join the church because it was powerful, rich, or slickly marketed. It appeared to me to be homely, rough and extremely unpopular when I joined. As I recall, there were less than 350,000 total priesthood holders and only a minority of them were active. What the church offered was information from, and a connection to God. I tested the process. I received an answer to my prayer about Mormonism from God.
When I joined the church I gave up everything. I lost my friends and family. I was alienated from the life I had known and lived. It required all of it to be put on the altar and set on fire. But, having heard from God in answer to prayer, there was no hesitation. Though I was realistic about my own flaws, and thought I could never be a good enough Mormon, I intended to try. I had the courage to do so because God had spoken to me in answer to prayer and I believed He wanted me to become a member.
Now, I find a nameless, distant committee in the Church Office Building questioning my faithfulness (based on Internet leaks from the COB). Though the local authorities have shown nothing but acceptance for me, and I have served honorably and without controversy in my ward and stake, these distant Strengthening the Members Committee, who know nothing of me and have never talked to me, think it their prerogative to meddle.
I left all I knew to become a member of the church because I was following God. I still follow God. I began this journey to follow God. I did not begin this journey to follow men, elders, bishops or presidents. I gave up friends and family to follow God. I will not hesitate to make that trade again. I can be cut off from fellowship with the church, but you have no power that can cut me off from God. It is His company that brought me to you, and will be His company I keep whether you stay in fellowship with me or not.
I would prefer to stay in fellowship with both God and the church. But the church is a poor trade to make in a bargain that would cost me association with God. I do not measure my standing before God by how many people think well of me. I could not care less. It is absolutely fine if you think I’m unworthy, misinformed and even a crank. The things I have written can, have and will help some come to Christ. Some of the things I have written can, have and will help some who are struggling with the church’s doctrine and history. The Gospel originates from God, is to save mankind, and cannot be safely ignored.
I took Joseph’s teachings to heart. I also asked God. He has given liberally to me. Therefore, I testify of this process and invite others to have faith and to seek Him. Not me. Not men. Not some intermediary. Seek for God. There is none who can save you but God. If the Strengthening the Members Committee determines to pressure the local authorities to make a decision they would never have made on their own, then you are casting away a friend, not an enemy. To my knowledge this would be the first time you decide to impose discipline from inside the Church Office Building against someone who:
-Does not challenge your right to preside.
-Sustains the leaders.
-Has written about the scriptures and doctrine from a faithful view.
-Has defended the restoration and Joseph Smith.
-Has attempted to conform our history to the scriptures.
-And who will be weighed against your vanity and injured pride rather than the tenants of the underlying religion.
For my fellow Latter-day Saint (and the Central Command) who choose to condemn me, there is something about this moment you ought to pause to consider. This intersection is not one you want to be in, really. What if I am telling the truth? What if I’m right? In the final analysis, I am a Mormon. I am converted to this faith and will remain converted to it whether you decide to withdraw fellowship or not. My religion will remain whether you let me remain a member of this church or not. Were I in your shoes, I’d welcome someone as committed to the faith as I am, and never adopt the role of an accuser of any Saint. I claim to belong to God, not to you. If you decide to pressure local authorities to cast me off, there is another law decreed before the foundation of the world you will perhaps inadvertently invoke against yourself. This is not the intersection you want to be in, and I mean that in all seriousness and with all my heart; for your sake, not for mine. I know my standing before God, and nothing you can do will alter or affect that, but how you treat me may alter your standing before Him. For your own sake, I would ask you not to do something you will later very much regret.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, authentic and holds the means for redeeming mankind. Whether the church’s history is an unmitigated series of correct choices and flawless performance by leaders and members alike, it does not change one whit the obligation each of us has to come to Christ for redemption. Whether the church has everything it claims or not, doesn’t change our obligation to God. So where does any of this matter? We all still must repent and obtain hope in Christ. I focus and write to further that. I have no other agenda.