Churches Built By Men, Part 7

Nephi gives a list of destructive qualities. The list is qualified by what these traits do to men: It makes them prideful. They are “puffed up in the pride of their hearts.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) Therefore, as you read the list keep in mind this corrosive pride as part of Nephi’s warning.

The list includes:
-the wise
-the learned
-the rich. (2 Ne. 28: 15.)

It is possible to be all of these, and not be prideful. But if that is the case, then the wisdom, learning and riches of such an individual are used to elevate and serve others. They become advantages in helping the poor, the hungry, the naked and the infirm. In such cases the wisdom, learning and wealth do not become something that defines the individual. Instead, they become the tools of empathy and compassion.

In addition to the proud, Nephi adds another category, “all those who preach false doctrines.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) When it comes to corrupting the doctrine, pride is irrelevant. A person can be sincere, honest and devout, but if they preach false doctrine, Nephi condemns them. There is simply no excuse to justify preaching what is untrue or incomplete. Those doctrines will lead others to hell. Therefore, they are false ministers in the service of darkness.

There is a phrase that follows hard on preaching false doctrines. It is “all those who commit whoredoms.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) If read together, the result is this: “all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms.” This may be a single thought, or a single description. Because to leave the Lord and follow after another false source for salvation – a false god – is often described as “committing whoredoms.” If this is Nephi’s intent, then the preacher of false doctrine is condemned because they are leading others away from God.

Nephi is clear about the fate of the preachers who preach false or incomplete doctrine and lead others away from God, “wo, wo, wo be unto them.” A three-fold condemnation. They could not be saved because of their false teaching. This condemnation is not Nephi’s. He attributes it directly to God: “wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) This three-part name of God mirrors the three-fold condemnation, and it is the Lord who is speaking.

“For they shall be thrust down to hell!” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

Be careful what you preach. If you do not fully understand the Gospel of Christ, then you take a fearful responsibility upon yourself when you pretend to tell the truth. (See D&C 11: 21-22.)

The Lord Delights in Chastity

Jacob’s sermon which touches on and condemns taking multiple wives includes this statement quoted from the Lord: “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.” (Jacob 2: 28.) In the same breath, and in connection with the topic of multiple wives, the Lord adds: “And whoredoms are an abomination before me.” (Id.)

All those who think they are living a “higher law” by taking multiple wives should be extremely careful about their actions, in light of the Lord’s overall caution about this subject. David fell from his exaltation as a consequence of offending this law, because it led to betraying Uriah, lying to protect against his immoral behavior, and ultimately taking life. (D&C 132: 39.)

How often has violence been the product of polygamous groups? How many murders have happened while wicked and ambitious men struggle for control over followers who take multiple wives?

Joseph Smith, the recipient of the revelation which has led to these various claims by different pretenders also had something to say about chastity and adultery. The very same man through whom the revelation came also instructed the Relief Society with this advice:

“Spoke of the organization of the Female Relief Society; said he was deeply interested, that is might be built up to the Most High in an acceptable manner; that its rules must be observed; that none should be received into it but those who were worthy; proposed a close examination of every candidate; that the society was growing too fast. It should grow up by degrees, should commence with a few individuals, thus have a select society of the virtuous, and those who would walk circumspectly; commended them for their zeal, but said sometimes their zeal was not according to knowledge. One principle object of the institution was to purge out iniquity; said they must be extremely careful in all their examinations, or the consequences would be serious. …[T]he Saints should be a select people, separate from all the evils of the world– choice, virtuous and holy.” (TPJS, p. 201-202, March 30, 1842.) Joseph also said: “If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom.”

“Inasmuch as the public mind has been unjustly abused through the fallacy of Dr. Bennett’s letters, we make an extract on the subject of marriage, showing the rule of the church on this important matter. The extract is from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and is the only rule allowed by the Church. “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”  Times & Seasons 3:909, Sept. 1, 1842.

Whatever you may think you know about Joseph’s intentions and practice involving plural wives, his public statements cannot be reconciled with promiscuity or exploitation of women for the gratification or vanity of men.

This may seem a contradiction. As if Joseph were talking out of both sides of his mouth. It is not. The careful manner in which the Lord controlled and permited taking additional wives to “raise up seed unto Himself” was covenantal, sacral, and did not involve indiscriminate breeding of multiple women. Other than his own, Joseph only sealed one plural wife to one man. For Joseph, the multiple wives were governmental, sealed to him to construct the family of God on earth. Tying together lines of what was to be a single family, with himself as the patriarchal father of a new branch of the Family of Israel. It was not, as the quote above demonstrates, a matter of lust and physical gratification.

Joseph’s practices were carefully guarded, hidden from public view, and so discrete that still today there are those who think he never had plural wives. If this were something for public display and advocacy, then Joseph would have done so. He did not. To the contrary, he also delighted in the chastity of women and condemned adultery and fornication.

In contrast to Joseph’s remarks, Brigham Young made a remark at the return of Thomas Marsh to the church in 1857. This is a reflection of President Young’s attitude toward women. I end this series with Brigham Young’s words. They were spoken immediately after Thomas Marsh addressed the Saints, pleading to be welcomed back after his apostasy. Brigham Young introduced him, and while Brother Marsh spoke he (Marsh) mentioned that he was “an old man” now. Folllowing his remarks, Brigham Young added the following:

“He has told you that he is an old man. Do you think that I am an old man? I could prove to this congregation that I am young; for I could find more girls who would choose me for a husband that can any of the young men.” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 1329, September 6, 1857.)

Brigham Young added that the difference between his age and Brother Marsh’s age was “one year and seven months to the day.” (Id.)

Somewhere between Joseph’s Nauvoo and Brigham Young’s Salt Lake City, the idea of multiple wives transitioned from a carefully guarded, privately practiced, severely limited relationship requiring God’s approval, word and the Holy Spirit of Promise, into a broadly advocated, openly practiced, publicly defended, and church authorized form of marriage which was said to be required for exaltation. In Brigham Young’s form of the church a man could not be saved if he didn’t fetch multiple wives: “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise you that you will be damned.” (JD, Vol. 3, p. 266.) “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.” (JD, Vol. 11, p. 269.)
It is my view that the question of taking plural wives arises with Joseph Smith, and was through a revelation to him when he inquired about the topic. He treated it as a limited, carefully curtailed, private matter. His implementation of the practice was limited to sealing his own plural wives, and one other man to two wives. 
With Brigham Young, however, taking more women became not only public, but it also became a topic used to prove his own verility. A comparison between Joseph’s and Brigham Young’s advocacy is stark, at least to me.

The subject could be discussed endlessly. I would discourage anyone from thinking this is something to advocate or practice. Even if you believe you are a well-read polygamist, you still don’t have enough information. If you think you have enough understanding to know what the topic includes, then instead of acting like Brigham Young and “finding more girls who would choose you for a husband” focus instead on qualifying to preserve one marriage.

Any man whose wife is unhappy, who is exploited and treated like his property, whose behavior fails to mirror Christ’s in the heart of the women who knows him best, has not yet qualified for his marriage to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. That work should not be left undone, and certainly must precede any complication of life by introducing more women into a relationship. Stop this foolishness. Save yourself by approaching this with the caution required to avoid vanity, self-destruction, practicing an abomination, and reducing a relationship to whoredoms. You should never trifle with the souls of others.

Cursing and Abominations

Before proceeding further, it is important to recognize that this is not an inconsequential matter. If someone guesses they can have plural wives and they are wrong, they have gone too far. They are taking a dangerous step. They risk eternity. Therefore this topic should not be approached casually, or because someone “thinks” this is proper. Either they know because God has instructed them by commandment, exclusively for the limited reasons it is allowed to be practiced, or they are involved in a serious, grievous sin.

In Section 132, words like “he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery” are included for those who proceed absent the Lord’s command. (D&C 132: 43.) Those who go too far can “fall from his exaltation” when these things are done in violation of God’s will. (D&C 132: 39.)

In Jacob, the improper taking of an additional wife is called “whoredoms and an abomination” by the Lord. (Jacob 2: 28.)

Those who proceed in our dispensation in the absence of the Lord’s direct command to them are included among those the Lord described as gentiles filled with “whoredoms, and of secret abominations.” (3 Ne. 16: 10.) If you are engaged in the practice, and recognize it is an abomination, and you will “repent and return unto [God’s ways], saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.” (3 Ne. 16: 13.)

None but fools will trifle with this topic.

Read Section 132 and see if the Lord commands you to either take or be a multiple wife. Don’t impose it in the language. Don’t force it into the revelation. Instead, read it as if the practice is forbidden, an abomination, adultery, or whoredom. Where do you see it demands you to take or be a multiple wife?

Verses 2 through 28 explain celestial marriage without mentioning anything other than a single wife. This explanation of having a single wife sealed to the man is the law which “must be obeyed” or exaltation is impossible. And “if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (D&C 132: 3-4.) The law, however, is for a man and woman to be sealed together for eternity and to have that sealing ratified by “the Holy Spirit of Promise.”

But it is a man (singular) and a woman (singular). For example:
“a man” and “a woman” and “he” and “she” and “him” and “her” (132: 15)
“a man” and “a wife” (132: 18)
“a man” and “a wife” (132: 19)
“a man” and “a wife” and “he” and “she” (132: 26)

These verses, from 2 through 28, speak in the singular throughout. One man. One woman. And these verses are the ones that speak of exaltation, thrones, dominions, kindgoms, principalities, all heights and depths. (132: 19.) In fact, the very verse where these things are mentioned is in connection with “a man marry a wife by” the Lord’s word. (Id.)

Celestial marriage and the celestial law of inheriting exaltation is set out in the very revelation that mentions for the first time the eternal marriage covenant. This occurs ONLY in those verses which are describing marriage between “a man” and “a woman” and not elsewhere.

The focus of these verses is not on multiple wives. Rather the focus is on the preservation of marriage into eternity by God and by His word (132: 12) which is “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.” (132: 7.)

Therefore, the question is not whether you have multiple wives. The right questions are:
-Are you sealed by God?
-Are you sealed by God’s word?
-Are you sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise?
If you do not obtain this promise sealed to you by God, through His word, sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, then it does not matter. “[I]f a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word.” (132: 18.)

Your individual hopes, wishes, aspirations and ambitions are nothing. The only thing which will endure is that which is established by God. Or, more completely, by God, through His word, which is then sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

All of this discussion takes place in verses 2 through 28 of the revelation. None of it forces you to read it as referring to multiple wives. You cannot find the multiple wives information anywhere in these verses. If you think it is there, it is because you have put it there by your own interpretation. Multiple wives is NOT included.

The explanation for multiple wives begins after the explanation of what is required for exaltation. These verses permit two exceptions to the prior, mandatory requirement that marriage is limited to a man and a woman who are sealed by God, through His word, by the Holy Spirit of Promise. These two exceptions will be considered next.

To reaffirm the point of this post: If you guess wrong by taking multiple wives, your mistake is called “whoredoms” and “an abomination” and will condemn you. Unless you repent and return to God, you forfeit your exaltation.

2 Nephi 28: 14

“They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”
This is so sobering and relevant a verse that it is the first thing quoted in the dedication of the first book I wrote, The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. This is our moment. Inside this foolish age there are nevertheless a “few, who are the humble followers of Christ.” These are the salt which preserve the world. These are the leaven who keep us still from destruction.

“Stiff necks” do not bow in prayer and praise before a Lord to whom they regard themselves as unworthy. They are undaunted by their unworthiness. They think themselves justified, and therefore without any need to bow in reverence.

“High heads” do not tilt down to behold the less fortunate to whom they might have provided relief. They ignore the destitute and needy, preferring only to see those who are on their standing or above. Who can help elevate them? Who can give them an advantage? Who is a good contact to keep? The “high heads” will be careful about what social advantages come from associations, and will always pick carefully those whom they deign to notice.
But these stiff necks and high heads belong to those carrying a burden of sin.  They are prideful, wicked, given to abominations and whoredoms. These are the ones who sit upon the labors of others, and fare sumptuously here. So long as your neck remains stiff and your head held high, you will never notice Lazarus lying at your gate.
But what of the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ?” What of them?
It is clear in this verse that they do NOT lead, but are instead being led. They are “led that in many instances they do err.” That is, those who qualify to be called the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” are not themselves leaders. They are being led by others.

The others who lead them “cause them to err.” And why do they cause this?  “Because they are taught by the precepts of men.” Therefore, the humble true followers are misled into accepting false, foolish and vain (or powerless) beliefs because the ones who preside over them are only able to offer the “precepts of men.” These “precepts of men” are unable to bring the “humble followers of Christ” to the knowledge of Him.

Keep in mind that the “precepts of men” are repeated by Nephi in this written sermon more than any other phrase. The learning used to lead is distracting, even damning, whenever it fails to lead to the Lord. Men’s precepts cannot rescue us.

Why are not the “humble followers of Christ” doing the leading? Because they do not have the “stiff necks and high heads” to become noticed, to be added to the group of insiders. Their clothes are not costly, their home “sanctuaries” are insufficiently ornate. They are not the stuff of renown and recognition. They are, in a word, the least.
It is a troubling image which begins to emerge from Nephi’s words. They are shocking for us to consider. If the alternatives are what Nephi seems to leave us, then how much better is it to be among the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” than among those with the authority to lead them?

I do not believe any of us are in a position to fully understand our times. We live inside a cultural fog that makes our judgments inside the bubble distorted in ways Nephi did not experience from his vantage point.  The Lord can give us a clearer perspective through revelation, as He did for Nephi. But we are not equipped to fully recognize our peril standing inside this age and culture.

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that Joseph Smith was right about the need to reconnect with God. His first and primary message remains the testimony of James 1: 5:  If we lack wisdom, we should ask of God. God will give liberally to those who ask with a sincere heart, having real intent. Whether you believe Joseph’s account or not, Joseph was pointing us to James and testifying James made a promise which God will fulfill. So test James. Ask with real intent. Perhaps you will begin to see how Nephi’s words of warning are exactly what is needed to save us from our peril. At a minimum, the petition will make you closer to being one of the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” because of your desire to know from Him the truth of your plight.

He always intends to save those who wait upon Him. Those who serve Him and do as He asks will never be forsaken. All that is required to qualify is to repent and come to Christ with sincere intent. No matter what else is going on, the Lord can take your life’s circumstances and make them work to fulfill His work. And His work is your salvation and exaltation.
The first step is to recognize the peril you face. The second is to then do something about it. To take the first step without the second is worse than meaningless. It inspires fear and pessimism. That is wrong. Happiness is the goal of our existence. That comes from Christ. So do not just notice your plight, but make the necessary flight back to Him.

3 Nephi 21: 19-20

3 Nephi 21: 19-20:

“And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.  For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;”
Notice that the first four defects that are to end, include “lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes.” These are somewhat different than the next two. These first four are character flaws that lead to the next two.
The character flaws should not be thought of as defects in our ability to do business or conduct commerce. These are flaws leading to the failures of our redemption. Therefore, think of them as flaws in our beliefs, leading us to have what the Book of Mormon terms unbelief.
What lying goes on among us leads to priestcraft? How is our lying keeping us from knowing the Lord? What is it about our peculiar form of false belief that leads us to believe in, and spread about lying as part of the fallen, false faith we entertain?
What deceivings are part of our culture of unbelief? How is it we can celebrate the great priesthood “authority” we possess while acknowledging that it lacks any “power?” Are we deceiving ourselves? Are we alienated from God while thinking ourselves His peculiar people?

What envy is there among us? Has envy become a tool for church governance? If so, how does it become a tool for church governance? Have we built it right into our system at present?

Are we filled with strife? Is strife among us suppressing healthy exchange of ideas by labeling such discussion as “contention?” Is strife different from contention? Is uniformity of ideas and suppression of dissent something that will remove strife? If not, then why not?
These character flaws in turn lead to “priestcrafts” where people seek approval of the world but not the best interest of Zion. (2 Ne. 26: 29.) Do we want popularity from the “world?”  What is the “world?” Why would someone practicing priestcraft seek in particular to have approval and lead the world? Why is the distinction made between the interests of Zion and the interests of the world? Is public relations always focused on approval from the world? If so, why are we seeking such approval? Does the world’s opinion of us matter? Why? When have the followers of Jesus been popular? What have they suffered for His name? (Heb. 11: 36-40.)
Then we see “whoredoms” which we have discussed earlier. David Christensen’s comment on the meaning of false religion is worth returning to read again in this post.
Then Christ sounds the alarm, attributing it to the Father.  Repent. Come unto Christ. Otherwise you will be cut off. What does it mean to come to Christ? Read the short statement in D&C 93: 1. There is a succinct description of the process. You haven’t come to Him until you have “seen His face and know that He is,” or, in other words, until you hear from His own voice that He has atoned for your sins and He promises you a place in His kingdom.
All of these warnings are being given to orient you to what is important. The important thing is to come to Him. As Christ put it to Martha, “but one thing is needful.” (Luke 10: 38-42.) Until we have come to Him, all our concerns about other matters must remain secondary. Of what good is it to know all mysteries, if we have not come to Him? This is why, in the middle of this warning of calamities to come, the Lord places this invitation to come to Him. He can help. He can restore and protect. But only if you are His.

3 Nephi 16:10

 
“And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”
 
These words come from the Father.
 
The Father has commanded Christ to speak them.
 
This material is important to understand.
 
“At the day when the Gentiles shall sin against the Gospel…”  Not IF.  Not SHOULD THEY HAPPEN TO DO SO. It is in the day WHEN the Gentiles SHALL sin against the Gospel.

The Father has already seen this happen. (D&C 130: 7.)  He has told Christ to speak about it. But it is before the Father and therefore He can speak with knowledge of the coming rejection by the Gentiles.

 
What do the Gentiles do as they reject the Gospel?  They “shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations… above all the people of the whole earth.”  Read again the prior post.  The Gentiles take their inheritance of the promised land as their birthright. They presume God’s favor. They mistake their probation and testing as proof of having God’s favor. They are on trial, and presume they aren’t being tested.

What, then, do the Gentiles do with their highly favored status?  The list is sobering:

-Lyings
-Deceits
-Mischiefs
-All manner of hypocrisy
-Murders
-Priestcrafts
-Whoredoms
-Secret combinations
 
Read the list and contemplate how much of this is among us. If we do not murder, do we delight in bloodshed? Are we warlike? Are there people whom we kill daily somewhere in the world to project our national will and great power?
 
Notice that hypocrisy leads to murder. Murder leads to priestcrafts.  Priestcrafts lead to whoredoms. Are we seeing a progression here?  By the time we have whoredoms, have we already passed through murders and priestcrafts?
What are priestcrafts? (2 Ne. 26: 29.)  What does it mean to seek the welfare of Zion? Is “Zion” the same thing as the institutional church? What is the difference? Can a person seek the welfare of Zion without seeking to succeed inside the institutional church?  What is the difference between seeking to be a “light unto the world,” on the one hand, and seeking the welfare of Zion, on the other? Can one seek to be a light pointing to Zion, and never be a “light unto the world?” What is the world? What is Zion? How are they different? Can one who seeks the welfare of Zion ever get praise from the world? Can a person curry favor with the world while also seeking to benefit Zion?
 
If not hiring a whore, do we nonetheless watch with delight the portrayal of sexual license to entertain us, fill our thoughts, satisfy our lusts?  Do you need to hire a prostitute to be practicing “whoredoms?” Utah is one of the largest consumers of pornography in the US. Hence, the continual return to this subject in General Conference.
When they do this, in turn the Gentiles will “reject the fullness of my Gospel.” To reject the fullness is not to reject the Gospel itself.  As we have seen, some fragment of the Gospel remains even when it has turned into “iniquity” and “abomination.” Without some fractured segment of the Gospel to salve the conscious and let the people feel good about their sins, there couldn’t be “abominations.”
 
It is not the “Gospel” which is lost. Rather it is the “fullness of my Gospel” which is rejected and then taken away. It is first rejected, then it is forfeited. The Gentiles lose their entitlement to possess what they have rejected.
 
The Father has decreed it will happen. The Gentiles will change the ordinance and break the everlasting covenant. (Isa. 24: 5.)  What ordinance? What change? Has it happened? If not, what will be required to make a change and lose the “everlasting covenant” by the Gentiles?  I hope to avoid that.

Wo, wo, wo

Enoch’s powerful testimony to his condemned contemporaries included this question:  “why counsel ye yourselves , and deny the God of heaven.”  (Moses 6: 43.)  Men in that day preferred to have the counsel of men instead of the word of God, from God.
 
Nephi spoke of the “Zion” of our time and said: “Wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  (2 Ne. 28: 26.)
 
Now having one “wo” pronounced upon a people is a warning of condemnation in this life.  Their ways do not prosper and they suffer setbacks because they listen to the precepts of men.  They fall back.  More concerning is when three “wo’s” are pronounced upon a people.  The connotation being a  condemnation which will last beyond this life and into eternity.  So I take the following statement with some considerable seriousness:
 
“[T]hey have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.  O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell.”  (2 Ne. 28: 14-15.)  Three “wo’s” pronounced and three names of God used to make that warning.  False doctrines and whoredoms are an equivalent in this passage.  That is, you are “whoring” after other false gods, and betraying the true Lord God Almighty, when you preach false doctrines which assure you, in your pride, that you are safe, elect, chosen and better than others.  Such teachers are condemned three-fold. 
 
What an interesting problem we have in front of us.  No-one can trust in any man or men.  All of us are required to hear God’s voice, and follow Him.