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This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

Priesthood and Baptism Questions

I’ve been asked in several emails if the recent post titled “Priesthood and Baptism” means I’m advocating changes to the criteria for baptism. At first I thought the inquiries were unnecessary. But now I think I should clarify:

That recent post included the following introduction: “I answered an email from someone who has read the things I have written about priesthood, including the Elijah materials. He was asking about priesthood held by LDS men who were not in a position of leadership, and inquiring whether LDS missionaries could still offer acceptable baptism. Those who have read what I have written will understand the question and my response.”

I thought it would be clear because when I refer to “what I have written” TWICE in the introduction, I wrongly assumed everyone reading that would understand it means what was said before still mattered. The answer was clarifying that a fully conforming missionary could qualify, and would not be disqualified merely by reason of serving an LDS mission at the time they baptized.  It should not be required to rehearse every detail related to every topic every time a simple issue is raised by a question.

I hope this answers these additional inquiries and helps to point out how to read a post.

Preserving The Restoration Available

Preserving The Restoration has been updated and is available again.

Priesthood and Baptism

I answered an email from someone who has read the things I have written about priesthood, including the Elijah materials. He was asking about priesthood held by LDS men who were not in a position of leadership, and inquiring whether LDS missionaries could still offer acceptable baptism. Those who have read what I have written will understand the question and my response.

I responded as follows:

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In the beginning there was only one, unified priesthood. This is why Joseph commented “all priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different degrees of it.” (I’m paraphrasing his statement.)

If, therefore, any person has been ordained to any portion of priesthood, they have received in part the original, unified priesthood.

In the end of the world the same priesthood which was in the beginning is to return. Adam prophesied this and Enoch recorded Adam’s prophecy. (Moses 6:7.)  It returns when God’s voice confers it upon a man. (JST Gen. 14:29.) Therefore if a man holds some degree of it, and God confers the rest by His voice from heaven, the ordination is completed and the same priesthood which was in the beginning of the world returns.

The LDS Church is not led by men authorized to offer baptism, but it includes many men who could offer baptism. But the form of baptism is strictly prescribed by the Lord in 3 Ne. 11. He explains His doctrine and then directs that anything more or less than this cometh of evil.

The missionaries are required to compel a confession from prospective converts before baptism that they acknowledge Thomas S. Monson as a prophet. This is in Preach My Gospel. It is the second question asked in the baptismal interview. As long as a missionary conforms to the Lord’s direction in 3 Ne. 11, I see no reason why their baptism would not be acceptable to the Lord. But if they follow the direction in Preach My Gospel, then the baptism would need to be redone. Not because of a lack of authority, but because the ordinance has been corrupted.

γνῶσις

Gnosis (γνῶσις) is a Greek noun meaning “knowledge.” A celebrated but errant lecture in Provo recently characterized those who are learning about LDS history and forgotten doctrine, and thereby realizing there are gaps in LDS traditions, to be “Mormon gnostics.” She (and by extension FAIR) apparently are unaware of the many criticisms of Mormonism itself as “gnostic.” I have previously provided links to that talk, the Church News and Meridian Magazine‘s coverage of the talk. I usually don’t comment on such things, but it’s a smoky Sunday here in Sandy (California is burning again) and I’m on-line so I decided to put this up before my wife talks me out of it.

Joseph Smith taught that “Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits no man can be exalted but by knowledge.” (TPJS, p. 357.) In the same talk Joseph said, “If a man has knowledge, he can be saved.” (Id.) Gnosis is at the heart of the Mormonism Joseph Smith taught.

Gnostics often claimed to have “hidden knowledge” that the world could not receive. It was too sacred and would be profaned by public exposure. This characteristic of gnosticism is far more applicable to LDS temple rites than teaching about the Second Comforter, or Christ’s continuing personal ministry. If there is  “Mormon gnosticism,” it is practiced by the temple-attending latter-day saints. If gnosticism is a legitimate term of derision, then it describes the church FAIR attempts to defend.

The proper role is to point people to God and testify that any can come directly to Christ, without an intermediary, and receive Him. I have testified that to receive Christ means His actual appearing to you, not something that happens merely in your heart. We should all echo Joseph Smith’s teaching and the scripture within the LDS Doctrine and Covenants: “John 14:23: The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” (D&C 130:3.)

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.

Preserving the Restoration is now available.

PtR_front_1

 

After a year’s work the book inspired by the ten lectures has been completed and published. It includes a great deal of supporting research and citations which the lectures did not use. Some of the limitations of the talks do not exist for a book. Therefore the book covers more than I could fit into the lecture series and is organized somewhat differently to finish the discussion.

The substance of the book is contained in the ten lectures, the blog posts about King Benjamin and the paper titled Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge. These are available for free on this website. It is not necessary to spend money to acquire the book to learn the substance.

This new book enlarges on subjects and has a better overall organization. It has also made extensive use of the Joseph Smith Papers, the Times and Seasons, conference minutes, contemporary newspapers written in the 1830’s and 1840’s, correspondence from the era. The quotations from those sources leave their language as in the original, with misspellings, cross-outs, improper grammar, etc. At the end of the book there is a “Word Index” that is blank, allowing the reader to fill in citations to pages that the reader may want to find quickly. The book is a reference work to recover the original faith that existed at the beginning of the restoration, the original destiny, and sets out how the restoration can continue despite the fact institutions based on “Mormonism” have universally abandoned the original faith.

Anyone who is interested in Mormonism will benefit from reading this book. It is not hostile to any sect, but attempts to restate the original “Mormonism” for the benefit of anyone in any sect who would like to better understand what their faith started out to accomplish.

You can view details about the book by clicking here or on the image at the top of this post.

Pretensions of Public Piety

The idea of a “wolf” concealing itself in “sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15) comes from the pretense of piety by men whose hearts are set on the things of this world. The more conspicuous the pretensions to piety the quicker people are misled.

John C. Bennett was a notorious adulterer, having abandoned his marriage and family before arriving in Nauvoo. But he was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. His election was unanimous. The citizens of Nauvoo universally admired him.

In his inaugural address on February 3, 1841, his first recommendation for improving the community was to pass an ordinance forbidding bars, dram shops and sales of alcohol by the drink in Nauvoo. He associated drinking with “evil and crime” which could be prevented by adopting his recommended ordinance. The first ordinance adopted by the Nauvoo City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bennett was “An Ordinance in relation to Temperance” passed on February 15, 1841. It prohibited “all persons and establishments” from selling whiskey by the drink in Nauvoo without a physician’s recommendation in writing.

This conspicuous act of public piety reaffirmed the man’s nobility and concealed Bennett’s real inclinations and ongoing betrayal of a wife and children. It made Bennett appear to be the right man to be trusted to lead the community.

This same black-hearted character defended enforcement of morality by compulsion. “Liberty to do good should be cheerfully and freely accorded to every man; but liberty to do evil, which is licentiousness, should be peremptorily prohibited. The public good imperiously demands it.” This was Lucifer’s plan advocated anew by Nauvoo’s first mayor. Given Bennett’s inclinations, maybe he proposed forcing morality on citizens because he knew it was the only way he could be moral.

John C. Bennett also appears to be the first Mormon to quote Francis Bacon: “Knowledge is power.” This slogan is now carved on a monument at one of the entrances to BYU. So far as I have discovered, it was John C. Bennett’s Inaugural Address in February 1841 that this quote first found its way into Mormon use.

In hindsight, it is so very easy to pick out Bennett’s pretensions to piety and to see them for what they are. Nauvoo elected the man by unanimous vote to be the first mayor of the Mormon city because they could not see what he really was. His attire was so very sheep-like they could not conceive they were upholding a wolf.

Today it is probably no different. Wolves are still trusted with the treasury, given honor, and smothered with adoration. Joseph Smith had little confidence in mankind’s ability to decide between the real and the imitation. He explained it this way: “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth, (see Hebrews 11:38), and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” (DHC, Vol. 4, p. 574; also TPJS, p. 206.) Anything claimed to be truth should conform with the truths already given in scripture. Everyone’s motives should be questioned until it is determined by sufficient observation they are sheep. Any teaching or person who draws us to them, and does not point us to the Lord is unable to help us. If they try to supplant Christ as the object of admiration, then they are anti-Christ and a false prophet.

Second Comforter

As foreign translations of The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil are being considered, one question that has come up is whether the book ought to be updated to reflect changes since its original publication 9 years ago. There will be no changes made in the book. If there is a third edition, there will be no changes made there either.

I was an active, faithful Latter-day Saint when the book was written. It is a correct statement of the LDS Church beliefs at that time. The book preserves an important moment in time, before even more radical changes to the LDS Church were made.

When the book was written it was understood that “the second Comforter” referred to Christ. The footnotes in LDS scripture confirmed John 14: 16, 18 and 23 were referring to Christ. They were Christ’s promise that He would appear to His disciples. In the latest revisions to the LDS scriptures, the reference was changed and redefined to mean the Holy Ghost, and not Christ.

The LDS Church has not yet changed, altered or deleted the explanation to John 14:23 in the D&C. That volume of scripture still states: “John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.”  (D&C 130: 3.)

The elimination of the footnotes was not inadvertent. The LDS Church no longer teaches that it is possible for a faithful Latter-day Saint to receive the Second Comforter. As recently as June 13, 2015, LDS assistant historian Richard Turley and church apostle Dallin Oaks traveled to Boise, Idaho, and while there denounced the idea of church members having spiritual experiences that go “entirely against all the rules of order that we have talked about.” (Recording at 59 minutes.) Turley, quoting President Spencer W. Kimball, warned that this kind of experience “may not come from God. I am sure that there may be many spectacular things performed because the devil is very responsive.” (Id.)

Dealing directly with the Second Comforter, Turley denounced the claim, “only those who see the face of Jesus Christ in mortality will receive Celestial Glory.” (Id.)

Elder Oaks added: “the suggestions that this must happen in mortality is a familiar tactic of the adversary.” (Recording at 1 hr. 30 seconds.)

If these statements are not enough, a talk at FAIR was covered by both the Church News and LDS Meridian Magazine. The Church News headlined their article “Speaker identifies ‘spiritual threat‘.” In that article, it reports it is spiritually threatening to have “an inordinate interest in the Second Comforter.” LDS Meridian Magazine reprinted the talk. The talk states it is wrong to have, “Inordinate interest in the Second Comforter or Second Anointing, complaints that the church does not teach or emphasize them enough, and belief that books or teachings by individuals who are not church leaders are the best way to obtain them.”

The last time the Second Comforter was mentioned in general conference was in the early 1970’s. It is not covered in Priesthood, Relief Society or Gospel Doctrine lesson manuals of the church. It is not on the correlation committee’s approved list of topics suitable for discussion.

The book The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil uses scripture, traditional sources and quotes from LDS Church leaders, including Joseph Smith, and books printed by Deseret Book and Bookcraft (a subsidiary of Deseret Book).  It is an entirely orthodox book 9 years ago. It represents the actual position of the LDS faith when it was printed.

The shift in just 9 years is so dramatic that the book needs stay just as it is. It demonstrates how very much the LDS Church has changed, and how quickly it did so. It is an important historical document preserving a snapshot that allows a stark contrast to be made in the minds of anyone interested in understanding a rapidly changing institution losing track of its most fundamental teachings.

FAIR Conference

FAIR held a conference in Provo on August 6th and 7th. Presentations included the following speakers/topics:

Ed Pinegar: How to help young Latter-day Saints deal with criticisms against the Church and the doubts they cause while remaining faithful.

Margaret Barker: The Mother in Heaven and Her Children.

Brittany Chapman: An Act of Religious Conviction: Mormon Women and Nineteenth-Century Polygamy.

Ron Dennis: Captain Dan Jones: Defender of the Faith in Wales.

Brant Gardner: History and Historicity in the Book of Mormon.

James D. Gordon III: Faith and Scholarship.

Mrs. Brian D. Hales: Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding.

Cassandra Hedelius: A house of order, a house of God: Recycled challenges to the legitimacy of the church.

Michael R. Otterson: Correcting The Record.

Dan Peterson: The Reasonable Leap into Light: A Barebones Secular Argument for the Gospel.

Paul Reeve: From Not White Enough, to Too White: Rethinking the Mormon Racial Story.

Stephen Webb: Why Mormon Materialism Matters.

Lynne Wilson: Christ’s Emancipation of Women in the New Testament from their Cultural Background and Baggage.

These all sound like great presentations. But the LDS Church News only reported on two of the talks: Otterson’s talk (he is employed in the LDS Church Public Relations Department) and Hedelius, an attorney working for the government somewhere near Washington DC.

The LDS Church News article did not clearly identify what (or who) Hedelius was targeting. (See, Speaker identifies ‘spiritual threat’, August 16, 2015, p. 11.) That omission has been fixed by LDS Meridian Magazine which has now published her entire talk, with footnotes, here: “A House of Order; A House of God: Recycled Challenges to the legitimacy of the Church.” http://ldsmag.com/a-house-of-order-a-house-of-god-recycled-challenges-to-the-legitimacy-of-the-church/

Dan Peterson and Ed Pinegar are usually more noticed than an obscure speaker on her maiden voyage into FAIR.