BOWbutton

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

 

Record Keeping

The Recorder has posted a notice he wanted me to flag here. The “Notice” concerns submission of names for recording and appears here: http://www.recordersclearinghouse.com/2015/06/

The names for 2012, 2013, 2014 need to be submitted today, July 1st, to allow the record for those years to be arranged alphabetically in the book he is now preparing. Late submissions will never be rejected, but will not appear in the alphabetical order (or perhaps in the appropriate year) as the handwritten record is kept. The scriptures always speak about “blotting out”–which is an apt way to describe a handwritten record. You cannot erase or expand a handwritten record as it can be done with an electronic data base. So when the Record is prepared by the Recorder, it is done also by hand (as instructed) and therefore once a year is completed, any later submitted missing names will be added in another year’s list. Alphabetizing each year’s names makes locating a name much easier if it ever needs to be located in the future.

 

Section 132

Any complex subject involving Mormon history, doctrine or practice is always part of a larger picture. If that larger picture is not part of the analysis, things can be confusing. It is impossible to lay out everything in a single comment. Might I remind you that I never make any attempt to tell everything I think, believe or know in a single post or book.

The discussion about Section 132 has provoked additional questions. Those questions, if answered, will lead to still more questions. In response to the current round of questions I’ve received I would add:

1. It is the LDS Church and “fundamentalists” who claim Section 132 authorizes their past and present practices. Therefore, they must accept it as is, intact, and deal with the issues raised for their practice by the very revelation they claim justifies their behavior. They can’t really begin to question or limit the language. For both of these the “one man at a time” issue is fundamental because it identifies who they must follow. The questions I posed to the polygamists about who authorized their current practice (as the “one”) remains the right question for them to sort out.

2. The meaning of “one man at a time on the earth” was interpreted by Brigham Young (and all subsequent believers in Section 132) to mean only one man can authorize plural marriages. The language is in the transcript as a parenthetical inside verse 7. This raises the question of whether it was there in the first place, or if it was there but located somewhere else in the transcript originally and was moved there, or if it was not there at all in the original. Looking at the surviving document won’t help (see point 6, below).

3. There is an idea that the term “one man at a time on the earth” is part of the earliest gospel. It has nothing to do with plural wives. It has to do with the original Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God, which has a single individual in each generation in the family structure. But that has nothing to do with the way Section 132 is generally interpreted or understood. In practical terms, the way Section 132 uses “one man at a time on the earth” should be interpreted as a unique elevation of a single individual elected by God to become the Holy Spirit of Promise. In most generations, the office of the Holy Spirit of Promise belongs to and is filled by God. Understanding of this subject did not survive Joseph’s martyrdom. Explaining it would only invite the deceivers to step forward and claim they are such an officeholder and are entitled to respect (and probably money and more sex partners given what we’ve seen from the fundamentalists).

4. I do think there was a revelation concerning plural wives. I think Section 132 is an altered text and probably not what was given to Joseph.

5. The practice of adoption (or what was sometimes called “man-to-man sealing”) appears to have been a very late development and was not preserved in a way that we can understand what Joseph was doing. Before that very late development, the idea of eternal “sealing” seems to have been confined to marriages. When Joseph organized family relationships, it seems to have been entirely by intermarriages at first. This allowed a family to be sealed to Joseph Smith by his marrying the daughters, then sealing parents, etc. together as an extended family unit. The record of Joseph’s “proposals” for marriages to some church leader’s daughters (if the accounts are reliable) seem to have been worded by Joseph with this idea in mind.

Marriage sealing would also allow a married couple to be sealed to Joseph by sealing the wife to Joseph, then the husband and wife together, and then sealing them all together as a single family unit. The idea this could be changed to a form of sealing by adoption of a man to another man as father/son seems to have been a very late development, poorly explained, and not preserved with an ordinance that survived Joseph’s death. This has left the topic to scholarly debate and speculation. Much of the confusion about what Joseph was doing in sealings of marriages, and confusion about “adoption” of men to men or what was called “man to man sealing” is because Joseph died before he clearly established the practice. It died with him. Perhaps that was in the wisdom of God to prevent abuse and pretensions by the people left behind in Nauvoo.

6. Since William Clayton wrote the original, and was still alive and close to Brigham Young when Section 132 was made public, it is possible the original was re-written by Clayton before its publication in 1852. The Joseph Smith Papers project may be of some help. But at this late date, given Charles Wandell’s diary, it is probably hopeless for us to untangle the questions from a search and examination of available records.

7. Until Passing the Heavenly Gift, everything I wrote was intended to leave the LDS Church claims unchallenged. I was an active member of the institution and felt inclined to sustain the organization’s claims. Everything in The Second Comforter, Nephi’s Isaiah, Eighteen Verses, Beloved Enos, Come, Let us Adore Him, Remembering the Covenant (5 Vols.), and Ten Parables was composed by me as a faithful and loyal Latter-day Saint. In Passing the Heavenly Gift, I asked questions and proposed another framework for the events of the restoration. In the book, the issues were explored as possibilities, missing or unmentioned historical evidence was set out, and the reader was left to choose for themselves what to conclude. After that book, I was excommunicated and no longer felt the need to defend or sustain the organization. The content of Essays: Three Degrees is compatible with traditional LDS beliefs, although the Brigham Young essay does not flatter President Young. It is not unfair to him, but would not please his fans. Now, however, what I write, say or teach is done without any need on my part to consider what, if any, effect it may have on the the church. The next book will address the foundational beginning of the restoration, its prophetic future, and what is still required.

The restoration is about to be completely compromised by the institutional LDS organization. If we do not establish another way to avoid the coming catastrophe, the restoration will utterly fail. The movement begun now will seem very prescient in a few years. In coming days many people will want a place to land as the LDS Church undergoes changes to retain their standing, favorable tax status, popularity and wealth. People need a place to fellowship where they can function and learn how to preserve the restoration in a place that will be a refuge for those fleeing an increasingly corrupt organization.

What has begun may seem small, unnecessary and even rebellious at present. It will not be long before it is viewed very differently.

Alterations and Emendations

To a crowd in Nauvoo two months before he died Joseph Smith declared:

“You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace.” (DHC 6:317.)

He was talking to believers. They assumed Joseph was like them. They projected onto him all their misapprehensions, desires, and ambitions as if they were his. But the crowd who was prideful, quarrelsome, arrogant, and foolish accepted among their ranks those who were engaged in adultery, conspiracies, financial speculation, and counterfeiting.

June 27th, two months after his public lament, Joseph was slain. His legacy was in the custody of the very group who did not know him. Those same people have now bequeathed to us their misapprehensions and errors. When we get to the anniversary of Joseph’s martyrdom we mourn the loss of a man who remains, for most, a misunderstood stranger on whom we project the errors of that same Nauvoo group.

The challenges with Joseph’s history began early. When John Whitmer, Church Historian and record keeper, left the faith in 1838 he took the history he had been keeping with him. That required a do-over.

But telling Joseph’s history was entrusted to others. The Publication Committee members believed they had the right to make clarifications and emendations, and proceeded to do so. Today we have a conventional account of plural marriage handed to us by the proud descendants of the Nauvoo crowd who never knew Joseph. When that view is challenged, their descendants rise up in their pride to challenge and condemn a truer view of the prophet who never did harm to any man since he was born into the world.

Following Joseph Smith’s death, there was an aggressive effort to change the records to support the new polygamous administration of Brigham Young. A recent author wrote:

“The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that ‘no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed’ is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: ‘I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Navuoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838.'” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.)

I believe the unpublished text of Section 132 (the revelation on eternal marriage including plurality of wives) may have been one of the texts deliberately altered before its publication. Clearly, there were differences between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the subject of plural wives. Compare these two passages from the text published by Brigham Young in 1852:

First, the tight controls which must be in place before any authorized additional wife could be taken (in the second part of the revelation):

Verse 29: “Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord…” [God directly commanded him.]

Verse 39: “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife…” [A prophet specifically authorized the marriages.]

Now compare these limits with the any-thing-goes-if-you-can-talk-the-virgins-into-it language later in the same transcript:

Verses 61-62: “And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.”

The contrast between the strict limitations of verses 29 and 39, which seem to have been what was underway during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, with the much broader license of verses 61-62, which seem to be a description of what happened with Brigham Young’s practice, raises questions of alterations and emendations with the text. Brigham Young expanded the practice further (perhaps because of the short supply of additional virgins) to include widows, divorcees, and other men’s wives (if you held more keys than her current husband). The published revelation seems to have cross-purposes and cross-motivations.

We know how Brigham Young advocated and practiced taking additional wives. What we have about Joseph Smith is very limited, and there is little first-hand information tying him to something definite.

Contrast these verses:

Verse 7: “…(and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred)…”

Verse 39: “…by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power…”

The first publication of Section 132 had the parenthetical statement limiting it to “one on the earth at a time.” Nathan was younger than David, and likely would have been functioning as a prophet throughout David’s lifetime. If others gave David wives, in addition to Nathan, while Nathan was still living, then there was not “only one at a time.”

Brigham Young fought Parley Pratt over who was able to authorize plural marriages.  The dispute began before Section 132 was published. When Brigham Young called for his election as “president” in December 1847, part of his reason for wanting the office was to make it clear that Parley Pratt did not have equal right to authorize plural marriages. He wanted sole control. He claimed that right as president, and verse 7’s parenthetical insertion justifies his claim to exclusivity. If it were not there, Brigham Young could not thwart other apostles’ claims to the right to seal marriages. Brigham Young elevated his rhetoric about unauthorized plural marriages  by asserting they were “adulterous” if HE alone did not authorize them. When Parley was murdered by Elenor McLean’s husband, Hector, in 1857 Brigham Young remarked the killing was justified because of Pratt’s adultery.

Section 132 is the only substantive evidence originating directly from Joseph Smith on the subject of plural wives. What if it does not actually contain an unaltered text? What if the best proof we have is compromised by LDS leaders between Joseph’s death in 1844 and publication eight years later?

The overwhelming body of now accepted proof about what Joseph did, said and thought about the practice is taken from information gathered, produced or composed after the public announcement in 1852, and much of it decades after that.

Almost everyone has their mind made up about this topic, so it is unlikely for any new opinions to be formed on this subject by the present generation. But I believe the LDS Church has done a poor job of protecting the name and reputation of Joseph Smith. Had the record not been flooded with post-1852 advocacy for Brigham Young’s practices, it is much more likely Mormons would share Emma Smith’s explanation of Joseph’s conduct than the one commonly accepted today.

Reclaiming Joseph’s name and reputation on this topic seems like an unlikely battle to win today. The Nauvoo descendants continue to impose on Joseph their inherited misapprehensions.

I mourn Joseph’s death today. But I mourn every day the sometimes grotesque caricature that the proud descendants of Nauvoo pretend is an authentic picture of a man they never knew.

Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley was an apologist. He did not expand, alter, amend, or correct anything Joseph Smith accomplished. He defended Joseph’s work and labored to better understand it. His life’s work focused on antiquity to demonstrate the restoration through Joseph Smith was authentic. Antiquity was useful in recognizing that Joseph was the real thing, an authentic prophet. Nibley’s work confirmed there were details of the restoration that were mirrored throughout the ancient world in past, fallen civilizations. He never preferred the ancients over Joseph, but showed us that Joseph “restored” what was lost from earlier ages. Hugh Nibley did not presume to change Joseph’s work, instead he tried to change our appreciation for it.

The Search

The search for the truth is individual. Everyone must undertake if for themselves. One woman’s search is never the same as another’s. One man’s experiences will never be another’s. That does not mean there are never common elements. Mileposts along the way are common to almost all searches.

Where is the most valuable place to start the search? This question requires us to answer others. For example, was Joseph Smith divinely inspired to translate and publish the Book of Mormon? Were his revelations and translations of other records also divinely inspired?

Since I believe Joseph Smith was divinely inspired, the search for me begins there. It requires me to then proceed in these steps: First, find information about Joseph’s teachings, translations, discussions, revelations and beliefs from the most reliable sources. This is not as easy as it once seemed. The materials made available through The Joseph Smith Papers, for example, require some assumptions and conclusions to be revised, discarded, modified or perhaps even noticed for the first time. A great deal of information about Joseph’s life, his words, even his revelations has not been accurately transmitted across a mere two centuries. But this is the best and most recent place for the search to begin.

Second, Joseph’s paradigm must be adapted, modified and corrected by what the new view of Joseph Smith’s ministry reveals and recovers. This is not easy because traditions and presumptions are part of our internal thinking. We hold on to presumptions until forced to abandon them. Even if we think we can begin with a blank slate, we cannot. We do not know what we do not know, and therefore proceed blind to these defects. It requires us to be ever willing to admit we need and must accept correction. This is not easy, but it is necessary.

Third, we must live our lives in conformity with the truth as we understand it so that we gather light and truth from heaven. We cannot live hypocrisy and expect divine aid. We cannot abuse our neighbors and expect divine favor. We are helped by God as we are clean before Him. He (and we) know if we have clean hands and a pure heart.

Fourth, until we have done the work of the first three, there is no justified expectation to discover or have revealed to us something new. Revelation comes at the end of the search, not at the beginning. When, however, the revelation comes, we must be willing to accept it and then reconsider everything in the first three steps in light of what we have gained in the fourth. Even if we think we are living true to the light we had before, once we have more light we must reflect that in our lives. What we did, said, believed or thought before may no longer be consistent with what was just learned.

Likewise, the work of the second step (adaptation, modification and correction) may be wholly inadequate for what new truth has been gained.  And finally, the first step (source interpretation and understanding) may change because of the new light.

Every one of us is put through this same process. None of us are spared.

This leads to the question of how to integrate what has been gained in this process with other important information. The best example of a faithful search I can think of is Hugh Nibley. His relentless searching was always informed by the primacy of Joseph Smith and the restoration. He believed in the Book of Mormon even when the LDS Church and its leaders did not. This is discussed in Eighteen Verses. Brother Nibley was himself a restorationist who amplified our understanding of antiquity. However, Hugh Nibley died three years before a single volume of The Joseph Smith Papers was in print. He died five years before the five volumes of The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young were available in print. He never had an opportunity to see or read most of what Brigham Young said. He died before many of the journals of church leaders and apostles were made available. Brother Nibley’s work sought to harmonize the restoration with antiquity. He did a great work. But he lived and died without having at his disposal a great body of additional material now accessible to us. It begs the question of whether he would (or should) have reconsidered the content and meaning of the restoration and Joseph’s teachings if he learned new information by that process. From all that can be said about Hugh Nibley, it is apparent to me he would have rethought everything he learned if new revelation of the restoration suggested it ought to be done.

There was a prominent anti-Mormon radio preacher named “Dr. Walter Martin.” He had a radio call in show I listened to for years. He got most of what he said about Mormonism from dubious source material and he made bombastic claims that were unpersuasive to anyone who had read the widely available book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards–still a very good book. But Dr. Walter Martin had a constant refrain: “It is the first principle of Biblical hermeneutics that you interpret the old in light of the new.” Meaning, you understand the Old Testament by study of the New Testament. It is a sound principle. Of course, he violated this first principle when it came to the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s revelations. He discarded the new and judged it only by the old.

This is the one rule Dr. Walter Martin and I agree upon. I apply that across the board with all learning, study and meditation. To recover the past we do not begin the search there, but we begin the search with the latest revelation and attempt to recover truth as we measure it beside what we have received in our day from God.

If the search and accompanying conclusions into Joseph and the restoration are much different now than they were just a few years ago, and the intervening traditions and practices are clearly divergent from Joseph’s in just four generations, what does that tell us about caution for antiquity’s remaining documents? Even our understanding of New Testament times is only fragmentary. The historian Norman F. Cantor wrote about how little we really understand the middle ages in his book titled, Inventing the Middle Ages. He explains how traditions rather than proof inform much of our re-creation of the period in the relatively recent past. Going back another millennium to the New Testament is even more difficult. And the earliest ages are more challenging still.

The farther back we journey the more we need the restoration to guide, inform and set the framework for the search. This is why Joseph Smith was a necessary figure in this late date in history. We will not get far if we do not accept him as the indispensable milestone marker for the correct path that God would ask us to follow for the walk back to His presence.

I advocate study of the past, including Egypt. What I do not suggest is we measure Joseph Smith by beginning with the New Testament, Old Testament or Egypt. We work backward to test for truth. I think anyone who believes in the restoration would agree with that.

Disputations

I have been contacted now twice by people who are either involved or witnessing a dispute in southern Utah. I do not know the parties, but have had contact with both and know one side’s principal players.
When I first got a call about this about a week and a half ago I declined to be involved. I suggested to the caller that they let the matter die, and if any offense has been given to just let the offense rest there, and return good for evil.
I know very little about the substance of the claims being made. As I consider the problem it appears to me that the whole one side vs. the other approach is doomed to cause nothing but turmoil. Having a “winner” will alienate the “loser’s” supporters.
The approach suggested by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount is to dismiss the whole winner/loser approach and instead admonish both sides to forgive the other and suffer the abuse they’ve received, returning good for evil. I’ve been advocating that approach to anyone and everyone involved in this conflict.
I think more is at stake here than just deciding the winner. The conflict is being used to foster another, much larger and more effective problem. It has been forged by an opponent to the incipient restoration movement designed to frustrate and polarize everyone involved. It is designed to create enduring conflict, serious alienation among believers and thwart the purposes of God.
It is hard for those whose hearts have been broken by abuse from an institution to begin to trust others in fellowship when they encounter yet another round of abuse, accusation, frustration and imposition at the hands of those claiming to be their brothers and sisters.
I try to be a peacemaker. I try to avoid participation in conflict and to do my best to take abuse but never return it. I probably fail in this, but it is my honest objective and deepest intent.
We are facing the same kinds of conflicts that drove the saints to incur God’s condemnation early in the restoration. I now rejoice only in the fact that we have made no effort to gather. The lesson I draw from this conflict is that everyone on both sides, as well as those who choose a side and work to amplify the conflict,–every participant would be a dangerous neighbor to have living alongside others in any New Jerusalem.
If we are not wise enough to avoid conflicts, then we should bear abuses and insults with grace, kindness and charity when they force themselves upon us. I do not know how we can be gathered if we are quarrelsome, accusing and insulting of one another. How can that please God?
Maybe it is impossible to avoid taking sides. Maybe we need to choose, even with a great deal of ignorance of any facts, understanding of the parties, familiarity with the events, or knowledge of these people’s hearts… But to me that seems more a formula for recreating Kirtland, returning to Missouri, repeating Nauvoo or marching into the salty wasteland of the Great Basin than following Enoch to the mountains and meeting with our Father and our God.
If it is possible for you to take the role of the peacemaker, please do. If you can help restore harmony, please make the effort. It will be worth the effort to try, even if you fail.
Thanks to each of you for all you have done and all you do to help bring this work along according to God’s desire for us all. Let us go on to defeat the jarrings, contentions, strifes and envyings among us. We have a perfect opportunity with this challenge to at least make the attempt. Do not let it pass you by without the effort to address it in a godly and meek way.

KUTV Interview

Yesterday Channel 2 news (KUTV) interviewed me in my office for a news story they broadcasted yesterday and again this morning, titled “LDS church holds special meeting to denounce ‘false prophets’.” Their broadcast contained three excerpts from the interview. An audio recording of the entire interview is now available on the Downloads page.

Friends and Spokesmen:

I have a number of thoughtful and very religious friends I respect and discuss many subjects with, but with whom I have significantly differing views on many matters. I make no effort to change their way of thinking, and afford them the freedom to explain their views without interruption or disagreement. If I am pressed, I will offer my own contrary views, but for the most part I am not pressed and I do not comment on their “causes.” I regard them as friends and value their views. It is possible many of our conversations are as a result of them calling and wanting my input, assurance, or approval about something they are studying or discussing with others. For my part, I am not inclined to discuss with them anything other than what I believe. That does not include disabusing them of their strongly held beliefs. According to Joseph Smith, “It does not prove a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5:340.) Below are a few of the major points friends of mine emphasize without necessarily having my agreement with their viewpoints:

Multiple-Mortal-Probations:  Several friends believe almost all scriptural dilemmas are solved by using the “multiple mortalities doctrine” to explain events. They think many of the characters in scripture are the same individual returning again and again on missions to serve others. For them, it is very important that one know their prior life’s identity and from that everything else falls into place. I have friends who speak about the topic almost at every turn, and I listen to their thoughts, explanations and exegesis of scripture. I do not agree with their understanding of the subject. I doubt very much that anyone (let alone everyone) returns to this sphere in the normal course of history, although I do think the scriptures support the inevitability of progression by degrees through different estates. If returning were an option, it would be unlikely the Lord’s disciples would have looked upon “the long absence of [their] spirits from [their] bodies to be a bondage.” (D&C 45:17) If His disciples were going to have a “long absence of their spirits from their bodies” (meaning they were to die and remain in the spirit world), then a frequent recycling back into mortality was not going to happen for them. Hence their desire to escape the spirit bondage by either resurrection (coming quickly into the Lord’s kingdom) or translation (linger in the flesh) to remain of service as a ministering angel here.

It seems unlikely to me that we have more than one turn in any given creation for a mortal experience. When, however, a new creation is made, it seems inevitable that those who will populate it are chosen beforehand, participate in the planning, and are assigned to come live there as another “estate” in the long path of progression.

I dismiss the idea someone has been told by God that he is the former King Solomon returned to mortality, in part because I know of at least three claiming to be “King Solomons” living now. I know of several “John the Baptists,” enough “Peters” to form a congregation, and the plentiful “Jeremiahs” could play a college football game filling both rosters.

Most importantly, the concept of returning and knowing your prior identity seems counter-productive to me. The claim to have been some prior prophet, king or apostle returned again can quickly lead to arrogance, or complacency. Even if it were true, what good does it do? Does some past experience relieve you from passing the test now underway? If not, then what does it matter? No one claims to be the lowest ranking Roman soldier responsible for crucifying Christ. No one I know espousing this idea claims to have been an obscure, disease-ridden serf whose short life ended in filth or violence. They prize the idea because they were great before, trusted by God, and are now returned as a personal favor to the Divine King to slum with us a while for our good. It is vanity.

Devils:  I say very little about opposing Satan and his minions by direct combat. For me the topic creates more mischief than if I leave it alone. I have a friend who spends a great deal of time dealing with the subject and actively working against such influences. Clearly the Lord’s ministry included confrontations, rebuking and freeing others from demons, and directly confronting the adversary. For me in helping others, the greatest problem created by our adversary is the confusion, false ideas, and subtle errors. Far greater harm is done with the general population by convincing people to believe a mixture of truth and error than through suffering from demonic possession. False traditions, priestcraft, and mixing philosophies of men with scripture is the wholesale way mankind is afflicted and harmed. The small retail operation of possession is a great concern, but only to a very few. I leave that issue for others to battle.

There is a paper written by the attorney Ron Poulton dealing with mental health issues and evil spirit possession. It is a very interesting work, written for psychologists. Ron has a rigorous mind and is a thoughtful man. His ideas are consistent with scripture. There are those who have been cured of mental afflictions using that approach. If it works, even for a few, then the benefit is worth it. I think his paper is available on-line.

Ancient Egypt:  I have a friend who is extremely interested in ancient Egypt and all things Egyptian. There is a great deal of truth preserved by the ancients of Egypt, and he is intent on harvesting it. I applaud his efforts, but leave that work for him to pursue.

Egypt was founded as an “imitation” and not the real thing. (Abr. 1:26) What the founder of Egypt sought to imitate was the original “order established by the fathers in the first generations” including Adam. (Id.) We do not have that original, even in the Restoration. We have discussions of the original religion’s effect, but not its rites, practices and particulars. So an imitation may be useful to us. But by the time Abraham migrated to Egypt, the imitation was so corrupted that Abraham was sent to lecture on missing, confused, incorrect and misunderstood elements of the Gospel. (See Fac. 3) In Facsimile No. 3 Abraham is depicted with a crown “representing the Priesthood” which he actually held. The Pharaoh, on the other hand, was “of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood.” (Abr. 1:27) Therefore, what Abraham imported to Egypt came when they were already corrupted and off the mark. Depending on how you date Egypt’s dynasties and how you fix the date for Abraham’s life, he entered Egypt anywhere from as early as the Third Dynasty or as late as the Sixteenth Dynasty. The earlier the dating, the more severe the problem was for Egypt to preserve the original order.

When you compare what Joseph Smith was doing just four generations ago with what “Mormonism” looks like today, you can see how quickly things are altered, forgotten and supplanted. That is a cautionary tale to us about relying on the past as a guide to inform our understanding. If the Egyptians were like us, then by the Third Dynasty things were in disarray because their faith had been altered, important truths had been forgotten, and many original practices were supplanted by innovations and incompletions. By the Sixteenth it would have been quite a mess.

So the search goes back from the late Book of Breathings (perhaps an Abraham-era product/which would put things more toward the Sixteenth Dynasty than the Third), to the earlier Coffin Texts, to the earliest Pyramid Texts to try to get the most accurate version. But in the end even the stone of the pyramids could have been recarved, repainted, and altered by later dynasties to comport with what they later believed. So the fact something is carved in stone is no guarantee it had not been altered. The disparate dimensions of the head and body of the Sphinx, for example, suggest tampering with stone structures to supplant the earlier depiction of the constellation Leo with the head of a later Pharaoh. Was it the product of Khafra, Khufu, Djedfre or someone else? I appreciate the insights this friend recovers from his study.  But I do not share his affection for Egypt, founded as it was by one excluded from the patriarchal line and only able to imitate it.

Keys to Interpret:  I have friends who believe they have stumbled onto the absolutely reliable, completely infallible key to interpreting scriptural prophecy. These friends believe they can understand all the details, dates and sequence of future events, including some in the very near future. They believe they can calculate exactly what the prophecies mean, because their “key” unlocks the truth. Using their analytical approach, they believe they can “prove” their interpretation of scripture. They rule out, or rule in, what is possible for God by their “key” of interpreting. But there is no such thing, and interpretation belongs only to God. He alone will decide how to vindicate His word, His covenants and His promises.

I do not believe there is any ability to use prophecy to establish beforehand detailed knowledge of the events they foretell. Prophecy does not have that purpose. The purpose is to show ONLY that God knows the end from the beginning. (Abr. 2:8) He proves He is God by declaring beforehand. (Isa. 42:9) It is for one purpose: To prove God knows beforehand. (Isa. 48:3-5) It is not to allow us to know, only to prove after the event has happened that God knew of it beforehand.

For example, when Christ was here, the scriptures did not inform His followers in sufficient detail for them to recognize who He was or what He was sent to do. They did not understand the need for Him to die at Jerusalem. (Matt. 16:21-22) They did not expect His resurrection and did not believe it when first told it had happened. (Luke 24:9-11) When He expounded the scriptures to Cleopas and a companion on the Road to Emmaus the day of His resurrection, they did not understand the scriptures foretold all the events until after He explained it for them. (Luke 24:13-32) Even after seeing Him they did not understand the prophetically foretold new dispensation and their obligations to act in spreading the word. They returned to fishing. (John 21:1-5) These were the ones most directly in contact with the most important, most prophetically foretold figure in history. But they were unable to understand Him or recognize His role when He came. It was only after His ministry ended that He acquired the identity, the recognition and the role that vindicated prophecy.

Prophecy is not understood until after it is fulfilled. Those friends who think they have a “key” to interpret events and know how God will fulfill the prophecies cause them to miss what happens in plain sight right in front of them. Their “key” is another form of conceit.

Buddhists:  I have friends who are Buddhist/Mormon or Mormon-Buddhists. They think their study of eastern mysticism gives them an advantage in enlightenment. I have had several conversations that illustrate the difficulties of a mere transcendent enlightenment experience.

In visionary encounters, friends have seen themselves as an enlightened beings, and in that role experienced peace, joy and love. They have overcome the pains, jealousies and distress of the mortal sphere, and believe this reflects great credit upon themselves. In fact, almost all come to see themselves through enlightenment as having independent worth, no longer in need of a savior or the Christ. They think themselves equal to the Christ and responsible for their own salvation.

The frequent comment I have heard from these transcendental meditation practitioners is that there is no need of a savior. We are all god.

With newfound enlightenment they have become more dissatisfied with LDS Mormonism than before, ceased activity, and within a few years disassociated altogether from Mormonism. This has caused problems in their family relationships as they seek for something more.

We all have need of a savior. None of us come to the Father apart from Christ. Salvation depends on our rescue by Him. Seeing ourselves in that role does not make it our role. We are given a glimpse of what He is like for the purpose of making us appreciate Him, seek for Him, model Him, and understand Him. When we are relieved of pain it is because He knows how to succor each of us in our weakness and sin. (Alma 7:12) Experiencing that relief is not to make us proud and independent, but to draw us closer to Him.

These Buddhist friends, as many others who seek for and obtain visionary encounters, neglect their responsibility to then take what has been shown them and integrate the understanding of it into the pattern set out in scripture. If they use the scriptures to guide their understanding they would have known that Christ is the only one who can deliver us, forgive sins, heal afflictions and provide us comfort. Instead of accepting the truth in scripture, many of them assume the newfound Buddhist explanation negates the need for a savior. But it is the Lord, not mere man, who was God. And abandoning Christ because of an encounter with “enlightenment” is going backward, not forward.

Progressive Social Ideas:  I have a friend whose feminist leanings inspire all of his analysis of scripture, Joseph Smith’s sermons, and the temple rites. He advocates for a Divine Feminine Christ figure, and even names her. His keen insights into inequities and priestly exploitation of women are valuable and much of what he notices is entirely accurate. His solutions do not persuade me. They create more problems, in my view, and are contrary to the very scriptures he uses to support his arguments. I do not dispute him, and find a great deal of value in reading his ideas and analysis. He at least has the commitment and desire to search carefully, think deeply, and advocate forcefully about gospel topics. His voice should be allowed to add to the discussion. He uncovers the problems and makes them undeniable.

I do not have an agenda, political goal, or social cause. I want to conform my thinking to what I can understand of God’s will. It is more important to me to learn of God’s will than it is for me to change God’s will. I doubt very much my own insights will ever be wiser, more compassionate, or better informed than God’s. In that regard, all ideas (including my friends’) must first be advocated by God, and not opposed by scripture, before I could accept them.

I do not verbally or openly disagree or argue with any of these friends. Their ideas are interesting to me, and I enjoy their passion. I do not share their viewpoints, nor believe their ideas are necessary for me to either accept or correct.  I try to do what I am asked, when I am asked, and how I am asked. I leave all else for the Lord to manage. I am but a single individual, and no one person can accomplish what God alone controls.

I say only a tiny fraction of what I understand, even with all I have spoken, written and published.

Friends have many strongly held beliefs, insights and opinions. They belong to them, not to me. I have no spokesman. No one should replace what I have taught openly, published and recorded (in now publicly available sources) by another, purportedly private discussion as what I “really think” about some mystery. I do not and have not ratified or endorsed any of the causes, claims or precepts advanced by others.

I speak for myself directly and without an agent. I let others speak for themselves.

Necessity of Baptism

There can be no doubt baptism is necessary. As explained in the Book of Mormon:

And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water! And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. (2 Ne. 31:5-11.)

It is required of us for our salvation because Christ made it so and the scriptures unequivocally state that is the case. There is no question about its necessity. The only question is: is your baptism sufficient as the Lord is preparing for His return? Ask yourself these simple questions: Would you be willing to participate in a rite designed by God to show you have repented? Is there any merit for you to establish a record today to show that you have repented? Do you acknowledge baptism a required sign requested by God for us to perform as a sign of our repentance?

Remember the Lord’s warning in 1831: “I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.” (D&C 45:2.)

Recall Jeremiah’s vision of the end when the Lord returns again: “Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8:19-20.) “Graven images” can include anything and anyone which offers itself up as an object of devotion supplanting Christ. “Strange vanities” include well reasoned arguments fashioned to build up false faith or tear down true faith. Either one will leave us unsaved at the coming harvest if we do not repent, and accept the terms Christ established, including baptism.

Please consider whether the day may come when you may want to have been baptized to show your current repentance by the act Christ established as necessary for everyone’s salvation. Even His own.