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Response About Us All

I got an email from a friend complaining about Keith Henderson’s recent communications with him. The specific complaint is not important (or I would include it here). But the issue raised other thoughts which I think important enough to copy and post here. This was my response:

I have a couple of observations:

Keith is in his 70’s and comes from a more blunt, candid and honest era than the “politically correct” era of today. He has a golden heart, but his candor is sometimes taken to be harsh. It really isn’t. But you have to spend more time around him to see the difference between his language/demeanor in different circumstances.
He takes the role very seriously and wants to do a good job and present the record to the Lord in a faithful and true a manner as he can possibly do. He is quite prayerful about what he’s doing, and despite how it may seem on the surface it is a very big job requiring a great deal of work. He’s spent his own money to have books handmade that will last for a thousand years: acid-free 100% cotton, goatskin leather covers (they are longer fiber leather and much more durable than cow leather), hand sewn gatherings, archival ink, etc.  His devotion and work has been something no one knows about, and no one will probably ever hear about from him.
It seems to me that as we move along toward something much greater that is coming soon, we have many opportunities to disappoint one another, to offend and show impatience with one another, and to take offense when none is intended. We all have to be patient and loving–even when we think someone is being impatient, rude and unloving. Most people are only interested in this whole endeavor because they love God and want to follow Him.
I don’t think anyone wants to follow ME. I mean that. What they are trying to do is follow God, and they have some level of trust in me to help clarify what God is doing. I try very hard to not have that trust misplaced. I remind myself constantly about how limited I am, how fallible I am, how prideful and prone to selfishness I am. My wife is a constant critic in the most useful sense of that word. Her criticism is directed at improving my perspective, not in tearing down. She is a guardian I trust and she has never betrayed that trust.
We are facing one of the greatest challenges mankind has faced since the creation. It is almost inevitable we will fail. But the prophecies foretell success. Therefore we must move forward, despite all our individual weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and our foolishness. We must seek to do what the Lord intends to bring to pass. We are left without excuses if we do not attempt, even in our own convictions about how unlikely we are to succeed. For there will be success. It is prophesied and it is the Lord’s work to cause it to happen. It will happen. Therefore however weak we may seem before this daunting task, Zion is going to come and is likely to do so before we pass from this scene. The question is whether we can have faith enough in God to allow Him to work through even so unworthy and inadequate a vessel as you and I.

Baptism for the Dead

Baptism for the dead belongs in a temple, built to the Lord and accepted by Him.

Baptism for the dead by the Mormon community was rejected by the Lord because of the failure in Nauvoo. (D&C 124:31-32.) We are not going to cure the problem until the original conditions are met. A temple must be accepted and visited by the Lord as His House (D&C 124:28) for Him to restore the fullness. Baptism for the dead belongs only there.

We cannot meet the requirements for acceptable baptism for the dead on any other basis than what has been revealed.

L. Tom Perry

L. Tom Perry of the twelve is now in advanced stages of terminal cancer. He will be receiving hospice care and is expected to pass in a few days.

He was the first General Authority of the LDS Church I met. After baptism on September 10, 1973 I traveled to Salt Lake City for General Conference the following month. I was told by ward members in New Hampshire that Elder Perry had been the stake president over the New England area before it was divided, and therefore many of them remembered him as their stake president. I was urged to try to see him and pass along their regards. Accordingly, I went to the Church Administration Building (without any appointment) and asked the guard if I could visit with L. Tom Perry. The guard was unfriendly, discouraging me from making the attempt, but reluctantly contacted Elder Perry about my request. To his surprise, Elder Perry came down quickly to the front door and escorted me inside for a visit.

He was gregarious, with a big-smile and warm, welcoming demeanor. He may seem a bit stiff on TV, but in person he was kindly, even disarming. For a less-than-a-month convert I was taken by how welcoming this high-up church leader was. He may have been “up” atop the organization, but he wasn’t at all uppity. I passed along the regards of those in New Hampshire and he seemed to genuinely appreciate them remembering him.

Within two months of that visit with him in October 1973, President Harold B. Lee died, and the following April L. Tom Perry was added to the twelve. His passing will mark another milestone in the loss of leaders who were there when I first joined the LDS Church. The only ones remaining now in leadership who were there at the beginning are Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer and L. Tom Perry.

I wish him and his family well. It saddens me to see him depart.

Lamentation for Baghdad

Days of distress are upon Baghdad and the days of their troubles are begun. Distress shall overtake them, for those who come shall have no pity.

Follow Up Questions

Questions can be endless. Therefore I largely ignore them. But I responded to an email today and post it here because a few others may be interested:


1. Can these ordinances be acceptable to the Lord due to the faith of the participants even if they occur in a general environment of “rejection” and condemnation? (My mind is drawn to Hannah seeking a blessing from Eli as an example). 
If you re-read the lecture in Ephraim this was the point I made there.  I even used Hannah and Eli as the example of faith of a recipient justifying the acts of a wicked and unqualified priest.
2. Is there a difference between performing the ordinances of the preparatory gospel for the deceased, and the higher ordinances ? Does the Lord accept the lower, but declines the higher? Similar to ancient Israel being permitted to continue in the lower order unto our condemnation. And if the Lord declines the higher, why were your ancestors asking for it? 
The only ordinances that have ever been required for the dead are baptism and washing–because they require a physical body and they are intended to preserve the body into the resurrection.  The other ordinances can all be, and do get, attended to in the spirit world.  Remember Christ ordained others in the spirit world. (D&C 138:30.)  LDS rites include ordination, but that is not necessary because Christ did it in the spirit world.  The rest of the ordinances are informational, and can be done as readily with as without a body.  Joseph’s remark about performing “all the rites for the dead” would not cause any mischief and serves as an opportunity for the living to repeat the ceremonies (an aid to memory and understanding).  But the truth is that all the rites are not required for the dead.  The final temple built will have work done for the dead in the separate, ceremonial font area apart from where other rites for the living will be performed.  The dead and living will only intersect in that ante-chamber or area.
3. Is this “rejected” status of the church and her dead a newly realized status that has taken multiple generations to develop and culminate with certain recent events and signs? Therefore what was once acceptable in recent years to the Lord is no longer acceptable to Him today? 
The rejection was incomplete until recently. But the manner of “sealing” done by LDS rites since Joseph died will not elevate anyone to be resurrected.  Instead they confine all of the living participants to lie with their kindred dead until some later work is done for them all.
Given the reaction of those now living to the reestablishment of the restoration, however, it seems unlikely many of those now living would or will accept the gospel when declared to them, as required for D&C 137:7-8 to apply for their good.
The conditions are ever the same.  They refuse to accept the truth at their peril.  They will be possessed of the exact same spirit when dead as when living.  Therefore nothing can be done to change their destiny in this cycle of creation because they are taken by a false spirit and possess a hard heart.  They claim to know, and therefore will be judged as if they did know.
4. When your ancestors requested that you stay so they could receive their robes of righteousness, what good was the endowment to them, if that ceremony we’ve inherited is but a remnant of what Joseph was restoring , and a product of some of Brigham Young’s interpretations?  Is there a significant value to us and those deceased to practicing the fragments of the ceremony that we do have? 
All symbols are useful and reflect on our willingness to accept the truth had they been permitted to tarry. (D&C 137:7-8)  There is no better proof of willingness to accept than to actually accept even an incomplete, partial ceremony.  It measures their hearts in a way that proves them worthy of receiving more.  They surely will receive more, including the robes of righteousness indeed–not merely a ceremonial clothing but actual covering by the atonement of Christ.
5. Were your ancestors able to receive the ordinances because of a special covenant or allowance you received personally from the Lord? Or in other words, your kindred dead would seal to you, because you received a sealing from the Father? (I apologize for asking this, I understand that I may be asking for things I cannot yet comprehend). 
The ancestors involved identified themselves to me.  I now know that when a full restoration happens in the future, those 11 ancestors are worthy of the rites and the essential work will be done here for them.
As to rites for the dead themselves, originally the work was not done for the dead.  It was done for only three categories:
-Those personally known to the one doing the ordinance as someone who would have accepted the truth had they been permitted to tarry, and they can bear personal testimony of the character of the deceased.
-Those persons who left a record from which it can be judged they would have accepted the truth had they tarried.  The same standard as the first category, but the evaluation is based on their written record, rather than the personal knowledge.
-Those who, by revelation, are known to be willing to accept the truth had they tarried.
The later practice of indiscriminate ordinances for everyone deceased is an innovation and not a correct practice.

LDS Temple Ordinances

Can LDS Temple ordinances have “power?”

It is an interesting question. The answer depends on each individual who participates. The ordinances can be either meaningless (or worse) or they can be beneficial.

Temple rites communicate information through symbols. If we look at the underlying meaning, and see more light and truth through them, then they can powerfully instruct and edify.

The rites warn us we need to be “true and faithful in all things” when we seek “further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil”–which is very good. Faithfulness to what light we’ve been given is a prerequisite for getting more light. Knowing that gaining further light and knowledge is possible, actually expected, is essential. Believing that God will converse with us is also foundational to salvation.

Perhaps the greatest idea is that we can converse with God through the veil preliminary to entering into His presence. In that idea is found the promise of communication with God, followed by Him allowing us to visit with Him through the veil. Every soul who has faith in that and acts consistent with their faith will obtain the most glorious assurances from God. They will not be barren or unfruitful in their knowledge.

If the rites are viewed as some authoritative guarantee of something in the afterlife, without regard to our need to search, they can be destructive. Instead of a humility and meekness before God, the false idea that the rites make you special, chosen or better than others can lead to pride and arrogance. That separates us from God. It increases the distance between ourselves and the light of truth. Such an approach makes the rites a tragic and negative misstep instead of a blessing.

I would encourage everyone to reflect on the message of the temple rites. In the right frame of mind, their symbols are useful. The form presently presented in LDS Temples is still a useful collection of symbolic teaching about the mortal quest to find God.

Emma, Lucy and Brigham

I have reconsidered a great deal while searching deeper and deeper into Mormonism, history, and teachings. It is very challenging to remain open to new ideas. This is particularly so when the object of Mormonism is to obtain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil.

For more than three decades I repeated and concurred with what Brigham Young said of Emma Smith:

“To my certain knowledge, Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman; but she will continue in her wickedness. Not six months before the death of Joseph, he called his wife Emma into a secret council, and there he told her the truth, and called upon her to deny it if she could. He told her that the judgments of God would come upon her forthwith if she did not repent. He told her of the time she undertook to poison him, and he told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told here where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he ‘You got that poison from so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.’ When it entered his stomach he went to the door and threw it off. he spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses of this scene all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him. [Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 48, Winter 1980, 82] October 1868 General Conference, also found at The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 4, p. 2378.

I no longer hold Brigham Young in the same high regard I used to. He is not always a reliable source for truthful history. He viewed Emma as a competitor, who threatened property he wanted. She ultimately assisted a rival church which potentially undermined the organization he headed. He NEEDED to discredit her. His campaign worked so well that apart from the few paragraphs mentioning her in the 1933 Relief Society Magazine (a woman’s publication then controlled by women) there was nothing favorable published about her by the LDS Church for more than a century after her death. It was on September 16, 1978, when the Church News ran a favorable article, Two Great Women. The other Great Woman of that article was Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother.

Brigham Young’s damnation of Emma influenced others. Brigham’s story about Emma poisoning Joseph has drifted into conventional wisdom and become “the truth” for LDS Mormonism. Acute indigestion, ulcers, food contamination, gallstones, an allergic reaction or any number of things could have caused Joseph’s symptoms. In an age without refrigeration, the conclusion it was poisoning seems hasty.

Joseph’s journals do not support Brigham’s claim because a few hours after vomiting he attended a prayer meeting. All the poison available in that day that would have been strong enough to induce immediate vomiting would not have allowed Joseph to recover to the point of attending a meeting a few hours later. This incident is discussed by Linda King Newell in Mormon Dialogue, The Emma Smith Lore Reconsidered, Vol. 17-3 (Autumn 1984) pp. 87-100.

Brigham Young’s campaign against Emma included accusations that she was responsible for Joseph’s death. He characterized her as a semi-apostate opponent to Mormonism before Joseph’s death and a renegade, wicked woman after. Her place in Mormon history has been forever marred by his campaign. Others who knew her testified of her devotion, loyalty and love of her husband, Joseph. When Joseph had another bout of stomach ailment the next month, it was Emma who nursed him back from this episode. Given his repeated stomach ailments in the immediate time frame, it is doubtful Emma poisoned him, and doubtful Joseph would accuse her of that and then trust her the following month to nurse him back to health when suffering worse symptoms.

Of all the injustices to our history, perhaps Brigham Young’s worst offense was alienating Emma from the Mormon people in a way to leave her a legacy of harsh, judgmental condemnation for nearly two centuries.

Neither Emma Smith nor Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, had any economic, social, or personal reason to distance themselves from the body of Saints. The 18,000 or so Mormons would have cared for them, protected them, and given them assistance for the remainder of their lives. Yet both of them declined to follow Brigham Young and the twelve. The conventional LDS Mormon wisdom is that it was because of their apostasy. But LDS Mormonism uses that charge against anyone and anything that does not praise LDS leadership. It is more likely that the frequent charge of “apostasy” has been and is a cover for institutional insecurity. It is a highly charged term which closes minds and prevents rational thought.

Only by open acceptance of criticism, even inviting criticism, can a person, institution or group remain healthy. Every idea or teaching should be openly discussed, tested against scripture and common sense, weighed for its effects, and held open for refinement, correction or reconsideration.

I have come to the conclusion that Brigham Young is not reliable. If he told me the sun was shining I would want to look out a window before believing him. He may have told the truth on occasion, but other sources should be audited to see if he is corroborated before taking his word on anything. Even the LDS Church has “unequivocally condemned” him in their essay on Blacks and the Priesthood. He deserves the LDS Church’s unequivocal condemnation. He also has mine.

Trust and Patience

Trusting God and being patient go together.

Knowledge enters our life incrementally, a little at a time, as we notice it and focus on it. Light grows brighter and brighter because we become more sensitive to it. Oddly, we choose how much light we have by how much we notice.

The entire “universe” was once thought to be nothing more than our Milky Way galaxy. But our ability to detect has been magnified by lenses, greatly expanding our ability to see more. The universe did not change, but our ability to see more of it did. We have only recently been able to see the same distant lights that have shone overhead for thousands of years.

The scriptures have been with us for thousands of years (in some cases) and over a hundred years in almost all cases. But our sensitivity to them is so dull we are unable to perceive the light they contain.

Incorporating light into our minds is not accomplished only by hearing, reading or watching, but grows as we act on it. The scriptures are a guide to allow us to have our own experiences walking the path God’s people have walked since Adam.

God’s Oath for Melchizedek Priesthood

There are two variations in the scriptures of the same concept regarding the Melchizedek Priesthood. One in the New Testament and the other in 1832.

From the New Testament, Hebrews 7:12-21:

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law was administered without an oath and made nothing perfect, but was only the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as this high priest was not without an oath, by so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament. he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

(In addition to the emphasis of bold and underlines, I have shown the JST changes to this text in red lettering and cross-out.)

The reference in Hebrews to the Lord swearing the oath to confer this priesthood is a quote from Psalms 110:4: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” It is part of a Messianic Psalm and describes Christ.

Then in 1832, D&C 84:33-40:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

In both cases the “oath” is God’s. God is the one who confirms upon the recipient this priesthood and makes him to be His priest. When God makes this oath it is after the recipient has been so thoroughly proven that God “will not repent” and remove the authority given to the recipient.

Those who receive it likewise “receive” Christ, because they know Him and have stood in His presence. After receiving Him, Christ then brings them to the Father and the Father likewise “receives” the recipient. The Father is the one who then swears to the recipient that “all He [the Father] has shall be given to the recipient” because this is God’s oath to those few mortals who ever receive this priesthood. They are on a course which will lead them to become like His Son and like Himself.

Some men imagine this happens when a young man gets approval by a local congregation and some quorum leader “confers” this priesthood. That is fanciful imagination. The reality is that this is a very rare event, happening infrequently in mankind’s temporal history. God has made provision to deal with the frequent absence of this authority among men by having some linger here, as John the Beloved has agreed to do.

Christ serves as the model for these recipients, and He is the one who best exemplifies the kind of man to whom God the Father would declare, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Vanity is a poor substitute for redemption. As Joseph Smith put it, “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” When men get a little authority, as they suppose (or in other words, as they imagine), they begin to abuse one another.

Those God trusts are like Moses, who “was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Num. 12:3.) This is why the 1832 revelation calls the recipients “the sons of Moses.” (D&C 84:34.)

When pretenders exercise control, dominion and compulsion over one another it discourages the hearts of those who seek for God. The poor example makes everyone wary of the idea of “authority” given by God. Remember the Great Example of the Great High Priest, Christ. He knelt and washed others’ feet. He did not seek out the chief seats. He was cast out and associated with the least, proclaiming that it was they who were favored by God. He was despised and rejected because He held no position, rank or authority in the social order of His day. He called the presiding authorities of His time hypocrites, whited sepulchers filled with death and decay.

Christ came to serve, not to rule and reign with violence and intimidation. HE is the model of what real authority looks like. Real authority elevates others. It kneels to serve. It has others’ best interests in mind to the point of sacrificing everything to serve and save others. It is impossible to imagine Christ escorting the self-important into God the Father’s presence to have him given authority. The stink of such a man’s death and decay would contaminate the halls of heaven.

It is almost always the case that non-scriptural, anti-Christ ideas are likely to be rejected–until it is the “doctrine” or “dogma” of an institution. Then, because of mankind’s insecurities, falsehoods get propped up beyond all criticism because of the influence the institution holds in this world. It is the worldliness of the lie that makes it so appealing, so reassuring. Lies enjoy success which are so very unlike the example of the itinerate preacher Jesus, who submitted to others, paid the temple priests, paid taxes to Caesar, was cast out of the synagogues– and who founded the religion now profaned by wealthy men saying, but not doing, as He commanded.