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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.

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.