Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden is up on Scribd. You can find the link on the right side of the blog under DS Talks.
The Las Vegas transcript is up on Scribd. Link is on the right side of the blog under DS Talks.
History is very messy. While it is lived there are no “themes” the people actually living through the events can detect. The journals of the living record haphazard daily events, never knowing what comes next. These accounts are far more valuable than the later narratives written by historians (and apologists) retelling the events to prove a “theme.”
Joseph was at the head of a church for 14 years. Brigham Young for 33. At the time of his death, Brigham Young’s influence was far greater on every living Latter-day Saint than Joseph’s ever was. Brigham Young faced challenges, overcame obstacles, fought wars (against both the US Army and Indians), kept order, and attempted to win court cases. He was a very busy man. By the end of his life the scope and sweep of his accomplishments overshadowed every Latter-day Saint and informed all their beliefs. Every stupid act, failed prediction, criminal act and embarrassing miscue was forgotten because of how very much the man accomplished. His greatest achievement was to preserve an organized church. Sheer force of personality made him indispensable for the survival of Mormonism. Even opponents and critics needed Brigham Young to help them to preserve their organizations. Nothing rallied splinter groups like Brigham’s success. Even today, many splinter organizations try to mimic Brigham’s rugged patriarchy as if it were the very example of God’s “true religion.”
By the time Joseph III and his brother David were a threat to Brigham’s organization, every Latter-day Saint living in the Utah Territory had an interest in Brigham winning the argument against the “Reorganized” church. It was imperative they proved the right choice had been made when the vote was taken in August 1844.
Affidavits were gathered from one to several decades after the events which “proved” Brigham was right and Emma and her sons wrong. It does not matter to LDS apologists that the affidavits are contradicted by earlier journals and diaries. They are “proof” and were given “under oath” and therefore, unquestioned. Sermons were preached defending the choices made in Nauvoo following Joseph and Hyrum’s deaths. Histories were written to defend the faith as it was changed by Brigham Young and his followers.
There are now libraries of material supporting both Brigham Young’s leadership and the religion as he modified and handed it down. If you want a large bibliography, then the work of 170 years of Latter-day Saint apologists will win every time. Sheer bulk favors these traditions.
How, then, can someone now really claim these traditions fail to tell the whole truth? How is it possible for a believer in the Restoration through Joseph Smith to question these well-established “truths” held up as the very handiwork of God?
The only reason to question any of it is if you believe the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s revelations. If you do that, and you let scripture tell you the “themes” of these events, then despite the great weight of LDS historical documentation, you can still sort it out correctly.
What is most surprising to me is the diaries and journals written while the events were unfolding contradict much of the apologist’s “themes” and corroborate the scripture and prophetic account of the latter-day Gentile failing. If you want truth, you need to have a strong stomach. None of this is fun or cause for celebration. If you love the Latter-day Saints, as I do, then you find yourself torn between the truth and your sentiments. It is better to be in the company of God and the truth, than even good friends who believe falsehoods.
Thankfully, God is not jealous of the truth. He does not have a vested interest (despite claims to the contrary) in seeing a false tradition win the argument. He is a God of truth and hates even well-intentioned lies.
Anyone who attempts to undo beloved, but false, religious traditions will be hated in their generation. Thankfully, in the long run the truth will win out. God has decreed it. Therefore, even the smallest group of believers will ultimately not suffer from being outnumbered by disbelievers. God did not establish the Restoration through Joseph Smith to have it end in a pack of half-truths manipulated to support a false and incomplete narrative. The Restoration will, just as Joseph predicted, roll forth to fill the earth. But that prophecy does not establish a wealthy franchise, nor predict corporate success. The “Church of God” has always been beyond man’s ability to control; no matter what enthusiastic claims men may make to the contrary.
God’s hand is moving again. He will win the argument. Be patient and let Him finish what He has started again.
There is one talk remaining. I’m trying to get the transcripts up for the last two. The final talk in Phoenix will mean more if you have read or listened to the first nine talks. All ten are one talk, delivered in installments. The conclusion will presume the audience is already acquainted with what went before.
I speak at Sunstone on Saturday. Some time that evening I will put the paper up, linked on this blog. That paper will likewise be helpful to read before the final talk.
The talks in Las Vegas and St. George this Friday and Saturday will be in two different time zones. Both talks begin at 9:30 a.m. But in Las Vegas that is in the Pacific Time Zone (an hour earlier) and in St. George it is in the Mountain Time Zone. Therefore if you plan to come, the scheduled times are in the local time zones.
This is a personal message for one of the men on the High Council who advocated my excommunication. He is a friend. I spoke with him yesterday and, after reflecting on it overnight, have something to say to him and anonymous comments on my blog espousing similar beliefs:
In LDS Mormonism there is really only one doctrine left. Everything else is subordinate and changeable. But this single demand is paramount. If you disbelieve this position, then LDS Mormonism has no place for you. The doctrine:
We follow a man whom we call a prophet.
If you disbelieve this, and think you ought to follow Christ first, and the church’s “prophet” is secondary, then you are insubordinate and a threat. Believing Christ comes first opens the possibility that Christ could tell you the “prophet” is mistaken. That is intolerable.
In LDS Mormonism it is allowed for the current “prophet” to criticize and denigrate a former “prophet.” This happens frequently. Even editorials now appear on LDS.org website rejecting Brigham Young’s teachings as wrong, even immoral. The new, living leader has the “keys” and the contradictions are viewed by blinded followers to be “proof of continuing revelation.” Therefore these contradictions are valued by the deceived. An unchanging God has error prone key-holders who can guarantee his contemporaries their salvation. This is even if later key-holders proclaim the earlier leader’s mistakes. All of this is only consistent if you believe the central, single doctrine. If you question it, the whole construct begins to look foolish and riddled with error.
When I joined LDS Mormonism there were many doctrines. None of them put President Spencer W. Kimball into a position of a dictator. Indeed, President Kimball earned our loyalty and respect by his meek example and the content of his sermons. He denounced modern idols, and criticized the war-like nature of our country. But no one demanded a loyalty oath, insisting that veneration of him took precedence over worship of Christ. I believe if President Kimball heard of such a thing being taught he would have vocally and immediately spoken against it. He denounced Ezra Taft Benson’s sermon about Fourteen Fundamentals for Following the Prophet. But today these are taught in General Conference!
LDS Mormonism has changed since I first joined. So much so that I no longer belong in an organization that holds one and only one doctrine as its bedrock. I believe Christ alone is worthy of veneration. I do not believe I must follow a man to be able to follow Christ. I do not believe I should look to the example of some man in order to be able to see Christ.
This radical and false shift of the religion has happened in my lifetime. I never engaged in this idolatry while among the LDS organization, and I refuse to accept that kind of religion now. It is false. I reject it.
Insofar as the LDS Church “believes” in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the revelations through him, including the D&C and Pearl of Great Price, I honor them. Insofar as they testify of the Book of Mormon and preach from it, I believe and accept it. Therefore I see some considerable merit to the LDS Church. However, their current single fundamental doctrine is false. Utterly false.
If you extend the fundamental LDS doctrine to its logical conclusion, it is also satanic. It abrogates free will, requires obedience to a man even if he tells you to do something which you know to be wrong (a principle that has been taught in General Conference), and requires you to abandon your own agency. Since I believe everyone will be accountable before God for their choices in the Day of Judgment, the paradigm is false and will not protect you. You may think the “key holder” will absolve you of your mistakes, but God will judge you. If you are asked to do something wrong, and you do it out of veneration for a “prophet” you will not be spared, but you will be judged and condemned.
There are many good people in the LDS Church. There is also some considerable good done by the LDS Church. But when adulterers, liars, idolaters and the ignorant who preside in wards, stakes and areas of the church insist their personal unworthiness is excused because they are loyal to a priesthood line of authority, as we presently find in the church, then someone needs to proclaim faith in Christ and repentance. Even if only one voice will speak up, God will vindicate faith in Him in the end.
The Great Whore will always outnumber the few who are Christ’s sheep. But that cannot detract from Christ’s affection for those who hear His voice and defend His religion.
There is a passage often quoted from the D&C to support the idea that the president of the LDS church is entitled to have his teachings regarded as if they were God’s word. The language is as follows:
“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from my own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21: 4-6.)
This revelation is referring to Joseph Smith. Period. Not to anyone who later happens to be elected by the vote of a group to become his successor. Doesn’t apply and didn’t apply to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Warren Jeffs, Ervil LeBaron, Rulon Allred or any number of other pretenders. It applied solely to Joseph Smith.
The revelation uses the personal pronouns “he” and “his” to refer to Joseph Smith throughout. If you want to put someone else into the passage above, then “he” must likewise heed all the requirements of D&C 21.
“Wherefore it behooveth me that he [Joseph Smith] should be ordained by you, Oliver Cowdery mine apostle; This being an ordinance unto you, that you are an elder under his [Joseph Smith’s] hand, he [Joseph Smith] being the first unto you, that you might be an elder unto this church of Christ, bearing my name.” (D&C 21: 10-11.) So “he” will then need to ordain Oliver if “he” is to be mentioned by the revelation.
It was Joseph Smith who “wept for Zion” (D&C 21: 8). It was Joseph Smith who was “inspired to move the cause of Zion” forward (D&C 21: 7). It was Joseph Smith whose “diligence I [God] know, and his prayers I have heard” (D&C 21: 7).
Therefore it was Joseph Smith whose words we are required to “give heed unto” and it is the “commandments which he [Joseph Smith] gave unto us” we are now required to obey. When we do not do this, then the “gates of hell shall prevail” against us, as they most certainly have.
From the beginning, all the various off-shoots uniformly disobey this commandment. Not only do they all refuse to “give heed” to what God revealed and commanded through Joseph Smith, but they have compounded their error by allowing others to interpose their commandments “as if they were from God.” The landscape today is exactly as it was when the Lord appeared to Joseph. We see churches who deny the power of God, and who teach for commandments the doctrines of men, having only a form of godliness, which heaven does not respect. The pretenders’ lack of power is for our protection. If it were otherwise, we would be damning one another.
In Kirtland, Ohio the saints were too proud, foolish and vain for Zion to be established.
In Nauvoo, Illinois the saints were too proud, foolish and vain for Zion to be established.
In Salt Lake City, Utah the saints are too proud, foolish and vain for Zion to be established.
Those who are thinking about this topic today believe themselves to be something other than proud, foolish and vain. But if you read the historical events and compare our conversations, our ambitions, our desires and our self-promotion, you will see we are no better than they were in their own day. WE are not even appreciative of what was restored. When we are asked to remember what Joseph Smith taught, it is opposed by traditions, fears and competing ambition.
Just like in Kirtland, there are many unclean spirits who will deceive you. Unless you anchor what you are taught in the scriptures, and require all truth to measure up, you can be deceived. That is as true now as then. Some people are so thrilled by having any spiritual experience that they accept anything.
Lying spirits appeal to your pride and vanity. God will chasten you and require you to be meek and serve both Him and your fellow man. Lying spirits will tell you that you are some great and mighty person. God will remind you that only He is strong, but He uses the weak things of this world to accomplish His work. Therefore, no one can take credit but Him for whatever is accomplished.
Proud, foolish and vain people have never built Zion. Only the penitent, the meek, and the humble can qualify to be around as God does His work.
Mormon, the abridger of the largest portion of the Book of Mormon, has an important context. He abridged the entire collection of prophetic and historic source materials. From Lehi to the time of King Benjamin, however, the abridgment was translated by Joseph Smith and then lost. That work was replaced by the Small Plates of Nephi, which he did not abridge.
Beginning with Mosiah and concluding with his own book, his abridgment remained intact. We now have that in the current Book of Mormon. His son completed the book, adding his (Moroni’s) abridgment and translation of the record of Ether. Then he added his record.
Who was Mormon? What were the circumstances under which he compiled and abridged this lengthy volume of scripture? What things motivated his work?
Mormon was only 10 years old when he learned about the tradition of record keeping among his people. The records were handed down generation to generation. In his day, the previous record-keeper came to him and asked him to continue the work.
Mormon was chosen at 10 years old because he stood out. He was a “sober” minded child. Meaning he could contemplate serious matters in a mature way. He was also “quick to observe,” meaning he would both understand what was needed and be willing to do it. (Mormon 1: 2.) Society, at the time the hand-off to Mormon took place, was undergoing collapse. They were violent and “exceedingly wicked.” There were so few left who would respect the old religion it had essentially vanished from the earth. (4 Ne. 1: 45-46.)
Mormon’s immediate predecessor (Ammaron) is referred to in only three verses before Mormon’s record begins. (4 Ne. 1: 47-49.) Ammaron was inspired to hide the records from the people. He was then inspired to choose Mormon as the new record-keeper because of the qualifications set out above.
Mormon was told to get the records when he was twenty-four years old. (Mormon 1: 3.)
When he was 11, his people fought a war and many died. (Mormon 1: 6, 8.) War only hardened the Nephites, and the Lord withdrew the resident angels so they ministered no more among Mormon’s people. (Mormon 1: 13.) When they withdrew, miracles ceased. When the angels left and the gifts ended, the Holy Ghost also withdrew from the people. (Mormon 1: 13-14.)
In contrast to the damned people all around him, Mormon was “visited of the Lord” and therefore he “tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.” (Mormon 1: 15.) Like Joseph Smith, Mormon tasted the fruit of the tree of life while still a teenager. He “knew” Jesus and therefore, despite the fact that the people were in darkness, Mormon stood in the light. Darkness among a larger population never hinders an individual from coming into the light.
When Mormon tried to preach to the people, the Lord stopped him. They had willfully rebelled, and were consigned to destruction. (Mormon 1: 16.) If the Lord had permitted him to preach, it would have been an indication the Lord would still allow them to repent. Once the Lord forbid Mormon from preaching, the people were left to their destruction.
Mormon’s people were filled with mischief, looking for power from the wrong source. When the Holy Ghost withdrew from them, they craved its presence and resorted to conjuring and witchcrafts to invoke the only spirits that would give heed to them. (Mormon 1: 19.)
Mormon was only 16 when he was asked to lead the people into war. He knew Jesus, was prevented from preaching the truth about Christ, and he was living a life of violence and warfare. (Mormon 2: 1-2.) The war was bloody, the losses were great, and the people Mormon led were humbled by their losses. Mormon saw this terrible downfall and destruction as vindication of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecies against the rebellious Nephites. (Mormon 2: 10.)
When the people cried out in anguish from the burdens imposed on them by their awful circumstances, Mormon thought their cries were a hopeful sign. He supposed that perhaps the Lord would forgive them and reclaim them. (Mormon 2: 12.) But these people were not repentant, merely self-pitying because God would not support them in their wickedness. (Mormon 2: 13.)
There is a limit on the Lord’s forgiveness. When people claim they understand the Gospel, have the fullness, and therefore deliberately rebel against God’s messengers, driving the Holy Ghost out from among them, then the day of grace has passed.
Mormon was the great abridger of the Book of Mormon. But his life was lived in a society that was corrupt, vile, violent and void of the Holy Ghost. Yet he lived with God’s grace, as well as knowledge from Christ. These wicked and corrupt contemporaries were unable to even feel the Lord’s grace, but Mormon lived as one of the Lord’s friends.
From this, we can see just how little the social decay of a population affects the lives of the Lord’s followers. An entire nation can be blind, but that does not prevent disciples from seeing. Neither religions, traditions nor governments keep an individual from repenting.
Mormon was the perfect candidate to abridge the book. He lived at a time in where it was possible for him to understand us perfectly. He explained: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envyings, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8: 35-36.)
I’ve received complaints from several people, including Symons Ryder, pointing out Mormon 8 was written by Mormon’s son, Moroni.
I received an inquiry about my comment in the Ephriam talk about God’s hand “the second time.” The inquirer referred to a letter Joseph wrote, directed my attention there, and asked about the “second time.” My response appears below:
God may yet set His hand a second time in still another generation (or generations, depending on the reaction today), if the work required is not done today. When God begins to speak, we are obligated to inquire, listen and heed. At present I do not expect any success in the present generation. This world is so captured by a faithlessness and hardness that even the trump of an angel would fail to reach those alive today. If mankind knew what He offers now, we would all make the necessary sacrifice to receive it.
I got a response saying the writer was trying hard, but seemed to be spending too much time with things like changing diapers to get any real breakthroughs. I responded:
changing diapers and being a husband and father are EXACTLY what will bring about both what you seek and what God wants to happen as well.
The Ephriam transcript is now posted to Scribd. It is an expanded version and will read differently than the recording.
It is linked on the blog under DS Talks.
Las Vegas Lecture
Date: Friday, July 25, 2014
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Place: Fiesta Henderson Hotel & Casino
777 West Lake Mead Parkway
Henderson, NV 89015
Seats: Cancun Room A/B, seats 150
St. George Lecture
Date: Saturday, July 26, 2014
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Place: Lexington Hotel and Conference Center
850 Bluff Street
St. George, UT 84770
Seats: Ballroom, seats 275
The series of lectures that began in Boise and will end in Phoenix are one talk. There are three left. Each one of the talks builds on earlier material.
If you are interested in understanding, then it would be beneficial to rehear or reread the previous ones. The later talks will connect things that were raised in the earlier ones. It is not possible to state everything at once. Pieces must be put together systematically.
“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88: 33.)
From the moment Joseph Smith died, we have lost our memory of what God revealed through him. By forgetting we refuse the gift given by God.
First we must remember.
Until we remember what we were given, there is no reason for God to give more. Today we are being tested to see if we can be stirred to remember what came to light through Joseph.
It is up to God to decide whether the test is being passed. If we fail, there will be nothing further given this generation. We are on trial.
Will we remember? Will we finally rejoice in the gift and its giver?
Or will we cower in fear and look for every reason we can summon to ignore, oppose, dismiss and reject what we were offered? As Christ put it: “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” (Luke 24: 25.) Nothing has changed. Mankind is the same now as ever.