We should only “Follow” Christ. See, e.g., Matt. 4:19; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 18:22; John 12:26; 21:19.
Prophets are not to be followed; only “received” or, in other words, to be heard. See, e.g., Matt. 10:14; Mark 16:11; D&C 76:101. If sent by Him they testify of Him and not of themselves.
If you will not receive Christ’s prophets and apostles, you will be condemned. See John 3:10-11.
But you are under the burden of determining whether a man is a true or false prophet, true or false apostle, because following a false one will condemn you. Christ will expose the false prophets and apostles. D&C 64:39. But that will be by-and-by, for they must be given their season to claim falsely to be prophets and apostles.
If you will not hear a prophet, you will be rejected. See D&C 1:14.
Those who claim you should “follow” them put themselves in the place of Christ. They are, in effect, a false Christ. We were promised they would come in the last days to deceive the “very elect” as false Messiahs. See, JS-Matt. 1:22.
The trial is underway. The world must choose correctly.
It is impossible to have religious freedom of expression and protection of gay rights without requiring the religious expression to include endorsement of homosexual conduct.
Can gay rights be protected without demanding churches stop denouncing homosexuality as “sin” or as “offensive to God” or “evil?”
If a church believes homosexuality is sinful, offensive to God and evil, but cannot say what it believes because law protects against “discrimination” against such conduct, how are the two reconciled? One must trump the other. One must be given priority over the other. Which? How?
Can a church be called “hateful” when it expresses its honest view that homosexuality is morally wrong and sinful without any legal protection against the “hate?”
Should we be free to hate?
If a Muslim hates a Jew, does he have the right to say it publicly? Advocate for others to likewise hate Jews?
Should ideas be free from legal control? If they are, will we see KKK rallies, jihadist news broadcasts, black liberation ministers advocating revolution, white supremacists denouncing “mud people?” Is that sort of fall out bad? Bad in an absolute sense, not in a relative sense. Is foolishness portrayed as insight bad in a relative sense? That happens everywhere and all the time. Should the limits of free speech be nearly absolute?
The Supreme Court set a limit using the analogy of “crying ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater” that results in injuries and even death. That analogy has been adopted to limit speech elsewhere by saying “hate” will result in injuries and even death, and therefore it is no different.
When it comes to freedom, however, there must be absolutes or freedom will continually be eroded and eventually lost.
We must allow people to say things we disapprove of, disagree with, resent and wish were never said. Tolerance has no meaning if we only permit things we like to be done, said or thought. The meaning of “tolerance” is to permit what I absolutely disagree with to be “tolerated.” I don’t have to love it, nor do I have to approve it. I only need to “tolerate” it.
If we “tolerate” it, is there an obligation to leave it unmolested, uncontrolled and uncurtailed by law? Whether that is homosexual conduct or condemnation of homosexuality.
The role of legislation is not to carve out ideas for suppression and punishment. Until someone actually assaults another, shouldn’t he be able to think what he wants, and say what he thinks? If anyone assaults another it is a crime. Whether the crime was motivated by hatred of homosexuals, hatred of Jews, or Catholics, or Hindus, or Mexicans or Mudbloods or any other group, no one is allowed to assault another person. The crime consists in the act, not in the thought.
Thought should be as near to absolutely free as possible. No matter how peculiar or offensive, thought ought to be unrestricted. It is not possible to police thought without losing other freedoms.
The purpose of the Holy Ghost is to convey truth, understanding and knowledge. Our reaction may be emotional, but the Holy Ghost is informational.
The information we obtain from the Holy Ghost checks emotions, and produces self-control. Paul explained that our flesh is prone to lusts (Gal. 5:19) and to “hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, …envyings” (Gal. 5:20-21). But the Spirit helps check those through self-control. A healthy appreciation of our limitations leads to “longsuffering, gentleness, …faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23) which are gifts produced as a byproduct of recognizing our weakness.
If there is a consistent experience produced by an encounter with God while filled with the Holy Spirit, it would be “dread” or “fear.” Comparing our fallen nature to the purity of God causes shame. (The language used by those who experience this include these accounts: “racked with a consciousness of your guilt”—Mormon 9:3-5; “Woe is me, I am undone”—Isa. 6:5; “a great quaking…they fled to hide”—Daniel 10:7; “an horror of great darkness”—Genesis 15:12.)
We become meek, temperate and long suffering with others as we comprehend how little we are in comparison to God. We have no reason to boast after we have encountered purity and intelligence. It is a fearful thing to come into contact with the Living God (Heb. 10:31.)
Intelligence is light and truth (D&C 93:36). Truth is knowledge of things as they are, were, and are to come (D&C 93:24). We clearly see our weakness when in contact with God (Ether 12:27). But the purpose of showing us our weakness is to cause “weak things become strong” (Id.). This “strength” does not produce bragging, assertiveness or boasting. To the contrary, it produces recognition, meekness and fear.
When an authentic encounter with God happens, the person will be filled with anxiety for the salvation of others. (See, Lehi’s immediate concern for his family: 1 Ne. 8:12; Enos’ desire for his brethren and his enemies, the Lamanites, who he viewed as “brethren” also: Enos 1:9, 11; the Sons of Mosiah, who after their own conversion could not bear to have any soul lost if they could convert them: Mosiah 28:3; and the Apostle Paul, who went from persecuting to proselytizing; among many others.)
The results are not magic. It is a natural progression based on knowledge and understanding. God shows us something, and we take it into account. We know more, understand more, and have a far more realistic recognition of what is happening here in this fallen world. Then, with that increased understanding, we look to contribute to saving souls (our own included). This is comforting, because it is real.
The frequent testimonies declaring that a person “knows” something is true because the speaker or writer was stirred with emotion is not enlightening, enlivening, increasing understanding, bestowing knowledge, telling us saving truths, or based upon an actual encounter with God. God awakens us from slumber; which can be distressing and even alarming.
But we need to awaken. And we ought to be alarmed.
(I have used the terms Holy Ghost, Spirit and Holy Spirit interchangeably. I have previously explained how I understand the terms are correctly used in scripture.)
In response to an email about the Tree of Life in Lehi’s dream, and the potential for John the Beloved to be directly involved in latter-day events, I responded with the following:
The challenge is to elevate others without elevating yourself. The idea of having a strong leader with everyone looking to them for salvation is a demonstrably inadequate model. It did not work with Moses. It failed in the New Testament. It failed with Joseph. It will fail if used again now.
I have written over 2 million words explaining my understanding of Mormonism. It has largely been an exposition of the scriptures to show how they anchor all my beliefs. The scriptures are a library of material about Christ, written by those who knew Him and had understanding given to them by Him. The value of scripture is directly related to the writers’ proximity to our Lord’s mind and words.
Not all scripture has equal value. The Book of Mormon has the greatest value because of its origin. Its prophecies are more relevant to us than those of the Bible
Other than the scriptures, the sources I trust most are approved or written by Joseph Smith, or his brother Hyrum, and others that include the earliest contemporary accounts of beginning LDS history. The further away the source is from the actual events, the less reliable they prove. There are some accounts that have become “history” that were not even written by a witness. They were fanciful recreations intended to promote belief in the religious systems that followed Joseph’s death. They are not true.
Lately, more reliable source materials about early LDS history are available to the public for the first time. Older accounts written without using the new source material are unreliable and outdated. Defending LDS historical accounts using unreliable source material no longer persuades those who are well read in new material. I have tried to make a positive statement of what I have learned and how events can be better reconstructed using what is now available.
The contradictory clutter of post-Joseph contentions advanced by church apologists are neither consistent nor coherent. Those who prize these sources and find virtue in them have courage. I confess I lack the courage to trust myth without searching to discover truth.
Even after all I’ve written, I still have venomous critics who attribute to me the opposite of what I believe.
-Although I condemn plural marriage, I’m accused of wanting it.
-Although I abhor concentration of power in church leaders, I’m accused of seeking to establish my own organization to control.
-Although I spend my own money to teach and serve, I’m accused of somehow wanting to profit from these expenses I bear.
-Although I have told people to remain LDS if they are happy with their situation, I’m accused of driving people away from the church. (I really like Latter-day Saints. They are among the best people I know. If they follow their faith, they are upright, decent and moral people for whom I hold high regard. They only bother me when they ignorantly and vocally damn me for things I do not believe or advocate. Apart from that, I have no complaints.)
-Although I harbor no ill-will to any church authority, I’m accused of railing against them.
-Although I recommend we return to the original name for the priesthood, I’m accused of wanting to rename priesthood after myself.
As the Lord said, “blessed are you when men shall say all manner of evil against you FALSELY for my name’s sake…” It seems I qualify. The critics do not bother to say what I actually advocate, choosing instead to spread false accusations suggesting I believe the opposite of what I actually believe.
The 11th Article of Faith declares:
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I believe this. I also claim this right. I appreciate the opportunity claimed by every “Mormon” sect accepting the Articles of Faith as part of their beliefs. When others want to attack this right, let’s band together to oppose them. Let everyone be free in their beliefs and worship.
It should be no concern to anyone what, how or where I choose to worship. If I am wrong, that is between me and God. I am only sharing what I have learned with those who are interested. You are free to reject my beliefs. If you are right, then you should rejoice in the truth you have found and try to persuade others to see the truth as well.
No one should “own” a religion. It is morally corrupt to claim anyone can dictate what others believe, what they should believe, how they should worship or what they must do to satisfy a man’s demand in order for God to offer salvation. If you think a Pope, or Priest or Prophet can save you, then by all means go get yourself saved, as you understand it. If I think only God can save me, and that too by the grace of Christ, then permit me to seek for my salvation at the feet of the Lord whom I worship.
If we are both deluded then let’s permit each other the joy of our delusions without rancor or contention. You revel in what brings you hope and satisfaction, and allow me to do the same. If we are all wrong, the least we can be is accommodating and happy.
Because of our limited time in mortality, we will all know soon enough the answers to all the questions. While we are here, let’s be courteous to one another. When at last we arrive, we can compare notes and see what other insights we can share with one another.
Until you have done what I have done, you cannot possibly fully understand my faith, and likewise, since your experience is foreign to me, I cannot possibly fully understand your faith. We ought to resign ourselves to peacefully allow one another the privilege to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience, and trust that we all take seriously the obligation to search for truth.
Assuming we all act consistent with our conscience, then why damn each other for our good faith beliefs and efforts? Why not be open, even with disagreements? Why feel threatened when someone understands our history, scripture, and God’s will differently? When we allow one another the freedom of belief, an open discussion helps us understand the reason for a different view, and lets us reconsider our own views in a healthy, useful way. Over time we inevitably grow more unified by open discourse.
It arouses my curiosity when someone offers a new understanding of scripture. Curiosity is a very good thing. It is perhaps the most childlike thing about us; something Christ said was required for us to see His Kingdom. When we react in fear and anger at other religious viewpoints we are really submitting to the enemy of our soul. Fear is ungodly. Faith casts out fear. Can you imagine a child who refuses to consider anything new because they fear to hear about it?
We should allow everyone to state what they believe and why– in THEIR own words. Redefining them, attributing motives they do not claim, or questioning their good faith can never lead us to an understanding of one another.
For the first time since Joseph and Hyrum died, there is actual progress now being made. Instead of the atrophy of three and four generations merely marking time, we now see new life begun. There are two important, interrelated challenges before us.
The first is remembering the restoration and reclaiming its truths, ordinances and vitality. This began in earnest with the final talk given in Phoenix on September 9, 2014. Since then, hundreds have gone through the simple but necessary process to reclaim authority and obtain the now required sustaining vote to exercise that authority with God’s approval.
Fellowship groups are collecting tithing and using it to assist the poor among them, and when their group’s needs are met they support others who are in need. I have received wonderful accounts of how local groups are organizing themselves.
One group has two boxes when they meet. In one they deposit tithing, all in cash to make it easy to distribute immediately. In the other, those with needs write down their need. Following sacrament, the needs are reviewed and prioritized based on the group’s agreement of greatest need requiring the most immediate attention, and then ranking second, third, and so on. After agreement is reached, the tithing money is counted and, if all needs can be met, the funds are given to those in need. If only part of the needs can be addressed, the money is distributed according to the agreed priority.
In some accounts sent to me, children of the fellowship see the gospel in action and are impressed with the power of faith to bless and care for one another’s needs. They see this immediately. They see people ministering to one another as the result of the faith they share in Christ and the effort to obey Him.
This renewal allows the great financial power of Christ’s teachings to be fully devoted to immediate needs. No one administers the tithes, nor does anyone control the resources. Common consent is used to accomplish good and address immediate needs. No one is paid to serve, and nothing is required to support an administrative or professional class.
In this new pattern the great evil of priestcraft condemned by the Book of Mormon is avoided. No one can profit, and no one can obtain money and earn their living through this system. The poor alone receive the benefit of the tithing collected.
This pattern mirrors the one commended by the Book of Mormon:
Alma 1:26: And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God, they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
It avoids the practice of priestcraft condemned in that same chapter:
The man Nehor preached in favor of a professional and popular clergy.
Alma 1:3: he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.
Nehor was popular because he did not preach repentance. Quite the opposite, he reassured his audience that they would certainly be saved, appealing to their pride.
Alma 1:4: And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.
In competition with this false priestcraft, there was an unpaid clergy offering an unpopular message. These true priests warned people tot repent and follow God. The Book of Mormon shows in plain simplicity the religion Christ wants mankind to follow.
The simple but necessary steps have been declared again with God’s approval. In response hundreds now have authority and several thousand have returned to the root of the restoration. These will survive the Lord’s return, because their authorized and authoritative baptism is the sign now accepted by God as proof of faith by obedience.
This will continue to roll forward. Even in this cold weather, over the last two weeks there have been baptisms in the Boise River, northern Utah, and elsewhere. It is delicate and vulnerable, but I do not believe it will go backward. The season is upon us.
This vital new growth from a dead root is a sign heaven told us to watch for in the last days. It is fulfilling the prophecy of Zenos, and the promises given by Christ. This is a new beginning. With this beginning, I think there is every reason to rejoice and take heart.
The second challenge is to see Zion gathered from among the scattered into a single place in the mountains where an ensign will be built. There the Lord will gather some under His wings, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. However, Zion must wait for strength to develop in the first fellowships.
Like men in all generations, I too want to see the foundation of Zion built in my day. This desire sometimes leads me to have unreasonably high expectations for others. This is wrong of me, and leads to my disappointment. Disappointment is always a product of expectations. Because I expect more, when I should not, I am led to want more than is possible for others to give or do. That is wrong of me, and I acknowledge my misplaced expectations.
The Lord is patient, and He knows what will follow and how it all will unfold to fulfill His promises. I have seen the potential of some of you and want that to turn into more than perhaps it ever will or can. For the last few days I have reflected on Sidney Rigdon. He was so important, useful and valuable to Joseph’s work as it began. With time, Sidney became a hindrance. So much so that Joseph asked the church to vote him out as a counselor to Joseph–but instead, the church reelected Sidney. Like Sidney, many others of Joseph’s inner circle proved themselves incapable of rising up and realizing the opportunity presented to them. In the end, Sidney and others skewed the restoration, and in may ways opposed and hindered what the Lord might have accomplished with more obedient and humble people.
In the same January 1841 revelation reminding the church it had forfeited the “fulness of the priesthood” (D&C 124:28), the Lord confirmed upon Hyrum “the office of Priesthood and Patriarch” (D&C 124:91). In Hyrum, like the prophets of old, God gave us a “prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto [God’s] church” (D&C 124:94). Hyrum was a man who could “bind on earth, bind in heaven, loose on earth, and loose in heaven” (D&C 124:93). He was the means to preserve the restoration, had he lived. By June 1844, it appears to me only Joseph and Hyrum were equal to fulfilling the Lord’s requirements.
But Joseph and Hyrum were brothers, and therefore both “pure blooded Ephriamites” (JD 2:269; see also Ensign, January 1991, Of the House of Israel). The ancient covenants required this bloodline to bring forth the Book of Mormon and commence the restoration. However, they, and the priesthood line through them, needed to end before other covenants could be fulfilled. Zion will come through both Judah (king) and Joseph (priest), to fulfill the promises of our Lord (D&C 113:5-6; Isa. 11:10). Accordingly, both Joseph and Hyrum were taken, Hyrum the first to fall.
Hyrum’s line was to be kept “in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever” (D&C 124:96). Even after the Patriarch’s office, held by Hyrum’s descendants, was discontinued in 1979, the church still held some tenuous claims. In 1979 Eldred G. Smith was released and never replaced, but he lived on for decades. The office has now altogether ended according to church publications.
Upon his death in April 2013 at 104 years of age, the sign of the passing of the fourth generation was given. By April of the next year the Lord concluded His work through the LDS Church and set His hand to begin something new, now underway.
The first process of fellowshipping in local groups today is saving souls. It is a required first step, and therefore anyone who claims to have faith in Christ must now come and receive their baptism as a sign of faith in Christ through this required manner. Even if the recipient chooses to continue activity in the LDS Church, or any other church or group, all people of faith must receive the baptism now being offered.
But the second challenge, to have Zion return, is the true object of our Lord’s heart. For that to come, the challenge is an order of magnitude greater than fellowshipping, and will require much of us.
One word of caution: new things taught using the scriptures always give pretenders, ambitious and cunning men an opportunity to improve their deception. Information can be abused, and there are those who are eager to deceive to get power, popularity and financial gain. You must assume the burden of distinguishing light from darkness, truth from error, and pretenders from those sent by the Lord with counsel from Him. Trust no man. Go to God and ask Him about everyone who teaches and everything taught.