I am not and have never been a “dissident” in the LDS Church.
I do not want to reform the LDS Church. I do not want to manage it, or join in managing it, or change its management. There is no “cause” I advocate in the hope of altering a policy or procedure of the LDS Church. Their policies, procedures, programs, choices, how it spends its money, what it builds or who it employs are all matters I am indifferent to.
Those who want to get the LDS Church to ordain women are dissidents. Those who want to have the Book of Abraham abandoned, or want to wear pants (a convention, not a policy), or seek to have homosexuals married are the work of dissidents. There are many causes and many dissidents. I am not one. They are welcome to their causes.
I was converted to a religion which I understood was restored by Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith and contained the latest clarifications, corrections, additions and explanations God wanted me to understand. I am still converted to that religion.
At one time I briefly identified the religion with the LDS Church. But that lasted only a few months. With a little reflection, it was apparent the religion was not the institution. All the other organized religions I was familiar with held the Bible to be God’s complete statement of faith. It was not to be added to or expanded upon. The new religion I accepted taught me to believe God spoke still, and revelation would continue. God likewise talked with me for the first time when I joined this new religion. If God hadn’t spoken to me in answer to sincere prayer, I would not have become Mormon.
I believe “the extent of [our] knowledge respecting [God’s] character and glory will depend upon [our] diligence and faithfulness in seeking after [Him].” (Lectures on Faith, 2nd Lecture, par. 55.) Therefore I ventured to try to gain knowledge about God directly, by my own inquiries to Him. I pursued this in all sincerity of heart, believing God would answer me when I sought Him. (James 1: 5.) I have learned it to be true that “the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed always terminated when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty.” (Id. par. 56.)
To practice this religion, I joined the LDS Church because I thought it welcomed and encouraged this kind of relationship with God. For a season it seemed to do just that. Over the course of four decades, however, it became increasingly difficult to pursue the religion inside an institution with ambitions which ran contrary to my desire to understand God and become acquainted with Him.
I did not resist the desire of the LDS church to control its meetings and pursue an ambitious course of controlling what its members could say. I did not dissent and petition for change. But neither did I cease from seeking God in the manner I found in Joseph Smith’s example, Nephi’s teachings, Jacob’s sermons, Alma’s writings, Abinadi’s warnings and Christ’s discourses. It was my understanding that I was free to worship God “according to the dictates of [my own] conscience,” and the LDS Church was likewise free to enjoy “the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (11th Article of Faith.)
If they had permitted me to do so, I was absolutely content to remain a member of the LDS Church. Although I understood the religion differently than taught within the programs of the church, the church had the right to pursue its course without my interference. I do not believe I ever interfered. I studied the faith, tried to live the faith, tried to understand what it offered each of us when rightly pursued, and ultimately received “the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty” from my pursuit.
Like others who tasted from this tree of life, once I learned the religion restored through Joseph Smith was indeed alive, and able to reconnect us to the True Vine (John 15: 1-5), I wanted others to also know it was possible to eat from the Tree of Life. (See 1 Ne. 8: 12; also Enos 1: 9.) It should be welcome and appropriate for all Latter-day Saints to both belong to the LDS Church and to reconnect with heaven and be filled with knowledge from God.
I thought I was free to believe and teach others about how great things God offered to us all, liberally, if we ask in faith, believing. However, the LDS Church took the position I was out of harmony with the institution and should be excommunicated. They were free to do so. I do not challenge their right to remove me from their membership roles.
Now, just as before when I was part of the institution, I still believe and practice the religion restored through Joseph Smith. I believe I have always been free to practice this faith, and I intend to continue to do so. Now, however, I am unmolested by institutional constraint and control, and therefore I needn’t be concerned about some of the things I was before.
There is no office in either the LDS Church or the priesthood of God called “Prophet.” Nor is there an office in the LDS Church or the priesthood called “Seer;” nor “Revelator” nor “Translator.” There is an office called “President” and an office called “Apostle” and “High Priest” and “Elder” and others.
The role of a “prophet” comes as a gift from God, not from holding an office. To receive this gift, one must receive a prophecy from God, or a testimony from Jesus, to be delivered to people. Likewise revelation comes from God, and when it comes the person receiving it has received revelation and is therefore a revelator. It is a gift, not an office. Similarly the gift of seership is not an office, but a gift bestowed by God, and requires God’s showing to the recipient something before the gift is held. In the case of Mosiah, the gift included “miraculous interpreters” (Mosiah 8: 13), but in the case of Enoch, the Lord made the gift reside within his body (Moses 6: 35-36). Likewise, translation of ancient languages to preserve truth previously lost to mankind is a gift from God, not an office.
When the LDS Church claims its presiding authorities are “prophets, seers and revelators” I took no issue with the claim, but understood this to be descriptive of a hope, or ambition, to be given by God as a gift to them if God willed to do so. I presumed sustaining them as “prophets, seers and revelators” did not empower them to make the claim to possess these gifts in the absence of God bestowing them. Therefore, I awaited God’s hand to vindicate the expectancy, never dreaming that by merely voting I could elevate a mere man to possess what is God’s right alone to give.
There is no official “creed” given to us by Joseph Smith. He advised all to search into God’s mysteries: “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” (TPJS p. 364.) I have done that, and believe all should do likewise. No institution can do this for me, or for you. It is up to each of us to practice this faith.
I believe everyone ought to practice a living, fruitful faith by reconnecting to the True Vine, because it is only through Christ we are able to do anything. When any soul reconnects to Christ, they are alive in Him and should do as Christ would have them do. If this puts you into conflict with an institution, then I believe it is our duty to obey Christ and endure the insults, rejection and turmoil which follows.
When I joined the LDS Church I literally sacrificed all I knew before. My family and closest friends were all anti-Mormon. When I joined, I lost their friendship. Although I succeeded in reconciling with many of them, it was a difficult process taking years.
When I found Christ, I was threatened with the loss of everything I had come to know during the 40 years of membership in the LDS Church. I was even confronted by a Stake President’s threat of the “spiritual demise” of “my family” if I did not relent from doing as Christ asked of me. After 40 years of building a new life as a Latter-day Saint, once again I was threatened with the sacrifice of all I knew and enjoyed. It was no easier the second time than it was the first. There are a lot of lies about me, and false claims attributed to me.
I believe “that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6, par. 7.) Because I have made these sacrifices, I have been called “proud” and “stubborn” and filled with “self will and ambition.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I mourn my losses, but believe they were made in obedience to Christ. Therefore I endure this, while wishing it were otherwise.
I have come to realize that criticism can be used by the Lord to accomplish what He wants to happen. There are many Latter-day Saints who will now read what I have written just because I was excommunicated. More has been done by that action to spread knowledge of what I believe than anything I have done. It stimulates curiosity and interest.
The LDS Church was entirely within its right to excommunicate me, and any of its members it considers unwanted. It is free to teach, advocate and alter what it does without any interference from me. I do not dissent from it, or hope in any way to change it or its course. That is between it and God. But likewise I claim the right to continue as I began, and believe in the faith restored through Joseph Smith and practice it according to the dictates of my conscience.
I likewise believe the LDS Church members who now spew venom against me are free to do so. They are not likely to persuade anyone by such tactics. I think the truth is more resilient than a lie.
If there were one scripture I could commend to my LDS critics it would be this: “And now I say unto you, Refrain from [this man], and let [him] alone: for if this counsel of this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5: 38-39.)