1 June 1830

On the 1st of June, 1830 a small meeting was held by about thirty people who comprised the church. The meeting was in a home. During the meeting Newel Knight was carried away in a vision. Only Brother Knight had the vision, but Joseph accepted it as true and had it put into the history.

Here is what Newel Knight’s visionary experience included:

“He saw heaven opened and beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, sitting [at] the right hand of the Majesty on high, and had it made plain to his understanding that the time would come when he should be admitted into his presence to enjoy his society for ever and ever.” (JS Papers: Histories Vol. 1, p. 388, Draft 1; punctuation and insertions as in original.)

That example shows how open Joseph Smith was to allowing others to both receive revelations and for their revelations to be regarded as authentic and trustworthy. Joseph trusted in this visionary experience of Brother Newel Knight so much it was included in Joseph’s history.

This experience would be described as Brother Knight’s calling and election being made sure, since it includes the promise from God that he (Bro. Knight) will be able to enjoy Christ and the Father’s “society for ever and ever.”

It is not regarded as “too sacred” to discuss.

It is not regarded as impudent to have a visionary experience apart from Joseph.

It did not excite Joseph’s jealousy or condemnation, but inspired his confidence and faith.

It happened in a home, although it was a church meeting. No church buildings existed among the Saints during Joseph’s lifetime, other than the Kirtland Temple. The people met in homes or outside during Joseph’s lifetime.

Can’t we build a bridge?

There is a gulf between two views regarding Mormonism which makes it very difficult for us to speak and understand each other. This gulf is problematic because it labels one group as blind and the other as faithless. It is possible to hold either view and still be very believing, committed and prayerful. Therefore, it is wrong to accuse one another.

Below is a contrast between the two sides illustrated by the extreme. There are shades between the extremes, but the extremes are the best way to illustrate the separation:

I call the first position the “brethrenites” because it is a shorthand way to capture the view: These Mormons believe that everything done since the death of Joseph Smith through Brigham Young and successors in the Presidency and Twelve of the LDS Church has been entirely conforming to God’s will. They believe “keys” were passed and, as a result, these successors control God’s power and can seal on earth and in heaven. They believe the statements made by the successors are invariably in the status of “prophet, seer and revelator” and therefore inspired by God (or binding upon Him by reason of the “keys” held). The general authorities are able to give binding statements as mentioned in D&C 1: 38. They speak the “mind of the Lord” as described in D&C 68: 4. As  part of this construct, any criticism of the Brethren is by definition ‘evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed’ and therefore criticism is apostasy. These people also believe the scriptures are secondary to a “living oracle” and therefore the scriptures are not as important as whatever the president of the church says now.

I call the second position the residue [of the saints]. These people believe the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s Smith divine calling, but do not agree that everything that began with Brigham Young conformed to God’s will. They believe the Lord spoke to this generation through Joseph (D&C 5: 10) and it was binding on everyone, including all subsequent leaders and members. They are skeptical of the claims to “keys” and authority, and believe the leaders after Joseph are not his equal. They believe the scriptures hold a higher priority than church authorities and when the scriptures are contradicted, the advice or direction can be safely ignored. They do not think criticism is evil or apostasy, but believe all who claim to believe in the Restoration through Joseph Smith are similarly bound to accept the Lord’s will through Joseph until the Lord decides to call another like Joseph (if He does).

When the brethrenites quote long passages from Talmage, McConkie, Grant, Brown, Widstoe, Lund or Romney to make a point, it has no persuasive impact on the residue. Likewise, when the residue quote the scriptures, it does not persuade the brethrenites as long as there is something contrary from Snow, Young, Taylor or Pratt. The arguments that one side believes should settle a question never succeeds in persuading the other because the underlying assumptions are so very different. Until the different groups decide to agree on what matters, what defines the faith, and whose statements carry authority and weight, there can be no agreement.

This is an odd gulf confronting Mormonism, because the brethrenites quote Eph. 4: 11-13 (leaders given to bring “unity of faith”) and the residue believe D&C 38: 27 (“if ye are not one ye are not mine”). Both ends believe sincerely in their position.

To the Brethrenites, I would pose this question: If apostles and prophets were given to bring “unity of faith” why do the doctrines differ so greatly between Brigham Young and Thomas Monson? What is this “in the absence of revelation” that changes very important doctrines?

To the residue, I would pose this question: If you believe your position, why do you remain silent in sacrament meeting, sunday school, priesthood, relief society and ym/yw classes? (Your position will never unify Mormons if the strength of your position goes unarticulated.)


In response to a question about whether my views have changed since I wrote The Second Comforter, I would say they have in some respects and have not in others. I do not intend to write a new edition and change what I wrote there. Believing Latter-day Saints should faithfully follow their religion. I was cast out of the church, and therefore have no reason to follow it lock-step any longer. But I do not resent the church, want back in, or hope to change it.

Even though the LDS Church is working very hard to put its leaders between the members and the Lord, I think a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint can endure that abuse while still honoring God. Christ did as much in His lifetime, and He is the great example. When you pass through all the rites of the LDS Church it begins and ends at almost the same point. The starting point is believing Joseph Smith, inspired by James 1:5, asked God and received an answer–and you can too. The ending point involves an ordinance which promises you further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil. Both at the beginning and the end of the LDS journey you are told to speak with God and expect an answer. If not for my belief in this promise, and the LDS Church’s teaching of it, I do not believe I would ever have conversed with God. So even now I see the LDS Church as having great value to its faithful members who can grow closer to God despite the foolishness of its Correlation program and distorted elevation of mere men.

The energy and light given through Joseph Smith powers the LDS Church still today. Even though the church’s leadership want to disregard, ignore, and even violate Joseph’s teachings, they still benefit from his original ministry.

One of the clearest moments in LDS Church history came on August 8, 1844. Joseph was dead. There were multiple contenders to lead the church in the leadership vacuum left by Joseph and Hyrum’s murders. When the critical moment arrived, the church took a profound, irreversible step. The church which was founded by revelation, proclaimed it was led by revelation, and held itself out as “true and living” because it was led by a prophet who received revelation, chose at that moment to ignore revelation. No one argued the choice should be made by God and then revealed to the church. Instead the church held an election and voted the 12 into power. At that moment the church decided to vote for its destiny, instead of letting God reveal to her His choice. Under the new direction Nauvoo was abandoned, the Saints fled into the wilderness, suffered, endured misery, were abused and blamed by the leaders for the leaders’ failures, and received chastening from an unimpressed God.

Although the Saints descended into a salty wasteland, the discovery of gold in California, the railroad and the convenience of a mid-mountain stopover helped them to survive. With time and a larger American economy in the midst of an Industrial Revolution, the church was likewise elevated economically and politically. Each step along the way the church positioned itself to benefit until now it is a powerful, multi-billion dollar enterprise with political, economic and social clout to protect itself from ever again enduring the early embarrassments and persecutions. It has diversified its product line from merely the “Mormon” religion, and has vast real estate, cattle, farming, business, banking, housing, educational, employment, television, radio, satellite, and other ventures. With all its leaders must manage, there is little time for and increasingly less attention given to the religion Joseph Smith was restoring. It is becoming increasingly clear to those who study the faith that it has undergone drastic changes since June 27, 1844. Those changes make the LDS Church much more like the rest of the world’s religions, and less like the revolution begun by God through Joseph.

I’m not sure the LDS Church today is even the same one I joined in 1973. I am certain it is not the same one Joseph Smith restored.

When I first joined the LDS Church there was a Presiding Patriarch sustained as a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in General Conference, which I understood was required for a fully organized church. He was subsequently released, his office left unfilled, and he has now died.

When I first became LDS the temple rites included roles, penalties and signs (I did not then understand) but which have subsequently been eliminated or changed.

When I first became LDS priesthood was restricted (which I hated but accepted), subsequently removed.

When I first became LDS there were 70’s in every Ward who were regarded as having a distinct office, which has now been eliminated, confined to General Authorities, who are all now High Priests, the office of 70 having been essentially eliminated.

When I first became LDS doctrine mattered, scriptures were used as the primary source of teaching, and General Conference talks were not re-read in Sacrament, Priesthood, Relief Society and Sunday School as the basis of lessons, unlike today. The adoration of church leaders is now almost the only “religion” practiced. Jesus Christ is a nominally mentioned party, appended at the end of talks and testimonies, as if mentioning Him at the end certifies everything remains His.

When I first became LDS we twice had the Sacrament blessed and passed each Sunday, we discussed openly the “mysteries” and had a very different Spirit within the community. There is a harshness to the LDS Church, and a hardness in its members which wasn’t there in 1973.

The list of changes is now over 120 items long and I won’t lay them out here. It isn’t important to do so. In the dedication of The Second Comforter I wrote: “Dedicated to the ‘few who are the humble followers of Christ.’ (2 Ne. 28: 14.)” I hoped readers would go look that verse up and read it, and the surrounding verses. If they do they will read this description:

“Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sancturaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are teh humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 12-14.)

The dedication at the beginning of The Second Comforter was deliberate. I have recognized the truth for many, many years. But I honored every obligation I took upon myself. I have only joined one church organization in my life: the LDS Church. I am grateful to it and would not have left when they excommunicated me. But that does not mean I wasn’t alarmed by what I saw the leaders doing to alter and misshape the church. I tried to be meek, and still to be so. Now, however, I am entirely free to be meek in relation to the Lord alone, and no longer need to be anything but a “humble follower of Christ” (to use Nephi’s description). It is no longer necessary to be “led, that in many instances [I will] err because of the precepts of men.” I can look to the Lord alone, and forget institutional demands on my attention, time and thought. Or, as our Lord once put it: I can be about my Father’s business.

Name Calling

I have been called, among other choice words, “apostate” by some LDS folks in their indiscriminate, anonymous on-line rants. Name-calling by Latter-day Saints is a complete role reversal from where the Restoration began. When Joseph Smith was being abused by the religionists of his day, he observed “they treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil. That there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things [were confined to and the sole right of] the apostles.” (JS-H 1: 21.) The people who rejected Joseph’s beliefs were rejecting the Bible itself, which they pretended was the basis for their faith. Joseph did what James 1: 5instructed him to do, and got an answer. That is the faith he restored: A living faith in which God will speak to all who, like me, lack wisdom, liberally. I lack wisdom. I go to God with questions. So long as any of us ask in faith, He will answer. I know. He has answered me. Now Latter-day Saints think it is their right to denounce others who have asked God, and have been answered. If Latter-day Saints do possess the truth, then for those they think in error should be met with kindness, not reviling. (See JS-H 1: 25.) “If they suppose me to be deluded they ought to endeavor in a proper and affectionate manner to reclaim me.” (JS-H 1: 28.) Instead I read the accusation I am “apostate” by these smug Latter-day Saints. It must put a smile on the faces of authority and the devil. These disciples pretend to follow Joseph’s restored religion while acting the part of his persecutors. The saints have come full circle indeed.
Where exactly do you draw the line and begin to denounce others as “apostate?”
If we both believe in the Book of Mormon, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?”
If we both believe Joseph Smith was called of God to restore the Gospel, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?”
If we both accept the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price as scripture, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?”
If we both believe in continuing revelation and that God has yet to reveal a great deal as part of the Restoration of all, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?”
If we have all of the foregoing in common, is that enough to respect one another as fellow-believers? Or do you require much more of me than I can give in order to avoid being denounced by you? How much do you want to micromanage my beliefs? Do you ever feel any twinge of concern about not permitting others to worship “according to the dictates of their conscience, and allow others the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may?” (Paraphrase of 11th Article of Faith)
If I believe priesthood has no authority over me, and you believe as Elder Oaks declared from general conference that the “keys” are the right to exercise authority, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?” What if my belief is based on the scripture “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” which I hold in higher regard than a declaration from a church official to the contrary? (See D&C121: 41)
If I believe the Lectures on Faith are still scripture, but you do not, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?”
If I believe the LDS Church has changed dramatically in my lifetime, and even more since Joseph Smith died, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?”
If I believe the scriptures were given to control and govern the faith, and you believe whatever comes from living church officials can contradict or disregard the words of scripture, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?” If I can tolerate your view in this regard, even if I do not share it, are we of the same faith or is one of us “apostate?” If I use the scriptures and you use the scriptures, why are your views correct and mine incorrect? How did we arrive at the odd position that you get to call me “apostate” for believing the scriptures differently than you do? If you trust that “keys” are the thing that guarantees you salvation, what exactly are the “keys,” allowed by scripture, that bear that out?
If I will let you go in peace, why cannot you let me go likewise in peace. The LDS church is an institution of this world, not of the next. We should care less for the things of this world than we do. I am very content with my faith in God, and very much in harmony with everything He has asked of me. If you believe the same about yourself, then let that be your assurance and have the confidence to leave me to go my way in peace. Practice your beliefs in the way you think God wants, and I will do the same.
I will never again submit to another man’s priestly claim to dominion, control, judgment or oppression. It was denounced in scripture, and I reject such things. (D&C 121: 36-42.) If you think there is a priest who has the right to demand things of you in exchange for saving you using some “key,”  I do not share your belief, but I am perfectly willing to respect you if that is yours. Happy is the man who serves his God in faith and conviction. Happier still is the man whose God is Christ and therefore respects his right to voluntarily act for himself, accepting full accountability for his beliefs, and not expecting man to save him using authority to do so.

If, by your definition, I am “apostate,” then let me assure you I am content to be so. I am fully willing to accept whatever Christ’s judgment is for being so. More importantly, I am entirely satisfied I remain in harmony with what God expects of me, and I wish the same for you.

Grand Junction Transcript – Zion

The transcript for the Grand Junction lecture is now up on Scribd. The link is on the blog under the sidebar DS Talks on the right of the blog. Scribd is free. It just requires that you create an account. You do not have to pay to read Denver’s lectures on Scribd. I know there are some limitations, but eventually we will look into other options.

Abraham’s Sons

Last night I was awakened by this:

Did not Ishmael and Isaac mourn together and bury their father Abraham? Was not their father’s blood precious unto them both?

Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Isaac and Ishmael? Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Esau and Jacob?

Let Ishmael today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious still. Let Isaac likewise today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious again. For Abraham’s sake, let all the brothers who descend from Abraham now mourn when Abraham’s blood is spilled by any of his descendants.

If Abraham’s sons do not find his blood to be precious still, there remains nothing between them but the shedding of Abraham’s blood. For all his sons who fail to find Abraham’s blood to be precious will be held to account by God, who will judge between the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael, the sons of Esau and the sons of Jacob for father Abraham’s sake, with whom God covenanted.

The sons of Abraham will not be permitted to continue this disregard of their common father’s blood without provoking God, who will soon judge between Abraham’s sons.

Elder Oaks’ General Conference Talk

I am trying to understand Elder Oaks’ talk. Taking everything he said at face value, here is what I think he said:

1. Women don’t hold the priesthood.

2. Those who hold “keys” can give assignments to others who then act under the authority of the priesthood of the key-holder.

3. In the temple sisters use the authority of the priesthood to perform washings and anointings, inasmuch as they were set apart by key-holders.

4. Therefore women use the authority of the priesthood.

From this it can be surmised: Sister missionaries will be able to baptize some day using the authority of the priesthood of a key-holder. This talk was designed to accomplish what the “Ordain Women” movement wants by approaching it in two steps rather than one. It is de facto ordination, incrementally adopted by careful measures.

A Covenant With the King

King Benjamin had an an objective. Better said, the angel of the Lord had an objective in mind when the king was told what to teach. The objective is more fully explained once the people had received the lesson.

“And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.” (Mosiah 5: 1-5.)

Here is the covenant-making King Benjamin had as his assignment. The Lord saves, but uses covenant-making as a part of His process. We don’t get to make covenants, but we do get to accept them if the Lord offers them to us. It must be the Lord’s offer and our acceptance for it to have effect. Here the words that were recited by the congregation were the words King Benjamin had asked them to accept: “And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them;” (Mosiah 5: 6.) Meaning they were exactly what they’d been asked to accept as the new covenant.

King Benjamin’s record continues: “and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5: 6-7.) This was the object. To extend the Family of God by adding sons and daughters. King Benjamin’s ministry was producing fruit suitable to be laid up against the harvest (as Jacob quoted Zenos to describe).

King Benjamin expounds on the central role Christ plays in our salvation. Only by connecting ourselves to Him will we be able to qualify for what He (as our Father) has to offer. “And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.” (Mosiah 5: 8.) Or, in other words, we always remember Him that we may always have His spirit to be with us.

He continues: “And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.” (Mosiah 5: 9-10.) Since Christ is the prototype of the saved man, all who would be saved must likewise be qualified to hold this same status or be called by this same name.

King Benjamin’s religion is like the one Joseph Smith was restoring. He offered his people an authorized covenant with the King, established by heaven through King Benjamin. It is remarkable how much of the deepest Gospel truths are found in the Book of Mormon.

The Poor

King Benjamin does not concern himself with all the ways it is possible to get it wrong. (Mosiah 4: 29.) Mankind gets it wrong all the time. The great challenge is to finally get it right. His sermon is an attempt to lay out how a society may finally overcome the failures and draw close to God. Individual righteousness is a rare thing in this world, but it happens more frequently than societal righteousness. King Benjamin’s talk is about societal success, or social righteousness.

Once converted, the work begins. The work, as we have seen, involves eradicating poverty by helping the needy. We are forbidden from turning away the beggar. We are forbidden from judging them. We have but one duty toward them; that is to help them.

His sermon continues: “And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” (Mosiah 4: 24.) Even the poor are required to have a charitable heart. They may lack the means, but they cannot lack the heart. All society must have a disposition to help one another.

Unless we are willing to render aid to one another, we cannot possibly become one. Until we view the circumstances of the least member of the community from their vantage point, we cannot become one. It isn’t possible to bear one another’s burdens when we are oblivious to the burdens they bear. Alma would preach this as a requirement to be baptized. (See Mosiah 18: 8-10.) Until we are like-minded we don’t even qualify for the ordinance offered by Alma.

The Book of Mormon speaks of  the ideals that condemn us because we do not even recognize them. Even if we pretend to share the religion of those of the Book of Mormon, our social order is far from what the book preaches.

King Benjamin continues: “And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.” (Mosiah 4: 25.) Here is a failure so significant it absolutely prevents Zion. Coveting is a vile personal failure, and so foreign to becoming “one” as a people, that it is condemned in the Ten Commandments. (See Ex. 20: 17.) It prevents us from being equal. Equality is required for Zion.

When the Restoration was led by Joseph Smith, the Lord cautioned the early believers that they were required to be equal in temporal things. Because they refused to do so, they forfeited the Spiritual manifestations which necessarily accompany Zion. “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” (D&C 70: 14.) They failed. We do not even attempt it. We probably shouldn’t attempt it until we first repent and receive the faith the Lord once attempted to restore through Joseph Smith.

When Joseph was still ministering, the Lord foretold of a great work to be done. This work was the Lord’s to do, but even the mention of it inspired eagerness by the early converts. When hints of Zion emerged in Joseph’s prophecies, the Saints thought it was their right to have it immediately, and without the necessary patience and diligence that must precede it. They hastened to the center spot, where, as a result of the Indian Relocation Act enforced by Andrew Jackson, all Native Americans had been relocated. The line between the Indians and whites was drawn on the western border of Missouri. All eastern Indians, from Maine to Florida, had been resettled in the Indian Territory. The center of their population was, at that moment, Independence, Missouri. If the Indians were going to be taught, there was one center spot available for access by white missionaries. It was in Independence, Missouri. When Mormons attempted to cross the line and preach inside the Indian Territory, they were threatened with arrest and transport to Fort Levenworth, Kansas. At that brief moment in time, the closest they could locate to the target audience was Independence, Missouri.

By June 1844, when Joseph Smith was leaving to seek out the Remnant, the Indians had long since left the former relocation area. They were then scattered westward. Hence Joseph’s plan to go to the Rocky Mountains to find the Remnant and build the New Jerusalem.

When the Mormon missionaries located the then-closest, center spot the eager Saints filed into the area. Even if they had the right location at that moment, they were unqualified to be there. Had they followed King Benjamin’s sermon, they would have had a better chance. Instead they were anything but converted in their hearts to the kind of principles which would allow people to live in harmony with one another.

Here is how the Lord characterized the 1830’s ruinous attempt to steal Zion: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101: 6.) Once again, covetousness in the heart is prohibited in Zion. Though the Lord may have given them a potential inheritance, they squandered it.

King Benjamin’s sermon is about the ideal. It is what the heart should have within it for the man or woman to be able to live with others equally. We will fail, like all others have failed, if we are unable to first remove the impediments within our hearts. What good would be accomplished in any age to gather together people who are unwilling to be one, unable to live in harmony with one another. We have that society already. The mantra we recite to overcome the vast inequalities and dissimilarities among us in our fractured society is “tolerance” and “non-judgment.” These are as likely to invite evil as good.

Cease to be covetous and lustful. Have a disposition to no longer do evil, but to do good. Give to those in need and succor those who you are able to succor. Then you have some chance to avoid jarring one another, contending and envying one another. There is no reason for the Lord to gather anyone until everyone He would gather has the attributes taught by King Benjamin in their hearts. Once that is done, there will be time enough to gather. But if you gather together and there is but one among you with a covetous, lustful and envious heart, there can be no Zion.

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As Soon As Converted…

As soon as his people covenanted with God to receive their redemption through the atonement of Christ, King Benjamin’s attention turns to the needs of the poor. He taught those who were converted to think of the needs of others.

This is what James would call “pure religion” (see James 1: 27; see also James 2: 14-18) because it changes the world, here and now. Instead of suffering, the unfortunate are ministered to by others because their religion requires it of them. King Benjamin’s instruction to those who covenanted with God to apply the atonement on their behalf was: “ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of you succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” (Mosiah 4: 16.)

There was no room for judging the needy. There was only the obligation to give. As he counseled: “Perhaps thou shalt say: the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor  impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just–” (Mosiah 4: 17.) Maybe the beggars in your life deserve to suffer. Maybe it is their fault. Maybe they shouldn’t have used drugs, or behaved so poorly they lost their jobs, or run away from home and family who would have cared for them if they hadn’t strayed, or any number of other circumstances to conclude “their punishments are just.” Maybe they are all at fault. Maybe they do deserve your condemnation, not your help. Maybe you are facilitating their wickedness. Maybe you are enabling their irresponsibility. Yes, maybe you shouldn’t help, after all…

King Benjamin anticipates this and warns you: “But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this  the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perish forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 4: 18.) If you judge the beggar this way, even if you are right about their “punishments” being “just,” then you have need to repent. You have no right to do this. You will not be forgiven by God, and cannot enter His kingdom. You are to help the beggar. That is all.

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4: 19.) You occupy the same relationship to God as the beggar occupies to you. If you have the ability to help, then you must. You only have what you possess in this life as a result of God’s mercy and kindness to you. Therefore, even if you think you “deserve” what you own because you worked hard for it, you are nevertheless a beggar whose very existence is drawing upon God’s power to live, and move and have your being. (Mosiah 2: 21.)

King Benjamin warned us: “if ye judge the man who putteth up his  petition to you… and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God. …I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him.” (Mosiah 4: 22-23.)

This has been in our Book of Mormon since 1830. But we hear the only way we are to help the poor should be through Fast Offerings, institutionalizing our charity. I doubt that would satisfy King Benjamin. I doubt there will be collective salvation. I’m certain there is no such thing as group-charity sufficient to qualify you to avoid individual condemnation for refusing the beggar who asks you individually to help.

Remember this is the subject addressed by King Benjamin to those who have entered into a covenant with God to obtain a remission of their sins.

The Gospel’s Effect

The people King Benjamin addressed were brought to repentance, but it is the record of their repentance that is so relevant to us today. Keep in mind that King Benjamin’s record was originally composed about a century and a quarter before Christ. At that time the Law of Moses was in effect. The version we have in the Book of Mormon was abridged by Mormon about four centuries after Christ. Therefore, we have a record which is both pre- and post- Christ. Mormon’s abridgment was intended, however, for a latter-day audience. He saw our day. Before finishing his father’s record, his son, Moroni, described us in detail and even foretold that those whose religion would be based on his record would not only pollute God’s holy church, but would use it as the means of “getting gain.” (Mormon 8: 33-38.) Mormon also knew his civilization was passing away as he made his abridgment. (Mormon 6: 1.) I conclude that the account of the repentance process was primarily intended as a message to the latter-day gentiles who would receive the record.

King Benjamin’s audience cried out in prayer this petition to God: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.” (Mosiah 4: 2.) What strikes me about this prayer is that today we would identify this with the Evangelical/Born Again Christian approach to a religious experience. It is a confession of belief coupled with a request for forgiveness. Latter-day Saints belittle this approach. We claim that much more is needed, including certain authoritative rites and ordinances. Ultimately, that may be part of God’s plan, and certainly Christ’s own example informs us that baptism was required even of Him “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3: 13-15.) But the ordinances are signposts that provide an outward proof of inward change. Here, in the account of King Benjamin, we have the focus entirely upon the inward change. This is the “weighter” part of the process. Christ condemned those who observed the ordinances, but failed to exercise mercy and faith; the inward target of the outward observance. (See, e.g., Matt. 23: 23.) There is some considerable peril in being too proud of your ordinances. They have displaced the inward, weightier part of the Gospel in past dispensations, and certainly can do so again. Satan has no new tricks. The old ones seem to work so well, there is little reason to introduce some new road for apostasy. Pride in ordinances as the ticket for salvation works every time it is tried. It’s a little thing, but little things count when the measurement is taken against perfection.

The effect of this inward change of heart is also recorded in King Benjamin’s account. It is the universal evidence which comes from God to all those who find saving grace. “The Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them.” (Mosiah 4: 3.) From this we learn:

-The Spirit of the Lord is the testifier and witness of salvation (witnessing to the saved)
-There is joy when you receive the Spirit
-Sins are remitted, because the Spirit cannot dwell in unclean vessels (the vessel is cleansed)
-Your conscience is clear because you no longer carry your sins
-All of this is the product of faith
-Faith comes as a consequence of being ministered to by one authorized by God, as was King Benjamin.

That last point was one which Joseph Smith also taught. Joseph said: “Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God, but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not. All the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels.” (TPJS, p. 274.) It is for this reason that King Benjamin and Mormon include the final ingredient in verse 3: “according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” They heard the truth from one sent by God, had faith in Christ as a consequence of that, believed, asked and experienced the fruit of conversion. This is how Christ’s Gospel works. (Romans 10: 17.)

The Gospel, when it makes its brief appearances upon the earth, comes in the same way as we find recorded in this record of King Benjamin. Those who receive the message, believing it to be from God, having faith to ask God for their part in Christ’s atonement, can likewise receive their own inward confirmation; their own experience akin to that described in Mosiah 4: 3.

An unchanging God has an unchanging Gospel. Rather than taking pride in your ordinances, view yourself in your lost and fallen state. Start there, and rebuild your faith through repentance. Once you’ve cleansed the inward part, there will be time to worry about the outward later.

Themes, Truth and Scripture

There is a great work left undone. The field has been abandoned and there is no harvesting taking place. We are all required to repent first, then to learn something before we attempt to teach others.

In doing the work I have been asked to do, I am relaying what I have been instructed needs to be taught to this generation at this time for the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled. That requires time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thought to be given to the Lord’s design. Although I do not consider myself equal to the task, I am nevertheless doing what little I am able to do as part of the Lord’s work.

To the best of my ability, I seek only to lay out what should be noted about our present challenges. I do my best to avoid a fanciful, or flowery or heated imagination in discussing salvation. While others may do so, I do not intend to trifle with the souls of men.

Joseph Smith’s counsel is appropriate and guides my thought on these things: “A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity-thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.” (TPJS p. 137.) I have never trifled with men’s souls.

I have never given any one permission to speak for me, use my name to support their cause, or advocate using me as their source to make their ideas or teachings credible. If someone has a good idea, it should stand on its own. It should be reasonable. If an idea is so weak and fanciful, then associating my name, Joseph Smith’s name, or some general authority’s name with it should not overcome the weakness of the idea.  I do not believe in citing any authority other than scripture and Joseph Smith. Check the books I’ve written and talks I’ve given. Check my blog. There you can find what is true, taken from the authority of scripture. It is self-evident and capable of standing on its own. The truth I advocate is so self-supporting that I need to make no claim to authority.  

Yes, doubt everything other than truth taken from the scriptures.  They are the standard by which I teach.

Because this generation does not understand their precarious situation, they are unable to repent. But it is only repentance which can save some few souls. People are so quickly and easily drawn away from the challenge to repent before God into some other vain and foolish track. That is necessary, however, because in Joseph’s day we failed in Kirtland, failed again in Missouri, failed in Nauvoo and then lost Joseph. In Brigham’s day we failed in Salt Lake. The effort to save great numbers has not and will not work. There have always been comparatively few who have the patience and devotion to allow the Lord to do His work. Men and women charge into the upward pass and are slain by the beast who guards the way generation after generation, while God works patiently to save some few. In the meantime, if great numbers can be persuaded to wander off or charge impatiently, then so be it. Had they remained, they would have spoiled what lies at the top of the mountain. It is better, therefore, that they be taken in their vanity than to bring it with them into a society where such things would be ruinous.

King Benjamin is a more important topic for today than ever. But I get a flood of emails and comments asking about other, ridiculously extraneous things propounded by others using my name for credibility. You should already know enough to determine on your own the significance or insignificance of these side show issues. If you do not, then you deserve your confusion. You are on trial here. You must grow to stand on your own. Do not be dependent on me or any man for your knowledge of the truth. You must be able, by the power of the light given to you, to decide between truth and error, between what comes from God and what is of men and devils. If you are unable to determine that for yourself, then relying on others will never qualify you to enter into the Lord’s rest.

We have gotten to the reaction of King Benjamin’s people to his sermon. They were brought to repentance. But we have not yet taken a look at the overall setting wherein King Benjamin taught. Nephi established a line of prophet/priests to whom was given the charge to teach the people. That line’s work is recorded in the Small Plates of Nephi. At about the same distance in time from Nephi as we find ourselves from Joseph Smith, we read on the Small Plates of Nephi: “I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy…” (Omni 1: 11.) I’ve discussed this in Eighteen Verses.

The prophetic line ended in silence. Whole generations record only one verse, admitting their failure; then the Book of Mormon reignites with King Benjamin. After generations of dissipating the light and falling into darkness, he represents the return of the prophetic. He is a symbol of restoration, a type of how God reclaims His people when they err. By his day, the people were overcome again, and needed return to the faith that could save them.

But King Benjamin did not operate on his own. He taught only what had been given to him to teach by an angel. (Mosiah 2: 2-4; see also Mosiah 4: 1.) Because God renewed His covenant with King Benjamin, it was through King Benjamin that the people could once again make an acceptable covenant with God. The purpose of sending the angel to King Benjamin was not to offer him alone salvation, but to offer once again a valid covenant through which others could repent. (Mosiah 5: 5-7.)

This is how the Gospel works. Even the chosen people of Lehi and his son Nephi brought to the promised land failed to abide the conditions of the covenant. But God did not abandon them. When enough generations had passed to allow the Lord’s hand to be revealed, then the Lord acted. The heavens were opened, the covenant was offered again, and souls were saved.

This is a great type. The Book of Mormon is far more relevant for our day than we imagine. It is a blueprint for how our own history is unfolding. It is a sobering lesson in how to fail and how to wait for the Lord to reclaim and redeem us.

We ignore or misunderstand the content of The Book of Mormon at the peril of our own salvation. When we do, then no one can be saved.