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Benjamin, Christ and Joseph

King Benjamin’s teaching are astonishing to read. For him the critical question was his conscience: “I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God.” (Mosiah 2: 27.) This was important because he knew he needed to put the burden upon his people by warning them, otherwise he would be accountable for failing to warn them. His sermon was so that he “might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you.” (Id.) He knew that warning the people in plain language would be the only way his conscience would be clear before God. Then his people could choose between heeding his teaching and thereby obeying God, or rejecting his message and being accountable.

King Benjamin also taught a lesson almost identical to what the risen Savior would later teach. Here is King Benjamin’s language:

“O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and he list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah. For behold, there is a wo pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit;” (Mosiah 2: 32-33.)

Here are Christ’s words:
“And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11: 28-29.)

Neither King Benjamin nor Christ anticipated complete agreement among their followers. All of us understand things somewhat differently, and in some cases more completely as a subject begins to be studied. Even the same individual will understand things differently at different times. As you study in good faith and confidence before God you may believe in a proposition that you will change your understanding about later. That is inevitable when we are progressing.

Assuming we take seriously King Benjamin’s and Christ’s instruction to refrain from contending in anger with one another, how do we proceed as brothers and sisters in sorting out our unavoidable disagreements? The answer, of course, is provided in counsel from Joseph Smith found in scripture which clarifies how we overcome our disagreements:
-by persuasion
-by long-suffering
-by gentleness and meekness
-by kindness
-by pure knowledge
(D&C 121: 41-42.)

The inappropriate disputations and contentions that were condemned by King Benjamin and Christ would likewise fit Joseph’s scriptural clarification. We are warned not to:
-cover our sins
-gratify our pride
-pursue our vain ambitions
-exercise control
-exercise dominion
-exercise compulsion
-persecute the Lord’s saints
(D&C 121: 37-38.)

One of the strongest evidences Joseph Smith was in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord is shown in his words mirroring both King Benjamin’s and Christ’s. King Benjamin counseled his people after a lifetime of service and contemplation. Christ’s counsel was given following His resurrection in His appearance to a Nephite audience. In contrast, Joseph’s inspired words came while he was confined to Liberty Jail in Missouri. Gracious words from all three, but Joseph’s were composed in the worst of circumstances. This is one of the reasons I have such respect for Joseph.

The News to Rejoice

King Benjamin’s instruction to his people (and in turn to us) was not just a good man giving fatherly advice at the end of his life. His message was given to him to deliver by heaven itself. King Benjamin said, “And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me. And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.” (Mosiah 3: 2-4.)

First, it is noteworthy that the message he received was because “the Lord hath heard thy prayers.” The message would not have come without a petition.

Second, the petition was granted because the Lord “hath judged of thy righteousness” and determined King Benjamin was qualified to receive the messenger and the message. The petitioner must be judged righteous. Petitioning without qualifying would not have accomplished anything.

When a sermon has a Divine source, it is important to listen. More than what an academic can offer, an angel’s message is given from God, who is the author.

Notice the purpose of the message is to cause the recipient to “rejoice” and for those who he was permitted to relay the message to likewise “be filled with joy.”

When you read the message, however, there are many things contained within that do not cause us to “be filled with joy” because we learn about the coming of the Lord Omnipotent into the flesh (Mosiah 3: 5) to “suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death” (Mosiah 3: 7). The message continues that men will “consider him as a man, and say he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.” (Mosiah 3: 9.) Yet despite these horrible details of the Lord’s life, we all (King Benjamin, his people and us) are told this is news which should “fill us with joy” when we hear it. It is as if the Lord wants us to be mature enough to look beyond the trouble, the difficulty, the terrible price and to the effect of His sacrifice. To the extent we ponder His awful suffering, it stands as a powerful symbol, testimony and record of His great love and willingness to go to the extreme to reclaim us from condemnation and suffering. We should stand in awe of His love, because this suffering was born from His great love. In no other way could He open the door to bring us back from death and hell. Therefore, the message must necessarily include these awful details.

The joy we are to feel comes from the result of His suffering: “he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.” (Mosiah 3: 10.) Christ will rise! Through the power of this suffering He is qualified to judge! He will judge righteously!

The good news continues: “his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.” (Mosiah 3: 11.) These are good things, indeed.

However, what decides if we are blessed by the Lord Omnipotent when He stands “to judge the world” and imposes a “righteous judgment?” King Benjamin expounds this sermon precisely to teach his people how to take advantage of the atonement of the Lord Omnipotent. I think the sermon is worth studying. It was given to allow those who hear this message (including us) to take advantage of the Lord Omnipotent’s great sacrifice. We ought to all be interested in doing that.

King Benjamin: Come Together

Nephi divided the kingdom between the prophetic line (descended through his brother Jacob) and the kingly line (descended from Nephi). Jacob’s line maintained the plates. Nephi’s line maintained the kingship and called themselves after Nephi. The prophetic line used whatever name they were given at birth, with no need to retain Jacob’s name. The direct line from Jacob (Nephi’s brother) ended with Amaleki. In his day two things happened. He would die without an heir (Omni 1: 25) and the plates they had been maintaining were filled and there was no more room to add to their engravings (Omni 1: 30).

It apparently did not occur to any of those who descended from Jacob that the Small Plates of Nephi could be expanded by adding additional plates. (See e.g., Jarom 1: 2; Omni 1: 30.) There is no explanation for this in the small plates. Perhaps there was an oral tradition (see, e.g., Omni 1: 9) with Nephi instructing that no more plates were to be added. That would account for the plates being “full” at the time of Amaleki, because none could be added.

In any event, when the plates are filled, Jacob’s direct line ends. I do not believe this is a coincidence. The convergence of these two events is what puts the small plates into the hands of King Benjamin, and in turn through his descendants, into the hands of Mormon. (Words of Mormon 1: 3.)

Amaleki was impressed with King Benjamin’s efforts on behalf of the Nephites. He described King Benjamin as one who labored “with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul.” As such, he was able to convert the people back to the Lord. (Words of Mormon 1: 18.) However, in accomplishing this, King Benjamin had to “use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people” (Id. v. 17) as he and other prophets preached repentance (Id. vs. 17-18.) Apparently King Benjamin had no problem with others who preached repentance to his people. (Id. v. 18.) Instead he welcomed these “prophets” who taught repentance.

In many ways King Benjamin is the perfect leader, both civic and religious. It is no wonder the lines divided at the time of Nephi and Jacob would come together again in the person of King Benjamin.

My Viewpoint

I sent the following comment in an email this morning, and thought I would put it up here as well:
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I believe the form of Mormonism practiced by the LDS Church is in great peril at the moment. If the members do not fight to retain their religion it will continue to alter and degenerate into something very different that it was and it will fail in its purpose to bring again Zion.  If the members allow the trend to continue, the church may “succeed” in the world, but it will not succeed in the mission of bringing Zion again.  Like happened in the Book of Mormon, it will require another off-shoot to repent and return.

King Benjamin’s Wisdom

King Benjamin taught his people to repent and rely on God’s mercy. He declared that salvation comes “through faith on his name.” (Mosiah 3: 9.) Therefore, he testified of Christ coming to suffer, be rejected, killed and rise the third day. (Mosiah 3: 9-10.)  King Benjamin’s testimony was that this atonement would allow everyone to repent, and even those who sin “ignorantly” would be forgiven of their sins. (Mosiah 3: 11.)

To King Benjamin’s thinking, the great error was willfully doing what you know was against God’s will. However, even then, King Benjamin invited his listeners to repent and reclaim the mercy God offered. (Mosiah 3: 12.)

His sermon presumes that his audience were sinners, and suffered from a myriad of shortcomings. As King Benjamin explained, “the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3: 19.) This doctrine is astonishing because it:
-makes each person individually accountable to follow the Holy Spirit
-presumes that the Holy Spirit will entice you directly
-puts each person in a position to be submissive to God
-accepts the fact that life will always “inflict” even the best of us
-makes God the one who is responsible for life’s challenges
-bids us to accept these afflictions, because they come from a wise Eternal Parent.

King Benjamin is remarkably democratic in his view of God and His involvement in our lives. God is direct, immediate and involved with everyone. He reminded his audience to “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.” (Mosiah 4: 9.) This should be self-evident, but how often do we need to be reminded that we do not understand all that God understands. We are inferior in our understanding, we lack wisdom and are more often than not unable to understand what God does or why He does it. Yet we presume to judge whether God is right or wrong in many matters which, to our limited understanding, seem unfair, unequal, unkind and unfeeling. This is a product of our ignorance. God is merciful, kind and seeks to exalt mankind by bestowing His grace upon us. We take His wisdom to be offensive. How often have you heard: “I cannot believe in a God who….” followed by a list of preferences and demands for greater latitude in behavior. Since we don’t (indeed can’t) comprehend all God does, we make ourselves fools when we insist we know better than God, or we are right and God is not.

His message does not focus on man’s failures, but instead focuses on hope through Christ. This hope, he declared, obligated the believers to take care of  the needs of their fellow men. King Benjamin made charity to others the hallmark of retaining a remission of our sins: “for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God– I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” (Mosiah 4: 26.) For him, our assistance to those in need is directly related to retaining forgiveness of sins.

Can you imagine a government led by someone with this outlook?

King Benjamin’s Self Reliance

King Benjamin struck the perfect balance on the subject of “self-reliance.” His example was his greatest sermon. Although he could have done so as their monarch, King Benjamin refused to tax or oppress his people. (Mosiah 2: 14.) Instead, he labored with his own hands and spent his life serving his people. (Mosiah 2: 12.)

His policy anticipated the discontinuance of servitude in the Law of Moses. (Mosiah 2: 14.) Long before Christ would do so, King Benjamin made people free from slavery. But that came at a social cost. Without servitude as a form of repayment (limited under Moses’ law to six years servitude, in the seventh they go free Ex. 21: 2), some were reduced to begging. For those, King Benjamin taught his people that they must give to beggars. He required that his people notice them, and not allow them to petition in vain for relief from their needs. (Mosiah 4: 16.) He forbid withholding from beggars because of the convenient thought beggars deserve their direful condition. (Mosiah 4: 17-18.)

King Benjamin’s overall theme reminds us that we are all beggars. (Mosiah 4: 19.) In a very real sense, none of us are or can ever be anything more than a beggar, dependent upon God. God gives us the power to live. (Mosiah 2: 21.) We borrow from God the power to breathe. (Id.) We borrow from God the ability to move and do whatever we do. God lends all this to us so we can do according to our own will. (Id.)

Since we are beggars, utterly dependent upon God for our very existence, we have nothing to brag of and no legitimate claim to self-reliance. (Mosiah 2: 24-25.) That recognition of our condition is what motivated King Benjamin, although a monarch, to humbly labor for his own support.

In our day of abundance, we are easily be misled into thinking that the blessings of our productive society permit us to be self-reliant. Of course that is only temporary. The principles upon which our society’s abundance are built have been discarded. Therefore, our “riches will become slippery” as the fruit of true principles vanish from those who dishonor the foundation upon which prosperity is conferred.

Safety in the coming scarcity of the last-days will only be found through Zion. (D&C 45: 66-68.) Because the occupants of Zion will be one, they will follow two controlling principles which create the “self-sufficiency” of Zion.

First, the counterpart to the world (or Babylon as the scriptures have nicknamed the world) is Zion. Zion will require the laborer to labor only for Zion, not for themselves. (2 Ne. 26: 31.)

Second, we must perform the required great labor. We cannot expect to eat or be clothed in Zion if we do not work to produce the necessities of Zion. (D&C 42: 42.)

God’s Great “Strength”

In an email discussion with someone I respect, the following exchange occurred. This is his criticism of my views and his attempt to persuade me I am in error. His emails are italicized and quoted below, followed by my responses.
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I believe in a God who is stronger than the God you believe in.  My God was able to restore everything that He wanted through Joseph Smith before Joseph was killed.  And He was able to control (through birth and death) those that led the Church thereafter so that it was (and is) always led by a righteous and worthy prophet.  In contrast, it appears that your God wasn’t able to get everything revealed before Joseph was killed and has let Church leaders be chosen and to ascend to influential positions even though they are not completely inspired.

Second, it seems that I have more faith in the Latter-day Saints than you do.  I believe that righteous men have been consistently available to serve with inspiration in Church callings.  In addition, I believe the righteousness of a portion of Church members has always been sufficient to make them worthy of inspired leaders.


Consequently, I believe that if the Church, its leadership and members, ever begin to apostatize, my God is strong enough to  call the erring leaders home (through death) and install new inspired ones. And such men have always been available and a portion of the Saints have been righteous enough to deserve it. The Mormon fundamentalists and others who want to claim God’s pure grace and authority, saying the mother Church has gone astray, have adopted a very narrow view that is quite self-serving.  Yet, I believe God is powerful enough and a portion of Church members have always been righteous enough to have allowed the continued fulfillment of D&C 65:1: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.”

 ________________________________________

My reaction to this bundle of false ideas is as follows: (I did not include the scripture references in my email to him)


I do not disbelieve in God’s strength, but know I can trust in His great restraint. (See, e.g., Matt. 26: 39; Matt. 26: 51-54; John 2: 4; John 7: 3-8; Alma 14: 10-11; 3 Ne. 11: 11; and many others.) He honors us by giving us agency to choose (Moses 4: 3; Helaman 14: 30; D&C 93: 30; and many others), He even gave Lucifer the right to choose and rebel (D&C 29: 36; D&C 76: 25; 2 Ne. 2: 17-18; and many others), and then He shows the wisdom to allow us to reap the consequences of our choices (Alma 10: 25-27; Helaman 14: 30-31; 2 Ne. 2: 14-16; Jacob 3: 11-12; Alma 41: 3; D&C 121: 25; and many others).


I believe He is the same yesterday, today and forever (1 Ne. 10: 18-19; 2 Ne. 27: 23; 2 Ne. 29: 9; Heb. 13: 8; and many others) .That He cannot limit one generation’s right to choose any more than He has done so with another (Mosiah 27: 25-26; 2 Ne. 28: 1-32; D&C 18: 42-46; D&C 84: 54-58; and many others). That if God intended to accomplish what you suggest He has underway with the Latter-day Saints, He could have interrupted man’s agency in the Garden and saved us all.


Come to think of it, you are proposing a God of such strength and determination to prevent mankind’s failure that this God of strength reminds me of Satan’s proposal so that not one soul could be lost (Moses 4: 1).


I believe we are in jeopardy. All of us.  From the moment we enter this life we are in peril.  (1 Cor. 15: 30.) We become accountable at age 8. Then we are judged on the basis of the choices we make. God doesn’t interrupt our mistakes. He permits them. He does this for a wise purpose. For underlying it all is the patient plan to “prove” us by what we do. (Abr. 3: 24-26.)


I think your proposed God is not a God of “strength” so much as He is a fearful dictator who will not allow man’s agency to survive. This, to me, is not only an error, but it is Satanic.


I believe we have exactly the same situation in our day as in the days of Adam. Exactly as in the days of Noah. (Matt. 24: 37-38; Luke 17: 26-30; JS-Matt. 1: 40-48.) Exactly as in the days of Abraham. (Abr. 1: 5.) Exactly as in the days of Moses. Exactly as in the days of Peter and Paul. That is, I believe we also must find our way back through the fog of a true religion administered in a false and vain way, in which man cannot save man, but can only assist one another or interfere with one another in the quest to find God.


I believe it is more than foolish to stake the outcome of your life on the bet that God owns, personally, everything about the present situation of the church. I think God is as dismayed and alarmed by our present choices and predicament as any prophet proclaimed Him to be about ancient Israel. I think we are no better than the Jews who slew Isaiah, or the righteous pretenders who denounced and rejected Christ’s Apostles, or the brothers of Nephi who refused to accept his leadership once Lehi died. I think our dilemma is exactly like all others. We proceed with the exact same test. Few will pass it. Few will find it. But those with the eyes to see and ears to hear will listen to the Master’s voice and follow. No amount of criticism or doubt from man will deter them from following the Master. No offering from an organization or institution will substitute for the Master.


I distrust all men. I am a man. Therefore, I distrust myself. It is the Lord and the Lord alone upon whom I stake my eternal outcome. Grateful for what I know, humbled by what He has shown me, and always keenly aware of many weaknesses which beset me at every turn, I hope to endure the course He has shown me and to finish with my trust in Him intact. I fear my failure. I do not believe myself at all equal to the privileges He has granted to me, nor qualified to accomplish what He has asked of me. I do what I am asked, trusting in the Lord’s wisdom, not mine.


I believe in Him. Only in Him. And I cannot allow that trust to be displaced by anyone making any claim to speak for Him, because He speaks with me. Therefore, I do not need anyone to stand between Him and me.


In my view, it is not the “strength” of God at issue. It is man’s weakness and God’s respect for man’s agency that is at issue. These two combine to allow us to fail. Likewise some few, with His help, will succeed. 

The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel and He employs no servant there.  (2 Ne. 9: 41.) Therefore, it is only that gate which I seek.


I am certain of very few things. But I know God, and have reasoned with Him as one man reasons with another. I have questioned His counsel to me. I have used scriptures and testimonies of those who knew Him before to persuade Him to my view. His wisdom is greater than mine, His comprehension of the scriptures is greater than mine, and His will is more benign, placid and love filled than mine. Because of my own weakness, I expect to fail. However, He knows the end from the beginning and I do not expect Him or His purposes to fail, even if it involves my weak contribution to His plan.

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In reply, I received the following:

I have not represented my beliefs very well.  I agree with you that God would never intervene so as to control us (and take away our agency).  However, I believe God is not impotent regarding His believers and leaders on earth. 

God controls when and where we are born and “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of [our] habitation” (Acts 17:26; see also D&C 122:9).  He “holds the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth” (D&C 117:6) and can determine when we die.  Joseph explained:  “I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield; and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely. . . . I thank God for preserving me from my enemies” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 274).  I do not believe God let Joseph Smith die before he had restored everything that was necessary.  If God had not preserved him, the Prophet might have been killed years earlier (I’m sure you know the stories, but see D&C 38:13).

As you know, Joseph Smith’s God knows “the end from the beginning” (Abraham 2:8). He assures us that “all things are present before mine eyes” (D&C 38:2).  Nephi explained:  “the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Nephi 9:6). 
I believe God’s power over life and death and his foreknowledge allow Him to have leaders and believers here today to perpetuate His work.  We are told that “The Prophet Joseph Smith, and … Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits… were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work” (D&C 138:53).  Why not Thomas Monson and Gordon B. Hinckley as well?

You wrote:  “I believe we have exactly the same situation in our day as in the days of Adam.  Exactly as in the days of Noah.  Exactly as in the days of Abraham.  Exactly as in the days of Moses.  Exactly as in the days of Peter and Paul.”  Forgive me if I disagree.  You don’t seem to believe it because you say there is no Adam, no Noah, no Abraham, Moses, Peter, or Paul here to guide us today.  In those days, people rejected the prophets, but there were prophets to reject.

 The reason I wrote to you in the first place is that I have studied Mormon fundamentalism for many years.  Fundamentalists universally condemn the Latter-day Saints in the 1890s because they accepted the 1890 Manifesto.  Lorin Woolley wrote:

 [Church members were writing letters] asking the leaders to do something, as the Gentiles were talking of confiscating their property in connection with the property of the Church.  These letters not only came from those who were living in the Plural Marriage relation, but also from prominent men who were presiding in various offices of the Church who were not living in that relation.  They all urged that something be done to satisfy the Gentiles so that their property would not be confiscated. (1929 Account.) 

The problem I encountered was that as I studied the Saints of the 1890s, I discovered many devout believers who were willing to do anything their God required.  Most didn’t know what to do with the Manifesto and were willing to continue sacrificing for plural marriage. Then it dawned on me that the fundamentalists today needed to believe they were more righteous than the 1890 Saints so to support that belief, they simply misrepresent them in their literature.   

It is easy to say the Saints are not righteous enough, but many are very righteous, even holy.  You seem to say our leaders have led us astray, but I believe God would have called them home before they would have been able to do so.  It isn’t a question of respecting agency, it is God’s foreknowledge and His control over when and where we live on earth that allows His Church to continue to fulfill the prophesy:  “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2). 

______________________________________

In response I state:

I do not disagree with the scriptures you quote. They are as you say. But they are not, of course, the entire story.


I am not “rooting” for or against our success or failure. No matter how flattering or condemning the truth may be, I’m only trying to understand our condition. I’m not interested in skewing the decision, only trying to make it correctly. However delightful or painful the truth about our day may be, I want to understand it.


I have made no judgment of the saints. But the Lord, who does know the end from the beginning, has revealed His own judgment of us. He said: “And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, i will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” (3 Ne. 16: 10.) This prophecy of Christ, recorded in the Book of Mormon, at least raises the possibility of our rejection of the fullness of His gospel.

This possibility turns into a probability with this revelation from the Lord through Joseph: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things which you have received- Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation restesth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which is written- That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” (D&C 84: 54-58.) This was a revelation given about eighteen months after the church was organized under the laws of New York. We’ve never remembered the Book of Mormon, as Daymon Smith’s series currently coming into print demonstrates. Nor are “the children of Zion” closer to Zion now than in 1832. 

Then there is the last great revelation given to Joseph Smith in January 1841 where the Lord reminded Joseph that the fullness of the priesthood had been lost to the church. (D&C 124: 28.) The Lord offered to restore it again as long as the conditions were met. Those conditions were possible in a time frame known only to the Lord. For us, it was merely described as “sufficient time” for the demanded work to be finished. (D&C 124: 31.) Whether or not we succeeded or failed, the Lord gave us an objective way to decide. If we succeeded we would not be moved out of Nauvoo, but the Lord would fight our battles. If we failed, we would be driven out, cursed, and put through hardships. As the revelation states: “If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I shall have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place. But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them. And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. for instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.” (D&C 124: 44-48.)


The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith was accomplished through a conspiracy involving William and Wilson Law, among others. William Law was a counselor in the First Presidency. Nauvoo was wallowing in sin, including adultery and fornication initiated by men with evil designs. The seducing of women in Nauvoo was perpetuated by many evil men, including John C. Bennett while he was also a counselor in the First Presidency. Reading the High Council minutes for Nauvoo you can see how widespread this adulterous conspiracy spread inside the community. I do not mention this to judge or condemn anyone. Only to suggest that the Lord’s description of the latter-day gentile condition in His prophecy (“filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations”) can be taken as a description of events at the end of Joseph’s life. If so, then it was merciful for the Lord to pour out “wrath, indignation, and judgments” upon the saints to end those things and prepare for something better to come of Joseph’s ministry.


I do not think the restoration through Joseph accomplished Zion. That remains undone; future. The time Joseph had was very short. He restored much, and did what he was required to do in that period of time. He left us a foundation to build upon. More is necessarily coming. 


Brigham Young did a great work in preserving the church as a body and keeping Joseph’s work alive. But he never claimed to be Joseph’s equal, nor to be a prophet like Joseph. He repudiated that idea.


I am converted to the Book of Mormon, and to Joseph Smith as a prophet, and to the revelations we received through him. But we remain under condemnation. I’m not interested in judging anyone, condemning anyone, or belittling anyone; far from it. I am grateful to all those who went before and acknowledge a debt of gratitude to them for keeping the revelations of Joseph in print and maintaining an organization that at least tries to remember Joseph and the work God did through him. But I want to know the truth of our awful state, even if if breaks my heart.

Why Ignore “Fact”?

History is an attempt to weave into one comprehendable story the complex interaction of an almost infinite number of moving parts. It involves not just one life in isolation, but how all lives interrelate. In a very real sense, all history is theory; merely a fiction helping our understanding of the infinitely complex.

The Book of Mormon is not history. The writers repeatedly tell us it is not a full history:
Nephi:
-“[T]hese plates… are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people[.]” (1 Ne. 9: 2.)
-“[I]f all the things which I saw are not written, the things which I have written are true.” (1 Ne. 14: 30.)
-“And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.” (2 Ne. 5: 33.)
Jacob:
-“And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates.” (Jacob 3: 13.)
Mormon:
-“I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.” (Words of Mormon 1: 5.)
Helaman, son of Helaman:
-:”But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, …cannot be contained in this work.” (Hel. 3: 14.)
Nephi, son of Helaman:
-“[H]e did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.” (Hel. 5: 13.)
Nephi (son of Nephi, son of Helaman)
-“And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years[.]” (3 Ne. 5: 8.)
-“And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people[.]” (3 Ne. 26: 6.)
Moroni:
-(Writing of the account of the Jaredites he abridged in the Book of Ether:) “[A]nd the hundredth part I have not written[.]” (Ether 15: 33.)

It was not a full history because telling everything is not necessary in order to establish the truth of the proceedings among the Nephites. Their record was true, even if incomplete. A more complete history might even have been misleading. For example, preserving all the arguments Laman and Lemuel used against Nephi would not contribute to understanding. It would only detract from the account we have.

Likewise, the priests of Noah were not ignorant. They were qualified as priests, held positions of authority, were trusted by the king, and used the scriptures in their counsel to Noah. They quoted from Lehi and Nephi when they argued Abinadi was a false prophet. (See Mosiah 12: 15. This was based on the revelation to Nephi found in 1 Ne. 2: 20. Lehi reiterated this in counsel to his children found in 2 Ne. 4: 4.) The full arguments of the priests of Noah are not preserved

Which introduces the topic about my own retelling of history. Like those who have written about God’s dealings with past generations, I do not believe it is either necessary or advisable to include all information in order to tell the truth. Taking second-hand accounts from highly partisan “defenders of the faith” is a dubious practice. As a lawyer I’ve encountered such witnesses. They are usually not qualified to give evidence. Their statements are mere hearsay, and if an objection is made, the Court will not permit such evidence to be considered.

Apart from my own education and profession, however, the church itself has a standard which precludes a lot of the information used to attempt to support a “more faithful history.” Lorenzo Snow’s son and granddaughter, for example, are not qualified under the church’s standards to proclaim a revelation for the church. Yet they are the only sources for a purported meeting between Lorenzo Snow and Christ on the staircase of the Salt Lake Temple. Apart from this failing, however, there is the other most obvious problem: Why did not President Snow discuss or mention or testify about this to the church? One of the most obvious reasons would be because it isn’t true. Or, alternatively, it is greatly embellished, but was actually uneventful. Or, alternatively, he did not think it mattered.

I’ve been criticized because I fail to mention this second-hand account from a granddaughter of a church president who claimed to have heard a story from her grandfather a few decades before she retold it which supports a different narrative than the one I tell in my account of the Lord’s dealings with the Latter-day Saints. Well I admit I ignore it. I consider it insubstantial.

The priority for finding the truth begins with searching the scriptures. They tell us in prophecy about what the latter-day gentiles will do when the Book of Mormon comes forward. I let that prophetic framework construct the outline. Then, trusting the Book of Mormon as “the most correct book,” I followed the prophetic outline into well documented historical events. The result was a “hand-in-glove” fit between what has transpired and what was foretold.

I do not blame anyone for thinking I am in error. After all, there have been hundreds of written accounts that can be marshaled to support the existing narrative. These favorable, flattering histories have been told and retold. Entire libraries exist which support the church’s claims. I acknowledge they exist. I also acknowledge I ignore a great deal of the material precisely because I consider it incompetent.

When the disputes began between the sons of Joseph Smith (and Emma) and the “Reorganized” church movement on the one hand, and the LDS church on the other, emotions ran high. There were several critical issues at the bedrock of the conflict. Perhaps the most obvious (then and now) was plural marriage. Emma artfully denied it, and her sons (Joseph III and David) disbelieved it even happened. When their cousin, Joseph F. Smith, tried to prove them wrong, he gathered evidence from surviving witnesses. These included a number of women who claimed to have been married to Joseph in Nauvoo. These affidavits were gathered many years after the events, in a highly charged atmosphere wherein:
-there was a pending dispute with the US Government over plural marriage
-there was a threat to the survival of the church mounted by an upstart rival church
-the dispute made Brigham Young and Emma rivals
-loyalty to defending both the church and its hierarchy were at stake
-some of the women were remarried in plural relationships, including some with Brigham Young.

In this setting the affidavits that were gathered were affected by the circumstances. In the courtroom, sometimes witnesses are not only discounted, but ignored, once the self-interest of the witness is brought to light. A jury needn’t believe anything they hear as testimony from a biased witness. They get to consider the statements, but are not bound to accept them as true or reliable.

I offer what I believe to be true. It shouldn’t be very difficult to muster together another assortment of statements, claims, and records to the contrary. When it comes to the truth, however, you are not required to agree or accept any and/or all statements made in favor of a particular party, issue or view. If that were the case, then the Book of Mormon would not have ignored Laman and Lemuel’s views. Nor would Abinadi have been counted as a true prophet delivering a true message to a fallen and corrupt society desperately in need of reconnecting with God.

What could be more “faithful history” than one which accepts the words of Book of Mormon prophets as the guide?

Connecting With Heaven

Religion is a terrible thing when it is sold like a product by an institution trying to profit by claiming ownership of the rights. Faith in Christ is a wonderful, liberating thing.

When Paul was called directly by the Lord, it was as if Christ were proclaiming His independence from the very movement He had launched by calling Twelve Apostles. It is apparent the Lord wanted to affirm that He alone would be involved in how His faith would roll forward. This independently called Apostle witness then proceeded to write two-thirds of the books of the New Testament. Christianity is Pauline, even if the Catholic tradition claims to be Petrine.

When the Lord rose from the dead, He visited with women first, then with two men who were not His Apostles. His Apostles were told, but they didn’t believe these women. (Luke 24: 1-11.) Then when He came to visit with the Apostles, He criticized them for failing to respect the women’s testimony of His resurrection. (Mark 16: 14.)

The Lord’s behavior was (and still is) uncontrollable by institutional constraint. That is a very hard thing for some good people to comprehend. After all, in a revelation, the Lord said the restoration through Joseph Smith was the “last time” he would be giving in the “last days.” (D&C 112: 30.) But, then again, the same Lord, speaking through the same prophet in another transcript from heaven itself, used the word “last” to mean “most current” or “latest” rather than precluding another. (D&C 76: 22.) And we confront the Lord’s word usage of “Endless” and “Eternal” as proper nouns, meaning “God’s” rather than an adjective meaning “forever.”

We try to capture God by His words, and find He is always free to speak again and again (Moses 1: 4), and to amplify, enlarge, and expand even the scriptures when He chooses. (2 Ne. 29: 10-11.)

It is a rule that the Lord’s house is a “house of order.” But what if the “house” about which He speaks is not institutional, but familial? (See, e.g., D&C 132: 18.) He established a system to replace Apostles in His church, right? And that system remains in place, right? It is like the one in His original New Testament organization, right? That system allowed the remaining Apostles to vote and replace the deceased Judas. (See, Acts 1: 21-26.) But then He alone called Paul without consulting with the Twelve. (Acts 9: 3-15; see also Gal. 1: 1.)

What if the Lord’s “house of order” can only be established by Him, directly? Something with fewer moving parts, no one in charge except for the “keeper of the gate” who cannot be deceived in a worthiness interview? (2 Ne. 9: 41.) That would remove doubt from all our minds about whether anyone gets included or excluded based on man’s judgment.

How do we make sense of what God is up to at any given moment? He always allows Himself to speak yet more. Alma explained, I think, how God works: “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God… he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” (Alma 12: 9-10.) So God gets to talk. To anyone at any time. Even to women. Before the Twelve. And He gets to condemn the Twelve because they didn’t believe the women.

Faith in Christ is liberating because Christ is the final authority and power. Fear is the opposite of faith. Christ invites and entices to do good by His great love for us. When the god of this world tries to reign with blood and horror, constantly reminding you to be fearful and cower, you are sensing the bitterness of hell itself. (Moses 1: 20.) Remember the Lord’s tools and even the Lord Himself are the opposite. (1 John 4: 8.) Be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. (John 16: 33.) Have faith in Him and doubt not because He lives. I know for I have seen Him.