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A Riddle

Anyone can obtain it, and yet it is:
so fragile it can be lost in a moment,

but powerful enough to destroy nations and defeat armies.

Divine Word Usage

For generations, the words “endless punishment” and “eternal punishment” had a clear meaning. So clear, that churches built their doctrine upon it. Then the Lord explained to Joseph Smith that the words had a different meaning:

“Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory. Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest. For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great it is! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my name is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore– Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment.” (D&C 19: 6-12.)

Instantly, what was once an adjective turns into a proper noun. With that shift, doctrine collapses and a new understanding unfolds.

What makes you think the scriptures are not filled with these same forms of Divine word usages that have one meaning in the minds of the uninitiated, and another to the minds of “mine apostles” [or the Lord’s true witnesses of His resurrection]?

When I read the many arguments regarding the design of God in authorizing plural wives “to raise up seed unto me” (Jacob 2: 30), I am left with the same bemusement about this error as I am with the historic Christian error about eternal punishment. I would ask you to consider whether the designs of God in “raising up seed unto Him” might be fulfilled ONLY by producing eternal fruit worthy of preservation at the coming harvest? (See Jacob 5: 74.) If this is the meaning, then the process of “raising up seed unto God” will require something different than merely breeding. It will require a covenant, and redemption, knowledge, light and truth, and ultimately the glory of God, which is intelligence. I think there was as much going on in using a Divine vocabulary with the term “raise up seed unto me” as there was in the terms endless punishment and eternal punishment.

Our greatest problem is the presumption that we “know” something to be true when it is merely our belief in a notion, coupled with our arrogance and lack of humility before God. We want certainty. We want to be right. We don’t want to be working out our salvation in fear and trembling, as the Gospel requires. (See Philipians 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) We want no such anxiety.

Disgusting Too

That same email makes this observation: 

Here in Utah it seems many people who read your blog go to classes and gifted people will DIVINE God and repeat the message to these people. Some have claimed to receive their calling and election this way and have been told through these arm’s of flesh that they were certain people of significance to Christ in probations past.”

This too is distressing. Think about this process, if it is taking place: Someone goes to a soothsayer to receive revelation about God’s will for themselves through another mortal. They do not appeal to the Lord. They bypass Him. They do not learn to fast, pray, approach Him and become capable of receiving light and truth by revelation from He alone who can save us.  They are turning over the “voice of God” to an individual. They rely on another person in place of the one with the absolute right to speak to them (God).

I have never asked another person to receive revelation for me. The only thing that approximates such a thing is the Patriarchal Blessing I received as a church ordinance. Thereafter, all revelation I’ve received to govern and guide my life has come directly to me from the Lord as a result of prayer.

You will never grow to receive angels if you instead rely on others to tell you God’s will for you. They will weaken you, not strengthen you. As the trials of these final days mature, you must have the required oil in your own lamp, and cannot borrow it from another.

The idea of past lives has intoxicated those who preach it. If it were important, it would be set out plainly. If Joseph spoke of it in hushed tones among select few, it was for a good reason. He denounced reincarnation publicly, calling it a “doctrine of the devil” and this was not the “way of eternal life.” (See TPJS p. 105.)  That is the public standard. We would be wise to follow it. The many foolish speculations and arrogant assumptions about pre-mortal experiences are extremely unwise. 

Speculation about what happened before your birth here will not rescue you from the challenges you face here, now, today. The way back is to live as if all eternity was at risk by what you do now (because it literally is). (See 1 Cor. 15: 30.) We are in a battle to survive. There is more than enough evil to be overcome without distracting us from the present challenges by directing our attention to somewhere and sometime other than now. Be here. Be present. Be engaged now. This is the day of the battle.

As King Benjamin lamented, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.” (Mosiah 4: 29.) The possible ways we can fail are endless. But the way to succeed is singular. There is only one of them and it requires you to follow Christ in the here and now. 

King Benjamin added, “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” (Mosiah 4: 30.) There is enough challenge to do what is right. So much so there is no time remaining to spend speculating upon what past experiences you had before entering into this mortal probation now underway.

Errors are plenty. Truth is narrow, confined, singular and solitary. You find it between yourself and the Lord. Looking elsewhere for someone else to lead you will only cripple your development and bring to you darkness. (That darkness comes just as readily from foolish reliance upon presumably inerrant “church authorities” as it does from “spiritually gifted” men and women when they become the source of your faith, devotion and trust.) Trust no man. Look to God and live.

A true messenger will point you to Christ and seek to strengthen you in your independence from man.  A false one will seek to make you dependent upon them, so they may exploit you for their own ends.  I do not ask nor want your devotion. I want all of you to become my equal or, better still, my better. I want you strengthened in the Lord. We will never have Zion if we are not equal in all things, both spiritual and temporal. I am too weak a reed for you to rest your weight upon; as is every other man or woman. Trust only God. He alone has the strength to support us all.

Disgusting

I received an email which contained, in part, this alarming information:

To the homes we have been to, your name is spoken in hushed reverent tones, no jokes are allowed to be made about you in a fun teasing way without people glaring. I have noticed a huge amount of people calling themselves ‘Snufferites’ and welcoming us into the ‘Snufferites group’ …. I can see that You are becoming to people a man with ‘God awe’ not of your own doing but of our own love of men and wanting a man to lead us instead of trusting in God. I notice how there are off shoort groups and group leaders that have cult following. There is so much going on with the mystical aspect of different sorts of healings and controlling elements, that I hardly hear Christ mentioned. I hear people well known in these groups dropping your name as to give themselves more credentials because they had a conversation with you, or a phone call or went out to lunch with you.”

I assume this email information is based on actual events and not merely a put-on. It disgusts me to read of such things.

Worship of anyone or anything other than the Lord will damn all those who participate. (D&C 76: 99-103.)  Anyone who listens to what I say or reads what I write knows I believe these scriptures. How utterly foolish to think that changing from one idol to another will bring any advantage in the world to come.

Looking to others for answers instead of looking to and asking the Lord for answers is idolatry which will end in disappointment.

I have no respect for anyone who calls him/herself a “Snufferite.” They have no support or encouragement from me. When have I asked anyone to follow me? When have I asked anyone to believe in me? I point only to belief in Christ and following Him. If you are following me, stop it. Follow Him alone who can save you. (John 14: 6.)

I have repeatedly declared that alleged private communications from me should not be trusted. I’ve written, spoken and published the things that I believe. Anyone who “name drops” to achieve credibility should be the last one you trust. 

All of us should be willing to confine what we believe, teach and accept to the scriptures. I have accepted that burden, limitation and obligation and have expounded the scriptures in all I have taught. The only additional text I have accepted as authoritative has been Joseph Smith’s teachings. Apart from these, I advocate nothing.

If someone is trying to gather their own following they are welcome to acquire whomever they can mislead. They should lead them away, because such people and their followers would be destructive to a Zion community. They need to be “picked off” into these strange paths so they cannot prevent Zion from coming.

We have had too many errors creep into the faith restored through Joseph already. Adding to it new, novel and self-aggrandizing errors compounds the mistakes of the past.


In his day, Joseph was confronted with the dilemma of how to keep order and establish a new faith. He did what then had to be done. The result was an organization which itself is a testimony of Joseph’s prophetic status. The church organization is a miracle and a gift from God to man.

The problem is that any organization, no matter how Divinely inspired, can become corrupted. Without the same Spirit that accompanied its founding, it will invariably become corrupted. This is as true of our government as it is of the church. 

In the meantime, I want it understood that those who follow others and fail to obtain a relationship with the Lord by going to Him for answers, will not be invited to the wedding feast. They, like the foolish virgins, will have no oil in their lamps. Therefore, they will be unable to continue to borrow from others what they believe to be oil, but which is instead merely dross and error which expands the darkness and dims the light.

Zion is the Lord’s. He will decide who to gather. I am satisfied, however, that both the soothsayers and their idolaters will neither be invited to the gathering, nor will they be able to endure the glory there.

Foundation of Destruction

“And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.” (Alma 10: 27.)

Polygamy

I do not find the discussion of polygamy interesting. But it is clear by the comments and emails I’ve received that a number of you do. Without putting the questions I’ve received into this post I’ll explain:

The significance of Joseph’s failure to father other children with plural wives is nothing other than a data point in a much larger picture. Fanny Alger was later married to another man and had, as I recall, eight children from that marriage. She was therefore clearly fertile. Joseph fathered children with Emma. He was clearly potent. But between them, Joseph and Fanny had no children although both were clearly capable of doing so had they been determined to bring children to their union.

The many historical candidates and continuing suspicions resulted in an attempt to identify those who may have been a child of Joseph Smith’s. There was a decades long search, using DNA testing, to try and prove he fathered someone (anyone) other than Emma’s children. None of the suspected children were his. They finished the list about two years ago, as I recall.

This is only significant in one, narrow regard: Joseph’s purpose with plural wives was not primarily to produce offspring.

That is very different from what happened under Brigham Young’s administration, and later. The primary reason for the later Mormon practice was to produce offspring.

There is something very different to me between Joseph’s practice and the later practice. I am not really interested in elaborating fully about the difference. But there was a definite difference in the orientation and justification.

For Joseph, (as has been criticized, condemned and mocked) the explanation dealt with his assurance that the plural marriage would result in “salvation” for not only the wife, but also for “her family.” This was/is regarded by many of the critics and even many faithful Latter-day Saints, as Joseph exploiting women using (or abusing) his claim to priesthood power.

What if there was something more to this idea than we have preserved? What if Joseph understood more about salvation that do we? What if Joseph could offer salvation to these others by “sealing” them to himself (he being a saved soul who had a connection to heaven)? What if Joseph was actually offering something of value to these women and to their families, which had little or even nothing to do with producing offspring?

It may just be that Joseph understood this as something quite different than what later became the teaching of the LDS Church.

To me, the subject is plagued with the Brigham Young version of the practice, which almost all Latter-day Saints believe represented an accurate continuation of what Joseph Smith was teaching. I disagree. I think Brigham Young changed rather dramatically the primary orientation. Under Joseph it was primarily focused on the afterlife, salvation and organizing a family that would endure death itself. Under Brigham Young it was primarily focused on breeding children for this life, and secondarily promised some next-life continuation for the worthy.

To me there is much more to the difference between Joseph Smith’s focus and Brigham Young’s than has been appreciated by those interested in this subject. I think it is possible to view Joseph’s practice in different terms than Brigham’s. I think it is possible to think of Joseph as morally superior to Brigham Young. I think it is possible to believe Joseph had a higher code of personal conduct than Brigham Young. I think it is possible to believe Joseph held women in higher regard than did Brigham Young.

But this is not a topic I think I need to spend any time sorting through. It really does not interest me. The advocates of polygamy who think they believe in some higher law are almost invariably thinking that Brigham Young got it right and his model is worth following. I think Brigham Young didn’t even understand the subject, nor did he have the power to save anyone, nor did connecting to Brigham Young as a sealed plural wife garner any advantage in the world to come.

Some day I may try to fully explain what I think Joseph Smith was up to. But that’s not a current priority for me, and I don’t think it should be a priority for anyone. At least not until a good deal more of what the restoration was designed to accomplish is first understood.

Just To Clarify

I assumed it was clear from all I’ve written before that I am not persuaded polygamy was ever appropriate or understood by the church. Joseph Smith did not father children with any woman other than Emma, his wife. The subsequent advocacy of taking of multiple wives, I believe, was an abomination and offensive to God.

The purpose of the last post was to show how reluctant the church was to abandon the practice, and how dishonest they were about ending it. If the US Government did not force the church to end plural marriage, they never would have. If there was any party that deserves credit for the “inspired” ending of the abominable practice, it was the US Congress.

Plural Wives

The LDS church has issued another press release. This one is on plural wives. The press releases could certainly help combat the “Google Apostasy” and the “Swedish Apostasy.” When Elder L. Tom Perry went to Europe recently and said he had answers in his briefcase but couldn’t release them, presumably he was referring to the press releases now rolling out onto the LDS.org website.

The historical stories that have been taught within the church are generally in conflict with the outside accounts told by historians. Increasingly, there are LDS historians recounting history in ways which conflict with the church’s narrative. The best way to deal with these things is to get it all out.

The church’s statement on plural wives in early Utah begins its discussion with the year 1843, ignoring all the history between 1829 (when I date the beginning of the topic) and 1843 (when the revelations on the subject were reduced to writing in what is now Section 132 of the D&C). Although the statement mentions someone (not clearly identifying who) did post-1890 plural marriages, it avoids discussing the deceit  and official involvement at the highest levels of the church in continuing the practice of sealing plural wives from 1890 to 1904, and thereafter.

The church avoids discussing the full history from 1832 (Joseph Smith/Fanny Alger) through 1904, which the fundamentalists make good use of. The problems will not be solved by hiding the unpleasant parts of the history. Fundamentalists and church critics should be able to exploit this lack of complete candor.

The statement by the church says the 1890 Manifesto was “inspired.” It reads: “In 1890, the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.”  That is not quite true according to actual history. This subject was debated in my High Priests Group a couple of Sundays ago. Some of these fathers and grandfathers have children and grandchildren falling away from the church over the subject of polygamy. Not because the practice existed, but because there is very little candor by the church in its discussion of it. The Manifesto was a political statement. It was a press release to deal with pressure from the Federal Government. It was not “inspired” in the LDS vernacular. Rather it was a desperate attempt to preserve legal rights and church property by making a statement designed to mislead Congress into believing the practice would end.

Heber J. Grant, an apostle at the time, was the publisher and managing editor of the Salt Lake Herald. His paper responded to another newspaper’s article that said the Manifesto was a revelation by writing: “[The Tribune] pretends the declaration is a revelation… although no one today has heard anyone except the lying sheet say it was a revelation.” (Salt Lake Herald, October 9, 1890.) Heber J. Grant said on September 26, 1890: “I …feel that it is merely a public announcement of the course which we had already decided in our private councils to adopt. …Yet I believe greater troubles will follow the prominent Elders in the Church through adoption of this policy.” When asked if the Manifesto was a revelation, “President Smith answered emphatically no… he did not believe it to be an emphatic revelation from God abolishing plural marriage.” (First Presidency Office Journal, August 20, 1891.) In the trial for the membership of Apostle Matthias Cowley he testified that President Joseph F. Smith informed him the 1890 Manifesto did not “mean anything.” Others including George Reynolds, L. John Nuttall, Charles W. Penrose, John Henry Smith and B. H. Roberts all denied the Manifesto was a revelation. To the extent the statement by the church is intended to convey the impression this was an inspired revelation, there is plenty to show that is inaccurate. It would be more correct to say the church reluctantly abandoned the practice as a result of legislation passed by Congress which disincorporated the LDS church, escheated its property, disenfranchised Mormons from voting, disqualified Mormons from serving on juries, and criminalized continued plural marriages. But it was abandoned only as a temporary measure to secure statehood. It was to resume when a state legislature, instead of the US Congress legislating for the Federal Territory of Utah, could pass laws. The United States did not trust Mormons, and required Utah’s state constitution to include the abandonment of plural wives as a condition of statehood. Utah became a state in 1896, but underground plural wives were continued until the Congressional hearings during the Senator Reed Smoot controversy in 1904. President Joseph F. Smith went to Washington, DC and testified under oath about the matter, and subsequently actually ended the practice. The trauma of testifying during these hearings resulted in the “Second Manifesto” written in 1904 by President Joseph F. Smith. This was another attempt to end the underground practice.

Even the 1904 letter didn’t actually end it. It just became more secret. Apostles Taylor and Cowley were sacrificed when their continued sealing of plural wives was brought to light by the Salt Lake Tribune. Their trials removed them from the Quorum of the Twelve for failing to discontinue the practice of sealing multiple wives in violation of the 1904 letter (NOT the Manifesto). No one contended in the church court proceedings for Apostles Taylor and Cowley that the Manifesto ended the practice or required them to cease sealing plural wives as early as 1890.

Interestingly related to this topic is the ruling by Judge Clark Waddoups on the issue of plural wives. The Waddoups’ opinion does not legalize plural wives. Instead it decriminalizes private sexual relations between consenting adults which would otherwise violate a criminal statute adopted by Utah. It also does not prevent criminal prosecution of bigamy. The distinction between what is legal and what is illegal is driven by whether the people engaged in the private consensual relationships bothered to purchase a marriage license and seek governmental authorization for their second (or more) marriage. If they did, and they have more than one legal marriage, they violate Utah’s bigamy law and can be prosecuted. If they did not, then they are merely engaging in private conduct which is protected by the penumbra of the First Amendment.


As a result of the decision, a man could have concubines, but not plural wives. Which brings to mind a discussion that took place in a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve on April 5, 1894 (four years after the Manifesto): They discussed concubinage as a means of meeting the technical requirements of the law, while still continuing sexual relationships with multiple women. George Q. Cannon said: “I believe in concubinage, or some plan whereby men and women can live together under sacred ordinances and vows until they can be married. Thus our surplus of girls can be cared for, and the law of God to multiple and replenish the earth can be fulfilled.” President Lorenzo Snow added: “I have no doubt but concubinage will yet be practiced by this Church, but I had not thought of it in this connection. When the nations are troubled good women will come here for safety and blessing, and men will accept them as concubines.” President Woodruff added: “If men enter into some practice of this character to raise a righteous posterity, they will be justified in it. The day is near when there will be no difficulty in the way of good men securing noble wives.” (Spellings corrected.) If you put the decision of Judge Waddoups together with the discussion on April 5, 1894, a resumption of concubinage seems possible. I’m not expecting it to resume with official sanction. But the fundamentalists are going to be perking up in Utah, I assume.

Sound Doctrine

2 Timothy 4: 3-4:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; [they will be unable to even tolerate it. Unable to “endure” hearing it. They will think what is “sound” or true doctrine is beyond what can be permitted to be spoken, thought or believed.]

but after their own lusts [that is, they will allow their ambitions, pride and desire to be popular and praised to control what they are willing to believe. They will require the truth to give way to the social attitudes and fashions of the day.]

… shall they heap to themselves teachers, [that is, leadership which will give them what they want. Leaders and presiding authorities whose goal is to deliver on the “lusts” for popularity and acceptance. Leaders whose decisions are driven by focus groups and opinion polling and other social studies to arrive at the place they lust to arrive.]

… having itching ears; [that is, ears tuned to hear the flattery, praise and assurance that comforts them in their false pride: “chosen people” and “royal priesthood” and “all is well” and “cannot be led astray” and such nonsense.]

… and they shall turn their ears away from the truth, [because it is never popular. It does not gather wealth and status, but instead criticism and ostracism. It will cost you something, not pay you something. Indeed, among the false teachers one of the evidences they offer of God’s favor toward them will be their wealth, influence and popularity.]

… and shall be turned unto fables. [in which a counterfeit is portrayed as the real Gospel. In which lies are told about history. In which soothing things are provided by wormtongue preachers whose goal is to keep the flock praying, obeying and paying; with no regard for the souls being lost by their false preaching. Fools trifling with the souls of men will offer fables instead of revelation.]