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Mosiah 3: 2-4

The third chapter of Mosiah is one of the most important accounts in the Book of Mormon. Like Section 76, the content is delivered by a visionary encounter through the veil with a messge sent by God to King Benjamin. This was between Benjamin and the angel. This is the same pattern as Moroni’s nighttime visit with Joseph Smith. In both of these encounters the message was for all mankind.

There is no mistake about the source of the message: The angel told King Benjamin to “Awake” in the same manner the Lord called to Samuel in the night, calling him by name. (1 Sam. 3: 3-4.) The “angel of the Lord” after awakening King Benjamin then “stood before him” to speak the message. (Mosiah 3: 2.)

The angel reiterates a second time for King Benjamin to “Awake”– and it is not redundant. (Mosiah 3: 3.) It is one thing to awaken from sleep, it is another to awaken to the news given by the angel. King Benjamin needed to awaken to both.

In order to “awaken” to the second, Benjamin needed to “hear the words which I shall tell.” Or, in other words, to allow the message from God to enter into his heart. (Id.)

Benjamin merited the audience, and it was given. The angel was to “declare” this message, and it was the king’s duty to listen, then hearken, and then declare to others. It was not a negotiation, or a discussion. It was a declaration. Through that process Benjamin will finally awaken to his own salvation. It is in doing the will of heaven that we all draw near to God.

Before delivering the content of the message, the angel characterizes the message in words similar to what Gabriel would declare to the shepherds keeping watch over the flock at night; “I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.” (Id., see also Luke 2: 10.) When angels or the Lord explain His ministry to a prophet, the universal reaction is “joy” at the great redemption provided through the suffering of the Lord. (See, e.g., Moses 7: 47; Isa. 53: 10.) There is always a juxtaposition of the Lord’s suffering and universal “joy” at the result obtained from His sacrifice.

King Benjamin is told, like Zacharis would later be told, “the Lord hath heard thy prayers.” (Mosiah 3: 4; see also Luke 1: 13.) Both men were seeking the welfare of others. In the case of Zacharias the prayer was for the return of the light of God’s countenance to Israel. In the case of Benjamin, it was for his people. They were intercessors in similitude of the Lord who would be the Great Intercessor. Therefore, their prayer was aligned with heaven itself.

In response to Benjamin’s prayer, the angel declared the Lord “hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice.” (Mosiah 3: 4) When the Lord determines a man’s “righteousness” is acceptable before Him, then He redeems that man by parting the veil and bringing him into the company of the redeemed. (See D&C 76: 67.)

Benjamin is not to keep the news of redemption to himself, but he is to “declare unto thy people.” We are all required to bear testimony of the truth to one another. (Mosiah 3: 4.) The purpose of King Benjamin bearing testimony is so that others, who receive his testimony “may also be filled with joy.” (Id.) Of course, if they refuse to receive and accept the testimony, then they do not share in that joy.

This pattern of the angel appearing in quiet solitude, to the lone witness, is the same as the Lord’s dealing with Zacharias, Joseph Smith, Nephi, Enos, Samuel, Joseph F. Smith, Paul, and Elijah; all of whom were then required to tell others of their testimony. The Lord is the same. He acts the same. We tend to impose on Him rules which have never governed His conduct.

This chapter is one of the most doctrinally rich chapters in the Book of Mormon. It is worth careful study.

Power in the Priesthood, Conclusion

All things are governed by God’s will. In general conference we are taught that we cannot have the Holy Ghost as our companion unless we are obedient and faithful. In a recent example, President Eyring explained how behavior such as looking at “images which incite lust” or inappropriate Internet or media access to pornography, or even immodesty or vulgarity will forfeit the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (God Helps the Faithful Priesthood Holder) This is describing how the Holy Ghost is a temporary visitor with most people, even in the church.

The power of priesthood, however, is speaking about a higher order of things. In that order the Holy Ghost is a “constant companion.” (D&C 121: 46.) These individuals are no longer wishing they had power in the priesthood, because they have obtained knowledge through the things they have done and the pattern they have followed. They have invoked the law ordained before the foundation of the world and have obtained the associated promised blessings.

The scriptures rarely speak about the instruments of power. In the context of priesthood, however, the Lord does use the image of “scepter”–an indication of wielding the power of God; as well as “dominion” –an image of acting with God’s appointment over a charge or stewardship or message given to you by Him. But in this revelation it is used as a symbol to show a connection of the individual to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. (Id.) The revelation ties “scepter” to “an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth” coming once “virtue” has “garnished thy thoughts unceasingly.” In other words, you have come to see the difference between “virtue” and positive, directed action undertaken on the Lord’s behalf and at His insistence through the Holy Ghost.

This is how priesthood power is acquired. It is how all prophets, from Adam to the present, have been called of God and then endowed with power by Him. It is a principle of action, requiring you obey the law under which this power is conferred. It connects you to Him. For He alone is the source of power.

Truth and righteousness go together, but truth requires you to see things as they really are (D&C 93: 24), not through a distorted lens that tells you all is well when it isn’t (2 Ne. 28: 24). No person can behold the truth unless they are willing to be righteous, and act on what they learn. If they are willing, they will have a scepter forged in the truth and righteousness, in which they see clearly, as if standing in bright daylight while all around them people wander in darkness. (D&C 50: 23-24.)

Such a process gives man dominion over lusts, ambitions, pride and desire to succeed in this world or to have its praise. They follow their Lord and do as He did. (Matt. 26: 39.) They know Him because they have offered sacrifice for Him in the same pattern as He did. Having obtained dominion over their own desires, they are given that dominion everlastingly, for “[their] dominion shall be an everlasting dominion” and they have overcome the flesh. (D&C 121: 46.) The Lord overcame the world. His followers must overcome the world. (D&C 63: 47.) When you subdue the desire to be something in this world and lay everything on the altar other than your love of God, you have won the victory. Then the “god of this world” has no claim upon you; for you belong to another.

When the followers of the Lord have gained dominion over their ambitions and lusts, thereby overcoming the world, they receive an everlasting dominion which will allow them to go no more out into the world. They have learned the principles by which all things are governed, and by their knowledge “and without compulsory means it shall flow unto [them] forever.” (D&C 121: 46.) It is not “compulsory” because they follow the Lord, act with constraint of the Spirit, and know they cannot compel men to come to salvation. They have been taught the three grand truths by which God governs. They can invite, testify, and teach, but they cannot use compulsion. Therefore, they have arrived at the point it is possible to understand the doctrine of the priesthood. They live it, therefore they understand it. They are it, and their understanding reaches into heaven itself.

Joseph knew this. It was revealed to him, and to us through him, but to understand it we must live it like Joseph lived it. For the doctrine is understood only in the doing. (John 7: 17.) To everyone else it remains only a matter of mystery, or of abuse when they pretend to things which are not given to them.

Everything is in the scriptures and before us all. So we are all accountable for knowledge we claim we possess. Therefore, since we claim to have “all truth” and to offer “salvation” to all the world, even the dead, we will be judged by the standard we claim to hold. It would be wise, therefore, to begin to give careful heed to the scriptures.

Power in the Priesthood, Part 3

The most powerful tools in the priesthood are “kindness, and pure knowledge” because these things “greatly enlarge the soul.” (D&C 121: 42.) In this power, the priesthood holder acts utterly “without hypocrisy” because this power forbids it and cannot be used in that manner. Nor can it be done with guile, or pursuing any course other than the Lord’s. (Id.) If the priesthood holder does not completely conform to the will of the Lord, they cannot retain priesthood power. The law is violated, the conditions are not met, and the powers of heaven depart from that man. This is why “meekness” is so difficult to recognize. (As explained in Beloved Enos.) The attribute is found in the relationship between man and God, not man and man. That is, to be meek is to follow the Lord’s will, even when you don’t want to do so. Even when it brings you into conflict with your friends, family or community. You measure meekness as between the servant and the Lord, not as between the servant and his critics.

Loving others does not preclude the priestly man from rebuking those he loves from time to time. The rebuke must originate from God and be inspired by His Spirit, not a jealousy or ambition. When a rebuke is delivered by someone motivated by the Holy Ghost, it will not be accompanied by strong feelings, anger or hurt feelings. It will be godly. In other words, it comes from pure intelligence, designed to elevate the target of the rebuke, to reclaim them, and show them God’s love. It cannot be motivated by any lower source, or it would not be the product of the Holy Ghost. (See D&C 121: 43-44.)

When this pattern is followed, and these conditions are met, then the priesthood holder finds he is able to make intercession for “all men” because he has become a vessel of charity. His “bowels [are] full of charity toward all men” including even “the household of faith” where undoubtedly will be found his persecutors. (D&C 121: 45.) For, as the Lord taught, it will be a man’s “own household” that will be his foes. (Matt. 10: 36.) It is always the case that within the community of fellow-believers, there will be many who are hypocrits, cunning deceivers, proud, vain and ambitious men. These sorts always belong to the “household of faith” but instead of following the religion they hold, they employ it as a tool to judge and condemn others. These sorts are the “foes” of the true Saint. Still in all, the priesthood holder will have charity toward them, also. At personal risk they will stay, invite and teach repentance, and work to fulfill the will of the Lord. This is a pattern you should recognize from scripture. The Lord was chief in this example, but there are many others. The Book of Mormon is filled with examples. Hence the need for those who come to possess priesthood to have charity “toward the household of faith” for it will be within that “household” the priestly work is begun.

Power in the priesthood is literally the product of knowing and following the Lord. His friends hold His authority. His friends act within the same pattern, following the same law, observing the same principles, and exciting the same opposition as He did.

Only then can a person understand the saying “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” (D&C 121: 45.) This is a great mystery to many. But it is an actual process to those who follow the pattern.

As I explained recently, virtue is not righteousness. Virtue is almost always passive, constraining from abrupt and improper behavior. It contains and limits. It is a strong barrier against misconduct. It has protocols and expects behavior to be mild. Righteousness will often require or impose action, sometimes action which exceeds mere virtue. Nephi was constrained to kill Laban. Elijah mocked the false priests. Christ rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees as unclean “whited sepluchers” filled with rot and decay. These kinds of righteous actions are not ungoverned or spontaneous. They are carefully controlled, and are undertaken only when the priesthood holder, whose thoughts are virtuous and disciplined, is led by the power of the Holy Ghost to rebuke sharply. These acts are constrained. They are moved. These servants are taken by God’s power to become His instrument to deliver His words. Oftentimes the servant does not enjoy that aspect of serving the Lord, but meekness requires it be done.

When someone is moved to transition from virtue to righteousness there are two direct results. Their confidence in God’s presence is strengthened. They know the Master whom they serve. They gain understanding which cannot be obtained in any other way. This is not the natural state for any man. (See, e.g., Isa. 6: 5Mormon 9: 3-5.) It is God’s power and His grace which allows this to happen. They are confident because of Him. He has comforted them.

Conforming to these principles and being in the presence of God allows such understanding of God and His ways that “the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon the soul as the dews from heaven.” Clarity. Simplicity. Understanding. Doctrine. Priesthood. God’s ways. His power. His intelligence. The mysteries of God. The knowledge of the truth.

These things are not understood unless they are done. If any one will do the Lord’s will, they will know the doctrine, and if they do not do so, it remains a mystery. (John 7: 17.)

Power in the Priesthood, Part 2

When Joseph Smith was confined to Liberty Jail, suffering personal abuse and abuse for his people at the hands of government, he received a revelation regarding abuse of authority. However, it was not about the power or authority of government, but instead about abusing the power of God. Sitting in a Missouri dungeon, Joseph (and all those who read this revelation) are cautioned about how to handle priesthood. Things all follow rules, or laws ordained before the foundation of the world. (D&C 130: 20-21.) They cannot be violated and are invoked whenever men make choices. Choices lead to consequences, and these are ordained by God. We are free to choose. But we are not free to change the consequences.

The power of priesthood is connected with heaven. If any of us sever that connection we sever the priesthood. (D&C 121: 36-37.) If or when we abuse others by exercising unrighteous “conrtol, dominion or compulsion” and thereby forfeit priesthood, we are left to ourselves. We no longer have a connection to heaven. This is true of husbands who “rule” over wives by claim of priesthood. This is true of any of us serving in the church.

The priesthood is to bless others. It succeeds when we elevate others, bless their lives, bring them truth, and connect them with the Lord. When we focus on ourselves, or seek our own vainglory, we are abusing the priesthood and therefore, do not possess it. It is a call to serve, to kneel and wash another’s feet. It is not to claim superiority over anyone we are asked to serve.

When we behave like the “gentiles” (Luke 22: 24-26), we are left without authority or power.

This solitary state of being alone, without God in the world (Mormon 5: 16), or being “left to himself” has a natural progression. The progression that follows, once our priesthood is gone, is that we “kick against the pricks”–meaning we then oppose the will of God, and it will harm us. (D&C 121: 38.) It is a law we are following. We cannot help ourselves. We must thereafter oppose the will of God and bring harm upon ourselves. In doing so, we also must “persecute the saints”– meaning that when this route is taken, we will look for and oppose those who have remained in contact with the Lord. (Id.) It is a natural result, and it is irresistible. If this is the chosen course, anyone who follows it must seek out and oppose those who follow God’s will, because they “fight against God” when they are in this gall of bitterness.

This an explanation about priesthood abuse. It cannot apply until someone has first been ordained, or in other words “called” to a priestly office. This is entirely internal to the church and its officers.

Further, the one engaging in the abuse must be in a position to actually assert “control” or “dominion” or “compulsion” over others. That would not include those who are not in positions of authority. Those who have no right to claim control, dominion or compulsion under the claim of priestly office would not be able to abuse that power. In other words, this revelation to Joseph Smith about abusing priestly authority or status is a fundamental statement of how we conduct our church. It is how we are to behave while serving in church offices.

Note also, it would apply broadly in any context where someone relies on their “priesthood” as a basis for claiming priority or demanding surrender. For most men, that hits closest in their marriage. Persuasion, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned has its greatest application within the family. Fathers should lead always with “pure knowledge” and through revelation.

The result is that while many are called (offered the chance to receive priesthood from heaven) only very few will be chosen, or receive power in their priesthood. (D&C 121: 34, 40.) Along the way the many who are called will refuse to submit to heaven and will instead become preoccupied with “covering their sins, gratifying their pride, and accomplishing their vain ambition.” (D&C 121: 37.) When they do this they will exercise unrighteous control over others, establish their dominion, and wield control over the souls of men. This is the order the Lord’s return will crush, because it is the commerce of Babylon to trade in the “souls of men.” (Rev. 18: 13.) Churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, or some of the Fundamentalist LDS sects, claim to hold keys to consign men to hell or raise them to heaven. Such purported keys and power from God let them trade in the souls of men. These are the only ones who could conceivably trade in the “souls of men” referred to in Revelation. They are, therefore, Babylon, and the target of the Lord’s destruction at His return.

On the other hand, when you find a soul in possession of the priesthood their conduct is altogether different. Since it is impossible to compel men to salvation, the priesthood can only invite, and persuade. The priesthood acknowledges it has the burden to persuade, and to convince, and cannot simply say something is so because they have authority. (D&C 121: 41.) Those who hold priesthood power can only proceed using “persuasion, longsuffering, gentleness and meekness” to enlighten those with eyes to see. (Id.) When this process is followed there is another law which confers upon the practitioner “love unfeigned” for those to whom they minister. (Id.) When they walk alongside their Lord and accept His yoke they find His love for others. This is the natural result of obeying the law governing priesthood. Love does not need to be feigned when the Lord bestows it as a grace, or an endowment, or a gift of His Spirit to one who follows Him.

It is a natural occurrence for those who abuse, rebel and apostasize from priestly ordination to then persecute the lowly and insignificant saints of God. It is natural for those who receive and magnify priesthood to find themselves loving the lowly and insignificant saints of God. These are natural gifts, normal graces bestowed by the power of God through laws instituted before the foundation of the world. It is part of the Lord’s orderly program.

Last Week’s Comments

I wanted to respond to some of last week’s comments:

There is a difference between calling and election and Second Comforter. I’ve written about the Second Comforter, but haven’t ever commented on calling and election other than what is said in Beloved Enos. It isn’t useful, in my view, to spend time discussing or studying a topic that is between the individual and the Lord, because if they are brought to the Lord, they will receive what He intends for them to receive.

In a quote from Joseph Smith (which is on page 3 of The Second Comforter) the order he puts these events in is the calling and election first, and Second Comforter second. However, as I pointed out in Beloved Enos, it did not happen in that order for Joseph.

These are important concepts to understand. But knowing the concept and then undertaking the process are quite separate things. I have friends who know a good deal more about the literature of deep Mormon doctrine than they have the capacity to practice in their lives. I think you draw closer to the Lord when you faithfully serve in primary, or as a home teacher, or as a young women’s counselor than when you are amassing knowledge of trivia about our history or doctrine. It is in the doing that the learning occurs. We must do what the Lord asks to understand Him. The four part Power in the Priesthood series will address that issue.

The idea of “evil speaking” has never been clearly defined by anyone, including the scriptures. Implicit in the idea is that you are trying to falsely make someone hated or reviled. You are, in essence, seeking to make a good man, or an innocent act to appear evil or corrupt when it is not. In essence you are calling good evil and evil good. The measure for that is best taken from inside the person. That is, they intend to call someone or something which is good or innocent as “evil” when they know or should know better. It reflects a malignant or at least indifferent heart.

I have suggested “the Lord’s anointed” should be interpreted to be anyone who has been through the temple, which is the broadest meaning. I’ve never thought it is safe to narrowly define obligations. If we are wrong by narrowly defining the term, then we miss the mark. Whereas, if we are wrong in broadly defining the term, we proceed cautiously and safely.

I understand “sustaining” or “supporting” the Brethren to be doing what we are asked when asked. We get assignments or callings, and we ought to do them. When, we are asked to obey the word of wisdom, or we are asked to attend a conference, or to undertake some kind of conduct, then we do it.

On following the Prophet: I think that is quite easy. What, exactly, do you find hard about this? It is not at all difficult to attend sacrament meetings, pay tithing, do our home teaching, attend the temple, etc. They really do not ask much of us. What they do ask is by and large simple. What is the problem? The scriptures ask us a LOT more. It is not incompatible for you to do everything the church asks, and still pursue the things you understand the scriptures instruct you to do. They are not mutually exclusive. They are complimentary. Or, at least they ought to be. In my experience they are complimentary and the one (what the Prophet asks of us) is by far the easier of the two. I wish the scriptures (and the Lord) only wanted what we are asked to do as active members of the church. Full, faithful, diligent service in the church is a small thing. Each of us should willingly submit to it, and find joy in service there. Faithful Latter-day Saints are among the best people on earth, and are actually seeking to find God.

On detailed knowledge of church history: For faithful, active and satisfied Latter-day Saints: It certainly isn’t necessary, no. But everything needs perspective. Ultimately you are alone in your test, in being proven, in finding God. The church is a profound help and a great hindrance. It is a help in all it has preserved: ordinances, scriptures, organization, libraries of material and the venue for performing ordinances and meetings. It is a hindrance when it becomes a substitute for God, and refocuses your attention away from the Lord. If you can receive its help without becoming idolatrous, then detailed study of church history is not useful or necessary. For disaffected, alienated and inactive Latter-day Saints: It is necessary, yes. It puts into perspective the things which have alienated them. When the weaknesses of men are apparent, they are easier to forgive and for you to move on to finding God. When you can see the hand of God moving in spite of the weaknesses and failing of men, you can resort the things which alienated you, put into categories the mistakes and errors, find what is good and retain faithfulness to that goodness.

On my schedule: It isn’t important.

On evil spirits: I’ve never felt it important to discuss the topic. They exist. One of the side-effects of an inordinate preoccupation with the topic is the misunderstanding that you can relate to them. You can’t. They are your enemy. Their tool in trade is deception and lying. Summary dismissal is what is taught in the scriptures and in the temple and should be the approach when dealing with them.

Internal committees of the church are all presided over by a general authority. When the committee works, they work as a group of men assigned to the task, and churn out their product. The assigned general authority will meet on occasion with them, some weekly, some monthly, some less often, to “preside” and give face time to the committee. The committee produces a product or a project and whatever that is is said to belong to the general authority because it is “his” committee. In truth, however, the work goes on among the faceless, nameless members with little more than thin oversight by the assigned general authority. This gives the Correlation process its power because the committee uses the general authority’s name to shield themselves from criticism or accountability. It is “Elder Holland” or “Elder Ballard” who takes the assigned credit for “his” committee’s product. This insures that even though he has but very little to do with it, the work-product is regarded as his. Almost anyone would question a bureaucratic process and decision if they knew how it worked. However, almost no active church member would dare to question “Elder Oaks.” Speaking of Elder Oaks, he gets credit for the Sunday School Manual because that’s his committee. Interestingly, in one of the Mormon Stories Podcasts, a member of the BYU Religion Department who helped write the manual told an amusing story. (I think it was Peterson, but I’m not sure) In a New Testament manual book of Acts, there is the incident where Paul spoke till midnight. He put a young man to sleep who fell from the window and died. (Acts 20: 7-12.) One of the discussion questions he put into the draft manual was something to the effect, “Have you ever killed anyone in a Sacrament Meeting talk?” Of course this was tongue-in-cheek. To his surprise, the question made it through to the print proof stage before he removed it. The story shows just how “tightly” the manual committee actually scrutinizes their work. A good many of those involved are more interested in the “face time” with the presiding general authority, hoping that will give them opportunity for advancement in the structure. I believe you can be critical of a committee without having anything in mind for the general authority who has the unfortunate assignment of being “over” the committee. The purpose of Correlation is to conflate the two. Correlation relies on that conflation to work their disastrous mischief presently underway. There are a significant number of general authorities who would undo Correlation, and that number is growing.

At some point I will contrast the Light of Christ, Spirit of Christ, Holy Ghost and gift of the Holy Ghost. But that’s not appropriate in a quick response here.

Fasting in the form of abstaining from all food and drink may not be practical for the elderly, those who are diabetic or ill. For some, refraining from food and drink is possible without any danger to their health, but if they choose to do so for more than a day, then eating once in the evening allows the fast to continue the next day. For someone unable to fast, but who can surrender some part of their diet–abstaining from all sweets, for example–it can serve the purpose. Underlying the idea of the fast are two things. First, submission to God. Second, aiding the poor. (Isa. 58: 6.) You can accomplish those purposes even if the “fast” you choose has nothing to do with food. However, our appetite for food is one of the most direct ways to discipline the will of the body. Remember though, it is your thoughts, not your belly, where the real battle is fought.

Christ sanctifies us, we don’t sanctify ourselves. Our “righteousness” is borrowed from Him. It can be symbolized in this way. He provides a white robe, we put it on, and then He looks upon the whiteness and purity of the robe we received from Him and treats us as if the borrowed robe is our condition. We owe Him for that. He is willing to proceed with us as if we merited the robe. (See 2 Ne. 9: 14.)

Colors all have symbolic meaning.  Blue is the color of priesthood. Red is the color of judgment. Gold is the color of heavenly royalty. Green is the color of healing. There are colors we can’t see. All you have to do to make something veiled from our view is to put that color on what you want to conceal. It is rather like our own practice of wearing camouflage when hunting.

Power in the Priesthood

Here is a quote from the Journal of Discourses recently brought to my attention:

“This failure to realize all the blessings and powers of the Priesthood does not apply to the elders and lesser Priesthood only; but it applies to the higher quorums, and comes home to ourselves, who are Apostles of Jesus Christ. We are presented before the Church, and sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and we have received oftentimes the gift of prophecy and revelation, and have received many great and glorious gifts. But have we received the fullness of the blessings to which we are entitled? No, we have not. Who, among the Apostles have become seers, and enjoy all the gifts and powers pertaining to that calling? And those who are called to perform special missions in opening up dispensations of the Gospel to the children of men, as Joseph and others were called of the Lord, He endows more fully with these gifts; but this does not hinder others from enjoying similar gifts according to His promises, and according to our faithfulness. And I have thought the reason why we have not enjoyed these gifts more fully is, because we have not sought for them as diligently as we ought. I speak for one, I have not sought as diligently as I might have done. More than forty years have passed away since these promises were made. I have been blessed with some revelations and prophecies, and with dreams of things that have come to pass; but as to seeing things as a seer, and beholding heavenly things in open vision, I have not attained to these things. And who is to blame for this? Not the Lord; not brother Joseph—they are not to blame. And so it is with the promises made to you in your confirmations and endowments, and by the patriarchs, in your patriarchal blessings; we do not live up to our privileges as saints of God and elders of Israel; for though we receive many blessings that are promised to us, we do not receive them in their fullness, because we do not seek for them as diligently and faithfully as we should.” (Orson Pratt, JD 25:145-146)

This candid statement of Elder Orson Pratt is a beautiful and faith promoting statement from an earnest and faithful Apostle. He was called by the Lord, through revelation to Joseph Smith, and held the office given him. His lament of failing to attain, because of a lack of diligence, should summon to each of us a renewed resolve to be faithful and true to the Lord. When so many have fallen short, the Lord deserves to have someone succeed. Why is that not you? Why do you not summon the faith and diligence to become His friend? This is an open invitation to everyone. (D&C 93: 1.) Therefore it is an invitation to you.

I think the best way to view all priesthood assignments in the church as entirely probationary. That is, ordination is an invitation to come and receive. It is up to each individual whether they will come and will receive. Ordination is invitation. Acceptance is through living the principles and ordinances of the Gospel.

The Lord often spoke to “the elders of my church” as one category, in contrast to “priesthood” which is another category. We conflate the two. An elder is invited to become an actual priesthood holder, but that is dependent upon heaven, alone. It may be conferred on us, but heaven must ratify. (See D&C 121: 36-37.) Therefore, there are a lot of elders in the church who have no priesthood. Yet they have an authoritative invitation to connect with heaven and rise up and receive it.

We conflate so many things because we tend to be lazy. We want to be able to acquire priestly authority as easily as we acquire a merit badge. It just does not, cannot work that way. Heaven controls that end of our faith. We conform to the conditions or we do not receive. The test is measured in our hearts, not just in our outward conduct. I suspect Elder Orson Pratt was never closer to attaining what he sought than when he humbly confessed his failure and sincere desire. His heart seems broken, his confession sincere, his desire authentic.

When someone has the fullness of the priesthood, they have the ability to ask and get an answer. When Joseph received it by the voice of God in the early 1830’s, the Lord confirmed “I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.” (D&C 132: 45.) When the voice of God declared that it was also to be upon Hyrum Smith, it was declared by revelation that he would have the keys “whereby he may ask and receive.” (D&C 124: 95.) When Nephi, son of Helaman received it, the Lord declared: “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for tho shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.” (Hel. 10: 5.) Joseph Smith explained this relationship when referring to Noah conversing with the Lord preliminary to destroying the wicked. Noah was told by the Lord how he (Noah) could save himself and his family. Joseph explained, “thus we behold the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him in a familar and friendly manner, that he continued to him the Keys, the Covenants, the power and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning and the offering of Sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time, for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the priesthood under the direction and commandments of the Almighty.” (Words of Joseph Smith, 5 October 1840, Monday morning, Robert B. Thompson’s account; spellings corrected.) One of the reasons we know Joseph Smith had the fullness was his ability to always get an answer to his inquiries. During his life, the Lord called the church a “true and living” church because it was in constant communication with the Lord. (D&C 1: 30.) While Joseph was at the head, the church could always ask and get an answer from the Lord through him. There was never any reason for the church or its leaders to speak in the absence of revelation. The Lord hearkened to Joseph. Joseph held “the keys of the mysteries and the revelations” D&C 28: 7. He had the “keys of the mysteries of the kingdom” D&C 64: 5. He held the “keys of the kingdom” D&C 81: 2. Joseph had “this greater priesthood [which] admistereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God” D&C 84: 19. For Joseph, the fullness was getting answers, solving mysteries and always using revelation to do so.

When the Lord designated Hyrum to receive this same authority, then the Lord was bound to also heed Hyrum’s inquiries and answer him. Joseph could be removed, but the church still had someone at the head who would be able to ask and get an answer, just as with Joseph.

It is a great thing when the church is “true and living” and has, at its head, someone like Joseph or Hyrum who could ask and get an answer. That is why it is so puzzling and offensive for the church’s press spokesman to recently claim the church’s leaders for generations spoke “in the absense of revelation” about a matter of critical importance for salvation of an entire race of people. When they said: “The origins of the priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.” The church has repeatedly claimed to have the fullness of the priesthood, therefore it is a terrible indictment of Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay, among many others, that they spoke “in the absence of direct revelation.” This surprising claim by the press spokesman contradicts the established order, recognized authority, and most importantly the church’s claims. I have taken some criticism for suggesting an alternative view of our history in my last book, but I’ve never made such an attack as this. This is a serious accusation, and one which the spokesman ought to provide us with an explanation. Did the leadership proceed on a matter of such importance “in the absence of revelation?” That seems heartless and unkind. Perhaps it was, but I would hope we would have some follow up explanation, because the assertion is troubling.

I Am a Mormon, Conclusion

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced to me the idea that God would speak to mankind again today, if we asked in faith and listened for an answer. It was a very difficult idea to accept at first. It seemed God was a distant being whose involvement was ancient, and who concluded His work with man in the Bible.

When the missionary Elders “bore their testimony” and said they knew their religion was true, it puzzled me at first. I wasn’t sure what that meant. They approached the subject of religion and their knowledge of their belief system with a sort of confidence I hadn’t seen before. When they said Joseph Smith had seen and spoken with God the Father and Jesus Christ, it was almost too much to take in at first.

The religion they offered did not come quickly or easily to me. It was very hard for me to accept. But their sincerity affected mine, and ultimately I did “ask God” and got an answer from Him. It was so subtle, and so small an answer that at first I wondered if it was an answer from God at all. I trusted in it, acted on it, and the light grew.

From small means to greater and greater light, I have been converted to the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of Him, this is my own testimony, last of all, which I give of Him: That He lives; for I have seen Him. He has ministered to me. I adopt the words of others and confirm they, too, have seen Him:

I can say, like Nephi: “And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” (2 Ne. 11: 2-3.)

I can say, like Moroni:And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things; And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing. And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.” (Ether 12: 39-41.)
I can say, like Alma: And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” (Alma 32: 22-23.)
I am a faithful Mormon, who, like the missionaries who first told me of Joseph Smith and God’s answer to his prayer, also affirms that God does still answer prayer. He is accessible and willing to make Himself known to anyone who follows the path to get that knowledge. “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am…” (D&C 93: 1.)

If there is a problem with Mormonism today, it is that it doesn’t believe and practice the original faith restored through Joseph Smith. Leaders have inadvertently put themselves between the members and God. They don’t belong there. I have written eight books (at great personal cost) showing respect to the church, gratitude for all it has done and is doing to preserve the faith restored through Joseph, but also reminding all who read that it is ultimately about connecting with Jesus Christ. You will be damned if you are a successful Mormon with a good relationship with the brethren, but neglect your relationship with Christ.

Those in the Strengthening the Membership Committee are in the gall of bitterness when they suggest my writings are threatening to them. To promote faith in Christ threatens their fifedom? To testify of Christ somehow dimishes the men who claim to represent Him? The idea is so patently off kilter that it reveals a dark motive to place respect for men above faith in Christ. I make no apologies for my testimony of Christ. Nor for my healthy skepticism of men. We are given free agency and we are required to use it. We must have the choice. Everyone has to choose. No matter how good the man is, men are all prone to mistakes, to vanity and pride, and to self-interests above the interests of others.

I am and will always remain a Mormon. I have more than faith in the religion, I have knowledge from Christ about my standing before Him. Therefore, I state with confidence what I believe, knowing that the Lord has made things known to me which He has kept hidden from others simply because they will not ask Him and let Him inform them also. My confidence in the religion is not the same as my confidence in the church, and this misbehavior by the Strengthening the Members Committee only reduces confidence in these mere men.

Despite the fact that the church has changed dramatically in the four decades since I joined, I have not changed all that much. Because of the increasing changes and the pace at which those changes are now taking place, I began to look into church history. What I concluded is shared in Passing The Heavenly Gift. It is my effort to help all those fellow believers who are disoriented by the increasingly rapid changes made by the church. If it isn’t “true” then disprove it. However, if it is, then why persecute me for telling the truth?

The truth will prevail. No matter who fights against it, it will prevail. I will stand with truth, and against all who oppose it; either high or low, inside or outside the church. The truth matters. Men and institutions do not.

I Am a Mormon, Part 6

The presentation by the missionary Elders that convinced me to “ask God” was weak. Just like the scriptures commend us to become when we tear down the false things of this world. (D&C 1: 19.) The young men had little appeal, and were not well equipped to advance the religion. They had come to me with nothing of any value, apart from the religion being true and the Spirit bearing witness to me of that fact.

So when the church invests millions in the infrastructure to test, market, gather focus-group insights, and then opinion poll to improve the marketing of Mormonism, I am very skeptical it has any value at all. You see, I came through the conversion process. None of the marketing I saw was professional. It was amateur and simple. For the most part, the leaders of the church inherit this religion and the church from their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I did not. I endured the rejection of my parents and sibling when I joined the faith. I lost family and friends because of the faith. I know why someone joins an inconvenient, challenging faith because I went through the process. It has nothing to do with the church being physically impressive.

The success of the church is not dependent upon, nor guaranteed by, a multi-billion-dollar downtown complex of religious and commercial buildings. If that is what motivates someone to join, they do not have the right reasons or focus, and will not contribute anything to the faith. We do not need to gather into the net those who  find a slick marketing approach convincing enough to become Mormon. We only need to gather those who are pricked in their hearts, humble and who prayed to know if this is God’s work or not. Those who get an answer are going to join because they got an answer. Such people will have an inner strength that flows from having spoken with God. They will remain and grow in their knowledge of godliness– as long as we feed them. They will perish, however, if we feed them nothing but myth and superficial portions of the Gospel. The truth is exciting, and we risk killing their faith when we make it dull, incomplete, and mingled with misrepresentations. They will die, even if they are active in the church.

People who will listen with their hearts are going to join us. We do not need to be using Wall Street consulting firms to put together a new, improved marketing campaign. The Lord will vindicate His messengers. The expensive infrastructure detracts from the message delivered by a simple carpenter from Galilee who went about doing good. I love the Latter-day Saints. They are delightful people. When I joined, they were among the most humble people I’d ever encountered. However, as the church has grown in population and prosperity it has lost some of its humility and kindness. There is a hard edge creeping into the community of saints from the top down. The leadership knows that. They can see what the Correlation process has done and how it afflicts everything it touches. It is blighted with that hardness, and it is beginning to permeate the structure.

As committees impose central rule, they impersonalize a deeply personal faith. That impersonalization has unintended consequences. In cases we are all familiar with, it occasionally results in local leaders trying to attract favorable attention from the central command. These aspiring men do not feel the required attachment to their sheep. We have all seen them, lived with them, and know they are seeking upward mobility in the church organization. Their loyalty has shifted toward a distant hierarchy they seek to impress, then join. They want a “red chair.”

I have been fortunate to have encountered some wonderful local leaders. The last two bishops of my current ward were/are examples of faithfulness and humility. My stake president who was just released was an extraordinary leader and disciple of Christ. My stake has been blessed with great leaders, but that is not always the case in the stakes I have been in before. A former bishop from another stake would only bear his testimony about how great a man he was. His wife, likewise, only bore her testimony telling us how great a man her husband was. He’s now a pretty respected LDS personality. I’m puzzled by that. When those called to serve are converted to the Lord, they minister with His commands in mind. When men who are not converted to the Lord, but who want to rise in the church are called to preside, we suffer.

Like all who join the church in response to an answer to prayer, I am not a Mormon because of YOU. I support you, but my testimony was and is based on the Lord. I do not think the Strengthening the Members Committee is any better an idea than the Inquisition pursued by the Domicans. They thought they were doing something of value to preserve the faith. That is not how it turned out. Instead it led to the breakup of Catholicism and the enduring historic conviction that the Roman Church was absolutely wrong. We should learn from that, not repeat it.

God lives. He is real. Joseph knew Him. Joseph stood in His presence. This church was instituted to bring people to the Lord. And this church has brought me to the knowledge of, and then the companionship with Him. Therefore this church has my loyalty and my gratitude. I am indebted to the church for that, but I will never change allegiance from God to men or man. It just won’t happen. If that is your goal and you insist on the choice, I’ve already made it. As for me and my house, we will follow God. Now and always.

I Am a Mormon, Part 5

The purpose of the faith restored through Joseph Smith was not to enshrine mere men as idols. It was to proclaim that all men, every one of us, can know God. The whole of Joseph’s message can be summed up in the proclamation that God is no respecter of persons, but will give to all men liberally who ask of Him. It is James 1: 5: God does answer prayer.

This message came to me from the Mormon elders who taught me about the Restoration of the Gospel. These young men were not “slick,” but quite homespun. They used flannel boards and paper cut-outs. One of them was from Nephi, Utah. He was inarticulate, butchered grammar, and spoke with an odd accent. For several lessons, I literally thought he was saying “p-r-i-e-s-t-e-d.” A few weeks into investigating, I was a bit chagrined when I realized he was actually trying to say “priesthood.” Later, Elder Black (who baptized me) presented a better image. Some 39 years after baptizing me he is still a friend.

I did not join the church because it was powerful, rich, or slickly marketed. It appeared to me to be homely, rough and extremely unpopular when I joined. As I recall, there were less than 350,000 total priesthood holders and only a minority of them were active. What the church offered was information from, and a connection to God. I tested the process. I received an answer to my prayer about Mormonism from God.

When I joined the church I gave up everything. I lost my friends and family. I was alienated from the life I had known and lived. It required all of it to be put on the altar and set on fire. But, having heard from God in answer to prayer, there was no hesitation. Though I was realistic about my own flaws, and thought I could never be a good enough Mormon, I intended to try. I had the courage to do so because God had spoken to me in answer to prayer and I believed He wanted me to become a member.

Now, I find a nameless, distant committee in the Church Office Building questioning my faithfulness (based on Internet leaks from the COB). Though the local authorities have shown nothing but acceptance for me, and I have served honorably and without controversy in my ward and stake, these distant Strengthening the Members Committee, who know nothing of me and have never talked to me, think it their prerogative to meddle.

I left all I knew to become a member of the church because I was following God. I still follow God. I began this journey to follow God. I did not begin this journey to follow men, elders, bishops or presidents. I gave up friends and family to follow God. I will not hesitate to make that trade again. I can be cut off from fellowship with the church, but you have no power that can cut me off from God. It is His company that brought me to you, and will be His company I keep whether you stay in fellowship with me or not.

I would prefer to stay in fellowship with both God and the church. But the church is a poor trade to make in a bargain that would cost me association with God. I do not measure my standing before God by how many people think well of me. I could not care less. It is absolutely fine if you think I’m unworthy, misinformed and even a crank. The things I have written can, have and will help some come to Christ. Some of the things I have written can, have and will help some who are struggling with the church’s doctrine and history. The Gospel originates from God, is to save mankind, and cannot be safely ignored.

I took Joseph’s teachings to heart. I also asked God. He has given liberally to me. Therefore, I testify of this process and invite others to have faith and to seek Him. Not me. Not men. Not some intermediary. Seek for God. There is none who can save you but God. If the Strengthening the Members Committee determines to  pressure the local authorities to make a decision they would never have made on their own, then you are casting away a friend, not an enemy. To my knowledge this would be the first time you decide to impose discipline from inside the Church Office Building against someone who:
-Does not challenge your right to preside.
-Sustains the leaders.
-Has written about the scriptures and doctrine from a faithful view.
-Has defended the restoration and Joseph Smith.
-Has attempted to conform our history to the scriptures.
-And who will be weighed against your vanity and injured pride rather than the tenants of the underlying religion.

For my fellow Latter-day Saint (and the Central Command) who choose to condemn me, there is something about this moment you ought to pause to consider. This intersection is not one you want to be in, really. What if I am telling the truth? What if I’m right? In the final analysis, I am a Mormon. I am converted to this faith and will remain converted to it whether you decide to withdraw fellowship or not. My religion will remain whether you let me remain a member of this church or not. Were I in your shoes, I’d welcome someone as committed to the faith as I am, and never adopt the role of an accuser of any Saint. I claim to belong to God, not to you. If you decide to pressure local authorities to cast me off, there is another law decreed before the foundation of the world you will perhaps inadvertently invoke against yourself. This is not the intersection you want to be in, and I mean that in all seriousness and with all my heart; for your sake, not for mine. I know my standing before God, and nothing you can do will alter or affect that, but how you treat me may alter your standing before Him. For your own sake, I would ask you not to do something you will later very much regret.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, authentic and holds the means for redeeming mankind. Whether the church’s history is an unmitigated series of correct choices and flawless performance by leaders and members alike, it does not change one whit the obligation each of us has to come to Christ for redemption. Whether the church has everything it claims or not, doesn’t change our obligation to God. So where does any of this matter? We all still must repent and obtain hope in Christ. I focus and write to further that. I have no other agenda.