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Answers to Last Week’s Questions

There are some more questions asked this week that I’ll try to answer. The series on “I Am a Mormon” will be 7 parts, but aren’t finished. I’m reading comments from the blog and thought I’d respond to some of them:

On blog traffic: Approximately 750,000 total visits to the blog.

The traffic comes predominately from the following in the order of the top ten countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Russia, Finland, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine. The traffic is worldwide, including Brazil, Belarus, Japan, even Mongolia.

In response to my request, I received an email from a woman who explained that her husband was very troubled by reading Passing the Heavenly Gift. Though they had not left the church, they had become suddenly discontent. In response to her I want to express my thanks for responding. She was not just the first, but is the only one who has spoken up saying anything like this to me. In response to her inquiry about my feelings toward the church:

The church remains important, even central to progressing toward God. In The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil, I remark that “the truth will scratch your eyes out, and then scratch them in again.” That is a reference to how seeing the weaknesses and failures of all those around you can be quite discouraging, but it is necessary. It is when we see clearly how limited and failure-prone mankind is that we turn in desperation to the Lord and call on Him for mercy. We must be uncomfortable before we seek the only source of comfort. The Lord is the answer. The church is not the answer. It is pointing, or should point to Him. The church is only a means. The Lord is the journey’s end. The church is the wonderful home where we get to render service to one another. It is where the Lord has asked we serve. The service is for Him, as an act of devotion to Him, and to comply with what He has asked. It is not for our own recognition or advancement. It is because we want to come to know Him. In the quiet service for others, when our minds finally come to rest on the only one who can save us, we can find that peace where the Lord comes to us and speaks words of comfort. He is real. He exists, and He comforts those who come to Him offering a broken heart and contrite spirit, and to none other.
If the book has scratched your eyes out, then let the truth scratch them in again. Do not go away blinded.  Let the truth that lies beyond the despair now come to you as well.

The question about poverty and giving raises the intractable question of how to deal with the poor. Our system is broken. The answer to the problem ultimately lies in changing the entire system, but that requires people to be of one mind, and one heart, and to have Christ as their center. We are far from that. The best economic solution is a theological one. We can’t have “utopia” separate from Zion. We can’t have Zion while we are filled with envy, jealousy and lack conversion to Christ. We can’t be converted to Christ and lose our envy and jealousy until we are brought to awaken to our awful situation. We can’t be awakened until we are willing to recognize we are no different than the “Lord’s people” who have failed every time He has chosen a people (other than in past Zions). We can’t come to that recognition until we take much more seriously the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. We are not prepared to do so until we are buffetted a bit more by the winds of failure and humiliation to bring down our pride. So in a very real sense it will be poverty and struggle which holds the best hope of starting us down the process that will unite us and then end poverty. So we’re not going to solve poverty until the Lord first gives us the necessary experience to acquire broken hearts and contrite spirits.
On why I continually say “I’m nothing and nobody” there are doctrinal reasons. Those who are religious, and follow a converted disciple of Christ, are still damned if they substitute a man in the place that belongs only to Christ. Sincere, but deluded people who claim they are disciples of Paul, Apollos, Peter, Moses, Isaiah, even Thomas Monson, but who do not receive a testimony of Christ, are damned. They suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. (D&C 76: 99-106.) They are consigned to hell, and are resurrected as Telestial beings. This is because they followed a man. It is a grave mistake and salvation is lost when that mistake is made. Those who invite people to follow them, and deliberately seek devotees are anti-Christ and bringing souls to destruction. These religious Pied Pipers will incur the greater damnation. If someone is going to make that mistake by claiming they are following me, they will not do so without being told by me unequivocally and with some frequency that they are mistaken. I am nothing, and I have not ever attempted to become an anti-Christ. I point to Christ, for He alone can rescue you from the pains of hell and eternal torment. Those who put themselves up for adoration and worship are mistaken, are practicing priestcraft, are anti-Christ, and in the employ of the enemy to our souls.

In response to the question regarding good books about history, there is another book I quite liked. The new LDS Church Historian, Elder Steve Snow, recently recommended the employees of the Church History Department read the book David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by G. Prince and R. Wright. I’ve quoted from that book and have also cited it in bibliographies. I agree it is worth reading by anyone interested in church history. David O. McKay’s daily activities were kept in a record written by his secretary, Sister Clare Middlemiss, from 1935 until his death in 1970. She was the aunt of Robert Wright, who obtained access. Ultimately, the journals were donated to the University of Utah and are presently housed in the J. Willard Marriott Library, where the public can have access to them. The Modern Mormonism book is the first history written that is taken from these extensive journals. The journals are no doubt going to become a source for many other works of history. This volume was well done and introduces a host of behind-the-scenes views of the events during President McKay’s presidency.

I Am a Mormon, Part 3

I am a Mormon. That is because I believe in this faith. Through-and-through, I am convinced Joseph Smith really was called of God, translated the Book of Mormon– an authentic new volume of scripture telling the account of a fallen people.

What I believe and why I believe it has been the subject of eight books to date. I’ve made no secret of my thoughts, experiences and reasons for becoming and remaining a Mormon. There are a handful of fellow-Mormons who resent or question my views. This is quite odd, since I do not question theirs. Apparently they do not know Mormonism is non-creedal, and respects every person’s right to worship as they wish. There should be very little “control” over beliefs in Mormonism, and a great deal of freedom for its converts. As shown in the prior post, even an Assistant LDS Church Historian claimed he didn’t have a testimony of church history. We are free to reach our own conclusions. Those who criticize are apparently unaware of the contours of the religion they espouse.

I do not question church leaders’ good-faith, or their right to make decisions, even ones I disagree with. It is not a sin, nor apostasy to have an opinion different than the leaders. They alone have the right to lead and I believe they do so to the best of their ability. Their right is upheld by the common consent of the church. Until someone is dismissed by the common consent, we all sustain them in our prayers and actions. At least if you are an active Mormon, as I am.

The church’s leaders are empowered by the common consent of the church, according to a pattern established by God. I work to make their job easier by doing whatever is asked of me in donating church service. Yet now I find myself the object of fellow-Mormon’s ire, and judging from leaks on the Internet also from the Strengthening the Members Committee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I absolutely disagree that I am not allowed to believe as I do and also be a faithful, active Mormon. I have explained what I believe and why, and discussed problems in church history from a faithful, but candid view.

Fortunately Mormonism is not Historic Christianity. Historic Christianity splintered into the Protestant and Catholic divisions because the church hierarchy attempted to suppress freedom to believe the truth among the members. That inappropriate overreaching created the Lutheran Church, then all the others, as believers in the Gospel of Christ were unable to believe or trust a hierarchy determined to suppress thought and limit discussion. Mormonism has the advantage of knowing this history, and can avoid making that kind of foolish error. That does not mean we will avoid it, only that we are well enough informed by history to be able to avoid it.

I am a “Mormon” whether another church member thinks my faith is consistent with his or not. This is because I am converted, and sincerely do accept these teachings originated from God when He once again intervened directly in mankind’s affairs. The Lord was able to intervene because a young man, following a promise in the Bible, asked in faith which church he should join. The Lord answered him, and set that young man on a course in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ was returned to the earth. The return began with God’s direct involvement, and included a return of angels to minister to and teach Joseph Smith things worth every person’s time to investigate.

I investigated Joseph’s claims. In fact, I continue to investigate them, searching deeper and deeper into understanding this great, final work by God. It was begun by the Lord through Joseph Smith. But it was not finished then, and our new scriptures promise yet greater things still in the future (see 9th Article of Faith). When anyone asks God in humility about this work, they can get an answer from God. (James 1: 5.) In fact, at the core of Mormonism is the obligation of every believer to study, ponder, pray and ask God for themselves. (Moroni 10: 4-5.) Every Mormon is supposed to know God by hearing from Him. Then, once having secured a testimony that Mormonism is true, we have an obligation to testify to others about this new work of God in our day. (D&C 38: 41; 88: 81.)

I have been doing that for many years. Elder Ballard has told us all to go to the Internet to defend our religion, and I have done that too. I have been dutiful in observing what I’ve understood my obligations to be as a faithful Mormon.

There is a claim made by some uninformed fellow-Mormons that as a result of what I’ve written in Passing the Heavenly Gift, I have caused unintended “collateral damage” to some people’s faith. Meaning, they want to condemn my efforts because they think there might be some few who were discouraged by that book. There have been dozens of letters and emails I have received by those who, after reading it, were strengthened in their faith. There are many who had been inactive or disaffected from the church and returned to activity after reading the book, and yet there are allegedly some few who have been so challenged by the book that they have left the church. I have to say, first, I am honestly unaware of and have never heard any credible account of someone leaving the church because of what I’ve written. If there is someone who has, or if you know of someone who has, then I’d appreciate it if you would post a comment giving me some information about that. But I want names of those who have “left the church” because of the book. I don’t want rumors, or fictitious personas or pseudonyms adopted by someone concealing their identity. That kind of dishonest “AstroTurf” is not proof of anything. You know who I am because I’m being honest. I’m exposed to view, accountable and honest. The fake community of posters and commentators are, in reality, a few dishonest souls trying to multiply their importance by their frequent posting of themes. Many of them are being paid to do so.

So far, despite the dozens of emails and letters from real people, giving their home addresses or names and email addresses, confirming that faith has been supported and aided by what I wrote, I have nothing from anyone saying anyone left the church. A handful of have disagreed, but none of them claim to have lost their testimony or left the church. Therefore, I am left thinking this “collateral damage” theory is just a mirage intended to inhibit my honesty and not a real phenomena, but if it is a reality, I’d like to know.

Second, I do not believe it is appropriate to judge anyone (leadership or myself) on the basis of alleged “collateral damage” from actions undertaken in good faith to help others. It is a false standard which will only lead to condemning people by an unjust standard. If this is the standard to be applied to me by a fellow-Mormon, then I would ask them to see what happens if you adopt that standard for the church. As soon as they do, they will condemn those leaders who adopted the “Raising the Bar” program which left thousands of young men feeling dismissed and rejected by the church. Many of these young men are no longer active in the church. They are resentful of the way they were “judged” and told they were not worthy and COULD NOT become worthy through the atonement of Jesus Christ as far as the “church” was concerned. Jesus Christ paid the price for these young men and women willing to repent. Satan tells you you are unworthy. The total numbers on the “collateral damage” are shocking.

Add to the list of the “collateral damage” all those who are not ministered to because of policies in the Church Handbook of Instructions. The mischief that has actually resulted from strict enforcement has caused several people to leave or stay away from the church.

General relief society president Julie Beck aroused a firestorm of controversy and alienated some church members a few years ago in a general conference talk. Is she “guilty” of causing “collateral damage” by that talk? Can we apply that standard to her? I would hope not.

There are returned missionaries drifting into inactivity by the thousands (roughly 50% within two years of returning), because the experiences on the mission have been unsatisfactory for a host of reasons. Mission presidents have verbally abused some of these young men and women. Some have been told to baptize the unworthy and unconverted to create statistical proof of the success of the mission. One young missionary who served in England was told by his mission president to baptize a drunk man (he actually showed up to be baptized inebriated). He did, but it left a scar on the conscience of the young Elder. Indeed, if “collateral damage” is a good standard, there are many who we know have left the church as a consequence of policies and procedures implemented through the good faith decisions of leadership. Not fictional, but calculable numbers of actual injured young men and their families, or inactive and disassociated members now disaffected. These are real stories. We all know people affected. Yet I am confident the leaders were acting in good faith in all they have done. They were doing the best they knew how. Therefore, I reject the idea this measure is fair or appropriate. It should not be used against you, or the leaders, or me. It is a fake standard, adopted to find an excuse to condemn me, and not a sincere concern by any legitimate fellow-Mormon.

Third, I would caution those who want to adopt this standard that they risk condemning themselves. I do not apply it against others because I do not want that to be the standard used against me. I prefer to measure the  missteps made by the church on the basis of my belief and trust that they want to help others. When they inadvertently cause harm or injury, I forgive them and do not measure “collateral damage” as accountable against them. If that standard is adopted by them against me, I worry the Lord will use it in the Day of Judgment against those now applying it. He said in the Sermon on the Mount that this was the standard. (See Matt. 7: 2.) I do not ask this for my sake, but for the sake of my fellow-Mormon accusers. I want them to avoid condemnation by the application of a standard no man can meet.

Fourth, I would suggest there are so many who have been helped that there should be some consideration given to the fact that something good has come from something you call evil. That is, if faith has been restored in some demonstrable group (and I’ve furnished proof of that), then such good cannot come from something bad. It is impossible. The true intention, and the actual result of what I’ve done is to create and affirm faith, not to destroy it. It has actually produced faith. I would suggest you take the provable results of increased faith as the approrpiate measure, not the theory of “collateral damage.”

Fifth, the phrase “proud descendants of Nauvoo” is a phrase intended to be memorable. It is used to capture an idea that suggests there is an almost impossible task asked of those who are so personally involved in the history of our church. How can someone look objectively at the past, when these are people’s grandfathers and grandmothers? They can only do so if they are first reminded of the inherent bias associated with their status. It is altogether reasonable, perhaps inevitable, for them to be proud. It is a fact that their families have endured much for the faith. However, when it comes to measuring our past, these personal and prideful feelings, although natural and justified, cannot allow us to discard the tools of scripture and history to reveal what has been underway in God’s dealings with us. The phrase is a shorthand way to alert the reader to this inherit bias. The reader can then decide for themselves if this shorthand and very pregnant phrase is useful to them in reading the account. I can tell you that there have been many “proud descendants of Nauvoo” (and they identify themselves as that in emails to me) have been pricked in their hearts and persuaded by the information presented in the last book I wrote, and who have thanked me for awakening them to their unique challenges. The phrase is a plea for dispassionate review of facts, not a deliberate insult. I did not write it as such, and it should not be taken as such.

I will continue to defend and assert my faithfulness to this religion which I accept, believe and defend. It is peculiar that I find myself accused by fellow-Mormons of being less than they, because there is no such standard permitted in my religion. We are told not to judge one another, but to endeavor to use pure knowledge, gentleness and love to persuade. We simply can’t demand someone change their view. That is not permitted.

I am a Mormon and I have no intention of trying to supplant leaders, or to acquire a following. I submit and defer to them. I have no right to lead, but I do have, as all Mormons have, the right and obligation to express and defend my beliefs and bear my testimony. If you study what I’ve written, there is almost nothing of myself in them. A good deal of Latter-day Saint leaders, writers and speakers have themselves in the “starring role” of whatever they say, teach or write. That is not true for me. I am absent, or when present I show my weakness, foolishness and failure. The only time I appear in a positive light is when I bear testimony of the Lord, whom I have met and is a friend of mine. Even there, however, the contrast between Him and His glory and me and my weakness causes me to use words like “crushes” and “unworthy” to describe my position. In stark contrast, some of the most popular LDS personalities are constantly holding themselves up as an example, as the center of their stories, as the hero of their tales, and as the ones to admire. I’m not like that. I am disgusted by anyone who puts me on a pedestal. I don’t belong there. If you cast about and do a little looking, you can find many who want to move attention from the Lord onto themselves. I’m not one of them. For me, the Lord is and ought to remain the focus of devotion for us all.

I am a Mormon; through and through, and converted to this religion. I believe it originated with God, and that God will watch over it. The measure of its success, however, cannot be gauged in statistics, convert rates, or tithing dollars. It can only be measured in whether it results in reconnecting man to God. For me it has succeeded in that. That alone makes Mormonism the “pearl of great price” Christ spoke of purchasing, even if it required all a man has to obtain it. (Matt. 13: 46.) Now I try to offer that same great prize to anyone else who is searching to reconnect with God. Not through me, but through the Lord’s invitation, teachings and guidance.

I Am a Mormon, Part 2

The “Historic Christian” faith fragmented because of centralized control seeking to govern even the thoughts of “Christian” believers. The creed I quoted in Part 1 says Christians “must think thus” about God. The rulers of the church were not content to claim they held the keys, but wanted to micromanage even the minds of their followers.

On November 1, 1478, Pope Sixtus IV issued his edict titled “Exigit sincere devotionis” which authorized the appointment of “inquisitors” to assure the thoughts of faithful “Christians” were doctrinally pure. This authorization allowed the Catholic kings of Europe to not merely preach the religion, but also to police and compel orthodoxy. Those who were regarded as non-conforming were to be treated as heritics and to be persecuted, even destroyed.

If what they were doing was good, then in the eyes of the hierarchy no deed done in pursuit of the “true Christian faith” was to be avoided; even if the means used involved treachery, deceit and torture. The “truth” was just so important that it justified whatever needed doing to accomplish it.

To incentivize the inquiries, the kings were allowed to confiscate heritics’ property. Thus it was financially beneficial to the kings to determine there were heritics among them. In the extremity of torture, almost any person would confess they were heretical to end their pain.

The Inquisition was made possible from the work done two centuries earlier by the man now known as “St. Dominic.” He envisioned the idea of moving from persuasion to excommunication to compel conformity among “Christians.” If that failed to reform, then he thought it well to engage in even more coercive means, such as confiscation of property and corporeal punishment. This would allow the wayward to be reclaimed. After all, if the church held the keys to save people, then using those keys in coercive ways was justified by the ultimate goal of saving souls. Pope Pius XII would cooperate with Hitler in the Balkans using the same justification.

St. Dominic conceived of a religious order that would be devoted soley to the duty to combatting heresy and propogating the “true Catholic faith.” This order, now known as the Domicans, was known by other, earlier nicknames. They were initially the Militia of Christ. They took St. Dominic’s name only after his death. Much later, after they headed the effort to eradicate heresy by policing the Inquisition, they were known as the “hounds of God” or the “dogs of God” because of their zeal in shedding the blood of heretics.

When a religion abandons the obligation to persuade, and resorts to intimidation and coercion, it has lost the battle. Whenever this happens, the faith declines. “Christianity” was already losing its grip when the Pope Sixtus IV Bull was issued. The Inquisition that followed guaranteed there would be protests against the greatly altered church which benefitted and promoted the Inquisition.

In Mormonism there is a doctrinal bulkwark in place to prevent this kind of historic error from being repeated. Our scriptures decry the use of any means, however slight, to compel conformity. We have no “orthodox” creed in Mormonism. We welcome all truth, from whatever source. We have the following statements in our scriptures:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dicates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” 11th Article of Faith.

We condemn those “whose hearts are so set upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson –That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.  …[W]hen we undertake to cover our sins, or gratify our pride, our vain ambitions, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121: 35-37, emphasis added.)

Our faith permits one means to “control” members: “[O]nly by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul.” (D&C 121: 41.)

We are hemmed in, curtailed and cannot behave as St. Dominic deemed necessary, and as the Holy Inquisition performed. We are relegated to use only persuasion. If we hold a truth as correct, then the burden rests on us to advance it persuasively and to bring others to voluntarily accept it. Our only power, as a church, is in the meek advancement of truth by our persuasion and example. Force, dominion and control is not ours to use. So in this sense also Mormonism departs dramatically from Historic Christianity.

Furthermore, a well respected official LDS Church Historian published an article in the BYU Studies magazine titled, “I Don’t Have A Testimony of Church History.” In it, Assistant LDS Church Historian Davis Bitton explained that when it comes to the LDS Church’s history, we are free as church members to believe and express our beliefs on any topic because we do not have an official version. For example, he remarked specifically he did not have a “testimony” of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

One of the great strengths of my religion is the open willingness to allow freedom of thought, and to require the better view to be established only by persuasion, and never by coercion.

We should never lapse into the darkness of policing the thoughts of Mormons by a central hierarchy bent on extinguishing different thought among Mormons. We have no “orthodox” criteria which can be used to carve some believers out and relegate them to the status of “apostate” or “heretic,” and thereby dismember the membership. Our faith was established on a scriptural and doctrinal foundation which precludes it. Each Mormon is responsible for what they believe and to provide reasons to persuade others of the correct view.

This necessarily requires a good deal of work for Mormons. We are required to research and gather the information for ourselves. We are free to believe as we will, but to defend our religion we must undertake some work to find it. Therefore, the most devout members of the religion are also among the most studious of the church. We are permitted to believe as we will, but the church is under no obligation to do the work for us. We study, research and ponder this faith individually. For we believe salvation is individual, not collective.

I am a Mormon, Part 1

The rant by the MSNBC reporter denigrating Mormonism, provoked by the political season we are in, has inspired the following response:

By faith I self-identify as “Mormon” because that was what we called ourselves when I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe the faith, accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, and have received the ordinances offered by the church, including the temple rites. I appreciate and respect these rites and trust in them as a covenant between myself and God.

It is as silly a proposition for someone from my faith to “interpret” my beliefs and say I’m “not a good Mormon” or that I’m “not a faithful Mormon” as it is for the larger “Christian” community to say that Latter-day Saints aren’t “Christian.” (I’ll get to that in Part 3) In this, however, I want to look at the criticism of Mormonism by the self-identifying “Christians.”

I’ll concede that Mormons don’t accept Historic Christianity. I don’t accept it. I think it is riddled with errors, believes in a falsely constructed set of mental gyrations which produce an incoherent definition of the Godhead that even self-proclaimed “Christians” admit they can’t understand. I am not sure they could even say they actually believe it. At least those who have it explained to them don’t believe it. What does “uncreate” and “of the same substance” and “not dividing the parts” of the three members of the Godhead give us, anyway? It produces a God who is “wholly other” and therefore as alien to me as the stuff living in tubes beside the volcanic openings on the bottom of the Pacific. That God (or those Gods) or whatever sense you want to make of it, is something I reject. Not only do I reject it, it repulses me. It makes me think the Historic Christian God is a complete fabrication, unscriptural in origin, incomprehensible in form, the product of such contradictory assertions that only a fool could trust in the existence of such a thing. I reject it. Period. It is damned foolish for anyone to trust in it and think it will save them. It won’t. It is a complete fabrication and utter nonsense. Now, having said that, I have no interest in questioning their “Christianity.” If they want to believe that, they are free to do so and call themselves Christians.

On the other hand, I do believe in Jesus Christ. Not in the sense that He’s everywhere and nowhere, but that He at one time occupied an actual manger on the evening of His birth. He was baptized in water by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. His Father witnessed it; not from “inside Jesus” because they were comingled; instead the Father (a separate Being occupying a separate location) looked down, saw His Son baptized, and then sent a sign to testify of the Son while speaking in a voice heard by John the Baptist. I believe in Jesus who was crucified, died, was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb, and then rose from the dead. I believe in the man whose body was torn and had the prints of nails in His hands and feet, and who then returned to life. I believe in that Jesus. He showed those hands to 11 surviving Apostles and then to a crowd gathered in the Americas. All of them touched His physical, wounded hands. I believe in Him. Because of my belief in Him, I have done whatever I have come to understand He wanted from me. As a result, I have obtained faith in Him. Moreover, because of the things I have offered in obedience to Him, and by making an acceptable sacrifice, and enduring what others apparently are not willing in this day to endure, I know Him. I know His hands have wounds, His arms are open to welcome those who will come to Him, and He embraces those whom He saves. He is not a God of the dead or the distant, but the God of the Living. Real. Tangible. Resurrected and living now.

So when Historic Christianity presumes to judge my faith and relegate me to non-Christian, I’m absolutely willing to say I do not believe as you do. I reject, outright, what you say about Christ. It is nonsense to me, and I refuse to be included among those who claim to follow Historic Christianity. It is powerless to save. It is the doctrines of men, mingled with scripture. Your creeds are an abomination to God. He has said so. I believe Him. Consequently I MUST reject your creeds. But despite this, I still have faith in Christ. Not as you do, but as I do.

If your inauthentic, incomprehensible, creedal God wants to damn me because I do not accept the creeds of Historic Christianity, then I’m pleased to go into a lake of fire and brimstone and enjoy the heat. I think it is stupid to think that kind of flimsy and man-concocted God exists. And even more foolish to think your pious condescension is going to bind God to accept your opinions about my faith. I am Christian. Just not dazzled by your creedal nonsense.

I’ve studied the pre-Nicean debates, am acquainted with the political and social arguments leading up to standardizing the disputes of then-extant Christianity, and know why they returned again to adopt the follow-on creeds of the Apostles and Athenasian Creed. Here, for you good Historic Christian readers, is what your creeds say I must believe to be saved:

We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity is Trinity, and the Trinity is Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

To me this is not merely confusion, it is complete crap. Undiluted and unfiltered. I agree there is not “three incomprehensibles” here, but dozens. And there are not “one uncreated” thing going on here, but instead many foolish mental creations launched in a torrent of contradictory and nonsensical gibberish. It is worthy of Lewis Carroll. They multiply as soon as you begin to read them. It is nothing I can, do or ever would accept; and certainly not something to be worshipped. The better approach might be to adopt Through the Looking Glass in its place. At least that nonsense is interrupted occasionally by brilliant prose. This “Christian” creedal stuff is neither prosaic nor sensible. And, all the worse, to be saved you “must thus think of the Trinity!” Well, there you go. You’ve set the bar too high for me. I cannot pass over. I cannot get to “Go.” I surrender in my inability to manage this capacity to “thus think of the Trinity” because my mind requires something “comprehensible” rather than “incomprehensible.” Or “Incomprehensible.”

Christ said it was “eternal life to know” God. (John 17: 3.) Your God is by your own definition “Incomprehensible,” and therefore cannot be known. So you see, you’re damned too if you take this stuff seriously. Because you can’t “think thus of the Trinity” and comprehend, much less “know” the only true God. So you are as damned as I in your profession of the “Incomprehensible” God of your creed.

However, I allow you the privilege of believing this stuff. I trust your sincerity when you say you do believe it. I do not question whether you are in your right mind for claiming to believe and to “think thus of the Trinity.” After all, you have a whole lot of history on your side. I respect that. But I’d ask that you not presume to speak for God when you try to speak about Him. Unless He has said it, then I’m not particularly interested in what men have to say about Him. Furthermore, I do not believe Historic Christian Councils are entitled to any respect in their compromises and voting to establish the “truth” about God.

Either you’ve met with Him, have a message from Him, and can tell me what He said to you, or you have a political rally and you’ve produced merely more noise, like any political convention does.

This creedal system has resulted in a history of excesses designed to protect it from criticism and to coerce skeptics. I will touch upon that in the next post.

Today

Today I was told there are some people growing impatient at not achieving an audience with the Lord. I replied:

It is not a goal to be achieved, but a mercy to be received.

Organizational Changes

I teach a Business Leaderhip class in an MBA program. One of the trends in modern business is “flattening of the structure” because a top-heavy management structure is no longer needed. It is possible, with new technology, for the top to be a single layer, and middle-management to be eliminated entirely.

I’ve thought about the possibility this presents for a religious movement. As I’ve written in several of my books, the origin of Mormonism makes it much more suited as a “movement” than as a controlled institution. However, the history Mormonism originated in made it impossible for the religion to survive separate from the institution created to perpetuate it. If it were not for Brigham Young taking the extraordinary steps he took to preserve the faith restored through Joseph Smith, it would have died. Brigham Young did act, reaffirmed the institutional structure, argued it could NOT exist without the bulwark of ordered offices and holders of authority, and as a result, the institution remained. More importantly, through the institution the religion has been able to stay. The religion was altered in form because of the merger of religion and institution, now having no life independent of the institution. The interplay between these two (the religion and the organized structure), has been that the religion has been dominated by the institution. Indeed, it has stayed around only because of the institutional power to keep it here.

However, new social and technological advances have given the religion an opportunity to assume life on its own, unlinked to an institution. When Ronald Poelman gave his talk separating the “Gospel” and the “Church” in general conference (The Gospel and the Church), the talk was censored and re-written. A comparison between the original talk and the replacement is available on-line here. However, in the last general conference, Elder Hallstrom’s talk, (Converted to His Gospel through His Church) dealt with the subject again, this time making the distinction without being censored. The advances in social and technological management of information and people between the 1984 and 2012 have been more than significant.

The possiblity exists now for an entire religious body to become “one” in heart and in belief, not because of periodic visits from a distant hierarchy, but because they are in constant communication amongst themselves. Though they are in India or Mexico or Russia or the US, they can stay abreast of the very latest through direct communication with each another.

This global change is the harbinger of changes coming to every organization on earth, including the church. The church has been an early adopter of technology for decades. As they continue to adapt to new technical capabilities, it will not be long before, once again, we can “live in the same small village.” Just as Joseph Smith would answer questions over the fence in his yard with his neighbors in Nauvoo, the possiblity is coming for all of us to log into a continuing, flattened structure with no middle management. The top and the bottom of the organization becoming one. No longer any lofty branches, exalted to the sky, with the lesser members confined to the shade, but a uniform and equal access among one another from top to bottom.

In Joseph’s day there was no technology that would allow Joseph to be in contact with converts or members worldwide. There was an absolute need for a vertical, hierarchical organization with Presidency, Twelve, Seventy, Stake, Ward, and Quorum leadership levels interfacing between the top and bottom. In contrast, today if the president of the church wanted to address you and I, he could send an email, or post a message on a board where we could all visit and hear directly from him. He could record a MP3 message for us to download. Just like the rest of the world, the church itself could now be “flattened” without any of the difficulties Joseph would have encountered.

Although we tend to think the structure is absolutely essential, it isn’t. For example, the revelation giving the overall church structure was not followed by the church from the time if was received (March 28, 1835) until 1975 when President Spencer W. Kimball organized the First Quorum of the Seventy. Between those times, the Seventies had an on-again-off-again existence at the general level of the church, with only the Seven Presidents regarded as General Authorities for almost all of that time. Needs arose, the Quorum was activated, and it has been in existence since then. Is that a one-way street? Could the expansion that happens at one moment because of global needs be reversed at another time? Could the structure be simplified if it isn’t required just as it was expanded after 140 years?

As technology expands capabilities, it should not surprise us to find one day that the many layers of the church’s organization will increasingly be shortened, condensed, consolidated and simplified. It is now possible, for example, for the Lord to return and speak to us all at the same moment, no matter where located, using existing off-the-shelf means. I use that to illustrate a point, not to suggest the Lord will use those means. However, the economy of heaven is such that miracles are not employed when simple physical means will accomplish the needed work. The Lord prefers “small means” because they conform to a law. (Alma 37: 7; also 2 Ne. 2: 11.)

The idea the church could be “flattened” while the Gospel remains unaffected is an idea that can only occur if you think of the church as separate from the Gospel. The church opposed that idea just a few years ago. Now it is taught in general conference. We should not be surprised if other, presently unlikely ideas one day soon are part of our religious practices.

How can the people of God become “one” if they entertain the idea there must be a hierarchy in control? In fact, Zion and a hierarchy are mutually exclusive. You can have one, or the other, but not both. Hence the Lord’s frequent assertion that HE will bring again Zion (not us). (See D&C 84: 99-100; Mosiah 12: 22; 15: 29; 3 Ne. 16: 18, among others.) Removing all the barriers between the top and bottom, and establishing only a great equality between His people, is a likely prerequisite for the return of Zion. (D&C 78: 5-7.) The technical environment exists and the pressure will grow to flatten the church’s organizational structure. The only reason to resist that pressure would be a deliberate desire to keep distance between the top and bottom of the structure.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is never spoken of in scripture as the Lord’s elect in heaven. There is another body called the Church of the Firstborn. This group is equal in earthly and heavenly things. (See, e.g., D&C 76: 54-57; 88: 4-5; 93: 20-22.) This will not be some fundamentalist group taking multiple wives, calling themselves by that name. It will instead be called that by the Lord. [I have little confidence in self-identifying individuals or groups. The Lord calls and sends whomsoever He elects; they make few claims to authority. Instead their message is their credential, like the Lord before them.] The Church of the Firstborn is likely to be comprised of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have taken their faith seriously and used the scriptures as their guide. They will be those who are not sleeping when the Lord, as a thief in the night, returns unwanted.

The Church of the Firstborn will be humble, obscure members of the church. Those are the ones the Lord associated with during His ministry. It was scandalous how He mingled with the bottom of the social order – prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and outcasts. His people were and are “the least” in this world. So have been His messengers. It is almost amusing to think of Isaiah or Nephi or Jeremiah getting an honorary degree, or humanitarian award for their valuable contributions to society. Indeed, when society celebrates a messenger by heaping acclaim on them, it strongly suggests they have too much of the world about them to have chosen rightly. (3 Ne. 12: 10-12.) Mormon was alarmed to see this penetrating into the Holy Church of God in the last days. (Mormon 8: 38.)

Well, the point is technology and communication are making organizations everywhere “flatter” and without the complex hierarchies once necessary to manage them. From multi-national to local organizations, the trends are accelerating in that direction. It will not be surprising to me if the prophetic promise of Zion’s return is made possible, at last, because there is no longer any necessity for hierarchical organization as we speed along in new communication and information development. Today a single person sitting at a keyboard can send a message to millions of people by posting on a blog or message board. What a marvel that is! Imagine how that would have changed Joseph Smith’s mission had it been available then!

Imagine how futile it is in this new connected world to attempt to force people into believing things about doctrine, history, and truth. I suspect only the foolish will attempt it and only for so long as it begins to produce widespread failure and rejection by the better informed worldwide audience.

I expect the next Enoch sent to cry repentance before the return of the final Zion will have little more than “a red guitar, three chords and the truth.” (Bob Dylan) There will no longer be a need for “the words of the prophets to be written on the subway walls and tenement halls” because they will be available on everyone’s handheld. (Simon & Garfunkel) The question is, of course, whether anyone can distinguish between the truth and error. That has always been the challenge. Flattening the structure, or even eliminating it altogether, does not remove the burden upon us to choose correctly between the invitation to repent and humble ourselves and the temptation to think ourselves justified by our religion. The return of “natural fruit” will come from conversion to truth, not committment to organizational behavior.

We should not seek to be a manufactured product, but individuals who all know God. Our destiny lies somewhere other than putting ourselves inside little boxes. Mormonism today is working on a model of management which is about to be abandoned by the world. Strong, central organizations, tend to flatten people. Inspired people only need a flattened organization, because they govern themselves.

Virtue and Righteousness

There is a difference between virtue and righteousness. Virtue is laudable, required and necessary, but righteousness has priority. Virtue surrenders to righteousness, not vice-versa. The point can be illustrated from scripture:

It is not virtuous to kill. Nephi was repulsed at the idea, but the Lord required it, and Nephi complied. The doctrinal reasons justifying the killing are set out in The Second Comforter, and there were sufficient reasons both under the Law of Moses and the Lord’s standards of judgment to vindicate the Lord’s decision to kill Laban. The killing was offensive to virtue, but it was righteous.

It is not virtuous to mockingly taunt others. Yet Elijah was pursuing a righteous course against the priests of Baal when he did just that: “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” (1 Kings 18: 27.) Mocking is both unvirtuous and uncouth, and in this context would qualify only as righteous.

It is not virtuous to rail against the religious leaders of any faith. Yet John the Baptist rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees as a generation of vipers: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3: 7.) This term of derision, “generation of vipers” is graphic and in context it is both offensive and uncouth. Yet he was a righteous man, moreso than any other apart from Christ. (Luke 7: 28.)

It was not virtuous for Christ to rebuke His accusers: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, … ye fools and blind…” (Matt. 23: 14-17.) The language of the Lord here is quite blunt, uncouth and in the context of that language, gutteral. It was righteous, but not an example of virtuous language.

It was worse still for Christ to call Herod “that fox.” This is a term of derision comparable in our own language to calling someone a “son of a bitch.” (Luke 13: 32.) Yet it was righteous, justified and appropriate.

It was blunt and threatening for Joseph to tell his guards in Liberty Jail: “SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!” (Taken from The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, emphasis in original.) Calling another a “fiend of the infernal pit” is quite abrasive and offensive; it was intended to be so.

Those who prefer virtue to righteousness will handicap their ability to work for the Lord’s ends. He will always require righteousness to be done. When someone prefers virtue and neglects righteousness, or condemns the righteous for their lack of virtue, their inappropriate standard serves only one purpose. It gets applied against the one proposing to use it. They get to be measured by the standard they apply. (Matt. 7: 22.)

I choose to look at Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ and Joseph Smith, as well as any other person moved to rebuke me or anyone else by the power of the Holy Ghost as fully justified and Christlike. I do not resist the challenge of a righteous rebuke. I welcome them. No one should feel they cannot “damn” me. I’ll consider it important and will respond with my defense, or an apology if I think it is warranted.

It is important for you to know that I do not think Christ is a limp-wristed, lisping chap who dotes on us and has nothing but bouquets of flowers to dispense to us. I think He’s about to return in judgment, dressed in red to burn the wicked. He has said that is who He is and I believe Him. I would like to have as many people take that seriously and consider repenting. We are mistaken in our belief that we are chosen. We are mistaken when we think we are too good to be in need of continual repentance. We are nothing before God. We are about to see His judgments. I know these ideas make me irritating.

As Hugh Nibley put it, “there is nothing so irritating as being awakened from a sound sleep.” But my hope is to awaken some few. Therefore, it is worth offending a great number if the result benefit a few. That is the way things work here and I am quite realistic about it all.

It is also important to be clear about some things. First, the Strengthening the Members Committee is a real group, although its existence was denied for a while by the church. Second, they are not supposed to be pressuring local leaders to harass church members. When they do, it is considered a violation of the process because all church discipline is supposed to be 1) local, and 2) independent. When they interfere it is inappropriate. Third, I WANT them to know there are leaks, and they have spilled onto the Internet. They should do what they need to do to plug them. It should be noted that there have been several forum discussions related to me shut down and deleted since my earlier post. Fourth, I want everyone to know if there is a problem which has offended a distant and imperial committee, it is not because I believe too little in the Lord, but too much in Him and too little in men. Fifth, they are misbehaving in a cowardly, unmanly way by this stealth attack. It would be far better, if they want to be credible, for them to address it openly. Do as I have invited them to do. Show me where I’m wrong. Let me respond. Let some sunlight on the matter. It is shameful, even cowardly, to avoid and accuse from a shadow, only to later pretend they weren’t involved. Pressuring local, reluctant leaders who know better from personal experience with their local members is manipulative.

I consider the words chosen by me to be measured, appropriate and inspired by the right reaction to a cowardly and shameful act by this subversive committee. They are wrong to behave this way. They have probably engaged in illegal activity by leaking onto the Internet what should be kept confidential. I have done them a service by alerting them to this misconduct. Surely, no matter how misguided their deliberations may be, they intend to preserve their legal protection to claim to have privileges under the law. That protection is forfeited when they act this way.

More Responses to Comments

On the best sources of LDS history: The Joseph Smith Papers is a gold mine of information. The diaries and journals of the inner circles of church leaders are very informative. There was a conscious effort to prevent diaries and journals from becoming public beginning in the early 1900’s. There were “resolutions” and “covenants” among church leaders that they would stop putting stuff in their diaries for others to find out later. That didn’t always work so well. Today the church requires an agreement to be signed by every new general authority (I forget how many pages it is), but it covers, among many other things, the obligation to turn over to the church the diaries of the general authority when they die. I’ve been told Elder Oaks was the one sent to retrieve the journals of Elder Neal Maxwell when he died. So there is an effort to stop that kind of information from being “inadvertently” released to the public.

When you read diaries or journals it is not really “history” in the narrative-telling-a-story sense. They read just like life. From one moment to the next they don’t have a clue what is coming. They are constantly surprised or frustrated by how it unfolds. For example, there was no plan to abandon plural marriage. There were incremental concessions, intending always to accomplish statehood, after which it would be made legal. So the goal was to do what was needed to get statehood. When the final events take place, the leaders involved were shocked they’d arrived at the point where plural marriage was actually being abandoned. Many of them recorded that if they had known where it would lead, they would NEVER have made the first concessions. So as you read the diaries, you find that the leaders wound up in a place they never intended to go, making concessions they believed would let them avoid forsaking a principle they believed in, and ultimately they were out-maneuvered by the Federal Government and corralled into denouncing and forsaking what they thought was a sacred principle.

When the Cowley and Taylor were forced to resign because they wouldn’t renounce plural marriage, there were some tense moments among the leaders. George Albert Smith said some things which Elder Taylor (who had seen the Lord and was considered a spiritual giant) took as an improper insult to himself. He confronted and warned George Albert Smith to not do that again, but that didn’t stop the preaching against Elder Taylor. So Elder Taylor “cursed” him. The resulting mental and physical health challenges that George Albert Smith suffered were thought by some to have been due to being “cursed” by the resigned apostle Elder John W. Taylor. These sorts of things are not found in the written histories because, well, among other things, Elder Taylor was forced to resign from the Quorum of the Twelve and George Albert Smith became the president of the church. This year we are studying the teachings of George Albert Smith. It doesn’t set well to go into this sort of thing when one has been excluded and the other has triumphed into the presidency. So it just sits as an unexplored thread of events, left for those who search into our history to discover. Then once discovered there is always the further question of whether the researcher is candid or protective. If candid, are they pursuing an agenda to belittle the church and our faith or are they honest and sincere. Even if they are not seeking to belittle the faith, and believe sincerely in it, the problem is further complicated by those who want to gag them, and to prevent any telling of events from something other than what the Strengthening the Members Committee thinks is “faithful” to them. So the history of the church is terribly complicated and likely going to be left to either outsiders of good faith (of which there are a few) or those who must fight to retain their membership because insecure and thin-skinned “thought police” are running amok at this moment.

Returning to the question, the best historians (in my opinion) writing recently are Jan Shipps (non-Mormon), D. Michael Quinn (excommunicated), Richard Van Wagoner, Gregory Prince, and Ronald Walker. Several of those are deceased. That is a horribly incomplete list and I’m not going to look at the bookshelves, but give just this off-the-top-of-my-head list. Bushman’s work is not as useful as I’d like. His tools are academic and have the weaknesses of his discipline. He does not inspire me. Some of Quinn’s work was marred by an agenda rather than objectivity, but that work was important. The second volume of the Mormon Hierarchy series is a very important book. The third one has been delayed, but hopefully will be out soon. It is one of the books I’ve been waiting to read for months. For anyone writing, the sources they use are important, and their conclusions are less so. For what I’ve written about history, I’ve tried to “interpret” (history is always an interpretation) through the lens of scripture. Rather than try to conform the story and sources to the theme I want adopted by the reader, I try to let the scripture’s themes lead to interpretation of events. Other writers of LDS history are developing what they hope are objective views based on the events as they understand them. 

Fortunately the truth always wins. Even if the church decided to spend its vast resources and repository of good-will among the members, the Internet is providing an inevitable transparency to things. There will be “bootleg” copies of diaries and journals. Right now, for example, Yale University received a donation of a considerable volume of material from the church’s archives, which some intrepid (but anonymous) soul published in limited numbers of copies. I’ve spent thousands of dollars acquiring copies of these limited edition books. I try to use my best sense, my faithfulness to the church and the Lord, and my honest reactions to tell the truth about some things in my last book.

On the question asked about the church leaders being “prophets, seers and revelators” the answer is that this is the ‘title’ given to them in the D&C. It is scriptural in origin. We have always associated the scriptural authorization with the office and therefore anyone who fills the office is entitled to hold the title. I don’t see where that is a problem. Anyone elected to the office has the title.

We have never considered it necessary to search about and find a “seer” to put in the office. Instead we consider that the office imposes the obligation on them, and the scriptures allow them to use the title, and therefore it is perfectly symmetrical. How can you NOT sustain them as “prophets, seers and revelators” when the scriptures say that is the office they have been elected to fill? Doesn’t really make sense. Of course they get to wear the title.

On the German version of the Bible Joseph Smith praised: It was the translation rendered by Martin Luther.

Responses to Various Comments

Here, in no particular order are responses to various comments received since we opened comments up a few days ago:

To the fellow wondering if he’d wasted his time serving a mission: I don’t think so at all. The work of bringing people to knowledge of the restoration through Joseph Smith, introducing them to the Book of Mormon, and the modern revelations, as well as baptism, laying on hands, sacrament, and other ordinances offered through the church blessed and changed lives. It was a very good thing. Anyone you converted was given a great gift, and your sacrifice will be one of the things the Lord will account for righteousness.

To the one asking how to reconcile my ancestors contacting me while I did ordinances in the Jordan River Temple for them and the possibility we were rejected, I would respond as follows: Rejection of the church is not rejection of the individual. IF (and I have always left that tentative and for each person to decide for themselves) there has been a rejection, that does not mean anything other than the organized efforts were unacceptable. Each individual is accountable for their own conduct. There was a Temple rebuilt by Herod, presided over by wicked men who would kill the Lord, and yet He called it His “Father’s house.” In that Temple a publican came in and offered a great offering, and was rejected. A widow, however, entered and gave but a farthing, and she was accepted. The difference was not the building, nor the act of paying, but the intent of the individual. In the same Temple there can be acceptable work and unacceptable work proceeding simultaneously.

To the one asking if I would clarify the sealing power: I can tell you there are at least three different ways sealing power is made available. The church purports to have only one of those. I will not be able to do the topic justice in a blog post. It would require a lengthy paper which I will undertake at some point. If there is anyone who thinks they have command of the topic, perhaps they will come out and write something and then I wouldn’t need to.

To the one asking if I thought there was a hidden, wise, or heaven-sent reason to change the temple rites in 1990: I can’t think of any. It wasn’t introduced as a revelatory change, or as an improvement. It was done because the church had the “right” to change it. The church leadership asserted they held “keys” that made them powerful enough to take the changes on and implement them. That is quite different from being either a revelation, a command from God or necessary for salvation of man. The change came about because of the research done in follow-up to an article suggesting dissatisfaction with the temple experience. That article was confirmed in polling of approximately 3,600 families in Canada and the U.S. The whole process was provoked by the members’ concerns and dissatisfaction with the temple rites, rather than Joseph having gotten it wrong in the first place. The leadership had two choices – change the members’ minds or change the ordinances. They changed the ordinances. I do think, however, that when we give our common consent to the church leaders, and they stand in their offices and make changes, and we then sustain them after the changes are made, that we (meaning the entire church) are accountable for the change, not just the leaders. Therefore, we (all of us) are similarly situated and cannot just lament a change made by church leaders. All of us are together moving in the direction we move and are all equally accountable for the changes when we continue to consent by common consent to the implementation of changes.

To the one asking about how I pass the temple recommend question about sustaining church leaders: I sustain them. They have my common consent. I don’t think I have any right to call my new stake president last month, but Elder Nelson did. I don’t think I have the right to build a multi-billion dollar shopping mall adjacent to Temple Square, but the chuch leaders did. I don’t think I have any right to separate the “tithing dollars” from the “investment dollars” belonging to the Lord, but the church leaders have done that for generations and have the right to do that. I’m not a leader. I appreciate being able to attend meetings and to receive the sacrament. I’m grateful for it. I neither envy nor want to join the leaders. I think they have a heavy and unenviable burden to carry, and do a commendable job accomplishing it.

To the one asking about how I see Zion unfolding: Not the way most people do. I tend to think the scriptures are quite clear. It will be the Lord’s work, not man’s. It will be initially in the mountains, only later in the plains. It will be the work of angels to organize. The Lord will provide the means, not men. The residents will not be like the typical nosey, overbearing sort who meddles in other’s lives, like the Strengthening the Members Committee. In fact, I doubt very much anyone on that committee will be fit to invite, because they presume to judge others rather than to serve humbly and provide by their meek example a fit pattern for living as “one” with others who hold perhaps very different views. Those who come will be open to growing into a unity of faith, not asserting that they have the right to compel agreement on pain of some penalty being inflicted. They will use meekness, love unfeigned, and pure knowledge to persuade one another of the truth. While outside the gate the demanding, compelling, presiding and coercing sorts will be burned.

To the one asking about organized atheism: I agree. Organized atheism is a religion. They do attempt to impose their views and do persecute others, but I was speaking about the individual atheist, and in particular the persecutors of the Prophet. For the most part, they were not interested and didn’t care about what Mormons, or anyone else believed. The atheists I know are more broadminded, and tolerant, than the folks in the Strengthening the Members Committee, and a good deal more discrete, too. The Strengthening the Members Committee leak confidential information on the internet, compromise legal issues and the right to claim certain legal exemptions. I think that is a problem for the church, and ought to result in them abolishing the committee, or firing those responsible for this significant mistake.

To the one asking if I can explain the various events in priesthood restoration: I haven’t attempted to give that history for a reason. Therefore, I’m not going to undertake that now. I will get to it, but the blog is not the means to accomplish it.

To the fellow who wants to know why I don’t provide my books free for download: First, I don’t want everyone reading my books. If someone is interested, they must be inconvenienced to do so. That will remain the case. Second, there are others who need to make a living through publishing the books and with whom I have contracts I intend to honor. One of those involved suffered a stroke a few years ago, and is partially paralyzed. It is an honor for me to be able to provide some revenue through the books (though it is not much) for this man and his family. If you think you should have something free, then read this blog. I’ve put more words here free, (and in the downloadable papers) than in my books. But the books deal with a single topic, and require the entire scope to accomplish the discussion. It must be a sustained discussion. One of the books (Removing the Condemnation) is entirely on this blog. I’ve been encouraged to put the Jacob 5 series in a short book. I may do that, too, but it is available free here. Your suggestion that I’m profit motivated is foolish (and wrong). I’d suggest you borrow from the local library. We’ve donated books to many Utah libraries, but my wife tells me there are submission guidelines which may keep them from being made available. So I can’t control if they actually put them on the shelves, or throw them away, or if people just take them once donated.

To the one asking about lunch: No.

To the one asking if I’d be willing to come and talk at the family reunion: No.

To the one asking if I’d recommend an order to read my books: In the order they were written.

To the inquiry about Eighteen Verses: It is a selection of those problems currently facing the church. They are the eighteen most significant issues we have before us today. The verses were selected to allow that discussion to be put into a single volume, and to show how the Book of Mormon remains highly relevant to our current plight.

To the one asking about which one of the Twelve: You’ve got to be kidding.

To the one asking about a Harley: The Dyna Super Glide. The basic model. You can do whatever you want to customize it and add anything you want. To bump power about 20% just open up the pipes and air intake using the Harley shop’s Screaming Eagle slip-ons and you’ll notice an appreciable difference just seat-of-the-pants.