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Joseph Smith History

The Joseph Smith-History found in the Pearl of Great Price was composed shortly after John Whitmer left the church and took what history existed then with him. He was the church’s Historian at the time. The bitter Missouri conflict left a lot of former top level church leaders disaffected and no longer followers of Joseph or the church. David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and several members of the twelve were among them. Some signed affidavits supporting the Missouri citizens’ campaign against the church, and were responsible for persuading the legal authorities that there was reason to justify arresting and holding Joseph. This series of events resulted in Joseph beginning again to write the history of himself and his church.

Given the fact he was starting over in 1838, I think the account in the Pearl of Great Price is remarkable. I think Joseph, like Nephi, could measure the importance of events he had lived from the distance of some years’ reflection about them than he ever could have as he lived them. What we get in the JS-H is the benefit of Joseph’s considered hindsight. He also could write better the meaning, or intent, of the message he received. He could interpret the visits, and make much more sense of them than he could when they happened. Nephi did the same thing. His Small Plates of Nephi were a production of his history begun some 40 years after the departure into the wilderness from Jerusalem. He wrote with all the insight and understanding of how the early events led in turn to the later results. He could see the preliminary disputes in the wilderness against the backdrop of the rebellion and rejection of Nephi following the death of their father, Lehi. He could align his visions with his father’s, and show how the elder brothers rejected both.

Joseph Smith used the First Vision and his account of Moroni’s first visit to foreshadow in the narrative all of his later prophetic work. It was an inspired explanation, using both scriptural and doctrinal coordinates to establish the Divine and angelic origin of his history and ministry. The JS-H is all the more valuable because of this inspired approach. We are better informed about what was really going on in Joseph’s ministry because he told the account by using language of scripture to testify of what he experienced.

I want to comment on the process of Divine or angelic communication and how that makes its way into the written record of a prophet. It is more complex and subtle than most readers can conceive. For the most part, we read the scriptures as a completed work, and think the words give us everything we need to understand doctrine. That is not at all the case. We must arrive at the same place as the ones who wrote the scriptures in order to be able to understand what they mean. Until we share the same view, take in the same Spirit, and have similarly been exposed to the direct influence of heaven, the words are incomplete and can be very misleading.

The angel Moroni appeared to Joseph in his bedroom, and took hours to communicate understanding to young Joseph. The version of that visit we have in the JS-H was written about a decade and a half afterwards. It reflects Moroni’s meaning and intent, but accomplishes it by supplying direct quotes from scripture. The account we have looks like a doctrine class, with Moroni as gospel doctrine teacher and Joseph as student. It is doubtful, however, there were any “words” exchanged between Moroni and Joseph. It is also unlikely there were “scriptures” used. Instead, the encounter likely consisted of Moroni conveying directly into the mind of Joseph the thoughts of Moroni’s own mind. Joseph would later attempt to explain this using these words: “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all.” (TPJS p. 355.) This makes it seem as if it were less “real” than if it involved normal faculties, but it is in fact far more real, far more precise, and far more communicative to the mind, heart and spirit. It “imbeds” the information within the person. As a result, the impression becomes more clear with time.

As Joseph worked to reconvey the information to us, writing in 1838, he resorts to using scripture to make the meaning clear to us. Moroni is quoting various passages of scripture to Joseph, as described in these words:

He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus:

For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus:
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
He also quoted the next verse differently:
And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when “they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,” but soon would come.
He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.” (JS-H 1: 36-41.)
You have two options to explain this retelling of the visit. 1) Moroni said these exact things and a decade and a half later Joseph could remember and quote it exactly as it was spoken, or 2) Joseph could remember exactly the impressions, and drew from scriptures known to him in order to convey to the reader the information Moroni passed into his mind on that evening.
I believe the second is the accurate way to comprehend the interview. Moroni visited with Joseph, conveyed the information precisely as if Joseph had no body at all, and did not rely upon the eardrums, or the vibration of atmospheric pressure, in order to clearly and accurately enlighten Joseph’s understanding. Then, when it came time for Joseph to inform us of the event, he resorted to familiar words of scripture to recount the event.
It begs us to ask: “Why?” That is where we turn next.

comments

I’ve been reading comments this morning. Those who have submitted them and wondered if they were getting through can know they are. And I have been catching up on all of them.

There are some things raised which I will eventually address. Next week, however, will be taken up with the Joseph Smith History all week. There are a few other posts to follow that. Then I will address some of these questions you’ve raised.

Criticism of the Church, Part 3

I reject the idea it is criticism or “evil speaking” to discuss candidly the church’s history. Here is a sample of one fact which I welcome anyone to correct if I am wrong:

It is my conclusion that the Nauvoo Temple was never completed. Those who worked on it, went inside it, participated in work on it, and knew its condition never claimed it was completed. Never. The words used by those who knew about it were carefully phrased. They said it was “considered sufficiently completed to dedicate.” That is much different than being completed.

Joseph Smith died before the walls were completed to the second level. The lower part of the Nauvoo Temple was essentially a copy of the Kirtland Temple. The upper levels were not fully designed. The top attic floor was largely open, a few offices at either end and a large, open area inbetween. When the attic was adopted as the location for endowments, the area was unsuitable because Joseph never lived to work with design and construction crews to adapt the facility for use in endowment work. It did not have the kind of privacy and separate rooms needed to initiate through the ordinance.

Joseph had ordered a large quantity of canvas to cover the outside bowery next to the Temple. The weather made public meetings unpleasant, and many ended early because of rain or snow. The canvas was intended to let these meetings continue despite the weather.

In the winter of 1845, when the pressure to abandon Nauvoo became so great, the decision was made to use the attic space to do the endowments. The canvas was used to partition off areas in the attic and divide the area up so the ceremonies would be possible. The attic was “tented off” into separate rooms where the endowments were performed from December through early February. As they pulled out of town, the church’s leadership prayed for the Lord’s assistance in completeing the Temple. The next day the attic caught fire and the attic area burned. The fire was extinguished, but not without considerable damage to the roof and attic area.

The roof was repaired, but since the attic was no longer going to be used, the interior was again not completed. The rest of the temple interior was never completed. It was merely “considered complete enough” and was dedicated.

A year after the dedication of the Temple and before there was any damage done by the mobs, a newspaper editor from Palmyra, New York toured the Nauvoo Temple and remarked about its condition. Among other things, he observed in an article titled “The Deserted Mormon Temple,” these things about various parts of the Temple:

“The first sight we had of it gave us a pang of disappointment, for it looked more like a white Yankee meeting house, with its steeple on one end, than a magnificent structure that had cost, all uncompleted as it is, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. But as we approached nearer, it proved to be something worth seeing… [In the attic:] The chamber itself is devoid of ornament, and I was unable to ascertain whether it was intended to have any, if it should have been completed… [In the basement baptistery, speaking of the font:] It is very plain and rests on the back of twelve stone oxen or cows, which stand immersed to their knees in the earth. It has two flights of steps, with iron bannisters, by which you enter and go out of the font, one at the east end, and the other at the west end. The oxen have tin horns and tin ears, but are otherwise of stone, and a stone drapery hangs like a curtain down from the font, so as to prevent the exposure of all back of the forelegs of the beasts… The basement is unpaved… [Overall comment:] The whole is quite unfinished, and one can imagine what it might have been in course of time, if Joe Smith had been allowed to pursue his career in prosperity.” (The Palmyra Courier-Journal, September 22, 1847.)

In a 1962 Deseret Book publication, the Nauvoo Temple’s state of completion was described in these words: “Perhaps there were many rooms in the building whose walls were not covered with lath and plaster. Perhaps factory cloth, canvas, or other curtain material covered the walls and ceilings in the upper story rooms. There were some large assembly rooms and many small rooms that were not to be used in the temple ritual, so they were not put in order and beautifully decorated and furnished with the best of equipment. In all such rooms the pungent odor of fresh pine timber, uncovered by plaster, pictures or carpets, greeted the visitors. There may have been many plank floors and stairways uncovered with carpets, and many walls and ceilings presenting an unfinished condition. …Bare boards in many rooms, large and small, might have been visible, but the rooms that were necessary for the temple ritual were quickly prepared, and tne endowment was administered within the new temple though the building was not as elaborately furnished as was the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.” (The Nauvoo Temple, E. Cecil McGavin, Deseret Book, 1962, p. 56.)

The content of Section 124 is what it is, and requires what it requires. History shows the Temple was only “considered complete enough” and was not in fact complete. The diaries of church leaders commented on the incomplete condition of the Temple. It appears to be a fact that “considered complete enough” to be used in the endowment, and later for purposes of being dedicated, is not the same thing as completed. Subsequently, after the Saints abandoned Nauvoo, and after the Palmyra editor’s visit, the building was burned down. Later it was struck by a tornado. Then the remaining, partial structure was considered a hazard and demolished by the City. By the time it was reconstructed, not one stone of the original building remained on the site. Some excavation located the font area, and some artifacts were recovered, but the structure was gone.

My view is that this has some relevance to our history. I think the early Salt Lake City refugees from Nauvoo suffered through great want, difficulty and hunger. Because of their hunger, they were boiling saddles to soften the leather enough to be able to eat it. This was very real privation and seems to represent something other than God’s blessings upon them. In the context of Section 124, it is at least plausible it represented God’s displeasure, and not His vindication of the Saints. It states “If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.” (124: 44-45.) This was the revelation given in January 1841, three and a half years before he death of Joseph and Hyrum. The “servants” appointed were Joseph Smith, and the new Co-President, prophet, seer and revelator who was also to be ordained to the Priesthood and given the sealing power by the word of God, Hyrum Smith. (See 124: 91-95.) The saints were warned that if they failed to complete the temple, according to the revelation that: “I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfill the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.” (124: 47-48.)

It is clear we have history to help us answer the questions: Were they blessed? Were they not moved out of their place? Were they cursed? Did God’s wrath and indignation visit them?

None of this is criticism of the church. It is an attempt to understand history and to read the meaning of events through the lens of scripture, rather than through the lens of conceit. Why should scripture not be used to help us understand history? If God chastens those whom He loves (Rev. 3: 19), then why do we fear acknowledging chastening from God? Can’t that be a sign of His love? What is the powerful insecurity that prevents us even considering the possibility of an early failure and God’s displeasure? Even if the work was interrupted, we can still have faith in the Restoration. After all, the Book of Mormon predicts we will get off track. It also assures us the Lord will set His hand a second time to recover us. The allegory of Jacob 5 also foretells of the eventual return of natural fruit. What fear should we have? Why would we not want to fully understand the Lord’s work instead of some alternative carefully composed fiction, or in other words a cunningly devised fable telling us “all is well,” when the evidence strongly suggest things are not at all well?

This is not criticism. This is a labor of love to understand fully the Lord’s dealings with us and our true standing before Him. Why would we reject it? Because it requires repentance and return to Him? What right do we have to think we don’t have to repent? How much of our story is motivated by pride, contrary to scripture, and inconsistent with facts?

If you attribute ill-will to those who diligently seek the Lord, then we ought to just disband as a religion claiming to follow God, and admit we are content to be a social group instead. We would still qualify for tax-exempt status. Then we won’t be encumbered by any of the rigors of what required the lives of Joseph and Hyrum, and which requires the sacrifice of all things, including our own lives if necessary, to produce faith.

“It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtain faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.” (Lecture 6: 8; Lectures on Faith.)

When we will tolerate only praise for one another, and cannot abide correction from the Lord in the revelations He gave us, we are no different than the Zoramites scaling the Rameumpton and proclaiming our conceit.

There is a great difference between pursuing truth, accepting the unpopular role of saying what needs to be said inside a group who does not welcome it, and merely criticizing the church. I utterly reject the idea. I know I am not qualified to be popular, or advance in the organization because of what I write. The organization resents me, and has made that clear. Even as I seek its best interests, I find myself the object of its ire. On the other hand, I have come to know God by the things I have sacrificed for Him, and I would never alter that bargain; even for the whole world.

Criticism of the Church, Part 2

Frailty or insecurity in the mind of a person oftentimes interferes with the ability to cope with facts or truth. For example, a secure and healthy woman can be told “the horizontally striped dress you have on makes your hips and shoulders look large.” She will thank you for pointing it out, and take it into account. She may or may not change the dress. It is, after all, merely appearance. But an insecure and fragile woman whose self-consciousness interferes with interpreting facts will have a different reaction. She may think the person pointing it out to her hates her, thinks she is fat, even ugly. She will resent the remark and never pause to think there was no criticism or hidden insult in the observation.

Facts are not criticism. Opinions which differ from traditional historical opinions that I have fully explained and gathered the evidence from the sources to support, are also not criticism. If an event occurred and is accurately retold, it is not criticism even if the event is troublesome.

When it comes to evaluating our faith, indeed any faith, there are moments where two things are going to happen: First, you will encounter things you simply do not understand. For those issues, you may struggle with dissonance, or the inability to resolve the question sometimes for years, as I have. That is perfectly normal. It means you have more work to do. It does not mean you are wicked, lack faith, or are out of harmony with God because you are unable to understand a proposition. For me, plural marriage was a difficult topic which caused me to leave it unresolved for over two decades. It was not something I had time to resolve. During that time, the issue was an admitted “problem” for my faith. But despite that, I had a testimony, continued active in the church, paid tithing and served in callings. From time to time, when the topic was being discussed, I listened, asked questions, considered what others thought, and kept the matter in the mental file-drawer to be sorted through at some point. During that time many Latter-day writers took the effort to gather and publish histories of the practice. They aided me as I pondered the question. It was literally only a couple of years ago before I finally reached a conclusion. I’ve never fully explained my conclusions or why. I have, however, mentioned the matter in Passing the Heavenly Gift. That is a broad-brush treatment, and not an elaboration of my full understanding on the subject. I am now comfortable with how I view the subject.

Second, you are going to encounter information that proves what you believed before is wrong. It may be wrong because it was not true, or because it was poorly understood, or because it was based on a story or incident that never happened. It may be wrong because someone you trusted was mistaken, or they were dishonest. Whatever the discovery that reveals things in a new light, you will undoubtedly find along the path of faith that you were wrong at some point about some things in your religion. I’ve encountered that a lot since becoming a Mormon. When you encounter such things you have a choice to make – Either you can react with dismay and bitterness, or you can sort through what adjustments now need to be made, and proceed with faith and security in God to sort it out. In other words, you can act like the secure woman who was told the horizontal stripes had an unintended effect on her appearance, and proceed forward with that in mind.

There are those who have never ventured into our history. They don’t want to do so. They feel insecure and frail, unable to encounter the material because of fear that it will unhinge them from what they value. I get that. In the case of Passing the Heavenly Gift I’m not writing to even address them. For the life of me, I can’t understand why such a person would even read that part of what I’ve written. It was certainly not intended for them. The most frail and insecure of all, however, are those who have never read anything I’ve written and yet presume to be able to evaluate the intentions and even value of the work I have and am doing. I am not a critic of the church. I have never been one.

I have never said the church does not have the sealing power. Instead, I have discussed the scriptures and teachings of Joseph Smith, the revelations in the D&C, and Joseph’s public addresses, the critical moments when the authority has been conferred, and both how and why it is given. There are three chapters in Beloved Enos, and several chapters in Passing the Heavenly Gift, and some material in Eighteen Verses, along with a paper on Elijah in which I discuss things relating to the topic. In none of that have I ever said the church lacks sealing power. In Beloved Enos I discuss an example from President Monson where I refer to its use. I also concede regularly the claim by the church that it has it and I do not question that claim. Never have.

The fact that the power to seal is given in only one way is very clear in the scriptures and teachings of Joseph Smith. That is a fact. That fact has been shown in what I’ve written. Therefore, there are several facts which ought to be considered. First, in scripture, the sealing power comes to man by the voice of God and in no other way. Second, I have never said and don’t claim the church lacks that authority. Third, the church claims to have such authority, and I do not question the claim.

Frail and insecure church members, particularly those who presume they have the right to evaluate the faith of others are well advised to first ground themselves and their own testimony before deciding if an accurate observation about “horizontal stripes” is really an insult or merely a fact.

Here is a sample of the kind of foolishness my wife brings to my attention from various blogs:

Administrator
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Salt Lake
Age: 53
Posts: 2,590
Thanks: 3,255
Thanked 6,552 Times in 1,788 Posts

Rep Power: 108

JayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond reputeJayE has a reputation beyond repute
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Quote:
1. Have you ever been criticized by church leaders?
A: No. I’ve never been criticized nor asked to stop writing by any church leader. Not from my bishop, stake president, nor any higher authority. I have had some contacts, but they have been private, and encouraging me to continue. There have been a number of people who have returned to church activity because of what I’ve written. Those results are viewed with some support. The criticism I am aware of, some of which has been quite harsh, has come from overanxious church members who have not read the things I’ve written.

If this Q&A with DS was not in the last few weeks, then it could be true. The investigation by the church is currently in progress. I know that his stake president has spoken with him at least once recently and probably will again. I have a pretty good idea of what will likely happen, but I can’t say much about it.

__________________
Jay

“Far more important than the will to win is the will to prepare” -LaVell Edwards


NRA
 NRA is offline
No Running Away
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Magna, UT
Age: 58
Posts: 2,041
Thanks: 5,120
Thanked 2,677 Times in 901 Posts

Rep Power: 148

NRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond reputeNRA has a reputation beyond repute
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayE View Post
I have a pretty good idea of what will likely happen, but I can’t say much about it.

If you’re not going to say anything about it, then why even mention something like this? 

__________________
Brain has short-circuited
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Arizona
Posts: 3,328
Thanks: 16,090
Thanked 3,883 Times in 1,919 Posts

Rep Power: 88

Toni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond reputeToni has a reputation beyond repute
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayE View Post
If this Q&A with DS was not in the last few weeks, then it could be true. The investigation by the church is currently in progress. I know that his stake president has spoken with him at least once recently and probably will again.

It could be that his stake president did not criticize him, but merely asked him some questions. The Q & A is the result of an interview he did on Mormon Stories (a podcast) about a week ago, so I’d say it was created within the last few days.

__________________

Interesting that there are those who are “in the know” from inside the church who feel at liberty to gossip on the Internet about things such as this. What kind of an organization are they running? Why would the church pretend to have confidential conversations between members and leaders if there are going to be such leaks from within the COB?

Shame on all those involved. Shame on those who refuse to discuss openly the important issues rather than resort to subversion of members through back-channels.

For the Strengthening the Members Committee I have another thought for you: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. 28: 1.) That was Solomon. Today, if it were me, I would say instead: “Grow a pair. For the faithful tire of dealing with eunuchs.”

If I err in doctrine, and you have several million words of mine propounding doctrine in very public places then correct the error. Show me the mistakes. Teach me the better view of history. Show the better argument. If I err, I will gladly be instructed. But effeminate men hiding inside a tower who lack the testicular fortitude to confront me and debate the truth are unworthy of  any serious consideration. They have chosen to hide from the arena in which ideas are doing battle. Anybody creeping about behind a pseudonym when they dare to comment at all is in sharp contrast to my own public disclosure, public accountability and public defense of the faith I hold as true.

Here’s another truth for the self-righteous eunuchs accusing me of wanting the glory of leading my own following: You can’t find a picture of me on this blog, or in any book I’ve written, or in the advertising to the very few speaking engagements I’ve accepted. You can look into the Chiasmus Conference at which I spoke and you’ll find that there is no picture of me in any of the material advertising it, nor in the book when it came out. My picture isn’t in any of the material from the Portland Conference I spoke at last year. I’m not looking to be recognized. It is my IDEAS that are advanced, not me. I am nothing. I don’t matter. You shouldn’t  recognize me, pick me from a line-up, or think you know me. I do not do that. Even the interview with John Dehlin was predicated on it being a voice recording, NOT a video. If it were a video, I would have turned it down. I’m not a publicity hog, and offer no competition to the folks who want a following. I do not want one. I do not accept speaking invitations. I turn down dozens of them and rarely speak because I do NOT want to attract attention to myself. I want the IDEAS to have a life, not me.

If you want to search for men seeking to rival the Brethren, take a look at CES. For example, one of my my former Bishops is able to fill a stake center to overflowing mid-day with Mormon housewives who dote on the man. I can assure you I have no intention of trying to accomplish anything similar. I KNOW that what I’ve written is deeply offensive to many, many church members. It has no advantage apart from being honest, and the honesty of the material is accompanied by my sincere belief in it also being TRUE. If it is wrong, then  grow a pair and openly confront the ideas, tell us your name, give us your basis for contradicting the material, and act like you are confident in your beliefs. Or keep your skirts on and snipe from the sidelines, but never expect me to respect the frail and insecure who are unable or unwilling to compete in the arena where the valiant are found suffering for the Lord’s cause. I occupy a place where insults come from those who ought to be supporting the struggle; making the Lord’s cause all the more difficult for those making the sacrifice He has asked be made. It is not pleasant, but it does conform to a law ordained before the foundation of the world upon which blessings are predicated. Those blessings are personal, between God and myself, and worth enduring your attacks. I will not be deterred by weakness and criticism.

I have a testimony of the church. I have and do serve whereever asked. I pay tithes to her. But the horizontal stripes nevertheless are being worn, and they do affect her appearance.

Enabling Comments

We have enabled comments. We will NOT be posting them. It is a terrible distraction and destroys the spirit. We will (within reason) read them all. We will NOT be responding to them. If there is something contained in a comment that would be useful to address in a blog post, we will do that.

Hopefully, this gives you all (supporters and naysayers alike) somewhere constructive to address your concerns.

This is a plea from the CM – the disclaimer at the top of the blog asking that you read Denver’s books before you start getting your panties in a bunch (over whatever), that many of you find so arrogant or distasteful is actually neither. It is designed to let you know there are places to find out what Denver believes and why. The books he writes are annotated with scriptures and bibliographies. The information he puts in his books is available to all of you. You don’t need to read either his books or his blog to find the information. Go find it for yourselves. Truly, the stuff on this blog is all ancillary and supporting material. There are many things that won’t make sense to you. If you don’t wish to read his books, that’s fine, just don’t comment. The gospel is not made up of “sound-bites.”

Criticism of the Church

I do not believe it is at all useful for anyone to criticize the church. When I write, I try to explain what I believe, avoid any direct criticism and leave the rest alone. I also explain history. It is my effort to grapple with the inconsistencies and omissions that plague the understanding of anyone who looks carefully into doctrine and history. Since the traditional stories we hear repeated in the normal discussions cannot be reconciled with primary historical materials, I make the effort to come to grips with the challenges and then to explain my understanding. I know there are others who grapple with the same issues. They receive the benefit of my efforts which I hope proves to be faith promoting.

What I do not do is force my opinions on others. When I teach in church, I use the church’s materials and scriptures. I have written eight books. Seven of them are about the Book of Mormon, the Gospel of Christ, and the prophecies given to us. They are written to be faith promoting and bring people to Christ. If someone wants to read what I’ve written, they have to go to the trouble of finding it. They then have to purchase it and read it. As for the eighth book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, it is my attempt to explain the issues I have grappled with as I have read and studied the Gospel and our history. If people have gone to the trouble of finding and buying that book, they have already learned about some upsetting issues and are trying to reconcile the matters for themselves. If they’re already trying to find answers, then they can look at what I’ve written to help them. On the other hand, if they are completely content with what they hear from the inside sources of the insular Mormon community they have no reason to have even encountered what I’ve written. Unless they have searched into the matter and made the discovery for themselves, my own ward members are unaware I’ve written books on church doctrine and history. I am not sold at Deseret Book stores, not advertised in any LDS publications, and I do not do advertising or book signings.

The church is an important and valued part of my life and the lives of my family. I attend weekly, and very much enjoy associating with my fellow ward members. I do not understand why people go out of their way to provoke a dispute with the church. If you belong, then follow the rules. If you’re unwilling to follow the rules, then why belong?

If in your own studies you find there are issues, then you should search for answers. I’ve done that. I’ve found answers and I am willing to state what I believe and to defend why I believe it. It is on display for those who are anxiety-filled and uncertain after learning of problems in doctrine, history, practice and scriptural interpretation. All I have done is help the fellow-explorer who has encountered the many issues which are not adequately understood or taught as yet.

When someone thinks they know all the answers, and can give the chapter-and-verse answer from some Deseret Book publication of a former or current general authority, I have no dispute with them. They are free to believe as they wish. They are free to consider only “orthodox” (although there is no such thing in Mormonism) sources and to confine their inquiries to the traditional stories. However, there are so many saints who no longer do that and who are in a crisis of faith as a result. Someone needs to take seriously the problems and attempt to give answers. If you have no crisis, don’t know there are issues, and think all is well with everything then you shouldn’t be reading either this blog or much of what I’ve written. I am writing for those who want to know what the scriptures say. I am writing to those who are interested in the prophecies in the Book of Mormon given to us, the Gentiles. I am writing for those who wish to seek the Lord and Savior. I am writing for those who wish to strengthen their testimony of the Gospel of Christ. I am writing for the troubled, the searching, and the inquiring open soul who honestly wants to believe in the truth but has become alarmed at what they’ve discovered about our faith.

There are answers to the problems. I offer my conclusions as a consequence of my own search and discovery. It is my belief the Lord is pleased by this effort, and has actively assisted me in doing so. I also know there are a great many who are offended by my work, and that I am unpopular among many of the saints. The Strengthening the Members Committee does not approve of what I am doing. I believe myself more accountable to the Lord than to them.

In the last book I wrote, I divided the church’s development into four phases. That is a convenient way to see how and why the church has changed. I am completely converted to my faith, but the version I believe in is the first phase, the original faith which Joseph Smith was developing methodically line-upon-line from the beginning in 1820 through his death in June 1844. It is the foundation of my relationship with God. I rejoice in that faith, and have found God through practicing it. I recognize there are many fellow latter-day saints who hardly understand that version of the church, and dis-prefer it to what is the fourth phase. While I explain my beliefs, and I willingly accept fellowship with anyone who shares faith in the restoration, I do not expect the church or anyone else to adopt a first phase view of Mormonism. It is largely gone. In that respect I am also antiquated. But as an antique Mormon I try to be low maintenance and not require anyone to accommodate me. Instead I’ll accommodate them.

I believe God still speaks, and will do so with anyone who follows the steps Joseph Smith followed. I would not want anyone to follow me, and have never even invited anyone to do so. I think everyone should follow Christ, who will lead them to the Father. I think Joseph Smith is the most current prophetic example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because he was in Christ’s presence and rescued from the fall. That IS the Gospel. I do not worship Joseph Smith, but have tried to replicate the religion he held, and through it to come to know God. It has worked for me.

The church introduced me to Joseph Smith, gave me the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, baptism, ordinances and covenants. I took it all in, accepted and have honored the things I’ve received from the church and been benefited as a result. The church has my gratitude. I would not want to injure it. When there are others who are disaffected from the church, and who have discovered issues or problems, they are welcomed to look into what I’ve written as my best effort to state what I believe and why.

In writing I try to be candid. I know there are those who trust in fourth phase Mormonism who resent, even revile against me and what I write. I’m content with that. What God thinks matters a great deal more to me than what some errant blogger hiding behind a pseudonym puts on some discussion board. I am not a coward and intend to stand accountable for everything I write. I make no apologies for my faith. It is honestly and deeply held. As a result of study and prayer I think I know what I am talking about. Those who have spent only a fraction of the effort I have devoted to my religion cannot affect me by their criticism.

Long ago I realized this honest approach would disqualify me from being popular. It makes me “too suspect” for any significant church callings. That is perfectly fine. It was never the intention to become popular or successful in religion anyway. Only being true to what I believe matters. Everything else is, in a word, vain.

So if you want criticism of the church, you will have to look elsewhere. I try to avoid it. I would encourage others to search into what they believe, and stop complaining about what others believe. Search it out for yourself and be content to believe in what you find.

Mormonism is the last place where God touched mankind. It is the place where His hand will begin again in moving mankind upward. Therefore it is where I intend to faithfully remain.

Themes From Jacob, Part 3

The most striking theme of all is the Lord’s patience. The work of the vineyard is never immediate. It is generational. Those who enter the vineyard impatiently expect the Lord’s work will result in reordering the world for them while they spend their brief moment here.

There has been some confusion in Historic Christianity over the New Testament era expectation of the “end” of things. One of the questions Hugh Nibley asked was “the end of what?” He parsed through the material and arguments and suggested the “end” was of the church itself. The world would continue on, but the church would end. That is one of the themes of Jacob 5. The labor in the vineyard to bring back natural fruit is always against opposition. The success is brief. It requires considerable effort to coax the natural fruit back into production, and when left untended it quickly lapses back to wild, bitter fruit.

The Lord of the vineyard has never been in a hurry. The allegory was originally composed by Zenos in the time of the united Kingdom, some 2,900 years ago. It tells the story of Israel for the next 5,000 years. Jacob put it into his writing approximately 2,400 years ago when the events were only at about verse 14 of the allegory. This allegory was important to Jacob. It is also important to when Jacob’s record would be restored again. We are now at about verse 55, the era when the Lord and servants are trying to bring again some small appearance of natural fruit in the vineyard. We want the fruit from verse 73 to appear long before the story predicts it will return. We expect it to have begun as soon as He sets His hand to the labor by calling Joseph Smith. The allegory allows for no such interpretation. We want that because we think ourselves “natural fruit” and worthy to be saved against the season.

There is a great preliminary work with only the grafting back at first. It started with Joseph Smith. That graft hasn’t taken hold yet, nor produced fruit. It wasn’t intended to do so at the start. The graft will require the branches to take nourishment from the original roots; hence the notion of “restoration,” but the roots from which nourishment is to be taken are quite ancient. At first it is likely (measured by our conduct and preaching) that the only aspiration of the graft is to become merely another New Testament era faith, and not to find nourishment from the ancient roots which run back to the beginning. It is apparent, however the natural fruit will not reappear until the original, first generation teaching’s of man, which were in the beginning, return again at the end.

The Brother of Jared was redeemed from the fall, and was taught about the history of man from the beginning. Enoch’s vision included the story of man from the beginning until the end. Moses also. The vision on the Mount of Transfiguration included a similar visionary show of mankind’s history from the beginning. The reason Zenos composed, and Jacob transcribed this vision of the history of Israel through the end was because they shared in that instruction of what the Lord is trying to bring back into His vineyard. Joseph Smith was not being inadvertent when the accounts of Moses and Enoch, in the Book of Moses were restored. Nor when the Book of Abraham was revealed. These, as well as the Book of Mormon, pre-date the New Testament era. They tell about an original, ancient faith which was to return again so there would be fruit, or in other words, the hearts of the children would turn to the fathers.

When we take our reckoning from the New Testament era and claim ourselves to be like the other “Christian” faiths, we are not looking to the rock from whence we came. We are not taking nourishment from the roots. We now hardly understand Joseph’s preoccupation with the most ancient of themes and religion. Joseph now seems antiquated to us, and he hardly began to introduce the ancient faith which is still to come.

God’s patient cultivation of the tree can continue for so many generations as needed, and will linger without the return of natural fruit so long as we choose not to take nourishment from the original root where the strength lies. The Lord of the vineyard creates the conditions which allow growth, but it is the tree itself that must respond and grow.

Our impatience and expectation that God has given us all we need, and everything He intends for us to have, precludes us from taking in what we still lack. God may intend to yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God, but it will fall on deaf ears if we think we have everything we need for our salvation and exaltation already restored to us.

God’s very long-term view contrasts sharply with our ‘must-be-in-our-lifetime’ outlook. Generations come and go and think themselves saved while God waits patiently for natural fruit, willing to take nourishment from the strength of His Gospel, to finally reappear. Proud and vain men strut about proclaiming how special they and their cultic-following are before God, while God pleads for our repentance, humility and willingness to return to Him. Lofty branches still need trimming and only produce bitter fruit still. We witness how blind, fallen men think it is sufficient for the branches to feel themselves vindicated by reason of their loftiness. If our present form of “Zion” wasn’t “prospering” then we might be more acutely aware of our sickness, sores, disease and stench. We use the measuring rod of Babylon and conclude we are among the greatest of people rather than the standard of heaven against which we are loathsome, bitter fruit.

It is good the Lord of the vineyard is patient. It is good He waits for natural fruit to begin to appear before the next round of cutting down and casting into the fire. We should be grateful for His patience, but never fooled by it. His hand does not stay because we deserve it, but instead from His hope there will yet reappear the natural fruit He can lay up against the coming season.

Themes from Jacob 5; Part 2

Here are five more themes:

6. The work of the last labor will not be abandoned. The Lord did not establish the restoration of the Gospel only to abandon it. Though it will take some time before it produces natural fruit, the Lord intends to stay with the grafts, labor with them, and trim away as necessary. Joseph Smith suggested the church needed to stay together, and the Lord’s hand would continue to watch over the church. As they have left, the splinter groups have all fallen into neglect, and ultimately abandonment. Whether it was Sidney Rigdon, the William Marks/Emma Smith “reorganization”, the William McLellin departure, or the various “fundamentalist” movements, the temporary prosperity or success has ultimately ended in collapse and failure. The Lord intends to work within the church until the natural fruit reappears. Though the church may not be synonymous with the “Gospel,” it is the means by which the Lord preserves the Gospel. To see the Lord’s hand, all you need to do is be near to the laboring full-time missionaries. The Lord does bear testimony to the investigators that the Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith was His prophet, and the revelations are trustworthy, and the sincere soul should receive baptism at the hands of the elders of the church. I received this testimony when I investigated, and have received also the blessings associated with fellowship among others who accept and believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the restoration scriptures, and all the associated practices we have inherited. Though we have departed somewhat from the roots that came from Joseph’s ministry, at this moment, for the first time, the church has begun publishing The Joseph Smith Papers. We are the chosen generation who can see the records for ourselves. The ability to take nourishment from the roots has become more of an opportunity for us living today than any of the prior saints, from Joseph’s day till ours. Thanks be to the church for opening this valuable library that has remained unavailable to the common church member for these last three or four generations. It is as if the Lord has finally moved, despite all we have done to forget our beginnings, to make important change possible and return to His foundation by giving us the original records.

7. The natural fruit involves more than just the regrafting. The establishment of the church was the necessary first step, but the prophecies do not mention The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the target church. The revelations speak of another name for the Lord’s church. (See D&C 76: 54; 78: 21; 88: 5; 107: 19; Hebrews 12: 23; among many others.) The temporal church is essential to produce another group within it. They are not going to reappear as a group disconnected from the temporal church, but instead from within it. The Gospel net will gather all manner of fish, but the angels will gather the good and cast away the bad. (Matt. 13: 47-49.) Being gathered into the net is not the sign of being good and worthy of gathering by the angels. It is only the first step. There is another step beyond that which requires the virgins to have oil in their lamps in order to be with the Bridegroom.

8. The history of the tree is told from the most ancient of our preserved history until the distant end of a millennium of peace. There is no other history that will take off in a different direction. The tree is fully accounted for in the allegory. You needn’t look for another, separated, surprising or unaccounted for sequence of events or long interruption of the Lord’s labors. He is working NOW and it is currently underway. The story is complete. Although the reappearance of the natural fruit is not immediate, it is going to reappear. When it does it will be in the young, tender growth. The high minded and lofty which are barren and tend to grow in their own self-interests, but do not seek the welfare of Zion itself will be trimmed away. The Lord’s hand will be most apparent inside the church, not outside of it. But likely in a young, tender place where nourishment from the roots has taken hold. Watch, therefore, and you will not be mistaken when it begins. This is, after all, the Lord’s work, and it is marvelous in the eyes of those who can see it. (Mormon 9: 16.)

9. Although there are many different groups of people, the Lord’s work has always focused on the House of Jacob and the potential for it to return to covenant status as the House of Israel. This is the “natural fruit” that the Lord seeks to have return to His vineyard. Although having some religious connection to God is desirable, the “harvest” is looking for this particular kind of “natural fruit” to preserve against the season. This kind of fruit requires the very same thing Joseph was so excited about in his last few talks in Nauvoo. The Elijah Talk followed on the history retold in Passing the Heavenly Gift, and goes to the heart of this need to reconnect with “the fathers in heaven,” or the original Patriarchial Fathers who were chosen by God as His. It requires us to track back, reconnect to the roots of the restoration, and return to belief in doctrines long neglected if we want to participate in the Lord’s work. The Lord invites all to know Him, to come to Him and to form this connection with Him. However, if you are waiting for the process to be unfolded in a weekly Gospel Doctrine class, you will first need a new manual. Nothing of these topics remains in our formal curriculum, though the information is still available if you will search for it.

10. The Lord has actually considered burning the entire vineyard before, and fully intends to burn all but the natural fruit in the future. The risk of the entire earth being cursed at His coming is not just an idle notion designed to make us luke-warm in our church affiliation. It is intended to cause us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philip. 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) When we think our simple affiliation with our church is enough, we are deceived and show disrespect to the requirements of the Lord’s plan. The best scriptural passage to put the problem into context is Mormon’s description:

“. . . Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.” (Mormon 9: 3-5.)

That day will come; now, if you prepare for it, but it will come. If that day “burns you up,” then you were not natural fruit. (Mal 4: 1.) Therefore, it makes sense to do what is needed now, repent, call on His name, and live by every word which He imparts so you may see His face and “know that [He is.]” (D&C 93: 1.)

Themes from Jacob 5

There are important themes in Zenos’ allegory. Here are five of them:

1. The Lord of the vineyard controls overall history through His involvement and the involvement of His servants. However, they can only accomplish two things:  1) removing the bad, bitter fruit by cutting away branches and burning them. 2) encouraging the good, natural fruit by pruning, grafting, nourishing and laboring. Whether or not the natural fruit reappears is left to the tree itself. Mankind cannot be compelled to be good. As agents of their own, they are free to choose. No amount of ministering will force the natural fruit to appear. The Lord and His servants can only present the opportunity.

2. The tree and its branches are prone to repeatedly producing bitter fruit. Producing natural fruit does not come easily. From the beginning, the tree was prone to loftiness and pride. It required cutting away, scattering and destroying the main top in order to have a chance to cause the natural fruit to reappear. This is  the tendency. As soon as people learn they are “called” they will presume they are “chosen,” even though these are two entirely different things. The Lord of the vineyard has learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men that they begin to exercise unrighteous dominion over one another as soon as they have a little authority as they suppose. This is why He does not distribute, and cannot confer, the priesthood on mankind through generations of hand-me-down lines of authority. As soon as it is abused, it is lost. And when the Lord says “amen to the priesthood of that man” he is powerless to give it to another.

3. The Lord has occasionally come to the vineyard. On one occasion He labored directly within the vineyard, choosing to mingle with the scattered branches and to personally minister among them. This produced a period of production throughout the vineyard. However, it was short-lived. The vineyard lapsed into bitter fruit everywhere. There came a point where the entire vineyard produced nothing but bitter fruit, in every part of the Lord’s possession. When that time came, the Lord determined to labor a “last time” in the vineyard, and to bring a “few servants” to assist. Again this return would involve His personal appearance, but it took the form of periodic appearances with His servants, as in the First Vision and Section 76. When He appears He confers authority. Joseph and Sidney both “received of His fullness” when He ministered to them. (D&C 76: 20.) Indeed, no one can behold His glory and not receive of His fullness. (D&C 84: 22.) To receive His priesthood, He must redeem from the fall (Ether 3: 13) and thereby receive Him. (D&C 84: 35.) This is not an apperance in the heart, but is rather a personal appearance, The idea it is something merely in the heart is an old sectarian notion and is false. (D&C 130: 3.)

4. In the Lord’s last labor in the vineyard, the commencement of the work does not signal the end of His involvement. Once begun, He will continue to labor with the tree to encourage it to produce fruit. He will send servants who will labor with all their might to bring the fruit about. However, it will be the tree’s response and not the Lord’s nor His servants’ work that will bring again the natural fruit. This will take a long time before the roots are able to take hold again. The grafted branches will require pruning and additional work before they respond and return to respect and take nourishment from the natural roots. What was shocking and hard to bear with will need to be accepted in humility and gratitude before the natural fruit can appear once more.

5. When the natural fruit begins to appear, the Lord will begin to trim away the bad to make way for the good to prevail. Therefore, those who fight against the natural fruit will be cut down. Even those who entertain high positions will be struck down if they oppose the return of the Lord’s natural fruit. (See, e.g., D&C 85: 7.) The Lord of the vineyard controls which branches are allowed to survive with His tree, and not the tree itself. The inclination to produce the lofty and high minded remains the tendency of the tree. But those unwanted and unproductive branches will be cut away, burned, and not allowed to interfere with the natural fruit.