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More Ado About Church History And Race

We have yet another pronouncement concerning the church’s past ban on priesthood for blacks. This is the most recent church statement:

“The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that ‘no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.’ Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject: ‘The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.'”

If this is altogether accepted as a carefully considered, inspired and accurate statement of the truth, it raises some interesting questions about the church today and in the past:

President Hinckley’s statement, reiterated again today, is that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ.” If this is correct, how are we to now regard Brigham Young?
[“In the preisthood I will tell you what it will do. Where the children of God to mingle there seed with the seed of Cain it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the preisthood upon themselves but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an ungaurded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say cut off my head, and kill man woman and child it would do a great deal towards atoneing for the sin. .. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants. …Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; we will sommons the first presidency, the twelve, the high counsel, the Bishoprick, and all the elders of Isreal, suppose we summons them to apear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed, with the black race of Cain, that they shall come in with with us and be pertakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to desstruction…” (Address to the Legislature by LDS Church President and Territorial Governor Brigham Young, Feb. 5, 1852, spellings not corrected.)]

John Taylor?
[“Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? . . . He needed the devil and great many of those who do his bidding just to keep . . . our dependence upon God, . . . When he destroyed the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he [the devil] might be properly represented upon the earth (Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, Oct. 29. 1882, p. 336)].

Many others, even President J. Reuben Clark who objected to pictures in the Deseret News showing black and white children mingling together, made disparaging remarks. What of them? Are we now to regard them as not true disciples of Christ? If so, then what does that do for the church’s status? Did the church pass through a lengthy era of being led by those who were not true disciples of Christ and yet retain all of our blessings, entitlements, power and priesthood? How did that operate? Can a non-true disciple of Christ pass along priesthood authority? Or is President Hinckley’s declaration an overstatement because it proves too much? Does any of this raise the possibility that church leaders can in fact “lead us astray?” Or instead is it that we are never led astray, but they can make mistakes? If so, how are we to distinguish between mistakes, and errors so serious they cannot be regarded as “true disciples of Christ” and yet preclude leading us astray? Doesn’t something have to give? Were the church members who opposed the ban “true disciples” even though they were out of harmony with their leaders? If that is the case, how can we know where “true disciples” are to be found, if there is a possibility for the lesser, dissident members who are out of harmony with those leaders to be “true disciples of Christ?” Does it mean we can have “true disciples” led by those who err in teaching for doctrine the commandments of men? Isn’t this the problem the Lord intended to solve in His opening statement to Joseph Smith? Are there some leaders now serving who are “not true disciples of Christ?” How do we distinguish between those who will be regarded as “not true disciples of Christ” at some future point but who are now serving in leadership? When do we know we are being taught for doctrine the commandments of men?

These are very interesting questions. What a great opportunity this presents for more study and careful contemplation by us all. Should I agree with President Hinckley and think the worse of earlier leaders? It seems harsh to think them “no true disciple of Christ” on the one hand, but on the other their remarks are quite disparaging of those of another race. Actually, disparaging of one specific race, not other races generally. Should culture bend a “prophet’s voice” or does a “prophet’s voice” require culture to bend? Were they originally just reflecting social values when speaking disparagingly about the race, and are they doing the same now there is widespread antipathy for racism? If that is the case, then do we really need anything more than popular opinion to guide us then and now?

If these church leaders spoke “in the absence of revelation” how were they “revelators?” Or weren’t they? If they were sustained as “revelators” but spoke in the absence of revelation and were wrong, how often has that happened? How often does it happen? How do we tell the difference between truth and teaching for doctrine the commandments of men? Aren’t we told essentially everything coming out of the hierarchy is entitled to respect as if it were the Lord speaking? Does that apply when they speak “in the absence of revelation?” What a fascinating assortment of issues the church has now given us to ponder.

Does our eternal salvation require us to resolve these things correctly?

There are so many more questions I can think of now that the church has given this new announcement. I wonder why they weren’t addressed in the latest announcement.

Question on Sealing

Someone asked about sealing power. This is something that I’m not going to be able to answer on the blog. It would require too much, even for a multi-part posting as I have done on the Remnant and on Interpreting History. On the subject there are three chapters at the end of Beloved Enos, written from a perspective that accepts the church’s claims to this authority. All the first seven books, to the extent the issue arises, accept the church’s claim. In Passing the Heavenly Gift, the history is viewed from another perspective, but the question of whether this perspective is better than the traditional narrative is left to the reader to decide.

The closest thing to a direct discussion of how the Father seals someone His is found in the last parable in Ten Parables. Even there, however, the story is focused on the interplay between heaven and mankind, not those ordinances that exist in the unexplained events happening in the background.

Because of the importance of the subject and the many scriptures and important details which bear on the topic, it cannot be adequately explained without significant effort to marshall together the critical information. That is not appropriate for a blog. Nor are blog readers necessarily even going to understand the posts if they are unfamiliar with why the question would be asked.

I’ve pointed out that our ordinances contemplate a further ratification from heaven. In D&C 121: 36-37 the power of heaven must ratify priestly power, or it is nonexistent. This is the same principle Joseph wrote about in Liberty Jail. (D&C 121: 36.) In D&C 132: 26 the ratification through the “Holy Spirit of Promise” must confirm a sealing for it to become eternal. Then in D&C 132: 7 we learn it is possible for this to be conferred “on but one on the earth at a time” which made it possible for Joseph Smith to seal up to eternal life. In effect, Joseph became the Holy Spirit of Promise through operation of the Divine appointment to hold the right. That term “Holy Spirit of Promise” we use without adequate appreciation that it can be an office held by Divine appointment. The office is held by more than just a single mortal man at one time, and includes others who minister here as well.  These, at a minimum, are the Lord, John the Beloved, the Three Nephite Disciples, Elijah, other angelic ministers, as well as potentially others about whom we know nothing (D&C 49: 8). There is also the meaning of limiting it to one man “on the earth at a time” when it comes to widely separated people without any probability of contact during their lifetimes. An example would be when the Lord in His post-resurrection ministry appointed Apostles in Palestine and Disciples in the New World. He also may have had others in other locations during His many appearances in that season, all of whom were given similar authority to seal. Were they so geographically separated they could be said to be on different earths for all practical purposes? Or is there an exception undiscussed in Section 132 because the world has become smaller and more integrated since the Meridian of Time? I take no position on that, only pose the question.

The Missing Virtue focuses on the love between the man and woman. That love is what attracts the notice of angels, the approval of the Lord and the effort by heaven to bring the couple to salvation. They become fruit worth laying up against the season. Therefore, the work assigned by the Lord to the angels was to repair what was lacking in the man so as to preserve them against the day of the harvest. The underlying reason, the driving force, the preservative justifying heavenly attention in the story is the love between the man and woman which the angels recognize fits the pattern of heaven.

John said “God is love” (1 John 4: 8). Of all the power in earth and heaven, the greatest form of power is love. It is the power of creation, and motivation of God, the reason for existence and the purpose behind all we see here. It is the harmonizing attribute between man and woman, man and fellow-man, God and man, our descendants and ancestors. Our love motivates the highest aspirations, causes our greatest anxieties, moves us to action and summons our greatest will. This is godlike.

The ordinances matter a great deal. They are the physical manifestation of our love for God. They are important and symbolize everything we hope for, and all we desire to be in God’s eyes. Our service to our ancestors through Temple work matters. It is the way we show our love for those who went before, even if we do not know a thing about them. The devotion and service we render does not go unnoticed by heaven.

God will preserve our love above everything else. It is in that attribute we find ourselves most like Him. Or, in other words, most like Them. Heaven is a community. The General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn are all elevated by their love for one another and love for their posterity, and are able to live in peace because they are given over to love.

Beyond ordinances and rites there is a power by which God governs. It is the power which creates, and which binds together as nothing else in the universe. The ordinances point to it, but you must become love for the Lord to pour power into the things you hope to have preserved.

No act of service will go unnoticed. No act of devotion is meaningless. Our ordinances matter a great deal. When done with love they have power. But the power to seal should be viewed as related to this great power, not as an administrative authorization or a corporate franchise. That view is so skewed and divorced from heaven that it almost always results in abuse, ambition, and perversion of men’s hearts. When that happens, amen to the priesthood or authority of that man. If used to favor friends or to control and exercise dominion over others, it is political power, not priesthood power. But you have the revelations before you so you should already know that.

If I were to recommend any answer to someone troubled by the issue I would suggest first, it is a matter between you and heaven, not you and another man. The Lord has ample means to seal you up to eternal life whether you live in the most remote location on earth or in downtown Salt Lake City. That is irrelevant. Second, the greatest preservative is your love of God and your love of your fellow-man. (Matt. 22: 36-40.) This matters a great deal more than your calling, your connections, your income, your social status, age, genealogy or education.

Ether’s Reference to Christ as Father

Here is a question taken from the Book of Ether. The question: “Explain Ether 4:12 where the Lord says: ‘he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me.  For behold, I am the Father…’ I understand that the Father and Son are unified in everything and I understand that the Son is the Father because he has begotten us through the atonement and that He was also the creator. How would you explain that verse to someone just reading it for the first time?  It sounds like a description of the trinity as many Christian religions view that the Father and Son are literally one being.”

Response: Foremost in this creation is the reality of Christ. He lived. He died, voluntarily, as a sacrifice. His death was unmerited. (1 Peter 2: 22; Alma 22: 13-14.) He died because of other’s sins, not because of His own. (1 Peter 2: 21-23.) He did so to make an offering to appease the ends of the law. (2 Ne. 2: 6-7.)

Law has one purpose: It establishes required conduct that when violated requires a punishment to be imposed. Without punishment there is no law. (Alma 42: 22.) We came here to live in a fallen state where we are subject to law and knowing when violate the law the result would inevitably require punishment. (Alma 42: 18.) Christ came to suffer that punishment. (1 Peter 3: 18.)

Overarching all else in this creation are the acts of two parties. Adam fell. (Moses 6: 48.) Christ arose. (Alma 11: 42.) Adam introduced death. Christ overcame it. (Mosiah 16: 8.) Through Christ the law was made unjust because death could make no claim upon Him, but He willingly died to suffer the punishment He did not merit. That forever satisfied death’s claim. (Mosiah 15: 9.) Once it had claimed the life of one who did not deserve to die, it could no longer make claim on Him or those He came to redeem. His punishment was infinite, because His sacrifice was infinite. If He did not merit death then death took from Him what was infinite and would have no end. (Heb. 4: 15.) He submitted. His death satisfied the need for dying.

Mankind still die. That is just; but after their death, Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible to live again, just as He did. (Jacob 6: 4.) But you know all this already.

The “Father” of your eternal life will be Christ. (D&C 35: 2.) He is your Father who is in heaven, because your continuation after the grave will come through His sacrifice. He will literally provide you with the resurrected body you will inherit. This makes Him the Father. (See Mosiah 5: 7.)

Secondly, they are His teachings which will provide you with more than just resurrection. He will provide the further possibility of glory to you on the conditions He has made possible through obedience to Him. The one you follow, whose teachings you accept, whose ordinances you accept, is also your Father. (1 Cor. 4: 15.) The role of the Father is to raise His seed in righteousness. Christ’s teachings are given in His capacity of a Father to all who will follow Him. Through His teachings you can have a new life here and now. You can be “born again” as His seed. (1 Peter 1: 23.) To do that you must first accept His role as your Father/guide. Then you must further accept His role as Father/Redeemer. When you do that, He gives you a new life by His teachings and new life by His ordinances.

Here, excluded from the presence of Heavenly Father Ahman, we have no way back except through Christ. (Mosiah 3: 12.) (For the name “Ahman” see D&C 78: 20 where Christ mentions His Father’s name.) He must become our Father to bring us back again into the Ahman’s presence. Christ visits here. Christ labored here, lived among us, ministers still among us, and though resurrected still walked alongside two of His disciples. He appeared in an upper room, cooked and ate fish on the lake’s shore, and appeared to many. He will come to dwell here again. The Father Ahman, however, only appears in a state of glory, has not stood here since the Fall of Adam, and awaits the completion of the work of Christ before He will again take up His abode here.

Christ is not the same person as Father Ahman. Christ becomes the Father of all who are redeemed through Him. Therefore, by redeeming you Christ has become your Father in Heaven. You will have many fathers, including Christ, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and in our dispensation, Joseph Smith as well. And all these will also be children of Father Ahman.

More Ancient Than the New Testament

Someone made this comment: I was listening to an interview in which you were talking about the current LDS church being like the New Testament church, as opposed to being like a much older patriarchal religion. I don’t see the difference between the two. On my mission, a woman related the following story:  Her brother had served his mission in Italy and on a p-day, while participating in some tourism activities, they toured an ancient Roman Catholic cathedral which had some fascinating murals on the walls. This missionary was amazed by the murals, took pictures, and she showed me copies. I requested copies of the pictures which she gave to me. They were pictures of paintings of people wearing robes which were unmistakably temple robes, the most amazing painting was depicting the veil in a temple. The temple robes were different from what we wear today in some respects, but with enough similarities there was no mistaking them. They had similar hats to what the men wear and they had the fig shaped aprons and most tellingly, they had symbols of the compass and the square. The painting of the temple depicted several posts covered by the veil between the posts. One of the posts had a little mallet hanging down and a hand sticking out between the curtain and the post. According to the story, the missionary asked the priest about the paintings and the priest could tell him nothing other than they were old paintings. The missionary knew better, as did I and anyone else who had ever been inside a modern temple.”
My response: Read Nibley’s book Temple and Cosmos and you’ll probably see these ancient paintings, murals and mosaics. He has gathered together some interesting material. Val Brinkerhoff’s two volume set The Day Star also gathers together a good deal of photographic material showing the antiquity of the temple themes and ceremonies. There is no question there are temple rites restored through Joseph Smith that relate to antiquity, and not merely to updating and correcting Masonic-inspired innovations.There was a liturgical return to antiquity in the post-New Testament era which many believe was grounded either in secret teachings of Christ during His ministry, or developed in His post-resurrection forty-day ministry.
However, in the case of the Restoration, had Joseph finished his work, there was something more coming. That is the issue I was referring to in the podcast. Look at Facsimile No. 2, Explanatory notes numbers 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21. You’ll see there was more to come. Take a look at the TPJS, also, and you will find Joseph intended for something more than the New Testament era religion. His work was intended to bring back the very religion of the first man. This was to be more than merely a church, but “this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” (D&C 22: 1.) 
You can also look at Margaret Barker’s work such as The Older Testament, The Great High Priest, The Great Angel, Temple Theology, The Lost Prophet, Hidden Tradition, and Temple Mysticism and you will find a Protestant scholar whose thesis is that Christ was restoring the older faith, not creating a new one. Her work has so impressed Mormon scholars that she has been invited and spoken at BYU, in addition to presenting at the Smithsonian Conference on the Bicentennial of Joseph Smith.


Margaret Barker’s writings suggest there was some very ancient covenant, along with an ancient priesthood that Christ was returning to the earth through His ministry. The New Testament church was not the objective of either Christ or Joseph Smith. Both were engaged in returning “that which was from the beginning.”


Joseph’s restored Temple rites are set in Eden. The quest to find God runs through the earliest contact between God and man involving the experience of the first man, Adam and his wife, Eve. They lived in God’s presence at the beginning and the Temple message is that we must return there. Our quest is not to stop with a partial return, but a complete return to the beginning.


We tend to think we “have it all” and we got it from Joseph Smith. We have a New Testament church which is by far better than any other form of Christian organization, Catholic or Protestant. We tend to think that was the object the Lord had in mind when Joseph was spoken to from heaven. Then we claim to have preserved it perfectly from then until now. I’m suggesting two things: First, Joseph may not have given us everything because he died before the Nauvoo Temple was completed. The Lord’s planned visit there did not happen. We got a lot, to be sure. Whether we have “that which was from the beginning” in the full panoply of what may have been received had the Lord come to restore the fullness in the completed Nauvoo Temple remains an interesting matter worth at least contemplating. Second, we may not have perfectly preserved what we were given. After the November 1845 to February 1846 endowments ended, the endowment was not performed again until 1855. It was not reduced to writing until the 1870’s. Several of the church leaders remarked at how surprised they were at how much Brigham Young could remember. That does not mean it was perfectly preserved, only that the volume of recalled material was surprising to them.
You are free to believe as you choose. You can presume the restoration was intended to deliver a replica of the New Testament church. We got that. If that was the objective, I would not dispute it was accomplished. However,  I ask the question of whether the purpose was to reach back much further, and has yet to be accomplished. Will the time come when the restoration will have a look and feel rather more like the days of Noah than like the New Testament? I think if Christ knew what He was talking about then this is likely to be the case. I am of the view that there are many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven which He has yet to reveal. (See, e.g., Article of Faith 9.)


I think the path to God will run back to the very beginning. It will involve a return to the the original, paradisaical glory which was Eden. Zion is connected to that very return. (See, e.g., Article of Faith 10.)


This is why I made the remark. It is my view, and certainly not the view of many others. You are in very good company if you think otherwise. We are, after all, allowed to believe according to the dictates of our own conscience, and are free to exercise that privilege according to how we each understand God’s will and intentions. (See, e.g., Article of Faith 11.) 


I like the idea that if an idea troubles you, then set it aside. It is either true or not true, and you are not yet in a position to comprehend it. Either way, it is not for you. Since we are all in the search to find our salvation before God, I trust God will deal with each of us in His patient, benign way and the truth will unfold before each sincere seeker. Until God in His wisdom makes a matter clear, no one should presume they can rush another person into accepting it.


I also believe the Lord will not leave the sincere seeker uninformed. He will not answer one person and deny another if they both ask and do so in sincerity willing to accept the answer. Any person who comes before God acknowledging He is a God of truth and cannot lie will learn the truth from Him. (Ether 3: 12.) That also means if you are not willing to accept truth from Him, but require Him to meet you standard then there is really no point for Him to clarify things for you.


I am personally satisfied that the objective of returning to the most ancient, original faith, both was and is the purpose of Joseph Smith’s calling. And that objective remains an unfinished work. It will finish, I think coincidentally with establishing Zion. 

Question on Priesthood/Monarch

I received the following question:
“I was reviewing the audio version of Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and came across the part where Joseph makes the comment that High Priests are to administer in Spiritual things and hold communion with God.  But not to ‘exercise monarchical government’, or appoint meetings with out the approval of the Elders.  Considering the limited comment you recently made on your blog regarding the divine right of kings, but also considering the invitation found in the temple to be both a priest and a king, I wondered how these thoughts reconciled and was interested to hear your thoughts.”

My response:
The object of the Lord’s return is governmental. More specifically, Monarchical. He will return to be a “King of kings” and a “Lord of lords.” (See Rev. 19: 16.) To be a King who presides over “kings” requires the existence of other kings. To be a Lord over other “lords” requires the existence of other lords. But the church’s High Priests are not qualified to be that, and therefore cannot exercise such a monarchical form of government. To do that is a revolutionary act inside the United States of America. That is one reason the Lord has decreed there will be a full end to all nations. (D&C 87: 6.) He will institute a new form of government that will not be compatible with other national interests.

The Lord’s plans are quite different than we sometimes presume them to be. Joseph Smith was apparently tuned in to that in a surprisingly revolutionary way. It is no wonder he was killed. He represented a new era where old things were to be thrown down and a new order established.

Joseph represented an opportunity; but we weren’t interested in it. Ultimately it was the Saints themselves who complained and got him to return and surrender. He remarked that if his life was of no value to his friends, it was of no value to him. He realized the Saints were unwilling to follow into the kind of remaking of the world his ministry offered.

I doubt Joseph Smith would be any more welcome today than he was in his own time. I think we’d treat him like a crank, who entertained delusional ideas and offered a foolish, magical view of the world unworthy of serious consideration.

Kingship is tied to the promise of land, as we see in the case of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Lehi and Nephi, among many others. When the land is given to the Lord’s “king and priest” it comes from the Lord by His word and is everlasting. It is received by covenant, and when received the king is the land in a very real sense. He and it are connected by the covenant, and what goes on thereafter is a reflection of how the king (or his descendants) honor or dishonor the covenant.

Although the Melchizedek priesthood cannot exercise monarchical government (a form of government involving Patriarchal rule), there will be a return of this kind of order before the Lord returns. The remnant will build Zion. There will be an Ephriamite with the authorization there to “crown” those kings and lords who will rule with Christ at His return. (D&C 133: 32.) Everything will happen as foretold. But we can’t and aren’t supposed to be able to see it beforehand. We are only supposed to witness it unfold before us. We cannot comprehend God’s strange act. Those who take the Spirit for their guide will not be deceived or hewn down. (Mark 13: 5-6; D&C 45: 57.) This was the original form of priestly order from the beginning of time. It will return at the end of the world again. (Moses 6: 7.) This priestly order is what allowed a small group to gather at Adam-Ondi-Ahman where the Lord visited with them and comforted Adam. (D&C 107: 53-55.) That scene, involving Adam and seven who held this same priesthood will be re-enacted again at the end. We are working our way back in a great chiasm of history as the Lord counts us back to the beginning and we draw to the end. He calls it His “strange act” (D&C 101: 95; Isa. 28: 21.) Joseph’s ministry took us back to an earlier time. The Lord intends to return us back further.

But, again, these are things Joseph understood and began to put in place. Now we have only a tattered remainder of that original purpose and an ambition to become something more modern, like the other faiths. Today we have no capacity for monarchical government under the present organization of things. That might be a good thing. We get into less trouble that way.

Ambition for these things will not accomplish a thing. It will be the Lord’s doing or it will not happen at all. He always tells us emphatically that it will be HIM who brings again Zion, not us. (3 Ne. 16: 8; Mosiah 12: 22; Isa. 52: 8; D&C 84: 99, among others.) Our ambition will not bring it to pass. Only His will can do so. The challenge, of course, is to be among those invited by the angels to participate rather than to be left among the residue who will be hewn down.

Zion

I do not think Zion will initially be where people think it will.

I do not think Zion will be at all what people think it will be.

Nor do I think people are at all ready in our current circumstances to begin to learn what Zion will require; what standards of conduct will be required; what covenants will need to be assumed to establish Zion.

I do not think Zion will be an institutional enterprise. The angels will be the ones responsible for that gathering. (See D&C 77: 11, Mark 13: 27.) This presents an apparent impediment to those who either don’t believe angels minister to mankind, or who believe they only minister to church leaders, or who think them possible, but have never been administered personally by them.

In the Mark 13 text, the repeated “and then” language of the KJV is not chronological or sequential. It is referring to the generation living at the time it starts, who will live to see it all occur. Meaning “in that day” or more precisely, “among the generation then living.”

When there is an abomination that renders desolate in the Temple, you will also see afflictions. You will see those who claim they are Christ, or they are Christ’s true living prophet– though they are not. You will see signs and wonders, including great building projects and the astonishing ability to speak in every language across the world in a single time, but that will not deceive those who take the Holy Spirit for their guide.  They will be able to distinguish between the truth and error. Heaven will be shaken. Angels will gather those who follow Christ rather than trust the arm of flesh, and ultimately Christ will return and the world will be wasted at His coming. Though there will be some fragment, like the days of Noah, there will be those who have been gathered by the angels. Those few will be preserved.

Ezra Booth was among the first to hear the original four missionaries sent out at the very beginning of the restoration. He wrote about what Oliver Cowdery told him of the original mission. It was to include identifying the location for the New Jerusalem. Ezra Booth explained: “This is the person commissioned by the Lord to proceed to the western wilds, and as he himself stated, ‘to the place where the foot of a white man never trod,’ to rear up a pillar for a witness, where the temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New Jerusalem. But alas! he was arrested by man in his course, and by the breath of man the mighty undertaking was blown into the air, and Cowdery was thrown back among the Gentiles, to await for the spirit to devise some new plans in the place of those which had been frustrated. But as the city and temple must be built, and as every avenue leading to the Indians was closed against the Mormonites, it was thought that they should be built among the Gentiles, which is in direct opposition to the original plan.” (Ezra Booth, Letter IX, originally published in the Ohio Star in 1831. It has since been reprinted in numerous places and can be found on-line as well.) This is referring to the charge given to Oliver Cowdery, and the other 3 missionaries to find the place where the New Jerusalem would be located. That effort was aborted when the Federal Indian Agents threatened to arrest them if they didn’t go back across the line separating the whites and Indians from each other. That line was at Independence, Missouri. So Independence was as close as they could get at the time. By default Independence became the location for the New Jerusalem.

It has remained the location in popular understanding ever since then. Subsequent revelations seem to confirm that as the site.

When Joseph Smith fled Nauvoo on June 22, 1844, and crossed the Mississippi headed west, he explained his purpose was based on revelation. “The Lord warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life,” according to his brother Hyrum. (DHC Vol. 6, p. 547.) It was there he hoped to locate the Book of Mormon remnant who have the prophetic responsibility to build the New Jerusalem. It will not be built without their involvement.

If the first missionary assignment for this purpose (finding the location for the New Jerusalem to be built before the Lord’s return) was directed to the distant west, beyond Missouri, and Joseph’s ambition was westward toward the Rocky Mountains, there is reason to suspect that our presumption that the New Jerusalem will be in Independence Missouri is somewhat misplaced. I am persuaded it will not be there until after the Lord’s return. There will be a location elsewhere, in the Rocky Mountains, where the preliminary gathering to a Holy City to be built will occur before the Lord’s return. Then, following His return, activities will also involve Jackson County.

What precedes His return may be diminutive, but that didn’t matter in the case of Noah, so it won’t matter in the coming days like the time of Noah. It will be interesting to see how the Lord fulfills His prophecies, promises and warnings, because He does tend to fulfill the prophecies He speaks. Oftentimes not in the way we imagine. Then we will understand the saying “the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.” (D&C 133: 31.) The initial gathering before the Lord’s return will be in the Rocky Mountains.

This gathering will require a kind of social order we are unprepared to live. We cannot be “one” in the sense required for Zion in our present social, political, economic and educational systems. It requires a kind of inter-dependence and cooperation we find repulsive. Even those in the commune on Isaac Morely’s farm, after converting to Mormonism, couldn’t live the united order and have all things in common. It was this experience, prior to conversion, that led to the revelations about the united order.  It fell apart. We’ve never had a successful long-term experience trying to live withint that kind of system.

Faithful History

Is “faithful history” required to be accurate? Is it better if there is an effort to improve the facts by adding details drawn from the writer’s imagination? Is it our responsibility to be faithful to the truth or to promote faith? Because a “faithful history” could be either of those.

As an example, the sacrifices of those who built the Kirtland Temple were a living testimony of their conversion to the restored Gospel. They literally suffered to build the Temple. They endured poverty to make it possible for the building to be completed. Some went without food, because they were not always paid for their labors. Their heroism is beyond question.

For some reason, however, we aren’t willing to retell their great sacrifices without fanciful embellishment. We insist on improving the story by adding a fake overlay about the women donating their best china to be ground up and put into the exterior plaster. LDS Church History researcher, employed by the Church History Department, Mark Staker researched the topic and found the story of the women donating china originated in the 1930’s. The story was such good fodder for “faith promotion” that it soon found its way into official versions of Kirtland history.

There was china ground up into the exterior plaster, but it came from a community dump where such things were discarded. Kirtland, like all other communities, had a broken china dump from which the children retrieved scraps to use in the building process.

When the truth of the sacrifices are then overlain with a fictional story about the best china sacrifices/donations, we run the risk of having our members find out about the exaggeration later. Then upon learning this “faithful history” is nothing more than “faith promoting fiction” we risk having them disbelieve everything about the church’s history. What is true and what is exaggeration? What is left of the stories we retell? If we’ll add this fake account of the sacrifices, does that mean there really weren’t sacrifices made?

We invite the crisis of faith when we turn from “faithful retelling” and offer “faith promoting fiction” as our Sunday School fare. We could get away with that once. We can’t now.

Similarly, a recently converted Willard Richards visited Kirtland after the Temple had been built. He observed this about the city: “Sectarians build their own houses first, then, if ever, a house for their Gods. The Latter Day Saints first build the Lord a house & now he is giving them an opportunity to build their own dwellings.” (Willard Richards letter to his sister Jan. 30, 1837.) This was the example in Kirtland. It was not repeated in Nauvoo, where the brick mansions we have restored today bear testimony to the priority change from Kirtland to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo the brick mansions were all built and completed before the Temple was completed. Indeed, there were no more mansions being built (because the city was then abandoned) while the Temple was being completed. The Nauvoo Temple attic was used from November 1845-February 1846 by Brigham Young and the Twelve to perform ordinances in the incomplete Temple. The first wave of refugees left in February, the day following the last endowment rites performed in the unfinished structure. The Temple was not considered complete enough to dedicate until April of 1846, but even then was not finished. A year following the dedication a Palmyra newspaper editor visited the building in 1847 and remarked on its incomplete condition. He speculated about how grand it might have been had it ever been completed.

We have a tendency to “know” what we want to have other people believe or conclude. Then we adapt our story to support our conclusion. That is not history. It is an approach that invites us to tell faith promoting but unfaithful history. We ought to confine ourselves to a faithful retelling. No matter how poorly that reflects on our history, it reflects credit upon us.

Interview By My Wife

My wife looks at links to the blog, and also searches other sites to review discussions. As a result, she has posed the following questions and asked I answer them:

1. Why do you refer to the church presidents as “modern popes” in your new book?
A: That is not my term, but a term borrowed from President J. Reuben Clark, a respected counselor in the First Presidency. I use it because he used it. I assume he meant no disrespect. I certainly did not.

2. Why did you refer to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as “the fifteen men” on your blog?
A: That is not my term, but a term used by Church Historian Marlin Jensen, a respected member of the Seventy. I use it because he used it. I assume he meant no disrespect. I certainly did not.

3. Why do you refer people to your books in answers you give in the Mormon Stories interview? Are you trying to market a product?
A: The interview actually started and stopped with my first answer. When John Dehlin heard me answer his first question, he stopped the interview and told me I had to let him control the flow and keep the answers short. He explained that long answers would make for a poor interview and we could not get it done, and I needed to trust him. So we started over again and what is on the podcast is the “take two” version involving short answers. Questions that ask about a topic I’ve written 180,000 words to carefully explain cannot be done in a brief oral response. Therefore, I attempted to be clear by referring to what I’ve written rather than leaving a listener with the impression all I had to say was what was included in a brief oral response. I couldn’t care less if someone actually reads my books. I provide them as an explanation of what I believe and why, but it requires someone to take the trouble to find them, buy them and read them. That is a barrier I assume few will overcome, but those who do will have the full answer rather than a sound-bite response. Since my livelihood is practicing law, if I were attempting to promote something of economic value to me it would need to be my law practice. I do not do that. Apart from giving free copies to friends, there are very few members of my own ward who even know I’ve written a book. In my stake, there can’t be more than a handful. I’ve never spoken of them while serving in any capacity in the church. But it is actually amusing to think a niche market like Mormon doctrine and history is a money-making audience to begin with. When you add to that the fact nothing I write is advertised, and we’ve declined two approaches from Deseret Book to have them carry copies, it becomes even less of a money-making venture. The books are not for everyone. They are difficult to obtain and not widely distributed because I know they are not meant for everyone. I mention them on my blog, but that is because if someone is interested in reading the blog they should have become acquainted with what I’ve written first. That is purely voluntary. I don’t want everyone reading what I write. 

4. Why do you think it appropriate to call Joseph Smith “boneheaded” in your Mormon Stories interview?
A: Joseph called himself foolish. The Lord rebuked him for his carnal desires, boasting and fearing man more than God. These are both Joseph’s (JS-H 1: 28) and the Lord’s (D&C 3: 4-7) characterizations of him. Therefore, I mean no disrespect, but believe the term is a modern descriptor which reflects what both Joseph himself and the Lord have stated about him. It does not lessen him in my estimation.

5. Do you believe the church leaders today are comparable to the Jewish leaders at the time of Christ, specifically do you compare Thomas S. Monson to Caiphus?
A: No. I did not do that in the interview and do not believe that is true. I used the reference Christ made to supporting the clearly wicked leaders of His day to illustrate how great a deference is owed. If those  wicked men were deserving respect, then good men trying hard to perform a difficult job deserve all the more respect and deference. In fact, if you listen carefully to the words used you will find that comparison was not made in the interview, but instead the contrast was made.

6. Do you lead a following?
A: Not as far as I am aware. I tell all who either listen to what I say or read what I write not to follow me. All should remain active and faithful as Latter-day Saints. The church leaders alone have the right to preside over the church’s affairs. I believe we all have a duty arising from baptism to mourn with those who mourn, and to serve one another, which is best done inside the church.

7. Have you said the Correlation movement has led the church into apostasy?
A: No. I only quote President David O. McKay’s statement that he believed it would have that result. Everyone is free to decide for themselves the results of the Correlation process.

8. You must have extremely good balance in order to walk the razor’s edge: pride; membership; priestcraft; discipleship.  How do you do it?  What lessons have been afforded you, allowing you to remain objective?
A: I’m not sure I understand the question, but I disagree with the premise. I fail in every respect. I suffer for my failings. I will continue to suffer for many things because the failings continue. I do not believe it is possible to be perfect and mortal, but I do believe a mortal can have a perfect intent. God appears to weigh our intent far more than our actions. He knows the desire of the heart motivating the conduct, and can look beyond the errors and foolishness displayed to the underlying desire to serve and honor Him. Christ repeatedly said this was the case. The rich Pharisee was contrasted to the widow. He certainly gave more. She clearly gave much less. But her heart willed to give all. His did not. Her sacrifice was accepted, his pride was rejected. This is how God views us all. He is not handicapped as we are.

9. Do you think the temple keys are lost?
A: Church presidents have frequently said the keys to perform plural marriages have been taken from the earth. The 1990 changes to the endowment removed some of what had previously been regarded as keys to salvation. However, anti-Mormon crusaders Jerald and Sandra Tanner have preserved them and make them available on the Internet. So, if they are in fact keys, and if they need to be known, then they have not been lost but merely removed from the temple and put onto the Tanner’s website. If someone believes they need them, they can still be had and cannot be said to have been lost. Beyond that, I leave it to each person to decide how important such things are to their relationship with God. I’m of the view that the temple rites are not the real thing, but are instruction and an invitation to receive the real thing.

10. Why do you believe it appropriate to speak about something so sacred as an appearance to you by the Lord ?
A: Anyone who has had the Lord appear to them should testify as a witness to that fact. That is paramount. It is important for witnesses to declare He lives. That they have seen Him. That His life did not end on a Roman cross in Judea. That He rose from the grave and all of us have hope through Him for our own rescue from death. That is critical. What is not appropriate for disclosure are details that go beyond what the Lord has chosen to make public already through the scriptures or ordinances. He controls that. Though He may reveal much to a person, and place them under a different standard than what is given openly to mankind, that is His decision. Until He commands, the line is drawn between witnessing He lives– which is required, and disclosing what He alone reserves for Himself to reveal– which is forbidden. I have said and I do believe our Lord has a continuing ministry. But that is His, not mine. Like any Latter-day Saint with a testimony of the Lord, I testify to help my fellow Saint increase in faith in Jesus Christ. I have an obligation to do so. We all do.

11. 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.

12. Have you singled out President Boyd K. Packer for criticism?
A: No. In fact he is the single most often quoted living authority in my writings. I have a great regard for him and have never criticized him, but have often defended or quoted from him. His “Candle of the Lord” sermon was a milestone talk. When Pres. Monson and Pres. Packer die, that will mark the first time there will be no apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve who were there when I joined the church. He represents a symbolic transition point for me, and I will very much mourn his passing which I hope is many years from now.

13. Why do you criticize the church if you are a faithful member?
A: I do not believe I criticize the church. I believe I respond to criticism by providing an explanation of the issues which are alive and driving people away from activity or membership. If everything I had written disappeared this instant, that would not stop the issues from being discussed. The real critics are studying ways to undermine faith and developing new arguments against the church all the time. They do not need to lie about the church to undermine faith. They only need to tell truths which we have hidden. The best thing we can do is to tell the truth first, and do it from the vantage point of faith. If we still believe, and we know about the problems, then we are best situated to disclose and address them. Being angry with a faithful member for being honest is a futile act. Hiding from the truth is equally futile. The truth is going to be told. Better us than the antagonists to tell it.

14.  Do you admit some of Joseph Smith’s sexual activities were sinful or immoral?
A: That is not as easy a question as it may appear. You would need to know about the ancient kingship, and the king’s duties to begin to answer. That is a topic so foreign to current culture that I’m not even going to undertake an answer. Under American social, cultural and religious mores of the 1800’s Joseph Smith was immoral. Under the traditional Christian values of both his and our day, he was immoral. Under an ancient form of kingship, that is a great deal less clear. So the conclusion on the question must ultimately await several things: First, a determination if Joseph Smith was being placed in a very ancient form of conduct by the commandment of God. I happen to believe he was. But that is not a topic that can be answered in passing. Second, was Joseph Smith’s conduct justified under that ancient standard? Again, that depends on Joseph’s role and God’s command. Third, does this have anything to do with current practices? Clearly it does not. We’ve long since lost track of those things and perhaps we are the better for it. When Joseph was crowned a “King and Priest” (Melek and Zadok) he was confirming a peculiar and ancient tradition. The tradition does not belong inside a democratic republic like the United States, and the rules governing the conduct of such a person are completely foreign and quite distasteful to modern sensibilities. So we are left with a standard which would condemn him, and the possibility of another standard which would justify him. One of the requisites of this ancient office required the death of the king. Not merely in ritual, though later imitators would substitute a surrogate to kill in the renewal of kingship. The original required the actual sacrifice of the king himself. Joseph did that, as well. In that sense he was perhaps an authentic return of the ancient order at more than one level. As one learned friend of mine has characterized Joseph, “he was a Divine King and a Divine Victim.” There is only one of those at a time. And his death by sacrifice is required as one of the incidents of the ancient office. But those ideas hardly belong to our day. Just alluding to it will confuse most people. There are probably only a handful of people who could speak intelligently about the topic. Yet, if you know what you’re seeing, it is all over in the Old Testament. So let me reduce it to this: Based on our standards and based on social and religious standards in his day, Joseph Smith was sinful and immoral. Whether God viewed him as such is a different question. That would need to be taken up with Him rather than me. I would hesitate to reach a conclusion on that question, however, unless you know a great deal more than most people know today, and even then not before receiving the Lord’s judgment on the question. 

15. Why do you say the restoration through Joseph Smith was intended to being back something more ancient than the New Testament Church?
A: Because that is what Christ taught. He did not say we would return to conditions like His day. He said when He returned the conditions would be like the days of Noah. Noah’s day is to be mirrored in ours. That day is pre-New Testament. I think Christ knew what He was talking about. Even the restoration itself is an imitation of the more ancient family of Abraham. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the three great patriarchs. The Twelve Sons of Israel are the next tier of patriarchs. There were seventy descendants of Israel who went into Egypt (Exo. 1: 5). The church structure imitates the patriarchal family. We will be going back there before the Lord’s return. You don’t live as “one” when you are inside a hierarchy. You live as “one” when you are a family having all things in common. The family was the “church” in the day of Noah. That is where it is headed. We’ve just temporarily frozen the process. It will resume again.

16. Why do you ignore the church’s claim that the Nauvoo Temple was completed and the fullness was retained by the church?
A: I don’t ignore the claim. I explain it. It is called “the traditional narrative” and is set out in my last book. The church’s position is essentially that completing the baptismal font is all that was required, and Joseph conveyed the fullness above his red brick store. That position leaves many questions unanswered: Why did the Lord state the fullness could only come in the temple if the red brick store was sufficient? Is it correct to conflate baptism for the dead with fullness? Why did Brigham Young, upon his return to Nauvoo in August, abruptly change his mind and teach that completing the temple was essential? What about the ultimate failure to finish the structure? Did it matter that in 1847 the structure was not complete, even though it had been “regarded as sufficiently complete” to be dedicated? What about the revealed warnings? Were the saints driven out of Nauvoo, or planted and protected there? Did that matter? Were the saints put through judgments and buffetings rather than being protected and blessed? Did that matter? What reason is there for the Lord to state He had taken the fullness away in 1841? Does the church’s traditional narrative answer all the questions, or start from the conclusion and reason backward? If you begin with the conclusion that it was successful, and then string together whatever is needed to justify the conclusion, is that a faithful retelling of events? These and many other questions deserve at least careful consideration. I set out the church’s position or the traditional narrative, then give some careful consideration to the obvious questions which remain worth asking and grappling to resolve. If the traditional narrative is correct, then much of the language in Section 124 is a “bluff” by the Lord, apparently only to motivate the saints to engage in the drudgery of a public works building. But He apparently did not really intend to discipline them, drive them out of Nauvoo, put them through suffering and buffeting, and stir them up to repentance. Therefore, the events in Nauvoo belong inside a narrative of success, blessing, glory and vindication by the faithfulness of those involved. Their bickering, ambition, and even Brigham Young’s condemnation of the those receiving their endowments as being “thieves” because they stole the temple garments intended to be used by others reflects only credit on these faithful saints. It is puzzling to me, but perhaps it is not to others. If the traditional narrative answers all the questions of the faithful, active saints today, it does not do so for other reasonably-minded people. I’m trying to have it make sense to them. So, in a way, those who only want to consider the traditional narrative really don’t need to read the book or to consider the difficult questions I raise. But for this question, I maintain I have not ignored the traditional narrative, but have responded to it with a reasonable discussion told in an objective way. I hoped it would be matter-of-fact and dispassionate. It was not written to be any kind of “hit piece” but instead a rational discussion of reasonable historic events holding some importance for those who believe, as I do, in the Lord’s involvement in the history of the Latter-day Saints.

17. Do you love your wife?
A: Beyond all reason and forevermore. Apart from the Lord, there is no friend or other companion whose company I long to retain for all eternity than hers.

A Contrast:

Two dialogues:

Jehovah: Abraham, take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and offer him as a sacrifice unto me.
Abraham: Thy will be done.

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Jehovah: Pharisaint, take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and offer him as a sacrifice unto me.
Pharisaint: I don’t feel good about that. That is neither tender nor merciful. I doubt God would ever ask such a thing.
Lucifer: Take thy son and anoint him, call him blessed, and keep him in thy care.
Pharisaint: Now that is tender!
Lucifer: Sacrifice is not needed, for I intend to save all mankind so that not one soul will be lost. The odds are you shall be exalted.
Pharisaint: Now that is merciful!
Lucifer: Yes, I am the god of this world, worship me and there will be nothing but reward to follow.
Pharisaint: Who was that other one asking for sacrifice?
Lucifer: He has been my opponent from the beginning. He has opposed my ever mercy, my ever tenderness, and he pretends to displace me as the god of this world.
Pharisaint: How can such a being, demanding cruel effort, who does not offer tender mercies as you do, ever hope to be worshiped?
Lucifer: He is not. There are some who pretend to do so, but there are none among my chosen, holy Pharisaints who do.