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Surfing for Gossip

I don’t read other blogs or follow what’s happening in the blogosphere. But my wife, who maintains this site for me, does. She has the ability to track stuff all around the ‘net, and also has traffic information given her through the site itself. And from time to time she updates me on what she thinks I would be interested in learning about the various gossip mongers who feel free to discuss me.

I do not think I’m worth a minute of anyone’s time as a topic to discuss. I really do not matter one bit. Some of the things I’ve written are quite important. Those ideas are worth time, even a good deal of time, spent in careful contemplation. Some things I’ve been privileged to write are important enough that a careful soul will make it a matter of prayer, as well. But me? That’s just a waste of time. There’s nothing about a  man worth anyone’s time as a topic of gossip, speculation or discussion.

Apparently some number of folks have come to this blog for a week or so to find what I’ve said about President Boyd K. Packer.  He’s someone I’ve quoted more frequently than perhaps any other living church leader. I have a great deal of regard, respect, even admiration for him. Some of the talks he has given have been quite profound and worth reading by everyone. I’ve also lamented the conflict that developed between him and Paul Toscano. I wish that whole episode had not happened. But, as I’ve said before, I put the blame on Paul, not on President Packer, for provoking the conflict. I wish Paul were still a member of the church.  We are the poorer for his absence.

I’m not sure why anyone would be interested in comments I’ve made on President Packer, but mentioning him again here will at least give this in answer to a search.

I’ve been hoping to drive the Alpine Loop when the colors change. They’re changing now. Hope I can find time to do that.

General Conference is coming soon. I always go to the Marriott Center at BYU for Priesthood. It’s a tradition. I’m looking forward to doing so again in a week or so. I think General Conference Priesthood should be done in a large group. Apart from the Conference Center itself, I think the BYU Marriott Center may be the largest assembly in the world.  At least I think they’ve mentioned that before. Perhaps now the MTC has more.

For Sunday’s sessions I like to take a drive with my family and listen in the car. Seems more like an “event” when we do that.And I think the kids like doing that. Oftentimes we’ll drive by the Conference Center to see the anti-Mormon stuff. It’s always entertaining to see folks spending their time blasting our religion under the pretext of establishing theirs. Not sure how that’s supposed to work. But nevertheless someone thinks that is worth their effort. Maybe go the Alpine Loop on Sunday.

My wife tells me some people are offended by others using the word “crap”– when she said so I inquired if “bovine feces” would be a better substitute. She didn’t know.

Saw Stewie and Brian step in and try to rescue Christmas last night. It turned into a home invasion. I laughed so hard I nearly hurt myself. I laugh at the idiocy on the TV. My wife laughs at me. So we both get entertained.

I’m reading a book by a Catholic Theologian who teaches at a Protestant Theological Seminary in New York. Interesting book. When I finish I think I’ll put some of his stuff on the blog. His focus is the post-Apostolic era from about 70 a.d. to 125 a.d. It’s an interesting moment of rapid change. I disagree with some of his retelling, and I reject his Catholic lens, but nevertheless he has some important things to say.

Well, to return to what started this ramble, watch your gossip. My wife may be watching you.

Joseph Smith’s Limited Plural Marriage Sealings

Yesterday, while at a college baseball game, I got an inquiry from David C. asking the following:

A few people have contacted me and told me of “apparent errors” in your book… primarily that Joseph Smith performed a lot more plural marriages.  
This in part of an email I received from a friend:
Under the plural marriage section of Denvers book, I remember that he mentions that only 1 other plural marriage was performed for another man besides Joseph before his death… making his case that not many others lived it. When I came across that a couple nights ago, I was pretty sure there were more… Brigham, Heber, Will Clayton, etc/ I came across 2 different books tonight, one “The Refiner’s Fire” by JL Brooke – said that there were over 20 different men who also participated before Joseph’s death. The other: The Persistence of Polygamy by Bringhurst and Craig Foster (Pres of FAIR) states on pg 126, quoting from Brian C Hales’ extensive research and soon to come book, that 34 plural marriages were done for Joseph, and 29 for other men before Joseph’s death. These they called sealing ceremonies. Many of these brethren that later lived PM in Joseph’s time were also performing PM sealings before they lived the law themselves -p. 128.

The reference this inquiry makes to the “apparent error” in my book (Passing the Heavenly Gift) can be found on the bottom of page 163 and top of page 164 and includes footnote 210. What I wrote on those pages is as follows:

“Of the 23 marriages sealed by Joseph prior to his death, other than his own, only one involved a plural wife. If eternal wives was necessary for exaltation, as was taught in the second phase, proof of that cannot be established through Joseph’s actions.” This is accompanied by a footnote which gives all the names and cites to Lisle G. Brown’s work The Holy Order in Nauvoo, appendix 1. You can find The Holy Order in Nauvoo online, if you look for it. There you can read the names, or you can look at footnote 210 in my book where they are also set out.

The question raised in the email is confusing two issues. The specific topic being discussed in my book involves the narrow issue of the connection between exaltation and plural wives. I explain that eternal marriage is necessary, but plural wives is not. I distinguish between Section 132 (and other statements) during Joseph’s lifetime and what became an absolute requirement for exaltation during the phase of Mormonism immediately following his death.

Another recent book contains the same list as the Lisle G. Brown article cited above. It is Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera’s book Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845. The list can be found in that book on pp. xxxiv-xxxv.  

To put the two different issues into contrast, you need to focus on the topic I am discussing, namely the relationship between requirements for exaltation and plural wives. Joseph’s ultimate indication of what was required for exaltation is not found in civil unions, or even church marriages he performed. It is found in the final ordinances, including the second anointing, in which exaltation was assured and a person was sealed up to eternal life. That final step is found in Joseph’s organized Quorum of the Anointed, as it was then called.

Joseph Smith performed civil marriages. Joseph performed religious marriages. But the link between exaltation, eternal life, sealing up to a kingdom as an eternal inheritance, is to be found unconditionally in the final order he organized known as the Quorum of the Anointed. My book is focused only on that step.

Joseph was able and did perform civil marriages. Joseph also performed other forms of religious marriages. However, on the subject of sealing an eternal union, with the promise of eternal life, that kind of union represents something different. In that form of union we find what Joseph understood would be a marital union that would include exaltation.

In the context of that form of union which is associated by Joseph with exaltation itself, there was, apart from his own, only one other plural marriage. Therefore, if plural wives was REQUIRED for exaltation, as taught subsequently by Brigham Young, the proof for that cannot be based upon Joseph Smith’s actions.

In the second book cited above (Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845), they observe this about the final Quorum of Anointed which represent heirs of exaltation in Joseph’s practices, “Still, many polygamists were not admitted into the quorum during Joseph’s lifetime. Of the twenty-eight men who are presumed to have entered plural marriage during Joseph’s lifetime, sixteen (57 percent) joined the quorum prior to Joseph’s death; twelve (43 percent) did not.  Acceptance of plural marriage did not automatically assure admission into the quorum. (See Table 2.)” (Id. p. xxiii; the referenced Table is the same list as I was referring to in footnote 210 on page 163 of Passing the Heavenly Gift.

Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845 also, referring to those who were polygamists and included in the Quorum before Joseph’s death, observes: “No plural wife received the ordinance prior to Joseph’s death. ‘[D]uring the lifetime of Joseph Smith,’ Quinn concluded, ‘polygamy was only an appendage ‘to the highest order of the priesthood’ [the second anointing] established on 28 September 1843′” (Id. pp. xxxv-xxxvi, citing to Quinn, Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles, p. 88.)

When I write, I try to be very specific. When speaking about a limited topic (i.e., the requirements for exaltation established by the actions taken by Joseph Smith), I am not referring to other topics. Nor did I take the added step of suggesting that the unsealed plural wives might be evidence of concubinage, or marital relationships which were not intended to continue after this life. That subject isn’t even raised in my book. So the better approach would be that the topic I am discussing be read narrowly, and the context I am addressing be carefully considered, before assuming there are “apparent errors.”

People assume deep topics and carefully composed language can be read with the same superficiality as reading a text message. I do not write that way. In fact, someone who has hastened through the book probably won’t even understand it. The careful reader will find a good deal more in everything I’ve written than will the casual reader. It took careful, solemn, ponderous thoughts to learn what I’ve learned.  Reading it in casual haste will never yield to such a reader what can be found.

As I also mention in the latest book, everything I’ve written is focused only on one topic. There has only been one theme to it all.  Therefore if someone is interested in being redeemed from the fall, they will find there is a description of the path back in these commonly-themed books. Whether it involves discussion of The Book of Mormon, my testimony of Christ, or church history, it is all centered in redemption of the reader from the fall.

” . . . speak unto us smooth things . . .”

There is a false notion that is so invidious it precludes us from emerging from our current widespread spiritual slump. The false notion is that anything from God will invariably be “lovely” or “of good report” as implied by the 13th Article of Faith. This false mantra however, is so wrong it alone empowers the darkness to grow all around us.
 
If you only need to listen to the voices of praise, and adulation which speak to you that “all is well in Zion” then you can never recognize an authentic call from the Lord to repent. Instead, like Laman and Lemuel, you will erroneously think any message that condemns your misbehavior is “sharp” or “angry” (2 Nephi 1: 26.) Yet Nephi’s only intention was to seek “the eternal welfare” of Laman and Lemuel. (2 Nephi 1: 25.)
 
When we will only listen to vanity and praise, we are not much different than those who only wanted “smooth things” anciently. (Isa. 30: 10.) 
 
The cure for some illness requires a knife to be used first before healing can begin. The purpose is not to injure, but only to heal.

A lesson to the priests

I was asked by someone who also teaches priests about the lesson to the priests on sex I mentioned on this blog. Here is a brief summary of what was covered:

When Adam was alone it was “not good” in God’s view. (Gen. 2: 18)

The story of Eve’s creation is allegorical, not actual. The allegory says she was made “from a rib” taken “from Adam’s side.” (Gen. 2: 21-23)  This is not intended as an actual explanation of her creation, but instead as a description of the way she is to be regarded. Part of him. Taken from his side, making her his intimately connected associate in whom he should recognize companionship runs within himself. Her presence is intended to satisfy what was before “not good” about Adam’s condition. She is literally not only a part of him, but also completes him. This completion is the “image of God” because God is both a Father and a Mother. (Gen. 1: 27.) Among mankind, when you see the “image of God” you will always see a couple who are as one. (1 Cor. 11: 11.)  [As an aside, I would add this is why there were two angels upon the Mercy Seat. Ex. 25: 22. He would not permit them to behold His image without seeing what is also symbolized in Adam and Eve.]

The purpose of the creation of the two was that they may “become one” or unified. (Gen. 2: 24)

The first commandment given after the two are joined by God was to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1: 27-28).

When they were expelled from the Garden, Adam “knew his wife” which is a euphemism. The word “know” or “knew” is a reference made throughout the Old and New Testaments to sexual intercourse. As a consequence of this Eve became pregnant. (Gen. 4: 1)

This is fulfilling the commandment to “be fruitful,” and is the way intended for new human life to be brought into the world. When joined by God (temple marriage) and then used to produce a family, the union of the man and woman is pleasing to God. It is order. It is harmony. It produces life, peace and “fulfills the measure of creation” which “brings joy.” Unfortunately, when it is employed in other ways, it produces pain, misery and sometimes catastrophic results.

Keeping the power of procreation inside the bounds which produce joy was included in the 10 commandments. (Ex. 20: 14, 17)

David was a man after God’s own heart. As a youth, he had such faith to follow God that although still a lad he was able, with God’s help, to slay Goliath. (1 Sam. 17: 34-37; 45-46.) He was so favored by God, that God made him His son, established his throne, and promised him He would watch over him. (2 Sam. 7: 14-16)

But David committed adultery. (2 Sam. 11: 2-5) To conceal the sin, he committed murder. (2 Sam 11: 14-15) As a result of these sins, he fell from his exaltation. (D&C 132: 39) The result was that a man “after the Lord’s own heart” lost everything because the power of procreation was not used in the way to produce joy, but instead used to gratify lust.

When the solution to an unwanted pregnancy is abortion, then the person has elected, like David, to do something akin to murder. This is forbidden. (D&C 59: 6)

Adultery and lust leading to adultery deprive us of the Spirit. (D&C 42: 22-24)

The purpose of sexual relations is to have joy. To bring you children. To put those children into a setting where they are loved by both a father and a mother. When it is used in any other way, it produces misery. Almost all crime in the United States is related directly or indirectly to violating this commandment. Even what seems to be unrelated crime often occurs because the person involved was not raised in a home environment where they had a father and mother.

It is a right of every child to come into a family where they have the benefit of the family as established by God. The father and mother are literally symbols of God. They are in His image and likeness. When the image is imprinted upon the child in their early years and innocence, they develop a stability and foundation that is their right as an inheritance from God. Conforming to God’s pattern is intended as a gift from Him to every child.

I then took a few moments to speak about individual fathers of the respective young men, including one whose father has passed away. The deceased father was a great man, whose influence is still felt by his son. I expressed my genuine affection for his father, who, although now no longer among us, left a great influence on others in addition to his son. I challenged all of the young priests to become fathers who will bring their children into an environment where they will look with gratitude and affection upon them as fathers.

A fair and full hearing

The new book has hardly become available to anyone. However, I did receive some feedback from a friend who has not attended church for many years. He was one of the more conscientious saints. He learned and studied and reflected for several decades as an active member. He served in several bishoprics, high priest group leaderships and as a gospel doctrine teacher. His study led him to a number of unfavorable conclusions about the church and its history. He read the new book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, and called to tell me he had returned to sacrament meeting a week ago, and for the first time in nearly a decade took the Sacrament.

I’ve already been called “apostate,” as well as “on the road to apostasy” from some who have not read the book and have no intention to do so. I suppose there will be a great deal of that. But it is a small thing. The truth is that this book, as all I’ve written, testifies to the truth as I understand it. It has already done some good in one reader’s life. If the only price to be paid for reclaiming another’s faith is to endure some evil speaking about myself, it is truly only a small thing.

Another person’s ignorance can never define your own faith. Some people do not study our faith, but claim to practice it. If Mormonism truly is of God (as I believe), then it is important enough to warrant the closest of study. When any matter is studied with great care, issues will surface. Quandaries will arise. There will be gaps, problems and failings. Human weaknesses will be exposed. Some things will get quite messy.
The underlying truth, however, deserves a fair and full hearing. Study of Mormonism which goes only far enough to discover the quandaries has not proceeded far enough. It should search into it deeply enough, prayerfully enough, and searchingly enough to find the answers.
When one person has sought deeply and another has not, there is a gap between the understanding of the two which makes a common understanding problematic. The one in possession of less is really not in a position to correctly judge the one in possession of more. Oddly, however, the one who has less is altogether more likely to judge the one with more, while the one with more is equipped to look more kindly upon the other. After all, the one with more has struggled from the lesser position.
I understand the criticism I’ve received. I expected it. No one needs to defend me. No one needs to argue the point, get angry or deal unkindly with people who have not yet studied enough to form an appropriate conclusion. Only a fool judges a matter before they hear it. Such souls warrant our kindly efforts to persuade, not our censure or condemnation. We all carry foolishness, learning year by year, struggling to overcome the many things we’ve neglected in our study, prayers and contemplation. God does not grade on a curve. Therefore, when you begin to think you’ve outshone your fellow man, you should reflect again on Moses’ reaction to seeing the Man of Holiness: “Now for this cause I know man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1: 10.)  None of us have anything to boast of, even if you know more than your fellow man.  We all know less than He who is “more intelligent than them all.” (Abr. 3: 19.)

Whenever I contemplate the gulf between He who is Holiness and myself, and the great charity required from Him to condescend for me, I can hardly bear the thought of feeling triumph because of the ignorance of my fellow saints. How unkind. How foolish. How uncharitable. More than that, how very unlike the Lord whom we all claim to serve.

I teach the Priests in my Ward. I love the calling and love their openness, their eagerness and desire to learn. The last lesson I taught was about sex, based in the scriptures, and candidly covered the topic in a way which I hoped would both inform and edify. I was genuinely thanked by these 16 to 18 year old young men afterwards. I hope their lives will be better for the lesson.
So, also, I hope any who read Passing the Heavenly Gift will find their lives better for having read it. If you find yourself upset by it, I’d hope you would realize at least one person has returned to church after many years of absence because it restored in him a desire to fellowship with the saints, and again partake of the Sacrament. That one soul’s renewal was to me, worth any petty or foolish reactions that may now come from others.

Passing the Heavenly Gift

The new book, titled Passing the Heavenly Gift, is now available on Amazon.com.
I have explained previously that the book may not be for everyone. If you elect to read it, you should read it all. Reading the entire book is necessary so that you will understand the full meaning of the material. Foundational things are discussed that will be revisited later to show how they fit into a larger picture – then revisited again to complete the construction of the matter from beginning to end. If you do not complete the whole book, you will not be able to evaluate the matter.
I do not expect many will enjoy the book. Although I believe anyone who reads it will be benefited by its contents. The object is to be faith promoting. Not in the sense that it will create false or naive hope, but instead it will inform you of the responsibilities resting upon anyone who seeks to know Christ. The result of the Gospel has always been intended to bring us joy. I think this book offers a greater opportunity for you to come to find joy in this life than the errors which merely use flattery or praise to distract you from the truth.
For any who elect to read it, I would hope if you choose to recommend it to others you will permit them to discover the contents of the book for themselves. Editorial summaries or statements taken out of context in this book will be more misleading than they would be with any other book I’ve written. 

New Book

I will have a new book out soon and want to clarify a few things in advance of its release. 
First, this is not a book for everyone. Some people have become aware of problems in church history. They have struggled with what they’ve learned. As a result there have been crises of faith among some of the brightest and most inquisitive among us. This is a tragic loss. The new book is written to help those who are already aware of problems to come to grips with the issues and see how it all still makes sense. There are those who are perfectly content with the oftentimes fanciful accounts of our history which gloss over problems and ignore contradictions. For such people reading the new book will be startling and perhaps a faith challenging experience. The book will perhaps upset them more than reassure them. I do not want to do that for any Latter-day Saint. I would hope they would decide to pass on reading the book and continue to be content with whatever assumptions please them about our past.

Second, I am very concerned that many of the most important points of the book will be taken completely out of context and shared by overeager readers who want to show off their new understanding. That can be destructive. The book is prepared carefully, with precepts constructed, historic proof gathered, explanations crafted with care and an overall harmony between parts. Taking some of the information out of context and blurting it out as an isolated event, quote or idea will not help anyone. The unkind person doing so may get to show off, but they tear down rather than build up. None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. (TPJS p. 137.)  

The book will not read like the traditional accounts of what has happened. The point of departure for the book is the scriptures. No historian’s theme is used to substitute a retelling of events. Instead the book relies on the scriptures, primarily the Book of Mormon, as the basis from which to construct the events of our dispensation. So far as I know, this is the only time our history has been told with an eye on what the scriptures say about us instead of our own vanity and pride. Therefore, it is quite different than what you’ve been reading about us in other accounts.

No Man Will Save You

There isn’t going to be any man or group of men who save you. There is literally a single way, and a single source. That is Christ. (Mosiah 3:17.) Whether you are able to receive salvation or not is entirely dependent on how you respond to Him, not to other people. (2 Ne. 9: 41.)
There are no magic ordinances that will reconcile you to Him. (2 Ne. 25: 23.) Ordinances may be mandatory, but they do not save. They are evidence we are willing to submit to Him (2 Ne. 31: 5), but they are not the full scope of submission required for salvation. (Luke 6: 46.)
It has never been enough to attend meetings, perform outward ordinances and be part of a group that meets to discuss the scriptures from time to time. Every one must individually accept responsibility for coming to Christ and doing what He asks. (Luke 6: 45-49.)
The relentless message of the Book of Mormon is that we must all repent. We are not secure in our standing before God until we repent, come down in the depths of humility and become accepted by Him. When He ministers to us, we can know our standing before Him. Until then, we cannot know. (JS-H: 1: 29.)
There is no “boss” who will bring you along to salvation.
There are no comforting words you need to hear that will make you secure in your sins. (2 Ne. 28: 21.)
There is no hopeful message that needs to be shared about how everyone will probably be saved at the last day. (2 Ne. 28: 22.)
You don’t need me, nor any other man. You need to reconcile yourself to Christ. Anyone who wants to place themselves between you and the Lord will, if you let them, bring you and them to hell.

We are the Gentiles

I had an interesting question asked about the “remnant” I thought worth addressing here.
There should be no confusion about the identity of the “remnant” spoken of in the Book of Mormon. It refers to the descendants of Lehi (at times further divided into those descended from Nephi, Jacob and Joseph– all Lehi’s sons). The European stock who migrated to North America and dispossessed the indigenous people are invariably referred to as “gentiles” in the Book of Mormon. Throughout it is the case that the European descendants are “gentiles” and never anything else.
You can start in 1st Nephi and go through the end. The “gentiles” are us– the Latter-day Saints (to the extent we are primarily European-descended and not Native American).
Joseph Smith received the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple by revelation. In the prayer he refers to the church as being “identified with the gentiles.” (D&C 109: 60)
It does not matter if we descend from Israel. Nor if we have actual genetic markers which would make us Ephraimites, or Levites, or of the tribe of Judah, or any of the other tribes of Israel. Unless we are Native American, we are not the “remnant” discussed in the Book of Mormon.

There are many references to early church leaders being descended from Israelite bloodlines. Even if that is the case, however, the Book of Mormon usage refers to us as “gentiles” unless descended from Lehi.