Monsters…

I had planned to add to the “Not Automatic” post I last put up, but something more important needs to be addressed. The idea that a group of people can one day gather together in peace, and gain such favor with the Lord that He will bring back Zion, has distracted us from our responsibilities. Zion is a result. Results are distracting, and not really possible. Instead of expecting a result, we need to participate in the process.

I’ve written and I’ve spoken about lofty, even holy things. But that seems futile while we insist on making monsters of one another.

If someone offends me, it is my responsibility to confront the offender and let them know exactly what they did to offend. I owe it to them. If I have not confronted him and set out clearly his offense then I have done him a disservice and have failed in my duty. “And if your brother offend you, you shall take him between him and you alone, and if he confess, you shall be reconciled.” T&C 27:5.

When offended I need to explain to the offender what they did, why it offended, and explain that the injury or offense has harmed me. If he does something offensive and I fail to directly call him out on it, in time he will become a monster as the misconduct continues and inevitably escalates. If that process is to be interrupted and reversed, it requires me to bring it directly and personally to his attention.

When, instead of confronting the offender, I go about complaining to others, then those others are brought into the sad cycle of gossip and character assassination. This is why the first indispensable step is for me to “take him between him and [me] alone” to address the matter. Then, “if he confesses, [we] shall be reconciled.” This is not optional. This is mandatory. And if followed will reconcile the offender with the offended.

When we fail to address the offense directly with the offender, we let the offender grow worse. When we tolerate it for years it grows into monstrous behavior.

Talking about other people’s offenses without confronting them directly makes us monsters also. We accuse, condemn, belittle and spread alarm between others and reap the corrosive reward. We degenerate into a community of angry, divided, quarrelsome, bickering, jarring, contentious, and strife-driven people who cannot live in peace because we inevitably pollute any inheritance the Lord would give us. This process went unchecked in the Jaredite and Nephite people described in the Book of Mormon. Over time it turned into violence, destruction and annihilation.

There are many critics looking on our embryonic group that are entertained by our conflicts. We have to pass through this stage before we can mature into something more fitted to peaceful coexistence. They criticize us while they are not attempting that necessary step. If they ever make an attempt, they will encounter exactly the same challenges we face in the development into equality. Other religious communities submit to control by their hierarchy. They depend on supervision, and cannot attain equality. They conceal their conflicts. We need to expose ours and address them in a godly way that improves the offender and matures the offended.

We are far ahead in development by addressing our weaknesses. Even if we do it openly, awkwardly and improperly, it is a monumental step to face our weaknesses. No community will ever live in peace with one another if they hide their failures, substitute flattery for candor, and leave iniquity unexposed to the daylight. But the failures should not become fuel for gossip. They should be brought directly to the attention of the offender. The iniquity should not be advertised behind the offender’s back, but should be laid before the offender to be addressed.

Those who gossip injure far more people by their cowardly failure to follow the mandate that, “if your brother offend you, you shall take him between him and you alone, and if he confess, you shall be reconciled.” It is almost impossible for one man to offend dozens directly. It is almost inevitable for one gossip to offend dozens directly.

I have no doubt offended others. I’d like to hear directly from them.

Not Automatic

Nothing is automatic. Anyone can get called to accomplish something, but unless they actually accomplish the work there is nothing to demonstrate they’ve been chosen. “I say unto you, there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called, but few of them are chosen. They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noonday.” T&C 94:2

And again, we are told: “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen, and why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson — that the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the Powers of Heaven and that the Powers of Heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true, but when we undertake to cover our sins or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion, upon the souls of the children of men in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the Heavens withdraw themselves, the spirit of the Lord is grieved, and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” T&C 139:5.

Sometimes even Joseph Smith was misled about people, as he was reminded by the Lord in a revelation: “but as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous …” JSH 1:Part 10:14. That was early on. Later, even at the end, Joseph trusted others thinking they were as trustworthy as he was himself. And so John C. Bennett was trusted and given an approved assignment in 1841. A revelation stated: “Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor, in sending my word to the kings and peoples of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction, and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.” T&C 141:6. But he did not do as instructed, and obviously forfeited his reward.

We have a description of what the president of the high priesthood is required to be: “And again, the duty of the president of the office of the high priesthood is to preside over the whole church and to be like unto Moses. Behold, here is wisdom — yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.” T&C 59:11. That isn’t automatic. It is an assignment requiring the putative president to accomplish something. To rise up and fulfill the assignment. Failing that, he is not called. He is NOT the president of the high priesthood. He holds nothing that meets the standard required for the office, and cannot claim it as his.

Nothing is automatic. No matter what we may think, or hope to have others think, nothing is ours until we conform to the requirements of the job assigned to us. Being able to preach with authority from God is also not automatic. No matter how we may wish it to be otherwise. This is why the instructions we have in the Book of Mormon tell us that serving as a priest holds no glory, receives no compensation, but imposes only a burden: “And he also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support. And there was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God, and also as often as it was in their power to assemble themselves together. And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support, but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.” NC Mosiah 9:10. I’ve heard of at least two fellows who mistakenly believe that God has called them to spend their time studying the scriptures, and ought to be supported by the labors of others. That is contrary to the duty imposed on them by scripture, and also weakens their faith and prevents them from becoming strong in the spirit and being able to teach with power and authority from God.

The professional class of priests leading congregations throughout the Christian world, and including the various Mormon hierarchies are devoid of power to teach from God because they have handicapped themselves by their chosen profession. “He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world, but they seek not the welfare of Zion. Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing.” NC 2 Ne. 11:17.

Fools trifle with the souls of men: “None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.” T&C 138:18.

There are many people who willingly follow, uphold and adore false pretenders who have accomplished nothing other than pretensions of greatness. And their supporters think I am a charlatan and liar. I at least have the honor of laboring to support myself and my family. And I’ve never claimed a role other than a servant who tries in my own weakness to follow the Lord. I do not want your support or adoration. Nor do I ask for you to support me. If I do not persuade you of the truth, then go in peace. But if you are one of those who believes you are entitled to be employed for your preaching, you are really in the employ of Satan, and I would advise you to get out of his employ.

Pathetic

There are so many pathetic things underway that it is as if the whole world is staggering around blind, deaf and careless.

Republicans hope to win an election with votes, and Democrats understand that ballots win elections. If they can get their hands on a valid ballot, then they can use it to retain power. Doesn’t matter that the majority of voters are completely alienated by their foolish policies, they get control using ballots. The United States Supreme Court has abetted this approach. Election integrity has been compromised.

Both parties want unsolved problems to arouse interest in elections. If they solve a problem and it goes away, then they have nothing to stimulate interest in elections. Don’t expect solutions from career politicians who have practiced the rhetorical skill to exploit problems.

The completely uncontrolled border of the United States has already allowed thousands of people to enter who intend to do violence here. There are foreign fighters who intend to bring the fight to the US.

Germany has succumbed to magical thinking, and adopted laws that assume that wishing something will make it happen. They have compromised their electrical production, and made inadequate electrical output the only path for their future. As a result their economy is now threatened.

The United Kingdom has abandoned historic ideals that unite them as a people, and their native differences are playing a greater and greater role in social conflict.

The United Nations is akin to the Star Wars cantina on Tatooine where a bizarre assortment of incompatible ideas churn out indecision. And the results achieved by this international body of problem solvers is the war in the Ukraine, the attacks by Gaza on Israel and the ongoing retaliation by Israel, the current European expectation for a land war in Europe, the threat by China on the South China Sea, the attacks on the shipping in the Red Sea, and growing international economic unrest, among many other regional and international problems.

Leadership everywhere is pathetic, egotistical, insecure of allowing any criticism, and humorless about their obvious inadequacies. Religious leaders prefer running in the direction they think popular opinion is moving rather than actually leading. Their anxious sprint to get ahead of the downward direction of the crowds is what they pretend is leadership. It is the worst form of “followship” that depends on opinion polls and focus groups to tell them what to say and do. Pathetic indeed.

People everywhere need to wake up and realize we are led by pathetic, inadequate, irresponsible people whose interests are selfish and self-serving. Churches are corrupt and have no interest in following God. They are following YOU. You have itching ears, eager to hear how you are saved, you are wonderful, you are loved by God. And they scratch that itch. But the truth is that you are headed into an approaching disaster. It reminds me of this in our scriptures:

I saw a train approaching from uphill in the distance coming downhill rapidly, and it seemed to be going far too fast to safely negotiate the sharp bend in the tracks. The small car we drove was not quite to the bend when the rushing train hit the bend, leapt from the tracks, and violently crashed in front of us. Our little car narrowly escaped a collision, as the train’s wreckage spread about. As the small car continued upward, the train crash worsened, at first beside the car, and then as we accelerated, closely behind us. The little car got ahead of the continuing wreck of the moving train and I could see the train was full of passengers who, uphill from the wreckage, were enjoying themselves. They were paying no attention to the disaster already befalling their train. We began to shout out the windows of our car, trying to warn the occupants in the doomed train, but they gave no heed. They laughed and partied aboard the train with no concern for their impending destruction. I could see the wreckage behind me in the mirror as the violence of the wreck threw shattered railcars about, some onto the road behind us, making the road now impassable. We were powerless to save those aboard the train because they would not hear the warnings we shouted to them. T&C 172:1.

If you want to help you should not just vote and hope. Someone with integrity needs to lead. To lead in speaking out, lead in social circles, in conversations, in churches, in communities, in countries, and in businesses. We face perils that are not going to be solved by the very loud but very pathetic voices that dominate everywhere today.

Truth is both resilient and infectious. Proclaim it and it will win. Stay silent and it will be ignored and ultimately forgotten.

Questions about women’s council

There must be something afoot, because I’ve received questions about procedures involving women’s councils from multiple people. I don’t think we need anything more to guide a council than what we’ve already received.

I think that unanimous means that, and any decision will require unanimity. I also think that if a council is convened it requires 12. If there are more than 12 and they are considered “alternates” then I think that has to be made clear at the outset. It must be made clear at the start that there are only 12, and anyone else is an alternate who will only participate in the event that someone drops out. If that is not clarified at the outset, then I think the council includes everyone who participates, and will still require unanimity.

It is hard to get unanimity. I think that is for a reason. It substitutes for a burden of proof, meaning that to get everyone in agreement would (should) require something like clear and convincing proof.

I think that the assignment to women to hold councils is an interesting way for the Lord to let women see some of the difficulties in sorting out problems in a peaceful community. It gives the women a view into things that other religious societies exclude them from witnessing. That seems to serve a wise purpose in the Lord.

All of this is set out in our scriptures. I should also reference the material we received on August 8, 2022 (Answer on Forgiveness). I don’t think we need anything more to guide us.

Harmless, Conclusion

When we see faults in others, but they remain invisible to us while they are also present in us, we fit the pattern the Lord warned us against: “Why is it that you behold the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the speck, out of your eye, and cannot behold a beam in your own eye?” NC Matt. 3:41.

Given this problem we all share, there seems one solution that will prevent me from stepping over this particular line: I can stop judging, correcting, and imposing on others.

If I love my neighbor as myself, does that mean I need to like him/her also? I think the answer could be “no.”

Can someone find me very difficult as a personality, and still do me no harm? Even love me? I think the answer is “yes” to both these.

I have a whole lifetime that has been influenced by parents, who were raised by grandparents, and the influence on my parents by my grandparents is undeniable. This is true across generations. There is no end to the familial influences that were present when I was born. Everyone else comes into this world situated with the exact same legacy from their ancestors.

My childhood friends, my school teachers, my disappointments, successes, failures, and losses all accumulate over a lifetime. That is true of everyone else, as well.

There is no telling how many people have done each of us harm. And when someone else reminds us of a prior bully, predator, antagonist or enemy, it is perhaps impossible to disregard that and embrace the new person in a friendly, open way. But can they still be loved by you? Even if they trigger very bad sentiments? Can I just leave them alone, deal candidly and honestly with them, doing them no harm, but still love them as I love myself? Meaning I would share food if they need it, provide a ride if they ask, or do them a kindness if given the opportunity.

Does loving someone as myself require anything more than benign accommodation of their needs? Can I be a good neighbor, and live in peace, with someone who rubs me the wrong way. If you hate the way they talk, and that is because they grew up in an environment where their family, friends, teachers and coaches all conjugated four-letter swear words into nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs, do you need to be repelled by their colorful vocabulary? What if their language is offensive, but they mean no offense? What if, despite their best efforts, they cannot escape from that background because it is ‘baked into the cake’ so to speak?

What if their trauma has so affected them that they are withdrawn, cold and distant? They may have VERY good reasons for behaving as they do, and you may never be able to get them to open up and explain themselves, but should you presume from that conduct that they are just rude? What if instead of rude, they are harboring a deep injury? Can you love them, even if you cannot quite relate to them?

How can a person live in a city of peace, being altogether harmless to their neighbors, if every one of the neighbors is very unlike them? Can we love one another even if we can’t like one another? After all, the command is to love, not to like.

“Judge not unrighteously, that you be not judged, but judge righteous judgment; for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Id., 40. Can we ever render a justifiable judgment about someone else merely because they are unfriendly, a difficult personality, or prickly? What if those characteristics are how they developed inside the life they lived? What if the life I lived is so very different from yours that I offend you inadvertently, remind you of someone else you disliked, or say something I think is funny and you think is outrageous?

I think I can probably judge someone’s violation of the law of chastity, commitment of murder, theft, abusive violence against children. Open criminality can be condemned in every instance, I think. Some people cannot reside in a city of peace because of their disruption. But if they are not dangerous, can I view them as harmless to me, even if I don’t like them? Can I love them because they are not a threat to me or my family, even if I don’t want to spend 10 minutes with them socially?

My wife is a mental health counselor. She and I spend hours every week talking about these issues as we hike together. Her input has influenced me to see others more practically. She has a podcast named In Sanity: A Piece of Mind that is available on all platforms (e.g., Spotify, Apple Podcast, Castbox, Google Play) and has 151 episodes recorded as of today. The episodes have titles and some of them bear directly on this topic (i.e., Episodes 8, 16, 36, 45-47, 53-55, etc.), if you are interested. She also addressed this in a regional meeting: Love Others as Yourself

Be harmless as a dove. I will try to be the same.

Harmless, Part 4

The list of things we ought not do or be are endless. Perhaps it was King Benjamin who put it best: “And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds…” NC Mosiah 2:6.

Based on Benjamin’s statement we have the ability to offend God and violate His commandments in at least three levels: We can sin in our thoughts. We can sin in our words. We can sin in our deeds. Given that sobering thought, there must be some way to get it right. Turns out there is a solution to this challenge:

Harmless: Charity

In the Answer to the Prayer for Covenant the Lord counseled us: “Be of one heart, and regard one another with charity. Measure your words before giving voice to them, and consider the hearts of others. Although a man may err in understanding concerning many things, yet he can view his brother with charity and come unto me, and through me he can with patience overcome the world. I can bring him to understanding and knowledge. Therefore, if you regard one another with charity, then your brother’s error in understanding will not divide you.” T&C 157:53.

It is probably safe to assume we all “err in understanding concerning many things.” But that alone does not condemn us. Apparently the Lord just takes that as His responsibility to fix. He says: “I [meaning the Lord] can bring him to understanding.” That relieves us from fixing one another.

We have a difficult enough challenge to fix all our our own nonsense, errors, ambitions, envy, and pride. That is the battleground. We do not need to export that battle into “fixing” our fellow man.

A community of peace is almost certainly going to be comprised of flawed people who deal with internal struggles. But viewing our neighbor charitably, and letting the Lord help them (just as He will help each of us) to overcome our weaknesses can change the conflict away from us.

Can we discuss difficult subjects without demanding that our neighbor “fix” his opinion to align with our own? That ought to be answered with a resounding “YES”. We are going to need to have difficult discussions about challenges that we will face establishing a city of peace under the Lord’s direction. We know erring in understanding is pervasive. It is easiest to see in other people. But what we see as their obvious failure is almost without fail something we can detect because we have that very same flaw. It is invisible to us personally. But move it onto our neighbor and it becomes glaring.

“Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies.” NC 1 Cor. 1:31. “Let all your things be done with charity.” Id., 73.

“Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, hearts of mercies, kindness, humility of mind, meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. If any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do you; and above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” NC Colossians 1:13.

“[L]et him repent of all his folly, and clothe himself with charity, and cease to do evil, and lay aside all his hard speeches[.]” T&C 141:38.

“If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours — for charity covereth a multitude of sins.” Joseph Smith, DHC 4:445.

Charity, or love for one another, is the antidote for all the failings of the past. We needn’t fail. But we do need charity to succeed.

Harmless, Part 3

The idea of a city of peace is something generations have entertained. But wanting the idea to happen is not the same thing as acting on it.

The Lord is going to return to dwell in a city of peace. But that city will (must) exist before His return. He will not assume control over a contentious, quarreling, strife-filled group and make them better. He is willing to instruct people who want to accept His instruction, and in that way lead us to that result. He is (as always) willing to gather us as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But we determine whether we can be gathered.

Harmless: Pride

The proud will be destroyed by the Lord at His return. “For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” OC Mal. 1:10. Those words alone should make us abandon pride. But there’s plenty of other words to make it clear: Pride is destructive to the individual, their families, and to communities.

“He that is of a proud heart stirs up strife[.]” OC Proverbs 4:94.

“The Lord will destroy the house of the proud[.]” Id. 2:176.

“Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.” Id. 2:189. Think of that – Pride is an abomination to the Lord.

The Lord responded to us and provided His covenant, but He began with a warning about there being unacceptable pride among us, “You have asked of me concerning the scriptures prepared on behalf of all those who seek to become my covenant people, and therefore I answer you on behalf of all the people, and not as to any individual. For there are those who are humble, patient, and easily persuaded. Nevertheless, people who are quarrelsome and proud are also among you[.]” T&C 157:1.

Why is pride so offensive?

The Lord alone deserves our respect, attention and obedience. The rebellion that began in heaven itself was instigated by pride. It is reported that Lucifer held these proud thoughts about himself, “[Y]ou have said in your heart, I will ascend into Heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” OC Isa. 6:6. He was not willing to follow God, but wanted to pursue his own self-will. Given that God has stated it is His work and His glory to bring about the eternal life and exaltation of man (OC Gen. 1:7), Lucifer could have achieved through humility what he forfeited through pride.

There have been many people who were willing to follow the Lord for a short time. But by and by, they aspire to get attention, gratify their pride and satisfy their vain ambition. The Lord took notice of them in a parable about sowing seeds, “And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth, and immediately they sprung up. And when the sun was up, they were scorched because they had no deepness of earth; and because they had no root, they withered away.” NC Matt. 7:1. We’ve lost some of those from our ranks. They still are out there, seeking notice, asking for donations, insisting they can teach you Torah and bring you closer to salvation, or other vain undertakings.

The Lord has a great deal more in store for those who follow Him. But the proud wander away into other fields, and ultimately will be burned at His coming. When we are proud we are not harmless. We are a threat.

A city of peace cannot include the proud because they cannot abide peacefully with others. Their self-will and vaunting pride makes them discontent, and their discontent spreads outward. It cannot allow peace to settle into the community.

Harmless, Part 2

There was an attempt in the 1830s to establish a ‘center place’ where people who believed in the Restoration would gather. The people expected they would build a New Jerusalem and would become Zion. It didn’t work out. Their failure was explained to them by the Lord: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore, by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God, therefore the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel, but in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” T&C 101:2.

The place was “polluted” and therefore unfit for any sacred enterprise by God. Take a look at the list of things that polluted the place. Every one of these were internal defects of the soul. Their attitudes and outlooks created conflicts. The conflicts showed just how sick their society’s hearts were, and how utterly unfit they were to live in peace with one another. They proved it to one another, and the Lord explained why.

You cannot have a city of peace with people who threaten or harm one another or their neighbors. It isn’t just violence or robbery that defeats peace. It is what they hold inside themselves. It is their attitudes toward one another. Any of the internal resentments that defeated their attempt at Zion will defeat every attempt at Zion. People are not ‘harmless as a dove’ when they harbor ill-feelings toward one another.

Even if the believers of that day were not openly quarreling with each other, they created such resentments with their neighbors that it produced open conflict. A city of peace is so benign that even those who are not believing can sense peace from their presence. Their countenances bear witness of their inner selves.

The Lord has explained to us about us, “you have also scarred one another by your unkind treatment of each other, and you do not notice your misconduct toward others because you think yourself justified in this. You bear the scars on your countenances, from the soles of your feet to the head, and every heart is faint. Your visages have been so marred that your hardness, mistrust, suspicions, resentments, fear, jealousies, and anger toward your fellow man bear outward witness of your inner self; you cannot hide it.” T&C 157:49.

They could not hide it in the 1830s and we will be unable to hide it today. We all know of the unkind words we have spoken about one another. There are many youth who have lost confidence in the Restoration because of the evil speaking of one another. Your children see your example, hear your backbiting, and lose confidence in the religion you profess. They cannot be blamed.

Harmless: Envy

Envy is a little thing. A mere emotion. But that little sentiment harbored in our heart sends seismic disruption into society. Envy provokes resentment. Even if you do not act on the desire to bring down those you envy, holding it in your heart divides you from your neighbor. “Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; but who is able to stand before envy?” OC Proverbs 4:51.

Envy destroys peace and removes all charity from the envious. “Charity envies not.” NC I Cor. 1:52. Envy cripples us. It is a disease to be overcome.

It was envy that motivated the killing of Christ. As Pilate clearly observed when Christ was brought before him to be judged, “For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” NC Matt. 12:21, see also Mark 7:21. This defect in our heart is shared with those who wanted the Lord killed. It originates in darkness and will destroy those who harbor it.

Alma the Younger explained how unprepared we are for the kingdom of Heaven when we are envious, “Behold, ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of Heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared. And I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand; and he knoweth not when the time shall come, for such an one is not found guiltless.” NC Alma 3:5.

Harmless: Ambition

As the Lord suffered in Gethsemane, one of the terrible errors of mankind He confronted and overcame was the ambition of men, “He knew what it is like for men to satisfy their ambition by clothing their hypocrisy in religious garb.” T&C 161:23. Here ambition is linked to religious hypocrisy. Those do go together.

Consider how serious holding ambition in our heart is when it can defeat the rights of priesthood, “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true, but when we undertake to … gratify… our vain ambition, … behold, the Heavens withdraw themselves, the spirit of the Lord is grieved, and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” T&C 139:5, emphasis added.

Ambition provokes people to seek more than another. It makes us long to excel, to get control, to have authority. At its core ambition produces unease and discontent. Ambitious souls needlessly criticize and back-bite others to make themselves appear better than the object of their scorn. It prevents us from being at peace with one another.

A community plagued with any ambitious residents will never be at peace. It cannot be. The threat of harm lingers over it, and at last it will break out into the open and destroy any group where ambition is present, as surely as the failure in the 1830s.

Being ‘harmless as a dove’ is among the greatest of accomplishments. A community of such individuals can attain peace. A community of any other kind will not have peace.

Harmless

Christ described what He expected of His disciples: “Be therefore wise servants and as harmless as doves.” NC Matt. 5:3. How do we become “harmless” as His followers?

While Christians are worried about “being saved”, and Mormons aspire to “be exalted” once they leave this world, and Muslims consider conquest and subjugation of others a duty, and Buddhists seek enlightenment, there is a very different goal in mind for some of us; the establishment of a place of peace, where residents are harmless and constitute no threat to one another. But that place is unique in one very significant respect: The peace comes from within the people. There will be no external force to compel it.

The societies that are “safe” and “peaceful” as the world experiences it, accomplish that end by using police, courts, laws and lawyers internally, and armies, navies and air forces externally. At every turn there is some mechanism that imposes limits, enforces those limits, and ultimately either imprisons or executes offenders.

The place of peace some of us seek cannot do that. All of the controls must be internal to the residents. Each must determine to abide alongside others without being a threat to their family, children, property or space. From comments I’ve received, it is apparent that many of those who want to live in a place of peace are unfit to do so. Wishing something to be available to you does not mean that when you get there your internal lack of self-government will not destroy the place. People who lack internal self-control to leave others peacefully to enjoy their family, property and privacy are not harmless as a dove. They are menacing.

Let me break it down into some specifics, starting with chastity:

Harmless: Chastity

I’ve told someone (and it has been repeated) that ‘the law of chastity is not what you think it is.’ If I were writing it for emphasis and understanding I’d write it this way: The law of chastity is NOT what YOU think it is. Meaning that the person I was talking to had a limited, misunderstood idea of the law. And, make no mistake about words, it is a law, given by God.

Chastity begins with the first commandment given to the first couple who were made in the image of God. That command is to “multiply and replenish the earth.” OC Gen. 2:9. That is part of chastity: The obligation to employ the sexual ability and power to produce offspring.

Chastity includes the command, “You shall not commit adultery.” OC Exo. 12:10. But if all you manage to do is to refrain from adultery, you are still a threat to your neighbor if you do not obey this accompanying command, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Id. at 13. This, too, is part of chastity.

The Lord explained further that chastity requires control over inappropriate sexual thoughts and fantasies, “I say unto you that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart. Behold, I give unto you a commandment that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart, for it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.” NC 3 Ne. 5:27. Therefore, chastity requires you to have a firm mind in this form of godliness if you want to obey the law.

The law goes on to describe the kind of relationship intended by the law of chastity. “You shall love your wife with all your heart, and shall cleave unto her and none else, and he that looks upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the spirit, and if he repent not he shall be cast out.” T&C 26:6. It is impossible to be harmless and live in peace through self-government if this part of the law is disobeyed.

Then we also have this commandment, “Teach your children to honor me.” T&C 158:11 (part of the covenant with God). That is elaborated upon in the Lord’s command, “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, the Son of the living God, and of baptism, and the gift of the holy spirit by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the head of the parents. For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, and their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands. And they also shall teach their children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” T&C 55:5.

You are not just obligated to “multiply” and bring offspring into the world, but part of the law of chastity requires those children to be instructed, warned and guided to the point they honor God. The best way to honor God is to obey His commandments.

The law of chastity is intended to inform how you live your life, how you use the power of procreation, how as a husband you love your wife and cleave only to her, and as a wife you love your husband and cleave only to him.

And, of course, chastity prohibits polygamy, “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.” NC Jacob 2:7. That should go without saying, as should most of this. If you studied your scriptures nothing in this would be misunderstood by you.

All of the elements of chastity are designed to circumscribe conduct within the bounds set by God to allow you to live in peace with others. It protects your family and protects your neighbor’s. But it requires a firm mind in every form of godliness to become such a harmless soul.

There are many people who talk about a place of peace but who are utterly unfit to live peacefully with their fellow man. Sexual promiscuity destroys. It weakens the soul and leaves them unfit for self-government.

If you cannot obey the law of chastity you should live where your failure is accepted, perhaps even welcome. The world embraces an increasingly diverse and ungoverned sexuality and you will be welcomed there. But do not think that you can live peacefully without having the iron will to follow God’s direction voluntarily and internally. No one will be governing you in the Lord’s city of peace. You must bring that peace with you.

United Kingdom Conferences

We were in Great Britain from November 10th till the 19th. While there we participated in several meetings, two of which were recorded and are now available on the Restoration Archives. The link to the site where the recordings can be heard is here: https://restorationarchives.com/library/regional-conferences.php

You may not recognize the names of some of the speakers from England and Scotland, but I’d encourage you to give them a listen anyway. These are some wonderful people.

The LDS church in the UK is declining, and many who lose confidence in the LDS leadership have no place to turn, even if they would like to retain faith in the restoration, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. The voices of those you hear in some of these recorded talks are providing a ray of hope to disaffected former LDS members.

Role of angels

As I understand the Lord’s work, there are some few people to whom heavenly angels minister. The men and women who are ministered to by heavenly angels are taught for the purpose of encouraging faith in others. As explained to Moroni by his father: “neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, shewing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfill and to do the work of the covenants of the Father which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him; and by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ.” NC Moroni 7:6

Angels are sent to minister to men, women and children: “And now, [God] imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men, but women also. Now this is not all. Little children do have words given unto them many times which do confound the wise and the learned.” NC Alma 12:26

Enoch was translated with his city and has become a ministering angel: “He [Enoch] is a ministering angel, to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation[.]” T&C 140:13

The Lord’s disciple John was translated, or in other words made a ministering angel. This is how the Lord described it to Peter when he asked about John’s future: “Therefore, I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel. He shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth[.]” T&C 1: JSH 13:19

Translated men and women serve as angels. They are “held in reserve to be ministering angels” by the Lord. T&C 140:14

An angel is a messenger sent to deliver a message from God. If the person has been translated, or resurrected, or even remains mortal, when they deliver a message from God they are a ministering angel.

When the three Nephite disciples were changed or translated, after the end of the time of a mortal life they no longer appeared or ministered openly to people. They acted only as angels, in the role of teaching servants who would then teach others to have faith in God. As Mormon mentioned about these angel-messengers: “they are hid from the world. But behold, I have seen them and they have ministered unto me, and behold, they will be among the gentiles and the gentiles knoweth them not.” NC 3 Ne. 13:5

Heavenly angels minister to mortal messengers, who then teach the residue of people to have faith in God. But there is a singular focus involved in this work: to fulfill and to do the work of the covenants of the Father. They do not minister to allow people to claim they are better, to assert possession of superior knowledge or spirituality, or to satisfy men’s curiosity. It is to fulfill covenants made by the Father to His children.

When fools trifle with the souls of men by claiming they have some great message that has nothing to do with fulfilling the covenants of the Father, they are either lying or have been deceived by a false spirit. There is an unfortunate amount of that going on now (as is always the case when the work of the Father is underway).

Whose story is it? Part 3

The Nauvoo Expositor is relied on by Brighamite apologists as “proof” of the practice of polygamy by Joseph Smith. However, that assumes the accusers are truthful and Joseph was a liar. That is a remarkable assumption to make.

Chauncey Higbee was excommunicated from the church in 1842. William Law, Wilson Law and Robert Foster were excommunicated in mid-April 1844. Francis Higbee and Charles Ivins were excommunicated on 18 May 1844. Charles Foster and Sylvester Emmons were not church members.

In a meeting of the Nauvoo City Council on 8 June 1844, Hyrum Smith stated “that Wm. Law when sick said he had been guilty of adultery etc. and he was not fit to live or die, had sinned against his own soul.” (Spelling corrected, JSP Documents Vol. 15, p. 164.) William Law’s credibility is important to the Brighamite apologists because he was in the church presidency.

Francis Higbee suffered from a sexually transmitted disease (STD). He confessed this to Hyrum Smith, who reported to the Nauvoo City Council that “he confessed to him [Hyrum] that he had the Pox.” (Id.) The term “Pox” is explained in footnote 131: “Higbee had reportedly acquired a sexually transmitted disease.”

Another witness who was sworn in to testify truthfully reported that both Wilson and William Law were involved in counterfeit money printing. That witness (Mr. Washington Peck) testified that it “would be death of witness if he ever went to Joseph or any one to tell” about the counterfeiting. (Id., p. 165.) Death threats from these counterfeiters kept Joseph from knowing the Laws were among the perpetrators.

Mayor Joseph Smith told the City Council that William Law was offended by the Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo (which denounced plural wives, promiscuity or adultery) that was published in the Nauvoo Neighbor newspaper. This was “the bone of contention” between him and Joseph. (Id., pp. 172-173.) It offended William Law, but was published by his wife with Joseph’s support.

Wilson Law was caught sexually compromised, “caught …with the girl on the floor –at Mr. Hawes—in the night.” (Id., p. 192.) This was a daughter of Thomas Smith who had recently arrived in Nauvoo from Lancashire, England. “Wilson had seduced her.” (Id., Minutes of Nauvoo City Council, 10 June 1844 p. 192.)

Warren Smith swore that Francis Higbee asked him to join in the counterfeiting as his partner.

After these meetings the Nauvoo City Council passed an Ordinance based on their review of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. This states, in part, “injuries affecting a man’s reputation or good name are, first, by malicious, scandalous, and slanderous words tending to his damage and derogation. As if a man, maliciously and falsely, utter any slander or false tale of another: which may either endanger him in law, by impeaching him of some heinous crime, as to fay that a man hath poisoned another, or is perjured; or which may exclude him from society, as to charge him with having an infectious disease ; or which may impair or hurt his trade or livelihood,” (Private Wrongs, Book III, Chapter 8, part 5.) Based on their understanding of the law, the Nauvoo Expositor statements were determined by the Nauvoo City Council to constitute a nuisance and justify removal to prevent any further injury.

The Nauvoo City Ordinance identified the Expositor’s accusations as “publishing lies, false statements, coloring the truth, slandering men, women, children, societies and countries.” (Id., Ordinance 10 June 1844, p. 208.) The ordinance would only apply against a false statement, and not a statement that could be proven to be true. If, therefore, the Nauvoo Expositor publishers could prove the truth of their claims, it would not be slander, nor a nuisance, nor a violation of the ordinance.

Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo City Council believed the publishers of the Nauvoo Expositor were the worst sort of unprincipled, corrupt, dishonest men. As Mayor of Nauvoo Joseph stated in a Proclamation dated June 16, 1844: “Our city is infested with a set of blacklegs, counterfeiters and debauchers, and the proprietors of this press were of that class.” (Id., p. 295.)

So there we have another choice to make about Joseph’s story: On the one hand we have Joseph Smith saying that these sexually depraved, criminal counterfeiters, seducers and liars are spreading falsehoods of the worst sort. In the circumstances, I think there is reason to consider his position carefully. Why would he be bringing people before church courts to investigate sexual improprieties if he was involved in them? Why would he denounce spiritual wives and preach against adultery, fornication, and polygamy if he was involved? Why would he accuse the Nauvoo Expositor of slander if the accusations could be proven true?

But on the other hand, we have the Brighamite apologists trusting and relying on sexually diseased, criminally involved, seducers and liars to tell their version of the story.

How should this conflict be decided? Perhaps the Lord’s voice about Joseph ought to help guide our decision: “The ends of the earth shall inquire after your name, and fools shall have you in derision, and hell shall rage against you, while the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under your hand. And your people shall never be turned against you by the testimony of traitors, and although their influence shall cast you into trouble, and into bars and walls, you shall be had in honor.” (T&C 139:7.)

Whose story is it? Part 2

There are many Brighamite apologists that have been stirred into responding to the growing chorus of researchers who now realize teaching plural wives did not begin with Joseph Smith. The Brighamite apologists think that the history, as they recount it, makes the matter clear that it was Joseph, and not a cabal of Brigham Young, Heber Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and others (including William Clayton the journalist) who conspired to point the finger at Joseph, while Joseph was an opponent of their sinful, illegal and immoral conduct.

There is a bit of a tempest currently underway on YouTube, various podcasts, and discussion boards both damning and defending Joseph Smith over these false charges. This ugly subject is part of the story of Joseph Smith, and therefore we should try to get it right.

I’ve read the biographies and autobiographies of the earliest Latter-day Saint leaders. I’ve also read the many histories addressing this subject, from D. Michael Quinn to Todd Compton to Jerald and Sandra Tanner. I’ve read all volumes of Brian Hales account, and visited his website. I’ve listened to the conferences, seminars, symposiums and presentations that dispute what the Brighamite apologists call derisively “polygamy deniers.” I have read every volume of the Joseph Smith Papers publication, including all the Historical Introductions and footnotes. To the extent that material is available to investigate the events, I have sought it out and evaluated it.

For decades I too believed Joseph Smith initiated the taking of plural wives. I think that is far from being proven to be true, and on balance it appears that Joseph Smith was not only opposed to this adulterous foolishness, but that he took great effort to make his opposition known to the Latter-day Saints. He helped his wife, Emma, publish an extensive public opposing tract titled The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo. Joseph Smith brought church court proceedings to expose those who were involved, to try to root it out from Nauvoo. (I own a copy of the Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes and I’ve read them all.)

Many of the current Brighamite apologists rely on histories and biographies that are not informed by the extensive historical material that has become available in the last 20 years. They assume, arrogantly and wrongly, that Joseph Smith’s responsibility has been “proven” and cannot be questioned. They’re wrong.

This issue is not going to be swept aside by the dismissive Brighamite apologists. In fact, the defenders of Joseph Smith’s character are just getting started. In the next few years an extensive library of every relevant source will be gathered and published to allow easy access to the historical materials that bear on this controversy.

Listening to the Brighamite apologists cite to John C. Bennett makes me wonder why they would ever mention the man. Should John C. Bennett get to tell part of Joseph Smith’s story? Get to be believed in anything he has to say about Joseph?

Bennett was married, abandoned his wife and children, and pretended to be an unmarried single man when he came to Illinois to help the bedraggled Latter-day Saints, who had just been forcibly expelled from Missouri. He helped usher the Nauvoo City Charter through the Illinois Legislature. He earned the gratitude of the Nauvoo people for his efforts on their behalf.

However, Bennett claimed everything he did for Nauvoo and the Latter-day Saints was done as an elaborate deception on his part. In his book, The History of the Saints or, An Expose’ of Joe Smith and Mormonism (I own a copy and have read it) he claims:

I find that it is almost universally the opinion of those who have heard of me in the eastern part of the United States, that I united myself to the Mormons from a conviction of the truth of their doctrines, and that I was, at least for some time, a convert to their pretended religion. This, however, is a very gross error. I never believed in them or their doctrines. This is, and indeed was, from the first, well known to my friends and acquaintances in the western country, who were well aware of my reasons for connecting myself with the Prophet; which reasons I will now proceed to state.It at length occurred to me that the surest and speediest way to overthrow the Imposter, and expose his iniquity to the world, would be to profess myself a convert to his doctrines, and join him at the seat of his dominion. …and that the course I was resolved to pursue would enable me to get behind the curtain, and behold at my leisure, the secret wires of the fabric, and likewise those who moved them. …I was obliged to make a pretence of belief in their religion does not alter the case. That pretence was unavoidable in the part I was acting, and it should not be condemned like a hypocrisy towards a Christian church. (Emphasis in original, spelling as original.)

So (according to him) he was a liar, but only to the “Mormons” and not to good Christian folks.

In the Times and Seasons, June 15, 1842 edition (I own all 6 hardbound volumes of the paper and have read them all) this announcement was made: “NOTICE The subscribers, members of the First Presidency of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, withdraw the hand of fellowship from General John C. Bennett, as a christian he having been labored with from time to time to persuade him to amend his conduct, apparently to no good effect. Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Wm. Law” which is then concurred in by the Twelve and three Bishops.

William Law (also one who is frequently cited by Brighamite apologists) added in his article in that same edition titled MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, this: “when the wicked creep in amongst us for evil, to trample upon the most holy and virtuous precepts, and find our moral and religious laws too strict for them, they cry out delusion, false prophets, speculation, oppression, illegal ordinances, usurpation of power, treason against the government, etc. …You have dared to pass an ordinance against fornicators, and adulterers[.]”

(William Law was a secret adulterer, and Joseph Smith would refuse to seal his marriage because of his adultery. But that’s another matter.) Here, he notes that the Nauvoo City Council with Joseph Smith’s encouragement and support passed an ordinance prohibiting and criminalizing fornication and adultery. What an odd thing to do if you are secretly up to it! Who criminalizes their own behavior?!

John C. Bennett signed an affidavit under a sworn oath to tell the truth, that stated: “he never was taught any thing in the least contrary to the strictest principles of the Gospel, or of virtue, or of the laws of God, or man, under any circumstances, or upon any occasion, directly or indirectly, in word or deed, by Joseph Smith; and that he never knew the said Smith to countenance any improper conduct whatever, either in public or private; and that he never did teach to me in private that an illegal illicit intercourse with females was, under any circumstances, justifiable, and that I never knew him so to teach others.”

Then 14 men recount this exchange between John C. Bennett and Joseph Smith in a Nauvoo City Council meeting: “Joseph Smith then asked: Will you please state definitely whether you know any thing against my character either in public or private?” “Gen. Bennett answered: I do not; in all my intercourse with Gen. Smith, in public and in private, he has been strictly virtuous.”

Assuming the Brighamite apologists want to use Bennett to tell part of Joseph Smith’s story, why not include his statement under oath that Bennett never knew Joseph Smith to countenance any improper conduct whatever, in public or private? Why not include that Bennett swore under oath that Joseph Smith never did teach him or any others in private that illegal illicit intercourse with females was under any circumstances justifiable?

I’m guessing the answer is: It would make Brigham Young responsible for introducing it and falsely attributing it to Joseph Smith. And the Brighamite apologists are not content to just damn Brigham Young. They absolutely insist on lumping Joseph Smith in with Brigham Young. Even though Brigham Young fathered 56 children with 16 of his wives, and Joseph Smith fathered 9 children only with his one wife, Emma Smith.

Even if you reject the role of Joseph Smith as God’s prophet, you still ought to be willing to allow him the privilege of telling his own story. Supplement it, challenge it, or reject it, but at least let him tell it. When he does, he defended virtue, showed tolerance and kindness to his enemies, bore with insults, false accusations, imprisonment and ultimately his murder for what he believed and taught. I wrote A Man Without Doubt to help others understand his heart and mind.

Who owns the story of Joseph Smith?