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?

Whose story is it?

To whom does a person’s life-story belong? Does the person who lived that life get to tell it, or does someone else get to tell it instead? If someone else, then who? And what basis should be used?

Joseph Smith was told by the angel Nephi (I’m letting Joseph identify the angel’s name) that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” So right there in September 1823 an otherworldly messenger (as an angel presumably has some reliability) says there will be contradictory versions of Joseph Smith among all who discuss him in the future.

Does Joseph Smith get priority in providing us an account of his life? If we won’t let him account for himself, then do we defer to those who were close to him, and sympathetic to him? People who believed him to be a good man, so that they give us a good report? Or those who were ostensibly close to him, but who turned out to be two-faced and actually his enemies? People who believed him to be a bad man, so that they give us an evil report?

What about those who were not particularly close to him, but who had strong negative opinions of him? And what of an admitted liar, like John C. Bennett, who said he lied to get close to Joseph and always intended to be a deceiver? He gave an evil report of Joseph, but if he admits he lied to get his story, is his story to be trusted? Do we defer to liars if they provide an evil report we want to believe?

What about people who were contemporary, but not particularly close to Joseph? Do we let them tell Joseph’s story? And how persuaded should we be if they don’t bother to give any particularly important account until 5 years after Joseph died? What if they waited 10 years? What if they waited 20? 30? What if they tell a story 60 years after Joseph’s death that they attribute to their deceased father who purportedly told them something about Joseph some decades earlier? Most of Joseph’s many histories are based on these belated, often fabricated, accounts.

There has been a great, overwhelming, assumed to be irrefutable narrative about Joseph Smith that practically every institutional source has now agreed to accept. But that narrative contradicts the way Joseph Smith told his story. Does the guy who lived it get a say in how his life is explained?

If Joseph gets to say a word or two about himself, then when he wrote about his life in 1838 the following (after he had been brought before the High Council at Far West on a charge by Oliver Cowdery that he committed adultery), how seriously should we consider these words in deciding whether to give a good or evil account of the man:

I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling with society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors and displayed the weakness of youth and the foibles of human nature, which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations offensive in the sight of God.
In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins, a disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God, as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to anyone who recollects my youth and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament.

He says we do not need to suppose he was ever guilty of “any great or malignant sins”–like adultery, dishonesty, sedition, treason, or any number of falsehoods then in circulation. Joseph said that “a disposition to commit such was never in [his] nature.” Does he get to tell us that and we reject it? He’s saying what is in his heart, his personality, his inner soul. Should that matter?

When Joseph explained the religion he believed and taught to an inquiring newspaper editor in 1842, he said: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men[.]” Should we believe that about Joseph’s beliefs? If so, how should that affect the story we tell about the man?

While in prison in 1839 the voice of God spoke to Joseph and said this to him: “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.” This again is an account of Joseph’s life spoken from an otherworldly source (presumably God is a reliable source to consider when deciding whether to speak good or evil of Joseph). How much weight should be given to this statement/prophecy/counsel?

Can anyone that would be regarded as “pure in heart” believe an evil report about Joseph? Would they not prefer to see purity in Joseph, if they are likewise pure? Can anyone that would be regarded as “wise and noble” believe an evil report about Joseph? Would they not prefer to see wisdom and nobility in Joseph, if they are likewise wise and noble? Can a “virtuous” person believe an evil report about Joseph? Would they not prefer to see virtuousness in him if they are likewise virtuous?

Can someone who believes in lying, deceiving, and misleading even their wife believe in “being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all”? Did Joseph actually believe in the religion he gave his life for?

I’m certain [and I do mean CERTAIN] that Joseph Smith was a virtuous man, and not a liar and deceiver. That is not to say that those who have provided accounts that tell of him being dishonest, manipulative, untrustworthy, promiscuous, egomaniacal, and, well, evil have not been considered by me in making my decision about the man. But I’ve let Joseph account for himself first, as a priority in deciding his goodness or evilness. He has been consistent in everything that can be tracked back directly and intimately to him.

I’ve also considered the scriptures as part of deciding Joseph’s story. The Book of Mormon, Isaiah, and modern revelation have a great deal to say about his life. So, too, has the JST account of Genesis had something to add about Joseph’s story.

I’ve considered the self-interests of the publishers of the Joseph Smith Papers and contrasted their “Historical Introductions” and footnotes with the content of the letters, journals, histories, and documents. They often (and I do mean OFTEN) contradict the very document with their Introductions and footnotes. They strain, distort, and outright misstate content to justify an institutional narrative that they need to retain power and influence.

Well, God put it best: Fools hold Joseph in derision. Hell rages against him. But I see in him virtue, nobility and purity. God expects that from someone that God would trust, as He did Joseph. Although he made “many foolish errors” the greatest was perhaps his tendency to attribute the same trustworthiness and honesty that was in his heart to his unworthy associates. That has allowed a great deal of the evil spoken about Joseph to gain acceptance.

Joseph Smith is like a religious Rorschach inkblot test: The beholder sees something that tells us about themselves. Tells us far more about themselves than about Joseph.

War in Israel

The war now underway brings back to mind the revelation in T&C 165:

Did not Ishmael and Isaac mourn together and bury their father Abraham? Was not their father’s blood precious unto them both? Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Isaac and Ishmael? Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Esau and Jacob?
Let Ishmael today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious still. Let Isaac likewise today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious again. For Abraham’s sake, let all the brothers who descend from Abraham now mourn when Abraham’s blood is spilled by any of his descendants.
If Abraham’s sons do not find his blood to be precious still, there remains nothing between them but the shedding of Abraham’s blood. For all his sons who fail to find Abraham’s blood to be precious will be held to account by God, who will judge between the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael, the sons of Esau and the sons of Jacob, for father Abraham’s sake, with whom God covenanted.
The sons of Abraham will not be permitted to continue this disregard of their common father’s blood without provoking God, who will soon judge between Abraham’s sons.

Scripture Question/Answer

A question was sent to me that resulted in a lengthy discussion among members of the scriptures committee. Many of the revelations in the T&C are preceded with the introduction, i.e. Verily thus says the Lord. The question was about the beginning language in T&C 82, which has a lengthy introduction followed by the words, Verily, this is the word of the Lord. It appears that the first paragraph of that section was composed as an introduction to a revelation that begins in paragraph 2. That being the case, the revelation is about the Kirtland Temple, which was then under construction, rather than a temple that was never built in Missouri. This would mean the location of the New Jerusalem is not fixed, but changeable. Other revelations (and history) show that at one point Kirtland was the expected site, later Independence, Missouri, then Far West, then conditionally to Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally an undefined place to be set by future revelation.
The words in the first paragraph of Section 82 appear to have been added by Joseph to the actual words of Christ to give the provenance of the revelation, just as Abinadi did before delivering his message: Thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying… At the time of publishing the scriptures it was decided to leave these words in the text, even if they were an introduction by Joseph.
Our review concluded that there are three sections that have somewhat lengthy introductions, and well over 20 sections commencing with an introduction in the form of “thus saith the Lord.”
We found nothing in the early documents to show that these were added later or ever identified as an introduction. Joseph had a pattern of introducing revelations with a brief introduction as part of the wording of the revelation. For example,
Section 111 begins, The word of the Lord came unto me saying
Section 112 begins, Verily thus says the Lord unto me, his servant Joseph Smith Jr
Additionally, a large fraction of the revelations begins in a voice that is not the Lord’s in the first person and then shifts to the Lord’s voice. For example, revelations will use the third-person to describe “his church,” “his people,” and “his prophets” and then shift to the first person, “I said,” “I have,” “I now.” Since the task of the scriptures committee was to render the revelations just as Joseph presented and corrected them, we included his introductions in the same manner he prepared them for publication.
One section that clearly has an introduction by Joseph that may not be part of the actual revelation is T&C Section 89: A word of wisdom for the benefit of the saints in these last days and also the Saints in Zion to be sent greeting, not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation & the word of wisdom shewing forth the order & will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints, given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak & the weakest of all saints who are or can be called saints— This is then followed by: Behold verily thus saith the Lord
Evidence that this introduction was not part of the original revelation is that rather than “of the Saints in these last days,” the copy of this in Revelation Book 2 reads, “of the council of high Priests assembled in Kirtland and Church.”
We have determined to leave the scriptures the way they are and provide this explanation to explain Joseph’s practice to introduce the revelations he received, rather than italicize, bracket, or remove introductory language. That allows you, the reader, to consider the wording and determine for yourself the subtleties and construct of language.
Remember, the language is nuanced, and there are many segues or transitions in the scriptures, particularly in the T&C. In some places, the Lord Himself refers to “The Lord” as if speaking in third-person—and then uses “I” in speaking of Himself. Joseph’s segues reveal his understanding of the Lord’s will, and then seamlessly transition to the Lord’s explicit words and instruction. Keep in mind, the Lord both conveyed ideas that required Joseph to put them into words, and also made direct statements that Joseph would quote. Either way the content is reliable and accurate.

April 2024 Conference

The conference organizers have asked that I put this announcement up about next April’s conference:

Due to a number of factors and influences, the April 2024 Eclipse Conference that had been scheduled for the Kirtland, Ohio area has been moved to the Upstate New York area. The dates of the conference remain April 6-8, 2024 with the event beginning Saturday afternoon and concluding Monday late afternoon with the eclipse. While the details are still being finalized, we can inform you that the activities will mainly take place in the cradle of the restoration.  The closest international airport would be Rochester, New York, with Syracuse also an option.  Given the eclipse activity, lodging should be acquired as soon as possible, if you plan on attending the conference. The event website is found at remnanteclipseconference.com.

I’ve been asked to speak and agreed to do so. Seven years ago I gave a talk, The Holy Order. That was near the time of the Solar Eclipse that crossed North America in 2017. The working title for the talk for next April’s conference is “The Holy Order, Part 2.” I’ve been working on the first draft of it for over a month and think the upcoming second Solar Eclipse that will also cross North America is a suitable occasion for the talk. Anyone who plans to attend should be familiar with the material in the first Holy Order talk, as it will not repeat the information. It will build upon the first part.

The two eclipses cross the United States from coast to coast, forming a great “X” in their pathways.

Desolating Sickness

“And in that generation shall the times of the gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be men standing in that generation that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge, for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices, and curse God, and die.” T&C 31:7–March 7, 1831.

It has been nearly two centuries since that prophecy. Fortunately, the United States has had an effective public health system that has eliminated polio, smallpox, malaria and other diseases that have decimated other populations. In his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,
Jared M. Diamond describes the desolation of the Americas by smallpox when European settlers arrived. That single disease destroyed the Aztec empire, killing an estimated 40% in a single year. The Inca empire was likewise decimated by the same disease. Jared Diamond estimates that 20 million Great Plains natives of North America were killed by smallpox.

Inoculations and public health programs eliminated smallpox and there are only two repositories of the virus stored in the United States at the Center for Disease Control, and in Russia at the State Centre for Research on Virology and Biotechnology. If it is turned into a bioweapon it could result in a significant number of deaths.

Polio is also a disease that was eradicated from the United States. However, last year a case of polio was found in New York.

Dengue fever is a tropical disease that has not typically been a problem in the United States. However, this year cases have been reported in Texas, Florida, Arizona and Hawaii.

Malaria has also returned to Texas and Florida. And there is a local outbreak of leprosy also in Florida. There was a time when the United States guarded public health by requiring a physical examination of those entering the country from places known to potentially carry diseases, and to treat them before they were released into the general population. Today that is a thing of the past.

People are entering the United States from every part of the world. They are being bused from the border states to other locations throughout the nation.

We have been warned since 1831 about a coming desolating sickness to cover the land. However, with an effective national health infrastructure that made the prophecy seem unlikely to ever be fulfilled. It is increasingly more likely that neglect of wise precautions will make it inevitable. When the times of the gentiles has been fulfilled, that single generation of people will witness it happen.

The silver lining to the prophecy is that the Lord’s disciples will have holy places and will not be moved by the desolation.

Collapse of Society

In the Book of Mormon there is a description of events that led to the failure and collapse of the Nephite society. There was a long prelude of decreasing faithfulness, loss of faith, and increased focus on material wealth. But the final collapse happened quickly. Here is the description from Helaman 3:1:

“seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gaddianton robbers filling the judgment seats, having usurped the power and authority of the land, laying aside the commandments of God and not in the least aright before him, doing no justice unto the children of men, condemning the righteous because of their righteousness, letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover, to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world; and moreover, that they might the more easy commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills — now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites in the space of not many years —”

The judicial system and government positions were targeted by wicked office-holders. When they gained authority, they decided to uphold friends and suppress others. It did not matter that the wicked were allowed to go unpunished. What mattered more was to punish the righteous in order to prevent them from interfering with the goal of control.

They intended to impose their self-will as government policy. That way the government would not interfere with their indulgence, adultery, theft, killing and perversity.

Once they succeeded, the result was predictable destruction. The Book of Mormon tells an interesting tale, and ought to serve as a warning to us. In fact, it was intended specifically to be a warning to us. The Book of Mormon was written to inform us that once we inherited the land, we were to submit to God’s purpose for the land. As the text cautions us:

“And now we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God or they shall be swept off when the fullness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fullness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands. Wherefore, he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off, for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fullness of iniquity among the children of the land that they are swept off. And this cometh unto you, O ye gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God, that ye may repent and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness be come, that ye may not bring down the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land hath hitherto done. Behold, this is a choice land; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under Heaven if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who has been manifested by the things which we have written.” NC Ether 1:7

There are always ambitious, wicked men and women who seek for positions in government so they can wield power over others. That sort of person has succeeded on this land (the Americas) before. When they have, the society they rule in wickedness has been destroyed. This lesson and warning has been given to us in a book claiming to be a “gift from God” in order to allow us to repent rather than remaining in our iniquities. The condition required is that we serve, or obey, Jesus Christ. It is His land we occupy. We are merely guests.

Because the United States elects its government, our votes matter. As the Proverbs remind us: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked bears rule, the people mourn.” Here, we collectively get the government we collectively deserve.

Reforming any government begins by reforming the people of the nation. The solution to almost all of society’s problems can be found through repentance and obedience to God. It is never too late to repent. Except, of course, once our society becomes ripe in iniquity.