Friday, November 2, 2018

Reflections on a Dawning

Awaiting new birth and a fiery new life from the waters of creation. Blazing glory born of water. Emerging from and triumphing victorious over the Duat that it descended into and traveled through. What a marvelous sight to witness. Many millions here have barely to look to be part of it, but only a small handful are willing to wait for what the crescent moon overhead announces is arriving. All creation testifies of this path, this cycle. The moon will travel the same path of the ecliptic today, constantly pointing to the sun as it precedes it. In the coming days, she will incrementally draw closer and closer until she returns to his location in the heavens, then jointly traveling together, her presence perfectly veiled. Even the darkness of my own shadow testifies of the light given. There is great contrast. This light illuminates and gives understanding of the true nature of creation around. Even if I close my eyes, I can discern its presence and direction. The light is sometimes veiled and diffuse, sometimes direct, stark and strong. The sun is unwavering, perfectly consistent in its path, his light granting life to all creation, whether acknowleged or not. 

"And I, God, said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night. And let them be for SIGNS, and for seasons, and for days, and for years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And it was so. And I, God, made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. And the greater light was the sun and the lesser light was the moon."  (RE Genesis 2:6)

Signs make representations, allow us to reflect on their meaning. 

"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. Yea, behold, the DAY of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end. For after this DAY of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the NIGHT of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say when ye are brought to that awful crisis that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this, for the same spirit you hearken to obey while living in the flesh shall, upon your death, have the same power to influence you to hearken unto that spirit in the next life." (RE Alma 16:37)

How many days has it been? 












Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Unwritten LDS Military Order of Things: Insubordination

Unwritten LDS Church Rules

As a BYU student, I attended a devotional there in Oct. 1996 where Elder Boyd Packer gave a talk titled "The Unwritten Order of Things". It's worth the read. He outlined how, even though the LDS Church has an immense amount of non-scriptural instructions that leaders must exactly follow (known as the Church Handbook of Instructions, volume 1 of which is carefully controlled and not permitted to be published publicly), there is a whole other level of unwritten commandments that must be adhered to. They are learned by deference to higher LDS Church authorities and by imitation. We were instructed to learn them by watching and then following the Brethren. (LDS general authorities) According to Elder Packer, LDS Church leaders, in particular, are expected to be exemplary mimickers. And one of the most important parts of to be mimicked is deference to and obedience to what are referred to as "line of authority" and "proper channels". This is not only preeminent for any leader in the LDS Church, but also important for the rank and file to understand. In recent years, this modern LDS Church teaching has been a growing crescendo ringing in the ears of mere members, most particularly since the advent of its most recent president.

The Secret LDS UCMJ

The military equivalent of LDS "line of authority" and "proper channels" is the idea of "chain of command" and is the primary way it maintains order. It is a cornerstone aspect of how the military hierarchy governs. If a service member behaves in a way that disrupts the chain of command, he could be reprimanded by court martial for insubordination. The precise definitions of different types of insubordination are contained in Articles 89-92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). In general, a service member is guilty of insubordination against a superior officer (commissioned, warrant, or non-commissioned) if he disobeys or disrespectfully treats that officer, regardless of whether that officer is in the same branch of the military or even within that service member's direct chain of command. Insubordination is one of the very few crimes specific to the military that is not a crime among ordinary civilians.

But, some might claim, LDS Church members are not ordinary civilians. The institution has adopted this cornerstone part of the military code for its own, particularly within its leadership hierarchy. You will not find it, however, in its uniform code book of rules that leaders are directed to scrictly adhere to. It is entirely unwritten, as Elder Packer suggested, though very real.

That there are unwritten orders that proceed down the chain of command in the Church which supersede even rigid Church Handbook rules is no longer in question. For example, three years ago in early 2015, the late Elder Von Keetch directed local stake leaders to excommunicate undesirables by both bypassing the Church Handbook (try the husband and wife jointly at the stake level, when only men are ever to be tried there) and also disregarding the "strict commands of God" that there should be no one tried for their beliefs. (consider NC Alma 16:2) His leaked top-down directives to local leaders are here and here. If since that time in 2015 you were to see someone tried and excommunicated 1) jointly as husband and wife at the stake level, despite the Handbook's call for no joint trials and that women are only to be tried at the ward level, and 2) for their beliefs rather than crimes, you have identified the fingerprints of the secret LDS UCMJ.

In fact, implicit threat of "court martial" for insubordination is enough for members of the LDS Church not to break rank but to maintain formation. When sufficient deference is not given to a leader, it can quickly evolve into actual disciplinary action for that insubordinate person--or threat of excommunication for apostasy, as it is reclassified. Notice how the late Elder Keetch classified it as exactly this.

The Crime: Insubordination to a Superior Officer

It is ironic that it cannot be called insubordination but must instead be called "apostasy." Perhaps this could be because a public reference to something military-sounding could be embarrassing and would not "safeguard" the proper public image of the LDS Church, as it tries to do. (This is explained as a reason for disciplining some members in its Handbook.) The LDS Church has already had much trouble with the public thinking of it as a cult often due to its perceived focus on excessive adoration and following of leaders to now have to deal with people also likening it to the military. It certainly wouldn't help the next Church holiday campaign.

As an example, it was only after our bishop had discovered during an interview our use of a non-LDS sacrament ordinance (see the previous post) in the privacy of our own home, that he issued an order to stop. He insisted that only he could authorize such private religious observances, apparently whether an LDS one or any other. He was unwilling or unable to provide any scriptural authority for his demand other than claiming, in essence, that the Lord "hath given his power unto men," (NC 2 Ne 12:1), otherwise called "keys" in LDS jargon, and that any congregant of his ought to thus obey. In military jargon, this is referred to as the authority of rank. And it is enough that any subordinate officer must comply. It has nothing to do with that superior officer's ability or, in the case of the Church, his worthiness before the Lord. Not complying is grounds for being accused of the crime of insubordination.

What do the scriptures have to say about such ultimatums given? The Lord's warning in T&C 139:5 that use such of control, dominion, and compulsion would cause a leader to lose priesthood ought to be warning enough. But generally, when a superior officer either in the Church or in the military tells a lower ranking leader or officer not to worry about it and just proceed with the abuse, he will do so. The prophet Mormon anciently saw in vision that religious leaders in our day would direct their subordinates to "do this [e.g., follow orders] … and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day." (NC Mormon 4:4)

"Intolerable Acts of Tyranny"

In one of many examples of irony between the public and private faces of the Church, consider how such counter-scriptural ultimatums given behind closed doors contrast with the public pronouncements. Statements such as these are generally met with great public acclaim and have often resulted in glowing press for the Church:
  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in a Church news conference Jan 27, 2015: "Certainly, religious rights must include a family’s right to worship and conduct religious activities in the home as it sees fit, and for parents to teach their children according to their religious values—recognizing that when children are old enough they will choose their own path."
  • Elder Lance B. Wickman taught as recently as July 7, 2016, at a BYU Religious Freedom Conference that barring someone from worshipping "in his own home would be an intolerable act of tyranny."
  • Elder D. Todd Christofferson broadened this when speaking at a Historic Religious Freedom Event in Brazil on April 29, 2016: "May we pursue peace by working together to preserve and protect the freedom of all people to hold and manifest a religion or belief of their choice, whether individually or in community with others, at home or abroad, in public or private, and in worship, observance, practice and teaching. … Full freedom is more than the 'negative' freedom to be left alone. It's also a 'positive freedom' that allows a person to live his or her religion in a tolerant, respectful and accommodating environment. … How can we claim the freedom of speech without being able to say what we truly believe?"
Of course, these more or less align with what the Church still claims to subscribe to in the 11th Article of Faith: "we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." "All men" includes a lot of people.

So, have local leaders not gotten the memo? In many cases, including here, they have, in fact, read and considered these sorts of statements. But the hidden dynamic of the unwritten LDS version of the USMC is also at play. Publicly the LDS Church can state one thing, while privately local leaders who have been given secret direction via trusted "proper channels" understand that those public pronouncements are doublespeak and therefore will not take them at face value, trusting instead their secret communications. For example, in this case, LDS Church leaders understand these public statements and the 11th Article of Faith in reality are meant to exclude members of the Church, who are absolutely permitted to be subject to such "intolerable act[s] of tyranny" by their leaders.

Is it possible the Book of Mormon prophet-writer Nephi foresaw this when he wrote that the Gentiles (who include the LDS Church) "shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord and their works shall be in the dark"? (NC 2 Ne. 12:1)

The history of this tradition of contrasting public vs. private understandings can be traced back to the post-Joseph days of Utah-era Church practice and advocacy of polygamy, which was illegal in the United States (including its territories). At that time in the Church, "lying for the Lord" to one's "enemy" in order to protect others from law enforcement was considered acceptable. In fact, it was considered so normal a thing, that when Wilford Woodruff announced in a press release the end of the practice of polygamy in 1890 (also known as "the Manifesto"), no one in the LDS Church was surprised when it continued unabated, just more secret, as has been well documented by historians in recent decades. It, of course, actually was forced to end 14 years later with the so-called "Second Manifesto", where the US government wasn't willing to play word games anymore.

"By What Authority!?"

I believe it's worth noting some of what is taught in the temple, without disclosing anything participants are directed not to. (Although I accept that some like to extend that direction beyond the actual instruction to not discussing anything from the temple--if you're such a person, you should consider skipping to the next section.)

It is interesting in the cosmic creation drama of the temple what happens when Lucifer is confronted by followers of the Father, who have looked over his kingdom and, as he supposes, seem to him to want to take possession of all of it. It's worrisome. As a fallen angel, he has invested an awful lot of time building up his earthly kingdom, priesthoods, an army of oppressing false priests, etc. through blood and horror, and he's a little "concerned" (though not fearful, he might protest) and feeling threatened. Authority in the realm he has openly invaded and illegally occupied is always granted by his chain of command, Lucifer himself being at the top (bottom?). Any challenge to his believed authority to govern what he has built up is always met by the same query: "By what authority!?" (LDS old timers can't read that without hearing it and remembering the perfectly-acted visceral and utter disdain shown toward the messengers of truth) How dare anyone threaten his kingdom by bringing truth and light into this dark, occupied territory? The enemy of our souls cannot help but challenge their authority when confronted. Who do they think within the permitted chain of command could have possibly allowed them to disrupt his "great day of … power" by doing anything other than what he, at his sole discretion, will permit? Who do they think gave them any "keys" of authority here within his imitation he calls "religion"? (He always seems to suppose that those seeking heavenly messengers should be satisfied with "religion" instead…) The answer then provided by the messengers is upsetting to him in the extreme: by the authority, or in the name, of Jesus Christ, who literally sent them and gave them words to deliver. Christ's words and direct errand are their authority. And ultimately Lucifer's challenge to that authority--his demand to know what "keys" they think they have--is powerless when he is finally dismissed in due time.

How is this drama different in any age? How could it be any different in a militaristic situation of command and control where insubordination is a crime? How could a leader in such an organization doing as he feels directed (but rightly refusing to identify those feelings with the spirit of discernment) do anything other than fall back to questioning the authority of any individual who seeks to follow Christ? Or to disdainfully demand to know of an insubordinate subordinate "by what authority!?" the person does as Christ commands? To claim that member lacks authority without the leader's permission, even if the Heavens have directly authorized the man?

It is eternally the same in every age of the cosmic drama. It is witnessed as an essential part of the pattern in LDS temples, even if it's not often considered or understood.

Enforcing the Commandments of Men in the Name of Jesus Christ

Perhaps what is worse than the attempted top-down enforcement of proper rank and file formation by means of control, dominion, and compulsion is that it is consistently done in the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, directly in spite of Christ's forbidding of priesthood use for enforcement of anything in any degree (much less chain-of-command orders!), the whole idea is pinned on the Lord. It's claimed that it is His will. Now that's some considerable irony. The Lord Himself warned that "you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain." (OC Deut. 2:10)

Unfortunately, many pretended Saints (sheep's clothing helps with the pretense) instead speak idle words, gratifying their pride, exercising their vain ambition, while using the Lord’s name only in vain. Whenever someone proclaims their own agenda in the name of the Lord they take His name in vain. The commandment doesn't forbid swearing--it's when someone claims to speak for the Lord when they actually do not that violates the command against vainly using the Lord’s name.

Lots more irony there, when you consider how strongly LDSs look down on anyone using "profane language" while at the same time being happy to use the Lord's name to justify their abuses.

As Peter said, "we ought to obey God rather than men." (NC Acts 3:7)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Lord's Supper and Utter Unawareness

Administering "the flesh and blood of Christ" (NC Moroni 4:1) in the days of Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon was very different than the modern LDS ordinance. Consider how history contrasts with what things have evolved into today:

Ordinance of "the flesh and blood of Christ"
Modern LDS Sacrament Ordinance
Administered by elders (meaning apostles, at the time) and priests. Administered by young men in the LDS Church offices of deacon, teacher, priest, and those in the congregation, who help pass the sacrament trays.
Administered in homes, outdoor locations, during conferences, and in the Kirtland temple. No meetinghouses existed. Administered in meetinghouses, not in temples, homes, stake or general conferences.
Administered on any day of the week. Administered only on Sundays.
Administered by one having authority directly from Christ but also having been sustained and ordained. Administered by one having current authorization from appointed LDS Church leaders, according to chain of command.
As commanded by Christ, done whenever and wherever saints were gathered and felt moved upon by the Holy Spirit to do so together. ("oft" in NC Moroni 6:2) Performed only when and where authorized by a local LDS leader.
All participants (congregation, etc.) knelt during the prayers offered by the priest. (NC Mormon 4:1) Only the person offering the prayer kneels. All others sit or stand.
One or more loaves of bread were broken by the priest before offering the prayer. Typically slices of processed bread are broken into almost crumb-sized pieces by the young men priests before giving the prayer.
The priest offered the prayer on the bread as found in the Book of Mormon (NC Mormon 4:1) or the Book of Commandments (BoC 24:57), which are identical. The modified prayer in D&C 20:77 is used.
The priest prayed with eyes open, looking upward, and with either both arms upstretched or with the right arm raised to the square. The priest prays with arms folded across the body and head tipped downward (bowed), and eyes closed, if the prayer is memorized.
Participants typically ate bread until filled. (NC 3 Nephi 8:6) Participants each take one small piece of bread.
Used actual wine (i.e., fermented, alcoholic) as the emblem, given by Jesus Christ Himself and as He commanded in the Word of Wisdom. (D&C 89:5-6) Always use water. (as 'miraculously' changed from wine in the 20th century) Use of wine for any purpose at any time is now strictly forbidden and considered sinful.
Priest held the cup of wine while offering the blessing on the wine. Priest overlooks the many small cups of water while blessing them.
The priest offered the prayer on the wine as found in the Book of Mormon (NC Mormon 5:1) or the Book of Commandments (BoC 24:59) or D&C 20:79, which are all identical. A modified prayer is used, where the word "wine" is changed to "water". (Note that the Lord in D&C 27:2 only permits the changing of the emblems as needed, not the changing of the prayers.)
One of several "sacraments". (T&C 89:2) Called "the Sacrament"

Not to Be Altered or Changed

Given such a list of changes to the ordinance, it is curious that LDS teachings can today declare those changes inconsequential. Particularly given that their claimed founder, Joseph Smith, taught that:
"Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed." (TPJS, p. 308)
This teaching is easily overcome, however, by simply ignoring it in the modern LDS Church, even though earlier in my own lifetime it was heavily emphasized. (and Catholics derided for their changed ordinances!) The modern teaching that a current LDS Church president can somehow override, contradict, and change what Joseph Smith (or even other previous Church presidents) have taught as unchanging doctrine continues to propel the progressive collective memory loss among its members.

Ere He is Aware

In fact, the two columns above are so different that it is hard to imagine how modern LDS Church leaders could imagine themselves important enough not only to "exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion" (T&C 139:5) in unrighteousness upon their own members for their own heavily altered LDS ordinances, but then go beyond that to attempt to control any other non-LDS religious practice (such as the above ancient and older practices). If you believe LDS scripture, the result for such persons claiming to use priesthood for exercise of control, dominion, or compulsion (in any degree) is as the Lord has stated:
"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 theSaints, and to fight against God." (T&C139:5)
The pattern is fascinating.

"Ere he is aware" refers to the fact that such individuals are, at that point, unable to detect that the Heavens have withdrawn--they are simply not aware of it. They have long since been acting on feelings and emotions (helpfully provided by a different source as a means of manipulation), rather than acting on the light and intelligence that comes from the Holy Spirit of God.

"He is left unto himself" refers to the Lord's willingness to allow that man to proceed with his own agenda, without further guidance or interference from Heaven.

By definition, "persecuting the Saints" can only be done by one actually in a position where he can "exercise control." This can only refer to LDS Church leaders, who rule over the "Saints" in the synagogues they occupy.

"Kicking against the pricks" refers to their unwitting fight against what God is attempting to accomplish, so much so that He then refers to it as "fighting against God."

There is a certain irony in all of this that seems to have been anticipated:

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe unto the wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight." (NC 2 Nephi 8:14-15)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Wolves, Sheep, and Clothing

The idea of a "wolf" concealing itself in "sheep’s clothing" (Matt. 7:15) comes from the pretense of piety by men whose hearts are set on the things of this world. The more conspicuous the pretensions to piety the quicker people are misled.

John C. Bennett was a notorious adulterer, having abandoned his marriage and family before arriving in Nauvoo. But he was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. His election was unanimous. The citizens of Nauvoo universally admired him.

In his inaugural address on February 3, 1841, his first recommendation for improving the community was to pass an ordinance forbidding bars, dram shops and sales of alcohol by the drink in Nauvoo. He associated drinking with "evil and crime" which could be prevented by adopting his recommended ordinance. The first ordinance adopted by the Nauvoo City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bennett was "An Ordinance in relation to Temperance" passed on February 15, 1841. It prohibited "all persons and establishments" from selling whiskey by the drink in Nauvoo without a physician’s recommendation in writing.

This conspicuous act of public piety reaffirmed the man’s nobility and concealed Bennett’s real inclinations and ongoing betrayal of a wife and children. It made Bennett appear to be the right man to be trusted to lead the community.

This same black-hearted character defended enforcement of morality by compulsion. "Liberty to do good should be cheerfully and freely accorded to every man; but liberty to do evil, which is licentiousness, should be peremptorily prohibited. The public good imperiously demands it." This was Lucifer’s plan advocated anew by Nauvoo’s first mayor. Given Bennett’s inclinations, maybe he proposed forcing morality on citizens because he knew it was the only way he could be moral.

In hindsight, it is so very easy to pick out Bennett’s pretensions to piety and to see them for what they are. Nauvoo elected the man by unanimous vote to be the first mayor of the Mormon city because they could not see what he really was. His attire was so very sheep-like they could not conceive they were upholding a wolf.

(In contrast, for example, can you imagine John the Baptist's attire being mistaken for being "sheep-like"? (see NC Matt. 2:2) He made no attempt adopting an acceptable appearance in order to "blend in," much less point anyone to himself. Consider John's utterly ego-less response in the Testimony of John 1:8.)

Today it is no different. Wolves are still trusted with the treasury, given honor, and smothered with adoration. Joseph Smith had little confidence in mankind’s ability to decide between the real and the imitation. He explained it this way: "The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth, (see Hebrews 11:38), and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men." (DHC, Vol. 4, p. 574; also TPJS, p. 206.)

The Lamanite prophet Samuel warned of the exact same tendency in NC Helaman 5:6-8.

Anything claimed to be truth should conform with the truths already given in scripture. Everyone’s motives should be questioned until it is determined by sufficient observation they are sheep. Any teaching or person who draws us to them, and does not point us to the Lord is unable to help us. If they try to supplant Christ as the object of admiration, then they are anti-Christ and a false prophet.

LDS Church President Nelson's recent visit to the humble family of a single mother in Africa, where he presented them with the gift of a photo of himself and his two new counselors. (from Mormon Newsroom video press release)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Common Consent: The Voice of the People

Despite my previous comments, there are reasons that might suggest the response received by the "Lots team" was not necessarily given by the Lord. However, I don't believe the question is relevant here.

In the Answer and Covenant, for some reason (which might be worth pondering) the Lord made no stipulation about bringing anything to Him either for approval or before including it, only that "I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people ... [and] when you have an agreed statement of principles I require it to also be added as a guide and standard for my people to follow." (p. 8) With the Lord's clarification of what He meant by the phrase "mutual agreement" (i.e., "As between one another, you choose to not dispute"), it seems very clear now how to proceed.

But first, two quotes for context:
"Even after a church was organized in 1830, and after a revelation designating Joseph Smith as the only one “appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church,” (D&C 28:2, received in Sept. 1830) common consent was used to decide the will of the Lord. In a conference held November 11, 1831, Reynolds Cahoon wanted an answer: “the question which he wanted settled was whether it was the will of the Lord that he should go to Zion in the spring.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 128, minutes of a special conference in Hiram, Ohio) The issue was settled by common consent: “Voted that it is the mind of the conference that our br. Reynolds is not yet commanded to go to Zion in the spring by any thing yet written; Therefore, Voted that our br. Reynolds be not sent up to Zion in the coming spring.” Even the duties of a bishop were decided by common consent in the beginning of the restoration.1 The time has come again for common consent to hold sway in the lives of believers. Relying on others to exercise control more often than not invites abuse." [emphasis added] Preserving the Restoration, pp. 259-260

1 “…and the duty of the Bishop shall be made known by the commandments which have been given and by the voice of the conference.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 150; D&C 72:7.) The Crooked Creek Branch of the church voted in a conference on July 7, 1840 to become a stake. They sent conference minutes to the Times and Seasons, which inspired Joseph and Hyrum Smith to publish a letter praising their decision and advising them, “it will be necessary to appoint a Bishop to transact business for said stake, which appointment will be left to the decision of said branch.” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 2, No. 2, November 15, 1840, p. 222.) Joseph was church president, Hyrum was in the church presidency and also patriarch to the church, but choosing the bishop was left for the members’ vote.
Also:
"Conferences were held to resolve all questions, disputes, ordinations and even mission calls. (See, e.g., JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 128, minutes of a conference in Hiram, Ohio.) Conferences using common consent allow those in fellowship with each other to prayerfully reason together and grow in unity."  Preserving the Restoration, pp. 515
All that may be required is the voice of the people ("common consent") for which draft of a "statement of principles" to use. And then, those who wind up not having voted for whichever is selected then "choose to not dispute." (And I'm not persuaded that the idea that no vote being needed after some draft is produced holds any water--how can a people agree to something before it has been composed?) Proceeding would thus be as simple as letting the people agree by their voice on one and then, going forward, the body refusing to choose to dispute that vote.

Given the many disputes and arguments over what is deemed doctrinally correct, the quote which will soon appear at the head of the Teachings and Commandments volume seems timely:
"I would rather submit to the decision of the group than insist that my view be followed. For me harmony between brethren is more important than getting what I think best to be followed. I believe harmony can lead to much greater things than can merely enforcement of even a correct view. I know how difficult it is to have a correct view, because of how often I have been corrected by the Lord. Sometimes I am humiliated by my foolishness when the Lord reproves me. Humiliation can lead to humility, but my experience is that the humiliation is accompanied by shame, whereas humility can proceed with a clear conscience. 
"My experience with others leads me to conclude that if we can have one heart first, eventually we can likewise come to have one mind. But if we insist on having one mind at the outset, we may never obtain one heart together." — Denver Snuffer
It aligns well with what the Lord teaches in the Answer:
"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. I lead to all truth. I will lead all who come to me to the truth of all things. The fullness is to receive the truth of all things, and this too from me, in power, by my word and in very deed. For I will come to you if you will come unto me." [emphasis added]
During His mortal life, our Lord could have refuted every incorrect teaching, misunderstanding, and form of unbelief, however He chose not to except on rare occasions as directed by the Father.

As those who have entered into a solemn covenant with the Lord, may we hearken to His example and value harmony with one another above "being right," as we suppose.

"And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen." (D&C 26:2)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Messages, Witnesses, and Accountability

Messages and Witnesses

Isaiah posed the question: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) It is always possible to dismiss God’s message. Truth inspires institutional opposition, rejection, and an army of opposing skeptics. That is the only way the test can be the same over and over again. Who is going to believe the report? Who is going to see the arm of the Lord? It is rarely those who occupy the seats of authority. (Nicodemus and Alma are the rare exceptions.) Christ will always be a threat to such and to their craft.

As the author of Preserving the Restoration made clear, the contents of the book seek to reteach and reestablish what the Lord brought forth through Joseph Smith. Since Joseph's death, that body of teachings has been altered, abandoned, amended, subtracted from, and added to by men claiming the ability (by mere right of being successor to the office once occupied by Joseph) to adjust what the Lord gave through Joseph despite the Lord's instruction to the contrary. The book is an attempt to recover and preserve what truth and light of the Restoration came forth but which, out of neglect, continues to fade and would otherwise soon be lost as external forces continue to drive our LDS Church institution in a very predictable fashion. It is an attempt to re-teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Joseph taught but which we no longer teach in the Church today. It is an invitation to come to Christ in the most literal way--a teaching once referred to by Joseph as "the Second Comforter." Despite this teaching still being enshrined throughout LDS scripture (perhaps most obviously in D&C 93:12 Nephi 32:6, D&C 132:22-23, and D&C 130:3) and in the LDS endowment ceremony, it has now in recent years been openly opposed by the LDS Church and taught to be a Satanic idea. (or its teaching being "a familiar tactic of the adversary" as Elder Oaks referred to Nephi and Joseph's teaching in a June 2015 talk) The message of the book does not invite the reader to leave or to join any church or institution.

The author of the book states that its contents constitute a message he was personally directed by the Lord Jesus Christ to speak and give:
As a public act of remembrance I spent a year beginning September 10, 2013, giving a series of ten lectures reiterating the foundation of the faith. These lectures ended 365 days later on September 9, 2014. At the conclusion of 40 years of faithful membership in the LDS Church, I was sent by the Lord to preach the restoration so others would also remember. The yearlong ministry was the Lord’s idea. He chose the locations, and the subjects and instructed me in what to discuss. (Preserving the Restoration, p. vi)
When the Lord sends a message, He makes no distinction between Himself speaking and someone He sends to deliver a specific message. The effect and the accountability are the same. (D&C 1:38) The challenge, therefore, is to determine when He sends a “servant” rather than accepting a message from someone using His name in vain. You and I individually have that responsibility.

I have myself carefully read and studied this message in its entirety several times. I can find no fault in it. Instead, I have perceived more light and truth than I have found anywhere outside of scripture. I have already shared the witness I received of the message contained in it as plainly as I can. I have also stated that I believe this is in fulfillment of the Lord's words in 3 Nephi 21:11--that these are the words of the Lord He has caused "a man" to bring forth to the Gentiles (whom the Lord identifies as us LDSs). If true, Christ has stated there is a penalty for those who will not believe His words: "they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant." This ought to be a sobering possibility, inviting careful consideration from any believer in Christ and not perfunctory dismissal.

But the Lord Himself does personally commission and send additional witnesses. The below are the two additional witnesses included in the book, one at the beginning and one at the end, both of whom have since been excommunicated from the LDS Church for the act of having given these witnesses.

After these two, I have also included the preface to the book itself, which has been shared publicly before.

The Witness of Louis Naegle

At the time of this writing I am a member in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, entirely a direct descendant of “proud Nauvoo” and pioneer ancestors. To my knowledge, every one of my direct predecessors were active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while Brigham Young was president, and most were members before that time. My forefathers include John Conrad Naegle, Levi Savage, Joseph Leland Heywood, John D. Lee, Thomas Ross, Levi Bracken, James McFate, Joseph Cadwallader Davis, George Zimmerman, John Harvey, George Prince, James Jackson, Joseph Woolsey, James Bell, Owen Williams, John Davies, and James Crawford. All of my great-great-grandparents were church members.

As far as bloodline heritage is concerned, I think it would be impossible to be more “Mormon” than am I. I say this not to boast but as part of a solemn testimony and declaration:

I am not a dissenter trying to “destroy the kingdom.” I am instead a descendant of those who built “the kingdom” and I am attempting to make the pathway straight and the record clear. I believe this is in the best tradition of the pioneers who were trying to live a true religion. I reject the notion that I am apostate. I know I will answer to my forefathers and to my Father for the testimony I give, and therefore I want most of all to be true to the faith once held by my fathers.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the current church management and culture will understand what publishing this testimony will mean to me and my family. I anticipate retaliation from the church, and although it saddens me, I am resigned to facing those consequences. I do not claim to be righteous, but I am a witness.

I testify that the Lord has set His hand a second time to restore the truth through His servant before the great and dreadful day that fast approaches. I have known Denver Snuffer since 2007. I have attended every public talk he has given since that time, including all ten lectures of the Forty Years in Mormonism series. I have read what he has written. I am a witness that events he now shares in public concerning his interactions with his stake presidents and church leaders were shared with me by Denver at the time they were happening and while he was in good standing with the church. He valued his church membership greatly and the events he now shares publicly have not been fabricated or reconstructed after the fact to support an agenda of his own design.

I know God the Father and Jesus Christ live. I have seen them. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have been in his presence also. I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. I have had my eyes opened and my life changed through its message. I also know from my own sense of reason, from the testimony of the Holy Ghost, and from God declaring it to me by His own Voice that Denver C. Snuffer, Jr. is an honest messenger, sent by Him, and telling the truth.

Please do not ignore what is written in this book. Please do not take this warning lightly. I implore all who read this testimony to repent and return to Jesus Christ, the God of Israel and savior of the world. Receive the words of a true prophet, but follow no man! Do not allow any man or group to come between you and your Savior. To the extent you do so, you are laboring in idolatry and you will damn yourself and any who follow you in doing likewise. (D&C 76:100)

Jesus Christ alone is the Holy One. He employs no servant at that gate through which we all must pass. The fullness of the gentiles is now fulfilled except for our impending destruction. Who cannot see that all is not well in so-called “Zion.” Only a few repentant gentiles will be gathered. Only the penitent of the House of Israel will establish the New Jerusalem. Will you be among them?

Save what was given through the Prophet and Seer Joseph Smith. What is offered in this book contains the most light and truth that has been presented in writing in almost 2,000 years.

Denver has openly testified that Jesus Christ has ministered to him. I testify this is true, and that he has been called as a servant to declare the heavens are open again for all to freely partake of the Heavenly Gift.

If you will consider the message of this book from a servant sent to deliver it, with a sincere heart and real intent, you will also know that what is presented is true and faithful. If you will not consider it, but instead harden your heart, you will be damned. God is working to save us, and this book is part of God’s kindness in forewarning us about our present state. Even if you find it hard to believe, it is important for us to see and understand our circumstances.

I leave this testimony with you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;

Amen.

Louis Naegle
August 29, 2015

The Witness of Keith Henderson

At the conclusion of the ten lectures in Phoenix, Arizona area I bore my testimony concerning them. Fifty-two years earlier I had come on a mission to that same area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Now, almost a year later, I lift up my voice before all mankind who read this book, to again bear testimony. My growth in the intervening 53 years since my mission has been great, but my testimony still remains very simple.

My name is Keith Henderson. At the time I first testified in 2014, I was still an active member in good standing with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and with the Lord Jesus Christ. The church has since excommunicated me from their community for what they claim to be “apostasy.” I had committed no sin warranting this drastic measure. They have, however, viewed my testimony of these things as an egregious and flaunting act of insubordination to the authority of the church and its leaders. For that they have thrown me out. This time I bear testimony as a member of Christ’s Church as defined in D&C 10:67 in good standing with Christ and the Father.

I am grateful for this opportunity that I have received to lift up my voice and reaffirm my witness and testimony before the Most High God, before His holy angels, and before all of you who would be witnesses with me that: this book, loosely based on those ten lectures, written by our friend and God’s servant, is a message given from God to all men and women everywhere, who will hear or read.

I so witness that I know that it is God’s message and not a man’s.

I had attended every portion of those ten lectures. I have listened time after time to the recordings, and I have read every transcript. I have now also read the manuscript of this volume before it was published, with its expanded material, including the chapters on King Benjamin and the Sunstone talk (Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge), which I attended when it was originally given in 2014.

And now I bear solemn testimony that I have received a message by God’s own voice of their truthfulness, and also of His desire for us to believe in, and act upon these things that have been spoken and written.

I stand as another witness with Denver, conforming to the law of witnesses, that theses things are true. I expect to be held accountable for this in the days and eternity to come, before Christ and my Father, and to all men.

I bear this testimony humbly and solemnly, and in the power of the most Holy Priesthood.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

Keith Henderson,
Clinton, Utah

Preface to Preserving the Restoration

In 1832 the Lord posed this question: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given him, neither in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33) From the moment Joseph Smith died those who believed he was a prophet began to lose memory of what God revealed through him. The pace of forgetting has accelerated.
The obligation to respect Joseph’s revelations is clear from the Lord’s instruction, “no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.” (D&C 28:2) [The revelation allows for the possibility for someone else to be later appointed “in his stead.” (28:7) It would be through Joseph, however, the power was given “to appoint another in his stead.” (D&C 43:4) That appointment came in January 1841 when Hyrum Smith was appointed. (D&C 124:91-96) Hyrum, however, was slain moments before Joseph, and therefore no one else has been appointed to amend, supplement, disregard, alter or reject commandments and revelations given through Joseph Smith.] When Joseph was slain the church wanted a replacement. When no one with his gifts was available, an imitation served.
On August 8, 1844 the quorum of the twelve were voted to lead. By December 1847 Brigham Young no longer wanted to share power with eleven others. Against Wilford Woodruff’s recommendation and the active opposition of John Taylor and Parley Pratt, Young successfully won a vote at Winter Quarters making him the second president of the church. [Technically he was the third, but no one counts Hyrum Smith despite his actual appointment and service.] From Young until David O. McKay in the 1950’s, when the word-title “the Prophet” was used it still meant only Joseph Smith. But rhetoric matters, and the word-title began to be used to first secure acquiescence, then to compel compliance by LDS Church leaders.
The church’s presidents claim that they too could communicate “commandments and revelations… even as Moses” began the process of accelerating our forgetfulness [Forgetting includes re-interpreting the language by divorcing it from context, supplying new meaning not originally intended, and improperly using Joseph to vindicate later improper innovations.] of Joseph’s words. He became less important as successors claimed equality. Who cannot see the logic in preferring a “living” prophet to a deceased one? Ignoring Joseph means forgetting. By forgetting we have refused the gift God offered. Our first obligation now is to remember. Until we remember what was given before, there is no reason for God to give more.
The primary repository of Joseph Smith’s work has been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are others, of course, who retained valuable parts of Joseph’s work. Emma Smith kept the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, something Joseph explained was necessary for the church to have or it “would yet fall.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, p. 85, footnote 76) The translation became the property of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was not until the 1980 edition of the LDS Bible that the Joseph Smith Translation was first used by the LDS Church, and then only partly added in footnotes and an appendix.
As soon as Joseph Smith died, a spirited competition developed to control the documents and access to information. One writer described it:
The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Generally referred to as the “Documentary History of the Church” or the “DHC.”] was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that “no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed” is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: “I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Navuoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.)
Today our challenge is two-fold: First, finding the truth through the deliberate efforts to conceal and modify the record. Second, once found, whether we will accept in gratitude what God offered by repenting and returning to His path. We fail these tests when we ignore, oppose, dismiss, reject and allow our fear to control us. As Christ said the day of His resurrection: “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” (Luke 24:25) Nothing has changed. Our challenge is identical to that faced by all believers since Adam. [Satan’s original and continuing urging remains the same: “Believe it not.” (Moses 5:13)]
As a public act of remembrance I spent a year beginning September 10, 2013, giving a series of ten lectures reiterating the foundation of the faith. These lectures ended 365 days later on September 9, 2014. At the conclusion of 40 years of faithful membership in the LDS Church, I was sent by the Lord to preach the restoration so others would also remember. [The yearlong ministry was the Lord’s idea. He chose the locations, and the subjects and instructed me in what to discuss.]
This book was written to compile a reference work on the restoration. But this is not merely a restatement of the lectures. The lectures were given entirely within the Mormon corridor, and addressed only to the people there. This is written for a different audience outside the Mormon corridor. It is a reference work on the foundation God provided through Joseph Smith.
This book is not a repetition of the lectures. It has been expanded to include more about the various topics. Where appropriate the order of the discussion has been changed. Subject matter has been consolidated and some of the material has been moved into the more appropriate chapter.
Between the 4th lecture in Orem, Utah (Priesthood) and the 5th in Grand Junction, Colorado (Zion) I wrote a series of blog posts about King Benjamin’s sermon. Those posts have been used to develop a chapter in this book.
Finally, a paper delivered at the 2014 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium after the lecture in St. George, Utah (Marriage) has also been updated and added. With the addition of the King Benjamin and Sunstone materials, there are 12 chapters.
The restoration is not the property of an institution. Although dozens of churches claim the role of succeeding to Joseph Smith’s ‘true and living’ church, the restoration belongs to us all. Whether you belong to some denomination claiming Joseph as a founder, or you are a traditional Christian, the things restored through Joseph Smith came from God as a gift to all. Because of this, we all have the responsibility to remember and respect the inspired work of Joseph Smith.
The restoration is God’s call to action and offer to renew His direct contact with mankind. The response during Joseph’s day was less than adequate. The restoration was founded on revelation, but when Joseph and Hyrum were martyred no one suggested revelation could solve the succession crisis. Instead the crowd in Nauvoo voted, the quorum of the twelve received the majority of the votes, and the most successful version of the restoration, LDS Mormonism, has perpetuated itself by voting to install leadership continuously ever since.
The leadership of LDS Mormonism has increasingly ignored and replaced the commandments and revelations given through Joseph. Today, members fall in line as church leaders provide their commandments and direction. The result is an increasingly altered form, varying greatly from the original. Gordon B. Hinckley institutionalized a public relations based management style for LDS Mormonism. The opinion polling and focus group testing for decisions and campaigns have increasingly taken hold until now, LDS Mormonism is changing at a stunning pace, reflecting shifting public opinions. The LDS Mormon tradition now repudiates its history, curtails its curriculum, and discards essential elements of its earlier belief system to be more popular.
If there is any chance of remembering the restoration, it is now. Until the restoration is remembered, there can be no completion.
This work is more than a tribute to the Mormon faith. It is an effort to restate the religion and recover its original potential. Mormonism has become imperiled by alteration, forgetfulness, and neglect. It was never intended to be just another Christian denomination. It is destined to reunite all truth into one great whole. Truth is Mormonism, wherever located and in whatever form presently practiced. All truth belongs to the Mormon religion. [“One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Discourses of Joseph Smith, p. 199, Kindle Book, (Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2009).) “[W]e believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, with that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds[.]” (Times and Seasons, February 1840, (Vol. 1, No. 4) Copy of a Letter from J. Smith jr. to Mr. Galland.)]
Mormonism requires study and contemplation. Social change, educational disintegration, and the lack of critical thinking have made modern Mormonism a shallow relic unworthy of the original. Society has surrendered to the “sound-bite mentality” in which quick and quotable phrases substitute for required deep understanding.
I was converted to the Mormon faith through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For forty years I belonged to that church and served in it faithfully. The day I drove to Boise, Idaho to give the first lecture in the Forty Years in Mormonism series, I learned I was excommunicated. My stake president called as my wife and I were driving to Boise and we heard the sad news together.
I am grateful to the LDS Church for introducing me to Joseph Smith and Mormonism. It remains my religion, though now I practice it independent of institutional control.
Many churches claim Joseph Smith as their founder. However, none adequately practice the original faith. This book is written to persuade all to believe in the restoration. I hope to remind all who already believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, of the original greatness of this revolutionary religion. Mormonism should once again become revolutionary.
It is time for the Mormon faith to begin a new phase. One in which all are equal before God, and believers are free once again to worship Him according to the dictates of their own conscience. Priesthood should serve, and not rule over any man. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” In the LDS version of Mormonism, that limitation has been reversed. LDS Mormonism today has been reduced to nothing other than “priesthood” dominion and control through the “correlation” process. It is unscriptural. Indeed anti-scriptural. [I put the word “priesthood” in quotes because it is the LDS Church’s claim, and therefore I use their word. However, as this book will clarify, their claim is not the reality.]
Mormonism can only try and gently persuade you to believe its precepts. This book will attempt to persuade you to believe once again in a dynamic, truth-filled, confident and powerful religion. Mormonism should free your soul, and reunite you with heaven itself.
There are many quotes from historical sources in this book. When quoted they are left as in the original, leaving cross-outs, misspellings and peculiar capitalizations as they appear in the sources used. There are a dozen blank pages provided at the end for a word index. Readers can compile their own list, based on what they would like to locate for later reference while reading. 
I have not included the full text of the scriptures referenced in this book. This is because LDS Mormonism has deemphasized the scriptures in their curriculum. [See, Peggy Fletcher Stack, "New Mormon Curriculum Divides Scholars", Salt Lake Tribune, October 28, 2014.] Readers are invited to use their scriptures to check references. Hopefully it will inspire you to review all of the verses cited.
Mormonism must live again. It belongs to all of us. We should all believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s status as a prophet sent by God, and be willing to approach God directly. In the final analysis, the entire restoration is nothing more than a modern affirmation of the New Testament promise found in James 1:5.
             
September 10, 2015

Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.