Friday, December 21, 2018

More Unwitting Fulfillment of Book of Mormon Prophecy

The Pattern of Unexpectedness


Unexpected fulfillment of prophecy is a hallmark of how what the Lord foretells actually comes to pass. There are some great examples of this in the Book of Mormon. Here's one in particular.

From the following revelation the Lord had long ago given to Nephi, it was "well understood" by the Nephites at the time of Amlici that the "mark" spoken of was the "the skins of the Lamanites [that] were dark" (NC Alma 1:18), having been given as a sign of their cursing due to their own rebellion and attempted murder of their brethren:
Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark upon them, that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed from this time henceforth and for ever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me, that I may have mercy upon them. And again, I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. And again, I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed. And again, I say, he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed. And I will bless thee, etc., and whosoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and for ever. (NC Alma 1:20)
It was assumed that this natural result from the intermarriage of Laman & Lemuel's seed with others already in the Americas when they arrived was what was meant by "a mark" upon them. They apparently considered it the only possible meaning of the prophecy.

What these rebellious, apostate Nephites (the Amlicites) did not anticipate when they marked their foreheads with red was that the Lord also had them in mind with the prophecy given to Nephi:

Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads. (NC Alma 1:20)
It was an unexpected fulfillment that perfectly satisfied what the Lord had predicted. He had had it in mind all along, but it was not understood until after it had been fulfilled. The Amlicites had been just like Nephi's brethren (i.e., had been rebelious, fought against "the seed" of Nephi, refused to repent of their wickedness, and brought the curse entirely upon themselves) and so had "a mark" set upon them.

Book of Mormon Accounts Selected as Patterns of Our Day


The prophet-writers of the Book of Mormon were very familiar with our day. Christ Himself had shown him you (yes, you, the reader), me, and our modern "holy church of God" in vision, as Mormon testified:

Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shewn you unto me, and I know your doing... (NC Mormon 4:5)

What they chose to include in the less-than-1% of their records that they wrote for us to read was carefully selected to be pertinent to our situation. Many of the accounts selected for inclusion are perfect patterns and types for what they saw happening today.

Two Inadvertant & Unwitting 2018 Fulfillments of Prophecy


In my statement made to the high council at the disciplinary hearing we attended, I outlined two examples of this sort of startling fulfillment of prophecy that happened in the course of events leading up to the council. (I did not become aware of the two fulfillments until shortly before the council took place, when the spirit made them manifest.) You can read those in pages 4-6 of 2018-03-01 Disciplinary Council Statement by Vaughn Hughes.pdf. The first example was derived from the procedure adopted in the court of King Noah. It's well described in the statement.

A Simple Exercise from the Second Example


For the second of the two examples, when I suggested on page 6 that "sometimes all you have to do is change the names," I was referring to a teacher of truth deemed apostate by a corrupt institution of our day that mirrored what the corrupt Zoramite Church did in deeming Alma apostate. (and those who saw truth in his teachings) The stake leaders were very aware of the context of my comments, since they had conducted the interrogations. You, the reader, may not be.

So, here is the rest of the suggested exercise in simple name-changing (with a few added notes) that illustrates a fulfillment of this prophecy:

And it came to pass that after the more popular part of the Zoramites <LDS Church> [that is, 'popular' meaning sustained leaders] had consulted together concerning the words which had been preached unto them1 [by Alma <Denver> and his brethren], they were angry because of the word, for it did destroy their craft2; therefore, they would not hearken unto the words. And they sent and gathered together, throughout all the land, all the people <LDS Church members>, and consulted with them [that is, interviewed them] concerning the words which had been spoken3. Now their rulers, and their priests, and their teachers did not let the people know concerning their desires; therefore, they found out privily the minds of all the people4. And it came to pass that after they had found out the minds of all the people, those who were in favor of the words which had been spoken by Alma <Denver> and his brethren were cast out of the land, and they were many.5 (NC Alma 16:40-41)
Fulfillment footnotes:

1  There are multiple leaked pieces of evidence making it clear that the LDS Brethren have "consulted together concerning the words" taught by those they perceive as a threat. One is a leaked slide listing those threats by name. Another is a private acknowledgement by a local leader of contact from an LDS apostle expressing concern about and directing the expulsion of a specific individual.

2  Given that LDS Church leaders are now documented to not only receive bona fide salaries but also quite a few other perks and benefits, and given that the 2/3rds of LDS Church members who are "less active" garner no attention or discipline from leaders, it can only be concluded that those few believing members who are targeted represent a threat to the craft of its leaders. (these crafts by leading priests are termed "priestcrafts" in the Book of Mormon and defined in NC 2 Ne. 11:17)

3  In my only two interviews with stake presidency members in Sandpoint, Idaho, before being called up to be excommunicated, both constituted very deliberate, extended attempts to determine what I thought of the teachings of Denver Snuffer. In neither one did I bring up Denver nor did I express any interest in or engage in any conversation about him. I willingly discussed the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in our scriptures and by Joseph Smith. They expressed great disapproval of my lack of interest in satisfying their curiosities about Denver.

4  This direction from the LDS Church "rulers" to local leaders is now publicly documented and confirmed though still publicly denied. It can no longer be claimed to be mere rumor. In some cases, it is very direct, prolonged control by topmost leaders at LDS Church headquarters. When I was called in for the second such "discovery" interview, it was done under false pretenses. I was asked to come in for an interview, where I was asked to tell them my doubts or concerns with "Church leaders." When I told them I had none to express, they insisted that I nonetheless come in. Upon arrival, the line of questioning immediately switched to a "leisurely" inquisition regarding my thoughts on Denver Snuffer, with many of his quotes being presented to me in a not-so-veiled attempt to find out what I thought of them. (i.e., "privily") Later in his ghost-written letter on behalf of the stake president, the stake presidency counselor who conducted the interview lamented that his quarry had been evasive in his lawyerly attempt. (see page 1 of 2018-03-04 Disciplinary Council Letter of Decision for Vaughn.pdf)

5  This is an ongoing activity that began in earnest the fall of 2014. For a sampling of believing LDS Church members excommunicated in precisely the way foretold here, see the list compiled here.


But Wait! There's More: Expert Devices


It turns out there was at least one more startling fulfillment of a prophetic Book of Mormon pattern as part of these proceedings, which I did not include in my statement but only recently learned of.

But first, the Book of Mormon pattern given:

In NC Alma 8:12, we find the leaders of the corrupt church in the land of Ammonihah stirring up their church members against two outsiders whose teachings they found to be a threat to their craft: Alma and Amulek. Our narrator and guide, Mormon, goes out of his way to specifically identify one particularly noteworthy tactic used by the chief antagonist in the story, who happens to be a lawyer: Zeezrom. Here it is:

Now it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore they did stir up the people to riotings and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them [which is still the case today]; therefore, they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek. And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: "Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you?" Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the Devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek, "Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you?" (NC Alma 8:12)

Mormon repeats the question twice to call our attention to it. It's not a novice tactic. It's something an expert in such devices knows to use. It attempts to coerce the quarry into agreeing to yield to any line of questioning in advance by appealing to their own moral committment to keep their word. This is thus expected to make it easier to trap their quarry in their own words.

Consider how frequently this "device of the Devil" was employed during the brief interview just prior to our disciplinary council, where I had hoped to find out the charges against us. There is clearly a consistent, strongly expressed desire on the part of the stake president to ensure that once we arrive at his council we would, in fact, "answer the questions which [he] shall put unto [us]."

These are from 2018-02-15 Transcript of interview with stake president regarding Disciplinary Council.pdf, where my words are prefixed with a "V" and the stake president's are prefixed with an "R" :

Lines 33-35, referring to my expected responses to his planned interrogation of my wife and me during the council:
R: So ... are you going to be honest?
V: Of course.
R: Then that's all we need.
Lines 77-81, continuing to discuss his planned procedure of asking about our beliefs during the council:
R: And I'll ask you about it when we're talking about it. That's the beauty of it. You can answer honestly, you know, what your belief is about baptism, if you've been baptized <Unintelligible>... I mean I don't know for sure if these are the things I'm going to talk about with you...
Lines 105-110, attempting to use shame to compel us into committing to respond to his planned questioning during the high council:
R: Okay. So, who would be aware of those beliefs and behaviors? You certainly would be, wouldn't you?
V: I would hope so. Are you looking for me to incriminate myself, accusing myself? Is that what you're hoping?
R: Are you embarrassed by what you believe, or do you believe what you believe?
Lines 140-144, this time using mocking to compel us to commit to "answer the questions which I shall put unto you" by "sharing":
R: So, to back to you again, if "apostasy" is beliefs and behaviors generally speaking, all we need to do is have a conversation about yours. And we can share what quorums you do that in, and all you need to do is just be honest about what you believe and share it. Is that a hard thing to do?
Lines 216-221, where "conversation" is a euphemism for his planned "line of questioning":
R: You know, I think as long as we're honest with each other, I don't have any intention to bring in witnesses. There's not going to be...
V: No, you told us that we could bring evidence or witnesses, and I'm asking about that specifically. Not what you might bring.
R: Right. I think with behaviors and so forth, if you're just honest about what you believe, we can have a conversation about ...
Lines 230-232, expressing surprise that anyone would not agree in advance to "answer the questions which [he] shall put unto [us]":
R: And I think that I'm giving you an opportunity to defend your position, your beliefs, and where you present them, and I guess really I don't understand why a person wouldn't want to do that, either.

Once again, the Book of Mormon proves its veracity by virtue of its perfect prediction of what it calls the "Gentile" church would devolve into and the means it would employ.

Again, I need to add that I hold no animosity toward my former stake president. Despite his vehement denial, I am still persuaded that he acted precisely in the manner he was directed to use by the Brethren--his superiors that he must report to in the LDS Church. I would not choose to hold him responsible.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Epilogue: Occupied Synagogue Territory

"For behold, they were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel, therefore they were not permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness." (NC Alma 16:22

Coarse & Fine Apparel


For my final three years as an active member of the LDS Church, I deliberately chose to attend Sunday meetings dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt. (without lettering or logos--I didn't want to offend) I allowed my hair to grow long and I chose not to shave my face naked. In short, my appearance was not what normal active members of the LDS Church would refer to as "up to standards." Interestingly, even when my coarse appearance was directly referenced by the leader during high priests group meeting during the third hour, no one ever dared ask why. The reason was assumed to be that my "testimony" was "weak."

My actual reason was nothing of the sort. Having awoken to the fact that the Book of Mormon was not merely written to us as LDS Church members, but about us, I completely lost all interest in assisting with even the slightest degree of further fulfillment of this Book of Mormon prophecy, which the writer has written to the LDS reader (who else reads this book!?):

"Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shewn you unto me, and I know your doing, and I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts. And there are none, save a few only, who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquity. And your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?" (NC Mormon 4:5)
I could no longer bring myself to wear "fine apparel" or "very fine apparel" as I've done all my life. The thought literally turns my stomach now. It is money wasted on keeping up apperances under the guise of "being pleasing to God." Apparently our pretenses didn't make it far with the prophet-historian Mormon, who had the pleasure of being shown us in vision. He saw right through them to our actual sins--the pride of our hearts and all the black sins that come with it, including not helping the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

The only place I see people wearing business attire in our modern world (fine suits, ties, dress shoes, fancy dresses, etc.) is for a small subset of professionals: lawyers, some bankers, and some politicians. Oh, and LDS Church members going to their meetings, who stick out to the world in unmistakeable fashion.

Esteemed as Filthiness Worthy of Trespass Notice


All are welcome, except those deemed filthy,
who will be forceably removed.
In spite of having been deemed unworthy of any attempt at reclaiming and then having also been excommunicated from this institution, I continued (and continue) to feel a closeness to my friends within our ward here. I enjoy seeing and talking with them. I enjoy discussing the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. And so, as invited in the letter informing me of the removal of all my eternal gospel blessings, I returned to Sunday meetings to fellowship with my friends there who had no idea I had been cast out. I had been promised I was fine to attend as long as my conduct was "acceptable."

During the Sunday school hour of that Sunday in May, the class was discussing Numbers, chapter 11. As the teacher neared the end of the chapter, she quickly skipped over a fascinating part of it and moved on to chapter 12. I raised my hand and, after being called on, suggested that a passage there might be worth reading. The teacher invited me to read it:
"But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the spirit rested upon them — and they were of them that were written but went not out unto the tabernacle — and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man and told Moses and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp! And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them! And Moses said unto him, Do you envy for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (OC Numbers 7:19)
I suggested that it was an interesting response on the part of Moses. The teacher pointed out that although true then, today only the Fifteen can be prophets. She then moved on in her lesson.

About two minutes later, the only bishopric counselor there stood up on the far side of the room, marched across to where I was sitting, and abruptly announced that I needed to come with him out into the hallway right then and there. The entire class stopped and watched the spectacle unfold. After managing to gather my belongings and put my glasses away, I followed him to the far side of the building, where I was told to wait there for the bishop to arrive "who has something he needs to talk with you about." (Perhaps they had exchanged text messages.)

When the bishop finally arrived, he expressed no interest in talking there in the foyer. He needed to talk to me in his office, even if the door were going to be left open. (I think those in the foyer got to overhear an interesting conversation.)

There I was curtly told that I was never to make another comment in any class again. If I did, he, the bishop, would legally serve me trespass notice and have local law enforcement remove me from the property, as necessary. "Therefore [I would] not [be] permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness," just as Mormon foresaw would be repeated in our day. (NC Alma 16:22)

The bishop further took occasion to inform me that I was a "wolf in sheep's clothing." (I still to this day wonder how he mistook my coarse apparel for "very fine" apparel--granted, it was a tense moment for him, so I concede that this could be missed.) He also expressed his deep concern & disapproval of my having had any contact with his ward members outside of church meetings. This chastisement was for my having tried to thoughtfully reach out to a friend in the ward who was going through a very rough time. I let him know that he had nothing to fear and that I intended to continue to try to be a support to my friends.

None, Save a Few Only, Who Do Not Lift Themselves Up


By the time I had been warned and sent on my way, it was the third hour of church meetings. I went to the newly combined quorum of elders and high priests, sat, and listened to the lesson while studying my scriptures. I did not attempt to make any comment.

Afterward, before I was able to head out, I was approached by two different high priests who had been present for the big commotion of the second hour. Each of them offered me an apology on behalf of the bishopric member who had interrupted the class and unceremoniously removed me from it. They claimed they weren't aware of what could have possibly been going on, but that the actions of the bishopric member were completely uncalled for and inappropriate. They felt my comment had been entirely appropriate. They were honestly embarassed at what had happened. (They might have been more embarassed had they known more.) I thanked them for their concern and reassured them that it would not cause me to avoid returning to future meetings.

How God's Words Offend


I did ask both the bishop and his counselor what I had said that they had deemed "inappropriate" and worthy of issuing a threat of legal trespass notice and physical removal by law enforcement. Neither was willing then or since to give any explanation.

To those familiar with modern LDS doctrinal drift, it is not difficult to infer the reason. (although the degree of anger in the response was a surprise even to me) The only real remaining doctrine of the LDS Church is: "We follow a man whom we call a prophet." Anything in scripture that contradicts or threatens this comforting, soothing doctrine, even when spoken by so great a prophet as Moses, is an affront to all loyal followers of the brethren. The greater the degree of devotion, the greater the intolerance and the more forceful the bitter response to those who might disagree.

Unfortunately, LDS scriptures not only do not support the idea of putting our confidence in a man to bring us salvation--even if a true prophet--but they actually teach that we are "cursed" if we do so (see NC 2 Ne. 12:6) and that this practice is the primary qualification for those who will inherit a telestial kingdom. (T&C 69:26) Only Christ is to be "followed". Certainly prophets must be discerned by each of us, whether they be true or false messengers, but either way they are only to be "heard" and not "followed." It is the message they bear and the source of the message that is important. Not the bearer.

I think applying extraordinary titles (i.e. "prophet, seer, revelator") are less impressive than having a man preach the truth. If the content of his sermon is prophetic, then everyone can decide for themselves the measure of the messenger. I can think of nothing that would offend the Lord more than a mere man inviting adoration. It is wrong. Adoration should be reserved for Christ, not dispensed to mere servants. Even if a man is sent to declare Him to you, focus should be on the Lord, not on His messenger. Only a false messenger, who seeks approval and who hopes for gain, will divert attention from the Lord to himself. A true messenger would not dare do so.

Nephi explained the source of such virulent reactions to truth born by messengers and why it is so offensive:
And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold, they said unto me: "Thou hast declared unto us hard things--more than which we are able to bear!" And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked according to the truth, and the righteous have I justified and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day. Wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center."
It should therefore be unremarkable that Moses's message in KJV Numbers 11 still has this effect even today. That it could be scripture which LDS Church leaders actively work to prevent any discussion or consideration of.

Occupied Synagogues


I suspect Lehi, too, may have been threatened with trespass and ejection by authorities in the Jerusalem synagogues of his day for this very reason--it was uncomfortable for its church-goers to hear the truth the Lord commanded Lehi to speak to them. (Of course, in my case, the Lord has given me no such errand, nor have I preached as Lehi. I have only done as commanded me: "it becomes every man who has been warned to warn his neighbor." -- T&C 86:15)

Christ later predicted this would be the normal course of events for His disciples:
"And again I say unto you, Go into the world and do not care for the world, for the world will hate you and will persecute you and will turn you out of their synagogues." (NC Matt. 3:35)
When the Lord tells us to expect to be "turn[ed] ... out of their synagogues," it's worth pondering who would do that casting out. It can only be done by those who own buildings, who control houses of worship, and who expect believers to come to their religious buildings to worship God. It can only be done by those who think they have the right to enforce their religious ideas by compulsion, demanding conformity and suppressing ideas they dislike.

But just as in the days of Joseph Smith (when not a single chapel was built) or in the days of early Christianity (when believers met in homes and never in church buildings), the Book of Mormon similarly describes this pattern in NC Alma 16:22-24 when the humble followers of Christ are cast out of the apostate church they had belonged to and come to the apostate Alma (whom their church leaders feared):
And they came unto Alma, and the one who was the most foremost among them said unto him, "Behold, what shall these my brethren do? For they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests. For they have cast us out of our synagogues, which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands [these were full-tithe-paying, active members of the church]; and they have cast us out because of this, our exceeding poverty, that we have no place to worship our God. And now behold, what shall we do?" 
[Alma] stretched forth his hand and cried unto those whom he beheld, who were truly penitent, and said unto them, "I behold that ye are lowly in heart, and if so, blessed are ye. Behold, thy brother has said, What shall we do? For we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God. Behold, I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God, save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?"
Well, according to this apostate's voice (Alma's), the idea of needing to worship only in chapels or only once a week is utterly false. According to him, it turns out it was a good thing they were excommunicated and cast out. It resulted in their humility, so they could be taught the word of God and leave their apostate traditions and incorrect beliefs behind.

Throwing Joseph Smith Out of His Own Synagogue


As LDSs, we often invited others to read and consider the meaning and implications of the accounts of Joseph Smith's first vision. But almost no one reads and considers the meaning and implications of his last vision. (T&C 153; not available in the LDS D&C)

His last vision of the LDS Church as a barn in its future dilapidated state has proved to be stunningly prophetic. It perfectly depicts what would happen in our day were Joseph Smith to look and see what his work had come to. (And why would you suppose he could not do so?)


Of Neighborly Pit-digging, Fishing Expeditions & Works in the Dark


"Now there was no law against a man’s belief, for it was strictly contrary to the commandments of God ... For there was a law, that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief." (NC Alma 16:2)
"[I] having been … persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly — and if they supposed me to be deluded, to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me…" - Joseph Smith (JSH 2:10)
"Now I tell you beforehand what to expect to come upon you so you are not surprised, nor will you stumble and fall. They will excommunicate you. The time will even come that the self-righteous who kill you will think that they speak for God. And they will do these things because they cannot do what the Father and I have done. I warn you beforehand that you will face this opposition so that when it happens you will remember and be strengthened." (The Testimony of St. John 10:23)
"And again I say unto you, Go into the world and do not care for the world, for the world will hate you and will persecute you and will turn you out of their synagogues." (NC Matt. 3:35)
"And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel, and they say unto the people, 'Hearken unto us and hear ye our precept, for behold, there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work and he hath given his power unto men! Behold, hearken ye unto my precept! If they shall say, There is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not, for this day he is not a God of miracles! He hath done his work!' Yea, and there shall be many which shall say, 'Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die and it shall be well with us.' And there shall also be many which shall say, 'Eat, drink, and be merry, nevertheless fear God--He will justify in committing a little sin. Yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor, there is no harm in this. And do all these things, for tomorrow we die. And if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God!' Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord. And their works shall be in the dark. And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them. Yea, they have all gone out of the way. They have become corrupted." (NC 2 Ne. 12:1)
"And woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? And who knoweth us? And they also say, Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. But behold, I will shew unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works." (NC 2 Ne. 11:21)

Summary

On Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, my wife and I received matching letters informing us we would be jointly tried in a stake disciplinary council for unspecified charges amounting to "apostasy" on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. On attempting to ask for the charges against either of us, we were refused. Due to an act of God (the only snowstorm to shut the city down last winter), the stake president was forced to reschedule it. We were asked to sign a legal agreement to make no record of the proceedings should we attend, which we could not sign on moral grounds. Despite this, however, we were permitted to come into the rescheduled disciplinary council on Thursday, Mar. 1, 2018, long enough each to make statements and leave copies of our statements with the stake clerk before leaving, thus complying with the stake president's demand for strict secrecy in his proceedings.

We learned three days later that he had elected to excommunicate me but not my wife, whom the stake president had not met prior to his disciplinary council. (I introduced them that evening.) The "letters of decision" I was given three days after the council outlined the actual list of apparent charges that were kept carefully hidden until their council and only revealed to us afterward. I then composed and mailed an appeal to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday, Mar. 10, 2018, and also sent a copy to the stake president. I finally received an indirect response on Monday, May 7th, which the stake president paraphrased to me by email. I had avoided sharing news of the excommunication with family and friends for a period of time, allowing for the possibility that the appeal could be granted.

This post provides a record of these events. It is not shared out of spite against those who were locally involved in our excommunication hearing--I see their actions performed precisely as directed by superior leaders and, I believe, contrary to their own personal preferences. It is presented as information that demonstrates the irrefutable foreknowledge that writers of the Book of Mormon had of these patterns of action in our day. What we experienced is neither the first time nor the last time these will have happened to believing, faithful, covenant-keeping members of the modern LDS Church, nor is it in any way unique to our location or leaders here. I doubt there is anything special about our situation. More will be shared on prophetic fulfillments from the Book of Mormon in subsequent posts. This post presents primarily the events (through relevant documents) with only minor additional notes included.

Our Statements & Appeal Letter

The following three documents are sufficient to document the essential elements of what has happened:
  • 2018-03-01 Disciplinary Council Statement by Corina Hughes (PDF)
    • My wife's verbal statement made to the stake president and high council during the disciplinary council, a printed copy of which was then given to the stake clerk for inclusion in the disciplinary council record.
      • As mentioned above, any information about the charges were intentionally withheld by the stake president prior to the council
      • Prior to arriving at the council, she had never met or talked with the stake president and had never met with the bishop
      • We were not permitted to attend the council (other than to make our statements) because we refused to sign the required legal agreement, which would have forbidden us from making any record of the proceedings. (We did, in fact, make a complete record of what we were permitted to attend that night.)
  • 2018-03-01 Disciplinary Council Statement by Vaughn Hughes (PDF)
    • My verbal statement made to the stake president and high council during the disciplinary council, a printed copy of which was then given to the stake clerk for inclusion in the disciplinary council record. Mine was shared with the council after my wife shared hers.
    • Of note:
      • Reviews the scriptural precedent for the stake president's intended procedure of questioning us on our beliefs, although he was prevented at the last minute from using this procedure during the disciplinary council because he refused to allow us to attend the remainder while recording it
      • Clarifies why we were unable to sign his required legal agreement and therefore were not permitted by him to attend his disciplinary council
    • Other notes on what took place that evening:
      • Despite not being permitted to attend the council because we could not sign the legal document, we were nonetheless later accused by the stake president of "refusing" to attend the rest of the council despite his urging (see subsequent email, letters of decision, and the refutation in my Appeal below)
        • His statement is only true in that we were neither willing to sign his legal agreement nor willing to promise not to record the proceedings and were therefore barred by him from attending the rest (we did, in fact, audio record our entire experience in the building that evening)
      • After completing our statements, handing copies of them to the stake clerk to be added to the record, and immediately before exiting the room, a high councilor could not refrain from asking a question of Vaughn, which we recorded:
        • High Councilor: Brother Hughes, can I ask you one question?
        • Vaughn: You're welcome to, although we're not looking to take questions.
        • High Councilor: That's fine. I just want to ask you one question, and all it takes is a simple yes or no. Do you believe that we have a prophet in these latter days that leads and guides this church under the direction of Jesus Christ, and the Father and the Son?
        • Vaughn: Are you asking me about my beliefs?
        • High Councilor: I'm asking… I'm asking you ….
        • Vaughn: Because I stated my beliefs on that topic a few minutes ago, and I don't believe it would do you any service to further discuss beliefs, given what the Lord has strictly forbidden. So, I'll leave it at that.
        • High Councilor: Okay. Thank you. [You've answered my question.]
      • Interestingly, this (the only question asked during the council) perfectly aligns with and is further evidence of an assertion made in social media five months earlier
      • We did not wait outside for their council to conclude before departing
      • A city police officer already in the stake center parking lot (perhaps the chief of police, who happens to be LDS) coincidentally followed us to the well-lit, empty east parking lot on the far side of the stake center, where my wife and I went to take a phone call before leaving the premises. He lingered there for some time before departing back to the original parking lot on the west side. This suggests the some unwarranted expectation of the stake president that evening where he might call on law enforcement to detain or remove us.
  • 2018-03-10 Appeal Letter to First Presidency (PDF)
    • The actual letter sent by certified mail to the First Presidency of the LDS Church, for which I received a USPS return receipt confirmation that it was received on their behalf
    • This letter includes:
      • The procedural mistakes made which would have almost certainly resulted in a different outcome
      • A refutation of the falsehoods and lies fabricated by the stake presidency and presented to the high council in order to make a case against us in our absence (not having made us aware of them in advance, preventing any reasonable response from us at the time)
      • The Idaho state law broken by the stake president and corresponding violation of Church Handbook direction, in order to achieve his predermined outcome
      • Two facts which later acted as smoking gun evidence that the appeal letter was almost certainly not reviewed by anyone at church headquarters (see notes below for 2018-05-07 Indirect Communication of First Presidency Response to Appeal of Excommunication (PDF))

Additional Records

  • 2018-02-12 Disciplinary Council Letter to Corina (PDF)
    • Delivered to Corina at our home by a stake presidency counselor and a stake clerk
    • Of note:
      • Its claim of evidence or witnesses of wrongdoing ("you are reported"), which turned out to be a bluff: no witnesses or reports were produced.
      • The very unusually short timeframe before the disciplinary council (6 days)
      • The lack of any accusations that could constitute the basis for the claimed apostasy
      • The terse nature of the letter--I'm not sure I've seen a shorter one
      • The highly unusual nature of the disciplinary council relative to official instruction leaders are routinely trained to strictly adhere to in the official Church Handbook of Instructions (even when contrary to scripture), which matches leaked secret directives from church headquarters understood by local leaders to supersede the Handbook (see the late Elder Von Keetch's recent centralized engineering of excommunications in "The Secret LDS UCMJ"):
        • Women are always to be tried by her bishop in a bishop's court and not by the stake high council
        • A joint disciplinary council is not permitted
  • 2018-02-12 Disciplinary Council Letter to Vaughn (PDF)
    • Also delivered to Corina, with no inquiry as to whether I was home
    • Of note:
      • Word for word identical to Corina's except for my name.
  • 2018-02-12 Email to stake president and exchange prior to Thursday meeting (PDF)
    • A seven-question request that the stake president provide us with a statement of what crimes we were being accused of and of other details regarding the planned disciplinary council. Besides the request to know the charges, each of the other five questions are yes or no questions.
    • The subsequent email exchange and stake president's refusal to commit anything to writing for fear of disclosure.
  • 2018-02-15 Transcript of interview with stake president regarding disciplinary council (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • (Yellow highlights) The stake president's clear declaration that the disciplinary council will be focused only on our beliefs. (mentioned 15 times) That it is his intention during the disciplinary council is to bring no witnesses, present no evidence, but only to have us attend the council and be quizzed on our beliefs.
        • The most direct acknowledgment that the charges will be "different beliefs" is in lines 178-180.
        • Contrast these 15 assertions made in a setting presumed to be private with his presumed-to-become-public statement in the letter of decision after the council that, "your beliefs were never a matter of consideration for the council." (see below) This later attempt in and after the disciplinary council to hide this stated, intended plan is thus, by definition, a lie.
        • It cannot be contested that he would have actually carried out this plan had he allowed us to attend the council, because he used precisely this procedure when he jointly excommunicated a different couple in the Sandpoint area just over three years ago, which they have a full record of.
      • (Blue highlights) The repeatedly stated (9 times), preeminent concern that, above all, his actions and the council proceedings must be kept secret and not disclosed
      • (Magenta highlights) The condescending tone and use of taunting, mocking, and coercion during a believed private conversation in an attempt get me and us to come and disclose our beliefs in an open way, allowing for the stake president to find something to accuse us with at the time of the council
      • The utter refusal to disclose any misdeeds or sin that either one of us is accused of and which would amount to apostasy
        • This is a clear indication that there was no interest whatsoever in helping us to retain our LDS Church membership
      • The pretense that his secrecy is to protect us, even after we had asked that it be done publicly
        • Consider that "apostasy" is a crime that normally demands a public trial, as common sense and scripture would dictate. There is no rational reason for hiding the proceedings, except in the case of planned wrong-doing on the part of leaders conducting it.
        • Even months afterward, members of this stake and ward are not only unaware of the excommunication for apostasy but also have never been informed of anything I have ever shared in church meetings that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ--these should be top priorities for a concerned church leader
      • The refusal to accept the benefit of the doubt afforded him at the end of my 2018-02-12 email, even boldly inviting me to "completely squarely put this on my shoulders, if you would like." (lines 387-392)
      • The stated opinion that publicly correcting the false, unscriptural teachings of a dissenter yields "the least spiritual atmosphere that you can possibly have" (lines 295, 335-338)
        • This opinion contrasts with three extended accounts matching this description (true prophets of God contending with apostates/dissenters) highlighted in the Book of Mormon, where each would be subject to this criticism. (see Jacob 7, Alma 1, and Alma 30)
      • The opinion that a religious leader breaking priest-penitent law should be considered the moral equivalent of a congregant publicly sharing an abusive leader's communications (lines 372-377)
        • Another way of putting it: He believes it is not fair when a religious leader's misdeeds are brought to public light, because religious leaders do not and legally cannot share private confessions from congregants. Therefore, public accountability for (or criticism of) religious leaders is indecorous.
  • 2018-02-15 Constructive Notice of Demand (PDF) handed to the stake president
    • Of note:
      • Presented at the end of the Thu 2018-02-15 meeting
      • Constitutes a standard way of giving official legal notice of something, such that the recipient cannot claim not to have been aware of it
  • 2018-02-15 Non-Recording Agreement (PDF)
    • The agreement the stake president asked us each to sign
    • Of note:
      • Emailed to us the evening of 2018-02-15
      • It's homespun appearance (lacking any standard LDS Church letterhead) could suggest the possibility that it is a local concoction
        • A counselor to the stake president, who is a local attorney heavily relied on by the stake president for writing letters, could have had a hand in drafting it
      • Other outside evidence strongly suggests otherwise, however
  • 2018-02-16 Midnight Email Response from Stake President after meeting (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • Forbids our children from attending despite our request
      • The Disclosure of Non-recording Agreement (see above) and current secret Church Handbook list of grounds for apostasy, which differ completely from the public LDS Church definition
      • An explicit written statement of his intent to interrogate us regarding our beliefs (all previous statements were carefully kept verbal-only and in private) and then to try us for them. It is an interesting contrast, considering he has also barely shared the list of possible misdeeds from the Church Handbook.
      • Clear offense taken at being apprised of the Lord's scriptural requirement (outlined in the Constructive Notice of Demand above), and confusion of that information with someone trying to take control of his proceedings (although, for those familiar with it, it does bring to mind a certain ritual dialog where the speaker angrily expresses concern that the onlooking interlopers are interested in "taking possession of the whole of [his kingdom]," the character then having a word to say about it)
      • Mistaking an occasional tangential scriptural reference in the Church Handbook for scriptural revelation or direction given in the Lord's words (to be fair, this is a not-uncommon practice among LDS leaders)
  • 2018-02-18 Stake president email acknowledgment an act of God had prevented his council (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • Confession that his status with God afforded him no say in preventing or delaying the most severe winter storm of the season, which included high winds, heavy snowfall, and many power outages, resulting in cancelation of LDS Church meetings that Sunday
      • This was the only snow storm of 2017-2018 that shut down the city of Sandpoint in any significant way
      • The expressed desire to now meet (only because of delayed council to excommunicate) and "discuss" (determine) our beliefs in advance
        • Implies worry about lack of evidence
  • 2018-02-24 Email exchange with stake president on a new date and his attempt at star chamber proceedings (PDF)
    • Definition of Star chamber proceedings
    • Of note:
      • The stake president's hope to now proceed with an interrogation of beliefs outside the earshot of his high council
      • The strongly adversarial, patronizing, and manipulative manner of the interview on 2018-02-15 (see transcript above) left neither my wife nor I the slightest inclination to meet again behind closed doors
  • 2018-03-01: Disciplinary Council Statement by Corina Hughes - for High Council (PDF) (see above notes)
  • 2018-03-01: Disciplinary Council Statement by Vaughn Hughes (PDF) (see above notes)
  • 2018-03-04 Disciplinary Council Letter of Decision for Corina (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • The thinly-veiled threat of "at this time" when the "no action" decision is stated
        • As further laid out in the letter, they were not happy that their quarry did not willingly and happily step into the not-so-well-camouflaged pit that was dug for just for her (apparently believing "there is no harm in this")
      • The misrepresentations and lies presented in this letter can only be taken to be grandstanding, in the hope that his letter might be made public at some point
        • The writer(s) were fully aware that the misrepresentations and lies would be completely apparent to the recipient
      • Examples of knowing misrepresentations and lies:
        • "President Marks and I have both been unable, despite several attempts, to meet with you"
          • As clarified in Vaughn's Appeal letter (see below): Prior to the letter notifying her of the excommunication hearing, Corina had only been invited to meet with a leader once. That invitation was under the false pretense that they wanted her to come and 1) discuss her feelings about the church and 2) express concerns about church leadership. She had no interest in either. When I, however, attended the requested meeting in December 2017 despite similarly expressing no interest in sharing criticism of church leaders, the purpose of the meeting and interrogation turned out to be completely different than stated. (A record of that meeting exists but is not published here.)
        • "We have made every effort we could reasonably make [to meet]"
          • This refers to the single attempt mentioned above, made under false pretenses, and to the one attempt made only after an act of God had prevented originally scheduled council from taking place
      • The idea that an excommunication trial is a place that can be used "to get to know you better and to determine what actions you have been taking" or "to visit." (see p. 1, 6)
        • Disciplinary councils are, by the LDS Church handbook, not for the purpose of socializing and collecting evidence of wrongdoing, so that charges can be drawn up during the proceedings.
        • Whether in scriptural instruction, in Church Handbook instruction, or in civil law, they are all alike in asserting that courts are places for considering evidence already collected and hearing the testimony of eyewitnesses of wrongdoing.
        • The letter she received inviting her to attend the council asserted that they already had reports from witnesses or evidence in hand. This turned out to be a bluff.
      • The patronizing attempt to place blame on her for not attending church meetings, pretending that the only possible reason for her lack of attendance is her obligation to play organ for a different congregation
        • Such condescending scolding is usually considered unhelpful in any genuine attempt to understand someone's motives.
        • Her actual concern expressed in her statement to the high council was her surprise at the feigned friendliness and false smiles of those delivering her summons to an excommunication hearing where she would likely be severed from her church and family.
      • The assertion that the purpose of priesthood is to exercise control (contrary to scripture), and that the sacrament is required to be performed in chapels (a doctrine newly invented in this letter, having been never before or after publicly taught by a general authority, as of Nov. 2018)
      • The assertion that any unauthorized change to a church ordinance cannot be tolerated
        • This, despite the fact that all LDS Church ordinances have, in fact, been altered in the absence of revelation in the time since the dispensation head introduced them. Any return to them is thus deemed to be heresy and an excommunicable offense.
      • The feigned surprise that the writer doesn't "know what made [her] conclude that our purposes were so nefarious." (likely another example of grandstanding)
      • The patronizing suggestion that his decision to excommunicate is actually "a way the Church acknowledges when a person has separated himself from the Church", when in fact the two thirds of Church members who have separated themselves from the Church through inactivity are not ever subject to excommunication.
      • The unintentional acknowledgement of the impotence of the council with his correct statement that "the Lord knows your husband's heart, and the Lord, not the disciplinary council, will determine where your husband stands in that eternal relationship."
      • The suggestion that "General Conference talks and … Ensign articles" contain the Lord's words today, despite never quoting the Lord, except on rare occasions from the standard works
  • 2018-03-04 Disciplinary Council Letter of Decision for Vaughn (PDF)
  • 2018-03-06 Denied Request for Record of Disciplinary Council Proceedings and imagined expectation of legal action (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • The uncanny resemblance his response has with Proverbs 28:1: "The wicked flee though no one pursues"
      • That he even seems to have now convinced himself that he really would have allowed us to audio record his disciplinary council proceedings, despite his repeated statements to the contrary and the required legal agreement
  • 2018-03-10 Appeal Letter to First Presidency (PDF) (see above notes)
  • 2018-03-15 Cover Letter to stake president (PDF)
  • 2018-04-05 Appeal Letter mailed to and refused by stake president (PDF)
    • USPS made multiple delivery attempts over a three-week period, leaving notice that it could be picked up a few blocks away at the post office
  • 2018-04-10 Email Exchange about Refused Appeal Letter (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • The claim that he thought the certified letter (where the sender's name and local zip code could be viewed by him) was an advertisement. In retrospect, it seems more likely the letter was refused out of fear of it might be related to legal action against him for his violation of Idaho State priest-penitent law.
      • Again, the uncanny resemblance his refusal to accept his certified mail has with Proverbs 28:1: "The wicked flee though no one pursues"
  • 2018-05-07 Indirect Communication of First Presidency Response to Appeal of Excommunication (PDF)
    • Of note:
      • No evidence or suggestion that the member of the First Presidency addressed by the appeal ever actually even saw the appeal
      • The response was not as requested, nor was the inability to fulfill the request even acknowledged as a pleasantry
        • Again, no indication it was seen by Henry Eyring
        • More than one person well familiar with Henry Eyring's character has suggested it would be unusual in the extreme for him not to have personally responded in some way
      • A lack of any concern over the stake president's violation of Idaho statutory law suggests either 1) that the letter was not read or reviewed, or 2) that the threat if litigated was deemed small enough that the lawbreaking could be ignored
      • By far the strongest evidence--beyond a reasonable doubt--that the appeal letter was never read or considered by the First Presidency (or anyone else) remains publicly accessible to this day (27 Nov 2018): The LDS Church continues to use paid Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure that a Google search for "Vaughn Hughes" returns my "I'm a Mormon" page on Mormon.org as the very first search result, and the page continues to be prominently available on Mormon.org.
        • The web page was explicitly discussed in my appeal letter and would be an embarrassment to the LDS Church were they to realize that almost ten months later they had continued to use the profile of an excommunicated member to market their church
        • Had anyone actually read the letter at church headquarters, it would have been a very simple thing to email the marketing department and have the profile removed
        • This strongly suggests that the standard procedure by LDS Church headquarters for any appealed excommunication is 1) for no one to read it, 2) for it to sit for about three weeks, and then 3) for a standard form letter to be sent to the stake president reaffirming his verdict, no matter the situation or problems with it
        • See:
      • Side note: Now that the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has declared its intention to cease calling itself Mormon (effectively also making all its members "ex-Mormons"), I do not expect the "I'm a Mormon" marketing campaign pages to remain online much longer

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?