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)