The question: (#16): We are obligated to teach our children that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman and that chastity is important. As the LDS church has employed various strategies to promote these values in recent years, suicide rates among the young have climbed in Utah. Do you think this has to do with the way the LDS church has handled these issues, and if so, do you have any insights into what we might do differently to better help youth who struggle? (Asked by Ritamcn)
The answer (57:25):
Wickedness Never Was and Never Will Be Happiness
There is embedded into each of us, as deeply as our DNA itself, a course in life, which, if pursued in the proper way, will result in the bearing of children, and a fulness of joy experienced, and as a consequence of introducing offspring into the world, for whom you are granted, the challenge, the privilege and the opportunity of nurturing and caring [for] and teaching.
These are things that stretch you beyond your comfort zone. These are things that will tear at your heart. These are challenges that will befuddle you, that will make you question and reevaluate and reconsider time and time again, who you are, and what you’re saying and how you’re treating these your children.
The institution of marriage was designed by its very nature, by that God who created us, to allow us to engage in that God-like process. It can be experienced in the way that God intended in one and only one way, that is, through the marriage of the man and the woman together.
Through their union, that is intended to produce offspring, through her struggle to bear and bring forth the child, through his protection and providing for her during her period of inability [to do so] and her period of nursing and caring for the infant that is utterly dependent upon the body of the mother for its existence.
All of these things are God-like. They are instructions. They are experiences that are intended to convey, through the mortal body and the mortal experience, things that replicate and reflect a divine perspective about life itself, about who God is. Because God is a male and a female and they are productive. Their love results in the creation of more life.
They experience a fulness of joy. And when you have all joy, in its fulness, the only way in which it is possible to make more joy is to create others in which, they too can experience a fulness of joy. And so that increases through offspring, through family, through progeny.
Reducing Suicide Rates
You will not reduce suicide rates by pursuing a course that says wickedness can be entertained, the purposes of God can be frustrated, the experiences that God intended for us to go through, and to have in this life, can be set at naught, and you can approach the whole thing in a different mechanism, in a different pretense.
Because however deeply you may feel about that structure, at its core, it is defective. It is desolation. It is the practice that, if it were universally engaged in, then all who are here today will be the last generation that will ever live because it produces desolation.
And if at the core of the relationship, what you have is a desolate future, there is no amount of psychological treatment, anti-depressive medication, or lies you can tell to yourself, that will make you say, what I’m engaged in is not, in the eyes of God, abominable. You cannot destroy that truth.
If you want happiness, because of the way we were created, by the creator himself, it is to be obtained by following the path ordained by the creator, to realize the results that He established in your heart, in your soul, in your spirit, in your body, even in your DNA.
A Few Thoughts on the Response
My heart goes out to those who struggle with same-sex attraction, no matter what age or gender they are. There is no doubt such individuals are marginalized in our society. It is a difficult thing for young people to obtain guidance on how to deal with their feelings. Gratefully, things are getting better. Their peers are more accepting than in previous generations. Sexual orientation is now a legally protected class in the United States.
I continue to read stories of how families deal with the discovery or announcement from their children that they are gay. It warms my heart to read the happy stories of those who continue to love and support their children no matter what. Not having such feelings themselves, they may not be able to relate, yet they do not judge or condemn. They deeply love their children and want them to be happy and successful in this life.
Sadly, I have also read stories of families who have rejected their children who come out as gay. They either think they can force them into a “normal” sexual orientation or they flat-out reject them. No matter what the age of the child, this can be devastating, but is especially difficult for those who know at a young age they are different. Such youth are at much greater risk of suicide because of the rejection their feel from their families.
LGBTQ Members of the LDS Church
I don’t know if we can lay the blame for increased suicide among the youth at the feet of leaders or members of the LDS church. As far as I have observed, the church leadership has been making greater efforts to counsel their members to be loving, kind, tolerant and accepting of LGBTQ members of the church, no matter what their age. Evidence of this is found in the recent reversal of the policy regarding children of LGBTQ members.
The controversial 2015 policy automatically labeled Mormons in same-sex marriages apostates and barred their minor children from being baptized. Under the new policy, same-sex marriages are still considered a “serious transgression,” but not definitively apostasy. The children of LGBTQ couples can now be baptized. For many, the damage has been done and may be irreversible. They have left the church and don’t plan to return.
LDS Church in a Difficult Position
For those who stay, I say good for you. God bless you for your faith and courage. You are standing together with community and family. Your example of loving acceptance and kindness demonstrate how to follow the admonition of Christ to judge not, but to help one another through this difficult life. However, you must still deal with the fact that the LDS church still believes and teaches that acting on same-sex attraction is a moral sin.
I don’t know how long the LDS church will be able to hold on to and enforce that policy of exclusion to those who participate in homosexual behavior. The law requires the church to recognize same-sex marriages, yet the church condemns sexual expression within those marriages. “Immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way,” thus affirming that LGBTQ relationships are wrong.
The Fundamental Core of the Structure
In reading the response to the question asked at the conference, I focused on the idea of mechanism and structure. In other words, the method in which God designed to bring children into this world has never changed. One man and one woman united to create offspring. Anything other than that is considered an abomination. It produces desolation, defined as a state of complete emptiness or destruction, anguished misery or loneliness.
Through artificial means, mankind has devised ways around that core structure to bring children into the world. Two men or two women can now become parents without going through the same method set forth by God. However, this defeats the purpose of the divine plan, which is to unite a man and a woman in the procreative process. That unity is much more than physical, it binds the couple together at a much deeper spiritual level.
Discerning The Spirits Around Us
A long time ago, I published a post that was labeled the most politically incorrect post in the history of the Bloggernacle. I just re-read it and stand by what I wrote. Our theology allows for the existence of spirits from the world around us that can and do influence us for good or evil. It also allows for the idea of demonic possession, although as a people, we don’t normally go in for the type of possession depicted in the movie, the Exorcist.
I remain convinced, even some twenty-five years after I was first exposed to the idea, that we can overcome the influence of those spirits that afflict and torment us from the unseen world around us. It’s not as difficult as some may think. There is a logical and proven method to identify their influence and if there are any attached to us, as opposed to just hanging around. And, believe it or not, this can help explain same-sex attraction.
The Unquiet Dead All Around Us
In another post in which I reviewed the book, The Unquiet Dead, I quoted from Dr. Fiore:
“Entities of the opposite sex are the cause of a great deal of confusion about sexual identity. Homosexuality, transsexuality and transvestism are the extreme results of this kind of possession.” (page 36)
“One of the causes of homosexuality is possession by spirits of the opposite sex. If the possession began before puberty, heterosexual development often was disrupted and the afflicted grew up believing they desired sexual partners of the same sex, when it was the entities who were determining their choices.” (page 43)
Dr. Fiore’s work was not readily accepted by the medical community or the public. In the post, you’ll note other quotes from additional witnesses who attempt to explain the cause of same-sex attraction. If you think identifying a potential source of homosexuality was politically incorrect, that’s nothing compared to the idea that it can be treated. It is not popular to suggest that feelings of same-sex attraction are anything but God-given.
“This answers the question of what homosexuality really is. When a female spirit is controlling a man’s body, the man says, ‘I feel like a female trapped a man’s body.’ That’s that evil spirit talking. They really do feel like a female trapped in a man’s body. They’re trying to get that man to want other men, because that’s what they want. The same thing applies to a male spirit trapped in a female’s body.
“I think that if we would look to that, we would see the answer to what homosexuality is about. That’s the frustration with so many today. In their understanding of what homosexuality is about, they feel is that it’s terrible but they don’t know how to help people deal with it. I know how to help people deal with it, if they want to.“
He is not the only one who has helped people overcome feelings of same-sex attraction. However, I must emphasize that individuals can only be helped if they want to be. It also takes faith in Jesus Christ to bring about the change, as the casting out is done in the name of Jesus Christ. By the way, it does not require priesthood to cast out evil spirits. Another by the way: that interview was from 1995, so check for current practices.
A Few Concluding Thoughts
Just about everything I’ve shared in this post will not be new to long-time readers. However, I always get new readers with each new post. I know the subject matter is difficult and can be fraught with emotion. New readers can be professionals looking for news on the subject or family members looking for consolation in light of a recent loss in their family due to suicide. Perhaps my reader is a young person considering suicide.
My beliefs and convictions about this subject remain at odds with the enlightened out there who know that same-sex attraction is not something that can ever be treated or removed. To even suggest the possibility is irresponsible, based on clinical evidence that nobody has ever had their sexual orientation changed, or so they claim. I have evidence to the contrary. Same-sex attraction can be removed or reduced by caring individuals.
It is available on Amazon in paperback ($24.00) or Kindle format ($7.00). The book is 427 pages and about 150,000 words by my count. I read it in both the electronic and paperback format, alternating between the two. I read it in about four days, including all 1,000+ footnotes. It was not a difficult read. Technically well-written and well-researched.
My Personal Appraisal
If you love LDS history as I do, especially the Nauvoo era, you will love this book. Be prepared for a refreshing and unusual treatment of the subject. This is decidedly not a telling of the story of Mormon polygamy from the standard or traditional LDS point of view. The author takes advantage of RLDS sources that most LDS authors will dismiss. Although I had long been aware of them, I had always discounted them as being from the “other” branch of the restoration movement. In this reading, I found them extremely helpful, especially in regards to understanding Emma.
This book is chock full of truth. It was written in just under a year. The logic contained in each section is inescapable. The doctrine is deep and powerful. The refutation of false and dangerous traditions cuts deep to the core of anyone who holds on to them. This book is a call to repentance, especially to those who still believe polygamy is ordained of God or was taught or practiced by Joseph Smith. If you are a descendant of a polygamous family, you must read this book. Your appreciation for Joseph will increase and your eyes will be opened about how polygamy really came about in Mormon history.
Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy
You will also find a great deal of reliance on Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy (2000) by Richard Price. I have not read this book yet, but now intend to do so. By the way, you can read it online. So is Whitney’s book a rehashing of the RLDS and Price’s position that denies Joseph had anything to do with polygamy and that it was all Brigham’s doing? No, decidedly not. There is so much more. However, I will tell you this book changed the way I think about Joseph and Emma and their response to what was happening in Nauvoo.
The LDS Church teaches that the early leaders of the LDS Church taught, sanctioned and practiced polygamy. That may be true as far as Brigham Young, John Taylor and Heber C. Kimball are concerned, but you’ve got to take Joseph and Emma out of that mindset. It had always bothered me to think that Joseph was secretly practicing polygamy while publicly condemning it. I no longer think that. I believe polygamy is immoral and is adultery. Whitney’s book convinced me Joseph felt the same way and taught that.
No Man Knows My History
The title is interesting. It calls to mind Joseph’s statement, “You Don’t Know Me. You never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself.” I have a dozen biographies of Joseph Smith in my library, including Fawn Brodie’s book entitled “No Man Knows My History,” and Richard Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling.” Neither one left me with a favorable impression of Joseph after I finished them. On the other hand, my esteem and admiration for the prophet Joseph increased as I read Whitney’s book. Her book has done more to help me appreciate Joseph than any other.
Paraphrasing Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph stands revealed or he remains forever unknown. Joseph can be known only by and through the Spirit of God.” And further paraphrasing Joseph himself, “… [my history is] of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find [it] out.” In other words, it would be wise to ask God to reveal Joseph to us, what he believed and taught, especially on the subject of polygamy or plural marriage.
What the LDS Church Teaches
There have been dozens of histories written about Joseph and almost an equal number on the subject of polygamy among the Mormons. As Whitney writes “Joseph Smith was a religious revolutionary and a controversial figure. Of all the things attributed to Joseph, polygamy is one of the most controversial. It is one of the most discussed issues in Mormon history and continues to be the center of on-going controversy and debate.”
I have written about this subject in the past, but I am the first to admit I have changed my views. When I first wrote about it in 2008 here and here, I echoed the orthodox response that the doctrine was revealed to Joseph as early as 1831, but not taught or practiced until later during the Nauvoo period. In 2009, I fully embraced the position of the LDS Church in this apologetic post, which is that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy, either secretly or with Emma’s knowledge. This is simply not true.
The LDS Narrative is Lacking
It wasn’t until 2015 that I began to suspect what I had been taught all my life about Joseph and polygamy may not have been entirely accurate. I listened to and reviewed a podcast that cast new light on the subject for me. Although it was not the first time I was introduced to the law of adoption and what Joseph was trying to accomplish, it clarified much for me on the subject. I have since written more about that here and here.
My purpose in sharing this is so that you may know I have some background on the subject of Whitney’s book. I must also confess up front that I agree with her thesis, which is found on page 9, “Joseph was adamant throughout his life that he was innocent of the charge of polygamy. If he was telling the truth, then this means that all people and religions, including the LDS Church, who teach that he practiced polygamy, polyandry, and pedophilia, are in error.” The LDS narrative is false, designed to prop up adultery.
“Polygamy, whether practiced in this life or the belief that it will be practiced in the next life, defiles the marriage covenant and breaks the hearts of wives and daughters. It was and is an abomination in the sight of God. Anyone who claims to believe in the Book of Mormon should condemn polygamy and denounce D&C 132. It is time for the LDS Church to come out from under the cloud of false belief. It is time to unequivocally condemn polygamy, past, present, and eternal. Joseph Smith would applaud such an announcement, ‘I have always had the satisfaction of seeing truth triumph over error, and darkness give way before the light.’” (pages 338-339)
Contents of the Book
The book is divided into seven parts. Be aware that “The Proof” referenced in the second part is not so much a rebuttal but a clarification of what is normally referenced by those espousing the traditional LDS position that Joseph taught and secretly practiced plural marriage or polygamy. As mentioned above, I thoroughly enjoyed Part 3 as I considered carefully the evidence that Joseph fought against polygamy as it crept into Nauvoo. If you have never read these statements or considered this position before I invite you to keep an open mind. There is a reason the LDS Church MUST have you believe Joseph taught and sanctioned polygamy. Please consider the alternate narrative Whitney presents.
Part 1: Who was Joseph Smith?
Part 2: The Truth behind the Proof
Part 3: Joseph Fought Polygamy
Part 4: Where did Polygamy Come From?
Part 5: Why Does it Matter?
Part 6: What was Joseph Really Doing?
Part 7: Joseph Smith & the Restoration
Joseph Taught Virtue and Morality
I have long known the official LDS History of the Church was doctored and created to promote the narrative that polygamy was commanded of God. It is amazing to read the actual record of Joseph on the Joseph Smith Paper’s Project website and then compare it to what we read in the History of the Church 6:46. It’s especially appalling to read the blatant modification of Joseph’s words in regard to polygamy dated 5 Oct 1843. If you have never considered these outrageous and egregious claims, you must read this book.
If you have read what I believe, you know I feel strongly that at least two sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were modified after they were received, particularly sections 110 and 132. Section 132 was not added to the D&C until long after Joseph’s death. It was placed there in the modified format we have today, to justify the immoral behavior of Brigham Young and others who disregarded Joseph’s imploring to abstain from the false spirit of polygamy. Brigham and John Taylor married their first plural wives in secret, in spite of Joseph teaching and urging the people to resist the spirit of polygamy in Nauvoo.
Joseph Innocent of False Charges
A good summary of section 3 can be found on page 230: “All of the Utah witnesses who claimed Joseph lived polygamy either secretly practiced it while in Nauvoo, or entered into polygamy after his death. Witnesses who professed Joseph’s guilt were either polygamy proponents, or married to one. Many of them desired acceptance of plural marriage as part of the original religion. Whenever a witness benefits from their testimony it should raise questions about the veracity of their statements.”
“If Joseph is guilty of polygamy then he is the worst kind of liar, deceiver, hypocrite, sexual deviant and adulterer and loses all credibility as a prophet of God. If, however, Joseph was telling the truth and is innocent of all charges, then he has been a victim of fraud and conspiracy. There is no viable evidence dated before his death on June 27, 1844 which proves Joseph was a polygamist. People who joined Joseph in publicly denouncing polygamy stated that Joseph never preached any such doctrine, in public or in private.” Nor did he practice it. He was the victim of liars at the highest levels.
Polygamy Did Not Come From Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith never received a revelation instituting the practice of plural marriage. D&C 132 is a copy of a copy which was cobbled together by men other than Joseph. Celestial Marriage is NOT polygamy. It is a marriage covenant between one man and one woman and God. It is necessary to enter into while in this life in order to inherit Eternal Life. Celestial Marriage is monogamous, it is never polygamous. Joseph was doing something he called sealings. These were NOT plural marriages and did not give him or anyone else rights to illicit sexual relations. Unfortunately, they were not understood by the people.
While in Nauvoo, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and others who believed in polygamy had been confused by “Celestial Marriage” and sealings. Brigham Young and Lorenzo Snow had become convinced through their own beliefs, which were contradictory to Joseph’s teachings, that polygamy was a higher, more correct form of marriage. This is NOT what Joseph taught. At the time of Joseph’s death on June 27, 1844, Brigham was publicly married to Mary Angell, and secretly married to Lucy Decker, Augusta Adams, Harriet Cook, and Clarissa Decker. Joseph did not teach or encourage these secret marriages.
Lying For The Lord About Polygamy
According to Sidney Rigdon, it was Brigham Young, John Taylor, and others of the twelve who were “lying for the Lord” regarding polygamy, and not Joseph. Brigham Young and John Taylor had been exposed to the idea of spiritual wives. They had taken plural wives without Joseph’s knowledge before the martyrdom. Joseph discovered their actions just days before, and advised William Marks they would need to take action soon that would reach to the highest levels of the church. Joseph’s death prevented this action. Can you see why it is imperative to the LDS narrative that we believe Joseph was not only teaching but secretly participating in polygamy? What a diabolical thing this really is.
“Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other men in top leadership positions in the LDS Church, had been secretly marrying plural wives without Joseph’s knowledge. According to William Marks and William Smith, Joseph had discovered Young’s, Richards’, and Taylor’s deception just weeks before his death. Joseph was preparing to bring charges against all those who were practicing polygamy and intended to preach against it from the stand, planning on eradicating polygamy once and for all from the Church. It must have been crushing to Joseph to discover that men he considered friends were engaged in an abominable practice, which he had condemned for years, and were claiming they were taught it by him.” (page 287)
What Was Joseph Really Doing?
Not long before his death, Joseph had begun sealing men as sons to himself in what he called the Law of Adoption. Young, by his own admission, did not understood much of what Joseph was doing: Celestial Marriage, adoption through marriage sealings, law of adoption sealings, how God’s government works, and the “keys” which Joseph and Hyrum held. Besides knowing and understanding little of what Joseph had been doing, Brigham’s views on women were in stark contrast to Joseph’s. Joseph held women, especially Emma, in high esteem. Joseph encouraged women to “live up to their privileges” so the angels would not be restrained from being their associates. Brigham, on the other hand, often spoke about women with disdain.
Joseph and Hyrum were sealing monogamous couples “for eternity” in what they termed “Celestial Marriage.” The Utah Mormon leaders, not understanding what Joseph and Hyrum were doing, misinterpreted and misapplied the sealing ordinance, and the term “Celestial Marriage,” turning them both into polygamy. They claimed that Joseph was the source of this teaching and practice, making him a liar and an adulterer. The scriptures give us an infallible litmus test, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Therefore, it stands to reason that if a tree (Joseph) bears fruit, it cannot bear both bad fruit (polygamy, polyandry, and pedophilia) and good fruit (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Mormonism, and the Restoration). If Joseph was a liar and an adulterer then he could not have been God’s mouthpiece on the earth.
It Had Nothing To Do With Polygamy
Joseph was not a liar, nor was he an adulterer. Section 132 was not authored by him, or if it was, it was heavily edited and compromised by later revisionists with a need to justify the sin of immorality at the highest levels of the church. What Joseph taught uplifts and exalts. What Brigham instituted degrades and defiles. Joseph was involved in restoring all things necessary and critical for the return of the Lord. What Joseph was really doing with sealings and adoptions was cut short before it was fully explained. It was not understood by the saints, or even his closest associates, during Joseph’s lifetime and has not been preserved. Joseph was doing something far more important for the salvation of mankind than we can even begin to imagine, and it had nothing to do with polygamy.
God rules throughout Eternity in a family structure. The Kingdom of God is a family, not an institution. When Joseph Smith organized the LDS Church in his day, to pay respect to Jesus Christ, he patterned it after the New Testament Church. These church institutional organizations were merely representational of the structure of the Family of God, not the real thing. The real thing is the family of God. Joseph was given the sealing power, the authority and the ability to use the power to seal up, by using a covenant given to him by God. Joseph began around 1831 to restore God’s family on the earth through adoption of sons and daughters using the only ordinance available to him at that time, the marriage sealing. Joseph used the marriage ordinance to seal families to him, not for polygamy.
Sealings For Adoption, Not for Polygamy
After sealing the woman to himself, Joseph then sealed her to her husband or to her parents, thereby linking the entire group as an extended family of God with the expectation to continue on in eternal progression up the ladder of ascent into God’s presence. This sealing, or adoption, grafted the woman and all who were her family, through her sealing to Joseph, as a branch on God’s family tree. It was not a legal and lawful marriage, it was an innocent and holy sealing, an adoption with eternal ramifications. Joseph was literally sealing, or binding, the hearts of the “children” to the “Fathers in Heaven.” It was and is, pure and holy. There was nothing sexual about it.
We have got to get it out of our heads that a sealing, or adoption, such as this allows for conjugal rights. It does not and it never will. Joseph was simply using the only ordinance he had available at that time which allowed him to link the unredeemed and unexalted, to himself, an exalted man in the Kingdom and Family of God. Joseph, as the Patriarchal Father for a new branch of the Family of Israel, was tying together lines of what was to be a single, extended family. Joseph’s entire ministry was an attempt to teach his people to repent and rise up, to connect to the “living vine,” or Jesus Christ, who stands at the head of the Family of God. It is a travesty that Joseph was not allowed to finish his work.
Brigham Did Not Understand
“This is what Joseph was doing, sealing the living faithful to himself as a branch on God’s family tree. Joseph had sealed his heart to the Father’s in heaven, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and as a consequence their hearts had been sealed to him. Joseph then extended the blessings he received to those around him. He restored a covenant, through an ordinance, which allowed his righteous, repentant contemporaries to also belong to God. Joseph’s effort was never about having a multitude of sexual partners in order to propagate numerous posterity. It was never about lust and physical gratification. Joseph did not expect the wickedness which manifested itself in the hearts of men and women who assigned his pure actions to lustful motives.”
I won’t comment on Julie’s status or journey. I don’t know her. Mary Ann did a good job of telling Julie’s story over on Wheat and Tares. I have met a few others on the list, such as Denver Snuffer and Rock Waterman. If somebody wants a more accurate record from which to update the Wikipedia site, I recommend Russell Anderson’s more recent list. Admittedly his index is more focused on the remnant movement, but its a good start.
Excommunication Not Desirable
Being excommunicated from the Mormon church is no great accomplishment. It’s not like people strive for membership in that list. But just about every one of the people who finds themselves in this category has something worth reading or learning about. I am fairly certain some of the upper management at LDS church headquarters take note of each of the cases that make the headlines, especially if it generates negative publicity.
If you’re investigating the Mormon church or have a desire to know more about the LDS faith, you would be wise to read both sides of the story, especially from those who spent a lifetime as active, believing, contributing members of the religion. There’s a reason why they leave, and don’t let anybody tell you it’s because they were great sinners. The truth is most of them love the Lord, and have been very hurt by the disciplinary action.
As Rock said, “I haven’t abandoned my religion. I embrace it.” I think the same can be said for most folks who have been stung by excommunication. It’s a stigma in Mormon culture. It’s affects your standing in the community and can be especially detrimental to happy and healthy family relationship when so many other family members are at least listed on the roles of the church, even if they either no longer believe or don’t attend.
You see, most LDS folks believe you are going to hell if you have been excommunicated. In fact, many of them will tell you it’s worse then hell – something called outer darkness, a special category reserved for sons of perdition. Yes, there are kind and compassionate members who continue to love those who have been excommunicated but for the most part, you are shunned. Conversations are awkward with the big elephant in the room.
Although I wasn’t excommunicated, I did resign back in 2014. Such a move is still relatively new in the Mormon church. I used to serve in local leadership positions. One of the requirements was to study the Handbook of Instructions. I remember being surprised when resignation was first quietly included in the book, and commented on it to the other members in the bishopric. We all agreed it was a good thing, long overdue.
However, it makes it difficult to associate socially with believing LDS folks. Don’t get me wrong. I love the members of my ward and stake. I still consider them like family. I sing with them, worship with them, partake of the sacrament with them and attend many of the social and cultural functions with my wife, who is still a very faithful member. It’s just that so much is focused on “follow the prophet.” One feels strong loyalty discomfort.
Follow the Prophet
I’m not a member. I don’t pay tithing to the LDS church. I obviously no longer attend the temple, although I did regularly for almost forty years. It’s tough to sit in testimony meeting and hear member after member get up and say, “I know the church is true. I know that <insert name of current LDS church president here> is a prophet of God. I know we will be safe and happy if we follow his teachings and do as he counsels.”
I don’t doubt their sincerity or their desire to be happy. And there is no doubt that the current LDS church president is a good man, who teaches good things, as do most of the leaders of the LDS church. It’s just that so much of the trust that should be placed in Jesus Christ has been misplaced in a mortal man, one who did not know Joseph Smith and has made no proclamations that would cause me to believe he speaks on behalf of Christ.
I took a few weeks recently to closely examine what I believe. I made a short, concise list of about forty relevant doctrines, principles and practices. I wanted to offer the list to kind and well-meaning folks who have asked how they could help me come back into the LDS faith. For the most part, there is a a lot of commonality in what we believe. But as you get further down the list you will see there is not much chance I will ever rejoin.
I love the truth too much to deny what the Lord has revealed to me. It used to be that you could say LDS folks embraced all truth. That is no longer the case. There is a strict set of things you must believe to be LDS. Rather than go into detail here about the differences, I am contemplating a series of posts to compare what I believe with the official doctrines of the LDS church. Much of that official doctrine has changed even in my short lifetime.
Married To An Apostate
It’s been nearly five years since I resigned. I am still happy with my decision and feel it was the right thing to do. It has been a tough road, mainly because I so dearly love my wife, who has put up with me all these years. I know it has been hard on her. She did not bargain for this when she married me. She is a saint for sticking with me. There are a few difficult times with interpreting doctrine when we read the scriptures each night.
But for the most part, we still get along. We still try to support each other in our various pursuits. I am blessed and I am grateful. So much of happiness in this life comes from our close family relationships. I thank God every day for this good woman who prays with me, sings with me, worships with me and loves me. I’ll never understand what it means to be married to an apostate. Surely there are special blessings in heaven for her.
I first entered the Los Angeles Temple with my parents, my four older sisters and my brother on Wednesday 3 April 1963. I was six years old. My family had joined the LDS Church a year earlier. I have several distinct memories of that day. The first is that we all came into the temple through a different door other than the one used today. The second is that we waited a couple of hours for my parents to be endowed before we children were brought in to see them in the sealing room. The third is of the sealing ordinance.
I don’t recall my parents explaining beforehand what would happen at the altar. I’m not sure they knew either. I remember someone was there as a proxy for my oldest brother who died shortly after his birth. My mother later related her memory that although she didn’t feel all that comfortable with the endowment ceremony, this was a happy day, especially when she saw all of us surround the altar in white. It shows in her face. She and my dad had been married almost eighteen years. And now they had been sealed.
Relationships That Go On Forever
I love my parents. Although they left this mortal sphere many years ago, I very much want to associate with them again. I think of them all the time. They have both come to me in dreams. Last night someone came to me to tell me something more about them. In my dream, Carol and I had traveled a great distance through difficult circumstances to get to a place where we were told we needed to be. The building was not yet completed. In the place where the building was being constructed we found a tent. We were ushered in.
There we met a man who was obviously very busy. He was engaged in a great work, but had taken a few moments to see us because what he was about to share was important. He had a number of people surrounding him, but he focused on us as he delivered his message. We were there at his request. He asked us to listen closely. We did so. He then related a few details of my mother‘s life I didn’t know. He first referred to her published works and then to her unpublished works. I thought only I knew about those books.
He said, “You have read her published research and stories. You have read her journals. You need to re-read the books she asked you to never publish.” I reminded him of my promise. “I’m not asking you to publish then, just to read and study them again.” The interview was over and we left. I awoke and pondered the significance of the dream. I thought about mother’s unpublished papers. Most of them are about the temple. I thought about the symbolism of the dream, the temple, the uncompleted building and the messenger who focused his attention solely on us in spite of demands on his time.
Dedicated to Family History Work
My mother loved the temple. She also loved family history work. Shortly after baptism, we were sitting in the old Covina ward building in sacrament meeting. In those days, we had three separate meetings on Sunday. This was an evening meeting, a High Council Sunday. The speaker addressed the topic of family history work. As he spoke, mother seemed to come alive. She whispered something to my dad, paid close attention to what the speaker was saying. I wondered what had come over her. It was life-changing.
Mother was an educator and a damned good one. Beside teaching all six of her children to read, she became a reading specialist in the state of California school system. This was in addition to her lifetime teaching credential. Yet after only four years of teaching she took a year off from school to devote to family history research. Being the youngest, I had ample opportunity to learn from an expert. We visited libraries, federal and state archives, cemeteries, relatives I never knew we had and several Western U.S. temples.
Family vacations almost always centered around trips to Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and most of the Southern states. I became an expert at reading through microfilm images of census records, birth, marriage and death certificates, probate records, land grant deeds and just about every civil war record available. I’ll never forget one particular visit to the federal archives in Laguna Nigel. Mother handed me a microfilm, told me what to look for and within a few moments I had found a marriage record for my GGG Grandparents.
Linking Ancestors Together
Mother was ecstatic. “Shucks, no big deal,” I said. But I was pleased and was bitten by the family history bug. To this day, I still get a kick when I find some new evidence linking me to an ancestor. Before mother passed in 2005, she published fifteen books of family history, wrote hundreds of stories about direct progenitors and either performed or caused to be performed, temple ordinances on behalf of well over thirty-five thousand individuals. For over forty years, mother worked tirelessly at family history work.
As a child and as an adult, I’ve sat in classes mother taught. There is no doubt about it. She was the most prepared teacher I have ever known. As a child, I would get kicked out of school just so I could be in my mother’s classroom for a week. Using an illustrated book, she would gather the kids around her and tell stories that fascinated them and me. I watched as she taught Gospel Doctrine and Family History classes as an expert. Nobody was more prepared than she was to get her points across and have them understood.
Over the years, I have received emails from dozens of individuals who my mother helped as they researched their ancestors online. Sadly, mother died just as a wealth of new material has become available online. I have been able to extend family lines back several additional generations. I made it my mission last year to publish every picture she ever collected and every story she had ever written about our common ancestors. I feel I know them because of the work my mother did so tirelessly for so many years.
Family History Research
After my mission, we went to family history seminars together. Mother and Dad moved to Taylorsville Utah after they retired just so mother could spend all her time in the LDS Church Family History Library. In many of those seminars, mother would ask specific questions about the sealing ordinance as it related to our ancestors. She wanted to know the rulings on divorced individuals, common-law marriages, out of wedlock children, and especially on what to do when she hit a brick wall and could get no further.
I’ll always remember her asking about the law of adoption. I’m not talking about how to handle adopted children, although we have plenty of those in our family history. She wanted to know about the overarching purpose of the work we were doing. There was no way we could get back to Adam with the current records we have available. She wanted to know if we could have our families sealed to someone else who had already had themselves sealed to the fathers. She knew there was something more there.
Law of Adoption Clarified
That’s why I was so pleased to read Denver’s address on Civilization last month. In that talk, he presented well-documented details about the history of the law of adoption and how it was not well understood after the death of Joseph. In fact, it was clearly not all that understood even while he was alive. The most common response by those who are supposed to be in the know is “We’ll have to wait for Joseph to come and clarify it.” I’ve heard priesthood administrators from the temple department say that very same thing.
Yet, after reading Denver’s talk and watching the video several times, I think I finally understand what to do now with all the work my mother completed and which I have inherited along with my two sisters who share a similar interest in family history. I have thought about and pondered the significance of what was hidden away in that talk. I am a little surprised that nobody else has written or commented about it anywhere. Maybe it’s being discussed in private emails or closed forums. I hope to see it openly shared.
A Wrongheaded Effort
Because of my strong feelings about the temple and family history work, I expressed my concern at last month’s conference that perhaps my and my mothers work was all in vain. I first quoted what Denver had shared at the Layton conference last year:
“God demands that our hearts turn to the fathers or we will be wasted at His return. This requirement is not to turn to them in just a figurative way, where we do genealogical work to connect ourselves with our recently deceased forebearers. That work is a wrongheaded effort to seal people to those kept in prison. The return of our hearts will require us to have the same religion, and the same beliefs in our hearts that the original fathers had beginning with Adam. Only in that way will our hearts turn to the fathers.”
I then asked:
“Given the fact that the LDS Church has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building temples specifically for the purpose of sealing individuals to their deceased ancestors, are you advocating that we cease family history research as a waste of time? If so, can you provide specific counsel on how we can better utilize the time that we have been devoting to family history research in order to prepare for the promised temple to be built?”
“I’m not saying you cease doing genealogical work.
“The way in which temple work for the dead was intended to be done was that work of baptism for the dead was confined to only those ancestors you personally knew, who you believed would have accepted the gospel with all their heart had they been permitted to tarry and were only kept from accepting the gospel because they died at a time before it was available for them to embrace.
“That’s one category.
A second category was those ancestors about whom you have enough information from their diaries, their letters, their journals, or accounts of their life so that you believe them to be the kind of people that would have embraced the gospel, had they lived at a time when the gospel in its fulness was on the earth.
“So that is a second category.
“And then the third category was, those ancestors who appear to you and ask that their temple work be done.
Only Three Categories
“Those were the only ones for whom temple work was supposed to be done according to the criteria that was established by Joseph Smith at the beginning. It was not a “if you know a name, go get a baptism for them.” That was never the criteria. The criteria was limited to those three specific categories of people.
“The place in which genealogical research for your ancestors becomes most important is that second category in which, through genealogical research, you may be able to locate an ancestor about whom there is enough that you can recover as information or biography to know that they were the kind of people who would have embraced the gospel had they been permitted to tarry long enough to have accepted the gospel in its fulness while it was on the earth.
Anyone who has spent even a few moments on Internet forums or wherever dialog is allowed, can attest to the fact that the Internet is a contentious place. It is a wild and uncontrolled free-for-all, where some have taken advantage of platforms for free speech that go beyond what was intended. The recent example of live streaming mass murder is a case in point. Such terrible atrocities do not lend themselves to peaceful coexistence.
If you don’t know, a troll, as found on Internet forums, is someone who purposefully abuses others with derogatory comments, with the intent to inflame readers or the original poster (OP) into writing something uncharacteristic of the position they are advocating. In some twisted sort of logic, trolls seem to think they are doing us all a favor by tearing others down in as brutal and clever a way as possible, by what they write.
To dispute is to argue, to contend, to disagree, to compete and to strive to win, usually in a heated and sometimes controversial manner. There is a civilized way to discuss things and then there is the way that is all too commonplace in the world, and especially on the Internet. Sadly, this contentious manner of disputing has spilled over into forums that were established with the original intent of encouraging peaceful, harmonious dialog.
I have been lucky. In the twelve years I have been blogging on Latter-day Commentary, I have never had to ban a troll. According to the stats page, there have been over 13,000 comments shared since 2007. I also don’t have comment moderation turned on. That’s not to say I haven’t deleted inappropriate comments (foul language, for example) but for the most part, visitors to my site have contributed positive, thoughtful words to ponder.
An argument should not always be viewed as a negative thing. We pay people good money to argue in our favor in a court of law. Being able to formulate a good logical argument is a skill that can be developed with training and practice. A persuasive argument can save a life that otherwise might have been forfeited because of evidence that is circumstantial. Arguments allow us to view things that are otherwise hidden.
Persuade with Kindness
In a similar manner, a disagreement is not always a negative thing either. For example, I have disagreements about interpretation of scripture all the time. I also disagree with some of the current laws of our nation. I see them as unjust and overly intrusive. However, I do my best to abide by the law of the land even when I disagree with it. But I try to be agreeable in the way I live among my fellow citizens, even while disagreeing.
Likewise, I try to not argue with someone, unless they invite me to do so. We agree on a set of rules in advance and try to present our facts and interpretations of those facts with an understanding that we will not attack one another as we do so. Our overarching goal is to persuade with a reasonable, calm demeanor, whether we engage in our dialog in person or over the Internet in a forum, in blog commentary or in an email exchange.
Choose to Not Dispute
Who hasn’t been the recipient of a verbal or written tirade against our position that was based on a misunderstanding of what we intended? It is especially easy to miss what a writer meant to say, or desired to express, but perhaps did so poorly because of a lack of skills or experience in communicating effectively online. Offense may be taken where none is intended. Feelings get hurt. The natural tendency is to lash out in retaliation.
Can one choose to not dispute? Can we have a firm knowledge that our position on a subject is superior to what others are advocating and yet make a conscious choice to not argue, contend or even disagree? Can two people be right, even when they seem to be in opposition to what the other is promoting? Can we agree with our adversary quickly? By choosing to not dispute, do we lose virtue or strength that we worked so hard to obtain?
The Perfect Example
The Savior could have disputed every day of his life with someone. He deliberately chose not to contend. He was not an argumentative personality. He took abuse and accusations many times without responding, even when he could have easily done so. He controlled himself. He was and is a man of great self-restraint. He is kind and merciful, not wont to fight and argue in order to display his vastly superior knowledge and intelligence.
Do you know someone who always has to be right, or always has to have the last word? Such a characteristic can be rather annoying, cant’t it? They don’t seem to have room to allow another their point of view, and can’t seem to conceive that someone else may have some useful knowledge above and beyond what they have acquired with their many years of study and experience. In short, such a person is not very Christ-like.
Vote on Mutual Agreement
We have the opportunity to vote on a definition of “Mutual Agreement.” The Lord was petitioned to define the phrase for us a few years back, especially in connection with our many disputations over the Statement of Principles to be used as a Guide and Standard. He did so. It was short, clear and concise. His response honors our agency. He reminds us we must choose. Mutual Agreement means we choose to not dispute one with another.
What did the Lord teach us when he did not dispute or contend with his accusers? I have pondered the Lord’s response: “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Do you not hear how many things they witness against you? And he answered him not to his questions; yea, never a word, insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.” What a marvelous example for us all.
That We Might Become One
An expansion to section 174 has been proposed. In his talk That We Might Become One (Jan 14, 2018) Denver explained: “When the definition was given, it was accompanied by the realization the Lord could have disputed every day of His life with someone. He deliberately chose to not contend. He was not an argumentative personality.”
The reasons for the addition/expansion were given as follows:
It gives greater understanding of the Lord and the Lord’s personality not found anywhere else.
It assists people in understanding how to go about solving disagreements in the way the Lord did. It’s directly related to us and our current desire for Zion, and is focused on the Lord.
It directly relates to the answer about mutual agreement, as Denver stated it “accompanied” the revelation. Therefore it seems like it should also accompany the answer as part of 174. It sheds light on the Lord’s ministry and choices.
It is proposed that Denver’s remarks be added as a second paragraph to the proposed Section 174. I encourage us all to consider: The Lord has already accepted the work of the Scripture Committee. He said He labored alongside them. I hope we can put aside any hurt feelings of the past that came as we went through the process of creating the Statement of Principles that are now part of the scriptures as a Guide and Standard.
Answer to Prayer
Quoting the Lord: “As people, you lack the ability to respectfully disagree among one another. You are as Paul and Peter, whose disagreements resulted in jarring and sharp contentions. Nevertheless, they both loved me and I loved them. You must do better.”
“…there have been sharp disputes between you that should have been avoided. I speak these words to reprove you that you may learn, not to upbraid you so that you mourn. I want my people to have understanding.”
Voting to Expand Section 174
God bless us all. May we show the Lord we accept his reproof and his definition of Mutual Agreement – to choose to not dispute. The voting will open later this week.
I spent a couple of days earlier this week going over all the material being referenced for the 22 (so far) breakout sessions on Saturday. I know I had read or watched or listened to all of them previously but I was uplifted and edified as I went over them once again. It is truly amazing to realize how much we have received in the past few years. In my case, I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up in my studies, having only been introduced in 2012.
I want to especially commend whoever has been creating and releasing the podcasts each week. They are wonderful. Some people learn best by reading, others by hearing and others by viewing. You can do all three with much of the material in the archives. I listen to the podcasts on the drive to and from work. Doesn’t matter that I’ve heard some of the material in previous talks or lectures. I always learn something new as I ponder.
Below is the list of the topics being covered in the sessions. I highly recommend going to the site and clicking on the links associated with each one. You will find a wealth of material filled with revelation for our day. There is so much that has been clarified, at least for me, as I have studied this material over the past seven years. I especially appreciate the talks or lectures prepared for each of the recent General Conferences.
Sessions Recorded, Sunday Live-Streamed
I’ve also included the links here (below) to save a few clicks. Just a quick perusal reveals a wide variety of topics. Not sure how long each session is. Assuming one hour each, you would only be able to get to a third of the sessions on Saturday. Maybe they will only be a half hour each. As soon as the organizers release that detail I’ll update this post. As noted previously, Denver is the invited speaker for the Sunday session. Looking forward to it.
Several people have asked if the conference will be broadcast. My understanding is that yes, the Sunday session will be live-streamed and that some of the Saturday breakout sessions may be recorded, but not live-streamed. If that changes, it will be noted on the conference site. Anybody who has put on a weekend conference before knows what a lot of work this is. There are over 500 people RSVP’d so far. The venue will hold up to 1,000.
In the comment section of a recent post here on LDC, a long-time reader asked some excellent questions about the sealing power, the temple and the ordinances there. His questions caused me to go to the Lord in prayer to obtain greater understanding. I share some of what I have learned here in the hopes it will help others with similar questions.
His asked three questions. This post will attempt to answer the first one. I hope to have the additional questions answered and posted in the next few weeks before the start of the conference on the temple to be held in Colorado the weekend of 19-21 April 2019.
Question: What do you feel is required to “change the ordinance”? There have been numerous changes to the endowment since its inception in the red brick store in 1842. What constitutes “the ordinance has been changed”?
One could make an argument that the ordinance was changed almost immediately after it was first administered by Joseph in the red brick store. My personal studies of the diaries and journals of that time period demonstrate to me that it was expanded after Joseph introduced it 4-5 May 1842.
On the other hand, it has been my observation that, in general, changes after the death of the prophet Joseph have taken away from the endowment. It originally required, by one account, four to five hours to administer. Today, that has been pared down to an hour and twenty minutes.
Of course, much of the time difference can be accounted for by having only one station at the veil. From personal experience, it’s obvious the size of the company and the number of veil workers available will also directly affect the time to complete each session, especially in larger temples.
Joseph assigned Brigham the task of “systematizing” the ceremonies, which he did. The ceremonies were not written down until near the end of Brigham’s lifetime (Aug 1877), reportedly in the period of January through March 1877, before the St. George temple was dedicated in April of 1877.
Unfortunately, Brigham did some freelancing by adding the Adam-God theory to the lecture at the veil. That lecture changed numerous times over the years. I remember participating in that lecture (minus the Adam-God stuff, which had long been removed) and missed that as the years went by.
It is my belief that changes to the endowment ceremony in Joseph’s lifetime (1842-1844) were authorized by him since he was the one who held the keys of a dispensation. The covenant embodied in the endowment, including the sealing, were administered under his authority.
However, the sealings of multiple wives to husbands, in my opinion and according to my limited research, were rarely performed by Joseph, but were promoted by Brigham as a requirement for exaltation. That, to me, is a clear sign that the ordinance had been changed and the covenant had been broken.
Now, let’s apply that to you and me. Was the endowment I received in 1976 and the sealing I received in 1982 valid, authorized and recognized of God? Yes. How can I say that and still argue the ordinance has been changed? Perhaps it’s all in the way it is received. Our faith really matters.
For you and me, the ordinance contains enough of the original focus of what Joseph intended that we were able to receive it in full faith and obtain from it what the Lord requires us to know in order to converse with Him through the veil and to enter into his presence. For us, then, it has not changed.
For those who received plural wives in this manner, it had been changed and was therefore void of the promised blessings, even if uttered. The Holy Spirit of Promise is not going to certify or seal up an adulterous marriage. I know this is an extremely sensitive area and raises additional concerns.
To summarize and to attempt to answer your question directly, I don’t believe you can put an exact date as to when the ordinance changed, nor can you say what constitutes a change that absolutely invalidates it. There comes a point when stuff removed negates receiving the required keys of knowledge.
For example, new initiates today will never fully understand the symbolism of the veil because they never participate in the ceremony with the veil. They can read about it or discuss it with their parents or others who experienced it, but what about personal revelation associated with the sacred symbol?
Another key that has been completely lost is an understanding of the concept of “sealing to the fathers in heaven.” I’m not sure Joseph was ever successful in getting the people to understand it let alone accept it. I’ve addressed this in the previous post but will summarize the doctrine here if I can.
We erroneously conflate the identity of “the fathers in heaven” with our kindred dead. They are not the same group of people at all. Our kindred dead are in need of our work in their behalf. They, like us, need to be sealed to the fathers. This is a critically important distinction that needs to be clear.
When Joseph was instructed by the angel who visited him in 1823, he quoted many scriptures, but perhaps the most pertinent to our discussion here is Malachi 4:6, slightly different from the version of the King James edition of the scriptures. A careful reading helps us understand the Lord’s work:
“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”
Who are the fathers? That’s the question we should really be asking ourselves. What can they do for us that our kindred dead cannot? Joseph taught that the fathers were Adam and Adam’s righteous posterity, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He also taught that they had already been exalted.
When Joseph taught about the temple in the latter days of his ministry, he focused on the family of God and being sealed to the fathers in heaven. We would do well to ponder what Joseph was trying to teach, which we identify today as the law of adoption. Joseph became for us, a father in heaven.
I hope I have answered the first of your excellent questions. In short, the ordinance is ineffective if it fails to convey what was intended in the original covenant offered. If it does not convey sufficient keys of knowledge to allow us to rise up and enter into God’s presence then it has been changed or broken.
References: History of the Church, 5:1–2. May 1842. One of many online links:
Wednesday, 4.—I spent the day in the upper part of the store, that is in my private office (so called because in that room I keep my sacred writings, translate ancient records, and receive revelations) and in my general business office, or lodge room (that is where the Masonic fraternity meet occasionally, for want of a better place) in council with General James Adams, of Springfield, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and President Brigham Young and Elders Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the First Born, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds. In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days. And the communications I made to this council were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the I spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints; therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple, and all houses which they have been, or shall hereafter be, commanded of God to build; and wait their time with patience in all meekness, faith, perseverance unto the end, knowing assuredly that all these things referred to in this council are always governed by the principle of revelation.
Thursday, 5.— … the remainder of the council of yesterday continued their meeting at the same place, and myself and Brother Hyrum received in turn from the others, the same that I had communicated to them the day previous.
The description from Brigham’s secretary of the introduction of the endowment:
Prest Young was filled with the spirit of God & revelation & said when we got our washings and anointings under the hands of the Prophet Joseph at Nauvoo we had only one room to work in with the exception of a little side room or office were [sic] we were washed and anointed had our garments placed upon us and received our New Name, and after he had performed these ceremonies, he gave the Key Words signs, togkens [sic] and penalties, then after we went into the large room over the store in Nauvoo. Joseph divided up the room the best that he could hung up the veil, marked it gave us our instructions as we passed along from one department to another giving us signs, tokens, penalties with the Key words pertaining to those signs and after we had got through. Bro Joseph turned to me (Press B. Young) and said Bro Brigham this is not arranged right but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I. . .wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies with the signs, tokens penalties and Key words I did so and each time I got something more so that when we went through the Temple at Nauvoo I understood and Knew
Source: L. John Nuttall Diary, 7 Feb. 1877, typescript, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, as found in:
Side note: David John Buerger is an interesting fellow. He obviously spent a lot of time researching and publishing this material but became disaffected after publication:
“By 1987, Buerger’s interest in Mormon history and theology had waned. He donated his research files to the University of Utah library and no longer follows the debate concerning the interpretation of the Mormon past and its implications for the future of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
In preparation for the upcoming General Conference to be held 19-21 April 2019 in Colorado, I have been studying the subject of the temple in great depth and detail. In some ways, this is a continuation of a dialog with a reader found in the comment section of the post on the excommunication of Mike Stroud. My personal focus and desire in sharing this post is to be able to understand and answer questions about the sealing power, and in particular, the three forms of sealing power and who possesses them.
To me, knowing the answers to these questions is of extreme importance in the eternal scheme of things. So much of the LDS culture is based on the temple and the sealing authority that is exercised there, especially in the sealing of spouses and of children to parents. The hopes of millions who have participated in the sacred sealing ordinances there rest on assurances that such authority exercised on their behalf is valid and efficacious beyond the veil. This issue should be of paramount importance to all.
Discussing the Temple
I hope to treat this subject with respect. I am writing as a former member of the LDS Church, thus I don’t adhere to the taboo of not discussing the temple in any way outside of the temple. Most everyone knows you can read the entire endowment ceremony on the Internet, including past versions. The other ordinances have been reported word for word as well. I haven’t been to the temple since 2014 so I can only rely on what others have reported of the latest changes, although I’m not sure they will come up in this post.
Borrowing from Hawkgrrrl, perhaps “the LDS Church perceives itself as an Owl. It’s large, powerful, wise, all-seeing. The Church sees itself as the one true church of Jesus Christ, restored by modern prophets. It sees itself as authoritative, a living entity under a living God, and the sole proprietor of ordinances that can save humanity.” That’s the issue I hope to address in this post – the validity of that claim to be the sole proprietor of the ordinances of salvation. Every assertion of the LDS Church hinges on this one claim.
A Dispensation Head
There is in the LDS Church a vaguely taught and even more vaguely understood doctrine about dispensations and dispensation heads. When we speak of gospel dispensations, we generally have in mind those given to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses. Among Latter-day Saints,there is also some understanding that John the Baptist and Elijah may have been dispensation heads and that Joseph Smith definitely qualified. Those who accept the Book of Mormon also refer to Lehi and Nephi as being in this category.
Even among those who have accepted Denver Snuffer as a teacher, I’m not sure many have paid attention to his statement in Orem on 2 November 2013. As I read it and have prayed about it, Denver has declared that he also has a dispensation, directly associated with Joseph Smith: “Now you tell me, you declare to me, what are your dispensations? (I have one, and Joseph had one, but do you have one also?) Tell me what your rights are. Can you even tell me what your keys are?” Source: Lecture 5 on Priesthood
The Right to Ascend
In order to prepare for what I hope will be additional instruction about the temple to be built in our day, I’ve pulled a lot of quotes on the subject from as many of Denver’s talks and writings as I felt were relevant to the proposed temple. I felt it important to review what we have already been given. I have reflected on these things again and again. As I did so, the Lord brought selected phrases and quotes to my mind. I have shared them in this post and tried to arrange them in some semblance or order. I hope it proves helpful.
Perhaps the key takeaways from this post will be the following: 1) In spite of the fact that there are now 162 LDS Temples, we need a temple to which the Lord can come and in which the Lord’s servants can administer authorized ordinances of salvation anew. 2) The ordinances administered in the LDS Temples are no longer valid because they have changed the ordinances and therefore broken the covenant. There is no place on the earth today where we can receive the ordinance established by the Lord through Joseph.
Different Forms of Sealing Power
The first form of sealing power is that given to dispensation heads such as Moses, Lehi, Joseph Smith: “Dispensation heads are given the power, the sealing power, the authority, the ability to use the power to seal up, by embodying the covenant that is given to them by God, into an ordinance.” Source: Ordinances.
The second form of sealing power is “not dependent upon the persistent presence of a dispensation head. It is only dependent upon keeping faithfully the ordinance that has been established and handed down by God through covenant. Go to the temple, get your ordinances, and then work to have the Holy Spirit of Promise because the keeper of that gate is the Holy One of Israel, and there is no employee there.”
The Spirit of Elijah
“… the Spirit of Elijah holds the revelations, ordinances, endowments, and sealings necessary to accomplish turning the hearts of the Fathers to the children by securing an unbroken thread between the living and the Fathers in heaven. This can only be done in a temple prepared for that purpose.”
“The Community of Christ and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are both being led down to destruction and are bound in the chains of hell because of their studied ignorance. ‘Apostasy’ means a deliberate rebellion against God. They are in apostasy because they are deliberately changing the ordinances, have broken the covenant, and are rejecting Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelations. They have been deliberately walking away from the Restoration…” Source: Ordinances.
Sealing Power Clarified
“…there are generally three kinds of sealing authority which are given.
“The first kind of sealing power is that kind which is given to someone when there is a dispensation of the gospel being founded. … as a dispensation head, a form of sealing power is given to that person, which establishes a covenant that was intended to go beyond that individual alone. Dispensation heads are given the power, the sealing power, the authority, the ability to use the power to seal up by embodying the covenant that is given to them by God, by establishing an ordinance to perpetuate the covenant.
Sealing Power in the LDS Church
“The second kind is a sealing power is embodied within authoritative ordinances. All dispensations of the gospel follow the covenant giver’s ordinances; or preserve the ordinance established through the dispensation head. For so long as the ordinances that were handed to mankind through the dispensation head are kept intact, the covenant is kept intact. Therefore the second form of sealing power is a sealing power which is not dependent upon the persistent presence of a dispensation head. It is only dependent upon keeping the ordinances which were established and handed down by God through covenant.
“This second form of sealing power is the sealing authority which the Church claims to possess. It is the sealing authority that was referred to by Henry B. Eyring in the General Conference talk given in April 2012, Families under Covenant. In it he proclaimed that the Church has the authority to seal families together by using the ordinances that have been handed down. I’m quoting from this talk:
“‘The Holy Spirit of Promise through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come. The Holy Ghost is one who reads the thoughts and hearts of men and gives his sealing approval to the blessing pronounced upon their heads. Then it is binding, efficacious and of full force.’
“I agree with what he has said. I believe that is a correct way to explain the limited authority to seal enjoyed by the Church. The condition remains, even in the ordinance, which requires the faithfulness and the subsequent sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise in order for those ordinances to endure. Nevertheless, the Church claims to possess only that second form of sealing authority and uses it in the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Third Kind of Sealing Power
“There is a third kind of sealing power. And this third kind of sealing power goes beyond either of the first two. It has absolutely unique application, and is given only in rare circumstances, and for highly specific purposes. That third form involves giving the authority to control the elements. This was authority possessed by Enoch. This was authority possessed by Melchizedek. This was the authority possessed by Christ. This was the authority Christ had to suspend or not employ, in order to permit those who would kill Him, to kill Him. This is the kind of authority which, in the case of every such individual, they must give their lives up willingly. Their lives cannot be taken.
As to these three kinds of authority, the first authority given to a head of a dispensation, only God can pass that to man. Man cannot pass that to man. The second kind of sealing authority we talked about can be passed from man-to-man, from generation to generation, and remains in full force and effect for so long as the covenant is not broken. But to remain unbroken the ordinance cannot be changed. The third kind not only cannot be given by man-to-man, but is given as a consequence of that extraordinary combination of mortality and immortality, in which you find a person on the earth that God has faith and confidence in. You all should become this kind of person.”
“The purpose of a temple (meaning an actual temple commissioned, ordered, blessed, accepted and visited with His presence) is to substitute for the temporary ascent of a mortal into God’s presence. A real temple becomes ‘Holy Ground’ and the means for making available to faithful people in every state of belief and hope the opportunity to receive, by authorized means, the same covenant, obligation, association, expectation and sealing through an authorized and binding arrangement in sacred space. This is the same thing they can receive from God directly if they enter into His presence while still in the flesh. In effect, the temple becomes an extension of heaven.”
Holy Spirit of Promise
“We are practicing in the Temple to receive the real thing. We are not receiving the real thing there. We are told that directly as part of the ceremony. We are cautioned that if we are true and faithful to the covenants we enter into, the time will come when we will be called up, chosen and anointed, whereas now we are only anointed to BECOME such.
“The realization of these blessings is dependent upon our faithfulness, not upon our holding a recommend and getting our names enrolled in preparatory, practice ordinances. The ordinances are a revelation about the real process. They are symbols. They point the way. But we have to follow the way and receive the blessings, promises, etc. from heaven. The Holy Spirit of Promise, as explained in Section 132 is involved. I’ve explained this in The Second Comforter.” Source: The Sealing Power (comment)
LDS Temple Rites Insufficient
“The LDS version of temple rites is insufficient to allow anyone to obtain the right to ascend to God’s presence in eternity. The Lord will fix this, as He intends to establish an Ensign to which all nations (meaning scattered covenant Israel) will return in the last days and there receive their crowns at the hands of servants who will minister covenants for this purpose (D&C 133:31-34).” Source: Why a Temple?
Law of Adoption
“Joseph’s original instruction about sealing dealt with connecting the living faithful to the ‘fathers’ in heaven—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The connection was to be accomplished through adoption sealings, not genealogy. Joseph was connected to the Fathers through his priesthood. He and his brother Hyrum were to become ‘fathers’ of all who would live after them. Just read Abraham 1:2.
“Families were originally organized under Joseph as the Father of the righteous in this dispensation. Accordingly, men were sealed to Joseph Smith as their Father, and they as his sons. This was referred to as ‘adoption’ because the family organization was not biological, but priestly, according to the law of God. As soon as Joseph died, the doctrine began to erode, ultimately replaced by the substitute practice of sealing genealogical lines together.
“In between the original adoptive sealing to Joseph and the current practice of tracking genealogical or biological lines, there was an intermediate step when families were tracked back as far as research permitted, then the line was sealed to Joseph Smith. That practice is now forgotten, and certainly no longer practiced, by any denomination within Mormonism. When Joseph died, any understanding of the practice of ‘adoption’ was quickly lost.” Source: The Temple, Part 4
The Fathers in Heaven
In the LDS Church the term “our kindred dead” is used interchangeably with our “fathers who are in heaven.” This is wrong. Those are two different sets of people. Our kindred dead are like us, in need of redemption. We need to connect ourselves to our fathers who are in heaven. The fathers are the patriarchs, Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Peter, James John, and Joseph Smith. We need to rise up and be connected to them.
“The hearts of the fathers who are in heaven — that’s the mission of Elijah. If you will receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah: That we redeem our dead and connect ourselves with our ‘fathers which are in heaven’ — our dead through us, us to our ‘fathers in heaven.’ Who are our ‘fathers in heaven?’ Who are our ‘father’s in heaven’ to whom we are to be connected?
“We want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those which dwell in heaven. Those who are in the spirit world, our dead, the ones that need redemption from us, are not redeemed. They cannot be in heaven because they need us to be redeemed. We need to be redeemed by our connecting to the ‘fathers who are in heaven.’ The dead have to be redeemed. The Fathers are in heaven. Joseph understood this doctrine.”
“‘Unto your fathers in eternal glory.’ That is not your kindred dead— they are relying upon you to be redeemed. The connection that needs to be formed is between you and the Fathers who dwell in glory.” Source: Temple, Part 2
I continue my series on preparing myself for the upcoming 2019 General Conference on April 19-20-21 in Colorado. I had not anticipated including this post about fellowships or the Statement of Principles. However, it became evident to me as I reviewed the events of the last few years in recovering and continuing the restoration that fellowships are a huge part of what we have received and should be addressed. We need fellowships.
I do not currently participate in fellowship gatherings of the remnant movement. I am not worthy to do so. Well, technically, there is no worthiness requirement to attend such gatherings, but I am not worthy to bless the sacrament, baptize or perform ordinances of the priesthood outside of my home. The Lord stated why when he shared the following:
“…at least seven women must vote to sustain one to be a priest to the community. If the man is married, his wife must be among the seven women. If his wife will not sustain him, he is unworthy to provide priesthood service in the fellowship.”
Community of Seven Women
This statement about seven women has been much ridiculed by critics of the restoration movement, and particularly of Denver’s involvement in it. They quote it as a sign of a false prophet, claiming it is not scriptural, or that it is a twisting of the Old Testament scripture found in Isaiah 4:1. From what I’ve seen in the last four and half years, it is a pretty good system of managing a fellowship – by women who possess much wisdom.
“The word ‘unworthy’ is not a statement of condemnation, but of qualification. There is nothing implied in the word about a man’s standing before God, only the fact that within the community of fellowship until the wife is prepared to support him acting outside the family, his effort should remain within his family until the wife sees value to her husband serving others.
“The word ‘unworthy’ was the Lord’s and therefore I do not feel at liberty to change it. But I want it clear that when He used it I had a definite understanding that no condemnation was implied, only an orderly arrangement was given. In all such matters it has been my experience that with time how the Lord orders things proves to be exceptionally wise, even if we do not immediately see the wisdom.”
It did not take long at all to see the exceptional wisdom of this requirement. Carol has attended a few fellowship meetings with me. She was very uncomfortable. The idea of using wine in the Sacrament was abhorrent to her. Her Utah heritage had also ingrained deeply within her the idea of getting permission from some man with authority or keys in order to administer the Sacrament in the home. We ceased that practice immediately.
When I first resigned from the LDS Church in September of 2014, Carol asked me to please continue to attend Sacrament meeting with her. I agreed. For a while I saw no difference in the administration of the Sacrament. Over the years, something has changed. Perhaps it is me, but something is missing from the ordinance there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel it. Thus I also administer the Sacrament at home.
No, Carol doesn’t participate with me. It’s the wine thing. She can’t get over it. She had a grandfather who drank himself to death and it deeply affected her. Apparently addiction runs in our family because our son almost did the same before he got sober years ago. So I don’t blame Carol for her aversion to using wine. I have offered grape juice but the thing about getting permission from the local bishop gets in the way. So we just don’t.
Partake in Remembrance of Christ
“As to the Sacrament, only an antichrist would forbid you from partaking of the Sacrament in the way commanded by your Lord. That is an abomination. If you get together, even if it is only in your own family, partake of the Sacrament together. Let no one forbid you from partaking in remembrance of Christ. He commanded that you do it. Follow the pattern that is given to us.
“In Doctrine and Covenants section 20, verse 76, one of the things that used to be practiced, and has been abandoned, but should now be renewed among you, is that when the Sacrament is blessed, kneel. “Kneel with the church” is how the verse explains it. It is in the scriptures before you. Follow them.
“You can use wine. Or, if you are opposed to alcohol, alternatively you have some medical condition that prevents you from using wine, then use grape juice. Not water. Use red grape juice. Use the symbol of the blood of our Lord. I can tell you that generally, red wine is bitter for a reason. Partaking of that bitter wine in remembrance of the blood that was shed is appropriate.”
Carol and I were first introduced to wine in the Sacrament in a fellowship meeting after one of the lectures in 2014. I think it was Las Vegas. We were invited by members of the Colorado fellowship to join with them to meet and talk about what we had received that day. To me, it was an amazing spiritual experience, and not because of the wine. I felt the sweet spirit of the Lord being poured out on this humble fellowship gathered that night.
I visited with the Colorado fellowship once again during the 2015 Reunion Conference. I participated in several sacrament meetings where, as before, the spirit was poured out in great abundance upon all those present. I was asked to pronounce a blessing upon the participants and did so with tears in my eyes as the power of revelation came upon me. I cherish those sacred memories and long to be part of such fellowship gatherings again.
Carol has teased me several times about the idea of the gathering being in the tops of the mountains. “How long before you will leave me to go be with your friends in Colorado?” I remind her that the location of the temple has not yet been announced. Having served her mission in Independence Missouri, Carol is convinced that the temple complex is to be built there. I don’t doubt it, but it’s not the first place the Lord will gather His people.
Fellowships in the Remnant Movement
I wish I could provide more personal examples. I have met with some of our Southern California fellowships a few times over the years. Thank you to my neighbor Mike with whom I have met several times. Also to Peter, who came down from Idaho last year and has reached out to me just as recently as last Sunday offering fellowship. You can find them on the Fellowship Locator. I have enjoyed our meetings when we get together.
I have read stories of others, mainly along the Mormon Corridor, who have had great successes and much growth from meeting together regularly. They have learned to deal with challenges such as widely disparate age groups, financial struggles of young single mothers and even one case of an individual who was deceived and led others of the group into temptation. You can read more about that here and here if you desire.
Yes, I know many members of our stake who will NOT read anything not authorized by the First Presidency. While these folks are Baby Boomers in age, they are idealistically more like the GI Generation, very much into authority and hierarchy, epitomized by the top-down structure of the LDS Church, whose current leader exudes that influence of follow the leader. They always ask, do you have permission to do that or to read that?
I can see why critics of the LDS Church claim it is a cult because of the brain-washing experience from the time children are infants to “follow the prophet” which permeates the entire organization and culture. They gush about how all the recent institutional changes are evidence of revelation. This has generated a “cult of personality” worship syndrome where the current institutional figurehead is reverenced to the extreme.
The Institutional President
My life has changed dramatically because of answers to prayers I have long offered and earnestly sought for, despite no real hope of seeing such prayers answered though the orthodox channels of the church. It has never ceased to amaze me how much the church has become more and more entrenched in this one doctrine: follow the prophet, he can’t lead you astray. This is wrong. The Savior never taught this and neither did Joseph.
“If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. Wait till next year, and then the next year,” President Nelson said. “Eat your vitamin pills. Get some rest. It’s going to be exciting.” The administrative changes being rolled out by the current hierarchy are being spun as revelation. I’m certain there have been years of pondering and prayer, but was there a revelation directing these most recent changes?
I could spend hours studying the new glossary in the scriptures. One of the many terms clarified for me there is the meaning of abomination, described as “The use of religion to suppress truth or impose a false form of truth. It involves the religious justification of wrongdoing. That is, something becomes abominable when it is motivated out of a false form of religious observance or is justified because of religious error.” Hmmm…
Blogging in the LDS Church
But I digress. Back to my intended purpose in sharing this post. I have covered a little about fellowships even though I have not offered much from first-hand experience. I hope someone is documenting for historical purposes what fellowship meetings are like for them. I keep thinking how much the early notes found in journals have been to historians writing about the earliest days of the restoration, which is ongoing today.
And more specifically, back to the steps of apostasy I started to outline before I got off on the tangent about the heavy-handedness of some bishops, stake presidents and general authorities in continuing to proliferate the idea of the infallibility of the prophet and the absolute critical test of having your thinking in line with that of “The Brethren.” It still rankles me to think that I once had a part in promulgating that unique LDS cultural bias.
The second step in my apostasy was writing a blog. The first few years were filled with posts defending the LDS Church along with it’s doctrines and practices. But opening the blog to comments brought me a world of different viewpoints that opened my eyes to a less biased view of things. Truth was no longer hard and fast what The Brethren said. I am not the only blogger who left the LDS Church after first defending it vigorously.
The Slippery Slope
It was five years after I started writing this blog before I was introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer. Two and a half years later I was introduced to the idea of sacrament outside the control of a local LDS Bishop. Shortly thereafter I resigned and was baptized anew. I’m sure you could point to thousands of examples of LDS bloggers who have been blogging for years and remained very faithful to the Church. But I’m not one of them.
In my Stake resides a former bishop who blogs over on Wheat and Tares. I have always enjoyed his posts and enjoyed knowing him and his family. We don’t see eye to eye on certain matters, for example, on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but, in general, I admire his openness on matters of doctrine and history compared to other bishops I have known and worked with closely. He remains a faithful temple-worthy member.
My point to any Bishops, Stake Presidents or General Authorities that may be reading this post is that reading blogs critical of the LDS Church or even writing critical essays about the Church is no guarantee that the individual will apostatize from the Church. But I can count on one hand the number of bloggers in my stake. You might want to keep an eye on anyone who writes about the Church. They just may be on the road to apostasy.
Statement of Principles
I conclude with an invitation to re-read the Statement of Principles. This was presented to the Lord and accepted by him. It will soon be canonized as section 175 of the T&C. I hope that will be completed before the upcoming General Conference in six weeks. In it is found a Guide and Standard for conducting our fellowships. It is intended to be a replacement for section 20 of the LDS D&C, on church organization and government.
It contains the Doctrine of Christ, a reference to The Law of Christ or The Sermon on the Mount, ordinances, baptism, sacrament, marriage, priesthood, fellowships, tithing, Zion and the covenant. These are all incredibly important and far-reaching subjects. It was marvelous to behold the wonderful disputations that arose as these subjects were laid out and presented for discussion and inclusion in the document the Lord accepted.
I could write an entire series of posts about this document. I believe it was inspired and was a labor of love and sacrifice to produce. I am aware of some who suffered anguish of soul over this document. I know some opposed it and voted against it. Ultimately, once the Lord accepted it, if we can abide abide by the principles contained in it we will be blessed and be given power to do the work of preparing for the return of the Savior.
God bless. As always, comments are welcome for sixty days.
The organizers of the upcoming General Conference scheduled for Fri-Sat-Sun 19-21 April 2019 in Western Colorado / Grand Mesa area have asked various bloggers to share the updated schedule. More detail can be found at the conference site, and greater detail will be added in the weeks to come, but we are sharing the schedule as it stands now.
5pm – Camp will open for arrivals, but check-in is not until after the passover meal.
6pm – Passover activities begin with a few introductory comments and explanations.
7pm – 7:15pm (time is approximate) – Start of passover meal for those who have RSVP’d
8pm – 8:30 – Approximate conclusion of Passover meal – Camp check-in desk now open.
Note: Denver has shared on his website that he is planning to attend and participate in the breakout sessions. The hope is to review and reflect upon what has been given us. We will be posting the topics for these sessions (here is one example), and hope that all will come having studied the word.
Sunday 21 April 2019 (Grand Junction CO)
6am – 6:30am (approximate) – Sunrise hike celebrating the resurrection of Christ.
8am – Checkout time at Camp Cedaredge – the theater is about 57 miles away
9am – Program start time at the Avalon theatre in Grand Junction CO
We are planning to have the sacrament for all in attendance who desire to participate.
There will also be a short, small program to remember the resurrection of the Savior.
The remainder of the morning will be presented by Denver Snuffer, our invited guest.
Denver will then be hosting a question and answer session until about 12:30 or 1pm.
Please Remember to RSVP
Additionally, we have been asked to share a reminder to RSVP to the conference, as it is very important to have accurate numbers for the Passover and for Saturday activities. The camp needs to purchase the food in advance. They also need to know so they can purchase bread and wine for Sunday Sacrament in Grand Junction.