Answering the Affiliation Question


 

TempleRecommendWhen I turned in my temple recommend I didn’t expect it to upset so many people. It might have had something to do with blogging about it. There is wisdom in keeping some things private. But blogging about the issue paid off in droves. I received countless emails with advice and ideas on how to solve my dilemma. The solution: Most people concluded I was simply being too honest.

I know what you’re thinking. You can’t be too honest. Oh, yes you can. For example, what’s the correct answer to the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” More to the subject at hand, think about the Lord’s instructions to Peter, James and John from the first time he sent them to see what was happening with Adam. There are times it is appropriate to withhold information.

The Affiliation Question

For those who aren’t familiar with the question, from what I remember, it reads like this: “Do you support, affiliate with or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” You can read the temple recommend questions online in many places including the church website.

This question has been discussed ad infinitum in dozens of LDS forums and blogs over the years. It’s still a current topic of discussion. The young people in our church have grown up Internet-savvy. They’re concerned about all the different information they read online about doctrine and history. There are so many things online that simply aren’t taught in the official LDS curriculum.

Become Independent Witnesses

We study and research the facts. This is good practice. We need to think about things. We need to make our own decisions. Hugh B. Brown said: “We must preserve freedom of the mind in the Church and resist all efforts to suppress it.  The Church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.”

One of my long-time readers emailed me this morning. He casually mentioned a chat with his Elder’s Quorum President in his home. My friend was excited about some of the things he was reading and shared them with his Quorum President. What was the response? “I don’t think you should be reading that stuff.” When asked why, he replied, “It’s not published by the church.”

Amen to the Priesthood

This sort of answer causes me to think of the words in Section 121 about control, dominion and compulsion. I know the Brethren want us to be educated. I know they want us to be informed. It is not right to tell a man what he can and cannot read. That is contrary to the plan of the Lord. We are here to gain knowledge or light and truth. The Church doesn’t have a monopoly on truth.

We should encourage free thinking. We should encourage our members to study things out. We should not be telling our members to avoid opposing points of view. That causes blindness of the mind and eventually hardness of heart. I’m serious. How can you treasure the truth if you don’t know what others think? We become unbalanced if we don’t know both sides of our doctrines.

Accepting Counsel and Direction

I know cautions like those expressed by the EQ President of my friend are motivated by love. I feel the same Christ-motivated love from my Bishop and Stake President. Like my wise friend expressed in his email, he appreciated the counsel of his priesthood leader. I also appreciate the counsel of my priesthood leaders as they express their concerns for me in what I read and write.

Because I know they love me, I ponder carefully their counsel and direction. Ultimately, what I read is up to me. I read what I feel inspired to read. Sometimes, the material is not particularly uplifting. That doesn’t matter. It’s what the Lord wants me to know. Not everything in life is all light and rosy. While I would prefer direct revelation, the Lord always tells me to study it out.

Traditions of Our Fathers

As I shared previously, when I turned in my recommend, it was because I felt it was the honest thing to do. I have been very open and clear about my study of the writings shared by a former member of the Church. When I started reading his material, he was a member in good standing. I found in his writings an enormous amount of light and truth, as witnessed by the spirit to me.

Here was my reasoning: I agree with many things this good brother has shared. However, he is no longer a member of the church. Therefore, I can’t answer the affiliation question with a “no.” The tradition in our church is when a man is excommunicated you should no longer consider his words of any value and should refrain from reading anything he may write, or so I’ve observed.

Truth is Truth, No Matter the Source

I was wrong for several reasons. First, the only reason I knew the man had been excommunicated is because he felt it important to be open and honest about his standing with the church. I greatly appreciate that openness. Next, the Church has not published anything to indicate we should not read what this man has written or listen to his lectures. How do we know the Church’s position?

I don’t know if his teachings are contrary to those accepted by the Church unless they tell me. I must rely upon my Priesthood leader to tell me. He receives notices from the First Presidency. He can consult with the Stake President – we already have – and the Stake President can then consult with the Area Authority Seventy. But I doubt there will ever be an official statement.

My Answer to the Affiliation Question

Therefore, my answer to the affiliation question is not only no, but an unqualified no. I’m certain the Church will not direct its members to stay away from reading books or attending lectures in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, or would they? In Handbook 2, section 21.1.40, we read the current policy of the Church in regards to certain kinds of “Symposia and Similar Gatherings.”

“The Church warns its members against symposia and similar gatherings that include presentations that (1) disparage, ridicule, make light of, or are otherwise inappropriate in their treatment of sacred matters or (2) could injure the Church, detract from its mission, or jeopardize its members’ well-being. Members should not allow their position or standing in the Church to be used to promote or imply endorsement of such gatherings.”

Beware of False Prophets

Similarly, Elder Ballard has taught in General Conference,

“Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They ‘set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion’” (2 Ne 26:29) CR, Oct 1999, pp. 77–78 or Ensign Nov 1999 pp. 62–63.

Attending Lectures and Conferences

I have been to one of the lectures of this excommunicated individual I am discussing. I found it to be uplifting and enlightening. I came away feeling edified. To be frank, I am fairly certain the policy of the Church is referring to certain Sunstone Conferences of the past. It is also clear the intent of the affiliation question is to weed out those who are members of polygamous groups.

It is unfortunate the policy causes some members of the Church to consider all lectures about the doctrines of the gospel not sponsored by the Church to be “off limits.” I don’t think that was the intent of the Brethren when they published the symposia policy, nor do I think it was the intent of Elder Ballard to discourage learning when he spoke about the subject in General Conference.

Forty Years in Mormonism

I have listened to and studied each of the seven preceding lectures presented by Denver Snuffer. I found no fault in his material meaning I heard nothing that disparaged, ridiculed, made light of or was otherwise inappropriate in the treatment of sacred matters. I have also read nothing in his material that could injure the Church, detract from its mission or jeopardize my well-being.

I have declared previously on my blog that the man presenting the lecture series, “Forty Years in Mormonism,” has a message well worth our time and attention. I consider him a messenger from the Lord, with a “Testimony of Jesus” I have not found elsewhere. Specifically, the man claims to have been ministered to by the Lord and will be talking about that subject this very weekend.

Please Don’t Resign Your Membership

To those who plan on resigning their membership from the Church this week on Pioneer Day, and especially to those of my friends who I know have made that decision, I ask you to please reconsider. Instead of resigning, I invite you to consider the message of the man who claims to have been ministered to by the Lord and claims to be sharing a message given him of the Lord.

Yes, this borders on advocating, but I recommend it to the alternative being considered. To those of you who have no problems with the “untaught” history and changes in the Church over the years, this message is not for you. For those of my friends who are unhappy with the perceived deceptive practices and lack of forthrightness of the Church in the past, please heed my plea.

We Need You – Don’t Leave Yet

You can do much good as a member of this Church. Many of you are young, intelligent, returned missionaries, married in the temple. I have heard you teach. I have heard your testimonies. I have seen your loving concern for your brothers and sisters in PEC meetings and in ward council. We need you. We need your voices, if nothing more than to make Gospel Doctrine class interesting.

I express my love for you. I hope you will come back. I have sought the Lord diligently for all my life. I have found no better place to associate with like-minded individuals than within the membership of this Church. I know there are problems. I know it is difficult to attend when you hear the same thing over and over again. There is wisdom in the practice of “milk before meat.”

You Are Some of Our Best and Brightest

I had a long-time reader tell me privately “these are not our best and brightest” that are resigning. I disagree. You are smart and talented. You are savvy as to the ways of the world because you have had to deal with things in your youth we older folks never encountered. You know how to make a convincing presentation and how to passionately persuade others to your views on truth.

You have energy and drive we need. You are knowledgeable about the scriptures, the doctrines of the Church and especially about the issues that face it. Many of the older members are blind in that they do not see these issues. To them, all is well in Zion. You and I know otherwise. Yes, you will make a big splash with lots of media attention on Pioneer Day but what about after that?

I Have Been in the Lord’s Presence

I have been asked if I have been ministered to by the Lord. The answer is yes. I have not seen Him but I have been in His presence. I have never shared this before. The baptism of fire is real. I have also been in the presence of the adversary. They are both real. So is the Holy Ghost. We can talk with the Lord. We can converse with Him through the veil. Please let Him guide you.

I long for the day when I will be ushered into the presence of the Father again. It is the Son that takes us there. It is true there are some things too sacred to share but bearing witness of the love of the Savior is not one of them. You’ve heard me teach. I wish I could be in your presence so you could feel my words. I pray the Lord’s blessing upon you. He asked me to share these words.

The Doctrine of Additional Prophets


The day of the Lord will come quicklyTo My Long-Time Friends and Associates

We have a lot in common. We have spent years worshiping together and providing service in the church. We have served in Bishoprics, on High Councils, in High Priest groups, as teachers in the Primary and in a multitude of other callings over the years. We have taught seminary and Sunday school together. We have been missionaries and have sung together in the choir. It has been forty years since my first calling as a teacher at age seventeen. Know this: I love you and love my association with good people like you.

I understand the orthodox, standard and correlated doctrines of the church. I have studied and taught them all my life. From my earliest days in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary, religion classes at BYU-I, institute classes, adult Sunday school, including years teaching the doctrines and history of this church, I have loved every minute of it. I have tried to develop gifts of the spirit in teaching and preaching. Some of my most spiritual experiences have been in prayer, while preparing lessons to be taught on Sundays.

A Rich Tradition of Conserving the Past

I recognize most leaders and members of the LDS church are conservative by nature. We hold dear the traditions of our church and our nation. We love the ceremonies of remembering, partaking of the sacrament, participating in home and visiting teaching, striving to find our ancestors through research in family history and taking the names of our ancestors to the temple to perform ordinances of salvation. This is right and good. I am also conservative by nature. I cherish our long history and rich traditions.

I can’t tell you how much I love singing the songs of Zion in Sacrament, Sunday school and priesthood meetings with you. I’ve enjoyed my time on the Stake High Council, in Bishopric meetings, ward council and PEC meetings. My association with you has blessed my life and caused me to reflect many times on the happy state of those who are righteous, of those who strive to live after the manner of happiness. I see the result living the gospel has brought to your lives and have tried to emulate your good examples.

We Are Each A Little Different

I’m sure you have recognized I am a little different in that I am quiet, introverted and somewhat shy. I learned to immerse myself in books and studying the gospel from the time I was seventeen. I have spent over forty years studying the doctrines of this church, trying to understand what we really believe and what we are supposed to accomplish with our lives. For the most part we are agreed. I have been able to “put questions up on the shelf” as we have been taught to do, while waiting patiently for answers.

Because I know I am responsible for my own salvation, I have sought those answers diligently. Over the past few years I have come to see things a little differently. I have come to view certain passages of scripture with a different interpretation than what we have been taught all our lives in the standard curriculum of the church. I know this is bothersome to some of my long-time friends. I know you are concerned about me. You have told me so. I appreciate your kind expressions of love and concern.

I Love the Lord, I Love His Church

Please know I am not seeking to disassociate myself from this church and certainly not from our long friendships. I have no desire to create doubt or confusion. I do not wish to be blamed for influencing your children to turn from their membership in this church we love and have loved for so long. I am a Mormon and intend to remain a Mormon as long as this church will allow me to stay. Because I love the Lord, and believe in the principle of personal revelation so strongly, I intend to do as He directs me.

The Lord has directed me in the scriptures and in my personal prayers to places I had never imagined I would go. I have always thought of myself as a true-blue, died-in-the-wool Mormon, believing all I had been taught about our history and how we should view certain events in that history. You may ask why our history is so important. It is critical to our understanding of what this church has to offer and what the Lord is doing with His church. Note I still refer to the Church as the Lord’s. I do not doubt that fact.

I Sustain the Authorities of This Church

I have repeatedly stated I sustain the local and general authorities of the Church. I continue to reaffirm that commitment. I sustain these men as prophets, seers and revelators as we have done by common consent since the days of Joseph Smith. Although I do not understand the principle of keys as well as I would like, I have always and will continue to affirm the living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, as a prophet of God, the only man who is authorized to exercise all the keys of the priesthood as I understand them.

The big difference, and what has changed in my life over the past few years, is my belief in additional prophets of the Lord, outside the hierarchy of the LDS Church. For this I have been chastised, warned and pleaded with to be careful, to turn from this erroneous belief and to keep my beliefs to myself. In a desire to be honest and give my local priesthood leaders full opportunity to determine my worthiness to continue serving in my current stake calling, I turned in my temple recommend a month or two ago.

Response to Turning In My Temple Recommend

I was surprised at the reaction. You would think I had done the worst thing any member of this church could do. Especially astonishing were the responses of former associates in stake leadership positions – in a previous stake – whose words caused me to feel I had turned my back on all I hold precious and true in my life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have done nothing of the sort. I am loyal to a fault. I have no desire to do or say anything to cause others to doubt their testimonies of the restored gospel.

I know I am not the first to go through this experience, but perhaps I am the first to make such a public issue of the matter by explaining and describing the process on my blog. I am striving to honor direction from my local leaders to not share details of our meetings, and believe I have kept that promise. The funny thing about my declaration and my actions is that it is so in line with what we find in the Book of Mormon, I can only surmise people have not read or do not accept the Book of Mormon on this matter.

Multiple Prophets Currently Lead Our Church

We currently have fifteen men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. Every General conference and at least in one Stake Conference per year, I raise my hand with you in sustaining them in this calling. Many of you know my sister is the secretary to one of those apostles. I am grateful to have met Elder Perry both in his office in the Church Administration Building and here in my home ward a few years ago. I find him to be a delightful man, worthy of the position he holds, filled with the light of the Lord.

The Scriptures teach the Lord reveals His will and directs His children through prophets. I fully accept this doctrine. If we study the scriptures closely, especially the Book of Mormon, we will note the Lord does not limit Himself to prophets within the prevailing institutional hierarchy. In other words, it is more common for the Lord to send prophets from outside the leadership of the day than it is from within that church. Think of Enoch and Moses, then Lehi, Alma and Samuel the Lamanite from the Book of Mormon.

There Is a Strange Thing in the Land

We are studying the Old Testament in our Gospel Doctrine class this year. We just learned about how the Lord called Samuel, even as a boy, who replaced Eli, who served as the Presiding High Priest in Israel at that time. In the New Testament we have the examples of John the Baptist and even the Savior who came from outside the accepted hierarchy of the day. The more you think about it, the more you will come to realize the Lord has always sent prophets to warn us of destruction and prepare us for Zion.

Just so I’m not misunderstood, I am going to be as clear as I know how to be. Although I am not the first to make this declaration, perhaps because of my leadership positions in the church over the years, and because of the prominence of my blog, I am going to place everything on the line in proclaiming what I know to be true through study and prayer. It will go contrary to what you have been taught over the years. You may find it outrageous and may be offended. Nevertheless, this is prompted by the Lord.

My Declaration of a New Prophet

I declare unto you, in all words of soberness, in words revealed unto me by the Lord, that He has sent a prophet to us within the last few years from outside the hierarchy of the Church, with a mission to teach us, to warn us, and to lead us to the Lord. I have spent hundreds of hours studying his published words. I have listened to his recorded teachings over this past year and have found truth in what he has shared. I have sat in his presence recently to test his spirit. I found no fault and have had my witness reaffirmed.

I declare unto you this prophet is acting as an Elias, or a John the Baptist, with the mission to prepare us to receive the Lord. More importantly, he is as Moses in striving to show us the way to the Lord, that we may enter into His presence in this life, to be prepared to be caught up to meet the inhabitants of the City of Enoch at the coming of the Lord. That event will be accompanied by great destructions. This is well known. Not as well-known is just how soon those destructions will begin to be poured out upon us.

I Am No Apostate – I am True and Faithful

I make this declaration knowing full well it is contrary to the traditions of our fathers and of our church, but it is not contrary to the ways of the Lord. You will know this if you take seriously the message of the Book of Mormon. Use the current mantra of the church in “Follow the Prophet” to study the words of this prophet. How can you judge a matter without studying it out, pondering it and praying about it? You may find it uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first, but I promise you, the Lord bears witness of the truth.

I am not alone in this declaration. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who also know this man to be a messenger sent from the Lord. You would think a church that teaches the importance of studying the Book of Mormon would stand by this doctrine of prophets coming from outside the hierarchical order of the established institution. Instead, they have cast this messenger out as an apostate. In so doing, they have violated the principles of the priesthood, and in effect, have rejected the fullness that was offered.

The Lord Will Reveal Himself to Us

The day of the Gentile is now past. It is over. The Gentile church rejected the fullness as prophesied. I am saddened to have been a witness to this event. I did not think it would happen in my day. I do not know the timetable of the Lord, but I do know we are now in the last days, not just the latter-days. I do not know what will happen to me. I only know I must do what I have covenanted to do. I have promised to stand as a witness of the Lord in all times and all places. I am called upon to bear my own witness.

I bear witness the Lord is willing to reveal Himself to us. We should be diligent in seeking His face. He has promised to come unto us, to not leave us comfortless. I know this is true. He has promised us He will bear witness of the truth of all things if we will but ask Him. I have done so. The Lord has made it clear I must share my witness in order to progress. I dare not disobey Him. I love Him. I seek to do his will. If I am cast out as an apostate, so be it. That will not change the priesthood He has given me.

A Few Closing Thoughts

You can hear this prophet for yourself. He is now declaring the message the Lord has given Him. He will be teaching in the desert for two days at the end of July – First in Las Vegas and then in St. George. This will give time for people to soften their hearts before the final message to be delivered in September in Phoenix. I pray the Lord will soften the hearts of the honest and believing blood of Israel before we reap the bitter harvest of our rejection of the fullness. The time is short. Great destructions now await us.

You can tell false prophets by their fruits. But you must study and understand the message they deliver before you can tell the Lord you have done as He has asked. Let the Lord take control. Let Him compel you and have dominion over your heart. Seek righteousness in your judgments. Do not add your “amen” to the rejection of a prophet, a true messenger sent to guide us in the way of salvation. I, for one, cast my lot with the Lord and what He has revealed. I stand by my sacred covenant. I am true to my promise.

Las Vegas and St. George

Las Vegas LectureDate:  Friday, July 25, 2014
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Place: Fiesta Henderson Hotel & Casino
777 West Lake Mead Parkway
Henderson, NV 89015
Seats: Cancun Room A/B, seats 150St. George Lecture

Date:  Saturday, July 26, 2014
Time:  9:30 a.m.
Place:  Lexington Hotel and Conference Center
850 Bluff Street
St. George, UT 84770
Seats:  Ballroom, seats 275

Note: The Ephraim talk is now online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233544493/Ephriam-Transcript-Christ. How can anyone claim this man is teaching false doctrine? I still can’t believe the church cast him out.

Update (7-14-14): There has been so much misunderstanding in regards to my declaration above, I feel the need to clarify. Note I did not proclaim this man was sent to be a prophet within the LDS church. In fact, I thought I made it especially clear he was sent from outside the hierarchy. I did NOT proclaim him to be an LDS prophet. I declared he was sent to us as a servant of the Lord with a message for all who would hear it.

The testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy, thus my declaration that he was / is a prophet. I stand by what I wrote. Please don’t add inference that the messenger / servant I refer to has anything to do with the LDS church hierarchy. He is not part of the institutional church. Members of the LDS Church vote on our prophets. They are called and sustained by common consent. The whole point of the post was / is that this man was sent by the Lord with a message.

Update two (7-18-14): Many of you know I took my blog down for a day or two at the recommendation of my Bishop. There was so much interest in this post, my declaration and the ensuing commentary that I could not bear to disappoint those who come here for discussion. I brought the blog back online after 24 hours. I thank you for allowing me to read your comments. I am simply amazed at the awesome thoughtfulness that goes into the ideas you share. God bless you all.

Some of you know Jules and her blog, 2nd Witness. Although I promised I would not add any new posts until after I return from the two lectures in Las Vegas and St. George next weekend, I was made aware of this letter from Jules to her bishop(s) and simply could not resist sharing: http://2ndwitness.com/letter-of-dissent-jules.html I found it especially interesting as she added so many insights in the area of this original post: The Doctrine of Additional Prophets.

Questions on LDS Blogging and Apostasy


StatementOnApostasyIn response to the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, and the pending disciplinary actions against John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman, The Office of the First Presidency issued a statement on apostasy today. As an active LDS Blogger, I am especially interested in this clarifying message positioned as “Addressing Doctrine and Questions.”

Statement from The First Presidency

“In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God.

“We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

“We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding.

“We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them. Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy.

“Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”

Applying This Statement to LDS Bloggers

While the First Presidency statement is helpful and provides additional clarification to what is found in the handbook, I still find myself uncertain how it applies to me and other LDS bloggers. I met recently with my Stake President and Bishop to review my own blogging activities, which contain questions about LDS history and doctrine, and my attempts to find satisfying answers.

Blog Readers Not Followers in This Context

In the blogging world, readers are sometimes called followers. I have thousands of readers who receive my posts each time I publish. In some of my posts, questions about doctrine, history or practice go unanswered, with open invitations for my readers to offer their thoughts, opinions, ideas and related quotes. I don’t teach doctrine on my blog. I seek answers to honest questions.

Attending Lectures From Cast-off Members

I traveled to Utah to attend a lecture today delivered by a man some LDS members have called a messenger or servant or even a prophet of God. The lecture was the seventh in a series of ten lectures in a series entitled “Forty Years in Mormonism.” Denver Snuffer was excommunicated for apostasy by the LDS church last year exactly forty years to the day after he was baptized.

Desire to Understand Denver’s Message

This is the first of his lectures I was able to attend in person because it coincided with a planned trip to Utah to attend Carol’s family reunion. I am extremely grateful to Carol, who, knowing how much I wanted to attend this lecture on the Savior, surprised me by arranging a rental car for me to travel down to the lecture in the morning and still attend the reunion in the afternoon.

Sharing Ideas of Those Excommunicated

Because I find Denver Snuffer’s books, blog postings and lectures so fascinating, I share much of what he has shared, usually with additional thought about how it applies to me or to anyone who is serious about his primary subject, which is to receive the Savior while yet in mortality. Inasmuch as he has been excommunicated, does my sharing of his ideas constitute apostasy?

Other Bloggers Disciplined For Sharing

I continue to ask this question specifically because of the recent cases of Brent Larsen and Will Carter, two LDS bloggers excommunicated for writing about Denver’s message on their own blogs. If members are “always free to ask questions as they seek greater understanding,” and “asking questions has never constituted apostasy,” why were Brent and Will excommunicated?

Consideration of Specific Open Cases

You’ll have to decide for yourself if Kate Kelly’s action constituted advocacy that went beyond asking questions. John Dehlin’s case has been “de-escalated.”  He will be meeting with his Stake President this weekend. Can John’s Advocacy for greater kindness toward LGBT members be called apostasy? Rock’s case is open. He has been told to stop his blogging activities or resign.

Advocacy, Criticism, Doctrine and Questions

Without arguing the merits of their ideas or causes, I see advocacy in Kate’s and John’s cases. But what about Rock’s criticism of church practices? There is no advocacy there that I can find. As far as I can tell, his local priesthood leaders simply don’t like the criticism. Is that a just cause to ask him to stop blogging, resign or face disciplinary action? Do you see advocacy on his blog?

Bloggers are Targets for Public Opposition

Of course, advocacy is not the only criteria to judge apostasy. There is also the public opposition clause to consider. Before Denver was excommunicated last year, I posted dozens of positive things I found in his books and on his blog that demonstrated his support for the church. I was amazed by the number of opponents who said they found just as many that opposed the church.

Blogging in a Search for Clarification

When I asked for details, one or two readers shared a few quotes they considered to fall into the category of public opposition. I disagreed. I felt they were simply items of fact from our history. Inasmuch as I continue to assert my belief that Denver is indeed an inspired messenger from the Lord, acting as His servant and thus a prophet, am I an apostate because I also blog about it?

Seeking definitions of Some Key Words

I am not advocating anyone follow me or Denver. I am not teaching doctrine. I am asking a few questions and seeking clarifications on some key words. What is a messenger? Can the Lord send us messengers from outside the church hierarchy? Can a man be a servant of the Lord without being a member of the LDS Church? Are there other prophets besides “The” prophet?

Blogging is Usually a Public Activity

Is blogging considered public opposition by its very nature? The church asked us to be involved in the public discourse. We have been asked to let our voices be heard online. What if some of the voices are not quite in harmony with the standard historical narrative? In recent years the church has rescinded or corrected key elements of our history. The church has admitted error.

Blogging is All About Open Dialog

I’ll finish this post with two thoughts. First, I’m not criticizing the church, its faithful leaders, the doctrine, history or practices. I am simply asking a few open-ended questions. I appreciate and accept answers from all readers. I seek my own answers in the scriptures, books and online sources. But I would be a fool to ignore the extremely valuable resource of thousands of readers.

Receive the Words of a True Messenger

Second, I am serious about answering those questions about Denver. He says he is not important. I disagree. In my lifetime, I have never heard a message so clearly from anyone like what Denver has shared. It has always been there in the scriptures. In the three hour lecture today, the great majority of what I heard came from scripture or from doctrine found in the Lectures on Faith.

The Lord Defines a Prophet, Not the Church

Why in the world would the LDS Church cast out a prophet sent from the Lord with a message intended for our salvation and benefit? According to the Statement from the First Presidency today, I am entitled to ask this question. What I heard today was true doctrine. It inspired me. It increased my desire to come unto Christ. For this good thing, the LDS Church has cast him out?

Don’t Blame Me, I Just Report the News


ThisIsNotThePlaceEarlier this month, a Facebook event was created entitled, “This is not the place.” It is subtitled, “Mass resignation from the LDS Church,” and is to protest Kate’s excommunication. The event is scheduled to be held at City Creek Park on 24 July 2014 in Salt Lake City, which is Pioneer Day, a holiday in the state of Utah. I’m sure it will be well attended, at least by the news media.

Mass Resignations From the LDS Church

A similar event was held sometime after the Proposition 8 fallout. I knew some of the people who resigned at that time. I have kept in touch with many of them. They are still my friends on Facebook. They seem happy for the most part, but of course, I only know most of them from interactions on my blog over the years. I also have some friends who are resigning on July 24th.

We Are Losing Some of the Best and Brightest

From what I see, these are young people – well, young to me. I am an old guy, although not nearly as wise and experienced as those who lead this church. These young people seem smart. In fact, in my interactions with them, I know they are. They are, for the most part, college grads with good jobs, well-educated, many being returned missionaries, many married in the temple.

A Serious Step to Get Your Message Across

Why, we must ask ourselves, are these young people leaving the church? According to some estimates I have read, they hope to have thousands participate in the mass resignation. They are also encouraging those who are dissatisfied or disaffected by the disciplinary actions against Kate and John and Rock to ask their own priesthood leaders to hold a disciplinary council.

Understanding Why People Leave the Church

I’m just a blogger so don’t get upset with me for reporting the news. It’s not a secret. But I would like to point out another site created by John Dehlin several years ago specifically to help young people stay in the church, in spite of their feelings about being lied to about church history or about the discriminatory practices against blacks and women or other concerns they may have.

Consider the Contributions of John Dehlin

I have long been a fan or follower of John Dehlin’s work. I believe he has done more good to help those who are disaffected reconsider their desires to leave the church. He is an advocate for the LDS LGBT community and outspoken about marriage equality. I’m not saying I agree with his work as an activist but I do agree with his work to promote tolerance, acceptance and love.

You May Learn Some Things New at StayLDS

If you haven’t been to StayLDS lately, I encourage you to visit the site and view the presentation originally created by John. There is other good material on the site to help foster understanding about why people leave the LDS church. I especially enjoyed viewing the “Top Five Myths Why Committed Mormons Leave the LDS Church.” It may be an eye opener if you haven’t seen it.

Imagine Being Asked to Resign From the Church

John has been asked to resign from the church. He later reported he will be meeting with his Stake President in the next week or so. I met with my Bishop and Stake President earlier this week and am pleased to report we are working things out. I have a new appreciation from my dear bishop of just how my posts have affected some people I love and don’t want to hurt.

For the Record From Daymon Smith

In the spirit of Daymon Smith’s “For the record” posted Thursday, I would like to post my own official statement of disclaimers, specifically for those who want to know what my intentions are and why I write as I do. I record this late at night, in St George, on my way to a family reunion this weekend, after driving all day, so it may be a little incoherent, but I want to get it posted.

Question and Answer with Latter-day Commentary

Q. Do you feel you have changed your style or tone over the years?

A. I didn’t think so until a long-time reader pointed out some differences in the way I answered some questions put to me by a reader. I was much more church-centric back when I started.

Q. Can you explain what you mean by “church-centric?”

A. I started blogging in 2007. I specifically wanted to provide standard answers that I could use in answering all the common questions we were and still are getting on the Internet.

Q. Like what?

A. Plural Marriage, Blacks and the Priesthood, Mormons and Masonry, The peep-stone in the hat, Multiple versions of the First Vision, Book of Abraham, Adam-God, Mountain Meadows, Mark Hoffman forgeries, Elder McConkie’s treatment of George Pace, President Benson and Alzheimer’s disease, Kinderhook Plates, DNA evidence of American Indians, and on and on.

Q. So why do you call these “church-centric” issue and answers?

A. I tried to make my responses correlate as close as possible with what I had been taught as a missionary, what I had read in the correlated church handbooks and CES material when I was a seminary teacher and with the answers I found on official church websites.

Q. And now?

A. I am more focused on coming unto Christ.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I guess I’m not so concerned about all the historical issues the church has had. Most people who have studied them have concluded the church did not record them accurately, and in many cases, changed the record to make it look better. The church has acknowledged this and is doing something about it by publishing original documents from the very early days of the church.

Q. So you no longer focus on answering historical questions.

A. That’s correct. A few years ago I read a book that changed my life.

Q. You’re referring to Denver Snuffer’s “Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.”

A. No, actually, I’m referring to his 2011 book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift.”

Q. You do know that’s the book for which he was excommunicated last year?

A. Of course. But still, it changed my life when I read it.

Q. How so?

A. I could not put it down. I picked it up to give it a quick perusal just before I went to bed one night to see what it was all about. A friend had asked me about it so I bought it and thought I would write a few words about it on my blog.

Q. And…

A. I stayed up all night reading it. It was a spiritual experience for me.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I mean, I had multiple sacred “ah-ha” moments of enlightenment as I was reading, and when I finished, I knelt down and asked the Lord to let me know what He thought about the book.

Q. And He told you?

A. In no uncertain terms.

Q. What did He say?

A. He said I didn’t need to continue my blogging efforts to answer everybody’s objections to the historical difficulties they were having with our church.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because Denver Snuffer had answered them perfectly.

Q. You do know, of course, there are many people who disagree with his conclusions?

A. Of course. But that means nothing when you get an answer from the Lord.

Q. Let’s move on to something else. You said you are more focused on coming unto Christ.

A. Yes.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I went back and read all of Denver’s books, including the other one you mentioned.

Q. “Conversing With The Lord Through the Veil?”

A. Yes. I decided the most important thing I could do with the rest of my life would be to live in such a way that I am prepared to receive a visit from the Lord in this life.

Q. And you believe that is possible?

A. Not only do I believe it, but the Lord has promised it in multiple places in the scriptures.

Q. Now, be honest. How many people do you know who claimed to have seen the Lord?

A. Less than a half dozen.

Q. And you believe them?

A. Why should I doubt?

Q. Because when you meet the Lord, you’re not supposed to talk about it.

A. That’s a myth, generated by those who can’t explain why it isn’t happening to more people.

Q. Let’s wrap this up. What are you trying to accomplish with your blog these days?

A. Let me do two things. Let me first state unequivocally what I’m not trying to do and then I’ll answer your question to the best of my ability.

Q. Please. Go ahead.

A. First of all, I am not trying to encourage anyone to leave this church. In fact, I am trying to do the opposite. Stay. We need you. We need your strength. We need your talents and abilities. We need your service, your help, your testimonies and your love of the Savior to share with us.

Next, let’s be clear. I am not the cause of anyone deciding to leave this church. Just because I report on events of the day or I write a book review about a controversial book, it is up to the individual to decide how they will take the news or if they like my opinion of the book.

And finally, I want to make sure everyone who reads this knows I have no doubts that God is our Heavenly Father, that He lives and loves us and answers our prayers. I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior, our Lord and Redeemer. He is calling out to each of us to repent and come unto Him. I know Joseph Smith was called of God to translate the Book of Mormon.

He did this through the gift and power of God. It is scripture and we need to spend more time studying it so we can understand God’s will for us in these last days. I know the Lord established His church through Joseph Smith and restored priesthood authority and keys of the kingdom. I sustain the leaders of this church as prophets, seers and revelators and pray for their success.

Q. Thank you. And the last question: What are you trying to accomplish with your blog these days?

A. I am on a journey, a spiritual journey. I have questions I am trying to answer. I am sharing my journey with those who are interested. Sometimes the stuff I write may be mundane and boring. But it is my hope and prayer that something I write can help someone else who has asked the same question and is on the same journey, believing that D&C 93:1 can be fulfilled in mortality.

Q. And that concludes our interview with Latter-day Commentary by blogger Tim Malone since it’s now one o’clock in the morning. We hope to have future interviews and delve deeper into some of the subjects you raised, especially your contention that the scriptures about the Lord coming to visit men and women in this life are meant to be literally fulfilled in a physical way.

A. Thank you. God bless and good night.

Confessions of a Mormon Blogger


MembersFacingDisciplineI thought about entitling this “Lessons Learned from Church Discipline,” but I don’t want that to be the main focus of this post. First, to be clear: In spite of rumors to the contrary, I am not under any restrictions or church discipline. I turned in my temple recommend because I felt I no longer qualified – all based on my understanding of the way I thought a question had to be answered.

So Easy to Be Judged and Misunderstood

One of the things I learned is how offensive this action is to some people. I was truly shocked by the number of private and public emails, blog comments and Facebook comments from people who expressed disappointment, shock and even anger at what I had done. To them, it was as if I had turned my back on the church and was declaring myself a non-believer or even an apostate.

Wisdom in Keeping Some Things Private

I also learned the wisdom of following counsel to keep some things private. I am now certain I misinterpreted my priesthood leader’s request to not write about this on my blog or Facebook. I thought he meant to not share the private details of the conversations, which I haven’t. I believe now he meant to not share *anything* about the process. Too many people have misunderstood.

Yet Open Dialog Helped and Persuaded

OK, so I’m a fool. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the conversations that ensued with wonderful input from some of my friends who helped me understand what that temple recommend question really means. As they have shared, just because you read material from individuals who have now been excommunicated, it does not mean you are no longer worthy of a temple recommend.

Come to Understand Certain Key Words

You’d think I would know better. I’ve probably conducted hundreds of recommend interviews over the years but never had anyone say anything other than “no” when asked the affiliation question. I thought deeply about those three words: a) support, b) affiliate, and c) agree. They refer to “teachings or practices that are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the church.”

Stigma of Being Labeled an Apostate

I have spent two and a half years reading, studying and trying to understand the writings of one LDS author who has now been excommunicated. In spite of this, I am more confident to answer that last temple recommend question “yes.” There are many, many things in his writings which caused my heart to burn and with which I agreed as I studied them. I found much truth in them.

Support, Affiliation and Agreement

Once this author was excommunicated, I had to answer the question for myself if I supported, affiliated or agreed with his teachings. I made up my mind he was not teaching new things, he was simply offering his interpretations of key scripture. I happen to agree with many of those interpretations. Did that make me an apostate, especially since I intended to go to his lectures?

Responses Based on Both Love and Fear

I discovered the idea of reading the material of a now-excommunicated author and especially my intention of attending a couple of his lectures was particularly offensive to some of the people I know and with whom I keep in touch on Facebook. It confused me. What motivated such words of condemnation? How had I threatened them by my intentions? Were they really that insecure?

Seek Learning by Study and Also by Faith

This particular author is presenting a series of lectures along the Wasatch Front. I purchase the recordings, study the transcripts and write blog posts about them. I do this because I have asked the Lord in prayer for knowledge on opening the heavens, which is the subject being addressed. I have learned answers to private, individual prayer are difficult to explain to those not involved.

Must Experience It Yourself to Relate

It reminded me of my missionary days and the salt analogy from President Packer. I had tasted salt. In my personal and private prayers, I received undeniable witnesses I was on the right path for me. The Lord was pleased with my studies, my efforts to understand the truth and my future intentions to deepen that understanding through attending lectures discussing profound doctrines.

Takes Time to Understand Deep Doctrine

After many discussions, Carol has agreed to attend two of the lectures with me in July, although I know it is not something she really wants to do. As part of my “due diligence” in forming my opinion and ascertaining truth for myself, I felt it important to experience the lectures in person. There’s nothing like hearing someone teach in order to get a better understanding of their spirit.

Continue to Invest in Close Relationships

That brings up another thing I learned – the importance of lots of open conversations with others in your family who are invested in your spiritual standing with the Lord and the church. I tried to reassure Carol over and over that my many hours of studying this material – along with studying the scriptures – will NOT lead me away from her, from the LDS church or from our Savior.

United as a Family in This Challenge

I believe Carol has a right to participate in my upcoming counseling session with the Bishop and Stake President this week. I intend to ask them if she can attend the meeting. Ordinarily, such interviews and counseling about temple worthiness are conducted separately, even when husband and wife are being interviewed for the recommend renewal process. That’s just the way it is.

Surprise at the Rapid Growth of the BlogGrowthOfBlog

I am extremely appreciative of the thousands of people who read my blog. Each time I write a post, it goes into the news feeds or email boxes of people all around the world. I know because I have reviewed the list of subscribers. There are many additional thousands who come to read my blog each time I post something new. Hundreds have joined the dialog to share their comments.

Thoughtful Comments From Blog Readers

For the most part, readers and commenters on the blog are civil and respectful toward each other, even though my subjects tend to cause strong feelings. There are those who are supportive of the conclusions I have reached in my studies and those who see them as heretical or false doctrine. I am constantly reminding my readers I am not teaching doctrine – only expressing my opinions.

Facebook Readers are a Different Breed

On the other hand, I notice the dialog on Facebook has a different tone. It seems more combative with occasional personal attacks. For a while I disconnected my Facebook connection to the blog until I saw how many hundreds of readers came from Facebook. Every blogger seeks readership and I am no different. I write to be read with the hope of being understood, otherwise why write?

Grossly Uninformed but Still Opinionated

Many of my readers have taken the time to read, study or otherwise come to an understanding of some of Denver Snuffer’s commentary on the scriptures. Others have a cursory comprehension based on the summaries of others. That’s unfortunate. They come across as misinformed and even bigoted because they have missed the wonderful depth of doctrine that he has explicated.

A Closed Mind is a Dangerous Thing

It never ceases to amaze me that people want to talk about Denver as opposed to my desire to discuss the scriptures he has opened to unorthodox interpretation. It also surprises me how many people are adamant they know such interpretations are wrong because they do not fit what we have taught in the standard historical narrative over the years. Their minds are closed – period.

Equally Yoked – Both Love to Write

Carol and I have discussed this often with specific examples of individual cases from my blog. Since Carol is a writer with some experience and skill, having invested thousands of hours in her craft, I know she can relate when people are dismissive of her ideas about superior ways to get a story across. I am grateful for my dear wife who accepts the importance of continually learning.

Edifying Content Can be Controversial

When I first started sharing my study notes, observations and commentary on the things I was learning from this writer, I was surprised at the polarity in the feedback. One of the best tools of a writer is persuasion. Everyone should learn to write persuasively. Writing with passion is also a skill that helps get your point across. But there is a difference between passion and ad hominem.

Persuasion Part of Power in the Priesthood

As I have attempted to share what I have learned about certain uplifting subjects such as power in the priesthood, it became clear even long-time members of the church do not understand the source of that power and the only authorized way the Lord endorses our exercise of that power. They seem to be confused between authority and power even though it’s such a basic doctrine.

LDS Bloggers Being Excommunicated

Because I have written so much about what I have learned by studying the scriptures behind the doctrines expounded by this particular writer, I became concerned as I was made aware of others who were being excommunicated for what appeared to be simply reading and commenting on the same books I was studying. My fellow bloggers were excommunicated for endorsing a book.

Practices of Fear and Control in the Church

I knew about the Strengthening Church Members Committee from the excommunications of the September Six back in 1993. I remember those days. It put a real damper on intellectual pursuit of the doctrines of the gospel. It initiated a period of time where nobody dared to ask questions anymore for fear of being reported by the SCMC committee to their local priesthood leaders.

Strengthening Church Members Committee

Now, I don’t think the SCMC is particularly looking to find fault with my material, but I have to wonder at some of the IP addresses in my logs that come from downtown Salt Lake City. I know I have readers in the Church Office Building. Some of them have written and called me. I have enjoyed our discussions. Thousands of readers come from Utah but don’t comment. That’s okay.

Guidelines from the Church PR Department

I’m not paranoid. I’m just concerned, especially after learning of the excommunications of some of my fellow bloggers who write about the same subjects. In light of the disciplinary action for Brent Larsen, Will Carter, John Dehlin, Kate Kelly and Rock Waterman, the church recently responded with some helpful guidelines. My friend Log helped me parse the church statement:

  1. Insisting on changes to “Church” doctrines or structure.
  2. Recruiting others.
  3. Creating organized groups. <—- that’s “affiliate”.
  4. Staging public events.
  5. Creating literature. <—- books and blogs qualify.

Tone of Your Writing Determines Response

Based on these guidelines, there’s no doubt the church IS looking at the blogs of the members, searching for content with the wrong “tone.” Clearly, “How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking.” I hope I’ve made it clear. I have questions but I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t consider them doubts or present them as such to anyone else.

Leave Official Doctrine Up to the Church

Another key for LDS bloggers is to avoid teaching. Leave that up to the church. Pondering and speculation are OK. Some doubt the profitability of speculation. I don’t. I love to consider “what if” scenarios. I guess it’s the computer guy in me. I do that all the time at work. Otherwise, you might find yourself called in by your Bishop or Stake President asking specifics about your blog.

Future Direction of My Blog

To close this post, and hopefully encourage some of my readers who wonder about where I’m going with this, I thought it might be helpful to share my conversation with Carol in our weekly family council this afternoon. Because she loves me and seeks reassurance, she is also concerned about what I am doing with my blog, my studies and what I intend to do with what I am learning.

Reassurance is Always Helpful

We went over the five points of testimony. I assured her I know God lives. We pray together as a couple each morning and night. My personal prayers are rich, rewarding and fulfilling. I know my Savior lives and loves me. I feel His presence during the day. I am certain he walks with me and is very interested in how I respond to the daily challenges I face with work and my blog.

My Testimony and One of my Questions

I know Joseph was a prophet of the Lord and received keys to administer this latter-day work. I know he received the priesthoods – both Aaronic and Melchizedek – and passed on the Aaronic priesthood to the church. The power of the Mechizedek priesthood must be received by each of us individually. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the gift of God.

God Bless our Prophets and Apostles

Some have expressed difficulty with my qualifications of the priesthood as I have described it above. That’s one of the questions I am working out in my own mind. I sustain each of the fifteen men to whom we have given the title of “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in this church by common consent. I pray for them each night. I am happy to pay my tithing to the LDS Church.

Acceptance of Local Priesthood Counsel

I look forward to receiving counsel from my local priesthood leaders this week. I plan to fast all day before our meeting as I seek to be humble before the Lord. I intend to accept and implement any counsel they offer, or any discipline they feel needs to be administered. However, if asked to remove my blog, I will need to talk to the Lord about that as I feel He approves of my blogging.

Need Official Guidelines for LDS Bloggers

Note: I started blogging in 2007 just slightly prior to this invitation from Elder Ballard for LDS Members to get involved in the “online conversations” about the church. It sure has taken a long time for the church to finally start coming up with some guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable in our blogging efforts.  I wonder what took them so long. Didn’t expect this kind of response?

Conservative Mormon Bloggers Under Scrutiny


RockWatermanOne of my greatest desires as a blogger is to help people of differing beliefs and political ideologies come together in a unified search for peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus I was delighted today to be able to express and expound upon those sentiments to Kristen Moulton of the Salt Lake Tribune, substituting for the vacationing Peggy Fletcher Stack.

Disciplined for Following a Prophet

The focus of the piece is that conservative Mormons, as well as progressives, are being called in and disciplined by their local leaders for their blogging activities. I don’t fall into that category, since I’m under no disciplinary restrictions, but because I’ve written much on the subject, I was honored to be asked my opinion. The piece was well done. My contribution was two small ideas.

Asking Questions is not the Same as Doubt

I’d like to elaborate on those ideas for a minute to illustrate an observation that is now becoming clearer to me each day as this drama unfolds, a drama which many people hope will blow over soon, and which the majority of the church outside Utah has very little idea even exists. First, the idea of asking questions seems to be misinterpreted by many conservatives as expressing doubt.

Some Think it Not Acceptable to Ask Questions

I can’t tell you how many of my conservative friends have written me privately, as well as on the blog, expressing grave concerns for the welfare of my soul. I know they love me. I know their concern is genuine. We’ve served together in past leadership positions or have worshiped in the same wards and stakes over the past fifty plus years I have been a member of the LDS Church.

Some Seem to be Afraid of Asking Questions

For some reason, it just strikes them wrong to ask a question that may or may not be answered in the official curriculum of the church. And if I dare to suggest the answers provided in the official material may not be exactly truthful, meaning they leave out parts of the story or the narrative is perhaps slightly embellished to make the church look better, why, I’m sowing seeds of doubt.

Church Encourages Us to Ask Hard Questions

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love to ask questions. It’s how I learn. It’s part of my nature. I ask questions, then I answer them. I’m confident I can find quotes from at least a half dozen General Authorities endorsing this manner of learning as being superior to simply reading the scriptures every day. We are to search the scriptures and be ready to defend church doctrines.

Elder Ballard Encouraged us to Be Active on Blogs

Second is the idea that blogging is somehow a rebellious activity in the church – something only progressive activists do. Neither idea is anywhere remotely close to the truth but I encounter both every day on this blog. Misunderstanding goes with the territory. I openly invite participation and encourage comments. I do not censor anything, no matter what kind of comment they leave – unless they are obvious trolls.

Trolls Should be Banned for Contention

I get trolls just like every other blogger. In case you don’t know, a troll is someone who will do everything they can to stir up contention. They will be personally abusive with ad hominem attacks and will purposefully misrepresent the facts. I suppose trolls have their place. They can sure get the conversation going, but they don’t contribute anything intellectually constructive.

Blogging Can and Does Make a Difference

I started my blog just before Elder Ballard invited all members of the church to be involved in the Internet conversations taking place with or without us. He said we could make a difference. He was right. I’ve seen that evidenced time after time as friendships are created, ideas are then discussed with passion, and conclusions are reached with agreement or a better sense of unity.

Open a Dialog, Have a Conversation, Let’s Talk

HannahWheelwrightDo all bloggers and their readers agree on the ideas expressed? Of course not, there are too many divergent views based on differing experiences in life. But just the fact we are having a dialog to discuss the doctrine, a policy or practice is constructive and allows us to exercise kindness in the way we respond to each other. It’s especially helpful if we pray before we write responses. I do.

Most LDS Leaders are Ideologically Conservative

Because many if not most of the local leaders in LDS congregations are conservative by nature, and usually very successful in business, law or medicine, they tend to be authoritative and, well, controlling to a degree. I hate to say it but it’s true. They seem to see it as their most important duty to make sure the meetings run smoothly, emotions are under control and all is peaceful.

Seems Not Okay to Ask Questions in Church Classes

While it is a commendable practice, I have to wonder how much ministering is done when the members feel it is NOT okay to bring up their questions in the classrooms. There seems to be an immense amount of pressure to project “all is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth” that nobody wants to get down to the raw nitty-gritty of problems they may be experiencing with doctrine.

Church History Narrative Not Always Accurate

It is especially manifest in discussions of church history. For the longest time, we have been spoon-fed the same standard narrative of “this is how it was” and there is no other interpretation. Unfortunately, there are some who know otherwise. They have done as the prophets have asked us to do and have discovered some things were not exactly as they have always been presented.

Bloggers are an Inquisitive, Questioning Bunch

This is common to both progressive activists and conservative bloggers. President Boyd K. Packer one time proclaimed that three of the greatest threats to the church are intellectuals, gays and feminists. I used to wonder why he would call such members threats. Why should we limit the participation and acceptance of members of our faith because they fall into these categories?

Should be Room for Everybody in This Church

What about John Dehlin’s argument that he is happy as a cultural Mormon and just wants to be left alone? What’s wrong with that? Isn’t there a place for him in this church? So what if he doesn’t believe a lot of the truth claims of the church. Must you believe everything the church teaches in order to be a member? Isn’t any other behavior a controlling and thus forbidden act?

Cultural Mormons Want a Place in the Church

In other words, why are we excommunicating members for what they believe, especially if they are NOT encouraging others to doubt or to leave the church? I have read or listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts from Mormon Stories and have not lost my belief or faith in Jesus Christ or the role this Church has to play in these Latter-days. Why are so many conservatives so fearful?

Excommunicated for Endorsing a New Book

But what really gets me upset is the way some conservative LDS leaders have forced their members to “shut up” and not share their appreciation for the words or writings of individuals who have helped them come closer to Christ. In particular, I am extremely disappointed that stake presidents have excommunicated members for simply telling their friends about a book.

Amen to the Priesthood of that Leader

Seriously. We’ll never hear the other side of the story, but when the excommunicant explains they were cast off for simply recommended a book and wanting to discuss it with friends, I say the leaders have abused their priesthood or worse, have lost it because they exercised control, compulsion, and unrighteous dominion. That is not the purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Internet Changed Everything for Research

Now back to the story for some concluding thoughts. From Jan Shipps: “The fact they are going in both directions [against conservatives and progressives],” Shipps said, “makes me think the church is finally coming to grips with the fact the Internet is changing the situation.” Oh, how I hope that is true. I’ve made a living with the power of the Internet for the last twenty-five years.

Every Member Should be an Amateur Historian

I have watched it bring people together like nothing else ever has. One of the best uses of the Internet, in my opinion, is the sharing of gospel doctrine and newly discovered LDS historical evidence. The fact should be obvious to all by now our history has been whitewashed, covered-up or embellished, especially in the earliest 1820-1840 developments in some very key areas.

We Lost an Opportunity With the Death of Joseph

Here’s my concluding point. I love to research church history. It makes a difference in my faith. It helps me to understand what Joseph Smith was trying to do. He wanted to establish Zion much more than to simply start a new church. The Lord intended to perform a marvelous work and a wonder through him that simply did not get completed. He died before it could be brought about.

It’s Time to Prepare Ourselves Individually for Zion

Enough time has passed – four generations according to the scriptures – that we now have an opportunity to establish Zion again. But we must individually become a Zion people. We must come unto Christ, receive Him in this life. That’s the entire purpose of the temple, to receive the Savior and have Him confer the power of the priesthood upon us – both upon men and women.

Just Expressing my Thoughts – Don’t Crucify me

False doctrine, you say? Not from what I’ve read and not from what the scriptures teach. Yet every time I try to provide the evidence from our scriptures and our historical records I am lambasted for heresy. I know I don’t have all the answers yet. I wonder if anyone in this church understands what the Lord was trying to do through the Prophet Joseph Smith. What say ye?

Comments are Still Welcome – Trolls are Warned

New policy: Trolls and Haters are subject to banning. The policy against no ad-hominem attacks will be enforced. Your comments are welcome, but only if you can provide a sound and logical argument, devoid of contention. Passionate expression of opinion is allowed and concern for the welfare of others is always appreciated. But please, no knee-jerk “you’re a fool” crap anymore.

God bless and thanks for reading and sharing.

Update: I felt the church’s response was important enough to include a link in the post:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765655450/LDS-Church-responds-to-concerns-over-member-questions.html

Yet, members who leave comments or questions on blogs are still being called in and questioned by their bishops:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58088940-78/church-bishop-leaders-mormons.html.csp

 

Understanding the Historical Record of Priesthood


TheHighPriesthoodOne of the things that always bothered me is the lack of a historical record for the ordination of Joseph and Oliver to the Melchizedek Priesthood. At one time, probably in my seminary days, someone mentioned John Whitmer had the record. He was the first “official” church historian. When he left the church in 1838, he took the record with him. That satisfied me for a long time.

No Doubt About Aaronic Priesthood

Oliver was an unofficial church historian before John Whitmer in that he recorded, as Joseph’s scribe, many of the events of the early days of the church from 1829 until 1838 when he also left. Of course we have section thirteen of the D&C which records the ordinations of Joseph and Oliver under the hands of John the Baptist. It is clear the Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth. But what of the Melchizedek? We find these words in the heading of section thirteen:

Interpretive Doctrine in Section Heading

“The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient Apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time this higher priesthood would be conferred upon them. (See section 27:7–8, 12.)”

Ancient Apostles Visit Joseph and Oliver

We know Peter, James and John also came, but what transpired is not recorded. Oliver said he and Joseph went into the forest and prayed “until a glorious light encircled us, and as we arose on account of the light, three persons stood before us dressed in white, their faces beaming with glory.” The Apostle Peter introduced himself along with James and John. But what did they do?

No Recorded Account of Higher Priesthood

There is no recorded account of Peter, James and John conferring Melchizedek Priesthood. There is passing mention of the event that was added to section 27 by Oliver Cowdery. It was not there when Joseph first received the revelation on 28 August 1830. It is also mentioned in Section 128, a letter Joseph wrote to the Saints while in hiding, on the subject of Baptism for the Dead.

Section 27 Added to by Oliver Cowdery

In the words added by Oliver to section 27, we read the Lord will drink of the fruit of the vine…

“…with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry; and of the same things which I revealed unto them, unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last time; and for the fulness of times…”

Keys of the Kingdom Held by Apostles

Parsing Oliver’s words, we should ask ourselves who it is that possesses the keys of the Lord’s kingdom. To whom were they committed: Joseph & Oliver or Peter, James and John? We might also profit by asking who it is that possesses the dispensation of the gospel referred to in Oliver’s words, added in September. Who is identified as “them?” The words refer to the ancient apostles.

Keys of Their Ministry are Different

If we accept Oliver’s September addition to be authorized by Joseph as accurate and binding, what we can surmise is the following:

  1. Peter, James and John were sent by the Lord to Joseph and Oliver. We don’t know the date.
  2. Peter, James and John ordained Joseph and Oliver to something, but we don’t know what.
  3. Peter, James and John confirmed Joseph and Oliver to be apostles.
  4. Joseph and Oliver were also confirmed to be especial witnesses of the Lord.
  5. They were also confirmed to bear the keys of their ministry.
  6. They were to bear witness of the same things the Lord revealed to Peter, James and John.
  7. The Lord committed the keys of his kingdom to Peter, James and John.
  8. The Lord committed a dispensation of the gospel to Peter, James and John.

It does NOT say:

  1. The keys of the Lord’s kingdom were conferred upon Joseph and Oliver.
  2. Anything about the Melchizedek priesthood being conferred.

Scriptural and Historical Evidence Missing

Let’s parse the words in section 128, where we read, “…Peter, James and John … [declared] themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fullness of times.” Where in our scriptures or historical record can we read that Peter, James and John conferred upon Joseph or Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood or the keys of the kingdom?

By the way, in D&C 128:14, we learn another definition of keys is simply knowledge. Think about it.

Keys Exercised by Peter, James and John

The wording is clear in section 128 the three ancient apostles possessed the keys of the kingdom. This we already knew from Matthew 17 – the Mount of Transfiguration, although it’s not very clear there. In Matthew 18:18 the Lord declares the apostles possess the sealing power. But what keys did Peter, James and John give to Joseph and Oliver, if any, or did they only exercise them?

Just Asking Questions, Looking for Evidence

What does seem clear is the historical record does not shed a lot of light on the conferral of the priesthood in these latter days other than the Aaronic. That conferral seems certain and verified with scripture. But the conferral of the Melchizedek priesthood is a different story. It is simply not as cut and dried as we set it out to be in our doctrine, our lessons and our official curriculum.

There is Only One Priesthood of God

In section 84 of the D&C, also known as The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, we read in verse 33: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining of these two priesthoods…” Didn’t Joseph say there was only one priesthood, and that all priesthood was Melchizedek? What about the patriarchal priesthood, does that make three priesthoods, or are they all still one priesthood?

Expected to Receive God in the Flesh

Back to verse 21 of Section 84, note the words, “in the flesh.” I am convinced the whole reason we have that phrase in the revelation is to encourage us to understand and believe we can and should receive the Lord in this mortal life. That’s one of the purposes of priesthood, and I’m not talking about ordination in the church. Priesthood power is only received directly from the Lord.

Priesthood is an Association with God

This is not new doctrine. It is clearly taught in section 84 but we haven’t understood it. Would to God we had a record of Joseph’s teachings on the subject in greater detail – perhaps a few of the lectures in the School of the Prophets. We have records of prayers offered with hands uplifted in that school when witnesses record Joseph reporting God the Father had passed between them.

Power of God Cannot Be Passed on

Not all that we call priesthood is what God calls priesthood. We pass an ordination between us, but the doctrine is clear. God’s power is only received directly from the Lord, not by the laying on of hands. When a man dies, he takes his priesthood power with him. Joseph taught that all prophets who have held the Melchizedek Priesthood were ordained directly by the hand of God.

All Priesthood is Perishable – D&C 121:37

Even if you receive priesthood power from the voice of God, you can lose it if you are unwilling to restrain and to contain yourself within the bounds the Lord has prescribed. Even the fullness of the priesthood with sealing power, can be lost (see D&C section 124, verse 28). Otherwise, why would the Lord say he needed the temple to be completed so he could come and restore it?

Would God That All Men Were Prophets

Joseph taught on page 322 in TPJS, “The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.” Can you imagine what kind of church we would be if we taught that today – that all communication from God must only come from one man we uphold by common consent as our Prophet, Seer and Revelator?

Melchizedek Priesthood is to Bless, not Curse

If someone claims to hold Melchizedek priesthood but uses it to offer up condemnation, control, judgment, compulsion and authority over the souls of men, you can mark it as a sign they hold no such authority. The purpose of the higher priesthood is to bless, to uplift and to raise you up by bringing you light and truth, which is the glory of God, or intelligence (see D&C 93:36).

End of Part One – More to Come

I’ve gone on way too long. These are my study notes for today. My original desire was to trace the historical record for evidence of the Melchizedek Priesthood being conferred upon Joseph and Oliver. I have no intention of introducing doubts. These are simply questions I have. I invite and welcome your instruction and correction. Thank you my friends for taking the time to share.

Study the Gospel, Blog About it, Share it

I’m glad the church has encouraged us to a) Study the gospel on a regular basis, b) Get involved in the Internet conversations, perhaps even starting blogs and c) Share the gospel with our friends and neighbors. I’m grateful for Facebook and for WordPress which allows me to do all three at the same time. I have renewed friendships and made literally thousands of new friends online.

Learn the Doctrine, Be Ready With Answers

I’m also grateful for Peter’s advice to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” I’m especially grateful my church encourages me to ask questions.  I love to ask questions, including difficult ones. I then feel more prepared to answer others.

Study Things Out, Don’t Rush to Judgment

It’s good to know we can’t be saved in ignorance, nor can we judge a matter if we do not hear it out completely. Only a fool would judge another without trying to understand them first. God bless us all to take the time and trouble to build bridges and understand those in our midst who don’t think like we do. It’s good to be true and faithful and just as good to have an open mind.

Go to lds.org for Official Church Doctrine

Disclaimer: Because many have misunderstood my intent in publishing these study notes on a semi-regular basis, let me reiterate here: I am not declaring doctrine. I am not trying to teach you anything contrary to what should be provable in the scriptures and by the whisperings of the spirit. It is not my intention to destroy faith in Jesus Christ but to build it up and strengthen it.

Sources for This Summarized Material

Email me privately if you want a copy of my sources besides the ones I’ve shared in this post. A lot of this is not my original material or thinking, but I learn by writing. Many of you will recognize the source. I’m not plagiarizing. It’s just my style. I write my questions out. I answer them. It’s how I study the gospel every day. Some days I publish my thoughts.

This Material May Not Support Official Doctrine

Usually my study notes are supportive and in agreement with the official narrative of the church. Sometimes they aren’t. For example, today, in this continuing series on priesthood, I have asked some hard questions and not bothered to share the official LDS view. Some people will find it distressing and perhaps blasphemous because it does not agree with the standard narrative.

A Final Question About Blogging

Here’s my question: Should I refrain from posting this because it has controversial elements? Should I make sure I especially do not link to it from Facebook for fear of offending all the members of my current and previous stakes who might not understand why I blog? Is it worthy of discipline? Should I not share and ask the difficult questions because they take some thought?

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