Fighting against the work of the Lord


One of the reasons I started this blog was to provide personal motivation for gospel study. I like to think that by sharing insights and commentary on some aspect of the gospel in written form, that it becomes clearer to me and solidifies my thinking. This is the same reason I always get more out of a talk or a lesson that I prepare – because of the hours of study behind the summary.

I’ll warn you up front that this essay is going to be a little bit deep and perhaps a little out there, even for me. If you’ve been following my blog you know that I have tackled a few subjects that might be considered controversial. I’ve tried to address a lot of the things that I have read about in the Ex-Mormon and Anti-Mormon websites, mainly because I wondered how I would answer.

I’ll cut right to the point. We believe that one of the purposes of this life is to prove to ourselves and to the Lord that we are on his side when it comes to the fight against evil. Right now, a very visible part of that fight is centered in Proposition 8 in California. Voice of Deseret wondered in a recent essay if LDS opponents of the initiative should resign their membership in the church.

Administrative action removes membership

Some may not be aware that membership in the LDS Church can be easily terminated by a simple administrative action. You simply write a letter to the Bishop explaining that you would like to have your name removed from the records of the church. The bishop has the ward clerk fill out the appropriate form, attach the letter and send it off to Salt Lake. That’s it. You’re out.

Deseret Dawg was immediately taken to task for suggesting such a course of action. I can tell you from my own knowledge that there are some faithful members of the church who will vote no on Proposition 8 next week. The Bishop will not take away temple recommends and they will not be labeled bad people or anti-family. We are not forced to participate in the yes campaign.

But what about those people like Andrew Callahan who choose not to go the administrative action route and forced the church to proceed with disciplinary action because of his very vocal and active fight against the church on this issue? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to simply resign his membership? What has caused him and others to fight so hard against the church?

Doubt, dissent and apostasy

Deseret Dawg writes about those members of the church who fight against the First Presidency request that we give of our time and means to ensure the passage of Proposition 8. He then goes on to discuss a little bit about apostasy and becoming a son of perdition. However, I don’t think he fully develops the point, probably because it was in the concluding section of his essay.

I’d like to investigate that a little more. What does it mean to fight against the work of the Lord? Just how far is too far in expressing dissent and opposing the leadership of the church? I had an interesting dialog with Paul Toscano, part of the September Six, focused on this very subject as we discussed the doctrine of the Godhead on an earlier essay here on Latter-day Commentary.

From my experience, doubt and dissent are acceptable within the church as long as you either keep it to yourself or express it in such a way so as to not cause others to doubt or disbelieve. It is only when you actively strive to persuade others to disbelieve or to a course of action that is contrary to the commandments as taught in the church that you go down that road to apostasy.

Becoming a son of perdition

From what I understand about this doctrine that is not uniquely LDS, it is next to impossible to become a son of perdition. One must have a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and then link themselves to Lucifer and come out in open rebellion against Jesus Christ and his work to save mankind.

Sons of perdition are not merely wicked; they are incorrigibly evil. In sinning against the revelations of the Holy Ghost, they have sinned against the greater light and knowledge of God. They willfully and utterly pervert principles of righteousness and truth with which they were once endowed, and transform them into principles of evil and deception to destroy others.

The gravest of all sins is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. One may speak even against Jesus Christ in ignorance and, upon repentance, be forgiven, but knowingly to sin against the Holy Ghost by denying its influence after having received it is unpardonable, and the consequences are inescapable. Such denial dooms the perpetrator to the hell of the second spiritual death

The unpardonable sin

This extreme judgment comes because the person sins knowingly against the light, thereby severing himself from the redeeming grace of Christ. He is numbered with the sons of perdition. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “No man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, nor in this life, until he receives the Holy Ghost.”

To commit the unpardonable sin, a person “must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him…. he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened to him, and to deny the Plan of Salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it.”

If people have such knowledge and willfully turn altogether away, it is a sin against light, a sin against the Holy Ghost, and figuratively “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Such remain as though there were no Atonement, except that they shall be resurrected from the dead. Awful is the state of those who sin against the Holy Ghost.

Summary and conclusion

I have been taught all my life and I believe that there are relatively few men who could become sons of perdition. I suppose that is because there are few who can say that they have had the heavens opened to them and have had the Savior revealed to them. Those who have had this experience don’t talk about it. For most of us, a testimony without open vision is sufficient.

So it is doubtful that those who fight against the work of the Lord, even those who are former members of the LDS Church who are now doing everything in their power to promote same-sex marriage and defeat proposition 8 (or proposition 102 in Arizona) are anywhere near to being considered candidates to suffer the fate of those sons of perdition who deny the Holy Ghost.

I have read the writings of many former members, some returned missionaries and some who served in leadership positions in the church. I have yet to read anything that provided evidence that they at one time knew the Lord and had been recipients of open visions. I am of the opinion that there are very few today who will be consigned to the terrible fate of the sons of perdition.

9 Responses

  1. I guess I second your thought that there are far more Prodigal Sons than Sons of Perdition.The Prodigal Son lived “riotously”, an expression that is obviously derived from “riot”, which in KJV is in its archaic form meaning profligacy, or shameless dissoluteness, reckless extravagance.Letting themselves be driven by their base instincts is what most of our detractors are about. They want to justify to themselves and others why they don’t have to obey the commandments (and I know well they don’t agree with this characterization). I believe that the way is open for them to return to the Lord.I know (through a long-ago association on message boards before the word “blog” was coined) a person who became very openly and vociferously critical of some Church positions. He ended up being excommunicated at one point, which was sad. But then later he chose to repent and come back, and despite his public opposition, he was readmitted to full fellowship. All that happened before our association and I only know this because he was pretty frank about his history.

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  2. Great thoughts and a good perspective.It would be outlandish to accuse someone of being a “son of perdition.” I hope members of the Church do NOT make such accusations.I very much understand what it is like to be confused about Church positions and doctrines. Fortunately, I have overcome much of that confusion. My testimony has grown slowly but steadily over the years. I grew up active in the Church but I did not have the benefit of active parents. Consequently, I have had to pave my own way. Fortunately, I never left the Church, even though at times I struggled.Those times are in the past. No, the visions of heaven have NOT opened up to me, but I have benefited from the sweet whisperings of the still, small voice, which we call the Holy Ghost or Spirit.Consequently, at this point, I could NEVER imagine being without the Church. Sure, I might struggle on a small point here and there, but my conviction on the BIG points I would like to think are unalterable.So, I am happy to be called a repentant prodigal son. Further, I believe the true plan of salvation is a plan of success, not failure. So, like you, I think it is almost impossible to become a son of perdition. Statements from General Authorities would bear that out.Nice to be reading you again.

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  3. W.W. Phelps is great example of forgiveness. He was excommunicated and became a bitter enemy of the Church. But in time he repented and rejoined the fold. He was faithful for the rest of his life. His possitive impact on the Church is imeasurable.

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  4. Velska,It’s good to see that you have your own blog now. I look forward to reading your essays there. Thanks for adding Prodigal Son to the dialog. I had neglected to mention that in the original essay. I believe your insight about what drives most of our detractors is right on. You are also correct that they do not agree with this. So many will say that they simply have problems with the doctrine, and NOT the commandments. That’s a different discussion. Thanks for commenting.S. Faux:I first thought about adding my comments on Deseret Dawg’s blog but I found that I disagreed too much with his point so I expanded it here. Yes, it is painful to watch those who fight against us because they have insights that those who have never been members do not have. In some ways I am glad that I have never had open visions. I am content to just be a regular old faithful believing member of the church – maybe a little dull and mediocre but looking forward to just enduring peacefully to the end.Trestin:Thanks for following my blog and occasionally adding wonderful comments. I love what you are doing on your own blog and read your essays each Sunday after you post them. Thanks for reminding us that one-time enemies can become the most stalwart of friends and defenders.

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  5. Mr. Malone: At this point I’m an investigator, a potential convert from the Jewish faith, but I’ve been a regular reader of your blog for almost a year. When you post, I read, simple as that. You have joined an ever growing list of bloggers who I depend on to receive not only timely, but extremely informative and thought-provoking posts on all matters LDS. Words simply cannot express my sincere and extreme gratitude for what you are doing.As it pertains to Proposition 8 in California I was watching a Devotional on BYU-TV only yesterday featuring a speaker from Princeton University, Dr. Robert George. The transcript and/or video is not yet available on the BYU-TV site. He put the entire matter into perspective and taught me what my heart always knew, that the sanctity of of not only life, but of marriage also, is at the heart of any proposition that marriage can exist except between a man and a woman.When the video or transcript is available I’ll send it to you if you wish.Thanks again for all you do!

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  6. Hi Mike,Somewhere in the back of mind I seem to recall that you or someone else who identified themselves as being of the Jewish faith left me a comment or an email a long time ago. I have always kept that in mind, that there might be some not of our faith who are reading my blog, even if only occasionally. I am deeply appreciative of your added comment to the dialog here.I was not aware of the devotional from Dr. George and would be very pleased to review the transcript once it becomes available. I have grown weary of the attacks that come up each time I write about the subject so I have been staying somewhat low-key in this area lately. The attacks against those who support the proposition have increased. I am considering one last essay before the election simply to document some of them.I wish I could say that this will all blow over but it is obvious that this has become a huge issue both in and out of the LDS Church. I suspect that it will continue to be problematic even after the election. It certainly is a divisive issue, which I find to be so very unfortunate. It brings out the worst in some people and the best in others.Mike, may I ask a big favor – two things, really? I am curious as to which other bloggers you read that help you to understand more about how the LDS world works. Would you be willing to share that list, either via a comment here or through a private email? I would be very appreciative. I have a disadvantage of thinking that I know what is interesting to outside observers but simply can never know because I have been on the inside all my life.The other favor is something that I have felt strongly about for a long time but haven’t been quite sure how to go about addressing. I want to know more about what is important to those of the Jewish faith. What issues and what events hold significance in the future of Israel and Judaism? In particular, I want to know if my views on Armageddon and the whole world turning against Israel are held by those who will be the recipients of the upcoming hatred.I suspect that we are on the verge of a huge sea change in the way the United States interacts with the rest of the world. I was praying the other day as we have been counseled to do about who to vote for in the upcoming Presidential elections. My selection was confirmed as being right for me, but it was not confirmed as being the one that would come to pass. When I wondered why, it came to me that the change was necessary for the gospel to go to all the world.I’ll leave it at that and readers can decipher it however they choose. I am no prophet except in my own life and in my own home as sustained by my wife. However, I am deeply impressed that something tremendous is about to happen in regards to the United States and Israel and I’m not sure that it will be pleasing to conservatives like me who think so highly of what Israel is and is to become.

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  7. Thank you for the kind reply, Tim.There’s a lot on my plate for the next few days so if it’s OK I’ll respond via e-mail late this weekend or very early next week.BTW, Dr. George’s talk was just posted on the BYUB website. The mp3 is here

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  8. This whole conversation seems odd to me.What exactly IS the punishment for disobeying the living prophet and voting “no” on Prop 8? I mean, isn’t it just as bad as ignoring personal revelation or personal inspiration (most of us are engaged in ignoring personal inspiration every second of the day)? Isn’t it just as bad as ignoring the living prophet on all the other things the prophet tells you to do? How many diligently study the scriptures every day? How many LDS keep the law of fast faithfully (by the spirit of the law)? How many LDS have a year’s supply of food in their garages? How many LDS are completely out of debt? How many LDS live the Word of Wisdom faithfully (by the spirit of the law…I don’t mean those who refrain from alcohol and cigarettes…I mean those who are HEALTHY…NOT FAT!…I can look around at church and tell you the answer to that)? How many LDS watch all five sessions of conference, do missionary work, love other people as much as they could, or do any of the MANY things living prophets have told us to do, being therefore PERFECT?I don’t know if I can handle it if another FAT Mormon insinuates I’m evil for opposing Prop 8, because I’m disobeying the SUGGESTION of a living prophet. I may have to point how unhealthy he and everyone else is at church and ask him why he doesn’t believe in the Word of Wisdom.Why are LDS so fanatically obedient about this issue, but they are perfectly capable of ignoring just about everything else the prophet tells them to do?I would love to sit down with the dude that thinks someone should be ex’d for opposing Prop 8, and I’ll see if we can figure out some areas where he might not believe in what the prophet tells him to do (believing is doing, right?).

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  9. Crusty,You’re one of my favorite visitors. I appreciate your comments. There is no punishment from the church for voting no on proposition 8. There is also nobody forcing members of the church to participate in all the things we have been doing to support the passage – organizing, displaying signs on homes and cars, writing on blogs, going door to door, making calls to the community, waving signs on street corners, and encouraging others.I don’t know if ignoring the invitation from the First Presidency to help pass Prop 8 is as bad as ignoring all the other things they have asked us to do. In fact, your point about not completely observing the Word of Wisdom will have more obvious consequences, like becoming FAT! That is something we can see right away – I know, I’m one of those FAT people because I don’t observe the Word of Wisdom perfectly. We’re breaking our fast with a pot roast today with the missionaries.I try to study the gospel every day, but don’t always succeed. Sometimes I don’t fast a full 24 hours I am not completely out of debt. Heck, I’m a long ways from being out of debt. I only have about three month’s supply of food and water in my garage and the food is really old. We usually watch all five sessions of General Conference. I do a lousy job at sharing the gospel but do try to love others as much as possible. I know you weren’t pointing this list at me, but I appreciate bring able to do the review.As far as I know, Crusty, you live in Houston and therefore won’t have the opportunity to vote Yes or No on proposition 8. The letter from the First Presidency was directed to the members of the Church in California. Just be aware that this fat Mormon is not insinuating that you are evil because you oppose Prop 8. And you are not the only one who feels that the response from many of the members of the church in Calif is amazingly zealous compared to the way we respond to other things that the prophet has asked us to do that are just as important or even more so in the long run.The guy who was suggesting that members of the church who oppose proposition 8 should resign their membership may have been a little overboard. I think he was trying to make a point that opposing the First Presidency on this could be considered a step down the road to apostasy. I can see how that could be the case, just like refusing to read the scriptures, to pray, to fast, to attend church, to do home teaching, to accept and magnify callings, to attend the temple, or to do a whole bunch of other things we have been asked to do can put us on the same path away from Christ.You made a really important conclusion to your comment – “believing is doing”, you said. How I wish that were true. I would be more inclined to conclude with something like, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We do not always do what we know we should and therefore, some members of the church live with too much guilt. I for one am grateful for the atonement, repentance and being able to partake of the sacrament each week.My personal response to the letter from the First Presidency asking us to do all we could has been to send in a little money to the Yes on 8 campaign, to go door to door and to write a few things in my blog. I don’t even have a sign on my yard because I live in the corner of a street where nobody will see it. My little bit of time and money may or may not make a difference, but at least I can say that I did what I was asked by the First Presidency – I gave of my time and my means. I like that feeling. Besides, I happen to agree with the prophet on this one.I am of the opinion that this whole thing to legalize same-sex marriage is just an attempt by the gay community to get society to condone gay sex. It wasn’t even an issue until a few years ago. You may be of the opinion that government should not be involved in legislating this moral issue but I am of the opinion that the people of the State of California need to have their say. That’s what this vote will do. It may not pass. We will then know how the people of California really feel about this issue. That will be useful information to me.Anyway, the whole point of the essay was to expand on Deseret Dawg’s comments on what it takes to become a son of perdition. I am much more inclined to go with what Velska and S. Faux pointed out that opposing the First Presidency on this issue if more along the lines of being a prodigal son and not committing the unpardonable sin. I hope my essay pointed out that it is next to impossible for most of us to do that or even come close. Thanks again for reading and commenting on my blog, Crusty. Your comments always get me thinking.

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