Loss of the Sealing Power


While in a sacred place a month ago a friend asked what I thought about “Passing the Heavenly Gift.” I confess that I had not heard of the book or the author, Denver Snuffer. I assume he asked my opinion because he knows that I have reviewed similar books on my blog that focus on controversial issues facing the LDS Church. Denver’s books are not advertised. People learn about them only by word of mouth or through online reviews on sites like mine.

I purchased the book and posted on Facebook that I had done so. Several of my blogging buddies noted it and expressed interest in what I thought. A few days later after my first quick read-through, I wrote “I speed read the first half. Finding no major faults, I devoured the second half (pages 240 to 499) in about four hours. I haven’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in years.” There is something dramatically different about this book.

Don’t leave the church

I also reported that “My focus in reading was to find anything smacking of disloyalty to the brethren or encouraging the members to leave. He came close on the first point but completely negated my concern on the second.” Before I write anything else I want to focus on that second point. I am convinced that Denver Snuffer has his reader’s best interest at heart. I cannot say that about the authors of any other recent book of LDS History I have read. Denver wants us to stay in the Church.

However, Denver Snuffer has caused me to do something no other recent writer of Mormon history has been able to do. He has produced in me a desire to read his book again and again. I want to study it, to research it, to look up many of the quotes, to read what others have said about those quotes. In other words, I am taking seriously Denver’s claims which, although not all unique to his book, are argued more precisely and effectively than any other author I have encountered.

Receive the Second Comforter

I have just completed the second reading of the book and am starting on the third, this time with pen and highlighter in hand. I have read his first book, “The Second Comforter” twice and have purchased each of the intervening six books. I have invested hours reading Denver’s blog from start to finish and have contemplated each of the points he has made there over the years. Other than the scriptures, I have never invested this much time in trying to understand an author’s message.

Everything I have learned about Denver has caused me to contemplate his message more and more. He has asked that we not focus on him, his life or his background. He has asked that we pay attention more to the process he is trying to get us to pass through – a process that if we follow through to completion will have us receive The Second Comforter for ourselves. I like that. I want that. I endorse that. How can you fault a man for wanting to help you come unto Christ? I don’t.

Details lacking in faith-promoting history

In the meantime, you are going to have to pass through some very difficult realizations that, depending on the strength of your relationship with the things of the spirit, may leave you gasping and reaching for help and understanding. If you are not already familiar with things our detractors have written about us you will have a challenging time reading this book. It will make you angry. It will cause you to think of Mr. Snuffer as an apostate and wonder why he hasn’t been excommunicated.

This book is not for everybody. If you are a casual member of the church you will not be interested. If you are not familiar with some of the controversies about our history being discussed on the Internet today, you will be a little shocked at what you read. You may not understand why some of the issues are problems at all if all you have ever learned about our history is what you were taught in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary or even Institute. This is an alternative view of our history.

Sealing power has been lost

I wish I was at the point where I could say that I can vouch for Denver’s accuracy or that I agree with his interpretations. I am not there yet. I suspect it will take me years to arrive at that level. In the meantime, if you have already read Denver’s works, I want to hear from you. I am especially interested in discussion about the two most controversial arguments in his book – the idea that the sealing power is not on the earth at this time and Denver’s interpretation of the fullness of the priesthood.

<Update 4-29-12> Denver has posted on his blog that “I have never said the church does not have the sealing power.” This obviously is in direct conflict with the thesis of this essay and my (and my wife’s) interpretation of the first chapter of his book, especially this line: “The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power.” (p 36) He’s right. He did not say the church does not have the sealing power. Carol and I did not clearly understand the message of his first chapter. <end of update>

I kept looking for Denver to address the implications of the position he is advocating in regards to the work we are doing in the temples. I confess I have so far been disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic discussion of what this means to the thousands, if not millions of members who have spent so much of their time and energy over the years in researching and performing proxy ordinances in the temples for their ancestors. I am one of those individuals and want to know his response.

The work in the temples

In other words, if the sealing power is not on the earth then what hope do my wife and I have that we will be united in the eternities? If the sealing power is not on the earth, then what in the world have I and my mother and sisters been doing for these past forty years in digging and corresponding and compiling the thousands and thousands of family names ensuring that their work was done in the temples? I see this as the single most important issue to be answered.

Because I am so intrigued by what I have learned so far, I am going to give Denver the benefit of the doubt that he has already answered this question satisfactorily and I have simply not yet found it. I am not like some of my online friends who have become disaffected and left the church then complain about how much they resented the loss of their tithing money or that they felt duped when they learned they had been teaching a “sanitized” version of our history.

Section 110 misinterpreted

This idea of the sealing power is central to my feelings about the church and core to the reason why I have spent so many thousands of hours in the temple over the past thirty-five years. No, I don’t feel that my time was wasted if what Denver claims about section 110 is true. Of all the things that could strike at the heart and soul of Mormonism this is it. If you want to hurt a whole lot of good people, tell them that the the work they have been doing in the temples is not valid.

There is one question I would like to ask Denver, but I won’t because I don’t know him and he has made it clear that he gets far too many requests to answer directly. Because I felt strongly about sharing what I was learning from Denver’s books, I asked Carol to read the fist chapter of “Passing the Heavenly Gift” to me as we drove to Southern Utah for a family vacation this weekend. We had one of the most deep and enjoyable gospel discussions we have ever had over the course of several hours.

Exaltation is a family affair

Carol came away from the reading with the distinct impression that Denver was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today no different than any other good Christian church. She read that Brigham Young was only elected to be the President of the Church and that there was no ordination that passed the keys of the kingdom to him or to any of the rest of the twelve. She related her feelings while as a missionary she was taught by her mission president that Joseph ordained and passed the keys of the kingdom on to the twelve before they left on their missions.

Denver, what would you say to my wife, who related while she stood at the Far West temple site with dozens of other missionaries how she felt the spirit bear witness to her soul that Joseph successfully passed the keys of the kingdom on to the apostles before he sent them away on their missions and went on to Carthage jail to seal his testimony with his blood? Would you say that Joseph wasn’t referring to the council of the twelve, but to the council of fifty?

An incomplete ordination

What Denver is writing about is serious business. He is apparently all about getting people to question what they have been taught and what they believe about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says he wants to bring us to Christ but in the process he wants us to rethink what we have been taught and what we believe about the power of priesthood and how it is manifested in our lives. He says the temple will point us to Christ yet says the sealing power is not there.

Am I the first to see the implications of what he is teaching? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong or that I’ve missed the point completely. Tell me that all the thousands of temple workers, so many of them my good friends, are not wasting their time laboring in temples that have been rejected. Tell me that the blessings I have given to my wife and so many others over the years are efficacious even though I have not had my ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon my head.

Receiving the Heavenly Gift

I am not a lawyer, so I can never argue as well as Denver has done. I am a simple member of the church, happy in my faith and grateful to have lived my life in the orthodox manner as taught by my leaders. I have served a mission, been married in the temple, served in bishoprics and high councils for the past twenty-five years and generally loved my time associating with saints of the Lord, who Denver is now calling a fallen and proud people, members of an apostate gentile church.

What do you think? Has Denver taught the truth in his book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” or is he an apostate like some have declared him to be? Is it worth my time to read the rest of his books? Is there a whole lot more that I don’t see yet that will prove Denver to be right? Perhaps I need to re-read his first book again and put the process to the test as he is asking us to do. Is Denver teaching that we need to do in our homes what we are taught in the temple to converse with the Lord through the veil?

I would love to read your opinions.

An Evening with Richard Bushman


About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.

For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.

Open and honest discussion

It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.

There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.

A well-qualified historian

One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.

Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.  He knows early church history.

Serving faithfully in the church

And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple.  I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history.  I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.

I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.”  I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.

Believing in spite of knowing

This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?”  I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.

Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?

Shocked by our history

Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church?  For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey.  Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.

Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.”  Things were different back then, weren’t they?  The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.

History not being hidden

When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.

For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.

Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright

Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission.  Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.

We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review.  Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.

Consider carefully the source

For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil.  Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.

We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.

Get the facts straight

If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.

Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?

The Joseph Smith Papers

Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation.  In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.

I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.

We can believe the prophet

As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.

Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.

Interpreting Impressions of the Spirit


One of the greatest blessings of membership in the LDS Church is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Of course we are not the only people in the world with whom the Lord works through his spirit.  But we are the only people who have claim upon the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.  That is a very unique and special claim.

When asked by a President of the United States, “How is your religion different from all the other religions of the day?” The Prophet Joseph Smith answered, “We are different from all other religions in the mode of baptism (immersion) and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (by those who have authority).”

God inspires all

In section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” All honest seekers of the truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, leading them to Jesus Christ and His gospel.  People everywhere can be inspired by the Holy Ghost.

However, the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is available only to those who receive the gift through the laying on of hands by one who is authorized and then remain worthy of that gift.  This basic doctrine is taught and emphasized often from the pulpit and in the classrooms of our church each week.

One of the most important duties we have in this life is to learn how to interpret the impressions of the Holy Ghost that we receive though this gift.  Sometimes they come unbidden but most of the time we need to prepare for and ask for spiritual guidance.  With this sacred gift, we can be confident that the Lord will respond.

God will guide us

This gift contains an inherent covenant promise that the Lord will respond to our requests for guidance. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”  As long as we do our part in striving to keep his commandments, repent and seek his spirit, we can rely on his promise.

However, the gift needs to be exercised and developed until we can go before the Lord with confidence and ask in faith for what we want.  We need to learn what specific things we need to do to achieve the results we desire. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

We know we must study things out and come to an understanding or a decision on a subject before we approach the Lord for a confirmation of our decision or course of action.  Sometimes it can take years to fully consider and achieve a mastery of a subject before we can approach the Lord and ask to guide us to further knowledge.

Much already revealed

That’s why the Lord and his prophets counsel us to study the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles.  When we ask the Lord for help in some area of our lives, we can expect him to answer through both the promptings of the spirit and very often by directing us to what he has already revealed on the subject.

It is amazing to me the number of times I feel impressed to look to the scriptures or a recent conference talk for the answer I am seeking.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”  It is while I am reading the scriptures or conference talks that I feel the impressions of the spirit.

I think it is in the process of reading revealed words that we become most familiar with the mind and will of the Lord for us.  We begin to think like the Lord and develop a greater understanding of how he speaks.  The mind of the natural man is not attuned to God’s way of thinking so it takes effort to understand revelation.

Revelation requires humility

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  Even our natural reasoning processes, if they are not directed by the spirit of the Lord, can lead us to false conclusions.  “For the natural man is an enemy to God … and will be forever … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.”

The rest of the verse (Mosiah 3:19) emphasizes being submissive.  I guess if there is nothing else I have learned about receiving revelation, it is the idea that in order to receive it, I must be in a submissive state of mind and willing to do whatever it is that the Lord reveals to me.  Indeed, I must strive to become like a little child.

Of course, I know that the Lord will not tell me to do something that is contrary to what he has already revealed.  For example, if I ask the Lord for help in knowing the best way to get out of debt, I am confident that he will not direct me to play the lottery, nor respond to email invitations to send money to Nigerian scammers.

Revelation is real

That is why I am confident that the Lord is sincere in his promise to reveal the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  The key phrase there is “with real intent.”  Like you, I have witnessed this promise fulfilled over and over again throughout my life.  I have seen it happen for young and old when they ask with real intent.

I do not doubt the revelatory process.  It is real.  I have witnessed it in action throughout my life in Bishopric meetings, High Council meetings, in disciplinary councils and in preparing and presenting talks and lessons over the years.  It seems to flow easiest for me when the revelation being requested is meant to help others.

But the Lord never reveals things that are outside the stewardship of my family, my own life or my specific callings in the church.  While I may feel a desire to help another, if I do not have a direct responsibility for them, then I need to be very careful about what I feel impressed to tell them the Lord would have them do.

Revelation for others

I had a recent experience with this that confirmed to me how easy it is to step over the line into imposing my will on another.  The Lord will never direct us to do that.  In counseling with a fellow church member about a difficult situation in their life I shared some personal observations about what I thought got them into trouble.

Since I was not this individual’s priesthood leader, I was not entitled to know the whole story and made a judgment based only on what I saw.  My counsel to this individual was flawed and was offensive because it was lacking in understanding.  Gratefully, they were forgiving when I apologized after the error became apparent.

My point is that the Lord will never reveal something to me that another person should do unless I am responsible for that person as a husband, father or priesthood leader.  That can even be applied to prospective marriage partners.  The Lord will not tell us that another person should marry us. It should not be phrased that way.

Revelation to marry

When I asked my wife to marry me, I felt the Lord whisper to me that we could be happy together.  Of course Carol had her agency and could have said no.  It was an act of faith on her part to accept my marriage proposal.  The Lord knew I needed that revelation to prompt me to propose, but it was intended for me and not Carol.

I knew the Lord wanted me to marry.  I had been praying about it for some time and was actively seeking a marriage partner.  I knew that the Lord had revealed through his prophet that “soul mates are fiction and an illusion.”  So I wasn’t looking for that one special person, just someone with whom I could be happy.

I know that’s not very romantic but what made it special for me was the intensely strong and powerful impression that flowed into my heart and mind as I pondered asking Carol to marry me.  In my mind’s eye, I saw us many years down the road, even in these years today, enjoying each other’s company, growing old together.

What I have learned

In conclusion, I guess there are two things I have learned about revelation.  First, we must be humble and submissive to receive it and second, we can never receive revelation for anyone else’s life outside our own immediate family.  It just doesn’t work that way unless the Lord puts us in a priesthood position that requires it.

Impressions of the spirit are very private and should be kept so.  They are personal and unless you are the prophet of the Lord or have a direct priesthood stewardship for someone else, are meant specifically for one individual – you.  They are not to be shared with others unless you feel prompted to do so and then only carefully.

I have been blessed throughout my life with impressions from the Holy Ghost.  It is specifically because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost that they seem so abundant.  Receiving revelation can be almost a daily occurrence, but usually it comes in the form of very quiet, subtle impressions that are sometimes almost imperceptible.

Come Unto Christ


What a wonderful day it is to consider together our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  I’m grateful to partake of the sacrament with you and to renew my covenant to remember him and to follow him.  I’m not sure that I really understood the significance of that covenant when I first took it upon myself at age eight.

I’m still trying to understand what it means to really keep that covenant each day.  Some days I do better than others.  Sundays are a joy to me because I spend them in activities that are centered on the mission of the church – to invite all to come unto Christ.  It’s during the week that I sometimes struggle to remember Him.

I suppose it’s a life-long pursuit, isn’t it? – To figure out how to really come unto Christ as we have been commanded to do. As Moroni taught, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness … love God with all your might, mind and strength …” – Moroni 10:32

Another Book of Mormon prophet taught, “And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him …” – That’s found in Omni 1:26.

I think I understand Moroni’s instruction to deny ourselves of all ungodliness.  I get that.  It means to resist temptation and to do all within our power to control ourselves.  The Holy Ghost helps us with that task, by making it clear what is offensive to the Lord.  To me, knowing what is displeasing to the Lord is half the battle.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Like me, I’ll bet you’ve experienced that feeling when the spirit impresses you with an understanding that something you just said or did was not an especially good idea.  I’ve even caught myself saying, “Well, I’ll never do that again!” I then store those feelings somewhere where I’ll remember them in a similar situation.

I’ve always felt the Holy Ghost helping me with this growth process in my life.  I can testify that he is real and that he really does help us.  The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a treasure, one that I deeply appreciate and try to use each day.  In fact, I like to think that the Holy Ghost and I are good friends since we talk so much.

We have running conversations at work.  I tell God what I’m trying to accomplish and how I plan to go about doing it.  Then when I get stuck on some part of my task, I exclaim, sometimes out loud, “Now that didn’t work right, did it?  What should I do?”  And you know, impressions come to me to try a different method.

I have no doubts about the revelatory process.  It has become a very comfortable part of my daily life.  After years of practice, it has become second nature to talk with the Lord and to listen for his answers.  I don’t know if God has assigned a computer-savvy angel to work with me but I do know that someone is helping me.

I hope that you feel the same way and from conversations over the years I know many of you do.  Isn’t that a wonderful gift – to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost?  And it is because of the Sacrament that we are able to have that gift always.  How I love the Sacrament and the promised blessings to be found therein.

Offer your whole soul

It’s that second scripture in Omni that I’ve been pondering lately and trying to understand.  What does it mean to offer your whole soul as an offering unto the Lord?  I’d like to consider that with you today as part of my assigned topic to come unto Christ.  I’ll call upon Elder Bednar and President Eyring to help us along.

But first I’d like to share a story from Sister Nadauld who served as the Young Women General President a few years back.  You may remember this.  It touched me deeply at the time she related it and it still does each time I share it.  Although it is simple, it is a powerful story that introduces our subject in a touching manner.

Sister Nadauld is the mother of seven sons. Two of them, Adam and Aaron are twins.  When they were about five years old they were just learning to ride their bicycles.  Can you think back to those days in your own life?  I can, even though it was a very long time ago.  Of course having home movies helps my memory now.

As their mother glanced out the window to watch her boys, she saw the twins speeding down the street on their bikes going very fast.  “Perhaps they were going too fast for their level of ability because all of a sudden Adam had a terrible crash!  She saw him tangled up in a wreck of handlebars and tires and arms and legs.

“His little twin brother, Aaron saw the whole thing happen and he immediately skidded to a stop and jumped off his bike.  He threw it down and ran to the aid of his brother, whom he loved very much.  These little twins truly were of one heart.  If one hurt, so did the other.  If one got tickled, they both laughed.

“If one started a sentence, the other could complete it. What one felt, the other did also. So it was painful for Aaron to see Adam crash! Adam was a mess. He had skinned knees, he was bleeding from a head wound, his pride was damaged, and he was crying.

“In a fairly gentle, five-year-old way, Aaron helped his brother get untangled from the crash, he checked out the wounds, and then,” related Sister Nadauld, “he did the dearest thing. He picked his brother up and carried him home. Or tried to. This wasn’t very easy because they were the same size, but he tried.

“And as he struggled and lifted and half-dragged, half-carried his brother along, they finally reached the front porch. By this time, Adam, the injured one, was no longer crying, but Aaron, the rescuer, was. When asked, “Why are you crying, Aaron?” he said simply, “Because Adam hurts.”

“And so he had brought him home to help, home to someone who knew what to do, to someone who could cleanse the wounds, bind them up, and make it better—home to love.  Just as one twin helped his brother in need, so might we all be lifted, helped, even carried at times by our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He feels what we feel

Sis Nadauld concluded her touching story by pointing our hearts toward the Savior.  “He feels what we feel; He knows our heart. It was His mission to wipe away our tears, cleanse our wounds, and bless us with His healing power. He can carry us home to our Heavenly Father with the strength of His matchless love.”

From this story I have come to understand better one purpose of the Lord’s mission, which is to heal us.  I have felt that healing power many times in my life, and again, it is activated most by my weekly participation in the ordinance of the Sacrament.  I still suffer the pains of life, but feel strengthened by his love for me.

Through a lifetime of experience, I have also come to understand very clearly another important part of the Savior’s mission.  He has cleansed me from the effects of my sins.  Although repentance is an ongoing process that I will use the rest of my life, I have felt the cleansing power of the Savior free me from the devil’s grasp.

There is no doubt that the effects of sin are real.  They have a very debilitating influence upon our spirits.  Sin keeps us from feeling good about ourselves and keeps us from feeling the Lord’s love for us.  He is also unable to bless us with the help that we need in this life when we participate in sin and do not completely repent.

I have long loved this statement from President Harold B. Lee that I first heard in my youth: “If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins … then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you.”  I have felt this desire to know my standing before the Lord.

I can’t tell you how many times I sought an answer from the Lord to know if I had done enough to repent of my youthful rebellions.  President Lee continued, “In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance.”  I love that!

I testify that we can have that promised peace of conscience that comes after doing all we can do to repent.  It is a real experience.

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

But it is from a powerful Fall 2007 General Conference address by Elder Bednar I learned something that opened my eyes to the need to do more than be cleansed from sin.  He took my understanding of the repentance process to a different level.  He introduced the idea by quoting one of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 24:

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who shall stand in his holy place?  He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully.”  He then said, “Brothers and Sisters, it is possible for us to have clean hands but not have a pure heart.”  I had never considered that.

Elder Bednar then taught us so clearly, “Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better.”

“All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us.”

Did you catch that last line?  It was an “ah-ha” moment for me when I heard it.  I knew the Lord could heal me and could cleanse me but I had not understood how the atonement makes me a saint.

I know that I am a child of God.  I know that he loves me.  I know that I can be and am happy when I repent and make efforts to put off the natural man.  I feel at peace with God when I fully accept the love Jesus offers me in bridging the gap between my efforts to repent and what is required to be fully cleansed from my mistakes.

But it is the purifying of my heart that has long eluded me.  I know I have a good heart because I am pained by sin and always want to do better, but the strength of the natural man is sometimes so great that it almost overcomes me.  I cry out in my prayers that I just don’t see how I can be the man that I know God wants me to be.

That our Hearts May be Purified

Do you remember what the people in King Benjamin’s day said after they had heard the words of the angel that he shared with them?  “… they all cried aloud with one voice saying: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified.”

I think most of us get it when we talk about receiving forgiveness.  We know it comes through the atonement of Christ.  But that’s not all that we can receive each week as we partake of the sacrament.  We can also have our nature transformed and our hearts purified.  Our desires to do good and to become a saint can be strengthened.

Do you ever find yourself full of the spirit on Sunday and saying, “I feel great!  I feel so close to my Heavenly Father and my Savior.  I know that they love me.  I’ve been spiritually fed and uplifted at church today.  I can do all those hard things that I know I should.  I’m going to be so much better this week.”  I have.

And then sometime during the week, after an exhausting day at work or an especially trying day with the kids or with the demands of others upon your time, you find yourself saying, “I just can’t do it anymore.  I’ve had it.  I just don’t want to do all the hard things that are asked of me.  It’s too much.  I can’t put up with all these difficult demands.”  What happened to that Sunday determination?

Well, that’s what Elder Bednar was trying to teach us – how to have our very nature changed so that our desires to do good are strengthened.  It is through the ordinance of the Sacrament that we come unto Christ, put off the natural man, and become a saint.  We can have our hearts changed so that we no longer desire evil.

But, and this is my concluding thought, we must offer to the Lord our whole soul in exchange for the purifying of our hearts.  For me, that means determining in my heart and mind before I partake of the sacrament that I am going to do whatever the Lord asks of me that week.  Wow!  That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?  Can I do it?

Must I do everything that I feel prompted of the Lord to do?  Yes, for me, that is what it means to offer my whole soul as an offering to him.  The Tabernacle choir sings a hymn that illustrates this so beautifully for me.  It’s called, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  The line that describes this process goes like this:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

May God take our offering and purify our hearts is my prayer.

Revelation and Emotional Response


If you have read a few of my past essays, you may have noted that one of my favorite subjects is revelation, and specifically personal revelation.  It is only within the last few years since I started blogging that I have come to realize revelation is a controversial subject even among members of the church.  To me, it is a foundational doctrine, much like faith, and the basis for a testimony.

Sharing sacred experiences

I have shared a couple of examples of personal revelation from my own life in previous essays.  I know we have been counseled to keep sacred experiences private, but I felt impressed to share them as evidence that the Lord does give revelation to common members of the church like me.  I like to think that my experiences are typical, or at least I thought so until I started sharing them.

Elder Oaks said, “Although we are generally counseled not to speak of sacred things … there are times when the Spirit prompts us to share these experiences, sometimes even in a setting where our account will be published.”  Brigham Young said he would rather hear the people tell of their own powerful sacred experiences with the Holy Ghost than to hear any other kind of preaching.

Leaving a Record for Others

So I’d like to add another one of those experiences to my online record.  A fellow blogger shared with me that one of his primary motivations for writing and posting essays was so that his sons would have a record of his faith, experiences and testimony.  I feel the same way and hope that someday what I disclose here will help to strengthen the testimonies of others who may read this.

In the Young Single Adult ward where I serve as ward clerk, Carol and I recently shared the story of how we met and married.  My part of the story involves a sacred revelatory experience.  In order to get the full story, you might want to review Carol’s side of the tale as found on her blog.  She provides much more of the background leading up to the experience I address here.

No Date before Proposal

Carol and I did not date before I proposed marriage to her.  I had been off my mission for a few years and had graduated with a degree as a professional computer nerd. I had started my career in tech support and was working in Hollywood when she came home from her mission.  I happened to be dating her best friend who invited Carol along on our date to Mormon Night at Disneyland.

It was a fun date – for Carol and me.  We hit it off immediately.  Carol was happy to be home and was talkative.  Of course, what she talked about was her mission and the young lady I was dating just couldn’t relate.  I could.  I loved Carol’s enthusiasm and found myself commiserating with her sadness at having to leave and go back to the real world.  We talked almost all night.

Doing my Homework

For the next three months I continued to pursue Carol’s friend through dating and other social activities such as church firesides.  Occasionally Carol would be part of a group of young adults going to the movies, to the San Diego Zoo or some other activity.  It was Carol that came over to keep me company several nights while I was recovering from having a wisdom tooth pulled.

Yet I was infatuated with this other girl and kept petitioning the Lord in prayer to soften her heart towards me.  I fasted often, went to the temple and did all I could to show the Lord that I was serious about getting married.  I sent this young lady a dozen red roses with a note confessing my love for her.  I simply could not understand why she didn’t seem to respond with enthusiasm.

The Dodger Game

One day Carol invited me to meet her at Dodger Stadium, which I did after work.  So I told her about sending flowers to our mutual friend and asked her advice how I could get her to like me.  I noticed that Carol got real quiet.  I looked over to see her drawing a picture of a little broken heart on her Dodger program.  She then quietly excused herself, left the game and drove home.

I thought about that all that evening and the next morning.  I decided that it was inappropriate to have shared with her my efforts to win her best friend’s heart.  So I stopped by Carol’s house after softball practice to apologize for hurting her feelings.  She brushed off my apology but I dug deeper and asked her about how she felt about important things like family and marriage.

Revelation to Heart and Mind

It was then that the most amazing thing happened to me.  The Spirit of the Lord came over me in a way I have rarely felt.  While Carol was talking, the Lord communicated to my heart and my mind a vision of us living together many years down the road.  It was pure intelligence flowing into my being.  It was an answer to prayer more powerful than anything I had ever expected.

I can count on one hand these kinds of powerful revelatory experiences up to that point in my life.  In addition to what I saw in my mind’s eye, I heard a voice, just as distinctly and clearly as if someone had spoken, say to me that Carol and I could be very happy together.  It was not an audible voice but it registered in the same manner as if I heard it and that was astonishing to me.

Feelings and Revelation

But along with what I saw and heard, I began to feel a most powerful feeling. The scripture says that the Lord will tell us in our mind and in our heart when something is correct.  He also tells us that we must study it out first.  I had done my homework.  I had done my part.  I had asked for revelation and had studied it out.  I knew what I wanted and was living worthily of that answer.

We have been promised by apostles and prophets that the Lord will not leave us alone to make the most important decisions of our life.  Who we decide to marry has eternal consequences.  Acting on behalf of the Lord, these prophets have promised us that we can receive revelation to know for a certainty that the path we are pursuing is the right one and will lead to happiness.

Revelation is Personal

This is no idle promise.  It is real.  I am a living witness of the reality of such assurances.  A prophet had promised me that if I went on a mission, got an education and then sought earnestly for a companion with whom I could be happy, that the Lord would provide one.  That answer came in a powerful way to me on that day.  It was unmistakable revelation to me from the Lord.

Note carefully that when the revelation came to me, it was not intended for Carol.  The voice did not say, “Carol needs to marry you” or even that Carol would marry me.  It simply said that we could be very happy together.  It was an answer to my prayer and was intended for me.  It was what I needed to cause me to take action with confidence and to then ask Carol to marry me.

The Marriage Proposal

I wasted no time.  I told her what I was feeling.  She could see that something was affecting me.  I also told her that I felt impressed to ask her to marry me.  She was shocked.  I said, “I’d like to be sure so I’m going to fast and pray about it today and tomorrow.  Will you do the same?”  She said yes and invited me to come for Sunday dinner after church.  We then parted for the day.

After fasting and praying, I still felt the same way, so I formally proposed to Carol over roast beef dinner at her mom’s house.  She said yes.  Carol’s journal says that I didn’t even sit with her in church that morning.  We were both stake missionaries and had an investigator at church and so I sat with him instead.  I had not yet gotten used to the idea of thinking for two instead of one.

We can Receive Revelation

This sacred revelatory experience ranks high on my list of incidents that have influenced me in a powerful and enduring way in my life.  I had been taught by church leaders growing up that I could receive revelation.  I believed it.  I expected it.  So I was not surprised when it came.  But I was not expecting it to be so intense and dramatic.  Perhaps that was because it was so important.

Along with what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my thoughts, the Lord impressed upon me a feeling in my heart so comforting and unmistakable that I simply could not doubt that what I had received came from God.  It felt as familiar then as it has felt every time I have experienced it since that time.  I am confident that I knew and understood this feeling from before this life.

The Burning of the Bosom

I don’t always trust my feelings but I have learned to trust this one.  I know from many years of experience that some feelings are temporary and fleeting.  The feeling I get when the Spirit is trying to communicate to me is one that has an underlying sense of eternity.  It’s hard to explain to one who hasn’t experienced it.  I have come to learn it can be interpreted many different ways.

For me, the burning of the bosom that accompanies personal revelation has become very real.  It is a strong, powerful and very comforting feeling.  I can feel it when I am listening to particularly inspiring and motivational speakers in General Conference or any church meeting.  I have felt it in prayer.  I have felt it in giving priesthood blessings.  I always feel it when I speak in church.

Revelation and emotional response

But the personal revelation I receive is not in the comforting feeling by itself.  That is just the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to me that what I am learning or participating in is important.  The feeling also comes in warning me away from danger or in preparing me for bad news.  It is an amazing thing to have the gift of the Holy Ghost but it can take a lifetime to understand it.

Receiving revelation is not the same as experiencing the burning of the bosom.  However, some, including me, almost always feel this comforting sensation when receiving revelation.  It is up to each of us to learn how to distinguish between the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost that often or usually accompanies the receipt of revelation and an emotional response to something.

For a great discussion of this see Gerald N Lund. “Our Own Emotions as a Form of Counterfeit Revelation.”  Hearing the Voice of the Lord. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2007: 243.

Letter to a reader


This is going to be a little difficult to write because it is both a sacred and a sensitive subject.  It is sacred because it involves personal revelation that is intended to be just that – personal.  It is sensitive because I know from many years of experience and dialog with other members of the church that not everyone feels the same way or has had the same experiences I have had with the Holy Ghost and in particular, the feeling of the burning of the bosom that I have experienced.

You asked if I thought if everyone can experience or feel the burning of the bosom.  I like what Elder Oaks had to say about that: “What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.”

Burning of the bosom

Elder S. Dilworth Young said, “It is a feeling which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace, a further witness that what one heard is right. Once one recognizes this burning, this feeling, this peace, one need never be drawn astray in his daily life or in the guidance he may receive.”  Elder Romney taught this many times – that we can make life’s decisions correctly using instructions in D&C 9:8-9.

Elder Packer taught, “This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.”  Another apostle said, “As I have traveled throughout the Church, I’ve found relatively few people who have experienced a burning of the bosom. In fact, I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve become frustrated because they have never experienced that feeling even though they have prayed or fasted for long periods of time.”

Some do feel the burning

So, from both personal experience and from what we have been taught by Apostles and Prophets, yes, we can and many do feel the burning of the bosom at various times in their lives.  But for many faithful members, and perhaps most, the burning of the bosom is either very rare or non-existent.  I guess it all depends on how you describe it or what you expect.  If Elder Oaks can say that he has never felt caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion then I accept that.

I guess I am the exception and can say without a doubt that I do often feel a warm sensation in the area of my chest when I am engaged in something that I know pleases the Lord.  In contrast, I have felt a cold feeling or absence of warmth in that same general region of my chest many times in my life when I have engaged in actions or even thoughts that offended the spirit.  For me it is a very real and discernable sensation that has blessed me throughout my life since I was a youth.

Ricks College

You asked about my experience at Ricks College in regards to receiving an answer to prayer.  This was not my first experience with revelation, nor was it the last, but it was one of the most powerful and tangible up to that point in my life.  It has also been one of the most memorable and influential spiritual experiences to come upon me even though it occurred over 35 years ago.  As I noted, it is sacred, but I do feel it is appropriate to share with you since you have asked.

I was 17 years old at the time.  It was in the Fall of 1974.  My family joined the Church in 1962 when I was five so I feel that I grew up as a member, attending Primary, Sunday School, MIA and Seminary.  However, during my Senior year of High School, there was about a six to eight month period of time that I hung with the wrong kind of friends and did not attend church.  In short, I had some repenting to do and felt a strong desire to know my standing before the Lord.

Apostolic invitation

Early in the Fall of 1974, I attended an assembly at Ricks College, now BYU Idaho, in which I distinctly remember President Eyring introducing Elder LeGrand Richards as our devotional speaker.  I had heard Elder Richards speak in General Conference before but I had never been in the same meeting with him in which I could feel his spirit and sense his enthusiasm for the gospel.  Something in me caused me to sit still and pay careful attention to what he was saying.

As he taught the gospel and bore fervent testimony of the work of the Lord I remember thinking to myself how much I would like to be able to speak with the power, confidence and enthusiasm that he had.  A distinct impression came over me, and I attribute this to the whisperings of the spirit, that I could have that same witness that Elder Richards had and that I could teach like that someday if I would pay the price of study, devotion, obedience and especially of intense prayer.

Led by the Lord

As I left the devotional assembly I pondered the message I had felt from the spirit long and hard.  Like Joseph said, I reflected upon it again and again.  Never had anything penetrated my heart so deeply.  I felt drawn to the possibility that I could know what Elder Richards knew and that I could receive it in the way he testified – through humble prayer and revelation from the Lord.  I wanted to know what the Lord thought of my efforts to repent thus far in leaving my sins behind.

On Friday, I determined that I was going to put the promise to the test.  My roommate was gone for the evening to a dance so I knew I would have a few hours alone to talk to the Lord in prayer.  I felt filled with desire as I began my efforts and was impressed that the words flowed so easily.  It was clear to me that the spirit was directing my thoughts and helping me to express myself.  I am confident that I went on for a solid hour reviewing my life with the Lord as I prayed aloud.

Painful confession

The second hour was not so easy.  In fact, it became very difficult to confess my sins of the year that had passed and to have revealed to me the effects my actions had upon myself and on others.  Tears flowed as I saw how I had hurt myself and others and again, the spirit impressed me how the Lord felt about my sadness and the misery through which I had passed.  I felt no judgment or condemnation, only that the Lord was pained because of my pain and that he wanted to heal me.

Finally, in the third hour, I was in agony as I pled with the Lord to forgive me and to restore to me the innocence and happiness I had once felt before the days of my rebellion.  I asked again and again for relief.  I wanted to know that I had been forgiven and that I would yet be able to make something of my life in spite of the sin and disobedience of earlier days.  I pleaded and begged for a witness or a manifestation of the Lord’s love for me and that I had been forgiven.

Opposition is real

It was towards the end of the third hour that I saw clearly in my mind’s eye the reality of the existence of unclean and evil spirits.  As I recalled moments of my sinful behavior, the Lord showed to me that I was not alone, that there were beings from the unseen world participating with me in my sin.  I was appalled at the scenes I was recalling and abhorred the fact that the adversary had used me during those moments.  My pain was real and I was suffering terribly.

Just as I was about to give up in despair that I would receive no relief from my torment and just as I had about decided that my emotional outpouring of grief and despair were in vain, I realized that something unusual was happening about and within me.  I began to sit very still and to pay close attention to what I was feeling or rather sensing.  A tangible feeling of peace came over me and a feeling of happiness, almost euphoria entered into my heart and mind.  It was powerful!

Revelatory experience

Warmth filled my being almost from head to toe.  I did not see, but I sensed light all around and within me.  Now this is the most difficult and personal part to describe of what I experienced.  I did not see anything with my eyes.  I did not hear anything with my ears.  But I knew that I was not alone at that moment.  I began to hear words, no, full sentences in my mind and saw myself at some future time in my life, participating in sacred and powerful events related to the gospel.

I cannot adequately describe what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my heart, but I will tell you that I sat transfixed for what seemed like another hour as scene after potential scene of my life was revealed to me.  I both saw and heard myself speaking and teaching the gospel with the same kind of confidence that I had seen in Elder Richards earlier in that week.  I knew as I was seeing this that it was not guaranteed, but was conditional upon my willingness to prepare for it.

Everything changed

That’s why I say that from then on, everything changed.  I knew that I would soon be going on a mission.  I knew I would marry in the temple.  I knew that I would accept and serve faithfully in many callings over the years.  I knew I would serve in a leadership capacity in my local ward and stake.  I saw myself doing all these things and especially saw myself teaching and speaking from the pulpit, hearing specific things that I would be saying and teaching.  It was amazing to me.

Now, as I said this is personal and sacred.  One who is not familiar with the revelatory process could describe this as the frenzies of a deranged mind, brought on by emotional distress over the imagined need to repent for what I considered sins.  Anyone can say what they like, but it was real to me and nobody will ever be able to take away this experience that I still hold sacred.  The feelings that accompanied this revelatory experience are indescribable but filled me with joy.

Summary and conclusion

Yes, what I experienced that night at Ricks College so long ago was much more than a burning of the bosom.  It was a tangible immersion in the spirit.  I felt like I was baptized by fire and yet I knew at the same time that I had so much more to do to qualify for a real born again experience.  It was the beginning of a long path to realize the dream of being able to teach and speak like I had seen demonstrated to me by an Apostle of the Lord.  I still have a long, long ways to go.

Thanks for asking me to share this with you.  I think I would like to post it on my blog.  I haven’t felt inspired to write much there lately but this experience might do some good for someone else.  I hope I have answered your questions about the burning of the bosom and about the reality of the revelatory process.  I am a personal witness that it is real.  The Lord answers prayer and will give to us what we ask for in faith, if it is something that we need and will be for our good.

Shades of Grey and relative truth


In 1978, civil war broke out in Nicaragua, just after I left the country. My Mission President went from Costa Rica to Managua to help the missionaries get out of the country.  As he was literally leaving the chapel where he had told the missionaries to gather, the Sandinistas came running in from the other door and stopped them.

Demanding to know what side of the conflict they were on, President Muren responded with the phrase, “tonos de gris,” which means shades of grey.  He did not stop but kept going right out the door and was able to get that group of Elders out of the country.  Gratefully, all the missionaries eventually made it safely out.

Social or Cultural Mormons

Can a person be a member of the LDS faith and not believe some of the doctrine or accept the official story of the history?  Absolutely!  We call them social or cultural Mormons and there are countless numbers of them within the church.  Many of these kinds of members come from multi-generation pioneer LDS families.

If you survey an average congregation in the LDS faith, you will find that there are a surprising number who just don’t care about some of the doctrine and care even less about the history.  They are there because it is their family tradition and they derive satisfaction from the social interaction among good people that they know.

Looking for the middle ground

They feel uncomfortable when they hear statements from their leaders that the LDS church is either the kingdom of God or it is nothing.  When someone says that Joseph Smith was either God’s prophet or he was a great fraud, they feel unfairly pressured to have to put their view of the man in such black and white terms.

Isn’t there some middle ground where good people can participate in the Mormon faith without having to take sides about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the idea of angels visiting Joseph and the concept of priesthood keys and authority?  There is so much good in the church.  Why does it have to be classified as true?

The American Mormon culture

There are many members of the LDS church who do not fit the stereotypical image of conservative, orthodox, Republicanwhite-collar, all-American family.  The church membership is actually quite diverse, especially as one travels outside the confines of the Intermountain West where the church flourished and is the strongest.

Culturally, as a church and a people, we seem to have become stagnated in the mindset of the 19th century view of Mormonism that still conflicts with the outside world.  The church is growing beyond the Mormon corridor but is experiencing a sort of consolidation in the traditional strongholds of the faith – the center of Zion.

The one true church

Many good people who recognize this cultural myopia and parochialism that exists within the LDS faith have expanded their views and horizons beyond the mores and restraints of the traditional, orthodox Mormon worldview.  There are so many good people out there that are doing great things to serve their local communities.

Because these progressive thinking people have expanded their views they have come in contact with different ways of thinking about the religious experience and about their own Mormon upbringing.  The idea of belonging to the one true church has come to be offensive and difficult, if not impossible to defend in their minds.

God’s chosen people

They see and are embarrassed by what appears to be a contest of right and wrong between our zeal as a missionary church and the good people who are not already a part of the elect kingdom of God.  Whereas previously they were uncomfortable with a perceived exclusivist approach, they now are adamant that we are wrong.

We are judgmental, they cry.  Why can’t we accept everybody else just the way they are?  Why are we trying to convert people when they are already happy and doing much good in their own faith?  The idea of rules for membership becomes chafing.  Why does the church have such high standards that drive people crazy?

Pointing out the flaws and faults

A large percentage of the LDS membership either does not know or does not care about some of the troubling issues of our early history and growth as a church.  It is frustrating to progressive thinkers that so many within the faith are not as well versed as they are on these issues and the supposed quandaries that they present.

So they become more vocal and strident in pointing out the flaws and faults of the church and its leaders, both historical and current.  Their frustration increases when their audience either shrugs its collective shoulders or ignores their efforts to educate them on the problems that they see in the church.  How can they not care?

Many faithful members do know

While there are many who don’t know and don’t care, there are just as many who are very knowledgeable in the issues and problems that are troublesome to our liberal minded members.  It’s just that we have found answers within our own hearts and minds many years ago that satisfy the potential cognitive dissonance.

We quietly go about our lives, secure and confident in the knowledge that we have found answers for the most important elements of our faith.  We invite others to taste of the peace that comes from knowing that there are answers and that there are many solid and bedrock truths upon which we can build our lives and our faith.

Raise a warning voice

For some reason, when we try to share our certainty about the truths we have found, we are sometimes misunderstood to be arrogant or presenting our faith as superior or more complete than theirs.  Yes, if you invite someone to share in your happiness then you are presenting what you have found to be of great worth.

This is a difficult task to perform.  We are commanded to raise our voices to let the world know of the events pertaining to the founding of our church.  We have been asked to be bold in declaring that God has called prophets in our day and that he has sent angels to ordain and teach truths that have long been lost from the world.

Some truths are not relative

And thus we arrive at the heart of the conflict between orthodox conservative Mormons and progressive liberal Mormons.  What is truth?  Can one say with any degree of certainty that they have found the best and most complete source of truth without excluding the many other sources of truth that are found in the world?

Truth is reality. Some kinds of truth can only be received through revelation. I have never seen God or Jesus. I was not there when Joseph received the First Vision. So for me to be able to know those facts, they have to be revealed to me by the Holy Ghost.  Some truths are either revealed of God or they remain unknown.

Truths received by revelation

The five pillars of the LDS testimony require revelation: God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Savior called Joseph as a prophet, the Book of Mormon was brought forth by the gift and power of God and the church that Joseph established is authorized of God to administer the ordinances of salvation that God requires.

Without revelation from the Holy Ghost we can’t say that we know these things. It’s just not logical. I have studied the Book of Mormon and the Church that claims to be God’s only church authorized to administer the ordinances of salvation. With revelation from the Holy Ghost I can say I know they are what they claim to be.

Summary and conclusion

In some things in life, it is wise to take a position characterized by my Mission President’s response to the Sandinistas – shades of grey.  We do not always know all the facts of some situations and should withhold judgment until a later time.  However, in some critical matters, we must take a position and know for ourselves.

It takes work and determination to obtain knowledge about the five pillars of an LDS testimony.  But I, and millions of others over the years, can say with great certainty that God does reveal knowledge about himself and his prophets to those who diligently seek it.  This revealed knowledge does not come in shades of grey.

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