This is part two of my preparation for an oral interview with Dr. Jana Riess to take place later this week as part of her survey of former Mormons. I don’t consider myself an apostate but that’s the phrase used back in 2014 when I was discussing my blogging activities with my bishop. I am still impressed with how kind he and the Stake President were in dealing with the difficulty of someone like me.
Although it’s been six years since I resigned, I still believe the majority of what I believed before I had my name removed from the records. I’ve read reports of many folks who have left the church over the years. Some expressed they felt betrayed by the leadership. I don’t feel that way. I think the current LDS Church leadership inherited something large and very difficult to manage and are doing their best with it.
If you use the Pew 2017 Religious Typology survey, I would be considered at the top of the chart as a Sunday Stalwart. I consider myself deeply religious, I actively practice my faith and have always been deeply involved in my local religious community, even after I formally resigned membership in the LDS Church. I still attend Church each Sunday with my wife, read the scriptures and pray each day.
Since we live in the lock-down state of California, and particularly here in Ventura county, we have not been able to attend Sacrament meeting in the chapel in over six months. However, we get together in small groups to partake of the sacrament and participate in the Zoom meeting with as many members of the ward as can handle the technology. And believe it or not, I look forward to General Conference this weekend.
Still a Mormon, Just not LDS
While we’re on the subject of Pew Typologies, I consider myself a core Christian conservative, with my political beliefs heavily influenced by my religious beliefs. I am extremely conservative. I am a Trump supporter, believe that the constitution of the United States is a divinely inspired document and believe the United States is a land of divine favor and destiny, that will yet be the home of New Jerusalem.
By the way, I still consider myself a Mormon, even though I am not LDS. I have not abandoned the moniker and believe it describes my beliefs and practices well. I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I believe it was translated by the gift and power of God. I believe God pretty much dictated it to Joseph Smith and that he didn’t even really need the Gold Plates, which he often kept covered.
I don’t think we have time to do an exhaustive review of my religious beliefs, but I’ve prepared a list of 40 of the most important ones that are usually found in core religious surveys and those listed in the 2011 Pew Religious Survey of Mormons in America. I list many of these beliefs in past tense because some of my beliefs have changed dramatically in some very key areas such as LDS Church Leadership.
These are also available on my blog but I don’t think I ever posted them. I would welcome discussion if anybody cares to engage in dialog. I learned long ago that some of my beliefs are not orthodox and may evoke some desire to correct me or teach me. Happy to read what you have to share if you feel moved to take the time. The beliefs at the beginning of the list are fairly commonly held. Not so much in the second half.
If there’s one area in which we probably share the most harmony and unity it is a shared belief of a God in heaven who loves us and desires our happiness. He finds joy in helping us achieve happiness. He is kind, loving and approachable. We are at the center of his desires. He yearns to hear from us. He is a part of us and we Him. He is the Father of our spirits. He is a perfect being filled with love and truth.
I am an imperfect being and need a Savior. I am grateful to know Jesus Christ took that role upon Himself, by appointment from God, and fulfilled it to perfection. He is worthy of all praise and glory we can offer Him. He is quick to forgive and is extremely loving, kind and patient with us as we strive to repent and come unto Him through study, prayer, worship, song and in treating others as He has taught.
The Holy Ghost is the mind of the Father and the Son. This first comforter, or holy ghost, has no other effect than pure intelligence. The holy ghost is the record of heaven that man has lost contact with because of the veil. The holy ghost can be communicated by light poured into the mind of man, a ministering spirit sent with a message, an open vision, a voice from heaven, or any other means God chooses.
Like most of you who read this, I have a lifetime of experience conversing with the Lord through the veil. He is pleased when we exercise faith in Him and call upon His name for blessings. He delights to bless us. I readily acknowledge his hand in my life, both in preserving it and sustaining me from day to day. He has answered my prayers again and again, sometimes in marvelous and miraculous ways.
I am grateful that God has given us scripture to help us remember Him and to learn of His ways. He has communicated with man throughout history whenever they called on His name and asked for guidance. He has provided revelations for us as individuals and as a people. I accept the Bible as scripture. I also accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God and try to live by the precepts found there.
This is an area where we are probably going to find some divergence of thought. Although I grew up as a member of the LDS Church, and still attend services most every Sunday, I am no longer a member, having resigned voluntarily back in 2014. I take exception to some of the doctrines taught, along with the way in which the history has been interpreted and presented. I also reject many cultural traditions.
I believe in both personal revelation and revelation that has been received after it has been solicited by an individual who has obtained the keys to ask in behalf of a people. Thus, I accept the majority, but not all, of the Doctrine and Covenants as scripture. I believe some of the sections have been tampered with and modified after they were received. Sections 110 and 132 contain unauthorized changes.
I accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, through whom the Lord commenced the restoration of the gospel. He was prevented from finishing his work. However, I do not accept Brigham Young or any subsequent presidents of the LDS Church as prophets of God. They were not authorized by Him to speak on His behalf. I do not accept the words of the current LDS Church president as binding upon me.
I believe Joseph Smith did not finish his work in restoring the temple ordinances. What he put into place was corrupted by Brigham Young. The Nauvoo temple was not accepted by the Lord. His presence did not fill the temple. What we have is a form of Godliness that does not contain the fulness that God offered to restore. The temple endowment contains much truth but is only an invitation to rise up.
This is a delicate issue to address. I believe Joseph received and exercised the sealing power. He obviously held the higher priesthood, entertained angels, and came into the presence of God. He established or restored an ordinance intended for the house of the Lord, upon which he placed the seals that cause it to be efficacious upon those who receive it in faith as they remain true and faithful.
I believe I possess the lower priesthood, which was restored by John the Baptist to Joseph and Oliver. That priesthood can be passed from man to man. I do not believe the higher priesthood can be passed from man to man. That can only be received directly from the Lord. Power in the priesthood comes from the hand of God, not from another man. An ordination is an invitation to rise up and receive.
Of all the doctrines restored by Joseph and especially by the Book of Mormon, I am deeply gratified by the clarity of the principle of agency. Mankind seems to be genuinely confused by this simple concept that we are free to choose and act as we desire. The accompanying doctrine of accountability is surely misunderstood by many as they seek to excuse their behavior contrary to God’s commandments.
Although we tend to add things not intended by God to the definition of purity, I am continually motivated by a desire to become pure in heart. The promises to those who seek to purify themselves are primarily to come into the presence of the Lord. The pure in heart shall see God. As long as we focus on doing all that we can with a pure heart, giving ourselves to Christ, we will come into His presence.
I am totally committed to the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. I have been married to the same woman for thirty-eight years and am very much in love. I delight in reading the scriptures aloud and praying together with my wife each and every night. I seek unity of heart in expressing our love for God, each other and for our brothers and sisters. I am grateful to be a father. It exalts me.
Of all the virtues we can seek to obtain, kindness is one of the most rewarding. I can’t think of any other character trait that embodies the idea of love more than being kind and patient. I have worked all my life in providing tech support to my brothers and sisters who struggle to make it work. Kindness has helped to make their frustration a non-issue. Kindness paves the way to understanding and unity.
Apostasy is rebellion against God by refusing to accept what He offers to man. Apostasy of an individual is in deliberately and intentionally rejecting additional light and truth from God. Apostasy of a people consists in changing ordinances and breaking covenants. Apostasy within the Lord’s Church comes by corrupting and manipulating the pure teachings of God into the philosophies of men.
Man does not make covenants with God. God offers a covenant. People either accept or reject God’s offer. We can do nothing to create a covenant with God. We accept God’s covenants by sacrifice. We give up the ways of the world, the ways of the natural man, in order to accept and keep the covenants God offers. We come to know the Lord by accepting covenants and obeying commandments.
Keys are better expressed as knowledge, not as authority. Keys allow us to ask and to have God answer. Keys require sacrifice. Keys bring forth revelation. Keys consist of knowledge, truth, light, intelligence, glory, wisdom and power. They do not consist of permission delegated from one man to another. Keys are received directly from God, through revelation and are not transmitted by another man.
To have been visited by the Lord is to receive knowledge. Knowledge comes from contact with Jesus Christ. Knowing God is the definition of salvation and eternal life. We know Christ by meeting Him, by coming into His presence. He speaks with us face to face and ministers to us. Our faith in Christ must grow into knowledge. This knowledge will save us and nothing else can. We must rise up and meet Him.
Faith in Christ
Faith is more than belief. It requires action based on belief. Faith in Christ is the center of all that we are striving for in this life. We are here to walk by faith, and our faith is focused on Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. We exercise faith in Christ by repenting, being baptized, receiving the Holy Ghost and by enduring to the end. We are empowered to receive Christ and His promises through faith.
Not a one-time event, repentance is an ongoing change in which we turn away from the ways of the world, forsake and sacrifice those old beliefs and actions, and rise up to live in a higher way based on acceptance of new light and truth. Repentance requires faith, trusting in the promises of the Lord that He will deliver us from the natural consequences of sin, based upon our obedience to Him.
Confession is between man and God. Confession is not required before men unless one has harmed, injured or offended another. In that case, one should approach the individual directly. Confession to a priest or other clergy is not required. One could confess before others the sinful nature of the natural man and the deliverance of Christ as a natural result of repentance and obedience.
The ordinance of baptism is a witness to God that we accept His Son. By being baptized, we witness unto the Father that we are willing to follow the example of His Son. It is performed by an authorized administrator who receives power from heaven to perform the ordinance. It requires immersion and is intended to communicate light and truth. It is not an initiation into a church organization.
Rebaptism was taught and practiced by Joseph Smith. Rebaptism was universal in the early days of Mormonism. One did not partake of the sacrament to renew baptismal covenants; they were rebaptized. Rebaptism is a sound gospel principle and is practiced every time God sends a message. I have been rebaptized to show my acceptance of the message delivered by the Lord in this new dispensation.
Baptism of Fire
The baptism of fire and the holy ghost are given to prepare us to enter into God’s presence and not be consumed. The baptism of fire purges and removes sin. This process comes after repentance and baptism. Through it, one receives holiness. Through the baptism of fire, we receive the Father’s testimony of the Son. We also receive sanctification. Our spirit becomes holy. We commune with heaven.
To enter the kingdom of heaven we must be born as a new person, though water baptism and receiving the holy ghost. To be born again is to receive the record of heaven and be quickened in the inner man. Being born again consists of both the ceremonial baptism in water and becoming a new creature in Christ through the receipt of the Holy Ghost. Christ administers the second part of this process.
The first comforter is the Holy Ghost or the Spirit of Truth. It is received by obedience to the Lord’s commandments, especially the commandment to love the Lord. When we choose to love the Lord and to obey His commandments, including the commandment to repent and be baptized, he sends the comforter to dwell within us. As we are obedient, He promises He will be with us forever.
To receive the Second Comforter is to return to the Savior’s presence. We will all come into His presence at the end of our mortal probation. Why not move it up to this life? He offers it and in fact, it is His mission to come to us, to minister to us and to prepare us to come into the presence of the Father. Receiving the Second Comforter means you will meet Christ. You will know, without a doubt, He exists.
Calling and Election
This is the purpose of receiving the Second Comforter. Christ’s objective, as a tutor, is to bring His followers to the Father. It is the voice of the Father which finally declares to His children they are assured Eternal life. The highest form of acceptance and redemption is to have one’s calling and election made sure, to be washed and cleansed from sin every whit. It is a goal worthy of our pursuit.
Angels are messengers sent from the Lord. The messenger must bring a message from the Lord. It does not matter if the messenger is mortal. When we receive messengers sent from the Lord, we receive Him. When anyone, man or angel, is entrusted with a message from God, the message is God’s. God makes no distinction between the messenger and Himself. The key determining factor is the message. Pay close attention to the message.
Partaking of the sacrament is a commandment from the Lord. We do so to show the Father we do always remember our Savior and all He did for us. To forbid one from partaking of the sacrament is anti-Christ if that person has been baptized, is repentant and is desirous of obeying the commandment. Worthiness is between the Lord and the individual. We are not to judge the worthiness of other saints.
To ordain a man to the priesthood is to extend an invitation to receive power from heaven. It is not the same thing as receiving power in the priesthood. Ordination involves men. Empowerment involves the Heavens. There is a difference between an invitation extended through ordination, and the blessing that comes when the power is conferred by Heaven. Ordination is not authority.
Tithing is to be used to relieve the poor. It is not to be used to build buildings or to pay salaries. Tithing is an offering to the Lord. It is one tenth of one’s surplus after all responsibilities and needs have been taken care of. The primary purpose of collecting the tithes and the yield upon it is to bless and benefit the lives of those in need. With tithing, we seek to prepare for Zion, to have no poor among us.
Joseph Smith was a prophet of God in exactly the same way we had prophets in Old Testament times. God appeared to him in response to his prayer asking for additional light and knowledge. He conversed with him face to face as one man speaks with another. He gave Joseph knowledge and commandments, which he communicated to the world. Joseph did not finish the work he came here to do.
Plural marriage is not ordained or commanded of God. It is not justifiable. In a word, it is adultery. Plural marriage destroys families. It brings confusion and darkness to those who participate in this abomination. What Brigham did with plural marriage was not directed by God. Joseph Smith had only one wife in his lifetime, despite what you may read to the contrary. He was not an adulterer.
In the last days, a servant, messenger or teacher will be raised up by the Lord and perform a work in preparing a people for the return of the Lord to Zion. He will teach them how to come onto Christ and will invite them to do so. This Davidic servant will deliver a message from the Lord. This has transpired. The message has been delivered and efforts are underway to prepare the people for Zion.
A dispensation is the beginning and ending of a gospel epoch or order. Dispensations have their bounds. Beforehand, the prophets give, through prophecy, a limit on the things that are to come. When the prophesied events have unfolded and the measure has been met, then one Dispensation comes to an end while another opens. We have recently entered a new dispensation.
Zion is a prophesied last-days community of saints to which the City of Enoch will return, and where Christ will dwell. Zion consists of people living in harmony with God. It is defined in revelation as the pure in heart, but prophecy also confirms it will be an actual location and a place of gathering. Zion and a New Jerusalem will exist before the Lord’s return in glory. God will bring about Zion as His work.
We are approaching a moment in which the Lord is about to return. All the signs of the last days will occur in one single generation. The signs have begun to appear already. We are living within that generation in which a great deal is to occur. Dreadful things are coming. Prophets are going to be among us again – people with messages that come from the Lord. We are now in the last days.
At the return of the Lord, the entire world will be in great turmoil and upheaval. All will see the sign of the coming of the Lord in the heavens. He comes to cleanse the earth with fire. It will be a great and terrible day, filled with fire, earthquakes, tempests, destructions and death of the wicked, who will be burned, while the righteous will be caught up to meet him as he comes in the clouds with glory.