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.

The endowment is more than the ordinances


The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have.  The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.

You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?”  A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.

The redemptive mission of the Savior

In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.

He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.

Receive the Holy Ghost

This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”  This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.

I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it.  Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.

Promise of the Father

One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power.  The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us.  So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.

The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father.  Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created.  It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost.  This fills us with great power.

We must seek this gift

I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed.  I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.

We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer.  We must hunger and thirst after this gift.  As Paul said, we must covet this gift.  It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more.  Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.

Temple ordinances part of the process

We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed.  The temple ordinances serve two purposes.  They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom.  I believe it is analogous to being born again.  It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost.  The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.

Endowed with power

The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name.  Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.

The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high.  It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.

More than the ordinances

The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple.  The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power.  There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.

The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s.  It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.

Pattern found in Third Nephi

In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem.  Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.

Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world.  They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side.  They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.

Witnesses know for themselves

Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute.  They had seen him and they had touched him.  No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.

And yet they lacked something.  When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.

The endowment begins

It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day.  Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.

Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention.  He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.

In the midst of fire

The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.”  I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times.  This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.

This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire.  The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not.  This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.

To be continued…

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.

Divine manifestations must have a purpose


One of the delightful parts of a stake temple night is the opportunity to be taught by a member of the temple presidency.  On one particular occasion many years ago, the Temple President felt inspired to relate a few stories that patrons had shared with him about spiritual manifestations that they had received while serving in the LA temple.  It was an uplifting and edifying session.

I was very impressed with what the Temple President spoke about that evening.  He related some very sacred experiences of visits from the other side of the veil from deceased family members for whom the work was being done.  He gave specific examples of what people saw, heard or felt that was evidence to them of the validity of this work and that it is accepted by their relatives.

A conversation with my Stake President

While preparing to leave the temple that evening, I conversed with my Stake President about the things the Temple President had taught us in our chapel session.  I had served with this Stake President for several years on the High Council and felt comfortable sharing heartfelt concerns.  I knew that he would carefully consider what I had to say before answering with thoughtfulness.

“President”, I said, “I’ve been coming to this temple since I was twelve years old.  In fact, I was six years old when I was sealed here to my parents.  I have many sacred memories of this place.  I was endowed here when I was nineteen and married to my sweetheart not too many years after completing my mission.  I have participated in several thousand ordinances here in this temple.

Sacred temple manifestations

“So why is it that I have never experienced any of these kinds of sacred manifestations that the temple president described?”  As I expected, he thought for a few minutes while we continued to change back into our street clothes after the evening’s temple work was completed.  After a moment, he paused, put his hand on my shoulder and then responded very slowly and carefully.

“Brother Malone, some people do not require manifestations to be faithful.  The Lord knows their hearts and knows what they need.  You apparently do not need any additional evidence that the work being performed in these temples is valid and acceptable to both the Lord and to those for whom it is performed.  Your years of faithfulness are proof that you know the work is true.”

The Lord bears witness

He was right, of course.  I didn’t need a manifestation to know that the work being done in the temples is of eternal significance and validity.  I had known that since I was a child and had never doubted it.  I thought about his response and realized that there was never an occasion when I attended the temple that I didn’t feel the warmth and comfort of the spirit of the Lord.

It was just another piece of evidence to me that the Spirit of the Lord is always present when priesthood ordinances are performed, especially in the House of the Lord.  I didn’t need any additional evidence because I had the constant companionship of the Lord each time I sat in an endowment session or knelt across the altar in a sealing session.  Yes, I knew the work was true.

To uplift and edify

I have the same kind of experience each week when I attend Sacrament meeting, and especially in a testimony meeting.  There is just something special about attending church each week and partaking of the Sacrament.  I just feel different by the end of the meeting.  I feel happy and feel that my burdens have been lifted.  It never fails.  I feel this strengthening each week after church.

This uplifting feeling is always the same whether I am conducting the meeting as a member of the Bishopric, or just sitting in the congregation as a regular member of the ward.  I love to hear members of my ward teach the gospel from the pulpit and share their feelings about the truth of what they have learned and have taught.  Sacrament meeting is always uplifting and edifying.

Testimony meetings

Last Sunday I sat in our monthly ward testimony meeting and thought about the different kinds of testimonies I was hearing.  The Bishop was short and succinct.  He bore witness of the five basic points of an LDS testimony and then sat down, inviting others to share their testimonies.  I got up and rambled a little bit about testimonies and then bore witness of the same five points.

As we progressed through the meeting, I noted that some members talked about experiences that demonstrated to them that the Lord knew them personally and that he hears and answers their prayers.  Others spoke about the trials through which they were passing and then concluded with assertions that they knew the Lord loved them would not leave them comfortless in their trials.

When we say “I know”

I listened very closely to each testimony waiting for the phrases “I know” and “I believe.”  I think I heard “I believe” maybe once or twice.  “I know” was used by the majority of those who shared their testimonies.  I know these people and know that when they say that they know that the church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, they mean it sincerely.

I was listening closely because of recent conversation with readers of my blog about testimonies and what it means to say the church is true.  I now try to qualify what I mean when I say that by adding some additional phrases like, “because angels conferred priesthood keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith,” and “because angels ordained Joseph Smith and gave him priesthood authority.”

Authority and the true church

You see, this authority thing is very important to me.  I’ve had a lot of dialogs with visitors to Latter-day Commentary about this very important subject.  I’ve tried to share with them that the idea of priesthood authority is one of the most important aspects of a church that claims to be the true church of Jesus Christ.  Ordinances of salvation require God’s authority to perform them.

That’s all we really mean when we say that we are the true church.  We are simply saying that angels came from the spirit world and gave Joseph Smith divine permission to do what he did in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth again in these latter days.  Of course, the idea that angels have visited man in our day is a very difficult thing for some people to accept.

Angels, visions and revelation

I have never seen an angel.  I have had no divine vision with my natural eyes.  I have never heard an audible voice from the spirit world. Yet I have never questioned that Joseph Smith saw God, was visited by angels, received revelations and brought forth the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.  Some of my readers find it fantastic that I can believe Joseph was a prophet.

How is this possible?  On what basis do I stand and say “I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph was a prophet and that this is the true church of Jesus Christ with a prophet at the head today?”  If I have not seen God or Jesus, and was not there when Joseph brought forth the Book or Mormon, how am I a witness?

Divine manifestations must have a purpose

In all my years in this church, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who said to me, “Yes, I saw God.  He visited me and told me…”  I have never had someone say to me, “I was praying very earnestly one night and the Lord appeared to me to tell me that he loved me and that my sins were forgiven.”  I have also never heard anyone relate to me that they were visited by an angel.

Now perhaps you know people who have received such manifestations or maybe you have been the recipient of angelic visitations.  I think that’s wonderful.  I assume the visits had a purpose.  I guess I’ve never felt the need for divine manifestations beyond what I have already received when I was young as I prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was indeed the word of God.

We live far beneath our privileges

When I was seventeen I was extremely motivated to obtain a manifestation from God about my standing before him and to know if the Book of Mormon was what Joseph said it was.  I obtained both of those witnesses and a few more that the Lord felt were needed in order to help me fulfill my purpose in life.  I’ve been coasting on those manifestations for the past thirty-five years.

I’m wondering if I’ve been coasting too long.  Our former stake president, now serving as a mission president, often repeated this from Brigham Young.  He said, “[We] may have the Spirit of the Lord to . . . direct [us]. . . . I am satisfied, however, that, in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges.”  Is there more the Lord wants us to have besides what he has already given us?

Summary and conclusion

The Lord reveals himself to man when he has a purpose or a mission for them to perform.  He sends angels to instruct man and teach him about the work that he wants performed.  He sends his spirit to assure men and women that the work in which they are engaged is divine.  He gives gifts of the spirit to help us do his work.  For Joseph, one needed gift was the power to translate.

When I needed to know that the church and the Book of Mormon were of divine origin, the Lord sent his spirit and confirmed these things in my heart and mind.  Over the years, that same spirit has encouraged and motivated me to ever increasing faithfulness and obedience.  Is the Lord willing to provide additional manifestations, and if so, what is the purpose they would serve?

There is no middle ground


In the priesthood session of the April 2003 General Conference, President Hinckley delivered a landmark address on the subject of loyalty.   In his remarks he said, “Each of us has to face the truth of the matter—either the church is true, or it is a fraud.  There is no middle ground.  It is the Church and kingdom of God or it is nothing.”

An earlier prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote something similar in the Doctrines of Salvation:Mormonism, as it is called, must stand on the story of Joseph Smith.  He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen.  There is no middle ground.”

There can be no gray area

Referring to the historical events of the area around Palmyra, New York, President Hinckley said: “They either happened or they did not. There can be no gray area, no middle ground.”   In a similar manner, Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order.”

President Benson endorsed this all or nothing view.  He said, “Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon…if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church.”

They were all wrong

Such black and white statements go all the way back to the beginnings of the LDS church.  When the prophet Joseph asked God which church he should join, he “was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong.”  If all the churches of Joseph’s day were wrong, what does that say about the numerous churches of our day?

The Lord later said to Joseph in Section one of the Doctrine and Covenants that the church Joseph organized was “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.”  If you look, you can find dozens of similar statements by prophets and apostles throughout the history of our church, all very bold in their declarations.

Divisive and exclusivist

Of course, statements like these are labeled divisive and exclusivist by many people outside our church, but also, increasingly by members on the fringe of the church, also known as the disaffected Mormon underground.  The DAMU is nothing new.  There have been cultural Mormons and Jack Mormons throughout the history of our church.

Of all the objections to the church that I have encountered over the past few years I have been blogging, this one seems to be the most common and the most offensive.  For some, it is an extremely difficult proposition to accept this black or white, all or nothing approach to truth in religion.  I have spent considerable time pondering why this is so.

Good and truth in all religions

Joseph Smith taught that we accept truth from whatever source it may come.  Joseph F. Smith said, “We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure…”  Modern prophets have said that there is much good and truth in all churches and religions.  This statement doesn’t seem too limiting.

President Hinckley: “We recognize the good in all churches. We recognize the value of religion generally. We say to everyone: live the teachings which you have received from your church. We invite you to come and learn from us, to see if we can add to those teachings and enhance your life and your understanding of things sacred and divine.”

Something unique to add

What can the LDS faith add that is unique and will bless the lives of those who accept its teachings?  The most unique thing we offer can be found in the temples.  It is the sealing power that is exercised to unite families in an eternal bond that will remain in effect after this life is over.  That is an amazing claim that no other church can make.

We teach that the sealing power is a part of the priesthood authority that we claim was delivered to Joseph Smith via angelic messengers.  I don’t know of any other church that asserts that angels have come and ordained their leaders or conferred upon them keys and powers that will bind on earth and in heaven.  That is a fantastic declaration!

Our eternal nature

The older I get, the more important that claim becomes to me.  If I know nothing else, I know that there is a spiritual side of my existence.  I have had too many experiences of a spiritual nature that have helped me to understand this truth.  Others may claim that there is nothing more to man than skin, muscle and bones, but I believe differently.

Because of that very basic and core fundamental belief about myself, I am concerned about what my purpose is in life and what happens after death.  I am so grateful to be a part of a community of faith, a church that believes as I do that life is eternal and that what we do with our lives will have a significant impact on the quality of life hereafter.

Importance of the temples

That belief in life eternal is not unique, but the idea that we can do something to ensure that the relationships we enjoy here continue in the hereafter is very unique indeed.  I have had dialog with visitors to my blog who claim that God would never be so mean as to separate a loving couple who cherished and served each other all their mortal lives.

I’m not going to point you to any statements from church leaders that teach otherwise but I will say this: before you go making claims about how God should behave, you might want to be absolutely sure of what God has said on the subject.  I can’t think of anything about which I would want to be surer.  My eternal happiness depends on it.

Book of Mormon is still the key

Back to the point of the essay and why prophets have said that there can be no middle ground when it comes to things like authority and revelation and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  My mother, who was a convert to the church, once said to me that as an investigator, she could accept everything about it except the Book of Mormon.

It wasn’t until much later in life when she took an Institute class on the subject that she really began to understand just how important it is to our claims of divine origin.  I love the fact that we do not have the plates to “prove” the historicity of the book.  Prophets have taught that the Book of Mormon is a great sifter of those who are honest in heart.

The power of a divine witness

I know there are those who have said that they have tried and failed to obtain a witness of the veracity of the Book of Mormon.  I have had dialog with people both inside and outside the church who have struggled with this.  I confess that I cannot offer a perfect empathy because I received a witness of the truthfulness of the book many years ago.

Because of that divine manifestation to me, not just once but on several occasions, I have never doubted the Book of Mormon, or the claims of the prophet Joseph Smith. I understand why the prophets have said that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and why our claims of divinity rest upon the veracity of that book.  I also agree with the statement that the strength of this church is in the testimony of each member.

The promise of personal revelation

One of my evangelical visitors once called this security that I feel, the Mormon bubble.  He says it is not logical but it makes perfect sense to me.  You can throw out all kinds of arguments about the Book of Abraham, Polyandry, Post-manifesto plural marriage, the Kinderhook Plates or any one a few dozen other things that can be found on the Internet.

None of them bothered me when I first learned about them and none of them do now.  I have written essays on dozens of these objections and have come to the conclusion that they really aren’t the real problem with why people doubt or leave the church.  In my opinion, those who struggle with these doubts have not received personal revelation.

Summary and conclusion

I know that a testimony is a very sacred and personal subject.  I also know that making a generalization like I just did will bring all kinds of protests.  But I stand by it as truth.  If a man has received a witness from God that the Book of Mormon is true then God has a responsibility to help that man as he goes through the ensuing trials of that testimony.

I know that God will help the honest in heart keep their testimonies strong and vibrant.  If we study we are going to find out things that will test our witness.  We will then have the opportunity to strengthen and deepen it.  That’s what opposition is for.  We do not have to wallow in doubt.  But those who doubt are welcome while they work things out.

Mormon visitors from outer space


I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here”  (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen.  Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU.  The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.

After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe.  There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space.  If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone.  Galaxies like ours exist in the billions.  We are not the only life in this universe.

People on other worlds

Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us.  Or do we?  Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds.  In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.

Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space?  How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings?  I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride.  After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time.  No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet.  Their method of travel is currently beyond us.

Prophets taught of other worlds

Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.”  The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds.  He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.”  Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:

The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.”  Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…”  Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.

God created countless worlds

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”  What an amazing testimony!  But wait, there’s more.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?”  Now that is deep doctrine!

Purpose of all these worlds

We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now.  We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God.  We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it.  But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept.  President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.

Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created.  The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven.  Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son.  We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.

Believed but not taught

I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church.  There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders.  And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter.  However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs.  A favorite hymn contains these words:

“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”

We are Gods in embryo

We are of the race of Gods.  We are of his species.  God looks likes us.  We look like him.  He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth.  As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.”  We are his sons and daughters and he loves us.  The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me.  There are no green, bug-eyed monsters.  They are also of the race of Gods.

The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence.  Like us, some are passing through a temporal period.  Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory.  This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever.  I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true.  You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.

Space travel to the earth

Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth?  Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer.  Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth!  They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years.  God and angels visited Adam.  They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament.  The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people.  It is quite common!

In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York.  Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836.  In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited.  When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.”  Awesome!

Communication from space

Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life.  On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication.  This is more than a future possibility.  It is a present fact!  Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.

They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence.  These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom.  But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say.  Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.

They are coming to visit us

What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon.  The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs.  “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period.  They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”

But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens.  They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality.  What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided.  First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden.  Don’t believe it?  Look it up in our history!

Summary and conclusion

The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years.  They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits.  They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend.  These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character.  They love us.  We are their children and their brethren.  They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.

Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred.  The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us.  These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them.  One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man.  Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.

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