November 2015 may go down in history as the great Mormon exodus. It’s quite the zeitgeist and we can still feel it.
Last weekend’s decision about the children of homosexuals was something of a watershed in LDS culture. Usually when controversial decisions are made by the Brethren, mainstream, active Latter-day Saints come to rescue of the hierarchy, not only in spirit, but in wisdom. This wasn’t the case this last weekend. There were a plethora of stances that were all at odds with each other . . . even among the faithful. I could narrow them down into five categories:
- Outrage! Bigotry! Homophobia! – We understand that faction well, it’s been around awhile
- I’m saddened and hurt. Call me if you’re suicidal – For may progressive Mormons, this just hurts. They are hoping and praying that the Church will liberalize its stance on homosexuals.
- I’m shocked and upset, but I trust in the Brethren – After hearing from Elder Christofferson, I eased into the decision. Now I see the wisdom in it. If all else fails, just trust in the Brethren.
- Applause and inspiration! – What a wonderful decision! It’s for the best for the kids. Furthermore, it tells those homosexual activists where we stand! We Thank, Thee, O God, for a Prophet!
- Hmmm, this just doesn’t sit well with me – It doesn’t seem to follow the scriptures. I’m no supporter of gay rights, but there’s just something fundamentally wrong with it. It bothers me that it’s a secret policy. It bothers me that it’s punishing kids only two groups . . . that’s right . . . I’m learning that polygamist kids can’t get baptized either! I’m wanting to follow the prophet, but the Spirit seems to be telling me otherwise.
It’s this last group I wish to speak about.
At my last count, I have 11 friends resigning over this issue. Three of them have already written their letters. I think the mass exodus is a given. I keep hearing that these people just don’t have enough faith in their leaders. I suppose that is true. But the theme among my friends that are resigning is this: They are putting their faith in the Savior, and not the arm of the flesh. The are following the Spirit. And it is leading them right out the door.
I have personally witnessed a heated argument on my ward’s own Facebook secret page, where most of the members were shocked and outraged at the decision, with one single soul signing up to defend the policy. LDS coworkers, colleagues, former church leaders, etc. are seen liking and sometimes commenting in support of either 2, 3, or 5 on comments that are not seen as supportive of the Brethren on social media.
I reflect on the comments that were made by Charles Dickens as he saw early Mormons departing Liverpool for America to join their new faith. There were 800 emigrants on the ship leaving Liverpool. Expecting them to be a rabble lot, he instead noted that they were “the pick and flower” of England. Likewise, those seen departing from the party line today are increasingly the “pick and flower” of the Church.
Looks like the Google apostasy is over. We’re now on the cusp of the Facebook apostasy. And it looks to be huge.
Look, the heat of the issue will blow over. The emendations by the Church, which softened the handbook language will help. But it also shows, ironically, that public pressure can cause reversals. But then we are faced with the numbing reality of yet another policy that doesn’t seem to be the will of the Lord, or at least people can’t connect the dots back to the Lord. For others it’s come down to the simple, if historically and scripturally flawed logic that the Lord won’t allow the Church to be led astray. This logic, in many ways, is more damning than ever. It’s a catchall. Once grasped and digested, it allows for any error to be made, any flaw to be perpetrated. It takes monumental groundbreaking decisions and places them on par with the bureaucratic and mundane. It covers for sins. It encourages conspiracy. The scriptures that forewarn of this kind of thought pattern are legion, particularly in the Book of Mormon, yet they awfully neglected. I would like to summarize some of the arguments used to uphold the policy and use scripture to discuss the truth of such statements.
The handbook is scripture. It is given to inspired leaders to govern and lead the Church. It helps to declare, teach, and instruct Church leaders on how to properly administer the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s start with Nephi:
“There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed (2 Nephi 30:17)”
“Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. (2 Nephi 28:9 quoting Isaiah 29):
The Lord does not work in secrets, He does not have secret doctrines, secret policies, or secret oaths. Any such evidence is really evidence that Satan and secret combinations have crept into the church. We can trace much of this back to Nauvoo, unfortunately. But what about “casting pearls before swine?” one may say. I believe the Brethren have great spiritual experiences that justify their callings, but that those experiences are too sacred to relate. To this I respond, there are always doctrinal mysteries that will be revealed to us personally. Indeed the truth of all things must be revealed to us anecdotally through our own connection with heaven. Those things should not and in may ways, cannot be shared. A prophet, on the other hand, is intended to be an explicit messenger of the Lord. He must declare that message to be considered a prophet. The scriptures are rife with fine examples, whether they speak the actual words of Christ, of if they declare the message the Lord has sent them to give. No such declarations has been given with these recent policies. Thus, we can be assured that they can be subject to error. We are not bound by them.
Furthermore, one may always ask, does a policy or doctrine taught bring someone to Christ, or does it keep them from Christ? Is the policy or doctrine meant to protect the Church from creeping sympathy to “apostate” ideas? It may seem like a good idea to make decision in light of strategy of protection and insulation from error, but is it? Indeed the scriptures do give us a case for when we can deny ordinances to someone.
“And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily*, when ye shall minister it; (*I define unworthily different than the Church. Unworthy identifies those that do not have a willingness to believe in Jesus and His mission and to accept Him. To use it in any other ways is in error, for ALL have fallen short, ALL have sinned, and thus, ALL are unworthy).
For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid* him. (Simply put, don’t administer to unbelievers)
Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.
But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them. (3 Nephi 18: 28-32)”
Question: Do children of polygamists or homosexual parents fit this category?
For added emphasis, the Savior warns those that keep not these saying in the next verse.
“Therefore, keep these sayings which I have commanded you that ye come not under condemnation; for wo unto him whom the Father condemneth”
These versus relate to the sacrament as well. What does the Book of Mormon say to whom we should administer baptism?
“And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. (2 Nephi 9:23)
“And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.” (2 Nephi 11-12)
Skip to 17: 17 “Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”
“And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.” (2 Nephi 31:11 )
“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (3 Nephi 11:33)
“And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.” (3 Nephi 11:33)
“Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.” (3 Nephi 23)
“And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.” (3 Nephi 23:5)
“And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.” (3 Nephi 27: 16)
“Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and bebaptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:20)
“Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you.” (Mormon 7:8)
“See that ye are not baptized unworthily*; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out.” (Mormon 9:29) (See my discussion above for what constitutes unworthiness–Jesus explains this in Moroni 6 (1-3)
And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it. (They, the ministers, had to bring forth fruits of their worthiness–which I have defined)
Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins. (The worthiness requirement is a broken heart and contrite spirit)
And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.“
For all men must repent and be baptized, and not only men, but women, and children who have arrived at the years of accountability.” (D&C 18:42)
“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.” (D&C 68:27)
So there you have it. This isn’t meant to be completely exhaustive, but as you can see, the requirements are as follows:
- Repent, laying hold upon the gospel of Christ
- Come unto Christ, having faith in Him
- Have a desire to be baptized
- Being worthy, or . . . having a broken heart and contrite spirit
- Being the age of accountability, defined as eight years
There is one mention of a prohibition in D&C 137 where the Church declared they would not baptize slaves contrary to the will of their masters. This prohibition does not constitute doctrine. It was not considered revelation to the Church. The section still carries some controversy. Even so, I believe that the only modern prohibition of baptism that can even remotely correlate to this statement is the prohibition against some Muslims–which in essence is done to protect them from retaliation from their parents who are often justified in declaring murderous fatwas against their children for converting.
Other than this, I find no scriptural support for denying baptisms of the children, which brings me to the second argument that is made:
No scripture can be privately interpreted, Mr. Zion. That’s why we have prophets and apostles to interpret it for us. You are no prophet or apostle. We have the living prophets, and so in many ways that trumps even scripture.
It’s true that no scripture is of private interpretation. Communication being what it is, the only thing you can rely upon is the Holy Ghost. Relying upon modern prophets just inserts another layer by which a person must receive direct communication from the Lord. Be it the written word or a living oracle, the process is the same. Ultimate instruction must come from the Lord.
The idea that living prophets trump scripture is in error, an unfortunate one that was taught by Ezra Taft Benson (as an apostle) but censored by Spencer Kimball, who was THEN the prophet at the time. Benson seems to change his tune a bit after becoming prophet (see below). It’s a shame that the teaching manuals this year spent more time elevating the 14 fundamentals from Benson (for which he was censored) and less time discussing his teachings as prophet warning the Church that weren’t taking scriptures and the former commandments seriously enough.
Living prophets uphold, support, and communicate truth that are almost always already written down. Jesus quotes Old Testament passages uniquely about 50 times (some are repetitive).
To the idea that living prophets trump dead ones, I’m going to quote a dead one right now from his book, Doctrines of Salvation:
“It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), p. 203
God also doesn’t seem to be very happy with how we fare with our treatment of scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon. This attitude was precisely what the scriptures warned against in D&C 84: 54-58
“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all*. (Note: it’s not just the average member)
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.
One could say, that was then, this is now. We are so much better with all the temples and missionaries we produce. Well, as late as 1986, a prophet of the Lord spent a great deal of time updating this warning. Even a living apostle, Elder Oaks, gives us the smack-down as it relates to us not being diligent with the things already given!
God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If He appears to have changed, indeed, if doctrines are changing, I’m more apt to believe that it’s the error of men, and not God changing His mind, or adjusting to the reality of the situation on the ground, or engaging in strategem, or as this blogger notes, comes from legal frameworks and not revelation.
I think that this is part of the test, and part of the next justification I often hear.
God is separating the wheat from the tares. This social media murmuring cannot compete with the power of God’s living prophets and apostles. This was prophesied to happen. I will stand with them.
Yes, God IS separating the wheat from the tares. Jesus spoke many parables concerning this, from the parable of the ten virgins to the parable of the Good Samaritan. All of these to one extent or another, describe a “wheat” from a “tare.” My favorite is the parable of the wedding feast.
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
You see, the Lord is separating the wheat from the tares. I dare say that the proper interpretation of a wheat is someone that practices pure religion, as outlined in King Benjamin’s sermon, not one who totes the party line, who wears the Church colors, or who upholds an institution. You MUST be serving the poor, gathering the weak, THIS is indicative of wearing the wedding garment. You accept the doctrine of Christ, and you practice it through emulating the Christ. Otherwise you will not be found worthy for Zion. For Zion has two criteria. We are all of ONE heart, and there are no poor among us.
We should not murmur. We should not complain. This is a correct assumption. Complaining gets you nowhere. Boldly testifying of truth, however, no matter how unpleasant, and no matter how it differs from the institution, is a true act of courage! Finding a way to get your testimony “in line with the Brethren” is Lucifer’s counterfeit. Get your testimony in line with the Lord! That is His way.
In the early days, the principle of common consent and horizontal authority of first presidency, apostles, seventies, and all high priests was a means for everyone to come to unity of Christ. It was the principle of becoming Zion. I’m not sure it ever got applied appropriately but it is a sound principle. Should not we all agree, independently of one another, by the Holy Ghost, on the doctrines of Christ? If we are to simply line up, what good does that do for our salvation? Anyone can obey a line leader. The Nazis did as well. It would do well for us as a church to insist that all come to a unity of the faith, not just one quorum of fifteen, before we become subject to it. In that way, can we not then say that God is behind us? Can we not ensure that there are no blind spots? King Benjamin’s people all cried together to accept their covenants. They did not simply accept them as so because the king said so. They were collectively AND individually convicted of the truth. Should it not be the same with us? Again, we must be of ONE heart to be of Zion, and have no poor among us. Indeed, we take the name of Zion in vain these days, it seems. Common consent, properly implemented, would help us become more of one heart and of one mind.
I will end with a scenario of pre-Earth life and the test we would take by coming down to earth as Latter-day Saints.
Scenario: You will be sent to earth as a Mormon. You will be raised in a good family, with the gospel of Jesus Christ taught truthfully to you for the most part inside of the Lord’s church. You will feel good when the leaders of the Church speak to you. You will feel of their love. But you will find anachronisms, inconsistencies, errors, and if you don’t you’re not looking hard enough. At a point, you will have to make a decision, and the two choices you can go are this:
A – You can chose to stick with the leaders of the Church, to “follow the Brethren.” You will feel their good messages given in General Conference. You will know they are good men. You will feel that testimony burning within you. When you cannot reconcile some things, you chose to put it on the shelf, close your eyes, walk into the dark, and keep with the majority of the Brethren as they lead the church.
or . . .
B – You can chose to approach the Savior. You can use the good examples and teachings that leaders give you to figure out how to approach the Lord. But you also know that the all men are fallen and make mistakes, even good men, even prophets like Moses, Jonah, Peter, and Joseph Smith. You know that many are called, but few are chosen. You see that mistakes that have been made by past LDS church leaders. So you close your eyes, walk into the dark, and do what the Lord asks you to do.
What nature of test do you think is the one that will lead you into the presence of the Father? I have chosen scenario B. And because I’m unencumbered from the need to “get in line with the Brethren,” the Lord has told me that this policy is not of Him – in particular those that forbid children from being baptized if their parents are apostate homosexuals or polygamists.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.