On Reading Controversial Books


saints-standard-of-truth


It’s been over four years since I resigned from the LDS Church, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A lot has changed in my life since that day in September 2014. I have been blessed immensely by the Lord in so many ways. I reflected many times on why I chose to resign back then. I didn’t have to do so but felt it was the right thing to do since I planned on being baptized again, outside the auspices of the LDS hierarchy.

I still get a lot of emails from readers wondering how I’m doing. One reader sent me an email asking “… have you come to any answers about your queries in this article? I feel the same way you do or did, and that is spiritually uplifted and edified by these authors of more controversial topics. Have you come to any conclusions about how this relates to the Brethren’s view of such authors and what they write about?” My response follows…

The Original Post

Thanks for your email. I went back and re-read the post and all 93 comments. That was written over five years ago. It brought back fond memories of deep dialog with many good people. I miss that, but until a recent change in employment, I haven’t had time to invest in reading as writing as much as I used to. I’m trying to get back into that mode. Thanks again for your email and getting me thinking about the subject again. I have pondered your question and my original questions.

Private Sacrament Meetings

SacramentMinervaTeichertA lot has changed in the last five years since I wrote that post. I am no longer a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although I do attend the full three-hour block each Sunday with my wife, partake of the sacrament and participate in classroom discussion from time to time. I am blessed to have a very kind and understanding Stake President, Bishop and Elder’s Quorum President who have encouraged me to participate. I especially enjoy singing in the choir.

Taught by the Precepts of Men

Yes, I have come to some conclusions about how the Brethren view the writings of authors who publish works that are not in harmony with the orthodox teachings found in the official curriculum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A scripture comes to mind, “…they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne 28:14)

Harmony With the Mind of Christ

I am not referring to those who write such books, but to those who view their writings as apostate. I retain my original enthusiasm for the works of authors who are diligently seeking truth as humble followers of Jesus Christ. I have enough experience with the Holy Ghost to know when something I read is or isn’t leading me to Christ. That’s the whole purpose of the Spirit of the Lord – to lead us unto Christ. As we give heed It brings us into harmony with the mind of Christ.

Fight Not Against Apostles and Prophets

It saddens me to think that the above referenced scripture, and in many cases, the entire chapter, is referring to the leadership, especially at the highest levels, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have promised myself I would not fight against the prophets and apostles. I will not confront them directly. There is a scripture that counsels those who do that. They will be cut off. I still hold to that belief, that if I fight against the apostles and prophets I will be cut off.

Upheld by Fath and Prayers

One could argue they are not legitimate prophets and apostles. No matter, I have sustained them as such and I will not go against that. I continue to pray for them, thus upholding them with my prayers and faith. At the same time, my prayers of faith are offered on behalf of all those who are seeking diligently to come unto Christ and to teach us to do so, according to their best understanding. Thus I uphold and sustain men like Denver Snuffer as servants of the Lord in these last days.

The Covenant Path is Extended

The heavens are open. We have an opportunity to come unto Christ and to enter into His presence. He has holy places in Heaven to where we can rise up and be taught by Him directly. We can learn of His paths and follow them. I like how President Nelson refers often to the covenant path. I know he’s referring to baptism, confirmation, priesthood and temple covenants in the LDS Church. No matter, it prompts me to reflect on the additional covenants into which I have entered.

A Day of Rejoicing, A New Beginning

tim-malone-baptismSpecifically, I have publicly made a big deal about being baptized again as a sign I accept the words delivered by His servant, Denver Snuffer, as having been either authored by or directly influenced by the Lord. I am familiar with that process of revelation, especially as it is manifested when writing. There are times I feel or hear the words I share in the very process of sharing them. Thus, I am influenced by what I read from the humble followers of Christ who write as they feel inspired. I know that process well.

 

Additional Covenants, Additional Scripture

Second, I have entered into an additional covenant with the Lord about a year ago, in September of 2017 at the time of the Boise Conference, to accept the scriptures as they have been revealed and corrected by the scripture committee, and which the Lord accepted. Part of that covenant included a promise to seek to be of one heart and one mind with those humble followers of Christ who are seeking to bring about Zion as I am. It is an awesome thing to have additional scripture.

Writing Under The Spirit of Revelation

I hope this answers your question. Again, I am always grateful when someone reaches out to me as a consequence of something I have written and posted on my blog. I try not to take myself too seriously. There are times when I have written things I know were pleasing to the Lord, even inspired, especially when I asked him in prayer for guidance and direction in what I felt prompted to share. That post was one of many that was inspired by the spirit of revelation, even the mind of Christ.

But What Do The Brethren Think?

And the response: “Has your Stake President brought your concerns to the Brethren? Surely posing your questions to them isn’t confronting or fighting against them, is it? I admire how you still pray for and sustain them with your faith, and your commitment to not fight against them, but I guess I’m just confused as to why you haven’t had your concerns addressed by the Brethren. Isn’t that the order of things when your local leaders can’t answer your concerns?”

Response of Local Authorities

I think I’m past the point where I care about what the Brethren have to say about my questions. I already know what they have said and written about such topics, having studied their words all my life. In defense of my Stake President, the four of us (my wife, me, my Bishop and my Stake President) met and discussed my questions. At the conclusion of our meeting the Stake President said he had no problems with my concerns or my blogging activities. On the other hand, my Bishop did.

Forbiding to Partake of the Sacrament

Jesus_SacramentWe continued to meet regularly. A few weeks after the meeting with the four of us, my Bishop placed me on informal probation for apostasy, which is really just a hand slap. However, it was his direction that I not partake of he sacrament. That bothered me. I felt it was anti-Christ. I know that’s harsh, but it is truthful. Forbidding someone to partake of the sacrament implies judgement, which, I suppose, it what a Bishop is supposed to do, right? But, it didn’t set well with me and prompted my decision to resign.

Unorthodox Views, Apostasy and Heresy

I’ve never really understood the charge of apostasy. I think the correct terminology should be heresy, meaning your views do not correspond with those of the Brethren on certain issues, in my case, of a historical nature. I’m fairly certain my bishop would not have been so concerned but he was receiving complaints from ward members and former ward members that saw and read some of my blog posts because I had it linked to my Facebook feed, in hindsight, a poor move.

Questions About LDS History

I think the most difficult concern for the bishop was the statement from a former ward member that my blogging activities were influencing her (adult) children. Being friends with her children, I can relate that they had made their decision to leave the LDS Church long before I did. In any event, I did not expect my local leaders to bring my concerns to the Brethren, nor did they. It wasn’t necessary. These were questions of a historical nature for which I would not expect General Authorities to have answers.

General Authorities Not Trained Historians

Unless the Brethren are trained historians, actively engaged in research and teaching, which, as far as I know, none of them are, they simply would not have time to study the historical records like I and many others have done. I know that may come across as arrogant, but it’s true. General Authorities are busy administering the affairs of the Church. For the most part, they are doctors (Pres. Nelson), lawyers (Pres. Oaks) and educational administrators (Pres. Eyring).

Large and Successful Institution

LDSChurchOfficeBuildingThe members of the Quorum of the Twelve had similar vocations before their call to become full-time church employees. I know we don’t like to focus on the institutional aspect of the Church, but it is one of the largest and most successful religious institutions in the world, at least from an economic point of view. Thus the need for professional administrators. It’s been said one should never ask what goes into sausage or how laws are made. Likewise, one must have a strong testimony to be an employee of the Church.

 

 

Read Church Histroy, But Not Too Much

Either that or put blinders on and ask no questions. There’s something to be said for those who innocently and somewhat naively believe the official explanations of the Church in regards to the early historical facts that have come to light in our day, even though some of those facts come right from the Joseph Smith Papers, an official publication of the Church. Most members haven’t read them, nor would they find them interesting.

Of Good Report or Praiseworthy

It’s surprising how many don’t really care about the rise of the Church and what happened after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. To them, it’s a social institution, to be judged solely on the merits of encouraging moral values, which it does extremely well. Therefore, the Church is praiseworthy. There is no need to look too deeply into the past. The Church can be judged on the value it brings to families in the form of programs and practices that encourage and strengthen families. In this it excels and deserves our encouragement and active participation.

Do You Have Priesthood Approval?

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The history and doctrine are being watered down more and more as time goes on. I appreciate the move to focus gospel study in the home, and the encouragement for individual members to meet in homes specifically to study the gospel, with the hope that the scriptures will be the foundation of that study. Perhaps that will turn things around. There is a question one used to hear in the Church when attempting to organize a gospel study in the home: “Do you have priesthood approval for that meeting?”

He Who Is Compelled in All Things

Wow. What a turnaround. I think this is a big deal and hope the Saints appreciate this change in direction. I believe the Lord will bless those who seek to understand the gospel better through these informal study groups. My only concern is that perhaps some will continue to look to Salt Lake for direction on what to study. In fact, the Church has already published the official guidelines. Why can’t we decide on our own, under the direction of the spirit what we should study?

Comments welcome…

Investigating Alternative Viewpoints


Solomon_Temple_PrayerMy bishop asked to visit with me again on Sunday afternoon. We spent an hour discussing my health – both mental and physical – my career, my financial condition and my blogging activities. Although he doesn’t read my blog, others in the ward do and have shared misgivings about me. I thanked him for the concern, reassured him all was well. He then offered a few pieces of advice.

Tone it down, Get it off Facebook

He suggested I tone it down on the headlines and not link my blog to Facebook. I agreed with his counsel. Here’s why. A large number of my Facebook friends are members of the Church. These are people from my present stake and former stake with whom I have grown up and with whom I have served side-by-side in various callings, including multiple bishoprics and one High Council.

I’m no longer a Correlated Mormon

If you read my bio, you’ll note I have characterized myself as an orthodox, conservative, toe-the-line or correlated kind of member. However, if you have read my blog over the years, you’ll see my content has changed, especially over the last two years. Yes, that coincides with reading the works of Denver Snuffer, Doug Mendenhall, Mel Fish and other writers with unorthodox views.

Don’t Fit the Mold of Orthodox Conservative

I’ve changed. It’s my observation that some people are uncomfortable with my change. For the most part, they attribute that to what I read. I no longer fit the mold of orthodox, conservative or correlated member. Some are a little shocked by what I read but more especially by what I write. I confess I have chosen some headlines with the specific purpose of grabbing people’s attention.

Headlines and the Ways of the World

The Bishop and I discussed this very idea of controversial headlines. He said I was using “the ways of the world” to get readers. He said as long as I’m writing about truth, there was no need to use headlines that evoked emotion or shock. Knowing he doesn’t read my blog, I didn’t want to argue the point my blog is not an official publication of the church. That should be obvious.

Downplaying our Unique History

I also didn’t want to argue my blog is my way of finding like-minded people with whom I can discuss the unique aspects of our theology. By that I mean ideas from our past on which we no longer focus. It seems the mission of the church today is to play down anything about our history that makes us unique or different. Church PR efforts paint us as just another Christian Church.

Concern for the Welfare of my Soul

This is the third time in as many months the Bishop has asked to see me. I am convinced these interviews are motivated by genuine love and concern. Yes, they may have been precipitated by a comment or two from other members of the ward or stake, but I genuinely appreciate the visits. I know he’s a busy man. I’m sure he would rather spend Sunday afternoon home with his family.

Uncomfortable With What I Share

The visits are directly related to what I write on my blog. Obviously someone is troubled about what I share enough to express it to the Bishop. They are troubled about my testimony, about my understanding of the gospel, about my mental and emotional health and about my salvation. I’m honored and grateful but disturbed what I write about makes some people feel uncomfortable.

Keeping Covenants Most Important Thing

I’d like to investigate that idea with you in this post. When asked to give counsel in a Bishopric, I decided long ago I was not so anxious about what someone believed, read, thought or wrote. I was much more worried if they didn’t keep their covenants. I was glad I was not in a position to judge someone’s worthiness, only to provide an opinion to a priesthood leader when I was asked.

Covenants Entered Into Early in Life

Like most of you, I made sacred covenants with the Lord when I was younger. It’s interesting to note the covenants made upon receipt of the Melchizedek priesthood and when endowed are both entered into when so young, at least when I look back from the view of many intervening years. Those are some fairly serious covenants to take upon ourselves at ages eighteen and nineteen.

Covenants Associated with Ordinances

My family members were recent converts when I was baptized. My parents had been members for only a few years when I turned eight years old. I remember my Primary teachers discussing baptismal covenants more than my parents. I’m not sure my parents understood the significance of the covenants. I know I didn’t appreciate the seriousness of my actions at the age of eight.

Instructed by the Stake President

I’m grateful the final worthiness interview for receiving the Melchizedek priesthood is with the Stake President. I will always remember the hour I spent with the Stake President as he taught me from the scriptures, especially section 121, about the differences between the authority and power in the priesthood. I had the same experience when I was later interviewed to be endowed.

Opposition, Temptation and Blessings

I received my patriarchal blessing at age fifteen. A barrage of temptation came upon me shortly after receiving that blessing, just like it did right after I was baptized. When it was time to go on a mission, the adversary stirred up trouble in my family in an effort to prevent me from receiving my own endowment. I have noted this pattern of opposition around sacred ordinances all my life.

What is the Next Ordinance?

It was the same when I was married to my sweetheart in the temple and when I was ordained a High Priest at age 38. I know there must be opposition in all things. Many of my readers know about the recent struggles with health and opposition from the adversary I have encountered in the past year. Based on my life’s pattern of opposition, I should be receiving an ordinance soon.

Receive Further Light and Knowledge

But wait. There are no more ordinances to receive, or are there? Upon being ordained a High Priest I felt impressed to speak with the Temple President about what we could and could not do with knowledge obtained in the temple. This was about the time Jim Harmston was circulating a document surreptitiously on the Internet entitled, “Receiving Further Light and Knowledge.”

Prayer Circles Outside the Temple

I was especially intrigued by the idea of prayer circles outside the temple. Please don’t think I’m revealing anything sacred here that I shouldn’t. It’s a matter of record that prayer circles were held outside the temple until the First Presidency asked us to discontinue the practice sometime within the last fifty years. In addition, I wanted to ask about the wording used to describe prayer.

Can’t Even Ask in the Temple

Even though it was nearly twenty years ago, I remember the temple president’s reaction as if it were yesterday. He wanted to know why I was asking about such things and seemed to be upset that I would “dare” to ask such a question. He did his best to play down the importance of what I had asked, stood up and escorted me out of his office. This interview was now over, thank you.

Proper Place for True Order of Prayer

I thought the question was innocent enough. If we were taught the true order of prayer in the temple, then any other kind of prayer would be less than true. That seemed a logical conclusion in my mind. I simply wanted to know if it was appropriate to use it in the privacy of our own homes either alone or with our spouses and if the robes of the priesthood could be used at home.Yom_Kippur_Prayer

Deceived by an Angel of Light

Doesn’t it seem kind of ironic we are taught sacred things about communicating with heaven and then told to never use those tools on our own? I know the Brethren are concerned we’ll be deceived by an angel of light, but Joseph has given us the keys by which we can identify our visitors from the spirit world. The scriptures and the temple are replete with detailed instruction.

Church of the Firstborn

Joseph was zealous in trying to teach the saints to “go on and make your calling and election sure.” His last few public sermons were dedicated to this subject and the idea that each of us needs to become prophets, seers and revelators for our own families. He spoke of the Patriarchal order and the importance of being prepared by the angels to enter the Church of the Firstborn.

Joseph Encouraged us to Seek Knowledge

These are all subjects I have been studying for years. Isn’t this the sort of thing we are supposed to seek after in our individualized study? I’m concerned to learn someone objects when we even mention such subjects and phrases in writing. It’s as if I’ve violated some secret unwritten code to not discuss such things on a blog. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not breaking any covenants here.

Sacred Doesn’t Always Mean Secret

If what I write about makes you uncomfortable, write me directly and tell me so. You can remain anonymous if you desire. My email address is prominently displayed up there in the right-hand corner of this blog. I am of the opinion that if writing about these things causes discomfort then we are not talking about them enough. I know they’re sacred. That doesn’t mean they’re secret.

I Seek Your Viewpoint on Prayer

I was going to entitle this post, “Proper Place for True Order of Prayer” but I’m trying to follow the bishop’s counsel to tone my headlines down. You can Google “True Order of Prayer” and get all kinds of stuff, including the actual temple ceremony with the associated instruction. I know I’m not the only person to ask the Temple President my question. What’s the correct answer?