Reorganizing the Family of God


the-divine-councilIn the Boise rescue, Elder Oaks spoke much of the temples as evidence of the fruits of the LDS Church. They are beautiful buildings aren’t they? So many resources are poured into these edifices. As President Hinckley once taught, the buildings of the church are not income producing, and constitute a major expense. A lot of tithing money goes into maintaining these buildings, including the wards and stakes.

For over forty years I went to the temple on a regular basis. I went there with thousands of family names my mother had gleaned from years and years of family history work. I performed countless baptisms, inititories, endowments and sealings. I am not alone in my participation in temple work. The focus was always on doing something – proxy ordinances – for family members they could not do for themselves.

While studying the early history of the LDS Church, I noticed a major adjustment in my thinking about the purpose of the temples. I kept wondering about the idea of being “sealed to the fathers.” More and more I found I was contemplating exactly who the fathers were or are. Even after a lifetime of family history research, members of our family could never find family records back any earlier than 1650.

Salvation, Resurrection and Exaltation

CityOfZionI am fairly certain there are some individuals who have been able to trace their family history back to the earliest known records of civilization. I believe I even recall someone telling me they found proof they were related to an individual named in the Bible and could therefore trace their lineage back to Adam. I suppose that’s the ultimate goal of family history research, to find every single ancestor back to Adam.

Growing up in the church I recall being taught we will not be able to complete the family history work that needs to be done because the records are lost. The Millennium is the time when all this work will be completed, because family members will come to those who are living, tell us who they are, when and where they lived and accompany us to the temple while we perform those saving ordinances for them.

Eventually, by the end of the Millennium, everyone will be found, everyone will be sealed and everyone will be joined to the fathers. The objective of life, as I have been taught and believe, is to prepare for a glorious resurrection. That’s individual salvation. But what about exaltation? That only comes about when we are organized by God into His family and participate in ordinances not found in LDS Temples.

Set in Order the House of God

zion-city-of-enochWe need a temple to which Christ can come and reorganize the family of God through an ordinance that seals us to the fathers. As I have written previously on this blog, I hope to be alive when that temple will be built. I hope to contribute to the building of that temple, either financially or with my labor. I want my name to be on the books to be found in that temple. I am grateful to Keith for compiling those records.

Eventually, someone will come along, and “…set in order the house of God, and arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God.” This is found in the last part of D&C 85:7. I have no idea who this person is, but I want my name available to him on the books that are to be found in the temple.

Because “… they who are not found written in the book of remembrance shall find none inheritance in that day, but they shall be cut asunder, and their portion shall be appointed them among the unbelievers, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. These things I say not of myself; therefore, as the Lord speaketh, he will also fulfill.” That promise is found in later verses of the same section (D&C 85:9-10).

Why Christ Will Come to His Temple

Question Six: You proclaimed Jesus Christ has revealed Himself to you. You declared you have seen Him, embraced Him and have been given specific assignments of things to teach, which you have done at your own expense in publications and lectures. The focus of these teachings is the establishment of Zion. You have counseled those who wish to prepare for Zion to institute fellowships for gathering and practicing the principles of Zion, specifically to use tithing as a means to help the poor. You have taught there is to be no new church, no legal entity to receive and centrally manage funds and property, yet you acknowledge the need for a temple.

A new website has been established for a central recorder, where those who have been baptized are encouraged to submit their names. The purpose of this gathering of names is to present them to the Lord in a temple. You said in Mesa, “We do not need numerous temples, but we will need one to which Christ can come. We will not need to perform endless work for the dead until first there has been a covenant made for us. We must be first connected to the fathers in heaven. Only then can we do something to liberate the dead.” You have already taught much on the sealing to the fathers, but will you take a moment to elaborate on the difference between the visit of Christ to an individual and the visit of Christ to a temple yet to be built?

ANSWER (Denver): Yes, I can. Individual salvation and promises of eternal life are just that, they are individual. A restoration of the family of Israel requires more, including cooperation and interrelationships that will be formed by God Himself. Promises made to individuals give the individual hope. If you take the vision of the redemption of the dead in D&C 138, he saw a vision where:christ-in-spirit-world

There were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. (D&C 138:12-14, emphasis added.)

All of them. These were the righteous. They were in Paradise and all of them were worthy, they had been given hope of a glorious resurrection. Not only did the Savior give them hope before death, He visited with them in the spirit world during the time between His death and His resurrection. But that did not get them reconnected to the fathers in heaven, nor did it even get them resurrected, because it goes on to say in the transcript of the same vision:

…from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. (D&C138:30, emphasis added.)

So the righteous who departed this life firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, who had offered sacrifice in the similitude, many of whom had seen Him in the flesh, who witnessed Him and were ministered to by Him, and given authority by Him, in the spirit world, remained in the world of the dead to preach to the dead. They were NOT resurrected.

Joining the Family of God by an Ordinance

Only the organization of God’s family through a temple and associated rites, results in finishing the family of God in the House of Order. IF this were to be done it would allow the recipients to follow the results achieved, or allowed the results achieved by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which are described in D&C 132:37. Abraham Isaac and Jacob:

…did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

carl_bloch_the_christNote that in D&C 138:41 Abraham, the father of the faithful, Isaac and a Jacob were also there in the spirit world among the dead seen in the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead. In verses 41-22 of 138, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were there. But in the revelation recorded in 1843 they were sitting on thrones. They were not left behind in the spirit world proselytizing. Instead they are sitting on thrones.

The difference between these two categories of the righteous are the differences between individual salvation, which gives hope of a glorious resurrection, on the one hand, and reorganizing the family of God which must occur by an ordinance in a temple to be acceptable to God, on the other hand. This was why the command was given to build the temple in Nauvoo. And why God offered to restore to them the fullness that they did not achieve.

We need to let God take the lead, and then we need to patiently await each step along the way. This is the stuff of which the prophecies speak, and it is the stuff that will be fulfilled. But the rites and the ordinances necessary to accomplish that? People in this generation don’t even have a clue how that necessarily has to roll forth. But rest assured it will. God intends to set His house in order. He alone will do this.

Sources for the Interview:

Transcript One: http://3tcm.net/a-visit-with-denver-snuffer-transcript.pdf
Note: This version has been reviewed by Denver, missing material added

Transcript Two: http://3tcm.net/tim-malone-Q&A-with-denver-snuffer.pdf

Link to the MP3: http://3tcm.net/Denver_Snuffer_QA_13May2015.mp3
Note: The file is 60MB. It’s best to right-click on the link to download it.

Link to a PDF of answer to question six: http://3tcm.net/question-six.pdf

Denver Snuffer on Plural Marriage


plural-marriage-diagramI invested a couple of hours this morning listening to the recording of Denver’s recent talk on plural marriage. These are my first-impression notes at the end of the day after pondering and praying about what I heard. I wasn’t there and I don’t have a transcript, which I am certain someone will have available within a few days. The recording is available in various formats.

Denver referred to a white-board illustration throughout the talk, a copy of which he provided on his website, and which I have included here. You may recognize the illustration of the Diagram of the Kingdom of God on the right. Various authors who have written about the subject have included it when attempting to explain Joseph’s view on the subject. Denver added the lineage.

I think the main point I would like to make is found in the upper left of the white board. We have next to nothing from Joseph on the subject of plural marriage. What we have is limited to section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which I accept as scripture, including the quote about there being only one person on the earth at a time who holds the sealing power and priesthood keys.

Plural Wives of Joseph Smith

joseph-smiths-polygamy-brian-halesAs I listened to the first eighty-five minutes I kept thinking to myself, “Why is Denver reviewing such basic stuff?” He went over the history of what we know about Joseph’s participation in the law of Celestial Marriage. Denver reviewed several legal case records – listed on the left side of the board – as well as writings from various sources, including Brian Hales’ three-volume set.

If you have no background in the history of Joseph’s participation in plural marriage, then the first eighty-five minutes will be extremely helpful. A member of one of the reading groups I belong to split the two-hour talk into twelve ten-minute segments. I have linked to them at the bottom of this page. If you have studied this subject extensively, start on track eight or nine.

I have written a few posts on the subject over the years, even though I don’t really find it all that fascinating. I think I last wrote about it in 2009 in a post entitled The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. At the time I was astonished at the response of many of my readers who said they had never heard that Joseph participated in plural marriage. It still amazes me to hear that today.

The Family of God on the Earth

diagram-of-kingdom-of-godThe good stuff starts in track nine on the law of adoption. The LDS Church doesn’t talk much about that any more. In fact, I don’t think it’s included in any official curriculum. Come to think of it, I don’t think plural marriage is included in any Sunday curriculum, including the History of the Church taught in the Gospel Doctrine class. I found one quote in the D&C teacher’s manual:

“In this dispensation, the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and those closest to him, including Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, were challenged by this command, but they obeyed it. Church leaders regulated the practice. Those entering into it had to be authorized to do so, and the marriages had to be performed through the sealing power of the priesthood.” (Page 182)

I think the theme of the last thirty minutes of the talk can be summarized as the Lord’s plan to restore the family of God. Denver went over the Kingdom of God diagram on the right of the white board, noting again there is only one on the earth at a time who has the sealing power and the right of the Fathers – to ask and get answers from heaven for the family of God on the earth.

The True Purpose of Temple Work

Much of what he reviewed will sound familiar to members of the LDS Church, but I suspect many of the thousands who are being baptized these days are coming from the fundamentalist organizations. He discussed the importance of being sealed to the Fathers and defined that for his listeners. A key to understanding this doctrine is knowing who the Fathers are in God’s kingdom.

saltlaketemple1.jpgHe touched upon a fundamental difference in the true purpose of temple work – to be sealed to the Fathers. I can’t emphasize enough how important this concept is to our personal salvation. The work of finding our own ancestors is important but not nearly as important as being sealed to the Fathers. There must be a welding link from us to the Fathers, not just our own ancestors.

The way temple work is being done in the LDS Church is upside down. It is the opposite of the way the Lord intended. Enough time has passed – four generations – from the death of Joseph. The Lord intends to continue the restoration process of preparing the family of God. Denver read from his revelation book about why so few were resurrected at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

A Witness Has Come

josephsmith.jpgHe pointed out there will be relatively few resurrected at Christ’s return. You need to listen to the recording to understand why. He explained the importance of a witness to the restoration process beginning again and said, “A witness has come. I am him.” Without Joseph Smith you have no church. Listen carefully to the last two tracks, the last twenty minutes of the talk to understand.

I don’t want to share too much in this post. As I wrote at the beginning, these are first impression notes. I will be listening to the talk several times over the next few weeks. I look forward to the transcript. This is extremely important doctrine for us to understand. It is not being taught in the LDS Church today but was understood and taught by Joseph. Sadly, the restoration was cut short.

Denver testified Joseph was a virtuous man. He was not a wicked man. He condemned adultery and lust. He extoled the virtues of sexual purity. What Brigham did with Polygamy was not what Joseph taught or intended. The Lord wants to gather us as chicks under the wing. We must not go charging into the pass to be destroyed by the beast. Let us patiently wait upon the Lord for more.

 Part One  Part Five  Part Nine
 Part Two  Part Six  Part Ten
 Part Three  Part Seven  Part Eleven
 Part Four  Part Eight  Part Twelve

Update 4-2-15 – Denver has published a paper based on this talk. You can get it from his website or mine. It’s a large (10MB) PDF so give it a few minutes to load.

A Mormon Reviews The Afterlife of Billy Fingers


TheAfterlifeOfBillyFingersStorytelling in a Non-Fiction Book

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan is a wonderful book. I give it five stars. One of the Amazon reviewers said she read the 191 page book in 90 minutes. It took me about three hours. I had to stop often to wipe away the tears. The book was an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster. Thank you, Annie for that superb and captivating storytelling in a non-fiction book.

Messages From the Spirit World

The book extends three challenges to its readers: First, is it fiction or fact? Annie didn’t have to expend a great deal of effort and energy to persuade me it really happened. I was convinced right away by the down-to-earth, day-to-day events of Annie’s life as she dealt with the loss of her older brother Billy to a tragic accident. I have no doubt Billy came to her to share his transition.

Traditional Heaven and Hell Missing

Second, you will need to re-examine what you know about the after-life, especially if you have accepted traditional heaven-and-hell teachings so prevalent in this world. Billy describes what he goes through in a much-needed healing process, then the oft-mentioned life review. He becomes one with the universe, then back to a being of light and, at the end of the book, describes his final dissolution.

Different Paths in the After-Life

And there’s the third challenge: What happened to Billy in the end is not what I expect or want for me. I suppose this is a spoiler alert, but again this is not fiction so maybe that doesn’t apply. I was saddened by what Billy passed through on his journey as Annie described it in part three of the book. I’m not questioning that it really happened, only that may not be the path for everyone.

Many Mansions of God Prepared

Annie / Billy make reference early in the book to what Billy entitled the “Supra World.” It immediately caused me to think of the words of the Savior, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go and prepare a place for you.” Billy very rarely described being with other people in the after-life. Perhaps that’s as he desired it or what was best for him.

Multiple Degrees of Glory

For LDS folks, some may be asking themselves, was Annie deceived by a false spirit? You’ll have to read the book to decide for yourself. As I’ve already shared, I believe Annie’s story and what she learned from Billy. I’ve been a believing Mormon all my life which includes faith in the revelations received by Joseph Smith. In D&C 76 we learn of the Three Degrees of Glory.

We Are Gods and Goddesses

In her bio, Annie describes her interest in and practice of Eastern spiritual traditions. Meditation and Yoga have brought peace to her life. There are references in the final chapters of the book to chakras, Sanscrit – the sacred language of ancient India – and Billy’s encounter with Shvara Lohana. Annie asks, “Was she his personal God or was she God? Is God actually a goddess?”

No Resurrection for Billy – Yet

I wonder if Billy completed his journey or if there was more to be experienced. There is never any mention of resurrection, something most Christians, including Mormons believe in and to which we look forward. It is my desire to have a glorified and exalted body at some point after the resurrection. We are taught and I believe our resurrected state depends on our life’s choices.

No Judgment – More to Come

Which brings up another point – Billy does not pass through a judgment. Again, I suspect Billy has not completed his journey. He was only allowed to share with Annie what would help her deal with her grief and, at the same time, share with the world some of the things through which he passed. Some people don’t believe in a judgment and resurrection. That’s just fine with me.

A Journey Not Yet Complete

I loved the book and highly recommend it, but for my LDS friends, I suggest you’ve got to be open-minded about it. If you accept the idea that Billy was describing only a portion of his journey you’ll be OK. Don’t get wrapped up about how Billy’s experience does not match what we ultimately believe about the after-life, especially with our focus on the eternal family unit.

Find the Good in Everything

There are so many amazing quotes in the book which I find uplifting and encouraging. There is a Facebook group which shares them on an almost daily basis. There is much truth in the book. In fact, I’m not going to say there are any false ideas, both out of respect to Annie and because if there’s one thing I know about the afterlife, it’s that I know very little, but look forward to it.

An Emotional and Spiritual Experience

Thank you, Annie for sharing Billy’s story. Thank you for your courage in publishing it to the world. I’m pleased to see most of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are favorable. It is a well-received book from everything I have seen. Congratulations on your success. I feel blessed for the experience I’ll always remember of reading The Afterlife of Billy Fingers. God bless.

Eternal Lives, Past Lives and Reincarnation


EloheimEternalLivesI am strongly opposed to the idea of past lives or reincarnation. I have always considered it a false and pernicious doctrine that leads one to do less than their best in this life, thinking they will always have another chance to get it right in the next life. Some people have said that the church teaches this doctrine and that it is called Eternal Lives (plural). I disagree, believe that most LDS believe as I do, that Eternal Lives means eternal increase and would like to address that in this position paper.

Associated with Adam-God Theory

By way of background I’ve written a little about this before in an essay where I reviewed a book entitled “Teachings of The Doctrine of Eternal Lives.” For some reason, this subject seems to be related to discussions of the Adam-God theory, which I have also written about previously. My position hasn’t changed even though I’ve had many people engage me in private dialog on the subject. They come up with all kinds of weird spins on what we are taught in the temple.

Adam and Eve Immortal at Birth

I remained convinced that Adam was born an immortal child of God our father and his heavenly mother. Eve was also an immortal child of those same resurrected beings. Jesus Christ did not have a mortal experience until he was born unto Mary. What he put aside was not an immortal and exalted body but simply his status as the most intelligent and most advanced of all of Heavenly Father’s children.

No reintroduction of the Veil

I do not believe we have more than one opportunity to pass though mortality. The same applied to God and to Jesus Christ. There was no “reintroduction of the veil” to God, to Christ, to Adam or to any mortal being ever born on this earth. Elohim does indeed mean Gods – plural – which is in line with what I believe that many of us were Gods – and still are. The veil of our mortal bodies simply hides that fact from us for a season.

Definition of the Fathers

The Fathers, in my opinion, are those early patriarchal prophets who have been resurrected and await our joining them when we finish our mortal probation. We are to be like them and to be sealed unto them with the sealing power that can only come from the voice of the Lord. None of them has ever entered the womb again. That simply cannot and does not happen. They are resurrected and exalted beings now. We would do well to emulate their examples in following Christ.

God only Experienced Mortality Once

I do not believe Gods experience mortality more than once. I have re-read the accounts of the King Follett discourse several times. I simply do not see that Joseph taught that doctrine. Jesus helped to frame the worlds under the direction of our Father by virtue of his position as the most intelligent, the most obedient and the most advanced of all our Heavenly Father’s children. He was assisted by Michael, who was to become the first mortal of this earth – Adam.

No Immortal [Exalted Being] Can Become Mortal

I disagree that our Heavenly Father and Mother became mortal again after they were immortal [and exalted]. Sorry. That’s a false doctrine. Yes, it’s true that came to they earth and ate of the fruit of this world. Adam and Eve were born to them here upon this world as immortal beings, from immortal parents. Adam was created of the dust of this earth in the sense that his parents ate of the fruit of this world when he was conceived. They had already had countless spirit children, but Adam and Eve were the first immortal children they brought forth on this world. This was not the first time they had done this. They had brought forth immortal children on countless other worlds before this one.

Immortal Beings Bear Immortal Children

Again, there is never, was never, will never be a time when the veil is reintroduced to an immortal and exalted being. The mortal body is the veil. An immortal [exalted] being will not become a mortal being for any reason. Not even Jesus did this. Yes, he was a God before he was born because he had obtained all knowledge available to him before mortality. But he was not an exalted being. That requires immortality. Immortal beings cannot bring forth mortal children (*See excellent comment from Donald below). Adam and Eve were immortal [but not exalted] until they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then became mortal.

Update 4-10-13: I added the words in brackets above

No Past-Life Mortal Experiences

We establish ourselves as valiant in the pre-mortal life by our obedience to the commandments there and our faithfulness to the performance of assigned duty. There are no past-life mortal experiences to be remembered or relied upon as a source of growth or experience. Past-lives is a false doctrine explained by the presence of spirits who have attached themselves to us, which can be easily detected by those with spiritual insight or priesthood keys of discernment. This is clearly taught in books by Mel Fish and Doug Mendenhall.

Pre-Mortal Life is as a Spirit

Adam did not choose to become mortal again. He chose be born as an immortal child of Heavenly Parents and then chose to become mortal just as we are taught. I have never had a mortal life before my present time on earth. I learned and grew in a pre-mortal life in the presence of my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I am fairly certain I had some say about the timing of my birth into this world. Like Adam, I am searching for authorized messengers to teach me more. Up to this point I have accepted what I have been taught by prophets in scripture. But I know there is more that can only be received from heavenly messengers or from Christ.

We do not Cycle Through Mortality

I disagree with many on the interpretation of what Joseph taught in the last few months of his life and which Brigham tried to systematize in the endowment. I have studied many interpretations of others on what Joseph and Brigham taught. I have considered many versions of Adam-God theories from numerous individuals who have shared them with me. I simply have never found anything better than Elden Watson’s great summary. It is settled in my mind and has been for many years. I have yet to find anything that can convince me that we will ever become mortal again. That is not what eternal lives means.

Share Greater Light and Knowledge

This is my position paper. If I am wrong, show me where. Provide me with further light and knowledge. Point out my flaws in logic. Let me know where I have misunderstood prophets. I’ve shared this position many times over the years and most everyone has agreed that this is an orthodox understanding of what we as a church believe about the purpose of life and mortality. If you want to know more about the source of the idea of past-lives, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. Past-lives is not a doctrine that originated with God, but it can be explained. If you’re interested, I can add that in the comments.

The Doctrine of Eternal Lives


At the close of our High Priest’s group meeting today, I was surprised by a question from a good brother sitting next to me. “Why do you study so much?” I wondered why he asked that until I realized what I had done during the lesson. I had placed the piano bench in front of me, spread out my scriptures and was marking a copy of the General Conference talk we were studying.

So I took a minute to answer his question which turned to why I blog. I explained that my mother was a convert and a professional teacher when I was growing up. She ingrained in me a desire to continually study and learn. She had an insatiable appetite to know the history of our church. Our home library was filled with books about Joseph, Brigham, John Taylor and other early leaders.

As a family (or at least with my mother and sister) we attended Education Week and Know Your Religion lectures. Our gospel discussion before my mission was all about doctrine, especially the doctrines of salvation, the temple and the eternities. Mother loved nothing better than to teach what she had learned as a convert. She often taught the Gospel Doctrine Sunday school class.

Understanding Doctrine

I told my friend that I studied every possible moment I’m not working or attending to family duties because I want to thoroughly know and understand the doctrines of our church. I don’t want to be like so many I have read about online who say they have been shocked and dismayed when they learned something distressing about our history that they hadn’t heard in church.

I gave him an example. I said, “Do you know there are people in our church who believe in reincarnation? How do you feel about that?” He said, “I know we’ll be resurrected, but I don’t believe that’s the same as reincarnation.” I said, “You’re absolutely right. But there are people using quotes from early church leaders to suggest they believed and taught this as doctrine.”

He said he couldn’t understand how members of the church could believe such a thing. He was a convert and explained that he would think and pray about what he was learning before accepting it. Sometimes well-meaning people would try to tell him that Mormons believed this or that. “But I knew by the spirit that they were wrong, no matter how convincing their arguments.”

Strait and Narrow Path

We concluded our discussion of how we can know truth for ourselves. His unsolicited comment that he “knew by the spirit” was gratifying to hear. We use that phrase often in our church but I remain convinced that there are many who do not appreciate or know how it works. D&C 8:2 holds the key to understanding how we can “know by the spirit” in both our heart and our mind.

Those who approach the world primarily with an intellectual focus often disdain the emotional or sentimental aspects of knowing truth. They remain convinced that there is no place for sentiment in our church service, that the telling of faith-promoting stories is out of place or being moved to tears is not appropriate when considering the doctrines of salvation. I believe they are mistaken.

Those who pass through life responding mainly to how they feel about something but avoid any study of doctrine or history are missing out on the second half of the formula for understanding truth. We know something is true by the spirit when we are edified – when we both feel that it is right and we understand why it is right. It’s a fine line that includes both feeling and knowing.

A Book of Quotes

I recently came across a book that purports to contain Mormon doctrine being offered for sale on Amazon and a few other places. Now I have dozens of books in my library that claim to be full of Mormon doctrine but in reality are riddled with half-truths, innuendos and lies. The difficulty of these kinds of books is that they contain so much truth that the lies are difficult to see clearly.

Such is the case of the book entitled, “Teachings of the Doctrines of Eternal Lives.” Somebody who wished to remain anonymous has gone to a lot of trouble to collect hundreds of quotes from the early leaders of the church and arrange them in an order that seems to lend support for each succeeding section. I applaud the efforts but what is being implied is based on a false doctrine.

No, the idea of Eternal Lives itself is not a false doctrine but it’s not what the book is attempting to prove or justify by all the supporting quotes. Almost all the quotes themselves are wonderful. It’s a delight to see them all in one place. Any serious student of the gospel will be familiar with most of them or should be. If you’re not careful you can skip right over the few that are wrong.

Doctrine of Eternal Lives

The doctrine of Eternal Lives as I understand it is the idea that once exalted we will be able to have eternal increase. In other words, we can become Gods ourselves, parents of spirit children. I don’t pretend to fully understand it because I obviously haven’t experienced it but it is a core component of Mormonism. We can become like God. That’s the whole purpose of life to me.

This should be basic knowledge to every member of the church but if you want to understand this better, I’m actually going to recommend that you buy the book. I have read it online at Scribd and will be picking up a copy at the Confetti Book Store in Spanish Fork next week on my way to a family reunion in Ogden. Like I said, it is a worthwhile compilation of quotes.

You can look up some of the basics in the scriptures and in the words of the prophets using phrases like “continuation of the seeds, eternal increase, exaltation, celestial marriage, calling and election, Church of the Firstborn, Fulness of the Father, Godhood, joint heirs with Christ,” and of course, “eternal lives.” This really is a basic doctrine taught in our standard curriculum.

The Principle of Reincarnation

Even though the compiler adds very little commentary, there is some sprinkled throughout the book along with questions following specific quotes. He also bolds key phrases that he wants you to notice and ponder. As I read the book I kept feeling that there was something wrong with where the compiler was trying to lead me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read this quote:

“…his sister, the late Eliza R. Snow Smith was a firm believer in the principle of reincarnation and that she claimed to have received it from Joseph the Prophet, her husband.” This is from the journal of Orson F Whitney, recounting a conversation with Lorenzo Snow. So we have a third person account of what Joseph is supposed to have said (p. 73). Compare that to this exchange:

A Doctrine of the Devil

“I resumed conversation with Matthias, and desired him to enlighten my mind more on his views respecting the resurrection. He said that he possessed the spirit of his fathers, that he was a literal descendant of Matthias, the Apostle, who was chosen in the place of Judas that fell; that his spirit was resurrected in him; and that this was the way or scheme of eternal life—this transmigration of soul or spirit from father to son.

“I told him that his doctrine was of the devil, that he was in reality in possession of a wicked and depraved spirit, although he professed to be the Spirit of truth itself; and he said also that he possessed the soul of Christ. He tarried until Wednesday, 11th, when, after breakfast, I told him, that my God told me, that his god was the devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart. And so I, for once, cast out the devil in bodily shape, and I believe a murderer.”

The above quote from the prophet Joseph is found in the History of the Church, volume 2, page 307. Transmigration of the soul is the same as a belief in reincarnation. Joseph nailed it when he said that his guest was possessed of an evil and lying spirit. Unfortunately, that same spirit seems to be the source of what our anonymous quote compiler is trying to persuade us to believe.

A Dangerous and Damning Belief

Why is a belief in reincarnation so dangerous? To believe in reincarnation is to take away the focus and incentive we should have to make every moment of this life count in preparation for our continued schooling in the life to come. If one believes they will be given another chance then there is no real desire to do one’s best. Why knock yourself out if you can do it over again?

We are born once, we die once (Heb 9:27) and we are resurrected once to die no more (Alma 11:45 & 12:18). That’s the doctrine of the church as taught by the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith in scripture that we as a church have accepted as binding. Anything other than that is dangerous and damning because it prevents us from progressing in this life as we should.

In the words of Bruce R McConkie, reincarnation “is a false doctrine originating with the devil. It runs counter to the whole system and plan of salvation whereunder spirits are born in pre-existence, are permitted to pass through a mortal probation, and then in due course become immortal, incorruptible, and eternal in nature.” As a church, we do not believe in reincarnation.

Baby Resurrection

Now, maybe I’m wrong that the compiler is trying to lead us to accept reincarnation. Perhaps he wants us to consider some of the other quotes about the resurrection suggesting that the way we are resurrected is to be born of a woman once again, only this time through an immortal or glorified mother. I confess I never heard of “baby resurrection” until I read it in this book.

This idea is not as damning as reincarnation as long as you assert that the baby being born is an immortal being and NOT about to go once again through a mortal probation. As I wrote when I explained my understanding of the doctrine of eternal lives, I know I don’t fully understand the doctrine of the resurrection because I have not experienced it and don’t have the keys to do so.

I have considered the idea Brigham taught when he said Adam came into this world the same way you or I came into it – born of a woman. That woman was his Heavenly Mother. Thus he was born an immortal being. That makes perfect sense to me. Yes, I know it’s out there and considered by some to be a part of the Adam God theory, but I like to think about these things.

Gospel Study

Anyway, I’m going to buy the book and read it again. It’s really more of a reference work since there is so little of the author’s own words included. There are some questionable books about our religion that I won’t add to my library, but this is one that will find a home right next to “The Mysteries of Godliness” by David John Buerger and all of my D. Michael Quinn books.

I hope you don’t feel threatened by reading stuff from people who were once members of our faith but who are no longer formally associated with us, either by choice or by disciplinary action. I don’t feel there is anything wrong with reading well-researched material and drawing your own conclusions. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of discerning truth from error.

I think the Lord is serious about us learning truth and expects us to put D&C 8:2 to the test in all that we study. Our time is limited in this life so we should focus our doctrinal study efforts on those things that will prepare us to receive the Lord, preferably in this life (D&C 93:1) so that we may depart mortality with a perfect hope, knowing our standing before the Lord. That is my goal.

Changing Requirements of Perfection


After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed.  He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”

He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.

Perfection means completed

The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.

The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”

Flaws and errors removed

I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed.  That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior.  It is not something that I can accomplish on my own.  That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior.  Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets.  I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all.  We will all live again with immortal bodies.  But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.

Requirements of Salvation

So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation.  I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord.  I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction.  They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law.  The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that.  The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people.  I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites.  Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.

Baptism in ancient times

We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized.  When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept.  John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown.  I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world.  We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World.  Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation.  The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.

Temple ordinances required

I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel.  The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength.  Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains.  No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law.  But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday.  That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.

Word of Wisdom for our day

Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”  Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day.  Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.

Plural Marriage not required

Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement.  We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131.  But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation.  You can read that in section 132, verse 61.  It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery.  It is never worded that a man must take another wife.  Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.

Timing of the Second Anointing

We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we?  We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine.  To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article.  It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years.  I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught.  Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet.  I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing.  To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.

Dormant religious practices

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant.  I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship.  Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet.  Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever.  Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.

Be Faithful to Joseph

I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph.  I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing.  That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe.  After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith.  I believe Joseph.  I trust the brethren who lead this church today.  I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life.  I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership.  Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.

Moving Toward Gospel Promises


All my life in the church I have heard the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These are held out as motivating ideas that are intended to help us resist the pull and attraction of worldly pleasures.  In this short essay, I would like to consider just one of those promises and the power for good that it should have in our lives.

Of course, the attraction of promises pre-supposes that you are the kind of person that is motivated by the “moving-toward” model.  If you’re not familiar with the idea, it comes from the book Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins.  He states, “All human behavior revolves around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain.”

Tony’s shorthand for this is “pain or gain.”  Which one drives you?  Of course the concept is not original with Tony but he made it a focus of his seminars and books.  The idea has been around forever and stated in different ways by various thinkers.  The process is not absolute.  We move toward some things and away from others.

However, most of us live our lives predominantly either moving toward a goal or moving away from an unpleasant situation, either past, present or future.  You can easily determine your predominant model by describing something you desire.  Do you express it in terms of what it is or what it isn’t, what you want or don’t want?

For example, think about and describe your ideal home or family.  How about your ideal job?  I was surprised to note that I described my ideal home in terms of what I want, but my ideal job in terms of what I don’t want.  Maybe that’s because I am towards the end of my career and have seen plenty of negatives I want to avoid.

The greatest gift

What are the most important gospel promises that we should consider?  Let’s start with the big one – eternal life.  I’m not talking about being resurrected; that’s a given and a free gift from the Savior as part of the gospel plan.  I’m talking about being able to live the kind of life that God lives, with complete joy and fulfillment.

In modern revelation it is recorded that “there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D&C 6:13)  We are also told that “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7)  Salvation in the fullest sense is defined as eternal life.

So just what is eternal life and how can we relate to it since we have nothing to which we can compare it in this life?  In order for something to be desirable and worthy of sacrifice, we must have at least some sense of its attractiveness.  In fact, it is up to the Lord to make us fully aware of what really comprises eternal life.

Salvation without exaltation

In the LDS Church, we commonly refer to exaltation as the kind of life that God lives, and consider it to be synonymous with eternal life.  We also consider it to be the fullness of salvation.  If we want to get a little more precise, let’s consider one common aphorism used to describe it: “Salvation without exaltation is damnation.”

This is a saying that engenders intense debate even among LDS scholars because I have read it online many times over the years.  I agree with that adage because for me, it appeals to my predominant “moving away from” model.  Yes, I confess that I am more inclined to make life choices in order to avoid unpleasant possibilities.

I consider the moving-away from model of thinking to be very mortal; not weak, just mortal.  But I’m grateful to know that the Lord is fully aware of this approach.  This is evidenced by the twofold promise of the Book of Mormon:  If you keep the commandments of God you will be blessed.  If you don’t, then you will be cursed.

Yes, tell me more about the negatives of a behavior and I will do my best to avoid it because I can see the results such behavior has produced in others.  The only way I am motivated by a promise of eventual reward is if I have experienced something similar, even if it is in a small degree.  My mortal mind doesn’t “get” eternal life.

Yet, in my heart I know that there is life after death.  I have had too many personal evidences presented for my consideration to feel otherwise.  I am satisfied that the concept of a spirit world is real; that there are unseen beings operating in a plane of existence just outside my mortal perception; and many times acting on my behalf.

Learning from opposition

So how does the Lord reach people like me who need a more solid understanding of eternal life in order to be motivated by the promise?  I guess I’m kind of like the child that hears from a parent, “if you work hard in school, you’ll have an easier life when you get older.”  It’s true, but it didn’t work for me when I was a child.

An easy life to a child is loving acceptance, lots of playtime, a warm, comfortable home, lots of food to eat and that safe, secure feeling that comes from knowing that dangers are far, far away, or even better, being oblivious to the concept of danger.  But such a life doesn’t work as we get older because we experience opposition.

And that’s why I am more motivated by an understanding of what eternal life will not be like.  I have experienced opposition, adversity, setbacks, disappointments and many painful shocks brought on by unforeseen and unwanted reality checks.  Because of these experiences, I know what I don’t want eternal life to be like.

Of course, I don’t set the rules when it comes to my quality of life after death.  But I do “get” the idea that I can determine a large part of that life quality by what I do or don’t do and how I respond to the life choices that are presented to me.  There really is a lot of truth to the idea that a man is about as happy as he decides to be.

Disappointments will cease

I don’t want eternal life to be disappointing.  I don’t think God is disappointed.  Even though we believe that his most important work is us, his children, I don’t think he is ever really disappointed in us.  I also don’t believe that his plans for us are ever really frustrated.  We will get out of this life what we came here to get.

What we came here to receive is an understanding and appreciation for eternal life – the kind of life that God lives – that we never could have accomplished without experiencing opposition, adversity, disappointment, trail, heartache, frustration and pain.  So whatever the outcome of our lives, we will appreciate eternal life better.

That appreciation comes by application of the “moving away from” model of life.  Although we may not understand all the promises of peace, happiness, freedom, personal power, contentment and joy that are held out to us, we now know what we don’t want eternal life to be like.  We don’t want it to be like our life here on earth.

Yes, I have experienced happiness in this life.  I have experienced success, some personal power, a measure of peace, plenty of freedom and lots of growth.  But even in achieving these things, I immediately realized that they were temporary and not complete.  They do not last because of the transient nature of mortality.

Moving away from pain

Do you see?  I now understand something about eternal life that I never could have fathomed before and something that I don’t want.  I don’t want good things to end as they do in this life.  I work long and hard to create my home and family life that I do not want to see come to an end.  I don’t want that work to be wasted or to fail.

So for me, moving toward gospel promises is meaningless unless I have something concrete to compare them to.  I am motivated to move away from something that I don’t want.  I don’t want sickness, physical pain and death; therefore I am attracted by the promise of a resurrection, which becomes more attractive the older I get.

I don’t want to be disappointed in myself in the life to come.  Carol has a way of expressing this that I find memorable.  She says, “Do you think God will take away the memory of being married to someone if you don’t live worthy of them?”  How tortuous that would be to see your mortal spouse and not be able to be with them!

So for me, gospel promises are more motivating when I think about what I might lose as opposed to what I might gain.  I don’t want to lose things that I have been given or have earned.  Yes, I believe we must earn or qualify for some blessings in the life to come.  Eternal life is a gift, but we must meet the requirements for it.

Conclusion

I’ll bet there are at least a half dozen theological ideas expressed in this essay with which non-LDS readers will disagree.  In fact, I’m certain that many of my LDS readers will also take exception to some of my statements.  That’s OK.  I welcome the dialog and hope that maybe something I have expressed has been helpful.

I love the Lord’s promises but I confess that I just don’t get some of them because of my weak, limited mortal way of seeing things.  I believe the promises and am certain that they will mean a lot more when I get to the spirit world.  Today, I just want to keep the good things I have gained from my experience with opposition.

Earlier in this essay I wrote that since we have no real concept of eternal life, it is God’s responsibility to make it appear attractive to us.  I mean that.  But how he does that may be different for each one of us.  In my case, I am enticed by the spirit whispering to me that in the next life, I will no longer have to endure temptation.

I love that promise.

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