Therefore Shall a Man Cleave Unto His Wife

sealing-room-altarOn September 13 2014, I submitted a letter of resignation from the LDS Church to my local leader. I had thought long and hard about my decision and confirmed it in prayer several times. What I did not do was to tell my wife in advance of my action, but I think she saw it coming. If you understand what the LDS Church teaches about temple marriages, you will agree with me Carol is indeed a wonderful woman.

For those who don’t know, the LDS Church teaches the most important thing a man and woman can do in this life is to marry in an LDS Temple and remain married throughout their mortal lives. Carol has the advantage in this situation. She did not resign from the LDS Church, therefore, it is believed and taught she will be given to or allowed to choose any worthy man who remains faithful in the kingdom of Heaven.

I, on the other hand, am damned forever, according to LDS doctrine, unless I repent, renounce what I have done, subscribe again to the baptismal requirements, am baptized again as a member of the LDS Church, and eventually, after a long period of probation, have my temple blessings restored, a process which requires authorization from the First Presidency or the highest leadership of the LDS Church.

Traditions of Their Fathers

SaltLakeTempleNightI have detailed this previously, but to summarize, Carol is a fifth-generation member of the LDS Church. On the other hand, my family are converts from the 1960’s, with only two out of the eight considered active today, my parents having passed on in the last decade. They had informally left the church earlier. Tradition is a powerful influence in Carol’s spiritual life, which I believe I understand and deeply respect.

Sometimes I am simply amazed at the depth of Carol’s love of the Lord and tolerance for me. If you can put yourself in her shoes for a moment, I’m sure you can understand the loss she has suffered. On ward temple night, she goes alone. She knows I partake of the sacrament using wine. The very idea of wine in her home has deep personal repugnance, her grandfather having lost his legs and died as an alcoholic.

She often comments, wondering aloud really, why those who leave the church are so vocal in their comments about how anyone could belong to such a deluded organization. It hurts her to hear or read such material. She has seen it firsthand from some of the people I have chosen to associate with in various fellowship groups. I feel similarly about some things said by LDS members and Church leaders.

Study, Ponder, Pray


I still attend our main church meeting with Carol each Sunday. She asked this of me and I still dearly love so many of our friends we have associated with over the years. It is difficult at times to hear what I now consider subtle innuendos and even outright lies from the pulpit (I don’t attend classroom activities), from good people who have NOT studied things out and are simply repeating what others have said.

I considered myself an orthodox Mormon for all my life. I served an LDS mission at age nineteen. I met my wife through the LDS Church Young Single Adult program and married in the temple shortly after. As is fairly normal, I served for over twenty-five years in various teaching and leadership positions and did my best to make my private worship practice something that would give me spiritual strength each day.

I am a computer professional and spend almost all day every day on the Internet. It is a part of my job. When I take breaks I would go read what others were writing about the LDS Church and participate in the ongoing dialog on many of the blogs and chat groups. I like to consider myself well-read, or at least I can say I have contributed a lot of money to Deseret Book over the years in building my well-stocked library.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

ezekial-chariotThe subjects of my blog were almost always on my mind for eight years. I thought about, studied about and wrote about the basic history and doctrines in a manner I hoped would be helpful to those who were serious about learning more about the LDS faith. Of course, as anyone can tell you who has done a serious study of Mormon history, the LDS Church white-washed, covered up and lied about much of it.

I have been pondering the idea of seeking re-admittance to the LDS Church. Why would I do such a thing? Mainly to strengthen my marriage. “Don’t do it for me,” Carol says. She is right. So I continue to ponder, pray and study. My greatest desire is to do the will of the Lord. We each have spiritual gifts. I like to think I have at least some sensitivity to the voice of the Lord. In other words, I hear His voice.

This is not a unique claim, one that has certain requirements of course, but is highly sought after by most members of the LDS Church I know. If a Mormon says to you, “I don’t want to hear the voice of the Lord,” I would translate that to mean, “I don’t want to do what I’m afraid I might hear,” Likewise, it is, or was, a long-time aspiration of faithful Mormons to come into the presence of the resurrected Lord.

Receive the Second Comforter

carl_bloch_the_christThis idea – embracing the Lord as a mortal – is a hot topic of debate today, at least among those who think it has significance. Some have told me, “It doesn’t matter. Just endure to the end and all will be well.” Did we not at one time teach it is worth any sacrifice to embrace the Lord while yet in this life? That’s the debate: Should we seek to come into the presence of the Lord? Or simply endure to the end?

Those who quote Joseph (and I’m certain I’ve shared this quote a dozen times on this blog), are looked upon by most as being quacks. The correlated material found in the LDS manuals today does not include this doctrine of seeking an audience with the Lord. This is the main doctrine I studied for two years before I decided I didn’t want to be part of an organization that almost NEVER brought this up.

“Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him,

“Potshots at the Brethren”

quorum-twelve-april-2016“and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.”  TPJS, 149-151

Well, actually, there was much more to my decision that this. I met with my Bishop for a year to discuss my concerns. I was serving in the Stake Presidency at the time. He didn’t seem to have any problems with my questions. I figure he just accepted such things as part of my private gospel study. One time I quoted a General Authority saying we needn’t be concerned with this specific doctrine. My bishop reacted.

I won’t say he was upset. He’s a good man in control of his emotions. His statement, as I recall and recorded it, is that I was “taking potshots at the Brethren.” That got me thinking. Why is this doctrine so divisive? Is it not desirable? Does it not motivate? I will say, without a doubt, the idea of coming into the presence of the Lord is a thousand times more motivating to me than the idea of regular temple service.

Teaching the Word of the Lord

LDSChurchOfficeBuildingI want to have the Lord abide with me. That is the promise of the Second Comforter. I will do anything asked of the Lord to obtain this goal. It befuddles and amazes me when good brethren in my High Priest group told me I was wrong to bring this subject up, that enduring to the end is ALL that is required. That was the last time I attended a High Priest Group meeting. It seems their minds are made up forever.

I am saddened by the reports I read of husbands writing they will no longer be participating in some of the online groups that are out there – the ones Elder Ballard said in which we should be involved. I have also made that decision. I do not comment on the blogs anymore and I rarely write one. The reason given? The wife holds the upper hand. Divorce is threatened. “You teach correlated stuff or you’re out of here.” * See my comment below. This is NOT quoting Carol but was shared by an online friend in sorrow.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife. He has a responsibility to lead his family in righteousness. It is a sad thing we have relegated that responsibility as to what we believe to those who write the correlated doctrinal manuals that are used in the LDS Church today. The word of the Lord should come from God and the head of the family, not from some committee writings.


The Elephant in the Room

Holiday-SplendorAnybody who tells you life is rosy after one spouse leaves the church is either blind or lying. I knew things would be difficult in our marriage after I resigned, but I didn’t know just how difficult it could be. I thought things were under control until I wanted to talk about using some tithing money to help one of my fellow bloggers in need. The resulting conversation was not encouraging. It brought deep-seated feelings of frustration and disappointment to the surface.

With Kindness and Love Unfeigned

I left for work that morning convinced there was no hope for ever coming to an understanding or agreement on fundamental beliefs we once shared in common. I felt badly about the way I had expressed myself. It caused Carol to cry so you know I was wrong. I knew I was wrong in the way I had shared my feelings. We are both stubborn and determined about what we believe. Now that we have diverged in those beliefs, we have lost some of that common ground we once had.

Pink and Blue – Love and Respect

I did a lot of praying and muttering to myself that day. I was not upset with Carol. I was upset with myself for not exercising restraint in my emotions as we discussed the tithing issue. We both attended a marriage class years ago from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs based on his book, Love and Respect. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do. It is well worth the time and effort. There are some YouTube excerpts of his lectures online that give you a taste of his fun style.

Managing the family Budget

I think we both recognized immediately we were talking past each other. I was using my blue megaphone and Carol was hearing with her pink earphones. I was looking for respect for my desire to spend the tithing money in a way I felt would be pleasing to the Lord – to help a friend in need – and she was hearing me say I didn’t love her anymore. Carol has always managed the money in our marriage. We agreed on that right from the beginning. It seems to have worked.

The Lord Will tell You How He Feels

To Carol, the discussion wasn’t about money. It was about love. I got frustrated, tried harder to make my point. She got defensive, tried harder to test my love. Gratefully, we were able to part for work that morning with a prayer, ingrained from years of habit. We were both emotional throughout the prayer, disappointed to have had such a disagreement after thirty-two years of marriage. As I travelled down the freeway, I knew the Lord was not pleased. He told me so.

Flowers – a Peace Offering

A thought crossed my mind that sparked hope of resolving the issue – flowers. How long had it been since I had brought Carol flowers? Well, it was just a few weeks ago. I got one of those $5 bouquets from someone selling them at the freeway entrance I use every night. But that wasn’t what the Lord was suggesting to me. How about a real bouquet and a beautiful vase, picked out with love and sent with a personal message to her workplace so everyone else could see them?

A Mature and Rational Discussion

That cracked the ice and got us communicating again, although it was via text messaging all day. We both arrived home at the same time. The chilly feeling I had been experiencing for months seemed to have melted. We were both pleasant and cordial, had a bite to eat and then sat down to have a mature, rational, non-emotional discussion about money, faith, common beliefs, temple sealings, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, priesthood, community fellowship and Denver.

Blessings Lost for Resigning from Church

Ah, there was the problem. Anytime I brought up an idea that was outside traditional orthodox Mormon teachings, his name came up. I shared a recent letter from the Bishop I had not shared previously. It was the “Here’s what you can no longer do” letter all priesthood leaders have clerks send out after a disciplinary council. I continued to direct the conversation back to the basic question, “What do you think of this statement from the Bishop about temple blessings?”

Church claims Temple Sealing Null and Void

Carol focused on the obvious. “You lose out on the blessings of regular temple attendance.” We discussed what those are. I asked the big question about the elephant in the room. “What do you think about our temple sealing? Do you believe it is still in force?” Carol became thoughtful and quiet. “I believe if we endure to the end, the Lord will reward us according to our faithfulness.” I told her I agreed but that she hadn’t answered my question. I asked it again. Thoughtful silence.

The Holy Spirit of Promise

Finally, a quiet and tearful, “no,” came forth. “You gave that up when you turned your back on all I thought you believed in about the Church.” I asked what she understood or believed about the Holy Spirit of Promise. We discussed that for a minute. I asked if she believed the Church had the power to control the Holy Spirit of Promise. I don’t think she understood the question. I rephrased, “Do you believe the LDS Church controls the Holy Ghost or the Priesthood of God?

Update: See discussion in comments below about the definition of the Holy Spirit of Promise.

LDS Church Does Not Control Priesthood

“Yes.” Ah, now there’s a critically important point on which we disagree. The priesthood was restored to Joseph and Oliver before the church was organized. The LDS Church relies on the priesthood, not the other way around. It is the priesthood of God. It is not the priesthood owned and managed by the LDS Church. God can give the priesthood to anyone he wants to give it to. Equally important, God can give the Holy Ghost to anyone without LDS Church involvement.

Make Sure Who Has the Sealing Power

Again Carol was thoughtful. “What about the sealing power?” I told her Joseph had it but the higher priesthood was lost sometime after Kirtland and before Nauvoo. She disagreed. “You can’t have it both ways. Either the church has the sealing power or it doesn’t.” We had come full circle to our original dialog about “Passing the Heavenly Gift” from nearly three years ago. I said, “That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? We’d better be sure we know who has that power.”

We Can Agree to Disagree

“Well, I believe the church has it,” she said. “And I believe the church has lost it,” I said. We both sat quietly. “Then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree,” Carol offered. “Agreed,” I said. The atmosphere in the room had lightened. We were in agreement – sort of. The conversation changed to other subjects normal to married couples such as how our workday had gone and how our son was doing. The presence of the comforter was apparent, so different from that morning.

Use Tithing Money to Help the Poor

The next day Carol told me she would let me decide how the tithing money from my paycheck would be used. I reminded her that she qualified for some of that tithing money because she / we have a few medical and other bills that needed to be paid and had been hanging for quite some time. I reminded her that we had used part of the tithing money I previously gave to the Church to help get her car fixed. She remembered and expressed gratitude. The day was starting well.

Knowledge is Different From Belief

I share this with you to set the scene for what I believe are some of the most important questions we can ask in life. “Who has the power to seal a marriage so it endures into eternity? Can we receive a promise from the Lord – not a man – in this life that our marriage is sealed and will be in full force in the life to come? And finally, is it possible the LDS Church could have lost the sealing power as Denver claimed it did in April of 2014? If so, how can we know for sure?”

Loss of the Sealing Power

While in a sacred place a month ago a friend asked what I thought about “Passing the Heavenly Gift.” I confess that I had not heard of the book or the author, Denver Snuffer. I assume he asked my opinion because he knows that I have reviewed similar books on my blog that focus on controversial issues facing the LDS Church. Denver’s books are not advertised. People learn about them only by word of mouth or through online reviews on sites like mine.

I purchased the book and posted on Facebook that I had done so. Several of my blogging buddies noted it and expressed interest in what I thought. A few days later after my first quick read-through, I wrote “I speed read the first half. Finding no major faults, I devoured the second half (pages 240 to 499) in about four hours. I haven’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in years.” There is something dramatically different about this book.

Don’t leave the church

I also reported that “My focus in reading was to find anything smacking of disloyalty to the brethren or encouraging the members to leave. He came close on the first point but completely negated my concern on the second.” Before I write anything else I want to focus on that second point. I am convinced that Denver Snuffer has his reader’s best interest at heart. I cannot say that about the authors of any other recent book of LDS History I have read. Denver wants us to stay in the Church.

However, Denver Snuffer has caused me to do something no other recent writer of Mormon history has been able to do. He has produced in me a desire to read his book again and again. I want to study it, to research it, to look up many of the quotes, to read what others have said about those quotes. In other words, I am taking seriously Denver’s claims which, although not all unique to his book, are argued more precisely and effectively than any other author I have encountered.

Receive the Second Comforter

I have just completed the second reading of the book and am starting on the third, this time with pen and highlighter in hand. I have read his first book, “The Second Comforter” twice and have purchased each of the intervening six books. I have invested hours reading Denver’s blog from start to finish and have contemplated each of the points he has made there over the years. Other than the scriptures, I have never invested this much time in trying to understand an author’s message.

Everything I have learned about Denver has caused me to contemplate his message more and more. He has asked that we not focus on him, his life or his background. He has asked that we pay attention more to the process he is trying to get us to pass through – a process that if we follow through to completion will have us receive The Second Comforter for ourselves. I like that. I want that. I endorse that. How can you fault a man for wanting to help you come unto Christ? I don’t.

Details lacking in faith-promoting history

In the meantime, you are going to have to pass through some very difficult realizations that, depending on the strength of your relationship with the things of the spirit, may leave you gasping and reaching for help and understanding. If you are not already familiar with things our detractors have written about us you will have a challenging time reading this book. It will make you angry. It will cause you to think of Mr. Snuffer as an apostate and wonder why he hasn’t been excommunicated.

This book is not for everybody. If you are a casual member of the church you will not be interested. If you are not familiar with some of the controversies about our history being discussed on the Internet today, you will be a little shocked at what you read. You may not understand why some of the issues are problems at all if all you have ever learned about our history is what you were taught in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary or even Institute. This is an alternative view of our history.

Sealing power has been lost

I wish I was at the point where I could say that I can vouch for Denver’s accuracy or that I agree with his interpretations. I am not there yet. I suspect it will take me years to arrive at that level. In the meantime, if you have already read Denver’s works, I want to hear from you. I am especially interested in discussion about the two most controversial arguments in his book – the idea that the sealing power is not on the earth at this time and Denver’s interpretation of the fullness of the priesthood.

<Update 4-29-12> Denver has posted on his blog that “I have never said the church does not have the sealing power.” This obviously is in direct conflict with the thesis of this essay and my (and my wife’s) interpretation of the first chapter of his book, especially this line: “The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power.” (p 36) He’s right. He did not say the church does not have the sealing power. Carol and I did not clearly understand the message of his first chapter. <end of update>

I kept looking for Denver to address the implications of the position he is advocating in regards to the work we are doing in the temples. I confess I have so far been disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic discussion of what this means to the thousands, if not millions of members who have spent so much of their time and energy over the years in researching and performing proxy ordinances in the temples for their ancestors. I am one of those individuals and want to know his response.

The work in the temples

In other words, if the sealing power is not on the earth then what hope do my wife and I have that we will be united in the eternities? If the sealing power is not on the earth, then what in the world have I and my mother and sisters been doing for these past forty years in digging and corresponding and compiling the thousands and thousands of family names ensuring that their work was done in the temples? I see this as the single most important issue to be answered.

Because I am so intrigued by what I have learned so far, I am going to give Denver the benefit of the doubt that he has already answered this question satisfactorily and I have simply not yet found it. I am not like some of my online friends who have become disaffected and left the church then complain about how much they resented the loss of their tithing money or that they felt duped when they learned they had been teaching a “sanitized” version of our history.

Section 110 misinterpreted

This idea of the sealing power is central to my feelings about the church and core to the reason why I have spent so many thousands of hours in the temple over the past thirty-five years. No, I don’t feel that my time was wasted if what Denver claims about section 110 is true. Of all the things that could strike at the heart and soul of Mormonism this is it. If you want to hurt a whole lot of good people, tell them that the the work they have been doing in the temples is not valid.

There is one question I would like to ask Denver, but I won’t because I don’t know him and he has made it clear that he gets far too many requests to answer directly. Because I felt strongly about sharing what I was learning from Denver’s books, I asked Carol to read the fist chapter of “Passing the Heavenly Gift” to me as we drove to Southern Utah for a family vacation this weekend. We had one of the most deep and enjoyable gospel discussions we have ever had over the course of several hours.

Exaltation is a family affair

Carol came away from the reading with the distinct impression that Denver was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today no different than any other good Christian church. She read that Brigham Young was only elected to be the President of the Church and that there was no ordination that passed the keys of the kingdom to him or to any of the rest of the twelve. She related her feelings while as a missionary she was taught by her mission president that Joseph ordained and passed the keys of the kingdom on to the twelve before they left on their missions.

Denver, what would you say to my wife, who related while she stood at the Far West temple site with dozens of other missionaries how she felt the spirit bear witness to her soul that Joseph successfully passed the keys of the kingdom on to the apostles before he sent them away on their missions and went on to Carthage jail to seal his testimony with his blood? Would you say that Joseph wasn’t referring to the council of the twelve, but to the council of fifty?

An incomplete ordination

What Denver is writing about is serious business. He is apparently all about getting people to question what they have been taught and what they believe about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says he wants to bring us to Christ but in the process he wants us to rethink what we have been taught and what we believe about the power of priesthood and how it is manifested in our lives. He says the temple will point us to Christ yet says the sealing power is not there.

Am I the first to see the implications of what he is teaching? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong or that I’ve missed the point completely. Tell me that all the thousands of temple workers, so many of them my good friends, are not wasting their time laboring in temples that have been rejected. Tell me that the blessings I have given to my wife and so many others over the years are efficacious even though I have not had my ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon my head.

Receiving the Heavenly Gift

I am not a lawyer, so I can never argue as well as Denver has done. I am a simple member of the church, happy in my faith and grateful to have lived my life in the orthodox manner as taught by my leaders. I have served a mission, been married in the temple, served in bishoprics and high councils for the past twenty-five years and generally loved my time associating with saints of the Lord, who Denver is now calling a fallen and proud people, members of an apostate gentile church.

What do you think? Has Denver taught the truth in his book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” or is he an apostate like some have declared him to be? Is it worth my time to read the rest of his books? Is there a whole lot more that I don’t see yet that will prove Denver to be right? Perhaps I need to re-read his first book again and put the process to the test as he is asking us to do. Is Denver teaching that we need to do in our homes what we are taught in the temple to converse with the Lord through the veil?

I would love to read your opinions.

There is no middle ground

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

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

There can be no gray area

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

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

They were all wrong

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

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

Divisive and exclusivist

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

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

Good and truth in all religions

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

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

Something unique to add

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

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

Our eternal nature

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

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

Importance of the temples

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

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

Book of Mormon is still the key

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

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

The power of a divine witness

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

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

The promise of personal revelation

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

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

Summary and conclusion

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

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

Shopping for a Celestial Marriage

The last line of Elder Nelson’s conference talk states that we “may be assured of exaltation in the kingdom of God.” What an amazing promise. He makes this wonderful declaration to the Saints conditional upon several requirements. In doing so, he is speaking on behalf of the Lord as a prophet and apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is only repeating what the Lord has promised.

One of those requirements of course, is to be married in the temple and to have that marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Elder Nelson’s discourse is entitled Celestial Marriage, which is another name for temple marriage. What he taught on Sunday afternoon was not new. He did not share anything that we haven’t been taught in the church for as long as I can recall.

Teaching with patterns

And yet, there were some who claimed that what he said was harsh, crude, unfair and unkind. They seemed particularly upset that he had used a shopping analogy which he called, “patterns of the shopper.” Go figure. These are the same people that were upset at Elder Bednar when he taught us the parable of the pickle – one of my all-time favorite conference talks. I love parables.

In the shopper analogy, Elder Nelson referred to lesser alternatives. He said that wise shoppers study their options before making their selection. They focus on quality and durability. In contrast, some shoppers look for bargains only to discover that their choice did not endure well. And sadly, there are those who try to steal what they want. We call them shoplifters.

The analogy applied to marriage

Making the analogy, he said, “A couple in love can choose a marriage of the highest quality or a lesser type that will not endure. Or they can choose neither and brazenly steal what they want as marital shoplifters.” He later said, “Some marital options are cheap, some are costly, and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options. They always breed misery.”

Elder Nelson was pointing out that some have decided a marriage outside of the temple is acceptable to them. He clearly stated that such marriages are of a lesser type, but can be upgraded at any time. His reference to shoplifters who try to steal a marriage was clearly intended to identify same-sex marriage as false, and not a marriage at all in the eyes of God.

More than a hopeful wish

But that may not have been the portion of his discourse that elicited the declaration of harsh by some who were watching and providing an online commentary. Elder Nelson clearly pointed out that to receive the reward of a celestial marriage requires more than a hopeful wish. It requires making a wise choice in this life and can’t be put off until the next, as many apparently suppose.

“On occasion, I read in a newspaper obituary of an expectation that a recent death has reunited that person with a deceased spouse, when, in fact, they did not choose the eternal option. Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father had offered them a supernal gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift.”

The seven deadly heresies

This reminds me of a quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie in a discourse delivered at BYU many years ago entitled, “The Seven Deadly Heresies.” He tells the story of a man, not a member of the Church who lived a life that was after the manner of the world. His wife, who was a member, and as faithful as she could be under the circumstances, asked him one day:

“You know the Church is true; why won’t you be baptized?” He replied, “Of course I know the Church is true, but I have no intention of changing my habits in order to join it. I prefer to live the way I do. But that doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I know that as soon as I die, you will have someone go to the temple and do the work for me and everything will come out all right.”

It was a complete waste of time

“He died and she had the work done in the temple. We do not…deny vicarious ordinances to people. But what will it profit him? There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.”

The quote above is the text that is found on the BYU website. But you can also listen to the recording and hear him say, referring to the fact that he died and the woman had his temple work done. “He did, and she did and it was a complete waste of time.” Now I know this has been discussed and dismissed by many on the online discussion forums, but it still rings true to me.

Reaction in online discussions

I have read blog entries from several individuals, whose husbands are not members, who said they just cringed when Elder Nelson was relating the pattern of the shopper. Some said they were glad their husbands were not present to hear the story. Others reported how discouraged and depressed they felt to realize that their marriage had been labeled to be of lesser value.

I’m not sure why this doctrine comes as a shock to so many when they hear it for the first time. I know Elder Nelson did not intend to offend anyone, especially those who did not marry in the temple. I can emphasize with those who feel that the leaders of the church are saying that their marriages are of a lesser value. But in the end, aren’t they teaching an important true doctrine?

Marriage can be upgraded

I know of many faithful individuals who have struggled with this all their married lives. Not understanding or accepting the doctrine, they chose to marry civilly when they were younger. As they matured in the gospel, it became clear to them that they had missed out on something very important. You can’t attend church on a regular basis and not hear this doctrine taught.

Upgrading a marriage can be a difficult task. Elder Nelson taught that it requires a mighty change of heart and a permanent personal upgrade. I admire those individuals who continue faithful in church activity over the years as they strive to qualify for both this personal upgrade and the marital upgrade. That mighty change of heart can take a lifetime to accomplish.

Summary and conclusion

I have written about this doctrine previously. Marriage is an earthly ordinance. It must be attended to in this life. It is true that we perform vicarious marriage in the temple for those who have passed on without the opportunity to obtain it in this life. But for those who have the choice to marry in the temple and choose to not do so, what promise do they have from God?

They have no promise. It is hopeful and wishful thinking to believe that God will allow them to take some extra classes or pay a little fine in order to receive the promised blessing of exaltation. After all, that’s what a temple marriage is all about. Exaltation is what God promises to those who choose a temple marriage and remain true and faithful to their covenants unto the end.

FAIR answers questions from LDS critics

There are many levels of faith and testimony within members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some are lifelong members that have been recently exposed to anti-Mormon literature or have discovered an Ex-Mormon website. Others are new members that have been asked questions by their friends from their former faith.

FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research can provide answers to some of those disturbing questions that are not always answered on the official LDS websites. It is an all volunteer organization of researchers and writers who have dealt with these age-old questions over the years in various formats and from multiple sources.

When I started blogging last year, I almost immediately began to get objecting comments from readers about some of my essay topics that they found difficult to accept. For example, I wrote about a discussion in a marriage group that Carol and I enjoyed as presented by our friends from the Church of the Nazarene in our neighborhood.

The question of marriage in heaven

The subject was marriage in heaven, which came up in one of the concluding lessons of the wonderful seminar from Emerson Eggerichs entitled Love and Respect. As I did then, I still heartily endorse it as one of the best marriage enrichment experiences of my life. Learning about pink and blue communication methods has changed so much for me.

In my essay I described the LDS view of marriage, especially how it relates to our marriage relationship in the eternities. Emerson had pointed out the scripture in Matthew 22:30 and said that we are not married in heaven but are angels to God. Of course we believe that we are married in heaven and I gave some scriptural justification for it.

An anonymous commenter decided to take exception to my explanation and began to berate me for believing in a false prophet and belonging to a church that taught false doctrines. It seems that every time I have brought up the subject of marriage in my blog I get someone objecting to some aspect of our beliefs. Why is it such a difficult subject?

How I answered the challenge

Although I was familiar with FAIR, I decided to answer my commenter from my own experience, using a technique from my missionary days. I am convinced that almost all objections to our doctrine can be answered by one simple question. Does the Book of Mormon contain revelation from God? If so, then Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet.

Of course if Joseph was a prophet then the church he established is the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. To me, that always leads to the importance of authority to act in the name of God and therefore, keys of the priesthood. With these keys, families can be sealed together for eternity. Hence we are assured that there is marriage in heaven.

There is a wealth of material on this subject on the FAIR site that I could have added to the dialog that perhaps would have helped my anonymous friend. There are answers there to difficult questions and beliefs of the restored gospel unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Eternal marriage is a difficult one for many people.

How FAIR can help with these challenges

For example, this one-page response from Marc A. Schindler says it so much better than I can. This challenge comes up so often in blogging that every LDS blogger should be familiar with the contents. It would almost seem to me that some who like to question our faith cruise the LDS blogs just looking for this subject so they can quote Matt 22:30.

The FAIR website is easy to use. Besides providing material that is original to FAIR, they are also kind enough to point to other outside sources that have additional helps. In this case, a link to an Ensign article from Feb 1986 and a link to an entry on Light Planet by W. John Walsh are both extremely helpful. This particular objection is very common.

When you refer your friends or readers to these essays on FAIR, you are engaging in what is called Apologetics. If you are not familiar with the term, it might be helpful to read this essay by Gary Bowler. No, we are not apologizing for what we believe. We are defending our faith. We strengthen our own knowledge and testimonies at the same time.

Additional resources available on FAIR

I have been engaging in email dialogs and frequenting online message boards that deal with the topic of religion for many years. FAIR began as a group of individuals like me, who love to discuss religion, got together to create a central repository for their resources and shared articles that they had written. FAIR has been around now for about ten years.

The site has grown over the years and become more and more useful. Besides the topical guide, they recently created a Wiki, that is easy to navigate and fairly comprehensive. If you are not familiar with a wiki, think Wikipedia, one of the most popular sites on the Internet. The real advantage of a wiki is the community contributions with hyperlinks.

The FAIR journal is a monthly email newsletter that contains news of changes to the FAIR websites and lists of new material that has been published in the last month. I highly recommend this free service. You can join FAIR as a member on several different levels. Content providers are welcome as the wiki is constantly in need of additions.

Summary and conclusion

Perhaps you have no intention of engaging in apologetics. I feel the same way. I like to present uplifting and faith-promoting essays on my blog. Most of the subjects I deal with include some aspect of LDS doctrine that is not common to my readers who do not share my faith. Because of this, I often find myself defending my viewpoints in the comments.

I love blogging about the church and the restored gospel. It has blessed my life so much and in so many ways. I am completely convinced that living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can solve all the problems of the world. I have often said that we have so much more to offer than other churches. Of course, we don’t say this arrogantly, but it is true.

FAIR can help explain and defend the parts of our religion that are not familiar to people. Of course, our own personal explanations and witness are the best. But we may not always be familiar with all the scriptures and quotes from prophets and apostles that can back up our claims. That’s where FAIR can help. It is an easy to use online resource.

Temple sealing is an earthly ordinance

I find that at times, I have inadvertently offended others by the manner in which I use phrases that I have heard growing up in the church. For example, while commenting on a wonderful essay entitled I’m Okay; you’re Okay by guest blogger Denae on Mormon Matters the other day, I used the phrase in my response, “We have so much more to offer the world.”

Now, I know I’ve heard that phrase used in a General Conference talk or two, by some General Authority, or maybe a prophet or two. Ah yes, here’s one recent instance…“We have so much to offer. Just think of what we have to offer. Other people do not understand the true nature of God.” That’s from President Hinckley, Feb 07 Ensign, in the section Stand taller.

And from President J. Reuben Clark in Oct 1949 General Conference, “Well, I have had so many experiences that I cannot understand why we cannot plant the truth in the hearts of our people until no outside thing or movement in the world can have any influence with them. We have so much more to offer than any other church in the world.”

Importance of sealing ordinances

The subject of the essay was temple marriage. It is a subject about which I am passionate and have written several times. Denae’s point was that she married someone not of our faith and that she had no intention of trying to convert him. She does not believe that it is necessary to be sealed in the temple to be together with him in the eternities. She wrote:

“I can’t believe that God would really split up a family after death because they didn’t perform a specific ceremony…That doesn’t sound like a nice God; that sounds downright mean. So I don’t believe that my husband (and any potential future children) will be separated at death. Maybe in the hereafter we’ll have to do some extra work, maybe take some extra classes, something like that, but ultimately we’ll still be together.”

In addition to many others, I offered comments that expressed my understanding of the importance of the temple sealing. Among other things, I wrote, “I know God wants us to be together as families in the next life. That’s why we teach of the importance of receiving the sealing ordinance in this life. It cannot be performed in the hereafter.”

The sealing is an earthly ordinance

Denae wrote that she did not take offense at my response but several others apparently did. One labeled me an exclusionist with no empathy for those who do not enjoy my lack of self-doubt. I guess my strong assertion that the sealing was an earthly ordinance was something that he had never heard before, or if he had, that he did not believe or accept it.

Another claimed that my statement was not doctrinal and was very offensive to someone in Denae’s position. I’ll admit that it can be a tough thing to accept and that perhaps it may seem to be exclusionary. Nevertheless, it is doctrinal and has been since 1843. It is found in canonized scripture in verse 18 of section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“…if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him unto whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there…”

Ordinances by proxy in the temples

Because God is a merciful as well as a just God, he has made provisions for those who are unable to receive the sealing ordinances in this life. Many people fall into this category. Obviously, those who lived at a time when the sealing power was not upon the earth did not have the opportunity to take advantage of it. That’s why we build temples.

The Lord has made it abundantly clear over the years that provisions will be made for those who do not receive the sealing ordinance of marriage in this life through no fault of their own. If they are worthy of such a blessing, they will receive it. However, I remain convinced that the actual sealing ordinance will still be performed for them in a temple.

In other words, nobody can receive the blessings of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom without receiving this ordinance either in person or by proxy. There is no other way. That is a basic tenet of our doctrine and is unique to our LDS theology. The Lord said there is no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven. That is an earthly ordinance.

Promised blessings are conditional

What about those who were sealed to a spouse who proved unfaithful? We know from D&C 132 that unless the marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise that it is not valid. In other words, there are two parts to the marriage – the sealing ordinance by the authority of the priesthood and our part – worthiness and faithfulness to each other.

If we remain worthy and faithful, even if divorced, we will inherit the blessings of the sealing ordinance. We have been taught that the wife does not have to come forth to a husband that she does not love when she is called up to the resurrection. The important thing is that she received the sealing ordinance in this life or had it performed for her.

The same applies to the husband. If he is worthy and faithful, yet his wife decides that she no longer believes and does not live up to her part, he does not have to call her forth to be his wife in the resurrection. Whether they divorced or not is immaterial. My point is that it is a requirement to receive the sealing ordinance and to remain true and faithful.

Summary and conclusion

I feel the need to reiterate here that I am not speaking on behalf of the church. I believe that what I have written is doctrinally correct but I am open to correction. Some of what I have written in the last section is what I have been taught over the years in priesthood and Sunday school lessons. It is also an accurate summary of my own personal study.

Back to my statements in the opening section – I have no desire to offend. If I come across as too dogmatic or authoritative, please forgive me. I am not a church authority and am simply trying to express my understanding of what I consider to be an incredibly important doctrine. The sealing ordinance is something I cherish and want to understand.

And yes, I still maintain that we as a Church have so much more to offer the world. This doctrine of temple marriage and the sealing authority of the priesthood is the best example of what we can offer that nobody else can. The Lord has revealed that it is a requirement for exaltation and that is what we are striving for. We teach the ideals in this church.

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