Is It Enough To Be A Good Mormon?

I want to thank everyone who took the time and read my previous post about President Monson’s amazing new revelation during general conference. I admit it was a bit out there, but that was intentional. It was with that post I wanted to comment on the current Mormon understanding of modern revelation and doctrine.

Yes, I agree that I made some monumental logical leaps, but isn’t that what our understanding as a Church of modern revelation requires us to do as well? If President Monson’s words that Section 89 is the Word of Wisdom (which allows the interpretation that I can abide by everything set forth in section 89 and still keep the Word of Wisdom) aren’t revelation then what is? If a prophet’s words can only be considered revelation if they agree with the institution, then what use is a prophet?

The thing is that most members of the Church have a very loose definition of what constitutes revelation. We use generic phrases like, “guided by revelation.” But what does that mean exactly? We use it to mean that a talk, while may not be a revelation revelation, it was inspired and thus pretty much the same thing as revelation. We also say things like a manual (written by various authors, then organized by a committee, then published with the Church’s name on it) is pretty much revelation too because “the prophet approved it.” In either case both of these positions contain just as huge leaps of logic as my previous post did. We spread the definition of revelation so thin that anything could be revelation; it just depends on how many people support it.

All of this tradition and institutional policy is built up as a defense that allows members of the Church to still claim modern revelation, while avoiding that fact that no revelations, like Joseph Smith received, have been published in over 125 years. What that boils down to in ground level terms is that it makes it impossible to analyze the truth claims of continuing revelation because any statement by a church leader or Church publication is simultaneously both revelation and not revelation. It becomes one or the other depending solely upon whatever the Church headquarters says it is at any given time.

I’ve asked the question of other members of the Church, “If the Prophet said something that contradicted the handbook what should we follow?” The most common answer is that we should follow whatever the prophet said most recently. However, the response to my previous post proved that it doesn’t really matter to most members of the Church what the Prophet actually said most recently. The only reason President Monson’s talk wasn’t regarded as revelation is because, contrary to rhetoric, most members of the Church don’t actually look to the President of the Church for revelation, we look to the institution. We expect that there will be new manuals, new policies, press conferences, the whole shebang. Just look at the change in missionary age. This is widely regarded as revelation, though it was never actually stated to be such. There were just all the institutional trappings that come with what we claim to be revelation, so BAM it was revelation.

i-can-t-i-m-mormon-mormons-332318_400_400We as members of the Church often repeat the phrase “Follow the Prophet,” but we don’t actually mean that. What we actually mean is, listen to what comes out of the Church Office Building and Church culture and do that. In other words the phrase “Follow the Prophet” actually means, be a good Mormon. Thus if there is anything that makes you do something other than what a good Mormon should do, even if the Prophet says it, don’t do it. Just be a good Mormon!

For an excellent example of following the Church over prophets we need only look at how Hastening the Work became a major Mormon teaching; even though President Monson never started it. To read the entire history of this click here; but for this post I’ll quote the main point:

Over and over we heard that President Monson told us it’s time to hasten the work. I was actually assigned to teach the topic to my Elder’s Quorum [in 2014], so I set about tracking down the original quote from President Monson about hastening the work. I wanted to read to my brethren the call from the prophet himself.

Except he never said it.

I went through every General Conference address, and every other speaking gig President Monson did since the age change, and I couldn’t find even a single instance of him speaking of hastening the work. Not one.

And yet, in the April, 2014 General Conference, no fewer than FIVE speakers spoke on the “hastening,” often tying it in some way to President Monson, and thus putting words he never said, squarely in his mouth.

Incidentally, President Monson has since written about hastening the work. It was in a First Presidency Message in the Ensign in June of this [2014]. And it was about family history work. Confused? Predictably, the message has been adjusted and we are now hearing about hastening the work of salvation–among the living and the dead. No problem.

This is yet again proof that we prefer institutional policy over revelation. The doctrine of Hastening the Work appeared out of our culture, was adopted by leaders of the Church, then only after all that did President Monson speak about the topic. If Hastening the Work was a doctrine that came from culture, not from revelation; then what other Mormon teachings are? What other teachings have we gotten over the pulpit that first came from opinions and then were promoted enough until they finally became doctrine? What are things we claim as revelation that are actually just teachings our leaders grew up believing?

This is why I can’t just accept at face value what the Church teaches and go on “being a good Mormon.” What if what the Church currently teaches is wrong? Most members of the Church would say that it can’t be because “the prophet will never lead us astray.” The problem with that is first of all, people aren’t listening to the prophet, they are listening to the institution. Second, where did that teaching come from? What if that teaching is a false doctrine too?

intersect41Those questions are why I HAVE TO examine the history and progression of Mormon theology. That is why I can’t just accept what is taught TODAY as truth. Instead, I have to seek out where teachings came from and see if what is taught today came from God or men.

In the classic epic poem the Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus and his crew are sailing past the island of the Sirens. The call of the sirens was such that it would make a man go mad and lead to his death. So Odysseus ordered his men to put wax in their ears. But Odysseus wanted to hear the call of the sirens So he told his men to tie him to the mast. After entering range of the siren’s call Odysseus begged and pleaded to be set free. But his men refused and they safely sailed past the island.

waterhouse27If Odysseus’ crew had taken the current orders and more important than the previous ones; then Odysseus’ men should have untied him and let him swim to his doom. That is, after all, what he was telling them at that time.

But Odysseus had given them orders to disregard anything that contradicted his will at that time. His men recognized that his present desires were contradicting he previous orders. They stuck with what he had previously ordered and made it through safely.

What if right now the church is metaphorically sailing past the island of the sirens. What if those at the helm of the Good Ship Zion are contradicting the orders of the Captain Himself? We can’t know unless we compare it with what God said in the past. The scriptures teach that pondering is important to understanding God’s truth. How many of us actually study these things and ponder them? And how many of us just keep doing what we’ve always done because that’s what we’ve been taught from day one? Are we too busy trying to get right the teachings we were raised in that we are neglecting to get right the teachings of God?

Is there anything in the scriptures where Odysseus-like commands are given? In fact there are. In multiple places we are taught to disregard things that conflict with what was established at the time.

Paul in Galatians 1:8, 9 warned:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Again in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 we learn:

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

With these warnings we can used the scriptures as our measuring stick for any teaching we come across. This doesn’t mean that we reject new teachings from God through revelation. Nor does it mean that we must be stuck in the 1800’s. Instead it means that when people, regardless of their position, come to us and claim something is God’s Word, we can judge if it truly is. And if it is we accept it and if it is not then we don’t.

I don’t believe we must reject leaders of the Church. But I do believe it is our duty to examine our teachings, and if they are found to be false we should reject those teachings and replace them with correct ones. When we say we sustain Church leaders we teach it doesn’t mean we blindly follow them. But do we really believe that? Like the story of Uzzah who was struck dead when he put his hand forth to steady and support the ark in its improper method of being carried. So too we will not stand blameless for supporting incorrect teachings. Sometimes sustaining Church leaders means to not support false teachings we heard over the pulpit.

wrong-wayI fully believe that the President of the Church cannot lead this people astray. That’s because if we as a people know and support God’s true teachings; then if leaders, any leader or even just a random blogger, teach something that is incorrect, we cannot be lead astray by it.

In my journey I observed several places where what we as Mormons practice seemed to conflict with what God taught in the scriptures. Noticing this apparent contradiction I began to study. The result of my study is that I found many of the things I had been taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders was not correct. Faced with this realization I must either accept additional light and knowledge or remain in darkness and lose what light I possessed. What would you do?

Posted in Church, revelation, Scriptures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Huge Revelation That Many Mormons Missed

2014-10-1010-president-thomas-s-monson-590x331-ldsorg-articleOne of the central tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God reveals His will through living prophets, this is called Modern Revelation.  As an extension of that principle, Latter-day Saints believe it is essential to follow what the Living Prophet says. Twice a year, members of the Church have the opportunity to listen to talks from Church leaders during a semi-annual General Conference. These talks include addresses from the Church’s Prophet. In our day this is President Thomas S. Monson.

Now, if you are a Mormon, like me, you may have noticed that there is a growing number of what are referred to as “cafeteria Mormons.” These are members of the Church who pick and choose what they want to believe. When it comes to following to the Prophet , I find that many of these Mormons want to put words in the Prophet’s mouth rather than listen to what has actually come out of it. When they hear the Prophet speak they excuse themselves from following what he said and instead follow what they wish he said.

I fear that this is why many members of the Church didn’t notice the ground breaking modern revelation that came through President Monson at this latest general conference. If we believe that whatever the Prophet has most recently spoken about a subject is God’s will revealed through modern revelation, then I can only conclude that too many of these “cafeteria Mormons” are stuck in their own traditions and not willing to follow the Prophet.

So just what did the Prophet say most recently that was an amazing revelation? This last weekend(as of this writing) Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at General Conference.  He gave two talks, both of which I will talk about here. In his second talk on Sunday morning he said:

 “Essential to the plan is Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice all would be lost. It’s not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission; we need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them.”

Wow, isn’t that incredible! Unfortunately too many members of the Church will simply gloss over his words or ignore them and continue on doing what they’ve always been doing. They will say, “He didn’t actually mean what he said he really meant(insert-favorite-false-teaching-here).” Others, if you ask them what the Prophet’s most recent message was they will probably draw a blank, so I will reemphasize the crux of what he said:

“We need to know God’s laws and live them.”

What is it President Monson reminded us to know and live? God’s Laws. Notice anything missing? I’m willing to bet those cafeteria Mormons didn’t. But for the sake of clarity I’ll point it out what you probably already know. If you listen to President Monson’s talk you’ll notice he told us to know and keep God’s Laws, yet he never mentioned knowing and keeping Church culture or tradition. He also didn’t mention knowing and keeping Church policies and handbooks. He said, “We need to know GOD’S LAWS and LIVE THEM.

Yet, there are some spurious groups of Church members, including unfortunately, some leaders; that completely missed this modern revelation and continue to take President Monson’s words out of context. God, through President Monson’s most recent words just changed the entire landscape of the Church.

Ok, ok, maybe I’m over reacting a bit. Maybe when he spoke he implied the handbook and other policies even though he didn’t actually say it. But, as you know, implication doesn’t count as modern revelation. However, just to make sure I’m not going crazy here, and to avoid standing on a shaky foundation let’s look at His talk during the Priesthood session of this same Conference.

During this talk President Monson spoke about the Word of Wisdom. At the end of his talk he reaffirmed the importance of observing it by saying:

“May we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of wisdom; a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do.”

words-of-wisdom-clip-art-3v3rw6-clipartSo let’s have a quick look at the Word of Wisdom. Looking at the actual text of Section 89 we notice that the revelation contains stuff that is slightly different than what is contained in the modern Church policy and tradition version. That’s not really a problem if you believe that God uses modern revelation through living Prophets to tell us what His will for us NOW is.

Modern Church policy and tradition holds that the Word of Wisdom contains the following provisions, to name a few:

– That that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment.

– That all alcohol use is forbidden.

– That caffeine is forbidden.

– That the don’ts are more important than the dos.

However, the actual text of the Section 89 is somewhat different than what we think of when we hear the phrase “Word of Wisdom.” These differences include:

– It is explicitly stated that it is not to go by way of commandment.

– Wine can be used for the sacrament.

– “Hot drinks,” not explicitly tea and coffee, are forbidden.

– Caffeine is never mentioned.

– “Do’s” such as eating meat sparingly; and that herbs, fruit and meat are to be used with thanksgiving.

– Barley based “mild drinks,” not excluding beer, are acceptable.

It is believed in the Church that modern revelation trumps past revelation. So if the current President of the Church says that we should not drink alcohol even though Section 89 says wine and beer are ok, then we should follow what the living prophet says NOW. I believe most Mormons would agree with this.

So what did President Monson most recently say about the Word of Wisdom? Less than two days(at the time of this writing) ago at the beginning of his Priesthood session talk President Monson said:

“In 1833 the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the plan for healthy living. That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom. It gives specific direction regarding the food we eat and it prohibits the use of substances that are harmful to our bodies. Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commandments and who faithfully observe the Word of Wisdom are promised particular blessings among which are good health and added physical stamina.”

Did you catch what President Monson said? He said first that, “the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the plan for healthy living.” So he is confirming that the Lord’s plan for healthy living was reveal to Joseph Smith. Then he told us that “That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom.” Here President Monson specifically tells is what he means when he refers to the Word of Wisdom. He specifically stated that he is referring to section 89 when he referred to the Word of Wisdom in his talk. He did NOT say the handbook, Church website, policies, and/or traditions were the correct definition. So I’m not crazy. That is two talks where he told us to obey God’s laws and gave no mention of the handbook, manuals, and policies. He also directly contradicted the Church website and manuals in one talk.

Why isn’t this in the news?! This is huge. President Monson just told us that the Word of Wisdom is the actual text of Section 89 and did not include what the handbook or Church website says about it.

This is seriously a mind blowing change for any Mormon who believes we should Follow the Prophet.

Now I’m sure there are some segments of Mormonism who are probably screaming, “We’ll he may not have said it, but he meant that we should follow the Church’s teachings about the Word of Wisdom and other things.”

But these people are clearly ignoring the doctrine of Modern Revelation. President Monson clearly stated that we need to know and live God’s Laws and that the Word of Wisdom is found in section 89. These members of the Church would rather stick with what was said in the past than what has been said RIGHT NOW. These are the same people who would have stoned the ancient prophets for saying anything other than what they wanted to hear.

Just what are God’s Laws as President Monson mentioned? Well in his second talk he clearly referenced section 89. So maybe the scriptures are a good place to start. As a point of fact the handbook itself says it is not scripture:

17.1.1  Scriptures

The standard works of the Church are the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In many languages, the Church has approved one edition of the Bible to be used in Church meetings and classes. Likewise, the latest authorized edition of the other three books of Latter-day Saint scriptures should be used. No other works are to be promoted or used in the Church as scripture.

Fortunately the scriptures in the standard works are readily available to us. Just crack them open and read. But, to save you some time I’ll summarize a few of God’s Laws here and how this emphasis on God’s Laws, by a modern prophet, will affect us.


surplusIn Section 119 God revealed that tithing consists of each person giving their initial surplus to the Bishop. Then yearly for every year after that they are to give 10% of their interest.

This means that unless you give that initial surplus as commanded in Section 119 you cannot be a full tithe payer. After you have done that, only 10% of your interest is required for tithing. Additionally, tithing need not be money only.

Missionary Work

Missionaries are to be guided by God’s Laws in Section 84 and other commandments, which state that they are to go forth without purse or scrip, neither staff nor two coats. They are to receive their subsistence from the generosity of those they encounter. This is so that God may judge the people of that city through their actions(how willing they are to help the poor). Missionaries are also commanded that if they receive money and they have families they need to send it home to them. Or if they don’t have families they should send the money to the bishop.

This means that the missionary program of the Church is going to need a complete overhaul. Any missionaries out there take your white handbook and throw it in the garbage. Any families of missionaries, stop paying into the missionary fund. There is to be no missionary fund. Missionaries will receive their food, clothing, housing, etc. from the generosity of those around them


Christ declared in Matthew 5:32 that any man who divorces his wife, except in cases of fornication, and she remarries is causing her and her new husband to commit adultery. We are then under the command given in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that if a man and woman separate(not divorce) then she is to remain unmarried while he is to receive her if she comes back. We should see a lot fewer divorces.

Adultery and Fornication

We are to understand the scriptural meaning of adultery and fornication. That is, adultery is when a man has sexual relations with another man’s wife. This definition does not include a single or married man having sexual relations with a woman who is single. (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 22:22)

Note: Just to clarify, I’m not saying that a single or married man having sexual relations with a single woman outside of marriage not a sin, nor am I advocating such behavior. I’m just saying that according to the scriptural definition it is not adultery. In fact the required act of repentance for such an action is given in the scriptures.

As for fornication we are to understand that it is a broad term referring to sexual sin and not specifically unmarried persons having sex. (Matthew 15:19; Jacob 3:12)


86439859The church will kneel together when the sacrament is blessed. While water may be used for the sacrament wine is also allowed. Priests will only administer the sacrament when and elder is not present. (Section 20:40, 46, 50, 58, 76; Section 27:1-5;


As contained in Section 20 elders are to administer the bread and wine in the sacrament. Additionally they are to take the lead of all meetings. Elder are also to travel to preach the gospel. (Section 20:38-45, 66; Section 124:139, 140)

This means that Bishops will not be the presiding authority at Church meetings, though they will still be in charge of the temporal needs of members in Wards.


First of all Priests will not be limited to a certain age group. It will now become common for grown men to be priests. Additionally, when elders are present they are NOT allowed to administer the Sacrament. But when elders are not present they may take the lead of meetings. Priests are also to assist elders in travelling and preaching the gospel. (Section 20:46-52)

Teachers and Deacons

Teachers will watch over the church and make sure the church gathers to meet. Teachers will not be involved in administering the sacrament. But they will take the lea d of meetings when neither an elder nor priest are present. (Section 20:53-58)

Deacons will not participate in administering the sacrament. (Section 20:58)

Word of Wisdom

I already touched on this but I’ll summarized again here. To start off the Word of Wisdom is no longer to be considered a commandment. Additionally wine is acceptable for use in the sacrament(a much better symbol than water by the way). Third you can drink barley based “mild drinks,” not excluding beer, and still say you keep the word of wisdom. Eating meat sparingly and fruit in season with thanksgiving is on equal footing with all of the “don’ts.”

Gathering to Zion

We can now give up the so-called “spiritual gathering,” where members are called to gather and build Zion where they are. We must prepare to physically gather to Zion and the Lord will prepare the way for this to happen (Section 101:67-69).

I don’t think I need to go on much more. I’m sure you think I’m coo-coo-bananas at this point. But you have the scriptures, you can read for yourself. This is a very interesting time in Mormonism. President Monson has just given us modern revelation that we are to know and live God’s Laws. At the same time  he did not emphasize the need to follow the handbook, when he could have. Thus in light of President Monson’s most recent words we can surmise that in cases where the Laws of God conflict with the handbook, policies, and culture; we should follow God’s Laws.  As I showed earlier proof of this view was given in his Priesthood Session talk where he did not use the Church’s website reference to abstaining from all alcohol, and instead used Section 89 which allows wine for sacrament and beer.

businessman_at_crossroadsMembers of the church now stand at a cross roads. Do we say President Monson implied something that he never said, or do we listen to what he actually said? Do we continue to follow the traditions and policies of the Church the conflict with God’s laws, or are we going to Follow the Prophet?

Preach My Gospel says this:

“Those who listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles will not go astray. The teachings of living prophets provide an anchor of eternal truth in a world of shifting values and help us avoid misery and sorrow. The confusion and strife of the world will not overwhelm us, and we can enjoy the assurance of being in harmony with God’s will.”

Are you willing to listen to what the Prophet, President Monson, has said most recently? Or are you still stuck in the past. For me I will stand with President Monson. No matter what my fellow members say about me, or what discipline I may face from Church Leaders, at least I can stand firm and solemnly declare I was not being led astray, because I was willing to Follow the Prophet.

“May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.” – President Monson, October 2011

Dare to be a Mormon;

Dare to stand alone.

Dare to have a purpose firm;

Dare to make it known.

Posted in Church, Commandments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Two Perspectives

Or Why I Frequently Disagree With Other Mormons.

14492469I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in disagreements with other Mormons. And I’ve found this really all boils down to a difference in perspective. There are two type of perspectives I wish to discuss. These are what I call the Looking Back and Looking Forward perspectives.

For someone with a Looking Back perspective they look at where they are now and reconcile the past with that. What this means is a Mormon will start from what the know today; and believing that to be correct, will regard past decisions as necessary to get us where we are. Their understanding comes from the now and looking back into the past.

Someone with a Looking Forward perspective looks from the past and reconciles the past as it flowed into the future. From this perspective a Mormon will believe some point in the past was correct, and as time flowed any decisions may have been good or bad depending on if they maintained the integrity of that past. Where we are now might not be correct if past decisions are found to be in error.

Let’s look at some examples:

  Looking Back Looking Forward
Pioneers God wanted the Pioneers to travel across the plains to establish Salt Lake City so the Gospel could flourish and go to all the earth. The Saints were cast out of Nauvoo because they failed to listen to God’s commandments. We are currently under condemnation.
President of the Church There is a clear line of succession traced back to Joseph Smith. There was no clear successor after Joseph’s death. Modern leaders are probably not true successors.
Section 89 (Word of Wisdom)  The Word of Wisdom is now a commandment and we are forbidden from drinking alcohol. Section 89 says it is not a commandment and allows wine for the sacrament and mild barley based drinks.
Church Administration Bishops are to lead congregations, Priests bless the sacrament, teachers hold the doors, and Deacons pass the sacrament. Bishops are to oversee the temporal needs, while Elders are spiritual leaders. Priest may only administer sacrament if and elder in not present. Neither teachers nor deacons may administer the sacrament.


Those are just a few examples. But I think you get my meaning. Now I’ll give you a practical example. Just recently I was conversing with another Mormon and he stated that a sacrament I participated in was not real because it was not authorized by a Bishop. I asked where it is stated that a bishop must authorize a sacrament. The other member said it was in the handbook. Yes, but the handbook is not scripture, I replied. This member said, No, but it was authorized by the Prophet.

Do you see the two perspectives here? Get into any discussion with an L-DS Mormon and it will inevitably come down to the President of the Church. Do you believe Thomas S. Monson to be a prophet? In other words, do you believe that where we are now is correct? Because if where we are now is correct, then it doesn’t matter how things used to be.

Whereas my perspective in the discussion was that the past was correct and any changes from that were incorrect. So from my perspective it doesn’t matter if President Monson authorized the handbook or not, because if that Handbook contradicts God’s revelations, it is not true.

For many the Looking Back perspective works; and if it works for you, that’s great. But it doesn’t work for me. Why? Because, no offense, it doesn’t seem rational. Time does not flow backward, it flows forward. Past events were not done with our current arbitrary position in mind as the inevitable goal.

Let’s say that 100 years ago at point A God revealed that we should paint our doors black. Then 50 years ago at Point B someone said, hey we don’t have any black paint, let’s use grey. Then today at point C someone says God wants all our doors to be grey. Yes I know it’s a silly example but bear with me.

Someone Looking Back would say, yes God originally wanted our doors black, but it was changed and now He wants our doors grey.

Someone Looking Forward would say our current practice is wrong. God still wants our doors black, because he never told us he wanted them grey, that was just something somebody used in an extraneous circumstance.

Both of these perspectives require that some point be viewed as correct. To me it makes more sense to look at the past because we can more easily examine it. The Lord said the saints would be cast out if they didn’t finished the Nauvoo Temple in time. They didn’t and they were. We can look at history and see it unfolding. The Looking Back perspective requires us to assume that whatever we are taught today is true. There really is no other basis than he said, she said. To me it seems a very weak foundation to have.

This is the big difference that seems to be the root of all my disagreements with other Mormons. Because it always seems to boil down to, “Do you believe President Monson is a Prophet or not?” I’m not sure how to really address this, because no matter what the answer it shuts the discussion down.

So, which perspective do you espouse? What point do you view as correct? What are the advantages of your perspective?

Posted in Church, Prophets | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Abraham’s Toxic Polygamy

All references are to the Joseph Smith Translation.

250px-Sarah-HagarThe story of Sarah giving Hagar to Abraham is commonly used by pro-polygamists to bolster their position of polygyny being approved by God. However, others point out that the only reason Sarah did this was because she didn’t have enough faith that God would give her a son. Meaning that it was only through Sarah’s lack of faith that Abraham committed polygyny to begin with. In this article I will look deeper into this issue and expound this a bit more.


The Lord first give a promise to Abram in Genesis Chapter 12. In verse 2 God promises that he will make of Abram a great nation and that in him the nations of the earth will be blessed. In verse 6 the Lord promises the land to Abram’s seed. So far there is just a general promise of becoming a great nation and his seed possessing the land. There has been no indication from the Lord that these promises must be fulfilled through Abram’s literal descendants. As far as anyone knows Abram’s house qualifies for fulfilling these promises.


We learn later in Chapter 15, when the Lord comes again to talk with Abram, that Abram has already arranged an heir. That heir is Eliezer, a man who was born of Abram’s house. In verse 2-6 the Lord clarifies that it will be a literal descendant of Abram who will be his heir. This is important in understanding what comes next.


In Chapter 16 we get into the situation with Sarai and Hagar. Before giving Hagar to Abram, and Abram consequently becoming polygynous, Sarai recognizes that she is barren. At this point in time Sarai is about 75 years old. Abram and Sarai have been married for some time now and it is pretty clear that not only was she barren in their youth, but she has long past the age of child bearing. It is important to note that Sarai says that “the Lord hath restrained me from bearing”. Now, considering the fact that she truly was barren, I think it would be accurate of her to say that the Lord has restrained her. Certainly if the Lord wanted her to have a child, He would have caused it to happen.

It is because of this that Sarai decides to give her handmaid(servant) Hagar to Abram as a wife so that through her Sarai might have children. It is here that Sarai lacked faith in the Lord, or so people say. But let’s look carefully at what is going on.

– First, the Lord promised Abraham seed (plural).

– Second, one of these seed that would be his heir, would be a literal descendant of him.

– Third, Sarai was barren and there was no indication that the Lord had not caused it.*

The assumption behind the Sarai lacking faith theory is that they say Sarai knew that it must be through her that the heir was born. And that she did not have enough faith that the Lord would open her womb. The problem with this is that nowhere in the text does it state that the heir would come through Sarai. Up until this point there has been no indication that the heir has anything to do with Sarai. We only know that it must be through Abram.

Based on the information given, Sarai arrived at the logical conclusion that, since she couldn’t have children herself, they must have to come through someone else. I would say that the decision to give Hagar to Abraham as a wife was not a result of lacking faith; instead it was driven by faith.

Now we start getting into problems when Hagar conceives. When this happens Hagar becomes very prideful. She despised Sarai. Now, imagine that one moment you are a servant girl, and the next you are the mother of the heir to everything. For me it is easy to see why Hagar would be prideful. However, this was not a good thing, Sarai tells Abram of Hagar’s attitude. Sarai realized that perhaps Hagar was not the best choice to have given to be Abram’s wife. Some people look at verse 5 of Chapter 16 and think this is proof that Sarai knew giving Hagar to Abraham was the wrong thing. But again, looking at the evidence; Sarai had no indication that the heir and other seed would come through her. All she knew was that Abram must have seed. If Sarai thought that giving Abram a second wife was wrong, she only could have thought that condemning Abram to having no children was a better option. This a clearly absurd. Sarai’s statement of her “wrong” must have been about her regretted giving the prideful Hagar, as opposed to some other woman, to Abram.


After this, Abram tells Sarai that she should take care of it because Sarai is still Hagar’s mistress. Sarai then dealt hardly with Hagar, and Hagar flees. People using the story of Sarai and Hagar to show how bad polygamy is point to this incident and say, “See look how toxic polygamy is.” But what is going on here has little to do with polygyny and more to do with Hagar’s pride. Meaning, there is nothing inherent in polygyny that caused Hagar’s reaction. Her reaction came because of her perceived status change in becoming the mother of the heir.


While in the wilderness an angel comes to Hagar. The angel tells Hagar to go back and submit herself to Sarai, after all Sarai was Hagar’s mistress. The angel also blesses Hagar’s child. Something interesting to note here is that the Angel doesn’t say that Ishmael will be the heir, but also doesn’t say he won’t be either. So still no one in this account has any reason to think that Ishmael is not the heir. My personal thought is that it was Hagar’s despising of Sarai that may have lost it for Ishmael.


36481_all_09-02-AbrahamHagar returns and Ishmael is born. Thirteen years later and Chapter 17 starts. That’s over thirteen years for the Lord to say that Sarai would have a son, but He didn’t. It is safe to assume that Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael, and everyone else believed that Ishmael was the heir. It is here when the Lord comes and changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah. Also in verse 22 is the first mention of Sarah being the one to bear the heir. This reaffirms that, unlike what detractors claim, Sarai’s actions in promoting polygyny were done with faith, not without it.


In verse 22, the Lord says that it will be Sarah who will bear the heir of Abraham. Abraham goes on to rejoice. But he doesn’t rejoice because it will be Sarah who will bear the heir, as some suppose; but that two people as old as they are will have a son. Immediately after this though, Abraham prays for Ishmael. The Lord then confirms that it is Isaac who will be the heir.


Later in Chapter 18 three angels as men came to visit Abraham. They confirm to him that Sarah will bear a son. Sarah overhears this and laughs. She has a hard time believing that a she and Abraham, in their old age, could have a son together. If there was any part of the story where it could be said that Sarah lacked faith it would be here. But after a short discussion with the angel Sarah accepts what will happen.


ishmael-and-hagarLastly in Chapter 21 Isaac is born. At the great feast in celebration of Isaac’s weaning, Ishmael mocks him. Here we see that Ishmael perhaps has inherited his mother’s prideful tendencies. It is also possible that Ishmael is hurt due to the fact that he knows he used to be the heir but now Isaac is. But Ishmael’s mockings of Sarah’s son are too much for her. She tells Abraham to cast out Ishmael and Hagar. With Hagar still being the servant of Sarah the Lord, in verse 10 recognized that she had the right to do that. Abraham was upset because of this, but the Lord comforted him. He then sent Hagar and Ishamel away with provisions. While there in the wilderness the Lord provided for Hagar and Ishmael.


Opponents of polygyny like to point to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar as an example of why polygyny is bad. They say that Sarai lacked faith in giving Hagar to Abram. They also point to Sarah and Hagar’s relationship and say that polygamy is toxic and a stumbling block. However, I have shown that by looking at the actual text, neither of these views are correct. When Sarai gave Hagar to her husband she had no indication from the Lord that she would literally bear Abram’s heir. Thus she cannot be viewed as lacking faith. The first conflict was between Hagar and Sarai was because of how Hagar treated Sarai, rather than anything inherent in polygyny. The second most influential of the two conflicts had nothing to do with Hagar at all. It was a conflict between Sarah and Ishmael. Again, nothing to do with polygyny. It is clear that this story is not anti-polygyny at all; and that those who use it as such have no basis for their argument. Instead they rely on weak recollection of the story and excessive summarization rather than the actual text.


*It is my assumption that this would be a common belief that divine power closed the wombs of women. Whether Sarai’s barrenness was the Lord’s doing or not, the Lord had given them no indication either way.

Posted in Plural Marriage, Prophets, Scriptures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Crowdfunding Zion


I’ve had an idea floating around in my head for a while and I want to post it here and see where it goes.

In my interaction with others in the so-called “Remnant” movement or even in the unification movement there has been talk of having a unified place of worship. A temple, that could be accessed by all, regardless of which Church™ (or lack thereof) the associate with.

Additionally in building Zion Joseph Smith revealed several gathering places (stakes) which the Saints could come together and received their inheritance. The central feature of these stakes was a temple. In the case of the plans for Kirtland and New Jerusalem, several temples.

One of these places was called Zarahemla:

Doctrine and Covenants 125
1 What is the will of the Lord concerning the saints in the Territory of Iowa?
2 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I say unto you, if those who call themselves by my name and are essaying to be my saints, if they will do my will and keep my commandments concerning them, let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name, that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come.
3 Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it.
4 And let all those who come from the east, and the west, and the north, and the south, that have desires to dwell therein, take up their inheritance in the same, as well as in the city of Nashville, or in the city of Nauvoo, and in all the stakes which I have appointed, saith the Lord.

Zarahemla is located right across the river from Nauvoo. And it seems like this could be a fitting place to build a city. My idea is to start a crowd funding campaign in Indiegogo to buy land and materials. We each possess limited resources but working together we might be able to accomplish something.

The early saints were able to accomplish amazing things with limited resources. What’s stopping us from doing the same?
I’m sure many might be asking why build a temple? Why waste money on a useless structure when there are hungry mouths to feed and children who need educations.

The answer is simple. Temples are not only buildings for religious ceremonies for the dead, they are centers of the community. This is the role temples played in the early church. Look at was the Kirtland temple was used for:
– A school
– A dance hall
– City offices
– Meeting house
– Community gathering place
– Oh yeah, and they occasionally did some sacred rituals on the top floor.

A temple would be useful 100% of the time as it is both literally and figuratively the center of the community.

In building a stake of Zion the money needed to build a temple would be worth it, as the structure is a benefit to the living, not only the dead. A temple would help people here and now.

So what are your thoughts? Is there really a desire to gather to Zion and build stakes? Is there a desire for a temple? Could there be enough involvement to crowd fund something like this?

Posted in Temples | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From the Dust: Filipino Record, Part 2

fromdustfilipinoAbout four years ago (has it really been four years?) I wrote a post about a possible ancient Filipino text concerning a visit of Christ to the Philippines. I had heard of this text from one of the missionaries I served with. At the time I wrote that post I didn’t think I would write about this subject again until I had that text in hand. However, I recently discovered another, or the same, text online. It seems there is a movement in the Philippines centered around a text entitled, “Ang Aklatan.” This title is Tagalog for “the library.” It seems that this Ang Aklatan is a record of Christ visiting the Philippines and God’s work there. I’m not sure if this is the same text the I heard about on my mission or not. In this post I will be introducing you to the Aklatan.

The History of the Aklatan

In 1986 a Filipino man named Elisha Enoc had a vision of copper plates hidden in a cave. Later he had an encounter with an American man named Oleeha. This man was to help Elisha in translating the copper plates he had seen in the vision. The next year in 1987 Oleeha returned and brought the copper plates with him. He showed Elisha how to translate, and they spent hours translating the text. But when Elisha woke up he realized it was all a dream. He then wrote down the translation that had occurred in his dream. This method of translating continued for eight months. After it was completed Oleeha told him that he needed to wait twenty years before publishing the text.

The Purpose of the Aklatan

The purpose of the Aklatan is given during a vision Elisha had of Christ. In this vision Christ says:

“Now I give unto you a mission. And the mission I have brought for you is that you should prepare the way for the people of Isles of the Sea to become a great and prosperous people. For I have made a covenant with those people in ancient times and my Father hath commanded me to bring them again to a remembrance of that covenant. And I covenanted that they should become a mighty people. I will cause that a kingdom should be established in these islands. And you should gather people through the book which I will cause you to write. And you shall preach the gospel from the Bible, and all my Holy Words.”

This seems very specific and is more about rebuilding Filipino culture and bringing them to Christ rather than a gospel message for the whole world.

Contents of the Aklatan

The Aklatan is as its name suggests, a library. It is a collection of books and other texts compiled into one book. It is important to note that not all of the book in the Aklatan have been published. It seems that initially only specific portions of the text were published. The rest are being held back until certain goals are reached in the movement to establish the kingdom.

This is the complete list of Book in the Aklatan with a short description:

The Book of Visions – This book was written by Elisha. It is basically a journal of the events the led up to the translation of the Aklatan.

Selections from Ezekiel – This is a portion of the Bible copied and inserted into the Aklatan. This was done at the command of Christ in the Book of Visions. The portion of the Bible that was copied is Ezekiel’s vision of the third temple.

The Life of Suran – This book is a summary of the life of a prophet Suran. It also contains the history of how God’s people was reestablish among the ancient Filipino people. This book also contains some prophecies of Suran.

The Great Scroll of Suran – This book has not been published. Based on clues in the published text this book is probably the source of the Life of Suran summary. It may be the complete record written by Suran.

The History of the Ophir – This book has not yet been published.

The Book of Ahkman – This book contains the writings of one of Suran’s sons, Ahkman. It contains a history of the expansion of God’s people. There is also a description of the temple built by these people. This book contains some of the laws of their society. This book ends with a prophecy call the “Book of the Lords”

The Book Arakim – Not all of this book has been published yet. It starts with the story of Ahkman and his son Arakim traveling into the south. They preach to some people and Ahkman is killed. Arakim escapes and returns home. The people begin to divide because

The Journeys of Gubir and Jaresh – Jaresh, one of Arakim’s sons; and Gubir, a prophesied person from the Book of Ahkman; travel to preach the word of God.

The Book of Kimesh – This book has not yet been published.

The Gospel Written by Angulu – This is an account of Angulu who would later be appointed by Christ. In the beginning of this book he married a woman. Then they travelled to a place were other of God’s people are gathered. He speaks to a man named Bodan. Bodan recounts traveling for many years to Bethlehem and seeing Christ as a child. Through Bodan’s account, Mary(as in the mother of Jesus) tells the story of Christ’s conception and birth. The end of this book has several sayings of Christ.

The Gospel Written by Taletan – This book has not yet been published.

The Lesser Gospel Written by Buka – This book starts with great destruction and darkness similar to the Book of Mormon account. The believers in Christ are gathered. Other people think the destruction came because of the believers so they start to hunt them down and kill them. Some people rose up to defend the believers. Later, Christ comes and he preaches among the people. His lessons are pretty much the same as in the Bible and Book of Mormon. Christ appoints twelve of the warriors that defended the people to be his disciples. He later travels with the disciples around the land and preaches his Gospel. Christ also appoints twelve women to preach His Gospel as well.

A Record of the Twelve Women – This book has not yet been published.

Prophecy of the Prophetess Liwan – One of the twelve women Christ appointed prophesies about twelve women who will come in the future and help to establish the kingdom.

The Book of the Strangers – A group of people from the pacific ocean arrive in the Philippines. They join with the followers of Christ.

The Prophecies of Telemek – This book has not yet been published.

The Song of Banali – A poem(song) about God.

The Book of Datara – This book has not yet been published.

The Book of Kilinga – This book has not yet been published.

The Preserved Record of Algapo – This book has not yet been published.

The Book of Namwaran – Not all of this book has been published yet. With the numbers of the believers in Christ decreasing Namwaran goes to help defend them. He teaches his nephew, Ruman, in the ways of Christ. The chief of the land wants to reward Namwaran for his service so one of the chief’s advisers offers his daughter. Namwaran eventually marries her. Toward the end of this book he begins to gather the records of the believers.

The Book of Ruman – Ruman begins writing the book that was prophesied would go to future generations. It seems similar to the Book of Mormon, in that he complies the records that were gathered. He writes this record on copper plates. John(the one who did not taste death) visits Ruman. He explains his vision that is contained in the Book of Revelation. Paul then appears and accepts Ruman’s words as his own.

The Rock of Ruman – In another vision Elisha sees a rock that has some writings of Ruman engraved on it. In it Ruman prophesies about the coming forth of te Aklatan.

The Record of the Ancients – This book has not yet been published.

Now, this is just my summary of these books. I highly suggest you visit their website where you can read them for yourself. If you’re a book lover like me, they offer a hardcopy of the Aklatan for sale. For me it speaks volumes as to the sincerity of someone who offers their work for free at the same time they are selling it.

Discussions About the Aklatan

One of the best analysis of the Aklatan is the one on going on the blog The proprietor of that blog actually goes through and does a chapter by chapter analysis of the Aklatan. Only the first part of the Life of Suran has been wriiten about so it is still a work in progress.

Another blog that pops up when searching for the Aklatan is This blog purports to be written by a member of the Church. He gives a basic analysis of the Aklatan. He also shares some encounters he claims to have had with church leadership. He claims to have spoken with a Seventy; and this seventy is reported as saying things such as:

“There is a special purpose this book is supposed to fulfill. The Church can’t give any official support for this book until after that time.”

“President Monson has read the book”

“Nothing that has happened in the Philippines has been an accident or by chance. All the work in the Philippines has been done according to the will of God.”

Now I’m not quite sure of the veracity of this bloggers claims. It just seems so out of character for a general authority to say some of the things this seventy is purported as having said. But there is one thing that was interesting to me. It is this part:

“The General Authority said that he has also heard a member of the Quorum of the Twelve talk about a manuscript that will soon be made into a book that will put down all the doubts about the the Church. I had never heard anything about this so I asked him what he meant. He said that there are a lot of people who are reading anti-Mormon things and finding fault with the Church. But there is a document that will fix all of these problems.”

briefcaseThis doesn’t seem like much in the context of the whole blog post. But when I read that I remembered something that was mentioned in a podcast I listened to. The podcast was a Mormon Stories interview with Hans Mattsson who was an Area Seventy and later left the Church. Mattson mentioned having a discussion with a very high leader of the church. He said this:

“He[(the general authority)] told us that he had in his brief case a document that will be a book; and in that document they will prove them[(the anti-mormons)] all wrong, what they said about the church and the church history.”

This can be found at the 5:39 mark on part 4 of the Hans Mattsson Mormon Stories podcast. The similarity of these claims stood out to me. I suppose this may gives some veracity to the newmormonscripture blog entry. Having two Church leaders mention this mysterious book seems more than coincidence. But, I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. That blog is a bit too TBM for me.

Finally, I was surprised to find that there is a FAIR article about the Aklatan. It is under the title Forgeries Related to the Book of Mormon. This page basically says that there is a high degree of correlation between Christ’s words in the Book of Mormon and in the Aklatan. They interpret this mean that the Aklatan is a modern fake. The issue though I have with FAIR’s article is that if the shoe was on the other foot, and the Aklatan had come from Church leadership; they would work just as hard to prove it is correct. They would probably say that the high degree of correlation between the texts is evidence of its divinity.

Things That I find Interesting

The Aklatan seems to answer a lot of modern questions about marriage, homosexuality and the like. This could be evidence that it is a modern fake. It could also be evidence that it was divinely inspired for the text to come out now, when we need these answers.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have to say that I love the Gospel Written by Angulu. If it is not historic, it is still an awesome story. If it is historic it is an amazing look into the past. The main part of this book is an account of Bodan who was one of the wise men who visited Christ. Apparently some people from the Philippines left, and went west. They met up with other groups at they traveled to Bethlehem. There in Bethlehem they met Mary. After giving gifts to the child they ask Mary about the the birth of Christ and Mary tells them the story. This a fascinating account. Where else do we have an account of the birth of Christ from the mother of Christ herself?

Another part I like is in the Lesser Gospel Written by Buka Chapter 12 says this:

“Now behold Christ did gather all the women of the people together. And there were many among them who had begun to follow Christ during his travels. And he called forth twelve of the women. And he did ordain them unto the Holy Order of God. This that they might be established as an order of women. And he caused that the twelve women should walk among the crowd and bring forth those women who were righteous, and upstanding, and trustworthy. And they did so and those which were brought forward He did cause them to be appointed as Teachers and Priestesses unto the people, and also servants. And there were many prophetesses who did prophesy. Now these are the names of the twelve women: Seliam, and Liwan, and Torun, and Sugo, and Noriyu, and Nolo, and Mejaya, and Kejave, and Venaji, and Nagariwa, and Doyu, and also Moturo.”

urduja_amorsoloThere is such a strong female presence in this book. It really shows the power of women and their importance. I can only imagine what is contained in the Record of the Twelve Women. If this text is genuine it would support Joseph Smith’s creation of the Relief Society as a Priestesshood. The feminist crowd would have a field day with this book.

I also like the description of the temple in the Book of Ahkman. I just love imagining structures described in ancient text. I guess it just fuels my imagination.

Laguna_Copperplate_Inscription_by_NordenxLastly, what really intrigues me is the Book of Namwaran. In 1989 a strange artifact was discovered in the Philippines. It is called the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. It is kingly proclamation absolving a man named Namwaran and his descendents of a debt. This was found two years after the Aklatan was translated and supports, at least, one part of the Aklatan.

A Response to Objections From Mormons

If it doesn’t come from the prophet, then it’s not scripture.

From what I’ve read this seems to be a very common objection. However, I have never heard any president of the church declare that all scripture must come from him. Rather we find that new scripture is approved through common consent.

From the entry on Common Consent:

“Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints (see D&C 26:2).”

In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 we read:

“38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

This verse doesn’t say by the voice of my Church leaders. No, it says by the voice of my servants. Certainly a Church leader can qualify as one of the Lord’s servants. But to be a servant of the Lord doesn’t require one to hold a leadership position.

If the Lord called this man Elisha to perform a work, then he would be considered is one of the Lord’s servants.

A person can only receive revelation within the bounds of his or her respective stewardship.

In the Book of Visions the Lord says:

“I have come to call you to a special mission. For you shall be like unto Paul who was called as an apostle unto the gentiles. Wherefore he was not called to stand with my twelve Apostles but was called to stand in his own appointed place. So it shall be with you. Wherefore you shall preach and serve among my people among the isles of the sea, who have been prepared and preserved for a great and special purpose. Do not claim more authority than thou hast been given and beware of pride.”

I think this is in clear support of the principles of stewardship. Elisha hasn’t claimed to be a prophet for the whole world. Nor has he tried to start his own church. It is clear from Elisha’s statements, and the text of the Aklatan, that this work is limited in scope, to a specific area. I don’t see the Aklatan violating this edict.

Elisha doesn’t have authority to do this.

Chapter 4 of the Book of Visions gives an interesting account. Here Elisha is baptized and is given priesthood authority. This is all fine and well as anyone can CLAIM baptism or CLAIM to have received priesthood authority. But is it really valid? I believe the key lies in figuring out who gave him these things.

Elisha recalls the following:

“As I was walking down to the edge of the Abra river to take a rest, three men approached me. They were much taller than me. One of the three men asked me who I was. I told them my name and asked their names. They said they could not tell me their names. But they told me that God has sent them to find me.”


Here we have some people who baptized and ordained Elisha. Let’s look at what we know about them:

– There were three of them.

– They were taller than Elisha, a Filipino man.

– They could not tell him their names.

– The had been sent by God.

3_nephitesSomething sticks out to me about this. It is that the three man can’t tell Elisha their names. Now where have we heard about three men who were called of God whose names cannot be written? Hint: it’s in 3 Nephi 28:25:

25 Behold, I was about to write the names of those who were never to taste of death, but the Lord forbade; therefore I write them not, for they are hid from the world.

This verse is Mormon writing about the three Nephites. I know for many this may seem outlandish. However, I ask you, if it was the three Nephites that baptized and ordained Elisha, wouldn’t his baptism and ordination be valid?

Joseph Smith never used a pseudonym, and neither has any other prophet. Why should this guy?

Actually Joseph Smith did use pseudonyms. Many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants originally used these pseudonyms rather than the given names of people. These pseudonyms have since been replaced with given names in the modern publications of the Doctrine and Covenants.

In Conclusion

The Philippines holds a special place in my heart. I think it will be really interesting to see if the Aklatan can accomplish its purpose. The book itself is fascinating and well worth the read. It gives answers to some questions I’ve had, but also brings up many more questions. Is the Aklatan a genuine text from God? I’m still on the fence as this point. The more I search the more I find texts that are show God’s hand in all the world. I suppose I will do with the Aklatan what I do with anything else I come across. I’ll take the good that I find and leave the rest.

Posted in Prophets, Scriptures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why I Converted to Mormonism

mormon-baptismIn this post I am going to share the story of why and how I converted to Mormonism. This life changing experience did not happen easily. But I am so grateful for my experience, because it has helped me to grow immensely. Mormonism has a beautiful, edifying theology that inspires goodness and growth in humanity. My relationship with Jesus Christ has grown much stronger and I have come closer to God.

To start off I would like to explain a bit of my history. I was born to parents who were/are active members of the L-DS Church. Growing up in the Church I was pretty average. I did what I was asked to, and was very serious about the gospel. I recall exploring passages of scripture and using study guides to understand them better. I enjoyed reading the Words of God and exploring the meanings of them. I couldn’t be part of the Church just for social aspects, I was shy and reserved, an introvert. But I took God, the gospel, and the scriptures very seriously.

missionary-training-center-walkWhile on my mission I remember just how seriously I took my beliefs. I truly believed that I was a representative of Christ. When people helped me, they were helping Christ. If someone fed us dinner, they were feeding Christ. And I just knew they would be blessed, or not, depending on how they treated me; a representative of Christ. Looking back I realize how arrogant that view was. But that’s what I was taught, that missionaries are representatives of Christ; and I took it seriously.

The next phase of my journey was after my first daughter was born and reading in the scriptures about how the sacrament if for those who are baptized. I came to a realization that there was no need for un-baptized children to partake of the sacrament. Yet, every Sunday parents give the sacrament to their children so they can “practice” for when they will partake of the sacrament after they are baptized. The idea of children practicing eating the sacrament seemed a ridiculous excuse for maintaining a tradition we were all brought up in, but is not backed by the Word of God. Do we have children practice baptism, the endowment, or ordination? Of course not. The sacrament is something serious. And how much more special would it be for a child’s first experience with the sacrament to be after they are baptized. They too, would know just how important this ordinance is.

two_mindsThat was the beginning of my journey of discovery. I read the scriptures like mad. I also read a variety of sources and experiences of other people who has already peeled away the layers of traditions that had accumulated in the Church. But I discovered something. I realized that I was relying too much on these people and not enough on the Lord. This issue was manifested to me when I read one blog entry about a topic and agreed with it completely. Then I read an entry on another blog that gave a different interpretation of the same subject; and I agreed with it completely. It was then that I realized that I had completely shifted my view within about 30 minutes. I realized that I was just agreeing with whatever I read and not actually seeking for myself to know the truth. I was relying on these people to guide me instead of the Spirit. It was after this that I committed myself to basing my beliefs in the Words of God and not the opinions of men. Sure these books and blogs gave me ideas for further research, but I wouldn’t agree with someone just because I read it somewhere.

It was during this time that I had an experience. I didn’t have a desire to be involved in any thing other than the Work of the Lord. It was for about a week that I felt like I was on fire.

However, I discovered that many people in the L-DS Church get a little nervous when people start putting forward ideas other than what we were raised with. Now, I don’t blame anybody. Most members of the Church simply struggle to live life and live the gospel. Their primary concern is just living the basics of the gospel rather than delving into those things that are considered “deeper.” So when I started talking about things that were different that what has been talked about in Sunday, people got worried. They worried that I was being deceived into believing false doctrines.

That is certainly and understandable view. If all your life you hear one worldview and someone comes along with something else, it doesn’t seem right. It’s different. And the issue that faithful L-DS face is that different means error, and error means apostasy, and apostasy means following Satan.

Recently I found a comment that exemplifies this thinking. It is this: “Get your priorities straight. Pray. Ask God. Get a testimony. The rest is just words in a book. Once you have a testimony, you might understand the words in the book.”

4_satan-deceivesWhen a faithful L-DS member says this, they are concerned for you. They want you to get back on board with the system of belief they believe to be true. And the advice given therein is perfectly reasonable and sound. I support it whole heatedly. But the issue is that the differences in my belief system came because I HAVE done those things, not because I haven’t. Understandably a lot of people wont understand how someone can honestly seek for truth and testimony, yet arrive at a different conclusion than what we are taught in Church. There is an understanding that such people are being deceived, or did not seek with real intent, or they didn’t take it seriously. However, it is precisely because I took the Gospel seriously that I was led to my differing views.

hawaii-tsunami-debris-skiff_credit-peter-grillo-fv-zephyr-2It’s like I began scraping the barnacles off of the belief system I was given and underneath I found a shiny, sleek speedboat. Most people are just trying to keep their boat afloat and don’t have time or energy to worry about scraping barnacles. But what I realized is that, while keeping your boat afloat is a worthy goal, when I stopped bailing and started scraping the rest took care of itself. My boat was no longer weighed down and I could use the boat as it was intended.

What I found under the barnacles of almost two hundred years was Mormonism. Simple and pure Mormonism. I found God working to reestablish his people and we are all invited to join Him. After hacking my way through the hedge of the maze I found the yellow brick(or rather the straight and narrow) road leading to Zion.

But if I am really scraping barnacles and not being deceived, then why are my beliefs different than what is taught to us in Sunday School and general conference? The answer to this question lies in how I came to my views. I believe that God is our Father. I believe that he has and does communicate with us. I believe that this communication has occurred through many prophets in history and much of this communication is recorded in the Book of Mormon as well as in other sacred texts. I believe that he communicated through Joseph Smith and that those Words of God were recorded and accepted in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is my foundation, my starting point. God’s Word is not something we should dismiss, it is something we should take seriously.

So what happens when a conflict is found between the Word of God and what is taught today? The obvious answer is that we have modern prophets who have received revelation to change the practice. That’s why we have prophets, to reveal God’s will for us today. Now, if this view is correct and God has changed the way he wants us to do something, then there must have been a revelation that changed the procedure.

The first question we should ask immediately after discovering a conflict between scripture and modern teachings is where is the most recent revelation on the subject. What did the Lord say about the change? What I have found to be the case more often than not is there never was a revelation. Agricultural sliding steel gate_250Instead there are minor policy changes that slowly, over time accumulate into major discrepancies with the Lord’s Word. Like the talk President Hinckley gave about the gate. A minor movement at the hinge equals a large movement at the other end of the gate. Usually these changing didn’t come from some malicious deception. Rather they are from honest people reacting to the circumstances they are in. One hundred years ago someone made a policy that is well within the bounds of scripture. Then later as situations change a bit, additional changes to the policy are made. As the years progress the people growing up with these changes believe they are how we should be living. Eventually these people become the leaders of the Church, and teach what they were brought up believing. Minor policy changes are made and the cycle continues until a practice that is contrary to the Word of God is accepted as truth and taught in classes and over the pulpit. People end up asking, “How can we improve this policy?” But in reality people should be asking, “Do we even need this policy?”

Therefor, if there was never a revelation which changed a practice; and the change actually resulted from men, however well meaning or inspired; what do we follow? Do we follow the Word of God or the word of men and tradition? It stands to reason that if the Lord revealed something and then never revealed any additional information concerning that, then His original Word still stands. Since I believe that the Word of God is more important than the word of men, I say that we must follow the Word of God. This is where the discrepancy comes from with my beliefs compared to those of faithful L-DS.

How do my beliefs differ and what does that mean? While this list could go one for at great length I will include just a summary of some important topics.

The Church – This is perhaps the most misunderstood topic of our time. And it is misunderstood at our peril. Many members of the church ask questions like “What is the Church’s position?” or “What has the Church said?” Members say, “the Church is perfect but the members aren’t.” The problem here is that “the church” is viewed as something external. It is viewed as the leadership or the organizational structure which exists outside of humanity.

This understanding is not correct. Christ said:

Doctrine and Covenants 10:67
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

The church is us. It IS the members. The church is the body and Christ is the head. The church is not perfect because we, the church, are not perfect. This concept is important to understand because if we view the church as something external to ourselves then we lose our identity. And when we lose our identity we lose our relationship with God.

Succession – This is another is]sue that is closely related to the topic of the church. This is the idea that Brigham Young was Joseph Smith’s appointed successor and that those who followed other leadership claimants left the church. This is not correct. Joseph Smith appointed Hyrum Smith as his successor to the prophetic calling. However Hyrum died at Carthage. This left most people turning to Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith III, to be the successor.

However Joseph III was too young at the time. So all of those who rose up to claim leadership did so with the intent of turning over the reins to Joseph III when he got old enough. The problem came when Joseph didn’t join with any of the splinter groups and instead joined with a gathering of reorganized branches. Brigham Young then had to institute his own First Presidency.

So which of all these splinter groups is correct? None of them are and all of them are. None of the splinter groups follows everything Joseph taught. None of these groups by themselves is the church. This is because the church fractured in the 1840s. Parts of the church followed Brigham Young, parts of it followed James Strang or Sidney Rigdon. The church exists in all of these groups together. They are all the continuation of Joseph Smith’s work.

What about Brigham Young being transfigured? There is no evidence that it actually happened. There are no contemporary accounts. All are later “recollections.” There are even “recollections” from people whom we know were not in Nauvoo at the time.

The Restoration – This is probably THE biggest barnacle. It is that after the ancient apostles died the church went into apostasy for over a thousand years. Then God restored His church through Joseph Smith.

This belief is not correct. It is a belief that was brought into the church by the Restorationers. A group of these Restorationers viewed the Book of Mormon as evidence that their restoration was correct, and God was performing miracles again. The Mormon missionaries had great success among them and these people brought their beliefs with them into Mormonism.

The truth is that the ancient church continued among the gentiles although it fell into a state of corruption. Joseph’s work was not to built yet another church but to cleanse the existing church. How was this cleansing to occur? Through the Book of Mormon. The purposes of the Book of Mormon are to “show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

The Book of Mormon is not to be the foundation of a new church. It is not to be evidence of authority or prophetic claims. It has one simple job: initiate the process of rebuilding Israel.

Consecration – Consecration was never done away with. The idea that God would do away with something because it is too hard is rather silly. It would be like God doing away with the Law of Chastity because it is too hard for people to keep their pants on. God provides a way to accomplish His commandments. He doesn’t do away with them because they are too hard.

Tithing – Tithing is not a lesser law to prepare us for Consecration. First of all the revelation for tithing states that it is a standing law forever, not a temporary preparatory law.

Also tithing is not ten percent of ones income. In the Word of God tithing is first a consecration of all of ones surplus. Then when a person consecrates their surplus property every year thereafter ten percent of that surplus is tithing.

Tithing can only exist as part of consecration; it cannot exist independent of it.

Church Organization – The church organization is traditionally understood as the First presidency at the top. Under which there is the Quorum of twelve; and under them is the Quorum of the Seventy and so on.

This is not correct. Section 107 indicates that all of these quorums are equal in authority and power. They also have realms of responsibility. For example the Quorum of the Twelve operates outside the stakes of Zion. Additionally there are other councils which are mandated by scripture that do not exist in the L-DS Church today.

Missionary Program – According to the Word of God missionaries are supposed to go without any resources into an area. There they preach the gospel. But they also serve another function. Because they go without any resources, they are poor. They then rely upon the charity of the people that they serve among. If the people help these poor missionaries then the Lord will see that they have charity. If they do not; then the Lord will see that they do not have charity. This function of missionary work is to test the people.

Relief Society – The Relief Society is an organization parallel to the male priesthood. They are supposed to have offices just as in the church. You can read more about this subject in my post here.

Gathering to Zion – There is a belief that the literal gathering was ended and there is now a spiritual gathering, meaning that all people will gather to where they live. Which doesn’t make any sense if you actually think about it; because how can you be gathered to someplace you already are. Aside from that, there is no scriptural evidence for an end to the literal gathering nor a phase of spiritual gathering. This idea exists only to excuse our unwillingness to perform that work of the literal gathering. The command to literally gather in actual city/stakes was never revoked. We are still bound by it and stand condemned for our refusal to perform this work.

It was through the process of identification and removal of false traditions that I found Mormonism, barnacle free. Mormonism is beautiful and pure. It is the gospel of Christ. It is the continuation of an ancient work that spans back to the origins of humanity.

I would encourage everyone reading this to just make a little effort to study something new. You don’t have to agree with me on anything; but you should make an effort to grow in faith. You should take your beliefs seriously.

I’m afraid that many people will be worried about searching out these things because of the belief that if God wanted us to do something he would tell us through the Prophet. If we are supposed together to Missouri then President Monson will tell us to. If we are supposed to organize United Orders then we must wait for Salt Lake to institute the program.

In response to this thinking I leave you with the Word of God. Both from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants:

Doctrine and Covenants 58:25-30
25 Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land, as they shall counsel between themselves and me.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
30 Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?

1 Nephi 13:37
37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

The Lord’s promises are still extended to us. All we have to do is do our part.


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