Cultural Traditions Do Not Trump God’s Commandments


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Recently the Deseret News published an article about President Nelson’s visit to Nairobi, Kenya. There he spoke out against the practice of paying a bride price:

“That’s not the Lord’s way,” President Russell M. Nelson told about 2,000 Kenyans and other Africans Monday night inside a large, oval, wooden event center styled after traditional huts in Nairobi, Kenya. “The Lord’s way is to be married in the temple, for time and all eternity, with your children sealed to you.”

He added that if he’d had to pay for his wife, “I would have missed five children, because only with my last five was I out of debt.”

He also taught the importance of paying tithing

President Nelson also said tithing can break cycles of poverty in poor nations and families.

“We preach tithing to the poor people of the world because the poor people of the world have had cycles of poverty, generation after generation,” he said. “That same poverty continues from one generation to another, until people pay their tithing.”

The law of the tithe was followed by ancient peoples as taught by Old Testament prophets. LDS faithful believe God restored the law and its blessings for those who follow it by giving one-tenth of their income to the church.

I think these statements by President Nelson really emphasize the importance of knowing and understanding God’s commandments so that we don’t get mislead by cultural traditions.

To start off, President Nelson said that paying a bride price is “not the Lord’s way.” The idea of not paying a bride price is a very strong cultural tradition in western society. However, we can know this cultural tradition is false because in the scriptures (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:16-17). In these scriptures we know there are cases where men are commanded by God to pay a bride price.

This means that, yes, paying a bride price IS in fact, in these cases, the Lord’s way. All we need to do is look in the scriptures to know that. That fact that President Nelson back up his statement by using his own western cultural experience, rather than the Word of the Lord, tells us that this teaching is simply his own opinion.

Not to mention that paying a bride price does not exclude one from being married or sealed in the temple. If you’re curious about Bride Prices and Dowries, I recommend this article.

indexAnother false cultural tradition we encounter relates to how people view tithing. Here are President Nelson’s main points about tithing:

  • Tithing means giving on 10% of your income to the Church
  • Paying Tithing will break cycles of poverty.

First, we need only look at Section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants to know that the first statement is not what the Lord has taught. In this section the Lord defines that amount of tithing to be paid as this:

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,

3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.

4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.

To summarize, the Lord defines Tithing in this section as:

An initial payment of all of one’s surplus property, then every year after that, one tenth of their yearly interest.

The Lord has told us that Tithing is NOT one tenth of your income. And paying tithing in the way that Mormon culture teaches can lead to poverty, not alleviate it. It’s simple mathematics. A person who gives 10% of their money away is going to have less money to support themselves than someone who gives away one tenth of the interest of any surplus money they have beyond their needs.

But what about blessings? Surely the Lord will give greater blessing to the person who pays 10% of their income. Nope. That’s not correct. The Lord taught in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10:

10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

sabbathchangedIf we make up tithing to mean 10% of income rather than 10% of interest on surplus after an initial giving of all surplus, then the Lord is under no obligation to bless us for obeying the fake law that we made up.

But there’s more to the second point that President Nelson brought up, you see, tithing has nothing to do with helping poor people in general. Instead tithing has a very specific purpose of helping the priesthood. Anciently tithing was used to aid the Levites who used it to sustain themselves since, because of their Priesthood duties, they didn’t have any land to produce food or livestock. The Lord gives this same purpose in Section 119.

Tithing is to be used:

2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.

There is nothing in there about helping poor people, or alleviating poverty.

The Lord actually gave us different commandments to alleviate poverty. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants Section 42 we read:

30 And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.

31 And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose.

That’s right, the Lord has given us consecration as a way to care for the poor. Namely we are commanded to gather to Stakes of Zion and consecrate everything we have to the Lord. Everything that is in excess of what we need and want will be used to help the stake wherein we reside. To put it simply, we gather in groups and pool our resources. It’s nothing more amazing or magical than that.

One of the reasons we have the scriptures is to help us avoid putting our cultural traditions ahead of God’s commandments. These statements of President Nelson are not consistent with what we know about the commandments of God, so we must be careful to avoid focusing on them at the expense of the actual commandments of God. I’m not telling you to disregard everything the President Nelson says. I’m just saying that we should be careful and check to make sure that What he says is from God, before we go run with it as if it were doctrine.

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Whether by Mine Own Voice or by the Voice of My Servants


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We have just finished a General Conference. This is important because we have a promise given in the scriptures that we can rely on:

“Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

Meaning that we have no reason to doubt anything a leader of the Church says, because it’s the same as if the Lord Himself had said it.

This promise can be found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 1 verse 38:

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.

Here we learn that this phrase is actually just a small part of a whole idea. That idea is a continuation of the preceding verse, and is basically stating that the Lord has given us many prophecies and they will all be fulfilled. The Lord will not make excuses for seemingly unfulfilled prophecies or prophecies that seem like they will never be fulfilled. The Lord then drives the point home my saying that all even though the heavens and the earth, which are practically eternal in comparison to human lifespans, will pass away, His Word will never pass away. All His word will be fulfilled. Then comes the familiar part where He says, whether that fulfillment comes by His own voice or by the voice of His servants, it is considered the same.

There’s just one problem. This phrase isn’t talking about what we thought it was. This isn’t a promise by the Lord that we can trust that whatever Church Leaders says is the same as if the Lord had said it. Instead it is a statement that it doesn’t matter whether a prophecy of God is fulfilled by His voice or the voice of his servants. In fact the Lord has never commanded us to just take someone’s word for it. We are commanded to search things out, ponder them, and pray about them.

This brings up another question. Who are the Lord’s Servants? To answer to this question the Lord has given us many indications as to who His Servants are. First the Lord will tell us who they are. Throughout the scriptures the Lord called people to be his Servants. The Lord spoke to Moses through the burning bush. He called Lehi in a vision. Joseph Smith received revelations wherein the Lord stated the he was God’s servant. All of these people were able to give us accounts of the Lord’s voice calling them to be His servants.

But who’s to say Joseph Smith didn’t just make up his revelations. There should be a way to check them. Well, in addition to asking God himself, in 3 Nephi 14:15-20 we receive a warning about false prophets. This includes the second indication we have been given. We can know true servants of God by their fruits. Is the claimed prophet bringing forth revelations? Are those revelations good? Do they support the commandments God has already given?

As members of the Church we trust that Russell M. Nelson the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve are God’s Servants. But did you know there has not been one published piece of evidence where God, in His own voice, acknowledges Russell M. Nelson as His servant. All we have is other mortal humans saying he is. Even Russell M. Nelson has never said that he is a prophet, nor has he ever said that he has seen Christ. Why then do we assume he is the Lord’s Servant even though the Lord never given us any indication that he is?

It’s because he was called as the President of the Church. Surely that at least implies that He was called of God. Well…not really. In fact Russell M. Nelson himself confirmed this when he stated:

“When a President of the Church passes away, there is no mystery about who is next called to serve in that capacity.”

He is saying that when it’s time to call a new President of the Church there is no question who it will be. They already know. And if they already know, why would they need to ask God?

Why is there no question? Because the Charter of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints already specifies who will be the next President. That’s right, it’s a legal document, not a revelation that determines the next President. Russell M. Nelson was called to serve as President of the Church, first and foremost, by the succession clause of the Corporate Charter.

But that’s all just legal stuff. I mean, who really cares about that? What really matters is fruits, right? Just look at all the new revelations we got during conference. There was the reorganization of the Elders Quorum, the modification of Home and Visiting Teaching. Here’s the problem, while words like “revelatory” and “inspired” were used to describe these changes. We have no published revelation where the Lord commanded these changes to be made. So we really don’t know if the Lord commanded this or not.

Now, before you tell me to just go and pray about it; first show me the Lord’s words concerning these changes, so I can know what to pray about. Praying for confirmation without that crucial information would be like missionaries asking investigators to pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true BEFORE they’ve even read it. Of course they need to read it first, so they will know what they are praying about. The very idea is ridiculous. So why do we think it is less ridiculous when it comes to the claimed revelations of Church Leaders?

Interestingly, as far as fruits go, 80% of the section in the Doctrine and Covenants are “thus saith the Lord” revelations. Even if we accept the 14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet, where is states that “The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord;'” you’d expect that over that past 100 years or so, there would be at least one “thus saith the Lord” revelation produced by Church leaders.  Yet there hasn’t even been one.

Meanwhile, over at the Community of Christ(RLDS), their Doctrine and Covenants is up to 165 Sections. Ours is only at 138.

Now you may think that’s not a fair comparison; because for us talks in General Conference are our modern scripture. The problem with that is our own Church Leaders have told us that’s not true. In Handbook 2 it states:

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.

The Church has clearly stated that only the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are scripture. Contrary to popular belief, nothing else is scripture to us, not even Conference talks.

So are modern Church Leaders the Lord’s servants? That’s a great question; and one I leave up to you to decide. For me the jury is out. I think in general, L-dS General Authorities are good men who are trying to serve God. But it seems the only ones proclaiming them to be the Lord servants are those who already believe; while the Lord himself has appears to be silent on the issue. My rule is never to reject anyone who claims to speak for God. Instead I study out their claims and ponder them. If their revelations are in harmony with what God has already established, then their message should be accepted.

But we must be careful never to give anyone carte blanche just because they spoke for the Lord in one thing. After all, not everything prophet speaks is the same as if the Lord had spoken it.

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An Insane Holiday Celebration You Won’t Believe


1200px-Bg-easter-eggsThis weekend millions of people will be celebrating Easter. Decorating and Eggs, preparing food, gathering with family. Amidst the chaotic joy, comes an anticipation of spring. Christians give special significance to this holiday, because it is a reminder of the resurrection of Christ.

But did you know there is something even more important to be remembered during this time?

The Bible narrative teaches us that thousands of years ago God’s people, the Israelites, were enslaved by the Egyptians. They were forced to work and toil. But one day an Israelite man was called by God to lead these people to freedom. Moses, who had been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, returned from self-imposed exile and instructed Pharaoh that the Lord commanded him to let the Israelites go.

Moses-Ten-Commandments-MovieThe Pharaoh didn’t listen and the Lord sent plagues. But Pharaoh continued to harden his heart until finally the Lord said He would send another plague:

”[..]About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.”
Exodus 11:4-5

cartoon-blood-on-the-door-postsThis would have been such a scary time, but the Lord provided a way for the Israelites to escape. The Israelites were instructed that on the fourteenth day of the first month (of their calendar) they should take a male lamb, without blemish, and kill it. Then they should take the blood of that lamb and spread it on the door posts of their homes. Then that night they were commanded to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. There was to be no food left over and if any was left, it was to be burned in the morning.

That night the Lord came, and any homes that had kept his commandments were saved from the plague. They had been passed over. Following this the Israelites were finally freed. They took their things and left Egypt.

But that wasn’t the end of the commandment. God also commanded that this day was to be a memorial to be observed by all generations and to be kept as a feast forever. Exodus 12:14-20

As part of this memorial the Lord commanded that his people should eat unleavened bread for seven days. On the first day, all leaven should be put out of the house. Additionally on the first and seventh day there should be a holy gathering, with no work done on those days. This is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

FD004828-56a55f6c5f9b58b7d0dc90b0.jpgNow, you may not be aware but the time for keeping this commandment as a memorial is this weekend. If you’re like me, I immediately searched for “Passover” on Google and was inundated with pictures of plates with circles and bones and eggs and stuff. So before you get too overwhelmed let me tell you that most of those things are NOT commanded by God. The Passover Seder plate and the symbolic items that go in each place, come from the Rabbinical tradition that evolved over time. But it is not commanded in scripture. If you want a more scriptural based approach I would recommend looking at the Karaite version. Karaites are a branch of Judaism that rejects the oral tradition and only accepts what’s found in the scriptures.

This is the approach I prefer. If you want to include other traditions that’s fine so long as those traditions compliment, rather than distract from, the commandments; and they don’t becomes so ingrained that they are perceived to be commandments.

How are we supposed to celebrate Passover? The first part to remember is that Passover is only one of two parts. Passover refers to the lamb sacrificed. The Feast of Unleavened bread refers to the meal and seven day observance after that.

MoonCrescent150914To start us off lets first look at when this memorial is to be observed. The scriptures say it starts on the fourteenth day of the first month. If I understand correctly the first day of the first month is determined by the first new moon after the barley in Israel has reached its full size. Fourteen days after that is the day of Passover. This is when all leaven should be removed from your house. This includes not only leavening agents such as yeast, some flours, and cake mixes, but also already leavened products, such a bread, etc. In my house we are working on either eating or giving away bread; then we will put our leavening agents in a cooler out back.

Next let’s look at the meal. In the afternoon of the fourteenth day, if you are going to eat a lamb, you should prepare it.  I don’t have a lamb to kill and prepare so I will be cooking a store-bought leg of lamb by flame on our grill. I recognize this is not in strict adherence to the commandments, but I would rather do the best with what I have than not do it at all. With the goal of strict observance in mind. Also during this time you should prepare your unleavened bread, bitters, and any other meal items. This should all be ready so that evening you can eat it for your feast.

As part of this fest we are commanded to remind our children of the events that took place during the first Passover. Most Jews have a ritual Haggadah reading they do. But for me, reading the account in Exodus will do fine. We will then eat our meal. It is important that every part of this meal must be eaten. If there are any left overs, they need to be burned the next morning.

food011397157786Following this, for seven days, no leaven should be in the house or eaten. If you are going to consume bread products they must of the unleavened variety. For me, I want to find a way to make these seven days special too. While it’s not in scripture, I’m going to buy or make seven gifts for my children, one for each of these days. They will be themed after the seven days of creation.

Then on the seventh day you should not do any work and have a holy gathering. After this day you can return your leaven into the house and continue as normal.

You may ask, “Why celebrate these days? I’m not Jewish.” But these days were not given as a commandment only to the Jews. They were given as a commandment to all God’s people.

Christ taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Do we love Christ? If so, then why would we want to disobey His commandments? God commanded us to keep this day as a memorial of His power and mercy. Additionally, these days provide us with powerful symbols of God’s plan for us.

lambThe Passover lamb symbolizes Christ. In Exodus it is quite literally the blood of the lamb that was used so that the Lord would protect the Israelites. So too, through Christ’s blood will we be protected from destruction because of our sins.

Leavening symbolizes sin. By gathering leaven and putting it out of our houses we are representing the process of finding sin in our lives and removing it. In Matthew 16 Christ uses leaven to represent the false doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Bitter Herbs symbolize pain. I’ve heard that the bitter herbs symbolize the pain of the atonement. Possibly even the pain of struggling to overcome our sins and turn to Christ, or also the hardships of life.

Unleavened Bread symbolizes many things. First off, it illustrates the fact that the Israelites didn’t have time to wait around for bread to rise before leaving Egypt. Second, it represents our goal of living a life free of sin. Third, from our perspective now, it is symbolic of the manna that was given to the Israelites by God while in the wilderness. Fourth, it symbolizes the “Bread of Life” aka Christ.

These days should be of special significance to all who claim to follow God according to the Bible. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread have the distinction of being among the few holidays which, unlike Easter, are commanded of God to be observed.

Many of us were raised with a huge emphasis on the holidays like Easter and Christmas. But shouldn’t we regard those holidays which were commanded by God to be far more important?

To finish off I want to point you in the right direction with a helpful links:
Grilling a Lamb

Karaite unleavened Bread

Karaite Bitter Herbs

Karaite Kitchen – Other great recipes.

I hope you find joy in remembering the past and celebrating the amazing things God has done for us.

Posted in Commandments | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dare to Stand Alone


Navy boot camp was not an easy experience for me, nor for anyone who endured it. For the first three weeks I was convinced my life was in jeopardy. The navy wasn’t trying to train me; it was trying to kill me.

I shall ever remember when Sunday rolled around after the first week. We received welcome news from the chief petty officer. Standing at attention on the drill ground in a brisk California breeze, we heard his command: “Today everybody goes to church—everybody, that is, except for me. I am going to relax!” Then he shouted, “All of you Catholics, you meet in Camp Decatur—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A rather sizeable contingent moved out. Then he barked out his next command: “Those of you who are Jewish, you meet in Camp Henry—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A somewhat smaller contingent marched out. Then he said, “The rest of you Protestants, you meet in the theaters at Camp Farragut—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”

Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, “Monson, you are not a Catholic; you are not a Jew; you are not a Protestant. You are a Mormon, so you just stand here!” I can assure you that I felt completely alone. Courageous and determined, yes—but alone.

And then I heard the sweetest words I ever heard that chief petty officer utter. He looked in my direction and asked, “And just what do you guys call yourselves?” Until that very moment I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me on the drill ground. Almost in unison, each of us replied, “Mormons!” It is difficult to describe the joy that filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors.

The chief petty officer scratched his head in an expression of puzzlement but finally said, “Well, you guys go find somewhere to meet. And don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”

As we marched away, I thought of the words of a rhyme I had learned in Primary years before:

Dare to be a Mormon;

Dare to stand alone.

Dare to have a purpose firm;

Dare to make it known.

These words were delivered by President Thomas S. Monson in the October 2011 General Conference. They were given as both a challenge and inspiration to stand strong in our beliefs no matter what adversity you may face.

As illustrated by his experience, standing for your beliefs can be a terrifying experience, especially when you are the only member in the room. Imagine how you would feel. You are sitting in a room surrounded by hundred of people who know you and you alone must stand for truth. Your heart starts to beat faster. The thoughts race through your mind. What will they think about me? What will my friends think? Am I just being a disruptor? Is it really that important to stand for truth? What repercussions will I face? Will I be punished? Your palms sweat. Your heart beat drowns out all other sounds in the room. The moment is here. All eyes are on you. Do you take a stand or decide that maybe you can stand for truth tomorrow?

In Mosaiah 18:9 we learn that it is our duty to stand for God all the time:

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God[…]

Opportunities to stand for truth don’t happen just outside the walls of Church. Sometimes, we may even need to stand for truth at Church. This can often be more nerve wracking than standing for truth somewhere else. These are people you see every week. They are your neighbors and friends.

Have you ever been in a meeting where a member of the ward was sustained to a new calling? The vote is pretty much always in support of the person getting the calling. Usually the only time you see someone raising their hand to oppose is when it’s some little child who doesn’t know what they are doing, and then their mother quickly swats their hand down. I’ve been both the child and the parent in that scenario (at different times of course).

But did you know that opposing votes actually have a very important purpose in our Church?

Handbook 2 Section 19.3 actually tells us what the purpose of an opposing vote is:

“If a member in good standing gives a dissenting vote when someone is presented to be sustained, the presiding officer or another assigned priesthood officer confers with the dissenting member in private after the meeting. The officer determines whether the dissenting vote was based on knowledge that the person who was presented is guilty of conduct that should disqualify him or her from serving in the position.

Also in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” teaches us a similar lesson:

D&C 26:2. When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?

“I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.)

What these things are teaching us is that the purpose of an opposing vote is to bring knowledge of any wrongdoing by the person who is being sustained, that would disqualify them from serving, to the attention of a Priesthood leader.

I think we can all agree that following the commandments and teachings of the God are essential for every member of the Church. Christ didn’t say, “If you love me keep my commandments, except for the Elders Quorum or Relief Society President, they’re exempt.” No. All members must keep God’s commandments.

This is why this next part is so hard for me. Because, I have knowledge that a fellow member of the Church is guilty of conduct that would disqualify them from serving in their calling. This is terrifying, because, when the time comes to sustain them, I will be the lone member of my ward to cast an opposing vote. Mentally I know that the purpose of casting an opposing vote isn’t to be disagreeable, it isn’t to be disruptive, it isn’t to speak evil about the person being sustained. It’s purpose is to make Priesthood leaders aware of issues.

But this knowledge doesn’t alleviate the fact that I must stand alone, when I raise my hand to oppose the calling. Chances are that I will be the first person anyone in my ward has ever seen cast an opposing vote. That is a huge weight on my shoulders. I’m terrified; even though I will be acting in complete compliance with Church teachings. Part of me wishes I could just sit quietly and do nothing. But I can’t. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be doing my duty as a member of the Church.

The reason why I find myself in this position originates in the scriptures. According to the Doctrine and Covenants and teachings of the Church, all things in the church must be done by common consent.

65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church; — Section 20:65

In the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual in the chapter entitled “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” it states:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. […] Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)

These things teach us that no Church officers may be ordained or serve in their positions without the vote of the church to which their office pertains. This is the issue that brings me to my predicament. The reason why I need to cast an opposing vote, when it is time for sustainings in my ward, is that someone was given a calling and ordained without having this vote first. I know this for a fact because this member said it themselves. In fact they seemed like they were proud of the fact, like they either didn’t know the rules or didn’t care.

I wanted some further insight into this so I looked in the Handbook and in Handbook 2 Section 19.3 it says:

Members who are called to most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. The Chart of Callings indicates whether a sustaining vote is needed and what congregation should give it.

This was insightful because it says that most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. Then it gives a reference to know which of these callings are the exemptions to the “most” statement. I looked at the Chart of Callings and couldn’t find the calling to which this member had been called. Meaning that their calling was not one of the exceptions

Now, I know this may seem like a minor thing. But as I mentioned before, the commandments are for everyone. They are there for a reason. And if this rule isn’t important then why is it in our scriptures, teachings, and policies?

I know Church leaders at all levels, local and general, are doing their best to serve God. I support and encourage them to do good in leading the Church. We all acknowledge that Church members aren’t perfect, even ones with leadership callings. So if there was an error in the way this person was called then it should be corrected, right? After all, mistakes happen.

But the mistake made in the calling of this person is of particular significance and importance. On January 16, 2018, there was a broadcast held for members of the Church:

Todd Christofferson, conducting the event, stated:

“We are pleased to announce to you this morning that Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the seventeenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 14, 2018. With President Dallin H. Oaks and First Councilor and President Henry B. Eyring as Second Councilor in the First presidency. President M. Russell Ballard was set apart as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

Later Russell M. Nelson also spoke, stating:

Two days ago, as Brother Christofferson has said, all of the living Apostles met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple. There, they made a unanimous decision first, to reorganize the First Presidency now, and second, that I serve as President of the Church. Words are inadequate to tell you what it felt like to have my brethren, brethren who hold all the priesthood keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation, place their hands upon my head to ordain and set me apart as President of the Church.”

These statements make it known that, two days earlier, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ordained and set apart Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church, with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring as his councilors. The was done BEFORE any sustaining vote by the church could have been done. Based on what we learned earlier this is a clear violation of the scriptures, teaching of the Church, and Church policies.

When I learned about this it was such a surprise. My initial reaction was to look up all the scriptures and policies about the subject to find out what the truth was. This lead me to all of the information I presented earlier in this article.

Interestingly in Doctrine and Covenants Second 20 it actually talks about ordaining the President of the Church:

67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.

At first glance this may seem like this gives the President a pass, but verse 65 is emphatic that where there is an organize division of the Church, no person is to be ordained to any office without first having received the vote of that church. So how are we to understand verse 67?

They key is in the wording, “ordained by the direction of.” Meaning that either a high council, or a General Conference may direct that a President be ordained. But they must still comply with verse 65 and get the vote of the church before that ordination can actually be done.

This may seem like I’m picking at straws. After all, if the Church members sustain Russell M. Nelson later, does it really matter that he was ordained before? Well, yes, it does matter. Because if it didn’t matter when the sustaining vote took place, then why would there be commandments about it? Since Russell, M. Nelson’s ordaining was illegitimate, then when Church members later vote to sustain that ordination, all they are saying is that they support an ordination that broke the commandments. Does God want us to support breaking the commandments, or would He prefer we point out errors so they can be fixed?

I know that there are some members of the Church who don’t care enough to worry about this. It’s much easier to maintain the status quo and keep your mouth shut. After all, why rock the boat? Why make waves? But for me I care too much about the Gospel to not act. I’m not a member who goes to Church for the social aspect. I believe in the Gospel and work to apply it in my life. I believe that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say. Therefore this breach of the commandments will not be ignored by God. This is a point in time where we can vote to oppose error and thus stand with God and his commandments, or we can vote to sustain violations of God’s law.

That is why, in accordance with the teachings of the church, and out of no malice or ill-intent, I must dare to stand alone for truth and vote in opposition to the motions to sustain Russell M. Nelson Sr. as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; with Dallin H. Oaks as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor in the First Presidency; as well as M. Russell Ballard Jr. as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

These men cannot legitimately serve in these callings, because their ordinations were done in transgression of the laws and teachings of the church. I will be casting my vote from a place of respect, and not out of criticism. I have observed a breach in the laws of the God and the church, and I must oppose that.

I do not oppose a properly organized First Presidency consisting of Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring. Likewise, I do not oppose the sustaining of Russell M. Nelson, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators; as I do support them in receiving these gifts.

I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I strive to live the Gospel of Christ the best I can. And it is from this very same desire to follow God’s commandments that I must cast my opposing vote. And if after reading this you choose to cast an opposing vote, know that you are not standing alone.

 

 

Posted in Church, Commandments, Scriptures | 1 Comment

Why Will I Cast an Opposing Vote?


First let me state that I support Church leaders at all levels, local and general, in doing their best to serve God. I support and encourage them to do good in leading the Church. However, it has come to my attention that Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring, and the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve have acted in violation of the revelations of God and teachings of the Church.

On January 16, 2018, there was a broadcast held for members of the Church, in which the Quorum of the Twelve announced that they had chosen Russell M. Nelson as the new President of the Church, and had already ordained and set him apart in this calling.

Todd Christofferson, conducting the event, stated:

“We are pleased to announce to you this morning that Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the seventeenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 14, 2018. With President Dallin H. Oaks and First Councilor and President Henry B. Eyring as Second Councilor in the First presidency. President M. Russell Ballard was set apart as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

Later Russell M. Nelson also spoke, stating:

Two days ago, as Brother Christofferson has said, all of the living Apostles met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple. There, they made a unanimous decision first, to reorganize the First Presidency now, and second, that I serve as President of the Church. Words are inadequate to tell you what it felt like to have my brethren, brethren who hold all the priesthood keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation, place their hands upon my head to ordain and set me apart as President of the Church.

The issue arises because according to the Doctrine and Covenants and teachings of the Church, all things in the church must be done by common consent. Furthermore, no Church officers may be ordained or serve in their positions without the vote of the church to which their office pertains.

65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church; — Section 20:65

In the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual in the chapter entitled “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” it states:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. […] Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)

Also, according to Handbook 2 Section 19.3

Members who are called to most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. The Chart of Callings indicates whether a sustaining vote is needed and what congregation should give it.

It is clear from the above statements that the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have acted contrary to the scriptures and teachings of the Church. They have ordained and set apart Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church, with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring as his councilors; without first receiving the common consent of the church.

In light of the scriptures, as well as the following teachings and policies, I will be casting my vote:

 “If a member in good standing gives a dissenting vote when someone is presented to be sustained, the presiding officer or another assigned priesthood officer confers with the dissenting member in private after the meeting. The officer determines whether the dissenting vote was based on knowledge that the person who was presented is guilty of conduct that should disqualify him or her from serving in the position.” — Handbook2 Section 19.3

D&C 26:2. When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?

“I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent

Therefore, in accordance with the teachings of the church, and out of no malice or ill-intent, I must vote in opposition to the motions to sustain Russell Marion Nelson Sr. as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; with Dallin Harris Oaks as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Henry Bennion Eyring as Second Counselor in the First Presidency; as well as Melvin Russell Ballard Jr. as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

These men cannot legitimately serve in these callings, because their ordinations were done in transgression of the laws and teachings of the church. I will be casting my vote from a place of respect, and not out of criticism. I have observed a breach in the laws of the God and the church, and I must oppose that.

I do not oppose a properly organized First Presidency consisting of Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring. Likewise, I do not oppose the sustaining of Russell M. Nelson, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators; as I do support them in receiving these gifts.

It is my desire to remain a member in good standing within the Church. I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I strive to live the Gospel of Christ the best I can. And it is from this very same desire to follow God’s commandments that I must cast my opposing vote.

Posted in Church, Commandments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Did Joseph Smith Lie About the First Vision?


One of the foundational claims of the L-dS Church is that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to a young Joseph Smith, in a sacred grove. This First Vision of Joseph’s, opened a new era of God’s work among mankind. It is proof that God once again calls prophets who speak for God and that God has a living prophet among us today.

This is the narrative that has been presented to investigators and members of the L-dS Church for decades.

However, there is a problem. There isn’t only one first vision; or rather there isn’t only one telling of it. Both Joseph Smith and others recounted the vision several times; and each account is a bit different. But waits? If Joseph has such an amazing experience as God the Father appearing to him, should he have every detail right every time he told it? Wouldn’t every excruciating detail be burned into his memory with such strength that he would have no problem recalling everything?

For me, it’s not enough to just take what I read online at face value. I need to look at original source material. That’s why the other day I decided to take another look at the different account of the first vision given by Joseph Smith. I did so a few years ago and so I thought it was time to refresh my memory.

To give you a list here are the accounts that Joseph directly had a part in telling:

1832 – This version is the first known version of the First Vision.

1835 November 9th – This is an entry in Joseph Smith’s journal about him retelling the event to someone who asked.

1835 November 14th – This is also a journal entry when Joseph Smith’s told the first vision to someone who asked him.

1838 (official) – It is my understanding that this version was started in 1838, but was published in Times and Seasons (Volume 3 Number 11) in 1842.

1842 – This version was included in the Wentworth letter and was also published in Times and Seasons (Volume 3 Number 9) in 1842.

1844 – This version is that same as what was published in the Wentworth letter.

There are differences in each of these accounts. For example in the 1832 account Joseph Smith says that is was because he mourned for his sins that he went and prayed in the sacred grove. But in the 1838 account he says it was because he wanted to know which church was correct.

This news has been devastating to many members of the church. Why are there these differences? If Joseph Smith was recalling an actual event shouldn’t he be able to keep his story straight? Maybe he just made it up later to support his claims. Do these differing accounts prove Joseph Smith was a liar?!

To examine these questions we first need to look at some of our fundamental assumptions. These assumptions stem from how the L-dS Church has presented the First Vision.

First, the L-dS Church seems to overstate the importance of the first Vision has to, not only the Church, but also to Joseph Smith. The first vision is presented as an essential first step in “restoring the Church.”

See this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley: “Our  whole  strength  rests  on  the  validity  of  that  [First]  vision.  It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”

If the First Vision was that important you would think that it would have played a more significant role in Joseph’s life. But it seems clear from the evidence that it wasn’t as significant to Joseph as we make it out to be.

As pointed out by MormonThink, visions of God or Jesus were common in the 1800’s. Things that are common, tend to not be that significant. We can catch a glimpse of how Joseph may have viewed this vision in the document “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” written in 1830. This account is given as a preface for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It states:

“For after that it truly was manifested unto the first elder that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled a gain in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness…”

Here we see that Joseph (the First Elder) had a manifestation that he had received a remission of his sins prior to the Book of Mormon coming forth. This is very vague, just hinting at something. I don’t know what Joseph was thinking, but to me it’s as if he views this visionary experience that happened tenish years ago as a preface to the actual work, rather than the beginning. Almost as if he was saying, “oh yeah, there was that vision thing I had where my sins were forgiven.”

I think we do a huge disservice to ourselves and other by ascribing more significance to the First Vision that it apparently had to Joseph. In making it the ultimate first step, without which everything is false, we are the ones making the mistake.

Second, the L-dS Church presents the First Vision as a physical occurrence. According to the L-dS narrative God the Father and Jesus both literally appeared before Joseph Smith. They were physically present. There is a reason for this. The L-dS Church teaches that God the Father is a person of flesh and bone. Him appearing physically is used as a point of evidence for this teaching. Having God appear to Joseph as a vision rather than a literal being decreases the points of evidence for this teaching.

The problem with this is that is misrepresents the nature of visions. According to my understanding visions are like dreams. They occur mentally, not physically. I believe that anyone walking into the woods at that time would have only seen a young Joseph staring up at the trees. They would not have seen God or Jesus. Just a boy, in the woods, by himself. Joseph on the other hand would have been seeing his vision. That’s because the vision was happening in his mind.

Let’s look a bit more at the differences presented in these accounts. I’m sure many of you have seen this little infographic.

Look at all the contradictions, it’s so damning. And to top it off this is only a small sample. There are 10 versions that evolved over time!

But let’s look at this a little closer. Of the ten versions mentioned, there are six that Joseph Smith was directly involved in. I listed these earlier. Two of them were identical and excluding the 1830 “inkling”; that leaves five versions of the First vision that joseph was directly involved in telling.

There’s one more version I want to throw out. Look at the 1835 account(the November 14th Journal entry). According to this inforgraphic Joseph smith didn’t see any personages, there was no pillar of fire, no sins forgiven, nothing. Just a bunch of angels. Joseph Smith must really have been making up the whole thing to get the story that wrong. Let’s look at the text of this account:

“A Gentleman called this afternoon by the name of Erastus Holmes of Newbury, Clermont Co. Ohio, he called to make inquiry about the establishment of the Church of the latter-day Saints and to be instructed more perfectly in our doctrine &c I commenced and gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from 6, years old up to the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years old and also the visitations that I received afterward, concerning the book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church, up to this, date he listened very attentively and seemed highly gratified, and intends to unite with the Church he is a very candid man indeed and I am much pleased with him.”

Wait…where was it? Where was this damning contradictory First Vision account that Joseph Smith the liar made up? Let me point it out to you:

“the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years”

That’s it?! That’s only seventeen words, there’s hardly any information there. That’s because, for those of you who don’t know, this is something called a summary. What’s a summary you ask? Why it’s when you take many words and make them into few words while still conveying the same general meaning. You see, when Joseph Smith said he told about the time he received the first visitation of angels; he wasn’t saying he only saw angels he was summarizing what he has told the man.

Why was he summarizing when he could have included the entire experience in excruciating detail for 21st century netizens? Because Joseph had already written the first vision fourteen pages earlier in this same journal. Even if we take these seventeen words as a definitive description (meaning Joseph told different version of the story that didn’t allow for pillars of light/fire, personages, etc. and ONLY allowed angels, as suggested in the infographic); it defies logic that Joseph couldn’t keep that story straight with one he told only five days earlier on November 9th! Even I can recall some of the details of impromptu bedtime stories I tell my daughters a week later. To believe that the Nov 9th 1835 account suggests a completely different version is laughable.

But this infographic makes it look like it was a completely different contradictory version. Why? Because it looks more damning with all those red x’s.

Since one of the five versions of the first vision is a one line summary lets exclude it too. That leaves us with four firsthand accounts: the 1832, the 1835(Nov 9th), the 1838 (official), and the 1842 (Wentworth).

So let’s look at some of the details

Motivations

1832 – Concerned with welfare of his soul, studies the scriptures, found denominations were not agreeable to the scriptures, concerned with contentions of the world, found that mankind has apostatized from the faith, mourned for his sins and the sins of the world.

1835 – Wondering about the subject of religion, who was right and who was wrong,.

1838 – Excitement about religion, confusion and strife among denominations, wondering who was right and who was wrong.

1842 – Societies(groups) had different plans, didn’t think God could be the author of so much confusion.

I don’t know about you, but all of those motivations sound very similar. They are certainly expressed in different ways, but pretty much center around the concept of, concern for standing before God motivated by confusion about religion.

Personages

1832 – “The Lord”

1835 – Two personages. First one personage, then another shortly after the first appeared. Many angels.

1838 – Two personages, one identified that other saying, “this is my beloved Son, hear him.”

1842 – Two identical personages

Again, none of these are really contradictory. The 1832 certainly says, “the Lord.” But it doesn’t say ONLY the Lord. And if the personages in the other accounts are the same and there is no indication they are not, they we could reasonably conclude that they are God the Father and the Son. If they are, couldn’t the descriptor, “the Lord” apply as well in the other three accounts? I think so.

Pillar

1832 – Pillar of light.

1835 – Pillar of fire/flame.

1838 – Pillar of light.

1842 – Surrounded by a brilliant light.

I’m going to be honest. I think you’re just nitpicking if you think these things are describe something different each time.

Communications

1832 – Sins are forgiven, keep my commandments, I am the Lord, world has turned from the gospel, they draw near with lips but hearts are far, anger kindled against the inhabitants of the earth, bring to pass that which has been spoken of by the prophets.

1835 – Sins forgiven, testified that Jesus is the Son of god.

1838 – Told that one of the personages is “my beloved Son,” told not to join the churches, their creeds are an abomination, their professors are all corrupt, they draw near with lips but hearts are far, many other things.

1842 – All religious denominations are believing incorrect doctrines, none of them are acknowledged by God, commanded to “go not after them,” the fullness of the gospel should be made known in the future.

Again with these accounts there seems to be a common thread running through them. And there is no case where there is any direct contradiction. You can only find contradiction if you assume that each account contains all that was said and nothing more. The 1835 account does stand out. However is should be noted that this part of the account is only seventeen words long. So it is clearly a summarization.

Hopefully, by now you will agree with me that the infographic was made in such a way as to play up the differences. I think it is clear that these much disparaged “differences” are not anything that can’t be attributed to retelling the same event in different ways at different times.

With all this information in hand I’m going to ask you, have you ever told something that happened to you, but summarized it, or left out parts based on who you are talking to?

I have. When people ask how my wife and I met on my mission and later got married I will usually tell them this:

“I was serving in the Sto. Domingo branch and [my would-be wife] was serving in the District Relief society presidency in another city. One day she came to visit our branch and that was when I first saw her. I only saw her occasionally after that. However, before I went home a member gave me her phone number. After a few months I called her, and the rest is history.”

Even if you asked if I had any spiritual experiences about her I might still only tell you the version above. But I would tell a different version of the story depending on if I thought I should share it with you. That version would go something like this:

“I was serving in the Sto. Domingo branch and [my would-be wife] was serving in the District Relief society presidency in another city. One day she came to visit our branch and that was when I first saw her. It was so weird because at the moment I first saw her, I heard a voice behind me say that she’s the one I’m supposed to marry. I looked behind me thinking it was my companion playing a joke, but nobody was there. I only saw her occasionally after that. However, before I went home I asked a member for her phone number. After a few months I called her, and the rest is history.”

Would you really need to draw up charts with little checkmarks; saying that in one story I said I asked for the phone number, in the other he said it was the member who gave it to him. Or that in one said I had a spiritual experience and the other is didn’t. Of course not, that’s just dumb. We all would understand that I’m just telling different parts of the story based on what I think should be included.

So how come we are willing to give any regular person a pass for summarizing and not sharing all the details every time, but not Joseph Smith?

The truth of the matter is that there aren’t nearly as many contradictions in the first vision accounts as people want you to think. In fact, if we allow the accounts to inform each other, they flow together very well. There really aren’t any major contradictions. There are only contradictions if you view what Joseph told in each account as exactly what was in Joseph’s mind every time. I think human experience tells us that that is not the way we tell and retell stories.

To experiment with this, I set out to make a unified version of the First vision. I gathered all the firsthand accounts and meshed them created one account. My criteria was that I wanted to use as much original wording as possible, I wanted to keep the order of things intact, and I wanted things to make sense as a story. The biggest issue is that some accounts are told in different narrative styles. In one account Joseph may reflect on something which is mentioned earlier in another account. Despite this, the accounts seem to follow each other and mesh very well. I was surprised how easy it actually was. I didn’t need to leave out any details. The story doesn’t require fantastic rationalizations, like Judas hanging himself and then the rope breaking so he fell and burst asunder. It actually flows pretty well. The only issue I didn’t check for was theological correctness. For example, if God the Father would say, “Joseph my son.”

So without further adieu here is my version of the complete first vision:

(I’ve corrected spelling and text I’ve added is bold)

At about the age of twelve years, my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness respecting the subject of religion, and became seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns for the well fare of my immortal Soul; which led me to searching the scriptures. Believing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God. Thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my Soul.

Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind; the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind. But though my feelings were deep and often pungent, still I kept myself aloof from all those parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit, looking at the different systems taught the children of men. But in process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them.

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon inquiring the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; because so great was the confusion and strife among the different denominations that it was impossible for a person young as I was and so unacquainted with men and things to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong.

If I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.

My mind at different times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult was so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists, and Methodists, and used all their powers of either reason, or sophistry to prove their errors, or at least to make the people think they were in error: on the other hand the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous to establish their own tenets, and disprove all others.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, what is to be done? Who of all these parties are right? Or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right which is it, and how shall I know it? I knew not who was right or who was wrong, and considering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; my mind become exceedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord, but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament, and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God.

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties, caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth unto all men liberally and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.” Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God I did, for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I had would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God,’ concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

Being thus perplexed in mind and in accordance with this my determination, to ask of God, I retired to a secret place in a silent grove to make the attempt; under a realizing sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find,” and again believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James. Information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it I retired to the woods.

It was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. For I had looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also upon which I stood, and the beast of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth, in majesty and in the strength of beauty. Whose power and intelligence in governing the things, which are so exceeding great and marvelous, even in the likeness of him who created them. And when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed, “well hath the wise man said, ‘it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God.’“ My heart exclaimed, “all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power. A being who maketh Laws, and decreeth, and bindeth all things in their bounds; who filleth Eternity. Who was, and is, and will be from all Eternity to Eternity.” And when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth, therefore I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated, or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray.

It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally. After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me and finding myself alone, I bowed down before the Lord and began to to call upon the Lord and offer up the desires of my heart to God.

I had scarcely done so when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcome me, and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue, so that I could not speak. For my tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth.

I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, I strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking.

Thick darkness gathered around me and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction, not to any imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world who had such a marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being, I kneeled again, my mouth was opened and my tongue liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, and therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness.

Just at this moment of great alarm, while fervently engaged in calling upon the Lord, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision:

I saw a pillar of light, as if fire, above the brightness of the sun at noon day, had appeared exactly above my head and descended gradually from above until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light had presently rested upon my head, I was filled with joy unspeakable through the spirit of God; and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord. For a personage appeared in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, and another personage soon appeared like unto the first, and I saw many Angels. I saw these two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day(whose brightness and glory defy all description), standing above me in the air.

One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” He testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; and said, (pointing to the other,) “This is my beloved Son, hear him.”

And he said unto me, “Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.”

Now my object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know, ‘which of all the sects was right? That I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong,) and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt. He said, “Behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good, no not one. They have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to their ungodliness, and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles. Behold and lo I come quickly, as it is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.”

They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me. And many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time.

When I came to myself again I found myself laying on my back, looking up into heaven. My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but could find none that would believe the heavenly vision, nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart but after many days I fell into transgressions, was entangled again in the vanities of the world, and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul. And there were many things which transpired that cannot be written.

 

As a follow up to this I will be posting an analysis showing where I drew from each account and how much.

Some questions answered:

Why are there multiple versions of the First Vision?

Because Joseph Smith told the account multiple times.

Why do some of the accounts differ?

Probably because Joseph Smith told it slightly differently each time. He may have included and excluded pieces depending on who he was talking to.

Doesn’t that prove he was lying and couldn’t keep his story straight?

Not any more than it proves you lie when you tell a story differently and may or may not include certain details depending on who you’re talking to.

Are there any firsthand accounts that directly contradict each other?

No. Some accounts may leave out elements or state things in a different way, but that is not the same as a contradiction.

But didn’t Joseph say he saw only the Lord in one account and two personages (God and Jesus) in another account?

He didn’t say he ONLY saw the Lord. He just said he saw the Lord. I would say that seeing God, or Jesus, or both would qualify as having seen “the Lord.” Perhaps, he decided to exclude some of the details in that account, just like he did many others.

Isn’t it a contradiction when Joseph Smith said, “Who of all these parties are right? Or, are they all wrong together?” then later said “for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong” in the same document, not to mention in other accounts he had already concluded that the other churches had apostatized?!

Possibly, people make mistakes all the time. However to me it reads as if Joseph Smith is waxing philosophical or just basing things on his own studies in his statements pre-vision. Then later he is saying something like, “Woah, it’s really official, they are all wrong.” I know that explanation won’t satisfy everybody. But to be honest I don’t have an issue with either keeping that parenthetical or chalking it up to an authorship issue and throwing it out. Is this possible error proof that Joseph Smith lied? Hardly.

Why didn’t you talk about Joseph’s age? It’s all over the place in the different accounts.

The accounts don’t really differ that much. The age is cited as between a range of fourteen and sixteen. You’re assuming this event was much more significant to Joseph Smith then the evidence indicates it was. Ten years later he probably had a hard time remembering exactly what year it was.

Why did Joseph Smith join the Methodist Church in 1828 after he was told not to in the vision?

I don’t know Joseph Smith’s motivations so I can’t answer why. Though this would not be inconsistent with the first vision account, because Joseph Smith himself admitted that he fell into transgressions, was entangled in the vanities of the world, and sinned in many things. It would be folly to assume Joseph Smith perfectly kept all of God’s commandments when the man himself admitted that he didn’t.

Doesn’t the fact that there are no records of the first vision until ten or twelve years after it supposedly happened mean that Joseph Smith made it up?

Not necessarily, it just may mean that this vision wasn’t as significant to Joseph Smith as the L-dS Church makes it out to be. Evidence indicates that the vision prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was much more significant to him.

You’re just ignoring that facts and twisting things to support your own conclusions!

Not any more than you are.

Joseph Smith was a filthy liar, scumbag, pedophile; I just know it!

Boo hoo, go cry in your pillow.

Posted in Joseph SMith, Vision | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments