Saturday, September 24, 2016

What Have You Against Being Baptized?

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
—Luke 7:30


Have you ever imagined what it must have been like for the Nephite multitude at the temple in Bountiful when Christ visited? This event is unique in scripture as it simultaneously documents a number of singular occurrences not seen elsewhere with clarity—or at all—and they happen together.



In these chapters, we witness the opening of a new dispensation; clear teaching of Christ’s doctrine, out of his own mouth; the endowment and opening of the connection with heaven; explanation of other scripture and prophecy, the implementation of the Lord’s supper, and perhaps most important, the ministry of a God among mortals. There’s nothing even remotely like this anywhere else in scripture. 

Those who survived the destructions at the crucifixion were the “more righteous part of the people” who “received the prophets.” (3 Nephi 10:12) And the fact that they made the journey to the temple to observe the required holy days—even though most of the population and many cities had been destroyed less than a year before—shows their commitment to obeying the Lord. They were rewarded with the privilege of beholding Him face to face, feeling his wounds, embracing Him, shouting Hosannah, and bowing before Him.


Immediately after these momentous events, the Lord called forth Nephi and empowered him to provide re-baptism to the people. Likewise, He called 11 others and similarly empowered them. He did this publicly so there would be no question about who was authorized to provide this ordinance, and who was not.


Next, the Lord launched into an explanation of the requirements for who was to be baptized, and exactly how it was to be done—even giving the precise wording and procedure to be used. He explained this as a commandment, to be performed “after this manner” and “according as I have commanded you.” He expressly forbade disputing about this commandment. 


Having thus laid the foundation by clearly teaching the need for, and method of, baptism (or in this case, re-baptism), the Savior then taught His doctrine—culminating with the absolute requirement that His doctrine be obeyed by all those who desire salvation. He taught these things publicly so all could hear and understand. And He taught these things first, giving them absolute primacy in His religion.


The Lord’s actions and teachings make clear the following points:



  1. Performing the ordinance of baptism requires the Lord’s authorization. Though unauthorized others may offer the ordinance, the Lord will not recognize it.
  2. The practice of ordaining priests existed among the Nephites (see 2 Ne. 5:26, Mosiah 18:18, Moroni 3). Therefore, it’s clear that priestly service requires both ordination by man, and empowerment by the Lord. Scripture does not make provision to neglect either step.
  3. Precise qualifications, wording and actions are to be followed in baptism.
  4. There is no other way to salvation. In fact, the Lord repeats four times the requirement for baptism, categorically stating that “whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.” He leaves no room for exceptions.
  5. In recognition of the new dispensation Christ was establishing, a new baptism was required, even for those who had already been properly baptized.
  6. Water baptism is a prerequisite to receiving the Holy Ghost, both the first time, and at the opening of a new dispensation when re-baptism is required. Baptism by water is the gate to receiving the baptism of fire. 

Christ is not at liberty to change these commandments; they came from His father. Changing them or making arbitrary exceptions would make Christ both disobedient and a liar. 



Too often, we tend to view commandments as limitations, curtailing our freedom, and restricting our behavior. Many chafe at such perceived limitations. But perhaps it’s useful to think of commandments in another way. Suppose you faced the difficult task of diffusing a bomb, under the direction of an experienced bomb expert. Your very life would depend on exactly following the expert’s instructions. This is not a time to improvise. If you follow the directions exactly, you will safely accomplish the task. In such a situation the directions, or commandments, given by the expert are NOT designed to curtail your freedom or restrict your behavior. Rather, they are the actions that will save your life. There’s no point arguing or refusing to obey the expert’s instructions. Your only hope lies in doing exactly as he says.

Well, Christ is the expert. He has trodden the path and knows the way to be redeemed from the fall. Baptism is not an arbitrary commandment He can change or waive at will. Due to the requirements of eternal, immutable laws, there are good reasons baptism must be received, and must be performed in the correct way. Again, even Christ is not at liberty to change these requirements. There’s no point arguing about it. The only safe course is to do as Christ directs.


Nevertheless, some have trouble receiving Christ’s word and some refuse baptism for various reasons. Some seek to argue the points of His doctrine rather than submitting to it.


I have no desire to argue about these things, but I do think it’s worthwhile providing a few points here in response to some objections I’ve encountered to the ideas Christ has expressed. Please don’t think me unkind if I’m direct in what follows. The time is at hand to declare truth with boldness.


My previous baptism was good enough. I know the Lord accepted it.


That may be so, but the validity of your previous baptism is not the question. Whenever the Lord initiates a new dispensation, He invites those who accept His gospel to be baptized, or re-baptized, in recognition of the new covenant He makes available. 


Such a requirement came at the opening of Joseph Smith’s dispensation. However, some felt their prior baptism was adequate and they therefore refused to be re-baptized. In response, the Lord gave the following revelation:



Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old. Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen. (D&C 22:1-4 emphasis mine)
A new dispensation is upon us. The Lord has renewed the command to obey His doctrine. Those who accept Him will do so.
 Refusal is really rejection of Christ. How can you reject Him now, and yet rely on your previous baptism to be honored? 

The Lord knows my heart. He surely won’t reject me simply because I didn’t get re-baptized.


The Lord does indeed know your heart, and finds there an unwillingness to hear and obey His voice. Your good intentions cannot overcome the Lord’s edict: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Refusal to obey Him is evidence your love for Him is feigned. Yes, the Lord knows your heart, but perhaps you don’t. Turn your heart to him.


But what about all my good friends who worship Christ? I can’t believe a loving and merciful God would reject a believing soul simply because they didn’t get baptized—or didn’t get baptized in the right way. I cannot accept such a God.


Your refusal to accept the Lord’s commandment doesn’t make His commandment void. Those who sincerely worship Christ will humble themselves and seek His word, wherever it is found. The minute someone starts dictating what God “should” be like, based on their own flawed understanding of mercy, justice, love, or any other principle, they cut themselves off from learning God’s true character, perfections and attributes. And without a correct understanding of these, faith is impossible. (Lectures on Faith 3:4)


In other words, if you want to engage in ultimatums about what you will and will not accept in your God, then by definition you do not and cannot have faith. You simply believe in a fairy-tale Jesus who bends to conform to your will—a false Christ indeed. (See Matthew 24:24)


In the final analysis, God is more intelligent than us all. His work and glory is to exalt us, and He knows how to do it. We ought to trust Him and let Him do His work, in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Those who will not accept what He offers in this life will require continuing efforts on His part beyond this mortality. Our best course is to receive all he offers here and now, while it’s available.


I believe the commandment applies to others, but I’m the exception. 


Thus making God a respecter of persons, and a liar. Seriously?


But I’ve constructed a complex and nuanced scriptural argument to prove that, although the Lord commanded re-baptism, He really didn’t mean it, and I won’t be deceived into doing it. 


And yet, he says, “And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.” (3 Nephi 11:37) Is your complex and nuanced scriptural argument adapted to the capacity of a child? Did you construct your argument as a result of your childlike, humble faith and obedience, or did you construct this argument to avoid doing what the Lord plainly and openly said to do? Is it likely Christ was deceiving us with His commandment? Or is it more likely your wisdom is foolishness?

O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9:28, emphasis mine)
Anyone can go to God and get power to baptize. It is arrogant to claim that only a certain group or lineage has access to that power. If what he says is true, then very few people who ever lived on earth will be saved! 

The Lord instructed us to anticipate only a few would accept His offer. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 31:17)


By broadening Christ’s permissiveness to suit your desires for large numbers, you really just change the parameters of who is excluded. But there will still be exclusions. Whether hundreds, thousands, millions, or billions accept, it is still not everyone. Are you in a position to choose who is excluded? What number would make you happy? Or is it even better to exclude nobody and follow Nehor’s teaching that ALL will be saved at the last day? (Alma 1:4)


There’s no point in arguing about numbers. Even if only one couple is saved and exalted, something infinite has been accomplished. Although few will find and accept the Lord’s offer, it is nevertheless open to all. For those who do not accept, the struggle will continue. We ought to do all we can to raise the warning voice and invite all to come unto Christ. 

You might be able to convince me if you can answer each of my concerns and defeat all my arguments.

Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. (Alma 32:16)
Yes, but...

Now, having talked through a few of these objections, imagine someone present in the multitude at Bountiful, raising their hand during Christ’s sermon, and advancing one of the arguments listed above. Do you suppose the Lord would argue the points of His doctrine? Do you suppose He would offer a series of exceptions to accommodate those who preferred not to obey Him? Do you suppose He would stand there with holes in His hands, feet and side, where He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, (Isaiah 53:5) and be persuaded by the accusation that He is not a “loving God?”


You and I cannot comprehend the price Christ paid to make our rescue possible. He informs us of the exact steps required to take advantage of His offer. What is there to argue about? If you’re drowning and someone throws you a rope, is there any point in arguing about the color, weave, or length of the rope? Is there any point in refusing to take hold unless everyone else does too? Are you in any position at all to critique the throwing form or pulling power of the one who will save you? Take hold of the rope.


The Prevailing Gate



When Nephi discussed the Doctrine of Christ, he referred to repentance and baptism as the “gate” by which we should enter:
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 31:17)
Until you have entered through that gate, it remains closed to you. Given that you currently reside in a Telestial kingdom, the gate really is the way of escape from Hell. (2 Nephi 9:10). If you do not enter in at the gate, you remain trapped and unredeemed. Or as Christ explained, if the gate remains closed, Hell prevails against you. You must build upon His Rock:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. (3 Nephi 11:39)
In conclusion, I’ll simply add my personal invitation: Please come unto Christ through repentance and baptism. Turn to Him, obey His word, and let Him fill you with fire and the Holy Ghost. I know from personal experience His words are true. 

Authorized ministers are waiting to help:






And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

—2 Nephi 31:10-11

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Doctrine of Christ Conference



The Doctrine of Christ Conference in Boise was a success. The Lord blessed us with wonderful venues, weather, music, fellowship, and, most importantly, His word, declared with power.

You can hear or read the talks at this link:

Doctrine of Christ Conference


Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Name of Jesus Christ, Conclusion: Naming and Shaming


For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

—Romans 1:16


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8


A Question of Punctuation


As you probably know, the punctuation, verse divisions, and chapter divisions of the Book of Mormon were not given by Joseph Smith, but were arbitrarily added later, as part of the printing process. They are not part of the inspired record and can therefore be changed, as long as the words are not.


With that in mind, I’d like to examine something Moroni said about our day, but that might be obscured by current punctuation. Here it is, same words, punctuated differently (from Mormon 8:35-38):


Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not—but behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.  
And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts.
And there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities.
And your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker!
Well there’s a rousing condemnation. Much could be said about these accusations, but Moroni gets right to the heart of the matter by asking some pointed questions:
  1. Why have ye polluted the holy church of God? 
  2. Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? 
  3. Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies?
Then, Moroni gives the thundering answer to these questions:
Because of the praise of the world! 
This is a significant condemnation, to say the least. But before we talk about the praise of the world, let’s let’s examine Moroni’s second question, and its curious wording:
Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? 
Ashamed? Really? My first impression upon reading this question is that it makes no sense. Members of every Christian church out there happily claim the name of Christ. Mormon, Protestant, Catholic—all claim His name without shame.

In this series we’ve looked at the eagerness with which so many pray, preach, practice scholarship, gain power, and get rich “in the name of Jesus Christ.” It seems there’s no hesitation to claim Christ’s name for practically anything and everything, and certainly no shame among those who do so. In fact, we see quite the opposite: all take pride, not shame, in claiming His name.


Moroni, a man who knew the Lord face to face (Ether 12:39), finds the defects of pride and pollution in ALL churches of our day. All are “ashamed” to take upon them Christ’s name. There must be more here than we realize.


We’re aided if we include the fuller understanding of how Christ’s name is received, and what it actually means to receive it. This was the focus of the prior post in this series. You receive Christ’s name by personal interaction with Him, when he formally accepts you as His child and part of His family and household. This is the truth of the matter, but also an extremely rare occurrence in our present state.


Moroni certainly understood this, and therefore, he’s really saying we’re ashamed to become Christ’s children, join his household, and receive adoption into His family. Though many millions readily claim His name in vain, they are ashamed to meet the requirement of actually becoming His children.


I saw this born out first hand in reactions to the prior post in this series. Despite the clear words of the Lord in scripture, some folks concocted complex arguments, fanciful scenarios, or simple wishful thinking to support the claim that you don’t *really* have to know the Lord or become his child to be redeemed. (See Mosiah 26:23-27)


Relying on a false understanding of concepts like grace, mercy or love as reasons you don’t need to repent or be redeemed will have exactly the effect you argue for. You will not be redeemed. Nevertheless, I appreciate all these arguments because they helped me understand Moroni’s accusation. So with that background, let’s discuss shame.


Shame

Shame: A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt or impropriety, or of having done something which injures reputation, or of the exposure of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
In short, it’s shameful, and therefore painful, to be guilty or wrong. It’s painful to admit it. It injures your reputation, and prompts you to conceal, rather than reveal, your error. Most will never willingly admit their errors, preferring instead to cling to prior claims and double down on unbelief. Your corrupt human nature (here called the “pride of your hearts”) drives you to always believe you’re right and can’t possibly be wrong. The larger and more central your unbelief is to your culture, family, lifestyle, and devotion, the less likely you are to ever turn from it. Even if you claim to be Christ’s humble follower, will you actually turn and face Him? Will you give up your unbelief to know Him?

We have a word for the act of recognizing and admitting error, then correcting course to turn and face the Lord. That word is repentance. And the sad truth is that most of us are too ashamed to repent, though we badly need to. Our pride simply will not let us admit we are wrong about some things.


Abominations


Every church out there has built up a body of unbelief and false doctrine that has no power to save, and bears no fruit. The Lord condemned all the creeds of the Christian world as abominable, barren, and fruitless. (Jacob 5:46, JSH 1:19)


Moroni’s primary audience, the various branches of Mormonism, are particularly guilty because they actually have access to, and claim belief in, the record sent by God to correct unbelief and establish saving truth. And yet, they largely ignore it, practice against its teachings, and even insist they cannot possibly be wrong. This is the antithesis of repentance, and the LDS audience, therefore, suffers under the Lord’s condemnation. (D&C 84:54-57)


Yet, to admit our error is too shameful. Therefore, the error continues and grows, and truth is actively denied. The idea that it’s impossible for church leaders to be wrong was invented to avoid shame. The false claim that the Bible is uncorrupted, complete, infallible, and God’s only word is also born of the need to avoid shame.


Naked and Ashamed


Shame has been the Devil’s tool from the beginning. When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden, their state of sinless innocence was typified by the statement that they were naked and not ashamed. This, of course, had nothing to do with their lack of clothing, but rather the fact that they could comfortably stand in the presence of God without the guilt of sin.


After Adam and Eve transgressed, they “knew good and evil,” became aware of their fallen, sinful state, and could no longer comfortably bear God’s presence.

For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:5) 
Therefore, they attempted to hide themselves. In the LDS temple endowment portrayal, it is Lucifer who points out their nakedness—causing both their shame, and their attempt to hide. This is no surprise, as Lucifer is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He seeks to reinforce shame as a tool to prevent repentance.


In response to Adam and Eve’s fallen state, the Lord made coats of skins to cover their shame so they could bear His presence. Of course, acquiring the skins required animal sacrifice, thus pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, which would cover the shame of all humanity.
Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (2 Nephi 9:14)
The Devil has concocted the perfect conundrum by this use of Shame. It is only Christ’s atonement that has the power to remove our shame, so, ironically, those who are ashamed to take His name will never have their shame removed. It is better to suffer shame now “for His name” by literally confronting our error, correcting our course, coming unto Him, and receiving His name. Then, and only then, will our shame be removed in the day of judgment.

Shame as a Tool


Just as the adversary uses shame to keep us from repenting, people and institutions use shame as a means to control one another. Indeed, shame is the workhorse tool of false religion. It is particularly rampant in the LDS church, where “worthiness interviews” place sinners in the position of judging other sinners, meting out punishment to those who don’t meet some imagined standard of “worthiness” as if anyone is “worthy” before God.


Faced with the potential public shame of punishment and exclusion, some prefer to lie about their “worthiness” and thus add to their private shame and conviction that the Lord will never find them acceptable because they not only don’t measure up to some arbitrary set of man-made rules, but also feel compelled to lie about it. So called “Catholic Guilt” has nothing on Mormon Guilt.


Of course, the harshest institutional and social condemnation are reserved for those who find the path that leads to God, rather than seeking to appease the demands of the world or of a great, worldly institution:

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed. 
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. (1 Nephi 8:25-27)
Those who follow Christ will suffer the shame of the world, but will despise it, rather than succumbing to it. They will find freedom from shame in Christ.
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever. (2 Nephi 9:18)
Either way, shame will come. It’s part of our fallen, mortal situation. If we receive Christ’s name, we will suffer the shame of the world. If we refuse to receive what He offers, He will be ashamed of us.
For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
At the time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess our Lord, (Mosiah 27:31) some will kneel in gratitude; most will kneel in shame. Each of us gets to make that choice now.

Pride


This discussion of shame provides the background to understand Moroni’s other observation that “ye do walk in the pride of your hearts” and that we fail “because of the praise of the world.” Whether institutions or individuals, we all tend to seek popularity, praise and acceptance.


Institutions make decisions based on surveys, polling and focus groups precisely to gain the “praise of the world.” They tout their good works and manufacture a public image designed to gain the world’s approval and thus increase market share.


Similarly, as individuals, we all tend to desire praise and acceptance. When a religious institution offers flattery, calling you chosen, royal, mighty, holy, righteous, inspiring, or the best generation ever to come to earth, your pride is fed and your repentance is thwarted.


Of course you’re good! You know you’re right! There’s no need to consider your lost and fallen condition! There’s certainly no need to turn to the Lord in desperation! Just stay in the ship and trust your leaders to save you! They cannot lead you astray!


King Noah knew the power of flattering his people:

Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them. (Mosiah 11:7)
By sufficiently flattering his people, King Noah gained the support he needed to build monuments to his pride:
And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper; And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.

And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.
 
And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people. And it came to pass that he built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. (Mosiah 11:-12)
Institutions offer praise to their adherents as a means of building loyalty, which also builds pride, and ultimately builds buildings—both great and spacious, providing at once proof of worldly success, and a needed vantage point from which to point the finger of scorn.

Toxic



And so, you confront the toxic combination of shame and pride. You’re told you’re amazing, wonderful and right, but also given a list of rules and requirements you know you don’t meet. Like combining incompatible drugs, this bizarre combination of outward pride and inward shame has disastrous and debilitating consequences. Appearances must be kept up, shame must be covered up, you must pretend to measure up; and hence lives are screwed up.

Here are some of the social results of this toxic combination of pride and shame in Utah, where approximately 60% of the state is LDS:

I’m not quoting these statistics to nurse some vendetta against the Beehive State. I’m just trying to illustrate the tragic consequences of shame-based religion in a culture dominated by outward appearance and illusions of perfection. These are not the fruits of Christ’s gospel, and the use of His name in conjunction with a system that produces these results is an offense.

The Cycle of Shame


Sadly, young people who grow up in this toxic culture of inward shame and outward pride eventually become the leaders who perpetuate the pattern on future generations. That teenager who today is terrified his bishop or parents will find out what he’s been up to—is tomorrow’s bishop who will self-righteously lecture teenagers about not doing the very things he has never been able to admit he did. He will interview young people regarding their “worthiness,” reward those who lie, and punish those who confess, all while taking comfort in his office and keys—both of which convince him he must be right, despite what he knows about himself. Thus, the cycle of shame is perpetuated, and Christ’s mighty atonement is rendered powerless to save those who are ashamed to take His name.


Many, of course, will attempt to claim His name as a defense in the last day.

Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (3 Nephi 14:22-23)
Claiming Christ’s name when he has not placed it upon you will bring tragedy, not safety, in the day of judgment. To quote another blog:

Calling Christ “Lord, Lord” will accomplish nothing. There will be those who claim they are “of Christ” but who are no better than the liars, thieves and whoremongers. (D&C 76: 99-104) It is not a “brand name” to associate with. It is a Teacher to follow.


Christ teaches the will of the Father. Conforming to the will of the Father is required to “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Confession without conformity to His will is worse than meaningless. It is evidence that you are superstitious and foolish. You want Christ as a magic talisman, to be invoked to control the outcome of your life. But you do not want to honor Him by doing as He teaches. You do not want to live as He would want you to live. You do not want to surrender your sins and seek after truth and light.


…He reminds those present that calling out to Him and honoring Him with the title of “Lord” will never be enough. You must do as He taught.


There is no other way.


The path is identical for everyone. 



(From Denver Snuffer’s blog, 10/31/2010, emphasis mine.)

Moroni was correct. We pollute the holy church of God and demonstrate our shame to take Christ’s name when our pride prevents repentance. We cling to our unbelief, even as it destroys us. But Moroni also gave us the solution. It’s up to us to take his advice:


O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.

—Mormon 9:6


Update September 2, 2016: Elizabeth Smart gave an interview to online magazine Vice about the shame culture of LDS purity teachings. She takes on the “chewed gum” and “nail holes in the fence” analogies used to shame young women about sexual purity and addresses how she felt when she had to sit through those lessons after being repeatedly raped for nine months. Here’s a quote:
Elizabeth shakes her head. “I just remember thinking, This is terrible. Do they not realize Im sitting in class? Do they not realize that I'm listening to what theyre saying? Those are terrible analogies. No one should use them, period,” she says. “Especially for someone who’s been raped, they’ve already felt these feelings of worthlessness, of filth, of just—” she lets out an exasperated sigh “—of just being so crushed, and then to hear a teacher come back and say, 'Nobody wants you now'... You just think, I should just die right now.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Wolves in “Sheets” Clothing

...for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. 
—Joseph Smith
History of the Church 4:573



Have you ever heard of “Jerusalem Syndrome?”

It’s a fascinating mental illness in which a visit to the city of Jerusalem triggers an episode of intense religious psychosis. In practical terms, it means an otherwise normal tourist, while visiting Jerusalem, becomes convinced he is called of God, and is perhaps the reincarnation of some famous Bible figure, starts wearing hotel bedsheets as a robe, makes a pilgrimage to the nearest holy site, and loudly preaches a disjointed and ill-prepared sermon to all who will listen. This behavior generally continues until the sufferer is apprehended and given help.

Yes, this is real. It afflicts around 100 tourists per year, with around 40 per year hospitalized for treatment.

Fortunately, the illness follows a predictable course, allowing tour guides and hotel personnel to spot it in its earlier stages and lend assistance. And usually the tourist’s grip on reality is restored once he has left Jerusalem and returned to familiar surroundings.

Most sufferers have no prior diagnosis of mental illness, and may appear very normal in other respects. 

So what makes an otherwise non-religious accountant from Indianapolis suddenly believe he is the reincarnation of John the Baptist and he must preach to save mankind? Is it demon possession? Is it sheer awe at witnessing the actual sites where history was made? Is it the realization that Bible figures were also normal people, living normal lives? 

And why does the illness so often follow the same pattern, to the point that tour operators are taught exactly how to recognize its onset? 

These are open questions. Nobody knows what causes Jerusalem Syndrome—other than a visit to Jerusalem. But for those who suffer from it, the delusion is very real and compelling.


“Mighty and Strong” Syndrome

Joseph Smith wrote a letter to William W. Phelps in November 1832, regarding those who migrated to Missouri but didn’t consecrate their property to the church upon arrival, and consequently didn’t receive an “inheritance” of property from the church for their needs.

Forty-four years later, the LDS church canonized parts of the letter as Doctrine and Covenants Section 85. What is now verse 7 has caused no end of problems:
And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God; (D&C 85:7)
Beginning even before the canonization of this letter, and continuing through today, dozens have arisen and claimed to be the prophesied “one mighty and strong,” destined to perform some version of “setting in order the house of God” and “arranging the inheritances of the saints.” It’s such a frequent claim that the claimants even get their own Wikipedia page. Some have gathered followers, power, money, women, and honor with their claims, often resulting in new break-offs from the various branches of Mormonism. Some have instigated failed attempts to build Zion. Others have found less success and acceptance. Nevertheless, popular or not, all these pretenders have ultimately proven imposters and deceivers. 

My purpose here is not to analyze the “one mighty and strong” prophecy, and what it may or may not mean. Nor is my purpose to explore the other purported prophecies variously interpreted as referring to a Davidic Servant, a Lamanite Prophet, a Second Joseph, a Rod, Root or Branch of Jesse, a Mighty Seer, or even a reincarnation of Joseph Smith and his associates. In the end, these prophecies mean very little, and are worse than meaningless when misused. 

Rather, my purpose is to look at patterns of deception and recognition. Just as Jerusalem tour operators have learned to recognize the pattern that leads to tourists losing their minds and putting on the bedsheets, there  are patterns worth recognizing among pretenders and deceivers in the various Mormon restoration movements. Here are a few points to consider:

False Prophets Will Come

False prophets always arise in opposition to true ones. It’s an eternal law that light and darkness must be kept in balance, and that there must needs be an opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11). Therefore, when God calls people to do his work, there will most surely arise other people with an alternative agenda. Often the resemblance between the two will be very convincing. 

Our Lord warned us of this situation and taught us to know them by their fruits. (3 Nephi 14:15-20) What, then are the “fruits” to look for? This is vital.
  • Are fruits the feelings you get about a message or a messenger?
  • Are fruits the message brought forth by the messenger? 
  • Are fruits the effects of the message in the lives of those who accept it? (Pride, arrogance, anger, humility, repentance, faith, etc.)
  • Are fruits redeemed souls, suitable to be laid up against the season? (See Jacob 5)
It is left to us to determine what sort of fruit most interests the Lord, and whether those fruits are present.


Prophecy Appropriated

The purpose of prophecy is NOT to give us details about the future. Prophecy is best understood in retrospect, after it is fulfilled, as proof that God knew the end from the beginning. 

Attempts to predict future fulfillment always fall short. Fact is, God doesn’t want us to know a great deal of detail about how he intends to perform his mighty work, so we cannot interfere with it. If mankind knew exactly where, what, when and who, we would most certainly get in God’s way, and even prevent his work from proceeding. Therefore, God leaves things vague and open ended, only coming into sharp focus when viewed in retrospect.

Anyone who claims they will be the one to fulfill some prophecy in the future is almost automatically a deceiver. Similarly, anyone who claims a title (one mighty and strong, etc.) is most certainly “wearing the sheets.” And one who claims to be a famous or important person from history, reincarnated, certainly didn't get that information from God.

If someone arises and accomplishes the Lord’s work, then when the work has been completed, it will be obvious who fulfilled the prophecy, and therefore who merits the title. But until something is accomplished, claiming a title, or allowing others to apply a title to you, is nothing but arrogance and a sure sign of deception. Even Jesus Christ refused titles and honor until he had completed the atonement (Luke 18:19, Luke 4:41, Luke 22:70, Matthew 27:11, and many others.) Satan, on the other hand, sought for both title and honor before accomplishing anything. (Moses 4:1)

The Challenge of Discernment

The challenge to discern God’s voice from all others is the universal challenge of mankind. And we almost universally fail. Discernment is VERY difficult at first and requires you to be filled with light (Moses 1:15), which is obtained by sacrifice in obedience to God. If you assume you are “good” at discernment, this is a sure sign you are not. If you are not well familiar with scripture, you will be easily misled by an appealing, quasi-scriptural message. Our Lord withstood Satan by using scripture—EVERY TIME. This was how He detected the lies, even when Satan also used scripture to make his arguments.

Similarly, if you’re not familiar with history, you’re likely to repeat it. The failings at Kirtland, Independence, Far West, Nauvoo and Salt Lake ought to inform us and prevent us from making the same mistakes. Sadly, though, few are familiar enough to recognize what went wrong, and therefore resolutely march forward into the same foolish errors, even while proclaiming they cannot possibly be misled.

Ignorance of both scripture and history, combined with impatience, form the toxic condition of “zeal without knowledge.”(Romans 10:2). Those who find themselves in such a condition are susceptible to Lucifer’s suggestion, and may soon be wearing the sheets. Our greatest sin is our ignorance.

Knowing His Voice

Suppose you receive a phone call from your best friend, inviting you to a get-together. But oddly, you don’t recognize the voice. It just doesn’t sound like your best friend, whose voice you know well. Are you likely to accept the proffered invitation?

It seems to me that familiarity with the Lord’s voice is one of the keys to avoiding deception. If you know His voice cold, you can distinguish it from all other voices. In Lehi’s dream, the rod of iron represented the word of God. Does that only mean God’s written word? Or does it also mean His words to you, personally? Lacking that rod of iron, how likely is it you will be lost in the mist of darkness? 

That’s Why it’s Called Temptation

The Tempter provides something that is tempting, which I believe means easy, appealing, gratifying, or flattering. This complicates discernment because we WANT to believe the appealing message. Pride and flattery are not the tools of God, whose true teachings are often difficult to bear and require us to repent.

The Devil and his servants DO in fact appear as angels of light (D&C 128:20,  D&C 129:8, 2 Nephi 9:9, Alma 30:53.) They can and do impersonate holy beings and personalities, and even impersonate the Lord (Moses 1:19). They provide false visions and false revelations (D&C 28:11). They mimic the truth closely enough to deceive. You are unlikely to encounter true messengers without also encountering false ones. If you cannot discern the difference, you will be deceived, while simultaneously convinced you are following a true path.

In the LDS temple endowment, when true messengers arrive to teach Adam, his first act was to test them. “How shall I know you are true messengers?” In response, adequate proof was provided. There’s a lesson here for us.

Even Joseph Smith, who had already been in the presence of the Father and Son, required the assistance of Michael to detect the Devil when he appeared as an angel of light on the banks of the Susquehanna River (D&C 128:20). If you look carefully at this verse, you’ll see the other historical events noted to take place on the banks of the Susquehanna River involved, respectively, John the Baptist restoring Aaronic priesthood, and Peter, James and John, declaring their keys and dispensation. In other words, it’s highly likely Satan’s appearance on the banks of the Susquehanna River was in opposition to true messengers, and so convincing that Joseph required the help of an Archangel to discern the difference. This ought to cause you serious reflection. Could you tell the difference?

No Shortcuts

There are no shortcuts to receiving redemption and the personal ministry of the Lord. Eternal law operates the same way for everyone, every time. 

The boy Jesus was prepared for his mission by the time he was 12, and yet he had to patiently wait 18 more years before his time would come. The things of God can be sought but not forced. The Lord decides if, when, and how you will enter his presence. (D&C 88:68) Few are willing to walk the required path of patience and repentance, and therefore, shortcuts and offers of immediate gratification are enticing, even compelling. But what Christ offers cannot be obtained quickly or cheaply.

A beast waits in the pass to destroy those who will not wait upon the Lord.

If you want to move forward, the fastest way I know of to take the next step on your path is to simply ask the Lord what you lack, then do what He says.

An Individual Journey

There are a variety of groups, clubs and gatherings that teach, perform group ordinances, seek group spiritual manifestations, and claim to offer secret higher knowledge that will open the heavens. Some seek to obtain the Lord’s presence. Others have different goals in mind.

Of course fellowship is required to practice Christ’s gospel. We should gather to strengthen one another, bear one another’s burdens, teach, testify and serve one another. But as helpful as group fellowship and worship may be, the path to Christ’s presence is one we each walk alone. No group, club, or secret society has the higher knowledge you need to return to the Lord’s presence. It’s between you and the Lord, and no other person. The work is done in the secret recesses of your heart, not in the secret meeting of a group.

Piercing the Veil


Some speak of the goal of “piercing the veil” and offer checklists, plans, or programs designed to do just that. Some promote the use of mind-altering substances, sweat lodges, vision quests, meditation, visualization, counseling, energy work, lengthy fasts, “higher ordinances”or other tools on this quest. These may be effective. You may well pierce the veil through these methods, and encounter spirit beings or experiences in the realm beyond. But are they reliable sources of truth? Is “piercing the veil” and accessing the world of disembodied spirits the correct goal? (Moses 4:4 D&C 50:2-3 D&C 52:14) Or is the focus better placed on obtaining and obeying the Lord’s will so you can gain the power of Godliness and bear His presence when He chooses to manifest Himself to you? (D&C 88:68)


The Second Comforter is a mercy to be received, not a goal to be achieved. 

Judge Not?

There’s one other point to make, and it is a bit delicate. You see, somewhere along the way you might have picked up the idea that you shouldn’t judge; that you should just be accepting and refrain at all costs from calling anyone or anything evil. 

I agree, you cannot judge the heart of another. That is for the Lord. 

But you CAN and MUST judge the ideas, teachings and invitations of those who claim to speak for the Lord—if you intend to avoid deception, that is. This is paramount. (Moroni 7:14-18)

Ultimately, you must judge the spirit that animates anyone you trust to be your teacher. Are they animated by the Spirit of the Lord, or by some other spirit? How will you tell? This implies you must be familiar enough with the Lord’s Spirit to discern the answer. By the way, I'll add here that your emotions are NOT a valid indicator of truth or the presence of the Lord's spirit

Deceivers of all Types

I started this post by discussing Jerusalem Syndrome. It is a mental illness, and no matter how sincere or convinced the sufferer is, the fact is, they are mentally ill and deluded. If you encounter such a person, you MUST judge the matter rightly. You must still love that person, of course, do what you can to help them, and hope for their best good. But if you follow them or accept their ideas, you will be deceived.

Not all deceivers are mentally ill, of course. Some are deceived in other ways. Satan is the great deceiver and has a variety of tools at his disposal. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that one who seeks to deceive you is NOT lying; he may really have experienced what he claims, including a call to do a great work. But that experience may not have come from God. (Alma 30:53)

And, unfortunately, there are even those who know full well they are deceivers, but seek followers to gain money, acclaim, sex, or other desires. 

In the end, some common sense goes a long way, as do time, study and careful reflection.

The Lord’s great work is underway, and Satan will seek to undermine it at every turn. Fill yourself with enough light that, like Moses, you can tell the difference between a true messenger and a false one. Is that a white robe or a hotel bed sheet? You must judge the matter correctly.

I'll close with an editorial by Joseph Smith on this topic. I realize it is rather long, but I believe your time investment will be worthwhile. 


“Try the Spirits”—The Prophet's Editorial in the Times and Seasons.

Recent occurrences that have transpired amongst us render it an imperative duty devolving upon me to say something in relation to the spirits by which men are actuated.

It is evident from the Apostles' writings, that many false spirits existed in their day, and had "gone forth into the world," and that it needed intelligence which God alone could impart to detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God. The world in general have been grossly ignorant in regard to this one thing, and why should they be otherwise—"for no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God.”

The Egyptians were not able to discover the difference between the miracles of Moses and those of the magicians until they came to be tested together; and if Moses had not appeared in their midst, they would unquestionably have thought that the miracles of the magicians were performed through the mighty power of God, for they were great miracles that were performed by them—a supernatural agency was developed, and great power manifested.

The witch of Endor is a no less singular personage; clothed with a powerful agency she raised the Prophet Samuel from his grave, and he appeared before the astonished king, and revealed unto him his future destiny. Who is to tell whether this woman is of God, and a righteous woman—or whether the power she possessed was of the devil, and she a witch as represented by the Bible? It is easy for us to say now, but if we had lived in her day, which of us could have unravelled the mystery?

It would have been equally as difficult for us to tell by what spirit the Apostles prophesied, or by what power the Apostles spoke and worked miracles. Who could have told whether the power of Simon, the sorcerer, was of God or of the devil?

There always did, in every age, seem to be a lack of intelligence pertaining to this subject. Spirits of all kinds have been manifested, in every age, and almost amongst all people, If we go among the pagans, they have their spirits; the Mohammedans, the Jews, the Christians, the Indians—all have their spirits, all have a supernatural agency, and all contend that their spirits are of God. Who shall solve the mystery? "Try the spirits," says John, but who is to do it? The learned, the eloquent, the philosopher, the sage, the divine—all are ignorant. The heathens will boast of their gods, and of the great things that have been unfolded by their oracles. The Mussulman will boast of his Koran, and of the divine communications that his progenitors have received. The Jews have had numerous instances, both ancient and modern, among them of men who have professed to be inspired, and sent to bring about great events, and the Christian world has not been slow in making up the number.

"Try the spirits," but what by? Are we to try them by the creeds of men? What preposterous folly—what sheer ignorance—what madness! Try the motions and actions of an eternal being (for I contend that all spirits are such) by a thing that was conceived in ignorance, and brought forth in folly—a cobweb of yesterday! Angels would hide their faces, and devils would be ashamed and insulted, and would say, "Paul we know, and Jesus we know, but who are ye?" Let each man of society make a creed and try evil spirits by it, and the devil would shake his sides; it is all that he would ask—all that he would desire. Yet many of them do this, and hence "many spirits are abroad in the world.”

One great evil is, that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence, &c., and imagine that when there is anything like power, revelation, or vision manifested, that it must be of God. Hence the Methodists, Presbyterians, and others frequently possess a spirit that will cause them to lie down, and during its operation, animation is frequently entirely suspended; they consider it to be the power of God, and a glorious manifestation from God—a manifestation of what? Is there any intelligence communicated? Are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, or the purposes of God developed? Have they seen and conversed with an angel—or have the glories of futurity burst upon their view? No! but their body has been inanimate, the operation of their spirit suspended, and all the intelligence that can be obtained from them when they arise, is a shout of "glory," or "hallelujah," or some incoherent expression; but they have had "the power.”

The Shaker will whirl around on his heel, impelled by a supernatural agency or spirit, and think that he is governed by the Spirit of God; and the Jumper will jump and enter into all kinds of extravagances. A Primitive Methodist will shout under the influence of that spirit, until he will rend the heavens with his cries; while the Quakers (or Friends) moved as they think, by the Spirit of God, will sit still and say nothing. Is God the author of all this? If not of all of it, which does He recognize? Surely, such a heterogeneous mass of confusion never can enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbor's spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? Because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it. Could any one tell the length, breadth or height of a building without a rule? test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary systems, without a knowledge of astronomy? Certainly not; and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory?—or what is the manner of his manifestation? Who can detect the spirit of the French prophets with their revelations and their visions, and power of manifestations? Or who can point out the spirit of the Irvingites, with their apostles and prophets, and visions and tongues, and interpretations, &c., &c. Or who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as "no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God," so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings.

A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed.

The Turks, the Hindoos, the Jews, the Christians, the Indian; in fact all nations have been deceived, imposed upon and injured through the mischievous effects of false spirits.

As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves "in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth," and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.

A man must have the discerning of spirits, as we before stated, to understand these things, and how is he to obtain this gift if there are no gifts of the Spirit? And how can these gifts be obtained without revelation? "Christ ascended into heaven, and gave gifts to men; and He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers. And how were Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists chosen? By prophecy (revelation) and by laying on of hands:—by a divine communication, and a divinely appointed ordinance—through the medium of the Priesthood, organized according to the order of God, by divine appointment. The Apostles in ancient times held the keys of this Priesthood—of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and consequently were enabled to unlock and unravel all things pertaining to the government of the Church, the welfare of society, the future destiny of men, and the agency, power and influence of spirits; for they could control them at pleasure, bid them depart in the name of Jesus, and detect their mischievous and mysterious operations when trying to palm themselves upon the Church in a religious garb, and militate against the interest of the Church and spread of truth. We read that they "cast out devils in the name of Jesus," and when a woman possessing the spirit of divination, cried before Paul and Silas, "these are the servants of the Most High God that show unto us the way of salvation," they detected the spirit. And although she spake favorably of them, Paul commanded the spirit to come out of her, and saved themselves from the opprobrium that might have been heaped upon their heads, through an alliance with her, in the development of her wicked principles, which they certainly would have been charged with, if they had not rebuked the evil spirit.

A power similar to this existed through the medium of the Priesthood in different ages. Moses could detect the magician's power, and show that he [himself] was God's servant—he knew when he was upon the mountain (through revelation) that Israel was engaged in idolatry; he could develop the sin of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, detect witches and wizards in their proceedings, and point out the true prophets of the Lord. Joshua knew how to detect the man who had stolen the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment. Micaiah could point out the false spirit by which the four hundred prophets were governed; and if his advice had been taken, many lives would have been spared, (2 Chronicles 18) Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many other prophets possessed this power. Our Savior, the Apostles, and even the members of the Church were endowed with this gift, for, says Paul, (1 Corinthians 12), "To one is given the gift of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discerning of spirits." All these proceeded from the same Spirit of God, and were the gifts of God. The Ephesian church were enabled by this principle, "to try those that said they were apostles, and were not, and found them liars," (Revelation 2:2).

In tracing the thing to the foundation, and looking at it philosophically, we shall find a very material difference between the body and the spirit; the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and state that spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection, be again united with it.

Without attempting to describe this mysterious connection, and the laws that govern the body and the spirit of man, their relationship to each other, and the design of God in relation to the human body and spirit, I would just remark, that the spirits of men are eternal, that they are governed by the same Priesthood that Abraham, Melchizedek, and the Apostles were: that they are organized according to that Priesthood which is everlasting, "without beginning of days or end of years,"—that they all move in their respective spheres, and are governed by the law of God; that when they appear upon the earth they are in it probationary state, and are preparing, if righteous, for a future and greater glory; that the spirits of good men cannot interfere with the wicked beyond their prescribed bounds, for "Michael, the Archangel, dared not bring a railing accusation against the devil, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee, Satan.”

It would seem also, that wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed or controlled, and know their future destiny; hence, those that were in the maniac said to our Savior, "Art thou come to torment us before the time," and when Satan presented himself before the Lord, among the sons of God, he said that he came "from going to and fro in the earth, and from wandering up and down in it;" and he is emphatically called the prince of the power of the air; and, it is very evident that they possess a power that none but those who have the Priesthood can control, as we have before adverted to, in the case of the sons of Sceva.

Having said so much upon general principles, without referring to the peculiar situation, power, and influence of the magicians of Egypt, the wizards and witches of the Jews, the oracles of the heathen, their necromancers, soothsayers, and astrologers, the maniacs or those possessed of devils in the Apostles' days, we will notice, and try to detect (so far as we have the Scriptures for our aid) some few instances of the development of false spirits in more modern times, and in this our day.

The "French Prophets" were possessed of a spirit that deceived; they existed in Vivaris and Dauphany, in great numbers in the year 1688; there were many boys and girls from seven to twenty-five; they had strange fits, as in tremblings and faintings, which made them stretch out their legs and arms, as in a swoon; they remained awhile in trances, and coming out of them, uttered all that came in their mouths [see Buck's Theological Dictionary].

Now God never had any prophets that acted in this way; there was nothing indecorous in the proceeding of the Lord's prophets in any age; neither had the apostles, nor prophets in the apostles's day anything of this kind. Paul says, "Ye may all prophesy, one by one; and if anything be revealed to another let the first hold his peace, for the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets;" but here we find that the prophets are subject to the spirit, and falling down, have twitchings, tumblings, and faintings through the influence of that spirit, being entirely under its control. Paul says, "Let everything be done decently and in order," but here we find the greatest disorder and indecency in the conduct of both men and women, as above described. The same rule would apply to the fallings, twitchings, swoonings, shaking, and trances of many of our modern revivalists.

Johanna Southcott professed to be a prophetess, and wrote a book of prophecies in 1804, she became the founder of a people that are still extant. She was to bring forth, in a place appointed, a son, that was to be the Messiah, which thing has failed. Independent of this, however, where do we read of a woman that was the founder of a church, in the word of God? Paul told the women in his day, "To keep silence in the church, and that if they wished to know anything to ask their husbands at home;" he would not suffer a woman "to rule, or to usurp authority in the church;" but here we find a woman the founder of a church, the revelator and guide, the Alpha and Omega, contrary to all acknowledged rule, principle, and order.

Jemimah Wilkinson was another prophetess that figured largely in America, in the last century. She stated that she was taken sick and died, and that her soul went to heaven, where it still continues. Soon after, her body was reanimated with the spirit and power of Christ, upon which she set up as a public teacher, and declared that she had an immediate revelation. Now the Scriptures positively assert that "Christ is the first fruit, afterwards those that are Christ's at His coming, then cometh the end." But Jemimah, according to her testimony, died, and rose again before the time mentioned in the Scriptures. The idea of her soul being in heaven while her body was [living] on earth, is also preposterous. When God breathed into man's nostrils, he became a living soul, before that he did not live, and when that was taken away his body died; and so did our Savior when the spirit left the body, nor did His body live until His spirit returned in the power of His resurrection. But Mrs. Wilkinson's soul [life] was in heaven, and her body without the soul [or life] on earth, living [without the soul, or] without life!

The Irvingites, are a people that have counterfeited the truth, perhaps the nearest of any of our modern sectarians. They commenced about ten years ago in the city of London, in England; they have churches formed in various parts of England and Scotland, and some few in Upper Canada. Mr. Irving, their founder, was a learned and talented minister of the Church of Scotland, he was a great logician, and a powerful orator, but withal wild and enthusiastic in his views. Moving in the higher circles, and possessing talent and zeal, placed him in a situation to become a conspicuous character, and to raise up a society similar to that which is called after his name.

The Irvingites have apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and angels. They profess to have the gift of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, and, in some few instances, to have the gift of healing.

The first prophetic spirit that was manifested was in some Misses Campbell that Mr. Irving met with, while on a journey in Scotland; they had [what is termed among their sect] "utterances," which were evidently of a supernatural agency. Mr. Irving, falling into the common error of considering all supernatural manifestations to be of God, took them to London with him, and introduced them into his church.

They were there honored as the prophetesses of God, and when they spoke, Mr. Irving or any of his ministers had to keep silence. They were peculiarly wrought upon before the congregation, and had strange utterances, uttered with an unnatural, shrill voice, and with thrilling intonations they frequently made use of a few broken, unconnected sentences, that were ambiguous, incoherent, and incomprehensible; at other times they were more clearly understood. They would frequently cry out, "There is iniquity! There is iniquity!" And Mr. Irving has been led, under the influence of this charge, to fall down upon his knees before the public congregation, and to confess his sin, not knowing whether he had sinned, nor wherein, nor whether the thing referred to him, or somebody else. During these operations, the bodies of the persons speaking were powerfully wrought upon, their countenances were distorted, they had frequent twitchings in their hands, and the whole system was powerfully convulsed at intervals: they sometimes, however, (it is supposed) spoke in correct tongues, and had true interpretations.

Under the influence of this spirit the church was organized by these women; apostles, prophets, &c. were soon called, and a systematic order of things introduced, as above mentioned. A Mr. Baxter (afterwards one of their principal prophets) upon going into one of their meetings, says, "I saw a power manifested, and thought that was the power of God, and asked that it might fall upon me, and it did so, and I began to prophesy." Eight or nine years ago they had about sixty preachers going through the streets of London, testifying that London was to be the place where the "two witnesses" spoken of by John, were to prophesy; that (they) "the church and the spirit were the witnesses, and that at the end of three years and a half there was to be an earthquake and great destruction, and our Savior was to come. Their apostles were collected together at the appointed time watching the event, but Jesus did not come, and the prophecy was then ambiguously explained away. They frequently had signs given them by the spirit to prove to them that what was manifested to them should take place. Mr. Baxter related an impression that he had concerning a child. It was manifested to him that he should visit the child, and lay hands upon it, and that it should be healed; and to prove to him that this was of God, he should meet his brother in a certain place, who should speak unto him certain words. His brother addressed him precisely in the way and manner that the manifestation designated. The sign took place, but when he laid his hands upon the child it did not recover. I cannot vouch for the authority of the last statement, as Mr. Baxter at that time had left the Irvingites, but it is in accordance with many of their proceedings, and the thing never has been attempted to be denied.

It may be asked, where is there anything in all this that is wrong?

1st. The church was organized by women, and "God placed in the Church (first apostles, secondarily prophets), and not first women; but Mr. Irving placed in his church first women (secondarily apostles), and the church was founded and organized by them. A woman has no right to found or organize a church—God never sent them to do it.

2nd. Those women would speak in the midst of a meeting, and rebuke Mr. Irving or any of the church. Now the Scripture positively says, "Thou shalt not rebuke an Elder, but entreat him as a father:" not only this, but they frequently accused the brethren, thus placing themselves in the seat of Satan, who is emphatically called "the accuser of the brethren.”

3rd. Mr. Baxter received the spirit on asking for it, without attending to the ordinances, and began to prophesy, whereas the scriptural way of attaining the gift of the Holy Ghost is by baptism, and by laying on of hands.

4th. As we have stated in regard to others, the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets; but those prophets were subject to the spirits, the spirits controlling their bodies at pleasure.

But it may be asked how Mr. Baxter could get a sign from a second person? To this we would answer, that Mr. Baxter's brother was under the influence of the same spirit as himself, and being subject to that spirit he could be easily made to speak to Mr. Baxter whatever the spirit should dictate; but there was not power in the spirit to heal the child.

Again it may be asked, how it was that they could speak in tongues if they were of the devil! We would answer that they could be made to speak in another tongue, as well as their own, as they were under the control of that spirit, and the devil can tempt the Hottentot, the Turk, the Jew, or any other nation; and if these men were under the influence of his spirit, they of course could speak Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Italian, Dutch, or any other language that the devil knew.

Some will say, "try the spirits" by the word. "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God" (John 4:2-3). One of the Irvingites once quoted this passage whilst under the influence of a spirit, and then said, "I confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." And yet these prophecies failed, their Messiah did not come; and the great things spoken of by them have fallen to the ground. What is the matter here? Did not the Apostle speak the truth? Certainly he did—but he spoke to a people who were under the penalty of death, the moment they embraced Christianity; and no one without a knowledge of the fact would confess it, and expose themselves to death, and this was consequently given as a criterion to the church or churches to which John wrote. But the devil on a certain occasion cried out, "I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God!" Here was a frank acknowledgment under other circumstances that "Jesus had come in the flesh." On another occasion the devil said, "Paul we know, and Jesus we know"—of course, "come in the flesh." No man nor set of men without the regular constituted authorities, the Priesthood and discerning of spirits, can tell true from false spirits. This power they possessed in the Apostles' day, but it has departed from the world for ages.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had its false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered at if there should be found among us false spirits.

Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities returned, the spirit was made manifest, those members that were exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that would not repent and forsake it were cut off.

At a subsequent period a Shaker spirit was on the point of being introduced, and at another time the Methodist and Presbyterian falling down power, but the spirit was rebuked and put down, and those who would not submit to rule and good order were disfellowshiped. We have also had brethren and sisters who have had the gift of tongues falsely; they would speak in a muttering unnatural voice, and their bodies be distorted like the Irvingites before alluded to; whereas, there is nothing unnatural in the Spirit of God. A circumstance of this kind took place in Upper Canada, but was rebuked by the presiding Elder; another, a woman near the same place, professed to have the discerning of spirits, and began toaccuse another sister of things that she was not guilty of, which she said she knew was so by the spirit, but was afterwards proven to be false; she placed herself in the capacity of the "accuser of the brethren," and no person through the discerning of spirits can bring a charge against another, they must be proven guilty by positive evidence, or they stand clear.

There have also been ministering angels in the Church which were of Satan appearing as an angel of light. A sister in the state of New York had a vision, who said it was told her that if she would go to a certain place in the woods, an angel would appear to her. She went at the appointed time, and saw a glorious personage descending, arrayed in white, with sandy colored hair; he commenced and told her to fear God, and said that her husband was called to do great things, but that he must not go more than one hundred miles from home, or he would not return; whereas God had called him to go to the ends of the earth, and he has since been more than one thousand miles from home, and is yet alive. Many true things were spoken by this personage, and many things that were false. How, it may be asked, was this known to be a bad angel? By the color of his hair; that is one of the signs that he can be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation.

We have also had brethren and sisters who have written revelations, and who have started forward to lead this Church. Such was a young boy in Kirtland, Isaac Russel, of Missouri, and Gladden Bishop, and Oliver Olney of Nauvoo. The boy is now living with his parents who have submitted to the laws of the Church. Mr. Russell stayed in Far West, from whence he was to go to the Rocky Mountains, led by three Nephites; but the Nephites never came, and his friends forsook him, all but some of the blood relations, who have since been nearly destroyed by the mob. Mr. Bishop was tried by the High Council, his papers examined, condemned and burned, and he cut off the Church. He acknowledged the justice of the decision, and said "that he now saw his error, for if he had been governed by the revelations given before, he might have known that no man was to write revelations for the Church, but Joseph Smith," and begged to be prayed for, and forgiven by the brethren. Mr. Olney has also been tried by the High Council and disfellowshiped, because he would not have his writings tested by the word of God; evidently proving that he loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil.