Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ending, Trending, Pretending

It's time for a quick report of the oddities and updates that aren't big enough to be their own posts, but nevertheless ought to be noted. Sorry about all the charts and graphs. I'll attempt to balance them with scintillating commentary, and I'll bring it all together at the end.

1. The "Hastening" theme is dead:

It may yet take awhile to die out at the local level, but as far as headquarters is concerned, the hastening is no longer worth talking about. Though we were assured repeatedly that the Lord was Hastening His work, He evidently now is not.

Don't let this bother you.

It's a matter of no importance, but the curious may note, the blog post that got me called in to my Stake President's office for eventual excommunication was the one that pointed out the myth of the hastening.

I wonder how much longer the "Hastening the Work of Salvation" website will remain up? Keep in mind this was the worldwide leadership training site for 2013. Every stake was required to hold stake-wide meetings on Hastening the Work.

Incidentally, the 2014-2015 training is on following the handbook. In a video message, President Monson teaches that there's safety in following the handbook, and it will be a "treasure" and "blessing" to you. He even bears testimony of the handbook as if it were scripture, while rather obviously reading from a teleprompter.

Don't let this bother you.

2. I Hope they Call Me on a Mutual:

The "hastening" death may have to do with the following information. It appears the only thing hastened was the age at which missionaries could serve. (I've highlighted the "hastening" period; click for larger graphs):

As you can see above, missionary levels were stable until the "Raising the Bar" policy change of 2002, which cut the missionary force by nearly 20% in 2 years, and more thereafter. (Does that bar look raised to you?) The age-change policy of 2012 temporarily reversed this trend, returning missionary levels to their pre-2002 average. When considered as a percentage of church membership, the missionary force is currently staffed at the same levels as the late 1980s and 1990s, though this level is forecasted to drop as the surge missionaries return home.

Church growth is nowhere near what it was in the 80's and 90's, and has actually suffered a slight drop during the "hastening:"

And, as has been reported in a major news outlet, the number of converts per missionary is also down considerably, due to the rise in missionary numbers with no appreciable rise in converts:

The LDS church has addressed this issue in an article in church-owned LDS Living, based on an article in church-owned Deseret News. As it turns out, missionary work is not about baptizing converts after all. It's actually about converting and retaining the missionaries themselves.

In other words, it's a youth program. A mission is an extension of mutual.

Now, I certainly agree going on a mission can strengthen one's testimony and provide valuable experience in preparation for future church service. Heck, when I was a missionary, there were plenty who were even sent on a mission in hopes it would reform them. And in some cases, it did. Nothing unusual there.

What's unusual is to attempt to explain the lack of converts by emphasizing that missions are mostly just about converting the missionaries. The headline in the piece calls this "a good reason why the church has more missionaries, but not more baptisms."

I guess I'm confused. This is comparing apples and oranges. Yes, missionary service can convert missionaries—always has—but this doesn't explain the lack of baptisms.

Don't let this bother you.

3. Joseph Smith Subvehiculated:

This graphic sums it up. Take a look:

Throw under the bus (verb):
(idiomatic, transitive, of a person or group) To betray or blame (something or someone), as a scapegoat or otherwise for personal gain. To distance oneself from someone with whom there was previously a close association. To discard or disown.

It has now apparently become nigh-on taboo to even mention the Prophet's name in General Conference. Presumably, this is a result of the bad PR surrounding the charges against Joseph Smith of improper sexual relations.

What surprises me the most is that the LDS Church made almost no attempt to defend its founder, but rather did serious damage to his legacy and memory with their polygamy essay.

Ironically, the best, most powerful, logical, and cogent defense I've read of Joseph Smith was written by a man who has been excommunicated for writing about church history and defending Joseph Smith.

Read it here. It's worth reading.

Meanwhile, the church is distancing itself from "the man who communed with Jehovah," about whom the Lord said the following (with references to Joseph Smith in bold):
Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith. Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. (D&C 21:1-2, 4-5)
But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses. And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him...(D&C 28:2-3)
Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church. And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house. (D&C 90:3-5)
We ought to be exceedingly careful about accusing Joseph of dishonesty, crime, sin, and sexual improprieties. God vouched for Joseph Smith in no uncertain terms. The fact that the LDS Church has become a critic of its founding prophet is beyond disappointing. It is dangerous. Evil speaking of the Lord's anointed, indeed.

DO let this bother you.

4. President Monson has still not testified of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon

At the April General Conference, President Monson retained his perfect record of never testifying of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon since October 2005. He's almost reached the ten-year mark without once bearing public testimony of the foundation of the church he leads.

Don't let this bother you.

5. President Packer has still not testified of President Monson

But to balance things out, President Monson's successor-in-waiting, President Packer, still has not born testimony in conference that President Monson is a prophet. Ever.

Don't let this bother you.

6. The Definition of Pretender

I've heard the word "pretender" used in reference to spiritual leaders before, but I never realized it doesn't just mean, as I had assumed, "one who pretends to be something they're not." Here's the actual definition:

A pretender is one who claims entitlement to an unavailable position of honour or rank. Most often it refers to a former monarch, or descendant thereof, whose throne is occupied or claimed by a rival, or has been abolished.

In other words, one who lays claim to the position, rank, or seat occupied by another, is a pretender.

I think the best way to summarize everything I've written so far is to say that there are those who lay claim to Joseph Smith's position, seat, and keys, while failing to demonstrate any of his gifts. They flail about, tinkering with policies, ignoring scripture, persecuting believers, and disparaging Joseph as they fundamentally alter the purpose and mission of the church Joseph founded and destroy the truths Joseph taught.

But you mustn't raise an opposing vote to any of this. Doing so may subject you to persecution, threats and vitriolic rejection by the "Christlike" followers of these pretenders. It will almost certainly get you cast out from among them.

Do let this bother you—very much.

7. Now, About Those Opposing Votes at General Conference

I think Rock Waterman already covered well the bizarre claims that:

a) One shouldn't have a dissenting opinion


b) If one does have a dissenting opinion, it certainly should NOT be brought up at General Conference.

Read his post for an excellent, eye-opening analysis.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Death By Light:
Preserving Your Heart and Mind

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.
—D&C 64:34

How do you know when someone is dead? 

When do you give up hope? When do you pull the plug? How do you know when to harvest living organs from a “dead” donor? Most importantly, how do you call someone “dead” when every one of their 5 trillion cells is alive, functioning and viable—and will remain so for hours after the end of vital signs like heartbeat and brain activity? 

This is a serious question, and one with which medical science struggles more than you might think. It’s also one that medical science has perhaps gotten wrong for many years.

In most cases, heart and brain activity are two standards by which death is declared. Both are inaccurate, and may lead to living people mistakenly being called dead. Not good.

So let’s talk about your death for a moment. Not the afterlife—not the spiritual realities. We’ll save those for later. Right now, let’s talk about your physical death.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume you die from the leading cause of death, which is heart disease. In fact, let’s just assume you have a heart attack right now, while reading this blog. You suffer a myocardial infarction, and your heart stops beating.

What happens next?

Well, if you’re lucky, there will be someone around to notice your collapse and call for an ambulance. If you live in the U.S., you can expect an average response time of about 9 minutes before the paramedics arrive. They will quickly ascertain your heart’s condition and apply electric-shock defibrillation to attempt to re-start your heartbeat and circulation, getting desperately needed oxygen to your heart and brain.

Next, they’ll put an oxygen mask on you and transport you to a hospital. There you’ll be evaluated, medicated and further treated. You have about a 10-30% chance of survival.

But since we’re talking about your death, let’s assume you don’t survive. 

What killed you?

Well, there could be lots of discussions about lifestyle, risk factors, diet, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and exercise. But let’s get a little more specific. What damaged your heart and brain to the point that they could no longer function? The answer may surprise you.


You see, when the blood flow stopped, your heart and brain cells didn’t die from lack of oxygen; they simply went dormant. Without necessary oxygen, they stop acting and just sit there—still fully alive, but not doing much of anything. They remain alive and viable for about 5-6 hours without oxygen. Lack of oxygen is not the problem.

The problem is that having been deprived of oxygen for any length of time, heart and brain cells don’t react well when the needed oxygen is suddenly reintroduced. The affected cells initiate a process called apoptosis—cellular suicide—and they kill themselves when the oxygen arrives. This is known as reperfusion injury, and it is what killed you. At the cellular level, your death was ironic because you died from receiving what you so desperately lacked.

And those paramedics who restarted your circulation and gave you oxygen? Current evidence suggests they likely contributed to your death. But don’t blame them; they were just doing what medicine has taught for the last 100 years.

But—there’s a new treatment rapidly becoming the standard of care: Hypothermic reperfusion. In this treatment, the paramedics don’t give you oxygen. Rather, they put you in the equivalent of an ice bath and do all they can to chill your body as quickly as possible, including administering cold fluids intravenously. They MUST rapidly get your core temperature down below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to save your life. Then they transport you to an advanced cardiac center where oxygen will be gradually reintroduced into your chilled system and your body temperature gradually increased over the course of hours or even days while you are carefully monitored for reperfusion injury. 

This is the same approach at work when a child falls into a frozen lake, remains submerged for minutes or even hours, and is eventually pulled from the water and resuscitated with no ill effects or brain damage. For many years, medical science struggled to explain what made the difference. It turned out to be the cold (which slows cellular metabolism with its resulting damage) and lack of oxygen (which prevents apoptosis.)

Hypothermic reperfusion is something of a medical miracle, dramatically increasing heart-attack survival. With old-fashioned care you have a 10-30% chance of surviving your heart attack. But if they can chill you in time and reperfuse you slowly, your odds of survival approach 90%. 

What a difference.

There’s a lesson in this. Just as a truly starving man will be made ill by a large meal, cells deprived of the oxygen necessary to life will simply die if oxygen is reintroduced too suddenly. It cannot be done all at once. 

But when it’s done properly, both heart and brain are preserved. Since these two sensitive organs make the difference between life and death, their preservation is your salvation.

Heart and Mind

Not surprisingly, the Lord also has much to say about the heart and mind. When Oliver Cowdery sought the gift of translation, the Lord told him the following:
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (D&C 8:2)
And this perfectly matches what the Lord previously told Oliver:
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth; Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart. (D&C 6:15-16)
Heart and mind. It’s interesting that these two are joined together so often in scripture (Matt 22:37, Heb 8:10, James 4:8, 1 Nephi 7:8, 14:7, 17:30, Jacob 3:1-2, Mosiah 7:33, Alma 36:18, Ether 4:15, D&C 43:34, 64:34, Moses 7:18, and many others.)

The Heart

In many passages, the heart is the seat of emotions, motivations, convictions, and desires. The heart holds your purpose. The heart is where you love, and your actions manifest what you love. 
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalms 37:4)
And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts. (Mosiah 18:11)
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. (JSH 1:15)
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37)
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. (Moroni 7:9)
The problem is that, due to the fall, our natures have become evil continually, and the enemy of our souls has power to put evil into our hearts. (Ether 3:2, Alma 42:10, Mosiah 3:6, 2 Nephi 4:27)

One of the prime evils that dwells there is hardness of heart, or the unwillingness to yield to God’s will, admit error, and learn truth. Hard heartedness leads to nearly all other evils. Therefore, if we are to have any hope of salvation, our hearts must change. They must be softened. 
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Nephi 2:16)

The Mind

In contrast to the heart, the mind is seat of knowledge, understanding, logic, and choice. Whereas the heart must be soft so it can be changed, the Lord requires a firm mind, that will not deviate from a course of righteousness. 

And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. (Moroni 7:29-30)
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— (D&C 84:54)
O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever. (Jacob 3:2)
To have a firm mind, we must first acquire knowledge of the things of God. Then, having acquired this knowledge, we must act consistently with what we know. Said Joseph Smith:
Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. (TPJS 137)
The heart is flesh; it is tangible. The mind is spirit; it is intangible. The two, when congruent, receive the will of God. Your mind must believe and act in accordance with what your heart desires. 

If your heart and mind match God’s you are like him. 

Gospel Reperfusion Injury

Sadly, we live in a day when many are starving to hear the word of the Lord. It is one fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. (Amos 3:11-13) 
This condition is to be corrected in the last days, as prophesied by Joel, and reiterated by the angel to Joseph Smith:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)
Unfortunately, Joseph scarcely got the restoration started before he was killed, and what he did manage to restore has been largely lost, ignored, or changed to the point that we live again in a day of gospel starvation. What is taught in our churches is too often, as Elder Holland put it, a "theological twinkie"—empty calories with no substance. 

The lack of gospel understanding is compounded by a historical and cultural narrative that teaches us we CANNOT be misled. Such teachings lead to the mistaken ideas that “All is well in Zion,” that “the day of miracles has ceased” and that “God hath done his work and he hath given his power unto men.” 

Those who believe such notions are unwilling to open their minds, soften their hearts, come down into the depths of humility, or consider themselves fools before God. Their (infirm) minds understand little, and their (hardened) hearts lack proper desires. 

Sadly, such hearts, upon encountering a rich supply of truth, harden further and die. Having lived so long with an inadequate supply of desperately needed light and truth, such hardened hearts suffer gospel reperfusion injury when pure truth, like pure oxygen, is reintroduced too rapidly.

Such closed minds reject the Lord’s messengers, thereby rejecting the Lord himself, preferring instead to cling to a body of false teachings that have never brought them the baptism of fire, the ministry of angels, the visions of eternity, or the presence of the Lord.

And when such people do encounter the Lord at His coming, the light of his countenance will burn them as stubble. This is the ultimate gospel repurfusion injury; light and truth will literally destroy all hardened hearts, as Joseph was warned by the angel in his bedroom:
For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (JSH 1:37; see also 3 Nephi 25:1, Malachi 4:1, D&C 133:64. This warning appears in every one of our standard works.)
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thes. 2:8)

Protection from the Fire

The Lord has allowed this situation to persist for four generations. But his patience is ending, and what’s soon coming has the potential to break your heart and cause your mind to doubt. In this condition, having already rejected the light and truth He offered to give you through gradual and careful repurfusion, will you turn to Him then when truth is even harder to detect? Will you receive adequate light in time to avoid the burning?

How do you react to gospel truth? Do you open your heart and mind to what you may lack? Do you study and search the scriptures, crying unto the Lord for guidance? Or do you attack, ignore or shun any idea you do not already accept or that is not told you by someone you idolize?

How do you react to this blog?

Soften your heart now, while you yet can. Open your mind today and consider the words of Nephi:
For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken. (1 Nephi 14:7)
Do not fear to study the gospel more deeply and learn what you may not know. Fear is not of God:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage. (Mosiah 7:33)

God Always Warns First

Think about God's pattern. He always sends warnings before destruction. Sometimes the warnings are heeded and a people are led away to safety. He is sending warnings now, both in the scriptures of the restoration, and through modern servants who are boldly declaring His word. Will you heed them?
O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice! Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. (Alma 5:37-38)
Ask yourself this: Who is teaching you today of the coming destruction? Who is raising the warning voice? Who is pointing you to Christ instead of themselves? Who is calling you to repentance? Who is preserving and defending Joseph's restoration and teachings?

The heavens are open again. God is speaking his final warning, both through servants on earth, and through the testimony in the heavens (more on the heavens coming soon.) Will you heed His warning?

Please don't let that day overtake you as a thief in the night. Open your mind to truth. Soften your heart to believe. Come unto the Lamb of God and be saved. Not to a man. Not to an institution. Not to someone claiming keys or control. Come unto HIM.

And perhaps there's a lesson to be considered in the hypothermic reperfusion technique. When you encounter truth that's new to you, don't immediately reject what may be life itself. Just chill. 

Are You Alive Unto the Things of God?

I'll end largely as I began. 

How do you know when someone is dead? 

When do you give up hope? When do you pull the plug? 

This is a serious question, and one with which all humanity struggles more than you might think. It’s also one that we have perhaps gotten wrong for many years.

In scripture, the heart and mind are two standards by which death is recognized. How are yours?

...for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
—1 Samuel 16:7

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Celebration

And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. 
—3 Nephi 18:10

I had a wonderful Easter Sunday. 

I spent the day with my family and extended family. I joined with many loved ones in singing hymns of joy and exultation at the wonderful news of Christ’s resurrection. Then we knelt as the emblems were blessed and we commemorated the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, as he asked his followers to do.

As I ate bread, I thought of His body, not only laid down and sacrificed for all, but raised again in triumph over death and the grave. Because he lives, I will live also, and my children will live, and you will live. Rejoice!

As I drank wine, I thought of his innocent blood, shed for all, and left on the ground as a testament of his suffering. 

His Spirit testified in abundance to those present, that on this most sacred day of remembrance and celebration, He would have us remember Him in the way He taught.

He laid it out in terms so simple, it cannot be misunderstood:

And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. 
And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. (3 Nephi 18:11-12)

He did, indeed, send his Spirit to be with us. 

After partaking of the Lord’s Supper, I accompanied friends and family to living water, where I witnessed several baptisms unto our Lord. Coming up next on the agenda is a baby blessing, followed by a family dinner. 

I feel to rejoice and shout praises unto the Holy one of Israel!

But back to the Lord’s supper: One thought to consider. There are two Sundays each year in which the entire membership of the LDS church is denied access to the sacrament. This year, Easter Sunday is one of those days.

We are told, instead, to gather and listen to men solemnly telling us to follow them.


This shall ye always do, indeed.

Please don't take this as merely finding fault with the LDS leadership; that's not the point at all. Rather, the point is to stop and consider these things for yourself. What have you missed today by not commemorating His flesh and blood on this, of all days? What more might you have received? How might you have witnessed unto the Father that you do ALWAYS remember Him?

I hope to cause some few to awaken and consider their situation. 

Having spent this Easter Sunday worshipping Him, and not men, I’m amazed at the difference between the two. It is a contrast that cannot be adequately explained, and must be experienced. It is joyful, holy, sanctifying and wonderful!

His promise is real! He does send His Spirit! It comes in the way He taught—not by merely speaking about Him, but by experiencing Him through His Sacrament. 


And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—

Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice. 
—Mosiah 15:8-9

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Abuse, Favor, and All Things

“And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith.  Amen.” 
—D&C 26:2

“For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.” 
—D&C 28:13

My friend Jared wrote the following, which got me thinking:
In the church we indicate our sustaining by verbal affirmation in private interviews and by raising the right hand in affirmation in conferences and meetings. Interestingly, most members who do not feel inclined to sustain or grant consent commonly vote with their feet.  
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints boasts a total tally of members to be above 15 million strong. What is not commonly discussed is the fact that more than 10 million of these members of record do not attend Sunday services or participate in church activities or pay tithing. In essence, a clear two-thirds majority of members are voting with their feet; these two-thirds do NOT sustain the church leaders in word or in deed. So by this indication, those claiming the keys and the right to lead are not sustained by, nor do they have the common consent of, a clear two-thirds majority of the church. If the leaders would have it otherwise, than they should excommunicate inactive members as prescribed in holy writ; otherwise, the numbers stand and are binding.
Excommunications and "Church Discipline"

The word “discipline” shares its root with the word “disciple” which, from a gospel perspective, means one who follows Jesus Christ. The point of discipline is to make disciples of us. Or at least it should be.

Here are some recent attempts to make disciples of LDS members through discipline. How would you approach these issues? What if you found yourself in such a situation?

  • A wife and husband lose their temple recommends because of gossip about them in the ward. There is no interview and they are informed days later that their recommends were revoked. The Stake President admits he revoked their recommends solely on the basis of rumor, without even speaking to them. Are you in favor?
  • A man teaches his own children, in his own home, his scripture-based view of the gospel. He is told that his only hope of remaining a member is to stop teaching his children the gospel, which he will not do. He is therefore excommunicated. Are you in favor? When the man's children support their father, they are threatened with excommunication as well. Are you in favor?
  • A man and his wife are both living exemplary lives, free of serious sin, active in the church, paying tithing and serving in their callings. But they have private concerns about the "living prophet," which they confide in their bishop. They are given an ultimatum to testify that Thomas Monson is a prophet or be excommunicated. They cannot honestly state the required testimony, so they are excommunicated. Are you in favor?
  • A man feels the need to re-commit to Christ, so he follows the scriptural mandate to be re-baptized. He does not use a church facility, does not invoke the church priesthood, and is baptized in private as an act of devotion to the Savior. Signs follow, evidencing the Savior’s approval. Eight days later he is a excommunicated. Are you in favor?
  • Children of excommunicated parents are called in for interviews by church leaders who inform them that if they share the same beliefs as their parents, they will be excommunicated as well. Are you in favor?
  • A husband and wife, faithful and active in their ward, have some doubts and questions, so they talk to their bishop. He refers them to the Stake President, who gives them the ultimatum to resign their membership or be excommunicated. They opt to resign. They are shunned in their tight-knit Mormon community, lose many of their customers and consequently almost lose their business. They lose their home. Are you in favor?
  • After excommunicating a husband and wife on charges of apostasy, a stake president then proceeds to contact the stake presidents of the couple’s children and extended family members in other states. Several other family members are called in, interviewed, and threatened with excommunication if they agree with the couple. Are you in favor?
  • A woman is excommunicated not because of anything she’s done, but rather because of what her bishop thinks she might do, even though she pledges not to do it. Are you in favor?
  • A husband and wife face a disciplinary council to be tried for their membership. Before the council begins, and in direct defiance of the secret handbook, the stake president informs them that if they attempt to teach doctrine or quote scripture during the council, he will have them removed from the room, by force if necessary. Are you in favor?
  • A husband and wife are called up on trumped-up charges that are not listed in the handbook as grounds for excommunication. They are excommunicated anyway, and told after the fact that the real charge was something else. Are you in favor?
  • A husband and wife are summoned to a disciplinary council to be tried for apostasy. When they ask the stake president what evidence he intends to present, he tells them he will present the contents of their private interviews with him and their bishop, as well as personal emails they sent to family members. When they point out that the handbook and state law both prohibit him from presenting these private communications to the council, he replies that he doesn’t see that as a problem. In violation of state law and church procedures, he presents the information anyway and excommunicates them. Are you in favor?

Before you shake your head too much, I need to tell you that none of these are hypotheticals. Every one of these cases is real, and all have happened within the last 6 months. I have personal knowledge of them from the actual parties involved.

All of these cases have some common themes. In EVERY case, each of the people so “disciplined” have fervent testimonies of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, the Latter-day restoration, and the Book of Mormon. In EVERY case, there was no sin worthy of church discipline. NONE of these people were doing anything to publicly oppose the church or its leaders. In EVERY case, these members were doing their level best to follow Christ and obey His words found in scripture, even at tremendous personal cost. NONE of these were high-profile members, and many were among the “least” in their wards. They represented no threat and were doing no harm. 

All have paid a heavy personal price, in terms of persecution, shunning, gossip, social stigmatization, loss of reputation, and even economic loss.

Thought Crime

Do you believe such people ought to be “disciplined” by the church for what amounts to thought crime? Do you believe that such measures will make those so “disciplined” into better disciples? Do you believe that by making examples of these few, the many will be easier to control? Is this what your religion has become? Is this what you support with your time, talents, means and devotion? 

Given all you know about Jesus Christ, does this sound like His work and His glory?

Joseph Smith once commented, in relation to a church member who was disciplined by a high council for erring in doctrine:
Elder Peteliah Brown...one of the wisest old heads we have among us, has been called up before the High Council on account of [his teachings about the book of Revelation.] I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled. It doesn't prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 183-184) 
Disciplining the Disciples

As I’ve covered before, church discipline now appears to be mostly about expelling or punishing those who don't think the "right" way, rather than inviting sinners to turn and follow Christ. Indeed, those who follow Christ most rigorously are often the ones most targeted for “discipline,” which almost always consists of an ultimatum to either stop following Christ, or be thrown out of the LDS church.

If your loyalty to men and your loyalty to Christ conflict, you will be forced to choose. Nobody can serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) It has always been so for Christ's true followers. Every person I know who has publicly testified of seeing Jesus Christ (and there are quite a few) has faced church “discipline” and been cast out or resigned. And yet they know the Lord personally, and He finds them worthy of His company.

Now in fairness, I must also tell you I’ve heard of some few local leaders who are content to allow people to believe as they wish. In the absence of serious sin, they gladly let individual members worship as they choose in private. I applaud such men; they are a rare breed. Too rare.

The Ongoing Purge

When I was excommunicated for apostasy last October, I closed my blog post with the following: 
I believe my wife and I are just the tip of the spear. There will be many more excommunications in the coming purge. 
And indeed there have been many. Excommunication used to be a big deal. Now, I hear about another one nearly every week. I know of 6 coming up this month. As more people awaken and arise, more church leaders become hell-bent (pun intended) on throwing them out.

And we're not talking about the high-profile, public cases like John Dehlin or Kate Kelly. We're talking about your children's primary teacher, the young mens' president in your ward, that nice, older couple that sits in the back—your friend, your neighbor, your sister, your brother. It could easily be you.

Someone could misinterpret a comment you make in Sunday School, and you could find your recommend revoked without anybody even speaking to you.

Someone could forward to your Bishop a personal email to a family member containing doubts or questions, and you could find yourself being tried for your membership. 

Someone could eavesdrop on your private conversation in a restaurant and turn you in to the authorities, and you find yourself walking the plank off the "Old Ship Zion."

I know, it wouldn't be you, because you're so darn righteous. Tell that to the people I listed above.

I don’t think this is good for the LDS church. I don’t believe Christ is pleased when His humble followers are persecuted, cast out, mocked and scorned. But this has always been the fate of his true followers. (Matthew 5:11-12) How sad it is that those who inflict these punishments and persecution pretend to do so in the name of Jesus Christ, and thus take His name in vain. How tragic for the church that, stake by stake around the world, presidencies and high councils are being systematically stripped of their priesthood by their own abuse of it, and left to kick against the pricks, persecute their fellow saints, and fight against God. (D&C 121:36-38)

How tragic it is that some Mormons pour out vials of wrath, anger, and white-hot hatred against those they view as "traitors" to the church. Christ is NOT the author of such behavior. 

Raising your Hand vs. Staying His Hand

Just as even 10 righteous can spare a whole city, the Lord’s hand is stayed for the sake of His humble followers. As they are increasingly cast out, the separation will become complete, and what remains will be worthy of destruction. (D&C 112:24-26Its a very, very bad idea to cast out those who care enough about following Christ to actually suffer shame for his name. (Acts 5:40-41) Once the wheat has been separated from the tares, all that remains is the burning. (D&C 86:7) That day of burning is coming. (JSH 1:37)

As I’ve covered before, the LDS church has a public definition of apostasy used for PR, and a private definition used in the secret handbook that none but certain leaders are allowed to read. If you’re LDS, whether you realize this fact or not, whether you’ve read it or not, you are bound by this secret manual. If you run afoul of its rules, or your local leader's good graces, you may find yourself facing a disciplinary council without having committed any serious sin. Are you in favor?

And sadly, the scriptures won't protect you. When the scriptures and the manual disagree, the words of the manual are counted more precious than the words of Christ. Are you in favor?

Perhaps most importantly, the single, most effective way to ensure you face "discipline" is to question church leadership. A variety of sins will be tolerated; questions will be considered; ignorance, apathy, and neglect of your duties will only get you the hand of fellowship. But question the leadership, and it's over for you. No matter how faithful, obedient and devoted you are to the gospel, scriptures and Lord of us all, questioning the men in the red velvet chairs will not be tolerated under any circumstances. There truly is only one doctrine left.

When the common consent vote is called for, you are free to vote any way you like, as long as it's in favor. Is it any wonder the voting is "unanimous in the affirmative?" Is it even a vote?

Invoking Common Consent

And this brings us back to where we began. According to our scripture, all things are to be done in the church by common consent. You are free to choose, and you are free to oppose. If you raise your hand to sustain the leadership, you are sustaining and assenting to whatever actions they take. 

Similarly, all things are done with the implied common consent of the church members, unless they specifically oppose. Silence is consent. 

Elder Nelson informed you last conference that your vote binds you to those men. Therefore, you will be accountable for their actions because of your consent. 

Common consent is the last check against religious abuse, and a responsibility the Lord expects us all to take seriously. In Joseph Smith's day it was an actual vote. In our day it has become a sham and a threat. 

Are you in favor?

One more thought: This post and the last one are NOT about sour grapes or trying to score points by encouraging opposing votes. They are not about me being "right" or the church being "wrong." This has nothing to do with me. 

Rather, this has everything to do with you.

If I can do anything to protect you from what is coming by raising the voice of warning, I hope to do so. Your soul is precious, and idolatry will damn you. Please don't raise your hand without thinking carefully. Are you ready to be held personally responsible for what you support? Even if you aren't in a public meeting, you should manifest your allegiance. For reasons I can't fully go into here, angels will be recording this vote. 

I've done my very best to point out truth as clearly as I know how. I've offered the most pointed warning I can, and I've done it at the Lord's request. If you've read what I've written and still choose to make an oath-like vow, binding you to a man and an increasingly abusive system of religious punishment, you will not do so in ignorance. Please don't make that mistake.

I started with the Lord's statement that all things must be done by common consent in the church. I'll close with how to judge the matter correctly:

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
—2 Nephi 32:3