The LDS Church makes a lot of use of councils and committees. From the Ward level all the way to the First Presidency, projects and ideas are discussed, debated, and planned ad nauseum until, generally speaking, consensus is reached. In the higher councils, unanimity is required based on scriptural precedent (see the D&C 107 verses below). Yet, many decisions contradict scriptural absolutes, and much time is wasted in meeting after endless meeting, until mediocrity wins out, and until debate gives way to settling on the least common denominator, or the path of least resistance. At other times, a strong-headed chairman/chairwoman makes the final decision despite whatever good advice the council comes up with, making it even more of a waste of time as the heavy hand of a leader with an inflated ego imposes his or her will. It leads one to ask, is there any use to councils and committees in the first place?

In the fellowships of Mormon Christians who meet outside of LDS jurisdictional control, there is sometimes the perfectly understandable and natural response to reject all things LDS, to allow for a fresh start at preserving the Restoration. Yet, this approach can easily throw the baby out with the bath water. If we took the time to forgo the initial revulsion we legitimately feel concerning recent wounds and fresh memories of things done the wrong way, we might see some important elements that ought to be included in what we are trying to preserve, instead of discarding them outright.

Here are some scriptures supporting councils and work in committees:

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)

And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—A majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise—Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men. (D&C 107:27-29)

The second reference is in the context of introducing the duties of the councils of the various bodies of General Authorities in the LDS Church, but it shows a useful procedural option for any relevant council, if unanimity is the chosen standard. Another procedural option is the democratic approach, with a majority ruling. Unanimity has the attractive quality of ensuring nobody goes home disappointed, and to outsiders, it looks very impressive when a council achieves it. This fact has the very real danger of puffing up the members of such a council to prideful boasting and self-congratulatory rhetoric about the soundness and quality of their decisions. Therefore, to alleviate this danger, the scripture in section 107 further states:

The decisions of these quorums, or either of them, are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long-suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord. (D&C 107:30-31)

The fact that the decisions need to be righteous is so important that the revelation includes provisions for vetoing bad decisions.

And in case that any decision of these quorums is made in unrighteousness, it may be brought before a general assembly of the several quorums, which constitute the spiritual authorities of the church; otherwise there can be no appeal from their decision. (D&C 107:32)

The phrase “otherwise there can be no appeal from their decision” should not be read as there is an expiration date on the veto power for any given decision, but that this is the only procedure by which to obtain a veto against decisions by quorums of General Authorities in the LDS Church. Also, “general assembly” should not be read as an assembly of general authorities only, but a general assembly that is church-wide, such as a general conference, where all the members can vote (even though this is not in practice in the LDS Church today). We touched on these points before, but keep the principles in mind as we discuss their application to fellowships where there are no offices and no general authorities.

Presiding Authority in Councils and Committees

Even by the time of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, the word “preside” had become corrupted.

PRESI’DE, v.i. s as z. [L. proesideo; proe, before, and sedeo, to sit.]

1. To be set over for the exercise of authority; to direct, control and govern, as the chief officer. A man may preside over a nation or province; or he may preside over a senate, or a meeting of citizens. The word is used chiefly in the latter sense. We say, a man presides over the senate with dignity. Hence it usually denotes temporary superintendence and government.2. To exercise superintendence; to watch over as inspector.

Christ mentioned this as a phenomenon among the Gentiles.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28).

However, the word history shows the prefix and suffix denote “to sit before.”

preside (v.) Look up preside at Dictionary.com1610s, from French présider “preside over, govern” (15c.), from Latin praesidere “stand guard; superintend,” literally “sit in front of,” from prae “before” (see pre-) + sedere “to sit” (see sedentary).

In some circles, “preside” takes on the original definition of “to sit in council,” and functionally, they are discussion facilitators, with the role switching on a yearly basis. Frankly, this role can switch from meeting to meeting. The person who presides is not allowed to vote during their tenure. They are supposed to announce the will of the council once consensus is reached, without modification, and see that proper principles are employed in the decision making that all have agreed to beforehand (like the doctrine of Christ, for instance…they only veto if the decisions go against that).

The president, since they are excused from voting, has a role to watch and see that D&C 107:30 is carried out, that, “The decisions of these quorums, or either of them, are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long-suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord.”

In other words, a group can pick someone to watch out for deviances from the scriptures, while the rest are free to openly discuss and debate, and they switch off who “watches” over the scriptures from time to time. This fits the model of a teacher, with not all being spokesman at once (D&C 88:122), as found in the pattern of a president in a school of the prophets: “And this shall be the order of the house of the presidency of the school: He that is appointed to be president, or teacher, shall be found standing in his place, in the house which shall be prepared for him” (D&C 88:128; see also vs. 127-141).

That role has definitely been corrupted in the LDS Church. Even still, the president suggesting scriptures that are being deviated from can only suggest and the council takes up their suggestions in their debate…a president still shouldn’t vote–ever. It doesn’t elevate anyone to fill that role no more than it does to pick someone to record the minutes of the meeting. That’s how the United States’ Constitutional Conventions were run at times, but the rules of order that developed reverence and respect for the role of the “chair” have led others to believe that puts honor on the person itself, and not the role, and even the President of the US is now more powerful than he ought to be. Today in the LDS Church, D&C 107:30-31 is ignored out of ignorance and out of an idolatrous worship of unanimity. Unanimous voice is useless without D&C 107:30-31, and becomes an iron band, with all future councils respecting the decisions of past councils, no matter how erroneous, until a reformer swindles their rhetoric to make it sound like they are still in conformity (So let it be written, so let it be done). They never realize they can discard unrighteous decisions by assembly of other quorums to recognize the faults. There is no need for unanimity for unanimity’s sake. But, there is a need to be unanimous in the principles of righteousness as they apply to any council decision at hand, even if that means undoing previous council decisions as they are discovered to be unrighteous. It turns out that the Lord’s example is the most righteous, with presiding “authority” being synonymous with servitude, and not decision-making power.

No Offices Needed

In this suggestion, there is no need for offices in the fellowships. I think each individual fellowship is getting better, but when we communicate across fellowships, it is sometimes the wild west. The problem is, when more than one fellowship is involved, committees could be an efficient way to facilitate cross-fellowship projects, but committees face the same problems we had in LDS world. To avoid potential abuse, committees could be seriously limited in their power by making them temporary, and by shifting responsibility, with common consent being fixed in general conferences of the fellowships. There would be no offices, only functions and assignments. There are various ways to organize that fit well within certain contexts. Manifestations of organizational particulars are changeable, but scriptural principles for how to organize are more intriguing. Today in fellowships, we are opting for less efficiency, which means a lot less risk. It doesn’t mean we can fault the scriptures for advocating the opposite in different circumstances. We can fault the abuses that have crept up around them, and point to a better scriptural precedent, and leave efficiency behind to a large degree. Efficiency is incredibly tempting (note the storyline in Star Wars with Senator Palpatine getting Senate support for Clone War military powers for efficiency’s sake, but never relinquishing those powers after the emergency). However, we have so much to do to organize our own personal lives first. Denver Snuffer rightly observed: “Rebuild faith through repentance. Once the inward part has been cleansed there will be time to worry about the outward part” (Preserving the Restoration, p. 230).

However, we don’t need to be completely inefficient when we organize. Anytime something smacks of being LDS 2.0, people raise a cry of “You are correlating,” or “You are worshiping Denver Snuffer.” Sometimes fear of change stifles all change. It is clear efficiency is a risk / reward scenario. The greater the efficiency, like concentrating decision making into smaller groups of people, or in one individual, the greater risk for abuse. We should be wise if we think there is any benefit to temporary committees. Being “president for a day,” or having a committee exist until a task is complete, means no offices are needed, and the potential for abuse is limited. Or, shorter terms, such as one year, or for the duration of a project, can be adopted. Personally, I like having some chaos, and the slow inefficiency of switching roles each meeting, so as to allow for anyone interested to fill a role and learn something from it. It is more like a “function need” than an office. However, sitting around like the Quakers with nothing facilitated until someone is moved to say something can become stagnant and boring. Any ideas generated under this model often get squashed quickly by contention and unbelief, with the consensus moving towards not saying anything at all, and not getting anything done.

Here are some of the ways Joseph Smith tried to tackle ecclesiastical balance of power:

TPJS,>>>By Mutual Consent

Section One 1830-34, p.23

The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for to give the Bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the Bishop’s judgment, is giving to the Bishop more power than a king has; and, upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the Bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the Bishop. The fact is, there must be a balance or equilibrium of power, between the Bishop and the people; and thus harmony and good-will may be preserved among you….

Therefore, those persons consecrating property to the Bishop in Zion, and then receiving an inheritance back, must reasonably show to the Bishop that they need as much as they claim. But in case the two parties cannot come to a mutual agreement, the Bishop is to have nothing to do about receiving such consecrations; and the case must be laid before a council of twelve High Priests, the Bishop not being one of the council, but he is to lay the case before them.

We don’t have to recreate Joseph Smith’s organization style that pandered to a desire to implement the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church. We can and should use, however, principles from the Restoration to organize in ways that are more mature, and less structured.

Secrecy in Councils and Committees

And lastly some thoughts about common consent, and the justification for temporary secrecy in a council, even though the danger of secret combinations are evident throughout the scriptures (i.e., it’s the purpose of the secrecy that counts). There is a dichotomy between being secretive for the right reasons versus being secretive for the wrong reasons, which hinges around the purpose for the secrecy, and the duration of the secrecy. If a general conference of the fellowships decides by common consent to create a committee, the committee is accountable the whole time to the general assembly of people, but this model sometimes engenders too much strife and efforts fall flat due to lack of motivation and opposition.

If a group does good of their own desire, keeping it secret doesn’t mean it has to represent an insider clic or evil secret combination…it could represent their desire to work unimpeded from the temptation to not complete the task. As soon as you announce you are doing something, the motivation to complete it waxes cold, or opposition and contention and misunderstanding can quash it.

After the task is complete, like Denver Snuffer’s example of a prophet completing the task to be able to later be given the title “prophet,” then all can consent to the finished work as “good” or acceptable. Thus, common consent is preserved, and the dilemma of a committee being appointed by a general conference, that fails to produce the desired outcome, is avoided. We wait until we get the desired outcome from independent fellowships or smaller cohorts and–after the fact–consent to accept their production. An example of this dilemma is found in the Council of Fifty records, where a committee was appointed to revise the United States Constitution. They hemmed and they hawed, gave excuses for its lack of completion, then finally asked Joseph Smith to take over by being on their committee, to which he refused. Then, the revelation that the whole council was the Lord’s “Constitution” (as opposed to Joseph Smith singularly) came, and the project ended as later Joseph Smith was martyred in part over their presumptuous appointment of Joseph as a king to the council. Obviously many judged Joseph Smith for having secret Council of Fifty meetings, and Anointed Quorum meetings, all while others used the secrecy to promote legitimacy for the spiritual wifery doctrine.

We ought to steer clear of judging others as being presumptuous for trying to do good. Let God judge the motives, and let common consent judge the outcomes. To judge them beforehand is to provide opposition to a potentially good endeavor, and squash it before it has born fruit. Or, in Joseph Smith’s case, produce a martyr instead of the kingdom of God.

If it is a wicked endeavor, the fruits will display themselves soon enough, without our meddling. Let’s consider how difficult it is to complete something for the Lord with Satan opposing us at every turn…consider how hard it was for Joseph Smith to bring forth the Book of Mormon, then apply that logic to the Council of Fifty.

On the other hand, an example of this working well is the production of the Spanish version of the Second Comforter. Also, the production of some good conferences, including the one in Boise. Doubtless, some of our efforts will fall flat, but there is no need to condemn those who have failed in some material aspect. We get to try again.

Another project that’s been announced is the compilation of a pure form of standard works scriptures set. We ought to uphold those involved with our faith and prayers, (even if we don’t know who is working on it), since they’ve announced their intentions at the last general conference. It sounds like a huge undertaking, and we should assume the best of those involved, and judge only the product after they are done. We can always accept or reject their efforts, but praying for them allows for the best possible outcome due to our combined faith. Sure, it would be nice to know everything everyone else is hatching up, but let’s consider how difficult it is to complete something for the Lord with Satan opposing us at every turn…again consider how hard it was for Joseph Smith to bring forth the Book of Mormon. Sure, it would be easy to say every effort is an attempt to rush up the pass, to use Denver’s vision metaphor, but there are many things to do at the bottom of the pass that don’t constitute rushing up the pass (like the examples above), even if some efforts obviously fit that description.

More Quotes from Joseph Smith

As I’ve been reading the Council of Fifty records…the very first day the council met, we have this gem from Joseph:

The brethren then began each to express his views of the subject set forth in the letter. It was encouraging to witness the union of feelings which prevailed on the subject [ . . . ] Pres. Joseph said he wanted all the brethren to speak their minds on this subject and to say what was in their hearts whether good or bad. He did not want to be forever surrounded by a set of ‘dough heads’ and if they did not rise up and shake themselves and exercise themselves in discussing these important matters he should consider them nothing better than ‘dough heads.’ He gave some good advice which seemed to have due effect. The meeting was prolonged being occupied by several of the brethren speaking their views untill [sic] a late hour when upon motion the meeting adjourned untill [sic] tomorrow at 9 o clock A.M. [p. [24]]. (Sunday, 10 Mar 1844, The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, p. 39. It is William Clayton narrating from crib notes that he copied and expounded on starting the year after Joseph’s martyrdom. The account is of the first meeting,which began earlier in the day and continued in the afternoon).

A month later, the Council of Fifty received a report from a committee that had been assigned to re-draft the Constitution of the US and perfect it to include more reference to pure principles from heaven. They didn’t get anything done due to the absence of one of the committee members, Parley P. Pratt…and it sounded like he was traveling away from Nauvoo for a while. Joseph said:

Pres. Joseph arose to give some instructions to the council & especially to the committee. He commenced by showing, that the reason why men always failed to establish important measures was, because in their organization they never could agree to disagree long enough to select the pure gold from the dross by the process of investigation. He said that it was right always to judge in favor of the innocent, and it was wrong always, to judge in favor of the guilty He wanted to see a constitution that would compel a man to execute justice in favor of the innocent. (Thursday, 4 April 1844, The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, p. 79).

Summary

In a temporary council or committee, you can avoid giving a president abusive powers by having a president watch over the scriptures and not vote, who only has veto power based on their understanding of the scriptures, but no decision making power…this would throw the decision back to the council to provide a more persuasive decision that is in righteousness.

The duty of the council or committee is to achieve either unanimity or democratic majority, whichever is chosen for the task at hand, perhaps based on importance. They will also be striving for a righteous decision, but there can be a benefit to having someone sit out of the debate so they can facilitate the discussion and pay more attention to the list in D&C 107:30: “The decisions of these quorums, or either of them, are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long-suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord.”

See Robert’s Rules of Order for good notes on how a president can facilitate the decision making process of the council or committee members.

A committee can be organized on smaller scales, and be kept secret until they produce good work, and then present their work in a general conference for acceptance, or a general conference can appoint a committee for a specific general cross-fellowship task and receive periodic updates and reports. Once the tasks are complete, the committees can be dissolved.

Also, there is no use to have a committee or council if the tasks can be accomplished reasonably without them.

See also our posts here and here.

That depends on how you define the term.

The LDS people have their own definition of what a prophet is. They use, as their standard, a statement made by one of their church presidents:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2., included as a footnote to Official Declaration 1).

They also refer to a parenthetical insertion in verse 7 of the revelation contained in D&C 132, which states:

(…there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred). (D&C 132:7).

They use this reference to tie the role of a prophet to that of the president of their church exclusively, and create a hierarchy of the role that makes all other prophets, including their own apostles and seventies, subordinate to their one true “Prophet”. They suggest that only the president of their church can be a fully active “Prophet”, while all others are either barred from using the gift of prophecy, or are only allowed to use it if it doesn’t contradict the President, or if the use of it is constrained within the confines of their limited roles, callings, or within their own family.

Neither Official Declaration 1, nor the footnotes from addresses made by Wilford Woodruff, have been accepted by the LDS Church as canonized scripture, despite the text being published as appendages within their standard works. Publishing them there, however, has caused the membership to regard those declarations and writings as scripture without officially voting them as such.

There is evidence also that the parenthetical insertion in D&C 132:7 was added later at the request of Brigham Young, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Instead, simply contrast that parenthetical afterthought with an earlier revelation given by Joseph Smith, where the Lord appoints Hyrum Smith to hold the sealing blessings of the church while Joseph Smith continued to be a prophet to the church:

First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you. I give unto you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet. (D&C 124:124-125).

Despite the plainness of language in the D&C 124 revelation, the LDS have created a complex practice of delegation where “sealers” in LDS temples act only under the authority of the highest ranking priesthood holder in their church. Because of their confusion about the Lord’s intentions for the role as revealed through Joseph Smith, the LDS have projected modern organizational concepts onto past practices, and have convinced themselves that Hyrum and Joseph held roles similar to ones defined today to support their acceptance and interpretation of D&C 132:7 as it stands in their version of the Doctrine and Covenants.

On the other hand, the scriptures outline the role of prophets and their status as the seed of Christ with an important clarification. Abinadi says the prophets are the seed of Christ if they have not fallen into transgression (Mosiah 15:13). So, in Abinadi’s definition, a prophet cannot be permanently considered the seed of Christ until they have finished their course on this earth and have avoided falling into transgression. Denver has agreed with this assessment of the title and its application throughout his writings and lectures:

In my view, the word and the title of “Prophet,” is something hallowed and sacred. Like the name of the Son of God, it is something that ought not to be repeated too often. And I don’t think you can take the measure of a man until he finally lays his life down. How he lays his life down matters in the aggregate, as well. I don’t think someone who fares sumptuously and receives accolades during his lifetime is ever much in a position to understand the rigors of obeying God and the difficulties of being thought as merely a wild man, or preposterous, or everything that you are not. Read Paul’s description of the prophets: “―And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were astoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb. 11: 36-38.) If Joseph suffered prison and was slain for the faith he worked to restore, it takes more than we generally give to have the same faith as the ancients. This is why I spoke of Faith in Idaho Falls. The conditions are the same in every dispensation. So when we use the term “Prophet” casually, to me, it seems to take something that ought to be spoken of with a great deal of care and turns it into something like a mere calling card. I find it offensive. I think it cheapens something, and it troubles me. When I think of the word “beloved,” I think of it exclusively in the context of our Savior. “This is my Beloved Son.” The One doing the loving in that context is the Father. This makes the term all the more something to be used with extraordinary delicacy and reserve. When you take those two words and you couple them together (“Beloved Prophet”), my sensibilities are such at this point in my life, that when you use the terms in that manner you are not appealing to me. Instead, you are repulsing me. You are not persuading me, you are offending me. You are not converting me, you are driving me away. I don’t say this to be critical of anyone. I say this because despite everything that I would like to be able to tolerate, despite my best efforts to try and make allowances, there are some things which when I hear, I simply cannot control. My repugnance at the notion that there is one who walks among us, who ought to be called “Beloved Prophet,” is something that I just cannot control. I don’t invite you to join me in that, but I want you to understand that in some respects we talk across a gulf. I say it in part to try to influence those who use the term to be more circumspect. I think the general population would be more persuaded by our missionaries if the terms were used with more caution. I also think applying extraordinary titles are less impressive than having a man preach the truth. If the content of his sermon is prophetic, then everyone can decide for themselves the measure of the messenger.(Denver Snuffer, 40 Years In Mormonism: Zion, p. 24).

Although I can’t find the references now, I remember reading that Joseph Smith and his family often refused the title “Prophet” for Joseph, depending on the context of the use of the title, but either way, in our estimation, he certainly earned the title at his martyrdom. On the other hand, Balaam had the spirit of prophecy and spoke with the Lord (Numbers 22-25), and prophesied true prophecies concerning Shiloh (Numbers 24:15-19), but he was not considered the seed of Christ. Peter described Balaam as someone who proved to love the wages of unrighteousness as opposed to being a true prophet (see 2 Peter 2:15).

Despite Denver and Joseph’s hesitancy to apply the title to themselves, the scriptures use the term “prophet” more generally, as in the Lord’s parable about fruits of true versus false prophets (3 Nephi 14:15-20). The Old Testament even provides us this advice for testing each and every saying from a prophet:

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Numbers 18:21-22).

And the Lord Himself defines the limited role of a prophet by contrasting their function to Moses’ role at the time:

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? (Numbers 12:6-8).

Yet, we often want absolutes and fail-safes. The LDS Church uses the term “Prophet” with the implication that they are incapable of falling into transgression, or at least incapable of transgressing to the point of losing their favored status. So in effect, they believe their prophets qualify for Abinadi’s final definition of who can be called the seed of Christ, while denying Abinadi’s clause about their ability to fall into damning transgression.

For sake of brevity, let’s say the LDS use the term “Prophet” with a capital “P”, meaning someone who earns the title indefinitely, who is protected from falling. And, let’s say “prophet” with a lowercase “p” means anyone who exhibits the gift of prophecy, who might lose or re-gain the gift as time goes on, according to their righteousness. Moses hoped we all could be called “prophets” among equals (Numbers 11:29), so Moses’ use of the word in that instance would be “prophet” with a lowercase “p”.

The LDS have applied a near-permanent status for the term “Prophet”, and consider it the role of their sitting president while he is living. Perhaps to avoid the baggage that goes along with the term, Denver Snuffer has avoided calling himself that kind of “Prophet”. But, if we were using the “prophet among equals” term, perhaps Denver would agree to the designation. This might be what he meant when he said:

Do I consider myself “a prophet?” The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. (Revelation 19: 10.) I have the testimony of Jesus. (Denver Snuffer, Clearing Off Some Pending Questions).

The LDS don’t use the term “prophet” like Moses did, so it seems better not to confuse Denver with the LDS version of “Prophet”, which is more like the term “Pope”, and for which the LDS have all sorts of confusion about. “Servant” seems more fitting for a title for Denver. Despite outside speculation, Denver Snuffer also categorically rejects the title of “the One Mighty and Strong” (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 403-404). There are too many references in his writings to worry about defending on that point.

Regardless, one of the big debates surrounding Denver is the claim that he said if you disagree with him you will be damned. The alleged source for this claim is the transcript of Denver’s 10th talk in Mesa, but a word search for “damned” or “damn” only produces a reference to Joseph Smith talking about John the Baptist and to the scripture in 3 Nephi 11 where one is damned for not listening to the Lord’s command to be baptized. In that talk, Denver did say the following, however:

I have never said this publicly, but because of what I think will ensue after this talk I am going to say it, not for my sake, and certainly not for the sake of anyone who believes the truth or who has the Spirit, but I say it only to benefit those who may view things completely otherwise. The Lord has said to me in His own voice, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.’ Therefore, I want to caution those who disagree with me, to feel free, to feel absolutely free to make the case against what I say. Feel free to disagree, and make your contrary arguments. If you believe I err, then expose the error and denounce it. But take care; take care about what you say concerning me for your sake, not for mine. I live with constant criticism. I can take it. But I do not want you provoking Divine ire by unfortunately chosen words if I can persuade you against it. (Denver Snuffer, 40 Years in Mormonism: Preserving the Restoration, p. 4).

Whether or not anyone believes that the Lord actually said that to him is besides the point. In this quote, Denver says to feel free to disagree with him, contradicting the common claim against him mentioned above.

Others have issues with how Denver Snuffer expounds scriptures, such as when he learns more and updates his views on tangential topics like polygamy (but it should be noted, he has been against it throughout), or when he suggests non-traditional interpretations of old passages. Their problems stem from the idea that it is the role of a prophet to speak in absolutes at all times, and that he must be as knowledgable as the God he has met and/or talked with. Because of the glaring absence of this absolute in the scriptures (besides the footnotes that the the LDS reference from Wilford Woodruff above), this argument is weak. True prophets often challenge a culture steeped in degraded traditions, and their arguments resist popular opinions and interpretations. If we take John the Baptist as an example of proper expounding, the record shows that he taught things very similar to the Sermon on the Mount, which was radical in his day for suggesting what the true intent of the Law of Moses was on all of the commandments he covered (see Luke 3). It appears the Lord honored John’s “wild” expounding by making it a large part of His central teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, showing that He, the Lord, had the same mind as John on the subjects that he expounded on. Concerning the relationship between the mind of God and the spirit of prophecy manifested by the prophets when they appropriately expound on scripture, it is enough to understand the following quote from the Lord in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Because of Denver Snuffer’s exposition on the scriptures and his sharing of the spirit of prophecy given to him, some who fellowship together in the way Denver has suggested can’t help but call him a “Prophet” with a capital “P”. This may be zeal without knowledge. It is certainly an impulse that is carried over from LDS culture. As LDS, we have done the same to LDS General Conference addresses and the speakers there, and it is easy enough to see that some are just doing the same to Denver now, despite Denver’s repeated rejection of that type of adulation. When the Lord has given Denver Snuffer or any other prophet something with which to expound on, it should be evident enough to those who know the voice of the Good Shepherd, but how well Denver or anyone else relays that content in their weak state as mortals remains to be seen by the test of time. Many do not consider it possible that a true prophet could make the following claim about their teachings (which again stems from their assertion that a prophet must be infallible, which is, as we have seen, a false premise):

Although what I say this evening represents my current thinking on the material, I could not have given this talk ten years ago. Nor do I expect that ten years from now I would give the same talk. My understanding changes over time, and this is a snapshot of my understanding taken from a moving picture. I hope it is useful to you. (Denver Snuffer, A Talk About the First Three Words Spoken Spoken By The Players In the Endowment, p. 1).

Unless they are quoting the Lord directly (for instance, Denver has proven he intends to portray even the bad grammar the Lord condescends to use, when he corrected the record after mis-quoting one word from the Lord once, see 40 Years In Mormonism: Christ, p. 6), we have to rely upon Denver or any other prophet to accurately convey the information they have been given when they put things into their own words, and teaching is a much more difficult task than one might think. We call the Lord the “Master Teacher” because the rest of us are quite sub-par in this category, including all the prophets and all current servants. Denver seems to rely on the scriptures a lot to avoid the disconnect, and invites us to get the original message for ourselves from the Lord, unsullied, and pure. We have probably read James 1:5 by now, and have hopefully become aware of the benefits, as well as the limitations, of scriptures and messages through messengers, which only cause us to “think” we have eternal life (see John 5:39). If Denver doesn’t portray the content the Lord has provided for him correctly, he says the Holy Ghost will be the last witness to determine that for you:

First, I explained in everything I’ve written, beginning with The Second Comforter, that it is the role of the Holy Ghost to prepare and bring us to Christ. Without the Holy Ghost we cannot come to Christ. Further, in that same book I acknowledged the Holy Ghost’s foundational role by telling the reader that they must receive a witness from the Holy Ghost as they read the book or they do not have the required two witnesses. Without the Holy Ghost’s ratifying confirmation, I tell the reader to discard what I’ve written. Far from denegrating the Holy Ghost’s role, I have made it a central part of the process, without it no person can come unto Christ. (http://denversnuffer.com/2011/09/response-to-question/).

For myself, I have attended almost every lecture of his 40 Years Series, re-read the transcripts, and read the book “Preserving the Restoration” which removes the personal anecdotes and focuses on the scriptures and the interpretations. I’ve made myself a personal index of all the claims I find important, and I’ve asked the Lord if he vouches for Denver as His servant and if the course the lectures outline for us to pursue to preserve the restoration is pleasing to His will, after experimenting upon it for over a year now, and longer if you count prior books. I have heard from the Lord that it is pleasing to Him, and Denver is an authorized servant. As far as Denver’s mistakes and updates on historical facts, (especially considering that all of us are subject to sources that have been tampered with as an LDS cover-up until the more recent Joseph Smith Papers project has exposed the original record more), “if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (Book of Mormon title page, and see http://denversnuffer.com/2014/05/damned-again/). If anyone searches Denver’s claims as seriously as they hope an investigator would search the Book of Mormon, they could know the same thing. If the Holy Ghost doesn’t confirm it, discard it. But, if you take a lazy approach, and make a man an offender for a word even after a long reading session mixed with skimming, and don’t experiment and sacrifice to learn about it, then you may not have given it a fair shake. You might end up like the CES instructor that finds contradictions all over the scriptures and has given up his faith in God, saying about the contradictions, in effect, “They can’t be explained.”

We’ll close with just one final note about what fruit to be looking for in a true prophet: Joseph Smith possessed the principle of love, and gathered many Saints, and to this day, even though the LDS Church is in apostasy, the LDS are good hearted, virtuous people. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the Book of Mormon is the fruit of the ancient Nephite and Lamanite prophets, while Joseph Smith’s fruit is his own labor of love for Christ and His people. That is Joseph’s fruit. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is how Christ identified his disciples, as those who love one another (John 13:34). Even the RLDS are great folks. The Fundamentalists are not short on their own virtues as well, and even though they are largely Brigham Young’s fruit, many are opening up to the Lord’s word through Joseph Smith instead because of their good hearts, as they discover Brigham’s mistakes in representing what Joseph Smith said. It is those who practice priest-craft in any of the off-shoots who have become hardened. However, those who have taken the message of the true prophets to look to Christ have become Christ’s fruit, who loves us all (see Mosiah 15:10-12). No one “follows” Denver without suffering the same fate as those who follow any man (see 2 Nephi 4:34). The scriptures speak for themselves and Denver is not very important beyond a certain level. With God’s approval, we can all preach and teach like John the Baptist, correct ourselves when we learn more truth, and move on in faith. Besides, the meekness characteristic of a prophet compels them to guard their words carefully so as not to take the name of the Lord in vain, and to establish when they are speaking opinions or provoking inquiry and thought. Casual perusal of Denver’s writings clearly evidences this pattern of meekness. We ought to be careful not to become accusers, which is Satan’s role. Errors in doctrine may be discussed and corrected, but a man’s character ought not to be questioned except by positive evidence of misconduct.

A priesthood holder has authority to do whatever God commands, and any ordinance when commanded, except they can’t do any ordinance on behalf of the LDS Church unless they have an office in that Church (see our posts herehere and here). The fruits are the improved lives of the people, as opposed to a Pharisaical evidence-test that a prophet teaches completely without error. Because of a fear of making mistakes in teaching, the LDS correlate everything and demand compliance. As a consequence, outsiders are often nicer to them than they are to themselves. There are none who dare to molest or make afraid in their congregations. A true prophet, on the other hand, possesses the principle of love, and a pure love of Christ, and adherence, as a minimum, to the doctrine of Christ in 3 Nephi 11. But, true prophets are also fallible men, and they may make many teaching errors when exploring the vast resource of knowledge which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith said the following concerning an excommunication trial drummed up against an elder with strange interpretations of the book of Revelation:

I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:340).

And, Joseph Smith said the following about relying on a prophet too much leading to a darkened mind:

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p.237).

Any casual observer of LDS General Conferences can see that General Authorities make as many teaching errors as LDS lay members do in their congregations. If perfect teaching were the standard, then all General Authorities ought to be excommunicated for saying they are prophets and teaching errors. As for Denver Snuffer, we rejoice when God condescends to use a servant to expound the true meaning of the scriptures revealed in our day as the Standard Works, and pray to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

A great article on the topic of the role of a prophet is by Robert Sonntag, and is well worth the read: What is a Prophet – 10.30.2014.

Several years ago, the LDS church president spoke of their ambition to make things less complicated in their church:

I need not tell you that we have become a very large and complex Church. Our program is so vast and our reach is so extensive that it is difficult to comprehend. We are a Church of lay leadership. What a remarkable and wonderful thing that is. It must ever remain so. It must never move in the direction of an extensive paid ministry. But we know that the administrative load is very heavy on our bishops and stake presidents, as well as some others. An awareness of that fact has led the Presidency and the Twelve to hold a number of meetings, some of them long and interesting, in which in effect we have taken the Church apart and then put it together again. Our objective has been to see whether there might be some programs we could do away with. But as we have analyzed these, we have not seen much that could be dropped. To drop one is like giving away one of your children. You haven’t the heart to do it. But I wish to assure you that we are aware of the burdens you carry and the time you spend. In this priesthood meeting I wish to mention a few of the items we have discussed. I think you will note that we have made some progress, although it may be small. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To Men of the Priesthood,” October 2002 General Conference Priesthood Session).

When he said, “in effect we have taken the Church apart and then put it together again,” although outwardly a commendable notion, there is no consideration to the idea that programs could well be chosen and administered, or abandoned altogether, on the local level without central oversight.

Speaking to his twelve disciples of old, the Lord said:

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:25-27).

Perhaps it is for this reason that the only result of the LDS meetings to reorganize their structure was, “…that we have made some progress, although it may be small.” Progress towards what end? Perhaps it could be said, instead, that giving up one of their centrally correlated programs was like giving up one of their idols…which throughout history has been ironically difficult for mankind to do, despite the absurdity of worshiping vain things that cannot provide salvation. Without fail, religions that once thrived from direct blessings from heaven, have all eventually dwindled to the point of clinging to their buildings, programs, structures, and traditions when apostasy has set in.

It is evident from the scriptures that the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes sacred oral traditions replete with ceremony, ordinances, and consistency (see Alma 12:9-11). But, care should be taken with temple rites, as much mischief can be done by their misuse (consider Cain vs. Abel, Brigham Young’s polygamy and blood oaths, and see Helaman 6). But, in the proper context, correct rituals can be uplifting, and even essential for our exaltation:

Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 308).

An altered form of the oral tradition that Joseph Smith began in Nauvoo is available in LDS temples or online for review (see caution below). Because it has been altered over the years, it stands in the category of apocrypha, along with many other works that give insight into the ancient oral tradition of the Gospel (see Masonic rituals, and The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, especially his work on the Lord’s 40 day ministry, and the Egyptian Endowment, etc).

I used to be a Free and Accepted Mason, and I can say I believe Joseph Smith translated Masonry and restored what principles were lost into the beginnings of a format for use by the Priesthood in the last days, much like he translated the King James Version of the Bible…but we have lost much of what Joseph has restored.

There are no “keys” that give any man authority to change ordinances instituted before the foundation of the world, for the Priesthood, that are not intended to be changed. Therefore, changes in the endowment ceremony by definition make the ceremonies, to the degree of change involved, apocryphal, and inclusive of “interpolations by the hands of men” (D&C 91). The word history/definition of the verb form of “interpolation” is:

interpolate (v.) 1610s, “to alter or enlarge (a writing) by inserting new material,” from Latin interpolatus, past participle of interpolare “alter, freshen up, polish;” of writing, “falsify,” from inter- “among, between” (see inter-) + polare, which is related to polire “to smoothe, polish.”  Sense evolved in Latin from “refurbish,” to “alter appearance of,” to “falsify (especially by adding new material).” Middle English had interpolen (early 15c.) in a similar sense. Related: Interpolated; interpolating. (see here).

Section 91 expresses principles revealed by the Lord on how to treat Apocrypha, and is worthy of a careful review before attempting to study any text about temple rituals, or to attend an LDS temple itself. In fact, because the rituals are intended to be transmitted in person with heaven’s approval, care should also be taken in reviewing online or written materials. For those who have already received ordinances with heaven’s approval, they can be a useful way to review, especially if the LDS Church has unjustly taken away your temple recommend.

The best current resources for getting at the truth of what is contained in the Gospel’s oral tradition is to read the standard works, Joseph Smith’s teachings, and Denver Snuffer’s teachings (See Denver’s posts here and here where he says in part, “I’m acquainted with all the changes. I have found them all and studied them all. I know all of the many differences.”). Within their teachings are the Savior’s principles that must be applied first in order to prepare for higher, sacred knowledge. That is enough to build upon today. We cannot have more if we do not appreciate and live what we have already been given (see 3 Nephi 26:9 and D&C 88:33). In the chapter entitled “Preserving the Restoration” in Denver’s book of the same title, he says:

There is nothing special about us, but there can be. We do not need hundreds of temples, but will need one to which Christ can come. We will not need to perform endless work for the dead until there has been a covenant made by God with us. We must be first connected to the fathers in heaven. Only then can we do something to liberate the dead. (pp.526-527).

Having activities for youth are great and wonderful, but become an encumbrance and a hindrance to righteous living when idolatry is involved. Parents are not excused from their responsibility to be the primary teachers of the gospel to their children, so any other wholesome program for youth can be substituted for LDS Church programs as the parents supplement with Gospel teaching on their own. If you choose to wade through the idolatry included in LDS youth programs (that encourage youth to “follow the prophet” and to follow LDS leaders), then you face the challenge of contradicting their errors and persuading your children with truth from the scriptures to combat the evil influence of those programs. But, such a course may be worthwhile if you simultaneously want to take advantage of the good left in those programs. The choice is yours. Many parents organize activities for their youth with their friends in fellowships that are just as uplifting and productive. With many having served in LDS callings for years, it is easy to reproduce only the good parts of activities that are developed from wise, divinely inspired orderliness that the LDS have now commercialized and promoted to yield high tithing receipts and participation. It is perfectly OK to opt out of the LDS Church corporation’s versions of the programs and recreate them on your own, according to God’s will. Then you can pick and choose the parts that are the most uplifting and leave behind the dross.

Nothing needs to be chartered and officially sanctioned unless it involves more people than your immediate family. Follow wise principles and get heaven’s consent before important endeavors, and if you do involve a larger portion of the community, get their common consent and avoid getting trapped into false traditions and bureaucratic excesses. Be smart, be safe, be frugal, and be free. If you were once willing to put forth great effort for a calling and to get the praise of leaders, do it again for your family and for the Lord, where not much of your effort will get recognized publicly. This can include ordaining your young men (or old men) to the Priesthood outside of the LDS Church (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 509-515) and encouraging proper preaching, teaching, expounding, and exhorting (see 3 Nephi 14:6). The Lord may call them to service in good and worthwhile organizations that can take them on similar assignments paralleling LDS missionary service (see our post here). The Lord may inspire them to preach in ways more powerful than the limited approach of the LDS for their youth (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 519). Remember that this movement started with a 14 year old boy being visited by the Father and the Son, who became a 22 year old who began and finished the translation of ancient scripture.

Much of LDS missionary work is babysitting unconverted missionaries. It is an affront to the Lord and a compulsion for some who have no desires to serve God, but seek only to fulfill a family and cultural obligation. The notion that a mission is what a youth needs to get converted is a false and damnable idea. The pattern the Lord outlined is simple and profound: “If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work” (D&C 4). If there is no desire, there is no call. That being said, there are still sincere, and miraculous efforts in the LDS missionary program from those who truly desire to serve the Lord, but remember, there was no MTC in Joseph Smith’s day, and what was likely Joseph’s sealing to Emma was outside of temple walls (see Denver Snuffer, Passing the Heavenly Gift, footnote 10, p. 18).

Although these are general guidelines, and not specific answers to some of the topics in the question, it should be evident by now in our posts that we do not seek to be the final answer on these questions, but to direct the learner to the scriptures and to the Lord. Hopefully you will see the spirit of the scriptures in these posts, and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd when it has been evident, and be able to face God correctly in your journey forward.

Here are some other noteworthy resources, including a piece about sincere missionary work and inspired resources on how to conduct marriages approved by heaven, matching earlier practices of Latter-day Saints in Joseph Smith’s day:

(Rock Waterman, Where I Went Wrong On My Mission)

(Article on Marriage from the 1835 D&C, section 101)

(Keith Henderson, Marriage and Denver Snuffer, Comments on Marriage)

As other conditions arise that require direction from heaven on how to proceed, such as what to do about Patriarchal blessings, and other important items, heaven can be sought and revelation obtained as God grants it.

Concerning callings, the restraint and balance required of Hyrum Smith by the Lord in regards to preaching is noteworthy in D&C 11, but service to our fellowman is always commendable (See Rock Waterman, The Refiner’s Fire, and D&C 58:26-33).

This question assumes a certain definition of “failing” in a calling given by church leaders, presuming also that the calling has come from God, but let’s break things down a little further.

In this post where we addressed what God authorizes and allows an individual to do, and whether or not an individual can do what Latter-day Saints do on their own, we said we would address the issue that not all things that the Latter-day Saints do are approved of God. This ties into the opposite concern about what God does not authorize someone to do. The obvious answer to this concern lies in what he has revealed we should not do, contained in all of the “thou shalt not’s” that we are familiar with in the commandments.

Of particular importance to this post are the commands to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to “not do any work” therein (Exodus 20:10), and to “not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

The LDS Church claims inspiration from God in callings given to members. The command to not take the name of the Lord in vain presumes that an authority figure CAN make a mistake in claiming that a particular call has come from God. It certainly may be inspired, but it also may be for personal motives, or to get a job done, or to gather like-minded individuals into quorums and presidencies to affect a personal agenda they want to implement. Whatever the reasons, it is evident that some of the motives for calling individuals are not of God.

The 5th Article of Faith accepted by the LDS Church says:

“We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (Articles of Faith 1:5)

What most LDS members don’t understand is that the prophecy inherent in the call in this verse is to the individual as much as it is to the authority figure making the call. The authority figure’s prerogative and right is addressed in the prophetic call being confirmed by them, as it says: “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority”. This allows for the authority figure(s) to have a check against imposition from calls that are not from God. But in the case of a legitimate call from God to service, the prophecy comes to the individual: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). The subject that receives the desires and the call is the individual. It does not say, “if the elders of the church have desires for you to serve God, ye are called to the work.” If you are to take the position that the desire comes to the individual and the call comes from the authorities upon their notice of an individual’s desires, then you still need to account for the inspired desire that God says must be in the individual. There are many individuals who receive a call who don’t want to do it at all. It is one thing to want to serve God at first and then change your mind after, but it is another thing to not have any desire to do what a leader proposes in the first place. There must be a balance.

It is entirely possible that lacking a desire to do as a leader asks is not an indication of laziness or insubordination at all. It may be your conscience telling you that what they are asking of you is not inspired by God, and that they are using the name of the Lord in vain. As a member of the LDS Church, you not only have the obligation to consider what the leaders ask of you, but you have the obligation to your God according to these scriptures to consider whether or not God has inspired in you a desire to do that particular task as well. If after cleansing your heart from impurity, the inspiration and desire still doesn’t come, don’t do it. Don’t sacrifice your conscience in the name of obeying a leader.

With the clarity of purpose for the commandments that Jesus expounded in his Sermon on the Mount, no one has any excuse for not understanding what God asks of us and what God forbids. In the Sermon and elsewhere, he has commanded that there should be no priestcrafts, which are that someone sets themselves up for a light to get gain and the praise of the world (2 Nephi 26:29). Any agenda in a church meeting fitting this description is forbidden by God. We are not authorized by God to support meetings or individuals when they cross this line. We can support them in good endeavors, but we must have our own moral compass to make a stand against unrighteous and vain endeavors.

The definition that the Lord gives of the church that we covenant to support is the same as his doctrine: “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church” (D&C 10:67-68). We are authorized to build up this definition of the church, especially within the LDS Church if we can. The two are not necessarily synonymous, though, because as soon as any agenda in any church meeting runs contrary to helping people repent of sin and come into Christ’s presence in this life, that meeting is not a meeting of Christ’s church as defined by him. On the other hand, even outside of the LDS institution, where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, there he will be also, and there is his church (Matthew 18:20). If one were to draw a Venn diagram, the LDS Church and the Lord’s Church might have some overlap, but it would still be a Venn diagram nonetheless, with the definition of the Lord’s church necessarily encompassing a much broader scope than what an earthly institution can offer.

Therefore, we are not authorized to labor on a Sunday, especially if that labor is a vain meeting imposed on us by a calling or assignment not from God. Contrarily, if a calling or assignment is from God and requires legitimate service to your fellow man, you will be filled with righteous desire and can confidently offer up your vows on the Sabbath or any other day, even if a church leader disagrees with your behavior. One only needs to skim the New Testament to see that the Lord Himself contradicted his own church leaders on what he decided to do on the Sabbath or in any other context (see Matthew 9:11, Matthew 12:2, and Matthew 12:12-13 for instance) and what he refused to do even when pressed by authority figures (see Luke 22:67).

Because some have mistakenly equated the institution as synonymous with the church of Christ in every moment and every circumstance, they have been led astray by language in secret covenants that imply complete devotion to the institution. Much vain labor, and even wicked practice, has been indulged in “for the oath’s sake” (see Moses 5:50), and without regard to whether or not it was a righteous thing to do. If the definition of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is taken to mean those who repent and come unto Christ as outlined in D&C 10, and referring to those of us today who are or who are attempting to be Saints in these latest days in contrast to those Saints of former days, then the covenant can be fulfilled without regard to any earthly institution, even institutions claiming to protect or be the true church of Christ. One only need to concern themselves with the words and their meaning as opposed to an organization putting those words together as its title.

Interestingly, David O. McKay summarized (or directly quoted) the covenant in question in a speech to departing missionaries as “I will consecrate my life, my time, my talents to the advancement of the Kingdom of God,” (Anderson, Devery S. editor, The Development of LDS Temple Worship: 1846-2000, A Documentary History, Signature Books: SLC, 2011, p. 268), suggesting that the language of the covenant may’ve been altered some time after this 1941 speech to include the name of the Church. Since many LDS members and leaders view the “kingdom of God” as synonymous with the LDS Church as well, this may be a moot point in persuading them to look at the scriptures differently. Regardless, it can be seen that definitions matter in how one perceives if they have “failed” in their callings, and whether or not those calls to service are from God or not. Failing in an assignment that was vain to begin with, might very well be doing service to God as you fill your time with more meaningful purposes.

An institution that believes it is the sole provider of authoritative ordinances from God and continuously regards itself as being the only true church upon the face of the whole earth, irrespective of its shifting doctrines and irregardless of whether or not it actually is built upon Christ’s Gospel at any given moment in time (see 3 Nephi 27:8), will definitely have agendas from time to time that are not of God. In such instances of departure from Christ’s Gospel, these institutions will more likely resemble a corporation trying to retain employees that makes them do unauthorized labors on the Sabbath day, all while claiming in vain that the Lord instructed the false service and sacrifice they have demanded of you. Refusing such impositions is not failing in your calling or your obligations to God at all. Realistically, it is honoring the institution you belong to just as much as it is for a child to refuse to do wrong even if their parent tells them to. When an institution fails to meet up to its own standards, honor the best version of that institution instead. If it really does claim to be of God, they ought to thank you for that if and when they come to their senses. Honor God.