Here is a list one fellowship put together from Joseph Smith’s definitions of terms to help in the various efforts for a set of principles. As I thought about it, it is more of a glossary as well, pulled together from Joseph Smith resources and only slightly modified in sentence structure to cast them as definitions. It’s archival now that the thrust has recently changed on the Guide and Standard. So, this list is largely obsolete for that effort, but it is included here for your benefit.

“Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth. Consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft…The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.” Joseph Smith

“Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316). “The inquiry is frequently made of me, ‘Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?’ In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” “Have the Presbyterians any truth? Embrace that. Have the Baptists, Methodists, and so forth? Embrace that. Get all the good in the world, and you will come out a pure Mormon.” (July 23, 1843) “It is not wisdom that we should have all knowledge at once presented before us; but that we should have a little at a time; then we can comprehend it. President Smith then read the 2nd Epistle of Peter, 1st chapter, 16th to last verses, and dwelt upon the 19th verse with some remarks. Add to your faith knowledge, etc. The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and every one that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned. The principle of salvation is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Joseph Smith

Truth is knowledge of things as they are and as they were and as they are to come. [D&C 33:7 RE]

Faith is the assurance we have of unseen things which are true. It is the principle of action and power in mortals and in God. Acting upon correct belief is the essence of faith. We are all commanded to believe in Jesus Christ and act upon that belief by obeying Him. [LoF 1]

Salvation is here defined in its broadest terms, as in being saved from all enemies, including death. This type of salvation happens if and when you become a joint heir with Jesus Christ and attain the power of the resurrection after this life, such that you can resurrect all those dependent upon you. [LoF 7:8]

God, or the Godhead, is a term describing the unity of two separate, perfected beings—the Father and the Son—along with their unified mind, called the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Son. Jesus is also the way, the truth, and the life, and no person comes to the Father but by Jesus. [LoF 5, John 10:7 RE]

God is the object for all people with understanding to have faith in for life and salvation. [LoF 2]

Three things are necessary so that anyone with understanding may exercise faith in God towards life and salvation: The idea that he actually exists, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes, and an actual knowledge that the course you are pursuing is according to his will. [LoF 3]

The perfections of God’s attributes and characteristics [LoF 4:1-2]:

God has all faith or power, and was God before the world was created, and is the same God now, and He always will be. [LoF 3:13, 4:5]
God has all mercy, and He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness, and He was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting. [LoF 3:14, 4:7]
God has all right actions, or justice, and He never changes. His course is one eternal round and He is always willing to teach. He teaches by the power of grace, and gives liberally, to the just and the unjust. [LoF 3:15,21, 4:6,11, James 1:2 RE, Ether 5:5 RE]
God has all correct judgment against the wicked, and He is no respecter of persons (of whatever race or color, young or old, bond or free, male or female) but every person who fears God and works righteousness is accepted of Him. [LoF 3:17, 4:7]
God has all truth and He is truthful and cannot lie. [LoF 3:16, 4:8]
God has all knowledge, and He is loving, such that He shares understanding through wisdom that He might save all His creatures. He is love. [LoF 3:18, 4:4,9, 1 John 4:8, John 4:3 RE]

“The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.” [Joseph Smith, “Elders’ Journal, July 1838,” p. 44].

The Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. The Old Testament contains old covenants. The Book of Mormon, combined with the New Testament, constitutes the new covenant, and both are the word of God as far as they are translated correctly. Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” [HC 4:461]. The Teachings and Commandments and the Pearls of Great Price are the word of God as far as they are translated correctly. These scriptures are not all that God has revealed or that He has now revealed. God’s words never cease and He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God. [WL (AoF) 1:29, 1:30, see also Answer and Covenant]

Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven whereby salvation may come. Salvation comes by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, through the merits of his atonement. [2 Nephi 13:6 RE, WL (AoF) 1:24]

“Doctrine” means an approved body of teachings.

The doctrine of Jesus Christ is as follows:

“Behold, verily, verily I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine. And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me, and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, every where, to repent and believe in me; and whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Verily, verily I say unto you, that this is my doctrine; and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me, believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me; for he will visit him with fire, and with the Holy Ghost; and thus will the Father bear record of me; and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost, are one. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Verily, verily I say unto you, that this is my doctrine; and whoso buildeth upon this, buildeth upon my rock; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock, but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell standeth open to receive such, when the floods come, and the winds beat upon them” [3 Nephi 5:9 RE]

“Gospel” means good news, or topics approved for preaching. “Preaching” means public pronouncements that attract interested persons to be taught more.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is as follows:

“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you, that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me; and my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, I might draw all men unto me; that as I have been lifted up by men, even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil; and for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father, I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works. And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name, shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father, at that day when I shall stand to judge the world. And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father; and this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words; and no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest, save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment; repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do, that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do, even that shall ye do; therefore if ye do these things, blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” [3 Nephi 12:5 RE]

Commandments are directions from God on how we may act so that it may turn to our salvation [D&C 80:2 RE]. Keeping commandments produces good works, which are expressions of our belief in God’s character and attributes.

The essential commandments are contained in the Sermon at Bountiful [see 3 Nephi 5-7:1 RE]. The Sermon on the Mount or at Bountiful is the Law of Christ.

“Good” is defined as keeping God’s commandments and “bad” is defined as not keeping God’s commandments.

“Sin” is defined as not keeping the commandments of God that you know about and understand correctly. “Transgression” is generally defined as not keeping the commandments of God, even when you are ignorant of them, but sometimes means to cross over the limits of the law in general, whether you know the law or not.

Repentance is turning away from sin and ignorance and facing God. God forgives sin when we forsake it and seek forgiveness. Believers in Jesus Christ repent by gaining knowledge of His ways and doing as He did. [D&C 17:8 RE]

Men and women will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam and Eve’s transgression. Little children have no need of repentance, and are incapable of repentance. [WL (AoF) 1:23, Moroni 8 RE]

The wicked are those who refuse to repent, for as long as they rebel. [D&C 27:10 RE]

Any sacrifice to God must be accompanied by a broken heart and a contrite (or willing) spirit [3 Nephi 4:7 RE]. The sacrifice of all earthly things is eventually required of all the faithful in some way or form known by them and God to obtain the faith necessary for life and salvation, and to obtain eternal life [LoF 5].

To hold proper authority to perform outward ordinances, a man must be called of God by prophecy (if they have desires to serve God, they are called to the work [D&C 99:1 RE]), and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof. True messengers of God will never take wages for their ministerial service. [WL (AoF) 1:26, 2 Nephi 11:10 RE] The constitution of the priesthood, and of all religious discourse, is outlined in D&C 47 RE, D&C 121 LE.

All followers of Christ, men and women, old and young, can be called of God to teach, expound, exhort, and invite all to come unto Christ, and to bless and heal others through the power of faith and by the laying on of hands.

Baptism is an ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and is only to be administered to those who have understanding, who have arrived at the age of accountability, which is at least eight years old [D&C 73:4 RE, JST Genesis 17:11]. Baptism is required of all who believe in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Baptism must be performed by immersion, by one holding proper authority, and when possible, in living water such as a river, lake, or sea. Our Lord gave the following instructions:

“Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: ‘Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.’ And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.” [3 Nephi 5:8 RE]

The Holy Ghost is the promised gift of the Father to those who have faith in His Son, repent of their sins, and receive baptism. “Therefore it is given to abide in you, the record of heaven, the Comforter, the peaceable things of immortal glory, the truth of all things, that which quickeneth all things which maketh alive all things, that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice and judgment,” [Genesis 4:7 RE]. This connection to God will give you access to truth, which speaks to your mind and heart. There are gifts of the spirit such as the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc. [WL (AoF) 1:28]. If you deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you and you know that you deny it, this is a sin which is unpardonable. Whoever murders against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for them to obtain a forgiveness. Therefore, when following the way, have a determination to serve Christ to the end of your mortal lives. [Alma 19:1 RE, Hebrews 6:1-6 RE, Mosiah 2:2 RE]

The names of those who are baptized are to be recorded [D&C 51:4-5 RE], and the followers of Christ should join in fellowship when possible:

“And after they had been received unto baptism and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the Church of Christ, and their names were taken that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith. And the church did meet together oft to fast and to pray and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” [Moroni 6, see also D&C 4:14 RE]

Sacrament is an ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper consists of bread and wine, is the means by which He may fill us with His Spirit, and is offered to all who have been baptized. The bread is broken, and all kneel [3 Nephi 8:4] while the man says the following prayer, exactly as written:

“O God the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” [Moroni 4]

The man who is officiating also blesses the wine (or an alternative, such as grape juice, which symbolizes the blood of our Lord). He takes the cup [3 Nephi 8:7] and says the following prayer, exactly as written:

“O God the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them, that they may witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” [Moroni 5]

Giving to the poor is a law of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” [Mosiah 2:2 RE]

Marriage is an ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman, as originally established by God between Adam and Eve. The woman and the man are to be equally yoked, working together as one in the Lord to follow Him and to fulfill the duty devolving upon them to teach their children the principles of the gospel. The ceremony for contracting marriage follows the guidance of the Spirit. Marriages sealed by the Lord’s oath in a sacred place will endure beyond death and into the Father’s kingdom. [see the Answer and Covenant]

Receiving the covenant is an ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ [see the Answer and Covenant].
Jesus Christ will personally visit you before you die and give you further doctrine and commandments if you draw near to him in this life. This is called “being redeemed from the fall.” [see the Answer and Covenant, Ether 1:12 RE]

Israel will be gathered and the Ten Tribes restored. Zion will be built upon the American continent and Christ will reign personally upon the earth. The earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. [WL (AoF) 1:31]

The gospel requires its followers to allow everyone (including other professing followers of Christ) to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and to worship how, where, and what they may. [WL (AoF) 1:32]

The gospel requires its followers to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, to do good to all, to believe all things, to hope all things, to endure many things, to hope to be able to endure all things, and to seek after anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy. This is faith, hope, and charity. [WL (AoF) 1:34, Moroni 7]

It is an eternal principle that the first shall be last and the last shall be first [Mark 8:16 RE]. Also, they that exalt themselves shall be abased, and they that abase themselves shall be exalted [Ez. 9:9 RE]. Therefore, if you have righteous vows and obligations to apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth in your churches, or to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law in your countries, keep those obligations. So far as you have the opportunity to do so, be free, and govern yourselves as peacemakers and as the children of God. [WL (AoF) 1:33, 1:37, 3 Nephi 5:10 RE]

As we talked about before, Denver Snuffer mentioned in his outline of how to preserve the Restoration that a new temple would need to be built:

“Heaven will look for a temple in Zion to accurately reflect the pattern of heaven. When they see it has been built, they will come to embrace its builders and kiss their necks (Moses 7:63). They will only come when we are their sons and daughters, fully restored to the Family of God, united with them in belief, covenant, knowledge, and filled with the glory of God, which is intelligence.” p. 144.

“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 first 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.

Much is said about the revelation in D&C 85 about the one “mighty and strong,” (which we believe could be referring to Christ Himself) but not much is mentioned about Joseph Smith’s inclusion of a reference to Ezra. The pertinent part of the revelation reads:

And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God; While that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning. And all they who are not found written in the book of remembrance shall find none inheritance in that day, but they shall be cut asunder, and their portion shall be appointed them among unbelievers, where are wailing and gnashing of teeth. These things I say not of myself; therefore, as the Lord speaketh, he will also fulfil. And they who are of the High Priesthood, whose names are not found written in the book of the law, or that are found to have apostatized, or to have been cut off from the church, as well as the lesser priesthood, or the members, in that day shall not find an inheritance among the saints of the Most High; Therefore, it shall be done unto them as unto the children of the priest, as will be found recorded in the second chapter and sixty-first and second verses of Ezra. (D&C 85:7-12).

In ancient times, citing a simple reference often served as a means by which to call to mind a host of related ideas from the setting and context of the quote that was briefly stated (see Jesus’ use of the first verse of Psalms 22 to call to mind the fulfillment of verses 7-8 and the rest of the Psalm while hanging on the cross — Mark 15:34).

Could Joseph Smith’s reference to Ezra 2:61-62 be using a similar technique to bring to mind a relevant storyline for when his prophecy was going to be fulfilled? Included below is the full story of the time when the Jews returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but were halted by opposition:

Ezra 2:61 – Ezra 5:1

¶And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.

¶The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women. Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five; Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty.

¶And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments. So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities. And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening. They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.

¶Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord. Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites. And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

¶And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort: Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites, And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.

¶This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.

Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time. The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them. Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?

¶Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.

The prophet Haggai declared the Lord’s response to the situation.

Haggai (words of the Lord in bold italics)

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

¶Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

¶Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord. Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord. And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

¶In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord: Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LordConsider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.

¶And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.

Part of Haggai’s prophecy could have been fulfilled when Jesus accepted the temple of Zerubbabel (later called the temple of Herod) as his house.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Mark 11:17).

When Moses said to reject prophets who speak falsely in the name of the Lord when their prophecies don’t come to pass, the reverse is also implied: that a true prophet with a message from the Lord will have prophecies that do come to pass.

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. (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Sometimes pieces of their prophecies come to pass while other parts refer to more future events (see 3 Nephi 15:6), and sometimes they are fulfilled more than once in a crescendo of relevance to the words spoken, kind of like themes. In the case of Haggai, the Lord accepted the house spoken of, as well as caused a great earthquake at his death, “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” Despite this prophecy having end of days language, these facts about Jesus’ mortal ministry time period could already lend credibility to the idea that Haggai was a legitimate prophet. The question remains, do we face similar circumstances today, and do the principles involved in these scriptures apply when a current temple fund is suggested, and opposition is mounted, including cries that the poor will not be supported if a temple fund is established? According to the Lord in Haggai’s prophecy, the Jews of that day faced poverty because they were slow to build a temple. Modern-day revelation says:

Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name(D&C 124:39, emphasis added).

Based on this modern-day declaration, Denver Snuffer added, “God’s people are always required to build a temple. Therefore, there needs to be preparation for the coming commandment” (Denver Snuffer, Temple Fund Website).

Donations to the current temple fund effort can be made at thetemplefund.net.

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.

These are more quotes from Denver Snuffer’s book “Preserving the Restoration” and are used by permission.

 

Basis – Incrementally & Not in Theory Only

“Can we be ‘one’ because we believe in the theory of equality? Can we be one if we believe in the theory of sharing with one another? Is belief enough? Or must there be action? [James 2:14-18]. If James’ letter was good enough to begin the restoration, his advice can help solve our present conundrum. There is an enormous gulf between what was revealed at the beginning of the restoration and the religion practiced now. That gulf needs to disappear. We are never trapped because of belonging to a church. It does not matter if the FLDS church, or the Community of Christ (or the RLDS) church, or the Church of the Firstborn refuse to obey revelations given through Joseph Smith. All of us remain free to practice the restored faith, even if no one else joins in the practice with you. Getting from where we are to where we need to be cannot be accomplished inside institutions that have trapped our minds. Honor and worship inside your churches, but by degrees, begin the process ‘by your works’ to show real faith. Instead of consecrating, we tithe. ‘Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.’ [This is where the notion that tithing is ‘fire insurance’ comes from. If you are tithed, you will not be burned at His coming.] ‘For after today cometh the burning–this is speaking after the manner of the Lord–for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon. Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today’ (D&C 64:23-25). We should all pay tithing.” p. 255-256.

 

Paying Tithing to Current Institutions

“If satisfied in paying to your particular church, then continue doing so. Tithing is an offering to the Lord. There is no need to worry about what happens to it once it is donated. Those in charge of the tithes are accountable before God. For us, it is an act of faith. For those who receive it, it is a matter of accountability. Even in Joseph’s day, the poor were a challenge for the church. Today the problem is worse than ever, and this at the same time the LDS church has more wealth than at any time in her history. This is a problem that cannot be addressed directly and not through an institution which may or may not use the resources wisely.” pp. 256 – 257.

 

Reasons Why Some Don’t Pay Tithing

“Excommunicated members are not allowed to pay tithing to the church of their choice. Some members refuse to pay tithing because they do not trust how their church uses the funds. Some believe their church has neglected the poor and choose not to pay. Some refuse to pay because their church refuses to be accountable and open with donations. Some are offended because the LDS Church treats the return on tithing as ‘investment income,’ which is then used to build shopping malls, and establish vast commercial enterprises unnecessary for a church. The Lord anticipated churches would call some of His money ‘investment income’ in one of His parables: [Matthew 25:14-17]. [He owns all of it; the interest, the investment, and His tithing. In this parable there is no such thing as ‘investment income.’] There is nothing divine in neglecting the poor.” pp. 257-258.

 

Paying Tithing in Local Groups of Common Believers

“The primary purpose of collecting the tithes and the yield upon it is to bless and benefit the lives of those in need. Given the commandment to pay tithing, and the Lord saying ‘Organize yourselves,’ one small step that might be taken would be to collect our own tithing in local groups.

  • Assist the poor directly; looking for God’s guidance in so doing.
  • In groups of common believers, pay tithing into a common fund.
  • Then by the voice of those in the group, dispose of it by common consent so that everyone knows everything that comes in and everything that goes out.
  • Have no poor among us.
  • Help provide for those who need housing, food, clothing, healthcare, education, and transportation.
  • Take the money the Lord intended for the poor and administer it for the poor.
  • Do it by the voice of common consent, through unanimous approval.
  • Let the woman’s voice be equal with the man’s in these decisions.

In any tithing group not only should women have an equal voice, but the women have a great role to fill. When we think of ‘love unfeigned’ in a religious sense, who is more compassionate, and loves more, the man or the woman? When it comes to the home and hearth, the needs of children, women have innate competency worth trusting.” p. 259 (bullet point format added).

 

Paying Taxes

“If money is administered directly to the poor, there is no qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) tax deduction. The benefits were always intended to be for the poor, not those who give. [Reward for the giver in this life consists only in the act of giving. Recognition for anything more than that in this life and you ‘have your reward’ (Matthew 6:2) now and ‘ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:1.)] Christ had something to say about paying taxes: [Matthew 22:17-21]. There may be negative tax consequences from practicing religion this way. The beneficiary may be disqualified from some government program eligibility because of the help they receive from a group. [Done informally such assistance is more akin to a wedding shower present, or birthday gift, than institutional assistance. Nevertheless, there may be tax or other consequences, and if there are ‘Caesar should be honored,’ and taxes should be paid. It is better to let ourselves be taxed than to become entwined with government-conferred benefits which can produce institutional servitude, as will be more fully discussed later.] Do it anyway. Become independent.” pp. 260-62.

 

Poor Not To Be Idle

“There may be those who, because they have nothing, cannot give. They should remember D&C 42:42‘Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.’  [If you are the beneficiary, not only should you be grateful, but do what you can in turn.]” p. 261.

 

Administering Tithing

“Do not pay one another for service.” p. 261

 

Pragmatic Experience to Become One, Opposition Will Be Encountered

“This is a pragmatic experiment to see how difficult it is to become ‘one.’ This world greatly opposes the idea of Zion. You will learn through criticism from others to suffer for your Lord’s sake. You may lose fellowship with those who do not agree it is your obligation to care for the poor. You may lose a temple recommend, church calling, or even church membership. You will learn that churches care for money above all else. You will also learn how weak we all are. You will experience the same problems that existed in Joseph’s attempt to establish Zion. The scripture explains: ‘there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them’ (D&C 101:6). Even in a small group there will be challenges and failures. This opportunity, if taken, will provide an accurate barometer of ‘what lack we yet’ (See Matthew 19:20)? pp. 261-262.

 

Participation From the Inactive

“The overwhelming majority of baptized Latter-day Saints are inactive. The LDS Church measures ‘active’ by counting attendance at one sacrament meeting every 90 days. There are between 9 and 11 million completely inactive Latter-day Saints. Although these disaffected saints seem utterly disinterested in the LDS Church, they may still be interested in Mormonism. Perhaps some, or many, of them can find renewed life and vigor practicing the religion they once accepted in this manner. We ought to be interested in the stray sheep. Inactive LDS, disaffected RLDS, strays from the Community of Christ, and even the various fundamentalist Mormons who once accepted Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon should be invited to participate in this experiment.” pp. 262-263.

 

Excess of Funds and Gathering

“Remember when it comes to the establishment of Zion, there is no such thing as ‘hastening the work.’ It cannot be done in haste: ‘For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward’ (3 Nephi 20:42). ‘This is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence’ (D&C 63:24). [This instruction from 1831 will apply when the Lord gathers once again. Just as it did before, haste will bring pestilence to the land of gathering.] [D&C 101:68]. [There will probably be excess funds from your collections. The excess can be used to prepare a place, but not in haste. Whether there will be a place prepared for you depends entirely on whether you prepare.] pp. 263-264.

“If you want to donate money to the Lord, then do it as part of a community of believers, and use the donations to relieve the needs of the poor among you. If you have no poor among you, donate to build a temple” (Denver Snuffer, Jr., “Doctrine of Christ,” Sept. 11, 2016, p. 17).

 

Impossible to Establish Zion Without This Tithing Experiment

“There is a great work to do. It is not all to be done in one step. Unless we are willing to experiment, live the Law of Tithing and govern ourselves, it will be impossible to make the transition. The people of God will do this. [D&C 65:5-6.] [When the Lord returns it will be to an existing kingdom set up on the earth. It must precede His coming. The question is whether we will act to accomplish what He has instructed must be accomplished. The window is now open.” p. 267.

“Zion must exist before these things happen. The Lord has decreed by covenant these things will happen, but there is no guarantee we will be involved. He can accomplish His work with us or with other people.” p. 269.

 

Clarifying Comments

“…we need practical experience and not theory. The way in which the practical experience can be had is in gathering in fellowships and societies, collecting our own tithing, and then grappling with the fact that there is a pile of money sitting there, which is ever a temptation, and to deal with that in a responsible way. That forces individuals to confront their own self will, their own pride, their own desires, their own jealousy, their own envy, their own ambition, and their own covetousness. In the fellowships that have been organized there have been moments of profound breakthroughs in the kind of attributes required for Zion. One group, when they begin their meeting, gathers all the needs on written slips of paper and put all of the needs together in an unopened basket. Then they gather the money, which is always cash, into another unopened container. They don’t know how much cash there is. Without opening the cash then, they first open the needs. As a group they reason together and agree on what the priority of the needs are, so that they have a list of the most compelling, and on down. Once they know what the most compelling, the second, the third, the fourth are, they open and count the money. On one occasion, there was a married couple whose need could be satisfied because there was enough money, but they looked at the person next in line in priority behind them, and concluded that in their heart, they thought that need greater than their own. If they satisfy the next person’s need, there would be nothing left for them. So they voluntarily passed on their priority and took none of the money, and allowed it all to go to the next person in line behind them. That is a couple that I would willingly add to a community, because they’ve learned self-sacrifice. They are no threat, and are instead an ideal contributor. Someone who advocates incessantly, ‘We’ve got the live the United Order! We’ve got to have consecration,’ –because he intends to benefit from that change and better his circumstances—is unfit to be gathered. He would destroy Zion because he is selfish and thinking of what he can gain. Someone who says, ‘What can I give?’ at the cost of his own self-sacrifice, and yet is willing to live the Law of Consecration in order to bless and benefit others, not expecting themselves to be blessed or benefited but instead expect themselves to carry a burden, those people can be gathered. They present no threat. They can be “one” with others. They are willing to lose themselves, as Christ instructed. The way in which those people get identified is by practical experience, which is what the fellowshipping communities are designed, by the inspiration of God, to allow to now begin to take place. Every one of us theorizes themselves a great candidate for Zion. But go out and get some practical experience and see how great a candidate you truly are. You will be disappointed in yourself. Most of us would be anyway.” (Denver Snuffer Interview – Tim Malone 5/13/15, pp. 8-9).

These are quotes from Denver Snuffer’s book “Preserving the Restoration” and are used by permission. The arrangement does not necessarily reflect the views of the author. We hate to think of anything being divorced from context, but to an audience that has hopefully already read the book, we think this will be a useful reference. Some of the comments on a particular category were located here and there and it’s nice to have the points all in one spot. Certainly reading the book first is important for the backdrop of context, but we included a lot of the reference material intended for each point.

 

Basis

D&C 63:9-10; meaning God determines when a ‘sign’ will be given. He determined an earthquake would accompany my talk in Ephraim, Utah, rain would fall while I spoke in the drought-afflicted communities of Las Vegas, Nevada, and St. George, Utah, and record rainfall and a flood would happen at the final venue in Phoenix as signs.” p. 127, fn. 307.

“When the Lord first spoke to me, He expounded the scriptures.” p. 299.

“Faith in Him comes by hearing the word of God, delivered as He authorizes, by whomever He chooses to deliver it. If we receive God’s word preached by someone He sends, then we can have faith in the Son of God. We can receive Him. But if we harden our heart, blind our mind and refuse to receive what He offers us today, then we do not and cannot have faith in Him. We fall short of the faith required by His sons and daughters. This has always been the test. This will always be the test. I have been sent and God is proving you. Joseph Smith testified to these things and I am now a second witness. Therefore two proclaim the same doctrine.” p. 329.

“Society covets position, rank and authority. Christ held no such things. He came ‘beneath all things’ and therefore society had no regard for His authority. He was a renegade, an outsider, easy to dismiss. His society said, in effect, ‘You are too risky to believe.’ Like others sent before, I am now sent to declare faith in Christ. I am His witness in this day, sent by Him. I would not blame you for thinking I only want attention. That is not true, but it is the obvious accusation. If what I declare to you is truth and light, how you respond is important. I ask for your sake to not falsely accuse me. You do not need to like me. But if what I teach is the truth, you need to respond to it. That is between you and God, not you and me.” p. 333.

“Please heed the scriptures, the words of Joseph, and believe that Christ is approachable. I am a witness of that. His work and glory culminates in our redemption. He came, suffered, lived, and died all to lift this creation. Trust that. Receive Him. It may start slowly, small, and distant. Act and it will grow. We will never wind up in the company of Gods and angels if we are unwilling to have faith in the first things given. Ask. Then go and do as He responds. Hearken to the word of the Lord. He will not leave you comfortless, but He will come and take up His abode with you. The idea that this is only to happen ‘in your heart’ is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” p. 348.

“God came as a weak thing in this world. The only invitation you will receive will come through another weak man, speaking in weakness, trying to persuade. It does not matter how earnest I am, because I know my standing before God. What matters is your willingness to be persuaded. I simply put the case as the Lord has put it to me, in the hope that what He has to offer, and what He asked I say to you will get through to your heart. Your relationship and your accountability are not to me, but to Him. Therefore, be persuaded, for your own sake.” p. 381.

 

General Outline

“God’s house is a house of order. He does it according to patterns. It is not God’s purpose to abandon the restoration, but it is His purpose to preserve it, which at this moment is in terrible jeopardy. The restoration must be rescued and preserved. Those who cannot detect the terrible changes it has undergone and is now undergoing, are blind indeed. Shall God forget the work He began with Joseph Smith? Shall the downward course be permitted without Him raising His hand to save it? Or should a kind and merciful God give us a chance to preserve it, with His assistance, if we choose to act? There are many willing to act. We only need some indication from God of how to do so. Thankfully, the pattern was given through Joseph Smith.” p. 502.

 

Baptisms

“Baptism has always been required from the days of Adam until the present. Baptism is always the sign of acceptance of what God is doing in each generation. If He acted again now (and He is), then we need to recognize it by responding. Baptism is a mandatory sign of penitence and turning to face God, and then walking in a new path. It began in the days of Adam and it will continue through the end of the millennium. Whenever there are people of faith on earth, they have always been invited to perform the ordinance of baptism as a sign of their faith.” pp. 502-503.

“Christ gave instructions for baptism. This is in 3 Nephi 11:19-21. [3 Nephi 11:19-21.] Because it is not required to confer this authority, Christ did not touch them. He only said to them, ‘I give you power to baptize.’ Although the record is incomplete, these disciples in all likelihood had been ordained previously. But Christ was renewing His church. All that was needed to obtain the power to baptize was (and is) for Christ to tell you it is given.” p. 506.

“Christ continues His instruction in 3 Nephi 11:22: [3 Nephi 11:22-23]. This living ordinance should be performed in living water, if possible. Connect with God by using the things He provides. [3 Nephi 11:23-25]. When someone has received power to baptize directly from heaven, the words should be as Christ commanded: ‘Having authority given me of Jesus Christ…’ [3 Nephi 11:26-28]. I tell you in the name of the Lord that He renews this commandment. He expects us to follow His pattern and obey this to receive a remission of sins. [3 Nephi 11:28-30]. Do not fight or quarrel, but invite and persuade. The Lord’s parable foretells that most who are invited will refuse to come to the wedding feast. He will judge between them and us. There is no need to harbor ill will and to fight with people. Any who want to be baptized should be. If you have this power given by Christ and anyone comes to be baptized, do not refuse them. Freely give what has been received from God. Never charge to perform an ordinance. The ordinance is between them and God. They need it performed for them by someone God has asked to do it. We must rise up to become the people God asks and empowers. Before baptism, teach the Doctrine of Christ. Christ explained His Doctrine immediately following His instruction on baptism. [3 Nephi 11:31-41].” pp. 515-518.

“A record needs to be kept of the names of those baptized. Only names. Therefore, after you have power to baptize, and have taught the Doctrine of Christ and a person has repented, baptize them.” p. 521.

 

Receiving the Holy Ghost and The Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost

“All that was needed to obtain the power to baptize was (and is) for Christ to tell you it is given. This is in contrast to the power given by Christ to lay on hands for the Holy Ghost. For power to do that, Christ must touch a man. Later in the record, when Christ actually gives power to give the Holy Ghost, the account stresses Him touching them: [3 Nephi 18:36-37]. (Emphasis added.) The promise to show ‘hereafter’ was written by Moroni: [Moroni 2:2]. [Laying on hands for the Holy Ghost is an ordinance belonging to an ‘apostle’ or witness to whom Christ has ministered (Acts 1:22; see also Oliver Cowdery’s February 1835 charge to the twelve found at DHC 2:192-198,) and empowered.] In our dispensation the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost was likewise an ordinance to be performed by an ‘apostle’ upon whom Christ laid hands: [D&C 20:38, 41]. [When the revelation was given, the elders of the church called themselves ‘apostles’ of Jesus Christ. That practice changed when a quorum of twelve was organized. The quorum of twelve were chosen by the Three Witnesses and ordained to their office by them. Oliver Cowdery’s charge cautioned them it was necessary to have Christ lay hands on them to complete their ordination. LDS practice does not limit the laying on of hands to those whom Christ has touched, resulting in many Latter-day Saints struggling with whether they have ever been baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.]” pp. 506-508.

“The Doctrine of Christ is connected to the ordinance of baptism. Once baptized, we can receive the Father’s testimony of His Son by the power of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of baptism. If Christ lays hands on any of us, then we can also confer the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Even in the absence of such an ordained man, the Holy Ghost is given according to the Doctrine of Christ to any who repent and are baptized following His direction.” p. 517.

 

Recording Baptisms

“There is coming distress. Those who believe Christ’s doctrine will need the required baptism to survive the judgments to come. This is the only way to face Him when He comes again. A record needs to be kept of the names of those baptized. Only names. Therefore, after you have power to baptize, and have taught the Doctrine of Christ and a person has repented, baptize them. Record their name and submit them to the central recorder through the central recorder’s clearinghouse [the website is: recordersclearinghouse.com]. A single volume with names will be deposited in a temple to be built before the Lord’s return.” p. 521.

 

Using the Priesthood

“The Powers of Heaven, wherever they are on Jacob’s ladder, are all appropriately called ‘Powers.’ The real definition of priesthood is an association between mankind on the one hand, and those on the other side of the veil. It is a brotherhood. It is also potentially a sisterhood. It is a fellowship wherein mortals are connected with the ‘Powers of Heaven.’ Anyone can form a fellowship, and have priesthood among them. Even Lucifer organizes fellowships. The LDS church has ordained various fellowships, called elders quorums, and high priest groups, teachers quorums, and quorum of the twelve. They are all a form of priesthood. Any group in fellowship with others is a priesthood. The scriptures refer to a relationship between the Powers of Heaven and the few men who qualify to associate with them. That priesthood has power because of the association with the Powers of Heaven. When the Powers of Heaven are offended, they withdraw from the fellowship, and when they withdraw, ‘Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man’ (D&C 121:37). Nothing done thereafter is approved by heaven. Men are left to their own vain ambition at that point and they become part of the great whore, or church of the devil. [D&C 121:36-37]. [An association with heaven is critical to obtain power in the priesthood.] The same revelation explains how this heavenly authority can be used. It is what distinguishes the pretenders from actual priests endowed by heaven. Pretenders almost always work outside the bounds heaven permits, using tools explicitly condemned: [D&C 121:41-42]. Those, who like Melchizedek, are endowed with this priesthood, will only persuade others; not demand or control them. Their only call is to administer spiritual things, and not control others. They are not even to call for a meeting of elders without the consent of the elders themselves (see JS Papers, Documents, Vol. 3, p.61, and pp. 59-64). Like Enoch, they use knowledge of the truth to invite others to believe (See Moses 7:10-12). Like Christ, they will act as servants, elevating others and not themselves (Matthew 20:25-28). Their words will be filled with new truth and shed light on what is dark or mysterious. Those with such authority abide in light and truth. The reason authority is given is to make men more like God; to lift and to elevate them. Those with this priesthood will produce a flood of new truths. They are revelators.” pp. 173-175.

“Authority to baptize was restored as part of the ministry of Joseph Smith and should be retained. In fact, everything accomplished by the Lord through Joseph should be remembered, preserved, and respected. We should neither abandon nor neglect anything given or commanded by heaven. The prophecy of Zenos preserved by Jacob in the Book of Mormon foretells of the last effort in the Lord’s vineyard. The vineyard is the world. The trees are the various efforts to reconnect mankind with God. The ‘roots’ are God’s family and include the religion of God ministered to mankind by angels. Fruit worthy to be laid up against the harvest are those who belong to God’s family, having been sealed to salvation by covenant and by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The ‘roots’ of the restoration include the many ‘dispensations, rights, keys, honors, majesty, glory and priesthood’ [See D&C 128:21] returned through Joseph Smith. God intends to preserve what He began through Joseph and Hyrum (Jacob 5:52-54). The priesthood restored through them must not be abandoned. God will now use other servants to likewise labor in His vineyard to prune and care for His people (Id., vs. 62-64). There will be a ‘last time’ when labor is done, and the Lord will be directly involved with His servants (Id., vs. 71-73). This final time must produce ‘fruit’ that is ‘good’ so the entire vineyard will not be lost (Id., vs. 73-75). We must not neglect what God restored through Joseph. It is a sign ingratitude when we forget and neglect what He has given. We must repent, return and reclaim the priesthood by building on the ordinations given us by the laying on hands. Power comes by petitioning heaven to give us power to baptize. The Power of Heaven must associate again with mortal men. ” pp. 503-504.

“How does the authority to baptize come? Because John the Baptist laid his hand on Joseph and Oliver, we have continued the practice to lay hands to confer Aaronic Priesthood. We should continue to respect that tradition. No one should baptize until they have had Aaronic priesthood conferred on them by someone who can trace their authority back to John the Baptist, through Joseph and Oliver. Importantly, however, before baptizing , one should obtain Christ’s ‘word’ through the Spirit. This is the same thing Alma did in Mosiah chapter 18:12 before baptizing. [Mosiah 18:12]. He may have previously been ordained in King Noah’s court, but Alma got the power to baptize from the Spirit. To perform a baptism, no matter what we have been taught and from whom, ask God to give you the power. Get His ‘word’ through the Spirit, just as Alma did. His example is in the scriptures to teach us the way. We have lost it, and need to reclaim it. If we get power to baptize, we get it from Him and then we are not dependent on someone else. Power is required. It must come from Christ. The pattern must be followed. Alma had been previously ordained as one of the priests in the court of the wicked King Noah. Alma had been ordained because he was wicked, an idolator, lifted up in pride, and flattering those who listened to him. Noah wanted him as a priest because he was corrupt. After Alma repented, but before using authority to baptize, he asked God to give him power. God, seeing his repentance, accepted it, and poured out His Spirit upon Alma to give him power to baptize. The proof of God’s approval was in Alma’s experience and the effect the ordinance on both Helam and Alma. When John the Baptist restored the authority he promised [JS-H 1:69, The gospel of repentance is turning to face God. Baptism by immersion is for the remission of sins.] John the Baptist did not say this authority would not be taken from the church, but that it would not be taken from ‘the earth.’ It was restored and will remain on the earth. It will be preserved by a faithful few until sons of Levi offer a righteous offering. It is still here, though it has been much neglected and much abused. It can be renewed using Alma’s example. Alma was just like Christ’s disciples. All got authority from His ‘word’ spoken by the power of the Spirit.” pp. 508-509.

 

How Not to Use the Priesthood

“One great sin is described in 2 Nephi 26:29: [2 Nephi 26:29]. [Zion can only come through consecration and sacrifice. Priestcraft interferes.] Alma 1:26 explains how it should work: [Alma 1:26]. [This ideal prohibits a professional clergy. Professional ministers interfere with equality. An unpaid ministry guards against pride, vanity and ambition. It requires sacrifice.] D&C 52:39-40 says: [D&C 52:39-40]. [To ‘labor with their own hands’ means they are not professionals paid for preaching. People tend to idolize professional clergy. To avoid idolatry, professional ministers are forbidden. This keeps people from the temptation of obtaining blessings at the hands of a compensated professional.] The prohibition on professional clergy is so ‘[t]hat there be no idolatry nor wickedness practiced.’ [‘Wickedness’ because when you have people elevated to professional status, religious authority leads to control. Control leads inexorably to abuse (See D&C 121:39). Contrariwise, if ministers can only persuade, they have little success, as most are never persuaded. This respects agency and requires the ministers to meekly accept their limitation.] ‘And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things , the same is not my disciple.’ [In both Alma and modern revelation the principles are: First, no professional clergy, second, ‘remember the poor, remember the needy.’ This is no happenstance. A professional clergy diverts funds from the poor.]” pp. 486-488.

“Never charge to perform an ordinance. The ordinance is between them and God. They need it performed for them by someone God has asked to do it. We must rise up to become the people God asks and empowers.” pp. 516-517.

 

Fellowship Meetings

“True religion, when it is present on the earth, always existed in a community of believers. If we do not have community then we cannot be willing to mourn with those that mourn. We cannot comfort those that stand in need of comfort. We cannot stand as a witness to one another of God at all times and of all places. We cannot bear one another’s burdens so they may be light, as is required by the gospel and the covenant of baptism. None of this can be done without fellowship between believers. However, we do not need a new corporate church. The only thing we need is a community to fellowship one another. Whether called a ‘community,’ or ‘fellowship’ or ‘society’ it does not matter. Legal entities, whenever formed, become prey to the law. Men can gain control over legal entities. Legal entities are vulnerable to sycophants willing to do whatever is required to show they are desperately submissive to those in power. Hierarchies invite abuse. Aspiring men can always corrupt whatever is organized on the earth. What then can remain pure? Consider the following as three things that can remain unmolested and uncorrupted: 1. The truth, which is fixed and cannot be touched by us. 2. God’s love, which is free and available to all. (Neither the truth nor God’s love requires effort on our part.) 3. Our desires. (That, however, requires effort. Nevertheless, it is possible our desires can be pure.) We need not leave behind anything that is good, noble or virtuous. But we do not need another legal entity. However, to preserve the restoration, the pattern of scripture needs to be more closely followed. This is no revolution, only a recollection. It is not abandoning anything, only preserving the essential foundation of true religion.” pp. 504-506.

“Meetings can be anywhere.” p. 513.

 

Sustaining to the Priesthood and Recording

“Because of the potential and actual abuse by some priesthood holding men, I asked the Lord to extend priesthood to women. I was told as to public rites, ‘priesthood is confined to men because of the Fall and the conditions ordained at that time’ [Moses 4:22; Gen. 3:16].Until things are reversed at the Millennium, it will remain for men alone to perform the public ordinances thus far given to us. This order is not going to change until the Millennium. I asked the Lord that if only men were to hold priesthood for public ordinances, then could only women vote to sustain them. This pleased the Lord, for it was already in His heart. But He added: ‘There shall be a minimum of seven women to sustain the man in any vote, and if the man is married, his wife shall be one of them.’ If you have already been ordained then you have the right to continue to minister to your family as a matter of right. But outside your family it is different. Even though already ordained, a community needs to recognize and authorize anyone to minister for them. For any who would qualify to minister outside his family, he must meet in a community and obtain a sustaining vote of a minimum of seven women [This is information provided to me by the Lord on the morning of July 27, 2014 only after the talk given in St. George, Utah the day before]. When that is done, all seven women who vote to sustain should sign a certificate. The JS Papers show copies of the certificates given in the early church. These were handwritten certificates to function as authorization. Among your own fellowships, do as they did in the early church. If the man is married, his wife must be among the seven women. If his wife will not sustain him, he is unworthy to provide priesthood service for the fellowship. There is nothing implied in the word regarding a man’s standing before God. Within the community of fellowship, until his wife is prepared to support him acting outside the family, his effort should be within his family. Husbands and wives are one flesh. The struggle to live that kind of oneness is godly, noble and elevating. The word ‘unworthy’ is not a statement of condemnation, but only of qualification. It was the word the Lord used and therefore I do not feel at liberty to change it. In all such matters it has been my experience that, with time, how the Lord orders things proves to be exceptionally wise, even if we do not immediately see it. As to single men, there is no impediment to following the pattern and being ordained in the absence of having a wife. But he should marry a woman willing to sustain him if he intends to use priesthood in a community of believers.” pp. 509-511.

 

Removing Authority to Act Within a Community or Fellowship

“Sustaining is by women, and removing authority to act within a community or fellowship is likewise to be done by the vote of women. If a man’s worthiness to function is called into question, then a conference can be convened to deal with the question. In removing authority, at least two witnesses should speak against the accused, and he should be allowed to speak on his behalf and call such witnesses as he chooses. Men can be witnesses, but only women are allowed to vote. Removal should be by unanimous vote [If a woman is present and cannot judge the matter she may abstain, and the vote of the remaining women, if unanimous and there are 12 votes, will be sufficient] of the women present, with at least 12 votes against a man to end his authority to act in the fellowship community. As for his family, he is free to do as he chooses, but he cannot act in the community until restored by the vote of a conference of that community.” pp. 511-512.

 

Divorce

“According to Christ, in Mark 10:2-9 divorce is a false precept, [Mark 10:2-9].” p. 512.

 

First Time Ordinations and Lines of Authority

“Joseph Smith was commanded by God to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph’s followers, like ancient Israel with Moses, failed to obtain the fullness [D&C 124:28]. The LDS Church has operated under a commission from the time they rejected the fullness offered through Joseph,  with limited authority, just as Israel did after Moses was taken. God decided when and how He would bring an end to the authority of the leaders of the LDS Church, just as He has ended the kingdom of the Jews through John. Once God acts, our doubt about it does not change what He has done. God is now free to proceed with another chapter in His ‘strange act.’ His house is a house of order, but since the days of Abraham, God’s house has included things about which mankind retained very little knowledge.” pp. 496-497.

“How does the authority to baptize come? Because John the Baptist laid his hand on Joseph and Oliver, we have continued the practice to lay hands to confer Aaronic Priesthood. We should continue to respect that tradition. No one should baptize until they have had Aaronic priesthood conferred on them by someone who can trace their authority back to John the Baptist, through Joseph and Oliver. Importantly, however, before baptizing , one should obtain Christ’s ‘word’ through the Spirit.” p. 508.

“There are people coming from different faiths to associate with fellowships, including RLDS or Community of Christ, fundamentalist groups, and other splinter ‘Mormon’ denominations. Some of these have been previously ordained within their affiliations. These, like men who are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran or other Christian faiths will need to be sustained and ordained. They should understand something about priesthood before being sustained. Once sustained, when ordaining someone to serve in these fellowships ordain no one to an office, only confer priesthood. Let everyone be equal. Keep lines of authority. It will reckon through the one who confers the priesthood. But power can only come from Christ. First time ordinations (after April 2014) should be done within a fellowship. All who are ordained in these communities should keep a record of the line of authority and pass it down. Be prepared to defend those lines of authority using the records kept. All of the women who vote to sustain should not only sign the certificate, but also record it in diaries or journals. Let records be kept so if anyone questions, there will be abundant witnesses and documentation. There can be conferences that can be called by anyone, but must include seven women if the business includes priesthood ordination. There is no need for any building to be purchased or built. Meetings can be anywhere.” pp. 512-513.

“[Speaking of the LDS Church…] We should respect and keep in place ordinations before April 2014. God did not complete the work and send a witness until April of that year, and then only as to LDS Church leadership.” pp. 518-519.

 

Conferences for Business

“There can be conferences that can be called by anyone, but must include seven women if the business includes priesthood ordination. There is no need for any building to be purchased or built. Meetings can be anywhere. In early Mormonism, church business was conducted by calling a conference. A conference was local if it involved an area, branch, ward or stake of the church. It was a general conference if everyone was invited. . . . During Joseph’s life, and for years afterward, a general conference could happen anywhere, and at any time.” p. 513.

“Conferences were held to resolve all questions, disputes, ordinations and even mission calls. Conferences using common consent allow those in fellowships with each other to prayerfully reason together and grow in unity. In one month of 1840, seven conferences were reported in the church’s newspaper. These were all organized locally and independent of central control.” p. 515.

 

Denomination Requirements and Proselyting

“Nothing new requires anyone to leave any church. This is only to add to anything we already have. There is no reason we cannot be part of a fellowship and also a member of the Lutheran Church, Catholic Church or LDS Church. We needn’t abandon any other church if we find value in service there. We should respect and keep in place ordinations before April 2014. God did not complete the work and send a witness until April of that year, and then only as to LDS Church leadership. Rather than abandon the church, let them hear our testimony of God’s ongoing work. Remember this is not limited to the LDS Church. Christ’s doctrine and baptism are for everyone. Proselyting has been halted in the nation of Israel because of an agreement between the LDS Church and that nation. But the restoration must continue there. Not through the LDS Church in violation of their agreement, but through the fellowships. In the Muslim block where religion is enforced by law, these fellowships can be part of their community even if members remain publicly part of the religion mandated by law. Every denomination in the world can be represented in these fellowships. This is not designed to limit the possibilities of shared faith, but to greatly expand them. The restoration must roll forth, even into places barring the LDS Church. Because these are informal, based only on the Doctrine of Christ, and require acceptance of Christ’s simple statement of His doctrine, faith to believe and act, repentance from sin and baptism, the result is that salvation can sweep the world across barriers now stopping the restoration from being heard.” pp. 518-519.

 

Sacrament

“The sacrament should be taken in the way God commanded. Partake of the sacrament in your families and in your gatherings. Christ commanded it. Follow the pattern in D&C 20:76 and Moroni 4:2-3. ‘Kneel with the church’ is how the scriptures direct it to be done. Use wine. If you are opposed to alcohol or have a medical condition that prevents you from using wine, use red grape juice. Use the symbol of the blood of our Lord. Red wine is bitter for a reason. Drinking that bitter wine in remembrance of His blood is symbolic and appropriate.” p. 521.

 

Preaching vs. Learning

“Another revelation in March 1830 confirms Christ’s doctrine and distinguishes it from tenets. D&C 19:21: I command you that you preach naught but repentance.’ [Skipping to verse 29:] ‘And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see. And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers. And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.’  That is the gospel and is what needs to be preached. We have veered away, preaching as doctrine commandments of men. D&C 19 acknowledges there are tenets. There are indeed many tenets in Christ’s faith. As to those, we are commanded to search them and understand their meaning, but not declare them to be doctrine. The thing we are required to have in unity and absolute agreement is the Doctrine of Christ. With that in common agreement, we should be able to fellowship with one another across every other religious divide.” p. 523.

 

Oversight

“The Book of Mormon is more prophecy than history. Before the Lord’s appearance to the Nephites, society broke down into tribes of families and friends. Immediately before the Lord’s coming return we should expect something similar. Therefore, part of the preparation by God’s house for the coming social chaos should include fellowshipping in local gatherings, completely apart from control by any centralized hierarchy. Only by functioning independently can we prepare for social chaos prophesied to accompany Zion, and precede the Lord’s return. There will also be indigenous prophet-led people coming to Zion, with God’s assistance. They are invited through this book to begin their own preparation. The manner of disseminating authority (by asking God to approve authority to baptize and, once received proceeding to baptize) allows preparation to begin worldwide simultaneously. Even isolated groups can begin to prepare.” p. 524.

“We will make mistakes, but should not make the same ones. Sometimes the way for people to become better acquainted with the Lord is for those who know Him to remain silent and allow others to approach Him. Everyone should gain strength and experience for themselves.” p.525.

“When we submit to the rule of God, we are left in a position where we must depend on Him. We then immediately realize our weaknesses. At that point we will all be tempted to have others tell us how to please God. We must resist the temptation. We must arise and seek Him directly.” p. 526.

 

What Will No Longer Work

“In an LDS baptismal interview the second question now is, ‘Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?’ As a condition of LDS Church baptism it requires a confession that the current church president is a prophet of God. This has been added, and does not conform to the Doctrine of Christ. According to Christ’s doctrine, it ‘cometh of evil.” Because the LDS Church no longer preaches the doctrine of Christ and has added commandments of men, baptism can only be renewed through the process described in this chapter. Therefore, as part of preserving the restoration, baptism is now offered correctly in the simplicity Christ commanded.” p.526.

 

Work for the Dead and a Temple

“Heaven will look for a temple in Zion to accurately reflect the pattern of heaven. When they see it has been built, they will come to embrace its builders and kiss their necks (Moses 7:63). They will only come when we are their sons and daughters, fully restored to the Family of God, united with them in belief, covenant, knowledge, and filled with the glory of God, which is intelligence.” p. 144.

“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 first 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.

 

Prophecy

“Prophesy is understood only after it is fulfilled. It is not for us to know beforehand the events with enough specificity so God’s will could be anticipated, prevented, or frustrated. If we knew what He was doing beforehand, we might try to prevent it. God can use any means He chooses to accomplish His promises. God does not disclose everything He is doing at the time it is underway.” p. 501.

 

Receiving New Revelation

“False spirits will come among us. Prideful and pretentious people will ask for honor. Honor God instead. Do not let a personal revelation replace the primacy of the scriptures. The scriptures are a faithful ruler by which to measure any new revelation. This book expounds scripture as Moroni did for Joseph, and as Christ did on the road to Emmaus the day of His resurrection. We must first remember and observe. Preserving the restoration requires us to be very familiar with the scriptures of the restoration. At present we should fear most our ignorance of them.” pp.528-529

 

Use of Scriptures

“Study the scriptures in fellowships and in families. We should teach our children to use written copies of the scriptures. Studies show that comprehension is greater using books as opposed to digital readers. Children should have their own scriptures to study. Teach them through the parables of Christ and teach them to see symbolism as something familiar. Get them to consider analogies and types as tools used in scripture. Help them to reason a problem through using the scriptures as a guide.” p. 529.

 

Individual Prayer

“We all must approach God through prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said prayer should be in secret. Matthew 6:5-8: [Matthew 6:5-8]. When praying in secret, we do not need to consider what others may think of our vocabulary, content, sentence structure, dangling participles, or embarrassing confessions. It is between the individual and God. Our Lord’s example of prayer was so private His disciples had to come to Him and ask: ‘Lord teach us how to pray’ (Luke 11:1). They witnessed Him praying, but could not overhear Him. When He went to pray, He went out alone, apart (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46). Sometimes He spent all night praying (Luke 6:12). The fact He prayed was known by His followers but the content of His prayers were secret. We have two clear examples (John 11:41-42; John Chapter 17). We have the example from the Sermon on the Mount in response to the inquiry, ‘Teach us how to pray.’ He taught them how (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9-13). We also have His forlorn prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where He begs to have a cup removed from Him (Matthew 26:39). When our Lord prayed, His prayers were private. He lived what He taught. He did what He said. do not pray for to be seen of men (See Matthew 6:5; 3 Nephi 13:6). John chapter 17 is the great intercessory prayer. Look at how He addressed His Father: ‘These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven.’  [He did not bow His head or fold His arms. He spoke aloud with His eyes lifted upward.] We have the example involving Lazarus. John 11:41 says: [John 11:41]. [Again, addressing His Father while looking upward.] Of course the scriptures have examples of prayer by one lying prostrated on the ground. In one example, the man bowed and beat on his breast, and would not so much as lift his eyes up to heaven. But even in this case the implicit presumption of the example used by the Lord was that the man’s eyes should be lifted up into heaven when addressing the Father. How would you like it if someone spoke to you with his back turned? Look up. Speak to heaven above. As we reach up to Him in prayer, He will reach down to us. In the beginning there was a law ordained before the foundation of the world upon which all blessings are predicated. That law is as easily accessible by the father of King Lamoni, as to the father of the young man who was overtaken and fell into the fire and water. It was as accessible to the brother of Jared as it is to all of us. When the law before the foundation of the world was ordained, it was intended for all to receive God’s fullness. If receiving His fullness required a course in rabbinical reasoning, or an advanced theological degree, there would be almost none who are saved. But the Book of Mormon gives us account after account of encounters between mankind and God where the only qualification was a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Those who do not have the required broken heart and contrite spirit come away saying, ‘God maketh no such thing known unto us’ (1 Nephi 15:8-11). Like Laman and Lemuel, their iron necks and brass brows (This is often how God’s chosen people react; see 1 Nephi 20:4) prevent them from looking up to God to be saved.”  pp. 381-383.

 

Praying in the Fellowships

“Early in this dispensation, one of the things regularly done in meetings was group prayer where everyone prayed in turn. Everyone prayed. The meeting would last until all present had prayed. They called it a ‘Prayer Meeting.’ Joseph Knight had difficulty praying with a group. A revelation commanded him to pray: ‘thou must pray vocally before the World as well as in Secret & in thy family & among thy friends & in all Places.’ His son, Newell, had similar difficulty and received a similar command by revelation through Joseph Smith. Prayer by all present was a regular part of early church services, particularly when they hoped to receive revelation. As the minutes of the second conference of the church on September 26, 1830 record: ‘Prayer by all present.’ More than two years later a conference of the church on December 27, 1832 recorded that Joseph Smith ‘recommended all present to prey [sic] separately and vocally to the Lord for to reveel [sic] his will unto us concerning the upbuilding of Zion.’ All present prayed vocally and separately, hoping for a revelation. Prayer should not be limited to the opening and closing of meetings. Have everyone pray in turn.” pp. 529-530.

 

Giving to the Poor

“As soon as his people covenanted with God to receive their redemption through the atonement of Christ, King Benjamin’s attention turns to the needs of the poor. He taught those who were converted to think of the needs of others. This is what James would call ‘pure religion’ (See James 1:27; see also James 2:14-18). It changes the world, here and now. Instead of suffering, the unfortunate are ministered to by others because their religion requires it of them. King Benjamin’s instruction to those who covenanted with God to apply the atonement on their behalf was: [Mosiah 4:16]. There was no room for judging the needy. There was only the obligation to give. As he counseled: [Mosiah 4:17]. [In other words: Maybe the beggars deserve to suffer. Maybe it is their fault. Maybe they shouldn’t have used drugs, or behaved so poorly they lost their jobs, or run away from home and family who would have cared for them if they hadn’t strayed, or any number of other circumstances to conclude ‘their punishments are just.’ Maybe they are all at fault. Maybe they do deserve condemnation, not help. Maybe helping facilitates wickedness. Yes, maybe you shouldn’t help, after all.] King Benjamin anticipates these thoughts and warns: [Mosiah 4:18]. [We judge the beggar this way, even if we are right about their ‘punishments’ being ‘just,’ then we have need to repent. We have no right to do this. We will not be forgiven by God, and cannot enter His kingdom. We are to help the beggar. That is all.] [Mosiah 4:19]. [We only have what you possess in this life as a result of God’s mercy and kindness to us. Even if we think we ‘deserve’ what we own because we have worked hard for it, we are nevertheless beggars whose very existence is drawing upon God’s power to live, and move (Mosiah 2:21).] King Benjamin warned us: [Mosiah 4:22-23]. This has been in our Book of Mormon since 1830. But we hear that the only way we are to help the poor should be through fast offerings, institutionalizing our charity. That would not satisfy King Benjamin. There will be no collective salvation. There is no such thing as group-charity sufficient to qualify us to avoid individual condemnation for refusing the beggar who asks us individually to help. This is the subject addressed by King Benjamin to those who have entered into a covenant with God to obtain a remission of their sins. King Benjamin does not concern himself with all the ways it is possible to get it wrong (Mosiah 4:29). Mankind gets it wrong all the time. The great challenge is to finally get it right. His sermon is an attempt to describe how society may finally overcome failure and draw close to God. Individual righteousness is a rare thing in this world, but it happens more frequently than collective righteousness. King Benjamin’s talk is about societal success, or collective righteousness. Once converted, the work begins. His sermon continues: [Mosiah 4:24]. [Even the poor are required to have a charitable heart. They may lack the means, but they cannot lack the heart. Everyone must have a disposition to help one another. Unless we are willing to render aid to one another, we cannot possibly become one. Until we walk in one another’s shoes, we cannot become one. It isn’t possible to bear one another’s burdens when we are oblivious to the burdens they bear. Alma would preach this as a requirement to be baptized (See Mosiah 18:8-10). Until we are like-minded we don’t even qualify for the ordinance offered by Alma.] The Book of Mormon continues: [Mosiah 4:25]. Coveting is a vile personal failure, and so foreign to becoming ‘one’ as a people, that it is condemned in the Ten Commandments (See Exodus 20:17). It prevents us from being equal. Equality is required for Zion.” pp. 230-233

 

Tithing

See “How To Administer Tithing Within a Fellowship (From Denver Snuffer, Jr., ‘Preserving the Restoration’)“. There is nothing in Denver’s book that suggests a fellowship needs to administer tithing in order to be a fellowship, although tithing is a commandment from the Lord for individuals (“All us of remain free to practice the restored faith, even if no one else joins in the practice with you,” p. 256), and experimenting on tithing within fellowships is required to prepare for Zion (“There is a great work to do. It is not all to be done in one step. Unless we are willing to experiment, live the Law of Tithing and govern ourselves, it will be impossible to make the transition [to Zion]. The people of God will do this,” p.267, “to Zion” clarification added, see prior context).

 

Consecration

“At the beginning of the restoration, the Lord cautioned the early believers that they were required to be equal in temporal things. Because they refused to do so, they forfeited the spiritual manifestations that necessarily accompany Zion. ‘Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld’ (D&C 70:14). They failed. We do not even attempt it. We probably shouldn’t attempt it until we first repent and receive the religion the Lord once attempted to restore through Joseph Smith.” p. 233.

 

Other Items

“An unchanging God has an unchanging gospel. Rather than taking pride in our ordinances, we should view ourselves in our lost and fallen state. Rebuild faith through repentance. Once the inward part has been cleansed there will be time to worry about the outward part.” p. 230.

“We should follow all that has been given to us in scripture. We should be completing the restoration, not throwing anything away. We are trying to preserve, return, and renew. Nothing given through Joseph should be discarded if it is useful, laudable, worthy, desirable, or came through the restoration. God’s purpose is to preserve, not abandon, the restoration.” p. 519.

 

Righteousness

“We have been told, ‘For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance’ (D&C 1:31). [We should all recognize and hold ourselves accountable for our failings and weaknesses. Conversely, we should see no such failing or weaknesses in our fellow man. We should judge every man by the standard we want applied to ourselves. Take no offense, and freely forgive.]” p. 253.

“[Ether 3:3]. [There was no pride. He did not resent being chastened. He did not believe he was worthy. We are in no better position than the brother of Jared. We do not even know enough to be ‘good’ before God. We are not intelligent enough. Our pseudo-virtues are deeply offensive to God (Rising to honor a religious man is offensive to God). Some things that we believe offend God, do not (Taking God’s name in vain does NOT involve ‘swear words’ but instead cloaking a false message with the pretense of God’s approval. ‘Swearing’ is nothing; mere words we react to in childish ways). Our righteousness is pseudo-righteousness at best. Much of our justified guilt is a gift to bring us the humility to come to God. Weaknesses of the flesh will not last into the resurrection. Nowhere in verse 3 are there any self-justifying claims of the proud. There is no claim to be God’s chosen. There is no claim of worthiness. Righteousness includes accepting God’s chastening.” p. 366.

 

Gathering

“There is no reason ‘to gather to Zion’ to fail again. We do not need another Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, Kirtland, Jackson County, or Nauvoo. We certainly do not need another Salt Lake. We need Zion. Until you are prepared, stay home, serve in your callings and be happy. Not everyone will be gathered. Only ‘one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion’ (Jeremiah 3:14). Zion will be where the qualified meet. It will not be where people come to get qualified.” p. 262.

“Remember when it comes to the establishment of Zion, there is no such thing as ‘hastening the work.’ It cannot be done in haste: [3 Nephi 20:42]. [D&C 63:24]. [This instruction from 1831 will apply when the Lord gathers once again. Just as it did before, haste (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 51) will bring pestilence to the land of gathering.] [D&C 101:68]. [There will probably be excess funds from your collections. The excess can be used to prepare a place, but not in haste. Whether there will be a place prepared for you depends entirely on whether you prepare.]” pp. 263-264.

 

Obtaining a Covenant

“The Lord saves, but uses covenant-making as a part of His process. We don’t get to make covenants, but we do get to accept them if the Lord offers them to us. It must be the Lord’s offer and our acceptance for it to have effect.” p. 234.

“This is the day when, at long last, what God promised would happen before His return is now beginning. The gospel is not a record of how God dealt with another people at another time. We must obtain our own covenant: ‘Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you and the people of the nineteenth century. You, no doubt, will agree with us, and say, that you have no right to claim the promises of the inhabitants of the flood; that you cannot found your hopes of salvation upon the obedience of the children of Israel when journeying in the wilderness, nor can you expect that the blessings which the apostles pronounced upon the churches of Christ eighteen hundred years ago, were intended for you. Again, if others’ blessings are not your blessings, others’ curses are not your curses; you stand then in these last days, as all have stood before you, agents unto yourselves, to be judged according to your works’ (TPJS, p. 12). The gospel must come to life through us, or we have no hope. Joseph also said: ‘[W]e cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients for they are not our property, merely because they were made to the ancient Saints, yet if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our Lord as they were, we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached Him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John and the other Apostles, with the churches at Sardis, Pergamos, Philadelphia, and elsewhere walked in the fear of God, and had power and faith to reveal and obtain them; but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ; even as they did; and when these promises are obtained, they will be promises directly to us, or they will do us no good’ (TPJS, p. 66). We cannot rely on the sacrifices of Joseph and Hyrum to save us, nor claim a covenant long since changed and broken by all of the sects claiming Joseph. We must have the faith to renew and then keep a covenant with God. It is apparent from the original transcripts of the revelations given to Joseph that it was Joseph alone whose revelations were binding on the church. Added headings, footnotes, cross-references and extraneous material have been added. Those additions advocate a new interpretation of the revelations to include other leaders, not just Joseph Smith. But the earliest transcripts reproduced in The Joseph Smith Papers, clarify that God called the church ‘living’ and ‘alive’ and ‘approved,’ because Joseph was His prophet. God was then talking to Joseph. There was an authentic and continuing open line of communication between God and the church. It has long since ended. The work was ‘rolling forth’ in that day with Joseph. Those converted actually had experiences and came to know God. God empowered the restoration and set it in motion through His servant Joseph Smith. Joseph had a covenant from God. Therefore, Joseph could testify to God’s words, and God ratified Joseph’s testimony. People who listened received the wages of following God. We cannot mimic that for the same effect until we do the work, obtain God’s voice to us, and He authorizes us to proceed. God must declare to us, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ If no one else will say it to you, I am saying it to you: God has authorized this work to begin again. This book [‘Preserving the Restoration’] is approved by Him and written under His inspiration and guidance. God is offering again, right now, in our day, to any that will hear, to any that will listen to begin again. What began in Joseph’s day has run its course. It has become a leaky ruin of a farm that Joseph himself no longer wants. This was necessary for God to begin anew. These are the signs of the times. The whole world is waxing old like a garment. God promised He would do this before the end. If we bear fruit, the Lord may give more time and keep the angels from beginning the harvest. That will depend on what we do. If we fail to rise up, He will find another people. We only have an opportunity. We do not have a guarantee. We must rise up in faith to take advantage of the opportunity. At the beginning of the restoration there were some great opportunities. Not much came of them. A church conference on October 25-26, 1831 allowed several additional men to receive the high priesthood. During the first day of the conference Joseph taught them that ‘the order of the High priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life.’ Sidney Rigdon who spoke afterward added this caution about those who were to receive the ‘privilege… to be ordained to the High Priesthood, telling them if they then should doubt God would withdraw his Spirit from them.’ Following Rigdon, Joseph again addressed those who would be ordained and said ‘he had a testimony that each had one tallent [sic] and if after being ordained they should hide it God would take it from them.’ On the second day, following an opening prayer by David Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon again spoke and warned them because of their indifference to be ordained to that office, exhortation to faith and obedience setting forth the power of that office’ (The minutes of the conference are found at JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, pp. 80-87). We can show indifference or proceed in faith. We can fail, or through humility and genuine desire we can connect with heaven. Let me end by testifying that however unlikely this may seem to you, it was just as improbable when John came baptizing. It was just as improbably when Christ ministered. It was just as improbable when Joseph Smith said, ‘I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it’ (JS-H 1:25). It may seem improbable, but what I have written is nevertheless true and an invitation from God for us to return to Him. In 1832 the Lord said He was then nearby and offered to draw near to them if they drew near to Him (D&C 88:62-63). It did not happen then. He is now willing again to draw near to those who will seek Him.” pp. 530-533.

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).

It is one of the basic parts of the doctrine of Christ that the believer repents of their sins. Because it is so basic and common a part of the core of the gospel, it is also easily exploited by false leaders and incorrect policies. But first, let’s look again at the definition of repentance.
The Lord said in a revelation to Joseph Smith, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43). This accords with a translation Joseph Smith did of Mark 9:40: “Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell” (Joseph Smith’s additions in italics).
The first entry for “confess” in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary reads:

CONFESS‘, verb transitive [Latin , to own or acknowledge.]

1. To own, acknowledge or avow, as a crime, a fault, a charge, a debt, or something that is against one’s interest, or reputation.

The other entries are not much different than the first, so this definition will suffice.
The full entry for “forsake” is as follows:

FORSA’KE, verb transitive preterit tense forsook; participle passive forsaken. See Seek .]

1. To quit or leave entirely; to desert; to abandon; to depart from. Friends and flatterers forsake us in adversity.

Forsake the foolish, and live. Proverbs 9:6.

2. To abandon; to renounce; to reject.

If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments – Psalms 89:30.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath. Psalms 37:8.

3. To leave; to withdraw from; to fail. In anger, the color forsakes the cheeks. In severe trials, let not fortitude forsake you.

4. In scripture, God forsakes his people, when he withdraws his aid, or the light of his countenance.

The word history for “forsake” reads:

forsake (v.) Old English forsacan “object to, oppose, refuse, deny; give up, renounce” (past tense forsoc, past participle forsacen), from for- “completely” + sacan “to struggle, dispute, wrangle; accuse, blame” (see sake). Related: Forsaking. Similar formation in Old Saxon farsakan, Dutch verzaken, Old High German farsahhan “deny, repudiate,” Danish forsage “give up, refuse.” Forsake is chiefly applied to leaving that by which natural affection or a sense of duty should or might have led us to remain: as, to forsake one’s home, friends, country, or cause; a bird forsakes its nest. In the passive it often means left desolate, forlorn. [Century Dictionary]

The reason we have gone to a greater length to lay out the definition of “forsake” will become obvious in a moment. If you look at the word history, the prefix “for-” means “completely”, and together with the suffix, the possible full definition includes “object to, oppose, refuse, deny; give up, renounce.” Each of these similar verbs and behaviors are still different enough as to lead to ambiguity over what it means to forsake one’s sins. Does it mean to completely “give up” and abandon the behavior, with no slip ups in the future? Or, does it simply mean to completely “object to” the behavior in one’s heart, even if you continue to make the same or similar mistakes throughout your life? This ambiguity has led to religious leaders holding sins over people’s heads so long as they continue to fall prey to temptation. They would likely have denied Nephi a temple recommend with the “completely abandon” definition, though, as he confessed:

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. (2 Nephi 4:17-19)

However, Alma’s example proves that forgiveness from repentance is immediate, and not a process over time:

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36:18-20)

Character development over time is indeed a legitimate teaching, but it is not what repentance is defined as. Denver Snuffer contrasted the two by saying, “The development of a godly character happens in stages, gradually. We are forgiven in an instant, suddenly” (See Denver Snuffer’s posts here and here).
It is for this reason that we think the scriptural definition of forsake is “to completely oppose a behavior in one’s heart”. A criminal may admit that stealing is wrong, for example, but he may still love doing it; but, if he has confessed it as wrong, and forsaken it in his heart, he may still be tempted and commit a crime if he were homeless and wanting bread, all the while hating what he is doing. In the latter example, the criminal has repented, but hasn’t developed the necessary character to sacrifice for principle’s sake.
Confessing to the priests is an extension of the Lord’s command to let your yea’s be yea and your nay’s be nay (3 Nephi 12:37). If, in your understanding, your culture commits you to certain agreements with your priests, then you are duty bound to make an accounting of your discharge of those duties. The duties, in and of themselves, however, may not be moral issues at all. What is at issue is your understanding of what you agreed to, your priests’ understanding of what you agreed to, and whether or not you truly broke that trust, and if that agreement between the two of you (or between you and the rest of your fellow congregation) is mutual. A bishop of an LDS Ward offers a convenient way to confess the breaking of that trust you owe to your congregation and your leaders.
However, if you gain correct insight into the meaning of the scriptures and the true requirements of the Lord, the truth shall set you free (John 8:32). There may be some moral issues you owe to your congregation to confess to if you cross certain lines, but certainly many traditional views on what needs to be confessed to another person go out the door the more you understand the scriptures. Most things are between you and the Lord, and reconciliation with others follows common sense principles that the scriptures often touch upon (see D&C 42:88-93). If no one else is offended by your actions, leave it between you and the Lord. However, if “thy brother hath aught against thee–Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother” (3 Nephi 12:23-24). A bishop need not be involved unless you’ve offended the Bishop with an actual offense (and not a made up one they are persecuting you about). If you’ve done something that affects your standing in society, like committed a crime worthy of jail time, you probably owe it to your Bishop to mention that fact so he can take the necessary precautions for the group he represents, and so that he can do his duty in removing any privileges you have among a congregation that you shouldn’t have, for as long as is necessary.
What is most important is to see that the Bishop is not a representative of the Lord in this role, with whom you must go to for spiritual absolution. There is no intermediary between you and God. The Bishop is merely a representative of a congregation appointed to hear confessions of crimes AGAINST THE GROUP ONLY, who mediates reconciliation efforts between you and that group…PERIOD. He does not, and never can, represent God’s absolution of your private sins against God. A church and church representatives only offer an official community confession forum. Other sins are not their prerogative. The same goes for Priesthood holders. Priesthood is a relationship with the heavens, and the only rank and file leader you need to be concerned about is God Himself. You take care of your own Priesthood stewardship, and if you are not worthy in the Lord’s definition of the term…which more often refers to procedural worthiness, like having the correct priestly qualifications, common consent, and most importantly, the Lord’s permission for every act in the Priesthood, then you meekly excuse yourself from service for the necessary time (see Mosiah 21:33). If you have done something serious that affects your standing in the community, like adultery, then you ought to confess to your community and relevant concerned groups.
We are far away from understanding what it means in the scriptures where some few are given power to retain or remit sins on earth and in heaven (see John 20:23 and D&C 132:46), and certainly the Bishop’s role as judge amongst the people (D&C 107:74) does not rise to this level of trust. It is merely a common place role of being a representative chosen by a group. This is the outward ordinance style of the Aaronic Priesthood, and the temporal labor appointed someone who should take caution not to go beyond their bounds in authority with the Lord. And, as the Lord has ended the priesthood claims of the leadership of the LDS Church (see here), there is certainly no Stake level or General Authority level leader with this power to absolve sins as a representative of the LDS Church.
When we were in the Church, we felt the obligation to confess to our leaders when we went contrary to the cultural expectations there, and we were not rebellious. We confessed every time our consciences told us we weren’t towing the line like it was expected of us. I was a lifelong member and my wife was a convert. From the days of my youth, when I needed to confess serious sins, I did so. As I got older and established a family, I kept pace with smaller concerns. My wife did as well. We had no serious transgressions needing confession at the time of our resignation and we have none now. We have clear consciences when it comes to the discharge of our duties and obligations as former members of the LDS Church, and we have “gone not only the second mile, but paused and considered what more we could’ve done” to paraphrase an injunction in my Patriarchal blessing that we both took very seriously as it concerned our work in every calling, and for me, as it concerned my Priesthood service. Anyone who knows us and our labors in the Church over the years can attest to this fact. We only mention it to qualify what we are saying concerning the true nature of confessing sins as the scriptures outline them, having faithfully jumped through the hoops, implied and explicit, that the LDS Church has set up concerning this topic. We know somewhat of the contrast, and we appreciate the plainness of the Lamb of God and His requirements for forgiveness, in comparison to the traditions within the LDS Church. That being said, we are always learning more about the Lord’s intended meanings and are astonished at His doctrine as the Atonement plays a role in our lives. We hope you find the same measure of peace that we have found in going directly to the Lord for forgiveness, and in reconciling with your neighbor in the way and manner He reveals to you when necessary.
The Lord invites: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
The scriptures talk about a godly conversation (1 Peter 1:15; 2 Peter 3:11; D&C 20:69). Perhaps confession to God is more about understanding the category of sin, than it is about the particulars He already knows about. Surely acknowledging the incident with God can play a part, but overall, do you think God would be more satisfied with the person who confesses that the time they stole bread was wrong, but then goes on to steal time from their employer, ignorant of the continuation of their stealing mentality; or with the person who recognizes how their desires and actions are contrary to His commandments in general, and forsakes the breaking of those commandments no matter how sin manifests itself? Like King Benjamin said, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them” (Mosiah 4:29), and Jacob: “O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12).
Overall, what is important is that, as a part of our confession of faith, we acknowledge the law of God and confess which activities and behaviors really are sinful, showing a godly conversation in that we have the intelligence communicated to us about what is the wrong course for our lives, and we know how to articulate right from wrong. Besides, this gift is given freely (see Helaman 14:30-31, 2 Nephi 2:4 and 2 Nephi 26:27). Denver Snuffer mentioned how the Lord’s instructions for prayer benefited the person confessing sins: “In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said prayer should be in secret. Matthew 6:5-8…When praying in secret, we do not need to consider what others may think of our vocabulary, content, sentence structure, dangling participles, or embarrassing confessions. It is between the individual and God” (Preserving the Restoration, p.382). The Lord articulated more in the law to the church in D&C 42:

If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her. D&C 42:92.

Embarrassing private sins can remain between an individual and the Lord. For the example the Lord set for how to pray, Denver mentioned, “John chapter 17 is the great intercessory prayer. Look at how He addressed His Father: ‘These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven.’ [He did not bow His head or fold his arms. He spoke aloud with His eyes lifted upward.]…How would you like it if someone spoke to you with his back turned? Look up. Speak to heaven above. as we reach up to Him in prayer, He will reach down to us….If receiving His fullness required a course in rabbinical reasoning, or an advanced theological degree, there would be almost none who are saved. But the Book of Mormon gives us account after account of encounters between mankind and God where the only qualification was a broken heart and a contrite spirit” [and we might add, there was no qualification to confess to a priest or bishop in these examples, only instances where the repentant endeavored to repair the wrongs they had done when their crimes warranted it…see Helaman 5:17] “Those who do not have the required broken heart and contrite spirit come away saying, ‘God maketh no such thing known unto us.’ Like Laman and Lemuel, their iron necks and brass brows prevent them from looking up to God to be saved” (Preserving the Restoration, pp.382-383).
We’ll end this post with a simple review of the story of the ten lepers who were cleansed by God who was with them, for He was the true Priest. Having leprosy made someone unclean under the Mosaic Law, much like many of the transgressions maintained by Latter-day Saints as warranting a need to confess to a bishop make someone “unclean” in LDS culture.
And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Luke 17:11-19.

To the cleansed leper that found the true Priest, even Jesus Christ, the Lord said “Go thy way,” as in, there was no need for him to go to see his ecclesiastical priests.

In looking for strictly scriptural guidance on how to pay proper tithes and offerings, the first scripture we came to was the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14, found after the Bible Dictionary in the LDS scriptures:

And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace. And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God; Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor. Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need. (JST Genesis 14:36-39)

Tithing in Abraham’s day was defined as “[that] which God had given him more than that which he had need.” It was not a tenth, but more accurately, the “surplus”. This accords with D&C 119, but of course, D&C 119 introduces a change in policy that shifted the responsibility of part of the surplus administration…

O! Lord, show unto thy servents how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people  for a Tithing?
Answer. Verrily thus saith  the Lord I require all their surpluss, property to be put into the hands of the Bishop of my  Church of Zion, for the building of mine house and for the Laying the foundation of Zion, and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the presidency of my Church, and this shall be the begining of the tithing of my people, and  after that, those, who have thus been tithed, shall pay one tenth of all their interest anually, And this shall be a standing Law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood saith the Lord, Verrily I say unto you, it shall  come to pass, that all those who gather unto  the land of Zion, shall be tithed of their surpluss properties, and shall observe this Law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you. and I say unto you, If my people observe not this Law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the Land of Zion unto me, that my Statutes and my Judgements, may be kept thereon that it may be most holy, behold verrily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you, and this shall be an ensample unto all the stakes of Zion, even so Amen. (D&C 119, spelling as in earliest manuscript Revelation, Far West, MO, 8 July 1838; in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p.56; handwriting of George W. Robinson; CHL).

In the historical context included in prior revelations in the D&C, tithing maintained the definition of all surplus properties as administered in United Orders through the Law of Consecration. Because of the abuses of John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and other leaders (the Missouri Presidency and committee members who spent the tithing/surplus monies to buy land in Far West, who sold properties in Independence against the express command of the Lord, and pocketed some of the land sale proceeds for themselves; see Minute Book 2, The Far West Record, beginning with 7 Apr 1837 entry until the 5-6 Oct 1838 Conference entry), the Lord gave D&C 119 to reduce the law to the following:

  1. Instead of all surplus properties being given to the leadership of the church as a tithe, (since they royally screwed things up such that these abuses were cited in many of their excommunication trials), the Lord dissolved the United Order in Missouri and…
  2. Instead required the Saints to make one more surplus contribution (see D&C 119:1-3), and then…
  3. The Lord removed from the leadership the responsibility of administering the surplus amounts on an ongoing basis and instead retained the requirement for individuals to administer to the poor of their surplus on their own, and…
  4. The Lord required for the members to only have to contribute a tenth of their surplus to the church for the poor who appealed to the church itself for relief (D&C 119:4, and also verse 1 which lists the first instruction for both the contributed initial surplus, and the tenth thereafter to be put into the hands of the bishop of the church, who in Joseph Smith’s day only administered the storehouse for the poor. Verse 2 also includes the stated purpose of “laying the foundation of Zion,” which if the leaders understood the scriptures, expressly includes having no poor among them), and for other legitimate debts, to be governed by “the voice of the Lord” to the council on the disposition of the tithes (D&C 120).

D&C 120 reads:

Revelation Given the same day July 8th 1838
Making known the disposition of the properties  tithed, as named in the preceeding revelation—
Verrily thus saith the Lord, the time has now  come that it shall be disposed of, by a council  composed of the first Presidency of my Church and of the Bishop and his council and by <my> high Council, and <by> mine own voice unto them saith the Lord, even so Amen. (D&C 120, spelling as in earliest manuscript Revelation, Far West, MO, 8 July 1838; in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 57; handwriting of George W. Robinson; CHL.)

Obviously the poor have no surplus, and hence no requirement to give anything to the church, and “interest” is defined in Webster’s 1828 dictionary of that era as being synonymous with “surplus” and not “income”.

This accords with Numbers 18:25-32:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the Lord of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord’s heave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the Lord, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die. (Numbers 18:25-32)

Therefore the people paid a tenth of the tithe, or a tenth of their surplus, to the priests who made use of this tenth for the poor, the Lord’s house, and other legitimate church debts.

Contrary to current LDS practice, however, legitimate church debts do not include a paid ministry, which is priestcraft, and shouldn’t be seen as covering living expenses, but would be the equivalent of getting a free temple cafeteria dinner only while you worked your shift as a temple worker. The Levites and Priests still would have to work for their own support on their off time. This is a much misunderstood principle which the Book of Mormon corrects and makes abundantly clear (see Mosiah 18:25-29 and Alma 1:26-31 for instance).

After giving a tenth of the surplus to a community storehouse for the poor, the rest of the surplus, or the other 90% of one’s increase, is to be used first to increase your own stewardship if needed (such as buying new equipment to produce your marketable items next year, see D&C 42:29-39), then the rest is to be distributed to the poor as well (see D&C 73). If you don’t need certain items in your stewardship for the next year, then instead of taking from the 90% of your increase, you add more to the surplus. All of the 90% (plus or minus your stewardship adjustments) are to be given to the poor. You do not need to belong to a United Order to live the Law of Consecration (see Lectures on Faith, L6). All it takes is one person willing to live these principles who has faith that, whatever they give up one year when it is not needed, will be obtainable another year, even if it has to come through a miracle in your view. An old proverb in Ecclesiastes says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). You can give 90% of your net increase to the poor on your own and tithe 10% to a fellowship in your community or to another worthy charitable organization. The argument that you would pay on your net increase and not your gross is well documented in the scriptures concerning consecration after providing first for your own legitimate wants and needs (see D&C 42:32-33).

Denver Snuffer outlined ways in which anyone can participate in paying tithing, no matter what denomination or faith they belong to:

“I talked about paying and administering your own tithes in Grand Junction. I want to remind you that if you do that, none of it should go to the priests. None of it should go to anything other than helping the poor” (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, p.4).

“In Grand Junction I spoke about tithing. I talked about organizing yourselves, collecting your own tithing and managing it yourselves, to assist the poor who are among you, and to do this by the voice of your own local group. Do it by common consent. Provide for those who need housing, food, clothing, healthcare, education and transportation. Do it by the voice of united agreement of you all in small groups in which all know one another. Since that time there have been several groups that have begun. Two groups are assisting single mothers with their needs. One group is assisting a family. One group has no needy among them, and they’ve accumulated for large charitable purposes, and they bought for a quadriplegic, a sophisticated electric wheelchair with the tithing money that they gathered.

I have also heard of some failing experiments, where frustration and contention have been problems. As the scriptures warn, and I discussed in Grand Junction, we must overcome ‘jarrings,’ ‘contentions,’ ‘envyings,’ ‘strifes,’ ‘lusts’ meaning ambitions, and ‘covetous desires.’ These conflicts need to be worked out before any gathering. All of the social ills of our day are in the churches of our day. Every denomination that came from Joseph Smith’s ministry is plagued with the same shortcomings. Before any gathering, we must be put through a refining process. We must grow; we must rise up first, before God will gather us to Zion.

There is no reason to pay for priesthood service. Serving should always require sacrifice. Do not pay for ministers. I would recommend if you choose to participate in a tithing group, you do it in the same manner described in Grand Junction. Do it voluntarily among yourselves. Community is necessary. I do not know how you can bear one another’s burdens without administering your own tithes, administering your own fast offerings, doing things to help those people who are in need.

Some are giving tithing to an organization that is purchasing commercial and residential real estate, farms, and developing shopping centers, but has little left by comparison to give to the poor. Even though they give money to help the poor, billions spent in commercial ventures dwarf the amount. If you choose to participate that, that is up to you, but try and care for those among you who have needs. Try to participate in helping others and fellowshipping with them.” (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, p.21)

Fast Offerings are another way someone can give more to the poor…not through the increase they have earned or produced, but through sacrifice. Therefore, fast offerings can even be for when you don’t have any increase one year, but want to live your religion of giving to the poor. You can always sacrifice something you need in order to give to those even less fortunate than yourself. It is how you can still give out of your own free will and good desires even if you have a loss one year, or for many years, so you don’t lose the habit of living that pure religion that is undefiled (see James 1:27). In acknowledging this option for the poor, we emphasize that there is no scriptural support for tithing, or even fast offerings, being required by the Lord of the poor, or at least, no support for priests or any leaders to have any authority to require it. In fact, there are many scriptures that suggest that the poor are only to receive, unless they sacrifice through freewill offerings to be able to give some small amount themselves, or to make reconciliation for crimes committed in a much discounted way proportionate to what they are able to afford (see Leviticus 5:7,11; Leviticus 23:22; Matthew 12:1-9). And, concerning the latter, the Lord quoted scripture and said, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7).

It’s patronizing to have people assume you have troubles in your life because of leaving the LDS Church, but we understand the sentiment. We have felt the same way before as members sometimes act towards us now. Wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10), and it is assumed leaving the LDS Church is a wicked thing to do.

It can be, but isn’t always.

Turning against the light and knowledge you’ve gained is a wicked thing (D&C 93:39). Sometimes leaving the LDS Church is synonymous with turning against light and truth, depending on your circumstances. But, the Gospel path is a lonely and difficult road, full of persecution when you are learning more and getting closer to God (3 Nephi 12:10-12). In such cases, leaving the LDS Church could be equated to Lehi leaving Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2:2), Abinadi preaching against the wicked priests (Mosiah 12), or Christ before the Jewish council (Matthew 22:66-71), if what you are learning is higher knowledge than what the priests in your day have received (3 Nephi 7:18).

If you are truly on a higher path, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else, just more believing. You will still make just as many mistakes and sin as often as others, but perhaps in different ways than them as you reject old sins that are no longer desirable. True belief is villainized, ridiculed, and thought to be impossible to achieve. Very few others believe.

Ironically, gross errors and wild imaginations are also rarely believed, and rightly rejected by others, leading some to think those forbidden paths are the “correct” paths simply because they are not popular. The phenomenon looks the same as true belief. People who indulge in wild fantasies are as heavily persecuted as those who truly believe in God and the resurrection of Christ, and who love His appearing. But, those who indulge in fantasy sometimes believe they are on the right path simply because they are being persecuted. It will always be this way, so that our faith might be tested and true. You cannot detect a true path simply because it involves being persecuted, or is a lonely path in and of itself (3 Nephi 12:10-11 says that the only ones who are blessed are those who are persecuted for “[Christ’s] name’s sake” or “[Christ’s] sake”. No one is blessed for being persecuted for any other reason). Likewise, while on the true path, there is no escaping the shame of the world, there is only the opportunity to despise their shame, and reject it and move forward in faith (Hebrews 12:2 and 2 Nephi 9:18), but you must also test the path you are on to make sure you are pleasing God and truly following His ways.

Remember, “blessed art thou if men shall revile you and persecute you for MY NAME’S SAKE.” The formula does not work for being persecuted for any other reason or system of belief. You are only blessed for being persecuted for Christ’s name and belief system.

To truly follow God’s ways, one must know the character of God. That is why Joseph Smith called the Lectures on Faith the “leading items of our religion” (see Preface to the 1835 ed of the D&C), as they contain the tests whereby you may know if any communication is from God or not, being that you begin to understand his character, perfections, and attributes in such a way as to not be deceived by any other communication below the standard of absolute love, power, truth, justice, mercy, and judgment. Conversely, many follow after blind guides dressed in white robes (1 Nephi 8:5-8). Both the blind guides and those that follow them shall fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14). It is interesting to note that when Lehi realized what the man in white was doing, he beheld that he had led him into a lone and dreary waste. It took Lehi pleading with the Lord for his tender mercies to get himself out of such a predicament. He also beheld that those who didn’t follow the true path set themselves up in a large and spacious building, wore costly apparel, and mocked and pointed the finger at those who found the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:26-28).

It is just that sort of mocking that the scriptures inform us we must expect, and then despise it, being an example of the believers (1 Timothy 4:12) and never reviling against those that revile (D&C 31:9).

After all is said and done in being Christian towards those that shame you, it is important to fellowship with those who have similar beliefs in the doctrine of Christ. Kids benefit from a community of fellow believers as well (see our post here and find a fellowship here).