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.

The scriptures about the ancient kingdoms of Israel are illustrative for answering this question. They were originally one kingdom through the reigns of Kings David and Solomon, but after Solomon’s reign, they divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

The Kingdom of Judah, who governed the temple of Solomon and had official priests and a line of authority, were idolatrous by worshiping their leaders. Jeremiah proclaimed that Jehovah himself pointed this out and said that when they prophesied, pretending it was from Him, it was more like it was from Baal instead:

The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. (Jeremiah 2:8).

The Kingdom of Israel rebelled against Solomon’s royal line and worshiped in high places and in groves.  They were idolatrous by worshiping the hosts of heaven instead of God alone:

And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. (2 Kings 17:16-18).

Eventually, the Kingdom of Judah gave up all pretenses, and after an insincere and feigned return to Jehovah worship during King Josiah’s reign, they became involved in full blown idolatry by worshiping the hosts of heaven as well:

¶The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord. And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. (Jeremiah 3:6-11).

In both cases, God rejected them when they got it wrong, including the Jews when their temple worship missed the mark (you only have to skim Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel and other prophets to catch that theme). But, He also supported them both when they got it right, even though the Deuteronomists and King Josiah’s reformers in the Southern Kingdom of Judah modified the sacred record to reflect a condemnation of all worship in high places outside of the central temple in Jerusalem (see this scripture search for “high places” to notice the parenthetical insertions with the pattern: “But the high places were not taken away” throughout the book of the 2 Kings, for starters). The hypocrisy of Judah condemning Israel for worshiping outside of the temple manifested itself by Judah turning fully to idolatry themselves. They were just as bad, and eventually they stopped covering it up with the cloak of the official religion laid down by Moses.

The fact that God called prophets in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, most notably Elijah with his worship at an altar out in the open at Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18), proves that God recognizes worship outside of the temples built by religious establishments and the priestly class. The Kingdom of Israel had no temple, so all of its prophets were unofficial in terms of “authorized” temple worship.

Joseph Smith explained how both forms of worship–in a temple and on the mountain top–could be appropriate:

I preached in the grove on the keys of the Kingdom, Charity &c The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed–The rich can only get them in the Temple–the poor may get them on the Mountain top as did Moses. The rich cannot be saved without Charity, giving to feed the poor when and how God requires as well as building. There are signs in heaven, earth, and hell, the Elders must know them all to be endowed with power, to finish their work and prevent imposition. The devil knows many signs but does not know the sign of the Son of Man, or Jesus. No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something, and this can only be in the Holiest of Holies. (Manuscript History of the Church, 1 May 1842, Sunday Morning, Grove, Ehat, Andrew F., and Cook, Lyndon W., Words of Joseph Smith, pp.120-121)

Furthermore, Alma in the Book of Mormon asserts:

Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God. Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week? I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. (Alma 32:9-12).

So therefore, the LDS are much like the Kingdom of Judah, and the residue that have left the LDS Church to worship on their own are much like the Kingdom of Israel. Both scenarios can have excesses and insincere, unaccepted worship, as well as sincere and true worship. So, contrary to the prejudices of many active Latter-day Saints, non-members can legitimately worship outside of LDS temples, and still worship appropriately in the spirit of the temple.

On February 22, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith mentioned worship on the mountaintops when he instructed concerning an exploration of the West for a settlement of the Saints. He said:

I want every man that goes to be a king and a priest. When he gets on the mountains he may want to talk with his God (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 224).

The Lord cuts a path between the extremists of the two by seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23), whether they be in the temple or on the mountains, or at a home altar. In “spirit” because His word is spirit, as the mind of God lays an unseen path before the believer to follow; and in “truth” because the faith and action of the believer brings the realities of the spirit (or the mind of God) into existence in the natural world when they elect to follow His commands. The realities of the spirit are only real if God has truly ordained it as opposed to it coming from a frenzied mind and heated imagination, and only if the believer has followed God’s words and guidance correctly.

And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified? Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong. . . . And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God. (D&C 50:15-16,19-20). And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come. (D&C 93:24).

The Fourth Article of Faith for Mormons states:

“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Articles of Faith 1:4)

Jesus calls the gift of the Holy Ghost, “the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost”. (D&C 20:41)

There seems to be three ways in the scriptures in which the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is received:

  1. After offering a broken heart and a contrite spirit. 3 Nephi 9:20 and Moroni 8:26. In this case, the recipient may not know they have received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, and they may never become official members of any earthly extension of the church in this life but still be members of Christ’s heavenly church as defined in D&C 10:69.
  2. Believe in Christ, repent, and be baptized by immersion. 3 Nephi 11:22-41 (the doctrine of Christ) and 2 Nephi 31. There is no mention of the laying on of hands in these scriptures . . . just baptism and repentance and belief in Christ.
  3. By the laying on of hands by someone who has been touched by Jesus and given power to confer the gift. 3 Nephi 18:36-37 and Moroni 2.

What does the LDS confirmation ordinance mean, then? In my opinion, I see the LDS confirmation as honoring the above 3 scenarios by commanding the new member to “Receive the Holy Ghost”, and it is an ordinance that can be done by those who have not been touched by Jesus yet. However, contrary to tradition, it does NOT confer the gift of the Holy Ghost in and of itself without one of the three conditions above being met at the same time. See D&C 20:38-43, also see Oliver Cowdery’s Apostle’s charge below:

“It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.  Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . .  The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . . . You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves.” (Documentary History of the Church, 2:196.)

Taking the point from Cowdery’s charge, with a two part process wherein an elder/apostle is ordained and then has his ordination completed by having hands laid on him by the Savior, it stands to reason that the LDS Church, considering the interim between the two events, innovated an ordinance that inadvertently highlights the fact that some elders don’t have power to confer the Holy Ghost, but allows for the possibility that another one of the conditions might be met and the gift might actually be bestowed anyway. In fact, in a revelation to Ezra Thayre and Northrup Sweet before either of them had received the high priesthood, the Lord anticipated this disparity and said to these two elders (whose ordinations were incomplete), “And whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them,” (D&C 33:15). In this verse, it is the Lord who bestows the gift in a separate way, reminiscent of scenarios 1 and 2 above. The laying on of hands in this revelation deals only with confirming someone a member of the organization, which is similar to the current LDS practice today.

The language with the verbal command to “receive” puts the burden on the recipient, rather than on the minister as in Moroni 2. It appears the LDS Church has quite forgotten any of the reasoning behind the ordinance’s ambiguous language, however, and we are stuck having to reverse-engineer it to consider things.

Additionally, one very interesting historical point (if I have a correct understanding of what was happening at the time) is found in contrasting D&C 20:68-69 with D&C 52:10-11.

D&C 20:68-69 “The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order. And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.”

D&C 52:10-11 “Let them go two by two, and thus let them preach by the way in every congregation, baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side. For thus saith the Lord, I will cut my work short in righteousness, for the days come that I will send forth judgment unto victory.”

In section 20, we see the rule set down by the Lord in the church articles, that there is to be a “sufficient time” for “the members after they are received by baptism…previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order” (my emphasis).

Yet, during a conference in Kirtland in 1831, when the high priesthood was first conferred on members of the Church, the Lord explained that, for the purpose of “cut[ting] my work short in righteousness,” they were to go “two by two…baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side.” There was to be no delay between baptism and confirmation. This was obviously an exception to the rule set out in the church articles, and a special revelation designated it was expedient to do so, yet the exception has become the rule without any indication of whether or not the Lord wanted the exception ended at some point. Perhaps the Lord wanted the church built up quickly with voting members to prepare for the Kirtland temple, or some other righteous purpose.

Today, Mission Presidents and Stake Presidents seem confused as to whether or not they should confirm right away, or wait until fast and testimony meeting at least, and there is no indication that a long period of, say, a year or more, would be considered as an appropriate waiting time between baptism and confirmation, like the scriptures suggest. They cite evidence of losing new members who, within the week’s time between baptism and confirmation, have somehow fallen prey to the adversary, assuming it is because they didn’t get the Holy Ghost in time to secure their membership. If such a fear were valid, then D&C 20:68-69 would never have been written, and the Lamanites referred to in 3 Nephi 9, would never have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost (see Helaman 5).

I’ll leave that for your consideration, because I’m sure there is much more to learn about the subject, but suffice it to say, we don’t confirm by the laying on of hands, seeing that we don’t have any command from the Lord to do so outside of a church context, and not having authority yet to do so, and not having been touched by Jesus ourselves yet. For now we look for the gift by way of the three scriptural precedents above.

But, in an LDS context, confirmation is also used to confirm someone a member of the LDS Church, and it is wholly appropriate to charge the newly confirmed member to receive the Holy Ghost from God in one of the above mentioned ways, as charging someone to receive something is different than bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost itself.

Outside of the LDS Church, we are only baptizing and re-baptizing others, and not confirming anyone as members of Christ’s church, since there is no new church being formed. See my post here to learn about the extension of Christ’s church beyond the boundaries of the LDS institution, and such a definition of Christ’s church requires one to be authorized to confirm members into it, which authority we do not claim to possess at this time. With the LDS Church losing Priesthood authority, we consider the church of Christ as having entered into the “wilderness” again, or in other words, membership in Christ’s church stands as a status between the individual and the Lord, with no earthly extension of the Lord’s church being organized at this time, although a person can belong to the church of the Lamb by definition.

Certainly a worthy Priesthood holder (see the post here and read the comments) could confirm someone a member of Christ’s heavenly church by the laying on of hands (as explained above, an ordinance preliminary to the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, commanding the recipient merely “receive the Holy Ghost” as a future endeavor) if so directed by him, but such an ordinance would not make the person a member of the institution of the LDS Church led by Salt Lake, as that ordinance requires their common consent.

 

They certainly can.

See this post here. There isn’t a better summary we could come up with about the dangers study groups can present.

Yet, there are legitimate reasons to gather outside of church that can be uplifting and serve God’s purposes.

Assembling together in conferences outside of church allows for:

  • Fellowshipping on the doctrine of Christ,
  • Studying the scriptures in fellowships and families,
  • Teaching as opposed to debating,
  • Performing Priesthood ordinances such as Sacrament and Baptism (see here and here and here), and
  • Serving others and sharing our means to relieve the poor.

As long as the group doesn’t replace our individual duties to study things out on our own and gain salvation from God on our own, groups can be a source of inspiration and fellowship. Without a group, we cannot bare one anothers’ burdens and mourn with those that mourn (Mosiah 18:8-10). These group meetings do not have to be within church meetings alone. And, just because getting together as a group outside of church has its pitfalls, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done in the right way as well. Close friends and family can and often do worship together in righteousness (Matthew 18:20), without regards to LDS Church jurisdictional constraints.

To find such a fellowship or learn how to start your own, see here. A link to the fellowship locator will remain in the sidebar as well. A fellowship that does not encourage apostasy from the Lord cannot be called an apostate group (for a scriptural definition of apostasy, see Mosiah 35). However, some LDS Church leaders mistakenly equate disagreement with the ever-changing church handbook of instructions to be equivalent to apostasy, so beware of such leaders should you wish to also meet with a fellowship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is a resounding “no”.

We’ve touched on this briefly in other posts (see here and here), but it deserves further treatment.

In the post about exercising faith outside of any church, we didn’t elaborate on this much, but it is implied and inclusive in the quote from the Lectures on Faith about individual faith:

“…the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him…” (Lectures on Faith L2 ¶55)

There is more than one way to obtain knowledge respecting God’s character and glory than just reading the revelations God has given man. In a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1832, the Lord said:

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:19-22)

Ordinances are a ritualistic communication of symbols and ideas through experiential ceremony. Everyone understands that sign language can convey as much meaning, if not more, than the spoken or written word. The concept is no different for ordinances. Ordinances represent a legitimate way by which abstract concepts concerning God’s character can be communicated through concrete symbols and allusions. But, who can guarantee that a representation, or even a revelation for that matter, is from God, and properly reflective of what he wants to reveal about himself?

The issue of authority is one of trust in the individual conveying the message, as well as trust in the content of the message.

-Is the individual in question sent by God to convey the message or ordinance? and,

-Is the information accurately conveyed?

Both questions are vitally important to get an accurate view of something revealed by God through others. In addition to this, God can and does reveal himself without intermediaries (see James 1:5), speaking straight to individuals. This all goes to the heart of our conversation about these topics. When priesthood is viewed as a legitimate relationship between the true and living God and a messenger OR an individual, the phrase, “without the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh,” makes sense. It is a plain statement of an obvious conclusion. The “authority” lies in whether or not an individual or messenger truly has spoken with God, at each event and communication in question.

Read this scriptural thought again like so: “without the authority of [an actual communication or connection with heaven], the power of godliness is not [communicated] unto men in the flesh.” It is so obvious as to seem ludicrous to have to mention it, but still, the obvious is sometimes not-so-obvious for those with selfish ambitions. The point of such a statement is to highlight the fact that God himself governs any and all communications about himself, and forbids anyone to take his name in vain, and say they are representing knowledge about him when he hasn’t asked them to. The only way to know if another person is properly authorized by God to convey a message is to have a communication from God yourself about the content of that message.

Hopefully, one has enough trustworthy information from others about God to enable them to get an answer from the true and living God concerning other messages he sends or communicates. Fortunately, God has endowed man with common sense and reason to begin to form their first opinions concerning the legitimacy of messages about God’s character. Anti-Christs have twisted reason to appeal to this basic, fundamental skill of all intelligent beings (see Helaman 16:18), but that doesn’t mean we ought to throw out the use of all good reason. As the Lectures on Faith point out in general, it is not reasonable to assume that any being could obtain and preserve power in the universe without being just, merciful, loving, truthful, faithful, AND fair, or else some other more desirable figure would have at some point dethroned him. Therefore, after obtaining the idea that such a being as a God actually exists, any rational, intelligent soul can exercise faith in such a being so as to obtain answers from Him directly. Messengers can and do offer a benefit to others, but all messages can be independently obtained, and in fact must be, to be verified as coming from God.

This connection to heaven, or “priesthood” as the scriptures denote it, is the essential authority needed for seeking out the Lord through faith, so as to obtain the foundation of knowledge concerning his character and attributes upon which salvation is obtained. All of this is done and described in scripture without any reference to church membership. Only the authority of the priesthood, or connection to heaven, is required.

The LDS Church necessarily has common sense protections against the imposition of claims to “priesthood” or connections with heaven upon its members. However, such protections extend only to the group’s common consent to allow any communication to stand as the accepted voice of the group, and to reject any communication as a group. Can you see how unreasonable it is to suggest that one individual can claim that a private communication is acceptable to the group without the group’s consent? An individual can claim to have a message for a group, but it is up to the group to decide if it accepts or rejects that message as having come from God. An imposition comes if an individual claims their message is accepted by a group before the group decides to accept it.

In the case of the LDS Church, one man has been appointed to have the final say as to what the group accepts, and this man is the President of the Church. The members have long since given up their rights to confirm what that one man proposes, and instead they only sustain it after it is decided, but that is besides the point. Others may deliver messages from God to the group, but according to what the LDS have agreed upon, only one man can decide if the group accepts or rejects the message (according to their interpretation of D&C 43:5-7). Individuals in the group must decide if they accept or sustain that man’s decisions for the group. D&C 43:5-7 does not mean that no one can deliver messages to the group other than the President of the Church. Even the LDS interpretation of that passage only means that no one but the President can claim on behalf of the group that the message is a revelation from God to the group. If the LDS allowed for it, the President could accept revelations from others, even non-members, as binding upon the group as revelations to the group, but with traditional LDS interpretations of “the gate” as being only an LDS baptism, and “ordination” as being only an LDS ordination, it is unlikely that will ever happen.

Despite their faulty interpretations of D&C 43, a message can still be shared by an outsider, and it may in fact come from God. What the Lord advised the LDS people to be looking for was a messenger who had entered into the scriptural “gate” and had been “ordained” as the scriptures outline, whether they be a church member or not. The President of the LDS Church is accountable if he rejects a true message from God and refuses to give it the status of “revelation for the group” if it has indeed come from God from an outside source. It is possible that the terms “gate” and “ordination” in D&C 43 can refer to the works of God independent of any other servant’s authority, but by God himself (see 2 Nephi 9:41 and JST, Genesis 14:25-29 for other possible scriptural interpretations as to what God meant in D&C 43 when he said “as I have told you before” concerning the manner of entering in by the gate and receiving ordination).

Can you also see how unreasonable it is for the group to likewise suggest that what they have consented to as coming from God for the group is imposing on all individuals, except as those individual are involved in group practices? The group can claim to have a message for all individuals (like the Family Proclamation to the world), but it is up to individuals to accept or reject that message as authoritative. The group and the individual stand independent of one another and accountable to God for what they accept or reject. But by the same token, neither have a monopoly on God’s communications and ordinances (see 2 Nephi 29:8-11 , and read it carefully, likening it to the Latter-day Saints or yourself).

Therefore, the LDS Church is not the only resource for authoritative ordinances. Those who have a legitimate connection to heaven, or who have priesthood, are resources for communications and ordinances from God, as God directs. Likewise, obtaining communication from God yourself is equally available to test and vet communications from others. No priesthood holder (whether they belong to any church or not) can impose their messages on a group without the group’s consent, and neither can a group claim to have sole communication rights with heaven. Joseph Smith himself was a priesthood holder without a church for quite some time before the church was organized, as were many scriptural examples such as John the Beloved, Lehi in the wilderness, and so on. It is God who rules over all, and who requires us to be one in these matters (D&C 38:27), without contention (3 Nephi 11:29).

Of course! God is no respecter of persons.

The Lectures on Faith written and edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith teach:

“But it is also necessary that men should have an idea that he is no respecter of persons; for with the idea of all the other excellencies in his character, and this one wanting, men could not exercise faith in him, because if he were a respecter of persons, they could not tell what their privileges were, nor how far they were authorized to exercise faith in him, or whether they were authorized to do it at all, but all must be confusion; but no sooner are the minds of men made acquainted with the truth on this point, that he is no respecter of persons, than they see that they have authority by faith to lay hold on eternal life the richest boon of heaven, because God is no respecter of persons, and that every man in every nation has an equal privilege.” (Lectures on Faith L3 23)

Anyone, Latter-day Saint or not, may approach God and receive from Him the richest of blessings. No church membership is required. Church membership can be a means by which to help, aid, and assist in that effort, but sometimes it can also be a hindrance if you look beyond the mark.

The Lectures continue:

“Such, then, is the foundation, which is laid, through the revelation of the attributes of God, for the exercise of faith in him for life and salvation; and seeing that these are attributes of the Deity, they are unchangeable—being the same yesterday to day and forever—which gives to the minds of the Latter Day Saints the same power and authority to exercise faith in God, which the Former Day Saints had: so that all the saints, in this respect have been, are and will be alike, until the end of time; for God never changes, therefore his attributes and character remain forever the same. And as it is through the revelation of these that a foundation is laid for the exercise of faith in God unto life and salvation, the foundation, therefore, for the exercise of faith, was, is and ever will be the same. So that all men have had, and will have an equal privilege.” (Lectures on Faith L4 ¶19)

As is mentioned here, the authority to exercise faith in God unto life and salvation comes from the revelation that God makes of his character and attributes, which are unchangeable, and lay a sure foundation. The authority to exercise this kind of saving faith does not come from any church, even if it is considered God’s church…and this stands to reason: If a group of people were given the power to determine how far someone could exercise faith, the power would likely be abused, but if it is widely known what God has revealed about his character and attributes, so that there can be no mistake as to which God someone is attempting to worship, then there can be nothing stopping anyone from approaching this same God.

To deny the opportunity for someone to exercise faith, which is a principle of action and power, is to exercise unrighteous dominion and horde that power over others.

“For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 26:33)

The result of such independently exercised faith is further explained in the Lectures:

“Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to behold him face to face.” (Lectures on Faith L2 ¶55)

Therefore, with or without a church, an individual can obtain an audience with the Lord, and secure for themselves everlasting salvation. It must be so, or else at times when there is no legitimate church of God on the earth, individuals would perish in unbelief, and even if there is a church of God available, such opportunities must exist or else God would be a changeable God, and his word would be void. Salvation is not dependent upon membership in a church.

But, be careful…not all things that Latter-day Saints do is acceptable to God. We’ll address what God does not authorize us to do in another post.

No, you do not need the Bishop’s permission to bless the Sacrament outside of church.

If you are going to represent the Ward in blessing and passing the Sacrament to a Ward member or members, the LDS Church requires that you get permission from the Bishop.

If you are visiting family or a friend, you don’t need permission from the Bishop at all, if you are a worthy holder of the Priesthood according to the scriptures (D&C 50:34). The Bishop has no jurisdiction beyond what people give him by common consent (D&C 26:2). Anything that LDS leaders claim otherwise is an example of unrighteous dominion, because it represents a prideful claim to a domain they have not been given authority over (D&C 121:39). Those who request the ordinance without any reference to the Bishop have not given him consent to preside over their individual request, and the Lord has not stifled all Priesthood use within the confines of church jurisdiction, either. You can use the Priesthood outside of church according to God’s will, but within the Church everything is governed by the consent of those within that group.

It is false to assume that the Bishop has control over everything within the Ward boundaries. He only has consent from those who are members who apply to the Bishop for member benefits, including member-based Sacrament services. Members can and do request Priesthood benefits outside of their role as members, which also includes the Sacrament and baptism, etc.

Don’t give up your liberties as a Priesthood holder. Give unto the Bishop the things that are the Bishop’s, but also give unto God the things that are God’s (see Mark 12:17).

If someone asks you to perform an ordinance, and doesn’t refer to their Bishop for permission, pray and get permission from the Lord and proceed (2 Nephi 32:9).

If they ask you to perform an ordinance as a representative of the Ward, explain to them the difference and only proceed if they understand you are using your Priesthood independently as a representative of God. God can and does recognize righteous Priesthood use outside of church jurisdiction. If he didn’t, then Joseph and Oliver’s baptisms would be invalid and John the Beloved would also be condemned (JS-History 1:68-75, D&C 7).

If you perform the Sacrament outside of church jurisdiction, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to do it more accurately with wine (or grape juice if you have a medical reason not to drink alcohol), because the Lord said in scripture, “For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins” (D&C 27:2). Therefore, the LDS Church cannot restrict you from using wine to better remember the blood of Christ and the transforming effect that the Atonement has on our lives. Additionally, wine is prescribed for sacraments in the Word of Wisdom and you can still answer that question truthfully when asked in temple recommend interviews (D&C 89:5).

The time has come that Family Home Evenings and other family activities should be more authoritative and full of Priesthood power than LDS Ward meetings (see https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/the-power-of-the-priesthood?lang=eng). This should include Sacrament and baptisms as well.