I was interviewed on Shawn McCraney’s “Heart of the Matter” internet TV show about this site and the fellowship movement.
I was interviewed on Shawn McCraney’s “Heart of the Matter” internet TV show about this site and the fellowship movement.
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.) 1610s, 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. ]. (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).
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.
For today’s post-LDS gospel dispensation, the servant of the Lord instructed: “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.” (Denver Snuffer, “Preserving the Restoration,” p. 508).
The LDS Church doesn’t keep a record of Aaronic Priesthood lines of authority; nor does it keep a record of the date of the conferral of a particular priesthood, only the record of significant ordinations to office, which are subsequently traced as their version of a line of authority (see https://www.lds.org/help/support/request-a-priesthood-line-of-authority?lang=eng). An ordination to an office often occurs on the same day and at the same time as the conferral of priesthood. As the LDS typically ordain men first to the office of “elder” when conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood, the line of authority for an elder will be the one closest to their priesthood conferral date, as opposed to an ordaining as a seventy, high priest, apostle, or patriarch. If you have record of a pre-April 2014 LDS priesthood conferral for Aaronic Priesthood and want to use that for your entry in the line, then that would seem sufficient. You will likely have trouble obtaining the dates for all of your prior line members for the same, however, because of what was mentioned above about the lack of records for Aaronic Priesthood lines.
However, in beautiful parallelism and in somewhat of a chiasmus, the LDS temple ceremony used to call the Aaronic Priesthood the “lower level of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” at the same time as calling their Melchizedek Priesthood the “higher level of the Aaronic Priesthood” (see Anderson, Devery Scott, “Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History,” p. xxxiii). This is, of course, in a different context than Denver Snuffer’s descriptions of priesthood categories in chapter 5 of “Preserving the Restoration” titled “Priesthood,” but it is fitting for the context of this post. Therefore, the date when one obtained what the LDS call “Melchizedek Priesthood,” (again, provided this is before April 2014 general conference), could be considered the culmination of their receipt of the Aaronic Priesthood (and, of course, only in terms of it being an authoritative invitation to obtain power from God to perform service in his name). The notes in our post here describe how to confer the priesthood with authority subsequent to the LDS Church’s apostasy, and won’t be repeated here.
But, as far as passing on a line of authority goes, if someone in the line was ordained legitimately in the LDS Church, one could reckon their date from their latest office ordination (as the LDS Church does), or choose the date for their ordination as an elder to tie it closer to the latest conferral of priesthood, or choose the date of the Aaronic Priesthood office, if that is all that is available (or, if that is what is considered preferable). Then, at Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s level in the line, tie the line to the conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood through John the Baptist, or to the date at which the voice of God conferred on them the Melchizedek Priesthood in the chamber of old Father Whitmer in June 1829 (see D&C 128:20-21 and History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 Dec 1805 – 30 Aug 1834], pp. 26-29), or mention both.
Such a line would look something like this:
LINE OF AUTHORITY
BRIAN ZANG received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an elder February 22, 1998.
[Full name] was ordained an elder …1977.
[Full name] was ordained an elder …1967.
[Full name] was ordained a high priest …1952.
LE GRAND RICHARDS was ordained an apostle April 10, 1952.
DAVID O. McKAY was ordained an apostle April 9, 1906.
JOSEPH F. SMITH was ordained an apostle July 1, 1866.
BRIGHAM YOUNG was ordained an apostle February 14, 1835.
THE THREE WITNESSES, OLIVER COWDERY, DAVID WHITMER, and MARTIN HARRIS were called by revelation to choose the twelve apostles February 14, 1835 (D&C 18; http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/153).
JOSEPH SMITH, JR. and OLIVER COWDERY received the Aaronic Priesthood on the banks of the Susquehanna River on May 15, 1829 from John the Baptist (JS-History 1:68-72).
JOHN THE BAPTIST (D&C 84:27-28).
JOSEPH SMITH, JR. and OLIVER COWDERY received the Melchizedek Priesthood in the chamber of Old Father Whitmer and were ordained apostles by the voice of God in June, 1829 (JST, Genesis 14:25-29, History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 Dec 1805 – 30 Aug 1834], pp. 26-29; D&C 18; D&C 128:20-21).
GOD THE FATHER.
You can also include places if you want, and each line above has unique elements that can be adjusted for each member of the line given the information you have (such as conferred priesthood, or ordained office, or date and place, who each person was ordained by as opposed to just listing the officiator on the next line, etc.). In the above example, it is not known which of the Three Witnesses were voice in ordaining Brigham Young, although it appears all three had a hand in ordaining him. If your priesthood line goes through another apostle, the reference above may include more details for them. At this point, there is no uniformity in describing priesthood lines of authority besides what the LDS Church has inherited through their traditions, so all lines will of necessity reflect that tradition to some extent, seeing that they maintained an authoritative commission for a period of time. Given the new dispensations’ emphasis on a few principles, such as the durability of the Aaronic Priesthood, the different categorization of Melchizedek Priesthood to align more closely with the scriptural teachings about its receipt by the voice of God alone (see JST, Genesis 14:25-29), and new ordinations being conferrals to the Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God (with God deciding which degree of priesthood power is conferred in each case), the preceding recommendations have been made as suggestions for language that hopefully begins to move towards a new standard. This is a minor procedural matter and could be rightly taken up as a short topic of discussion for common consent in a future general conference of the fellowships, if diversity in opinion ever becomes problematic. Hopefully, though, the principles involved here will be self-evident and the lines of authority produced and passed on in current ordinations sufficient to defend our claims to priesthood conferral. If there is any room for doubt about your full line of authority back to John the Baptist or God Himself, you can always get re-ordained in the fellowships and receive a new line from the authorized administrator.
During my LDS mission, a line of reasoning was advanced from an experience of Orson F. Whitney that was quoted in LeGrand Richard’s book, “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,”
“Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: ‘You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days.’” (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Deseret Book Co., 1950], pp. 3–4.)
This line of reasoning tries to prove a valid point about the need for a gospel restoration with a false premise. The so-called learned Catholic here assumes that their church has the authority to remove priesthood when they excommunicate someone. The LDS Church assumes the same power. However, God has not given such power, only the right of churches to remove individuals from offices particular to their organization. Even if their church had a hand in conferring priesthood on an individual, the relationship that is established thereafter is between the individual and God alone. If a church deems it necessary to cut off a priest, for instance, then that priest may lose membership in that church, as well as the right to serve as a priest in their congregations, but their priesthood continues. If the church cut them off for good reason, meaning the priest was wicked, then the only thing that would follow them as a result of the church’s decision would be “the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption” (D&C 104:9), which, when duly considered, includes the rightful shame they would have acquired from being out of favor with their fellow man (which is likely what Satan will mock them about). If, however, the church cut them off unjustly, then they would be merely suffering persecution, and their priesthood would continue even if they were unrighteously denied membership and/or priestly status. The only way priesthood is lost is as explained in D&C 121:36-44: that is, according to principles of righteousness, as an individual departs therefrom, and God alone judges it to be so, which maintains a proper balance of power, or else mankind could use priesthood removal to threaten the righteous into submission.
Therefore, the above story is a compelling set of logical arguments, but wrong in its assumptions of jurisdiction and authority. There is a third option to the learned man’s propositions: if the Protestants in question lived during a time when the Roman Catholic Church had a commission from God to confer authority (if it ever did), then the Roman Catholic Church could’ve cut off righteous Protestants, and their right to claim the priesthood would’ve continued outside of the Catholic Church, because a false excommunication would not be recognized by God against a righteous priesthood holder. The only thing God would honor is the Catholic Church’s wishes that those priesthood holders no longer minister in their church, and they would likely be called to minister elsewhere where they were accepted.
“Fellowship” is the preferred term because it more appropriately describes the activity involved, and relegates it to close-knit gatherings of family and friends. Don’t you fellowship in family reunions, but still attend your own churches? Do you consider your family reunions a “church”?
Even so, it can definitely be called the church of Christ by definition of that term as well, even if they are not organized as a corporate church structure:
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. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And now, remember the words of him who is the life and light of the world, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Amen. (D&C 10:67-70).
There is no need for another corporate church structure:
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. (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 504-505, see also the crucial and illuminating footnotes on those pages).
What we refer to as the “LDS Church” is a legal entity. Fellowships are “churches” in the generic use of the term. When you read D&C 10, do you consider Christ was referring to an earthly legal entity, or the generic use of the term applied to the conditions he specified?
Consider also, though, that the fellowships are not fully organized as the church of Christ might be, seeing that much of the labor needed in the fellowships is at this time decidedly left to the angels to sort out later (see D&C 20, D&C 42, and JST Matthew 13:39-44). Therefore, a portion of the organizational boundaries for our “church” encompasses the powers of heaven beyond the veil. On this side of the veil in the fellowships, we don’t necessarily exclude others by reference to church articles, nor do we necessarily exclude others from taking the sacrament. We are promised in scripture the following, when all necessary church politics will be sorted out by those angels and Christ Himself:
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1-14; see also Luke 14:15-24).
As Christ says, we don’t destroy the law or the prophets (3 Nephi 12:17) or any church articles, but we seek to live the true intent of them, and not one jot or tittle shall pass away, but shall all be fulfilled in their due time, even if in our limited mortal perspective things look out of place, or out of order. God wills it, and so we must invite all to the wedding feast from the highways and the byways without judgment. These small and simple things will have a great impact, and we refuse to strain at the gnats, because thereby we might swallow the camel (Matthew 23:24). The doctrine of Christ is our priority now. It is useless to build up a superstructure that has no heart and soul. It becomes an empty shell, and the revelations that the early Saints pressed Joseph for were largely premature for them, or missing the mark concerning God’s priorities for the Restoration. But, they were given what they asked for. Even so, all things, including the elaborate church structure contained in the D&C, testify of Christ, and have their place in the Gospel (see Moses 6:63).
As before explained, the “doctrine” in the Doctrine and Covenants was the Lectures on Faith which were removed by the LDS Church in 1920. The “covenants” were not all covenants between God and man, but also covenants between themselves as a church. The early Latter-day Saints believed “in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church”. So do we, but we do not covenant with each other to be so governed in the fellowships. There are no offices. We covenant to pattern in a way that allows the fulness to return, which is less administrative outwardly, and more administered in one’s heart, with the law written on people’s hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). It is a higher standard befitting friends and family–if we can be so called, and if we avoid contention significantly enough. If not, we devolve into the need for offices and presiding authorities.
The following statement from Denver Snuffer is instructive: “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.” (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, p. 230).
Who is a wise and a just servant? (see JST, Luke 12:41-57).
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.
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).
“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.
“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.
“…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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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
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).
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
In the LDS Church, there is not much clarity on this subject. Most LDS equate it to a burning in the bosom, described in D&C 9:8. And, in the absence of dramatically miraculous occurrences, the LDS General Authorities have described an almost imperceptible incremental process over the lifetime of the believer as their idea of the what the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is (just do a word search for “incremental” on www.lds.org).
In the Mormon Christian fellowships, sometimes dramatic changes of heart are pointed to as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, where the believer experiences a feeling of purity washing over them, and an increased closeness to Deity.
Denver Snuffer did a remarkable series of posts on this topic, which are worthy of your review:
Despite these reassurances about what these baptisms are, whether through the LDS explanations, the cultural fellowship explanations, or Denver’s expounding, the question still remains for many: “Have I received it yet?” Given all the ideas and expounding above, some believe with confidence that they can answer: “Yes, absolutely!” Yet, as we shall see, it may be prudent for even these folks to re-consider things and at least ask themselves: “Is that the last time I will experience it?”
A look at the implications of the words involved in these terms is in order:
First, what does “baptism” imply? With the Restoration’s insight into the matter, most would say categorically that the word refers to its Latin root, being “immersion”.
What aspect of “fire” is most thought of in a religious sense? Most would not argue with the idea that it implies purification, and in a religious sense, purification from sin.
What is meant by the term “Holy Ghost”? With the re-emphasis on the Lectures on Faith we’ve discussed earlier, the new implication would be that it is “the mind of God,” and not a separate, third-party spirit-personage. If you take Denver’s posts above to be a synthesis of the two concepts of “mind of God” and “spirit entity,” the only spirit personage potentially referred to in his expounding would be your own spirit, as it is endowed with the mind of God. It follows that you can’t be immersed in the spirit body of another personage, or else you would have one huge conglomerated mass of a conjoined person! This sentiment is similar to how Joseph Smith mocked the idea of two personages being joined:
Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. “Father, I pray not for the world, but I pray for them which thou hast given me.” “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are.” All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God—he would be a giant or a monster. (HC, Vol. 6, p.473-479).
With these new assumptions, you can ask yourself, what does it mean to be immersed in a fire that cleanses from sin, and to be immersed in the mind of God? Do you have a fulness of the mind of God at all times, and can you say you have all the knowledge in the universe as He does? Are you as pure as Christ is pure, every moment of every day? If not, it could be argued that there is yet more of an immersion in fire and in the Holy Ghost for you, no matter what you have experienced so far.
This is not to take away from anyone’s experiences in the least, but to avoid the following “wo” pronounced by Nephi and others:
Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! (2 Nephi 28:27-29)
When James and John asked Jesus about their status in his kingdom, Jesus responded with a sobering reminder of how strait the course ahead is (for them and for us): “But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” But, after putting this tough perspective clearly in their view, he encouraged them with the following: “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized” (Mark 10:38-39).
Sometimes when wondering whether or not we have had the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, or when wondering what it is in general, we know not what we ask. In some of the more fuller experiences outlined in scripture, and as Denver mentioned, we are told of elements that are part of the overall pattern that many of us do not consider as belonging to this topic. For example, have we been purified in the flesh with fire such that our faces have shone bright and white like Moses (Exodus 34:30), Abinadi (Mosiah 13:5), Nephi and Lehi (Helaman 5), the people praying before the Lord at Bountiful (3 Nephi 19:25), Lyman Wight (The Book of John Whitmer, chap. 7), Reynolds Cahoon (Minutes, Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, Oct 3, 1883), and potentially Joseph Smith (Wilford Woodruff, An Epistle to the Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Millennial Star, November 14, 1887, 722)? Have we seen things encircled about with fire and not burned like Moses’ burning bush (Exodus 3:2), heard the rushing of mighty wind as in the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2), been overshadowed by a cloud and encircled about by fire and not harmed (Helaman 5; see also Daniel 3), or have we been ministered to by angels, including Christ (3 Nephi 19:14-15)? If we have had any one of these events in our lives, have we had them all? In regards to this topic, let us look again to the meek example of John the Baptist, who, upon meeting his Lord, said, “I have need to be baptized of thee” (Matthew 3:14). Certainly if we have experienced incremental changes as the LDS believe, or had a washing over us that cleanses our souls as many in the fellowships describe, to paraphrase Alma, “Yea, I admit it may be termed [a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost]” (see Alma 40:15)…but well might we all ask ourselves if we have more need of these baptisms, and the other attendant elements mentioned in these scriptures, too. Ask and ye shall receive, etc (3 Nephi 27:29).
For those who feel as though they haven’t received it yet, and wonder when it will occur, we hope you can see from the examples in this post that even though the Lord has not said when he will fulfill the promise, he has promised it to those who believe and are baptized. It is worthy also to note that he hasn’t said he will fulfill the promise only once. So, we believe that, according to His goodness, he will fulfill that promise until your cup runneth over, whether it be immediately after your baptism, years after like the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, and perhaps even over and over again until the perfect day.
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:2-3; 3 Nephi 24:2).
The real question is, do we believe the scriptures and the authority of the baptism(s) in water we have received? If we believe in the authority, is it based in something unseen which is true? Has God really given the power to the individual who baptized you and do you have that witness? Have you been baptized with the understanding outlined in the doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11:31-40), or were other conditions required? If there is no harm in being re-baptized, and scriptures suggest that you should be re-baptized for rededication at least anyway (see Mosiah 18*), what do you have against being re-baptized until you are sure (2 Nephi 31)?
*Alma, the priest of King Noah, was undoubtedly re-baptized in this chapter, for he being a priest would surely have been baptized before, as most of the people would have been as well.
ADDENDUM: Perhaps the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost are related to coming into the proximity of a just and holy being. Your heart burns within you as you are immersed in light and knowledge from the communication, whether through a veil as they go unseen by you, or in person (compared to a distinct absence of such transformative power from a visit from the devil; Moses 1:10-15). If such were the case, then receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost only once would seem most disappointing. Such communications, nonetheless, can indeed be life-changing (see Luke 24:32 and Alma 27:11-20 compared to Alma 8:14-18).
ADDENDUM 2: If all we receive is a remission of sins in this life and no redemption back into His presence, and if all we receive from visitations and baptisms of fire and the Holy Ghost are communications and intelligence for this life, than well might the following proverb apply to us:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19).
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:
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 here, here 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)
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).
The scriptures give the commandment concerning the Sabbath day, which Abinadi reiterated in the Book of Mormon:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Mosiah 13:16-19).
Breaking the Sabbath used to be a capital crime. A person could be sentenced to death for violating it.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:13).
Why such a serious offense?
The Lord explained it best when he said “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Therefore, a day of rest and peace is intended to be one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind in this fallen world. It would follow that the logic surrounding the death penalty for its abuse would be geared towards protecting the innocent worker. Since the commandment includes not asking your servants to work on the Sabbath either, than it seems that the Lord is saying He really intends to prevent abuse of the innocent. He will make sure no one is forced to work this day, if it means that He has to implement death for the employers who so spite Him. It is obvious in the New Testament that a poor worker who finds his ox in the mire is not in violation of the Sabbath when he proceeds to pull him out (Luke 14:3-6). The intent of the commandment, therefore, seems clear.
Following this logic, it becomes clearer which statement in the Sermon on the Mount is potentially Jesus expounding on the importance of the spirit of Sabbath worship. Without mentioning the Sabbath, Jesus seems to be assuming it is well known what kind of activity goes on on that day, knowing that His hearers will know what He is talking about. We are so fallen into secular blindness that we don’t relate to His sayings that well these days, but the connection is nevertheless clearer after walking through it as we have above:
Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. (3 Nephi 13:1-2).
The Sabbath is a day of peace for all, a day of brotherhood, and of forgiving of debts; a day to give alms to the poor; a day to return to the Garden of Eden and its innocence. What do the employers do if they can’t, under penalty of death, force their employees to work on the Sabbath? They go to the opposite extreme and give large gifts to charity, but only for the purpose of networking and making themselves look to be a profitable employer to work for, and thus still pervert sincere intent. These corrupted organizations and individuals still can’t keep the Sabbath even when they participate in the almsgiving of that day. They remain hypocrites. What will they do when the whole workweek becomes a holy day and we enter into the rest of the Lord (Alma 34:33; JST Luke 12:44; Matthew 25:6)? They will go their own way, not interested in the party, where there will be found weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (D&C 63:54) for these oppressors who hate a God who gives gifts to the poor in spirit (3 Nephi 12:3).
Even after being chastened in Babylon for seventy years, many Jews returned to Israel with a culture against Sabbath worship. Nehemiah proclaimed:
In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. (Nehemiah 13:15).
Instead, our God delivers from bondage, and frees us from labor on the Sabbath in commemoration of his promise of mercy and redemption. The purpose of deliverance from labor on the Sabbath seems to be a symbol of deliverance from sin (Mosiah 25:16).
It is to this end that the following scriptures elaborate on individual Sabbath worship:
If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:13-14).
And the following:
I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. (Ezekiel 20:19-20).
After reviewing the way the scriptures describe the Lord’s original intent for keeping the Sabbath holy, it should be obvious that even devoted church service can brake the Sabbath day. Ask yourselves, does the institution I belong to posture their church service opportunities on the Sabbath as a means to network, prove their institution is worth working for and being loyal to, sound a trumpet about their charitable acts in the name of marketing their brand of religion, or promote greetings in the marketplace and competitive habits concerning piety, dress, or codes of conduct (see Luke 20:46)? If so, you may be looking at a business conglomerate masquerading as a religion, hypocritical in their pretenses of promoting the very commandment they cause their members to break through excessive and vain meetings and busy-work callings.
On the other hand, the sincere in heart can always find ways to be of true service to their fellow beings, even if they find themselves in the midst of corruption and spiritual wickedness in high places (see Ephesians 6:12). Even still, good advice concerning the Sabbath comes from churches that have self-preservation as an interest; and not all leadership, direction, callings, or Sabbath-day meetings are faulty.
For those who don’t have a church to attend, but only fellowship amongst close family and friends, the spirit of the Sabbath is easy to discover in the scriptures quoted above. Are your activities on the Sabbath a sign to the Lord of your remembrance of his statutes and judgments, and that you wish to know that He is the Lord your God? Said the Lord, “And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7).