Dissenters: Portraying the Church as Wrong So They can be Right Without It

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Abstract: This essay addresses the reasons many persons have left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In particular, there are those who publicly assert the Church is not led by inspired leaders so they can feel at peace about their decision to leave it. One common argument used to justify their estrangement is the “Samuel Principle,” which ostensibly would require God to allow his followers on earth to go astray if they chose any level of unrighteousness. Problems with this interpretation are presented including examples from religious history that show that God’s primary pattern has been to call his errant followers to repentance by raising up righteous leaders to guide them. Also explored are the common historical events that dissenters often allege have caused the Church to apostatize. The notion that the Church and the “Priesthood” could be separate entities is examined as well. The observation that Church leaders continue to receive divine communication in order to fulfill numerous prophecies and that a significant number of completely devout Latter-day Saints have always existed within the Church, obviating the need for any dissenting movement, is discussed. In addition, several common scriptural proof-texts employed by some dissenters and their ultimate condition of apostasy are analyzed.

A longstanding process that affects most religions occurs when dissenters portray their parent church as wrong because they are determined to be right without it. This [Page 78]phenomenon has affected The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the past as individuals have left it but apparently did not wish to discard its doctrines. Usually underlying their reasons for leaving is the belief that they possess superior knowledge, superior righteousness, superior priesthood power, superior practices, and/or superior extra-worldly experiences than those found within the church. Before they can embrace this superiority, however, they must demonstrate that at some point the church and its membership have lost knowledge, righteousness, priesthood power, practices, and/or extra-worldly experiences. Hence for these dissenters, their formal or informal estrangements signal not a departure from truth but from church members they perceive as being less (or possessing less). Sometimes they embrace the title of “fundamentalist,” asserting they have returned to the “fundamental” teachings introduced by Joseph Smith—teachings they believe have been abandoned by the mainstream membership.1

Being a successful dissenter or fundamentalist requires the ability to embrace Joseph Smith without fully espousing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which claims [Page 79]continuity to the church he established in 1830 and its leaders. This might sound easy but in reality is not because the church professes to be led by a living prophet and by personal revelation to those called to leadership positions. Consequently, those who leave must demonstrate two things: first, that God would allow a disconnect to occur between the heavens and church leaders and its members, and second, that such a disconnection has occurred historically.

Two strategies are commonly employed to support this interpretation. One affirms that under certain conditions it is possible that God would allow the church and its leaders to go astray. That is, priesthood authorities are not infallible and could lead the Latter-day Saints into apostasy. Once this belief is established within their own minds, dissenters simply need to pick an historical event as the trigger. A second approach asserts that the “priesthood” (and its highest offices) is an organization that can exist separate from the “church.” Once embraced, dissidents need simply declare that the church has gone astray but the “priesthood” (organization) has not and then claim to be members of the “priesthood.”

The “Samuel Principle”

Before proclaiming when and how the church apostatized, dissenters need to establish that God would allow such an apostasy to occur. To do this, they emphasize the principle of “common consent” mentioned in D&C 26:2: “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.” In other words, they reason that if the majority of members “consent” to a wayward path or an uninspired leader, even if they don’t realize it, God is going to respect their agency and allow them to stray. To justify this interpretation, dissenters seek scriptural examples where God gave an individual or a [Page 80]group of his followers what they wanted, not what they needed spiritually. A few examples can be identified:

  1. The Lord told Samuel to fulfill the Israelites’ request for a king when they rejected him (1 Samuel 8:6–10).2
  2. Joseph Smith was granted permission to give Martin Harris the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon even though many previous requests by Joseph had been denied (D&C 3, 10).3
  3. The Lord gave the Israelites in the desert the Law of Moses when they rejected the higher law (jst Exodus 34:1–2).4

Selectively emphasizing these events supports the idea that God would let The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go astray if the membership chose to disobey. Joseph W. Musser, a fundamentalist leader, elaborated in 1940:

[Page 81]To the time-worn statement that the Lord will not permit the leaders to lead His people astray one need but reflect on the history of the past. The Saints have been led astray by their leaders on numerous occasions. The Jews were so led by the recreant High Priests in the days of Christ – indeed they were led to crucify the Savior. King Noah and the priests of his day caused the people to stray from the simple truths of the Gospel until only a few faithful ones, under the leadership of Alma remained and they were driven into the wilderness. So it is in the present day [1940], by permission of the leaders, laws and ordinances have been broken and changed to better accommodate the efforts of the Saints to be one with the world.5

Musser stretches the concept somewhat, but he affirms that church members can sustain leaders who are capable of leading them into apostasy. That is, God’s respect for free agency would prevent him from intervening if the membership sustained an uninspired leader by common consent.

Using the “Samuel Principle” logic, dissenters posit that somewhere in the last 200 years church members became disobedient and chose unrighteous leaders, and God could not and did not intervene. The dissenters, however, claim the religious high ground where apostasy supposedly has not occurred. They generally claim inspired authority and/or leadership independent of the errant church. In a few cases, like with the FLDS polygamists in Colorado City, Arizona, and Eldorado, Texas, they may also affirm to be God’s true church, having completely supplanted the Utah-based church.

Several problems can be identified with efforts to generalize the “Samuel Principle” to all places and times. First, a far more [Page 82]common pattern in the scriptures is for God to raise up inspired prophet-leaders to declare repentance to apostates. Second, God can maintain inspired leadership within his church without encroaching upon the free agency of the membership. And third, multiple revelations support that the church established by Joseph Smith was destined to continue and expand until the millennium.

God Calls Prophets to Declare Repentance when his Followers Go Astray

The common pattern in the scriptures is for God to call prophets to declare repentance to mortals rather than respecting their wicked choices. So if the Latter-day Saints had begun to stray from the truth, the general reaction in the scriptures would have been for the Lord to raise up leaders to correct them. A classic example is the account of the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon who “had had the word of God preached unto them. But they had fallen into great errors” (Alma 31:8–9). In response to their apostasy, Alma and several other missionaries were sent to preach repentance to them (Alma 31:5–6). The Zoramites were not given a lesser law or ignored by God, who dissenters would say was bound to respect their choices. Instead they were given new inspired leaders to bring them back to truth. Multiple other examples can be found involving Enoch, Noah, Isaiah, and a host of lesser prophets (see, for example, Moses 6:27, 8:23, 2 Kings 20:1, Jacob 2:2, Words of Mormon 1:17, Mosiah 12:1, Helaman 7:2).

When early church members exhibited false practices, Joseph Smith called them to repentance:

Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence [Page 83]of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities returned, the spirit was made manifest, those members that were exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that would not repent and forsake it were cut off.6

While there may have been a few exceptions in the religious record (like Samuel giving Israel a King), God’s pattern (see D&C 52:14) is not to neglect his followers who err but to call prophets to declare repentance and lead them back to truth.

God Can “Raise Up” Righteous Leaders and Still Respect Free Agency

But what if the followers of God sustain and support errant leaders? Isn’t God obligated to follow their decisions? While on rare occasions, he has chosen to intervene so his children would learn a specific gospel principle, the scriptures demonstrate that God’s purposes are not vulnerable to the choices of his followers on earth. Joseph Smith’s revelations plainly teach that due to two processes, God can respect free agency and always have inspired leaders in his church if that is his design.

The first process involves God’s control over when and where we are born on earth. George Q. Cannon explained that [Page 84]in the premortal world, “the courts of heaven were thronged with spirits anxious to take upon themselves tabernacles of flesh.”7 Spirits in the primordial world are anxious to come to earth, but the timing of our mortal births is according to God’s purposes. Paul explained that the Lord has “determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of [our] habitation” (Acts 17:26). For example, Joseph F. Smith taught that certain “choice spirits” were reserved in the premortal heavens to be born in the “fullness of times” because they would be then needed: “The Prophet Joseph Smith, and … Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits … were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work” (D&C 138:53). Without question, the location and timing of our mortal births are under God’s complete control.

In addition, God can determine when we die (Hebrews 9:27). He “holds the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth” (D&C 117:6) and can end or prolong our mortal lives according to his divine will. For example, Isaiah warned King Hezekiah: “Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (Isaiah 38:1). Hezekiah wept and prayed: “O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (Isaiah 38:3). Isaiah was then instructed: “Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (Isaiah 38:5; see also 2 Kings 20:6). Similarly, when Joseph Smith’s enemies incarcerated him in the Liberty Jail in 1839, God comforted him saying: “their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do” (D&C 122:9).

[Page 85]Accordingly, the Lord determines when and where we are born and can control when and where we pass away. This power gives him ultimate control over who is guiding his church on earth. At no time does he need to tolerate an uninspired leader. He can simply bring them home (Alma 40:11), thus allowing a more righteous leader to preside in his place. Brigham Young explained:

The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.8

Wilford Woodruff echoed this concept:

The Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as the President of this Church, to lead you astray. It is not in the program. 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.9

Accompanying God’s complete power over life and death is his foreknowledge. He knows “the end from the beginning” (Abraham 2:8). He assures us that “all things are present before mine eyes” (D&C 38:2). Nephi explained: “the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for [Page 86]behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Nephi 9:6).

These two powers — controlling birth and death as well as knowing the future — allow God to raise up righteous, inspired leaders and believers on earth to perpetuate his work whenever he desires. God told ancient Israel: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee” (Deuteronomy 18:15). This process also influenced the creation of the Constitution of the United States. The Lord informed Joseph Smith: “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80). If God can “raise up wise men” to bring forth the Constitution, he can also assure that righteous men are always in position to guide his church on earth.

Claims from dissenters that God’s respect for our free agency renders him essentially impotent to maintain righteous, inspired leaders to guide his church after Joseph Smith’s death are unfounded and diminish his divine stature.

Prophecy Supports the Restored Church Will Continue to the Millennium

Multiple revelations and statements from Joseph Smith support that the church he established will persist to the millennium. The plainest was uttered in October of 1831 in Hiram, Ohio:

The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth. (D&C 65:2)

Joseph Smith’s God has the power to fulfill his promises including that the gospel will “roll forth unto the ends of the earth.”

[Page 87]In addition, several revelations plainly acknowledge that the church established through Joseph Smith is the “last kingdom” (D&C 88:70, 74, 90:6; see also D&C 24:19, 27:12–13). That is, it would not apostatize or be given to another people.

Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. (D&C 90:2)

For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times. Which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you. (D&C 112:30)

Other revelations reflect the same expectation:

And to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation, in this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness–clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. (D&C 5:14; see also D&C 33:5, 109:73)

Behold, I, the Lord, have made my church in these last days like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge the nations. (D&C 64:37)

That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that [Page 88]the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world; (D&C 78:14)

Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. (D&C 84:2)

Similarly, the Prophet taught:

And again, another parable put He forth unto them, having an allusion to the Kingdom that should be set up, just previous to or at the time of the harvest, which reads as follows — “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but, when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” Now we can discover plainly that this figure is given to represent the Church as it shall come forth in the last days.10

In summary, the “Samuel Principle” apparently applied to the unique circumstances that the prophet Samuel faced, but it does not represent God’s normal interaction with his followers on earth. The scriptures demonstrate that the Lord’s pattern is to call prophets to declare repentance. Controlling birth and death and knowing all things allow him to always have inspired leaders when he desires. Multiple revelations and declarations indicate the church established by the Prophet will continue and expand until the millennium.[Page 89]

Allegations of Apostasy

Despite the weaknesses inherent in the “Samuel Principle,” dissenters may affirm that certain events in church history triggered the loss of true leaders, true authority, and/or God’s divine guidance.

D&C 84

The earliest allegation historically is found in an 1832 revelation that condemned the Saints of that time.11

And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written. (D&C 84:54–57)

Allegedly, the Saints apostatized from the truth at that time and never recovered. This stance is contradicted by several verses in the same revelation that support that their condemnation was temporary. Earlier in verse 2 of that revelation we read: “Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion.” Verse 61 promises: “For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment—that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit [Page 90]of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you” (D&C 84: 61). Later verses in the same revelation acknowledge that church members were still the Lord’s representatives:

Nevertheless, search diligently and spare not; and wo unto that house, or that village or city that rejecteth you, or your words, or your testimony concerning me. Wo, I say again, unto that house, or that village or city that rejecteth you, or your words, or your testimony of me. (D&C 84:94–95; see also 99:4, 124:8)

At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, Joseph Smith prayed: “Remember all thy church.… That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 109:72–73). In response, the Savior declared:

Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name. For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house. Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house. Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen. (D&C 110:6–10)

[Page 91]During the dedication proceedings, multiple extra-worldly experiences were enjoyed by the Saints.12 Additionally, the Lord provided a name for the church in 1838, which would have been surprising if the church had been permanently rejected in 1832:

For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations; And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth. (D&C 115:4–6)

Multiple evidences demonstrate that the Lord accepted his church in 1838, well after the conditional condemnation of section 84 was issued.

D&C 124

One dissenter recently criticized the Nauvoo Latter-day Saints as deeply unrighteous and “ungrateful and oblivious.”13 He wrote that the time required to build the Nauvoo Temple (four years and two months) was too long, resulting in the Lord’s irrevocable condemnation.14 He bases his interpretation upon D&C 124:31–32:

But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms [Page 92]shall be acceptable unto me. But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 124:31–32; see also 47–48)

Asserting that the church and its members in the early 1840s were so unrighteous that the Lord was forced to withdraw his Spirit and authority is difficult to sustain from a documentary standpoint. During the years the Saints settled Nauvoo, the high council aggressively disciplined all moral transgressions (see appendix to this essay). Joseph administered temple ordinances in 1842, expanding in 1843 and 1844 to include dozens of church members. He also organized the Council of Fifty in the spring of 1844.15 These activities support the Lord was with his church and his prophet. On July 23, 1843, Joseph Smith declared: “I see no faults in the church. — Let me be resurrected with the saints whether to heaven or hell or any other good place — good society. what do we care if the society is good?”16 Just days before the martyrdom, as Joseph left Nauvoo for the last time, he paused when they got to the Temple and remarked, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens.”17 Many other evidences are available to show that in Nauvoo, the Latter-day Saints were still approved of God and [Page 93]experiencing visions, speaking in tongues, dreaming inspired dreams, and enjoying other gifts of the Spirit.

1890 Manifesto

The most common trigger-event promoted by dissenters allegedly causing the church to lose the truth is the issuance of the 1890 Manifesto. Through it, the commandment then incumbent upon church members to practice plural marriage was removed.

Fundamentalists universally vilify the Latter-day Saints in the 1890s, declaring that the Saints of that time became more concerned with their property and worldly possessions than with keeping the commandments of God. They affirm that church members were then hounding Wilford Woodruff “day and night for a declaration of recession of polygamy.”18 As fundamentalist leader Joseph W. Musser stated: “It became necessary for the leaders to pacify the multitude.”19 Fundamentalist “High Priest Apostle”20 Lorin Woolley taught:

[Church members were writing letters] asking the leaders to do something, as the Gentiles were talking of confiscating their property in connection with the property of the Church. These letters not only came from those who were living in the Plural Marriage relation, but also from prominent men who were presiding in various offices of the Church who were not living in that relation. They all urged that something [Page 94]be done to satisfy the Gentiles so that their property would not be confiscated. (1929 Account)

It is true that in the 1880s some church members had inquired to see if the church’s position on polygamy could be changed. Others had vocalized the trials they were required to bear. However, neither of these actions should be interpreted to mean the general church membership were desirous of a Manifesto if such a doctrinal change would limit their eternal exaltation or place them condemned before the Lord. For members to state that they are enduring hardships is not tantamount to requesting that the trials be removed, especially if a spiritual penalty is attached.

Regardless, fundamentalists depict church members as demanding relief at any cost, and so in harmony with the principle of agency and “common consent” (D&C 26:2), the Lord granted it, permitting his servant to produce a manifesto independent of his will and inspiration.21 Musser explained:

It is evident from what has already been written that we as a people did assume all responsibility and voluntarily surrendered plural marriage. God had nothing to do with it, only insofar as He permitted the people to use their own agency in accepting or rejecting the responsibility of His law.22

Fundamentalists suggest that after the Manifesto of 1890, the Saints rejoiced in their property and in the prospect that they would no longer suffer on account of polygamy. This idea fits well into their narratives and doctrines, but unfortunately for them it is not supported by available historical documentation. In fact, the Saints in 1890 were mostly confused by the Manifesto. They sustained it because they sustained President [Page 95]Woodruff who presented it to them. The ongoing confusion prompted church leaders to explain its meaning to the people in many subsequent discourses.23

Accordingly, the Fundamentalist “party line” that the Saints wanted a Manifesto at any cost to remove their persecutions is unsupported. Church members followed their leaders and accepted the counsel of President Woodruff. To reject a prophet’s instruction, is to reject the prophet. The Saints did not do this. Regarding the Manifesto, Wilford Woodruff later explained:

I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. The Lord has told me by revelation that there are many members of the Church through Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of the Manifesto …

Now, I want you to understand that [President Woodruff] has not lost the Spirit nor is he about to apostatize. The Lord is with him, and with this people. He has told me exactly what to do, and what the result would be if we did not do it.24

That the Lord was still guiding his church is evident in the spiritual blessing enjoyed at the dedicatory services of the [Page 96]Salt Lake Temple three years later. There President Woodruff disclosed a portion of what the Lord had revealed to him:

I feel at liberty to reveal to this assembly this morning what has been revealed to me since we were here yesterday morning. If the veil could be taken from our eyes and we could see into the spirit world, we would see that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor had gathered together every spirit that ever dwelt in the flesh in this church since its organization. We would also see the faithful apostles and elders of the Nephites who dwelt in the flesh in the days of Jesus Christ. In that assembly we would also see Isaiah and every prophet and apostle that ever prophesied of the great work of God. In the midst of these spirits we would see the Son of God, the Savior, who presides and guides and controls the preparing of the Kingdom of God on the earth and in heaven.25

To say the church was then rejected is inconsistent with these and many other experiences.

Priesthood Keys Lost by President Grant

Another trigger or watershed moment according to some dissenters occurred when Heber J. Grant became church president in 1918. Dissenters have claimed that President Grant never received a revelation in his life and publicly admitted the fact. Joseph W. Musser wrote:

President Grant, on numerous occasions and with commendable frankness, has acknowledged the absence of any revelation to him. He has, according [Page 97]to his testimony, had no spiritual manifestations that could be interpreted as a revelation from the Lord; he has not seen an angel, nor the face of his Lord.26

On another occasion Musser wrote:

The present leader (Heber J. Grant) has recently stated to friends and associates, and even in his public addresses he has reiterated it, that he has never seen the face of the Savior, nor had any other special manifestation from the Lord; and further, said he, “I don’t know that I want any because of the great responsibility such would entail.”27

In 1882, Heber J. Grant was called to the Apostleship by a direct revelation to President John Taylor:

Thus saith the Lord to the Twelve, and to the priesthood and people of my Church: Let my servants George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that you may be fully organized and prepared for the labors devolving upon you, for you have a great labor to perform; and then proceed to fill up the presiding quorum of the Seventies, and assist in organizing that body of my priesthood who are your co-laborers in the ministry. You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies.28

[Page 98]Heber J. Grant related that subsequent to his calling to the Apostleship of the Twelve he became qualified to serve as a genuine apostle:

So I went to the president’s office, and there sat brother Teasdale, and all of the ten Apostles, and the Presidency of the Church, and also Seymour B. Young and the members of the seven presidents of Seventies. And the revelation was read calling brother Teasdale and myself to the apostleship, and brother Seymour B. Young to be one of the seven presidents of Seventies. Brother Teasdale was blessed by President John Taylor, and George Q. Cannon blessed me …

I was a very unhappy man from October to February. For the next four months whenever I would bear my testimony of the divinity of the Savior, there seemed to be a voice that would say: “You lie, because you have never seen him.” One of the brethren had made the remark that unless a man had seen the Lamb of God — that was his expression — “he was not fit to be an Apostle. This feeling that I have mentioned would follow me. I would wake up in the night with the impression: “You do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, because you have never seen him,” and the same feeling would come to me when I would preach and bear testimony. It worried me from October to the following February.

I was in Arizona, traveling with Brigham Young, Jr., and a number of other brethren, visiting the Navajo Indians and the Moki Indians.… I had this feeling that I ought not to testify any more about the Savior and that really, I was not fit to be an Apostle. It seemed overwhelming to me that I should be one. There was [Page 99]a spirit that said: “If you have not seen the Savior, why don’t you resign your position?”

As I rode along alone, I seemed to see a Council in Heaven. The Savior was there; the Prophet Joseph was there; my father and others that I knew were there. In this Council it seemed that they decided that a mistake had been made in not filling the vacancies in the quorum of the Twelve, and conference had adjourned. The chances were the brethren would wait another six months, and the way to remedy the situation was to send a revelation naming the men who should fill the vacancies. In this council the Prophet said, “I want to be represented by one of my own on that council.”

I had always understood and known that my mother was sealed to the Prophet, and that Brigham Young had told my father that he would not marry my mother to him for eternity, because he had instructions from the Prophet that if anything happened to him before he was married to Rachel Ivins she must be sealed to him for eternity, that she belonged to him.

That is the reason that father spoke up in this council to which I have referred, and said: “Why not choose the boy who bears my name who belongs to you, to be one of the Apostles?” That is the inspiration that was given to me.

I can truthfully say that from February, 1883, until today I have never had any of that trouble, and I can bear testimony that I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world, and that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the living God.29

[Page 100]Dissenters who declare that Heber J. Grant did not receive the required witness to be an apostle are simply denying the historical record.

Declaring the “Church” and the “Priesthood” are Separate Entities

The second stratagem embraced by some dissenters in order to place themselves in a superior position to church members is the notion that the “church” is one entity and the “priesthood” is another and the two can coexist apart from one another. This reasoning serves fundamentalist purposes in several ways. First, it allows them to claim the authority needed to legitimately exist, but also allows the church to legitimately exist. Priesthood is required in order to effectuate valid ordinances. Joseph Smith taught that there is “No salvation between the two lids of the bible without a legal administrator.”30 Second, they can delegate to the “church” all the priesthood duties they do not wish to perform. Most commonly they assign the responsibility to do missionary work to the church, so they do not have to do it. Fundamentalist leaders often encourage followers to proselytize new converts to their ways of thinking, but they do not send missionaries out to baptize as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor did (see D&C 1:4, 4:4, 6:9, 18:44, 33:8–10, 42:6, 60:2, and 68:8). For many decades, temple building was also delegated to the church. Third, their “priesthood” organization is always loftier than the “church” and subtly reinforces the superiority complex they already feel over church members (more on this later).

Sometimes the dichotomy is described in confusing ways. One former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explained:

[Page 101]The church’s ordinations and ordinances remain vital to the restored Gospel, and the plan of salvation. Whether or not there is any person in the church with priesthood power, every person who joins the church, and keeps its ordinances will be invited through those ordinances, to come and receive the Lord.31

This counsel is very different from that revealed by Joseph Smith. When asked why rebaptism by an authorized priesthood bearer was required to enter the church, the Lord responded:

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old. Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen. (D&C 22:1–4)

True priesthood is needed to effectuate any valid ordinance including those of the new and everlasting covenant. The idea that a man might not have the priesthood, but could still perform ordinances that would be recognized by the Lord is novel, but false.

Also, the doctrine that the priesthood could exist outside of the church is incorrect. Joseph Smith explained that the “priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations” (D&C 84:17). He also counseled: “You will receive instructions [Page 102]through the order of the Priesthood which God has established, through the medium of those appointed to lead, guide and direct the affairs of the Church in this last dispensation.”32

The connection between the priesthood and God’s church can be illustrated by observing the Pacific Naval Fleet during World War II. Towards the end of the conflict, the fleet was led by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. At that time, the naval headquarters was not located permanently in Hawaii, San Francisco, or some other location. The headquarters for the entire Pacific Navy was wherever Admiral Nimitz was positioned. If he was on a ship, then the fleet headquarters was on the ship. If he was visiting Hawaii, then headquarters was in Hawaii.

Similarly, wherever the man holding the “keys” of the priesthood is located (D&C 132:7, 18, 19), there is God’s church. The keys cannot be in one place and the church in another. Also, it does not matter whether he has formally registered his organization with the government of that country. In God’s eyes, the followers of the key holder constitute his church (see D&C 10:67–68). Equally, if the presiding priesthood leader — the key holder — leaves a church organization, then that church organization is unrecognized and is in apostasy, and those following the priesthood key holder would become the new true church with all of the accompanying blessings and responsibilities (like missionary work). This separation has not occurred since Joseph Smith organized the church on April 6, 1830, although dissenters have posed arguments to the contrary as discussed above.[Page 103]

Prophecies of a “Gathering,” a “Marvelous Work and a Wonder,” a “Sweeping of the Earth,” and a “Rolling Forth”

One problem with the dissenters’ view that describes the church as going astray involves many prophecies regarding its responsibilities in the latter-days. Christ declared there would be a final “gathering”: “I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion” (3 Nephi 21:1). Likewise, a “marvelous work and a wonder” will be performed: “And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men” (2 Nephi 25:17; see also 27:26). In addition, “truth” will “sweep the earth”: “And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth” (Moses 7:62). And as quoted above, the gospel will “roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).

Dissenters who affirm an apostasy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apparently embrace the position that the “gathering,” the “marvelous work and a wonder,” the “sweeping the earth” with “righteousness and truth,” and the “rolling forth” were stillborn. Or they may maintain that the church has strayed and the efforts have diminished after an initial expansion. Another view is that the efforts are sputtering forth to fill small parts of the whole earth. Or perhaps they will defend some hybrid notion that the church is in apostasy but still possesses enough truth and authority to sufficiently fulfil [Page 104]these prophesies — which is impossible to do from a doctrinal standpoint, but it does conveniently absolve the critics from the need to fulfill them.

This global perspective is usually left unaddressed by dissenters who generally maintain a much smaller focus; one that commonly places them and their concerns on center stage.

The Use of Scriptural Proof-Texts

Dissenters typically employ a set of proof-texts to support their view that the church is in apostasy. A proof-text is a scripture that is extracted from its context in order to change its meaning. Several verses of scripture have been recruited by dissidents to support the idea that Joseph Smith and/or the Book of Mormon prophesied that the church established by the Prophet would apostatize. Usually included is the idea that a remnant of true believers would exist. Of course, the dissenters promoting this view willingly imply or proclaim that they are the worthy offshoot.

3 Nephi 16:10–11

Perhaps the most common verse so misused is 3 Nephi 16:10–11 where the Savior informs the Nephites:

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. And then will I remember my [Page 105]covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. (3 Ne. 16:10–11)

Dissenters label the “gentiles” in this verse as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and conclude that the “gospel” will be brought from among them — that they will apostatize. This interpretation is problematic for several reasons. First, the Book of Mormon identifies the “gentiles” generally as the Caucasian people who populated America, primarily from England, but also from other nations of western Europe (1 Nephi 13:12–15). The Book of Mormon further divides the “gentiles” into two groups: the believers and the unbelievers. Nephi explained that “as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2).33

In order to discover which group the Savior is referring to in 3 Nephi 16:10–11, readers simply need to back up two verses: “But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the gentiles” (3 Nephi 16:8). In other words, the “unbelieving of the gentiles” in North America will not universally accept the restored truth. Hence, believing gentiles and converts from the “house of Israel” (Book of Mormon peoples) will redirect their missionary work to countries outside of North America — to other nations where the house of Israel descendants are living. George Q. Cannon explained:

The Prophet Joseph Smith in this translation [of the Book of Mormon], showed forth with great clearness, that the Gospel would be revealed, and that it should be received by some of the Gentiles; that when it should be received by the Gentiles, it should be carried by them to the descendants of Nephi and his brethren, who by that time should have become a filthy and a [Page 106]loathsome people. The Indians of our continent should receive the message of life and salvation. The Gospel should be carried to them. They would receive it with gladness. They would come to a knowledge of their Redeemer, as well as to a knowledge of the principles and doctrines and covenants which their fathers understood, and which their fathers had received. Wonderful prediction! And most wonderfully has it been fulfilled.…

The Gentiles did receive the Gospel of the Son of God, when it was revealed. Burning with zeal to carry this Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people; inspired by the Holy Ghost, they went out among the Indian races as well as others, and fulfilled the predictions of the Book of Mormon.…

When the Gentiles do reject the Gospel—as I fear they will from their conduct in the past—that is, as a nation—although I trust there will yet be many hundreds and thousands—yea, I would that I could say millions—of Gentiles gathered in by this Gospel; I trust that this will be the case, though the prospects are not very hopeful at present. It seems at present that as a nation, the Gentiles will reject the Gospel. When they do reject it, as they have in part, then God will commence, as the Savior said, to do a great work among the house of Israel. He will carry his Gospel there, and the work will commence then among all the scattered remnants of the house of Israel, over the whole earth.34

[Page 107]Orson Pratt35 and Parley P. Pratt36 agreed with this interpretation.

A second problem with the dissenters’ interpretation is that 3 Nephi 16:11 states the gospel will be given to the “house of Israel,” which is defined in the Book of Mormon as the descendants of Lehi (2 Nephi 29:2, 2 Nephi 33:13, and 3 Nephi 10:4–5). While most dissenters would gladly claim to be the recipients of the gospel they say the church has lost, they do not qualify genealogically.

A third inconsistency is found in Nephi’s description of the latter days:

And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer. (1 Nephi 10:14; see also 1 Nephi 15:16)

The house of Israel was going to be “grafted in” with “the gentiles [who] had received the fullness of the Gospel.” The house of Israel was not to displace them. Nephi further explained:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel. (2 Nephi 10:18)

[Page 108]Fourth, the fullness of the gospel has already been taken from the “gentile” nation of North America and given to the “house of Israel” as the majority of the population of Latter-day Saints live outside of North America and the most popular language spoken in the church is Spanish— not English.

2 Nephi 28:11–15

Another popular proof-text is found in 2 Nephi 28:11–15:

Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!

These verses severely condemn individuals whose doctrine had become “corrupted” (v. 11). Dissenters affirm they are referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the twenty-first century. This seems to be supported by the statement that “they have all gone out of the way” (v. 11). [Page 109]However, a careful reading shows that the time period described in the verses is when the Book of Mormon was to come forth to be translated and published. “Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken [Joseph Smith]” (2 Nephi 27:12). 2 Nephi 28:3 reaffirms the events described are in “that day.”

Mormon 8:32–33

An additional popular scripture is found in Mormon 8:32–33:

Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins. O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled.

Dissenters often assert that this condemnation is directed at the restored church. They fail to note that the statement “it shall come” refers to an event mentioned earlier in the chapter in verse 16:

And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God. (Mormon 8:16)

Moroni’s harsh condemnation is directed at “churches” that exist in the “day” when the Book of Mormon “shall come” or “shall be brought out of darkness” — when it is translated and published. That day is referenced in several other verses just previous to verses 32–33.

[Page 110]And it shall come in a day.… Yea, it shall come in a day.… Yea, it shall come in a day. (Mormon 8:27, 28, 29)

In other words, the Book of Mormon “shall come in a day” of wickedness.37 Then, as verse 22 declares: “the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled.” His promises include the final gathering, the marvelous work and a wonder, and the sweeping of the earth with truth. Their latter-day beginning shall come in a day of spiritual darkness. That is, the Book of Mormon “shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people” (Mormon 8:16). From there it “shall shine forth” and the gospel “shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).

A review of all scripture fails to identify any predictions or prophesies that the church established by Joseph Smith would apostatize or be replaced by another. Threats were made that if the Saints did not comply, consequences would have followed (see D&C 43:14, 60:2–3, 64:40, 83:2, 84:55–57, 98:19–21, 103:14, and 124:32, 46–48). However, a sufficient number of Latter-day Saints have always responded sufficiently to allow the church to continue to progress. In addition, a few scriptures can be quoted out-of-context to make it appear that a falling away might occur, but such interpretations contradict numerous other less ambiguous statements.

Church Leaders Are Still Inspired

Without exception, dissenters today believe the leaders of the church depend on man’s wisdom to lead because they have lost the ability to converse with God and his Son. To be an [Page 111]Apostle, one must be a “special witness of Jesus Christ.”38 The testimonies of the apostles in the church today indicate that they do qualify in every sense of the requirement. However, the Holy Spirit restrains open discussion of sacred things. Elder Boyd K. Packer explains:

We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness.39

Nonetheless, such references are made but are just denied by unbelievers. For example, in 1971 Elder Packer declared:

I have heard one of my brethren declare: “I know from experiences, too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ.” I have heard another testify: “I know that God lives; I know that the Lord lives, and more than that, I know the Lord.”40

In the April 2014 General Conference, President Packer stated plainly: “I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord.”41 Elder Russell M. Nelson testified in General Conference in 1992:

[Page 112]As a special witness of Jesus Christ, I testify that He lives! I also testify that the veil of death is very thin. I know by experiences too sacred to relate that those who have gone before are not strangers to leaders of this Church.42

More recently in a Regional Conference meeting, Elder M. Russell Ballard referred to Elder Richard G. Scott then sitting on the stand saying, “Few men know the Savior as well as Elder Scott.”43

Dissidents need uninspired leaders in the church to justify their claims, but if the works of the church in fulfilling the prophesies are not enough to demonstrate divine guidance, a careful listening of their testimonies verifies that they are his special witnesses today.

Perfection Is Not Required

Dissenters often emphasize unrighteousness that exists among a portion of the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where weekly church attendance is around 50%.44 Of those participating, only a fraction hold temple recommends and not all recommend holders are genuinely trying to keep the commandments. In addition, many of those who are inactive may flaunt the church’s standards and even those who attend may stumble and behave hypocritically.

However, to label all members as unrighteous is not accurate. It can be argued that sincere, believing, complying Latter-day Saints have always existed within the church and that their numbers have always been greater than any [Page 113]group of dissenters or fundamentalists. Nevertheless, by ignoring the members who have sincerely sought to keep the commandments, dissidents can portray the whole church membership as being less faithful. This perception helps them justify their disaffection but is, nevertheless, a deception.

In addition, Joseph Smith described a God of “loving kindness and long-suffering” towards his children (1 Nephi 19:9), who is a God of “compassion,” (D&C 64:2), who is “pitiful” (1 Peter 3:8; D&C 133:53), and who is “merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (D&C 76:5). To ancient Israel, his hands remained “stretched out still” (2 Ne. 19:12, 17), despite their unrighteousness. When Christ appeared to the Nephites, he explained:

And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations. O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (3 Nephi 9:12–14)

The darkness and devastations that preceded Christ’s visitation to the Nephites spared the “more righteous”—not those that were nearly perfect. The level of obedience needed to avoid destruction was not perfection. And those who were “more righteous” were then invited to improve and to “come unto Christ” in order to “have eternal life.”

Similarly, through Joseph Smith, God promised his spiritual gifts “for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do” (D&C 46:9). [Page 114]Joseph Smith prayed in 1836: “O Lord, remember thy servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., and all his afflictions and persecutions — how he has covenanted with Jehovah, and vowed to thee, O Mighty God of Jacob — and the commandments which thou hast given unto him, and that he hath sincerely striven to do thy will” (D&C 109:68). God’s gifts and blessings are not only for those who are perfect, because no mortal has been including Joseph Smith. They are for those who seek to “keep all the commandments” and who “sincerely strive” to do his will. This level of righteousness has always existed in the church and among its leaders. Never since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830 has this earth been bereft of church authorities and members who were worthy to receive inspiration and carry forth God’s work on earth.

Dissenters Are in Apostasy

Among Mormon fundamentalists and dissenters are many sincere people who genuinely desire to serve God. A significant percentage are willing to make almost any sacrifice in order to obtain the blessings promised to the obedient as described by the Prophet Joseph Smith. What, then, can explain their need for the church to be wrong, so they can be right without it?

Joseph Smith taught: “for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.”45 He further warned:

Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you. (D&C 50:2–3)

[Page 115]The Prophet also advised that in the last days, false prophets would arise that can deceive even the elect according to the covenant. That is, those who have received the new and everlasting covenant and perhaps even the blessings of the temple can be deceived:

Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not; For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake. (Joseph Smith–Matthew 1:21–23)

Just weeks before his martyrdom, Joseph Smith explained:

Woe to that man or woman who Shall lift up their or his hands against god’s witness for the[y] are rasing their hands or arms against the power of god and the[y] will be cursed. But in these times in the last days there will many fals prophets arise and false teachers and decieve many the[y] Shall have many followers by their deceit. the[y] Strive to have power and by their pernitious ways lead of[f] many — for Brother Joseph Smith was chosen for the last dispensation or Seventh Dispensation The time the grand council Set in heaven to organise this world Joseph was chosen for the last & greatest Prophet to lay the foundation of gods work of the Seventh Dispensation.46

[Page 116]Brigham Young encountered many who promoted doctrinal claims that contradicted his inspiration. Some would declare their own visions and visitations from heavenly messengers. How did he respond? With tongue-in-cheek he remarked: “I say to such persons, Go ahead, and get all the revelations you can. If brother Joseph visits you every night, go ahead, and tell him to bring brother Hyrum, father Smith, Don Carlos Smith, St. Paul, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus Christ, if you can induce him to do so.”47 Then President Young explained:

I could almost lay my hand on that Bible and swear that the man or woman who gets such revelations has been guilty of adultery, or of theft, or has been rebellious and apostatized in feelings, but has come back again, and now professes to have such revelations. Hell is full of such revelations … I have had men come to me and tell the wonderful great dreams and visions which they have, when those very persons have apostatized heretofore, have denied their God and their religion; and I knew it. Many come to me and tell me what wonderful visions they have – that their minds are open to eternal things – that they can see visions of eternity open before them and understand all about this kingdom, – many of whom have at some time been guilty of betraying their brethren.48

Then he added: “I never notice them much. I sit and hear them talk about their wonderful knowledge, but it passes in and out of my ears like the sound of the wind. It is for me to see to this kingdom, that it is built up, and to preserve the Saints from the grasp of the enemy. The visions of the class I have mentioned are nothing to me. They may exhibit their great [Page 117]knowledge before me; but when they have done, it is all gone from me.”49

Joseph Smith explained that individuals who criticize leaders holding higher priesthood authority are not inspired. Those voices can and will deceive:

I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.50

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn other, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven;51

Such critics may publish books or post on blogs or interject their critiques in threads on the Internet, but according to Joseph Smith’s teachings, such criticisms of the church and its [Page 118]leaders could not be inspired by God and the proponents will apostatize, if they haven’t already.

This applies to a recent movement to ordain women to the priesthood.52 According to Joseph Smith’s teachings, God does not inspire individuals to seek change in the Church through the processes now effectuated by the proponents of women ordinations. Whether they realize it or not, their position not only advocates female priesthood conferral but also a transformation away from the Prophet’s basic teachings regarding revelation, inspiration, and order within the Church (D&C 58:55, 132:8). It is unclear whether they are ignorant of Joseph’s teachings or just feel they are outdated.

In these cases, church leaders may be obligated to excommunicate these “alternate voices,” so the church membership will not confuse their spurious teachings with official doctrines. Alma explained: “And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed” (Alma 5:60). While it may seem ironic, excommunicating apostates glorifies God. Joseph revealed:

And him that repenteth not of his sins, and confesseth them not, ye shall bring before the church, and do with him as the scripture saith unto you, either by commandment or by revelation. And this ye shall do that God may be glorified—not because ye forgive not, having not compassion, but that ye may be justified in the eyes of the law, that ye may not offend him who is your lawgiver. (D&C 64:12–13; emphasis added)

[Page 119]The scriptures demand that they be “cast out” (D&C 42:20–28, 75) and their names “blotted out” (Mosiah 26:36, Alma 1:24, 5:57, 6:3, Moroni 6:7, and D&C 20:83).

Notwithstanding, the dissenter can return: “Inasmuch as they do repent and receive the fulness of my gospel, and become sanctified, I will stay mine hand in judgment” (D&C 39:18). This is the invitation to all those who have left the ranks through excommunication or disillusionment. As Joseph Smith wrote to W. W. Phelps who had previously vilified the Prophet, but repented and desired forgiveness:

Come on, dear brother [or sister], since the war is past,
For friends at first, are friends again at last.53

[Page 120]


Nauvoo High Council Disciplinary Actions

Individual Charge Date Outcome


1 Theodore Turley Sleeping with 2 females, kissing females Feb. 6 Sustained–fellowship retained after repentance
Unnamed Crime or imprudence with an unmarried woman Mar. 2 Joseph Smith dealt with episode privately


2 Jessee Turpin Adultery Apr. 22 Fellowship withdrawn
3 Chancy L. Higbee Unchaste conduct May 20 Expelled from the church
4 Catherine Warren Unchaste behavior May 25 Restored to fellowship
5 Lyman Littlefield Unvirtuous conduct May 27 Disfellowship
6 Darwin Chase Unvirtuous conduct May 27 Restored to fellowship
7 Joel S. Miles Unvirtuous conduct May 27 Disfellowship
8 Justice Morse Unvirtuous conduct May 28 Disfellowship
9 Amanda Smith Insinuating adultery Jun. 10 Sustained but fellowship retained after repentance
10 Gustavus Hills Illicit intercourse Sep. 3 Disfellowship


11 Enoch King Adultery Jan. 21 Acquitted
12 Mary Eggleston Adultery Jan. 21 Acquitted
13 John Thorp Adultery Jan. 21 Cut off from the church
14 Sarah Miller Adultery Jan 21 Cut off from the church
[Page 121]15 Thomas Prouse Adultery Jan. 21 Disfellowship
16 Charity Thorp Adultery Jan. 12 Disfellowship
17 John Blazard Adultery Jan. 28 Cut off
18 Mrs. Pool Adultery Cut off
19 James Reed Adultery Held in fellowship
20 Mary Powell Adultery Held in fellowship
21 John W. Taylor Adultery Expelled from Church
22 Mary Cook Adultery Expelled from Church
23 Job Green Attempt to go to bed two young females Mar. 4 Not sustained
24 Jordan Hendrixson Adultery Apr. 1 Not sustained
25 Elizabeth Rowe Adultery Jul. 22 Fellowship withdrawn
26 George J. Adams Adultery Sep. 1 Not sustained
27 Quartus R. Sparks Impregnating a woman Nov. 18 Fellowship withdrawn
28 Harrison Sager Seducing a young girl Nov 25 Not sustained


28 Harrison Sagers ”Spiritual wives” Apr. 13 Not sustained

Of these 23 cases, 15 resulted in discipline. Sexual impropriety has never been tolerated by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1. Throughout this text I will refer to “Mormon fundamentalists” as a title rather than a description. “Mormon fundamentalists” prefer the name “Fundamentalist Mormons.” While I mean no disrespect, I do not believe they qualify through their works to be so addressed. “Mormon fundamentalists” are similar to fundamentalist groups that have attached themselves to other religions such as Islam, Catholicism, and the Jewish faith in that they selectively emphasize a few fundamentals while ignoring many others. For example, Mormon fundamentalist leaders like Lorin C. Woolley, John Y. Barlow, Joseph W. Musser, Leroy Johnson, Rulon C. Allred, Elden Kingston, and Joel LeBaron placed little or no emphasis upon missionary work—the need to preach the gospel and baptize unbelievers. The fundamentalist leaders sent some missionaries to gain converts to polygamy, but unlike Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor, they did not set the gathering of Israel as a priority (see D&C 84:75–76, 88:68; 110:11). The historical record demonstrates that missionary work was more fundamental to Joseph Smith than polygamy. See Brian C. Hales, Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2006), 451–78.

2. Joseph W. Musser taught in 1936: “We believe that he [Wilford Woodruff] signed the Manifesto discontinuing the practice of Plural marriage IN THE CHURCH because of the demand of members of the Church, who grew tired of the conflict and demanded a change, just as Israel of old demanded a king. Israel wanted to be as other people, and the Lord, after warning them, and they rejected His warning, told Samuel to give them a king. History records the terrible results thereof. And so this people, in face of the warnings of the early leaders of the Church, demanded an opportunity to live as Babylon, and the Lord yielded; for after all, the free agency of man cannot be abridged. And for this reason, and this alone, was the Manifesto permitted to be signed by Wilford Woodruff. This is the most that can be conceded that the Lord had to do with the Manifesto of 1890.” Joseph W. Musser, “Slanderous Statements Refuted,” Truth 2/8 (January 1937): 130; emphasis in original. See also David W. Jeffs, “Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Words,” Truth 6/1 (June 1940): 21, and Gilbert Fulton, The Most Holy Principle, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Gems, 1970–75), 4:66.

3. Heber Bennion. Gospel Problems (n.p., n.d.), 43, 49–50; Fulton, Most Holy Principle 4:66; and Jeffs, “Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Words,” in Truth, 19–20.

4. Dennis R. Short, Questions on Plural Marriage With a Selected Bibliography and 1600 References (Salt Lake City: Dennis R. Short, 1974), 25; Joseph W. Musser, “The Aftermath of Compromise,” Truth 18/10 (March 1953): 315; Joseph W. Musser, “What Authority Sanctioned the Manifesto,” Truth 20/6 (November 1954): 201; Editor [Joseph W. Musser], “Editor’s Comments,” Star of Truth 3/7 (July 1955): 276; Joseph W. Musser, Marriage – Ballard/Jenson Correspondence (n.p., 1935), 76.

5. Joseph W. Musser, “Evidences and Reconciliations,” Truth 6/5 (October 1940): 109.

6. Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 213, emphasis added.

7. Jerreld L. Newquist, comp., Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 21.

8. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 9:289.

9. Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles and Others, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: B. H. S. Publishing, 1987–92), 2:137.

10. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 98.

11. Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011), 376–85.

12. See Steven C. Harper, “A Pentecost and Endowment Indeed”: Six Eyewitness Accounts of the Kirtland Temple Experience,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestation 1820–1844, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2005), 327–71.

13. Snuffer, Passing the Heavenly Gift, 118.

14. Snuffer, Passing the Heavenly Gift, 96–119, 265–87. It is worth noting that the Saints settled in the Utah territory in 1847, but thirty years passed before the St. George Temple was complete. In addition, building the Salt Lake Temple took forty years (1853–1893).

15. As its name implies, this council was composed of fifty men but usually varied from that number. It was unique among the councils established by the Prophet in that its membership could include individuals who were not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was functioning only when church leadership were inspired to call it into activity and to direct its actions. See D. Michael Quinn, “The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844 to 1945.” BYU Studies 20 (Winter 1980): 163–97.

16. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps. and eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1980), 234, W. W. Richards reporting, 23 July 1843 (Sunday Afternoon).

17. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 379.

18. Musser, “Evidences and Reconciliations, in Truth, 255.

19. Joseph W. Musser, “What Authority Sanctioned the Manifesto,” Truth 20/6 (November 1954): 200.

20. According to Musser and Woolley, a priesthood office exists called “Hight Priest Apostle,” which is higher than the apostleship of the Twelve. See Joseph W. Musser, A Priesthood Issue (n.p.: n.d. [1948]), 10–11; Lorin Woolley quoted in “Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser.” Holograph, 31. This teaching has been jettisoned by most fundamentalists groups today even though it ironically is the only source to which they can trace their claims to sealing authority.

21. Musser, “Evidences and Reconciliations,” in Truth, 60.

22. Joseph W. Musser, “Priesthood Items,” Truth 8/9 (February 1943): 202.

23. See Stuy, Collected Discourses, 2:288–289; Durham, Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 218; and Woodruff, “Testimony before the Master in Chancery,” 19–20 October 1891, published in the Deseret News Weekly, 23 October 1891, 4–5. See also Edward Leo Lyman, Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 299.

24. Wilford Woodruff, Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret News Weekly, November 14, 1891. Parts found in “Excerpts from three addresses by President Wilford Woodruff regarding the Manifesto,” found after Official Declaration –1, Doctrine and Covenants, 1981 edition.

25. Wilford Woodruff, Minutes of the Salt Lake Temple Dedication Held April 6–24, 1893 quoted in Stuy, Collected Discourses, 3:274. See also Archibald F. Bennett, Saviors on Mount Zion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1950), 142–143. Also Joseph Heinerman, Temple Manifestations (Salt Lake City: Magazine Printing and Publishing, 1974), 118–119.

26. Joseph W. Musser, “Voting Rights of Saints,” Truth 6/3 (August 1940): 61.

27. Joseph W. Musser, “Continuous Revelation,” Truth 4/9 (February 1939):175; see also Joseph W. Musser, “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, Truth 8/8 (January 1943): 175.

28. Quoted in My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth: Readings in Church History (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints, 1979), 50.

29. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1942, 24–26; see also Improvement Era, November 1942, 756–757.

30. Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 235.

31. Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011), 37, emphasis added.

32. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 228.

33. Mormon referred to the believing gentiles as “the gentiles who have care for the house of Israel” (Mormon 5:10).

34. George Q. Cannon, in Journal of Discourses, 25:123.

35. Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 13:133; Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 17:298–99; Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 18:27.

36. Parley P. Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 5:200.

37. See also 2 Nephi 28:11–15.

38. Oliver Cowdery encouraged the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve to “Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face” (B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1960), 2:195–196.

39. Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (April 1980), 86. See also Alma 12:9; Hyrum Smith, “To the Brethren of the Church,” Times and Seasons 5/6 (March 15, 1884): 474; and Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 4:288.

40. Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, April 1971, 122–25; Boyd K. Packer, “The Spirit Beareth Record,” Ensign, June 1971, 88.

41. Boyd K. Packer, “The Witness,” General Conference (webpage), accessed April 20, 2014, https://churchofjesuschrist.org/general-conference/print/2014/04/the-witness?lang=eng&clang=eng.

42. Russell M. Nelson, “Doors of Death,” Ensign, May 1992, 74.

43. Related to me by S. Johnson, a bishop who was in attendance.

44. Evaluating the attendance and apostasy figures of prominent fundamentalist groups like the FLDS and the Allred Group (AUB) would likely reveal an even smaller percentage who are actively attending their religious meetings.

45. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 205.

46. Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 369–70.

47. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 5:352.

48. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 5:352.

49. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 5:352.

50. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 21.

51. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 156.

52. See, for example, Ordain Women: Mormon Women Seeking Equality And Ordination to the Priesthood (website), accessed March 31, 2014, http://www.ordainwomen.org.

53. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 166.

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About Brian C. Hales

Brian C. Hales, is the author of six books dealing with polygamy, most recently the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in The Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, and Dialogue as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Brian works as an anesthesiologist at the Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, Utah, and has served as the President of the Utah Medical Association.

71 thoughts on “Dissenters: Portraying the Church as Wrong So They can be Right Without It

  1. Hi Again,

    I see Dwight has made some very good points, but perhaps I can add a something more.

    Brother Pulsipher wrote: “the church is accomodating more and more Bablylon rather than acting to establish Zion.” How curious. It seems the LDS Church is more and more alone in its stand regarding same-sex-marriage. Is that “accommodating Babylon”? There are many more examples in its interactions with the world, society, and the government.

    Sure there are members who are not perfect (I am one of them). But many of us are trying—I bet some are trying even as hard as you are to keep the commandments. Are you unable to see this? It isn’t hard to detect. I know several individuals I would classify as “holy men” and “holy women.” Ironically, they don’t go around criticizing the Church or its members, they diligently seek to keep their priesthood covenants and serve others. Their efforts may not be on the front page, but God knows them.

    It seems that many dissenters are worried that the Church and many of its members are prospering. Since early Saints were in poverty, they seem to equate poverty with holiness or righteousness. It isn’t. Joseph Smith had the nicest home in Nauvoo (the Mansion) and he was seeking to build even a nicer building (the Nauvoo House) so he could entertain visitors in style and impress them. Wait! Isn’t that worldly? Hmmm. You can talk to Joseph about it.

    In fact, the rich as a group are not condemned in Joseph’s revelations:

    “Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!

    “Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!” (D&C 56:16-17.)

    The condemnation is for the rich who DO NOT SHARE THEIR SUBSTANCE. The Church facilitates this sharing as members pay tithes and a generous fast offering. God has promised those who are righteous: “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:20). Sure many LDS are not righteous, but many are striving very diligently. Their prosperity (and tithes/offerings) is needed to build temples and send missionaries and to build meetinghouses so the Saints can fulfill God’s command: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (D&C 59:9) and “Hearken, O ye elders of my church whom I have called, behold I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall assemble yourselves together to agree upon my word” (D&C 41:2).

    I love Wilford Woodruff’s recollection:

    “The Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland. … That was the first time I ever saw Oliver Cowdery, or heard him speak; the first time I ever saw Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, and the two Pratts [Orson and Parley], and Orson Hyde and many others. There were no Apostles in the Church then except Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. Those that I have named spoke, and a good many that I have not named, bore their testimonies. When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.’ I was rather surprised. He said ‘it is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.’”



  2. Mr. Hales,

    I notice you address Mormon 8:32-33, which you correctly identify as “churches”. You do not, however, address Mormon 8:35-41, which asks “why have ye polluted the holy church of God?” (v. 38) BYU Religion Professor George Pace asserted the “holy church of God” as apostate Christianity. BYU Professon Hugh Nibley, on the other hand, asserted this nailed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’m curious as to why you didn’t address this VERY direct scripture in you analysis above.

    Further, you note changes in the temple endowment and how you think those are permissible given Isaiah’s condemnation of changing the everlasting ordinances. You fail to mention the most obvious change in ordinances, which was when Heber J. Grant changed the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from wine to water. When responding, please keep in mind that D&C 27 only “commanded” Joseph not to buy wine from his enemies. (In response, Joseph reportedly concocted a grape substitute…) When the Savior deliverately asks for and uses only wine for the Sacrament in both the New Testament and in the BoM, how is this change justified in light of the repeal of Prohibition?

    Respectfully submitted,

    • These are interesting questions. I know you have directed your question to Mr. Hales and I don’t pretend to answer for him. However, I hope you won’t mind if I respond.

      In regards to wine I see several things to consider.

      First, section 27 does not “only ‘command’ Joseph not to buy wine from his enemies.” In addition the Lord also says: “For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” (D&C 27:2)

      So it wasn’t only about not buying wine from enemies but it also clarified that anything – within reason I imagine – can be used to represent the body and blood of the Savior.

      Second, the Church is guided by ongoing revelation. If past revelations were enough there would be no need for additional revelation to the Church. The Lord has changed some things over time and he does direct some prophets to do some things differently than other prophets..

      Noah (but no other prophet) was to build an Ark (Genesis 6:14)

      Moses implemented the Passover, which was hitherto unknown (Exodus 3:12-28)

      Jesus revoked the celebration of Passover, and modified the ordinance and its performance at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19)

      Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3)

      The Law of Moses was added when most of Israel could not abide a higher law. (Acts 13:39; Heb 7:19; Gal. 3:24). Then the Law of Moses was fulfilled and no longer observed (See Acts 13:39; Heb. 7:19; Ga. 3:24 See also Heb. 7:6-8, 12-13).

      The Gospel was first taken only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24) and then later to the Gentiles (Acts chapter 10)

      So a change from wine to water seems rather like a change from wearing blue socks to black socks. The important thing is to wear socks. With the sacrament the ordinance and covenants didn’t change so what matters remains the same.

      Third, the Bible seems to give rather strong counsel against the drinking of wine. (See Isaiah 24:9; Isaiah 28:7; Judges 13:4,14; Proverbs 20:1; Leviticus 10:9; 1 Samuel 1:15; Luke 1:15). Yet the Lord used wine for the sacrament. Perhaps that will bother some people but it seems to me that the Lord, being God, can do whatever He wants.

      Fourth, in some places the Bible seems to make a distinction between wine and new wine. (For instance see Hosea 4:11). Historically the term wine has been used to refer to unfermented grape juice or the fermented type. The Bible seems to be talking about these two types of wine in various places. Commandment to avoid wine is often associated with the phrase “and strong drink” which seems to be a qualifying phrase indicating which type of wine to avoid. Therefore, it is not clear whether the wine used by the Savior was fermented or not.

      • Fact of the matter is, Joseph never used water in the sacrament…even in the situation recorded in D&C 27. Jesus never used water in the sacrament, both in the Old World and in the New. I agree that under special circumstances descibed in Section 27, reasonable substitutes can be made. However, the Savior specifically requested wine of the disciples in 3 Nephi even though it could well be presumed water would be more readily available and obviously cheaper than wine.

        The Church used wine until the presidency of Heber J. Grant, who was a life insurance salesman and avid prohibitionist. There is no revelation on record changing the wine mentioned in D&C 20 nor in Moroni 5 from wine to water. I’m presuming that there wasn’t even a sustaining vote taken when the change was made, according to D&C 26 and 107.

        I was one of the first missionaries in Spain during the 1970’s when there were hardly any members there. I used many of the points you mention in your response to try to persuade Catholic Spaniards that Jesus did not drink alcoholic wine, and they shouldn’t either. It was a huge stumblingblock because my contention simply wasn’t credible. Grape juice without preservatives and/or refrigeration quickly becomes wine, as any chemistry student could relate. As a missionary, I was woefully prepared to deal reasonably with a culture where table wine was served to children and adults at almost every meal.

        Respectfully submitted

        • Good points. I would add that the revelation we have already discussed, that is section 27, already gives authorization to use something other than wine or grape juice. President Grant didn’t need any new revelation.

          The Church is guided by the Lord Himself through revelation to current prophets. If the Lord didn’t like President Grant’s decision to use water He would have given direction to his living prophets to correct that. When people act as if only an action or policy from a past prophet is valid it makes me wonder whether that person understands that the Lord is in charge of His church now through living prophets. That is often the real problem in cases like this. If one knows that the church is currently lead by the Lord through prophets then things like this are not an issue. I don’t know you so I am not saying that this does or doesn’t apply to you.

          I was a missionary in New York City and I taught an Italian family who drank wine with every meal. Dealing with that was not so hard. My companion and I taught the principles of the restored gospel and it was up to the family to accept or reject. We didn’t modify the Lord’s standard because of someone else’s tradition or interpretation or even by what was done in the past. Are we all supposed to marry prostitutes because Hosea did? Instead, how about let’s do what the Lord tells us through his current prophets.

          Also submitted respectfully.

    • The teaching of the temple centers on Jesus Christ. The truths and covenants taught there have not changed. The method of delivery has been modified over time. The fact that the method of teaching the truths and covenants of the temple has been modified over time has been acknowledged by the Church. It is no secret that these changes have occurred. When the principles were first restored to Joseph Smith it came line upon line and precept upon precept, not all at once. The first temple instructions were conducted by living persons in rudimentary surroundings with makeshift accessories. Over time, the delivery of the teachings were refined and the use of modern facilities and modern technology was employed and, in some cases, some of the unnecessary drama was removed to streamline the teaching process. However, the teachings and covenants remain the same. Joseph Fielding Smith noted — the “work of salvation for the dead came to the Prophet [Joseph Smith] like every other doctrine — piecemeal. It was not revealed all at once (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 168. ISBN 0884940411)

      On 4 May 1842, after President Joseph Smith gave the first Nauvoo-era endowment to a small group of Latter-day Saints he told apostle Brigham Young that because of their limited circumstances the overall experience was “not arranged perfectly” and he wanted Brigham to “organize and systematize” the ceremonies. This indicates there were some presentational modifications allowable in the rites while still preserving the core elements of the experience.

      Harold B. Lee emphasized that the means by which the endowment and its message are presented are subject to modification:

      “Now, you think for a moment—in the upper office over [Joseph Smith’s] store, with no equipment like we have in our temples today, the endowment had to be given by lecture. The Prophet Joseph Smith through these, his counselors, and others as you heard their names, attended to the matters that we now have given in various ways. Sometimes our people who go through the temples are a bit startled because of the varied ways in which the endowment is presented. Perhaps, as under inspiration they studied the nature of the endowment, they thought to make it a little more meaningful to the patrons who would come: part by dramatization, part by question and answer, part by lecture, part by picturization on the walls of some of the temples. We have artists who have tried to put those who go through the temple in the mood of the lesson to be taught as they proceed through the temple.

      “But it is the same message that was given by lecture by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his office over [his] store. Now, when we have that in mind, we will see why the Prophet, in the beginning of this dispensation, gave certain instructions to have the brethren stimulated in their thinking.” (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 578)

      That the temple ceremonies have undergone occasional changes, improvements, and refinements in the delivery method does not constitute a change to the teachings themselves and is no cause for concern and does not bother anybody except the critics who are simply looking for a reason to criticize. Critics have repeatedly demonstrated that they comb through LDS records and historical sources and bend over backwards to ignore the main points of history and doctrine and practice of the LDS Church. Instead they bend over backwards to find and cherry-pick out of context third-hand information in order to sensationalize it into a criticism of the Church. This is not good honest scholarship and the critics themselves and the people who fall for the arguments made by critics only hurt their own credibility by doing so.

      • In the above, folks have mentioned that although the methods used in the presentation of the endowment have change the message or the covenants have not. It seems to me that at least in the case of our being invited to enter the presence of the Lord, by responding to certain questions, important enough that if needed the person being presented was prompted in the exactness of the answers. And those responses were not just a presentation form, but part of the actual ordinance and the process required in order to be invited into His presence. That very process has been completely removed. It doesn’t seem a trivial matter in this case.

    • Regarding the critical Mormon 8:38 question of what exactly is the “holy church of God” which was polluted, it should be noted that Professor Nibley was never considered a “dissident” of the church. Matter of fact, he was one of the foremost apologists in behalf of the church.

      In “Approaching Zion” and “The Prophetic Book of Mormon”, Nibley repeatedly cites Mormon 8:38 in the context that the church is accomodating more and more Bablylon rather than acting to establish Zion. In several of his sermons (for example, see Ensign, July 1976 first presidency message), President Kimball alluded to Mormon chapter 8 (though he doesn’t elaborate on verse 38) as indication that as a church, we have a long way to go. Again, I would hardly consider Professor Nibley nor President Kimball to be dissidents.

      Respectfully submitted.

    • Hi Brother Pulsipher,

      I appreciate the comments.

      Thanks for quoting Hugh Nibley, but I think you actually misrepresent what he was saying. You wrote: “BYU Professon Hugh Nibley, on the other hand, asserted this nailed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

      Here’s one reference from Nibley that it is very good:

      “It is important to note that these people are church builders (the unbelievers are addressed in the next chapter), and that they include the members of the true church: ‘O ye . . . who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?’ (Mormon 8:38). The apostate churches were already pointed out in the earlier period (Mormon 8:32-33) along with their wresting of the Bible (Mormon 8:33). After the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, moreover, there is only one ‘holy Church of God’ (1 Nephi 14:10). The expression here, moreover, cannot refer to the primitive church, of which these latter-day Christians know nothing–they are not in a position to pollute it, and pollution is necessarily an inside job. And why should the true Church be any more immune to the blandishments of money and fine clothes and beautiful churches today than it was in the days of the Nephites?”

      The important point is that Nibley was not saying the entire Church would apostatize, thus creating the need for a remnant of dissenters to save the day. He was telling us that being a member doesn’t make us immune to pride and the other problems. In fact, being a dissenter doesn’t either. I worry about the superiority complex I sense in modern polygamists over LDS monogamists.

      Nowhere in Nibley’s teachings does he speak of the Church going into apostasy. Church members may apostatize, but the Church and its leaders will ever retain the keys needed to perform saving ordinances. If you believe Nibley taught otherwise, then please show me.

      Your comment about the sacrament is curious because D&C 27:2 states: “For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory.” If I understand you correctly, you disagree and believe that it does matter—that we must drink wine and not water.



  3. Brian,

    The Lord’s work requires no money. No buildings. No tithing. Just faith. Belief. Knowledge of Him. Consecration. Look at Helaman 5. Nephi and Lehi–two authorized messengers who had communed with the Lord became agents in the conversion of the 300 Lamanites (including dissenters). Look at what they experienced: Hearing the voice of the Lord, the ministering of angels, the voice of the Father, and probably more. They then converted the whole nation and they handed back the land they had taken by the shedding of much blood. The Lord does not need 80,000 missionaries–he just let’s them grow and learn by helping.

    The scriptures define and illustrate the fullness as coming into the presence of the Lord. Where the presence of the Lord is, there is fullness. Clearly the temple illustrates a process intended to occur in this life. The moment we are prepared for the Lord’s presence, he will reveal Himself to us. If we leave this life unready to be in His presence, we will not somehow be made ready in the next life.

    The Lectures on Faith are clear about what we can and must seek in order to be saved:

    “2:55 Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to. behold him face to face.

    “56 We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based, which excited the inquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints, to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God: and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this inquiry, in the first instance in their minds–it was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers–this testimony having aroused their minds to inquire after the knowledge of God, the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated, when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries, and eternal certainty.”

    7:18 “These sayings put together, show the Apostle’s views, most clearly, so as to admit of no mistake on the mind of any individual. He says that all things that pertain to life and godliness were given unto them through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And if the question is asked, how were they to obtain the knowledge of God? (for there is a great difference between believing in God and knowing him: knowledge implies more than faith. Anal notice, that all things that pertain to life and godliness, were given through the knowledge of God;) the anser is given, through faith they were to obtain this knowledge; and having power by faith to obtain the knowledge of God, they could with it obtain all other things which pertain to life and godliness.”

    It is one thing to have spiritual experiences. Many faithful people in and out of the church do. It is another to converse with the Lord through the veil and know Him.

    Believing in this doctrine and observing that it is not understood, preached, believed in, experienced in the church is less about trying to make the church look bad and finding cover for exiting the church and more about taking the Lord at His word. The Book of Mormon does not tolerate a Correlated version of the Gospel, but roundly condemns it as “false and vain and foolish doctrine” and “the precepts of men”.

    You’re going to have to choose between a Correlated Gospel and the doctrine of Christ. Hence the sacrifice described below:

    Lectures 6:5 “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.”

    By the way, thanks so much for your Mormon Stories response to Grant Palmer’s accusations against Joseph Smith. What a wonderful and needed contribution your research on polygamy is!

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comments and the compliment.

      You present a very interesting idea that: “The Lord’s work requires no money. No buildings. No tithing.” It seem you disbelieve Joseph Smith’s teachings. Tithing is commanded (D&C 119:3). Also, building are required. Joseph taught:

      “The Saints to Come up as Saviors on mount Zion but how are they to become Saviors on Mount Zion[?] by building thair temples[,] erecting their Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, Confirmations, washings anointings ordinations & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may Come forth in the first resurrection & be exhalted to thrones of glory with us, & here in is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the Children, & the Children to the Fathers which fulfills the mission of Elijah. (Scott G. Kenny, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, typescript, 9 vols., Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983-85, 2:341-42, January 21, 1844.)”

      In April 1843, the Prophet taught, “There are certain ordinances and principles that when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.” While still awaiting the completion of the Nauvoo temple, he lamented, “We need the temple more than anything else.”

      The scriptures too speak of the need for ordinances to enjoy the “power of godliness” (D&C 84:19). Joseph couldn’t have been any clearer when he said that “godhood” required obedience and an eternal sealing ordinance. Without genuine authority, there is no valid sealing and no exaltation (D&C 132:18-20). These ordinances require a temple.

      Joseph Smith taught of the need for ordinances like sacrament (and a building to offer them in) and endowment and sealings (requiring temples). These cost money. Missionary work today requires resources. Most countries will not allow missionary work “without purse or scrip.” God could destroy those governments and open up the way for missionary work “without purse or scrip,” or He could render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (D&C 63:26) and allow the Church members to prosper so they can pay tithes and offerings.

      I worry that some dissenters think they can gain exaltation by having some spiritual experience. I can’t tell you how many dissenters I have known or researched who have claimed communion with dead prophets or Christ. Joseph Smith warned: “there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.”

      But how can we know? Well, those with the truth will have Joseph’s ordinances and his authority. Twice in D&C 132 the Lord tells us “My house is a house of order” (vv. 8, 18). (And BTW, plural marriage is not an ordinance.)

      In Joseph’s theology, the Church is needed with its temples Churches, missionaries, leaders, and officiators, if valid exalting ordinances are to be performed to those who are worthy.


  4. Brian,

    So one line of thinking is that nothing moved in terms of FULLNESS since Joseph as lost. What of the church’s prosperity (a word with some decidedly anti-Zion connotations)? Nibley points to 4 Nephi 27-28 as evidence a church’s growth in the world should probably be seen as a red flag, not a sign of truthfulness. The stone rolling forth stuff is not about quantity, but quality. Who will do this if not the church, you ask? God will. He has not given His power to man. He does His own work. Nibley also acknowledged the fullness is not among us. Christ is the fullness–His presence–and also the list of things Joseph provided in the Lectures on Faith 7:20. So when a people lay hold on this kind of faith by picking up the Restoration where Joseph left off and attaining the presence of the Lord and access to the heavens–“that every man might speak in the name of the God the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (D&C 1:20), THEN the outreach to the remnant begins again. Joseph attempted it, but it has stalled since then because a possessor of the fullness is necessary to offer fullness to the remnant. And God is not dealing in “false and vain and foolish doctrine”–he is offering, as Joseph taught in Lectures 2:55, that “like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power to behold him face to face.”

    • Hi Dave,

      I don’t wish to misrepresent your position, but it seems you are willing to let God fulfill his promises except He can’t do it by having a prosperous Church. The Lord told Joseph, “I, the Lord, render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (D&C 63:26). For example, in early days, sending missionaries “without purse or scrip” was standard (D&C 24:18 ). Such behavior is against the law in most nations today and would result in missionary incarcerations. The Lord could destroy the governments to open the way, or He could help His followers on earth to prosper and then tithe them to support the missionary efforts.

      Similarly, meetinghouses cost money and so do temples. God, who controls the elements, could conjure up such edifices through miracles, or he could allow His followers to flourish and then used their offerings.

      There are many who are willing to claim to “pick up the Restoration where Joseph left off.” I’m curious how they are going to fulfill the prophesies to fill the whole earth while defying the governments of the day? Sure God can destroy them to make way for His kingdom, but He might also plan to work for a time rendering to Caesar what Caesar has claimed, which requires resources and a level of prosperity.

      Perhaps most importantly is that I have known many fundamentalists and modern polygamists in the past twenty-five years since I started studying this topic. There are many good people among them.

      It is also true that Sunday attendance among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is probably around 50-60%. Among the attenders are some who are not converted spiritually, but attend for social reasons. Another subgroup are those with temple recommends. Among them are a smaller number who are truly converted, who are faithful and faith-filled, who experience the miracles and the power of valid covenants in their lives, even a fullness of the promised blessings. They are humble, often quiet, not always in leadership positions (although they usually have had such experiences).

      This subset of Latter-day Saints is more numerous than all dissenters and polygamists put together and constitute more than enough righteous adherents to allow God’s work to move forward according to the Lord’s timetable.

      Dissenters seem to want to ignore the faithful LDS and instead focus on the less faithful and then imply all members are less faithful. It just isn’t true. There are many who are fulfilling Joseph’s prophesies and there is no need for anyone to “pick up the Restoration where Joseph left off” because a smaller number of Church members have been advancing it throughout their lives and ever since the restoration began.

      Take Care,


  5. Hey Brian,
    Thanks for this article (I realize I’m a little late in the game). I am probably what you might consider a dissenter, but I appreciate the straightforward and scriptural arguments that you have put forward.

    I harbor no ill will toward the church. I serve as an active member. My views just aren’t quite mainstream. Anyway, thanks again for this. I don’t care about being right. I only look for truth, so I like looking at issues from all sides.

    PS Your work on polyandry was very insightful for me.

    • Hi Tanner,

      Thanks for the comments.

      I’m not the judge of any person. My only advice would be to make valid covenants and keep them as you try to maintain as much faith as possible.

      Take Care,


  6. Brian,
    Whew. I don’t know how you do it. It’s exhausting to see all the watchers for iniquity, the sheer mountain of ideas and opinions, the friendly torpedoes of love, ugh! I struggle with my own trials, but I’ve got to say, yowsers! Thanks for your efforts. With articles like yours I’ve a renewed confidence in reading the scriptures for answers. I’ve enjoyed finding glimpses of what our father is like nestled inside of them. Sincere thanks.

    – an LDS member

  7. One point of clarification: my comment about redefining LDS scriptures and reshaping the religion was aimed at socially progressive Mormons and Mormon groups (such as Ordain Women and Mormon Stories), not the leaders.

  8. Hi Matthew,

    I appreciate your discussion of condemnation and forgiveness.

    Let me try to make a couple of observations. First, since the Lord can’t look upon sin with “the least degree of allowance,” (D&C 1:31), then every member is under some level of condemnation. Even Joseph Smith acknowledged in 1842: “Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing; the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault.” Just weeks before the martyrdom he confessed: “I never told you I was perfect… Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught?” Joseph was not perfect, but he was still able to lead the Church. In other words, he was under some condemnation, but that didn’t prevent him (and members in similar situations), but accomplishing what the Lord required. God didn’t need to go looking for someone closer to perfection.

    Second, it seems you want to label all members together as under the same condemnations collectively and individually. I don’t want to create a “straw man” argument by misrepresenting your position, but if the whole “Church” has to be “forgiven” together to remove the condemnation, then holiness (and the accompanying blessings) could not be attained by any Church member individually. I think this is problematic. Last night my wife and I did a sealing session in the Bountiful Temple. The Spirit was strong and the sealer struck me as a holy man.

    You offer evidences of the condemnation of the Church. I’m not sure what you mean by “the loss of doctrine since the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day.” Perhaps you can be more specific.

    I think your reference to a “shifting nature of the temple endowment” is quite problematic. The temple endowment is a set of ordinances, covenants, and teachings. They were given in different forms in Nauvoo (see Andrew Ehat’s thesis). They were further modified to accommodate the Nauvoo Temple (see Heber C. Kimball Temple Journal kept by William Clayton December 1845). They have had other modifications since that time. I believe the core teachings and the accompanying covenants and ordinances have not changed. That is, the covenants we make in temples today are exactly the same as those administered in Nauvoo. And those covenants God does honor if we keep our parts. Obviously we can’t discuss this here so I guess we’ll need to just embrace differing opinions.

    My concern for you is your willingness to criticize the Church and its leaders. The statement regarding the alleged effort “to redefine LDS scriptures and reshape the religion to be more harmonious with popular ideological trends” is an example. It seems there is no way to interpret your remarks except to believe you are speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed. George Q. Cannon observed: “There is one thing that the Lord has warned us about from the beginning and that is not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. He has told us that any member of the Church who indulged in this is liable to lose the Spirit of God and go into darkness.”

    When I encounter such criticisms (and they are common in dissenters, but also in others), I wonder what the critic thinks about the priesthood keys. Are they lost? Are they still in the Church? Can they exist outside of the Church (with or without keys inside as well)? I’d be interested in your responses. I’m speaking specifically about the priesthood keys mentioned in D&C 132:7; (see also 13:1, 27:6, 9, 13; 35:25; 42:69; 65:2; 68:18; 81:2; 107:16 etc.).

    I believe Brigham Young:

    “The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.”

    If we see imperfections in Church members and even leaders, it seems the best way we can help ourselves is to build up the Church the best way we can and leave the rest to the Lord. I like John Taylor’s counsel:

    “Suppose a corrupt man is presiding in a certain place, his corruptions are soon known. People need not strive to turn good into evil because they think that some man does wrong. They need not turn calumniators and defamers, for all will come right in its turn. Then attend to your own business, work the works of righteousness, sustain the constituted authorities of the Church until God removes them, and he will do it in his own time. Bishops, be after such men as speak against the Lord’s anointed.”

    I believe the saving ordinances are only in the Church and there we can individually work for perfection while we strengthen our brethren and sisters in their individual quests.

    Take Care!


  9. Brother Hales,

    Sorry for the lateness of this reply. I wanted to take the time to write out a well-cited, detailed reply, which took more time than I’ve had until this morning. What follows is how I see the nature of condemnation vs. forgiveness. I believe that, through explaining the difference, the importance of the condemnation will become apparent. If it hasn’t been lifted by now, we’re in an awful situation.

    Condemnation is the opposite of being forgiven. Forgiveness is the act of “giving as before” and cancelling a debt or punishment owed, thereby restoring the status of the offender to what it was before the offense occurred (D&C 58:42). Condemnation is the lack of forgiveness. Both are general states of being before God (Luke 6:37, D&C 64:9).

    Being forgiven is connected with the privilege of receiving more light and truth from God through the mediums of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost (D&C 39:6, Moroni 10:5). Whenever a covenant people of the Lord abide in His love and forgiveness by keeping the commandments, it is their right to receive the blessings and knowledge of God.

    People come under condemnation because of a refusal to receive the light that is offered to them (D&C 93:31-32). The way to remove the condemnation is to repent (D&C 58:42), otherwise there is a punishment that must be inflicted on the condemned person (2 Nephi 9:25). The way to remove condemnation that was brought about by refusing light and truth is to repent and accept the light and truth originally offered. A person is not condemned for not having received a fullness of the glory of God (or receiving all light and truth), but is only condemned for refusing light and truth that is specifically offered to them (2 Nephi 9:25, 27).

    The results of condemnation and forgiveness are the opposite. Condemnation (‘condemn’ has its roots in the latin ‘damnere’, which means to ‘inflict loss on’) results of a loss of light and truth. A person under condemnation is disobedient to God’s commandments, and as a result of that disobedience Satan “taketh away light and truth” (D&C 93:39). Unless the person repents, he will eventually lose so much light and truth that he will be taken captive by Satan. Conversely, someone who continues to repent will receive more light and truth until he knows the mysteries of God “in full” (Alma 12:10-11).

    The Lord is merciful and loving, and prefers to forgive us insead of condemn us. We are not condemned for our weaknesses or imperfections, but only for our sins (D&C 9:12).

    These are all principles upon which individual souls operate, and the Church operates by similar principles. It is the “body of Christ” and is led by the principle of common consent. Therefore if the whole church is under condemnation then the Church, as a whole, will continue to lose light and truth until it, as an institution, is taken captive by the devil (or Babylon, the world).

    The Church is in the process of losing light, truth, and knowledge, as evidenced by the narrowing and loss of doctrine since the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day and the shifting nature of the temple endowment. There are currently two distinct trends in the Church: one is seeking to reestablish the religion that Joseph Smith restored by repenting and truly following the teachings restored through him. The other prefers to become more like the world, more like mainstream Christianity, and is glad to jettison the doctrines, ordinances, and policies that made Mormonism “peculiar”. This second thread seeks to redefine LDS scriptures and reshape the religion to be more harmonious with popular ideological trends. The Lord promised that there was a needed cleansing that would befall the whole world, and that it would begin with the Church (D&C 112:23-26).

    The condemnation the Lord declared the Church was under in 1832 was significant. It resulted from rejecting the message of both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s other teachings. Essentially, it resulted from rejecting what the Lord *really* wanted the early Church members to believe and do. President Benson’s entire presidency was marked by warning us to beware of pride (what kind of pride is more dangerous than religious pride, wrought by false traditions of our fathers that we are a chosen, righteous, and blessed people?) and remembering the Book of Mormon in an attempt to finally get out from under the condemnation. Because no church president since then has contradicted those messages, if we are to honor and follow the living prophets we must conclude that the condemnation still exists.

    I believe there is some progress being made in really remembering the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s teachings and removing the condemnation among the Church members, but that “movement”, if you will, hasn’t reached full maturity yet.

    • That the temple ceremonies have undergone occasional changes, improvements, and refinements, should cause no concern since — as Joseph Fielding Smith noted — the “work of salvation for the dead came to the Prophet [Joseph Smith] like every other doctrine — piecemeal. It was not revealed all at once.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 168. ISBN 0884940411)

      On 4 May 1842, after President Joseph Smith gave the first Nauvoo-era endowment to a small group of Latter-day Saints he told apostle Brigham Young that because of their limited spacial circumstances the overall experience was “not arranged perfectly” and he wanted Brigham to “organize and systematize” the ceremonies. This indicates there were some presentational modifications allowable in the rites while still preserving the core elements of the experience.

      Harold B. Lee emphasized that the means by which the endowment and its message are presented are subject to modification

      “Now, you think for a moment—in the upper office over [Joseph Smith’s] store, with no equipment like we have in our temples today, the endowment had to be given by lecture. The Prophet Joseph Smith through these, his counselors, and others as you heard their names, attended to the matters that we now have given in various ways. Sometimes our people who go through the temples are a bit startled because of the varied ways in which the endowment is presented. Perhaps, as under inspiration they studied the nature of the endowment, they thought to make it a little more meaningful to the patrons who would come: part by dramatization, part by question and answer, part by lecture, part by picturization on the walls of some of the temples. We have artists who have tried to put those who go through the temple in the mood of the lesson to be taught as they proceed through the temple.

      But it is the same message that was given by lecture by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his office over [his] store. Now, when we have that in mind, we will see why the Prophet, in the beginning of this dispensation, gave certain instructions to have the brethren stimulated in their thinking.” (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 578)

    • The first temple instructions were conducted by living persons in rudimentary surroundings with makeshift accessories. Over time, the delivery of the teachings were refined and the use of modern facilities and modern technology was employed and, in some cases, some of the unnecessary drama was removed to streamline the teaching process. However, the teachings and covenants remain the same.

      The history of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is one of ongoing revelations to prophets and Apostles. God directed His work and some things were changed over time according to God’s will.

      Noah (but no other prophet) was to build an Ark (Genesis 6:14)

      Moses implemented the Passover, which was hitherto unknown (Exodus 3:12-28)

      Jesus revoked the celebration of Passover, and modified the ordinance and its performance at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19)

      Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3)

      First the Higher law was given in the bible.

      Then the Law of Moses: It was added to the higher laws of God because of the stubbornness of the children of Israel. Later, the law of Moses was fulfilled by Christ and no longer observed and the higher law was reinstated. (See Acts 13:39; Heb. 7:19; Ga. 3:24).

      He gave “a better covenant” (Heb. 7:6), and spoke of “the first covenant” (Heb. 7:7), and “a new covenant” (Heb 7:8,13). And we also read where the God instituted “a change also of the law” (Heb 7:12), and He said: “For verily there is a disannulling of the commandment going before” (Heb. 7:18). It is clear that God can change his laws, or the way his gospel is administered, as he pleases.

      The Priesthood

      God gave the Aaronic Priesthood to only one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Exo. 28:1-4; Num, 23:5-13; Num 8:5-26’ Num ch 17; Num. 18:6-8; Num. 27: 18-23).

      Uzza was severely punished for exercising a priesthood function when he did not hold the priesthood (1 Chr. 13:9-10).

      God destroyed Korah, Dathan, Abiram and 250 rebel leaders for seeking priestly offices when they were not authorized to do so (See Numbers chapter 16).

      The Aaronic Priesthood was given to the tribe of Levi as “an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations” (Ex. 40:15) and those who could not prove their Levitical lineage were “polluted, put from the priesthood.” (Ezra 2:6-26).

      God changed this later when priests from tribes other than the tribe of Levi were allowed to have the priesthood. (Heb. 7:11-12).

      Gospel taken Only to Jew – Later to Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24; (Acts 10) This came by revelation to the man who was the prophet at the time – Peter.

      Clearly, God does change some of the things he requires of his people over time. He did so throughout the Bible and it was always done through a prophet or Apostle of God. God can do whatever He wants within the framework of eternal law. God can change whatever He wants. If not He wouldn’t be God.

  10. Brother Hales-

    I appreciate the vigor of your reply, but the presiding authorities of the Church disagree with your assessment. President Benson was adamant that the Church needed to re-enthrone the Book of Mormon because the 1832 condemnation was still in effect.

    Per Elder Oaks (http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=574):
    “In that temple meeting, President Benson reread [D&C 84:49-58] and declared, ‘This condemnation has not been lifted, nor will it be until we repent’ (remarks by President Ezra Taft Benson, General Authority Temple Meeting, Thursday, 5 March 1987). He also repeated his declaration of a year earlier that, in our day, the Lord has inspired his servant to reemphasize the Book of Mormon to get the Church out from under condemnation (see Ensign, May 1986, p. 78).”

    If the condemnation was ever lifted, that reprieve was only temporary. Because the last official word from the Brethren was that the condemnation was still in effect, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it hasn’t been removed.

    God bless you,

    • Hi Matthew,

      I’ve posted an addendum above, but I’m trying to understand the significance that your conclusion has on the role of the Church.

      It seems dissenters want the Church to be (at least) partially in apostasy in order to justify their estrangement.

      If you see the “condemnation” as continuing, what are the consequences to the Church members and leaders that result?



  11. Hi!

    I believe the condemnation given in 1832 mentioned in D&C 84:56-58 was conditional. Just two verses later the Lord explained:

    “Verily, verily, I say unto you who now hear my words, which are my voice, blessed are ye inasmuch as you receive these things; For I WILL FORGIVE YOU OF YOUR SINS with this commandment–that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you.” (D&C 84:60–61; emphasis mine.)

    Among the many evidences that Joseph and the Church were approved of the Lord thereafter are the revelations given to members. On June 4, 1833, John Johnson was told that his “offering I have accepted” (D&C 96:6). Weeks later, Zion’s “offering” was accepted (D&C 97:27).

    Perhaps the most impressive evidences occurred at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Many of the Saints heard and saw extra-worldly things. Importantly, the Lord appeared to Joseph and Oliver telling them: “Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice” (D&C 110:5). Then the admonition to rejoice was expanded: “Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name. For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (vv. 6-7).

    In Nauvoo, Joseph taught the temple endowment and eternal marriage ceremonies were performed. The Lord told Joseph there: “Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac” (D&C 132:50).

    As I said in the article, on his way to Carthage and to martyrdom, Joseph paused when they got to the Temple, and looked with admiration first on that, and then on the city, and remarked, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them” (TPJS 379).

    Please don’t partake of false teachings from individuals who see themselves as offering something better or more true than the teachings and ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ID&C 84:61 specifies that to avoid condemnation, Church members need to be “steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, IN BEARING TESTIMONY TO ALL THE WORLD of those things which are communicated unto you.” Missionary work in any meaningful way has not been a focus of dissenters, but it has always been a primary duty of the Church president and Church members.

    Take Care,


    • I agree that the Church and its members are under condemnation because any person who is not perfect is under some level of condemnations for their imperfections. “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31).

      Joseph Smith taught: “And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation” (D&C 93:32). Any person who has not yet received ALL light is under some level of condemnation. Earlier in the same revelation Joseph explained: “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28). Stated another way, we are all under some level of condemnation until we receive all light and truth and are perfected. If Church members were perfect (under NO condemnation), they would be translated as the City of Enoch.

      However, for those people who seem to relish this reality, let me make a couple of observations. First, there is enough righteousness in the Church to fulfill its mission. As I said in the article, perfection is not necessary. Second and perhaps most important, I have known many dissenters and cannot detect any higher levels of righteousness (and consequently lower levels of condemnation) than what I see in devout Church members. To believe they are not under the same condemnation for their imperfections and members is not believable to me. They differ in that they are willing to separate themselves physically and/or intellectually from the Church and to criticize it.

      I long for the day when they set aside their criticisms and humbly submit to the Church’s leadership and lend their talents and gifts to building up God’s Kingdom instead of criticizing or holding out in the shadow lands and margins.

  12. Brother Hales-

    Is it your opinion that the condemnation of the early Church, recorded in D&C 84:54-57, was lifted? You imply that it has been by saying that “[m]ultiple evidences demonstrate that the Lord accepted his church in 1838, well after the conditional condemnation of section 84 was issued.”

  13. I was in the Tabernacle when Elder Maxwell gave his first conference address after being called to the Q12. I had just returned from my mission. I heard him say that he had seen the Lord at a time when I didn’t think that was such a controversial thing for an apostle to say or not say. I always remembered that; it had such a great influence on me. Then, decades later, I pulled that address to find it; it wasn’t there where I expected it to be or anywhere else. Had I really heard it? Had it been removed? I’ll never know.

    • This is very interesting. I worry that those that demand that the Apostles relate to their audiences exactly when and where they saw the Savior, are in fact, seeking for a sign (by proxy). Of course sign seeking is condemned (Matthew 12:39). I see plenty of evidences that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fulfilling the prophesies. That is a “sign” for me.

      There are individuals claiming their own conversations with Christ. Since I believe He is guiding this Church through our leaders, if He appeared to someone else, it would be to help them personally, but also to encourage them in supporting the role of the Church in these latter days.

      While researching Mormon fundamentalism I compiled a list of dozens of men who claimed to have seen heavenly messengers, hence I’m a little jaded to such claims from people who have left the Church.

      I guess I’m wandering here. Sorry.

  14. “Fourth, the fullness of the gospel has already been taken from the “gentile” nation of North America and given to the “house of Israel” as the majority of the population of Latter-day Saints live outside of North America and the most popular language spoken in the church is Spanish— not English.”

    Do you have a source for your statement that Spanish is the most popular language spoken in the Church?

  15. Hello!

    I loved the article! I was wondering what you thought about this experience:
    “Hugh B. Brown, who had served as President McKay’s first counselor, resumed his seat as an apostle. A few months later he would confide in his nephew, N. Eldon Tanner, that he missed the intense involvement of the First Presidency. In failing health, he could attend meetings of the Twelve only infrequently, so Eldon became one of his few regular contacts with General Authorities. Following one visit, President Tanner wrote in his diary, “I am sure it is difficult to adjust after being in the First Presidency.” He added an experience related by his uncle that had helped President Brown adjust to these years of declining responsibility.

    “He said it was not a vision, but the Lord appeared to him, very informal, the same as I was sitting talking to him. The Lord said, ‘You have had some difficult times in your life.’ Uncle Hugh responded, ‘Yes, and your life was more difficult than any of us have had.’ In the conversation Uncle Hugh asked when he would be finished here, and the Lord said, ‘I don’t know and I wouldn’t tell you if I did.’ Then He said, ‘Remain faithful to the end, and everything will be all right.’”

    [Pp. 254–56 in Durham, G. Homer. 1982. N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.]

    I was just wondering that in light of the discussion about our habitations are known and the Lord can know or does know when and where we’ll pass away-Thank you!

    • What an interesting quote. I was not familiar with it. Honestly I don’t know what to say. It does seem to contradict scriptures that describe God as omniscience. Here’s a favorite of mine: “Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes” (D&C 38:1-2).

      • One thing I was thinking is that Pres. Brown related this experience to Pres. Tanner who related this to Elder G. Homer Durham, and who knows when it was related to Elder Durham so maybe the story picked up some steam as it went along. I think it was Elder Maxwell who said if God knows the end from the beginning surely he knows the middle so I am leaning towards the idea that Jesus knows all the twists and turns in our life.

    • Cameron

      I think we need to make a distinction between what Jesus knows and what the Father knows. God the father truly is omniscient, but Jesus may not be. He even somewhat said so: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

        • Well, I can only guess what Jesus knows now. I am not sure what you mean by mortal and eternal undertanding. If you are asking if I think it is possible that the Father knows things that Jesus does not know, even now, then I would have to answer yes. If you are asking if I believe that Jesus’ knowledge is stuck at the same level as when he was a mortal, then I would need to say no.

  16. Hi Brett,

    Thanks for the heartfelt comments. I think you raise an important question, “What qualities might be manifested by someone who has dissented from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

    The theology restored by Joseph Smith is interesting because it establishes, in effect, two pathways to know God and to know about God. In 1830 the Prophet organized a Church that has two primary purposes: to teach the truth about God to believers and nonbelievers and to administer the saving priesthood ordinances that make us candidates for exaltation.

    The second pathway is direct to God. “And seek the face of the Lord always” (D&C 101:38) taught Joseph. The admonition wasn’t, “go get the Bishop to okay your efforts to seek the face of the Lord.” Instead, through and personal study and prayer, Joseph encouraged members to approach God directly (D&C 88:68, 67:10, 93:1) to have our calling and election made sure.

    For me, one way to help discern the source of a person’s supernatural experience is by determining how they feel toward the Church after they receive it. We can haggle about whether the Church is true, but we should agree it is the only candidate fulfilling the prophecies Joseph Smith made concerning missionary work and expansion in the last days (see quotes in article). Also, it is my conviction that, while Church members could always do better, the leaders are led by Christ and the Church leaders are doing His will.

    For me, a dissenter would be someone who receives an extra-worldly manifestation and interprets it as being from God, but thereafter feels the Church organization is superfluous to them or “out of order.” Feelings of superiority may emerge. They may criticize the Lord’s anointed and doubt the teachings and testimonies of Church leaders. I conclude they are deceived (see D&C 50:2).

    I realize that this won’t help because the Church’s correctness is already an issue. However, I wonder if you have entertained the possibility that one spirit is telling you the Church is in error (even if only a little) and another Spirit is guiding the Brethren (and me as I pray and learn the Church is not in error)?

    During my twenty-five years studying fundamentalism, I have identified dozens of men and women who have experienced this. They all claim special visitations of angelic messengers and even deity. This is why I included Brigham Young’s comment at the end of the article. Such claims of extra-worldly experiences are not uncommon.

    You also pose second interesting question regarding a person who does not believe the Prophet is guided by God, but still outwardly complies with the covenants and expectations of the Church. I don’t know how God will deal with them. I know a couple of my colleagues (in medicine) who have confided in me that they like the social aspects of the Church, but are inwardly atheists. They go through the motions of obedience, but primarily for social reasons. How will God judge? I have no idea.

    If we are to have an exchange, I would ask a few questions. Where, in your opinion, are keys of the priesthood restored to Joseph Smith (D&C 13, 27, 110)? Can ordinances be performed without them? If the LDS Church isn’t fulfilling the prophesies (rolling forth, sweeping the earth, etc.), who is or who is going to?

    God Bless,

    Brian Hales

    • Brian,

      I’d like to ask a question, so that this dialogue can continue with openness and understanding. Can you use a scripture that defines what a priesthood key is? Not a scripture that claims they were given to Joseph, etc… but a scripture that actually explains what a priesthood key is.

      Also, I’d like to ask you about 3 Nephi 16:10. You are quite confident that this scripture does not refer to the LDS church. However, if you read to verse 15, you can see that the Savior calls these Gentiles salt that has lost its savor. In D&C 101:39-40 we read that those who are called to the everlasting gospel and “covenant” with an “everlasting covenant,” are accounted as the salt of the earth. They are the ones who are called to be the salt of the earth, but if it loses its savor, it is good for nothing.

      Who exactly are these Gentiles, if not the LDS? If you are right, then please explain what specific covenant these Gentiles made that can be considered an “everlasting covenant,” and to which everlasting gospel were they called, so that they could be accounted as the salt of the earth. Clearly you cannot be be accounted as salt that has lost its savor if you were never salt to begin with.

      • Hi Frederick,

        Thanks for the comment.

        As I discuss in the essay, many dissenters hope that 3 Nephi 16:10 refers to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to justify their estrangement from the Church.

        I disagree with their assessment beliving the “gentiles” are the North Americans living at the time the Book of Mormon came forth. That it could not be the Church today is supported by 2 Nephi 10:18:

        “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.”

        The “gentiles” will be “numbered among the house of Israel.” These are the believing gentiles. Those who join the Church would no longer we numbered with the “gentiles.” Those “gentiles-now-numbered-among-the-house- of-Israel” would not be the “gentiles” referred to in 3 Nephi 16:10 (see also v. 8).

        I hope that helps.


        • Although “Gentiles” are adopted into the House of Israel it doesn’t change the fact that they are still Gentiles. Sure they are now numbered among the seed of Abraham but Joseph Smith clearly states in D&C 109:60 that the “us” present during the temple dedication are identified with the Gentiles. If that were the case he would have referred to themselves as the House of Israel.

      • Hi Again Frederick,

        You bring up a good point. The “gentiles” that are condemned in 3 Nephi 16:10 have received the fulness of the gospel, or the “everlasting covenant.” The question is whether this is referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 21st century or to some other group? You and many others wish to charge the Church as those condemned “gentiles,” but the scriptures are plain in several points:

        First, Christ established the “everlasting covenant” in His day. Paul explained: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20). That that church fell into apostasy is not disputed. Nephi saw:

        “And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church. And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches. . . Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel. . . in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb–I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.” (1 Nephi 13:4-5, 34.)

        The Lord here states that “I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day.” That “day” is when the gospel is restored. Prior to that “day”, the “gentiles” that “do stumble exceedingly” (1 Ne. 13:34) are those who are described in 3rd Nephi as being “lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations” (3 Ne. 16:10). Why? “Because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church” (1 Ne. 13:34). The restoration restores those lost “plain and precious parts.”

        Second, the Book of Mormon explains that the “house of Israel” and the believing “gentiles” combine together: “For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2).

        “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.” (2 Nephi 10:18; italics added; see also 3 Ne. 16:13).

        Similarly, in September, 1830, Joseph Smith revealed: “I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them” (D&C 28:8). The result is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized in 1830 (D&C 20:1) a year of the publishing of the Book of Mormon and given its full name in 1838 (D&C 115:4).

        Today, the Church membership of individuals with Lamanite ancestry tops several million. According to Book of Mormon terminology, they are the “house of Israel.” The remaining members are also the “covenant people” and are “numbered among the house of Israel.” Referring to this combined group as “gentiles” would be inconsistent and inaccurate.

        In contrast, Nephi refers the Church in the last days as the “Church of the Lamb of God”: “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations” (1 Nephi 14:10).

        Third, there are promises to the “house of Israel”:

        “Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.
        Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. . .
        And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.” (1 Nephi 22:11-12, 14.)

        Other similar prophesies exist and there is no hint of apostasy to befall the “house of Israel” in the last days in any of them. Are we to believe that the “house of Israel,” who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are to “be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer” just as Church members of non-Lamanite ancestry are to fall into apostasy?

        Fourth, the Lord clarifies in verse 8 to whom He is speaking in verse 10: “But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles” (3 Nephi 16:8). The “unbelieving of the gentiles” are those who have not been “numbered among the house of Israel,” those who have not joined the Church and obeyed the teachings of the restored gospel.

        I don’t expect you convince you. It is the Church is not perfect and members generally live below our privileges. But I believe we are doing the Lord’s work and Christ is guiding this Church.

        One last thought, I have known many dissenters and fundamentalists. I have the highest respect for many of them. However, my impression is that they are no more righteous than that portion of Church members who are diligently striving to keep all the commandments and fulfill the promises. (Some do partake of a “superiority complex.”) The difference is that the dissenters are willing to be critical of the Church, which brings a dark spirit.

        God Bless,

        Brian Hales

        • Brian,

          This analysis of what is meant by the “gentiles” in the BOM is spot on. This was the first thing that I started investigating when I read things that Snuffer and some of his supporters were claiming, and it gave me a really bad taste in my mouth from the very start. It seems that a lot of the justification for their estrangement and harsh criticism stems from their interpretation of the “Gentile Church.” Something else I would like to add about 3 Nephi 16:

          Vs. 8 Indicates that these Gentiles have scattered “my people who are of the house of Israel” and that they have been “cast out from among them” and “trodden under feet by them.” So at what point have the Mormons, or at what point will we, treat Native Americans or Jews in this way?

          Vs. 9 “9 And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become bhated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them—”
          Does this really describe the LDS people? Slayings, afflictions, smitten, casting Indians/Jews out, hating them, becoming a hiss and byword?

          Vs. 10 This is where it really falls apart when you take the whole verse into consideration. Do I find it conceivable that our pride will rise above the pride of all nations and the whole earth, that we will be filled with lyings, etc? And murders and priestcrafts and whoredoms? No, I do not. We are indeed an imperfect people, but that does not describe the people in my ward, nor does it describe me.

          These verses are obviously in reference to the apostasy between the time of Christ’s church and the Restoration. The language is also somewhat similar to what God said to Joseph during the First Vision.

          This kind of thing gives me an uneasy feeling about several of the neo-fundamentalist Mormon bloggers. It is a clear falsehood when you harmonize it with all scriptures and context.

  17. Brian,

    Thank you for taking the time to make these arguments. I see many around me leaving the church over doctrine. I see apostles addressing faith and dissent in general conference. I think this is an important topic, one in which our very salvation hinges.

    You state “Multiple revelations and statements from Joseph Smith support that the church he established will persist to the millennium.” It is certainly true that as a people we have assumed that the statements of The Lord to Joseph Smith apply to us. Over six hundred groups or churches that have arisen from the foundations that Joseph laid could make the same fatal assumptions.

    If you look at the verses you used as ‘support’ for your conclusion that “the church he established will persist to the millennium” you will notice that the revelations and statements make no reference to ‘church’. It is the ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘the gospel’ which roll forth until it fills the whole earth. In Joseph’s day the kingdom was one thing. The church was another. Only since Utah were to two conflated.

    Let’s take your statement at face value. Let’s say that The Lord in his revelations was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would remain uncorrupted until the millennium. If that were true then this statement by The Lord about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a mere bluff.

    But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 124:32)

    And this statement of Joseph’s about the saints just another bluff.

    if Zion, will not purify herself so as to be approved of in all things in his sight he will seek another people, for his work will go on untill Isreal is gathered & they who will not hear his voice must expect to feel his wrath.” Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:357

    Among the highest leadership of the church is the understanding that the church is in drift. Two statements will suffice.

    “In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we are losing the ability to correct the course of the church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman. Both Alma and Helaman told the church in their day. They warned about [1] fast growth, the [2] desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about [3] prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the church has drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the church today. Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur in the space of not many years. In one instance it took only six years.” . (Helaman 6:32; 7:6; 11:26) (“Let Them Govern Themselves,” Reg. Rep. Seminar, March 30, 1990)

    “It is a very apparent fact that we have traveled far and wide in the past 20 years. What the future will bring I do not know. But if we drift as far afield from fundamental things in the next 20 years, what will be left of the foundation laid by the Prophet Joseph Smith? It is easy for one who observes to see how the apostasy came about in the primitive church of Christ. Are we not traveling the same road?”
    (Joseph Fielding Smith Journal, 28 December 1938)

    But more authoritative are the numerous prophecies about our church in the Book of Mormon, prophecies about “all have gone astray except a few..(who ) are led to err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”

    It is a precept of men that this ship can’t sink.


  18. What do you mean precisely when you say these types of dissenters are in apostasy?

    I ask because you would probably call me one of these “dissenters.” I believe in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. In fact, I spend a good amount of time trying to persuade New Order Mormon-types “NOMs” to come back to church. I even responded publicly to the infamous “CES Letter.”

    So you could call me a “dissenter” but I’d love it if all those who could call themselves Mormons would still associate with each other.

    What do you mean that I am in apostasy? Ever since I came to believe that one ought to have their calling and election made sure and receive the Second Comforter in this life I have sought more diligently to make that happen.

    I have sought harder to establish a relationship with the Lord. I am more mindful of Him. My prayers are deeper. I have spent hours out alone in the forest praying. I seek people to help whom I’m not assigned. I am more patient and loving than ever in my life. I am at peace within. I have had more promptings by the Spirit. I read and study the scriptures far more than I did before. I get more out of them than I did before. I am seeking literally the things we believe. I seek angels from heaven, I seek literally the face of God. I want to return to Him IN THIS LIFE.

    I go to church. I watch conference. I associate with members, I have a calling.

    I’m uncomfortable listing all this, but I ask, in what way am I in apostasy? Simply because I BELIEVE Thomas Monson does not speak face to face with Jesus Christ? Do I have any reason to believe that? Has he EVER said that he has? If he hasn’t, but he’s still “inspired” how is he more inspired than the Pope? Or a baptist preacher? Do you not believe their prayers are answered when they seek to minister to their congregations?

    So what is the impact of one like me being in apostasy? Do you believe my standing before God is different than how I perceive it?

    As I associate with more and more dissenters, I find that they have had these spiritual experiences. I know more than ten people who have been ministered to by angels. I know nearly ten people who have been ministered to by Christ. I do not know ANYONE who has seen and angel or Christ that you wouldn’t call a dissenter. What use do I have for your definition of apostasy when Christ associates personally with these people?

    They could be lying or deceived, but these people are doing missions in African and serving people in ways I dont see others serving, in ways I am not capable of serving. They do not seek things of this world and are not wealthy. I dont understand what motivations they would have to lie. Their family and friends reject them. They gain nothing i can see from their viewpoint, other than belief that the Lord is please with them.

    My brother read “The Second Comforter” a year after I did, and then all of Denver’s books. He was skeptical at first. It took me a year to get him to read it. 6 months ago he was ministered to by an angel. (He’s far more valiant than I.) I dont think he’s deceived. I dont think he’s lied. He’s an active, temple-recommend holding member who watches conferences not believing most of them have seen Christ.

    Personally, I actually believe one of the 12 has seen Christ, but I could be wrong.

    I’ve asked a lot of questions, but the only ones I really am interested in being answered is, “In your view, is a person like me (or my brother) in apostasy? And what do you mean by that? And what is the consequence?” I have a thick skin. Please dont avoid the question by saying you dont want to judge me. Judge the idea of me. What would you have to say about a dissenter like me?

    What consequence is it to be a “dissenter in apostasy” when they are anxiously engaged in seeking a relationship with God?

    • Brett, why do you feel that you and Denver Snuffer would be entitled to see the the face of God but not President Monson?

      • LukeAir, I identify with Brett’s line of questioning and believe it is a question worthy of response. I believe Brett’s answer to your question would be, “I believe President Monsen IS entitled to see Christ, as are we all”.

  19. Brian, thanks for your article. I appreciated the depth of research that led to your article, and I especially enjoyed studying the many scripture references you provided.

  20. Great article, I totally disagree with you, but I really enjoy your work. I think the dissenters have some valid points, although I do agree with you that most are utterly ridiculous.
    I have a question, why do modern day church leaders say that they have had experiences too sacred to share? Joseph Smith didn’t seem to have any problems sharing his spiritual experiences that included all sorts of visitations.

    • This is a good question. Paul, (1 Cor. 9:7), Peter (1 Pet. 2:2), and Joseph Smith (D&C 19:22) discuss the need to keep meat from those who need gospel meat. However, the secret things are usually secret because they are sacred. Here’s a few scriptures and teachings of JS & BY:

      9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. (Alma 12:9.)

      64 Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation. (D&C 63:64.)

      Joseph Smith:
      The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them; we do not keep our own secrets, but reveal our difficulties to the world, even to our enemies, then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep a secret till Doomsday. (December 19, 1841.) HC 4:478 479.

      JD 4:371 372 Brigham Young June 28, 1857 SLC
      There is one principle that I wish the people would understand and lay to heart. Just as fast as you will prove before your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to call them so, of the kingdom of heaven ── that you are full of confidence in God ── that you will never betray a thing that God tells you that you will never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, as quick as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity of them to bestow upon you. Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves, to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak, what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord. And just as fast as you prove to Him that you will preserve everything secret that ought to be ── that you will deal out to your neighbors all which you ought, and no more, and learn how to dispense your knowledge to your families, friends, neighbors, and brethren, the Lord will bestow upon you, and give to you, and bestow upon you, until finally he will say to you, “You shall never fall; your salvation is sealed unto you; you are sealed up unto eternal life and salvation, through your integrity.”

      JD 4:288 Brigham Young March 25, 1857 SLC
      Now I want to tell you that which, perhaps, many of you do not know. Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons.

  21. Brian. Again let me say that your article was excellent. And, you receive comments graciously. I just reviewed your article for the 17 times that you mention the name of the church, and as far as I can see you spelled it correctly in all instances. So, I am not sure what the prior comment by Bob references.

      • You’re not an offender for a word; you’re an offender for a letter. More specifically, for a letter-case. Personally, I didn’t think it really detracted from your argument, but if your trying to find the mote, there’s one inconsistency in your article: The church’s name is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” as opposed to “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” You often get it correct, but there were a few times that I saw where you could replace a lowercase “t” with an uppercase “T.”

        * Second sentence, first paragraph.
        * The end of page 80.
        * The end of page 100.
        * The beginning of page 105.
        * The end of page 112.
        * The beginning of page 114.
        * The final sentence.

        That’s the only thing I could find that might be “the name that is in error.” I hope it helps.

        • Wow great pick up! I am aware of the LDS Church’s Style Guide recommendations. I guess that means the rest of the article is correctly edited? That would be great. Glad to know there aren’t content issues that are problematic. Thanks! Brian

        • And when minor typos are the great offense, we’re all offenders. I of course meant “if *you’re* trying to find…” not “if your trying to find…” (I have no delusions that you are the possessor of “trying to find”). On the bright side, you can still remove any typos from your article; there doesn’t appear to be a way to edit out typos from comments.

  22. Another typo – I have no idea what word I intended when I wrote that reading your post “enlightened and deified” me, but I guess knowing the truth can indeed bring one to a state of being prepared to be like God so “deified” fits as well as whatever word it was I intended when autocorrect took over. 🙂 Cheers.

  23. Hi Brother Hales. I have no words of wisdom to add and no points of contention to bring up for discussion . I want nothing more than to say thank you for your many hours of obvious devoted research to a pertinent subject to the saints today. I have been enlightened and deified by the research and words you have shared. Thank you and God bless you for your diligent efforts.

  24. Thank you very much for the essay. I found it enlightening, informative and will prove useful when answering sincere doctrinal questions and counseling concerned members. Your use of references are contextually correct when applied to the principle at hand and I appreciate it.

  25. Brian, I enjoyed your article. At one point you state, “To ancient Israel, his hands remained “stretched out still” (2 Ne. 19:12, 17), despite their unrighteousness.” I believe that this probably should be phrased “because of their unrighteousness.” There seems to be a prevailing idea with members of the church that the Lord’s stretched out hand is a good thing. This idea is even reinforced by comments in some church-produced manuals (see Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual). However, a careful analysis of the phrases “stretched out” or “stretched forth” hand in the Bible and Book of Mormon (when speaking about God) clearly shows that this is a warning of imminent destruction. On the other hand (no pun intended), when God stretches out his arm to us, that is a good thing and is generally indicative of his mercy and salvation. David Calabro wrote a very informative article that discusses this usage for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Here is the link: http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1380&index=4.

    • Why cannot God’s hand be stretched out in wrath and mercy simultaneously? The same Hand may be perceived differently according to a person’s willingness to repent.

      • Clinton, it is not so much that God cannot “stretch out” his hand in mercy, but the scriptures consistently use this term to indicate pending destruction. For example, “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting” (Jeremiah 15:6). It is difficult to perceive any mercy in the use of the stretched out hand in this passage.

        However, having said that, the purpose of the stretched out hand is to convince God’s people to repent of their evil ways. In Jeremiah 18:8, the Lord tells us that he is willing to remove the threat of destruction, but only if we repent. “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.”

        God wants to be merciful, of course, but the outstretched hand is definitely not a symbol of that mercy. His mercy is depicted by the extending of the arm. “Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Ne 9:14).

        • These comments have been very enlightening (and the links). I had always pictured Jehovah of Isaiah as having arms outreached like a parent to a errant child. Sounds like I should have used Jacob 6:4 instead: “And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” Thanks for the information!

  26. Just a minor quibble with Brian’s essay. The phrase or term “free agency” is in effect a tautology. “Agency” is sufficient. *No* LDS scripture uses the term “free agency”, and if you doubt me, Google it using LDS scriptures.

    Whether this can be considered a “hit” for Joseph, well I guess that’s a “subjective opinion”. Even Bruce McConkie used this incorrect term, even though Joseph never did.

    • Interesting critique; I’m not quite sure how to respond. I am aware the scriptures do not use the term “free agency,” instead “moral agency” (D&C 101:78). However,references to “free agency” can be found in discourses of a number of prominent Church authorities like Brigham Young, (JD 15:143, 18:234, 20:173, etc.), John Taylor (JD 19:159, 22:302, 23:63, etc.), and Joseph F. Smith (CR April 1904, 74; April 1907, 4; Oct. 1914, 8, etc.). I think its meaning is fairly unambiguous. Anyway, thanks for the observation.

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