We left off the previous discussion on church finance with a discussion on how the church derives investment income from tithing, and then uses that investment income to invest in projects small and large, fat and skinny, the named and nameless.  And, lest the wondering minds of inquiring members get concerned, the church uses this “investment income” and is careful to point out that they are not using “tithing” funds for such projects.  Not tithing funds – just the income earned by investing tithing in largely Babylonian investments over a couple of years.

The Church is The Kingdom

So, now we get to the original reason why I started looking into this stuff in the first place, though it’s a circuitous route and has more than a few twists and turns I didn’t originally anticipate.  Not the most exciting stuff, mind you, but certainly bizarre.  Just what else does the Church ™ invest in?  What other projects do they control with their “investment income”?

One of the top items on the list of strange things a tax-exempt Church ™ owns, just so happens to be a couple of private hunting reserves.  Not your typical run of the mill religious item – after all I’m admittedly not sure how killing animals for sport/pleasure persuades people to believe in Christ – but at least it’s a potentially profitable one.  In Daymon Smith’s book, The Book of Mammon (a good read, mind you)[1], he talks how the church went from providing paid positions to unpaid, volunteer positions masquerading as “missions” within the organization in order to save money and increase profit.  The public perception of these “missions” doesn’t come off that way, but that was, and is, the net result.  Instead of a “money saving” idea, it’s billed as an opportunity to work for God’s Kingdom here on the earth.  After all, what better way to serve God than to volunteer your time building the “Kingdom”?  And, when the “church” and “kingdom” have become conflated to such an extent as to where the two are used simultaneously from pulpits far and wide, why not pimp the idea that you’re working to build the kingdom?  Interestingly, how often do we take note of this conflation and realize that never were the two to be considered twain?

Many talks over the pulpit have increased this propensity to fail to see the differentiation between the church and the Kingdom of God.  Gordon Hinckley did it several times:

“What I say of myself concerning this matter is equally applicable to all who hold office in this the Church and kingdom of God.”[2]

Ezra Taft Benson likewise asserted as much in his famous talk, I Testify:

“The church and kingdom of God was restored in these latter days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…”[3]

LeGrand Richards likewise helped conflate the issue when he stated:

“When I was president of the Southern States Mission, one of our missionaries preached on that dream of Nebuchadnezzar in one of our meetings where we had some investigators, and I stood at the door to greet them as they went out. A man came up and introduced himself as a minister, and he said, “You don’t mean to tell me that you think that the Mormon Church is that kingdom, do you?”

And I said, “Yes, sir, why not?”

He said, “It couldn’t be.”

I said, “Why couldn’t it?”

He said, “You can’t have a kingdom without a king, and you don’t have a king, so you don’t have a kingdom.”

“Oh,” I said, “my friend, you didn’t read far enough. You just read the seventh chapter of Daniel, where Daniel saw one like the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, ‘and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.’ (Dan. 7:14.)

“Now,” I said, “my friend, tell me how can the kingdom be given to him when he comes in the clouds of heaven if there is no kingdom prepared for him? That is what we Latter-day Saints are doing.”[4]

Now, it should probably be noted that there is a difference between working to establish the Kingdom (as Richards noted in that last sentence) and professing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints™ is that kingdom.  This belief is perhaps best witnessed by hearkening back the Ronald Poelman’s talk, given in 1984, on the differences between the “Gospel” and the “Church.”[5] In the original talk, Poelman made the following astute observations:

“Of equal importance is understanding the essential relationship between the gospel and the Church.  Failure to distinguish between the two and to comprehend their proper relationship may lead to confusion and misplaced priorities … when we understand the difference between the gospel and the Church and the appropriate function of each in our daily lives, we are much more likely to do the right things for the right reasons … .”

In commenting on Poleman’s talk, and the reasons why it was re-recorded, Denver Snuffer noted the following:

“Right now testimonies within the church recite the mantra “I know the church is true.”  The correlation process has made the church into god.  People’s testimonies of the “church” have supplanted their testimonies of Christ.  Read any Ensign issue of any conference held within ten years after the correlation process, and consider how many talks focus upon the church and the church’s processes and goodness, in contrast with how many of the talks focus upon Jesus Christ and His doctrines.  Christ’s role has been diminished by the emphasis upon the correlated church.”[6]

A peculiar people, indeed.

Volunteer Missions

The Church™ was never intended to be the Kingdom, nor the Kingdom the Church.  Complementary, certainly, but never the same thing.  Now, members reaching retirement age and with sufficient financial reserves to devote a year or three of their lives are encouraged to serve a “mission” for the church.  Some of these very “missions” are served in mission homes, some as service missions and some, yay verily, are working for “for-profit” industries.  And, no matter the call, these missions are viewed as the next best thing since sliced bread.  Generations will be affected, for the better, or so the reasoning goes.  Kim Clark, now president of BYU-Idaho, offers us a glimpse into this mindset.  If you remember, Clark was the president of the Harvard Business School for nearly a decade before leaving to become president of BYU-Idaho in 2005.  Clark received a good amount of flak for his decision to leave from member and non-member alike, and rationalized his decision thusly:

“We believe that that man, Gordon B. Hinckley, is a prophet of God,” Clark told television host Charlie Rose in an interview in July, explaining his decision to leave Harvard. “And Moses says—the man who is acting like Moses says—he would like you to do something. Now, in this case, of course you`d say yes…”[7]

So, the effort becomes threefold:  (a) you label the call to serve wherever in the church a “mission,” (b) you have those missionaries convinced that they need to pay their own way as a way to build up the “kingdom” of God and (c) you belabor the idea that the “Kingdom of God” and the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ™” is that very kingdom and (d) each “mission call” is signed, sealed and delivered with the “Prophet’s” very name and signature on each call.  And, following these four steps you reach a point where virtually any position, in any corporation within the Church can be staffed by “volunteers” more than willing to pay their way to build up the Kingdom, errrr, Church.

Private Hunting Preserves

Take, for example, Clair Huff, and his wife.  Huff spent his entire career as a wildlife biologist, including working as the Director of Operations for the Division of Wildlife Resources.  As retirement age approached, Huff and his wife began contemplating serving a mission for the Church™.  Huff had an interesting skill set, honed over years of work within the Division of Wildlife Resources.  And, the Church with its varied needs and interests, is quick to match people up with positions that match their skill set.  A mission, as is taught throughout the church system, was the most logical outlet wherein he and his wife could use their talents to “build the kingdom.”

Well Clair Huff and his wife did just that when they worked for a “private hunting preserve” along the “southwest shores of Utah Lake.”[8] Yessiree, full-time “missionaries” employed for the Church ™, working on a “private hunting preserve” that covers approximately 11,000 acres just outside of Elberta, Utah.  That “private hunting preserve” is owned, part and parcel, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That “preserve” is a profit making venture, or at least that’s the goal.  And, according to an article written in 2000[9], when hunting permits were running upwards of $1,500 per person, it wasn’t yet churning out a profit, though Huff could see the silver lining on the horizon.

And, lest you think the permit is only a one-time benefit, it seems as though there are lasting benefits many people would do well to acknowledge:

“Only a few pheasant and goose-hunting permits are sold each year, with hunting aficionados paying as much as $1,500 for the opportunity to hunt what is fast becoming an exclusive “club” for “members only.”

Once a hunter ponies up the cash to secure a permit, he’s not only guaranteed a permit for the following year, but his chance to draw the prime target areas on the preserve improve along with his seniority in the exclusive group.

“All of our hunters are from Utah, many of them doctors, dentists and attorneys from Payson north to Ogden, including Park City,” Elder Huff said. The flatlands also provide an additional advantage for the well-heeled hunting crowd — a 2,600-foot landing strip where private aircraft can whisk hunters in and out of the remote preserve, saving them the long and lonely drive. … “Just like the farm derives revenue from harvesting crops, the preserve is designed to produce revenue when hunters harvest the wildlife here,” Elder Huff said. … ”

As these words suggest, it’s a “private hunting preserve” that is geared toward the affluent.  Heck, how many people do you know would fly into a “private hunting preserve” in order to avoid a “long and lonely drive”?

But, this is not all. According to this same Deseret News article, the church owns at least one other preserve in Utah:

“The church owns thousands of acres of farm and ranch land throughout the West, including the Deseret Land and Livestock Co., a private big-game hunting preserve scattered over 200,000 acres in northern Utah. Hunters from around the country vie for a limited number of elk and moose permits there that cost as much as $8,500 each.”

Complete with a formal hunting lodge for housing and meals, the hunts are guided by a local outfitter in search of their “trophy” elk or buck. And while there’s no guarantee that a hunter’s bullet will find its mark, hunting on the preserve is so popular that there’s a six-year waiting list to buy a permit.

“Elder” Huff was optimistic that the operation will turn a profit for the first time in 2000, but I was unable to find any financial information on the reserve, but the track record of the church is fairly good at turning a profit, so I’m assuming that they do. Huff continued, “This is a very viable habitat, and if they continue to invest the profits back in and find an innovative manager to run it, there’s the potential to boost the number of permits we issue up to a maximum of about 250 someday.”

And as the habitat, and consequently, the number and variety of wildlife improves, the price of the permits would logically go up as well, he said.

“Imagine if we got to the point that we could boost the price (of each permit) to $2,000 or $2,500. Times that by 250, and it doesn’t take a lot to understand that this could be a very profitable operation.” (emphasis is mine.)

Count that among the things I likely will never experience in my life, what with permits ranging from $2,000 to $8,500 (and likely more, today), with their own private hunting lodges and airstrips.  Seems like the good ole boys’ club has come to roost in Utah.

The Deseret Land and Livestock, located in northern Utah, states,

“The LDS Church ownership era has been marked by conscientious business practices including strategic planning, cost control, increased production, and accountability. Emphasis on holistic management has brought a uniqueness to the ranch that is attractive to visitors from many walks of life.”  At the ranch, “hunting is a key means of generating ranch revenue.”[10] (emphasis is mine.)

So, one “preserve” just south of Utah Lake leaves us with a statement that it could be a “very profitable” venture, while another preserve up north states that hunting is a “key means of generating ranch revenue.”  Is there any real question that the church – the owner of both preserves – is operating these preserves with little other interest other than to turn a buck (pun intended)?

Not only can you hunt on these lands, but one can also experience guided fly-fishing tours.  One guide, linked to the official website of the reserve, offers one-on-one tours for “Trophy Elk” on Deseret Land and Livestock land for an insignificant sum of $17,500.[11] Or, should that be slightly out of reach of your discretionary income budget, you could just stick to hunting antelope for only $4,250 (that’s the lowest priced permit offered through this outfitter).  It’s no wonder that Huff mentioned that these preserves cater to a very specific, very affluent crowd.

As of 2005, the church owned Deseret Ranch, a different cattle ranch in central Florida, was the largest working cattle ranch in the United States.  That ranch, valued at an estimated $500 million when purchased back in the 1950s, covers approximately 300,000 acres of Florida swamp and pasture land.  It includes 1,000 miles of canals, 250 miles of roads and 1,400 miles of fencing.  The ranch employs approximately 75 full-time employees (and their families), most of which live in houses across the ranch.  On-site amenities for the employees that stay on the ranch include a swimming hole, campgrounds and a rodeo arena.  As of 2005, the ranch maintained a herd of 44,000 heifers and purebred cows.  One article estimated annual income to be in the neighborhood of at least $16 million just from the calves they sell each year at cattle auctions.[12]

Cynthia Barnett, in an article entitled, The Church’s Ranch, discussed what she called “ecclesiastical entrepreneurism” and the church and wrote:

“While the church is committed to stewardship of the land, it is just as committed to squeezing profits out of its private companies. …

And eventually, those two missions; are sure to clash on this prime central Florida property. Real estate sources estimate Deseret’s spread is worth some $900 million, though the assessed agricultural value is far lower than that. For decades, the family cattle ranches that once made up Osceola and outlying Orange counties have been gobbled up by housing developments – a pattern that’s repeating itself throughout Florida and the nation. But because the church is so rich, it has not yet buckled to pressure to sell any of its Florida land to developers. Ten years ago, the church backed off a plan to develop 7,000 acres near the Bee Line Expressway under sharp criticism from environmentalists.

Often at odds in other parts of the country over issues such as animal waste and grazing, the tree-huggers and the cowpokes in central Florida have for now become allies. For example, environmentalists helped Deseret fight a huge landfill Brevard County wanted to put adjacent to the ranch. That area is also home to one of the largest bird rookeries in the state.

Squires says the church’s long-term plans for the majority of Deseret Ranch are to keep it agricultural. But he acknowledges the business-savvy church will develop the fringes – particularly its property outside Orlando – as the land becomes more valuable. “The pressure is here,” Squires says. “But we want to be responsible and be good neighbors.” It’s in his church’s ecclesiastical and entrepreneurial missions to do so, he says.”[13]

Interesting, I wasn’t aware of an “entrepreneurial” mission to the church.  At least not an official one, but it should be noted that while outsiders view the church as “business-savvy” and striving to “squeeze” as much profit out of whatever private business their running these days, members are largely clueless as to the holdings the church has on its books.

As part of the Deseret Wildlife plan, some 45 hunt clubs lease portions of the ranch to hunt (the favored politically correct term of these articles seems to be “harvest.”  It sounds much more humane when you say we’re “harvesting” animals versus “hunting”) animals.  The ranch also harvests timber and leases TV and radio towers as a way to increase revenue.[14]

Sunstone Magazine[15] posed a thoughtful question on the matter, as well as an interesting mp3 listen, of these for-profit “hunting preserves” sometime back:

“To what degree should the principle of ‘respect for life” be extended to bird and animal creations? What do the scriptures, Joseph Smith, and other early Church leaders teach about the grand design and purposes of God’s non-human creations? Does having “dominion” over the kingdom of creatures mean we are their predators and exploiters or does it suggest a “stewardship” relationship in which we become their caretakers in order to help them “fulfill the full measure of their creation?”

If the scriptures teach, “woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or wasteth flesh and have no need,” and “the blood of every beast will I require at your hands,” what rationale could be used to explain Church-owned, revenue-generating enterprises such as Deseret Land and Livestock and the Westlake Hunting Preserve? Do these operations constitute sacrificing principle for profit?”

Aside:  The mp3 (see footnote below) has an interesting discussion on some Mormon leader (a Regional Representative) who went on several safari’s while on a church trip to visit some congregations in Africa.  While on this trip, the regional representative later related  killing both a lion and a “rare Roman antelope,” and yet had the moral strength to turn down an alcoholic beverage at a dinner that same evening.  “What peculiar priorities,” indeed.

Mormon Matters[16] and The Faithful Dissident[17] both discussed these preserves sometime ago, and in good depth.  Both touched on the aspects of hunting, or canned hunting[18] as happens at these LDS preserves, as it relates to a gospel principle and what part hunting for sport has amongst the church.  This particular article has nothing to do with the hunting aspect, but rather is to focus and touch on the financial aspect owning such enterprises – as in, why the hell is the church investing in a for-profit “hunting preserve” or “cattle ranch” or whatever the investment du jour is?  But, even with that said, one would do well to consider the ramifications of canned hunting.  Even some of the more correlated church curriculum manuals state,

“We may also eat the flesh of animals and of fowls of the air and use the skin of animals for clothing (see D&C 89:12–13; 49:18–19); however, we are not to kill animals for mere sport or pleasure and waste the meat (see D&C 49:21).”

But, with that being said, I fully admit I’m not sure just how these animals spend their dead hours.  Do all the canned hunters save the meat to eat, do some, do none?  I think, generally, your average run-of-the-mill hunter is as conscientious about what they are doing, but I wonder whether the more affluent of the bunch – those who have access to the church owned preserves through their expensive permits – have the same conscientiousness.

My guess is that it may be lacking in some areas.  For example, on the “referral” page of some of “approved” outfitters one can read the following accounts:

Whether you want a trophy deer or elk, or just want to catch some large trout, these guys can take you to the right spot. I’m already looking forward to next season. Thanks for the wall hangers!!” – Robert H. (emphasis is mine.)

“I can honestly say that they have One of the best hunting experiences you can imagine. They have a very knowledgable guides , great packers and great food. Their quantity and Quality of game can’t be matched. You will see more Elk , deer, moose in one day than you will see on most places in a season. I tell my friends that It is the Disneyland of Elk hunting because you can”t believe the quality experience that you will have.” – Matt T. (emphasis is mine.)

“We looked at close to a hundred bulls, maybe more. He never pressured me to shoot any of them, and I’m sure many hunters would have been happy to take several of them. I would recommend you to anyone that wanted a first class elk hunt. I took a heavy bull that I am very happy with. I know several people were involved in putting me on that bull.” – Ed G.

“I’ve never had an opportunity that paralleled what we were able to experience.  Fishing water that I suspect never has been fished in recorded history, not seeing a boot track, another human being, or any sign of human habitation for two days, and I personally having caught probably over 500 fish.  What an experience!!” – Lynn W.

Take those accounts for what they’re worth.  Regaling over catching a couple hundred fish, smarting about the most recent piece to the collection hanging on your wall or visiting the most beautiful of “God’s creations” while “harvesting” some of His other creations.  Canned hunting or not, in spite of it all, we’re shown time-and-again that the very “missions” the church claims as being a means to establish the “kingdom” of God have very little to do with anything resembling Christ, but rather with making money.  Profiting from animals, the land and virtually everything on this God-given earth.  No wonder the church plucked Clark from HBS to serve as the new president of BYU-Idaho in 2005: one attends HBS to make “shedloads of money,” which somehow attests that those who make the most money, are the “most morally good.”[19]

Peculiar, indeed.

***To be continued …***


[2] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “God is at the Helm.”  April 1994.

[3] Benson, Ezra Taft.  “I Testify.”  October 1988.

[4] Richards, LeGrand.  “Prophets and Prophecy.”  October 1975.

[6] Snuffer, Denver.  “The Traditions of Men, Pt. 3”  Retrieved 10/10/2010.

[7] Hemel, Daniel J.  “Summers Visits Idaho Mormon College,” The Crimson.  October 12, 2005.  Retrieved 10/10/2010.

[8]Couple Serve Wildlife Mission in Utah.”  Church in the News.  July 8, 2000.

[9]Tending the Flock,” Deseret News, July 10, 2000.  Retrieved Oct 3, 2010.

[10] See http://www.dlandl.com/pages/hunting/index.html for more details.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[11] See http://www.wildcountryoutfitters.com/ for the entire fee schedule.

[12] Barnett, Cynthia.  “The Church’s Ranch,” AllBusiness.com.  Dec. 1, 2001.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[13] Ibid.

[14] See “Discovering the Deseret Ranch” news article for more information.  May 23, 2005.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[15] Madson, Mac and Watts, Prestwich.  “Sacrificing Principle for Profit:  Church Wildlife Enterprises and Hunting Preserves,” Sunstone Magazine.  08/10/2001.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[18] Per Wikipedia:  “A canned hunt is essentially a trophy hunt in which the animal is kept in a more confined area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. According to the dictionary definition a canned hunt is a “hunt for animals that have been raised on game ranches until they are mature enough to be killed for trophy collections.”

Whether you want a trophy deer or elk, or just want to catch some large trout, these guys can take you to the right spot. I’m already looking forward to next season. Thanks for the wall hangers!!

As general conference approaches, members across the world will once again convene in front of TV sets, internet connections and in other meeting houses far and wide to hear counsel from church leaders.  Every spring general conference these same members are treated to the report from the Church Auditing Department on the financial status of the Church ™.  These reports are generally banal beyond description, with no specifics given as to the findings of the Audit.  The most recent statement says this:

To the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dear Brethren: As prescribed by revelation in section 120 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes authorizes the expenditure of Church funds. This council is composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric. This council approves budgets for Church departments and operations. Church departments expend funds consistent with approved budgets and in accordance with Church policies and procedures.

The Church Auditing Department has been granted access to all records and systems necessary to evaluate the adequacy of controls over receipts of funds, expenditures, and safeguarding of Church assets. The Church Auditing Department is independent of all other Church departments and operations, and the staff consists of certified public accountants, certified internal auditors, certified information systems auditors, and other credentialed professionals.

Based upon audits performed, the Church Auditing Department is of the opinion that, in all material respects, contributions received, expenditures made, and assets of the Church for the year 2009 have been recorded and administered in accordance with appropriate accounting practices, approved budgets, and Church policies and procedures.

Respectfully submitted,
Church Auditing Department
Robert W. Cantwell
Managing Director

This particular report is word-for-word identical with each of the previous five years reports, accounting for the change in the year.  Otherwise, it’s 99.5% identical (203 out of 204 words).  These auditing reports use D&C 120 to justify their existence.  In reading over D&C 120, though, I’m struck by the inherent differences between what Section 120 is actually saying, and what the auditing report sets forth as the authorization of the “expenditure of Church funds.”  Section 120 reads:

Revelation, given July 8, 1838, making known the disposition of the properties tithed as named in the preceding revelation:  Verily, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that ait shall be bdisposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen. (See also History of the Church, Volume 3:44.)[1]

As the heading for that section indicates, section 120 is a revelation in direct response to the issue of the disposition of tithed properties named in section 119.  Section 119 is generally referred to as the section in the D&C on tithing in general and is the source of many a disputation regarding exactly what it means.  Mainstream members, and church leadership in general, adhere to the belief system that Section 119 is where we read of a 10% tithing on all income, wherein “interest” has been redefined as income.  Section 119 defines tithing as,

“Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion, For the building of mine ahouse, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church. And this shall be the beginning of the atithing of my people. And after that, those who have thus been atithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord. Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of aZion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you. And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of aZion unto you. And this shall be an ensample unto all the astakes of Zion. Even so. Amen.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Surplus.  Tithing.  Payment of one-tenth of our “interest” annually.  Zion.

Where in life do we interpret “interest” as synonymous with “income”?  The jargon of the day, back when this was written, would define these two terms as follows:

Interest:  Premium paid for the use of money; the profit per cent derived from money lent.  … share; portion; etc.[2]

Income:  The gain which proceeds from labor, business or property of any kind; the produce of a farm; the rent of houses; the proceeds of professional business; the profits of commerce or of occupation, …[3]

Now, admittedly, I’m not well versed in how the lexicon underwent a change to fully become synonymous, but one such quote comes from Howard Hunter, former president of the LDS Church:

“The law is simply stated as ‘one-tenth of all their interest.’ Interest means profit, compensation, increase. It is the wage of one employed, the profit from the operation of a business, the increase of one who grows or produces, or the income to a person from any other source. The Lord said it is a standing law ‘forever’ as it has been in the past.”[4]

I’d agree with the part where he states that interest means “the increase,” but not where he defines it as “the wage of one employed, the profit … or the income … from any other source.”  Logically speaking, I have a hard time imagining how we interpret “interest” and “income” to be synonymous.  So would most people not of the LDS faith.  Gordon Hinckley, also a former president of the church, offered this insightful comment as to how these two terms coalesce into one:

“The Brethren have interpreted the word interest to mean income. Beyond that they have not given interpretation.”[5]

The new Church Handbook of Instructions, published this year (2010), defines tithing by hearkening back to a letter issued by the First Presidency back in 1970.  This letter reads:

“The simplest statement we know off is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay ‘one-tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income.  No one is justified in making any other statement than this.”[6]

There’s that statement by the “Brethren,” those who take it upon themselves to re-define and, dare I say, transfigure the word of God.  Here’s a valid question (valid to me, at least):  how can anyone define “interest” as “income”?  What am I really missing here?  Is it some archaic definition that I haven’t yet stumbled upon, or something philosophically out of my reach?  Honestly…if any of you that read this know, please shed some light for me.  If we contrast it with the way it was practiced in Alma’s time, or 4th Nephi, we’re left with a starkly different picture:

And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, aevery one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.

So, let me get this straight:  the rich paid “more abundantly” while the poor that “had not should be given”?  Hmmm.  Instead, we have a flat tax tithing.  Ten percent for all parties involved.  Fast offerings when you feel generous.  As Boyd Packer allegedly said in a recent conference, “tithing is equitable for everyone: 10%. If you have nothing, then it’s 10% of practically nothing. Pay your tithing, do what you’re supposed to do.”  Right.  But then that gets back to the whole “interest” and “income” synonimization thing, something clearly way over my head.

Next we see that Utopian society in 4th Nephi discuss their way of donating:

And they had aall things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly bgift.

And yet, here we believe that the stratification of incomes, tithes and offerings a good and hallowed thing.  But then, according to many, even asking those questions or bringing them up is mere pride.  Blind obedience is a requirement of the church, for those interested.  Don’t believe me?  Ever hear why so many Mormons are enrolled in the hallowed halls of Harvard?  One author suggested that it had to do with this:

“… He is surprised at the large presence of earnest Mormons and unimaginative former-military men in this cauldron of capitalism. But gradually this begins to make sense, for HBS is pervaded with an oppressive atmosphere of unquestioning obedience and creepy religiosity. … For all its vast reputation, power and pomposity, you feel that HBS neither understands the complexity nor acknowledges the chaotic unpredictability of the world economy any better than anyone else. More conclusively, it encourages its little alumni to major in hypocrisy. You go there for one simple reason: to make shedloads of money. Fine, so it’s no crime in itself to want to be absurdly and pointlessly rich, although it’s certainly no virtue. What sticks in the gullet is graduates’ self-flattering delusion that they’re on some kind of crusade, their “very American” insistence, as Delves Broughton puts it, on being not only “the most powerful, the richest and most successful”, but also “the most morally good”. At the same time as learning how to manipulate billions in order to profit, say, from ordinary people’s fretful indebtedness during a recession, you can believe that you are a philanthropic leader of men.”

Manipulating billions of dollars?  Sounds sort of like our recent spending sprees and rationalizations.

Thrift, Prudence and Conservatism in Action

Hinckley, in the same talk he gave which referenced the divine word that flows from the “Brethren” informs us, “I deplore waste.  I deplore extravagance.  I value thrift.  I believe in prudence and conservatism.”[7] Most people who grew up through the Great Depression could likewise echo such sentiments, and most truly believed and practiced such thrift.  That is, practiced such thrift with their own money.

A mere six years after making this statement, the church (with Hinckley now in charge as President of the Church) announced that it would build a new “Conference Center” to replace the worn and tattered Tabernacle on Temple Square.  Hinckley then, later, went on to describe the Conference Center as “a unique and remarkable building.”  He also went on to describe the “planning” of the building, stating, “we were not concerned with building the largest house of worship to be found anywhere.  We were concerned with a plan to accommodate the needs of our people.”[8] Actually, that notion may not have concerned those involved in the planning process, but it certainly didn’t stop them either.  LDS.org is careful to point out that the Conference Center is, “the largest religious indoor auditorium in the world.”  Could it be aptly described as a “great and spacious building”?

Hinckley then recounts his announcing the building of the Conference Center back in 1996.

“About a year ago [1995] I suggested to the Brethren that perhaps the time has come when we should study the feasibility of constructing another house of worship on a much larger scale that would accommodate three or four times the number who can be seated in [the tabernacle].”[9]

In describing the building, Hinckley then tells the audience that it was to be built “of the finest materials by the ablest craftsmen … a magnificent center.  It is not a museum piece, although the architecture is superb.”  And, the main justification was to replace the 3,500 seat capacity tabernacle with something “three or four times” larger.  For those keeping track, the LDS church originally sought to build something that could seat 26,000 people, before settling on the “prudent” number of 21,000 and change.   That’s a mere 6x larger than the old tabernacle.  So much for sticking with the “three to four times” figure.

During this same time (1999) the Nauvoo temple rebuild was announced.  Hinckley noted, on more than one occasion, how “…large contributions of money and skills were offered. Again, no expense was spared.”  It’s not like the precedent hadn’t already been set elsewhere – the church has a reputation for the “no expense” mentality, whether it’s on a temple, the Joseph Smith memorial building or this conference center.  So much for thrift, prudence and conservatism.

Then, in reading Isaiah 2:2-3, 5, Hinckley informs us that the Conference Center, in conjunction with the SLC Temple, is how that prophecy should be applied (as fulfilled).  Isaiah 2:2-3, 5, for those interested, reads:

“And it shall come to pass in the alast days, that the bmountain of the Lord’s chouse shall be destablished in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all enations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us ago up to the bmountain of the Lord, to the chouse of the God of Jacob; and he will dteach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of eZion shall go forth the flaw, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  … O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us awalk in the blight of the Lord.”

Am I reading that correct?  The SLC Temple + the Conference Center fulfills this particular prophecy by Isaiah?  Hmmm.  So now we build buildings unto ourselves so that we can say a prophecy is satisfied?

During the dedicatory prayer for the Conference Center, Hinckley led the Hosanna Shout.  The Dedicatory prayer of this edifice contains this language:

“Together they [Church Office Building, the Administration Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Lion House, the Beehive House, the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall and the SLC Temple] become a testimony of the strength and vitality of Thy work, the headquarters of Thy Church, and the fountain from which truth rolls forth to fill the earth. … We dedicate this magnificent hall, unique in its design and size, constructed to house the thousands who through the years will gather here to worship Thee and to be entertained in a wholesome and wonderful way. … May all who pass this way … look upon this structure with respect and admiration.  We dedicate the great organ, the beautiful halls and other rooms … May it be a thing of beauty to the beholder both inside and out.  … May it give expression to the declaration … that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  … We also dedicate the theater … it is a beautiful structure.  … May the desire of the people of Thy Church to improve and beautify this area be appreciated by all who pass this way.  We pray that favorable expressions may prevail and grow until there is universal acceptance and appreciation for what has been done.   … This is the area to which Thy people came seeking asylum from the oppression they had known. Now this has become a great cosmopolitan society to which people from all over the nation and the entire world have gathered. …”[10]

I’m caught by the humble nature this dedicatory prayer rolls off his tongue.  The buildings erected by man – the COB, the Administration Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, etc. – testify of the strength and vitality of “THY work”?  Really?  The Lord needs buildings and monuments built by men to testify of His work?  And, am I reading that right to suggest that this Church is “the fountain from which truth rolls forth to fill the earth”?  All from the Conference Center.  Like this past weekend, where the truthfulness of “Follow the Prophet” was rammed into our heads every 10 minutes or thereabouts?  Even my mother, a true blue member if there ever were one, remarked how something must be “amiss” with the members to have such a message shared so frequently in one conference weekend.  Man, if that’s the fountain of truth, maybe someone might want to look at putting a new filter or two in the water system.  After all, we’re not talking about natural fountains, but man-made fountains as the testimony of His work.

And, lest these details get lost on us, Hinckley – the man who proclaimed to value “thrift,” “prudence,” and “conservatism,” all while deploring “waste,” and “extravagance” – states (in a dedicatory prayer nonetheless) that the building is “magnificent,” that the building itself demands to be looked upon with “respect and admiration,” that it is a veritable “thing of beauty to the beholder both inside and out,” and, lest we forget, a “beautiful structure.”

Thomas Monson, the current president of the Church ™ and successor to Gordon Hinckley, preceded this hubris (if only in time and space) by saying,

“Thanks be to God for our noble prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, who, with the foresight of a seer, recognized the need for this magnificent facility and, with the help of many others, “went to work.” The result is before us today and will be dedicated this morning.”[11]

Yes, the Church ™ fully believes that the foresight needed to build such an expansive and expensive building could only be done by a Seer.  Really?  The gifts of seership are in use, and we didn’t even know it.  Ammon, in teaching the people of Limhi (thanks be to Bruce for those handy chapter headings), described a seer in the following terms:

“…a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God. But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.”[12]

Would it be presumptuous of me to borrow from Isaiah wherein he stated, “…the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your aeyes, and ye have brejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.”  Or, perhaps from Micah wherein he stated, “Then shall the seers be aashamed, and the bdiviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is cno answer of God.”?  Otherwise, can we really deem the building of the conference center as evidence that a seer is among us, using the gifts of seership?

Ah, the hubris of me.  But, I digress.

And, perhaps with sarcasm dripping from his mouth, Monson, in this same talk, continued on to say,

“As we view the disillusionment that engulfs countless thousands today, we are learning the hard way what an ancient prophet wrote out for us 3,000 years ago: “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase.” [Eccl. 5:10.]

Sarcasm, over the pulpit in general conference?  We’d only be so lucky.  Instead, he (and we) fully believed this statement.  It simply can’t apply to us, the Chosen Ones, but rather to other churches, other people, other nations, other whoremongers and other idolaters.  But, certainly not the LDS Church ™.  We just dedicated a $300 million building[13] towards which we could look with “respect and admiration,” surely we’re exempt from these vices of clinging to our silver.  Then again, maybe we don’t love our silver, just our buildings and our money.  And our cash.  Cash is the denomination of choice.  “You can buy anything in this world with cash.”

The subsequent Church News likewise glowed with optimism:

“While the new Conference Center was the focus of much attention during the 170th Annual General Conference, it could not overshadow other indicators of spiritual growth and progress in the Church. Two members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were sustained to the First Quorum, two other men were called and sustained to that quorum, and five Brethren were sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. In addition, 39 new Area Authority Seventies were sustained, and plans were announced for six new temples.”[14]

As the above indicate, the Conference Center is not only a “magnificent” building, but also an “indicator” of our “spiritual growth and progress in the Church.”  Sounds sort of like my financial life.  If I live with my parents, I’m necessarily delegated to “destitute” status.  But, if I buy that house that’s 8000 square feet too big for my needs – then it’s an indicator of my growth and progress in the world.  Only then can I attest to my growth and progress.  The bigger, the better.

The Channeling of H. David Burton

It seems as though the writers of these blurbs were channeling the same thinking that H. David Burton has used to build (and publicize) the building of the City Creek Center.  Recently, Burton provided an update to the Salt Lake Tribune and offered these glowing thoughts:

“Salt Lake City is a dynamic, wonderful place to live, work and visit. We want to do our part to keep it that way.  For the church, our world headquarters and some of our most sacred and historic sites and grounds are located right across the street from City Creek. It’s important for us to protect what we consider sacred space. City Creek’s design and the overall environment it creates will help us do that. … This is a huge project that has taken years of planning and work, and I personally feel a great sense of satisfaction seeing it come to fruition.”

Well, I’m glad someone is feeling the satisfaction at spending billions of dollars redeveloping downtown SLC.  D&C 101 has an interesting parable that I thought of in re-reading this quote.  In that parable (verses 43 through 57 or thereabouts) a nobleman had a “very choice” spot of land.  In that “choice” location, the nobleman commands his servants to go into his vineyard and (a) plant 12 olive trees, (b) set watchmen “round about” the olive trees, (c) build a tower in order to look over the land “round about” such that the nobleman’s land might not be broken down “when the enemy” comes to steal the fruit of his vineyard and (d) an hedge for protection purposes[15].  Simple instructions, or so it seemed.

Then, as they’re building the foundation of the tower they stop (they had dutifully fulfilled the other requests), start to argue and rationalize not building the tower by suggesting that the money might be used for other, more profitable ventures.  Then – surprise – the enemy comes and wrecks the whole scene.  While the servants were arguing about the tower, they became “slothful” and forgot about the enemy.  Interestingly, the first thing the enemy did was to break down that hedge, which caused the servants to flee in fear.  Then, though the account doesn’t contain the particulars, sometime while the nobleman is chastising his slothful servants, the enemy built a (a) wall, (b) tower and (c) set up his own watchmen.

Where the nobleman used “natural” (i.e. hedge) protection, the enemy used “manmade” (i.e. wall) protection.

As I read Burton’s comments – both in the above quote and elsewhere, it’s been a running theme of the City Creek project – I can’t help but note how he is justifying the billions of dollars of money on the project as a way to “protect” sacred land and sacred sites.  It’s the same logic that ruined the Black Mesa for the Hopis.[16]

Investment Income

But, at least they aren’t building such extravagant “walls” (i.e. City Creek) with tithing funds.  Right?  Right?  Well, we, as members of the Church ™ have been told that tithing is used for “the construction of temples, the financing of the worldwide missionary effort, the building and maintenance of meetinghouses, and other worthy purposes.”[17] And, we’ve been told ad nauseum the City Creek project isn’t using any tithing funds.  But, perhaps we should dissect how exactly tithing funds are spent.  Denver Snuffer made an instructive comment on the process in which tithing funds are used, and how, several months back.  It is worth the time to read, so I’m including it here for our collective reading pleasure:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a three-year system for collecting and spending tithes.

In the first year the funds are collected.

In the second year the funds remain invested while a budget is prepared for spending the tithing.

In the third year the funds are spent.

During the time when the funds are collected (first year), they are put to use in investments or deposits which yield a return.  Similarly, while they remain invested during the second year, they also yield a return.  When the third year arrives, and the funds are being spent on budgeted expenses, until the day they are spent they continue to collect interest or a return.

The amount of tithing collected in the first year is the amount designated “tithing” contributions.  This is the amount that is budgeted and spent in the third year.  All of the return on tithing yielded in the form of interest or return on investments is treated as “investment income” not tithing.

When the church spends “tithing” on temples, chapels, publications, etc. those monies are confined to the original amount collected as “tithing” only.

When the church spends “investment money” those include the interest, return, etc. collected on the tithing money during the three year cycle from when originally collected until the time it is spent.  It also includes the returns on the returns as they accumulate over the years.

Therefore, when the church announces that a project (like the large reconstruction of downtown Salt Lake City) is not “tithing” but is “investment income” of the church, this is the distinction which is being made.”[18]

The Difference Between Shrewd and Dishonest

So, they invest tithing funds in interest bearing accounts (stocks, bonds, hedge funds, etc).  The tithing they use “official” projects, but the income they earn on our tithing money is used on projects like City Creek.  Sort of reminds me of how Ernest Wilkinson used to hold firesides to instruct people on the difference between being “shrewd” and “dishonest.”

Hugh Nibley recounts these stories in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints and writes:

I got to know [Ernest L. Wilkinson] quite well, beginning with our clash at the very first faculty meeting. He had given a degree to a friend in Washington, and some of the faculty protested that degrees should be bestowed or at least approved by colleges, such being the immemorial practice of universities. Well, a paper was circulated to that effect, and some people signed it. Wilkinson stormed into that first faculty meeting in a towering rage: This has nothing to do with right or wrong, whether it was moral or immoral is irrelevant. The only question is, was it legal? Who would dare question him on a point of law? Who signed this protest? I had signed it, so I stood up, and I was the only one. “Come and see me in my office!” I did, and we became good friends—being a lawyer, he was not at all upset by adversarial confrontation; in fact, he enjoyed it. I was his home teacher at the time, and he started out at the “Y” by familiarizing himself with the students with a fireside at his house, followed by other such firesides, some of which I attended. The theme of his discussion in all of these was, “What is the difference between being dishonest and being shrewd?” He illustrated each time by his own case. When he was in Washington fresh out of law school, he was looking for a job, and so found himself in Senator King’s office. The senator was not there, but the secretary allowed him to use the phone for what he said was an urgent call. It was urgent indeed, for he called up the office of Justice Charles Evans Hughes and said, “This is Senator King’s office speaking. I would like to recommend a certain young man, etc., of high qualifications to work for the Justice.” And so he became a clerk to the celebrated Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes—not dishonest, just shrewd.

At the second faculty meeting we got another shocker. The family that owned the farm on Temple Hill where President Wilkinson wanted the land for expansion refused to sell. President W. would appeal to eminent domain, but it was his introductory remark that rocked us: “I never yet saw a contract I couldn’t break,” he boasted.[19]

So, perhaps the church is only being shrewd in suggesting that our tithing funds aren’t funding projects like City Creek Center.  Not dishonest.  Just shrewd.  Maybe I should use that logic on my wife and see how she takes it.  I’d be willing to bet that distinction isn’t recognizable in my household, but then I don’t have billions of dollars burning a hole in my pocket.

In thinking on this, I did a few calculations, just to see what kind of tithing funds would be needed in order to produce enough investment income to pay for a $3 billion project.  Here is the math.  For ease in calculations, I assumed that the church held the tithing funds in an interest bearing account earning a relatively conservative 10% interest per annum for three full years.  This will necessarily underestimate the total tithing funds in play, but will give the reader a glimpse of the figures we’re looking at coming into the general tithing fund.  And, likewise, this helps out on the back end where the full $3 billion wouldn’t be spent all at once, but rather over the life of the project.

So, in order for the church to generate a $3 billion fund at the end of three years, at 10% annual interest, compounded monthly (see, that Babylonian education does provide dividends – pun intended), the church would need to set aside no less than $861,6xx,xxx each of those three years.  Now, according to what the church tells us, 100% of these funds are entirely devoid of any tithing.  That means that the church is generating at least $860 million per year in investment income, for this project alone.  Think on that for a minute.  This analysis assumes that 100% of the investment income for that 3 year time period was being dumped into one account, that the church had no other “for profit” needs at the time.  (Yes, that’s a ludicrous proposition.  If the church is generating that kind of investment income, one would do well to ponder where else the money is going.)

If we continue this cat and mouse game, that would mean that the church was generating somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion per year in tithing income.  And, that’s assuming that no other money was going to any other project of any kind for any reason.  And, it’s not like transparency is a big deal over at the COB, so we have no idea what projects they have going on.  City Creek just happens to be one of the more (if not the most) prolific projects the church has done in sometime.

***To be continued…***


[1] See:  http://www.boap.org/LDS/History/History_of_the_Church/Vol_III.  Retrieved 09/30/2010.

[2] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,interest

[3] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,income

[4] Hunter, Howard W.  In Conference Report, April 1964, p. 35.

[5] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “Rise to a Larger Vision of the Work,” Ensign, May 1990, p. 95.

[6] First Presidency Letter, March 19,1970.

[7] Hinckley.  “Rise to a Larger Vision of the Work.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hinckley.  “This Glorious Easter Morn,” Ensign, May 1996, 65.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Monson, Thomas S.  “Dedication Day,Ensign, May 1996, 64.

[12] See Mosiah 8:13, 15-17.

[13] It’s semi-hard to peg down the actual cost of the Conference Center.  Some have the final cost at $240 million, some have it at $300 million, some have it at $350 million.  So take that for what you will.  I’d actually venture to guess it’s at the higher end of those figures, if not more.  Just a guess.

[14] “News of the Church,” Ensign, May 2000, 102-12.

[15] See D&C 101:53.

[16] See this write-up for more detail on the Black Mesa, including how I think it relates to H. David Burton:  The Hopi, Mormons and Mother Earth.

[17] Johnson, Daniel L.  “The Law of Tithing,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, p. 35-36.

[18] Snuffer, Denver.  “Tithing.”  Apr. 1, 2010.  http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2010/04/tithing.html.  Retrieved 10/2/2010.

[19] Nibley, Hugh.  Brother Brigham Challenges The Saints.  Pages 87-90.


When you see this man, think of Packer (or any other member of the First Presidency or Qof12).

2-Bit Prophets

I’m working on a different research project that I’ll hopefully upload here soon, but thought this might be worth adding.  As many of you probably know, Boyd Packer spoke to a “multi-stake” conference in Utah and the regions thereabout back on September 12th.  A few of the sites I meander to on occasion had devoted large threads to discussing what he did, or did not, say.  What these sites shared, and those posting stated, were the inspiration for this.

In an email correspondence with a couple of my friends, one of them received an email from another friend which discussed this same conference and what Packer had said.

What’s amusing is that this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has surrounded Packer.  In 2001, Packer rather infamously stated (or did he?) this statement that has been denied by all parties involved:

“The youth of the Church today were generals in the war in heaven.”

This rumor was so widespread that the LDS church had to issue a formal denial through the LDS Church News on April 28, 2001, which read:

“[Boyd Packer] did not make that statement.  I do not believe that statement.  … None of the Brethren made that statement.”

In 2008, at a rather infamous talk given to the Forest Bend Ward, Packer was alleged to have said some fairly dire things about the then current economic climate.  In one such email that made the rounds among the LDS community, one sister noted:

“I can’t even begin to describe what an amazing and wonderful meeting it was today. The Spirit was so strong and the counsel so heartfelt and direct:  a personal message for us, each of us, delivered by an Apostle of the Lord, from the Lord.  A message to counsel, inspire, and strengthen us in troubled and worry-filled times.  And yet so uplifting!  Reminding us of the great promises the Lord has made to us.  It was a sacred experience and I am so grateful I was there and that I’m able to share some part of it with you.[1]

This “inspiring” talk was, once again, denied to have happened by all the pertinent parties and merely a result of our internet culture.  The “Church Public Affairs” office stated that although Packer did speak a that ward (the Forest Bend Ward), there was no official transcript of the talk.  As such, the one making the rounds in emails must have been written after the meeting and therefore “not be considered authoritative.”[2]

That talk, it seems, stated that:

“We live in troubled times.  There is a great financial crisis and we’ve seen something that hasn’t happened in the last 60 years:  the world’s financial markets are collapsing … I pronounce upon you an Apostolic blessing. Comfort our children. Little children can be afraid of things we might not think of. Comfort them and strengthen our families. Turn off the television and focus on family. Pay your tithing. The promise is there – pay your tithing and you’ll be watched over. You’ll be alright. None of us is exempt from trials. If hard times come upon you and your income dwindles, remember that tithing is equitable for everyone: 10%. If you have nothing, then it’s 10% of practically nothing. Pay your tithing, do what you’re supposed to do. You’ll be comforted.  Sure, trials will come. Because of them, faith will increase. Happiness will increase. Security will increase.”

Whether or not true, in spite of the doctrinal inconsistencies mentioned therein, it’s alleged to not have happened.  In response to such matters, the Church reported, back in May 2004, that:

“From time to time statements are circulated among members which are inaccurately attributed to the leaders of the Church. Many such statements distort current Church teachings and are often based on rumors and innuendos. They are never transmitted officially, but by word of mouth, e-mail, or other informal means.

We encourage members of the Church to never teach or pass on such statements without verifying that they are from approved Church sources, such as official statements, communications, and publications. Any notes made when General Authorities, Area Authority Seventies, or other general Church officers speak at regional and stake conferences or other meetings should not be distributed without the consent of the speaker. Personal notes are for individual use only. [emphasis added by FAIR]

True spiritual growth is based on studying the scriptures, the teachings of the Brethren, and Church publications.”

Though you won’t find that letter on the LDS Church News site which acts as a repository for First Presidency Letters[3], it’s nevertheless assumed to be true.

Then again, this past week another one of these “events” is reported to have happened.  This time Packer is alleged to have said,

“I’ve thought a lot about this conference and all of you and brother Holland and the others have talked about the pioneer days. THEY HAD THE EASY PART. From now on it’s going to be different and it’s going to be rougher. When you think of the Hole in the Rock or Rocky Ridge or any of the other places where the pioneers served, in many ways their part was easier than our part is going to be.  … The easy times are in the past. The Rocky Ridge and the other pioneer challenges like the Hole in The Rock were the easy times. Now we have the difficult times. But we’re not being left without strength and power. The priesthood is with us and the gospel is with us as we live our lives as best we can. We have a father that will guide us and he will correct us, sometimes painfully, but he’ll correct us.”[4] (emphasis was in the original emailed sent to me.  I assume it’s not original to the actual talk).

LDS bloggers have gleefully responded:

“All of the messages were very strong and very clear. Despite all that was said I feel that those who have heeded the voice of the prophets and have done all that they could to prepare will not have reason to fear.  The messages were a strong confirmation for me of the timeline that we are on. … Big big changes coming in the next 6 months to a year. General Conference will be amazing I have no doubt.”

And:

“Just heard from a friend that attended and gave very much the same report as the others who have posted. I’m glad I got another 120 lbs of flour in sealed containers last week. Time to visit the cannery again this week for more milk.”

And:

“I really appreciate all of your posts. It sounds like it was an amazing conference. I hope some of you took notes and can share further with us. It certainly does seem that now is the time to get with the program and to do whatever we need to as soon as we’re able.”

And:

“Like others here, I was impressed that Pres. Packer was giving us a warning. He actually mentioned the fact that the pioneers had it easy three different times. I won’t give the exact quote (I wrote it down) but in essence he said The pioneers had the easy part. Things will be different for us in the future. It was similar to the warning he gave a year ago in April’s priesthood session where he said We move from a generation of ease and entertainment to a generation of hard work and responsibility. We do not know how long that will last. Some here have suggested that his talk was typical stake conference fodder, but I couldn’t disagree more. It was a warning loud and clear for those with ears to hear.”

And:

“Great day in the morning! [He] has now realized that the brethren are NOT and have NOT been silent!”

And:

“…our Stake Pres mentioned in the Sat night session that a lot of the negative influences are coming from the press. He also stated that he was going to stop listening to most of the news, including Fox as he no longer felt the Spirit during many of their broadcasts. Our Stake Pres works for the Church in the Education Department and travels all over the World on various assignments from the Brethren.”

And this would be the crème de la crème of the bunch:

“Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in General Conference, I don’t remember which one, that the saints would experience greater future persecution than any they have experienced in the past. That seems to be the same prophecy that Elder Boyd K. Packer is making here. In the mouth of two or more witnesses are all things established. This is the Law of Witnesses.”

As these examples show, people were very much satisfied to hear such a strong “voice of warning,” indeed, a “prophecy.”

In response to this email, a different (good) friend of mine chimed in:

“Elder Packer seems to be hinting about upcoming trials.  That agrees with the scriptures.  His conclusion “The priesthood is with us and the gospel is with us as we live our lives as best we can does not agree with what the Savior told the Nephites about the church in our day.  This sounds like more “feel good” and “follow the Prophet” tripe.

The Lord warned us quite clearly what to expect “But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.” (3 Nephi 1:15)

The “they” and “them” here refers to the people of the latter-day Gentile church which has frittered away the Fullness of the Gospel.  These things spoken of by the Savior, and by Elder Packer, appear to be at our door.

Living our lives “as best we can”…if that means chasing the idols of Babylon as the large majority of LDS people have been doing for generations…won’t cut it.  The Lord told us that He will not protect the Gentiles (LDS people) “if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice”.  The scriptures agree with Elder Packer that things are going to get ugly very soon.  The scriptures do NOT support his assurances of forthcoming Divine protection for those within the LDS church who live “as best we can.”

“Why should we any longer jump and twitch, or even take much note, of the weak hints issuing forth from modern day leaders who have failed so significantly in their responsibility to WARN of the rapidly impending “calamity” when every two-bit internet prophet can now see what’s coming!”

Every pundit on the internet is also hinting at bad times coming.  It doesn’t take a prophet to see that the economy is continuing to crumble, despite the lying assurances issuing out of the White House.  The “hard times” foretold by the Savior will catch most people, including those in the church who don’t study the Book of Mormon, by complete surprise.”

As the author of “The Unwritten Order of Things,” I fail to see how his remarks are anything remarkable.  Because a guy (Packer) is in a position of authority that LDS members cling to with their entire belief system only appeals to those inclined to believe in a “doomsday” scenario, waiting with bated breath.  Then, flags and eyebrows are all raised and suddenly everyone pays attention to what’s going on.

If Packer (or anyone else for that matter) were to truly prophesy and call everyone to repentance, then figurative riots would happen in the streets.  But, then, calling us to repentance would more than likely condemn our participation in the City Creek Center and other Babylonian endeavors.

My thoughts?

I find it amusing how quick we jump when someone inside the church, but only when it’s a member of leadership, says how bad things are and how bad they may become in the future.  If you take the exact same words and put them in any other persons mouth the information is shoved to the side and its truthfulness questioned.  When Boyd states it, though, it’s prophecy, truth and such an “inspiring” “voice of warning.”

Talk about an amazing cult of personality we hold to.

But, only so amazing as this comment (emphasis is mine):

“Over the years, I have had a hard time understanding people who get so angry or upset at something the prophet says, and they even go against what the prophet or apostles say.

If you believe that the President of the Church is truly a prophet of God, wouldn’t you want to know what he says? There are times when I don’t know exactly what is the truth, or which way to look at a situation, but when the prophet, or apostles speak, that clarifies it for me. I want to know what the Lord wants or desires. If there is something I have trouble accepting or understanding, I pray about it in order to understand and/or accept, but I don’t go against it, or the prophet, or the church. I stand back until that understanding comes.

If you believe that the prophet really is a prophet of God, then we should follow him, and I do know that Pres. Monson is a prophet of God & Boyd K. Packer is an apostle.

How many times in the scriptures have we read that a prophet was writting what had been revealed to him, when the Lord forbids him to write more. I know that the general authorities know more than we do. How many times have they been told not to reveal more to the general church members? I have no idea, but I know that they know more than I do.”

Cue sarcasm:

As we gather round the TV and Internet for general conference, we should remember that “general authorities know more than we do” and that if we follow the prophets blindly, yay, stupidly (because they do know more than us) we will be blessed.  The Lord honors those who follow the “arm of the flesh” in faithfulness.  Hooray for blind obedience.

Perhaps Nephi might have something applicable to this situation:

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have atrusted.  My God hath been my asupport; he hath led me through mine bafflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.  He hath filled me with his alove, even unto the bconsuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine aenemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.  Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me aknowledge by bvisions in the night-time.  And by day have I waxed bold in mighty aprayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.   And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been acarried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.”[5]

But see, Nephi was wrong here.  He only thinks his support was his God.  In actuality, had he been alive when there were 15 prophets and apostles prophesying every time their mouths opened, he too would have put is support and trust in them.  Heck, I can’t believe anyone believes any differently.  How can you not follow lockstep when you have men who (a) know more than you, or I do and (b) are speaking scripture every time they open their mouths?

It’s sheer insanity to believe any differently.  The pathway is marked clear.  If you have any question, simply read declaration #1.  They can’t be led astray.  They can’t do wrong.  They are infallible.  They are our pope.  They define, interpret, give, state, utter, profess and state scripture whenever they speak.  They are scripture.  They are walking books of knowledge.  The Book of Packer – The Written and Unwritten Order of Things.  The Book of Monson – To The Rescue.  The Book of Nelson – The Story of  A Disciple of Armand Hammer.  And on and on.  Come on people, the scriptures state what, “when you awaken to the sense of your awful situation.”  You need to awaken and realize that your only salvation is in following the Brethren.  Anything else is diced tomatoes.  Anything else is chopped liver.  Anything else is insanity.

Repent, ye vile sinners for thinking that you should have a personal relationship with Christ or God when you have men to whom your allegiance belongs.  Smart men.  men way smarter and way more inspired than you ever could be.  Thus Saith Tom, return to your golden calves (or gray haired old men) and hear their counsel.  Follow their ways.  Build multi-billion dollar investments and be satiated with your spoils.  Thus ended Tom’s saith-ings.

End sarcasm.


[1] http://community.babycenter.com/post/a1883615/forest_bend_ward-president_packer.  Retrieved 09/27/2010.

[2] http://www.fairblog.org/2008/10/20/talk-by-president-boyd-k-packer-goes-viral/.  Retrieved 09/27/2010.

[3] See:  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/letters/

[4] Packer, Boyd.  09/12/2010.  Utah Multi-Stake Conference.  Allegedly.

[5] See:  2 Ne. 4:19-25.


Walker Lake, Nevada

“It’s easy to cry when you realize that everyone you love will reject you or die.”  -

Chuck Palahniuk

A while back I did a good bit of reading on Wilford Woodruff and the signing of the Manifesto.  I was asked by a good friend, while studying the topic and digging up some of the information, what direction I was going and why.  My immediate response was that, in so many words, I wasn’t sure where it was leading or why it was leading there – let alone my interest, at the time, in studying it.  Then, in thinking what to add to this blog, I realized that perhaps this might be a good place to put some of that information.  In the course of my studies I both hit a wall where additional information became more and more difficult to locate and lost some interest in the nuts and bolts of the conversation.  As a result, the progress stopped and I moved on to other topics of interest.

The genesis for studying this topic was introduced to me following a conversation I had with a friend, wherein he related a conversation he had had with Kevin Kraut.  During the course of this conversation Kraut told my friend about Lorenzo Snow’s vision in the SLC temple, and how there was a very specific reason why the Lord appeared to Snow in the hallway of the temple and not in the Holy of Holies.  Intrigued by the concept, I, one day, called up Kevin Kraut out of the blue to ask him for more details on the conversation.  Kevin graciously accepted my call and we proceeded to talk about a variety of subjects for over an hour. Ogden Kraut[1], in one of his many books, had originally shared this story of Lorenzo Snow’s vision in the temple.

Many know of Snow’s vision, but most only seem to know the “official” story as related in “official” church documents.  The official church story reads this way[2]:

“Lorenzo Snow was still at work in his office in the Salt Lake Temple. It was dark outside, and the stars had come out. He was the fifth President of the Church, but he was also serving as the first president of the Salt Lake Temple at the time. He often stayed late into the evening to finish his work.

President Snow’s granddaughter Allie Young loved to visit him at his office. In those days, family members of the temple president were allowed to visit him there. They were not allowed to go through the entire temple, however, until they were old enough and had been found worthy and ready to make the sacred temple covenants.

This special evening Allie was with her grandfather in his office. The doorkeepers had gone home and the night watchmen had not yet come in, so they were alone. When Allie was ready to leave, President Snow went to a dresser and took a large bunch of keys from the drawer so that he could let her out the main entrance. Together they walked down a large corridor near the celestial room.

President Snow suddenly stopped and said, “Wait a moment, Allie. I want to tell you something.” Allie listened intently as her grandfather told her of an unforgettable experience he had once had at that place in the temple: “It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff [as President of the Church].”

President Snow held out his left hand and said, “He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though he stood on a plate of solid gold.”

Still speaking in hushed, reverent tones, President Snow told Allie that the Savior’s appearance was so glorious and bright that he could hardly look at Him.

President Snow put his right hand on Allie’s head and said, “Now granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the temple, and talked with him face to face.”

Allie listened to every word of this sacred experience and never forgot that precious moment but shared it many times later in her life with her family and friends.

The account I heard from a friend, and then reiterated by Kevin Kraut, differs no small amount from this account.  While some of the details above are indeed accurate, some other parts of the conversation are left out and mostly scrubbed from church history.  The scrubbing assumes that others know about the dream and what happened, and according to Ogden Kraut very few people actually heard the whole story, other than what we find in modern day Church magazines and manuals.  Now, admittedly, we’re starting to creep into a territory that is filled with hearsay, and there are certain, if not many, pitfalls which come from indulging in hearsay.  Such is the nature of what I studied.  According to what Kraut wrote, and was related to him by Lorenzo Snow’s granddaughter, we learn the following:

(a)    At the time of his vision, Lorenzo was fully expecting a manifestation.  He fully expected a vision of sorts as he went through the true order of prayer in the SLC temple.  Some suggest that such visions were common when one went through the true order of prayer back in the day.  That may or may not be true, but Snow most certainly was looking for an answer to his prayers.

To this point, Lorenzo Snow once noted:

“It will be recollected that this Gospel message proposed to give us divine manifestations through our doing certain specified acts; we have performed those acts in precisely the manner indicated. None but ourselves have attempted to conform to this arrangement; consequently, no other people are prepared to be witnesses either for or against this system. … That principle imparts the knowledge or the rock of revelation upon which the Savior declared His people should be established; and we constitute the only religious community which dares assume this Scriptural position; and our realization of the Savior’s promise, “that hell shall not prevail against” a people thus established, affords us peace, tranquility, unshaken confidence, and a cheering and happy assurance of security in the midst of all kinds of threatened ruin and overthrow. It is the people, the masses–not exclusively their leaders, who possess this knowledge, and boldly testify to its possession. (Lorenzo Snow, JD 26:378)

(b)   Anthon H. Lund told LeRoi C. Snow, Lorenzo’s son, “a number of times of the Savior’s appearance to [Lorenzo Snow], after he had dressed in his Temple robes, presented himself before the Lord and offered up the signs of the priesthood.” Church News, Apr. 2, 1938.)[3]

(c)    After going through the signs and tokens of the true order of prayer, even though he was fully expecting a manifestation, nothing happened.  This shocked Lorenzo, who thought that the non-response was due to his unworthiness.  He allegedly went and asked for forgiveness from those people he thought he had wronged, or could have wronged, in some way.  He then returned to the temple and performed the signs and tokens a second time, again fully expecting a manifestation (presumably because anciently the signs and tokens were the key words which brought revelation; several journal accounts of others indicate that once they gathered around the altar, prayed and performed the signs and tokens, answers came post haste).  Again, though, nothing happened.  No vision, no revelation, nothing.  Snow waited for some time there in front of the altar hoping for a manifestation but finally got up to leave the altar and left the Holy of Holies, distraught by the lack of an answer and not fully sure what the non-response meant.

(d)   After leaving the Holy of Holies, in this distraught state, he enters a hallway.  There in the hallway he receives an unexpected vision of Christ, the same vision noted in the “official” church account.  The “official” church records suggest that the purpose of the vision was merely to communicate how Lorenzo should direct and set-up the first presidency.  According to Kraut, however, Lorenzo was told – among other things – that the Lord could not (or would not) appear to him there in the Holy of Holies, over the altar.  As Snow was now the presiding High Priest, the common protocol (if we’re even to assume that Christ cares about protocol, and there’s enough evidence to suggest that he doesn’t) would be for Him to appear to Snow in his official capacity.  There, however, in the hallway Christ proceeds to tell Lorenze that the vision was not happening as the result of becoming the presiding High Priest of the Church, with the passing of Wilford Woodruff, rather, this “meeting” had nothing to do with him being in that position.  Lorenzo is then told that the Lord would not appear him in that capacity, and mostly because the church had rejected Him.  Given that the Church had rejected the Savior, the Savior could no longer appear to the Church, or so the “unofficial” story goes.  The Savior appeared to Lorenzo as an individual, and only as an individual.

There are a couple of interesting tidbits to take away from the above story.

Firstly, the issue of the true order of prayer.  If we consider that members are currently prohibited from practicing the “true order of prayer” outside the home, as Snow stated would bring about divine manifestations, can we, as the “masses,” then “boldly testify” that we’ve received such manifestations?  That answer should be self-evident.  Secondly, if the True Order of Prayer was to be performed only by church leaders or only by a temple officiator, then why teach “the people–the masses” how to pray in the True Order, as is taught in the temples?

The true order of prayer was effectively banned from public practice in 1978 by President Kimball.  The official letter stated,

“The Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve has decided that all such prayer circles, whether held in the temples or outside the temples, be discontinued immediately.”

The same letter suggested that the purposes of the true order of prayer could be satisfied by “stake leaders and their wives” attending a temple session, and “stake leaders and their companions” could hold a special meeting to “express … testimony or exhortation.”[4]

So, instead of every member being able to offer up the True Order of Prayer over their family altars in their homes, the practice is axed and replaced with instructions for “stake leaders” and their “wives” and “companions” to substitute the prayer with a broken shell of itself.  It’s no wonder that we don’t expect “divine manifestations” any more.  Not only are we discouraged from practicing the gospel within the privacy of our own home, but we’re then instructed to rely on “leaders” to “recognize the value of [those] prayer circles” in our stead.  Interesting, and telling, switch.  Interestingly, some even state that, “I assume that the second gift you are referring to is to KNOW that Jesus is the Son of God… ie, to have the same testimony that Joseph and Sidney had… to have the heavens opened and to gain a perfect knowledge by SEEING and By HEARING.  I personally don’t believe there is any living mortal on the earth at this time that has that testimony.”

So, not only do we not believe that these manifestations are possible, but also that no other “living mortal on the earth” can or has (at this time) that sort of testimony.

Secondly, we are also confronted with the issue of the church rejecting the Lord.  If what we’re reading and finding out is correct, and given the hearsay I wouldn’t blame you for doubting parts of the story, then sometime prior to 1898 was when the church officially rejected Christ.  I originally believed it to be over the issue of polygamy, though I’m not sure if that was the straw that broke the back, or something else, or everything in unison.[5]

Several of the sources I originally read lead back to meetings Wilford Woodruff had with power brokers and financiers in San Francisco just prior to his death, though the meetings with these power brokers started a decade or so prior to his death.  The meetings were precipitated by the dire financial condition the church was in and due to the issue of statehood.  In his journal, Woodruff notes,

“I am worked altogether to hard.  I don’t sleep nights and am weary by day” (8 Aug 1894).

“It looks as though the Presidency would be ruined unless God opens the way.  Our affairs are in a desperate condition in a temporal point of view” (17 Sept 1896).

“We the Presidency of the Church are so overwhelmed in financial matters it seems as though we should never live to get through with it unless the Lord opens the way in a marvelous manner.  It looks as though we should never pay our debts” (30 Dec. 1896).

Some even go so far as to suggest that Woodruff, as president of the Church, signed an official document (a “covenant of death”) with these same power brokers in order to usher in some financial help to stave off the financial collapse of the church.  And, given the circumstances of his death, I can’t find fault with anyone who chooses to look at things that way.  A conspiracy theory of the best kind.  Certainly, given some of his journal entries, the church was in dire need of financial help.  Would they cave in to the power brokers for an influx of cash, or would they continue to wait on the Lord?  We know how that story turns out, but even then many of the details are missing.

Prior to whatever happened in 1898 when Woodruff visited San Francisco and mysteriously died, he received the following revelation that counseled him on making any promises with the “enemies”:

“Thus saith the Lord … I the Lord hold the destiny of … this nation, and all other nations of the earth in mine own hands … Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise.  Your enemies seek your destruction and the destruction of my people.  If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my Servants, the wicked shall not prevail.”[6]

Less than a year later, and in spite of the tone of the above revelation, Woodruff wrote the Manifesto and signed it under the guises of acting “I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church.”  Interesting language, if you ask me.  “A more personal register of language captured Wilford’s journal on this day.  He writes of the “History of my life as President” rather than the history of the church.  “I have issued the Proclamation,” he writes, employing the first person pronoun, whereas only a year before it had been “I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.”  Faced with federal confiscation of church property – including the sacred and secret temples – and no supernatural help in sight, Wilford was forced to act himself “for the Temporal Salvation of the Church.”[7] In fact, Susan Staker argues that, “it is finally Wilford’s capacity for human time not God’s promised world on the other side of human history which moves me.  His talent for waiting made of him the leader who could teach the church to change and compromise and thus to live in the 20th century.  Like Moses, this 19th century prophet did not enter the new land, but he brought the Saints to its border and made possible the conditions which allowed his people to accommodate the daily, the temporal, the natural, and thus to go on waiting for the supernatural, for God’s promises and God’s ends, sometime in the distant latter days.”[8] Truth be told, I don’t agree with Staker’s conclusions, but I do see how she gets there.  Many members see things that way, thinking that “change and compromise” are the way we are to meet and join our modern Babylonian society.

Concerning Woodruff’s death, there are more than a few question marks that rise to the surface. Not only was Woodruff the main speaker at the Bohemian Club a few nights before his death, but several newspaper articles note his relative good health, even at his advanced age.  One such article noted how inexplicably became sick following his speech at the Bohemian Club.  For those unfamiliar with the Bohemian Club (or the better known Bohemian Grove), I’d suggest starting here and here.

The September 2, 1898 edition of the Salt Lake Herald reads:

“President Wilford Woodruff of the Mormon church arrived [in San Francisco] on August 14, the guest of Colonel Isaac Trumbo.  From that time until Thursday he was active and his health was … good.  Last Saturday night [Woodruff] attended an octogenarians dinner given by the Bohemian Club … At night he became seriously ill with a sharp attack of kidney trouble.  Dr. Winslow Anderson, Dr. McNutt and Dr. Buckley were called in consultation at 1 o’clock this morning.  President Woodruff did not think of death, and soon after the medical consultation he fell asleep.  In that sleep he died at 6:40 o’clock.”[9]

While Woodruff was meeting with, and seemingly dying at the hands of the Bohemians, and signing the Manifesto, numerous reports – from the Deseret News to the New York Times – suggest that a “Messiah Craze” was happening in Walker Lake, Nevada, amongst a dozen or more Indian tribes.  The Deseret News noted that it received “wide attention” in the nation’s press.

Sitting Bull, in an article dated November 8, 1890, stated:

“The Messiah said He had come to save the White Man, but they had persecuted Him, and now He had come to deliver the long tormented Indians. All day Christ instructed them and gave them evidence of His powers.  He, Sitting Bull, told his people His story, and asked that Porcupine (one of the Twelve) be sent for to verify it.  He (Porcupine) returned with the same tale and presumably all were convinced.”

A New York Times article from November 20, 1890 reports:

“…the present widespread delusion is that a so-called Messiah of the red men is now somewhere in the mountains of Nevada … the idea, which seems to have originated about a year ago, and to have attracted the attention of army officers … has been steadily spreading, until now it has taken possession of tribes hundreds of miles apart. … it is true that those who have seen the Indian Messiah say that he expressly commands not only industry and sobriety, but living at peace with the whites.  … Kicking Horse, having heard about visiting the Messiah in the woods, improves on the story, and makes his pilgrimage through a hole in the sky.”[10]

The U.S. Army published this official letter, through the United States Indian Service, in a letter dated June 25, 1890:

“Then I went to the agency at Walker Lake and they told us Christ would be there in two days.  At the end of two days, on the third morning, hundreds of people gathered at this place.  They cleared off a place near the agency in the form of a circus ring and we all gathered there. … We waited there till late in the evening anxious to see Christ.  Just before sundown I saw a great many people, mostly Indians, coming dressed in white men’s clothes.  The Christ was with them.  They all formed in this ring around it.  … I looked for him, and finally saw him sitting on one side of the ring.  They all started toward him to see him.  They made a big fire to throw light on him. I never looked around, but went forward, and when I saw him I bent my head I had always thought the Great Father was a white man, but this man looked like an Indian.  … He sat with his head bowed all the time.”[11]

About the only official Mormon reaction comes from one Susa Young Gates, editor of the “Young Women’s Journal”[12]:

“Few, if any, of our leading Brethren doubt the probability, of a certain, if exaggerated, foundation for these stories. Our Lord is evidently setting His hand to prepare the scattered remnants of Israel for the great events about to take place.’

The Millenial Star also reported on what happened, noting:

“Eye-witness account of F.K. Upham “It tells how a very righteous young Indian by the name of Porcupine from the Cheyennes was, like certain wise men of the East, inspired to make this long pilgrimage to Walker Lake, Nevada, to see their Messiah.  He was accompanied by his wife and two other Indians, and, like the wise men of the East, they were very content with the high reward of their journey, for they had seen the Christ! … At sundown the Indians collected in large numbers, and after it became dark He appeared to them, – a large fire being built to throw the light on him.  He was not as dark as an Indian nor as light as a white man, and his dress was partly like each. He sat for a long time in perfect silence, with his head bowed, during which time the Indians never moved nor spoke.  They were told that if they even whispered, the Christ would know it and be displeased.  After a time He raised His head, and then Porcupine saw that he was fair to look upon, that His face had no beard, and was youthful, and that His bright hair extended to His waist.  Porcupine had heard that the Christ of the white man had been nailed to the cross, and looking he was able to see the scars of the nails in the hands of the Indian’s Christ when he raised them.  In His feet he could not see the marks of the nails by reason of the moccasins, but he was told they were there, and that in His side were spear marks which were concealed by the shirt He wore.”[13]

There are other sources to information on this alleged appearance by Christ at Walker Lake, Nevada.  Whether or not they are true is left to you, the reader, to decide.  What I find interesting is the date of all of this.  The summer and fall of the year 1890 was an active time.  The Mormon church was off signing and publishing the Manifesto, and presenting it for a vote (sustained).  The Indian tribes, meanwhile, were off visiting with the “Indian Messiah” who allegedly proclaimed that the “white man” had “rejected” Him.

Joseph Smith, incidentally, was born in the year 1805.  According to D&C section 130, Joseph Smith was promised that had he lived to be 85 years old, He would see the “face of the Son of Man.”

“I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the acoming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore alet this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.”[14]

Had he lived to be 85, he would have been alive in the year 1890.  Does this reference in D&C 130 allude to this “Messiah Craze” that was sweeping the nation in 1890?  Perhaps, and certainly it’s an interesting nugget to chew on.

Christ’s appearance to these Indians (again, if true) happened at precisely the same time that Woodruff was acting for the “temporal salvation of the church” (notably, as opposed to the “spiritual salvation” of the church).  Whether or not this act by Woodruff signaled the “official” rejection of the Lord, or something else, these reports of an “Indian Messiah” leave little doubt that the “white man” had rejected Him.

Now, if we return to Lorenzo Snow’s vision and the supposed statement by the Lord that the church had “rejected” Him, and join that with these Indian statements of the Christ saying that the “white man” had rejected Him, then some rather dubious points of rejection seem to line up.    This vision to Snow, in both the timing and content of the vision, coincides with the changes in “apostolic charges” – the official apostolic charges given new apostles.  Up until 1900, when Reed Smoot was called to be an apostle, the original charge given the apostles in 1835 by Oliver Cowdery stated:

“Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.  Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God.  Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you.  We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same.  If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?” (DHC 2:195-196. 1835.)

This charge continued until 1890 (funny/odd how these dates all match up) when Lorenzo Snow stated that the apostles, “should, if we sought it, live to see the Savior in the flesh.” This charge changed in 1900 (less than 2 years after Snow’s vision of the Savior) with Smoot and has continued ever since.  No longer are apostles charged with striving until they see God “face to face”, but rather their witness now is much, much less.

D. Michael Quinn discussed the chronology of these changes in one of his books:

“The change in apostolic “charge” apparently began with the appointment of Reed Smoot as an apostle in 1900.  General church authorities had long regarded him as “reliable in business, but [he] has little or no faith.” (Francis M. Lyman to Joseph F. Smith, 17 Apr. 1888, fd 7, box 6, Scott G. Kenny papers, Marriott Library).  President Lorenzo Snow blessed him to receive “the light of the Holy Ghost” so that he could bear testimony of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  That was an extraordinary departure from the apostolic charge as given since 1835.

“The lessening of charismatic obligation continued during Joseph F. Smith’s administration.  In 1902 the “charge” to new apostle George Albert Smith spoke of his obligations to attend quorum meetings, to sustain the First Presidency and Twelve’s leadership, to express his views “boldly” in quorum meetings, and to lead an exemplary life.  There was no mention of visions.  In 1907 Francis M. Lyman instructed newly ordained Anthony W. Ivins:  “The Twelve are the Special witnesses of Jesus Christ and should be able to testify that he lives even as if he had been seen by them” (emphasis original in text).”

From a charge to strive until you see God face-to-face, to a charge and counsel to receive “the light of the Holy Ghost”, this change in apostolic charges coincides almost perfectly with the dates of the Manifesto and Lorenzo Snow’s vision of the Savior and certainly verify – if only through the de-emphasizing of seeking face-to-face meetings with the Savior – what Snow was told during his vision, namely that the church had rejected Him and that we are still rejecting Him, all the while claiming to be His “only true church.”  Funny how that is.

From these dates and events I see evidence where truth and light is slowly given away, both as a body and as individuals, all the while we maintain our claim to superiority over others.  The church, through Woodruff and others, sought an easier way to “temporal salvation,” while individuals no longer wanted to live under the obligation of seeking the Lord’s face.  We wanted good business men (Smoot), good “images” to present to the public, even if they were someone of “little or no faith.”

Today, I wonder if that’s not what we still want.  Do we want to maintain a good “image,” a good “figure face,” in spite of all that it means, or do we want something more?  Are we content to think that no one on this earth can or does commune with the divine, or do we yearn for that contact ourselves?  Seems as though we’re dealing with personal rejections now.

“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.” – 2 Ne. 32:6



[1] See www.ogdenkraut.com for more information on the books Ogden Kraut wrote and some more information on some of the stories he shared throughout his life.  This website is operated and run by, if I’m not mistaken, Kevin Kraut, one of his sons.

[2] Madsen, Susan Arrington.  Lorenzo Snow and the Sacred VisionFriend, August 1993, 14.

[3] See Church News, Apr. 2, 1938.

[4] Letter from the First Presidency, dated May 3, 1978.

[5] See this:  http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-im-abandoning-polygamy.html for an interesting discussion on the issue of polygamy in general.

[6] See Wilford Woodruff’s journal entry 24 November 1889.

[7] Staker, Susan.  Waiting the World’s End:  The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, pages viii-xxi.  1993.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Church Leader Passes Away.  The Salt Lake Herald.  2 September 1898.

[10] The Indian Messiah Delusion.  New York Times.  November 20, 1890.  November 1890 NY Times PDF File.

[11] S.C. Robertson, 1 Lieut. 1st Calvary.  Statement of the Cheyenne “Porcupine” of Meeting with the New “Christ.” June 15, 1890.  Here is a link to the actual file.  Walker Lake – Porcupine Report

[12] Gates, Susa Young.  Young Women’s Journal, Vol. 1:477.

[13] See Millenial Star, August 18, 1890.  Volume 52:532-535.

[14] See D&C 130:14-16.

====================