Archive for January, 2010

I was doing a bit of reading today on George W. Pace, a former professor at BYU who was publicly derided and scolded by Bruce R. McConkie for writing what McConkie termed as “sectarian nonsense.”  It was apparently quite a traumatic experience for Pace, as I can scarcely imagine.  I went to to read this discourse given by Bruce R. McConkie.

What follows is only part of that talk given at BYU (underlining is mine):

I shall speak of our relationship with the Lord and of the true fellowship all Saints should have with the Father. I shall set forth what we must believe relative to the Father and the Son in order to gain eternal life.

I shall expound the doctrine of the Church relative to what our relationship should be to all members of the Godhead and do so in plainness and simplicity so that none need misunderstand or be led astray by other voices.

I shall express the view of the Brethren, of the prophets and apostles of old, and of all those who understand the scriptures and are in tune with the Holy Spirit.

These matters lie at the very foundation of revealed religion. In presenting them I am on my own ground and am at home with my subject. I shall not stoop to petty wranglings about semantics but shall stay with matters of substance. I shall simply go back to basics and set forth fundamental doctrines of the kingdom, knowing that everyone who is sound spiritually and who has the guidance of the Holy Spirit will believe my words and follow my counsel.

Please do not put too much stock in some of the current views and vagaries that are afloat, but rather, turn to the revealed word, get a sound understanding of the doctrines, and keep yourselves in the mainstream of the Church.

There are yet others who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous.

I say perilous because this course, particularly in the lives of some who are spiritually immature, is a gospel hobby which creates an unwholesome holier-than-thou attitude. In other instances it leads to despondency because the seeker after perfection knows he is not living the way he supposes he should.

Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because of some special friendship they feel has been developed. In this connection a current and unwise book, which advocates gaining a special relationship with Jesus, contains this sentence:

Because the Savior is our mediator, our prayers go through Christ to the Father, and the Father answers our prayers through his Son.

This is plain sectarian nonsense. Our prayers are addressed to the Father, and to him only. They do not go through Christ … . We are entitled to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

And I rather suppose that he who sitteth upon the throne will choose his own ways to answer his children, and that they are numerous. Perfect prayer is addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son; and it is uttered by the power of the Holy Ghost; and it is answered in whatever way seems proper by him whose ear is attuned to the needs of his children.

The Mainstream of the Church

Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. It will seem to them as though I am speaking out against mother love, or Americanism, or the little red schoolhouse. But I am not. There is a fine line here over which true worshipers will not step.

It is true that there may, with propriety, be a special relationship with a wife, with children, with friends, with teachers, with the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky and the lilies of the valley. But the very moment anyone singles out one member of the Godhead as the almost sole recipient of his devotion, to the exclusion of the others, that is the moment when spiritual instability begins to replace sense and reason.

The proper course for all of us is to stay in the mainstream of the Church. This is the Lord’s Church, and it is led by the spirit of inspiration, and the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture.

And you have never heard one of the First Presidency or the Twelve, who hold the keys of the kingdom, and who are appointed to see that we are not “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)–you have never heard one of them advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.

You have heard them teach and testify of the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus, using the most persuasive and powerful language at their command. But never, never at any time have they taught or endorsed the inordinate or intemperate zeal that encourages endless, sometimes day-long prayers, in order to gain a personal relationship with the Savior.

Those who truly love the Lord and who worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit, according to the approved patterns, maintain a reverential barrier between themselves and all the members of the Godhead.

I am well aware that some who have prayed for endless hours feel they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before. I wonder if this is any or so much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us they have been saved by grace and are assured of a place with the Lord in a heavenly abode, when in fact they have never even received the fullness of the gospel.

I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church.

Let me remind you to stay in the course chartered by the Church. It is the Lord’s Church, and he will not permit it to be led astray. If we take the counsel that comes from the prophets and seers, we will pursue the course that is pleasing to the Lord.

Would it be amiss if I reminded you that Jesus maintained a reserve between him and his disciples and that he did not allow them the same intimacy with him that they had with each other? This was particularly true after his resurrection.

For instance, when Mary Magdalene, in a great outpouring of love and devotion, sought to embrace the risen Lord, her hands were stayed. “Touch me not,” he said. Between her and him, no matter what the degree of their love, there was a line over which she could not pass. And yet, almost immediately thereafter, a whole group of faithful women held that same Lord by the feet, and, we cannot doubt, bathed his wounded feet with their tears.

It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood.


Now I sincerely hope that no one will imagine that I have in the slightest degree downgraded the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things. I have not done so. As far as I know there is not a man on earth who thinks more highly of him than I do. It just may be that I have preached more sermons, taught more doctrine, and written more words about the Lord Jesus Christ than any other man now living. …

I do not suppose that what I have here said will be an end to controversy or to the spread of false views and doctrines. The devil is not dead, and he delights in controversy. But you have been warned, and you have heard the true doctrine taught. Those who need to study the matter further would do well to get and study a copy of what I have said when it is published by Brigham Young University.

Let us then end on the note of testimony and of prayer. I bear record of the divine sonship of him whom we have this day spoken. He is or should be our best Friend through whom we can be reconciled to God.


Some of you have likely read that before and know who the author/giver of the discourse is.  I have too, though I remember none of this stuff…at all.  In sharing this, I’m only doing so to see if we can expound on what was taught, and see where the “true doctrine” is in relation to what and how we worship and what is the “correct” path.  Some may believe this is faultfinding, but please believe me when I say I’m only looking at the contrast.  Who said what, what church they belonged to, their position in the church, really, to me, doesn’t matter one iota.  The doctrine is what I’m looking for.  It doesn’t really matter who said it, or where it was given, or if it was even given by a leader of whatever church…other than the fact the author is claiming to set forth “true doctrine.”  Otherwise, in this instance, I couldn’t care less.  Just looking for some thoughts on the how/what we worship + the idea of gaining a “personal relationship” with Christ versus maintaining a “required reserve” or a “reverential barrier” between Him and us imperfect mortals.  Just looking at the contrast in what I’ve read/heard from some, and what I read here and deciphering the difference between the two.

To recap, anyone disagreeing with what is shared above (1) won’t “inherit eternal life,” (2) is rejecting the expounded “doctrine of the Church,” (3) does not “understand the scriptures,” (4) is not “in tune with the Holy Spirit,” (5) is spiritually unsound, (6) does not have “the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” (7) does not have a “sound understanding of the doctrines,” (8) have rejected the “mainstream of the church,” and (9) needs to “repent and believe the accepted verities as [Bruce R. McConkie] set them forth.”

So, I ask…anyone care to disagree?

Reminds me of what Joseph Smith said many, many years ago – in a time which seems almost in some other eternity:

“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine.  It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints.  Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church.  I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please.  It feels so good not to be trammeled.  It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”[1]

[1] Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:340

Found this statement on an online forum, talking about the simplification of church curriculum and thought it worthy of a deeper discussion and analysis:
Interesting discussion. As for the simplification of the church curriculum, I would suggest that it has as much to do with the tremendous growth of the church as it does our loss of focus. We have so many members that need the basics because they just joined the church. I just got a missionary letter from a boy in our ward. The bishop in his ward has been a member less that a year. We have stake presidents in Mexico that have only been members three years. With growth what it is, I think the brethren have realized that we have to stick to milk.

One of the downsides of this is that our quorum and SS discussions also tend to be focused on basics. I remember the SS lesson manual written by Nibley titled “Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites.” That was a great year of discussion.

In reading this part of the statement I would like to add a different perspective. I’m constantly amazed at how we say that we need to water things down and teach new members “the basics”, or the “gospel principles” or whatever. It’s a fairly common response to the current curriculum, specifically, and the way we treat all “new” members generally. We’ve done a great disservice in assuming that we need to wait for new members to be “seasoned” in the “doctrine of the church” before allowing them a chance to spread their wings and fly. We, at the local levels, seem to assume that the new gospel principles manual was “inspired” so as to help new members across the world “learn the doctrine” of the church. This is, IMO, nothing more than a condescending attitude which is built around the idea that you either have to “earn your stripes” or be “seasoned” in the church before you can do or, perhaps more correctly, before you can “know” anything. It’d be humorous, if it wasn’t so tragic. We figuratively clip their (and our) wings by assuming that we need manuals for instruction and protocol which needs to be followed before we “know” anything and before we’re qualified to be either advanced in the priesthood or advanced in the church or given an “important” calling in the church or whatever. A common excuse – and we all hear/utter it – is, “Well, they are a new member … ” when holding them back from a calling, a responsibility, a doctrine, a teaching, a principle or whatever. To be sure, the spirit may dictate such a response, but the above line of thinking presupposes that this is what is needed in all cases, and is witnessed by the average member’s reply that this line of thinking is what new members need, to say nothing of their state of mind.

Only 170 years ago people – people who were all “new members” at the time – were experiencing spiritual manifestations, being ministered to by Christ himself, receiving their 2nd anointing, seeing angelic visions and the other “gifts of the spirit” which we haven’t seen used or practiced in nearly a century, if not longer. Without respect to their longevity in the church, their following of a specific “program” or “manual,” they saw into the heavens and learned more in 5 minutes than we have learned in all the books from which we seek to instruct ourselves, including the manuals published through the correlation committee. Today, we’ve got nothing on those who were living in Kirtland and were there for the temple dedication. And yet, we’re happy with where we’re at. We’re happy with the “take it slow and easy” attitude. It pervades our very lives, our words, our teachings, our statements, in fine, everything. The vast majority of us are content living a life that’s lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We’re content with not failing, for in doing so we don’t get hurt, we don’t scrape our knees on the hard, cold pavement of life. Yes, we’re kept from getting hurt, but we also don’t learn to hear and understand the voice of the Lord to us, individually. In this sort of environment we’re protected from scary endings, but we’re also shielded from growing spiritually.

What we should be asking is what did they do then to have the “gifts of the spirit?” Did they obtain the gifts by installing governors and/or car boots and/or blinders to prevent the members from going too fast and learning too much too soon? Did they obtain those gifts by insisting that we learn only from inside of a manual, or only so fast? How did they receive those gifts? And yet, to use an applicable analogy, we think that we’ll be able to grow and re-ceive gifts by doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over again thinking it’ll yield different results each time. We assume way too much when we think everyone must (a) go at the same speed, (b) go through the same classes and curriculum and (c) in the same way everyone else does. That method is nothing more than the same public school curriculum many people readily decry as socialist and communist, which serves to destroy any and all creativity and originality in the child, and yet we accept it and, worse, call it inspired. In reality, all that it really does is create conformity, not spirituality. Conformity of action, conformity of protocol, conformity of holding back the “new members” and the like.  Conformity because we’d become jealous if a “new member” starts having spiritual witnesses that we, “seasoned members” of the church haven’t received.

Sure, with the current protocol we’ll continue to find the classes interesting, fun and insightful, but that doesn’t change the fact (as some of my dear friends have pointed out) that we’re learning the same things today in HP or EQ which were taught to us in primary 20, 30 or 40 years ago. A sort of approved remedial primary for all of us because obviously we didn’t learn what we should have or, if we did, got scared into believing that searching out doctrine and knowledge on our own was bad and frowned upon. And we call that progress. We call that what the Lord wants out of us.  We call that inspired.

We, as a people and as individuals and as a nation and as a world, are nowhere near the people the Lord wants us to be. We call good evil and evil good. We’ve become lovers of ourselves and we’ve got itchy ears – wanting teachers to tickle us with pleasantries and “soft” words. Our paradigms are so screwed up that we don’t even know we’re screwed up – mine included.

In writing this I was reminded of a book I read on public education last year, and found the similarities between this figurative holding back of “new” members (or anyone, really) and public school are striking, if only in my mind. I understand this train of thought isn’t for everyone, but it’s what I see in this discussion. To be fair, this book was written nearly 20 years ago, but is still as applicable today as it was then. Below are a few thoughts from that book, entitled:  Dumbing Us Down:  The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling:


“…Bertrand Russel, probably the greatest mathematician of this century, its greatest philosopher, and a close relation to the King of England to boot, saw that mass-schooling in the United States had a profoundly anti-democratic intent, that it was a scheme to artificially deliver national unity by eliminating human variation … . According to Lord Russell, mass-schooling produced a recognizably American student: anti-intellectual, superstitious, lacking self-confidence, and with less of what Russell called “inner freedom” than his or her counterpart from any other nation he know of, past or present. These schooled children became citizens, he said, with a thin “mass character,” holding excellence and aesthetics equally in contempt, inadequate to the personal crises of their lives.” – p. 77-78.

“…individuality, family, and community are, by definition, expressions of singular organization, never of “one-right-way” thinking on the grand scale. Private time is absolutely essential if a private identity is going to develop, and private time is equally essential to the development of a code of private values, without which we aren’t really individuals at all. Children and families need some relief from government surveillance and intimidation if original expressions belonging to them are to develop. Without these freedom has no meaning.” – p. 76

“The heart of a defense for the cherished American ideals of privacy, variety, and individuality lies in the way we bring up our young. Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important; force them to plead for the natural right to the toilet and they will become liars and toadies; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.” – . 76

“There is abundant evidence that less than a hundred hours is sufficient for a person to become totally literate and a self-teacher.” – p. 103

“American education teaches by its methodology that people are machines. Bells ring, circuits open and close, energy flows or is constricted, qualities are reduced to a numbering system, a plan is followed of which the machine parts know nothing.” -p. 99

“In the North American system men and women are subjected from childhood to an inexorable process. Certain principles contained in brief formulas are endlessly repeated by the press, radio, TV, churches and especially schools. A person imprisoned by these schemes is like a plant in a flowerpot too small for it. He cannot grow or mature. .” -p. 99

“Lurking behind … is an image of people as machinery that can be built and repaired; … saying that the world and all its living variety is just machinery. … If people are machines then school [church instruction] can only be a way to make these machines more reliable; the logic of machines dictates that parts be uniform and interchangeable, all operations time-constrained, predictable, economical. … The Civil War unfortunately demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt both the financial and social utility of regimentation.” p. 98-99

“We cannot grow or mature, like plants in too little flowerpots. We are addicted to dependency; in the current national crisis of maturity we seem to be waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do, but the teacher never comes to do that. Bridges collapse, men and women sleep on the streets, bankers cheat, good will decays, families betray each other, the government lies as a matter of policy, corruption, shame, sickness, and sensationalism are everywhere.” – p. 99

“Monopoly schooling is the major cause of our loss of national and individual identity. It has institutionalized the division of social classes and acted as an agent of caste – repugnant to our founding myths and to the reality of our founding period. Its strength arises from many quarters, the anti-child, anti-family stream of history for one – but it draws its great power from being a natural adjunct to the kind of commercial economy we have that requires permanently dissatisfied consumers.” -p. 101

“What on earth is going on? Any genuine debate would have to grapple with the uniform failure of every type of government monopoly school. With the addition of television, the destructive power of schooling is now awesome and thoroughly out of control. The television institution, very similar to the structure of mass schooling, has expanded so successfully that all the former escape routes are now blocked. We have destroyed the minds and characters of the nation’s children by preempting their youth, removing their choices. We will pay a huge price in lost humanity for this crime for another century, even if a way is found to overturn the school pyramid. What to do? … Turn your back on national solutions and toward communities of families as successful laboratories. Let us turn inward until we master the first directive of any philosophy worthy of the name, “Know Thyself.” – p. 102

As I was sitting in the library today their internet connection went down.  And it wasn’t one of those “down for 2 minutes” kind of down.  It ended up down for several hours.  As I was sitting there wondering what to do – go home or study – I flipped open a copy of Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion.  A book which I had only plucked off the library shelf a mere hour or so earlier.  Not sure I was wanting to delve into Nibley’s writings, I semi-randomly flipped the book open to page 52 and began reading.  Paragraph after paragraph seemed to roll off the pages relating precisely to topics I have studied only weeks prior, both echoing sentiments I have felt as well as answering questions I was myself posing.  Therefore, in spite of myself, it was with great interest that I read what was being shared about Zion.

In that vein, I shall transcribe and share what Nibley so aptly shared (spans pages 50-63 of Approaching Zion). I thought about mixing this post together with my words, but really don’t think that it does much justice to what Nibley so eloquently wrote.  The problems he decried those many years ago remain even more prevalent today, if not more so.  We are so far from Zion, the view so distant, that it scarcely seems imaginable.  The teachings on Zion have been, if only mildly, corrupted to the point where we no longer believe in a physical gathering where we can live the laws of a Zion, instead placating ourselves with a Zion that’s but a mere shell of what we yearn for.  We’re told that Zion is wherever you are, it’s where you live, it’s in your heart.  This is true, to a degree.  Zion does begin in the heart, where you live.  However, I see this as a means to an end.  At some point we will have to leave Babylon – fully and completely – and exit stage right if we’re to ever advance as we simply must to attain what others have looked forward to for so long…but alas, I’m left alone with these thoughts, pondering, myself, the next step.  It’s in this spirit that I share these words from Hugh Nibley:


In Zion, all are “of one heart and one mind … and there [are] no poor among them” (Moses 7:18), thus showing that equality extends into all fields, as it must also be in the preparation for Zion: “For if ye are not equal in earthly things, ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.  For if you will that I give you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves” (D&C 76:6-7).  “And you are to be equal … to have equal claims … every man according to his wants and his needs … every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all the things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:17, 19).  Well, there is a great deal of this.  In the words of the Prophet Joseph, “The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise”[1] (a statement I do not recall having heard from the stand for some time).  This was a hard lesson to learn: to come down to earth.  “The Latter-day Saints, in their conduct and acts with regard to financial matters, are like the rest of the world.  The course pursued by men of business in the world has a tendency to make a few rich, and to sink the masses of the people in poverty and degradation.  Too many of the Elders of Israel take this course.  No matter what comes they are for gain – for gathering around them riches; and when they get rich, how are those riches used?  Spent on the lusts of the flesh.”[2] As to the idler eating the bread of the laborer, “I have seen many cases …,” says Brigham, “when the young lady would have to take her clothing on a Saturday night and wash it, in order that she might go to meeting on the Sunday with a clean dress on.  Who is she laboring for?  For those who, many of them, are living in luxury.  And, to serve the classes that are living on them, the poor, laboring men and women are toiling, working their lives out to earn that which will keep a little life within them.  Is this equality?  No! What is going to be done? The Latter-day Saints will never accomplish their mission until this inequality shall cease on this earth.”[3] “The earth is here, and the fullness thereof is here.  It was made for man; and one man was not made to trample his fellowman under his feet, and enjoy all his hearts desires, while the thousands suffer.”[4] Regardless of who works and who doesn’t, no just father is going to order one son clothed in robes and another in rags (D&C 38:26).

Of course, the man who devotes himself to the tiring routines of business should be rewarded, but should all others be penalized who do not engage in that particular line of work?  “Where, then, is your great ability?  In your pockets – in the god so much adored,” says Brigham with contempt; there is other work to be done and far greater:  “But take the men that can travel the earth over, preach the Gospel without purse or scrip, and then go to and lay their plans to gather the saints.  That looks like the work of angels.”[5] Granted that those who acquire wealth are sometimes people of superior talent (though for every real artist, or poet, or composer in America, there are at least ten thousand millionaires), “those who are blessed with superior abilities,” even in business, “should use those blessings … to administer to others less favored.”  Our gifts and talents are to be put at the disposal of the human race, not used to put the race at our disposal.  “Instead of this,” Brigham notes, “man has become so perverted as to debar his fellows as much as possible from those blessings, and constrain them by physical force or circumstances to contribute of the proceeds of their labour to sustain the favoured few.”[6] That is not Zion, but that is what we have.  Should we settle for it?

The doctrine of united together in our temporal labors, and all working for the good of all is from the beginning, from everlasting, and it will be for ever and ever.  No one supposes for one moment that in heaven the angels are speculating, that they are building railroads and factories, taking advantage one of another, gathering up the substance there is in heaven to aggrandize themselves, and that they live on the same principle that we are in the habit of doing.  No Christian, no sectarian Christian, in the world believes this; they believe that the inhabitants of heaven live as a family, that their faith, interests and pursuits have one end in view – the glory of God and their own salvation, that they may receive more and more … We all believe this, and suppose we go to work and imitate them as far as we can.”[7]

“There are men in this community who, through the force of the education they have received from their parents nad friends [i.e., this is an established ethic among us], would cheat a poor widow out of her last cow, and then go down upon their knees and thank God for the good fortune he had sent them and for his kind providences that enabled them to obtain a cow without becoming amenable to any law of the land, though the poor widow had actually been cheated.”[8] Here, please note, the defense of immorality is legality:  if it is legal, all is well, even though the law has been contrived under pressure of interest groups.

God recognizes only one justification for seeking wealth, and that is with the express intent of helping the poor (Jacob 2:19).  One of the disturbing things about Zion is that its appeal, according to the scriptures, is all to the poor:  “The Lord hat founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it” (Isaiah 14:32).  Of course, once in Zion, no one suffers from poverty, for they dwell in righteousness and there are no poor among them (Moses 7:18).  The law of consecration is a minimal requirement, for “if my people observe not this law, … it shall not be a land of Zion unto you” (D&C 119:6).  Here our rhetoric engages in a neat bit of sophistry that has always been popular:

Elders of Israel are greedy after the things of this world.  If you ask them if they are ready to build up the kingdom of God, their answer is prompt – “Why, to be sure we are, with our whole souls; but we want first to get so much gold, speculate and get rich, and then we can help the church considerably.  We will go to California and get gold, go and buy goods and get rich, trade with the emigrants, build a mill, make a farm, get a large herd of cattle, and then we can do a great deal for Israel.”[9]

I have heard this many times from friends and relatives, but it is hokum.  What they are saying is, “If God will give me a million dollars, I will let him have a generous cut of it.”  And so they pray and speculate and expect the Lord to come through for them.  He won’t do it:  “And, again, I command thee that thou shalt not covert thine own property” (D&C 19:26).  “Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord, for what is property unto me? Saith the Lord” (D&C 117:4).  He does not need our property or our help.

Every rhetorician knows that his most effective weapons by far are labels.  He can demolish the opposition with simple and devastating labels such as communism, socialism, or atheism, popery, militarism, or Mormonism, or give his clients’ worst crimes a religious glow with noble labels such as integrity, old-fashioned honesty, tough-mindedness, or free competitive enterprise.  “You can get away with anything if you just wave the flag,” a business partner of my father once told me.  He called that patriotism.  But the label game reaches its all-time peak of skill and effrontery in the Madison Avenue master stroke of pasting the lovely label Zion on all the most typical institutions of Babylon:  Zion’s Loans, Zion’s Real Estate, Zion’s Used Cars, Zion’s Jewelry, Zion’s Supermarket, Zion’s Auto Wrecking, Zion’s Outdoor Advertising, Zion’s Land and Mining, Zion’s Development, Zion’s Securities, Zion’s Bank – all that is quintessentially Babylon now masquerades as Zion.

There is a precedent for the bit of faking – a most distinguished one.  Satan, being neither stupid nor inexperienced, knows the value of a pleasing appearance – there are times when it pays to appear even as an angel of light.  He goes farther than that, however, to assure that success of his masquerade (given out since the days of Adam) as a picturesquely repulsive figure – a four-star horror with claws, horns, or other obvious trimmings.  With that idea firmly established, he can operate with devastating effectiveness as a very proper gentleman, a handsome and persuasive salesman.  He “decoys” our minds (a favorite word of Brigham Young) with false words and appearances.  A favorite trick is to put the whole blame on sex.  Sex can be a pernicious appetite, but it runs a poor second to the other.  For example:  we are wont to think of Sodom as the original sexpot, but according to all accounts “this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom”: that great wealth made her people cruel and self-righteous.[10]

The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism.  Longhairs, beards, necklaces, LSD and rock, Big Sur and Woodstock come and go, but Babylon is always there:  rich, respectable, immovable, with its granite walls and steel vaults, its bronze gates, its onyx trimmings and marble floors (all borrowed from ancient temples, for these are our modern temples), and its bullet-proof glass – the awesome symbols of total security.  Keeping her orgies decently private, she presents a front of unalterable propriety to all.  As the early Christian writers observed, Babylon always wins:  in every showdown throughout history, Satan has remained in possession of the field, and he still holds it.  Its security and respectability exert a strong appeal:  “When I see this people grown and spread and prosper,” said Brigham Young, “I feel there is more danger than when they are in poverty.  Being driven from city to city … is nothing compared to the danger of becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first class community.”[11]

Brigham Young had this to say on the Puritan ethic, which shifts the burden of guilt from wealth to sex:

When the books are opened, out of which the human family are to be judged, how disappointed the professedly sanctified, long-faced hypocrites and smooth toned Pharisees will be, when the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before them; people that appeared to be full of evil, but the Lord says they never designed to do wrong; the Devil had power over them, and they suffered in their mortal state a thousand times more than you poor, miserable, canting, cheating, sniveling, hypocritical Pharisees; you were dressed in purple and fine linen, and bound burdens upon your weaker brethren that you would not so much as help to lift with your little fingers.  Did you ever go without food, suffer with tooth-ache, sore eyes, rheumatism, or the chills and fever?  You have fared sumptuously all your days and you condemned to an everlasting hell these poor harlots and publicans who never designed an evil.  Are you not guilty of committing an evil with that poor harlot?  Yes, and you will be damned while she will be saved.[12]

When the Saints were shocked by growing juvenile delinquency in their midst, who were the real criminals?  Brigham knows:  “I have not the least hesitation in saying that the loose conduct, and calculations, and manner of doing business, which have characterized men who have had property in their hands, have laid the foundation to bring our boys into the spirit of stealing.  You have caused them to do it, you have laid before them every inducement possible, to learn their hands and train their minds to take that which is not their own.”[13] But the respectable appearance will nearly always win, though the Lord has said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Here are a few notes from Brigham on this clever campaign:  “The devil appears as a gentleman when he presents himself to the children of men.”[14] “The devil does not care how much religion there is on the earth; he is a great preacher, and to all appearance, a great gentleman. … It is popular now-a-days to be religious; it has become the seasoning to a great deal of rascality, hypocrisy and crime.”[15] “The adversary presents his principles and arguments in the most approved style, and in the most winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes; and hi sis very careful to ingratiate himself into the favour of the powerful and influential of mankind, uniting himself with popular parties, floating into offices of trust and emolument by pandering to popular feeling, though it should seriously wrong and oppress the innocent.”[16] No atheism here!  “The servants of sin should appear polished and pious … able to call to their assistance … the subtle, persuasive power of rhetoric.”[17] “The devil is an orator,” said Joseph Smith.  “He is powerful; … he can tempt all classes.”[18]

The sorriest thing about Babylon’s masquerade and the switched villains is that there is nothing the least bit clever or subtle about it.  It is all as crude, obvious, and heavy handed as it can be, and it only gets by because everybody wants it to.  We rather like the Godfather and the lively and competitive world he moves in: what would TV do without it?  What other world have our children ever known?  We want to be vindicated in our position and to know that the world is on our side as we all join in a chorus of righteous denunciation; the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearance.  The full-fledged citizen of Babylon is an organization man:  Daniel was thrown to the lions before he would give up his private devotions offensive to the administration to which he belonged; his three friends preferred being cast into a fiery furnace to the simple act of facing and saluting the image of the king of Babylon who had given them wealth, power, and position in his kingdom, to whom they owed all allegiance, when the band played in the Plain of Dura.  For Brigham Young, conformity is the danger signal:  “I am not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint,” he said, “and do not believe in the doctrine … Away with stereotyped ‘Mormons’!”[19] When, as a boy, he was asked by his father to sign a temperance pledge, he resolutely refused.[20] Youth rebelling against respectability?  No, honesty resisting social pressure and hypocrisy.

Why this highly unoriginal talk?  Because if this is a very important and cosmic part of the gospel, it is also a much neglected one.

All of my life I have shied away from these disturbing and highly unpopular – even offensive – themes.  But I cannot do so any longer, because in my old age I have taken to reading the scriptures and there have had it forced upon my reluctant attention, that from the time of Adam to the present day, Zion has been pitted against Babylon, and the name of the game has always been money – “power and gain.”

It has been supposed that wealth gives power.  In a depraved state of society, in a certain sense it does, if opening a wide field for unrighteous monopolies, by which the poor are robbed and oppressed and the wealthy are more enriched, is power.  In a depraved state of society money can buy positions and titles, can cover up a multitude of incapabilities, can open wide the gates of fashionable society to the lowest and most depraved of human beings; it divides society into castes without any reference to goodness, virtue or truth.  It is made to pander to the most brutal passions of the human soul; it is made to subvert every wholesome law of God and man, and to trample down every sacred bond that should tie society together in a national, municipal, domestic and every other relationship.[21]

Cain slew “his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain” (Moses 5:50).  For Satan had taught him “this great secret, that I may murder and get gain” (Moses 5:31).  He excused himself to God:  “Satan tempted me because of my brother’s flocks” (Moses 5:38), and having gotten the best of his brother in competition, Cain “gloried in that which he had done,” rejoicing in the rhetoric of wealth: “I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (Moses 5:33).

He felt no guilt, since this was fair competition.  Abel could take care of himself:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Moses 5:34).

It was all free competitive enterprise where “every man prospered according to his genius, and … every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17).  This is no mere red thread running through the scriptures, but the broad highway of history.

Commenting on the astonishingly short time in which the Nephites turned from a righteous to a wicked nation, Nephi puts his finger on the spot:  “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this – Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity … tempting them to seek [in other words, work] for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15).

I pray that there may be some Latter-day Saints who do not succumb to the last and most determined onslaught of Babylon, which I believe may be coming.

[1] TPJS 183

[2] JD 11:348

[3] Ibid., 19:47

[4] Ibid., 19:46

[5] Ibid., 8:353

[6] MS 17:673-74

[7] JD 17:117-18

[8] Ibid., 6:71

[9] Ibid., 1:164

[10] Hugh W. Nibley, “Setting the Stage – The World of Abraham, (Part 9, continued),” Improvement Era (November 1969): 118, citing references

[11] JD 12:272

[12] Ibid., 10:176

[13] Ibid.,  11:255

[14] Ibid., 11:236

[15] Ibid., 11:251

[16] Ibid., 11:238

[17] Ibid., 11:234

[18] TPJS 162

[19] JD 8:185

[20] Ibid., 14:225

[21] Ibid., 10:3

What does it mean to confess the Lord’s hand in all things?  Does it mean that the Lord’s hand is literally in all things, that all things are done in his wisdom and with his foresight?  Does it mean that the Lord condones and approves everything because it brings about the world that he envisions for all of us?  Those are just a few of the questions I have had recently in reading some of the comments by some friends of mine.  Some of these friends seem to indicate that the Lord truly is behind everything, that everything that happens, happens with his knowledge and approbation.  Whether it’s the natural events that happen across the earth like earthquakes, tsunamis, blizzards, etc., or whether it’s gospel curriculum we study on any given Sunday in church.  No matter the event or subject, the Lord’s hand is behind all things.

Justification for such reasoning stems, largely, from reading D&C 59:21, which states, “And in nothing doth man aoffend God, or against none is his bwrath ckindled, save those who dconfess not his hand in all things, and eobey not his commandments.”  The wrath of God is kindled, seemingly, solely against those who confess not his hand in all things.  Sure seems to make sense, from this verse.  However, is there another way to look at this verse, another way to interpret this “confess not his hand in all things?”  I think there is and think it merits a discussion of its own.

To be fair to this piece, I must confess that I have been doing a fair bit of reading lately on subjects which can be viewed as less than favorable, in at least one context, on the mainstream LDS Church.  Many people might read the same things and take a different spin on the topics, but I seem to be taking a different approach.  While I do not – as of yet – know where this road will lead, I have had my eyes opened by a number of things which make this essay all the more important.  Important for me, that is.  These write-ups help me understand, process and digest information and put them into a format which helps my interpretations.  The Lord works in mysterious ways, and I confess that one of the ways He teaches me is through these labors.  This may not work for you and that is probably how it should be – differences are like that.

The first place I turned to in trying to understand D&C 59:21 was Section 59 in its entirety.  While we should endeavor to liken the scriptures to ourselves[1], we should also try and understand the context of when and where a verse occurs.  Nephi’s experience with locating the tools to build a ship may mean one thing when we liken that verse to us, but understanding what was happening in his life at this time can also take the meaning of the scripture to new depths[2].  It is in this framework that I will try to understand Section 59 and the comment on confessing the hand of the Lord in all things.

Section 59 was given to Joseph Smith in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri on August 7, 1831.  The land of Zion was already dedicated at this point, as had been directed by the Lord, and the site of the future temple had also previously been dedicated.  According to the section heading in the Doctrine & Covenants, we read, “The Lord makes these commandments [Section 59] especially applicable to the saints in Zion.[3]”  This, likewise, is especially applicable to those saints who want to be in Zion.  Zion, as an actual physical location today, is a mere figment of our imaginations and yet someday in the future the gathering principle will once again be in full effect.  When that day comes, we would be wise to heed the counsel given in Section 59.

The Section heading breaks Section 59 into four distinct, yet complementary, parts, which follow:

Verses 1-4:  The faithful saints in Zion shall be blessed;

Verses 5-8:   They are to love and serve the Lord and keep his commandments;

Verses 9-19:  By keeping the Lord’s day holy, the saints are blessed temporally and spiritually;

Verses 20-24:   The righteous are promised peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come.

The section this article focuses on, while acknowledging the other parts of this section, is the latter half, verses 9-24.  Verses 9 through 14 speak specifically of some of the reasons why we must keep the Sabbath day holy and what it means to keep it holy while verses 15 through 19 talk about the blessings that flow from keeping the Sabbath day holy.  Specifically, if we keep it holy, we are promised the fullness of the earth, beasts of the field, fowls of the air, and pretty much anything that climbs in the trees or walks on the earth.  We are further promised herbs, good things which come from the earth, which can and should be used for food and clothing, buildings, gardens, orchards and vineyards.  The Lord promises, in describing these verses, that “all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and gladden the heart.[4]

The Lord gives us these things that we might have clothing, food, delicious tastes, pleasing aromas, and that we might have strong bodies and enlivened souls.  The Lord, quite literally, is describing the benefits of the earth, why it was created, what all things found on the earth are for and how we should view them.  Knowing the nature and mindset of man, the Lord then provides a gentle reminder in verse 20, reminding us that God was pleased to give these things to men, to us, but that all things were to be used with “judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.”  This verse, then, brings us to the heart of this essay.  It is in this context that we read verse 21 of Section 59.  It will prove useful to read it again:

“And in nothing doth man aoffend God, or against none is his bwrath ckindled, save those who dconfess not his hand in all things, and eobey not his commandments.”

Now, with that in mind, I will discuss what I think this means, what it applies to, and what it does not apply to.  Where I stray, I invite feedback and correction.

This verse simply does not apply to a fatalistic view of the world, that everything that happens is condoned and approved by the Lord, or that the Lord’s hand is in all things.  That may indeed prove to be the case, but this verse does not grant such an interpretation.  This verse does not apply to a view that all the manuals, periodicals, statements or official pronunciations of the LDS church with the Lord’s will in mind, or with his “hand in all things.”  This verse does not suggest approval for the actions of an institution or body of people to do whatever they will, in a unified voice while they profess it to be the “mind and will of the Lord.”

Rather, this verse applies directly and specifically to gratitude for temporal blessings which come from the fullness of the earth.  It is true that nothing is strictly temporal[5].  Nevertheless, this verse is specifically relating to the fullness of the earth, which the Lord makes clear in this section to be the fullness of blessings which come from the earth – food, plants, trees, herbs, beasts, wildlife, gardens, vineyards, orchards, etc.  These verses describe those things which come from the earth – either as a fruit of the earth or something we can create (i.e. building) from earth’s abundance – things specifically given to us to “strengthen the body and … enliven the soul.[6]

To be fair to the argument at hand, I must acknowledge that I do agree with the idea that the Lord is in control of all things, that the Lord can and does use both the natural and unnatural flow of life to achieve his purposes.  Regardless of what happens in the world –whether it is an orchestrated financial depression, or a man-made blizzard, or the pronouncements of apostate religions – the Lord will use those events to achieve his purposes to teach his sheep.  I believe this is self-evident.  What this does not mean, however, is that the Lord approves of all the actions which precipitate such events.  I likewise think this to be self-evident, but nevertheless believe that the distinction must be made in light of the way D&C 59:21 can be used when used outside of the context in which it was revealed.

From an LDS perspective, I find it hard to believe that the Lord would approve of some of the actions of the leaders of the Church, especially when contrasted with the revelations given to Joseph Smith which are all too frequently contradict modern or past protocol and pronouncements.  It is true that the Lord uses man for his purposes and understands that the “natural man is an enemy to God,[7]” but that does not mean that the Lord approves of the actions in and of themselves.

To provide a specific example, let us discuss the role of the Presiding Patriarch within the LDS Church.  Originally, with Joseph Smith, Sr., and Hyrum Smith, the role Presiding Patriarch held a position which ranked ahead of the Twelve Apostles in authority[8].  The authority held by the Presiding Patriarch seemed to ebb and flow, depending on who held the position and who was President of the Church at the time.  Originally, the Presiding Patriarch served simultaneously as both a church patriarch and a member of the First Presidency.[9] Even as late as the 1890s, Wilford Woodruff stated that the Presiding Patriarch was “the next man to him in authority in the Church.[10]”  This viewpoint continued into the early 1900s with Joseph F. Smith, who was actually set apart as church president by the Presiding Patriarch on 17 Oct 1901, an ordinance which “presupposed that the Patriarch to the Church had authority at least equal to the church president’s[11]”, a tacit statement which exceeded what Woodruff stated in 1894.  Even through the late 1910s, the Presiding Patriarch’s chair in the Salt Lake temple’s council room was situated next to the First Presidency’s chairs and ahead of the senior apostle’s chair[12].

Then, Heber J. Grant became the president of the church and the role of the Presiding Patriarch was forever altered.  At a meeting on 2 Jan. 1919, the First Presidency ruled that the “President Patriarch ranked after the Quorum of the Twelve[13]” in authority.  Grant further “demoted” the Patriarch by stating that the Patriarch only attended temple council meetings “as a matter of courtesy” and that the Presiding Patriarch’s vote was insignificant and could not even be a “tie-breaking” vote of the First Presidency and apostles.  The Patriarch could no longer ordain other patriarchs, except by the courtesy of the First Presidency, and the Patriarchs chair in the Salt Lake temple’s council room was moved so that it came after the junior apostle’s.  As Quinn notes in Extensions of Power, “In Grant’s view the patriarch had flown too high during Joseph F. Smith’s administration.  As new church president he was determined to clip the patriarch’s wings.[14]

Later, the office of Patriarch stood vacant for ten years while Grant tried to get his son-in-law ordained as Patriarch.  From the time Grant was ordained as President of the Church in 1918, through today, the office of Presiding Patriarch has dwindled in importance and, largely, authority.  As Quinn concludes his discussion on the role of the Presiding Patriarch, he adds this statement:

“Whenever a patriarch after 1844 tried to magnify his presiding office, the Twelve and First Presidency recoiled in apprehension.  However, when individual patriarchs seemed to lack administrative vigor, the Twelve and First Presidency criticized them for not magnifying their office.  Few men could walk such an ecclesiastical tightrope.  For various reasons the First Presidency and Twelve were in conflict with seven out of eight successors of the original Presiding Patriarch, Joseph Smith, Sr.  The hierarchy finally resolved the situation on 6 Oct 1979 by making Eldred G. Smith an “emeritus” general authority without replacing him.  This permanently “discontinued” the office of Patriarch to the Church.  … Vacating the office in 1979 ended the conflicts.  However, according to Brigham Young’s instructions, the 1979 action made the church vulnerable:  “It was necessary to keep up a full organization of the Church all through time as far as could be.  At least the three first Presidency, quorum of the Twelve, Seventies, and Patriarch over the whole Church … so that the devil could take no advantage of us.[15]”  It is beyond the scope of this analysis to assess such metaphysical vulnerability.  Administratively, however, the decision to leave the patriarch’s office vacant after 1979 streamlined the hierarchy and removed a source of nearly constant tension.[16]

Was the Lord’s hand in the vacating of the Patriarch’s office in 1979?  Did the Lord then, or does he now, approve of such a move?  My answer to that question is that the Lord likely does not approve of such a move, nor did He likely approve of the near constant tension between the Twelve and First Presidency and those ordained as Presiding Patriarchs, tensions which put the church in a “vulnerable” position according to Brigham Young.

Likewise, other structural, administrative and ecclesiastical changes have occurred with the Presiding Bishopric[17] and the Quorums of the Seventy[18].  The reader is left alone to decide whether these changes represent the will of the Lord, and necessitate confessing “his hand in all things,” or whether these changes represent the struggles of the natural man as he grapples with power and authority, or something else entirely.

This much is true, Doctrine and Covenants 59:21 relates very specifically to gratitude within the context of obtaining a fullness of the earth and obtaining blessings from the Lord through our keeping of the Sabbath day as holy.  To project that verse and its implications forward onto geo-political machinations is one each individual must determine, but the determination must rest upon a knowledge of the Lord’s usage of this verse in its appropriate context.  What is equally true, in my mind, is that the Lord will use the situations in which we find ourselves to teach us lessons and instruct us when we are humble and willing enough to listen.  This method of teaching and instructing the natural man, however, does not mean that the Lord approves of each decision we make in this life.  We must be careful not to assume as much.

Rather, in conclusion, I think this verse is a simple example of the Lord reminding us that once we come unto Him, once we accept Him for who he truly is, once we learn to love Him for unselfish reasons, that the “fullness of the earth is [ours].”  The blessings he would pour out upon us should we choose to love Him as we must are unfathomable.  Let us truly confess His hand in everything we’re given on this earth…the food, clothing, beasts, fowl, water, houses, barns, etc.

[1] See 1 Nephi 19:23.

[2] See 1 Nephi 17:9-10, 16.

[3] See D&C 59, Section heading.

[4] See D&C 59:18.

[5] See D&C 29:31-32, 34-35.

[6] See D&C 59:19.

[7] See Mosiah 3:19.

[8] Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight to Joseph Smith, 24 June 1844, in History of the Church7:157.

[9] See Quinn, Michael D.  The Mormon Hierarchy:  Extensions of Power, pages 116-131, for a more detailed analysis of what became of the role of Presiding Patriarch.

[10] Heber J. Grant journal, 7 Oct 1894; Salt Lake Tribune 8 Oct 1894.

[11] Quinn, Extensions of Power, page 122.

[12] Minutes of meeting of First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and Presiding Patriarch, 2 Jan. 1919.

[13] Quinn, Extensions of Power, page 125.

[14] Quinn, Extensions of Power, page 125.

[15] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 27 December 1847.

[16] Quinn, Extensions of Power, page 131.

[17] See Quinn, Extensions of Power, pages 132-140 for a discussion of some of these changes.

[18] See Quinn, Extensions of Power, pages 140-148 for a discussion of some of these changes.