Posts Tagged ‘General Conference’


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.


Amateur Hour

The other day, reading a few random talks from random individuals, I came across a very short essay written by Hugh Nibley.  This essay discussed the idea of a paid clergy within the church and the pros and cons of a paid clergy.  What is so interesting about many of Nibley’s essays is how they discuss history and how that applies to a modern context.  That essay, entitled “The Day of the Amateur,”[1] is still as applicable today, if not more so, than it was then.

The article, as the title alludes to, is little more than a discussion and contrast of professionals on the one hand, and amateurs on the other.  Professionalism is, as Nibley states, “the child of the universities.”[2] Before there were professionals, there was what is called the Sophoi, “ancient traveling teachers who gave the modern world its moral and intellectual foundations.  They were, to a man, amateurs.”  Professionals, as we all well know, are paid for their opinions, works and teachings.  Amateurs, like Olympian athletes, are not.  They simply do what they do either out of charity or because they feel compelled to do so out of some duty to the human race.

According to Nibley, the amateurs were required by law to be amateurs, “because what they were doing was holy business and not to be contaminated by ulterior motives and ambitions.”[3] In ancient history the Sophists, the great imitators of the Sophoi, eventually overran everything and professionalized it all.  These Sophists were the great professors and the reason why Socrates eventually “advised students to examine prospective teacher’s credentials very carefully and critically.”[4]

As Nibley opines about a day gone by in his usual manner:

“Learning, [now] forgotten in the universities, was revived in academies, salons, societies, courts and coffee houses where amateurs came together to revel in the things of the spirit and make the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the high point of western civilization.  It was the Age of the Amateur.”

Fast forward a few years to the mid-nineteenth century, universities slowly took hold of society and by the twentieth century (and now in the twenty-first century) everyone goes to school for accreditation of some sort.  College teaching, for the most part, offers a “safe birth for mild and mediocre souls who in time, by the sacred role of seniority, [end] up ruling [the] institutions.”[5] Professionals, in this regard, can be boring, inept and lacking of any real inspiration, but the amateur, to get any recognition of any kind, has to be good and inspired.  To maintain the status of an amateur, as the Sophoi of old, the amateur must be honest, dedicated and incorruptible.

Professionals, however, all they need is a certificate, a piece of paper hanging on a wall, a couple of initials after one’s name and, magically (at least in today’s society), they’re granted virtual hero status.  People fawn over them, accept their word as scripture and certainly give much more credence to a professional than some guy with no initials after his name, no degree.

What is particularly troublesome about this essay, to me individually, is that I have often fallen prey to some of the arguments used by the Sophists.  I have been swayed by their opinions, their calls for degrees and certifications.  I went to college because I felt I needed a degree to succeed (financially) in the world, not thinking that there were other ways to succeed, to get by, to live and learn.  I had bought into the following statement, hook, line and sinker:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  … You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[6]

I went to school to get a degree in order to get paid from the world “what it thinks [I’m] worth.”  While I appreciate the opportunity to go to school, I nevertheless look back on those years wondering why it was that I fell in line with the crowd and failed to think for myself.  Today, however, I would hope that this statement would raise a few red flags for someone interested in establishing Zion and someone who is, if only slightly, aware of LDS history from the 1800s.   While I agree that education is important, I disagree with the premise of the above statement that implies that education is found only through college and universities, institutions where we may become a “professional” and get a degree, a certification, or whatever it is these days to tell the world that you are now “[qualified] to do the work of the world.”  This quote was restated in the April 2009 New Era, page 19[7], and is juxtaposed between statements of youths from across the United States discussing the importance of attending college and gaining an “education.”  Even more bothersome for me is the urging of the President of the Church imploring the youth of the church to “sacrifice anything that is needed … to qualify to do the work of the world.”  Seems, to me at least, to be a bit too Babylonian in nature, especially when prophets of old have given counsel in direct contradiction to this statement.

According to a discourse given by Brigham Young, Joseph Smith appeared to him in a vision “given right in broad daylight” and gave him a message relating to the building up of Zion.  Young related the following:

“Said [Joseph Smith] – ‘Never spend another day to build up a Gentile city, but spend your days, dollars and dimes for the upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth, to promote peace and righteousness, and to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and he who does not abide this law will suffer loss.”[8]

Yet, in spite of this statement by Brigham Young, we are much further away from the “upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth” today than we ever were then.  Now, in lieu of counsel to build up Zion, we receive counsel which essentially builds up none other than the Great Babylon.  Truly, it is an interesting juxtaposition.  Nevertheless, this quote is used in this article to merely discuss our proclivity to obtain certifications, degrees, and an “education” at the hand of Babylonian professors.  We, naturally, then rely on these certificates to be taken seriously in our personal and professional lives.

Relating this to things of the spirit and the church, some of you may have noticed a certain trend that occurs within the halls of most meeting houses and places of worship, especially among the LDS faith.  Other than the first Sunday of the month, members are asked to prepare and given talks over the pulpit.  This is a way of encouraging mere members of the church to share their experiences, knowledge and spirit with the congregation at large.  It is an inspired practice, it would seem.  It serves as a way for member’s to learn to acquire the spirit, to study the gospel and teach everything by the spirit.

What is an inspired practice, however, has morphed into uniformity of thought.  It’s a true LDS oddity how this could happen.  Pay attention to the next week’s talks, those given by regular members on any given Sunday.  What you will likely find, if your ward or branch is anything like mine, is that most members will simply relay their thoughts in the form of an old Ensign or General Conference talk.  Some of these members will simply read the old Ensign or General Conference talk as if it were their own words, others will re-read the talk word-for-word giving due credit and others still will intersperse their words with the words from the talk.

What makes this unique to the LDS faith is largely the role of general authorities and members of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles in the lives of everyday members.  These men, once called to one of these positions, take on super-human status.  They are no longer capable of error, of giving bad advice or interpreting scriptures to fit a box for which they weren’t meant to fit.  Instead, they become mostly infallible (though no one will admit as much).  Obedience to their words is what is required to be a card-carrying member of the LDS church.  Somehow their words become inspired, their statements become scriptures.  No longer do we, as mere members of the church, filter their words through the spirit to verify whether it is the spirit that is teaching us or whether we’re hearing the man’s opinion.  Instead we rely, word-for-word, on what they say.  Their words then, as a result, become our words.  We quote them, reference them, and repeat them, verbatim, over countless pulpits nearly every week of every year.  Instead of using the scriptures and allowing the spirit to speak through us, we draw on their words to give authority to ours, we rely on their words to justify ours – everything we do is filtered by what “so-and-so” apostle or general authority said.

I am, in this regard, no different.  I have used these very same practices to justify my statements both here on this blog and in talks I have given over the pulpit in years past.  My ability to recognize this issue is highlighted mostly by my own experience, day in and day out, practicing this very method to support and uphold my words.  Only recent have I begun to question what it is, exactly, that we are doing by practicing this sort of “idol” worship, if I may say as much.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the “general authorities” have taken on expert status when it comes to the gospel and the doctrine of the gospel.  Somewhere along the way we gave them what they never (to my knowledge) asked for – doctrinal authority.  Christ, in his interactions with the Scribes and Pharisees, “distinguished between their right to preside over the church (which He did not challenge), and their assumed exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture (which He utterly rejected).”[9] The scribes and Pharisees, as well as the Sanhedrin, jealously guarded their right to claim leadership by asserting their authority.  “Their appointment to leadership offices, … priestly trappings, and possession of the temple were all used to buttress their claimed rights to preside and exercise control and dominion over the Jews.”[10]

I am not prepared to place these same accusations on the LDS hierarchy, though I see striking and troubling similarities.  At this point, it is the members who presume that the LDS leadership has an “exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture,” though certainly the leadership has, in certain instances, declared that to be their right as leaders.  This exclusivity to teach and interpret scripture is the reason why so many talks rely on so many quotes and statements from “professionals” within the LDS church.  By professionals, I mean those who have a title in front of their name, be it Elder or President or something else.  In our private lives we generally rely on the initials which follow someone’s name to know what to do, what to believe and how to act, be it an M.D., a PhD or something else, while in our religious lives we do exactly the same thing, the only difference being how we rely on the title which precedes a general authority’s name.  No longer, as the logic follows, is it the message that is the most important thing, though surely it is important, rather it’s the title in front of the name which lends especial credence to the message.

I am, admittedly, not quite sure why we have such a fascination with quoting others.  As I previously stated, I am as guilty as the next.  It is, indeed, easier to write and share my thoughts when I bring in quotes from outside sources.  That all being said, it is simply not a black and white issue, though the current practice in the LDS church, in my opinion, is overkill.  Members are all too eager to pick up their favorite talk or a talk which has been given either to them by a member of their Bishopric or one on the subject at hand, and regurgitate it for all to hear.  That, to me, does little more than destroy the spirit of the meeting.  It is true that a well placed quote, a poignant thought and outside sources can indeed enhance the message we are trying to convey, but all too often those quotes become paragraphs.  The paragraphs extend into pages and, before you know it, the talk is over and it turned into one giant quotation.  So be it.  I can only change myself – and I aim to – and you can only change yourself.  The change starts at an individual level and hopefully it does.  Let that change begin with you.  Instead of opening the most recent Ensign, open your scriptures and your heart to hear what the Spirit would teach you.

John Taylor Gatto wrote, in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, the following, which underscores one of the reasons why we are so quick to look for the expert to lead us, guide us and save us from ourselves:

“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.”[11]

In writing this, ironically enough, I was reminded of a book I just started reading.  A friend recommended this book several months back, at which time I bought it, but it’s been sitting on my shelves gathering dust until this past week.  In the introduction to this book, I found a statement that rang true to my spirit and one which I am trying to convey in this article:

“…What I have tried to convey are the thoughts and consciousness of Jesus that were behind his words when he uttered them.  I commune with Christ and ask him:  ‘I don’t want to interpret the Bible from my own views.  Will you interpret it?’”[12]

Encapsulated in this brief sentence is a meaning that is easy to forget:  we are all too often eager to use someone else’s opinion of the scriptures to justify our thoughts, beliefs and intentions.  Rare, indeed, is the man who searches the scriptures and seeks out the only true interpretation from the true source of light and inspiration.  We would do well to seek Christ and His interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to another man’s interpretations, no matter how good that person’s interpretations may be.  The Pure Source is really the only source from which we should drink.[13]

Nibley, in closing his essay, addresses this very issue and states his opinion on the importance of everyone contributing to the dialogue:

“If we have no professional clergy in the Church, it is not because the Church cannot use expert knowledge, but because all members should be experts where the gospel is concerned, and as such they should make their contribution. All the same contribution? Not at all! The Church is structured for eternal progression, and that takes place as we all feel our way forward along a broad front. Seeking and searching are among the most common words in our scriptures; we are all supposed to be seeking all the time. Just as missionaries go forth as an amateur army, searching out the honest in heart in the most scattered and unlikely places, on the widest possible front, so the rest of us increase in knowledge, here a little and there a little, not by trusting a few experts to come up with the answers, but by all of us searching, all along the line, finding out a fact here and a document there, and reporting the discovery to the whole body.  When he was editor of the Times and Seasons, the Prophet Joseph invited all to contribute.”[14]

The next time you give a talk, or assign someone to give a talk, I hope you take these thoughts to heart.  Stop quoting others and start trusting the spirit and your ability to be taught by the spirit.

What is especially interesting is Nibley’s typical retort at the end of one of his lectures, after having discussed similar ideas:

“Just remember — these things we’ve talked about here today aren’t really that important. What is important is that you keep the commandments and pray for the Lord’s guidance.”[15]

Truly, that is what is most important.  Instead of relying on others to tell us what to believe, to interpret the scriptures for us, to give us quotes and statements to justify what the spirit has undoubtedly taught us, we should pray for and then rely on the Lord’s guidance.[16]

**Approximate percentage of this essay which is made up of direct quotes from others:   23.2% – (676 out of 2,916 words)**


[1] Nibley, Hugh.  “The Day of the Amateur.”  New Era.  Volume 1, number 1.  January 1971.  Pages 42-44.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Hinckley, Gordon.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth.”  New Era.  January 2001, Page 8.

[7] “Questions & Answers,” New Era.  April 2009.  Pages 18-19.

[8] Young, Brigham.  “The Priesthood, Etc.” JD 12:59.

[9] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 97.

[10] Ibid.  Page 60-61.

[11] Gatto, John Taylor.  Dumbing Us Down:  The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.  1993, page 99.

[12] Yogananda, Paramahansa.  The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You.  2004, page XXX.

[13] See John 4:10.

[14] Nibley.

[15] See http://www.zionsbest.com/amateur.html and the “About the Author” section.

[16] See Jeremiah 31:31-34 for a better discussion on this principle and idea.