Posts Tagged ‘Heber J. Grant’


This is Part III of a three part series.  Part I can be found here.

Now, the “other endeavors” I discussed in Part II are generally well documented, or at least in your average, run-of-the-mill newspaper outlet (i.e. Deseret News, etc) has covered these topics in some degree or another.  Pretty much anyone can find some information on these items if they but know what they’re searching for.  This next section deals with a slightly more nuanced, and hidden topic, one that is hard to pin down and find good information upon which to base this write-up.  Perhaps that is how it should be.  Perhaps I just haven’t searched using the correct terms or have not, as of yet, been led to something more concrete.  In any case, it does touch on some of the issues of this article thus far, but none more so than the Deseret Ranch in Florida.

Namely, this section discusses the possible link between larger, more nefarious financial connections and the LDS Church, as initially connected through the Deseret Ranch, at least through the point of view of someone.  It’s even slightly more difficult to pin down because of the scope of this article (generally speaking, the discussion of church finance) is a topic that is altogether avoided in Mormondom.  Outside of the COB, very few people actually know any details regarding church finance.  I count myself among the very many who know next to nothing about the details of church finance.

Cultural Hypocrisy

As some have noted elsewhere, I am likewise bewildered at how the wider church membership, which trends toward the conservative side of the political spectrum, react and respond to the church at large.  While this conservative mass decries “secret combinations” in the government, decries the lack of transparency at all levels – from local and state governments to the federal taxing authority and to the behemoth that is the (not so) Federal Reserve – and generally belittles any public figure who feigns ignorance on any given topic or those who plead the need for privacy.  Those special whipping boys include Ben Bernanke, Harry Reid and others, but the story is generally the same:  give us details on where our tax money is going, who owns or controls you, disclosure on balance sheets, etc.

One recent example included the call by many “conservative” thinkers to get full disclosure of those banks receiving money from the recent federal stimulus programs.  Those against public disclosure stated, among other things, “Our member banks are very concerned about real-time disclosure of information that could cause a run on banks.”[1] And, who is to say it’d be wrong to call for such disclosure?  But, alas, that’s not the point of my raising the issue.  My point is to suggest and point out that Mormons by and large were joining in on these requests by the boatload, led chiefly by their ringleader Mr. Glenn Beck.  [Aside:  I did find it interesting that in going to that link, the only advertisement on that page was for the “…And, I’m a Mormon!” campaign.  See this:  Mormon Advertising (1).]

It seems incredibly ironic that Mormons in general (especially those who lean conservative) usually lament the lack of transparency at governmental and corporate levels of all shapes and, and yet blindly accept what goes on inside the Church Office Building.  For example, if a Mormon gives $10,000 to any given charity, or pays $10,000 in local and federal taxes, you’d be right to assume that that Mormon (or anyone for that matter) is going to monitor that money to ensure its being used as efficiently as possible.  And, if it isn’t, that Mormon will at the very least petition the taxing authorities or whomever it is through letters to the editor, complaints, calls, or by voting those members out of office.  If it’s a charity, and the Mormon isn’t happy with where the money is going or what’s happening with it, they’ll move on and donate to a different charity the next time around.  Point is:  they vote with their pocketbook, and rightly so.

But, place that same Mormon in a temple recommend interview where they just wrote out a year end check for $10,000 in order to officially be recognized as “worthy” and this member won’t think twice about where the money is going.  That money enters the black hole that is the Church Office Building, never to be seen or heard from locally.  Whereas the member will require accountability on behalf of anyone not named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ™, inside Mormondom we Mormons somehow develop an amazing ability to not only forget about the money given to the church (or at least the details of what happens to it), but also never think twice about it.  Some would even readily give more were they able (and some do – it’s a pay-for-rewards scheme.  You pay your tithing and miraculously you purchase fire insurance and receive a key to unlock the windows of heaven).  To hell with the “poor and needy,” what we need here is a few extra billion pouring into projects like the City Creek Center.  It seems the transparency issue only works outside the walls of church.

And, if that weren’t enough, bishops near and far neither question nor think about what’s going on.  They routinely see sums in the tens of thousands of dollars (if not much more) leaving their ward or branch on its merry old digital way to Salt Lake City, never to see, hear or touch these funds again, and never stop to think about what’s happening, or if it’s the way the Lord would want it to be.  Tithing paid locally not only does not help local congregations, but is often spent on things that just don’t matter at all.  Whereas the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions suggests that “The Lord has given bishops the sacred trust of receiving and accounting for the tithes and other offerings of the Saints (See D&C 119; 42:30-33),”[2] these same bishops “may not use tithing funds for any purpose.”[3]

Did y’all catch that?  The Church™ states that local bishops are entrusted with the “sacred trust” of “receiving and accounting” for local donations, no matter their reason, but in no way can they use these same funds “for any purpose.”  So, what does a bishop do if he needs funds to help his ward members?  Ah, fear not dear reader, the church™ has answered this question by providing wards with “budget allowances.”  Who needs tithing when the church has graciously allotted various “budget allowances.”  These budget allowances are based on “attendance” at Sacrament meeting, Young men and women classes, primary and young single adults.  If your attendance is high, your budget amount goes up.  If it’s low, it goes down.  It’s that simple.  These budget allowances were created to “reduce the financial and time burdens” on members.[4] Yes, that’s right, a ward – for example – might pay $100,000 in tithing over the course of the year.  Based solely on attendance (and notably based neither on the needs nor wants of its individual members)[5], and is then allotted a budget allowance of $5,000 or so to spend amongst its various organizations (Young mens, Young womens, Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, activities, etc.).  The remaining $95,000 is shipped off to Salt Lake City and then invested in Babylonian investments (i.e. stocks, bonds, businesses, hedge funds, etc) for two to three years.  At the end of the two to three years, the Church™ uses the original $95,000 for “church” purposes (i.e. Temple construction, meetinghouse construction, general upkeep of properties, salaries of Church Office Building employees, and God knows what else), while approximately $25,000 (the “investment income” earned while the tithing funds were invested) is spent on for-profit projects (i.e. City Creek Center, the new Laie, Hawaii hotel[6], etc.).

So, somehow shipping 95% of local funds (my estimate, though I doubt the “actual” ratio is much different) off to a “black hole” where things go to never be heard from again is not viewed as a “financial and time burden,” but allowing the local congregations to keep the other 5% is viewed as a way to “reduce” these same financial and time burdens.  Holy smokes, Batman, is that some funky, contorted logic.  How about keeping 95% of all tithes and offerings local, while sending in 5% for the collective good of the organization?  How much help could a righteous local bishop provide with $95,000 at his disposal, versus $5,000, spread across ~300 members or so?  Act local should be the mantra (in my opinion), but instead it’s “ignore” local and think “global.”  After all, the COB knows better than we strangers in Babylon ever could.  They do employ, after all, financial advisors and investment managers to manager untold billions of dollars and are thereby much more qualified than I or you are.  Trust me.  They have the certifications to prove it and, after all, certifications are certified by some certifiably certified body of certified certifieds.

Institutional Insanity

In this scheme, and many other, the current status quo reinforces is the supremacy of the institution at the expense of the individual.  Wayne Jacobsen wrote about the “institution” in his book, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, and couldn’t have penned more appropriate words:

“The institution provides something more important than simply loving each other in the same way we’ve been loved. Once you build an institution together you have to protect it and its assets to be good stewards. It confuses everything.  Even love gets redefined as that which protects the institution and unloving as that which does not. It will turn some of the nicest people in the world into raging maniacs and they never stop to think that all the name-calling and accusations are the opposite of love. … Institutionalism breeds task-based friendships. As long as you’re on the same task together, you can be friends. When you’re not, people tend to treat you like damaged goods. … Any human system will eventually dehumanize the very people it seeks to serve and those it dehumanizes the most are those who think they lead it. … Over time institutions … become abusive when the demand for conformity takes over. … Once people are in love with the program and grow dependent on it as the spiritual component of their lives, they won’t see its limitations. It cannot substitute for their own life in him and it can only produce an illusion of community because it is based on people doing what it takes to sustain the institution … ”[7]

Ah, but I digress.

Paul Drockton on the Rothschild’s and Dick Cheney

Returning to the whole “secrecy” issue and high-finance, a fellow named Paul Drockton has written a few articles on the subject at large.  In researching this topic, I reached out to Drockton and found him to be far too short on offering any further details to a virtual (literally) stranger.[8] And, as a result, you’re left reading my words as opposed to some other fellow, who is more than likely much more in tune and smarter than I.

In order to understand this topic, one might start by thinking back to a few years to where Dick Cheney (of all people) was awarded an “honorary doctorate” from BYU and BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson.  The background information leading up to Cheney giving the commencement speech is perhaps worthy of its own discussion, elsewhere, but those readers familiar with Stephen Jones’ work on 9/11 may know some of these details.  And, while at this same commencement ceremony where Cheney was lauded and applauded, J. Craig McIlroy, then president of the BYU Alumni Association, offered the following words of praise on the Rothschild family[9], of all families:

“As new graduates, many of you may be focusing on the possibilities that lie ahead to create wealth for yourselves. Might I suggest that you consider wealth creation as a commodity made up of financial, human, and intellectual capital.  Business people know that they must spend 70 to 80 percent of their time growing assets. In families, growing the human and intellectual assets is often overlooked. The members in the family are the human capital. Their collective life experiences and knowledge make up the intellectual capital. The financial capital supports the growth of the other two. James E. Hughes, Jr., suggests these concepts to us in his book, Family Wealth.

He reminds us that:

In the mid-eighteenth century, Mayer Amschel Rothschild founded the House of Rothschild. This creator of the Rothschild fortune had five sons, each of whom he set up in the banking business in one of the era’s five principal European financial capitals: Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Paris, and Naples. He lent them the money to get started at lower than normal interest with the proviso that they pay him back. He directed that each son keep the profits of his individual bank once the original loan had been repaid. He also charged interest in the form of intellectual currency. He requested each of his sons relay to him every bit of financial information he gained in his city. He agreed to share this intellectual interest with his other sons. In modern terms, he created an effective information network.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild also used a powerful investment technique to manage the risk to his family’s human capital. By sending each son to a different city, he diversified his human assets into five separate investments, thereby increasing the probability that at least one of the branches would survive political and economic risks. Ultimately, only the London and Paris branches survived and continue to prosper. Today, some 250 years later, the name Rothschild is synonymous with wealth. [James E. Hughes, Jr., Family Wealth: Keeping It in the Family: How Family Members and Their Advisers Preserve Human, Intellectual, and Financial Assets for Generations (Princeton: Bloomberg Press, 2004), 32; adapted by permission]

Mayer Amschel Rothschild understood that two important elements of a family’s wealth are its human and intellectual capital. He saw to it that all family members were well educated and that they worked. He also provided specialized mentorship opportunities as his sons entered the workforce.

Like the Rothschild children, you have been given a figurative loan, if you will, in the form of a financial subsidy of your tuition by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You represent the human and intellectual capital of your own families and, in a broader sense, of the Church.

I’ll excuse you if you need to go vomit after reading that drivel.  In my book, equating humans as “capital” is as nefarious and heretical a doctrine or idea as there is, but certainly one not lost on your average member or your average congregation.  Life is, after all, about making money, ascending the corporate latter and, as a result, giving back of your time and money to the “church.”  Ironically, this very mindset fits in with the “Rothschild” mindset where humans are mere tools to use to make money.  I’m not so sure that Christ would ever refer (or insinuate or imply or even think about) to us as “capital” to both society and the church, and think that we should do more to ponder such statements.  And yet, irony abounds within this context.  Mormons are known as some of the more industrious and obedient people there are.  Right-wing Mormons (if I may resort to categorizing) who are entirely against “secret combinations” yet give people like McIlroy and Cheney standing ovations (as was done at Utah Republican Conventions dating back to the mid-1990s where Cheney was present).

Perhaps it should be noted that McIlroy is a Certified Financial Planner who just happens to live in a $500k home in the Denver area whose entire career is predicated on people amassing large sums of wealth, and thus the idea that (a) defining people as “capital” and (b) amassing “wealth” is in his best interests.[10] I’m sure there’s no coincidence there.  Or, perhaps he’s merely positioning himself to manage the untold billions in church investments somewhere down the line.

Likewise, perhaps it’s just mere coincidence, but the championing of the Rothschild’s at a BYU commencement ceremony the very same day that Dick Cheney received his honorary degree from the “hallowed” institution seems a bit bizarre.  Then again, there are no real coincidences in life.  Just opportunities for us “capital” to miss out on underlying meanings that are too nuanced for our pea brains – after all, if all we’re good for is capital then we’d be better off spending our time thinking about how to make a dollar or five for our employers and the church.  For those of you unfamiliar with the whole fiasco created by Cheney’s insistence that he be the commencement speaker[11] and the resultant wake it left for Dr. Steven Jones and his career there at BYU, here’s a footnote[12] to a good article on the topic.  Dr. Jones offered his own account of the story, stating that he was placed on administrative leave on Sept 7, 2006.[13]

It All Revolves Back to Henry Moyle

But, getting back to the financial aspect of the Rothschild’s and the LDS church, one would have to go back to the mid 1900s, if not earlier, to understand what was going on.  Back then Henry Moyle was running the church into financial ruin with an “if you build it, [church growth] will come.”  Some even credit Moyle, and the aggressive building program, with the rather infamous “baseball baptisms” of the 1960s[14] that troubled many a missionary in the latter half of the 20th century and probably even today.

This very same Moyle, incidentally, was the same to teach Boyd K. Packer the principle that it’s OK and acceptable to ignore inconvenient questions and, in lieu of answering the inconvenient questions, it’s perfectly OK and reasonable to provide answers to those questions someone should have asked instead:

“Later, as we were returning to the car, I said, “President Moyle, that was marvelous, just marvelous.  How did you do it?

“President Moyle asked, “What do you mean?”

“I said, “All those antagonistic questions he asked you; it was just marvelous the way you handled them.  He was so antagonistic and bitter and yet the interview itself was successful.”

“I have never forgotten his answer.  He said, “I never pay any attention to the questions – that is, if the interviewer is antagonistic.  If he doesn’t ask the right questions, I give answers to the questions he should have asked.”[15]

“That short statement from President Moyle held great wisdom, and on a number of occasions I have been rescued from difficult situations by referring back in my mind to his comment.”

Should I ever meet Packer, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he’d give me answers to the questions I “should have asked” if I were to ask him about this building programs, or about the Deseret Ranch, or some other topic wholly unrelated to the whole “follow the prophet” meme.  Even so, Moyle was the one in charge of buying the Deseret Ranch in the swamplands of Florida.  Barnett describes the purchase in the following terms:

“After a visit to the Sunshine State in 1949, western cattleman and church leader Henry D. Moyle became convinced that Florida’s climate would make it an ideal place to raise cattle. (The key to the industry, as uncomplicated as it may seem, is growing grass.) Moyle pitched his idea for a Florida ranch to fellow members of the church’s first presidency – the Mormons’ worldwide leadership council. The council bought the original 54,000-acre tract in 1950. In 1952, a dozen Mormon families sold their homes out west and moved to the property to help the church turn wetlands and tangled forests into roads and pasturelands.”[16]

Moyle, it seems, was an avid businessman (who’d have known that the church and business go hand-in-hand?), as well as a successful cattleman.[17] Combine his business, cattle and church interests (and positions) and perhaps the investment in a huge cattle ranch, somewhere, was all too certain.  Throw in a location near Orlando where Disney was out buying up land to build its own empire and speculation and profit-making motives are more than likely going to get a hold of people’s best interests.  So, in 1950 Moyle spearheaded the church’s efforts to purchase the Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch by buying some 54,000 acres, or roughly 85 square miles worth of land in central Florida.  There are some who suggest that this land deal, when combined with the additional acreage the church purchased later on to equal today’s total of 312,000 acres, nearly 500 square miles of land, nearly pushed the church to insolvency in the early 1960s.   Paul Drockton is one such person.

It’s no secret that the church had some severe financial problems as a result of its massive building program under Moyle.  What we don’t know, unfortunately, is what details contributed to this near-insolvency.  Was it this land grab or that land grab, or everything lumped together?  Drockton’s article suggests that this land deal indeed pushed the church to the precipice of insolvency, only to be rescued by one Roberto Vincent de Oliverri – and, if you’ve never heard of this man you wouldn’t be alone in that thinking.  De Oliverri, according to Drockton’s article, was a billionaire who somehow was tracked into by the local LDS missionaries.  De Oliverri was taken by the message (or taken by the opportunity to infiltrate the LDS church, depending on who you blieve), accepted baptism and then proceeded to infiltrate the church in behalf of the Rothschild dynasty by helping repay the $500 million loan on the Deseret Ranch once it reached default status.

The problem I have with this article is that De Oliverri doesn’t exist, at least according to the Google seerstone I have before me, outside of this article.  This is the only article (though it’s been picked up by the likes of Rense and others), where he is ever mentioned in any context.  I understand anonymity, but for someone quoted as being “the second richest Rothschild in the world at the time” who somehow met the missionaries who knocked on his door, I would think there’d be a few more details somewhere on the internet.  Perhaps that’s asking too much, but one would think that he exists somewhere outside of this article.

And, when was the last time you knew of a missionary to proselyte in the richest of the rich neighborhoods?  I served my mission along the Mediterranean amidst the richest of the rich.  While there I spent approximately seven months among the richest city in the particular country where I served.  We’d frequently see Lamborghinis, Ferraris and every other car imaginable drive up and down the streets where we lived.  We also walked some of these “richest” neighborhoods – after all, we were 20 year olds who loved a big house and fancy car as much as any other 20 year old guy – to see just how big these houses were and spot whatever fancy car we could spot.  These were houses overlooking the Mediterranean amongst reinforced steel gates, walls taller than we were in order to keep our eyes off of their stuff and lush vegetation wrapped around the houses to further obstruct our views.  Now, I only mention this to discuss some of my skepticism regarding this story.  We simply didn’t proselyte in these rich areas and, when we did, it was either a “no answer” (95% of the time) or a maid/butler/employee who answered our intercom calls.  If De Oliverri was indeed the 2nd richest Rothschild at the time, then odds are he’d be approaching the 2nd richest person in the world at that time.[18] And yet somehow not only did the missionaries find his home, but they also managed to get into his house and teach him the gospel?  A few dots aren’t lining up.

But, even so, suppose Drockton’s reporting is even remotely accurate.  Suppose somehow De Oliverri did join the church.  Would his records then be accessible via FamilySearch.org?  Perhaps, but the only thing I could find that even remotely resembled his name, as reported in Drockton’s article, was one “Robert Bra Oliveri”[19] who was born in Maryland in 1920 and died in 2002.  This Robert would have been around the right age to match the article and perhaps it was indeed him.  I don’t know.  Or maybe he’s not yet dead.  Maybe he’s still alive today shrouded in secrecy and anonymity.  I only raise these questions as a way to verify what Drockton wrote/reported in his original article.[20]

Knee Deep in Mud (that link will take you to Joseph Smith’s last recorded dream, which is well worth the read.)

It’s entirely possible that this person exists and that this story happened, but I tend to believe that the church’s financial dependence on, and co-mingling with, Babylon happened long before De Oliverri would have or could have came along to rescue Moyle and the Church™ from insolvency.  Susan Staker, in compiling Wilford Woodruff’s biography, wrote how Woodruff was then (1880s and 1890s) courting financial power brokers to help stave off “temporal” disaster with the church.  In fact, in Waiting the Worlds End Staker relates a vision/story Woodruff had on 23 August 1868 wherein he stated his belief that by 1898 Logan, Utah, would be home to over one million “Saints” and these “Saints” would already have been to Jackson County, Missouri, with President (of both the church and the U.S.A.) Brigham Young and built the temple at New Jerusalem.  Instead, almost 30 years to the date, Woodruff was cozying up with the financial power brokers and the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.  Staker describes it this way:

“In fact thirty years later on 27 August 1898, Wilford was in heathen territory – at a meeting of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, California – rather than in New Jerusalem’s temple in Jackson County, Missouri.  He died in San Francisco a few days later on 2 September.  The distance could scarcely have been greater between the scenario predicted by Wilford and warranted by Young and the very different story which unfolded for Wilford and the church during the 1890s (with Wilford not Young as prophet).  A temple did stand on the Logan bench as Wilford predicted, but in an ironic twist, temples, rather than the signs of power he predicts, displayed church weakness within fin-de-siècle political and economic arenas.”[21]

Less than 30 years after Woodruff’s initial meetings with the Bohemian Club / Grove, one of his eventual successors, Heber J. Grant, was meeting with his own financial power brokers.  In 1923, President Grant and his associates took out a $30 million loan, using the entire temple block in Salt Lake City as collateral[22].  [For those interested, $30 million in 1923 would, today, be worth the equivalent of $374 million and change.  Let’s not be too bashful about it, shall we.]  The tabernacle, the lands, the Salt Lake Temple, Deseret Gymnasium, the Beehive House and everything in between was mortgaged to the hilt in order to finance various “business ventures.”  And, it was a mortgage that lasted into the 1970s.  One of the chief financiers of this venture was Chase National Bank.

An official affidavit of this event reads

“… one mortgage document issued by the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company in the year of 1936 to the Wells-Fargo Trust Company of San Francisco; and also one mortgage … issued by the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company to the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the purpose of securing certain debts contracted by the latter corporation form the Chase National Bank.”

So, whether the dabbling in Babylon began with Brigham Young and the multi-million dollar empire he created thanks in large part to his access to the church’s coffers, interest free[23], Wilford Woodruff and his cozying up with the Bohemians and financiers in San Francisco, Heber J. Grant and his penchant for using temples built by others as collateral on multi-million business loans in order to invest in sugar beets and God knows what else, or Henry Moyle and his leading of the church to the brink of insolvency through expansive building programs that may or may not have required a “bailout” from the Rothschild’s, I don’t think it really matters.  Suffice it to say that this sort of dabbling has been going on for decades, if not centuries and is far from an “once-in-a-lifetime” type of endeavor.

Neither Deseret Ranch and Cattle Company, nor City Creek Center is the beginning, nor, unfortunately, the end of the church’s investment in for-profit enterprises that have nothing to do with Christ, nothing to do with Zion and nothing to do with creating a gathering of saints.  Whereas the church initially began creating and starting businesses as a way to help members and to help create a Zion which had zero reliance on Babylon, however misguided they may have been,[24] today the church contents itself on creating businesses and business models that have little-to-no relation with the church or church members at all.  The only real relation has to do with using membership rolls and obligating tithing in order to make an extra dollar or two.

Heaven help us.  We sure need it.

Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; agather ye out from among the nations, from the bfour winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

– D&C 133:7


[1] Madrak, Susie.  “Banks Vow to Fight All the Way to Supreme Court to Keep Fed Aid A Secret.”  April 15, 2010.  Retrieved 10/15/2010.

[2] Church Handbook of Instructions, Handbook 1 (2010), 14.6.1

[3] Ibid, 14.4.1.

[4] Ibid, 14.7.2.

[5] Mosiah 18:29 – “And this he said unto them, having been commanded of God; and they did awalk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.”

[6] This hotel is estimated to cost at least $30 million as of 2007, though Hawaii Reserves, Inc. (the land management arm of the church in Hawaii) admits this cost is outdated.  The 220-room hotel will supposedly be operated by Marriott International and operated as one of Marriott’s “various brands.”  Given Marriott’s penchant for allowing “adult” channels within their hotels, it will be interesting to see whether this particular hotel follows suit.  See “Hawaii Reserves plans 220-room Laie Hotel” for more information.

[7] Jacobsen, Wayne.  “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore.”  2008.

[8] In preparing for this article, I reached out to Drockton on several occasions (via email) in hopes of getting more information on some of the questions I had about his articles.  My biggest concern largely revolved around the sources, lack of corroborating information and scanty details in many of his articles.  His only response to my various inquiries was, “All info is on the website.”  Needless to say, that was about as clear as mud.  (Cue sarcasm.) So, if any of you that read this know Drockton, feel free to pass along my appreciation. (End sarcasm.)  For a man dedicated to truth and exposing certain things, he sure wasn’t willing to share any details or open up about anything to a stranger like myself.

[9] McIlroy, J. Craig.  “Stewardship, Sacrifice and Ownership.”  Apr. 26, 2007.

[10] It’s quite amazing just how much information you can cull from the internet given a few extra minutes.  For example, in a matter of five minutes, I was able to find out where McIlroy lives (a 3000 sq. ft. house on ½ an acre valued at $500,000 in a bucolic suburb of Denver) and works (Lincoln Financial Group as a CFP).  Heck, I even know how much McIlroy donated to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign a few years back.

[11] Nadar, Ralph.  “Cheney and the BYU 25.”  Apr. 30, 2007.  In this article Nadar opines, “Could anyone have imagined that the major commencement protest at a University graduation thus far occurred April 26 at Brigham Young University (BYU)? Probably not.”  But then could anyone have imagined that the Vice President with the lowest approval rating in modern American history would request and receive an invitation to be the commencement speaker?

[12] Allan, Sterling D.  “Silencing Cheney Dissent – How BYU Obstructed 911 Justice,” Greater Things.  Feb 7, 2010.

[13] Jones, Steven.  “BYU and Prof. Steven Jones Revisited.”  May 9, 2010.

[14] See this article on Baseball baptisms for more information.  Retrieved 10/04/2010.

[15] Packer, Boyd K.  “Teach Ye Diligently,” page 63.

[16] Barnett.  “The Church’s Ranch.”

[18] Drockton, Paul.  “Did Rothschilds Buy Mormon Church.”  Retrieved 10/11/2010.

[19] See www.familysearch.org for more details and to perform your own search.

[20] It should also be noted that Drockton’s original article was based on news from one Steven Davis whose father, Clyde, happened to be cozy with the Rothschilds (at least according to Drockton’s article).  Steven Davis, if the names are correct, penned a lengthy letter to then U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales regarding some rather fishy business going on over at the COB.  His letter can be read here, though I admittedly haven’t had the time (or interest, at least not yet) to delve further into its contents and accuracy.

[21] Staker, Susan.  Waiting the World’s End.  Pages VIII-XXI.

[22] Salt Lake County Recorder’s Office, Deed No. 501, 787, Bk. 11 U, page 440, dated Nov. 19, 1923, and recorded Nov. 21, 1923. Issued by Heber J. Grant, Trustee in Trust for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two other deeds followed: #501,790 and #502,184 also issued by Heber J. Grant. Despite this legal documentation, President Grant publicly denied it had occurred – Deseret News, 4 April 1936.

[23] See “Brigham Young’s Estate” for more information on his money issues.  Leonard Arrington, LDS Historian, once wrote, “This ability to draw, almost at will, on church as well as his own funds, was a great advantage to Brigham Young and was certainly one of the reasons for his worldly success…. while Brigham Young was probably the largest borrower of funds from the trustee-in-trust, he was certainly not the only one.” (“The Settlement of the Brigham Young Estate,” 1877-1879, Reprinted from the Pacific Historical Review, vol. 21, no. 1, Feb. 1952, p.7-8)

[24] Brady, Rodney H.  “Church Participation in Business.”  1992.  Retrieved 10/16/2010.


Follow the Prophet, Don’t Go Astray?

So I found myself sitting in nursery this past Sunday watching my 2 year old son play around and saw Ursula reincarnate.  Not really, but certainly the thought came to mind more than a few times.  For those who try and break free from the corporate church, and its teachings, primary is often referred to as one of the last few bastions where the gospel is still pure and simple, where the teachings still focus on and about Christ.

I had that in mind as the scene played out in front of me.  I’m not sure if it’s a churchwide program that our unit (nice, I just called it a unit – very correlated) has been following with what primary songs they sing and when, but ours has been on a program which has been focusing on the infamous (to me, at least) primary song:  Follow The Prophet.  It would be safe to say that chills nearly run up and down my spine when forced to listen to that song, for reasons I’ll try and discuss.  But these aren’t ones that I enjoy.  Probably more like fingernails going down a chalkboard.

A few weeks (months?) back the primary president gave me a CD of the primary songs the primary was working on so that I could pass it along to my wife who could then listen to those songs as we drove with the kids in the car.  Problem is, it’s only a 5-track CD and one of those tracks is “Follow the Prophet.”  So somehow – and I promise it was an honest mistake – the CD was misplaced for a couple of weeks before my wife finally found it.  I’ve managed to skip that track a few times while present, but so far the inundation of that song at church is beyond my control.  Unfortunately.

A few years back, I overheard my nephew singing that song by memory and thought about how cool it was that he had learned such an inspiring song.  Now, I’ll be damned if my kids sing it.  Shows just how far I’ve fallen.

Seeds of Dislike

So, why my particular dislike for this particular song?  Well, it’s not quite as simple as you might guess, though it really is.  Sound confusing, or at least a bit muddy?  Good.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

My dislike probably had origination with the whole “the prophet will never, indeed cannot, lead us astray” meme.  Though even that is a tenuous link.  It really is just one of those things that happened, and really happened overnight more or less.  Whereas before (as in the case of my nephew mentioned above) I found it entirely beneficial, and probably inspiring, to sing such a song, now I can’t stomach it.

I did a simple search on google using the terms, “Follow the prophet” and found a few worthwhile links which will help reinforce this point, and it’s a point I labor with at home as well.  We’ve been taught by many that the Lord will still bless us if we do what the prophet tells us, even if he’s wrong.  We’ve been taught for 120+ years that our church leaders simply cannot lead us astray – try as they might.

This is recorded by Marion Romney and repeated in Ezra Benson’s Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet (a talk which is difficult to find anything within to agree with):

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident, which happened to him: I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home….Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

Blind obedience is required – check your coat (and free will) at the door.

Primary Revisited

So, just what are we teaching our primary aged children, and younger?  Well, taking a couple of the verses of the song might elucidate the conversation, if only slightly:

Adam was a prophet, first one that we know.
In a place called Eden, he helped things to grow.
Adam served the Lord by following his ways.
We are his descendants in the latter days.

Enoch was a prophet; he taught what was good.
People in his city did just what they should.
When they were so righteous that there was no sin,
Heav’nly Father took them up to live with him.

Noah was a prophet called to preach the word,
Tried to cry repentance, but nobody heard.
They were busy sinning-Noah preached in vain.
They wished they had listened when they saw the rain.

Abraham the prophet prayed to have a son,
So the Lord sent Isaac as the chosen one.
Isaac begat Jacob, known as Israel;
Jacob’s sons were twelve tribes, so Bible tells.

Moses was a prophet sent to Israel.
He would lead them to the Promised Land to dwell.
They were slow to follow, or so it appears.
They were in the wilderness for forty years.

It might not appear so “slow,” if you step back and realize that we’re now treading on 180 years of wandering in our own wilderness, awaiting the redemption of Zion and our own promised land.  The problem then becomes, though, what happens when the term “promised land” gets redefined by the same church that has been wandering aimlessly, or nearly so, in regards to Zion?

For example, at this past summer’s commencement speech, Whitney Clayton gave a speech on the promised land.  Though I, as of yet, have been unable to find the transcript of the speech to ascertain the entire message he intended to give, we’re given a few snippets in the LDS Church News.  These tidbits suggest that (a) the land of promise is, today, merely a way of life, “not a place like it was in the Old Testament,” (b) the “promised land” usually isn’t a place – “it’s found wherever an individual is at the moment,” and (c) today’s college graduates are “cross[ing] a modern Red Sea or River Joran, as you graduate from BYU and move one – no generation has been better trained or more richly prepared for its future.”  Better trained and “richly” prepared?  To do what, presactly?  To continue building up and sustaining Babylon, or to actually redeem Zion?  Based on the text of the talk I’ve been able to read, it leaves little doubt – we’re to continue our toils in Babylon, seeking for our land of milk and honey and, not so coincidentally, riches.

Daniel was a prophet. He refused to sin;
So the king threw Daniel in the lion’s den.
Angels calmed the lions, and the king soon saw
Daniel’s pow’r was great, for he obeyed God’s law.

Here’s an interesting conundrum:  was Daniel’s power great because he obeyed the law, or did Daniel really have any power at all?  And, did he refuse to sin, or did you merely listen to the spirit in doing what he did?  Granted, a song – especially a primary song – has got to rhyme, so we should probably grant the author a little leeway, but still, who here is exactly comfortable with the lessons being taught here?

Now we have a world where people are confused.
If you don’t believe it, go and watch the news.
We can get direction all along our way,
If we heed the prophets-follow what they say

Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet he knows the way.

Here, really, is the crux of the song.  The last verse talks about the troubled times we live in – which we’re constantly being reminded of – but then it takes a turn for the worse, much worse.  Instead of reinforcing the idea that we should seek to get answers directly from the Lord, as is evidenced in several of the verses of this song, we’re redirected into a belief that we need to follow what they say.

Verse 1:  Adam served the Lord by following His ways.

Verse 2:  Enoch leads his people in righteousness.

Verse 3:  Noah was called, as an individual, to preach the word.

Verse 4:  Abraham prayed and received individual revelation.

Verse 5:  Moses was called, as an individual, by God to lead the people.

Verse 6:  Samuel answered, as an individual, “Here I am!”

Verse 7:  Jonah learned to listen.

Verse 8:  Daniel disobeyed the laws of the land and prayed.

Verse 9:  Now we’re confused, and we need someone else to tell us what to do.

Alternate Ending

So, the next time you listen to that song, perhaps we could think of this alternate ending that some seem to like:

Now we have a prophet, in the latter-day,
He is here to guide us in so many ways.
If we choose to follow all that he may say,
We will have the Spirit with us every day.

alternate ending verse for the primary song “Follow the Prophet”

Perhaps even worse than the first couple of verses, now we’re told that if we follow all that the current prophet says, we will have the Spirit with us every day.  That, of course, gets back to the whole blind obedience argument.  Blind obedience, though, has never been taught in the church, or so Joseph F. Smith stated back in 1892.

“Not a man in this Church, since the Prophet Joseph Smith down to the present day, has ever asked any man to do as he was told blindly. No Prophet of God, no Apostle, no President of a Stake, no Bishop, who has had the spirit of his office and calling resting upon him, has ever asked a soul to do anything that they might not know was right and the proper thing to do. We do not ask you to do anything that you may not know it is your duty to do, or that you may not know will be a blessing for you to do.” (Joseph F. Smith, Collected Discourses, ed. Brian H. Stuy, Vol. 3 (Burbank, B.H.S. Publishing 1987-1992).)

If only he’d waited a few years, his eventual successor, Heber J. Grant, he’d have heard this very thing taught to the members.  Quoting, once again, Marion Romney:

“Standing by me, [Heber J. Grant] put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

It really is shocking, to me at least, when you look at it this way.  Perhaps it’s true that the culture is so screwed up that they’d benefit from a prophet coming amongst us to tell us to repent, or await the certain destruction that’s coming.  Perhaps it’s true we need an outside voice.  That’s fine.  But, how about we draw the line somewhere?  Perhaps we could draw that line at – oh, I don’t know – Follow the Savior, He Knows the Way.

That’s what is so bizarre about this song.  Where it could be good, it falls measurably short.  Where it could teach kids to follow the Savior, it teaches them to rely on the arm of flesh.

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” (D&C 6:36.)

The scriptures teach us – almost ad nauseum – that we need only follow one person – Christ.  And yet, here we have a primary song that teaches us to follow someone else.  If this could be broken down into images, it would look something like this (in my mind):

Doc2

In these two representations, the one on the left is what I’d call the “Joseph Smith Model,” whereas the one on the right I’d call the “Follow the Prophet Model,” or the model now espoused by the church, and church membership, generally speaking.  The reason I’d call the one on the left the “Joseph Smith Model” is because it’s the egalitarian approach he seemed to espouse, while the one on the right highlights just how much we’ve abdicated our personal responsibility in seeking truth.

“Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a Prophet?’ Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. … Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pages 119, 160.)

Wild Things

So, with that in mind, it might do us some good to revisit Ursula.  In our nursery, as is probably typical of most (and is of the ones I’ve ever attended), a member of the primary presidency comes in each week for music time.  This past Sunday the song of choice was, as you rightly guessed, Follow the Prophet.  But, it wasn’t just that.  The sister passed out maracas, tambourines and all sorts of musical gadgets and gizmos to the 11 or 12 kids in nursery.  The effect was one of no small mayhem.  So, picture if you will, a scene from Where the Wild Things Are (which just may have been the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but the images work) where all the monsters are dancing and singing and chanting around the fire.  The member of the primary presidency leading the pack of wild, ravenous 2 year olds as they listened to a cultic song and shook their maracas with all the muster their tiny arms could.

That, in miniature scale, is what I saw in nursery.  I even tried to snap it on my cell phone, but didn’t get it out in time.  I was nearly appalled and probably would have been had I not been so taken back by the whole scene playing in front of me.

Cyberspace Questions

And, not so appalled as I am at some of the websites currently floating around which reinforce our idolatrous ways.  The President of the church has his own website, owned, managed and ran by the church, which reads more like a resume than anything else.  And, there are countless others devoted to following just what the president is doing on any given day – like www.followtheprophet.net – which literally seeks to “follow” him on his travels.  Once there, you might have some fun going to their post on May 24th of this year and asking yourself, should a prophet be limoed around in a Gulfstream IV – the Huntsman jet – which has a price tag hovering around $36 million and change (new).  Just a question.  We’d all do a little better to ask a few more questions each day.  Start with that question.  Then, imagine that Gulfstream landing in rural Guatemala, or Mongolia, or Uzbekistan or wherever it lands.

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

As a culture, we’re so far removed from processes which create the goods and services we want that all we really care about is the end result.  When we go buy a toy at our nearest Wal*Mart, we care not how it came to us or where it was made.  We couldn’t care less that an 8-year old kid is working 12-hour days to help support his family, just so they can have a ¼ cup of rice on the table at night.  No, so long as we get our toy at a good price, that’s really all we care about.  Same with our groceries, shoes or whatever it may be – just so long as it has an appropriate price tag on it.  The last quote of my post on Samsara and Perfume discusses this idea and refers to it as “world building.”

The same principle goes with this Gulfstream.  Instead of asking ourselves some questions like these:  “does he really need a $36 million airplane to traverse and gallivant across the globe?”, “So what if it reeks of extravagance to the extreme?,” and others along the same vein.  Instead, we simply throw those questions aside and, as the original story on FollowtheProphet.net mentions, find no shortage of adulation for such conveniences.  Questions, lots of questions.

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” – Gandhi

Alternate Ending, Part 2

So what’s my whole beef with this issue?  Mainly one of focus.  We, as a church and a people, are so fixated on an office that we can’t see the forest for the trees.  We have developed such a cult of personality that we no longer verify things, no longer think that God can (or does) work outside the bounds of the corporate church.  We think that all we have to do to be saved is listen to a man.  Any man, really.  So long as he ascends the hierarchy and holds on longer than the rest, that means we are bound to listen and adhere to everything he says.

Like the above graphics note, we’ve replaced intimate relationships with corporate institutions.   The idea and belief that Christ now must speak through someone else, and that that someone else is impervious to ever doing anything contrary to the will of the Lord is about as egregious a teaching as I know.  We’ve strayed from the path that instructs us to go on and on in our search for Christ, and strayed into a path that we only need search for a president – for then we’ve found the only person we need listen to (allegedly).

Denver Snuffer wrote about this in his 3-part series on the Traditions of Men (Part I, Part II, Part III – which are well worth your time), part of which I include here:

“In our context, what has happened as a result of this alteration is that the former significance of the church’s president was administrative, and priestly.  He was a final arbitrator and judge, a presiding authority and a leader whose words were to be considered carefully.  He was NOT considered infallible or to be invariably inspired.  In fact, during the presidencies of the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Brigham Young and President John Taylor, they all spoke against any notion of infallibility of the church’s president.  President Young was particularly cautionary about trusting church leaders instead of the Holy Spirit as your guide.  President Young said too much trust of a church leader would bring the saints to hell.

President Woodruff was so criticized by members for the Manifesto that he defended himself by claiming that the Lord wouldn’t let him make a mistake on that order.  He said that the Lord just wouldn’t let the church’s president lead the saints astray.  That comment was what would later be used to buttress the notion popularly believed today that the “prophet is infallible.”

President Heber J. Grant was an unpopular church president.  One of the problems with getting the saints to respond to the church president’s counsel was solved when the president of the church became the living “Prophet.”  You can reject or question counsel from an administrative authority.  But to question a “Prophet of God” was to invite the damnation of hell.  So the change in nomenclature worked a mighty change in the perceptions of the Latter-day Saints.  The “cult of personality” was an inevitable result.  Everything the president did would be done as “God’s Living Prophet.”  No matter what decisions were made, no matter their wisdom, goodness or undesirability, the result was the same: “They MUST be inspired.  We may not have the human capacity to see it, but God’s ways are higher than man’s after all.  To question is to lack in faith.”

The change put the president into a league in which at a minimum criticism was disrespectful.  Worse, if you were convinced that he made a mistake, it followed almost as an inevitability that you were absolutely forbidden from saying so because to do so revealed a “weakness in the faith.”  In fact, there are General Conference talks which speak about criticizing the church president (or “Living Prophet”) claiming that the criticism was due to a weak faith, and it would lead to apostasy unless a person repented.”

Weak Faith

So, I guess at the end of the day, all this probably means that I have weak faith and am on the road to apostasy.  Such is my plight.  If you’re here, perhaps you’re experiencing the same weaknesses.  If so, soyez le bienvenue (French for:  “Welcome”).

So while the primary may generally be one of the last few bastions of pure Christlike doctrine, that song isn’t doing us any good.


O Lord, I have atrusted in thee, and I will btrust in thee forever. I will not put my ctrust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his dtrust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

– 2 Nephi 4:34

It was an interesting day today.  I was, like usual, late to church.  There are times I feel like a fish out of water, not fully understanding the movie that is playing before my eyes.  This was never more certain than during Elder’s Quorum.

A Dream Foretold

The night prior (last night) I had a dream where I was in some church meeting and some brother was commenting on how he didn’t believe what the Church was teaching in a number of areas – be it correlation, the role of prophets in the modern church, tithing, etc.  The teacher was a brother from the ward I had been attending in Utah, though I’m uncertain of his role in the dream other than as an instructor.  I never spoke much to him while in Utah – he was a doctor and only present occasionally, I was the father of a young boy not yet in nursery and thereby prone to walking the halls instead of in meetings.

No one really said anything to dissuade the original commenter from what he was “struggling” with, at least that I remember from the dream.  Toward the end of the dream I remember feeling the pressure or squeeze on this brother and stated something along the following lines:  “We should be free to worship as we choose.”  The premise of my comment was to let this brother believe as he wants, and not suffocate him for going outside the mainstream beliefs and, dare I say, idolatry.

Prophets

Then, I step into Elder’s Quorum just in time to hear the announcement of the days lesson:  Prophets of God.  Joy of joys, what was I doing there and what was I about to get into?  I was doing pretty good, in spite of the corrections from the Elder’s Quorum president to a couple of the comments other Elder’s had made.  For instance, in response to a statement from the teacher on how a prophet must be both righteous and a man of God, one brother brought up the examples of Paul (from the New Testament) and Alma the Elder (from the Book of Mormon) and how these men were anything but righteous prior to their calls from God.  In response to this comment, mysteriously (in my opinion), the Elder’s Quorum president redirected the conversation by stating, “Just to be clear, we’re talking about the prophet and president of the church, not just a prophet.”  The comment didn’t make much sense, to me, given the direction of the lesson, but nevertheless served to redirect and refocus the lesson on the hierarchy of the LDS church (and certainly what others have called, and for good reason, idolatry) as opposed to the gift of prophecy.

I seemed to be alright with this, content to keep my thoughts to myself.  That is until the teacher shared one of the favorite quotes from LDS history:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 199.

Removed from My Place

Perhaps, upon hearing my comment, the Lord should have removed me from my place.  Perhaps the teacher and Elder’s Quorum president would have hoped to remove me from my place…but there I remained to spread some false doctrine among the mainstream church.

My comment was basically my analysis of the only meaning one can really take from this statement:  that (a) the Lord doesn’t strike down and kill all those who attempt to lead the children of men astray and (b) what the Lord would remove, if the statement were true, is the prophet’s authority and priesthood.  If the contact with heaven is ever severed through unrighteous dominion, no matter the degree, then our authority and priesthood is removed.  That’s the only way I can interpret that statement and am at a point where I simply cannot adhere to the beliefs promulgated by the mainstream (i.e. the prophets and apostles cannot lead us astray, etc).

Such was my comment.  There I sat, silent, for the rest of the lesson.  Then, right about closing time, another elder made a comment which I feel was probably meant to rebuke me for my “lack of faith” or something along those lines.  The comment can be summed up as this:  the prophet is called of God.  If the prophet is called of God, then all the apostles are called of God, then all the Generic Authorities are called of God, then all the area authorities, stake presidents, bishops, young men’s presidents, elder’s quorums teachers and every single decision is of God. End of story.  Curtain call.

There the meeting ended, and there I walked out feeling as though I was living a surreal life.  I proceeded to go to the store, buy a large Mountain Dew, violate one of the 613 laws and wonder where I was in my life and asking myself:  where does this highway lead?  Same as it ever was, it seems.  No doubt the next lesson on Scriptures will likely be just as fun, at least if it focuses (like most of the meetings I attend usually do) on modern scripture.

So, with that, I mulled my life, my beliefs and wondered what it is that draws people to believe in the ultimate infallibility of leaders, even if they don’t admit such infallibility.  Really, what does it matter any more?

The Mind and Will of the Lord

The ending comment of this class put me squarely back in the dream I had the night before, only no one was telling people to lay off and let me believe what I want.  Though, perhaps the dream had more to do with preparing me for the days journey and laying the groundwork for me to feel ‘OK’ with what others believe, and what I believe.  So as I gulped down the large Mountain Dew and thought back to a wise Native American I know.  He’s currently participating in some sun dancing down near the Four Corners area and his article was one of many that helped clarify my life’s pathway and this article really gets to the heart of the discussion forced upon me today in Elder’s Quorum.  The following are his words, though I wholeheartedly agree with what he lays out.  To him goes all the credit.  His website can be found here, where more articles of a like nature can be read:

=====

The Mind and Will of the Lord

When you see any document, any address, any letter, any instruction that is issued by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, it should be recognized for what it surely is — the mind and the will of the Lord to his people in this day. (L. Aldin Porter, October 1994 General Conference)

“The mind and will of the Lord,” that for which all the righteous children of our Father in Heaven seek. But is it so easy to find as to follow men that have been sustained by other men, as prophets, seers and revelators?

Just before the above quote, L. Aldin Porter commented:

The Lord God of Israel will direct them, and they will not lead us astray. (November 1994 Ensign, pg. 65)

He asked the question: “What is our response when the living prophets declare the mind and will of the Lord?” After which he quoted President Joseph Fielding Smith as saying:

There is one thing in which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord. (November 1994 Ensign, pg. 63, Conference Report, April 1972, pg. 99)

President Hunter added to this line of thinking:

The answer lies in following the direction received from those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, and others of the General Authorities. Let us study their words, spoken under the Spirit of inspiration, and refer to them often. The Lord has revealed his will to the Saints in this conference. (November 1994 Ensign, pg. 87)

Even the Salt Lake Tribune proclaimed in headline and subtitle as the message to Church members:

Be Faithful — Be Followers / We Will Guide You to God, LDS Leaders Tell Members (October 3, 1994, Salt Lake Tribune, pg. A1)

Where was it that this concept that these men speak for the “mind and will of God” and could not lead us astray? It was probably first stated by Wilford Woodruff, not surprisingly, just after the Manifesto was issued which went contrary to previous revelation and admonition by those who by the witness of God had been proven true prophets. His words still exist to this day in the Doctrine and Covenants as comments following what is called “Official Proclamation — 1.” It states:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (D&C pg. 292, Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah)

In this statement Wilford Woodruff would have us believe that not only the “President of the Church” but “any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray” would be “remove[d]… out of [his] place.” In this statement there are some obvious inconsistencies.

First — the Lord will not allow one to lead others astray, but – if he does attempt, the Lord will remove him. Thus the attempt must be unsuccessful followed by his immediate removal. Somewhere along here we have short-circuited the process of free agency and assured that men will never fall to such circumstances.

Second — any other man attempting to lead astray will be removed and thus eliminate from us all temptation, because after all, we will see the immediate effect of sin and be swayed from its commission. Another part of Satan’s plan in opposition to free agency. Can we find the evidence in today’s world that all who attempt to lead astray will be removed before their attempts are successful?
It is clear that Wilford Woodruff obviously went contrary to previous revelation as well as statements by previously ordained prophets, as well as his own words, when signing the Manifesto. Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1: 8-9)

To this scripture the Prophet Joseph Smith must have been thinking when he said:

…and if any man preach any other gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed… (Historical Record 7:548)

If any man writes to you or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter. (Times & Seasons, Apr. 1, 1844)

So as Wilford Woodruff had gone contrary to previous revelation so he had begun the error that the leaders cannot lead the people astray. This was further admonished by Heber J. Grant:

Brethren, keep your eye on the president of this Church. If he tells you to do anything and it is wrong and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. But you don’t need to worry; the Lord will never let His mouthpiece lead this people astray. (Harold B. Lee quoting Heber J. Grant in address at BYU, April 19, 1961; requoted in Ensign, October 1972, Pg. 7)

Latter, in one of those “documents” issued by the General Authorities it was stated in part:

…He [Lucifer] wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to “do their own thinking.”… When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy…. (June 1945 Ward Teaching Lesson, Improvement Era 48:354)

When an official from the First Unitarian Church saw the above, he fired off a letter to President George Albert Smith who had just become the new president of the Church in November that same year. Quoting earlier Church brethren he pointed out as to why this was not the doctrine in times past of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that he was very concerned as to the spiritual well being of Church members from such a statement, especially as some had come to him expressing their concern. To be corrected by an official of another church with quotes of earlier Church brethren was enough to cause the President George Albert Smith to go against his predecessor and admit in reply that it was not Church doctrine then or now and that it would be corrected. He said:

…that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to his Maker for his individual acts…. (George Albert Smith Letter to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7, 1945)

He cited Joseph Smith’s statement:

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for the truth will cut its own way. (History of the Church, 5:498)

A later president, Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

No man ever went astray by following the counsel of the authorities of the Church. No man who ever followed the teachings or took advice or counsel from the one who stands as the representative of the Lord ever went astray…it behooves us, as Latter-day Saints to put our trust in the presiding authorities of the Church. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:243)

However, Joseph Fielding Smith stated in a later volume of the same series:

My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them….We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203)

If we were to just search the scriptures we might find examples to the contrary of the above philosophy that our leaders cannot lead us astray. A very poignant illustration against this doctrine is found in the 1st Book of Kings, Chapter 3, describing the story of the man of God, described by some as the junior or “younger” prophet and the old prophet described by some as the senior or “older” prophet or “file leader.” The older prophet said:

…Come home with me, and eat bread. (verse 15)

The younger prophet replied:

For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. (verse 17)

The older prophet or “file leader” said:

…I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he mat eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.  (verse 18)

After the young prophet returned with him and ate and drank, the old prophet chastised him for disobeying the word of the Lord that he, himself had received. As true to the Lord’s word, the young prophet was killed by a lion upon leaving the very place the Lord had commanded him not to go, because of his disobedience and trusting in the arm of flesh in the form of his “file leader.” Interestingly enough the “file leader” is not reported to have been “removed” and his attempt to lead astray was evidently successful.
The thought that we should ever unreservedly trust in the arm of flesh and not take it upon ourselves to personally ask of our Heavenly Father, in whom we have a right to receive the truth of all things, should be reprehensible to every child of light.

Apostle George Q. Cannon stated:

Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle or a president, if you do, they will fail you at some time or place… (Millennial Star 53:674)

Apostle Moses Thatcher said it this way:

So long therefore as the people rely upon their leaders they are not manifesting that degree of faith, they are not in a position to think and reflect for themselves as they should. (JD 26:328)

Brigham Young had several statements in this regard:

How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the Spirit yourselves. (JD 4:368)

How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgement, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally cast off to the left hand? (JD 8:59)

I have often said to the Latter-day Saints — “Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not.” Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves whether I tell the truth or not. That is the way we want all the Saints to live. Will you do it? Yes I hope you will, every one of you. (JD 18:248)

What a pity it would be if we were lead by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually. (JD 9:150)

That the present doctrine is certainly contrary to that taught above, I will let the reader decide. However, when this writer was taught the discussions some twenty plus years ago, it was brought forth in these teachings that of all the similarities with the Catholic church regarding a claim to divine authority, the one big difference was that where the Catholic church claimed infallibility for its leader, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made no such claim, but that its President and Prophet, just as Joseph Smith before them, claimed to be but a fallible man, subject to all the like weaknesses of the flesh. Being raised in a heavily Catholic community it impressed me as truth and was one of the main turning points in my conversion and subsequent baptism into the Church. Latter as National Executive Director of the American Party, I had opportunity to talk with a young man, who with his family had to flee Nicaragua and the Sandanistas. He told me that in the discussions he received from the Mormon missionaries he was told that the great similarity between his Catholic church and that of the Mormons was that they too believed in the infallibility of their leader. A grave change from previous teachings.

What ready acceptance the doctrine of infallibility has. So much easier it is to accept the concept that we should put the responsibility for our salvation upon the shoulders of another thus divesting ourselves of accountability for our own actions. A philosophy existent since the very beginning as Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, the serpent blamed Lucifer, and Lucifer blamed it on what all those others had done on other worlds. Satan’s pre-mortal plan was to short-circuit free agency and save everyone. This doctrine of following the brethren blindly assures all adherents of salvation and “blessings” with the opportunity of placing the sins of any wrong doings by thus following, upon the leaders with the promise that “we will lead you to God.”

Any true prophet of God would teach that which Brigham Young taught above, that for the people to not blindly follow, but seek the Lords will in all matters would both further add the power of God to the leaders and strengthen the people in their own salvation. To teach otherwise would obviously do just the opposite and make for only unrighteous dominion in the form of tyrants and blind slaves, all destined for Satan’s kingdom, not the Lord’s.

To say that we will be blessed for following unrighteous teachings and that the leader takes full responsibility is the fallacy of that leader taking upon himself our sins. We all know that only One has been upon this earth to do that, even our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. That the leader will suffer the consequences of leading astray is without doubt, but any that follow blindly when they obviously had it within their power to find out the “mind and will of the Lord” themselves through personal revelation will also suffer for their own unrighteous acts. We thus read in the Second Article of Faith:

“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins…”

It is clear! We cannot possibly expect exaltation unless we, in this mortal probation, can come to stand on our own two feet and receive ourselves the Spirit of Truth, whereby we may make the right and eternal choices required of us. Brigham Young gave an eloquent explanation of this very important principle:

I am the only person that can possibly save myself… There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. “I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own,’ say they, ‘to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgement is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you will go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem.”

I wish to notice this. We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the stars. In the Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influence of the of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. (JD 1:312)

As emphasized above, those who put their dependence in control of another’s judgment, even, as Brigham Young said, himself as President, or his counselors, placing in them all confidence for life and salvation, suspending their own understanding to be led entirely by another person, because they cannot rule themselves, but must be dictated to in every trifle, will not receive celestial glory. Yet this is precisely what we are told to do by today’s leaders. In other words, even though the very purpose of the Church in an individual’s life should be to prepare him for celestial glory, since even non-Church members can achieve the others, we are being instructed to do that above and not seek exaltation and eternal lives. While “those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind beside should take the opposite course,” including their leaders, are labeled as apostates, malcontents and sinners, because they refuse to accept the doctrine of blind obedience, infallibility, and faithfully following their “file leaders.” Have we finally reached the day of Isaiah’s prophetic warning when he said:

Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

Is not striving for celestial glory and exaltation good, light and sweet? Brigham Young referred to this section of the Doctrine and Covenants in the above discourse in regard to the otherwise good people that would fall short of exaltation.

These are those who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men. These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fullness. These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father. … These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God. (D&C 76:75-79)

Being valiant and thinking, and most importantly praying for ourselves is of the utmost consequence. A record of the Prophet’s remarks tells us of his thinking in this regards:

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet that the people should each stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church – that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls – applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall – that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds… (T.P.J.S., pg. 237-238)

The Prophet makes it clear, as Brigham did after, that we must stand on our own two feet or else we will lose the light necessary to choose good over evil. To think or believe for ourselves was one of those things pointed out in the Articles of Faith to be our right, and as it follows with all rights, responsibility:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (11th Article of Faith)

It is obvious, however, that as we are admonished to follow the brethren and sustain them, and believe that they cannot lead us astray, that, contrary to the 11th Article of Faith, that we should not think or worship according to the dictates of our own conscience. This is truly antithetic to what Joseph taught in this Article of Faith as well as another instance in which a elder by the name of Pelatiah Brown was brought before the High Council for believing and even teaching incorrect doctrine:

Elder Pelatiah Brown, one of the wisest old heads we have among us, and whom I now see before me, has been preaching concerning the beast which was full of eyes before and behind; and for this he was hauled up for trial before the High Council.  I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds 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 trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (History of the Church, Vol. 5, Ch. 17, pg. 340)

To have the liberty of thinking and believing as he pleases, that is truly what was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Even the right to believe that the leaders are not infallible. Nowhere even is there any evidence that the Prophet required anyone to sustain him, or they would be cast out from the Church. There were many, even his closest associates, that did not always sustain him, without fear of punishment. But in today’s Church, by word and by action, that philosophy is not held. By ego or pride, it is held as a sin worthy of losing one’s membership if he/she cannot sustain the leaders in every action. Standing for himself, inspired with the true independence of heaven, determined to do right, though all mankind, including Church leaders, should take the opposite course, brings no surer way of retribution. Indeed true sins, of lying, adultery, even murder (abortion) will bring little more than a slap on the wrist if not praise, while the evil sin of independence will not be countenanced under any circumstances.

The real question seems to be if the Lord has Himself ever deemed it impossible for the established leaders to fall or lead others astray? From Cain, who had authority to offer sacrifices, but sought to change the ordinance, all the way through the history of Israel, to Aaron who permitted the molting of the golden calf, thus denying Israel of the higher law. To Saul, David and Solomon, who all were not taken from their positions of authority before they themselves could sin or lead others astray with them. To the recognized religious leaders of Israel and the church once established by the Lord, in the days of Jeremiah and Lehi, who changed the law and the ordinances and rejected the words of warning by these two strange prophets that refused to follow their “file leaders.” Yet we know that they were the “righteous” leaders for did not Laman and Lemuel say of those leaders:

…we know that the people who were in Jerusalem were a righteous people for they kept the statutes and judgements of the Lord and all his commandments…(1 Nephi 17:22)

And later, these men of the same authority, cast the Saviour out of the synagogues, persecuted and finally crucified Him, all without being removed out of their place. While across the ocean the wicked King Noah and his priests, the legitimate heads of a church once established by the Lord, burned the rebel Abinadi and then persecuted Alma, for their speaking out about “the lord’s anointed” and their teachings.

We see the falling of the Apostle Judas Iscariot, chosen by the Lord himself. Later the Church of Jesus Christ, established by the Saviour during His earthly ministry apostatized and become the Catholic church with the very same doctrine emphasized by the Church leaders today:

Catholics believe the Pope, be he saint or sinner, is preserved by God from leading the church into doctrinal error. This is referred to as his infallibility. (Religions of America, Catholic Confession of Belief, pg. 43)

At least they have not extended this quality beyond the confines of a single person. To the above examples, we have those in our own dispensation. The likes of Frederick G. Williams, William Law, John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon, all sat at the side of Joseph Smith as counselors and advisers, even members of the First Presidency at one time or another, and all ultimately fell and led others astray.

Even a majority of the Quorum of the Twelve have in history fallen. The Prophet Joseph tells us:

Of the Twelve Apostles chosen in Kirtland and ordained under the hands of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and myself, there have been but two what have lifted their heal against me – namely Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. (D.H.C. 5: 412)

And even those very same two counselors, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, also proved themselves fallen in time. This happened often, even though Joseph Smith has admittedly been in better communication with the Lord than any since. It was said of him by his body guard and close personal friend, Benjamin F, Johnson:

And no man, seemingly, could make greater mistakes in associates than did the Prophet Joseph; and this, with many other things of which he was accused, his enemies held as evidence that he was a fallen prophet. (Benjamin F. Johnson Letter to First Presidency)

Even with all his seeming mistakes as a Prophet of God, Joseph was not hesitant to publish his fallibility to the world. In harsh words did the Lord reprove him when he disobeyed and lost the 116 pages:

Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall. (D&C 3:9)

In another revelation the Lord warned:

I have sent forth the fullness of my gospel by the hand of my servant, Joseph; and in weakness I blessed him;
I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which were from the foundation of the world, and things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.
Wherefore, watch over him that his faith fail not, and it shall be given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things. (D&C 35: 17-19)

Knowing that it was possible for Joseph or any others to fall, He provided for his replacement if necessary:

There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.  And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood; And their decision upon his head shall be an end of the controversy concerning him. (D&C 107: 81-83)

Even Joseph Smith could fall and be replaced, yet these “brethren” today say that they cannot fall or lead us astray, however they claim their authority through a line that originates in this dispensation from a fallible Joseph Smith. Since when can the creature exceed the creator? They say not to concern ourselves with the doctrines of the early brethren, but accept the changes they have made, yet they claim their right to lead comes from these early brethren. In the case of Brigham Young through whom they claim succession, they say that some of the doctrines he taught were mistaken, yet they themselves can make no mistakes. They say that their words are unchangeable while they change the words of the Lord’s true Prophets before them.

Could it be that their teachings of infallibility are a diversion from the right to exercise the “common council” mentioned above to bring them back into line with the Lord’s will? Few members are aware of the Lord’s provision of a “common council” to make all, even the general authorities, accountable. Would truly honest men teach us that which is contrary to what the founding brethren taught regarding fallibility and have us believe that we should follow blindly without question? These questions and others we must leave to the reader to decide for his or her self.

Yet we must look at the times in which we live and most importantly, the warnings of the scriptures regarding our time. For we see in the times of Joseph Smith there was an element of the adversary in the Church. That element saw to it that Joseph was killed. Brigham Young saw that element move to the valley with the Saints and warned of it. It is obvious that this element has grown in strength in direct proportion to the urging by some to follow blindly that we might not perceive the danger. Yet those who read the scriptures with eyes to see and ears to hear, will know the danger signs. Moroni said:

And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God; For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that men should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man. And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking [ed. note: Jaredites], and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain — and the work, yea, even the work of destruction if ye suffer these things to be.

Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power over the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved. (Ether 8: 18-19, 21-26)

For what other reason are we told to follow blindly than that things may be carried forth in secret? Does not the church’s policy regarding abortion in some cases, promote the shedding of innocent blood? Does not the counsel to sustain the government regardless of its disregard for natural rights support the combination that seeks to enslave us all? Ezra Taft Benson quoted J. Reuben Clark in his warning regarding not just this nation but also the Church:

…he stated that if the conspiracy “comes here it will … come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this Church of ours” (CR April 1972, July 1972 Ensign)

Moroni was given to see this day. He spoke to us, the Gentiles, and said that this secret combination would come among us to destroy as it did the Jews, the Nephites, the Jaredites, etc. If there is nothing else we should learn from the scriptures by their experience, it is that the adversary sets up his secret combination to destroy throughout. It has worked every time before. Can we not expect that at the very pinnacle of the great war that started before this earth was, he will do, once again, that which has worked previous without failure? Is it possible that this conspiracy can even come into the Church? Has it happened before? Do secret combinations remain secret where the people do not follow blindly? Are such changes easily seen?

Here we should recall the warning of the late Dean Inge:

“History seems to show that the powers of evil have won their greatest triumphs by capturing the organizations which were formed to defeat them, and that the devil has thus changed the contents of the bottles, he never alter the labels. The fort may have been captured by the enemy, but it still flies the flag of its defenders.” (Admiral Ben Moreel, Talk given Nov. 22, 1963 at BYU, as quoted in Prophet Principles and National Survival, by Jerreld L. Newquist, pg. 339)

The servants of God have seen to our time:

Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people to err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.  Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.  Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. (Micah 3: 5-7)

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.  They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.  For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.  Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?  Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.  I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying I have dreamed, I have dreamed.  How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit if their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.  Is not my word like as fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?  Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.  Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.  Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 23: 16-32)

So much for those that falsely claim the “will of the Lord” as a means to cause us to err in following blindly a group of mean who say that they cannot lead astray. Samuel Richards, the European Mission President in 1852 said:

…willing obedience to the laws of God, administered by the Priesthood is indispensable to salvation; but we would further add, that a proper conservative to this power exists for the benefit of all, and none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the Priesthood. We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme… (Millennial Star 14: 594)

Is this not the very design of a secret combination, to enslave us? We have been told clearly by the Saviour in scripture to be vigilant in observation of those set to lead and to part ourselves from them if they falter:

And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched. Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or trusting another. Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive. And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than two eyes to be cast into hell fire. For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched. (JST Mark 9: 42-48)

To “stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or trusting another.” This is what Brigham Young referred to as standing on our own two feet not upon the coat-tails of another. It is essential that we develop a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven so that when the winds and rains of confusion descend upon us we will not wash away but shall still be standing. Heber C. Kimball saw this day, as reported by Apostle J. Golden Kimball, his son:

Then is the time to look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall.  For I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming.  This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with glory.  The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess a personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got this testimony, you must live right and call upon the Lord, and cease not until you obtain it.  Remember these sayings: The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within themselves. (CR, October 4, 1930, pg. 59)

This is truly “the will of the Lord.”


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.