Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’


Wordle: LDS

For the past month or so I’ve been compiling a rather benign spreadsheet.  I’ve been gathering news articles on the Church, either through Mormon Times, LDS Church News, Deseret News, and the Church Website.  It started out thanks to this article and sort of snowballed from there into a list of 35 different articles.

What I did was a simple search of various “terms,” as a way of trying to pigeon hole the focus of the article – not the topic – but where the focus is (on a person, a place, an organization, Christ, etc).  I am quite sure there are better ways to do this, more refined, more accurate, but this is what I came up with.

First, for the visual learners, a simple click on this link will take you to a word cloud of this search/project.  This word cloud is made up of the first 15 articles I scanned/searched.  The more prominent the word in those articles, the larger the word will be in the word cloud.  Quite useful, methinks, and instructive.

Second, for the number oriented folk…here’s what I found.  I limited my search to a couple of categories, namely (a) Church/LDS/Mormon, (b) President/Presidency, (c) Prophet, (d) Monson / Hinckley, (e) Apostle / Elder, (f) Lord, (g) Savior, (h) Jesus, and (i) Christ.  I did a search in each of the articles for these terms and tallied them up just to see how the news, events and such were being reported and, as a result, how members were viewing the information.

Of all these categories, there were a total of 752 terms queried.  These 752 terms consisted of the following:

Church / LDS / Mormon:  248x (7.29x per article)
Apostle / Elder:  232x (6.82x per article)
President / Presidency:  87x (2.56x per article)
Monson / Hinckley:  54x (1.59x per article)
Christ:  39x (1.15x per article)
Jesus:  35x (1.03x per article)
Prophet:  25x (0.74x per article)
Lord:  21x (0.62x per article)
Savior:  11x (0.32x per article)

I also did a slightly altered tally for the terms Christ and Jesus.  If we remove those instances where “Jesus” and “Christ” were only stated in unison with the name of the Church, then the number of times these words were used dwindles to 7 (“Jesus”) and 3 (“Christ”), or approximately 0.21x and 0.09x per article, respectively.

Does this show where our focus lies?  I also noticed a tendency towards self-congratulating articles, either on how much good the Church’s humanitarian efforts are, or how great Mormons are at rendering service in natural disasters, though this is difficult to put into one of these types of analyses, no matter how imperfect this particular one is.

Anyway…thought you’d all like to see it.  Really, the word cloud shows it all.

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The topic of idolatry has been on my mind recently, spurred in part by an email conversation with one of my brothers and the conversation going on between a number of acquaintances regarding a recent change in focus for the LDS church.  I touched this issue briefly a while back in one of my posts, which I’ll bring back here, but it’s still a “live” issue for me at the moment.

In order to properly preface this post, it might be useful to define a few of the terms inherent in this discussion, namely “worship” and “idolatry.”  The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines idolatry[1] as, “The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.  Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.”  It also defines worship[2] as, “honor; respect; civil deference; obsequious or submissive respect.”  It may also be useful to add veneration[3] to this list, which is defined as being, “The highest degree of respect and reverence; respect mingled with some degree of awe; a feeling or sentiment excited by the dignity and superiority of a person… .”

Now, in turning to these two discussions to which I was privy, I will share a few details.  In the discussion my brother and I had, he had posed a couple of questions regarding the new “Gospel Principles”[4] manual.  The issues raised tie into the post I did on new members, as well as his general questioning of this manual.  This post isn’t about the manual, it’s good and bad points, but rather about a greater issue which has become visible in this discussion.  In his questioning, he made the following point:

“It’s weird, that the restoration was brought about by a question over some confusing topics and young Joseph found solace in James 1:5. Asking is not weird nor is Joseph’s quest for the truth, but today, it seems odd that when one individual questions a policy or a program it is viewed as heresy or apostate for questioning the brethren, when in fact, we are truly on a quest for answers just as Joseph was.  It is also weird because it becomes hard to confide in anyone.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning my testimony or my faith, but I feel alive and feel vigor when searching for these answers and for asking these questions.”

Though it goes unsaid, he is experiencing what many experience – namely criticism for even questioning the decision of the hierarchy or body of the church.   Far too often, the mere act of the questioning of a decision made by the church or, perhaps more appropriately, by the correlation committee, is viewed as inherently weak, made by one who is wavering in their testimony and a sure sign of “apostasy,” whatever that means in the general LDS lexicon.  The only “real” apostasy that can happen is apostasy from Christ, but instead it’s viewed as apostasy from the church as an institution.

The second issue was brought forth in an email discussion of a group that I take part in.  The discussion was largely around the LDS church adding a “new emphasis” to the threefold mission of the church, namely caring for the poor and needy.  This pronouncement was largely heralded by various media outlets as being “a dramatic move and very important message,” “a move that tells the world that Mormonism is Christian more effectively than changing the logo to make the words ‘Jesus Christ’ stand out,” and one reflecting the life and service of the President of the LDS Church, Thomas Monson, “giving to and helping others is just a natural part of his life.  He is saying to every single member:  ‘You, too can … make a difference.”[5] Other news organizations repeated these same statements almost word-for-word.[6] There was no official press release through the LDS.org Newsroom.

In both of the above examples, there were two sides to the story.  One side firmly believing the “official” explanation (i.e. never question a decision that comes down through the approved church channels; the “new emphasis” of caring for the poor and needy is honorable and deserving of the praise given to the church); one side (of which I, myself, am a part) questioning the logic, reasoning and motives behind such pronouncements and programs.  It is, truthfully, interesting to see the differing sides talk and discuss, though sometimes there’s less talking and discussing (as in my brother’s situation).

How, you might be asking yourself, does this play into the topic of this post – idolatry?  Good question.  The answer to which I will try to give as best as I can.

Taking the first example, how might idolatry be perceived?  Taking the definition from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, can those who adhere to the “no questioning” side of the argument be viewed as being excessively attached, submissively respectful, and paying more respect and reverence than needed?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Mostly, this is an individual application.  I have personally witnessed such “obsequious respect” and have been left wanting.  Anytime, as the definition suggests, we lay down and accept something without thinking it through, it would seem this would fall in the definition of “worship” and “idolatry.”  If we think and presume that everything that comes from an individual, organization or any thing or body else, then we’re bordering on idolatry, if not already being idolatrous.

Taking the second example, could this be perceived as idolatry?  I think this example is further proof of our idolatrous nature.  In reading over the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News articles, as well as searching the LDS.org newsroom site, I was struck by the language used to describe the addition of this new addition to the threefold mission of the church.  All of the references to why this decision was made either had to do with the Church itself, or Thomas Monson, as President of the Church.  In the group discussion on this, the point was made, by at least one person, that we take these announcements at face value because we believe the Church to be the Lord’s church, and Thomas Monson to be the Lord’s prophet here on the earth.  As such, what they do and support are evidences of the Lord’s hand guiding them.

In thinking on this, it was made known to me that the language contained in the available quotes from church leadership on this topic and the newspaper articles previously mentioned neither contained any references to this being what the Lord actually wanted, nor the Lord’s hand in this decision, nor the example of the Lord in His teachings about caring for the poor and needy.  Instead, the focus was on the Church and the President of the Church.  My question, then, is if the Lord is indeed guiding the USS LDS Church on its journey, and if this is being implemented through the President of the USS LDS Church, the Lord’s prophet, then why are there no references to Christ, His teachings, or His example?  Christ has effectively been removed from the conversation and has been replaced by the Church itself and the President of the Church.  Some may say that this is of little importance given the name of the Church and given the titles that follow the “President” of the Church.  I argue the opposite.  Replacing Christ with an organization and a man is the essence of idolatry.  All true prophet s point back to Christ in all they do.  They teach what Christ would have taught and they inspire those they teach to seek Christ and Christ alone.  They deflect attention away from themselves and onto Christ.

To his credit, Bishop Richard Edgley stated, in an article at Mormon Times, “”All we’re trying to do is fulfill what he (Christ) has taught us.  We’ve been trying to do it forever, and we’ll continue to do it.”  That statement, however, was the only mention of Christ in that article before refocusing the attention on the President of the Church, “The principle coincides with the strongly held sentiments of the LDS Church’s current leader, President Thomas S. Monson.  ‘Anyone who knows President Monson knows his wonderful experiences and the wonderful example that he’s set for the rest of us,” said Bishop Edgley, adding “he has by example led us in how we can reach out and help with those who are suffering.’”[7]

In thinking this topic over I returned (once again) to the words contained in Come, Let Us Adore Him, a book written by Denver Snuffer on the importance of seeking Christ.  In this book, he offers the following insights:

“How easy it is to become distracted by the things of this world.  How easy it is for ministers claiming to be on God’s errand to stray into being on their own errand.  How easy it is for those who handle tithes and property to lose sight of the Lord and His house, and come to value only the property.  Measurable things – numbers, growth charts, revenues collected, statistics on attendance, numbers of buildings built – everything which could evidence prosperity, overwhelms those who think succeeding in their stewardship depends on increasing that which can be measured.  Nephi warned that we would also succumb to this number-crunching mentality.  And as we do, we will conclude, just like the scribes and Pharisees, that all is well (see 2 Nephi 28:21).  Magnifying a calling has never been statistics-driven.”

“After losing the Spirit, the mind runs wild.  It substitutes rationally developed theology for inspired direction.  Indeed, after becoming blind, they believe their conclusions are inspired.  All their followers fall in line once “authority” and “inspiration” have become conflated.  The people then find it easy to “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”  Everything is disproportionate.  Since the light of the Spirit is gone, there is no way for them to tell the difference between the gnat and the camel.”

“…darkness can take hold of any people.  When it does they are inevitably led to take offense when the Lord (or any messenger sent by Him) walks in the light.  Darkness and light are always two different paths.  They are incompatible.  The people hearing Christ’s sermon at this time were required to choose between everything they had been taught all their lives and what Christ was teaching.  They were God’s chosen people, led by leaders chosen by God.  They were taught respect for the priestly authorities of their society by reading the scriptures, which assured them they were God’s “chosen people,” and by observing the traditions of their fathers.  They were led by recognized leaders, chosen in an established system of succession, on the one hand, and then this Man from Nazareth, lacking any sort of credentials, on the other, asking them to “come follow” Him.  Even though they had shouted “Hosanna!” at His arrival the day before, this sermon (Matt. 23) demanded they reject the established authorities in order to follow Him.”

“(Matt 23:27-28)…The hypocrisy and iniquity of these religious teachers was so toxic, so wrong, and so dark that it made others unclean.  This forced the audience to choose.  There could be no middle ground.  Either we trust in the traditions of our fathers, or we follow Christ.  This choice has always been required of God’s people.  Nephi assures us (2 Nephi 28:14) this will also be the case for our day.  Only a very few will find the way, and it will require them to overcome bad teachings; “because of pride, an wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are le, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”[8]

Part of the reason why I feel these words relate to this topic of idolatry is because I think the Church and the President of the Church have replaced Christ in most member’s lives.  I highly doubt that this has happened purposefully, but rather through a serious of decisions and changes made over the course of the past 150+ years, the church has slowly been led away from Christ and led to Church.  Instead of confirming truth with and through Christ, we confirm truth by what the Church does.  If the Church does something, anything, then it must be what Christ would do, or so most members think.

Richard Scott, member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the LDS Church, discussed this very topic in a stake leadership meeting.  In that meeting he discussed what was being taught to the members and openly questioned whether the members of the church were being taught to Come Unto Church or to Come Unto Christ.  He stated it this way:

“Most the problems you are dealing with such as divorce, spouse abuse, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, anger, contention, fighting, immorality, many financial problems, many emotional and physical health problems, lack of temple attendance, lack of desire to go home teaching, lack of convert retention, lack of commitment – are merely symptoms of a root problem and what is that root problem?  Lack of a conversion to Christ!  Most of these painful symptoms could be vanished by what?  A personal conversion to and a personal relationship with Christ.  We have a serious problem within the Church in that we have been teaching one another to Come unto Church when we should have been teaching one another to Come unto Christ! It’s as if we actually think the Church can save or exalt us.  If we would spend more of our time teaching one another about Jesus and His Infinite Atonement, we would see most of our painful symptoms go away and we would find greater desire to serve Him and love others.”[9] (Layton Northridge Stake Conference 1995)

Both Denver Snuffer and Richard Scott teach that we, as individuals, must somehow find and, with the help of the Lord, establish a personal relationship with Him.  If we blindly follow what the Church does, if we give all the accolades and praise to the Church and the President (or presiding authorities) of the Church, then we are practicing idolatry.

As I alluded to before, I shared a quote from The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith which discuss this very issue and can, in my opinion, be applied to our idolatrous relationships with the Church and the leaders of the Church.  From that, I quote:

Joseph Smith similarly addressed the saints, though in a different context, whereupon he was expounded the meaning of the fourteenth chapter of Ezekial in the Old Testament.

As found in The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we read:

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one 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 – in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.”[10]

The idolatry evidenced in Ezekiel 14 was that the people went to the prophet for their knowledge of God, not to God himself. They set up a stumbling block, a mediator for THE mediator (our Lord and Savior).  That is to say that instead of approaching God through prayer, supplication, fasting or whatever method, for knowledge of Him and his Son, we tend to approach a man.  No matter how inspired that man may be, the gospel is an individual gospel meant for “the one.”  That one, to me, is me.  That one, to you, is you.  As mentioned above, it is an imperative duty we have to seek an individual relationship and connection with God and when we do not undertake to fulfill that duty our minds must become “darkened.”

If we apply that to this topic – idolatry – what Joseph Smith is saying is that anytime we replace Christ with something else, either the President/Prophet or the Church itself (or anything else) – we are being idolatrous and the end result of that idolatry is a darkened mind.  This darkening of the mind is even more poignant when we consider the quote shared above from Denver Snuffer on how “darkness can take hold of any people.”[11] Instead of solely linking idolatry to a golden calf, or money, or cars, we should also be willing to admit when the Church and its leadership become the essence of idolatry in our own lives.  Making that connection, though, is much easier said than done.

Instead of ostracizing or ridiculing those who question programs, policies, procedures or whatever it may be that comes down through the centralized hierarchy of the Church, we should invite the open-minded inquiry.  Instead of assuming that all that happens and is published by or through the Church has the stamp of approval of the Lord, we should seek out Christ and obtain our witness through Him and Him alone.  When we replace the Lord with the Church or the President of the Church, blindly following what they say and do, then our own minds are necessarily darkened because of the true light which we reject.

In closing, the following passages are especially applicable to our day and time and may indeed provide a very compelling parallel to what we, personally, are witnessing.  Pay special attention to verse seven, and what follows:

5 For he put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new aones in their stead, such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts.

6 Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.

7 Yea, and they [the people] also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them.

8 And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of aprecious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper;

9 And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.

10 And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the atemple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.

11 And the seats which were set apart for the ahigh priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people.

12 And it came to pass that he built a atower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of bShilom, and also the land of cShemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. [12]


[1] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,idolatry.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[2] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,worship.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[3] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,veneration.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[4] http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8865-1-4828-2,00.html.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[5]New LDS Emphasis:  Care for the needy.”  http://www.sltrib.com/lds/ci_13965607.  10 December 2009.  Retrieved 02/06/2010.

[6]LDS to boost emphasis on helping the needy.”  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705350795/LDS-to-boost-emphasis-on-helping-the-needy-Salt-Lake-Temple-not-closing.html?pg=2.  10 December 2009. Retrieved 02/06/2010.

[7] Care for Needy is Ongoing Charge for Mormon Church.  Mormon Times.  12 December 2009.  http://www.mormontimes.com/around_church/general_authority/?id=12237.  Retrieved 02/06/2010.

[8] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Pages 205-210.

[9] Scott, Richard.  Layton Northridge Stake Conference.  1995.

[10] Smith, Joseph.  The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Pages 237-238.

[11] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 209.

[12][12] See Mosiah 11.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] TPJS 183

[2] JD 11:348

[3] Ibid., 19:47

[4] Ibid., 19:46

[5] Ibid., 8:353

[6] MS 17:673-74

[7] JD 17:117-18

[8] Ibid., 6:71

[9] Ibid., 1:164

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

[11] JD 12:272

[12] Ibid., 10:176

[13] Ibid.,  11:255

[14] Ibid., 11:236

[15] Ibid., 11:251

[16] Ibid., 11:238

[17] Ibid., 11:234

[18] TPJS 162

[19] JD 8:185

[20] Ibid., 14:225

[21] Ibid., 10:3


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] See 1 Nephi 19:23.

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

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

[4] See D&C 59:18.

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

[6] See D&C 59:19.

[7] See Mosiah 3:19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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