Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Smith’


Walker Lake, Nevada

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

Chuck Palahniuk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To this point, Lorenzo Snow once noted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Millenial Star also reported on what happened, noting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“But woe unto you, ascribes and bPharisees, chypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

– Matthew 23:13

Allow me, if you will, to borrow a line from Pure Mormonism’s blog.  A while back he posted an article truly worthy of its title – a talk by Ron Poelman – and used the title “The Best Conference Talk You’ve Never Read.[1]”  While I’m not one for hyperbole, or maybe I am, the source of this post may just be worth reading, even if you already have 2nd place in your list of most important things to read filled up.  Indeed, one of those commenting on the Poelman article even brought up this talk which, back when I originally read it, I meant to follow-up on.  Like many things, though, it got lost in the shuffle that is my brain (interesting note:  I make pizzas – a fair amount of them – at farmers’ markets and it’s usually a fair bet that I’ll forget something.  Today, of all things, it was the sauce.  Good luck making pizzas without sauce).  So when I say it got lost in the shuffle, it probably did.

The reason I decided to bring up this talk was because one of its main topics or ideas, what the author terms as the “tyrant,” and a guilty one at that, is worth some attention.  It’s a tyrant we see more and more in our lives, and the church, and unnecessarily so.  I’m not sure when the tyrant first arrived on the scene, though apparently it was present (or becoming so) back in the day when this talk was given.  Certainly, though, the tyrant gained esteem, honor and power in the 1980s with a General Authority Who Won’t Be Named.[2] Modern examples seem to have gained strength in several different ways, but perhaps most notably in the way we use “in the name of Jesus … “ to end everything we say, invoking His name as if everything we said – every prayer, every talk and ever sermon – were divinely inspired by Him.  A useful history/study can was done by someone over at BCC a while back, and it’s interesting to see how that trend came about.[3] This same generic authority, it was noted in the study, “is the first to consistently use [“in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”].”

If you read the post I did some time back – “Anyone Care to Disagree” (footnote 2) – you’ll see some evidence of the topic at hand, namely that of dogmatism.  Dogmatism is the “guilty tyrant” Stephen Richards refers to throughout his discourse, and one which might be worth looking into a little deeper outside this article.  When I say dogmatism, I use a loosely defined form of the word.  Some may define it as “arrogance,”[4] while others may define it as “authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from.”[5] This latter definition is probably more accurate and useful to this discussion.

I must admit that I’ve had my fair share of dogmatic times in my life.  I prefer to see those times as me walking in the shoes of a modern day Pharisee.  One time, four or five years ago when we were out eating dinner with my in-laws, my father-in-law accidentally ordered a Tiramisu dessert.  When we were back at home a healthy discussion ensued where I couldn’t believe he had actually tried it.  I told him that there’s no way he should have eaten it, that we cannot eat such things and that it was a certain breaking of the Word of Wisdom.  Now, not only would I not care that he ate it, but I would more than likely take a bite of the same with him.

I also have a close friend who sees the world and church through a different set of lenses than I do, and is providing me with the same experience I gave my father-in-law.  If I find anything that contradicts the current teachings of the church, or something that illuminates this or that teaching, or anything that says that someone within the church said this or that, this friend won’t even touch it unless it comes from a church approved source.  And, even then, hard copy is better.  For example, a week or so ago I had a discussion with this person on the Word of Wisdom and I talked about how it was never a commandment and never meant to be a commandment.  I conceded that it was certainly a good recommendation, but it was written using very specific language.  In debating the actual words that were used in the scriptures, I inquired how we, as men, could turn something into a commandment when the scriptures specifically state otherwise.  To these points, my friend asked for sources.  Not just any source, mind you, but LDS-approved sources.  I opened up the internet version of the LDS scriptures (scriptures.lds.org/dc) to read Section 89, but even that to this friend wasn’t enough.  They requested an actual hard copy.  What’s interesting is that I doubt this sort of experience is all too unique.  I’d wager (were I to be a wagering kind of guy) that this sort of mentality is held by most members.  Things simply must come from approved sources, and, I believe, this is largely the result of scaring members that they’ll be “deceived” if they search after any mysteries.

Over the past couple of years I’ve come across several statements about avoiding such deception.  In most of these comments, there is typically only one way, we’re told, whereby we can be assured that we can avoid deception.  If we venture outside these proscribed boundaries we risk losing everything.  As such, we rely on the “church approved” documents and materials.  Anything else just isn’t trustworthy.

And, yes, you probably guessed it, the only way we can really be safe is this:  “All we need is to follow the Prophet in all that he says and we will not be out smarted.”

There it is again:  follow the prophet.  In all he says.

Or, perhaps this:  “Members must have a very strong testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restored Gospel in the way the doctrines teach, a strong testimony of the scriptures and doctrines of the church, a strong testimony the Prophets counsels and be willing to follow the leaders of the Church in ALL that they are told to do by them. If Church tells them to do or not to do something they do not agree with they will dismiss it. They will then fall victim to the consequences of their actions. They will either leave or be excommunicated. I feel the majority of the separation will be voluntary.”

As both of these statements evidence, and trust me there are many more like it, the only way for us to avoid deception, and avoid any “separation” in the last days is to follow the leaders of the Church in “all that [we] are told to do by [the leaders].”  Another common refrain, which also ties into the issue of dogmatic beliefs, is that some things are better left unstudied.  Mysteries, as we commonly refer to them today, are derided as unnecessary, fraught with deception and generally referred to as taboo.  One such comment reads this way:

The deeper mysteries or taboos will not save us … they can distract us from doing what we have been told to do or even lead us out of the Church.  … the basics is where safety and salvation is at.”

Poppycock, I say.  (Just using the word “poppycock” like that seems to make things sound better.)  Believing and, worse, trusting someone in all they say is the epitome of idolatry[6] and the very essence of trusting in the arm of the flesh.  Never mind that brother Joseph (and many others) have urged us to study more and more, today that very act is frowned upon within LDS culture.  Why study when the correlation department has already done the work for us?  Assuming that we have to do all that someone says is the very doctrine of infallibility that is elucidated by this quote from Hugh Nibley:

One does not have faith in propositions, creeds, or institutions, to which one is merely loyal. One has faith in God alone—all else is subject to change without notice. Faith does not seek security by boxing itself in with definite and binding creeds, as did the Doctors of the Church in a time of desperate uncertainty and insecurity. . . . Professor Gaylord Simpson likes to cite the case of Santa Claus as providing the futility of all faith. But has belief in Santa Claus ever closed the door to knowledge as loyalty to a scientific credo so often has? Is it better for a child to believe in Santa Claus with the understanding that someday he is going to revise his views than for him to be taught what is scientifically correct . . . from infancy, so that he will never, never have to revise his views on anything and thus go through life always right about everything? Which course is more liable to lead to disaster, the open-ended Santa Claus, or the ingrained illusion of infallibility? (“Sophic and Mantic,” CWHN 10:332.)

A few days back Justin posted a link to an interesting discussion over on MormonMatters.org which has been a fun read.  Fun in the sense that it’s incredibly refreshing to see some of the thoughtful comments that are more or less devoid of the dogmatism that pervades our LDS culture.  In that article[7] the following exchange, from David McKay (then president of the church), is reported to have happened:

“At a reception McKay attended, the hostess served rum cake.  ”All the guests hesitated, watching to see what McKay would do.  He smacked his lips and began to eat.”  When one guest expostulated, “‘But President McKay, don’t you know that is rum cake?’  McKay smiled and reminded the guest that the Word of Wisdom forbade drinking alcohol, not eating it.”

What I love about this statement is (even accounting for the doctrinal error in suggesting that the Word of Wisdom forbids the drinking of all alcohol) is the tolerant attitude he portrays.  Many members (if not most) would have used that time as a “missionary moment” and as an opportunity to flaunt our general holier-than-thou attitude[8] that we’re all too good at (i.e. I’m essentially better than you because I don’t drink beer, don’t smoke and don’t even drink caffeine – the prophet supposedly told me it was bad – but I do love me some meat.  No one’s told me to refrain from eating meat at every meal in the last 150 years, so that’s become mostly outdated).  Here, though, McKay simply makes a joke out of the whole situation and enjoys a treat.  No harm, no foul.

Stephen Richards points out in his article Bringing Humanity to the Gospel – Richards, the focus of this post, that:

“Ridicule and ostracism often amount to compulsion.  I deplore their existence.  I fear arrogant dogmatism.  It is a tyrant guilty of more havoc to human-kind than the despot ruling over many kingdoms.”

The ultimate result of all the dogmatism we adhere to, I think, is a judgmental attitude.  When we adhere to dogmatism, we adhere to a set of beliefs which suggest that we are right, and they (anyone, really) are wrong.  When we suggest that we follow all that the leaders of the church say, we’re already well on our path towards infallible dogmatism (a little redundant, but it works).  When we suggest that we are creatures prone to error, while our leaders are infallible, we’re entrenched in dogmatism.  This is quite similar to a thought Denver Snuffer shared in Come, Let Us Adore Him that seems to fit here:

“(Matt 21:23-27) … ‘by what authority doest thou these things?’ For those who have no connection with heaven, authority is always everything.  Once they establish they have ‘authority’ the debate is over, so far as such people are concerned.  They never learn that the rights of the priestly authority are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven; and when they have no connection to heaven they have no authority.”[9]

In talking about the Priesthood, Richards continues:

“When the Gospel was restored in this age all the goodness and mercy of Christ was restored. … The powers of the Priesthood were restored, but with a constitution defining the nature and procedure of this divine authority so explicit, so kind and merciful, and so beautiful as to stamp it with the unmistakable signature of the Christ himself.  The essence of the new constitution of the Priesthood, as of the whole restored gospel, was and is election without coercion, persuasion not compulsion, no unrighteous dominion, only patience, long suffering, meekness, kindness and love unfeigned.”

Whereas today it’s easy to confuse the Priesthood – or rather those within the Priesthood who sit in seats of judgment – as leaders using their calling and position to impose sanctions and restrictions on members, or at least order, the above comment necessarily reminds us that Christ would have us seek for (and offer) mercy and love and persuasion, among other necessary attributes.  Continuing on, Richards states:

“The revelations of God which restored the Gospel and breathed new life and vitality into it were exceptionally straightforward and plain, far freer from ambiguity and uncertainty then are the revelations of the Bible generally speaking. Nevertheless, the revelations of the new dispensation, as well as those of the Bible, were in the beginning and are now interpreted by men, and men interpret in the light of experience and understanding. A prophet can receive and deliver the express word of God in the precise manner in which God chooses to express himself, but the application of God’s word in the lives of men is dependent on the wisdom of men. The spirit of God will influence the judgment of a good man and augment his wisdom, but the finest of human wisdom is to be distinguished from the word of God. One may fail, the other never. No man lives or has lived whose judgment is perfect and not subject to error. To accept the doctrine of human infallibility is to betray gross ignorance of the divine plan of human life-the fall, mortal probation, repentance, and final election. There could be no election with perfect knowledge, omniscience. We walk by faith in mortality and by faith we exercise our agency.”


This is an interesting point.  There is “no election without perfect knowledge … we walk by faith … and by faith we exercise our agency.”  Faith, as the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith, according to this same epistle, is what Abel exercised in offering his sacrifice; what Noah exercised in building an ark, what propelled Moses’ parents to hide him after his birth, what led Moses to deny the pharaoh’s family, what made the walls of Jericho fall down and many other events.  Faith led to all these events.  And, if this is the case, if our agency is limited through a dogmatic culture, a culture that prescribes our routines and manuals and prevents us from studying or doing this or that, then this same dogmatism is really serving to destroy faith.  If faith is hindered by such actions – and I’d argue it is – then dogmatism is the ultimate destroyer.  When we seek to control others, in any way, we not only lose any priesthood we may have had, but we also serve to destroy opportunities for people  to exercise their faith.  Therefore, following this line of thought, more tolerance to allow for people to exercise their God-given agency and ability to elect what they choose to elect is the route we should take.


When Richards originally gave his sermon, he mentioned how the “very elasticity of prayers, ceremonies and procedure” was “additional evidence … of the adaptability of … religion to human needs, and therefore of its divinity.”  What Richards saw as elasticity seems to have hardened, like an old rubber band, over time.  Ceremonies and procedures are generally not only prescribed today, but written down for us.  We now not only have written procedures for things, but there is also an unwritten “order” of things[10] that we’re told to follow.  We’d be hard pressed to walk into a Sacrament meeting that wasn’t already planned in advance, a Sunday school meeting that didn’t already have the subject planned out (years in advance, given the use of manuals these days) or any other church meeting that wasn’t scheduled or planned out.  When was the last time we saw a meeting that was quite literally[11] “conducted … after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, by the power of the Holy Ghost”?[12]


That doesn’t mean that the spirit can’t or won’t influence and inspire those directing the meetings, nor those participating in those meetings, but we certainly prevent some “fly by the seat of your pants” type spiritual moments from occurring due to the desire to control everything that happens.  I honestly don’t know what those meetings would look like, how they would be run or what would happen.  Knowing myself (and having been able to observe others), it would probably take a couple of weeks, if not more, for the routine to run out of our system and clear our minds of what we feel we “should” be doing to fill the time.   It would be a detox of sorts, ridding ourselves of burdensome monotony and scheduling and allowing us to be led here or there or wherever the conversation and Spirit may go.


Richards, later, continued his talk by focusing on several “vices” and what we should be doing to those who succumb to such vices.  After a rather lengthy discussion on what he would say to those who fall prey to “brilliant, seductive advertising” or the idea that a practice is “universal,” he states:


“I want us to continue to lay emphasis on good, clean, wholesome living, but not in such  a way as to in any manner obscure the primary objective of our work, which is to open the doors of the Celestial Kingdom to the children of our Father.  We do not know how many will enter.  We hope for all.  For my part I desire to deny none entrance for weaknesses of the flesh if the spirit is willing.”


And, while reminiscing about these same vices (cigarettes, card games, etc), Richards concludes:


“I have said these things because I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion.  Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past.  They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of the sunlight and fragrance of the growing world.  They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees.”


A poignant – and thoughtful – ending to a worthwhile discourse.  I admit to being far too dogmatic at times, requiring those around me and within my sphere of influence to adhere to what I say (or at the very least pay attention to it).  In times like these, it’s important to remember that this strange journey of life provides us all with different experiences, pathways and feelings.  May we all, as fellow traveler’s here on earth, enjoy this variety and difference without trammeling[13] others for their beliefs.


Interestingly, this same idea is indeed what Joseph Smith seemed to have in mind back in the 1800s.  His father seems to have “reacted against the strict discipline required by … contemporary religions of the day,” and, according to Leonard Arrington, ministers of his day were seeking to product “spiritual athletes – that is, work unceasingly at being a religious person.”[14] Brigham Young was raised under such auspices, claiming:


When I was young, I was kept within very strict bounds, and was not allowed to walk more than half-an-hour on Sunday for exercise. [In fact, he said], the proper and necessary gambols of youth [were] denied me. . . . I had not a chance to dance when I was young, and never heard the enchanting tones of the violin, until I was eleven years of age; and then I thought I was on the high way to hell, if I suffered myself to linger and listen to it. . . . The Christian world of my youth considered it very wicked to listen to music and to dance. … they bind them to the moral law [and] when they are freed by age from the rigorous training of their parents, they are more fit for companions to devils, than to be the children of such religious parents.[Journal of Discourses, 2:94.]


Because of such a dogmatic upbringing, as reiterated in Arrington’s article, some 90% of the parents of Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s generation did not belong to any church.  The guilt they felt for enjoying the ordinary things of life was evidence of just how far they strayed.  I wonder if we, as LDS, aren’t raising a similar generation of kids who are will feel guilt at everything they do.  We proudly teach them all the vices they simply must avoid and instill in them the same guilt those parents felt.  We even produce sin where none exists, all because of what?  Is it control?  Fear?  Both?  Something else?


Perhaps it’s time to revisit the experience Joseph Smith had, as related by Arrington:


“But before [Joseph Smith] went through the stage of rebellion, before the development of a guilt complex, the Lord granted to him, at the age of fourteen, that glorious First Vision. The Lord got to him, in other words, before the religions of the day were able to deaden his youthful exuberance and openness, his capacity for enjoying the mental, cultural, and physical aspects of life. He thus avoided the artificially severe, ascetic, fun-abhorring mantle that contemporary religion seemed to insist upon. He was pious, but not inhibited; earnest, but not fanatical; a warm, affectionate, and enjoyable personality–a prophet who was both serious and playful–a wonderful exemplar of the precept “Man is that he might have joy.”[15]


And, lest the humor get lost on us, pay close attention to the wording of this paragraph from the same article:


“Jedediah M. Grant, who knew the Prophet well, underscored this point when he declared that Joseph Smith preached against the “super-abundant stock of sanctimoniousness” that characterized contemporary religion. According to Elder Grant, a certain minister, out of curiosity, came to see the Prophet in Nauvoo and carried this sanctimonious spirit so far that the Prophet finally suggested to the minister that they engage in a little wrestling. The minister was so shocked that he just stood there rigid and dumbfounded, whereupon the Prophet playfully acted as though to put him on the floor and help him get up and then called attention to the so-called Christian “follies” of the time, the absurdity of the long, solemn, “asslike” tone of speaking and acting, and the dangers of excessive piety and fanaticism (Journal of Discourses, 3:66–67).[16]


Whereas I see many in the church who flaunt the seriousness of religion around as something to bind us down, even in “asslike” tones, perhaps we could learn a little from brother Joseph’s jovial nature.  Whereas he was referred to – throughout his day – as brother Joseph, now we have “our beloved prophet” or we’re told to use the official titles whenever we address someone in church – Elder, Bishop, etc.  “Religion was not to confine spirits,” as Arrington states, “but to expand them.”  Joseph gladly taught people the essence of religion and worship, and his teachings, again according to Arrington, taught “very graphically that [religion] was not sanctimonious.”[17]


Arrington’s conclusion ought to be mine, also.  As we look at the dogmatism around us (and, if you see none, I hope you enjoy it), I hope we can encourage a different worldview that encourages independence, agency and uniqueness.


“We all have exaggerated expectations of life, and sooner or later we discover that we are less clever than we had thought, that we have to be satisfied with less income, less popularity, even a less ideal marriage than we had hoped for. In an unhealthy situation this leads to resentment, projection of blame, distress, and maladjustment. The Latter-day Saint has an ideal background for coping with this situation as he adjusts his ambitions to the place in life which the Lord has in store for him. I pray that as individuals and as families we may laugh together, just as we pray together; that we may recognize our heritage, its … weaknesses along with its … strengths, without fear; that we may develop the cultural pride which others will expect of the Lord’s chosen people; … and that we may continue to exhibit that loyalty to the principles of the gospel that would make the angels in heaven rejoice.”


[3] Invoking the Name of the Lord – A Quantitative History.  http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/08/30/invoking-the-name-of-the-lord-a-quantitative-history/.  Retrieved 09/08/2010.

[6] The word idolatry means, at least according to the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, “excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.”  In other words, if we replace the word veneration with its own definition, we come up with this definition of idolatry:  excessive attachment or the highest degree of respect and reverence; a feeling or sentiment excited by the dignity and superiority of a person, or by the sacredness of his character, or that which borders on adoration.  I’ve discussed idolatry here.  This idea of granting certain offices or people a perceived superiority takes on even more meaning if we consider these words by Hugh Nibley:  “The moment I even think of my priesthood as a status symbol or a mark of superiority, it becomes a mere hollow pretense. At the slightest hint to gloating or self-congratulation the priesthood holder is instantly and automatically unfrocked.” (“Best Possible Test,” CWHN 12:536.)

[9] See Come, Let Us Adore Him, page 63.

[10][10] See, The Unwritten Order of Things by Boyd K. Packer (15 Oct. 1996).  In this discourse, Packer states how proper clothing is required to satisfy our “Sunday’s best,” how programs ought to be written out such that a Liz or Bill or Dave never appear on the program (rather Elizabeth, William and David are how things should be), how funerals are not to be used as a time to reminisce about loved ones passed on, that those in senior positions are not to be questioned and several other “unwritten” rules we must follow.  Pretty soon we’ll be like the Pharisees (if we’re not already there), where the order our leaders enter and exit a room will be either a written rule, or one of the unwritten variety Packer refers to:  “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own aconscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (See John 8:9.)

[11] See Learning the Lawhttp://whitegreenredblack.blogspot.com/2010/09/learning-law.html.  Retrieved 09/10/2010.

[12] See Moroni 6:9.

[13] “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 which a man must believe or be asked out of their Church. I WANT THE LIBERTY OF THINKING AND BELIEVING AS I PLEASE. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:340)

[14] See The Looseness of Zion:  Joseph Smith and the Lighter View.  Leonard Arrington.  http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6012.  Retrieved 09/10/2010.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17][17] See also, Journal of Discourses 3:66-67.

[1] http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/02/best-conference-talk-you-never-read_13.html – retrieved 09/08/2010.

[1] https://truthmarche.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/anyone-care-to-disagree/ – retrieved 09/08/2010.

[1] Invoking the Name of the Lord – A Quantitative History.  http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/08/30/invoking-the-name-of-the-lord-a-quantitative-history/.  Retrieved 09/08/2010.

[1] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,dogmatism. Retrieved 09/09/2010.

[1] http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3Adogmatism&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a.  Retrieved 09/09/2010.

[1] The word idolatry means, at least according to the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, “excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.”  In other words, if we replace the word veneration with its own definition, we come up with this definition of idolatry:  excessive attachment or the highest degree of respect and reverence; a feeling or sentiment excited by the dignity and superiority of a person, or by the sacredness of his character, or that which borders on adoration.  I’ve discussed idolatry here.  This idea of granting certain offices or people a perceived superiority takes on even more meaning if we consider these words by Hugh Nibley:  “The moment I even think of my priesthood as a status symbol or a mark of superiority, it becomes a mere hollow pretense. At the slightest hint to gloating or self-congratulation the priesthood holder is instantly and automatically unfrocked.” (“Best Possible Test,” CWHN 12:536.)

[1] http://mormonmatters.org/2010/09/07/coke-rum-cake-and-president-mckay/.  Retrieved 09/09/2010.

[1] http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/08/why-dont-they-like-us.html.  Retrieved 09/09/2010.

[1] See Come, Let Us Adore Him, page 63.

[1][1] See, The Unwritten Order of Things by Boyd K. Packer (15 Oct. 1996).  In this discourse, Packer states how proper clothing is required to satisfy our “Sunday’s best,” how programs ought to be written out such that a Liz or Bill or Dave never appear on the program (rather Elizabeth, William and David are how things should be), how funerals are not to be used as a time to reminisce about loved ones passed on, that those in senior positions are not to be questioned and several other “unwritten” rules we must follow.  Pretty soon we’ll be like the Pharisees (if we’re not already there), where the order our leaders enter and exit a room will be either a written rule, or one of the unwritten variety Packer refers to:  “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own aconscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (See John 8:9.)

[1] See Learning the Lawhttp://whitegreenredblack.blogspot.com/2010/09/learning-law.html.  Retrieved 09/10/2010.

[1] See Moroni 6:9.

[1] “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 which a man must believe or be asked out of their Church. I WANT THE LIBERTY OF THINKING AND BELIEVING AS I PLEASE. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:340)

[1] See The Looseness of Zion:  Joseph Smith and the Lighter View.  Leonard Arrington.  http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6012.  Retrieved 09/10/2010.

[1] Ibid.

[1] Ibid.

[1][1] See also, Journal of Discourses 3:66-67.


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:

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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.”