Posts Tagged ‘Wilford Woodruff’


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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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.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] See 1 Nephi 19:23.

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

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

[4] See D&C 59:18.

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

[6] See D&C 59:19.

[7] See Mosiah 3:19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Personal Revelation – Part I

I had a discussion in a class I attended a couple of weeks ago in church.  Being a member of the LDS Church, a member growing more and more at odds with the ‘mainstream’ definitions and teachings, I posed a question in class.  I posed said question to elicit a meager discussion of some sort, having sat through the first half of the lesson with crickets chirping throughout the audience as the teacher went on.  A comment had been made in Sunday school, the hour prior, on a lesson on how to build and sustain Zion, that we “need to be obedient to the brethren.”  This lesson and discussion was followed by a one on the importance of obedience as a pillar of our faith.

Obedience to “what” was the essence of my question.  As the discussion flowed most agreed that we are obedient to Christ, but I was semi-surprised when even more agreed that we should be obedient to the brethren as they are the mouthpiece(s) of the Lord.  No qualifiers were offered, just obedience to the brethren with the tacit understanding that they are teaching – always – what Christ would teach.

I don’t necessarily disagree with that as it is proving increasing difficult to assume that what they teach is what Christ would teach were he were here on earth leading His church.  For one such reference, one can look at the April 2009 New Era magazine, a magazine geared for 12-18 year olds.  The focus of that month’s articles is, from the cover, “Learning and Earning.”  Therein one finds a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley, when he was President of the Church, which reads:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.[1]” (emphasis added.)

While this article is not about how divergent current counsel is from what Christ may have taught, it is nevertheless worth noting in this context of whether we follow what a mortal man is telling us or what Christ through the Holy Ghost may be telling us.  After all, we were not sent to this earth to obedient to a man or men.  We were sent here to learn to be obedient to the Lord.  It can and does happen that He sends a servant who preaches His message, and in these instances we must be obedient to that message.  Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible that we are obedient to the One who sent the servant who preached the message, not the messenger.  This is true regardless of whether the messenger is inside or outside the Church.

By this point you may have begun wondering how this relates to personal revelation, and why I am discussing it here.  During the conversation I discussed previously I made a comment regarding our need to be “prophets” – as Moses indicated (see Numbers 11:29) – and that we needed to follow personal revelation in our own lives.  It is my opinion that the Iron Rod, the rod which leads unfailingly towards Christ, is personal revelation, coupled with the scriptures and inspired teachings.  I probably could have phrased it better and introduced the topic better during this class period, but it nevertheless provided the prelude to this write-up.  Both during and after class, one member of the class stated a few things along the lines of our individual personal revelations are all too often tainted by personal wants, desires, and ideas.  These tainting then corrupt our divine personal revelation, leaving us disjointed and unable to rely on this revelation.  As a result, we should look to the “brethren” to teach us and lead us to Christ because their revelation is untainted.  Therein lays the issue I would like to discuss.  Do we look to someone else to teach us and lead us to Christ because we are prone to relying on our own desires, wants and ideas?  If so, in what ways do we do it and in what ways should we not do it?

The difficulty of addressing this topic is underscored by the fact that modern day leaders have repeatedly said that we do not need much additional revelation, at least at the upper echelons of the Church and as an institution.  Gordon B. Hinckley, while acting as President of the Church, rather infamously stated in an interview that, “Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation.  We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation[2],” as well as reiterating in a separate occasion, “…we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith.  We don’t need much revelation.[3]

Jeffrey R. Holland also declared something along similar lines when he said, “To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued[4](emphasis added).  Lest we think this is a modern development in the Church, we turn to Joseph F. Smith when he was also President of the Church.  During the Reed Smoot Senate Confirmation Hearings Joseph F. Smith was asked by the confirmation committee, “Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became president of the church …?,” to which Joseph F. Smith responded, “I cannot say that I have.[5]

With a body of leadership stating that there is a less of a need to have and receive revelation today, it’s no wonder that individual members may be at odds with the need for personal revelation.  Even if they see a need for personal revelation, all too often this need is given to general authorities of the church to whom members look for guidance.  This is further compounded when personal revelation is viewed as being tainted by personal wants and desires, all the while the hierarchy of the church is seemingly protected from these tainting aspects of revelation.

Author Denver Snuffer dedicated an entire chapter of his book Eighteen Verses to this idea taught by Gordon B. Hinckley and Jeffrey R. Holland regarding the time we find ourselves and the revelation we should or should not expect to receive.  This chapter in his book is based off an obscure verse of scripture found in an obscure book in the Book of Mormon.  Omni 1:11 states:

“And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written.  And I make an end.”

As a response to this proclamation by Omni, Snuffer offers this poignant thought:

“The writer confirms “that which is sufficient is written” and sincerely believed this to be true.  This thought illustrates what his ancestor, Nephi, condemned when he warned against any who should say:  “We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:29).  This is an illustration of the kind of religion which endlessly repeats old inspirational stories while failing to add any new ones.  Having faith in what others did long ago, when events in their lives caused their faith to be tested, is no substitute for having faith to see the miraculous in your own life.  Joseph Smith had this to say:  “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation with God ….” (TPJS 324).[6]

One may be led to ask why revelation ceases, or why some feel that “we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”  Whatever the answer to that question, it may also provide insight into why some are afraid to seek personal revelation, or are afraid of being misled by personal revelation, and instead rely on others to show them the way.  This is discussed at length in Eighteen Verses, from which I quote only a tiny portion:

“The reason revelation ceased among the direct descendants of Nephi’s line, who originally maintained the plates, is not explained in full.  Nor is the reason for the word of the Lord abandoning the Israelite leadership at the time of Eli.  It seems likely the reasons had more to do with the inclinations of the leaders to seek revelation than the Lord’s willingness to give it.  It may well be those former leaders did not seek revelation because they thought they already had a great store of existing truths which were not being lived fully.[7]

This statement describes Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement perfectly.  In the Book of Mormon we find many, many examples of people using their agency to both pursue and seek for personal revelation, as well as examples of those who turn from it.  The Book of Jacob contains one such instance.  In the opening chapter of book of Jacob we read:

“For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen to them.  And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.[8]

Here, in contrast to what is mentioned by Omni, is a group of people who received “many” revelations, possessed the spirit of prophecy, and were greatly blessed because of their desire to seek after these things.  They were not content merely with past revelation that was written and given to people of a day gone by.  They exhibited a level of faith sufficient to receive answers and it is noted that they had a “great anxiety” to be taught and instructed.  They acknowledged that they did not have all the answers and, instead, they actively sought for revelations and the gift of prophecy.  Christ instructs throughout modern scripture that if we ask, we shall receive (see Matt. 21:22; John 16:24; 1 Ne. 15:11; Enos 1:15; among many others).  The use of the world “shall” in scripture, especially in this context of asking and receiving, “implies a promise, command or determination … when shall is uttered with emphasis in such phrases, it expresses determination in the speaker, and implies an authority to enforce the act.[9]

This is no empty promise.  Christ wants us to ask and, indeed, is imploring us to ask.  He wants to give us light, knowledge and truth.  He wants us to grow.  He is not content with us merely surviving this mortal experience, simply going through the motions.  It should also be noted that Christ is disappointed when we do not ask and do not search out things we do not know.  Christ mentioned as much when he visited the Nephite disciples at the time of his appearance on the American continent.  While teaching these disciples about the meaning of the “other sheep I have which are not of this fold” statement he had told to the apostles who were at Jerusalem[10].  Christ specifically mentions in 3 Nephi 16:4 that “if it so be that my people at Jerusalem … do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, …,” implying that there is knowledge and insight to be gained from asking questions, especially questions on topics for which Christ has left a trail of breadcrumbs.  It is interesting to note, then, in this context that Christ was troubled “because of the wickedness of the House of Israel” (3 Nephi 17:14), wickedness which can be related to this very discussion of not seeking for further light and knowledge and having an inquiring mind.[11]

As quoted above, the inclination to ask seems to be lacking in our day, most importantly at the individual level, but also at the institutional level.  To say that the odds of receiving something we do not ask for are slim would be an understatement.  While it is true that we do, on occasion, receive blessings for which we have not specifically asked, many blessings await us and are only given once we ask and petition the Lord.  We are a complacent people, content to let others teach us and tell us what we should be doing, what we should be taught, how it should be taught and how to think and act.  From media pundits who tell us what to think to books telling us how to improve ourselves, from radio personalities informing us of our opinion to uninspired leaders interpreting life’s important truths[12], we find it much easier to turn to someone else than we find it to develop our relationship with the Divine.

Accessing the airwaves of personal revelation is no easy feat.  It is one that must be fine tuned and understood.  It is not like turning on a television set to our favorite news show or the radio to our favorite station.  While personal revelation can happen much more frequently than it probably does in our individual lives, God will still try our patience.  It is perhaps this line of thinking which led Neal A. Maxwell to declare:

“One’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free … how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art!  Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy! … Real faith…is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process.[13]

In our quest to acquire more constant personal revelation we will still be led, nevertheless, through times of trial, doubt, uncertainty and difficulty.  Yet in this process of fine-tuning and in viewing those instances of personal revelation, we should view the instances of personal revelation which we receive as gifts from God as we try to walk the path which He would have us follow.  In thinking over this topic I was reminded of an experience Edgar Cayce, who some call either the “sleeping prophet” or the “sleeping (false) prophet,” had.  Before sharing that story; however, this scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants is applicable to this conversation:

“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?  Behold, he rejoices not in that which was given to him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33).

Complement this verse with this dream Edgar Cayce supposedly had, as related by Jess Stearn:

“Cayce was literally a dreamer, and he felt people could learn about themselves and the world about them by studying their own dreams. “Consciousness is sought by man for his own diversion. In sleep, the soul seeks the real diversion or the real activity of self.”  If he didn’t understand a dream, he would lie down and interpret it in trance.

“In one dream, he saw himself climbing to a heavenly chapel to pray. A celestial custodian showed him a large room crammed with packages, beautifully wrapped and addressed to different people. They had not been delivered, and the custodian sorrowfully explained why, “These are gifts for which people have been praying, but they lost their faith just before the date of delivery.[14]

Of the many gifts our Heavenly Father and Christ would give us, surely personal revelation is one of the greatest for in receiving it we are receiving pure knowledge, inspiration and guidance from the pure source.  Indeed, personal revelation is a very real connection with the Divine.  Do we, on occasion (more frequently?), fail to view personal revelation as both a gift and guidance from the Divine?  Do we reject the gift if we are afraid to utilize it, or prefer to hear someone else tell us what guidance we’re seeking?  To be sure, church leaders and inspired individuals do provide words of counsel which can bless and uplift, but there’s a greater goal to be gained and a greater gift to be received than merely listening to the experience of others.  As quoted previously, Joseph Smith stated this very thing when he said, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation with God ….[15]”  It is only in establishing our own connection, our own familiarity with God that we can begin to grasp a complete view of our condition and our true relation with God.  Anything else is inferior.

Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as others, forewarned us about our tendency to rely on other men, especially leaders.  Brigham Young once stated, during a conference at the Utah Bowery in 1867, that, “Brethren, this Church will be led onto the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people. ….”  Joseph Smith similarly addressed the saints, though in a different context, whereupon he was expounded the meaning of the fourteenth chapter of Ezekial in the Old Testament.

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

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church – that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls – APPLIED IT TO THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS – SAID IF THE PEOPLE DEPARTED FROM THE LORD, THEY MUST FALL – THAT THEY WERE DEPENDING ON THE PROPHET, HENCE WERE DARKENED IN THEIR MINDS, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.[16]

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

Ultimately, the Savior did what He did for us as individuals.  The relationship we need to be nurturing and cultivating is that relationship with Him, on an individual level.  To suggest that we need a mediator for THE mediator is rightly preposterous, and yet that’s what we largely believe today – that the knowledge of the Savior is best obtained through other “inspired” men.  We forego drinking water from the Pure Source for water from another source.

The problem we have, as I see it, is that we have been instructed by leaders of the Church that they (the leaders) simply cannot lead us astray.  Even if they wanted to, they are somehow prevented from so doing because of their position in the Church.  This teaching seemingly originated with Wilford Woodruff and the now famous Manifesto that did away with the practice (at least publicly) of polygamy in 1890.  Since his statement those many years ago there has been an increasing clarion call by the leaders reiterating this very same line of thinking.  Perhaps Joseph Fielding Smith summed this feeling up best when he stated:

“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 contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.[17]

To be sure, Joseph Fielding Smith is not alone in this belief.  Whatever the original intent of this statement, or the current meaning, many members rely on this teaching and is even shared in the form of a testimony during numerous church meetings.  This teaching only serves to promote the idea that all we really need to do is trust the brethren, trust the leaders of the church and do, ultimately, whatever they instruct us to do over the pulpit, in magazines or in manuals.  Given that they profess that their unified voice always represents the “mind and will of the Lord,” all we, as lay members, need to do is follow them and what they say.

As attractive as this teaching is to the natural man and the idea that there is some mortal being that we can trust at all times, in all places and no matter what, it simply is not scriptural.  The Lord, in the Doctrine & Covenants, instructs us that:

“… man bshould not counsel his fellow man, neither ctrust in the arm of flesh – But that every man might aspeak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world…[18]

In a couple of different scriptures in the Book of Mormon, Nephi spoke of trusting in what he called the “arm of flesh”.  The arm of flesh, quite literally, is trusting in man to teach and preach and lead the way to God and Christ.  It is trusting in man to protect, guide and instruct us.  It is trusting in man – any man – for our salvation and spiritual education.  Some may argue that a “prophet” is not a “man” in this definition, but I have yet to find any example which qualifies “man” to exclude someone holding a certain calling in a Church, no matter how elevated.  Clearly trusting in the arm of flesh has other ancillary definitions, but trusting in the arm of flesh has a direct correlation with our ability to receive and obtain personal revelation.  When we seek to be taught from men, we will obtain men’s understanding.  When we seek to be taught from the Spirit, we will obtain divine understanding.  These two are not the same and no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are still left alone with the intimate decision of who we follow.

Nephi makes these two statements in regard to trusting in the arm of flesh:

“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.[19]

“Cursed is he that putteth his atrust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the bprecepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.[20]

The second statement contains a very appropriate and important exemption for trusting in man, that being when the precepts taught by a man are “given by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  How, then, can we know when something taught to us is given by this power, or if it’s merely given without the power?  It would seem that personal revelation is what is needed to interpret discourses, articles, lessons, teachings, preaching and any idea put forth which claims to be from God.  Truth is not confined to an institution, to a calling, or to a specific group of men leading a specific religious institution.  Truth transcends the boxes we create for it.[21]

Christ specifically told us that He, personally, will teach any and all willing to listen; all we have to do is “open the door[22]” and ask God who “gives liberally.[23]”  Sometimes this teaching does come from a messenger He sends, but mostly it comes while we are on our solitary road, when we ask and seek for the knowledge and truth only He can provide.  Christ also taught, elsewhere, that we should all stand or fall by ourselves, trusting in no other person than Him alone[24].

Indeed, it’s an individual journey and process which we must undertake in our own solitary way.  The end goal, the only goal, after all, of personal revelation is to create and gain an intimate relationship with our Savior.  Without that personal relationship life loses its meaning and we are left alone, man/woman, in this lone and dreary world.  On speaking of this individual journey contrasted with the seeming comfort we may find in a collectivist view of being a “chosen” person, Denver Snuffer opined:

“Each of us must find Christ for ourselves.  Popular opinion and the collective view of who are God’s “chosen people” cannot be trusted.  There has never been a safe, broad mainstream which reliably prepared or can prepare anyone to receive Him.  It has never happened this way.  We delude ourselves into thinking it will be otherwise for us.  It was always designed that the Gospel of Christ requires you to find Him in His solitary way.  His way is that of a “thief” who comes without credentials, without trappings and without public acclaim.  His only sign of authority may be that your heart will burn within you as He speaks to you while in the way.  Often times He will require you to first accept the unlikely truths which save, originating from unlikely sources, before He will permit you to come to the Throne of Grace.[25]

Of all the scriptures which discuss the nurturing of this vital relationship with Christ, I think this scripture in Jeremiah clarifies it best:

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a anew bcovenant with the house of cIsrael, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the acovenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the acovenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my blaw in their inward parts, and write it in their chearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all aknow me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their biniquity, and I will remember their sin no more[26].

In all likelihood God is speaking to us far more often than we realize.  Christ stated that He was the “light and life of the world – a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.[27]” This is the same light of Christ that has been given to every man, woman and child on this earth[28].  Unfortunately, most of us are walking in darkness at noonday and fail to recognize the light that is within[29].  In order to hear the voice of God and receive revelation, all we really need to do is to begin listening.

It would seem, then, that the ultimate goal that both God the Father and Christ have for us here in mortality, as the verses in Jeremiah indicate, is to come to know them for ourselves.  To establish a connection and relationship with them, a connection and relationship that transcends all other relationships and experiences we might otherwise have here in mortality.  That goal would include having his “law” written in our hearts and being numbered among “[His] people.”  In the movie The Other Side of Heaven, a dramatization of John H. Groberg’s missionary experiences, we hear this quote, which reiterates this very point:

“There is a connection between heaven and earth; finding that connection gives meaning to everything, including death; missing it makes everything meaningless, including life.[30]

We must find that connection, open that door, and seek for the Holy One of Israel ourselves.  That connection is the Holy One of Israel through revelation that He is waiting to give us, if we would but answer His call and knock.  That connection is what will open the doors of eternity to us.  He will write His law upon our hearts and we will become His people, but only if we trust in Him and no other.  We must approach the Mediator Himself, not some substitute, in order to be taught on an individual level from the Master teacher.


[1] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for the Youth.”  New Era, January 2001, page 8.

[2] Hinckley, Gordon B.  Compass Interview.  9 November 1997.

[3] Hinckley, Gordon B.  San Francisco Chronicle interview with Don Lattin.  13 April 1997.

[4] Holland, Jeffrey R.  Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence.  June 2000 Liahona.

[5] Reed Smoot Case, Volume 1, pages 483-484.

[6] Snuffer, Denver.  Eighteen Verses.  Pages 104-105.

[7] Id. Page 122.

[8] See Jacob 1:5-6.

[9] Definition of shall, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.  http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,shall

[10] See 3 Nephi 15:11-24; 3 Nephi 16:1-4; and 3 Nephi 17.

[11] See Doctrine & Covenants 93:24.

[12] See Mosiah 23:14; 2 Nephi 28:31.

[13] Maxwell, Neal A.  “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds.” Ensign, May 1991.

[14] Stearn, Jess.  Edgar Cayce – The Sleeping Prophet, page 22.

[15] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 324.

[16] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Section Five.  Pages 237-238.

[17] Smith, Joseph Fielding.  Conference Report, April 1972.  Page 99.

[18] Doctrine & Covenants 1:19-20.

[19] 2 Nephi 4:34.

[20] 2 Nephi 28:31.

[21] In Come, Let Us Adore Him, Denver Snuffer discusses this idea.  On pages 70-71 of his book, he states, “Christ’s message is his authority.  His words are what distinguish His true ministers from false ones He never sent.  Anyone teaching His truth should be recognized as His messenger.  He taught this to Moroni.  Those who will receive Christ in any generation do so because they hear and recognize His words (see Ether 4:12).  Anyone who will not believe in His words, no matter who He sends to speak them, will not believe in Christ or His Father.  Those who trust only institutional sources of truth, whether they are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Latter-day Saint, believe in an institution, and do not believe in Christ.  The ability to individually recognize His words distinguishes those who are saved from those who are lost.”

[22] Revelation 3:20.

[23] James 1:5.

[24] Mark 9:40-48 (JST)

[25] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Pages 68-69.  2009.

[26] Jeremiah 31:31-34.

[27] Doctrine & Covenants 45:7.

[28] Doctrine & Covenants 84:44-47.

[29] Doctrine & Covenants 95:5-6.

[30] Groberg, John H.  The Other Side of Heaven.