Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Joseph Smith's Monogamy

I briefly covered some items in the form of questions related to Joseph Smith not practicing polygamy in the 5 Questions post earlier.

One of my friends has been researching this topic and has finished writing a paper that casts much more light on this subject.  He has given permission to share and so I am providing a link to the paper here.

Update:  A book has been written which goes into much more detail regarding the history of polygamy using many LDS source documents.  It contains a lot of material related to the official church history and information from journals of early leaders.  While I do not agree with all the conclusions of this book; I do find it a valuable source of information.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Keeping Traditions vs. Keeping God's Commandments

The pharisees in Christ's day were unable to accept or see Christ for who he was.  They missed recognizing Jesus as the Son of God.  And yet, to many, the Pharisees were considered some of the most devout.  Why didn't they recognize their savior?  What was it that blinded them?

An important part of the answer can be found in an account given in Mark 7.  In this account, the pharisees were offended and found fault with the disciples of Christ because they ate with unwashed hands:

Mark 7 
1.   THEN came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
2.   And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
3.   For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 
4.   And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 
5.   Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 
6.   He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me
7.   Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men
8.   For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 
9.   And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Verse 9 gets to the heart of the matter.  One of the major impediments for the pharisees, that which blinded them from recognizing their Savior, and that which kept their hearts far from God, was their insistence on keeping the traditions.  They were unable to distinguish that which had been truly given by God and that which had been added or altered by men.  Other characteristics of the pharisees that kept them from seeing the truth can be found in this article - Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees.

This is a common situation among those who profess to follow God.  It appears to occur in every generation.  When God the Father and Christ first appeared to Joseph Smith, he asked them which church he should join.  He was told to join none of them.  Why?

Joseph Smith--History 1 
19.   I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

Each time there is a new dispensation of the gospel - truth is restored.  But then time and tradition begin to erode away that which was received.   The scriptures warn over and over that men should not add to or take away from that which has been given - and yet, that is what happens each time.  Whether it be the Doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11:31-40), the church of God (D&C 10:67-69), or even constitutional law (D&C 98:5-7); each of these scriptures warn anything more or less than what came directly from God is not of God; and yet, there are numerous examples of men adding to and taking away, innovating on the word of God, and thus eroding and corrupting that which was at first given in purity directly from God.
Section 93 
36.   The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. 
37.   Light and truth forsake that evil one. 
38.   Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. 
39.   And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

So is this saying that all of our traditions are wrong or bad?  Is this implying that we should toss aside all the traditions we have inherited?  Not at all.  The problem comes when we replace truth with tradition or when we fail to receive the commandments of God or refuse to receive truth because it contradicts our traditions.  Tradition is an impediment when we confuse the commandments of men thinking that they are from God when they are not.  It is a failure to distinguish between that which we have inherited which is nothing more than tradition but which has been taught as doctrine.

Holding on to Traditions

It is surprising when one considers the amount of control traditions have had on keeping people trapped in false paradigms throughout history.  It is also instructive to realize that while it is easy to look at the traditions of others and feel like we can so easily see their false traditions that they are holding on to as part of their culture, or religion, or heritage - we are almost completely oblivious to our own incorrect traditions that may be keeping us in unbelief.  The LDS people may look at the Catholics and wonder how they can't see what to them are corrupted traditions that have happened over time. (sprinkling for baptism, praying to saints, paying money for forgiveness of sins) or they look at the ancient Israelites and perceive that the Rabbis made hundreds of changes or additions to the law.  And yet, at they same time; if they consider their current situation and their history; they feel certain that their traditions have remained unsullied and pure - or that not only have they been preserved - but that they have been clarified and improved as their people gained more knowledge and understanding.  Doubtless, this is the common belief of adherents in any system that has been corrupted with time.  It is the very insistence on clinging to false traditions that in many cases have caused people to denounce true prophets as false prophets1, to cast out true believers among them, or to even shout "crucify him".

This is what Joseph Smith had to say about the difficulty of getting people to let go of their false traditions:

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen."

Scriptures vs. Oral Tradition and Other Books

The pharisees had been taught to measure all truth and all that they saw using many elements which had been added through oral tradition and other books that added to that which had been given by God.  Because the pharisees did not distinguish between that which had come from God and that which had been added by men - they then measured that which came to them from Jesus Christ using the wrong standard.  In many cases, not only had incorrect traditions been added, but they had become more highly regarded than the scripture itself.  The word of the Rabbi took precedence over the written word of God.  One of the best presentations I have seen on this phenomena was in a presentation called "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus"

Does the LDS church have an equivalent to what happened with the Jewish people?  Do they have an oral tradition that is passed down that is outside the scriptures?  Do they have a book of rules, like the Jews did, that is treated as more authoritative than scripture?

Quick Quiz:  Which of these are the commandments or the word of God and can be found in the scriptures and which ones are commandments of men or religious tradition?

  • Sacrament should be passed to the presiding authority first
  • Members should stand when the prophet or a general authority enters the room
  • Those officiating in ordinances such as the sacrament should wear white shirts and ties
  • The sacrament should be taken with the right hand
  • Apostles should enter and leave rooms in order of seniority and sit in order of seniority
  • Home teaching
  • Visiting teaching
  • Family Home Evening
  • Sunday dress for attending church
  • kneeling when the prayer for sacrament is given
  • The prophet cannot lead the church astray
  • To be worthy to enter God's temple requires paying tithing
  • To be worthy to enter God's temple requires living the word of wisdom
  • The word of wisdom is a commandment of God
  • Follow the prophet
  • The gospel and the church are the same thing
  • That which is said in General Conference is the same as scripture
  • There is no priesthood authority outside of the church
  • If you leave the church, all of your ordinances and covenants with God are canceled
  • Tithing is 10% of your gross income
  • Tithes are not for the poor, but for building up the church, taking care of the poor is the purpose of fast offerings
  • Members should meet with their bishop annually in tithing settlement to make an accounting of their tithes 
  • The church was setup as a hierarchy of authority:  The first presidency preside in authority over the quorum of the twelve, who preside in authority over the seventy, who preside in authority over the stakes of Zion
Answer:  Kneeling for the sacrament prayer is both in the Book of Mormon and the D&C (Moroni 4:2, D&C 20:76).  You can also find verses that discuss tithes being for the poor, the widow, and the fatherless (Gen. 14:38 JST, Deuteronomy 26:12).  You may have difficulty finding the other ones.

Now review that list again.  Have you ever felt guilty for not living up to any of the items on the list?  If God didn't command it - does it make sense to feel guilty about it?  Did the Jewish people in Christ's day feel guilty about laws they had been taught that weren't from God?  Do you think that makes sense?  Does being a leader in a church give authority to make commandments or can commandments only come from God?

One explanation would be that leaders have received revelation on these things outside the scriptures or policies that are published by church leaders are the same as revelation.  Or maybe this is just good advice and we ought to follow it because the leader is a prophet of God.

Not being commanded in all things is a true principle (D&C 56:26-28).  However, this does not give any man the right to make rules for how people should live their lives above and beyond what God has given.  God wants us to do much good on our own without being commanded, that includes without being commanded by the arm of flesh.

What about the scripture that says whether by the voice of my servants or my voice, it is the same? (D&C 1:38)  Doesn't this mean that whatever the leaders say can be considered equal to the word of God?  Rock Waterman did a great job answering and clarifying this point here.

What about continuing revelation?  Maybe all of the changes fall under the category of continuing revelation.  Whenever Joseph Smith received revelations, he wrote them down as he received them, presented them to the church, and then once the church received them as revelations, they were added to the scriptural canon and published as revelation from God to the church.  If you examine most of the revelations in the D&C, you will find that they are given in the voice of the Lord.  Based on this, we could also expect that any continuing revelations coming from the Lord would be in His voice.  

Harold B. Lee taught:  

"The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church."2
There are six recorded instances of this happening in the LDS Church:

  • April 6, 1830: When the church was organized, the Bible and Book of Mormon were unanimously accepted as scripture.
  • August 17, 1835: Select revelations from Joseph Smith were unanimously accepted as scripture. These were later printed in the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • October 10, 1880: The Pearl of Great Price was unanimously accepted as scripture. Also at that time, other revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants – which had not been accepted as scripture in 1835 because they were received after that date – were unanimously accepted as scripture.
  • October 6, 1890: Official Declaration 1 was accepted unanimously as scripture. It later began to be published in the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • April 3, 1976: Two visions (one received by Joseph Smith and the other by Joseph F. Smith) were accepted as scripture and added to the Pearl of Great Price. (The two visions were later moved to the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 137 and 138.)
  • September 30, 1978:  Official Declaration 2 was accepted unanimously as scripture. It immediately was added to the Doctrine and Covenants.

So how can we tell the difference?  How can we distinguish between that which is from men and that which is from God?  Becoming familiar with the scriptures is a very big part of this.   Another key is given in D&C 46.

Section 46

7.   But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.

God wants us to rely on him - not on other men.  The promise in James 1:5 is that if any lack wisdom, they can ask of God and God will answer - we just need to believe.  Each of us has a choice, trust in man or learn to trust and depend on God.  

D&C 45
56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.

Preserving the Restoration

Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  God used Joseph to restore much of what had been lost in previous generations.  Many truths that had been lost in previous generations were restored through the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  Another messenger has been sent.  The message:  return back to that which was given from God through Joseph Smith.  The message can be found in the book "Preserving the Restoration".   Will you receive the message?  Will you recognize the Lord's voice in the message and the call to repentance?  Or, will you reject this book immediately because of your traditions?  Here in great clarity, you can find a message given inviting all those who accept Joseph as a prophet of God to return back to the wonderful and delicious truths of the restoration and the gospel of Jesus Christ.


1 “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,’ and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 206)

Harold B. Lee, The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24–26, 1973

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amalickiah and the Good Ship Zion

One of the many interesting stories in the Book of Mormon is the story of Amalickiah.  The story of Amalickiah can be found in Alma chapters 46-49.  If the stories in the Book of Mormon were selected to help us see things in our day - in other words - if they are there to teach us and warn us for things to look for in our day - what can we learn from the story of Amalickiah?

How did Amalickiah rise to power?  His story is instructive about how someone who is conniving can accomplish such a feat.  An analysis of each step in the process may shed some light on what to watch for.

First, he deceived the king by feigning loyalty, while obtaining favor with the armies so he could take possession of the kingdom.

Alma 47 
8.   Now it was not Amalickiah's intention to give them battle according to the commandments of the king; but behold, it was his intention to gain favor with the armies of the Lamanites, that he might place himself at their head and dethrone the king and take possession of the kingdom.
Amalickiah was a master of deception.  He fooled the king of the Lamanites into trusting him with his soldiers.  He then took steps to take out the competition and begin his rise to power.
13.   And it came to pass that when Lehonti had come down with his guards to Amalickiah, that Amalickiah desired him to come down with his army in the night-time, and surround those men in their camps over whom the king had given him command, and that he would deliver them up into Lehonti's hands, if he would make him (Amalickiah) a second leader over the whole army.
14.   And it came to pass that Lehonti came down with his men and surrounded the men of Amalickiah, so that before they awoke at the dawn of day they were surrounded by the armies of Lehonti.
15.   And it came to pass that when they saw that they were surrounded, they plead with Amalickiah that he would suffer them to fall in with their brethren, that they might not be destroyed. Now this was the very thing which Amalickiah desired.
16.   And it came to pass that he delivered his men, contrary to the commands of the king. Now this was the thing that Amalickiah desired, that he might accomplish his designs in dethroning the king.
17.   Now it was the custom among the Lamanites, if their chief leader was killed, to appoint the second leader to be their chief leader.
18.   And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.
19.   Now, when Lehonti was dead, the Lamanites appointed Amalickiah to be their leader and their chief commander.
He fooled Lehonti into believing that he would give them the victory.  He betrayed his own men and then secretly betrayed and killed Lehonti.  The most amazing part of all of this is how he was able to accomplish it without the Lamanites even detecting or realizing what had happened.  If they would have known the truth, they would never had appointed him to be their leader and chief commander.
21.   And the king came out to meet him with his guards, for he supposed that Amalickiah had fulfilled his commands, and that Amalickiah had gathered together so great an army to go against the Nephites to battle.
22.   But behold, as the king came out to meet him Amalickiah caused that his servants should go forth to meet the king. And they went and bowed themselves before the king, as if to reverence him because of his greatness.
23.   And it came to pass that the king put forth his hand to raise them, as was the custom with the Lamanites, as a token of peace, which custom they had taken from the Nephites.
24.   And it came to pass that when he had raised the first from the ground, behold he stabbed the king to the heart; and he fell to the earth.
25.   Now the servants of the king fled; and the servants of Amalickiah raised a cry, saying:
26.   Behold, the servants of the king have stabbed him to the heart, and he has fallen and they have fled; behold, come and see.
27.   And it came to pass that Amalickiah commanded that his armies should march forth and see what had happened to the king; and when they had come to the spot, and found the king lying in his gore, Amalickiah pretended to be wroth, and said: Whosoever loved the king, let him go forth, and pursue his servants that they may be slain.

One of the master tricks Amalickiah used to deceive everyone was to commit a crime and then deflect the blame to the innocent.  After having his servant kill the king, Amalickiah proclaims his loyalty and love to the king to again deceive the soldiers to pursue and destroy the innocent.

31.   And it came to pass on the morrow he entered the city Nephi with his armies, and took possession of the city.
32.   And now it came to pass that the queen, when she had heard that the king was slain--for Amalickiah had sent an embassy to the queen informing her that the king had been slain by his servants, that he had pursued them with his army, but it was in vain, and they had made their escape--
33.   Therefore, when the queen had received this message she sent unto Amalickiah, desiring him that he would spare the people of the city; and she also desired him that he should come in unto her; and she also desired him that he should bring witnesses with him to testify concerning the death of the king.
34.   And it came to pass that Amalickiah took the same servant that slew the king, and all them who were with him, and went in unto the queen, unto the place where she sat; and they all testified unto her that the king was slain by his own servants; and they said also: They have fled; does not this testify against them? And thus they satisfied the queen concerning the death of the king.
35.   And it came to pass that Amalickiah sought the favor of the queen, and took her unto him to wife; and thus by his fraud, and by the assistance of his cunning servants, he obtained the kingdom; yea, he was acknowledged king throughout all the land, among all the people of the Lamanites, who were composed of the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites, and all the dissenters of the Nephites, from the reign of Nephi down to the present time.
Amalickiah was even able to fool the queen.  There are two things that amaze me about this story.  First, the incredible cleverness and cunning maneuvering of Amalickiah at each turn and twist in the sequence of events.  He was brilliant at plotting in order to achieve his objective.  Second, the fact that almost no one realized what he had done.  Almost no one (outside of those who were in on it) was able to realize that the whole thing was fraudulent.  While doing the dastardly deeds that would have gotten him killed had he been discovered - he was actually able to instead gain favor and support with the very people he was deceiving.  These deceived people then made him their leader and followed him to war.

I believe this story in the Book of Mormon is not there as a guide on how to conquer kingdoms through fraud.  Rather, I believe the intent in including the details of what happened would be to teach the people the means by which they can be fooled and hopefully provide a way for people in our time to detect similar deceptions.

What if there were a man and a group of insiders who supported him in our time that accomplished the same thing and most of the people never even realized it?  Is it even possible that such a thing could have happened?  What if someone was murdered and the blame was deflected away from the actual perpetrators?  What if the actual perpetrators proclaimed themselves friends and loyal supporters of the person that they had killed?  What if they were in leadership and positions of trust prior to the event and were even considered by most to have been trusted by the very person they murdered?  What if they took over command and changed the whole direction of the ship in such a way that almost no-one noticed?

If something like this did occur, many of these elements would match the story of Amalickiah in the Book of Mormon.  Even if it did happen, who would believe it?  What if the person through history had become beloved and honored by the very people and their descendants that had been deceived and had made him their leader?

When I was a student at BYU, I took a missionary prep class taught by Ezra Taft Benson's son Reed Benson.  Reed used to say that the church started by Christ and the Apostles was taken over secretly, covertly and then after it had been taken over they kept the same flag flying.  Thus, the majority of the people never even realized that the organization had been compromised.  If Satan was able to accomplish this once, would he try it again?  Could he succeed a second time?  

The following quote has been attributed to Brigham Young. 

"THE GOOD SHIP ZION JD 5:329 (Brigham Young, on several occasions, spoke about the Good Ship Zion, its course, captain, and destination. Following are excerpts from two such occasions.)"

 However, the attribution appears to be wrong.  The 5th volume of the Journal of Discourses on page 329 does not contain this quote or anything like it.  I haven't been able to find the true source.  Nonetheless, I find the quote relevant and worthy of consideration here.


The Good Ship Zion

 Many onboard are there only for a pleasure trip; some strictly for business. Some few are there because they love God and His Truth, and the Ship is taking them to the Port.

Some look at the Captain and say, "wherever you sail, that is where I'll go" (Ruth 1:16). Others don't even say that much. They walk on the deck, bask in the sun and go in a certain direction simply because the planks under their feet pull them in that direction. Some few say "the compass gives me a reading, I see that the captain is heading in the correct bearing, therefore he is taking me to my destination."

But as sometimes happens a storm blows up, and the Good Ship is mightily buffeted. Many are the course corrections, many are the listings to port and then to starboard, but in it all the compass that the some few possess confirms the course of the captain. He is still heading for Port. Most below deck hardly are aware of the storm. To them business goes on as usual, sometimes increasing the sales of sea-sick pills, or in money made by the ship's porters because of food not eaten by the passengers during the troublous times, sometimes even a depression of sales in the souvenir shop occurs. But the dances go on and the drinking of the world's liquids hardly falter.

Then comes a stress that is felt by all, the many and the few. All aboard are buffeted, all least temporarily to port, then back to starboard, then the buffetings appear to ease. Out on deck the storm has passed, the skies seem clear as before and the ship is still moving onward. On deck and below all officers and passengers continue on their appointed tasks with the precision begotten by years of disciplined practice. But as the few check their compass, they find that during the last storm, there indeed has been a pronounced change, the course is no longer directed to the Port.
There has been a change, yet all else seems the same. Seems normal. The captain is not at the helm, as before, yet the new captain at the helm is one of the first mates of the old captain - always trusted and respected before, and yet the new course persists! When others are consulted, the few are assured that the skies are clear, there is health and wealth and success on every hand, and that daily the number of passengers taken on by the Ship increases as they desire to go wherever the Ship is heading. Also that the first mate, one in whom the previous captain had confidence is at the helm and they are not in any position to question him. Yet the course persists! The Port has certainly not moved. The magnetic lines are yet oriented in the same direction and the compass accurately, as it always has, indicates the true direction. Yet the course persists!

The few are certainly not in an enviable position. If they say much they shall be cast overboard by the strong-armed porters to be left adrift as the ship is powered on its way with no one on board able to assist or succor them lest they also find themselves expelled. If they say nothing and with the shared confidence of their fellow passengers continue aboard, each will find themselves further from the Port, and if persisted long enough the moment of action will long have passed. The Ship's destination will be their destination. (It is hard to forget that those aboard the Ship Old Testament Congregation trusted in its various captains, and arrived at its destination. But its destination was and still is the Telestial Kingdom, a Noble Kingdom indeed and is certainly a worthy Port to put into, but still a severe disappointment for one on whose ticket was originally stamped "THE HOLY CITY OF ZION," a beautiful port situated hard by The Celestial City of God). If, when YOU make anchor, you find that your ship making its regular call at Port is docked at the Port of Babylon, and you feel it wasn't your fault, you wanted to go to Zion, and it is the Captain's fault and therefore he ought to bear the blame. Know most assuredly that it IS his fault, he will bear the blame, but you will still be aground in Babylon! (Sept 24, 1890)

Of those who are cast overboard, many flounder and are eaten by the patriarchal sharks that infest the waters devouring whatever comes their way.

Like bees around a frightened victim they seem to sense the odor of those that hate the Good Ship and its present crew. There are those who are cast overboard who are fortunate enough not to attract the sharks and who, wary of one false guide, can no longer trust their fate to any man, even though he be God's servant. Soon their legs and arms fail for carrying their own weight and those around them and as life departs from those severed from the true vine, they quietly settle down into a cold and lonely and independent grave. 

SOME FEW of those cast out of the Ship find their compass still functions for they have not even as yet violated the rules of the Ship nor let the world's water jam its functions, and they can yet paddle the best they can on toward The Port, with God's help avoiding the sharks and the lone swimmers who floundering try to grab others as they are going down. And, as they paddle on, a quiet voice from over their shoulder says "You seem to be holding the same bearing as I" - that familiar voice of the old Captain. His present Dingy boat is small and unattractive, it seems crowded and presents many hardships and challenges, and even the Captain bears the wounds of a previous struggle (especially on his hands and feet) but it is a haven where one can become dried from the world's waters, where the Captain's voice can be constantly heard, and where the course set on your compass (when you first set to sea at the age of eight) is the course he constantly pursues. You will soon arrive at The Port, even the Celestial City of God, the Holy City Zion, to be received by those with outstretched hand.

Related post:

The Rise to Power of Brigham Young

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I want to clarify that this blog is about things that interest me personally.  I claim no authority to speak for anyone but myself.  The name of this blog is not about me.  I chose the name because of an interest in the time period we are in and a belief that it corresponds to the time when the Lord would choose servants to help him with a final gathering.  I believe there are servants that are being called to minister to different groups of people around the world.  I do not claim to be one of those servants.  Rather, I am just someone who has an interest in events and happenings and I am interested in sharing what I have discovered and what I am discovering along the way on that journey.

5 Questions

5 questions regarding the claims that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy with over 30 wives:

(Important note:  I define polygamy as marriage to multiple women with whom the man has sexual relations.  This is very different than having someone sealed to you in the eternities to create links in a family of God - which is what I believe Joseph was actually doing.)

1.  How does a man in the prime of life have 9 children with his wife Emma and yet no children with any of the 30 wives (13 of which claimed 40-50 years later during the times the government was going after the LDS church for polygamy that they had sexual relations with him)? (Brigham Young had 56 children - none born until after Joseph's death)

(See chart below for results of DNA tests.)

2.  Why did Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith teach against the practice of polygamy right up to their deaths and Emma Smith and Joseph's son Joseph III say that Joseph never practiced polygamy?

One month and one day before Joseph's death, he said the following:

“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” – Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church, 6:410–411)

(See other quotes from Joseph below)

Do we really believe that the man chosen to restore the gospel and that was one of the dispensation heads was a liar and a deceiver in regards to polygamy?

3.  Why did Joseph Smith sue Chancee L. Higbee on May 24, 1842 under oath in the State of Illinois for slander regarding claims that Joseph was a polygamist?  Chancee was a lawyer.  Would it make any sense to sue an attorney in the state of Illinois regarding polygamy (which was illegal) for slander where truth is the ultimate defense to the charge of slander?  Would Joseph really risk going to jail in order to successfully pretend he wasn't a polygamist?

4.  Why were 380 men sent out from Nauvoo in September of 1842 throughout the United States with certificates and affidavits signed by many of Nauvoo's most prominent men and women denying polygamy in order to counteract damage done by Dr. John C. Bennett?  Was Dr. Bennett the one lying about polygamy or the prominent men and women who signed the affidavits against what they claimed were false accusations?

5.  Modified documents:  Why were journals altered to change what Joseph taught against polygamy to make it appear that Joseph was in favor of polygamy?  Why was section 101 of the D&C which stated that marriage was only to be between one man and one woman removed when section 132 was added in 1852 - eight years after Joseph Smith's death?  Why did Emma say she never saw section 132 even though William Clayton claims she not only saw it but threw it in the fire?  How is it that a copy just happened to exist (other than the one supposedly thrown in the fire by Emma) and ended up in Brigham Young's desk drawer many years later?  How is it that the altered parts of the journal entry from William Clayton contain some of the exact same words that appear in Section 132?  (See modified journal entry here)

1835 D&C 101:4
"Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again."

Before the modification the entry read:

Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this Law. Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of— No man shall have but one wife.

After the modification it read:

Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this law for according to the law i hold the keys of this power in the last days, for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power? and the keys are conferred - and I have continually said Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of  No man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise.

DNA Testing Results:

Quotes Against Polygamy:

“The Prophet warned against ‘iniquitous characters [who] say they have authority from Joseph or the First Presidency’ and advising them not to ‘believe anything as coming from us, contrary to the established morals & virtues & scriptural laws . . .’  The sisters were urged to denounce any man who made polygamous proposals and to ‘shun them as the flying fiery serpent, whether they are Prophets, Seers, or Revelators; Patriarchs, Twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Majors, Generals, City Councilors, Aldermen, Marshals, Police, Lord mayors or the Devil, [they] are alike culpable & shall be damned for such evil practices. (Richard Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, p. 292)

"Was it for committing adultery?  We are aware that false and slanderous reports have gone abroad, which have reached our ears, respecting this thing, which have been started by renegades, and spread by the dissenters, who are extremely active in spreading foul and libelous reports concerning us; thinking thereby to gain the fellowship of the world . . . . Some have reported that we not only dedicated our property, but likewise our families to the Lord, and Satan taking advantage of this has transfigured it into lasciviousness, a community of wives [polygamy], which things are an abomination in the sight of God." (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 126)

Journal entry regarding the campaign of elders sent out to undo damage done by Bennet due to false accusations of polygamy:

"One year since, I visited a settlement of Norwegians, in La Salle county, Illinois.... I returned to Nauvoo, where I found the whole country deluged with falsehood, from the pen of J. C. Bennet, and I immediately returned to La Salle, but the people there, looked upon him [Bennett] as a wicked designing man; his lies continued but a short time, when eternal disgrace fell upon his own head. I soon returned to Nauvoo, and in a few days was appointed by the special [church] conference, in August [1842], to travel through Illinois, to correct the misstatements of Bennet, in which journey I travelled through eighteen different counties. I was generally successful in convincing the people that Bennet maliciously slandered the innocent. (Times and Seasons 4 [May 15, 1843]: 195)

Links for further information and research:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Spokesman

A friend of mine had a very interesting observation which he shared regarding the spokesman of Joseph Smith.  He gave me permission to share it here:

---------------------------------- <<Start>> ------------------------------

In 2 Nephi 3:18 Lehi receives this promise:

"And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it."

Seems clear that the “writing of the fruit of (Lehi’s) loins” is the Book of Mormon.  So, the one raised up must be Joseph Smith.  Denver has made this point.  The question follows then, who is the spokesman?  The word spokesman appears twice in the D&C, both times in reference to Sidney Rigdon:

And it is expedient in me that you, my servant Sidney, SHOULD BE a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I WILL ordain you unto this calling, even to be a spokesman unto my servant Joseph.
And I will give unto him power to be mighty in testimony.
And I will give unto thee power to be mighty in expounding all scriptures, that thou MAYEST BE a spokesman unto him, and he shall be a revelator unto thee, that thou MAYEST know the certainty of all things pertaining to the things of my kingdom on the earth.
 (Doctrine and Covenants, 100:9-11)

In this verse the language regarding Sidney is subjunctive.  Sidney is called, but must make good on the calling.  The language regarding Joseph is unequivocal.  By 1841 Sidney had served many times as a spokesman for Joseph and to the Gentile followers. But, he had apparently not yet not become the spokesman he had been called to become.

And again, verily I say unto you, if my servant Sidney will serve me and be counselor unto my servant Joseph, let him arise and come up and stand in the office of his calling, and humble himself before me.
And if he will offer unto me an acceptable offering, and acknowledgments, and remain with my people, behold, I, the Lord your God, will heal him that he shall be healed; and he shall lift up his voice again on the mountains, and be a spokesman before my face.
Let him come and locate his family in the neighborhood in which my servant Joseph resides.
And in all his journeyings let him lift up his voice as with the sound of a trump, and warn the inhabitants of the earth to flee the wrath to come.
Let him assist my servant making a solemn proclamation unto the kings of the earth, even as I have before said unto you.
If my servant Sidney will do my will, let him not remove his family unto the eastern lands, but let him change their habitation, even as I have said.
Behold, it is not my will that he shall seek to find safety and refuge out of the city which I have appointed unto you, even the city of Nauvoo.
Verily I say unto you, even now, if he will hearken unto my voice, it shall be well with him. Even so. Amen.
(Doctrine and Covenants 124:103-110)

Sydney did, however, remove his family to the “eastern lands,” and did not remain with the Lord’s people.  Between Jan 1841 and October 1843 Sidney's participation in church administrative affairs was minimal. He lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania against the will of The Lord. By October 1843, Joseph attempted to replace Sidney in a special conference called to consider "the case and standing of Elder Sidney Rigdon". There were many allegations against him leveled by Joseph and others mostly related to communication with apostates like Bennett and even allegations of trying to get Joseph arrested.

So, did Sidney rise to the calling to which The Lord called him? We are currently inclined to conclude, NO, he did not.  His service was lackluster at best and apostate at worst during the years between the D&C 124 revelation and Joseph's death in June of 1844.  Nevertheless, just as Moses was given a spokesman in Aaron, the latter-day seer that brought forth the writing of the fruit of Lehi's loins would be given a spokesman – The Lord has said it would be so.

If Sidney failed in his calling, would the Lord have a “work-around” plan?  Did the Prophet’s spokesman necessarily have to be a contemporary?  If a man living today were in contact with heaven, and privy to the mind and counsel of the prophet Joseph, could he still act as Joseph’s spokesman?  Would such a man defend the prophet's honor, emphasize the Book of Mormon, and move heaven and earth to ensure the restoration does not fail?

---------------------------------------- << END >> ------------------------------------

To me, there is a person today that fits the description of the last few lines in this quote:  it is Denver Snuffer.  Even more important than being a spokesman for Joseph Smith; his message points those who receive it to the Savior.

On Courts of Love

The disciplinary councils that many friends have recently been subjected to are often referred to in the LDS church as "courts of love".  For me, this term brings an image of a group of men who get together to try and help persuade someone who has lost their way to come back.  The Love part would be in kindly helping the person see the error of their ways so they could make a course correction and repent.  An attempt at mutual understanding and reconciliation would be attempted.

Some may say, if it has come to a disciplinary council, then it is already past the point of reconciliation.  It is believed that disciplinary councils are only called after the leaders meet privately with the person to help them understand the error of their ways and offer them a way back but the person simply refuses to comply.

What a positive and wonderful thing it would be if these "courts of love" were something like this.  However, those who have been a part of these courts in the last year have experienced something quite different.

The Kangaroo Court:

kangaroo court is a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice. (see

For the LDS church, are there recognized standards for disciplinary councils?  Yes.  The procedures to be followed detailing how the courts should function are laid out in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 102.

Some of the salient points include the following:

  • There should be an accuser.  This person is not part of the council itself.
  • The accused and the accuser shall have the right to speak for themselves.
  • To prevent injury and injustice, the accused should have access to half of the council.  In other words, half of the council should be seeking to defend the accused.  The other half of the council is for the accuser.
  • Two, four, or six of the councilors (depending on the difficulty of the case) shall be appointed to speak - half for the prosecution, half for the defense.
  • After hearing the accuser, the accused, and the councilors, the president shall give a decision and present it to be sustained.
  • If any on the council detect any error in the decision, they can bring it forth and a re-hearing is scheduled.
  • If either party is dissatisfied, an appeal for a re-hearing may be made to the traveling high council.
The official LDS website describes councils here.

The procedures set out in D&C 102 are no longer considered the standard to be followed.  Instead, the instructions in handbook 1 are now considered the standard by which councils should be conducted.

As of the time of writing this blog entry, there are two handbooks.  One which is made generally available to the members (Handbook 2) and one which is not (Handbook 1).  The instructions for church discipline are in handbook 1.  In theory, this means that the accused would not have access to the procedures to be followed so that they would be able to determine if the disciplinary council is being conducted in a just manner.

In reality, however, even though the LDS church seeks to keep handbook 1 hidden, it is available on the internet.  The chapter regarding church discipline can be reviewed here.

Some of the primary changes from D&C 102 include the following:

  • The stake president or councilors appointed by the stake president conduct a background investigation. 
  • The presiding leader decides the procedures and decides what evidence can be presented.
  • The presiding officer (or someone he appoints) presents the evidence against the accused.
  • Witnesses are only allowed one at a time and are told not to discuss the matter with each other while waiting outside.
  • After all the evidence has been presented, the appointed high councilors present their views of the matter. They are not prosecutors or defenders.
  • The decision of the presiding officer is binding, even if any of the counselors disagree. 

Under the procedures of D&C 102, the presiding officer (ie. Stake President) primarily assumes the role of judge.  He was not responsible for gathering evidence, he was not responsible for determining what the procedures would be or what evidence would be presented.  He did not present the evidence.  He would present his decision only after having heard the evidence and after having both sides presented in a fair and equitable manner.

Under the guidelines of the handbook, the presiding office becomes the investigator, the accuser, the judge, and the jury.  There is no longer any real accuser outside the council, the council no longer has a role to defend the accused or to try and determine an error in the proceedings.  The whole thing has been turned into a one man show.  And that is what it appears to have become - simply a show of power, authority, and control.

This type of system lends itself to abuse.  Putting all the power and all the roles in the hands of single individual is reminiscent of what happened during the period of the inquisitions:

"Early Medieval courts generally followed a process called accusatio, largely based on Germanic practices. In this procedure, an individual would make an accusation against someone to the court. However, if the suspect was judged innocent, the accusers faced legal penalties for bringing false charges. This provided a disincentive to make any accusation unless the accusers were sure it would stand. By the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, there was a shift away from the accusatorial model toward the legal procedure used in the Roman Empire. Instead of an individual making accusations based on first-hand knowledge, judges now took on the prosecutorial role based on information collected. Under inquisitorial procedures, guilt or innocence was proved by the inquiry (inquisitio) of the judge into the details of a case." (see

It is now considered a part of history that the inquisitional system was fraught with abuse.  Much of this can be attributed to the changes in procedure.

Since the LDS church has decided to change its procedures as outlined in D&C 102 to those outlined in Handbook 1 - what has been the result?  What follows is a list of links that detail the recent stories of those who have gone through courts of love during the last year.  I will leave you to decide whether or not the nature of these courts deserves the appellation "Court of Love".


Denver Snuffer

Brent Larsen

Brian Beckle

Will Carter

Angel Cicero (In English)

Adrian Larsen

Rock Waterman

This is a just a sampling.  These and many more are listed here.


Only One Doctrine Matters

It is important to point out that in all of the cases above, those who were excommunicated all believe and have a testimony of the following:

1.  There is a God
2.  Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world
3.  The Book of Mormon is the word of God
4.  Joseph Smith was a prophet of God

But none of this mattered.  The church is full of hundreds of members who may have doubts about these four items, they may even publicly express their views.  For these things, they are not disciplined.  Not having a strong testimony of any of these four items is not considered an offense worthy of excommunication.

So what is it then?  What is the core doctrine that if you dare express a contrary viewpoint will land you in a disciplinary council?  If you read through these stories, you will see a pattern about what really matters: Fidelity to the current leadership.  Any hint that you don't fully believe that the current leaders are prophets, seers, and revelators will put you in the hot seat.  If you question whether or not the leaders are still in communication with heaven, you have betrayed the church.  If you receive a witness that others speak the word of God that are not these leaders, then again, you have betrayed the church and are worthy of a court of love.  If you believe in following the Savior only and do not subscribe to the mantra "follow the prophet" - well, you are probably not worthy to be a member anymore.

Denver Snuffer pointed out that we should only "follow" Christ while "receiving" the prophets or the message they bring and only then when it is from God.

He also pointed out that in the church, there is only one doctrine left.

A friend of mine summed up his experience acting as witness in multiple courts as follows:

"The only questions I was asked, were asked in this manner: "Do you believe like this accused brother, that...." Each of the questions were about the top 15 PSRs and whether I supported, sustained and recognized their authority. I thought they were just trying to learn who I was and what I believed before the real questions began. Those were the only questions I was asked. I was not allowed to testify on behalf of my brother. The whole thing, as far as witnesses for the accused, was a complete sham. Each of the six witnesses reported this same treatment."