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Sunday, August 31, 2014

What I Left Out Of My Book

Previously: The Drunkards of Ephraim

Late at night on July 22nd, after I had gone over the manuscript of my book one last time (did I mention I wrote a book?), I sent the final draft to the printer and went to bed.  The very next morning I wished I had waited one more day, because Denver Snuffer had written a piece that so encapsulated the entire theme of my book that it just screamed to be included as an afterward.

But I was too late. My book was going to press. And soon I remembered something else I had meant to include in the book, and a week later at the Sunstone Symposium Joe Jensen delivered a paper that would have been perfect in the appendix -if I had thought to include an appendix.

So, what follows in today's post are things I wish I had mentioned or included or linked to, had I not been in such an all-fired hurry to get the book to press. Think of the following bon mots as something like DVD Bonus Extras.

But first, a word from the Mrs.

Maybe I Should Listen To My Wife
Connie was never keen on the title I gave my book, What To Expect When You're Excommunicated: The Believing Mormon's Guide to the Coming Purge.

"People are going to think it's only for people who are facing excommunication," she insisted, "You'll lose most of the people you're hoping to reach."

I disagreed. I thought the title was clever and provocative, and anyone who saw it would be so intrigued they would buy it the minute they read the title. Besides, the only other name I could think of was I Have A Blog So Buy My Book.

I'm beginning to think my wife was onto something. Because the truth is, the book isn't entirely about excommunication. Now, if you happen to be one of the many believers currently facing an unwarranted excommunication from the LDS Church over a bogus charge of "apostasy," then chapter 7 will likely be quite helpful to you.

But the rest of the book is for the average latter-day Saint who is struggling to make sense of  the craziness going on in the Church of late. As a commenter on another blog recently expressed things, "It just feels as though we as LDS who want to follow Jesus Christ are in the middle of a terrible storm right now."

Many faithful Saints are coming to realize that the modern LDS Church bears little resemblance to the one founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. If you've done any reading in church history and wonder why the marvelous gifts of the spirit once abundant in Nauvoo seem to be missing in the church today, this book will provide an overview of how that happened and why.  It compares the revealed word of God to the foolish traditions of men, and will help you sort out one from the other. It asks and answers the pertinent question of the day: how did the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which began as a theocracy (government by God) find itself largely transformed into an oligarchy (government by a small group of dominant elites)?

If you are convinced it's impossible for The True Church to ever go astray, this book may not be for you.  But for everyone else it will deconstruct that false teaching, and direct you to where the Book of Mormon prophets -as well as Jesus Christ Himself- predicted just the opposite. In short, this book is for every latter-day Saint concerned with the direction the modern Church appears to be heading, and provides solutions from the word of God as to how we can repent and get ourselves back on track.

But first we're going to have to recognize what we have to repent of.  Which brings us to that piece I mentioned from Denver Snuffer's blog.

After I had written an entire book describing the various causes in which the Christ-centered religion of my youth had been loosed from its moorings, Denver Snuffer comes along and distills it all into one simple truth: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apparently has only one doctrine left.

Here is the essay I wish I had included in my book as an afterword, presented here with his permission:
 Only One Doctrine Left
"In LDS Mormonism there is really only one doctrine left. Everything else is subordinate and changeable. But this single demand is paramount. If you disbelieve this position, then LDS Mormonism has no place for you. The doctrine:

"We follow a man whom we call a prophet."

"If you disbelieve this, and think you ought to follow Christ first, and the church's 'prophet' is secondary, then you are insubordinate and a threat. Believing that Christ comes first opens the possibility that Christ could tell you the 'prophet' is mistaken. That is intolerable.

"In LDS Mormonism it is allowed for the current 'prophet' to criticize and denigrate a former 'prophet.' This happens frequently. Even editorials now appear on the website rejecting Brigham Young's teachings as wrong, even immoral. The new, living leader has the 'keys' and the contradictions are viewed by blinded followers to be 'proof of continuing revelation.'

"Therefore these contradictions are valued by the deceived. An unchanging God has error prone key-holders who can guarantee his contemporaries their salvation. This is even if later key-holders proclaim the earlier leader's mistakes. All of this is only consistent if you believe the central, single doctrine. If you question it, the whole construct begins to look foolish and riddled with error.

"When I joined LDS Mormonism there were many doctrines. None of them put President Spencer W. Kimball into a position of a dictator. Indeed, President Kimball earned our loyalty and respect by his meek example and the content of his sermons. He denounced modern idols, and criticized the war-like nature of our country. But no one demanded a loyalty oath, insisting that veneration of him took precedence over worship of Christ. I believe if President Kimball heard of such a thing being taught he would have vocally and immediately spoken against it. He denounced Ezra Taft Benson's sermon about Fourteen Fundamentals for Following the Prophet. But today these are taught in General Conference!

"LDS Mormonism has changed since I first joined. So much so that I no longer belong in an organization that holds one and only one doctrine as its bedrock. I believe Christ alone is worthy of veneration. I do not believe I must follow a man to be able to follow Christ. I do not believe I should look to the example of some man in order to be able to see Christ.

"This radical and false shift of the religion has happened in my lifetime. I never engaged in this idolatry while among the LDS organization, and I refuse to accept that kind of religion now. It is false. I reject it.

"Insofar as the LDS Church 'believes' in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the revelations through him, including the D&C and Pearl of Great Price, I honor them. Insofar as they testify of the Book of Mormon and preach from it, I believe and accept it. Therefore I see some considerable merit to the LDS Church. However, their current single fundamental doctrine is false. Utterly false.

"If you extend the fundamental LDS doctrine to its logical conclusion, it is also satanic. It abrogates free will, requires obedience to a man even if he tells you to do something which you know to be wrong (a principle that has been taught in General Conference), and requires you to abandon your own agency. Since I believe everyone will be accountable before God for their choices in the Day of Judgment, the paradigm is false and will not protect you. You may think the 'key holder' will absolve you of your mistakes, but God will judge you. If you are asked to do something wrong, and you do it out of veneration for a 'prophet you will not be spared, but you will be judged and condemned.

"There are many good people in the LDS Church. There is also some considerable good done by the LDS Church. But when adulterers, liars, idolaters and the ignorant who preside in wards, stakes and areas of the church insist their personal unworthiness is excused because they are loyal to a priesthood line of authority, as we presently find in the church, then someone needs to proclaim faith in Christ and repentance. Even if only one voice will speak up, God will vindicate faith in Him in the end.

"The Great Whore will always outnumber the few who are Christ's sheep. But that cannot detract from Christ's affection for those who hear His voice and defend His religion."
The Latter-Day Apostasy
Just days after submitting my manuscript to the publisher, I attended the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City where one particular presentation struck me as something that would have been perfect to include as an appendix to my book if I hadn't already been too late. It was Joe Jensen's presentation titled The Latter-day Apostasy: A Scriptural Perspective.  During the rest of the symposium, and for days afterward, I was still hearing quite a bit of buzz about this one. And for good reason. 

I have recommended Joe's website, Just And True, many times in the past, and the transcript of this talk is available there.  Sunstone has also provided the audio on this site here, so you can listen to it if you wish.  Just scroll down to Session 224, and click on the arrow below the title. You can also purchase it from the Sunstone site on CD. I'd recommend it.

What I really wish is not so much that I had included Joe's presentation in my book, but that I had written the thing myself because it's phenomenal. Joe has performed an invaluable service to all of us by examining the subject of apostasy from every conceivable angle of interest to Mormons, and concludes -no surprise here- that the real iniquity in the LDS Church is always fomented from above (as our founding prophet Joseph Smith lamented in a quote on page 152 of my book).

Brother Jensen presents the correct (and scripturally accurate) definition of apostasy as found on the LDS Church's official website ("When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel") and then juxtaposes that with the fraudulent definition provided to local leaders in the corporate Church Handbook of Instruction.

"There appears to be one definition of apostasy for public consumption," Brother Jensen writes, "and another private directive to church leadership." It is this latter, completely arbitrary definition that is used today by some in high office who desire to strip faithful believers of their membership in the Lord's church.

One of the things that really caught my attention was Joe's discussion of Nehor, the notorious Book of Mormon apostate.  Among the things Nehor advocated for was that the leaders of the church should enjoy certain perks and privileges, including being supported by the people so they didn't have to hold down normal jobs like everyone else, and being treated like celebrities. 

I have a friend who worked at Church headquarters for several years, meeting frequently and answering directly to two well-known apostles.  Once he was able to find more suitable employment, he resigned, and was glad to be out of there. "These guys," he told me, referring to the apostles, "are treated like rock stars. And they act like they expect it."

I won't name the particular apostles my friend worked under, in the interest of protecting his identity, but he also told me jaw-dropping tales of waste, abuse, and cavalier attitudes toward large amounts of money spent on dubious projects, "because they believe they can do no wrong." And although no one really knows how much our general authorities are compensated for their "labors," based on the lifestyles my friend observed, he believes the sum is quite substantial.

All this in a Church that boasts of having a humble unpaid clergy, as the Book of Mormon requires.  In the first book of Alma, we learn that Nehor loses his temper and kills a guy, so Nehor is executed for committing murder, and that's the end of that.

Except it seems that now the spirit of Nehor -"the only person in the index of the LDS Scriptures to be branded an apostate"- lives on today in the pampered and popular hierarchy of the LDS Church.

Also worth noting is Brother Jensen's reminder that the Lord has insisted that for His church to be legitimately His, it must be "called in my name" which our church certainly was for many decades.  But we now know that the the name of the church was legally changed by Heber J. Grant on November 26, 1923, with the new entity retaining the original name only as a trademark that is now held in reserve by Intellectual Reserve, Inc, the copyright arm of the corporation. This is no matter to be taken lightly, as Jensen submits:
"To be His church, the organization must be called by His name, be built upon His gospel and demonstrate the works of God....The current formal name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This seems to fit the requirement although this is only the trademark. The legal name of the organization is The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the holder of the copyright of my triple combination. Buildings and facilities typically show ownership as the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop or other entities. Does this meet the Lords requirement?
I can't stress how important I feel it is for you to read this entire essay. I don't even care if you stop reading my words right now.  Click on this link and get yourself an education about what it really means to be in apostasy.

Strangers In Zion 
In my newly published book, I discuss how growing numbers of faithful, believing latter-day Saints have gotten fed up with the direction the LDS Church appears headed and have vowed to stop supporting it. Many of these devoted members, though they remain committed to the Restored gospel, are resigning from the institutional Church in protest.

I have never advocated resigning from the Church, for a variety of reasons. In the first place, this is our church. Nowhere in scripture can you find any indication that God has given an elite priest class the authority to own or control His church. In the second place, when you resign from the church, others assume you have lost your testimony of the gospel. You appear to them as just another apostate, a turncoat. Whatever statement you intended to make by leaving is lost on your fellow believers, because they don't want to hear your reasons. Your voice is therefore not heard, and your valiant stand for truth and righteousness is ignored.

So last month a group of believers led by Micah Nicholaisen, one of the lights behind A Thoughtful Faith Podcast series, has come up with an alternative to resigning. They call themselves Strangers In Zion, and they are saying, in effect, "If you're going to hold disciplinary councils on our brothers and sisters over matters that heretofore have never warranted such action, then we insist you hold disciplinary councils on us, too, because we share the same views as those you have targeted."

It's a pretty radical idea, but I like it. No sooner had the website been publicized than over a hundred church members signed on, drafting letters challenging their local leaders to convene Church courts and try them for the "sin" of refusing to kowtow to authority.

On August 18th, Strangers In Zion founder Micah Nicholaisen was disfellowshiped from the Church, and he appears none the worse for the experience. The real oddity about the whole thing is that Micah was disfellowshiped for holding the very same views that Kate Kelly was excommunicated over.

Excommunication is a much harsher punishment, yet this Church insists its women are treated no differently than its men.

Here's a photo of Micah and his family taken today after church. Note that Micah has a beard, is not wearing a tie, and his shirt isn't white. This is proof that he is lost to us forever.

Oh, and his prepubescent daughter is wearing a sleeveless top, so she's lost, too.

As much as I find the idea behind Strangers In Zion strangely endearing, there may be an even better way to work the needed reforms. That would be to hold disciplinary hearings on the real apostates.

Throw The Bums Out?
When I was in Salt Lake City last month I had conversations with a group of concerned Utah Attorneys and professionals who, except for one, are all present and former high council members.

They posed a simple question: why should believing members resign from the church in protest, or fall on their swords like Micah Nicholaisen and others are doing, when the Lord has already provided us with the remedy to this problem?

What they propose sounded intriguing to me, and I'm interested in hearing how things  develop.

In my book I express the belief that the current rash of senseless persecutions we are seeing are not the work of a concerted, unified pogrom instituted by the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. From what we know so far, this craziness is likely the work of one or two rogue apostles, just as it was twenty years ago with the the September Six. They appear to be aided by two or more members of the Quorum of the Seventy who, for various reasons, are overclocked with ambition and zealotry. (I go into greater detail in the book as to why they chose this particular time to tip their hand.)

Since the identities of some of these men are known, all that is necessary to rein them in is to convene a Council of Elders and try them for apostasy.

Easier said than done, you say?  Yeah, could be.

Actually the idea is scripturally sound, but given the climate of the Church today, it might be as Quixotic as trying members of congress for violating their oath of office. Everyone knows they're guilty, but who's going to call them on it?

The remedy does exist for putting things back in order. Doctrine and Covenants section 107 makes it clear that not even the president of the Church himself is immune from prosecution for violation of his office.  And the body of the Saints are qualified to conduct the trial. Where something like this has a chance of making a difference is that the unfavorable publicity that would result from calling out GAs who constantly break the rules might itself be enough to get the other members of the Twelve to finally step up and put a stop to the usurpations of their brethren.

Is there evidence to convict a general authority of apostasy?  Man, is there ever! Finding evidence is not the problem. Some of  these so-called "leaders" violate Church law routinely and openly. You know the adage: "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Human nature is the same whether in politics or religion.

This committee I've spoken with suggests the most appropriate target would be the recreant apostle Boyd K. Packer, because Packer was responsible for a DVD that thoroughly renounced the teachings of Jesus. I wrote something about that video in my post titled Vengeance And The Latter-day Saint and I have seen for myself how Packer has twisted and misquoted both scripture and the modern prophets (in particular the First Presidency back in 1942) in order to present a deliberate distortion of doctrine that suited his own agenda. He'd fit the bill, all right.

So right about now you've decided these guys have lost their minds, right? You think it's a nutty idea to threaten high Mucky-Mucks in the Church to get them to shut up and sit down?  Well what do you think they've been trying to do to us down here at the bottom of the totem?

It doesn't sound any crazier or less effective to me than resigning from the church to try to make a point.  Maybe it's time the members of the body of Christ stood fast and reclaimed their power as members of the church of Christ, and kept a closer watch on those at the top whose personal ambitions have clouded their judgment.

As D&C 20:80 instructs, "any member of the church of Christ transgressing, or being overtaken in a fault, shall be dealt with as the scriptures direct."  So the way it would work is two or more witnesses belonging to Boyd Packer's stake would have to come forward and testify that the video he promoted teaches false doctrine.  Frankly, that part would be a cakewalk. The difficult part would be in getting a council of Elders from his stake with the integrity to call out a GA in this day and age when we've all been conditioned to believe these men are beyond reproach.

Anyway, it's something to think about, and it's certainly an intriguing idea whether it's feasible or not.

What I do know is this: we have to put a stop to this divisiveness that's tearing the church apart simply because one person's views don't line up with someone else's. This is not the way to unify the church.  Maybe it is time to rein in those leaders who are letting their thirst for control cloud their judgment.  If they wish to lead, then let them lead, but what we're seeing now isn't leadership. We have enough problems in the church today without everybody making things worse.  Like the title of Lori Burkman's recent post puts it, If It Keeps On Raining, The Levee's Going To Break.

What To Expect When You're Out Of State
People have been asking what's the latest with my situation?  Well, the other thing that happened the day after I sent my book to press was that I finally got the call from my stake president in Sacramento wanting to meet with me for the first time. I had been expecting his call for two months, ever since that meeting with my bishop where I was given the ultimatum to shut up, get out, or get kicked out.  Since I was in Utah when he called, I told him we'd have to get together when I got home.  When I got home I called him and told him I wasn't well, and he said he'd call me back in a couple of weeks.  This is one week later. Maybe I'll call him.

So that's the update. Here's a few more odds & ends and then I'll wrap this up:

A reporter from The Daily Beast did a story on the Sunstone Symposium and quoted me spouting off at the end.

The Blog Nearing Kolob has compiled a chart listing many of those who have been, or are in the process of being brought up on charges of apostasy.  I don't know how current the list is, but it's interesting to look at.

One of my online heroes, Tim Malone, posted a review of my book today.  You can read it here at Latter-day Commentary.

I hope you'll take a look at my book. And better yet, I hope you'll buy it.  In the midst of all this blabbering, did I mention the title? I don't think I did.

It's called What To Expect When You're Excommunicated: The Believing Mormon's Guide To The Coming Purge. You can find it at Amazon, and also at Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City. But be advised that as of yesterday Benchmark Books is down to their last ten copies, so you may want to call first.  By the way, I finally got hold of somebody at the publisher and got them to reduce the price of the book overall, so there's some good news. I never was comfortable with it listing at fifteen dollars.

My thanks to all the wonderful people who reviewed my book on Amazon and said such kind things about it. (Except you, Payton Chalmers.) I greatly appreciate your input and welcome more comments. (Again, Payton Chalmers, I'm talking to everybody but you.)

Updated September 1, 2014, 7:14 AM:  
Whoo-hoo! I just found out I've sold TWO BOOKS already this month! You read that right, my friends. Two. That puts my Amazon Ranking at #63,094.  I only have to sell sixty-three thousand and ninety three more books today and I'll be at number one!

Come on, people, we can do this!

(Psssst! Hey! Click Here!)

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