Friday, January 13, 2012

Infallible Authority, Chapter Fifteen

Questioning Authority
by J.J. Dewey
(To read the previous chapter, click here. To start this series from the beginning, click here.)

A major doctrine for the LDS church is free agency. Joseph Smith put a lot of emphasis on this principle as evidenced by his famous statement: “I teach them correct principles and they (the saints) govern themselves.” (Millennial Star, Nov 15, 1851, pg 339)

Even though this doctrine is given much lip service today real free agency is only an illusion in the church as the following dialog demonstrates.

QUESTION: I understand that you believe in the doctrine of free agency. What does this mean to you?
ANSWER: It means I have freedom to choose.
QUESTION: Why is that such an important doctrine in the church?
ANSWER: Because the original war in heaven was fought over this principle. Satan wanted to take away the agency of mankind and God wanted man to have it.
QUESTION: Isn't it also said within the church that the spiritual war on this earth is a continuation or the War In Heaven?
ANSWER: Yes, I have heard that.
QUESTION: Have you also heard it taught that members sometimes have to give up some of their free agency for the good of the whole?
ANSWER: Yes, I have heard that taught also.
QUESTION: In what circumstances do you think it is right to give up your agency?
ANSWER: Well if I need money I should not have the freedom to rob a bank.
QUESTION: If you rob someone then the overall freedom of the whole is diminished, is it not?
ANSWER: Yes, I suppose.
QUESTION: Would you say that this should be the principle governing any yielding of freedom, that the freedom of the whole is enhanced?
ANSWER: That sounds right.
QUESTION: So how about the freedom of speech. Should this ever be infringed?
ANSWER: Maybe in exceptional cases where careless speech can be the cause of some type of danger.
QUESTION: You mean like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?
ANSWER: Yes and some types of harmful slander should be governed by law.
QUESTION: That sounds reasonable. Could we agree then that there should be freedom of speech except in cases where real harm is done to another?
ANSWER: I suppose
QUESTION: And in these type of cases we are already governed by the laws of the land are we not?
ANSWER: Pretty much.
QUESTION: So if I disagree even with the President of the United States, should I be free to stand on a street corner, run an ad or speak to my friends to declare my views?
ANSWER: Yes, definitely.
QUESTION: What if the President does not like my views - should he have any power to punish me for them?
QUESTION: What if my views hurts the President's feelings? Does he then have any power to do me harm?
ANSWER: Unless you are slandering with lies, you have pretty much power to say anything about anyone or anything.
QUESTION: So, do you agree with having this type of freedom?
QUESTION: Does it not seem logical that since a core belief of the LDS church is free agency that you should have as much or more freedom of speech in the church as you do within our country?
ANSWER: I suppose.
QUESTION: Do you feel that this is the case - that you enjoy as much freedom of speech within the church as you do within your country?
ANSWER: Yes, I think so.
QUESTION: So, do you feel you can say pretty much what you want to express within the church then without fear of retribution?
QUESTION: Let us suppose you were in a Sunday School class and the teacher read a quotation from the current prophet that was totally contrary to your view. Would you feel free to tell the class that you
think the Prophet is wrong, just as you are free to express your opinion that the President of the United States is wrong?
ANSWER: That would not happen because I have never disagreed with the prophet and I never will.
QUESTION: And why is that?
ANSWER: Because he speaks for God upon the earth.
QUESTION: So disagreeing with the prophet is a little like disagreeing with God from your point of view?
ANSWER: Something like that.
QUESTION: So the prophet would never lead you astray then?
ANSWER: No. We are told that if he tried to he would be removed.
QUESTION: You mean God would zap him?
ANSWER: I wouldn't put it that way, but he would either be removed by the other General Authorities or suffer some calamity caused by God.
QUESTION: So the way you see it is that you have free agency in the church because you never have the need to speak anything in opposition to the brethren. In other words everything you desire to speak are things permitted in the church?
QUESTION: Let us take this basic idea and put it in a different location. Hans was living in Germany under Hitler during World Way II and agreed 100% with Hitler and the NAZI party. Does this mean the Germans as a whole had freedom of speech?
QUESTION: Why not?
ANSWER: There were many others who did not agree with Hitler and many of them were punished for their disagreements.
QUESTION: In other words, if someone spoke up on a street corner, ran an ad or communicated disagreement with Hitler with friends, then he was in danger of severe punishment was he not?
ANSWER: Sadly so.
QUESTION: So the fact that you feel free to speak your mind in the church because you agree with authorities does not mean that all are able to speak their mind, does it?
ANSWER: No. But everyone I know of are able to speak their minds.
QUESTION: Now getting back to the hypothetical Sunday School class here, I'm sure you will agree that all LDS are not as austere as yourself in agreeing with the authorities. Suppose there was someone in your Sunday School class who did disagree with the prophet. Would he or she have the freedom to speak up and voice their opinion?
QUESTION: And would you say then that there would be no discipline or punishment of any kind meted out for this freedom of speech?
ANSWER: No. I don't think there would be any.
QUESTION: But if the Bishop found out that this person did not agree with all the prophet said, would he not call him into his office to have a chat?
ANSWER: It's possible that the Bishop may want to see if he could help with his understanding.
QUESTION: And if, after questioning, the Bishop found out that he disagreed with the prophet on a point of doctrine, do you think he would just smile and let it pass?
ANSWER: It would depend on what it was.
QUESTION: Take Sonja Johnson, who was reported in the papers a few years ago, as an instance. She disagreed with the authorities on equal rights for women and was excommunicated because she exercised her legal freedom to speak her mind. Was she not punished for using freedom of speech?
ANSWER: But she was leading people astray.
QUESTION: But you maintain that the Church has as much or more freedom of speech than our country. Are the Democrats able to have a Republican arrested because they think he is leading the country astray?
ANSWER: No, but that is different.
QUESTION: How is it different?
ANSWER: It is very serious to lead members of the church astray. Their eternal salvation is at stake.
QUESTION: Is it more serious than taking away free will or free expression?
ANSWER: This is one of those cases where we should give up our free agency.
QUESTION: You never mentioned this situation when we talked of this subject earlier. So do you think then that there should be no free will in the church to express your opinion if it disagrees with the authorities?
ANSWER: You shouldn't be in the church if you disagree with the authorities.
QUESTION: Funny, I thought the church of God was supposed to be for all who are seeking the kingdom of God with a sincere heart. Now Sonja Johnson may have had some views that were impossible to prove right or wrong but suppose a person expressed views that were very accurate and could be proven beyond dispute to be true. Would the church allow freedom of expression in verifiable truth?
ANSWER: I would think so.
QUESTION: Are you aware there are many who have written accurately about certain parts of Mormon history and have been excommunicated for it?
ANSWER: If they distorted history maybe, but not if they told the truth.
QUESTION: One of the most famous examples is the BYU professor and church historian Michael Quinn. He had access to historical information never before published and was excommunicated for writing about it and refusing to retract on what he saw as historical fact. Is this what you support as free agency?
ANSWER: I am sure the authorities had good reason to excommunicate him.
QUESTION: Or how about Avraham Gileadi. He was excommunicated for writing his own interpretations of the Book of Revelations. Do you call that freedom of speech?
ANSWER: He was probably teaching doctrine out of harmony with the church.
QUESTION: It is interesting that in 1843 the High Council excommunicated a member named Pelatiah Brown for teaching unapproved doctrine from the book of Revelation also. Do you know what Joseph Smith's reaction was to this?
ANSWER: I imagine he approved of it.
QUESTION: He did not but was very upset by it and ordered the man to be reinstated. Does it not seem reasonable that if he were in charge today that he would also order Avraham Gileadi to be reinstated?
ANSWER: It's hard to say.
QUESTION: You might find Joseph's rebuke of the High Council interesting. He said: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-Day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5:340)
This does not sound like the attitude of the current authorities, does it?
ANSWER: Perhaps circumstances are different today.
QUESTION: Do you agree with Joseph Smith’s statement, “it does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”
QUESTION: So if Michael Quinn, Avraham Gileadi and many others merely erred in doctrine they should not be excommunicated should they?
ANSWER: It depends. If they were leading members astray then perhaps they should be.
QUESTION: But the High Council thought that Pelatiah Brown was leading members astray and Joseph castigated them for taking away his freedom of speech. Aren't you concerned about this core principle over which the War in Heaven was fought?
ANSWER: Of course I am. I realize that all the brethren are not perfect, but if they do get overzealous in cleansing the church, God will work things out in the next world.
QUESTION: So should we let injustices such as the suppression of free expression, slavery, oppression, racism and other wrongs just continue here on earth because God will work things out in the next world?
ANSWER: No of course not.
QUESTION: Yet you and millions of members of the church just sit by and allow free expression to be suppressed, which thing is contrary to the teachings of your founding prophet. Why do you do this ?
ANSWER: We are told that our leaders will never lead us astray so we trust them.
QUESTION: But the scriptures tell you not to lean on the arm of flesh. Is not an example of leaning on the arm of flesh to place your faith in men of flesh whom you call your authorities?
ANSWER: Not if they speak for God.
QUESTION: Earlier we talked about the War In Heaven. Again, what was the battle over according to Mormon scriptures?
ANSWER: Free agency.
QUESTION: And before the war was fought how many of the hosts of heaven did Lucifer persuade to come over to his side?
ANSWER: A third of them.
QUESTION: How many do you suppose that was?
ANSWER: It would have been billions of them.
QUESTION: And how long do you suppose it took for him to convince these billions of beings that the Father was wrong and he was right?
ANSWER: I never thought about it, but it probably took a while.
QUESTION: When you think of how much time and energy it takes LDS missionaries to convert a few souls then one can indeed conclude that it probably took Lucifer quite a few years in our time to accomplish such a deed. But when was Lucifer kicked out of heaven?
ANSWER: The scriptures says that it was after the War in Heaven.
QUESTION: But before the war broke out there was a lengthy period of perhaps a hundred, a thousand or maybe a million years where Lucifer just preached to his heart's content and made converts. During this period, did God take away his agency to speak what was a dangerous doctrine?
ANSWER: I suppose not.
QUESTION: And during this period did God excommunicate him, or kick him out of heaven?
ANSWER: I guess not.
QUESTION: Is it not taught that Lucifer was not kicked out until he openly rebelled and made war?
QUESTION: So why then does the church not follow the example of God himself and allow for freedom of expression and cease excommunicating peaceable people who may have different opinions, but have no desire to make war against the church?
ANSWER: (He has no answer.)
QUESTION: When the church seeks to suppress the free will of its members is it not supporting the same side which Lucifer took in the War in Heaven?
ANSWER: (He becomes uncomfortable and wants to end the discussion.)

QUESTION: The LDS are famous for their word of Wisdom and good members abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco. Do you support this idea?
ANSWER: Yes, of course.
QUESTION: Do you view it as a commandment?
QUESTION: And apparently it is such a strict commandment that you can't get a temple recommend if you do not obey it, is that right?
ANSWER: That is correct.
QUESTION: Let me read you the introduction to the Word of Wisdom. It says: “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days.”( D & C 89:2) Now the church was given a commandment here that the revelation was only a word of wisdom and was not to be “by commandment or constraint.” Why is the church violating this commandment (to not make it a commandment) by making it a commandment?
ANSWER: It was not a commandment when it was given, but was made one later.
QUESTION: Who did this?
ANSWER: I think it was Brigham Young around 1860.
QUESTION: You mean the same Brigham Young who owned a distillery, made his own wine and kept it at his mansion, operated a bar in the Salt Lake House and drank coffee and tea?
ANSWER: I'm not so sure about that, but yes, we are told that it was Brigham that first encouraged strict obedience and then later presidents put more emphasis on it.
QUESTION: Now the original commandment stated it was to be a word of wisdom only and not a commandment to constrain people. This was given by revelation and you would think that any change to this would come by revelation. In other words, a revelation of the will of God can only be changed by revelation. Can you tell me of a revelation to the church that made this change?
ANSWER: I'm sure Brigham and other leaders received revelation about it.
QUESTION: Can you tell me where this revelation may be?
ANSWER: Brigham and other church leaders have spoken about the Word of Wisdom hundreds of times.
QUESTION: But did any of them speak in the name of the Lord or by way of revelation?
ANSWER: I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Let me assure you, my friend, that they have made no such claim. If the church leaders claim no revelation on the matter then why do you give them credit for something they have never said?
ANSWER: Because they have told us they will not lead us astray.
QUESTION: And a salesman told me the other day that his formula could grow my hair back. Are you aware that Joseph Smith and many of the early brethren drank alcohol in moderation after this revelation was given?
ANSWER: Yes, but, as I said, the members were later commanded to cease from drinking alcohol.
QUESTION: Yes, but this is a commandment given by men that makes no claim as being from God. Are you also aware that Joseph installed a bar in the Nauvoo house and Porter Rockwell was the main bartender?
ANSWER: I haven't heard that one.
QUESTION: Are you also aware that Joseph ordered in a bottle of wine to the Carthage jail to cheer their spirits just before he was killed?
ANSWER: I think I read that.
QUESTION: Now, if a little wine was all right for Joseph, Brigham and many other early brethren to use as wisdom dictated, then why is it not all right for you today? Do we have less brainpower today?
ANSWER: Because the current authorities say differently today.
QUESTION: Now read verse 17 of the revelation.
ANSWER: “Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.”
QUESTION: What does it say that barley is to be used for?
ANSWER: The animals.
QUESTION: And what else?
ANSWER: Mild drinks.
QUESTION: What is the most popular mild drink made from barely?
ANSWER: We sometimes drink one called Pero. It's a good substitute for coffee.
QUESTION: Pero was not in existence in the days of Joseph Smith. Now think, for hundreds of years, what has been the most popular mild drink made from barley?
ANSWER: Surely you're not thinking its beer?
QUESTION: This my friend, is an historical fact. Beer is a mild alcoholic drink and it has been made from barley for thousands of years. If you are going to now consider the Word of Wisdom as a commandment then it looks like you are commanded to drink beer made from barley.
ANSWER: You're being ridiculous.
QUESTION: I don't think so. The revelation promises good health to those who are obedient, and recent studies tell us that mild beer drinkers have better health, especially healthier hearts, than those who do not drink at all. Moderate wine drinkers like Joseph and Brigham are also healthier than those who abstain completely.
It makes sense to me to follow the original intent of the revelation, that the members be allowed to use their own wisdom as to what to eat or drink without some authority “constraining” them. Are you going to follow this commandment and not allow others to “constrain” your sense or wisdom?
ANSWER: I'll follow the living prophet, thank you.

QUESTION: I notice that each prayer and speech in the LDS church ends with the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
ANSWER: That is correct.
QUESTION: Do you know when this tradition began?
ANSWER: I think it has been in the church from the beginning.
QUESTION: Not so. Read here the end of one of the most solemn prayers given by Joseph Smith as he dedicated the Kirkland Temple in D & C section 109 verse 80.
ANSWER: “And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy. Amen, and Amen.”
QUESTION: So how did Joseph end this prayer which is perhaps the most important one of his adult life?
ANSWER: Amen and Amen
QUESTION: Do you see it anywhere saying “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen?”
ANSWER: No, I guess not.
QUESTION: Can you find any speech or prayer that Joseph ended with the phrase?
ANSWER: I'm not sure.
QUESTION: They were few and far between. Have you checked the Journal of Discourses for this phrase?
ANSWER: Not specifically.
QUESTION: It was used only once in a while by these early brethren. Do you know why it was used so sparingly?
ANSWER: I'm not sure.
QUESTION: It was because they were commanded to. Read D & C 63:61-64
ANSWER: “Behold, I am Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips. For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority. Wherefore, let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord, will own them; otherwise they shall be cut off. Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.”
Some of the early brethren were under condemnation, but for what?
ANSWER: Using the name of Jesus Christ in vain, not having authority.
QUESTION: Now these men were given the standard priesthood authority through the laying on of hands, so what authority did they lack?
ANSWER: I'm not sure.
QUESTION: In verse 64 we are told what we must do to obtain authority. What is it?
ANSWER: We must speak the name with care and constraint of the Spirit.
QUESTION: And how do we receive the Spirit according to the scripture?
ANSWER: Through prayer
QUESTION: So would you agree that we receive authority to use the name through revelation from the Holy Spirit?
ANSWER: I suppose
QUESTION: Do you think that everyone who gives a talk or prayer in church receives a revelation to use the name of Jesus Christ?
ANSWER: I must admit that is doubtful.
QUESTION: Would you agree that most use it as a matter of habit without even checking with the Holy Spirit for permission?
ANSWER: Perhaps.
QUESTION: What does it say in verse 63 that God will do if the church does not repent of this sin and others?
ANSWER: We will be cut off.
QUESTION: Does this not concern you, then?
ANSWER: Not really. I'm sure the prophet will let us know when we are misusing the Lord’s name.
QUESTION: But if you are “cut off” how can the prophet let you know anything concerning God's will?
ANSWER: (He has no answer).
Copyright J.J. Dewey, used with permission.

[A note from Rock about leaving comments: Many readers have posted as "Anonymous" even though they don't wish to, only because they see no other option. If you don't have a Google, Wordpress, or other username among those listed, you can enter a username in the dropdown box that reads "Name/URL."  Put your name in the "Name" box, ignore the request for a URL, and you should be good to go.
I have a pretty firm policy of never censoring or deleting comments,so if your comment does not immediately appear, it probably means it is being held in the spam filter, which seems to lock in arbitrarily on some posts for reasons unknown.  If you have submitted a comment and it doesn't immediately show up, give me a nudge at and I'll knock it loose. -Rock]


Steven Lester said...

Oh wow! I might be the first one to post this time. Shades of that Greek guy who had to drink hemlock via Plato, and just as effective. It is sad that the Brethren will never get to see it. The evil men that they are.

Jon said...

Here's a couple of papers on the origins of the word of wisdom. I don't think it's a commandment either. Just policy, like the keeping of the priesthood from blacks.,+%22The+Word+of+Wisdom:+From+Principle+to+Requirement%22&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjai1Fx7GTYNBaTzqhxUcxIahp7V6YtnBMFFdWVDutSBLfQO1lHD5h9gqXv9csRG6QPAYg0bWE47XSEFI0OEzPawZ8uQQ-gi_8Ul3Ru0NAtF0wlH2n-CwnFTyCKgQjtYNAaaEq6&sig=AHIEtbTxUTYDX6sKXIdyDc2eBm5WnH5mCg

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Those are excellent links, Jon. Anyone desiring to understand the truth about the Word of Wisdom and how it came to be thought of as a commandment when it never really was, would do well to check them out.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm breaking my longstanding rule about never censoring or deleting comments. Anyone wishing to add to the dialogue is welcome here. You can talk about anything you want, even if it's off topic. I want this to be a place for free and open discussion, and not limited to the topic at hand.

But from now on, ad hominem attackers posting as "Anonymous" who insult other readers without even addressing the reason for their attack will be deleted.

Arguments are welcome. Name-calling is not arguing, it's just childish.

So "Anonymous" at 03:20 AM, you're gone.

Steven Lester said...

Thank you, Rock.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Don't mention it, Steven. What a dick that guy was.

Oops! Now I'm the one guilty of using ad hominems. Looks like I'm gonna have to delete THIS comment.

(Maybe in a day or two.)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I've been receiving emails from people anxious to read the rest of this series on "Infallible Authority" and also asking how many more chapters are left.

There are nineteen chapters total. The format I received them in requires a bit of cleaning up before I repost them, which is why I'm not able to get them all up at once. Life keeps getting in the way, plus I'm easily distracted.

Besides, I think it's good to give readers a day or two between each one so that there's an opportunity, for those who wish to, to discuss the current entry before the next one takes its place.

For those anxious for more on this topic, i.e, that God knew in advance that the wheels would be coming off the wagon we call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we as individuals can possibly do about it, I recommend the September entry of friend Spektator's ever astute blog, "Just and True" entitled "Where Do We Go From Here?"

Spektator proposes that there are these possibilities to consider in comparing the LDS church in 1844 to the one we have today:

1. It was true then and it's true now.
2. It was false then, and true now.
3. It was true then, and it's false now.

He breaks all three possibilities down and analyzes each, and ends with what I consider to be some pretty good suggestions for those who have left the church after discovering the anomalies between then and now. An interesting and valuable piece, and one I would add to my list of those I wish I had written. Plus, it's not very long, so you can take it in in one sitting.

Here's the link:

Kong said...

Does he talk about tithing in chapter 15?

I'd love a historically accurate review of tithing and fast offerings.
So if anyone has any links or history on that please share.

I don't think there is much to fuss about. Religion is a psychological tool, even God himself uses it as that. I think that once one recognizes the fundamental principle of existence, which is agency, then one can begin to actually understand the psychological purposes of many of the "doctrines" we are provided.

I believe it was Skousen who talked about the concept of if something has a beginning it has an end and if something has no beginning it has no end. Which means either we are mortal in every sense of the word (we were created and thus have a beginning and will eventually also have an end) or we've always existed in some state and thus we will always exist and thus we don't answer to God anymore then we answer to the Prophet for we, are by our very natures eternal and un-end-able. Thus, we heard God's arguments just like we heards Satan's and we chose God's plan because as AGENTS it was always our choice, and it always will be.

God thus, isn't teaching his ideas or his personal agenda. He is just teaching the natural laws that govern this universe, and providing advice and guidance that serve the purpose of helping us "progress".

TL said...

I think it would be useful to mention, when discussing how the Church does not respect member's 'agency to have differing opinions on doctrine', all the many times that Prophets & Apostles themselves have given differing & opposite opinions on the same doctrine, even & usually from the pulpit in Gen. Conf.

Which also proves that even they ere & disagree about doctrine & can & have led many members astray by incorrect & contrary teachings than the scriptures & true Prophets.

The painful & scary reality that most members don't want to face, is that it is up to us individually to discern true Prophets from false prophets, even in the Church. No one can claim that false prophets haven't arisen in the Church, if they study Church History.

It is actually the test of this life, to see who can be deceived by false or fallen prophets or imposters. Most people fall for the falsehood that we can never be led astray by a prophet, because it takes away one of the hardest tests of this life.

Satan loves that people fall for the idea that Prophets can't lead us astray, for then it is so very easy for him to lead us astray by a false prophet, since no one will question him. Satan knows that if members believe that falsehood, then most everyone will just shut off their brains & follow whatever a Prophet tells them, even if it's something as disgusting & revolting & against the scriptures as polygamy.

It appears that Brigham Young started that myth that he could never lead the Church astray, because he did not want anyone worrying about or questioning his new revolting doctrines or his running around after women.

Those who don't want to or refuse to think & judge even 'Prophets' for themselves, will lose the ability to do so & become easily deceived to fall for evil & never know it.

Another thought, how are we to believe the 'rumor' that Joseph Smith drank alcohol to 'lift his spirits' in prison, when he refused to even drink any to help him endure a most excruciating operation as a young boy?

I do not believe Joseph drank the alcohol. Like so many false rumors about him, that also seems false, especially compared to the character of a 'true' Prophet.

goingtozion said...

TL- Genesis 9:20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

Noah, definitely a true prophet, drank alcohol. It's not that bad of a thing. It isn't that great either.

goingtozion said...

The Sacred Name is huge! I never thought about that. I really regret it now. I keep complaining that people who call themselves prophets and don't deny it when others call them prophets in the LDS church almost never command or prophecy or reveal in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet I and others are using it all the time. It is in our prayers and we are saying the most repetitive thoughtless things ever in His name. I cannot believe the disconnect. I really need to repent.

How does this work with Colossians 3:17?
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Alan Rock Waterman said...

It's well documented that Joseph Smith drank many times after the word of wisdom was received (why not? Section 89 was not canonized to the extent it is today), but I'm less inclined to believe his mother's exaggerations regarding the operation on his leg. If you've read Lucy Mack Smith's book, you'll find a lot of events -and especially the convoluted conversations she relates throughout the book- a pretty good stretch in places.

Bless her heart, Lucy's stories about Joseph are consistent with many of the adoring stories told about him after his death when his friends and family out did each other in turning him him into a demigod of sorts. I can't blame them, especially his mother, but I refer you to my piece "Why Mormon History Is Not What They Say" for an idea of how this sort of hero worship can get out of hand.

It isn't mere rumor that Joseph gave paid two dollars and sent for a bottle of wine at the jail, but the only source of Joseph being so superhuman that he refused any anesthetic during surgery is his mother who certainly embellished.

TL said...


Thanks for your reply. I guess it's possible Lucy could have exaggerated a bit, mothers do that sometimes. I will have to read her book.

If Joseph drank before he understood fully that it wasn't a good thing, then I can except that. There are sure alot far worse things than that, that even most LDS leaders today seem to do & believe in. Thanks.

I know Prophets aren't perfect, & even they are still learning, line upon line & their discernment, beliefs & behavior are more perfected over time.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

It's important to understand that Joseph Smith is not known to have drank to excess, but as a moderate drinker he was no different than any of the other Saints. The drinking of beer was such a non-issue that Joseph commented in passing that he had stopped at Moesser's and "drank a glass of beer" while doing some other errands in Nauvoo. This of course, was years after the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom.

No one in the church at the time would have blinked to have seen the prophet having a glass of beer, as it was completely normal. In my piece "Too Bad I Don't Like Beer" I document the many breweries and wineries that existed throughout Utah prior to US prohibition, and show that some members paid their tithing in surplus wine from their vineyards. It was how Brigham Young could afford to live in a mansion.

It's also important to understand the difference between mild drinks such as beer and wine, which derive from fermented plants, and "strong drinks" which come from the process of distillation. Since distillation concentrates the poison, I would not consider any drinking of distilled spirits as "moderate" since there is nothing moderate about concentrated amounts of alcohol.

At any rate, there is nothing wrong with a prophet ingesting mild drinks, so I don't think less of Joseph Smith for drinking beverages that, when properly used, have the medicinal effect of relaxing the nervous system at the end of the day.

Here's my examination of the Word of Wisdom and how we let the true import of it get away from us:

TL said...

Thanks for that information Alan, it's very interesting.

Dead Poet said...

I really like this. It makes so much sense.

Steven Lester said...

Of course, when you say the Sacred Name, you might think to say it in the language in which it first gained popularity: in the Jewish language. So, it is not Jesus Christ, it is Joshua ben El or Joshua ben David, depending on which of His two characters you want to emphasize. I don't know how his name would have been pronounced in Aramaic.

Jehovah, by the way, was never really His specific name until the 1800's, my New Testament teacher told us. It is a construction of the two words Adonai and YHWH. Take the vowels of Adonai and place them in between the letters YHWH and you get YaHoWaH. Pronounce the W and the Y like the Germans do (since they are ones who created this name) as a V and a J, and you get JaHoVaH. Cute, right?

Kong said...

actually I think its unfair to say that a distilled spirit is any worse then beer.

Its all about alchohol concentrations and quantity consumed over time.I would clarify and say that a mild drink is a beverage that contains 3-14% alcohol(content range of beer and wine. Beer is 3-7% and Wine is usually 8-14%).

So mixing other distilled spirits with non-alcoholic beverages is fine as long as you are moderating the intake of the alcohol, such as to retain the "mild" as opposed to "strong" alcoholic effect. I think if your goal is to "get wasted" then you are clearly breaking the spirit of the Word of Wisdom, as the word of wisdom could also be called the word of moderation.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Well Kong, the high concentration of alcohol in strong drinks such as whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, etc is of course only my interpretation of the reason "Strong drinks" are advised against.

The Word of Wisdom doesn't go into detail as to why one type of drink is more harmful than the other. All it does is differentiate between strong drinks and mild drinks; but it makes sense to me that wine and beer are not as much of a danger as hard liquor, so that's my reason for believing that wine and beer are not a big deal, whereas "strong drinks" are.

I think it may come down to fermentation being a natural process, whereas distillation is not. But then, I'm no expert.

kong said...

I don't disagree completely disagree, I just think that the process of creation is irrelevant, I could be wrong of course (but I think arguing that because something is natural as opposed to man made as valid grounds for its right or wrongness isn't the right way to go about it).

What is relevant is the concentration of alcohol. Whiskey is 40% alcohol, beer, as I said is 3-7 and wind is 8-14. I'm sure the early saints consumed all forms of alcohol, after all a "bar" in the nauvoo house is unlikely to just have served beer.

1oz of Whiskey mixed with 1 8oz can of coke is an alcohol concentration of 5%, no worse then the alcohol concentration of a beer and significantly less then that of wine. The big problem I see of course is that it is WAY easier to drink too much whiskey then beer. Since beer, in its process of creation ,is a naturally lower concentration you don't have a choice to drink 8oz of 40% alcohol concentration in beer. This means it much more difficult to get accidently wasted on beer. With hard drinks its much easier.

But again, I don't think there is anything wrong with any of them assuming that you understand the reason why you are drinking (to relax) and know your own limits and stay within them. On a side note, liquor is WAY more expensive so just from a wallet perspective you should drink it in moderation

Dead Poet said...

Awesome random trivia! I love this kind of stuff. I don't know about Aramaic, but in Hebrew, His name is Jeshua, which is Jesus in Greek, Joshua in English. I'm assuming the ben David has to do with his lineage, so I'm wondering if ben Joseph would also be tied to his name.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Your points are well taken, Kong. As I said, I'm no expert on booze; just speculating aloud. It kind of makes sense to me that a drink made from naturally fermenting fruit might be a more natural (and therefore perhaps more appropriate?)drink than something requiring a convoluted process like distillation. But I'm not married to that theory.

Here's something else I wonder about: Do alcoholics get that way from a dependency on hard liquor, or can a person end up an alcoholic through a dependence on wine and beer?

Of course, I'm sure that once a person succumbs to alcoholism, he'll take his fix from beer and wine -or even cough medicine- if that's what is available to him. But what I want to know is this. If a person only drinks beer or wine, can he develop a dependency on those mild drinks, or does becoming a lush only come through addiction to the hard stuff?

Dead Poet said...

From my own personal experience knowing alcoholics, all it takes is to get drunk on something. If you are genetically prone to alcoholism, or your life is so painful that you feel the need to drown it in something, getting drunk on anything will do the trick of getting you started on your way down that path. Several of the alcoholics I knew started out that way, because beer and wine are much cheaper than hard liquor. Then they "graduated" to the harder stuff because they got drunk faster, though they would continue to drink beer and wine as well.

Kong said...

My father in law is a chronic alcoholic. He drinks all day ever day. His drink of choice is beer.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for clearing that up for me, guys.

Lee said...

Rock, Don't forget that it's more than just the percentage of alcohol that distinguishes between "mild" drink and "strong" drink. The added benefits and nutrients that come from the fermentation of barley and hops comes into play as well.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

An excellent point, Lee, and one that I had almost forgotten. I believe that the primary reasons the Lord prescribes beer in the Word of Wisdom is because it assists in balancing the nervous system, and provides a feeling of calm and well-being at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan
I think you should take a step forward and go to the most ignored part of the word of wisdom: the use of meat ONLY IN TIMES OF FAMINE was according to Joseph Smith's teaching that animals have spirits.
As far as mild drinks go, I can only agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read.

Brings to mind the scripture that I will not quote, because my scriptures aren't by the computer at this moment--

about even the very elect being deceived.

I think much of this falls under the category of being deceived. However, when I think about the leaders of the LDS church, I really don't think about them very much, because to me they are just other people. They are in management positions, and they may or may not be righteous. I have a gut feeling that many of them are, and some of them are not, but they are still human or mortal, and that being the case, even if there are those among them who are elect, they, like other elect who are not in management (leadership, whatever it wants to be called) will be deceived.

It's a warning to all of us, really. Not just to those in management within the corporation.

Frankly, for years I have certainly not envied the "leaders of the church", commonly called "general authorities". Talk about living in a fish bowl. There may be those who don't mind it, but I have caught glimpses now and again that some of them do not like it, do not like being so public. I think it's a real blessing to be in a lower caste. (Said with humor and sadness)--

I like being anonymous. I like being poor and living simply and being out of the public eye. I certainly am not seen or heard. Gives me time to focus on what matters to me. I feel abundantly blessed about this.

Most of the time I feel sorry for the leaders of the church for this reason. Also, if greater light has been shown and dire mistakes have been made, well--

greater condemnation will follow.

No thanks on that.

I like personal responsibility; I like that idea; I like the idea of accountability and agency, so I keep my life as simple as possible--

Oh, the Word of Wisdom. How many decades have I struggled in vain. Oh.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that, as dead poet shared, pain is at the root of most addiction. As a counselor, most addicts I have worked with have endured some form (often multiple forms) of trauma or abuse.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

It's unfortunate that the leaders today feel that the testimonies of the members ride on the image they themselves put forth. I would like to see more general authorities take a lesson from J. Golden Kimball, and just be themselves. If the members didn't like the earthiness they saw in J. Golden, they could go to hell for all he cared. He wasn't responsible for carrying anyone else's faith on his back, and he knew it.

D. M. Brooks said...

I like that J. Golden Kimball reference Rock. I'm thinking that is the GA with the penchant for using coarse language, not really swearing in my book but not typical of someone who holds a position like his was. This piece is phenomenal!

aredesuyo said...

Since the scripture says that strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies, I tend to think that if it's strong enough to disinfect a wound, it isn't something you should put in your belly. I've heard vodka is useful as an antiseptic, but I've never heard of beer being any good for that purpose.