Sunday, June 22, 2014

Who Is Changing The Doctrine?

Previously: Uncomfortable God

I guess my bishop must have been lying to me.

Last month he asked to see me, and when I met with him in his office he told me he had been tasked with delivering an ultimatum from an Area Seventy. According to the message conveyed through my bishop from this Church bigwig, I was to be presented with  three options: 1. Stop blogging,  2. Resign from the church voluntarily, or 3. Face excommunication.

I admire and respect my bishop very much. And I like this guy. I like him a lot. Which is why I'm disappointed to have to conclude that he made up that whole story about the Seventy handing down orders to remove myself from the church.  My bishop's story was very convincing, right down to the name of the actual Seventy supposedly involved. He told me that even though he (the bishop) had never read my blog except for the first few paragraphs of the one on weddings, he explained that this seventy had looked it over thoroughly, and decided I had to go.

This is a difficult position I find myself in because I want to believe my bishop was telling me the truth. But if I buy his story, I have to reject the following declarations delivered by official Church Spokespersons out of Salt Lake the past few days:
"There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works."-Michael Otterson, Managing Director, LDS Church Public Affairs, quoted in the New York Times June 18th.
 "Decisions [to discipline members] are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters."-Official Church News Press Release June 11th.
"There is no effort to tell local leaders to keep members from blogging or discussing questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue, and recognize that today it’s how we communicate and discuss ideas with one another." -Jessica Moody, Church Spokeswoman quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune June 19th.

 "While senior leaders do provide training, these decisions are made by local leaders and are not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters." LDS Church Public Affairs Office, quoted on KUTV Salt Lake City June 17th

Church leaders are not asking members not to blog, and they are not attacking the rights of honest explorers of faith to have these conversations in the so-called Bloggernacle." Church Spokeswoman Ally Isom on KUER radio, June 16th
Okay, so these are Church spokespersons saying these things, but they're not the real Church Spokesperson, right? Only the President of the Church can actually speak for the Church. So where is he? Why is Church leadership at the top leaving my poor bishop to twist slowly in the wind?

All this wild scrambling to assure the public that Church discipline is never instituted from the top down was triggered by the publicity garnered when two prominent latter-day Saints revealed they had been issued letters informing them they faced imminent excommunication.

And the reason every available person in the Church PR department weighed in so emphatically is because it is a violation of scripture and Church law for discipline to originate anywhere other than on the local level. In fact, it isn't even bishops or stake presidents who are permitted to initiate such actions. The accused member must be first accused by another member of the congregation before proceedings are permitted to take place. That's according to scripture.  Of course, no one follows the prescribed method these days, because why should our leaders follow scripture when they have the Church Handbook of Instruction?

Those two prominent members of the church who were surprised to receive those threatening letters were Kate Kelly and John Dehlin.

Now I'll admit to not having heard of Kate Kelly before this. That's because the movement she is credited with (or in the words of some, "accused of") heading is called "Ordain Women" and the Ordain Women movement simply was not on my radar. It isn't one of my hot buttons, so you'll have to excuse me for not being up to speed on all of this.

I suppose that's because I see no reason for women to petition for something they already hold, which is the priesthood of God. During the Nauvoo period it was common for women to anoint each other and give blessings of healing, same as they had the power and authority to do for their own children.  Our founding prophet Joseph Smith approved, and acknowledged that there were sisters who were ordained to heal the sick and it was their privilege to do so.

So in my mind, what's the big deal?

Well, here's the big deal. Kate Kelly and others want to know what the heck happened to this privilege? And what's most disturbing is that they have been portrayed by Church spokespersons as a gaggle of gals noisily marching on Temple Square with signs and placards, screeching their demands and insisting they get their way.

The reality is a bit less strident. That so-called "march" was more of a quiet stroll. They didn't yell, they didn't demand, they didn't insist, they weren't holding up signs or being unruly. They just reverently showed up at temple square and...well, they just stood around mostly, because no one in authority showed up to meet them. I believe someone led them in singing a hymn.

These sisters are accused of demanding that the Church change its doctrine to suit them.  But what doctrine would that be, exactly? Doug Fabrizio, who interviewed Ally Isom of the Church Public Relations arm asked where the doctrine could be found that states women are prohibited from holding the priesthood. It must be written down somewhere, right?

Ally Isom was the former press spokesman for a Utah politician, and boy is this chick smooth. Throughout the interview she was nonplussed, slick and evasive on questions she wanted to avoid, cleverly putting her own spin on the issue. But this question seemed to catch her off guard. No sooner had Fabrizio asked her where the doctrine is written, than she halted and started stammering. Whatever the word "nonplussed" means, Ally instantly turned into the opposite. She was suddenly extremely plussed, and plussed in spades. As Fabrizio continued to press her on where the doctrine is written down, she finally had to admit "it isn't."

That's right, there is no actual doctrine prohibiting women from being ordained to the priesthood. If there was, we should be able to point to where God provided that revelation. The idea that the priesthood of God is for men only is not a doctrine, it's a tradition. One of those "traditions of men" the scriptures constantly warn us to be on the lookout for.

So what are we Mormons taught to do when we lack wisdom and desire clarification? We do what Kate Kelly has been trying to do. Far from angrily demanding that the Brethren change the doctrine to suit their tastes, the ladies in the Ordain Women movement are only making one small, reasonable request: would the prophet please take this question to the Lord for an answer?

After all, isn't that what a prophet is for? To obtain revelation from God concerning doctrines we don't fully have answers to? So why is it, do you suppose, the Guardians of the Church won't allow any of those women to even pose the question to them? Why would anyone in authority so much as hint about excommunicating a member of the church for following proper Church protocol?

Beats me. Some people are saying Dallin Oaks put this controversy to bed in his address last conference. But what he failed to do in that talk was quote the will of the Lord on the topic. You want to talk about membership in The Not Even Once Club, try getting a General Authority to mention the will of God on the hard doctrinal questions. You won't hear them do it.  Not...Even...Once.

But the GAs will quote each other in circles until Sunday's closing session, you can count on that.

Gim Isom O' Dat
To many of those who knew the truth of what the Ordain Women group actually stood for, listening to Ally Isom misrepresent their motives and intent was extremely frustrating. But not to me. I found Sister Isom's pas de deux to be highly entertaining. She's been working in Church Public Relations for only six months, and her former position as spin doctor for a politician didn't come close to preparing her to be adept at what Brigham Young and his contemporaries used to call "lying for the Lord." She did pretty good, though. But she also said too much if her intent was to protect the corporate brand from additional criticism. And among her collection of inadvertent fluffs were statements that will  provide me with a bulletproof defense if The Boys Downtown do decide to move ahead with their plan to take me out.

I've enjoyed listening to Ally's interview four times already, and it gets better each time.

Ally Isom, Defender of Truth
Who needs Comedy Central when you have Ally Isom on your portable device? For that matter, what do we need with a prophet of God when we can heed the words of someone whose name appears on the corporate flow chart in the box right under "Marketing Dept."?

Which brings us back to that question: where the heck was the prophet while this controversy has been brewing? Why has he pushed a bunch of PR hacks up front as a buffer to protect him from having to do his job?

I like what Paul Toscano had to say about Sister Ally:
"When Ally Isom repeatedly stated; 'I am not able to speculate,' or 'I am not able to answer that question' I would like to have asked her: 'Why are you here answering questions you can't answer? Why isn't one of the apostles here who can? St. Paul faced Festus; he faced his accusers in Rome. Jesus remonstrated directly with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He did not send PR people. Why are the apostles not responsive? Why do top church leaders take the benefits of their offices and avoid the burdens?'

"When Ally Isom refused to take questions from listeners, I would like to have asked her: 'What makes you and your leaders better than Jesus, who answered the questions of his critics directly?'

"Ally Isom is a token woman put forward by leaders to give them plausible deniability. She is a tool of propaganda. I hope she finds another job, soon. This one is likely to eventually destroy her."
I dunno. I'm kind of rooting for Ally. I know the scriptures say the liar shall be thrust into hell, but I hope the devil goes easy on her. Sure, she lies; there's not much question about that. But she's so doggone cute when she does it.

The Packer Defense
Speaking of Paul Toscano, old timers may recall that when the first round of purges took place twenty years ago, Paul Toscano was chief among those on the chopping block. Known collectively as "The September Six," it was later revealed that none other than apostle Boyd K. Packer had been behind the excommunications of near every one of them, acting in direct violation of Church law. Packer had been best buds with Toscano's stake president Kerry Heinz back in their Church Institute days, and had no trouble getting Heinz to pull the switch on Toscano without even a pretense of probable cause.

In the case of Mormon Hebrew Scholar Avraham Gileadi, Packer actually got Gileadi's non-compliant stake president released, then put in a replacement who would be more malleable to Packer's wishes. Packer should have been demoted from the Quorum of the Twelve for this series of calumnies and then excommunicated himself, but instead he wound up with a cushy gig as acting head of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Any bishop or stake president who finds himself enticed to commit what amounts to ecclesiastical perjury would do well to remember the Packer debacle and tell that area authority to take a hike. Because you will be found out. As those in the top echelon of the Church continue to enlist their myrmidons to deny executive involvement in this fiasco, good people like my bishop may find themselves abandoned on the field. It is a serious thing for the Brethren to be caught trying to influence local affairs, because they have absolutely no jurisdiction there. Those who have put their foot in it so far will continue to vehemently deny having done so in order to save face.

Here's an excerpt from a fascinating new book regarding a warning Joseph Smith gave to the Twelve:
"The Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council. But it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the church." (William Shepard and H. Michael Marquardt, Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism's Original Quorum of the Twelve, pg 85-86)
The repeated denials from Church PR that no one in the hierarchy has had anything to do with this current string of actions is palpably, laughably false on its face, and pretty much everyone knows it. Just today Denver Snuffer published a detailed account of the constant interference that took place in his case and how his stake president complained about the frequent "pressure from apostles" to hold a disciplinary court on him.  Blogger Will Carter is just trying to get a straight answer as to what he did that warranted his excommunication, because his own bishop will not tell him. Brent Larsen is even now preparing a transcript that reveals high level interference in his case (I will post an update to the link once it's up).

And then there's John Dehlin.

Stay LDS...Hold On There John, We Didn't Mean You!
Going after John Dehlin was the dumbest mistake the Magisterium has made since pouring billions in Church funds to build a shopping center. John has made it his life's work helping people stay in the church who might have otherwise thrown up their hands in frustration and left.

I have personally received hundreds of communications from believing members thanking me for helping reconcile their problems with the faith. John Dehlin has helped thousands. Likely tens of thousands.  He is the co-founder of the website StayLDS.com, which should tell you something about where he has been coming from, and he is the guy behind Mormon Stories Podcasts and its faith-promoting offshoot A Thoughtful Faith Podcasts. I won't spend much more time talking about his accomplishments, but check out those sites and decide for yourself if John Dehlin is a valuable asset to this church.  Then ask yourself, "why would anyone want to excommunicate this guy, of all people?"

Answer that, and you may have discovered the key to what's gone wrong with the institutional LDS Church today.

What's Going On Here, Anyway?
What's going on here is a mutiny of sorts, and it's taking place in the top echelons of the Church, not down here at the bottom among us alleged "apostates." It's worth noting that the September Six excommunications occurred at a time when the president of the church, Ezra Taft Benson, was incapacitated; he was all but brain dead. Whatever Benson was doing in that hospital bed, he was not running the Church from it.

The acting First Presidency lied publicly about the seriousness of Benson's condition, assuring members as well as the press that he
If you got a mission call signed by the prophet in 1993, surprise! No you didn't.
was fully in control, while not permitting anyone but family to see him. They forged his signature several times a day using a device called an Autopen, perfectly legal for corporate officers, but disturbing to those who thought this thing they were members of was an actual church with a living prophet at its head.

Today we are hearing reports of President Monson experiencing increasingly frequent bouts of dementia. He is still himself most of the time, but it would be an easy thing for those with agendas to operate outside his purview, and justify their actions under the belief they are acting for the good of the Church. That's what some of us think is the reason we're suddenly seeing this absolutely insane targeting of devout believers going on all at once. We have resolved to follow Christ, and Him alone.  That makes us a threat to the status quo, which demands obedience to Church authority over all else.

It's a popular myth that the Twelve Apostles are unified. As documented in Lost Apostles, there has always been infighting, jealousies, corporate climbing, and backstabbing in the quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus had to put up with it in his day, and so did Brother Joseph in his.  The Twelve have historically been about as unified as a bag of cats. But the image of unity is conveyed to the members in order to protect the image that "the Church is true." 

This recent scandal has blown up big. After word started getting around about John and Kate, I was contacted by reporters from  Reuters, Buzzfeed, the Salt Lake Tribune, KUTV, and the New York Times .  (Check out that groovy photo of me in the Times!) They all wanted to get my take on what was at stake, and to relate what I knew about other devoted members who had been similarly harassed.

As a result of this avalanche of publicity, my readership, which usually hovers at around 50,000 readers a month, has skyrocketed to well over 121,000 in less than a week. So much for silencing my voice, huh?

But I'll tell you what's at stake. There's going to be a lot of fallout resulting from this needless debacle. And absolutely none of it is going to benefit the church.

Already countless members on the fence have declared this nonsense to be the last straw for them, and they're throwing in the towel. I've come to know a number of these people; two former bishops, several bishopric members, Relief Society presidents, counselors, ward clerks, stake High Council members, one former stake president, a stake patriarch, you name it -all of them believers in the gospel of the Restoration, and all of them have had their fill of the shenanigans the structural Church has been up to in recent years. This final malfeasance has done them in. They embrace the gospel, but they tell me this is it; they're done supporting the corporate Church.

And those are the devout believers. A whole lot more members who are not so devoted, but whose testimonies of the gospel have been shaken by the Magisterium's transparent hypocrisy, have weighed in online declaring their intentions to resign. These people number in the tens of thousands.

Let's not even talk about the public relations disaster all this is becoming for the Church. If you have a son or daughter on a mission stateside, don't ask them about how many baptisms they're getting. It will only depress them further.

Excommunication: A Divine Law 
Some who are regular readers to this blog may be surprised to learn I favor excommunication. I do. It is a divine law, and necessary if the church is to maintain its purity.  But the law of excommunication only holds in specific types of cases. It cannot be abused, and it can never be used vindictively to cleanse the church of those who promote the cause of Christ. God will not recognize an excommunication conducted for the wrong reasons.

As pointed out in the excellent analysis The Doctrine Against Dissent, there exist legitimate and necessary reasons for excommunicating a member. One primary reason is dissent. But the word "dissent" in Joseph Smith's day did not mean a mere difference of opinion the way we think of it today. The word appears nine times in the Book of Mormon, and it always refers to someone who viciously turns his back on Christ and His gospel, and is actively fighting against God.

I've got a surprise for you; we don't have to excommunicate many of those people; they're already gone. Unbelievers don't tend to hang around in a religion based upon faith and belief.  They've left on their own accord because...well, mainly because they don't want to be here.

Disciplinary abuse occurs in two ways. First is when church leaders decide to use the process to punish people like me who believe in the core fundamentals of the faith but have found no scriptural imperative to pledge our allegiance to the leaders.  In case you are new to this site and know nothing about me, I openly embrace the Book of Mormon, accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, and believe in the Restored gospel of Christ.  If  you're wondering where I'm coming from doctrinally, I would suggest two posts that encapsulate my views, "Who You Callin' Apostate?" and "My Testimony of the Church."

There is no conceivable justification for kicking a believer out of the church of Christ unless he has committed an egregious sin, or the person advocating his removal has motives that are less than pure.

The second way abuse occurs is in not following the rules laid out by God by which a person is properly removed. This abuse occurs almost every time in the modern Church, because the scriptural procedure is almost never followed. It has been usurped by conflicting rules published in the Church Handbook of Instruction. Elevating the CHI over scripture is a violation of the law, part of which reads,  "Any member of the church of Christ transgressing, or being overtaken in a fault, shall be dealt with as the scriptures direct." (D&C 20:80) 

See? Nothing in there about going by the corporate handbook.

What the scriptures direct in a case where there is actual apostasy is that the accusation be made by a member of the local ward or branch; it is not permitted that a bishop or stake president initiate it.  If a fellow Saint has no accuser there can be no disciplinary action against the person. According to scripture, the bishop's job in the proceeding is to affirm that the accuser is a member in good standing, and not some enemy of the church. That's the only reason for the bishop to be present.

When two or more accusers come forward to testify against a transgressor, they are to testify before the Council of Elders. Things are never done this way anymore, even though our doctrine requires it. That's because the Council of Elders no longer exists; it has been replaced by the Stake High Council, which was originally intended to settle different types of matters; never apostasy.

After the Elder's Court tries the accused, if the accused person is condemned, there is still one more important step. The proposal for the person's excommunication is presented to the entire congregation for a vote. This is necessary because though the accusing witnesses may have a motive, the members of the congregation may believe the person innocent of apostasy, and the conviction will be nullified.

Nowadays excommunication proceedings are kept very confidential, and this is a good thing in cases where sexual impropriety is the charge. In these cases an announcement is made in the general ward priesthood meeting that so-and-so has been excommunicated, and that is that.

But in a case of open apostasy, confidentiality would not be protected. And it should not be, as apostasy is a public offense. According to D&C 42 90-91, "if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed."  The reason a conviction for apostasy is a matter for the entire congregation to decide is because it's not likely the ward members would be unaware there is an apostate in their midst. Conversely, ward members would likely be well enough acquainted with the accused that they would vote against conviction if they believed the accusation to be false.

The sections of the Doctrine & Covenants that contain the complete instructions regarding excommunication are sections 42, 102, and 107. (For a thorough analysis of this topic see The Doctrine Against Dissent.)

But rather than linger any longer on the law of excommunication, let's take a look at what our favorite Church spokeslady, Ally Isom, had to say about the charges being leveled against John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, and myself.  The charge is apostasy, and lucky for us, Sister Isom was all too willing to define apostasy for us in that interview on KUER. Here is what Sister Isom had to say:

"We define it as when our members turn away from the principles of the gospel, or corrupt principles of the gospel, or make unauthorized changes in Church organizations or priesthood ordinances. It's one thing to make one's views known; it's quite another to actively draw others away from clear doctrine. And it causes concern because ultimately other's lives can be dramatically influenced.
Well, I have no argument with that, and I daresay neither do John or Kate. None of us have any desire to change any doctrines. Certainly I don't. This blog is all about encouraging both members and leaders to adhere to the doctrines we have already been given through revelation, and eschew the frequent tendency some have to elevate policies created by men to the level of doctrine.

Only God can establish the doctrines of this church. Those doctrines come to us either from the Book of Mormon or through direct revelations written down and accepted as were those received by Joseph Smith.  We also accept certain teachings of Joseph Smith as being doctrinal.

It is not enough to consider an inspired statement by one of the Brethren to be doctrinal; it is only doctrinal when revealed through revelation.  Recall that the only thing Kate Kelly is asking for is that the prophet take the matter before the Lord and get an answer through revelation.  Who knows? Maybe the Lord will respond by saying he wants things to stay as they are. Then fine. At least the question will have been asked and answered. I don't know about you, but I'd kind of like to get clarification on a few things. For instance, although we know that sisters in the early days gave healing blessings to one another, can a woman give a blessing to a man? Can a woman anoint and bless her own husband? I'd kinda like the Lord's view on that.

Ally continues:
"I think President Hinckley probably said it best. He said that he's spoken before about the importance of keeping Church doctrine pure and seeing that it's taught in all the meetings. And he conveyed that he worried about this; this is something that weighs on his mind as a steward of the doctrine and as the prophet of the Church. And he said 'small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods.' So it's something to which we want to be sensitive, that the doctrine, pure and clear and undefiled, is the essence of the gospel. And it is the responsibility of our leaders to insure it is kept in alignment with the father's will."
Who's going to argue with that? Don't those words encapsulate the very spirit of what I am attempting to do on virtually ever page of this blog? Hinckley was right: it is small aberrations in doctrinal teaching that have led to large and very evil falsehoods in this church; falsehoods that continue to be embraced by the majority no matter how often we are taught to beware of false teachings.
"Elder Oaks was clear in last April's general conference when he stated categorically that the leaders of the Church don't have the authority to change things. "
Isn't that what I've been saying? You can pull up pretty much any one of my blog posts, and you'll find me saying essentially the same thing: "the leaders of the Church don't have the authority to change things." Only God does, and he makes those changes known only through revelation.

And yet these very leaders continue to change the doctrines of God without exhibiting any irony, and without consulting with God about it at all. They also seem to take pleasure in making new doctrines up. Here's an example I presented last month of Dallin Oaks himself making up a new doctrine he expects you and me to obey:


You would think Elder Oaks, of all people, should be able to recognize a falsehood when he speaks it. He is, after all, a lawyer.

These are sorry times to be a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the institution, the structural organization, has lost its integrity.  Whichever rogue apostles are behind this current purge, the other ten or eleven, having rushed to rally in a show of unity, have exposed the hypocrisy of the institution to the entire world. Don't believe me? Then you're not following the news.

When Salt Lake City television station KUTV Channel 2 set out to investigate the Church's Strengthening The Members Committee, reporter Brian Mullahy couldn't find a Church leader willing to talk about the mysterious committee on the record. "likely not the favorite subject of LDS Church officials," Mullahy reported, "this committee's role, it would seem, is to collect and then share information about perceived trouble from within the church.

Originally discovered operating within the Church Office Building in the 1980s, the STMC was rumored to have been disbanded after embarrassing comparisons to the East German spy agency STASI. But now apparently the committee has been revived and is back in service, this time headed by apostle Russell Nelson. By threatening to excommunicate some of its most faithful members, the LDS Church has managed to notify the world that we have our own Mormon Secret Police. Smooth move, guys.

"The Mormon Moment Is Finally (Really) Over" blared the headline on Buzzfeed, trumpeting the end of the public's short lived feel-good fascination with Mormonism, the one-time fortunate confluence of "a string of public relations coups, rosy profiles, and rising interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." All that's over now, as the boneheads at Church headquarters have managed to slingshot the public image of Mormonism right back to a 19th century caricature.

(Joanna Brooks, author of the bestseller Book of Mormon Girl took a different angle, affirming that this may be the real Mormon Moment because these scandals are forcing us to take a good hard look at what our Church is turning into.)

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?
Quite frequently this past week, as online friends have learned about my pending discipline, they have expressed condolences for the distress they feel I must be going through. But why?  This isn't a problem for me, this is a problem for my persecutors. If this pending excommunication were legitimate, it would be akin to spiritual death. That's what excommunication represents; being cut off from the church and being cut off from God. If this was real I would be fearing for my very soul.

But these earthly usurpers don't have the power to do that. Christ himself defines His church as "all who repent and come unto me" and I have it on good authority that my membership in His church remains in good standing.

Sure, they can boot me out of the corporate Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that "Church", the one reorganized by Heber J. Grant in November of 1923, is an organization I never belonged to anyway.

If it comes to a disciplinary court held on me, good. I look forward to any opportunity to bear witness of Christ, so a court of love would be a great opportunity to offer hugs and camaraderie to a dozen guys who, like me, are mainly trying their best to be good disciples of Christ. But it would also be an opportunity to remind them that we deserve to get away from this idea that there is a priestly class in Salt Lake City that is above reproach when they do or say things that are disingenuous and harmful to the rest of the community.

In 2 Nephi 26:27 we are charged with persuading all men to repent, and so although I try to do so with love and a bit of jocularity on this blog, sometimes it is necessary to speak with plainness. I confess to showing a bit less patience with those who claim authority over the rest of us than I do for my fellow Saint who is often struggling in the dark as much as I am.

Twenty years ago, at the time Church leadership used excommunication as a heavy club to bully the September Six (all devoted believers),  excommunication carried a terrible stigma. That stigma no longer exists.

But I'm not sure Church leadership realizes that yet. Few members are scared of their big bad threats anymore. They have no power to "unbaptize" anyone (baptism has nothing to do with membership in this particular denomination); and the victims of these inquisitions no longer believe the Magisterium's rejection condemns them to Outer Darkness and the buffetings of Satan. They're not likely to cravenly beg their way back into the leader's good graces as was expected in the past.

Every year fewer and fewer members want anything to do with the institutional LDS church anyway, so being put out on the porch just means they're free to roam the neighborhood without supervision. If voluntarily leaving the Church is liberating for some, excommunication for what they call "apostasy" is even better, because it means the corporate Church's hypocrisy is openly exposed for all to see.

This is what happened when the national press picked up the story of the September Six. Reporters were all over that one. "Didn't the people you just kicked out advocate obedience to Christ?" "Well yes, but you see, they refused to bow the knee to us."

Excommunication today is a hollow threat. It merely means you're not part of the club that long ago discarded what made membership in it meaningful, and replaced it with a counterfeit church-like imitation structure filled to overflowing with lawyers, executives, and corporate yes-men.

The faithful latter-day Saint who is devoted to God rather than men knows his membership in the church of Christ remains intact despite the empty pomp of some official drumming-out ceremony. The qualifications for membership in Christ's church, as defined in D&C 10:67 ("all who repent and come unto me, the same IS my church") puts him in a safer place than those who have usurped Christ's authority and demand obeisance unto themselves, which makes the very next verse damningly prophetic ("Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is NOT of my church").

I think I'd rather stay in the church that Jesus is still in charge of, and not worry about whether I'm "good enough" to continue to associate with the boys in the Executive Suite. I'm not as concerned about being in good with those guys as I used to be.







Update:
I was remiss earlier in not crediting my friend Jonathan Streeter for superimposing my face on master Obi-Wan above. Pretty cool, huh?

Update June 22:
There is a petition circulating calling for President Monson to allow more transparency in the Church. Since transparency is required in our doctrine, I think this petition is worth signing and circulating.
Click here.

Update June 23: I was the guest on the Paul Duane Show for two hours today on Salt Lake City's K-Talk Radio AM 630. You can access the recording by clicking here.

Update June 23:
I failed to offer a link to Paul Toscano's account of his excommunication as a member of the September Six, which can be found in his recently published memoir, "Road To Exile." (At only $4.49 for the kindlle edition, I can't think of a great read at a better deal.)  It's also worth noting that Paul was not the original target of these proceedings; it was his wife Margaret. But when Paul (at the time Senior Editor of the Ensign Magazine) refused to comply with Church leader's requests that he, as the priesthood holder in the home should " rein in his wife", it was decided they would go after him because of his high profile.  Margaret appeared in the PBS Two-part special on The Mormons, the full interview which is available here. Margaret was finally ex'd some years later, so she is considered an important asterisk to any discussion of the September Six, because had they dealt with her that September, we would be talking about the September Seven.

Update June 24: In my mention of Brent Larsen, I promised to post the transcript of his meeting with an Area Seventy regarding his appeal from his excommunication. That transcript is now available here on the LDS Freedom Forum.

Update June 25: The interview I did the other day on Mormon Expositor is available now.   Click here.


Important Note About Commenting: Again, I must remind my readers that all comments posting on this blog only as "Anonymous" will be deleted as fast as I come across them. I hate doing it, so please abide by this rule and spare me the angst.

I respect all reader's wishes to post anonymously, and you may continue to do so as long as at the beginning and/or end of your comment you use some type of unique identifier so that others can tell you from the hundreds of others who tend to post as "Anonymous." With so many commenting under the name "Anonymous," the conversations have become increasingly difficult to follow.  It has also become obvious that some of those posting anonymously are often among the most uncivil; rather than engage in intelligent arguments, some of these people tend to get quarrelsome.  A civil argument advances the dialogue; petty and immature attacks on other's views do not.

Please note that if you are concerned about your privacy, the drop-down feature that reads "Name/URL" already keeps you completely anonymous. When you post using that method, I don't have the ability to track who you are (not that I would want to) and neither does anyone else. So it makes sense to use that feature if you wish to keep your true identity hidden. All you have to do is place whatever username you wish to go by in the "Name" box and ignore the URL part. Of course, if you want to further mislead others, you can put any link in the URL box you choose, such as Youtube.com, Amazon.com, or LDS.org

Those with Google, Yahoo, Wordpress, and other accounts can choose to post under those accounts, which helps to lead others to your own blog if you have one. But seriously, enough with all these people calling themselves "Anonymous." It's getting to be too much.

That having been said, please join the conversation below.

424 comments:

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Jennifer said...

Awesome post. Awesome awesome. But I am still going to be a jerk and point out that nonplussed means the opposite of what you insinuated: It means surprised and unsure how to react.

MajJohnButtrick said...

@confused

I was just reading some of what David Whitmer wrote 50 years+ after leaving the church. With regard to the seer stones, etc., revelation was received through these means 1830 and prior. After 1830, Joseph attempted to get these revelations directly without the aid of some external instrument. These revelations would often have to be amended so as to get the original meaning across. The Church historian's office corroborates this. Here is a good article from the Church's website: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/01/great-and-marvelous-are-the-revelations-of-god?lang=eng

Nate K said...

And you have to ask why the urim and thummim were taken after the 116 pages were lost and why he only used the dark seer stone after that (according to some sources). The dark seer stone kind of reminds me of saruman and his dark seer stone on lord of the rings... Ha ha it is just all so interesting when the scriptures mention clear or white seer stones and that is what we will be given etc but I suppose on the breastplate there were multiple colors. All I can say is we better receive our own answers about everything.
For instance is it really a gift of God to believe on other peoples words like section 46 claims? Sure has lead to a lot of atrocities to just believe in others words. Like elder Nelson said last conference "50 million people can be deceived!" Was this an intentional reference to the LDS church?

nonamefornow said...

--that's interesting.

MajJohnButtrick said...

Hi Nate. I was just replying to the previous post by the person labeled "confused". Learning exactly how the revelations came to be has been very enlightening for me, and has actually strenthened my testimony. When I'm giving a blessing, etc. and seeking revelation, the way I describe it, is that I move in a direction based on my feelings, and then pause and wait for further light and knowledge, and then proceed based on what I feel good about. When I coplete that portion, I move further. It's difficult to describe. This is in effect no different than how Joseph Smith received revelation (although perhaps on a different level). All of my life, I have also been a little bit psychically connected, and have experimented with remote viewing. OK, OK, for those of you who think I'm a total nutcase, remember, we are also talking about seer stones and amulets in a "magic world view" here from Joseph Smith's time. As Shakespeare says in Hamlet:
Horatio:
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

Hamlet:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Suffice it to say, I've been modestly successful with this remote viewing, (For those of you interested in this topic, see "Confessions of a Mormon Phychic Spy" http://www.mormonrv.com/mormon01.html ) and the process is similar.

Most members of the Church under 35 or 40 have grown up on the correlated doctrine and haven't delved into the depths of how stuff works, or why things are the way they are. It is nice to know that it's not as clean cut as we sometimes think it is, and even lends some explanation into why we haven't had any "Thus saith the Lord" moments recently. It's good to know that at least they are not just making stuff up. What I have an issue with, and this is what I would have liked to have got across to JT, is when someone has a "good idea" or "good advice" and all of a sudden we call it Doctrine and a "commandment" and assume that our leaders are infallible.

nonamefornow said...

That's quite a site, Major.

Again, interesting. I don't seem to be able to come up with much more today--LOL!


To refine the mind's ability to perceive and to combine that with spiritual and moral purity--

what is revelation, if not that?

God spoke directly to Alma; gave him words.

I think that most people would agree that everyone has a slightly different way of perceiving inspiration--

Still, I am not happy about the possibility of the 'government' being able to do this--

*shudder*

But I know there are many things that have happened that most Americans/Mormons would not believe.

Candace said...

MajorJB,

If you haven't already, you might enjoy Rock's episode, "The Metaphysics of Mormonism'.

http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2011/03/metaphysics-of-mormonism.html

For the same reasons you might enjoy the DVD he recommends, 'What the Bleep Do We Know? - Down the Rabbit Hole'.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Bleep-QUANTUM-Three-Disc-Special/dp/B000FKO3JO

If you are inclined to psychic abilities or simply embrace the fun of exploration you might also find Hemi-Sync technology interesting. Hemi-Sync leverages the deep connection between our ears and our brains to lead the user into states of consciousness marked by highly coherent brain hemisphere states. While I've experienced a sense of transcendence once or twice in the ten years I've used Hemi-Sync I've benefitted from regularly going into deep meditative states. The Monroe Institute offers on-site courses specifically in remote viewing and OBE among others.

http://www.monroeinstitute.org/

Irven Hill said...

Hey everybody,

For those wondering whats going on with Rock, I just talked to him a few minutes ago. He's doing fine. He has been slammed trying to finish a book he has been writing and preparing for the Sunstone event in Salt Lake on the weekend of August 2nd.

He asked me to make a quick post and let those wondering know his status as he hasn't had time to keep up and post.

Nate K said...

@maj

I don't think you are nuts at all. The only thing I would ask for a little more clarification on is what it means when you say that "you feel good" about something. If that is all Joseph smith doing that kind of scares the crap out of me. I recently read a 15 year old girl's account about the euphoria she felt when she strangled a child.
I am definitely not equating your feelings to this I am just pointing out that "feeling good" means a lot and can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Doing drugs can definitely "feel good" but I wouldn't trust the thoughts I had while on drugs... Again I am just asking for what exactly your experience is.
This is something I am intrigued with and I loved what Adam wrote about the feeling and experience of the Holy Ghost because that is exactly what I feel. In fact I am going to find a website I found recently and I would encourage anyone who comes across this to look it up and read the comments. You will find a lot of people describing the same experience and they are from many different belief systems. Give me a few minutes to get the link. Thanks

Nate K said...

http://www.spiritual-experiences.com/real-spiritual-story.php?story=220

Please check this out. Maybe you will find some edification. I personally felt the spirit in reading many of these accounts. Keep in mind most or all of these people are not LDS. Read the comments!

Candace said...

Irven,

Thanks for the update on Rock. Good thoughts, energy and prayers on his push to finish his book. It should be a lovely piece of work. If anyone can attend Rock's session at Sunstone make sure to share your impressions.

MajJohnButtrick said...

@Nate K

I understand the need here for you to get specific. It's not like endorphins, it's a positive, enlarging feeling of the mind. It's difficult to describe. It's like that old saw, that if you met someone from another planet, how would you describe to him how salt tastes? Salty? It's something people have to experience, and I suppose that's where the scary part is, for I fear that some people are psychopaths, or lack that fundamental "thing" that helps them feel goodness. Their wiring is not right. It's also possible to be fooled, as we are told in the scriptures. However, let's look at what I wrote: When I'm giving a blessing, etc. and seeking revelation, the way I describe it, is that I move in a direction based on my feelings, and then pause and wait for further light and knowledge, and then proceed based on what I feel good about. When I complete that portion, I move further. It's difficult to describe. First of all, I'm seeking to do good - in my example, giving a blessing. I'm trying to subordinate my will to that of God's. I stop and see if I feel that I am getting that enlarging good feeling, a feeling of compassion. Let Moroni 7:11 be your guide. "A bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water". It's like what a Supreme court judge said once regarding the difficulty in defining what is pornography. He said he may not be able to articulate it exactly, but he knows it when he sees it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it By the same token, I know the good feelings when I receive them, and they are in keeping with goodness. I'm sure that Joseph Smith, having been instructed by Angels, and that is my testimony, was probably better at it than me. However, that is not to say that he couldn't have made significant errors. I was personally told in prayer when I was very close to leaving the church, and had fasted and prayed for a couple of days, that there hasn't been a perfect man that has walked the earth save Jesus only, and that he (Joseph) accomplished what the Lord gave for him to accomplish, and any errors, mistakes or sins he may have done or made are between him and God, and I wasn't to worry about that any longer. So, that is the starting point of my personal journey of faith. Post Joseph Smith, I'm not sure what to think. I'm still searching.

MajJohnButtrick said...

@Nate K
Thanks for posting that link. I have certainly felt a similar buzzing, electrical-like sensation, but not every time.

@Candace
Thanks for posting your link. I will check it out!

@Irven
Thanks for the update on Rock.

Nate K said...

Maj

I liked how described the feeling of enlargement it sounds like the swelling alma referred to in his discourse on faith. I definitely believe your answer about Joseph Smith and agree he accomplished that which God had planned for him to do.
I also agree that our spiritual journey is tricky and very individualized. I guess the important thing that only rests between us and God is if we are truly seeking with all of our hearts to love The Lord and follow His word which He gives to us and always seeking further light and knowledge at the same time.
The fact that you fasted and prayed to learn the Lords will says a lot about you when most people (including me so often) want to coast through life thinking we are enduring to the end without having to progress spiritually . Thanks for the clarification.

High Powder said...

Interesting article. One quick comment on your June 23 update -- your update seems to imply that Toscano was excommunicated for failing to "reign in his wife." I realize and appreciate that your prose is often somewhat tongue in cheek, but this seems to be a pretty far reach for the situation which Paul himself describes as being tied to a particular Sunstone speech that he gave. Seems I need to go back and do some re-reading to verify.

Anonymous said...

Hello friends. I am genuinely happy that many mormon's thirst for righteousness and long to live good lives. Remember "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:15 "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:21. If you believe in Jesus and confess your sins he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness as it says in the Bible. Jesus has the perfect love that can sanctify us daily molding us into his image. Believe in Jesus only for he is the only way to salvation and to the Father.

BK said...

Amen Anonymous 10:32.

I agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

And Jesus warned us about all these false prophets around us today and in the past, who try to get us to follow & trust in them instead. They all put words in Christ's mouth and add new and even opposite teachings/scriptures to the words of Christ, when Christ said it all, and nothing else nor any other scripture is needed.

'True' prophets would not 'add' more to Christ's words, they would just 'repeat' them, over and over, til people finally understood & lived them. Like you did above.

Nate K said...

@BK and anonymous

Yes thank you. Funny enough what you both are saying is taught right in the Book of Mormon. "We are saved by grace" we "must rely wholly upon the merits of Christ" lehi told jacob he knew he would be saved "because of the righteousness of his Redeemer" not because of Jacobs righteousness.
The one verse everyone takes out of context is when Nephi said we are saved by grace after all we can do. If you really study Nephi's teachings he said that the labor we have to perform is to "turn and look" like the Israelites looking at the serpent on the staff. All we can do is turn our hearts to Christ.
King Benjamin taught us to acknowledge our nothingness and unworthiness daily and humble ourselves to the dust, calling on the name of The Lord daily. Unfortunately somehow in the LDS culture obedience has become the saving principle in most peoples minds and it has become pharisaic.
People in the church often teach that we obtain the spirit through obedience or by doing "service" or by reading scriptures etc when they are actually denying the scriptures that clearly teach that the only way to obtain the spirit is through faith in Jesus Christ. Then the grace given to us (which grace is a very real power) enables and empowers us to do the works of God. (I know you both get this but I hope someone can consider this that hasn't)
The scriptures teach that "no man can please God without faith". Think on that! We can spin our wheels fulfilling callings and going to the temple blah blah blah and never please God at all unless we first exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
The thing that I think many people of many religions forget is that grace is not just given once and that we can fall from grace. If we can turn our hearts to God then we can turn our hearts away as well and in fact we all do. We need to continue to supplicate God for grace over and over and as we do this He will mold us (as you mentioned above) until we reach "the stature of Christ)
Here is the thing. Faith brings grace, grace ALWAYS brings the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost ALWAYS brings revelation, continued revelation brings prophets, prophets bring scripture, and thus God never changes.
Jesus taught in the New Testament that a leader in the kingdom will bring forth both old things and new. Jesus never taught (nor has any prophet taught) that all we have to know is written in the bible or in the bible and Book of Mormon etc etc. that is a doctrine of the devil and has been handed down by men who have accepted it from other men and so on.

MajJohnButtrick said...

@Nate K

I agree with you brother! Thanks for posting. Hey, I just read something that has blown my mind (in a good way). It is too long to post here. If there's a way to contact you via e-mail, could you send a mail to MajJohnButtrick@Startmail.com? I will respond with what I am talking about (after typing it up).

Nate K said...

Maj

Just sent you an email thanks brother.

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Steve Finnell said...

DELUSIONAL THINKING? BY STEVE FINNELL

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12....10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe in righteousness. (NKJV)

Men need to love the truth in order to be saved. Where is the truth always found? The truth is always present in the Bible and the Bible alone. Bible commentaries are men's opinions. Church creed books are the thoughts of men or at best man's interpretation of Scripture. Books about the Bible are exactly that, books about the Bible, they are not the Bible.

Man's thoughts can be reasonable lucid conclusions or they can be delusional.

1. Men say belief in Jesus is just one of many ways men can be saved. It that lucid or delusional?

Acts 4:10-12....that by the name of Jesus...12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men which we must be saved." (NKJV)

2. Men say praying to the Virgin Mary is not contrary to Scripture nor is it worship to pray to Mary. Is that lucid or delusional?

Matthew 6:9 "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (NKJV)

Jesus never told anyone to pray to the Virgin Mary.

Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" (NKJV)

WORSHIP DEFINED: reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.

Prayer to any person or anything is worship. Praying to the Virgin Mary is worship.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory is forgotten. (NKJV)

Even if men pray to the dead, the dead do not hear them. Only God hears and answers prayers.

3. Men affirm that water baptism is not essential for the forgiveness of sins and that men are saved before water baptism. Is that lucid or delusional?

Colossians 2:12-13 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (NKJV)

If men do not believe that God forgives them of trespasses following their faith and being buried in baptism, is that lucid or delusional?

Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (NKJV)

If men honestly believe that, "will be saved," means they are already saved, is that lucid or delusional?

4. Men teach that there are many variations of the gospel and its terms of pardon. Is that lucid or delusional?

Galatians 1:8 Let God's curses fall on anyone, including myself, who preaches any other way to be saved than the one we told you about; yes, if an angel comes from heaven and preaches any other message, let him be forever cursed. (The Living Bible-Paraphrased)

The way the apostles told men how to become saved. A. Faith:John 3:16. B. Confession: Romans 10:9. C. Repentance: Acts 2:38. D. Immersion in water: Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Galatians 3:27.


Lucid thinking or delusional conclusions?



YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

MrHFMetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrHFMetz said...

I am not surprised after reading this stuff, in fact I saw it happen right from the moment I was baptised, in 1967. But I was so naive , and unexperienced, and so full of ideals; I was just seventeen.
But now we have the internet and what a blessing that is, if you use it in the right way, of course. And yet, after all I have investigated, read and gone through, I am disappointed about this totalitarian behavior at the top of the organisation. Do these people never learn? Should they not live in fear and trembling before the Lord? Could we not say, after reading all this, and realising what is going on here, that the devil would feel perfectly at home in this church, having accomplished nearly everything he had planned, and that maybe this church, having the mission of the restoration of all things and having it totally messed up, could be considered as a great and abominable church in our time? We have to wake up and stand for our individual -by God given- rights as believers and as members, but also for the good of this church.
So I will not give up my membership , be it just for the sake of tradition only, but also my scriptures come from this church, and among these the promise that the Lord will send one mighty and strong to set the house of God in order; D&C 85. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all its righteousness. Good luck to you all.

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