But a growing number of faithful latter-day Saints are asking what I think is a very pertinent question: if the president of the Church is a prophet, a seer, and a revelator the same as Joseph Smith was, shouldn't he at least exhibit some of the gifts our founding prophet exhibited? Shouldn't we see the current prophet deliver a bona fide prophecy now and then? If he is a seer, shouldn't he exhibit the ability to translate ancient records? And if he is a revelator, why in heaven's name does he never seem to receive and convey revelations in the voice of the Lord, the way Joseph Smith did almost on a weekly basis?
I've been studying this controversy for some time now, and I believe I've found the answer to this dilemma. As it turns out, it is entirely possible that the current president of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, can in fact be the prophet, seer, and revelator for the Church even without displaying the requisite spiritual gifts you'd think we should expect from one holding the keys to that office. And if you'll stick with me I'll show you why that is.
But first, a little background. It might seem I'm contradicting myself as we go along, but bear with me.
What Exactly Is A Prophet, Seer, and Revelator?
In order to come to an accurate understanding of what we're dealing with here, the first thing we need to do is consult the scriptures. When we're talking about the elements that describe a prophet, a seer, and a revelator, it is not enough to depend upon tradition. Nor are we permitted to speculate. We have to go to the source, and that source is the revealed word of God. Harold B. Lee, himself a former president of the church (and therefore de facto Prophet, Seer, and Revelator) put it like this:
"I say we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures. If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren't able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false -it is as simple as that. But the unfortunate thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves. I think therein is one of our biggest dangers of today."
"The Lord has given us in the standard works the means by which we should measure truth and untruth. May we all heed His word: 'Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church.' " D&C 42:59 (First Presidency Message, Ensign, December 1972.)A while ago Mike Ellis provided a complete rundown of what the scriptures tell us we should look for in anyone claiming the gifts of a prophet, seer, and revelator. It's a very thorough analysis. For our purposes here, let's take a look at just the qualifications required for a revelator:
– He will lead through the spirit of revelation which comes by the Holy Ghost, the spirit by which Moses led the children of Israel. (D&C 8:2,3)
– Revelation for the church can only come by one who has been appointed by the person who held this power to reveal. (D&C 43:1-4)
– Revelations are distinct from general teachings. (D&C 43:5)
Joseph Said "if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles [Communications] of God, and if they have not the oracles of God, they are not the people of God."
Joseph was given lots of knowledge from God that the people were unable to accept. But not once did Joseph Smith ever receive an oracle from the mouth of God that he was told to convey, and then decide not to share it with the church. Not once did he show up at conference and summarize the Lord's intended message in his own words. Not once. He repeated every revelation he was given to convey just as he received it. This idea I hear now and then that the prophet is giving us God's messages in conference, but he's just putting it in his own words, is foolishness. That is not the way God reveals his oracles.
Brother Ellis reminds us of the way revelations were given through the first revelator of this dispensation:
– 82% of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants are given as if the Lord was speaking in the first person. From this we can assume that most revelations will be given in the first person, i.e. “I the Lord speak unto you…”So, to recap. A revelation:
– Joseph Smith wrote his revelations down, or had them written down.
– Joseph Smith received revelations sometimes with and sometimes without an external aid such as an angel or seer stone.
– Joseph Smith taught that a newer revelation will not contradict a previous revelation.
– is communication from God.
– reveals previously unknown information.
– comes from the Spirit.
– is given directly to the mind or through an external source.
– comes through one appointed.
– is given in the first person as the Lord spoke it.
– is written down and published.
– will not contradict a previous revelation.
So, When Did Everything Change?
Actually, everything changed upon the death of Joseph Smith. We have never had a true prophet, seer, and revelator on the earth in the model of Joseph Smith since that June day in 1844 when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were taken up to the Lord. If we would read our scriptures we would know exactly why that is, because the Lord told us why. It's in his revelations.
Interestingly, most members of the church in those days were well aware that the last true prophet of this dispensation would not be replaced by another. This idea we have that an unbroken line of prophets, seers, and revelators continued through Brigham Young, and on up to our own time, is a relatively new doctrine, invented in the 20th century to convince the Saints there has been an unbroken line of authority through which the leaders were given claim over the church.
The narrative I was taught growing up in the church was that following the death of Joseph Smith, the Lord chose Brigham Young to lead the Church. Not so. That is revisionist history, with no grounding in fact.
It was actually widely believed at the time by everyone (including Brigham Young) that Joseph Smith's oldest son was destined to take the reins. Only thing was, Joseph the Third was only eleven years old when his father was killed, so the debate between Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon centered largely on who should be the caretaker of the Church until the boy came of age.
Rigdon argued that the duty fell upon him as the surviving member of the First Presidency. Brigham counter-argued that with the death of Joseph and Hyrum, the First Presidency was effectively dissolved. And besides, Sidney Rigdon, ailing and possibly addlepated from concussions to the head, was a poor choice to preside over the Church during this time of great crisis. Brigham proposed that rather than the government be in the hands of just one man, the members would be better served if the Church were governed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who would make governing decisions as a body.
What Brigham did not do was suggest that he should be the one to lead the church as prophet, seer, and revelator -or even as the president of the Church. It is very doubtful the people would have voted for his plan if he had.
But three years later, at Winter Quarters, Brigham got to thinking maybe a presidency was just the thing that was needed after all, and so he campaigned for the position and was elected president of the Church, with his cousin and his best friend as his councilors. Neither Brigham nor his councilors was ever called of God, and never ordained to their positions. It was an election by the voice of the people. That's all it was.
If Brigham Young had pretensions to the throne, he never tipped his hand at Nauvoo. Andrew Ehat, author of Joseph Smith's Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon succession Question had this to say about Brigham Young's intentions:
"He had never considered himself as Joseph Smith's sole successor, and second, he had long hoped for the spirit of God to move either Joseph or David to fill the station Brigham believed their father had appointed to them."
"What of Joseph Smith's family?" asked Brigham Young in 1860. "What of his boys? I have prayed from the beginning for Sister Emma and for the whole family...Joseph said to me, 'God will take care of my children when I am taken.' They are in the hands of God, and when they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but will say, 'Amen! we are ready to receive you.' "During the debate with Sidney Rigdon on August 8th, Brigham's view was that that, since the death of Joseph, there was no prophet among the Saints anymore, and there wasn't going to be another. We were going to have to learn to make do without a prophet at the head:
"Heretofore you have had a prophet as the mouth of the Lord to speak to you...and now, for the first time, you are called to walk by faith, not by sight." (Documentary History of the Church Volume VII, pg 232.)Some years later, rumors began to circulate that Brigham had been next in line to succeed Joseph Smith all along. Brigham set them straight:
"The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother Joseph's legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say that I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock... I do not think anything about being Joseph's successor." (Journal of Discourses 8:69).Unlike most of us today, the early Saints understood why God was leaving them on their own without proper guidance. Why? Because unlike most of us, they read the oracles God had revealed through Joseph Smith telling them the score. Here is an excerpt from the preface to The Prophet Puzzle: Transforming a Crisis of Faith Into a Spiritual Awakening, a book that will be published later this year, written by the proprietor of the popular LDS blog 'Because I Am Watching.' The author describes his awakening to certain truths that had been right in front of him all along:
"Somehow, in over 30 years of church membership, I had never noticed the following proclamations covered in section 124:
The fulness of the priesthood had been lost. (verse 28)
The Church would be rejected, with their dead, if the Lord's House in Nauvoo was not completed during the sufficient time allotted. (Verses 31-32. The Nauvoo Temple was never completed and accepted of God before the saints fled.)
The Saints would be moved out of Nauvoo if they were not obedient. (Verses 45-46. The Saints were forced to flee from Nauvoo.)
Hyrum Smith was made co-president of the church with Joseph Smith preliminary to becoming sole president of the Church in fulfillment of the succession prophecy in section 43. (Verses 94-95)
The Saints in Nauvoo were practicing abominations before the Lord. (Verse 48)
Any doctrines and commandments contrary to those contained in the Book of Mormon and the revelations given through Joseph Smith up to that time, "cometh of evil and shall be attended with cursings and not blessings." (Verses 119-120.)The author continues:
"An in-depth study of the Nauvoo era convinced me that the church had been condemned and put on probation by God before they got to Nauvoo. No less than three revelations had been given to the saints and specified priesthood quorums notifying them that they were under condemnation. In September of 1832 the Lord declared that "...vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation." On December 5, 1834 the Lord informed Joseph and his brethren that 'verily condemnation resteth upon you who are appointed to lead my church and to be saviors of men; and also upon the church. And there must needs be repentance and a reformation among you in all things...'
"Finally, on November 5th, 1835, the Lord gave a revelation concerning the Twelve Apostles, 'Thus came the word of the Lord unto the Twelve, saying, behold they are under condemnation, because they have not been sufficiently humble in my sight.'We Thank Thee O God For An Administrative Placeholder
"Those three revelations of condemnation were just a few of many chastisements that the saints had received prior to migrating to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo, they were given the opportunity to repent and reform, but rejected the opportunity. Their failure to repent, have the fulness of the priesthood restored to them, and complete the Lord's House resulted in being rejected by God, as a church, with their dead. Ultimately, they had to flee from Nauvoo just as they had fled from Jackson, Kirtland, and Far West."
Many of the Utah pioneers understood they had been cursed, and willingly took their lumps. Others remained oblivious, and felt they were still God's chosen people. Time passed, people died, new converts arrived from Scandinavia and the British Isles who knew nothing about God's former judgments, and eventually the true history got glossed over and forgotten. The Saint's cursings at the hands of the Lord came to be celebrated every July 24th as though they were tests of adversity their ancestors had overcome which eventually morphed into blessings for their descendants.
Near the end of his life Brigham Young had turned into quite the tyrant at times, becoming more and more convinced of his own self-importance. Although earlier he had said, "if Hyrum had lived he would have acted for Joseph," 22 years later he recalled things differently. He said Joseph "never appointed Hyrum to be his successor and never thought of such a thing." Well maybe not, but I get a different reading from D&C 124: 96. (In the same revelation, the Lord appointed Brigham Young to be president of the traveling elders, which is quite removed from a position of government at Church headquarters. One wonders how different things would have been had Brigham stayed in his place.)
Three months before his death, Brigham Young's self-aggrandizing behavior had gotten so out of control, he was turning into Donald Trump. He claimed Joseph once told him that if he, Joseph, "was out of the way, you are the only man living on this earth that can counsel and direct the affairs of the kingdom of God on the earth."
Apparently this later Brigham Young is the one that inspires Church leadership today, rather than the younger, more cautious version. At the time of Brigham's death, many in the Quorum of the Twelve were relieved his long reign had ended. According to Leo Lyman's fascinating history on succession in the Quorum, the Twelve got together at their next meeting and decided you know, maybe the church shouldn't have any more presidents. Brigham Young's "strong hand" had proven all that power in one person hadn't really done the church a lot of good overall. So the Church went back to being governed by the Quorum of the Twelve. (Succession by Seniority: The Development of Procedural Precedents in the LDS Church, Journal of Mormon History Vol 40 No. 2)
That lasted three years until John Taylor, president of the quorum, decided he'd just as soon be president of the whole Church himself like Brigham had. So it was back in the frying pan. There were quite a few years there where the quorum couldn't decide exactly how they would select the next president of the Church. I always thought God had decided that issue through revelation, but I thought wrong. There has never been any revelation from God on the matter. All the members of the quorum really knew was they didn't want George Q. Cannon to be president, so eventually they settled on the method we have today. The guy who's been waiting the longest gets to be the chief.
One thing we do know: in modern times you don't have to commune with the Lord in order to be called a prophet. "I know of no instance where the Lord has appeared to an individual since His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith," President Heber J. Grant wrote in a letter in 1926. He doesn't say why that was, but one assumes the Lord never appeared to Heber either.
During the administration of David O. McKay, things started to form into the pattern we have now, with the president of the Church elevated to super-celebrity status. I don't know how the practice got started, but at some point whenever President McKay would enter the tabernacle at the start of conference, the congregation would spontaneously burst into singing "We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet."
That hymn had been written in honor of Joseph Smith, and heretofore was never sung as praise to any other man. But six decades later it has become the official anthem to honor the president of the Church whenever he is spotted in public -our own special version of "Hail To The Chief." And so today whenever a president of the church makes a personal appearance anywhere, it is all but required for the crowd to stand and burst into song and wave white handkerchiefs in tribute and celebration of him.
(In the Book of Mormon, the villain Nehor was severely rebuked by a real prophet for promoting the idea that Church leaders should be popular with the people. He was labeled an Anti-Christ for promoting such views. Yet today Nehor's vision is the accepted one Church-wide.)
We should ask ourselves this question: if no one sang a rousing, cheering anthem when Joseph Smith walked into a room, why in hell are we doing that for anyone else?
By the mid-twentieth century, our missionary lessons started off with a recitation of Joseph Smith's first vision, and the point the missionaries brought home to the investigator was this: ever since that day in 1820, the Lord has had a prophet on the earth to guide us and teach us his will.
Well. I realized much later that wasn't really the big takeaway from the first vision at all. If Joseph learned anything from that glorious encounter, it was 1). If you have a question for God, you can take it straight to Him; you don't have to go through any ecclesiastical middlemen; and 2). Churches tend to get full of themselves. They draw close to Christ with their lips, but work to convince their members to look to the Church for answers instead of to the Lord.
But never mind. On my own mission I faithfully taught what I was told, which was actually counter to the real lessons of Joseph's experience. It's the same lesson missionaries teach today: Once you get a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that proves Thomas Monson is a prophet, too. Don't worry about the lack of logic in that assumption. Just have faith.
The Key To Being A Prophet, Seer, and Revelator
I promised at the beginning of this piece I would prove how it is that Thomas Monson can be rightfully called a prophet, seer, and revelator, even though he never prophecies, never translates, and never receives revelations. And the way we find this out is by examining certain things that were said by Monson's predecessor, Gordon B. Hinckley. You've heard of The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church? Well, Gordon Hinckley had some things to teach those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. And oddly enough, when he taught these things, he was not talking to us members, but to the world at large.
Let's look at Exhibit One: Hinckley's appearance on The Larry King Show back in 1998. Here is how president Hinckley reported on it in that November's issue of the Ensign magazine:
In the course of the show Mr. King asked me point-blank, "What is your role? You're the leader of a major religion. What's your role?"
I replied, "My role is to declare doctrine. My role is to stand as an example before the people. My role is to be a voice in defense of truth. My role is to stand as a conservator of those values which are important in our civilization and society. My role is to lead." (What Are People Asking About Us? Ensign November 1998, pg 70)As I went down that list, it occurred to me that every single one of the roles President Hinckley claimed made him special could have applied to me as a missionary. Heck, they could have applied to me as a faithful representative of the church from my high school days forward.
Declare doctrine? Check.
Stand as an example? Check.
Be a voice in defense of truth? Check
Stand as a conservator of values that are important to society? Check
Lead? Well okay, I've never really been much of a leader. So I'll give that one to Hinckley.
But you get my drift. Now granted, it's possible Larry King might have caught our president off guard, and so Hinckley may have had to come up with some general statements off the top of his head. That could explain why they sound so platitudinous and uninspired. But remember, Hinckley is retelling this account after the fact. In reviewing his answers for the members, he had a chance to add, improve, and expound on them for the Ensign article, but he didn't. He let the words lie there as-is, almost boasting about how well he responded to Larry King's questions.
By the way, did you notice anything missing from that list? I sure did. The three things Gordon Hinckley somehow forgot to mention when asked "what is your role?" are the following:
1. I am God's Living Prophet to the whole world.Let's look at this another way. Suppose you, just some average LDS guy or gal, found yourself as a guest on the Larry King show in 1998, and Larry had asked you "You're a Mormon. Tell me, what is the role of the president of your church?"
2. I am God's special Seer.
3. I receive revelations directly from God and I convey those messages to the world.
Wouldn't you instantly answer "He is a prophet, seer, and revelator"?
Well, wouldn't you?
So why do you suppose the freakin' president of the church himself forgot to mention those important details?!
Aren't we constantly being told that being a prophet, seer, and revelator is the president's primary function? And isn't Hinckley's failure to mention that function as one of his "roles" the biggest, baddest, most glaringly obvious omission in the history of broadcast television?
Consider this: could it be that Gordon Hinckley somehow knew he really didn't have those abilities? Is it possible he was missing that particular skill set, and he knew it?
Before you answer, please take a look at Exhibit B. This is the last one, I promise.
Exhibit B is from Gordon Hinckley's press interview with Don Lattin, Religion Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, conducted the year before the botched TV interview with Larry King.
Now, you may well ask, "Hey Rock!" (Whuuut?) "If this is all about proving Thomas Monson has a legitimate claim to be called Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, why are you showing examples involving Gordon B. Hinckley?"
The answer is simple. Hinckley is the guy who gave all the media interviews. Like me, he couldn't bring himself to walk away from an open mike. And unlike me, he was very, very good at giving interviews.
And when I say he botched the interview with Larry King, I only mean he didn't give the answer any of us Mormons expected to hear. From a public relations standpoint, the interview was a flawless success. Gordon B. Hinckley was a master at PR. His friendly, avuncular personality completely disarmed everyone who might try to corner him with a hard question or embarrassing accusation. I recall sitting in front of the television during Hinckley's 60 Minutes interview and cheering at the way he owned Mike Wallace. There was not an awkward question anyone could possibly lob at him that he couldn't masterfully deflect.
If the question was something potentially embarrassing about our past or current practices, Hinckley simply smiled and dismissed the matter as not really relevant to the church today, deftly changing the subject to something he would prefer to focus on, such as the phenomenal growth the church was now experiencing. Interrogated about some deeper doctrine he didn't want to get into, he would say, "I've heard of that, but I don't really know much about it. I don't know that we teach it" and then steer the questioner in another direction.
Hinckley came off as likable, affable, and completely lacking in guile. He may have had only a Seminary level grasp of LDS doctrine, but he sure knew how to gussy up the Church's standing with the media. He was the right guy, with the right face, and the right demeanor to represent us to the world. Gordon Hinckley probably did more good for the image of the church than any president since David O. Mckay.
As you'll soon see, the reason I discovered how Gordon Hinckley was able to lay claim to the title of Prophet, Seer, and revelator is the same reason Thomas Monson can make the claim today, and the reason Monson's successor (likely Russell Nelson) will be able to own that title tomorrow.
The key to it all is contained in Hinckley's interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. Pay attention and see if you can detect the clue:
Q: You are the president, prophet, seer and revelator of the Mormon Church?And...Scene.
A: I am so sustained, yes. (Laughter)
Q: Now, how would that compare to the Catholic Church? Do you see yourself as Catholics would see the pope?
A: Oh, I think in that we're both seen as the head officer of the church, yes.
They've pretty much exhausted that topic in four lines. Before they move on to other things, Hinckley is asked how the revelation process actually works. And since he doesn't care to mention he has never received one, he minimizes the need for further revelation because, like, you know, we've already got plenty of those left over from Joseph Smith. Here comes the deflection: "We don't need much revelation," Hinckley says, "We need to pay more attention to the revelation we've already received."
True enough. We do need to pay more attention to what we've already received. But what about you, Gordon Hinckley? If you are a prophet, seer, and revelator sent by God to call the whole world to repentance, shouldn't you be shouting that fact from the rooftops? Shouldn't you boldly "declare the doctrine" you were called and ordained and anointed by God to declare?
Well, no. There's no need for that. Because you're really not qualified.
Because just like Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and all the so-called "prophets" that came before him, Gordon Hinckley was never ordained to that calling by the Lord. In that short little answer "I am so sustained," Hinckley has admitted he holds the title of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator not because God called him to fulfill that sacred role, but because he was elected to it by the membership of the church. He is a prophet, seer, and revelator only because the members of the church who elected him president say he is also a prophet, seer, and revelator as well. The voters affirmed it. That makes it official.
The key to everything is right there in that four word answer to Don Lattin's question that asked "are you a prophet, seer, and revelator"?
"I am so sustained."And here's something I find very curious: why does the text of the interview show Hinckley laughing as he drops that bombshell?
Question: You are the president, prophet, seer and revelator of the Mormon Church?
Uh-yup. That's what they tell me! (Nyuk nyuk nyuk)Appointed, Anointed, Ordained, Sustained, Or Set Apart?
Think back to the last conference session when Dieter Uchtdorf called for a sustaining vote on President Monson. Did he tell the congregation that God had called and ordained Thomas S. Monson to be the prophet, seer, and revelator and then ask the members to sustain that ordination? Or did he simply call for a vote from the members to sustain a proposal?
It was a proposal. The same proposal that is put before the congregation every conference session:
"It is proposed we sustain Thomas S. Monson as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."The members raised their right hands, and the proposal was sustained. Good. We have again given our common consent to have Thomas Monson remain in office as president of the Church.
After that sustaining, Uchtdorf says, "It is further proposed we sustain President Thomas S. Monson as prophet, seer, and revelator." Everyone (well, nearly everyone) raises their right hand and endorses the previous vote they made when they first elected Monson to that office back in 2008.
This process is repeated in stake conferences all around the world, so that legally the Church can say that the voting members overwhelmingly have declared that the man they elected to be president of their church can also lay claim to the title of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. That's how we know he is one. Because we voted to give him that title.
But how can this be? Doesn't God have to have some say in any of this?
No He doesn't. As Joseph Smith declared in frustration back in 1842 as he read aloud from Ezekial 14, if the people wish to deceive themselves, God will let them deceive themselves. If the people want idols, God will go ahead and let them have their idols. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 238.)
Not only will God allow the people to deceive themselves, he'll allow the prophets to deceive themselves too, and allow the prophets to deceive the people, if that's what the people want. Joseph Smith told the latter-day Saints they were already darkened in their minds for depending too much on the prophet. How much more darkened do you suppose our minds have become, after a hundred and seventy additional years of convincing ourselves that men who never once in their lives ever spoke one prophecy or translated one record, or delivered so much as one tiny revelation are in fact, and in deed, and in word, actual, living Prophets, Seers, and Revelators?
I'd say that tells us our minds are not just darkened; they're pretty far gone.
We have allowed ourselves to assume, absent any evidence whatsoever, that God called and ordained the presidents of the Church to not only preside over the church, but to also have received the gifts of prophecy, of seeing, and of revealing the will of God. Yet when Brigham Young decided he would like to take Joseph Smith's place as president of the Church, he wasn't even set apart or ordained by his fellow apostles to that office, let alone to some office of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. Brigham maintained that the apostolic church president and counselors needed no setting apart or ordination. All that was necessary was a sustaining vote of the people. After all, it is the church of the latter-day Saints. What they say goes. (At least that's the pretense.)
Starting with Lorenzo Snow, presidents began to be set apart as president of the church, but they were deliberately not ordained to that office, and certainly never appointed prophets, seers, and revelators. In an 1899 meeting of the First Presidency and apostles, Joseph F. Smith explained that it was proper for the First Presidency to be set apart, but "not ordained." In 1916 Joseph F. Smith, the Quorum of Twelve's president, emphatically instructed the senior president of the Seventy that "the president was set apart and not ordained." (See Quinn, the Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, pg 252-253.)
"On 12 April 1951 David O. McKay became the first LDS church president to be "ordained" since the founding prophet. Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith "ordained and set apart" President McKay. At seventy-four Apostle Smith may have forgotten his own father's restriction against ordaining presidents of the LDS church." (Quinn, ibid.)Here's something to think about. The current crop of usurpers in the Church hierarchy will tell you their line of authority goes all the way back to Joseph Smith, because every one of the presidents was ordained of God same as Joseph Smith was. Okay, fine. We can actually trace the ordination of Joseph Smith, because he was personally called and ordained by God to the work in D&C 5:6. But after Joseph, the historical record shows us that line of ordinations abruptly stopped, and does not resume until 1951, at which time George Albert Smith did not pass on his authority to the next president, because he was already dead. Instead a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, who did not have the keys of a prophet, seer, and revelator, performed the ordination of David McKay.
Even if said apostle did somehow hold the keys and pass them on, wouldn't it be a stretch for the current leaders to claim they have a continuous, unbroken line of authority going back to Joseph Smith? If Brigham Young had no authority to act as prophet, seer, and revelator, where did Thomas Monson get his?
Most members of the church are under the impression that our modern prophets are ordained directly and in person by God as Joseph Smith was. Certainly Church leadership does nothing to dissuade us in that belief. Every Conference session we watch as a parade of sycophantic general authorities goes up to the podium and heaps praise upon the current president, encouraging the people to follow his wise counsel if they wish to be saved in the eternities beyond. And Monson just sits there behind them soaking it all in.
Here's what I want to know: why doesn't Monson himself put a stop to all this obsequious fawning? He's sitting right there! Why doesn't he ever say anything?
Just once I would like to see Monson stand up in the middle of one of Russell Nelson's endless brown-nosing love fests, take the microphone away, and shout "Enough! Let's take our focus off ourselves for once and get back to remembering that our salvation lies in Jesus Christ, and not in the leaders of any church."
But that isn't likely to happen. There is too much at stake. Because the truth is, whoever is the president of the LDS Church has more power and wealth at his command than you can possibly imagine. Ever since the Church was reorganized in 1923 under corporate charter putting physical ownership of everything in the hands of the president of the corporation, the president of the Church is the Church.
And that's no exaggeration. It is a legally recognized reality. It's called the Corporation of the President because it all belongs to him. Every temple, every chapel, every university campus, every shopping center, every condo, and every high-rise office building; they are all his personal property. If the president was inclined to, he could lock us all out of our own chapels, sell them off, and keep all the money for himself. It would be his legal right.
That's a lot of power to be entrusted in only one man.
He doesn't need your sustaining vote, because he owns it all anyway. There are currently 15 million members of the Church worldwide, but only an estimated 4.5 million of those members ever show up to stake conference for the vote to sustain or oppose the president. The other two thirds church members whose names are on the roles are long gone. They've already voted to oppose giving one man all that power. They voted with their feet.
Our president doesn't have anything near a majority vote, but why should he care? The inactives aren't posing a challenge, and the remaining active members think he's the bloody Pope.
The grand title of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator is an empty label with absolutely no power and authority from heaven to back it up. But that doesn't matter. The corporate charter, that document that was drafted without any authorization or input from the members or from God, effectively cuts the members out of the deal. Ultimately their vote doesn't matter anyway.
It should be self evident to anyone with eyes to see that Jesus Christ no longer directs the operations of a global conglomerate where religion is only one subsidiary among many. Our God has made it clear over and over again why He has abandoned the institution: it's because we as a church refuse to repent. We remain stuck in our pride, boasting of how incredibly lucky we are to have a prophet, seer, and revelator at our head to guide our every action.
There is some good news in all of this. God may have abandoned the structrual Church for the time being, but he hasn't abandoned the individual members. He hasn't abandoned you. You can break out of the darkness that is clouding your ability to think clearly, and choose to follow Him instead of a feckless band of corporate suits who constantly demand your obedience. All you have to do is make the choice to stop doing those things that are keeping your mind darkened, and start doing those things that will bring the light back in.
In Mosiah 18:20 we learn that those who hold positions in the church of Christ are commanded to "preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord."
You may have noticed that the modern Church leaders seem to spend an awful lot of time trying to convince you that you should put your faith in them. Feel free to back away from that teaching. Repent of your idolatry and put your faith in Christ alone. Act with an eye single to the glory of God and no other, and you'll be on your way in no time.
And you'll be in good company. There are currently untold thousands of faithful, believing latter-day Saints who have been noticing the Church has stopped working the way it should. They are choosing to turn away from the Magisterium and placing their focus back on Christ and His gospel. Most important of all, a growing number of faithful members are learning they can plant the seeds of Zion in their own communities. They don't have to wait for instructions from Church headquarters as to where and when they should act. Last month I spoke at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake about this growing phenomenon, which I refer to as "Uuncorrelated Mormonism." I've provided a link to the audio of that talk below.
Some of these people have decided to leave the corporate Church behind. Others, like me, have been forcibly expelled for asserting, as the apostle Peter put it in Acts 5, that "we ought to obey God rather than men." But the greater number are finding there is no reason they can't remain members of their local LDS congregations and still worship Christ. If you are truly His, there should be no need to separate yourself from others who believe as you do. If you are His sheep, you'll know His voice.
The leaders in Salt Lake City have placed themselves on a separate trajectory. They will continue to go their own way, and there is not much you can do other than resolve to remain a good Mormon without their input. For a little while they might throw fits and tantrums and threaten you with loss of privilege as they work to convince you that you still need them. Ignore them and follow Christ. I promise, you'll be fine.
The Lord wants you in His church. Read again D&C 10:67-68, and do what needs to be done to remain a member of His church in good standing. All you have to do is let go of those false beliefs you grew up with, and turn instead toward the truth.
It isn't hard at all. That's what it means to repent.
(Here is the link to my Sunstone presentation. It may be a bit confusing if you get what looks like error messages. Ignore them. Click the link, then in the new window, click the 'play' icon, then 'Download,' then 'Download Anyway').
Leaving the Church But Remaining a Mormon: The Rise of Uncorrelated Mormonism
Following that presentation, I was invited to sit in on a panel with other recently excommunicated Mormons to express our thoughts on the current purging of members who for one reason or another don't quite fit in. Although I continue to embrace the gospel of the Restoration, others on that panel run the spectrum from sincere questioners to agnostic unbelievers. It was a a fun, interesting discussion and I'm glad I was part of it. Here's that link:
Meet the Ex-Mormons
Some clever wag summarized the insanity by creating this meme:
While I was participating on this panel, the real news was being made in another room, as attorneys Denver Snuffer, Daymon Smith, David Read, and Bryndis Roberts exposed the seamy underbelly of the LDS Super-corporation on the panel they chaired, "The Mormon Legal Mind."
I would recommend you not miss this one. I have no link to post to, but that presentation is available for sale at the Sunstone site. Proceeds go to support the Sunstone Foundation. You can purchase audio recordings of that one, and every other presentation by clicking here.
The Mormon Legal Mind is audio number 371. Order it by that number. Daymon Smith just posted a link to the transcript of his portion on his blog, Uncorrelated Mormonism.
I attended several presentations that I thought would be of particular interest to readers of this blog, but for the sake of brevity I may give a rundown on them in a future post.
All The News That Fits -Plus All The Stuff That doesn't Fit:
I wanted to also mention a wonderful new website, MormonSpectrum.org, that has recently come on the scene. This internet portal has rapidly become the starting place on the web for all things related to Mormonism, in whatever iteration you choose. You can link to the Church's website from here; you can find links to news and websites covering orthodox Mormons, unorthodox Mormons, splinter group Mormons, former Mormons, all the apologetics websites, every Mormon themed blog in the bloggernacle -you name it. If there's a place on the web that has anything to do with anything in the wide spectrum of Mormonism, you'll find it by starting here. Best of all, there are lists of communities forming all over the world, so you can find others in your area who fall into whatever niche category of "Mormon" you feel fits you. It's always nice to find like-minded people, and this is the place to start building those kinds of communities.