Sunday, September 24, 2017

How Jesus Christ Was Ousted As Head Of The Church of Jesus Christ

Previously: The Leadership Hustle

In place of another lengthy blog post in this space, today I'm presenting a link to a fascinating audio recording from Radio Free Mormon that explains the hostile takeover of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that took place following the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. If you've followed this blog for the past year, you will recall I've touched on these issues quite a bit previously,* but this presentation lays it out better than I could have, describing exactly how and why the church was corrupted from within by men who had been trusted by the members to be its guardians.
*See for example "Did The Lord Choose Not to Anoint The Lord's Anointed?" and "Evil Speaking of the Lord's Anointed."

Now I should make it clear that I am not the author of these two podcasts. The author is a fellow believer who goes by the online moniker "Radio Free Mormon" which is also the name of his podcast. He has graciously permitted me to link to those remarkable podcasts here, and also to provide transcripts of those podcasts on this forum.

Part One (Radio Free Mormon episode 014) shows how Jesus Christ revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith an orderly manner by which the church was to be governed, and how Brigham Young circumvented those instructions in order to illegally place himself in a position of power over the church.

Part Two (episode 015) goes into greater detail regarding the mechanics of Brigham's power grab, revealing the open perfidy engaged in by Brigham and certain members of the Twelve to cover up their duplicity. This betrayal took place over 170 ago, but it's important that we have a clear understanding of what happened then, because today the Church continues to operate contrary to God's law. Thus it is no longer operating under His direction. The evidence of his absence is all around us, from the palpable lack of spirit in our Sunday meetings, to the looting of church coffers by our leaders to fund their pet investments in Babylon.

We now know that the official history of the Church was doctored all those years ago in order to cover up the betrayal by Church leadership. But that false history continues to be quoted in church manuals and publications today to bolster the belief that the men sitting in the comfy red chairs in the conference center are the lawful successors of Joseph Smith.  The gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through Joseph Smith is true and valid. But "The Church" has some serious problems, beginning with the authority claims of its leaders.

Here are links to both those podcasts:

Apostolic Coup D'etat, Part One

Apostolic Coup D'etat, Part Two

Now Read The Transcript
I hope you will listen to these podcasts, because they are very well presented, and fascinating to hear. Below is also the written transcript from Part One, which I'm making available so that readers who are interested can more easily access cites and resources.

Within a couple of weeks I hope to finish transcribing Part Two, so please keep checking back for that. I'll post it on a separate blog post, and again include a link to Part Two of the podcast on that post.

Please know that I consider these two presentations to be among the most important things I've ever posted on this blog, so I hope you will not only listen and read them yourselves, but that you will share links to these podcasts with your friends and family. We must be made aware of the errors of our false traditions if we are to repent as a people and have the Lord remove the condemnation that has rested on the church since 1832.

And now, here is the transcript to Part One:

Apostolic Coup d’état
 How The Twelve Apostles, In a Breathtaking Power Grab, Assumed Absolute and Complete Control of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
                                                                                    By Radio Free Mormon

Today’s situation in the LDS church is known to all Mormons. The power structure is: at the top we have a First Presidency; the president of the church and his two counselors. Beneath them is the Quorum of the Twelve apostles. Beneath them is the Quorum of the Seventy and other Quorums of the Seventy, and then there’s some mid-level management with area authorities and area seventies. And then we get down to the local level, with stake presidents and bishops.

But something is odd in this situation. And the thing that's odd is that even though we have a Quorum of Twelve Apostles, yet we don't just have twelve apostles; we have fifteen apostles. Because the members of the First Presidency are also apostles.

Although most members of the church are aware of this fact, it's not very often commented on. But the fact we have 15 apostles at the head of the church is a strange element in church administration that points to the power grab the apostles have conducted for authority over the entire church that began in 1844. Over the next 150 years the apostles took over or got rid of any competing power structures, to emerge today as the sole authorities in the LDS Church. Any other authorities are under their administration and must do as they direct.

This podcast will give a brief overview of the different power grabs the apostles did in order to arrive at their position today of absolute supremacy. We will look at the way the Quorum of Twelve took over the First Presidency; the way the Quorum of Twelve took over the First Quorum of Seventy.

Yes, the Quorum of the Twelve wasn't always over the Quorum of the Seventy. We'll look at the way the Quorum of the Twelve did away with the church Patriarch, which in Joseph Smith's day was the highest office in the church, even higher than that of church president. And we’ll also look at the way the twelve apostles took over all the stakes of the church. Because believe it or not, in the original church that Joseph Smith organized pursuant to the revelations Joseph Smith received, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles had no authority over stake presidents. In fact, they had­ no authority in any of the stakes of Zion. They were purely a missionary force that had power only where stakes were not organized. In other words, they have power in the mission field only.

The Quorum of Twelve Apostles apostles was not organized until 1835, five years after the church itself was organized in 1830. The First Presidency itself had been organized several years before that. So obviously the First Presidency was not composed of apostles. The apostles themselves were not chosen by the First Presidency. If you remember your history the apostles were chosen by the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. So going with the basic premise that a lesser power cannot select and ordain a greater power, it would appear that in 1835 the three witnesses who chose and ordained the first twelve apostles were considered to be greater in authority than the apostles.

One year later, in January of 1836, in the almost completed Kirtland temple prior to the temple dedication, which would happen several months later, all the different church offices and quorums were anointed on January 21st of that year 1836, in the Kirtland temple. Guess where the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was in this list of eight?

If you guessed number one, you’re wrong. If you guess two you’re wrong. If you guess three, four, or five, you're wrong, wrong, and wrong. The Quorum of twelve apostles was sixth in the list of quorums and officers anointed January 1836 in the Kirtland Temple. We will return to that list of eight later in this podcast.

When Joseph Smith died unexpectedly in June of 1844, there was immediately a succession crisis. Who would now lead the church? The problem when Joseph Smith died was not that he had left no successor to the church. The problem was that he had left an over-abundance of successors to leadership in the church.

In other words, there were multiple people, in multiple quorums, who could, based upon the revelations and statements of Joseph Smith, claim leadership of the church. And this is what led to the succession crisis.

The first person we're going to talk about who had a good claim to taking over leadership of the church was Sidney Rigdon. Sidney Rigdon was the only remaining counselor in the First Presidency. Joseph Smith, being the president, had just died, and the other counselor, William Law, had been excommunicated by Joseph Smith only a couple of months before Joseph Smith died. So only Sidney Rigdon remained.

But, some might ask, isn't it a fact that when the president dies, the two counselors thereafter lose any ability to have any power or control in the church?

No, that's not a fact, at least it wasn't the fact back in Joseph Smith's day. In 1834, Joseph Smith himself established that his first counselor would preside in his absence. That can be found in History of the Church, Volume 2, page 51, that the first counselor would preside in his absence. Sidney Rigdon was the first counselor, and you can't get much more absent than Joseph Smith was after he was assassinated. Therefore there was a basis for Sidney Rigdon to preside in the absence of Joseph Smith. His claim to being the leader of the church was much stronger than you might know if you only attended Sunday School.

Nowhere did Joseph Smith ever foreclose the idea that a counselor in the First Presidency could succeed him upon his death. In contradiction to this idea some might point to another entry in the History of the Church.

Now the History of the Church is a six volume work, published after Joseph Smith’s death and after the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had assumed leadership of the church. Anything that was published in History of the Church had to get the approval of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles. And it appears that not only did it get their approval, in many instances it was changed. Words were added, words were omitted, in order to make it justify the leadership claims of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. So going back to the History of the Church, there is such a denial in the officially published History of the Church. These are in the published minutes of an 1836 meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

In the History of the Church, it reads "also the Twelve are not subject to any other than the First Presidency, ie. Myself” said the prophet -that would be Joseph Smith- i.e. “myself,” said Joseph Smith, “Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who are now my counselors; and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve.” (History of the Church Vol 2, pg 374)

If Joseph Smith had actually said this, the statement would have removed the possibility that a senior counselor, ie. Sidney Rigdon, could have succeeded him at his death.

But wait a second. There is Tom Foolery going on.The last part of this quote is not in the original
minutes of Joseph Smith’s statement! In other words, the actual minutes from the 1836 meeting state (these are the words of Joseph Smith): “also the Twelve are not subject to any other than the First Presidency viz. myself S. Rigdon and F. G. Williams.” Period. (See minutes, 16 January 1836, The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals Volume 1, pg 158; Also available on the Joseph Smith Papers site is a photographic facsimile of the original journal, pg 123.)

The words after that, that are now in the official history of the church, ”who are now my counselors; and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve” were added later to the official version. They are not in the original minutes. They were added later, and presumably they were added in order to take away any claim that Sidney Rigdon might've still had in the hearts of Latter Day Saints, after he lost the election for who it should be who would lead the church in 1844 after Joseph Smith died.

Aside from his altered document, there is no record that Joseph Smith ever nullified the right of presidential succession by the senior counselor in the First Presidency. This can be found in D. Michael Quinn’s, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, page 161. (See also Quinn, The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844, BYU Studies Vol 16:2, pg 188)

Additionally, the History of the Church, Volume 6, pages 592 to 93 quotes Joseph Smith on the eve of his assassination in Carthage Jail as expressing gratitude that Sidney Rigdon would not lead the church. Here's a quote from the history: “During the day Hyrum encouraged Joseph to think that the Lord for his church's sake would release him from prison. Joseph replied could my brother Hyrum but be liberated it would not matter so much about me. Poor Rigdon, I am glad he is gone to Pittsburgh out of the way. Were he to preside he would lead the church to destruction in less than five years.”

This is another statement put into the mouth of Joseph Smith right before he dies which is designed to delegitimize Sidney Rigdon's claim to leadership in the church. There are no original minutes of this meeting; this is simply a conversation that is alleged to have occurred in Carthage Jail. There are no minutes of a meeting to compare with what is in the History of the Church, as there are for the prior altered document. But D. Michael Quinn states this is certainly a retrospective addition.

So what we have are documents being altered in order to delegitimize Sidney Rigdon, who is the person who may have had the strongest claim to preside over the church. We will see this pattern again and again and again with the History of the Church, which is printed and published under the authority of the twelve apostles. Adding statements, taking statements away, altering statements, in order to delegitimize others with leadership claims and buttress their own leadership claims. This reminds me of the quote from Ben Franklin “History is written by the winners as an excuse for hanging the losers.”

Because we are talking about the First Presidency right now, we're going to continue this thread of thought up to the present day and go to the reestablishing and the reorganizing of the First Presidency which occurred in December of 1847. Bear in mind that Brigham Young was not elected to be president of the church; rather he put forth the idea that in the absence of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles should now lead the church as a quorum.

But three and half years later, Brigham Young got it into his head that he wanted to reorganize the First Presidency, with himself as the new president of the church. As you will recall, in 1847 Brigham Young led the vanguard expedition of the saints to the Salt Lake Valley, and then at the end of the summer, he came back to join the saints once again in Winter Quarters. Once he was there in October he began to bring up this idea to the other apostles.

Wilford Woodruff, himself an apostle, recorded his uneasiness about Brigham Young’s suggestion. He wrote "I thought it would require a revelation to change the order of that Quorum.” (Wilford Woodruff's Journal, entry for October Twelve, 1847.)

Now today we're so used to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles choosing the First Presidency after the president dies, this may seem an unusual idea to us. This was a completely new idea that Brigham Young was proposing. There is nothing in the revelations that gives the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles authority to create a First Presidency. This is why Wilford Woodruff thought it would require a revelation to change the order of the Quorum of the Twelve. Brigham Young wanted the Twelve to appoint an apostle, i.e. himself, to be an independent president of the church with two counselors. But there was no authorization in Joseph Smith's teachings or revelations for this administrative act.

In Wilford Woodruff’s view, the Twelve had no authority to organize a separate First Presidency without a new revelation, presumably written and canonized. Other apostles shared Wilford Woodruff’s misgivings. So, in other words, Brigham Young is getting a lot of push-back from the apostles. Wilford Woodruff recorded on 15 November 1847 “I return to Winters Quarters with Brother Potter and met in council with the Twelve. Orson Pratt introduced the subject of the standing and rights of the president and also the Quorum. Orson Pratt was followed by George Albert Smith, Wilford Woodruff and Amasa Lyman.” (ibid.)

It is apparent that here or elsewhere Orson Pratt was challenging Brigham Young's and the Twelve’s ability to reconstitute the First Presidency because Young later said that Orson Pratt led the opposition to his reconstituting the First Presidency. A man named T.B.H. Stenhouse, who was a former confidante and associate of Brigham Young, and others of the hierarchy accurately identified Wilford Woodruff and Orson Pratt as opposing the organization of the First Presidency. (Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints, pg 263)

Also in opposition were apostles John Taylor and Parley P. Pratt, who were not present for the consultations. Minutes of Quorum meetings show that George A. Smith was the 5th dissenting apostle.

So here comes Brigham Young back to Winter Quarters with this great idea about reconstituting the First Presidency, and he's getting major league push-back from five members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. You will note that Brigham Young first brought up this idea in October 1847, and had to keep bringing it up and bringing it up in repeated meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve until December, when finally he was apparently able to wear resistance down to the point that he got the apostles to agree with this plan in spite of the fact that there apparently was no revelation ever given, as Wilford Woodruff thought there should be.

On November 30th, 1847, at another of these meetings, Orson Pratt focused on how much autonomy Brigham Young would have in a First Presidency. Now, this is interesting when you consider Orson Pratt’s position. Orson Pratt is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. They have the leadership over the church and what Orson Pratt is saying is how is it that we can have a Quorum of Twelve, and in order for us to make a decision we have to have a majority? Which means seven members have to vote one way in order for us to have a majority and make a decision.

But out of this Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we're going to pick three apostles who are going to now become a “Super Quorum.” And these three apostles can have authority over us and can overturn any decision that we make. That didn't make sense to Orson Pratt and when you think about it, he had a good point. Could the presidency of three apostles set aside the will of the rest of the apostles?

This is not the first time Orson Pratt butted heads with Brigham Young. Ultimately, in this case, he
would lose in the sense that Brigham Young would have his way and reorganize the First Presidency on December 5 1847. However, as the years went by, Orson Pratt would repeatedly butt heads with Brigham Young over issues of doctrine; over issues of Adam-God; over issues of whether God is a progressing being; and ultimately it was Orson Pratt’s position that became adopted by the church.

But Orson Pratt had to pay a price for this and the basic price he had to pay was that he never became president of the church. Orson Pratt was in line to become president of the church; he was the next apostle in line after Brigham Young when Brigham Young died in 1877.

You will recall that when the apostles were originally organized in 1835 they were organized according to their age. Brigham Young was a few months older than Orson Pratt and therefore he became the president. But in 1875, two years before Brigham Young died, Brigham Young reorganized the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in order to avoid having Orson Pratt become the next president. And instead of making seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by age, he changed it and added the condition that it was determined on the basis of the length of time of continuous service in the Quorum of the Twelve.

This made it so Orson Pratt was no longer next in line. Because in 1842 Orson Pratt has left the church for a short period of time mainly because when he got back from England his wife Sarah told him that while he'd been gone Joseph Smith was hitting on her. He didn’t take this too well. He ended up leaving the church briefly, was reconciled to Joseph Smith before Joseph Smith's death. But this period of time removed his continuous period of service, pushed him back, and John Taylor then became the next in line to become president of the church. And indeed John Taylor became president of the church when Brigham Young died. Orson Pratt would continue to live for several years beyond that, but only as an apostle and never became president of the church. That was the price Orson Pratt had to pay for butting heads with Brigham Young.

At this December 5, 1847 meeting in Winter Quarters, there is no contemporaneous record of any miracle happening. However, years later, Orson Hyde and Brigham Young began talking about a miracle that had happened, that there was a divine manifestation. In April conference 1860 (so this is 13 years later), Brigham Young claimed at Orson Hyde's “the power came upon us, a shock that alarmed the neighborhood.” This is where the story comes from that there was an earthquake that signaled the divine approval of the decision that the apostles made in order to reconstitute the First Presidency.

Six months later Orson Hyde expanded on what Brigham Young had said. This is October 1860 General Conference; he affirmed that the apostles organized the First Presidency because the voice of God declared "let my servant Brigham step forth and receive the full power of the presiding priesthood in my church and kingdom.”

So in 1860, now Orson Hyde says the voice of God was heard by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the voice of God said “let my servant Brigham step forth and receive the full power of the presiding priesthood in my church and kingdom,” and associated with this was an earthquake. By contrast, Wilford Woodruff later said he did not remember any particular manifestations at the time of the organization of the presidency. His diary mentions nothing unusual about the December 5 1847 meeting, and the minutes of the meeting mentioned nothing extraordinary. This appears to be a miracle that was seen to be needed to confirm that God approved of this step that was taken to reorganize the First Presidency. And this miracle was created later and was then inserted back into the narrative.

This is how the story gets told today. This is from an August Ensign magazine from 2002. The article is titled “Pushing on to Zion.” This part of the article is titled Reestablishing a First Presidency, December 1847. Here is how the Church portrays what happened, today:
Earlier, on 5th December, nine of the Twelve had met at Elder Hyde’s home. [Now remember, this is in Winter Quarters.] Elder Hyde later reported, [the article does not say how much later but we know it was from October 1860 and was in fact thirteen years later] Elder Hyde reported the voice of God came from on high and spake to the council saying  "let my servant Brigham step forth and receive the full power of the presiding priesthood in my church and kingdom." He affirmed it was the voice of the Almighty unto us. I am one who was present and did hear and feel the voice from heaven and we were filled with the power of God.
It was moved and approved that president Brigham Young be sustained as president of the church. They approved his choice of counselors, Elders Heber C Kimball and Willard Richards. Outside, people came to the Hyde’s door and knocked, worried because they felt houses shake and the ground tremble and thought there had been an earthquake. It was the Lord speaking to his leaders, Elder Hyde assured them.
Let me read that part again. “Outside, people came to the Hyde’s door and knocked, worried because they feel houses shake and the ground tremble and thought there had been an earthquake.”

Why did they go to Orson Hyde's door? That seems like a very, very specific epicenter for an earthquake. But apparently, according to the story, everybody feels the earthquake and everybody knows it's coming from Elder Hyde’s house. But Elder Hyde assured them that was the Lord speaking to his leaders and apparently that satisfied their question. I’m not going to read this whole article but I have to go on to the next line because it is very interesting in what it admits.

At the December 1847 conference (now this is a conference of the church, this is after the apostles have been persuaded by Brigham Young to support him in his idea about reconstituting the First Presidency. Now it is put before the general conference in Winter Quarters). Going on with the article:
At the December 1847 conference, without saying anything about the revelation, the Twelve put before the people the proposal that the First Presidency be reestablished, consisting of Elders Young, Kimball and Richards.
That is fascinating to me that even in this article in the Ensign from August 2002 it admits that at the general conference, the Twelve put before the people the proposal that the First Presidency be reorganized, but they don't say anything about the revelation. What revelation? The revelation that 13 years later Elder Hyde said they received when the voice of God was heard.

Think about this. You are the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, you received a revelation from God. You heard his voice commanding that Brigham Young become the president of the church and the First Presidency be reorganized. And yet later the same month when you present this proposal to the general conference of the church, you don't say anything about the revelation. This also suggests that the revelation that Elder Hyde says was received was not received at the time, otherwise he would've mentioned it to the church. Instead, it's a later creation that Elder Hyde comes up with thirteen years later, and first mentions it in October 1860, and then said oh, this happened.

Because they needed a miracle.

This is a very, very, significant change in church administration, and as such it requires a miracle. And it appears that in retrospect they also thought that maybe a revelation would be a good idea and so they produced a revelation retroactively saying that the voice of God came from on high and said let Brigham Young be the president of the church. Again at the time, and according to Wilford Woodruff, no revelation was received as was thought proper by him. Only a general feeling that this was the right thing to do.

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley in 2005 gave a talk titled “The Quorum of the First Presidency” in which he talked about the government of the church and the leadership structure. This is in the December 2005 issue of the Ensign.

He starts off by saying the place of the President of the church and that of the Quorum of the First Presidency, in having responsibility for the entire church in all the world, “is clearly set forth in these revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.”

Now the problem is that they are not clearly set forth in the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants actually say something quite different.

But going on with President Hinckley:
“At the same time, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is spoken of as being equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned. (D&C 107: 24.) The Seventy likewise form a quorum equal in authority to that of the twelve special witnesses or apostles just named.”
Now, Gordon B. Hinckley is right when he says that section 107 states the different Quorums are equal in power and authority. But he is about to controvert that statement from the scriptures, by a quote from Joseph F. Smith which says yes, D&C 107 says they are equal in power and authority but they really aren’t.

In other words, the Quorum of the Twelve is only equal with the First Presidency when the First Presidency ceases to exist. Which is not really equality at all. If we read the actual revelation itself we can see that Joseph Smith had something very different in mind than a simple top-down hierarchy as we have today. What Joseph Smith is doing here in section 107 is creating different quorums in the church, all of whom are equal in authority and power to each other.

In fact, if we go further into section 107, we'll find that the idea was that if one of the quorums started making decisions or coming up with ideas that were completely out of harmony with the will of the Lord, then all the other quorums would sit in judgment upon them. They would be brought before a Common Council of the church and therefore any erring quorum could be brought back in line by the other councils. This was seen by Joseph Smith as a way to have a balance of power. What Joseph Smith sets forth in section 107 is not a hierarchy; it is more a balance of power.

The other critical thing that's missing from doctrine and covenants 107 is the idea that any quorum can reconstitute another quorum. Specifically, nothing in section 107 says the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has the power to reconstitute the First Presidency as they ended up doing in 1847 -which is one of the reasons that there's so much push-back from the other apostles. Gordon B. Hinckley goes on to ask this question:
“The question arises: how can they be equal in authority? Speaking to this question, Pres. Joseph F. Smith taught 'I want here to correct an impression that has grown up to some extent among the people and that is that the Twelve Apostles possess equal authority with the First Presidency in the church.'”

Now that is what the revelation says. And notice that Pres. Joseph F. Smith is the president of the church; he is also the senior apostle in the church by this time and what president Joseph F. Smith is going to do now is he's going to actually contradict Doctrine and Covenants 107.

Once again he says “I want here to correct an impression that is growing up to some extent among the people.” So people are asking this question. There are still people around at the turn of the 20th century who were alive when Joseph Smith walked the earth, who know the revelations, and still for some reason believe that the Twelve Apostles possess equal authority with the First Presidency in the church.

In other words, they believe the revelation.

Here’s what President Joseph F. Smith says. Remember again he is being quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley:
“This is correct when there is no other presidency but the Twelve apostles. But so long as there are three presiding elders who possess the presiding authority in the church, the authority of the Twelve apostles is not equal to theirs. If it were so there would be two equal authorities and two equal quorums in the priesthood running parallel and that could not be because there must be a head.”
So once again the ruling apostle in the church, President Joseph F. Smith in 1906 says that there is an issue that has grown up to some extent among the people that the Twelve Apostles possess equal authority with the First Presidency in the church; and now Joseph F. Smith says that’s correct when there is no other presidency but the Twelve Apostles. But so long as you've got the three presiding elders who possess the presiding authority in the church, the authority of the Twelve Apostles is not equal to theirs.

Joseph F. Smith just contradicted Doctrine and Covenants 107.

Because in his mind there must be a hierarchy. We must by this time, 1906, have the First Presidency, who is over the Quorum of the Twelve, who is over the entire church. There has to be a hierarchy. This is not what Joseph Smith contemplates in Section 107, as I mentioned before.

And also notice that Joseph F. Smith does not quote to any revelation. He certainly doesn’t quote to Doctrine and Covenants Section 107 in support of his position. All he does is make the conclusory statement that “there must be a head” and if we had two equal authorities and two equal quorums in the priesthood ruling parallel there would not be a head, so that can’t be what it means.

So from this quote from Joseph F. Smith we find out that it took until 1906 for an answer to come to this question and this answer actually denies the language of the revelation itself.

Now we're going to look more in-depth at the revelation here. This is section 107 and was given in 1835 after the selection of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by the three witnesses. Once again nowhere does it say that one quorum is above the other; rather that all are equal.

Joseph Smith appears to contemplate a balance of power. Verse 22 talks about the calling of the First Presidency. Verse 23 talks about the Twelve Apostles, also known as the traveling high council, that they form a quorum equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

See, it says “equal in authority and power.” It does not say anything about they are only equal when there are not three presiding high priests in the First Presidency. Verse 25, the Seventy, are also called to preach the gospel and they form a quorum equal in authority to that of the twelve special witnesses or apostles just named.

Nothing about “they are only equal if there is no Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

Then in verse 27 we start seeing how it is that Joseph Smith conceives of a balance of power between these different equal quorums:
"And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other."
So here’s this method of checks and balances coming in. Skipping down to verse 32:
“and in case that any decisions of these quorums is made in unrighteousness, it may be brought before a general assembly of the several quorums which constitute the spiritual authorities of the church; otherwise there can be no appeal from their decision.”
And then in verse 81:
“There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.”
In other words, this common council. “And inasmuch as a president of the high priesthood ( i.e. Joseph Smith, the president of the church himself), “and inasmuch as the president of the high priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the high priesthood.”

This is Joseph Smith’s way of making sure that there is nobody in the church who is over everybody else, but that if any person, including the president of the church or any quorum goes out of the way and makes decisions in unrighteousness or unholiness, that decision and that Quorum on that issue can be brought before all the other quorums assembled in what is called the common council of the church, and be corrected.

So as you can see, this is a very different system of church government set forth in 1835, section 107, than we have today in the church, which is strictly hierarchical.

Now it is very common today for people who are discussing the authority of the apostles, and that they are just under the First Presidency, and then under them is the Quorum of the Seventy, to point to section 107 and say this shows the authority and the hierarchy of the church because it talks first about the First Presidency, then it talks about the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and then it talks about the first Quorum of the Seventy. And even though it says they are equal to each other, the argument is usually made nowadays that this means they are in order of seniority; in order of power. And as Joseph F. Smith said, they are not equal in authority unless the Quorum above them has been disassembled in some way. In other words, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles does not have authority equal to the First Presidency unless the First Presidency has been dismantled, which we understand today means by the death of the president.

The pattern that is followed today is that upon the death of the president, the other two counselors who are selected from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles now assume their position in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in order of seniority.  With the death of the president, there are now fourteen apostles left, and the apostle that is the senior apostle becomes the next president of the church. In fact, at any given time the president of the church is the most senior apostle.

So, every time a church president dies, the apostles go into a quorum of fourteen now instead of twelve, and the apostles reconstitute the First Presidency. They recreate what it is Brigham Young did in 1847 that caused so much controversy and was contrary to the revelation that had been received through Joseph Smith. As I say, its very common for people today to look to section 107 as an argument for the fact that the Quorum of the Twelve should succeed as leaders of the church once the First Presidency was dissolved upon the death of Joseph Smith.

The amazing thing is that in 1844, when the Quorum of the Twelve apostles was vying for leadership of the church, none of them cited to Doctrine and Covenants section 107 as authority for their position. It is rather singular. The History of the Church notes that in 1844, no defender of the Quorum of the Twelve succession gave an adequate unfolding of the relationship of the respective presiding councils of the church based on the published revelation of 1835; in other words, Doctrine and Covenants Section 107.

There was good reason for why they did not do this, because, as D. Micheal Quinn says, ”Everyone in 1844, especially Brigham Young, knew the 1835 revelation did not mean what modern Mormons think it means concerning the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

Now, we’ve gone through some of those reasons already, and we’ll go through a few more as we proceed. Going back to President Hinckley’s talk in 2005 published in the Ensign, he notes that in the early days of the church sometimes lengthy periods of time went between the death of the president of the church and the reorganizing of the First Presidency. Here’s what he says:
“There have been lengthy periods when there was no Quorum of the First Presidency. Following the death of the Prophet Joseph the presiding authority rested in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with Brigham Young as president. This continued for three and a half years.”
We’ve already talked about this, those three and a half years between the death of Joseph, and Brigham Young reorganizing the First Presidency. Going on with the article:
“Following the death of Brigham Young, the authority again reverted to the Quorum of the Twelve and continued so for three years and two months.”
In other words, between Brigham Young dying and John Taylor becoming president of the church, reconstituting the First Presidency was three years and two months. That’s significant. The reason it’s significant is because it was John Taylor who became president. And as you will recall, John Taylor was among the original five apostles who, in December of 1847, were not in favor of Brigham Young reconstituting the First Presidency.

So it may be significant that once Brigham Young died, John Taylor, now being next in line for the presidency, doesn't see this as a pressing issue. May even not like the idea so much. But regardless, he waits for three years and two months before the First Presidency is reorganized with himself as president of the church. During the three year and two month period the church was led by the Quorum of the Twelve apostles. Going on, following the death of John Taylor, one year and nine months passed before the First Presidency was reorganized. (See Edward Leo Lyman, Succession by Seniority: The Development of Procedural Precedents in the LDS Church, Journal of Mormon History vol 40 No. 2, 2014.)

Well, who became president after John Taylor? That was Wilford Woodruff. And Wilford Woodruff, you may recall, was also among those apostles who in December of 1847 at Winter Quarters were opposed -or at least not really enthusiastic about the idea- of Brigham Young reconstituting the First Presidency. In fact, he was the one who said that he thought that they should at least have a revelation in order to change the church government and the powers of the Quorum of the Twelve.

President Hinckley concludes here:
“Since that time the reorganization of the presidency has occurred within a few days following the death of the president. In every case the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles has become president of the church. Seniority is determined by the date of ordination to the apostleship.”
So that's the end of the quote from that talk. What is interesting to me is that every step of this seizure of power by the apostles of the First Presidency in the church has been marked by a “miracle.” And that miracle is supposed to signify God’s approbation of the steps being taken.

In other words, God is totally on board, and signifying it by open miracles that this is what He wants to have happen. But, in each and every case it also appears that these miracles were not noticed by anybody at the time they are claimed to have happened, but were made up long after the fact. Or at least what we can say from the historical record, we can’t say they are made up; what we can say is that nobody said it at the time and they don’t end up being said until many, many years after the event was supposed to have happened, and then retroactively claimed to have happened.

The first “miracle” is Brigham Young being transfigured into Joseph Smith. Either he looked like Joseph Smith or he sounded like Joseph Smith in August of 1844 when he was presenting his case to the saints as to why the apostles should lead the church.

The fact is, there is no contemporaneous record that Brigham Young looked like Joseph Smith, or sounded like Joseph Smith, or that anything miraculous happened while Brigham Young was speaking to the saints that day. It is only many, many years after the fact that people start “recalling” that this transfiguration occurred.

In fact, it became so popular for Mormons to claim that they were present in Nauvoo to witness the transfiguration of Brigham Young into Joseph Smith that Orson Hyde, who was an apostle in the church in 1869, claimed,
“We went among the congregation, he [Brigham] spoke and his words went through me like electricity. This is my testimony; it was not only the voice of Joseph but there were the features, the gestures and even the stature of Joseph before us in the person of Brigham.”
Orson Hyde’s testimony is remarkable. It is remarkable not only for the miracle it claims to have witnessed, but it is also remarkable because he was not even in Nauvoo on August 8th. Instead, he arrived in the city 5 days later! (For two excellent academic studies on this topic, see Richard S Van Wagoner, The Making of a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young, and Reid L. Harper, The Mantle of Joseph: Creation of a Mormon Miracle. See also Why Mormon History Is Not What They Say.)

This goes to show how popular it was for Mormons to claim that they were in Nauvoo present to see Brigham Young be transfigured into Joseph Smith, and verify the miracle that showed that God approved the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taking control of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

And it is hard to overlook the fact that it is Orson Hyde, the same apostle who claimed that he was present to see Brigham Young transfigured into Joseph Smith in August of 1844 when he was not even present in Nauvoo to see it, who is the same apostle who claimed that three and a half years later, in his cabin in Winter Quarters in December of 1847, the voice of God was heard commanding that the First Presidency be reorganized and Brigham Young be president.

The second miracle that was talked about was that the December 1847 reorganization of the First Presidency, at the meeting of the apostles, when Brigham Young finally persuaded them all in Orson Hyde’s cabin at Winter Quarters after two months of meetings, to reorganize the First Presidency. And we have seen that nothing unusual happened there that day, but thirteen years later Brigham Young starts talking about an earthquake and Orson Hyde starts talking about the voice of God coming to them and all of them hearing it, and God said make Brigham Young the president, I am totally on board with reorganizing the First Presidency.

The third miracle that happens is the almost certainly apocryphal story of Jesus appearing to Lorenzo Snow in the Salt Lake City temple. Now, we probably know this story, and we've heard it from time to time, but we know about Lorenzo Snow with his granddaughter in the Salt Lake temple and they are walking through the temple and its nighttime and Lorenzo Snow says to his granddaughter “Hey, see that spot right there? That's where Jesus appeared to me and I saw him and he was standing above the ground and it was a wonderful experience.” And this is frequently trotted out as probably the most recent apostle that we can go to, or the most recent president of the church, who says he saw Jesus.

Now this is probably largely apocryphal, because there is no contemporaneous record of Lorenzo Snow saying it to anybody else at the time, and it doesn’t show up until many years later through a third party source.

But the reason that is given for Jesus appearing to Lorenzo Snow is of interest even though it is probably an apocryphal story. Because the reason that is given is that Jesus has something very important to tell Lorenzo Snow. And the thing that Jesus makes a special point of appearing to Lorenzo Snow in the Salt Lake temple in order to say is that the First Presidency should be organized immediately upon the death of President Wilford Woodruff.

Now, when I read that today I look at that and say “why does Jesus have to appear for a message like that?” That seems rather pedestrian; that doesn’t seem very special. It doesn’t seem like something that requires Jesus to appear in order to give it.

But look at in context of the fact that Brigham Young reorganized the First Presidency with a lot of push-back in the quorum: Brigham Young dies in 1877 and over three years go by before the First Presidency is reorganized with John Taylor as the new president. Then when John Taylor dies, a year and nine months goes by before the First Presidency is reorganized with Wilford Woodruff as the president. This may be significant. It will be remembered that both John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff were among the apostles who were not thrilled with the idea of Brigham Young reorganizing the First Presidency. They were among the five apostles who pushed back against the idea. And it is those apostles who, before they became the president of the church, there was an extended period of time where they felt they didn’t need to be the president of the church and the First Presidency did not need to be reorganized immediately.

At a minimum it shows they were comfortable with the idea of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles continuing to lead the church. And possibly it also shows their discomfort with the idea of being president of the church in a newly constituted First Presidency. Now we begin to see why it is that organizing the First Presidency immediately upon the death of the prior president is something that might provoke some controversy and might require a miracle in order to sanction it.

So, just as a miracle was retroactively invented that Brigham Young transfigured into Joseph Smith in order to sanction the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles leading the church; and just as the voice of God and an earthquake were created after the fact and used in order to show divine sanction for the reorganization of the First Presidency in 1847 under Brigham Young; even so it appears that the story about Jesus appearing to Lorenzo Snow in the Salt Lake City temple fits the same pattern: to show divine sanction on the First Presidency being organized immediately upon the death of the former president.

Finally, before leaving this part of the podcast, I have to address a story that we hear frequently in the church that the apostles gained the experience to lead the saints west because of their experience supervising the mass exodus from Missouri to Illinois in 1838 and 1839, during the winter of ’38, ’39. This story we hear all the time and it's sort of a post hoc justification for why it is and how it is the apostles were prepared to lead the church west when that time came a number of years later.

This whole story, though, appears to be a canard. Brigham Young and other apostles had only peripheral involvement in directing the exodus from Missouri. And if I understand my history correctly, there were actually only two apostles of the entire Quorum of Twelve who were active at the time. And those two were Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. You'll recall that there was a mass disaffection from the church in late 1838 during the Missouri wars. A separate committee of seven was appointed by John Smith (not Joseph Smith, John Smith) to superintend “the business of our removal.” 

Not a single apostle was on this committee, or on the expanded removal committee of eleven men. It was this group of non-apostles, not Brigham Young, who directed the Missouri exodus. In fact, Brigham Young was compelled to flee from Missouri to Illinois in February of 1839 while this non-apostolic committee on removal continued its work for thousands of Mormons still in Missouri.

So not only are “miracles” created and then retroactively inserted into the historical narrative in order to show divine sanction of these changes in leadership and, frankly, these power grabs; but also stories about how it is “the apostles were prepared to lead the church” were created. And this is an example of that kind of story; the idea that the apostles supervised the saints when they were expelled from Missouri, preparing them for supervising the saints going out to Utah, when actually that was not the case at all.

The apostles had little to no role in supervising the saints who were fleeing from Missouri to Illinois. Once again history is written by the winners as an excuse for hanging the losers.

It’s becoming obvious to me at this point that I have too much information for one podcast. I don’t want to overstay my welcome so I am going to save everything else that I was going to be saying now, for a Part Two episode which hopefully will be coming out in the near future. But before I conclude this part of the episode, I need to make it very clear that when I'm talking about Joseph Smith’s vision and the revelation in section 107 for the different quorums, there is obviously some way in which the First Presidency is in control and yet all the Quorums are equal in power and authority.

So even though there is some way in which the First Presidency is “in charge” in some kind of loose way, there is also a very important component of the government where all the quorums are equal in power and authority.

Some of that can be explained by the fact that different Quorums had different jobs within the church, and so they were in charge of different areas and had different spheres of influence; and yet the Quorums themselves were all considered to be equal in power and authority.

The reason I want to come back to that is because this is something that shows up in the King Follett discourse. Not only did Joseph Smith see the different Quorums as being equal in power and authority, he also saw the same kind of relationship between God, and between the eternally existent spirits, one of which is you and one of which is me. He gave the King Follett discourse only a few months before he died, but in that discourse he talks about the eternal nature of spirit. He says that we have no beginning and we have no end, just the same way as God has no beginning and God has no end.

And Joseph Smith and the recorded notes of his sermon -there were four people present who transcribed notes from the sermon and those were all amalgamated into what we know today as the King Follett discourse- but the word that they recorded that Joseph Smith used when talking about the comparison between these eternally existent spirits and God, was that they are “co-equal” with God. That is what the record shows that Joseph Smith said about us and our eternally existent spirits and God. That we are co-equal with God.

Now, the LDS church, ever since that was written down, has distanced itself from that idea.

B.H. Roberts, who initially did a lot of work with the King Follett discourse, wrote a number of footnotes.You can find those footnotes incorporated into the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (pg 352, note 8). Those footnotes are there; they were written by B.H. Roberts, and he insists that when Joseph Smith said co-equal he actually said a very archaic and unusual term called “coeval.” Now that's C-O-E-V-A-L, not E-V-I-L.

"Coeval." You probably never heard of it. I would never have heard of it in my life, except that I read the footnotes that B.H. Roberts wrote in the King Follett discourse. But “coeval” is an archaic word that means “coextensive with.” So, in other words, it is basically saying the same idea that when Joseph Smith says that spirits have existed from all time past to all-time future, they are from eternity to eternity; there is no creation about them, the same as God.

But the actual word Joseph Smith used was not coeval. It was co-equal. "Spirits are co-equal with God."

B.H. Roberts doesn't like that. He wants it to be coeval with God; not that we're equal with God, but just that we're coextensive with God.

This is something that the LDS Church continues to do as recently as 1971, in an Ensign article about the King Follett discourse, when in a two-part series it was reproduced. Yes, there was a time when the church actually talked about the King Follett discourse, and that time was back in 1971. And there, where they're quoting this part of the discourse they say this. This is quoting from the discourse itself: “The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself.” That's from the King Follett discourse.

But they're not satisfied to leave it here. They can't just say it's co-equal with God. They have to put in brackets right after “co-equal,” the word “co-eternal.” You see, Joseph Smith really can't be trusted. He really doesn’t mean co-equal when he says co-equal; he actually means co-eternal because the Church is more comfortable with co-eternal.

This is what it reads in the Ensign article. This is May of 1971:
“The mind or the intelligence man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself.”
The co-eternal, being an addition by the editor to make sure the reader does not think Joseph Smith meant “co-equal” when he said “co-equal.” Because Joseph Smith, apparently like the bible, is true only insofar as he is translated correctly.

The point I am trying to get at is that Joseph Smith’s vision of the relationship of spirits and God is similar to his vision of the relationship of the different leadership quorums in the church. Certainly God, in some meaningful way, is superior to the other spirits. He is in charge in some way. He is more intelligent than all of them (going back to the Book of Abraham quote). But in a very important way the spirits -our spirits- are all also co-equal with God himself.

And similarly, Joseph Smith seems to have seen the quorums in the same way: that the First Presidency in some meaningful way is in charge, but also in a very meaningful way -and no less important way- all the Quorums, including the Quorum of the First Presidency, are co-equal. None is above the other. This idea that our intelligences are co-equal with God himself, is a fascinating idea and suggests the wide-ranging democracy of Joseph Smith's vision not only of his church, but also of the cosmos and the beings that reside in it.

To Be Continued
Well, that's all we have time for today. Next episode, Part Two of Apostolic Coup D'etat, we will get into the nitty and the gritty of how Brigham Young disassembled the Quorum of the Seventy because he perceived it as a threat. Because Brigham Young, yes, understood section 107 as meaning that the quorums are equal in power and authority, and that even the Quorum of the Seventy, which we typically think of as being obviously beneath the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Brigham Young saw as a threat to his power and leadership, so it had to be dismantled. We'll go into the details of that.

We'll also talk about what happened to the church Patriarch, which was considered to be the highest office in the church -at least by Joseph Smith, who did know a thing or two about that church that he established. Then we'll talk about how Brigham Young disassembled and dismantled the Nauvoo Stake High Council which, believe it or not, according to section 107 says is equal in authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as to the First Presidency. Nobody in the church ever reads that part; they always stop when they get to the Quorum of the Seventy. You actually have to read on to find out that the high council in Nauvoo was equal in power and authority to the Seventy, and to the Twelve Apostles, and to the First Presidency.

So we'll talk about how Brigham Young dismantled that, and ultimately put the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the top dog in a strict, top-down hierarchy with no equality of power between the different quorums in the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And finally we will touch on the sad and tragic fate of Samuel Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith, who died mysteriously, and some would say suspiciously, in Nauvoo one month after Joseph Smith was murdered.

Hopefully, that's enough to whet your appetite to listen to Part Two of this podcast.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Leadership Hustle

Previously: My Favorite Anti-Mormon

Around the middle of the 20th century, about the time N. Eldon Tanner was leapfrogged into Church leadership due to his talent for raising money, the LDS Church began a gradual shift in the type of men selected for leadership roles. As the old theologians died off, they were often replaced by men with backgrounds in business, law, and finance. These former executives may not have been accomplished scriptorians like their predecessors, but they had other skills the Church needed at the time.

This was the era of The Organization Man, when terms like "effective leadership" and "fast track to management" were buzzwords heard in the corporate boardrooms where many of these future Church leaders were plucked from. And the leadership track was working in those venues, no doubt about it. Train your employees in the art of effective leadership, and your entire company will prosper.

You won't get an argument from me on that. In the business world, effective management training at all levels is essential for the success of any company. I've been there, done that, and had a small share of success.  I'm pro free enterprise, so I understand how important it is for any large company to have someone -often several someones- trained to inspire the employees below them to stay motivated. Effective leadership in business is the key to getting things done properly and efficiently. Leaders instill vision. No vision, and your business goes stagnant.

The only problem with the leadership track is that not every management technique that works in the corporate world can properly be adapted to a church.  Where there are leaders there must be followers, and in most companies even the leaders are following leaders of their own, each manager accountable to a manager above him, all the way up to the CEO.

But the church was never intended to operate under a top down paradigm. There isn't supposed to be anyone in the church "below" anyone else, so who is the leader supposed to be leading? All are alike unto God, our scriptures teach us, and no man is authorized to manage, direct, or impose his will on another.

The Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be a level field where no man holds title or position above another (Alma 1:26). Jesus Himself defines His church as a community of like-minded individuals with a common bond, i.e. all have repented of their sins and come unto Him (D&C 10:67). That community of believers is the church. So if the church has a leader, that leader is Jesus Christ and him alone. There is no accommodation in scripture for members of the body of Christ to follow anyone except their heavenly King. Scripture emphatically and repeatedly warns against it.

In Joseph Smith's day there were callings in the church, to be sure, but none ranked above the other in importance the way they do today.  The LDS church in the Kirtland/Missouri/Nauvoo era was patterned after the primitive Christian church, where Paul tells us Jesus called some of the members to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). But these were not management positions. These callings implied a responsibility to serve their brothers and sisters, not to manage and direct them.

If you doubt things are different in our day, you need only consult this statement that was issued by the Church PR department. [1]
The Church is led by 15 apostles. The most senior apostle is the president of the Church, and he selects two other apostles as counselors. These three function as the First Presidency, which is the highest governing body of the Church. Twelve others form the Quorum of the Twelve — the second-highest governing body of the Church. Together, the First Presidency and the Twelve oversee the entire Church. (emphasis mine.)
[1 ] If you wonder why a church needs a PR department, you're beginning to ask the right questions. 

The prophet Joseph was once asked how he governed such a disparate group of people. He seemed to think the question was a foolish one, because he answered, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."

Setting aside for a moment that Joseph Smith would have rejected the notion that church members would require a first presidency to act as overseer to them, when we read that statement from the PR department we should be asking another question: why are the Twelve Apostles declared to be "the second highest governing body of the Church" at all, seeing as how our founding prophet strictly prohibited them from getting anywhere near church government?
"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." (Joseph Smith, Kirtland Council Minutes, quoted in William Shepard and H. Michael Marquardt, Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism's Original Quorum of the Twelve, pg 85-86)
The modern institution that calls itself "The Church"(TM) proudly furnishes a corporate flow chart showing the president of the church at the top, flanked by his two counselors, with a considerable list of officers and managers below them.


Do you notice anything missing from that chart? How about the High Council? Where did they go?

Answer: After the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, Brigham Young threatened members of that body with excommunication if they would not defer to his wishes, and eventually abolished it altogether because the High Council stood in the way of his ambition to lead the church.

If there was an entity actually authorized to govern the affairs of the church, it wasn't the First Presidency, and it wasn't the Twelve Apostles. It was the High Council, which acted both as a court to settle disputes, and a decision-making body over Church affairs:
October 21, 1839; Monday.  The High Council met according to adjournment of the 20th inst Oct 21st 1839 -1st. Shall Joseph Smith Jun go to Washington D.C. or not- Answer It is voted as follows viz 5 voted to have him go and 2 voted for him not to go. (John Dinger, The Nauvoo City Council and High Council Minutes, pg 342)
This is instructive because it reminds us that even the prophet himself had to go before the council to seek approval in some matters; he was not some Grand Poobah in the church with carte blanc authority to do as he wished. (You may recall if you read my post on tithing that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon went before the High Council to request a salary, which was ultimately denied.)

There is to be no hierarchy in the church if the church is run properly. Back then, unlike today, the Twelve apostles did not give instructions to the Seventies, and the First Presidency did not hold rank over the Quorum of the Twelve or the Quorum of Seventy. All offices were completely independent of each other. The Lord wanted it that way because the Lord understands the proclivity of men to overstep their boundaries.

In the 1840's Church affairs were governed by the High Council, and priesthood authority came not through the president but through the Patriarch. Today, however, both offices have been quietly (some would say secretly) abolished without any revelation received on the matter. That's too bad, because those two offices were the least threatening to the well-being of the members. But those offices were a stumbling block to those desiring control over the church, so it's easy to see why they had to go. Today the church that Jesus Christ set up through His prophet has been supplanted with the corporate leadership model.

In November of 1923, under the advice of attorneys, Church President Heber J. Grant converted the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from an independent religious society founded under the laws of God, into a legally recognized corporation chartered under the laws of the United States government. The advantage of incorporation was that the Church could now legally operate free from the constraints imposed by scripture. President Grant even legally changed the name of the church from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, conveniently neglecting to mention the name change to the members, as well as forgetting the Lord's warning in 3rd Nephi that "if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man."

But no matter. This was a new era, a time when the Church would soon be boasting of becoming a worldwide church,  And a worldwide church would need dynamic new leaders to help it meet the challenges of the 20th Century. That meant adopting worldly programs if necessary to meet those needs.

Bring 'Em Young
In volume 2, at page 818 of The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, we are told that "leadership training of LDS boys and girls begins at a very young age." Why it would be necessary to have twelve-year-olds preside over each other as Deacons and Beehives was something I never grasped the importance of at the time, and I still don't. I was a counselor to the Deacon's Quorum President back in the day, and all three of us -president and counselors- felt the callings were a meaningless joke, since our teacher -excuse me, I think I meant to say "Deacon's Quorum Advisor,"- held all the knowledge and all the power over us and every other pubescent goof-off in the room.  I'm convinced today that these titles are nothing but a ploy to get the boys and girls acclimated to the leadership track at an early age.

The word "Priesthood," which actually has nothing whatever to do with managing or governing, has now come to be synonymous with "Leadership." And leadership implies management and governing skills.  Before long every young man who was ordained to the priesthood was taught that the way to "magnify his priesthood" -a phrase with no discernible meaning- was to aspire to leadership within the church.

To be fair, all of us were taught that it was not appropriate to "aspire" to church leadership. That would be unseemly.  But those offering us that caveat were speaking out of both sides of their mouths, because even as we were being taught to be humble and docile and look not to the ways of the outside world, we were encouraged to read books on leadership by general authorities that were based completely on their former successes in the outside world.

Foremost among these general authorities was Sterling W. Sill, a highly successful former insurance executive who published over thirty self-help books while he held office in the church, and nearly all of them meant to turn young priesthood holders into effective leaders. His books had such titles as The Law of Success, The Way of Success, How To Personally Profit From The Law of Success, and his hefty three volume magnum opus, Leadership, a set that was required reading for any young priesthood holder who hoped to make it to the celestial kingdom.

The year before I left on my mission, apostle Paul Dunn came out with a huge Church bestseller titled The Ten Most Wanted Men. Every Mormon man who aspired to personal greatness read that book. It described the type of future leader "most wanted" by the Church (and perhaps some future employer), and taught the reader the steps necessary to cultivate those qualities within himself. Such a leader would be "The man who can counsel others," "The man who knows how to delegate," "The man who knows how to call others to leadership opportunities," and so on. Given what we later found out about the author, it should come as no surprise that the list did not include "The man who is scrupulously honest."

In the face of all these books, lesson plans, and fireside talks encouraging us to excel as leaders, it was not always easy to comport oneself with the requisite humility when finally given a calling. Anyone who served a mission in the 1970's as I did knew that being called to be a District Leader, Zone leader, or Assistant to the President was a grand promotion that set you apart and above your fellows in the field. You couldn't help but be proud of your new calling. It's the first thing the young Elder wrote home about. And when he returned home it was often the thing he listed at the top of his resume under "EXPERIENCE."

And what was the function of these mission leaders? Very similar to the function of a leader in the the world of commerce. The District Leader had the responsibility of calling the missionaries in his district to get a report on the numbers for that week: how many hours did you tract, how many Books of Mormon did you place, how many referrals did you get from the members, how many discussions taught, and how many baptisms (if any)?

The District Leader would then phone his leader, the Zone Leader, and report all the numbers he got from the missionaries in his district. Then the Zone Leader would phone his leaders, the Assistants to the President, who compiled all the totals and submitted them to their leader, the Mission President. The Mission President then reported those totals to his leader, who was some member of the Quorum of Seventy back in Salt Lake. And so it went all the way up to the Quorum of the Twelve.

The bottom-line question in any corporate business is "how many products did we sell?" In the boardroom of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, that question translated as, "how many baptisms did we get?"

If the total number of baptisms in my mission are lower this quarter than they were the previous one, my mission president knows he's going to be leaned on by corporate to get those numbers up. So he'll bring in the AP's and tell them they have to do better; the AP's in turn will lean on the ZL's to do better; the ZL's will lean on the the DL to do better; and the DL will ride my butt to get out and do more tracting.

And that's what passes for "leadership" among Mormon missionaries.

I'm sorry to say that as a missionary my focus was not on how many people I had helped bring to Christ, but on how many people I could persuade to join my church. The leadership training we received as missionaries was virtually identical to the training Sterling Sill gave to his insurance salesmen back when he was at New York Life: it's a numbers game. The more people you approach, and the more people who say no, the greater the odds that ultimately you'll come across a prospect who says yes. You just have to be willing to make it through dozens or hundreds of "no's" before you finally get that sale. So the secret to becoming a successful missionary is you stay out there and keep knocking on doors until you get a fish on the end of your line.

I won't say my mission was a waste of time because it wasn't. About half the people I helped to convert remained faithful in the gospel. But I recall the many times I met people who knew Christ better than I did, but who had no interest in joining my church. I could have found common ground with so many of these good people, and I would have most certainly been edified by accepting their hand of friendship and engaging in fruitful discussions about God's love, with no pressure to get them to change.

But I failed to do that. My role as a missionary, as I understood it, was to get people to join my church, and every moment wasted talking with an already converted Christian who held no interest in joining was time that could be better spent searching for that elusive "golden contact." So my companion and I might teach one or two discussions to these committed Christians, but when it became obvious we just weren't going to close the sale, we would, in the lingo of missionaries, "dump them" and not go back.

Some of the leadership training I got through the church came in handy in my later professional life. But that's the sad irony, isn't it? If my goal was to find success in Mammon, I could have (and did) study these methods on my own. The Church should have been focusing on saving souls rather than training up an army of future business leaders. So although I did come out of it with management skills that served me in my professional life, in the end even that brand of success wore thin.

Because the sad truth is that leadership, even as taught within the Church of Christ, by its very nature carries with it the responsibility of imposing your will on others in ways that are sometimes harsh and unfeeling. If you aspire to leadership, hurting other people comes with the territory. Sometimes I was forced to fire someone who worked for me, not always because I wanted to, or even needed to, but because I had some leader of my own back at company headquarters who demanded it of me. Depriving other people of their livelihood was a function of leadership I did not much care for, so I eventually took up a line of work where the only person who ever got fired was me.

After all is said and done, the only self-help book that really made an impression on me in my youth was Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, which I don't think ever made it onto the Deseret/Bookcraft list of essential reading. That book taught me to treat everyone I meet with kindness, while some of the leadership techniques touted in books by church authorities preached kindness on the one hand, but subtle manipulation on the other.

I often wonder, had I not been constantly exposed to years of indoctrination into the importance of leadership within the church, if I might have sooner come to the realization that modern church leaders possess neither the gifts nor the authority God gave to Joseph Smith. Why had it never occurred to me to ask myself why I should look to their teachings the way I looked to the teachings of Joseph Smith, since none of them had ever had an audience with God the way Joseph Smith had?

These were men who purported to be the successors of the prophet Joseph Smith in every way, yet none of them ever received or conveyed a single revelation from God as Joseph Smith had. I looked to them as if every utterance from their mouths was divine. I put these undeserving men on pedestals and made them my idols for no other reason than they held high callings and station and leadership titles in the Church. I should have been more circumspect, but I blindly followed these men because they were my leaders and they told me to.

Today I follow Jesus Christ and no other. Leaders are for suckers.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Favorite Anti-Mormon

Previously: Why Our Scriptures Need An Overhaul

Unexpected circumstances recently took me from our home in Sandpoint, Idaho all the way back to Utah, and while I was in Salt Lake City I was the guest on Shawn McCraney's live-streaming telecast, "Heart of the Matter."

Shawn McCraney and I had never met in person prior to the night of the telecast, but we have communicated with each other by phone and email a few times over the past decade. What struck me as I watched the telecast later was the realization that here I was having a perfectly enjoyable conversation with a man that only a dozen years ago I would have shunned as my enemy.

Shawn and I have a few differences that in the past I would have felt divided us irrevocably. For instance, I embrace the Book of Mormon. Shawn does not. I believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. Shawn does not.

Shawn has, in fact, devoted a good portion of his life attempting to rescue believing Mormons from what he feels is their delusions. As a formerly devout latter-day Saint himself, Shawn is intimately familiar with the history and doctrines of the church, and he not only rejects them, he vociferously denounces the entire religion as fraudulent. So you can understand why, when I first came across Shawn McCraney on the internet, I considered him a traitor to the faith -as indeed many active latter-day saints still do today. Yet when Shawn and I finally met in person we embraced each other as brothers.

Why is that?

Because the thing that unites Shawn and I is more powerful than that which divides us. We share an abiding love for one another because we both embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. And that, I can tell you, easily overcomes any religious differences or dogmas. For those who share a unity in Christ, Denominational differences can easily be set aside. They are simply not that relevant.

I happen to believe that the core fundamentals of what we call "Mormonism" are true and valid, but that many of those truths revealed through Joseph Smith have since been warped, corrupted, or outright ignored by those who assumed authority over the church after Joseph's death. The real traitors to the faith were Joseph Smith's purported friends who considered "authority" the ultimate determinant of what is important to the religion, rather than focusing on the pure word of God. After Joseph's death they lied about Joseph Smith when it served their own purposes. They lied about the things Joseph adamantly opposed, and they lied when they claimed Joseph passed his authority on to them.

Today the LDS Church is led by descendants of those original usurpers, men every bit as convinced of their divine right to ownership of the religion as were Caiaphas and Annas in their day.

So Shawn McCraney and I have something in common after all. We are both convinced that religious dogma will not save; only Jesus saves. And any church that requires its members to profess fealty to the leaders of that church is leading those members astray.

In my interview, I tell how the LDS Church today is actively disciplining faithful members who refuse to bow the knee to Church leadership. Members who testify of a desire to "become closer to Christ" are, in the eyes of Church leadership, using "code words" that mark them as being on the road to apostasy. Anyone who admits to following the teachings of the Book of Mormon too closely is at risk of being disfellowshiped or excommunicated.

These days it is not people like Shawn McCraney who are driving Mormons out of the church. The ones responsible for the exodus today are the leaders of LDS Inc themselves. Like the high priests in Jesus' day, they falsely teach the people that they are the ultimate authority and that safety is only assured if you "keep your eyes riveted on the leadership of the Church."

This is something Jesus never taught. It is false doctrine. Our eyes should be riveted on Jesus Christ and Him only. Anyone who teaches contrary to that is on the high road to apostasy, and will lead you astray.

I very much enjoyed the time I spent in the cheery company of Shawn McCraney. There is something very uplifting about being in fellowship someone with whom we share the unity of Christ.  The person I was a dozen years ago would have thought Shawn McCraney was my enemy. Now I know he is my brother. I really love this guy.

You can watch the one hour interview by going to the Heart of the Matter website, or right here:

Here is a link to a blog post relevant to the conversation Shawn and I had together:
The Refiner's Fire

And here is where you can find evidence that the Book of Mormon took place in North America, including the latest archaeology, DNA research, etc:

By way of correction, at about the 12:10 mark in the interview, I incorrectly stated that the Documentary History of the Church had been doctored by Joseph Smith. What I meant to say was that it had been doctored by Brigham Young in order to put words in Joseph Smith's mouth that Joseph never said.  You can read more about that here.  

By the way, I am well aware that I talked and talked and talked too much in that interview, so you don't have to point that out to me. My wife already has.


I mentioned above that I was unexpectedly called to Utah. Connie's aunt had died a few months ago, and someone needed to go down there and retrieve the possessions in the name of the family. Aunt Mary Lou had taken out a reverse mortgage on the house she lived it, so the property was being reposessed by the bank. But the contents of the house belong to Connie and her siblings, and though there wasn't much of value, we brought back what shoes, clothing, and blankets we could here to Northern Idaho. Our fellowship is preparing a sort of "Bishop's Storehouse" of goods we hope to make available to those in need during the coming days, so we had permission from Connie's siblings to donate anything we could find of value for that purpose.

I'm mentioning this only because I owe a great debt of gratitude for all those who showed up to assist me in sorting through the stuff and helping to rescue it. Without your assistance everything would have wound up in a landfill once the house was foreclosed upon. These were all the worldly goods and family mementos of Connie's deceased grandparents as well as her uncle and aunt, all now passed. She was heartbroken at the prospect that everything that ever meant anything to her family would soon be junked.

So to those kind people who showed up to assist me, a very gracious "thank you." Your help meant a lot to me, and the fact that I had never met any of you in person (aside from the three friends who came down from Sandpoint) just seems miraculous. It's hard to fathom that so many who have never met me would be so ready to give of their time. So again I thank you, Connie thanks you, and Connie's sister and two brothers also thank you for saving their family's meager possessions from ending up in the trash for all time.

And best of all, some good people who are in need of something to wear and keep them warm will one day have what they need because of your kind deeds. So I also thank you in advance on their behalf.