Sunday, March 12, 2017

Evil Speaking Of The Lord's Anointed

Previously: Misquoting God

There are numerous places in scripture where evil speaking is declared sinful.  Here are just a handful of verses I culled from the LDS topical guide regarding evil speaking. Maybe you can identify the common denominator in all of them that would indicate why evil speaking is considered such a serious trespass:

Psalms 34:13; 1Peter 3:10Proverbs 16:27; Matthew 5:11; 3 Nephi 12:11; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Acts 23:5; Ephesians 4:31; James 4:11; D&C 20:54.

In a revelation given in 1831, the Lord commands His saints not to speak evil of their neighbors or do them any harm. And in case you missed the lesson in Luke chapter ten, "your neighbor" means everybody. Everyone on the planet is your neighborSo when we engage in evil speaking of anyone at all, we are breaking a direct commandment given to us by Jesus Christ Himself.

Yet as bad as breaking that commandment can be, the scriptures suggest we could do far worse. A more egregious sin than speaking evil of our neighbor would be to speak evil of those whom God has anointed to His work. "Evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" turns out to be a sin so serious that it comes with its own set of curses on the heads of those who commit it. And those curses fall not only on the heads of the original perpetrators, but on the heads of their descendants as well, "from generation to generation." These miscreants "shall not escape the damnation of hell," the Lord assured Joseph Smith, for "I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof for them all."  (D&;C 121: 16-21)

Yikes. Sucks to be those guys.

This is why I have always been very careful to never engage in evil speaking of the Lord's anointed.

That's not to say I haven't been accused of that very thing on more than one occasion. But such accusations are usually lobbed at me by people who don't know how to look up words.

Some of my fellow Mormons think "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" has something to do with saying things about church leaders that, though possibly true, are uncomfortable to hear. But that's not even close to what it means. So before we go any further, let's look up the meaning of this phrase, shall we?  Because if we're going to examine a sin as deservedly denounced as evil speaking of the Lord's anointed, we'd first better understand the actual definition. So let's break it down into its two pertinent parts and define each one in turn:

First, what is "evil speaking"?
Secondly, who are "the Lord's anointed"?

Because the term "evil speaking" shows up in the bible so often, Noah Webster defined it in his biblically influenced American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828. This dictionary defines the meaning of words in use by Americans at the time Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon and publishing the revelations he received from God. So whenever we come across a word or phrase in scripture that isn't perfectly familiar to us today, we should avoid assuming it means something we think it means, and instead look up the meaning of the word as understood by the people who wrote it down and used it.

I've come across a fair number of fellow Mormons who think evil speaking is synonymous with gossiping, backbiting, and unwarranted criticism. And although gossiping and backbiting are specifically warned against in scripture because they can be harmful, they don't come close to being as palpably harmful as evil speaking.

Backbiting is talking negatively about someone who is not present to defend himself. A Gossip is defined by Noah Webster as "One who runs from house to house, tattling and telling news; an idle tattler."

Some gossip, though not very nice, might not necessarily be false. If, for instance, I said to the woman who lives next door, "I heard Mary is pregnant;" it might be none of my business, and certainly not my place to announce the news without Mary's permission. But that gossip might not do harm to Mary's reputation, especially if Mary is happily married and planning to tell everyone herself. My gossip would have ruined Mary's surprise, but it wouldn't have ruined Mary.

But if I told the woman next door that "Mary is a slut and she's pregnant and it's your husband's baby," then I would be engaging in evil speaking.

Webster defines evil speaking using these synonyms: "slander; defamation; calumny; censouriousness."

I don't mean to minimize the harm that can be caused by idle gossip. But let's face it: slander, defamation, and calumny can be a lot more damaging than gossip for the single reason those words all denote a deliberate intent to do harm to another. That word "evil" in evil speaking should have been our first clue. In the immortal words of Michael Jackson, it's "really, really bad."

Let's look at that first synonym, slander. When you slander someone, you're speaking untruths with the intent to defame. "Defamation" can cause serious harm to others, so no wonder the Lord categorizes evil speaking as a sin. Defamation is not just immoral, it's punishable by law. Defamation is defined as,
"Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person." (West's Encyclopedia of American Law.) 
Note the qualifying word in that sentence: "false." You can't slander a person by saying something about him that's true. You can only slander him by defaming him, and in order to defame him, you have to lie about him. That is the common denominator in the scripture verses I referenced above. Evil speaking means intentionally lying.

Today if you damage another's reputation by lying about him, or, as Jesus put it, "speaking evil of your neighbor," you can expect to be sued. You would probably lose and have to pay damages, and that would be that.

But back in the day when the common law ruled, you might have to do more than just fork over some cash; you would also be publicly shamed. The magistrate could require you to go to the parish of the guy you defamed where you would have to stand before the congregation, publicly pronounce the words you had used against him, admit those words were not true, and confess that you had knowingly defamed him. And then you would be required to "beg pardon, first, of God, and then of the party defamed, for uttering such words." (Clerk's Assist. 225; 3 Burn's Eccl. Law, Defamation, pl. 14; 2 Chit. Pr. 471 Cooke on Defamation, cited in Bouvier's Law Dictionary, 1856 edition.)

I was accused of slander myself just three months ago, but the accusation was hollow. Someone who appeared unfamiliar with this blog had stumbled across a post I wrote a while ago titled "How We Know Thomas S. Monson Is A Prophet, Seer, And Revelator." This person or persons (hard to tell which, since he/she goes by two first names, "ericnsabrina"), either didn't understand what was being said when I quoted the words of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Harold B. Lee, and others, or they were confused at the things Gordon Hinckley had said to some reporters. At any rate, I was caught up short when I saw this comment show up:
"This blog is horrible! The only up side to it is that if you're being unkind and slandering the people that are members of Tha Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is that y'all don't have time to go after and slander anyone else. We'll take the hit, we are strong enough to survive it. Good luck to all you Haters! You're going to need it! I will pray for all of you. Negativity begets Negativity...There is nothing positive here. Nothing uplifting and certainly nothing of value."
Well, that was harsh. I didn't recall saying anything slanderous about "the people that are members of Tha Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" when I wrote that post.  But then I wrote it a good year and a half ago. Maybe I did slander the members, and just forgot I had. Or maybe I'm just schizo.

Slander, let's remember, is a synonym for evil speaking. I figured I'd better go back and read that post again.

So I re-read it, but I still couldn't find any falsehoods in the piece. It seemed to me I was accurate with all my quotes, and hadn't made any doctrinal or theological errors. Maybe I'm just so close to the thing that I can't see my own faults. I certainly don't want to be teaching falsehoods on this blog, so I replied with the following comment to ericnsabrina, hoping they would return and show me where they felt I had acted dishonestly:
Ericnsabrina Gaskins,
If you would be kind enough to point out any specific examples of slander in this piece, I will happily go back and make corrections.
Later that day ericnsabrina posted this reply:
I will not get into anything that is going to feed your vendetta against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I leave that in the Lord's hands. This is not my fight or anger issues against His Church. My job is to declare the truth not to prove it. However, if you can release your anger for little while, long enough to pray and ask your Heavenly Father what is true. I know that if you're sincere, He will answer you. I will not argue these points, ask of God. I stand by my previous comment.
I'll be honest with you; I'm not sure ericnsabrina have any idea what slander is. Still, I take these accusations seriously. After all, one day I will have to stand before the judgment bar, and I'd hate to find out at the last minute that I had been guilty of evil speaking of anyone, member of the church or not.  So here was my response:
No one is asking you to "prove" slander, EricnSabrina; merely to point it out so it can be corrected. Jesus instructs us in Matthew 18 that if a brother sins, go and point out his sin, and if he hears you, you have gained a brother. 
Slander is defined as speaking falsehoods or untruths that result in harm or defamation. As a devout believer in the gospel as restored through Joseph Smith, I certainly don't wish to publish untruths. If I am in the wrong, I want to have it pointed out to me so I can immediately correct that wrong. 
You have accused me of sin, and I'm willing to have you point that sin out to me. Yet when I ask for correction, you are content not to answer, but only to "stand by" your accusation. You wrote, "my job is to declare the truth" and "I stand by my previous comment." Yet in throwing out a wild accusation and then letting it just hang there, you are refusing to either declare the truth or to stand by your comment.

That, my friend, is slander. And if you are unwilling to back up your accusation, you are guilty of engaging in the very act you accuse me of.

I would refer you to Jesus' warning about such accusations in Matthew 7:5, and why he calls it hypocrisy. 
If you are unwilling to point out even one example where you have found evidence of slander on this blog, I can only conclude you are motivated by a spirit of contention.
I haven't heard anything from ericnsabrina since I invited him/her to help me correct my errors.

But this sort of thing happens now and then. Someone will come on here and accuse me of all kinds of malfeasance, and when I ask them to show me where I've gone wrong, they are never heard from again. The most common allegation I get is that I'm an anti-Mormon. I don't know how to respond to that other than to point to the title of my blog, which is, after all, called Pure Mormonism. I would think "pure" Mormonism would be the near opposite of "anti" Mormonism.  But maybe not everybody gets that.

There are plenty of places on this blog where you'll find my fervent testimony of the restored gospel, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and our founding principles, but I guess people will see what they want to see. In the immortal words of ericnsabrina, "good luck to all you haters!"

Which Brings Us To Censorious Calumny
Censoriousness is another synonym Noah Webster uses to define evil speaking. He describes a censorious person as one who is always finding fault. In Webster's words, this person is addicted to censuring others, finding them ill-mannered, ill-natured, and uncharitable. In short, the censorious person fathers onto everyone else all of his own shortcomings, yet doesn't seem able to recognize those flaws in himself. Not a fun guy to be around, I'd imagine. Lacks introspection.

 "Calumny" is a word we don't hear very much these days, but if you're looking for a one-word definition of evil speaking, calumny is that word with bells and frills. More intensely malicious than slander, defamation, and censorious all rolled into onecalumny represents the act of lying with deliberate, scheming intent to utterly ruin and destroy the targeted person. No accidental slip of the tongue, no inadvertent gossip, calumny implies deliberate, wicked intent to destroy another's good name and reputation.  Calumny is the knockout blow, the sockdolager of evil speaking. It is a majorly wicked act. Here's how Noah Webster defines calumny:
False accusation of a crime or offense, knowingly or maliciously made or reported, to the injury of another; false representation of facts reproachful to another, made by design, and with knowledge of its falsehood.
If slander is lying with the intent to defame, calumny is lying with intent to destroy.

You can see why the Lord commands us to avoid evil speaking. Idle gossip is bad enough. Unwarranted criticism is bothersome.  But evil speaking has the potential to destroy a person's life. You do not want to be found guilty of that sin at the judgment day.

Who Are The Lord's Anointed?
This brings us to the second half of our question. If the Lord doesn't like it when we tell lies about our neighbor with the intent to defame him, we shouldn't wonder why he hates it when we tell lies about those he has personally anointed to carry out his work.

So who are these people, anyway?

Well, just as the clue for recognizing the meaning of evil speaking was contained within the phrase itself, it should be easy enough for us to identify the meaning of  "the Lord's anointed." Let's put on our thinking caps. Are you ready? Here we go:

"The Lord's anointed" refers to someone who has been anointed by the Lord.

That was easy enough, wasn't it? Well, it should have been easy, I'll grant you that. After all, we know from numerous examples in scripture that the apostles of the primitive Christian church were personally anointed by God to their missions. Even Paul, who was not present among the original Twelve and had not met Jesus during his mortal ministry, informed the church at Corinth that he and Timothy had both been personally anointed by the Lord:
"Now he which established us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."(2 Corinthians 1:21)
A great majority of those still active in the church today seem to think "the Lord's anointed" refers to anyone in the Church hierarchy with the title "Elder" or "President" in front of his name. But is that really the proper meaning of the term? Are all those guys at the top of the corporate flow chart the ones God is referring to in scripture when he speaks specifically of "mine anointed"? If so, it makes you wonder what they all did to deserve such a singular honor.

Strictly speaking, the word "anoint" means "to smear with oil." If you've been through the temple and had your washings and anointings, you have been anointed unto the Lord. I myself am one of the anointed ones, and that's no small privilege.

But did you catch that little qualifier?  I was anointed unto the Lord; I was never anointed of the Lord or by the Lord. So although you and I and everyone else who has been through the temple are indeed counted among the anointed, I don't think that suddenly makes us "the Lord's anointed" the way that term is used in scripture. There is a difference.

If we have read the Doctrine and Covenants and are somewhat familiar with church history, we will recall that only a handful of people called to leadership positions in this church were ever actually anointed of the Lord. And they seem to have died off long before the sun rose on the 20th century. We have no record of any modern church leader being anointed of the Lord, although our traditions hold that all of them have been.

Well, I'll grant the men governing the Church today have probably been anointed by somebody, just as a majority of the saints in the early church were, and just as I have been. But we're interested here in separating those who have been anointed by their fellow humans, from those actually anointed by the Lord. So let's examine what that difference might be.

In May of 1842 Joseph Smith assembled a group of nine men in the room above his red brick store where he and his brother Hyrum then administered to them the washing and anointing ceremony that would later be reserved for the temple. This group, which came to be known as "The Quorum of the Anointed," expanded during Joseph Smith's lifetime to include thirty-seven men and twenty-nine women.  Aside from washings and anointings, what else did these people do when they convened together? They took part in the true order of prayer for very long stretches at a time, and between prayers they sat and visited and discussed spiritual matters.

The one thing this quorum did not do was govern the church.

When Is A Quorum Not A Quorum? 
In this church, when we hear the word "quorum" bruited about, we tend to think it refers to a governing body, because that's what the word generally means.  A quorum is defined in most dictionaries as the minimum number of people required to be present at a proceeding before its proceedings are to be regarded as valid.

If you were to look at a list of the names of those present at the meetings of the Quorum of the Anointed, you might be forgiven for thinking this was an important governing body of the church. After all, both the president of the church and the patriarch were usually present, as well as the president of the high council of the church. All three of those men actually had been anointed of the Lord at one time or another, and all three officers together properly constituted the governing heads of the church. (Brigham Young, president of the Twelve Apostles, was present also, but as has been established elsewhere, he and the members of the quorum he presided over were specifically denied authority to exercise governing authority within the church.)

Most of the other men and women in the quorum had been anointed by Joseph and Hyrum. They had been anointed with oil, but were not, strictly speaking, "the Lord's anointed;" at least not in the sense that term is bandied about in the Church today.

As regards the Quorum of the anointed, "Quorum" is a bit of a misnomer for a couple of reasons. First, no minimum attendance was required when the Quorum of the Anointed got together; there were no rules regarding how many people were needed for the meeting to go forward. Whoever managed to make it there, made it there.

Secondly, no legislative or administrative business took place in those meetings.  Today we are liable to look back on that quorum through the distorted lens of history and assume that, because of the name, these were some sort of leadership meetings. They were anything but.

The purpose of the quorum of the anointed was to have a place for select members to gather as friends, hold prayer circles, and engage in theological discussion. Historian Michael Quinn points out that these meetings were the first time in church history that men and women together discussed theocratic issues. (The Mormon Hierarchy, Origins of Power pg 116.)

As Mormon historian Devery Anderson has written, "The quorum should be recognized for its comforting and invigorating spiritual power, acting as a body separate from those governing the Church administratively." (The Anointed Quorum In Nauvoo, 1842-45, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 29, No. 2, 2003, pg 157.)*
*Since Brother Anderson wrote the essay above, he and Gary Bergera have compiled a book documenting the minutes, activities, and discussions that took place during those gatherings: Joseph Smith's Quorum Of The Anointed, A Documentary History.

Identifying The Lord's Anointed
The Lord does not expect us to have to guess whether someone in his distinct service has been specially anointed or not; he'll come right out and tell us. Hence, we have some pretty clear evidence that Joseph Smith was chosen and anointed by God for a specific purpose, because we can read the oracles Jesus conveyed through Joseph that say so unequivocally. I listed a half dozen of them in this post back in December, so I won't repeat them here. I think it's undeniably clear that Joseph Smith was one of the Lord's anointed. So was his brother Hyrum. (See D&C 124, D&C 107, et al.)

Remember those cursings I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? Those are from a revelation given to the prophet while he, Hyrum, Sydney Rigdon, and others were unjustly imprisoned for nine months in a jail with a ceiling so low that none of them could stand erect the whole time. When they stood they had to stand hunched forward and head down, with the ceiling cramping the back of their necks. I spent a night in Liberty jail some 40-odd years ago, and I can tell you, trying to walk from one corner of that tiny room to another about drove me nuts. Those guys had to endure it for the better part of a year.

Here is what the Lord said about those who persecuted Joseph and Hyrum and put them in that hellhole:
"Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them." (D&C 121:16)
Why did God promise to curse Joseph and Hyrum's enemies? Because they wanted to do them physical harm ("lift up the heel against") and they lied about them, "saying they had sinned when they had not sinned." The Lord goes on to condemn those who accuse his special servants of transgression when they have committed no transgressions, evil men who swore falsely against them with the deliberate aim of getting them imprisoned and hopefully killed. (Verses 17-18)

You get the gist of it. Lying about anyone in hopes of getting them killed or imprisoned is an evil act in itself. But telling those lies about the Lord's anointed is so much more egregious that it would be better for the perpetrators "that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea." (Verse 22.)

I wouldn't argue with that assessment one bit. The problem arises, however, when we take the words the Lord said about Joseph and Hyrum and apply them to members of the modern Church hierarchy. Should we speak evil of them? Of course we shouldn't. Evil speaking is evil no matter who the speech is directed against. But neither should we assume they have been anointed of the Lord when we can find no evidence such an assumption is based on fact.

For instance, most active members of the church believe Thomas Monson is God's anointed, same as Joseph Smith was almost two centuries ago. Yet can anyone name the date when President Monson's anointing took place?

So okay, maybe he wasn't actually anointed; perhaps he was just appointed by the Lord. At the very least he should have been ordained, right?

Okay then, why can't any of us find the date that important event-whatever you choose to call it- took place? How about the date Gordon Hinckley was anointed, appointed, or ordained by God?  Do we know that one? Why do we just assume some sort of anointing took place, while no one seems the least bit interested enough about it to want to know when exactly that monumental event occurred? This is supposedly the holy ordination of a prophet of God to the whole world, is it not? So why such disinterest?

We know from our scriptures that Joseph Smith was ordained of God, and Joseph informs us that all the prophets before him also "were ordained by God himself." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 180.) It stands to reason then that any prophets succeeding Joseph Smith and claiming to have inherited Joseph's mantle would also have been ordained of God, for that is the very claim put forth: that Joseph's successors hold all the keys, gifts, priesthood, abilities, and responsibilities that Joseph Smith held, and they also have been (according to tradition) ordained as was Joseph Smith and all the ancient prophets who existed before Joseph Smith.

But when did those ordinations take place? When exactly was Thomas Monson "ordained by God Himself"? We have extensive written histories in this church, so it shouldn't be much trouble to do the research and find out.

So suppose you do some digging. Can you find the date when Brigham Young was ordained by God? Or John Taylor, or Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, or any of the presidents of the church all the way forward to Thomas Monson? Why is it no one can ever cite the date, describe the process, or testify to witnessing any of these sacred ordinations?  For that matter, when has any president of the Church since Joseph Smith ever so much as hinted about his anointing, whether from the pulpit, in a revelation, or in a private journal?

Why is it that when the president of the church is presented at conference for a sustaining vote, the words we hear are "it is proposed that we sustain President Thomas S. Monson as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator" without anything ever being said about the president having first been called, or appointed, or anointed, or ordained, or at the very least "set apart" to that calling by the Lord Himself sometime prior to conference weekend?  Is it proper for us to give a sustaining vote to affirm an ordination we can't even claim we know for certain ever took place?

This tradition goes all the way back to our assumptions about Brigham Young. Those familiar with the history of the church are aware that three years after the prophet and his brother were murdered, Brigham Young persuaded the Twelve to nominate him to be president of the church, then asked for a sustaining vote from the congregation. Brigham never claimed to be anything but the president, and he never claimed to have been either anointed or appointed to that office by God. H was careful never to promote himself as being the new prophet seer, and revelator. Yet, over time we have developed a tradition that says he somehow was exactly that.

Some members get uncomfortable when they learn that no president of the church since Joseph Smith has ever been appointed by God to fill the position of prophet, seer, and revelator. They are afraid this information could hurt their testimonies.

But why? Why should any of this news negate the reality of the Restoration?  Does the fact that Brigham Young took over Joseph Smith's administrative duties without having been called of God somehow prove the gospel is no longer true? Why would it? After Joseph's assassination, Brigham himself told the saints, "Heretofore you have had a prophet as the mouthpiece of the Lord to speak to you. But he has sealed his testimony with his blood, and now, for the first time, are you called to walk by faith, and not by sight." (Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 1844, pg 20)

The restored gospel, and the history, and the theology we collectively refer to as "Mormonism" remains true and valid no matter what has or has not occurred within the administrative halls of the Church Office Building. The only effect this information should have on any of us is to remind us that we must depend more than ever on Jesus Christ for our salvation, and not look to mere mortals for direction.

Why should it damage your testimony of the restored gospel just because you discover the corporate Church is running on fumes? If you have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel, what does it matter if the so-called "line of authority" has ceased to exist on the earth for a season? Does that mean the heavens are closed to you now and that God is no longer on His throne?

Or do you depend for your testimony on the authority claims of men? If claims to authority are the criteria upon which we are to base our testimonies, why are we not honoring Caiaphas today instead of Jesus Christ?

It may surprise some members to learn that aside from the fact Brigham Young was not anointed by God when he was elected to the presidency of the Church, he wasn't even set apart or ordained by his fellow apostles! Brigham maintained that the apostolic church president and counselors needed no setting apart or ordination. All that was necessary, in his view, was a sustaining vote of the congregation. I disagree with him, but so what? Brigham is long gone anyway, so what does it matter so long as the gospel remains pure? Which is more valid -doctrine or tradition?

Starting with president number five, Lorenzo Snow, Church presidents began to be "set apart" to the office by their brethren in the Quorum, but they were still deliberately not ordained to it by their fellow general authorities. And throughout the pioneer period they were certainly never recognized as being prophets, seers, and revelators. There were two reasons for that: first, those abilities were considered gifts that only God could bestow on a person, and second, the succeeding four presidents of the church had been alive when Joseph Smith was. They knew him, and they knew his prophecies. They understood that there would not be another prophet to lead the church until that prophesied day when the Lord would send one mighty and strong to set His house in order (D&C 85). At that future time, it was believed, The Lord would set his hand a second time to recover his covenant people (2 Nephi 29). In the pioneer LDS Church post-Joseph, the idea that the president of the church was also a prophet was not widely held.

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.) But years later the protocol was adjusted:
"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 general authorities will tell you their line of authority goes all the way back to Joseph Smith, because, they believe, every one of the presidents was ordained of God the same as Joseph Smith was. But here's the thing: we can actually track the ordination of Joseph Smith, because he was personally called and ordained by God to the work in D&C 5:6 and elsewhere. While he was still alive, Joseph passed on his authority to his brother Hyrum. Joseph was the only one authorized by the Lord to do so, because he was the only one on the earth who possessed it all.

After Joseph and Hyrum departed this sphere, the historical record shows us that line of ordinations abruptly stopped. But then it somehow resumes in 1951. Assuming for the moment that George Albert Smith actually had any authority, the difficulty in passing it on to David O. McKay in 1951 is that by this time George Albert was dead. So instead, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, who did not have the keys, gifts, or authority of a prophet, seer, and revelator, performed the ordination on David O. 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 from God going back to Joseph Smith, since that line was broken at the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum and only just recently resumed in 1951?

The salient question is this: if Brigham Young had no authority to act as prophet, seer, and revelator, where did Thomas Monson get his? 

And if Monson does have those gifts, why has he never used them?

Here is something else to consider: have you ever heard Thomas Monson, or Gordon Hinckley, or any president of the Church in your lifetime, ever make the claim that he was the mouthpiece of the Lord? Have you ever heard any of them personally claim to be a prophet? For that matter, have you ever heard any president of the Church in your lifetime deliver a message that he said had been given to him by God?

Eight men have been elected president of the Church in my lifetime, and I've never once heard any of them so much as pretend to be the mouthpiece of the Lord.  That endorsement always seems to come from those below the president in rank. The only president of the Church to openly make the claim of being a prophet, seer, and revelator was the first one, Joseph Smith, and he left behind plenty of evidence to back up that claim.

Let that sink in for a moment. With the sole exception of Joseph Smith, no president of the Church whom the members sustain as a prophet, seer, and revelator has ever declared himself to be a prophet, a seer, or a revelator.

Don't you find that strange?

Well, I don't find it as strange as the fact that during every conference session I watch, the president of the Church sits quietly in his comfy chair on the stand while those around him step up to the microphone to shower him with accolades, describing him as "our beloved prophet," when the object of their affection sits there knowing he has never exhibited the gifts of a prophet, nor has he been anointed by God to that position. What I find most remarkable of all is that never has a president of the Church told his obsequious underlings to knock it off and focus their praises on Christ Jesus instead of on him.

What About Honest Criticism?
One of the disadvantages of not having a living prophet on the earth who actually conveys the word of God directly to the people, is that sooner or later someone in Church government will start making things up on his own.  This is what happened a few years back when Dallin Oaks, ostensibly an apostle of the Lord, declared an opinion the Lord Himself never advocated.

If, as Oaks insists, "it's wrong to criticize leaders of the Church even if the criticism is true," then we may as well throw out all the scriptural admonitions that say otherwise. Dallin Oaks holds the same high office in our day as Caiaphas and Annas held in theirs, positions that assert the words of Church leaders outrank the teachings of the Messiah.

Several years ago Elder Oaks gave a talk to a congregation of young adults wherein he equated honest criticism of Church leaders with "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed." (Why is it that whenever some rogue G.A. sets out to promote a truly malodorous false doctrine, they always seem to try it out on the young people first?)

Dallin's talk promoted the idea that it was forbidden for members of the Church to even remotely suggest Church leaders might be capable of error. So yeah, you guessed it: I am going to criticize Oaks for saying that. But first, a quick story regarding an episode from my mission where a president of the Church was right and I was dead wrong.

"One Of Our Biggest Dangers Of Today"
I was twenty-one years old in 1973 when I entered the MTC, which in those days was located not in Provo, but in Salt Lake City. One day all us missionaries were herded through the underground tunnel to the Salt Lake temple, where we were told we would have the opportunity to meet with President Harold B. Lee in the upper room. We could ask the prophet any questions we wanted. That sounded incredible! I was really looking forward to learning the deeper doctrines first hand from a real live prophet of the Lord.

Well, I didn't have any questions for President Lee myself, but many of the others in my group did. And some of the questions they asked seemed like tough ones to me.  But every time a question was posed, President Lee would quickly thumb through the set of scriptures that sat on the podium before him, and read aloud the answer the scriptures gave.

It was really impressive watching him because he instantly knew just where to find the answer to every question, flipping through the pages of his quad with lightning speed -fwip, fwip, fwip- and then reading the answer to each question directly from the page. I'd never seen anyone with such a thorough mastery of the scriptures. Doctrinal mysteries that would have stumped any normal person were quickly dispensed with by Lee's reading aloud from the word of God.

But impressive as it was, afterward I felt a bit cheated. I had gone to that meeting with every expectation of hearing rare and profound words of wisdom from the mouth of a true prophet, and all the guy did the whole time was just stand there and read from the standard works.

My heck, I thought, I could have done that! Maybe not as quickly as he did, but I bet I could have eventually found those same passages if given enough time. He never said anything earth shattering at all. He just read to us. I expected something profound, but I came away profoundly disappointed.

What I realized years later was that Harold B. Lee knew something I hadn't known. Two things, actually: First, even if he was a prophet, why would anyone want to hear what he personally had to say? A prophet is never a font of wisdom on his own. As Joseph Smith succinctly stated, a prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as a prophet. And a prophet is only acting as a prophet when he is directly quoting words God puts in his mouth.

I had expected to hear President Lee deliver some world-shattering profundities to our group that day, but I hadn't realized that's not what a prophet is supposed to do. A prophet doesn't come up with sagacious outpourings on his own. He receives the words he is given from the mouth of the Lord, then repeats those words to the people verbatim, either orally or in writing. That is the only thing a prophet is authorized to do: accurately convey the message God gives him to deliver, exactly as it was received, and with no editorializing or additional commentary.

Even though I missed the opportunity to hear Harold B. Lee deliver a rip-roaring revelation that day, I later learned from him what I think is the most valuable lesson I've ever gleaned from any modern Church leader, when years later I came across a statement President Lee had published in the Ensign just a year before I saw him in person. This cautionary statement has become the template by which everything I write on this blog is measured:
"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...I think therein is one of our biggest dangers of today." (First Presidency Message, Ensign, December 1972.)
President Lee seems to have echoed a sterner warning attributed to Joseph Smith two months before he was killed:
"If any man preaches to you doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, set him down as an imposter...Try them by the principles contained in the acknowledged word of God; if they preach, or teach, or practice contrary to that, disfellowship them; cut them off from among you as useless and dangerous branches, and if they are belonging to any of the quorums of the church, report them to the president of the quorum to which they belong." (Times & Seasons, 5:490-491, April, 1, 1844, emphasis in the original.)
Taking as our paradigm the statements of Harold B. Lee and Joseph Smith, let's examine that teaching of Dallin Oaks and see whether it measures up doctrinally. Because when Oaks came up with that doozy about it being wrong to criticize the leaders even if the criticism is true, he was not teaching anything remotely consistent with the scriptures. He just pulled it out of his butt.

A Useless And Dangerous Branch
When we read Elder Oaks' talk on criticism, the first thing we notice is that at first he is teaching obvious truisms. It is wrong to be needlessly critical of others, to engage in backbiting and faultfinding without cause. But before long Brother Dallin is equating evil speaking -which means lying- with the act of telling the truth. He sprinkles his talk with off-point scripture verses and immaterial quotes from other general authorities, and the next thing you know he is comparing himself and his fellows in the hierarchy as being equal to Moses.

It's a pretty neat rhetorical trick. But it's dishonest as hell.

Moses, you'll recall, is proven by the scriptures to have been the Lord's anointed, while Dallin Oaks and his cohorts have not. Oaks relates how the early Israelites in the wilderness -tired, hungry, and afraid- were complaining against Moses and Aaron, because of the situation they were now in. Moses responded by reminding them that he and Aaron did not bring them out here into the desert. They came here following the Lord.

What are we, that ye murmur against us?” Moses asked them. “The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.”

Moses, you see, had merely been acting as a conduit between God and the people. The Lord was advising Moses directly, and the only reason the Israelites found themselves in the desert was because Moses had been relaying God's instructions to the people through Moses. It wasn't Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, it was God.

Dallin Oaks uses that story to infer that when a member of the church expresses concerns about the actions of some Church leaders, that member is murmuring against the Lord Himself.  Because what Oaks is saying, you see, is that he and his pals are the Lord's anointed, and like, you know, you guys aren't supposed to be, like saying bad stuff about us and stuff because, y'know, when you do, you're actually saying mean things about God.

Someone ought to take Brother Oaks gently aside and explain to him that thousands of faithful, believing latter-day saints have some legitimate concerns about the way their leaders are taking the Church down paths that are inconsistent with the instructions God gave in the scriptures for the governing of His church.  He gets to understand that these members' desires to voice those concerns has nothing to do with lying, defamation, or calumny. Quite the opposite, I'd say. Dallin Oaks appears blind to his own shortcomings. He can spot the speck in a church member's eye from forty paces, but he is oblivious to the beam in his own.

"It's wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church even if the criticism is true."

That is an astonishingly stupid statement to come from the mouth of a man who carries so much influence. Yet in all the years since Dallin Oaks recorded that statement, he has made absolutely no effort to meet with his therapist. And he completely ignores the numerous places in scripture that command all of us to speak truth, to teach truth, to preach truth, to proclaim truth, to know truth, to love truth, and to testify of truth, all without qualification; which is to say authority figures are not exempt from hearing things about themselves they may not like hearing. The Book of Mormon is replete with lessons on the importance of speaking truth to power, especially when we detect iniquity taking root within the Church itself.

That's what the scriptures teach. Dallin Oaks, on the other hand, finds the truth hard to take. (2 Nephi 16:2)  He would have truth silenced if he could, and those advocating for truth cut off. Abinadi criticized the leaders of the Church in his day, and those criticisms were true. If Dallin Oaks had been a high priest in the court of King Noah, he likely would have sided with the other Church leaders in calling for Abinadi to be burned at the stake. (Mosiah 17)

The Duty Of The Faithful Latter-day Saint
I submit that the only time criticism of Church leadership is warranted is when the criticism is true. Otherwise it's not criticism, it's backbiting. Telling the truth is not evil speaking; telling falsehoods is.

Is it wrong, for instance, for Mormons to be concerned when the First Presidency of their Church turns out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a multi-billion dollar shopping center? These men have been commanded to preach nothing but repentance, yet there they are on camera admonishing the saints to go shopping and spend their money in some of the most wastefully extravagant stores in the state.

I get why Monson, Uchtdorff, and Eyring made fools of themselves in public that day. They were understandably concerned with the possibility of losing their investments in an obvious boondoggle when the national economy had tanked while the project was still under construction. But that raises the question of why the leaders of Christ's church should be foolishly investing Church money in a shopping center in the first place. And it raises a further question: if Jesus Christ is truly the head of this Church and directs the leaders in what they do, why did he command them to build an elaborate shopping mall scheduled to open just when America would be going through its greatest financial crisis since 1929, when few would have money to spend on the ridiculously overpriced goods offered at that mall?

Or is it "evil speaking" to wonder about that?

Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to ask the leaders why they abruptly stopped providing church members with an annual accounting of Church spending after 1958? Is it evil speaking to remind them that Church funds under their control belong to the entire membership of the church, and do not exist as some giant slush fund for those in the hierarchy to spend on their own pet projects? Is it evil speaking to remind them that the Lord commands they give an accounting so the members can exercise their vote of common consent over these expenditures?

Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to bring attention to the fact that the only official doctrine on marriage in this church was canonized in scripture by a vote of the members, and that that doctrine states that weddings are to take place in public where all can witness them, and not in secret where they are attended only by a select few deemed "worthy"? Is it also evil speaking to want to know why that doctrine on marriage was quietly removed from the Doctrine & Covenants absent a revelation from God and without being submitted to the members for a vote?

What about the many untruths that have been promoted by Church leadership for years distorting and changing the Lord's law of tithing?  Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to suggest we should look to the law itself rather than rely on specious interpretations that contradict that law?  When Jeffrey Holland stood at the pulpit in general conference and read from a pamphlet written years earlier by apostle James Talmage regarding what is required of the tithepayer and what is not, was Holland not being demonstrably dishonest when he left out pertinent sections of Talmage's words while inserting his own opinions without telling his listeners? Is it evil speaking to draw attention to Holland's fully documented perfidy?

Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to question the way Church leaders repeatedly misquote and misinterpret scripture in order to try to convince the unwary that they have special authority over the members that God never gave them?

Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to remark on the fact that the necessary oracles are absent in a Church that claims continuous revelation? How about the way in which the meaning of oracles has been changed? When both Joseph and Jesus spoke of oracles, they were referring to the communications that came from the mouth of God through his prophets. Today's Church manuals define the leaders themselves as the oracles. Is it evil speaking to draw attention to that obvious fallacy?

Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to suggest that Church leaders today don't seem to have the foggiest idea what they're talking about when they discuss the concept of priesthood keys?

When older men in Church leadership deliberately distort the tenets of our religion by telling young Mormon men that they are "doing the Lord's work" when they violate His commandment in D&C 98:33, then flatter them by calling them "mighty men of valor," is it wrong to criticize them for promoting completely unscriptural falsehoods that could lead to those young men's deaths or disfigurement? Or is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to suggest that in matters of life and death we ought to be following scripture rather than allow ourselves to be "carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness"?

Is it "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed" to wonder why Church management in 1921 excised the first 73 pages of the Doctrine and Covenants, a chunk of scripture which Joseph Smith felt was of utmost importance? These essential passages were removed from our scriptures without any explanation given, without a vote of the membership, and absent a revelation from God instructing the leaders to take it out.  Most members today (and a good number of leaders, I would wager) have never heard of the ample section of the D&C the prophet called "The Doctrine of the Church." What we have left is the section known as "Covenants and Commandments of The Lord," which is of great worth by itself, but it is far from being the complete doctrine and covenants that was canonized in 1835.

I could go on and on, and you're probably worried I will. But I'll stop now. I have written something in the neighborhood of two hundred blog posts documenting the way false traditions have edged out the true doctrines of the church -the ones easily available to us if we would only follow the counsel of Joseph Smith and Harold B. Lee and look to the scriptures for our doctrines instead of to those who seek to control the narrative. My friend Rob Smith has documented plenty of examples in his book, Teaching For Doctrines The Commandments Of Men, which you can either buy on Amazon or download here for free.

Rob's book contains nothing but truth. Page after page of truth. Would you care to guess what the self-described "Lord's Anointed" did to Brother Smith within days of his publishing that book? You guessed it -they expelled him from their church.

They expelled me, too, but I guess I should have seen it coming. After all, I'm the guy who accused one of their own of pulling doctrines out of his butt.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Misquoting God

Although in the past I have presented guest posts in this space, I decided a while back that from here on out this blog should represent my voice alone; no one else should suffer guilt by associating with a miscreant like me.

But today I'm breaking that resolve in order to present a point of view that I'm incapable of composing myself.

But first, a bit of background:

There is a vexing verse of scripture, D&C 1, verse 30, that never really made sense to me. This is the verse that appears to assure us that we Mormons belong to the only true church on the face of the earth.

What made this verse seem like such an anomaly is that it doesn't gel with the rest of the revealed word of God. In the first place, the Lord never defined the church as an organized entity the way we think of it today, so how can any earthly church be "true"? According to Jesus, His "church" means nothing like the organized structure we think of these days when we use that term. In D&C 10:67 He defines His church as those who repent and come unto Him; and in verse 68 He forbids us from describing it in any other terms. (verse 68). So why would he be endorsing any single religious denomination as the only true church?

Secondly, if the Lord declared the church true and living in 1831, how come he reversed his opinion of it less than a year later? He is God after all; didn't he see that coming? And why would he offer up scripture that could be cited nearly two hundred years later to assure the Pharisees among us that all was well in the church, when a simple comparison of scriptures to our behavior should be enough to convince anyone how far off track we've slid?

Well, I finally did what I often forget to do, which is to take my question to the Lord.

Lo and behold, the answer I got regarding that scripture verse was "It doesn't mean what they think it does."

And here's the kicker, I went back and re-read the entire chapter, but this time I read it from a replica of the original Book of Commandments, because that version flows better; it hasn't been chopped up into tiny sentence fragments by whoever later edited it into verses in our Doctrine and Covenants.

 And guess what? When I read the thing in context, the meaning was crystal clear. That verse really doesn't mean what most members think it means!  (If you don't have access to the original in the Book of Commandments, this version of the entire chapter laid out in parallel form is a helpful aid.)

Only problem is, I seemed completely incapable of explaining my new understanding of it to anyone else. I was able to grasp the answer somehow through spiritual eyes, but I was incapable of articulating my discovery to another person.

It was not until recently that I figured out why I was such a dunderhead about it: it has everything to do with my lack of understanding of fundamental English Grammar. I simply don't know the names of most parts of speech, and a description of the salient part of speech contained in that section of the Doctrine and Covenants is essential to understanding its meaning. What I lack is a grasp of the mechanics of English. I simply don't have the chops to pass it on.

So I'm bringing in the big guns in the person of my friend Mckay Platt, an expert in English grammar who's got the chops to clear it all up in a brilliant and entertaining way. So I'll now turn the time over to Brother McKay:

The Only True And Living Church: Are We Misquoting God?
By McKay Platt, MD

Let me say from the outset: in this post we are going to review some things that may have put you to sleep in high school, namely English grammar. But here we will be looking at grammar as contained in a revelation from God, so hopefully this won't be as dry as some of the stuff you had to sit through in school. You may find the title of this piece provocative, but I promise I haven't oversold the subject.

We're going to look at something God said in a form known as the "Subjunctive Mood," and if you're not familiar with that term I would advise you not to look it up on Wikipedia, unless you want to be scared away completely. Although the subjunctive today is considered archaic, it's really an interesting mode of speaking. But you wouldn't know it from the dry and nearly indecipherable Wikipedia description:
"The subjunctive mood is a flexible grammatical instrument for expressing different gradients in thought when referring to events that are not stated as fact. It is still used frequently in such languages as French, German and Spanish, and also in languages outside the Indo-European branch such as Turkish and Hungarian. In modern English only remnants of a once complex system of separate conjugations exist. What once could be expressed succinctly with the mere change of a conjugation is now only expressible, more often than not, by using word-laden modal constructions."
Still with me? Well that's a miracle, because that explanation put me to sleep, and I actually understood it.

The only thing you really need to know about the Subjunctive Mood is that bit about it being flexible when referring to events not stated as fact. Bear with me and I'll explain. You're going to feel smarter in no time.

Because most of us don't understand the subjunctive mood, we often misinterpret God when He uses this unfamiliar verb form. Does the Lord care about grammar, verb forms, and so on? It's my contention that he does. You'll have to decide for yourself. Let's see if we can ease the pain a little as we slug through what has been called "a damned difficult verse."

The preface to the Book of Commandments, what we now call Section One of the Doctrine and Covenants, contains these words, "...the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased..." (Doctrine and Covenants, 1:30).

Today that phrase is quoted repeatedly by members and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who say that "the Lord declared this to be 'the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth...' " Unfortunately, that is not a declaration from The Lord; it is more of a wish. D&C 1:30 is worded not as an indicative statement (of fact) but a subjunctive statement (a hope or possibility). What The Lord was saying here is that a true and living church was a possibility.

From the wording of the revelation, we cannot conclude the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and living. Neither can we conclude that it is false or dead. Either would be an argument from fallacy – assuming that if an argument for some conclusion is fallacious, then the conclusion is false.

My purpose in exploring this revelation is not to determine if the modern Mormon church is true; rather, to examine whether we wrest the words of Christ when we say the Lord declared this to be "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth..."

If one wishes to show that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church, it must be done by some other way than quoting this revelation, since this revelation makes no such conclusion.

The Subjunctive Mood-A Quick Refresher
The stuff of Glenn Miller's nightmares.

In English and many other languages, the subjunctive refers to a grammatical mood used to express hopes, wishes, possibilities, judgments, necessities or future actions.

It's not necessarily describing a fact, or something that already is. It's describing something that may become.

Remember how Wikipedia used the word "flexible"? That's the subjunctive mood; it refers to what could be any sort of possible outcome.

It is important to recognize when the subjunctive is used in scripture, because much of scripture is forward looking. The subjunctive does not express reality in the moment. Not all hopes are realized, not all possibilities come to pass, and not all plans for the future come about. The subjunctive mood is used when a certain situation or action is not known to have happened as the speaker is talking.

"Excuse me sir. Could you please tell me what day is Game day?"
We are accustomed to statements in English most often appearing in the indicative form. For example, "Mormon men spend more time with sports than with the scriptures." That's indicative, or an announcement that indicates fact. Contrast that with "if the scriptures were as exciting as sports, I'd read them more. That's subjunctive  -a possibility, albeit not a very likely possibility for the fan.

The subjunctive mood is expressed most often in subordinate clauses, often clauses that begin with the word "that."

For example, "I hope that our children will listen to the babysitter" or "I pray that you stay awake through this entire blog post." Neither sentence expresses a reality as the children may not listen to the babysitter and you may have already walked away from this blog and turned on ESPN.

The subjunctive mood has long been waning in English; dying, by many estimations. English speakers are not very familiar with the subjunctive mood which is more in use in the Romance languages. And because in our day we are mostly unfamiliar with the subtle nuances of scriptural syntax, it is easy to mistake a subjunctive statement for an indicative statement, as this question will illustrate:

When The Lord prayed, "our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name," what was being said?

If you believe The Lord is making a statement of fact, then you understand The Lord to be saying, "Father in heaven, your name is holy!" -probably not new information to the Father.

But the prayer is made in the subjunctive mood. The Lord is stating what should be or what He hopes may happen, not what is. In effect, He says, "Father in heaven, I pray that men may hallow your name." We know that the expression "hallowed be thy name" is subjunctive because it is conjugated differently than the indicative.
"Hallowed is thy name"=indicative mood

"Hallowed be thy name"=subjunctive mood
The subjunctive mood in D&C section 1
In verse 11,  and from verses 18 through 30 of the revelation being scrutinized, there are 15 statements in the Lord's voice in the subjunctive mood. In verse 18, the auxiliary verb should is used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency and "might" is used to indicate possibilities -both subjunctive mood verbs:
"And also [I the Lord] gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—"(D&C 1:18)
Verses 18 thru 30 are a list of outcomes that might happen because The Lord knew "the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth." Because of His love and concern for us He...
"...also gave commandments to others, that ..."
What follows is what should and might happen as a consequence of the Lord's commandments. More than a dozen great and marvelous outcomes might follow because The Lord called a servant and gave commandments to men.

These possibilities include:
-men speaking in the Lord's name
-an increase in faith in the earth
-the establishment of Christ's everlasting covenant
-the fulness of the gospel preached before kings and rulers
-understanding, wisdom, repentance, etc.
The last of these possibilities is "a true and living church".
"And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to...
1- lay the foundation of this church, and,
2- to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth (D&C 1:30)
"May," "might," and "must" are modal verbs that express a speaker’s attitude and the strength of that attitude. The two modal verbs used by the Lord in this revelation do not reflect a great deal of certainty. The same verb, might, was used to reflect the probability that "all men might repent and come unto him." We all have a pretty fair idea how long the odds are on that wager.

The sentence is a difficult one. The original document, as recorded by the church historian John Whitmer, contained no punctuation. The original Book of Commandments lumped all of verses 24-30 (of the modern D&C) into a single verse. Even today, after numerous editors have had a hundred and eighty plus years and half a dozen editions to clarify the punctuation, the revelation isn't punctuated using standard rules. A dozen verses begin with "and," and several sentences end with a dash, including the verse in question, and parentheticals interrupt the flow of thought. However, the Lord brings us back again and again to the theme: the commandments he gave raise hopes and possibilities.

What is clear, to me at least, is that verses 17-30 explain why the Lord called a prophet and gave commandments to men. The subjunctive mood is heard with His use of ''should," "may," "might" and "inasmuch." It "should" happen,"may" happen; it "might" happen; "inasmuch" as you keep my word, it will happen.

As grammatically structured in verse 30, the hopeful outcome of "a true and living church" is an appositive. An appositive is a noun or phrase used to rename another noun, or in this case a pronoun. In the sentence below the appositive, the word "figure" renames the subject of the sentence, the "commander."

The phrase "the only true and living church" is a delayed appositive, renaming the direct object "it," nine words earlier. When the delayed appositive is substituted for the direct object, the subjunctive nature of the statement is clearer.
"And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power bring the only true and living church forth out of obscurity and out of darkness..."(D&C 1:30)
Misquoting-Why Do We Do It?
This particular verse has been uniformly interpreted as an indicative statement of what is, not what might be. Church presidents, apostles, seventies and many other commentators have referenced this subjunctive statement of The Lord and quoted it as an indicative statement of fact. No commenter on this verse that I have found has recognized it as a subjunctive statement. That is true for many reasons. One reason we are confused by the mood is the change in mood from subjunctive to indicative in a single verse:
"...with which I, the Lord, am well pleased..." (D&C 1:30)
This part of verse 30 is spoken in the indicative mood, otherwise He might have said "with which I, The Lord, be well pleased."

The first half of verse 30 is in the subjunctive mood:
"And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth..."
The second half is in the indicative mood:
"...with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually."
A single sentence may contain both subjunctive, indicative, imperative (command) and interrogative (questions) moods or any combination. Here, for example, is an April 1829 revelation. It contains the indicative, subjunctive and interrogative moods in a single verse.
"And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (D&C 7:4
"..The Lord said unto Peter..." is indicative, a statement of fact.

"..If I will that he tarry till I come..." is subjunctive. In the indicative mood the third person singular "he" is conjugated "he tarries" but this part of the verse is subjunctive, not indicative. Because the phrase begins with "if", "he tarry" is proper conjugation.

"...what is that to thee?" is obviously a question and as an interrogative ends with a question mark.

But The Lord Was Pleased!
Near the end of verse 30, within a dependent clause, the revelation says, "...I, The Lord am well pleased..." This part of the revelation is in indicative mood. Something pleased him. The most natural reading of this verse, requiring the least mental gymnastics, is to interpret the prepositional phrase modifying the last noun in the verse, namely, the church. If this interpretation is correct, and I believe it is, then The Lord was well pleased with the collective body of men and women who were the church of 1831, consisting of a couple of hundred newly converted souls.

Remember, the Lord has never referred to his church as we do today, as an organized, structural institution. He was adamant in defining His church as only those individuals who had repented and come unto him. (D&C 10:67) What He was talking about when he said he was pleased was this very small group of converts who at the time had dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to following Him. He has nothing to say about an organized Christian denomination complete with headquarters and a top-down hierarchy.

If the Lord was well pleased with the church in November of 1831, less than a year later he was anything but. In September 1832 he declared the whole church to be under condemnation. They were no longer "true" to what He had given them but "treated lightly the things [they had] received." (D&C 84:54) He warned them "whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me" and those who "come not unto me" are "under the bondage of sin" (verse 51). This tiny group of converts were no longer "living." They were not connected to the true vine.  In less than a year the tiny church of 200 souls was now neither "true" nor "living."

Summing Up
In November 1831, The Lord told the incipient church He was well pleased, but did not declare they were then a true and living church. The wording chosen in this revelation has The Lord saying that He called a servant and gave commandments from heaven that many things might happen, including the bringing forth of a true and living church. By September 1832 The Lord judged them neither "true" to the things He had given, nor "living," abiding in Him. More than a hundred years later, speaking in general conference, President Benson told the congregation that the condemnation had never been lifted; it continued to rest over the modern LDS Church to that day.

That was in 1986, 31 years ago. No revelation has been received since to indicate the Lord has changed His mind.

The revelations Joseph Smith received during the 1830s anticipated the creation of Zion and the Church of the Firstborn. But none of that happened. The saints blew it, and after they were cast out of Jackson County, licking their wounds and wondering what the heck just happened, the Lord told them exactly how they had blown it: by means of their own selfish conduct they had polluted their inheritance. (D&C 101:6)

All was not lost, however; they could still pull it together and hearken to the voice of He who is the true vine. For how could they ever be the true church without being connected to the true vine?  In 1841 The Lord warned them not to let him down again, for if they did so, they would be moved out of their place once more, and instead of blessings, they would bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon their heads. (D&C 124)

The Lord described the meaning of our condemnation as not being received by Him (D&C 105:5). It was the saint's failure to live the "law of the celestial kingdom" (verse 4) that prevented The Lord from receiving the nascent community of believers unto Himself. If we are to believe the Lord's words, then the condemnation will continue until the Latter-day Saints are received unto the Lord. Being "received of the Lord" then ends the condemnation. When we as a people are true to the laws of the celestial kingdom, we will be received of God and we will finally be a living church, connected to the True Vine.

But as long as we confuse an invitation from God as a divine endorsement of our present state, we will most likely remain content with the present state and never attempt to bring again Zion. That is the danger inherent in misquoting God. Zion awaits some few who treasure God's word and keep it with exactness and honor, rather than assuming a divine endorsement of our present state that was never given us by heaven.

-McKay Platt, February 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Unchained Salary

Previously: Did The Lord Choose Not To Anoint 'The Lord's Anointed'?

Prior to his being called to the First Presidency of the Church, Henry B. Eyring had served twelve years as an Apostle of the Lord.  Last week an anonymous source leaked copies of Brother Eyring's pay stubs from the year 2000, showing the apostle had been paid in excess of $89,000.00 for his service to the Church that year.  That was seventeen years ago.

A second document was leaked concurrently with those pay stubs. This was a letter from the Presiding Bishopric dated January 2, 2014, addressed to a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. It informed the recipient that "the annual general authority base living allowance has been increased from $116,400.00 to $120,000.00" and "This will begin with your paycheck issued on January 10, 2014 (pay period I)."

You can imagine the stir this created once news was leaked to the press that the so-called members of the "unpaid clergy" at the top of the LDS Church were in fact being paid quite handsomely.

You could also have easily predicted the response from Salt Lake as the Church PR machine went into high gear in an attempt to contain the scandal. This is a non-story, the narrative went, that pay scale is less than what the average college professor earns. The general authorities work hard in service to the church, and in most cases have given up lucrative careers that would have paid much more had they remained in their secular careers. Besides, doesn't everyone already know the general authorities are given a modest allowance to assist them in their work? This isn't news. Look, here's a picture of the ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood Spencer W. Kimball lived in during his years as president of the Church. Does it look like he was living extravagantly?

And so on.

You can't really argue with any of that. To some of us, it was not news that the general authorities receive what has been variously called a "modest stipend" or a "living allowance." The debate now seems centered over the definition of the words "modest" and "allowance."

But the Church PR department is skirting the real issue. Here's how one commenter responded online last Sunday:
"The fact that GAs receive compensation is not the issue. The issue is that the party line of the church has always been that they have no paid clergy, and many if not most members spout that party line (I did, as a missionary). That party line is not true. GAs and mission presidents do receive payment from the church for the fact that they are "volunteering" their time, talents, energies, etc to building up the kingdom. Call it a stipend, call it a living allowance, call it a salary, call it filthy lucre; whatever you call it, it is legal tender that allows them to maintain a relatively decent lifestyle. 
The 'living allowance' is not the issue. The issue is the facade, the false notion, mostly implied but never clarified, that they all work for free, as rank and file members are required to do. If the church were a little more upfront about that, it would be no 'scandal' at all."
Prevaricating From The Executive Suite
Those of us raised in the church were repeatedly taught that the men at the very top of the hierarchy served without pay of any kind, just like our bishops and stake presidents. Often we didn't notice a conference speaker had crafted his words carefully, as President Hinckley did in 2002:
"We are a Church of lay leadership. What a remarkable and wonderful thing that is. It must ever remain so. It must never move in the direction of an extensive paid ministry." (To The Men Of The Priesthood, October 2002, Priesthood Session)
I guess it all depends on Hinckley's definition of "extensive." It's true that the vast majority of ministers in the LDS Church -the bishops, Stake Presidents, Ward Leaders, and such- are more extensive in number than the few at the top in Salt Lake, and they certainly are not paid.  So when Hinckley says that particular faction of the leaders -the more "extensive" number of them- must never move in the direction of a paid ministry like they have in other churches, he's on safe ground. Technically, he was correct; the extensive ministry in our church is not paid.

What Hinckely did not admit was that a not-so-extensive faction of the ministry does get paid, and quite well. President Hinckley's listeners were hearing what he wanted them to hear: that there is no paid ministry in this church whatsoever. And that part of his message simply wasn't true.

Boasting that we are a church made up entirely of volunteers seems to have been the theme of that conference session, as Dallin Oaks reiterated in his talk to the general membership:
“One of the distinguishing characteristics of this Church is the fact that we have no paid or professional clergy in our thousands of local congregations and in the regional stakes, districts, and missions that oversee them.” (I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go, October conference 2002)
Elder Oaks is choosing his words carefully here, just as President Hinckley did during his talk. Dallin's statement is technically true, because he neglected to mention General Authorities in that mix. I'm reminded of a lecture Elder Oaks gave before a group of law students at BYU in 1993. The topic was "Lying."
"The difficult question is whether we are morally responsible to tell the whole truth. Where there is no duty to disclose, we have two alternatives. We may be free to disclose if we choose to do so, but there will be circumstances where...professional obligations require us to remain silent...I urge you who are lawyers and lawyers-in-preparation to be sophisticated as you think about these subjects...It requires sophisticated analysis of the circumstances and a finely tuned conscience to distinguish between the situation where you are obliged by duty to speak and the situation where you are remain silent.
An additional area where Oaks "remained silent" in his conference talk above was in choosing not to mention how much mission presidents actually get reimbursed. When you take into account that every conceivable living expense a mission president might possibly accrue is provided for them -from housing, to groceries, to medical, to cooks and housekeepers and babysitters and schooling and recreation and pretty much anything his wife and kids can think to ask for -it's a bit of a stretch to claim mission presidents aren't paid anything.

Dieter Uchtdorff echoed Oaks in 2013; he just phrased it more succinctly:
“Because we have no paid local clergy in our worldwide congregations, our members perform the work of ministry themselves.”  (Come, Join With Us, October Conference 2013)
You can't claim Uchtdorrf was lying. After all, he did say we have no paid local clergy.
We almost have to reach back over forty years to catch one of the Brethren in an out-and-out lie. Here's apostle Boyd K. Packer relating a conversation he had with a non-member in 1974:
"Did they also tell you that we have no professional clergy? All of us contribute our time, our talents, our means, and travel—all to help the work. And we’re not paid for it in money." ("Where Much Is Given, Much Is Required," October conference 1974)
That's right. That there is an apostle of the Lord at the very moment he is being paid money for contributing his talents, his means, and his travel for his Church job, telling a bald-faced lie to a gentile in hopes of impressing the guy that it's all coming out of his own pocket.

This wasn't one of those slips of the tongue Packer was famous for. He made the following statement in a talk at BYU as early as 1965, then repeated himself word-for-word fourteen years later in a Church magazine:
“In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no paid ministry, no professional clergy, as is common in other churches.” (Follow The Brethren, The Liahona September 1979)
When Thomas Monson was still just a counselor in the First Presidency, an East German government official once asked him, "Why is your church so wealthy that you can afford to build buildings in our country and throughout the world? How do you get your money?"  (Monson related this story in a conference talk ironically titled "Our Sacred Priesthood Trust," as he lied about receiving no salary for the office he held in the priesthood):
"I answered that the Church is not wealthy…. I explained also that our Church has no paid ministry." (Our Sacred Priesthood Trust, April conference 2006)
That's two certifiable fibs in the space of two short sentences. That's gotta be a record, even for Monson.

The reason the Brethren have been less than forthcoming about how they make their living is not merely to deceive the members. The teaching that Mormons have no paid ministry has long been an essential part of our missionary program.

For at least four decades following World War II, the majority of Americans were bible-believing, church-going Christians. This was the era -the 1950s through the '80s- when our church experienced phenomenal convert growth.  That growth had little to do with our sending out missionaries and bringing people to Christ. Most of the people our missionaries encountered had already come to Christ. Our missionary program was focused essentially on one overriding question:

Which Church Is True?
As far as I and my fellow missionaries were concerned, our calling was to pull Christians out of their churches and into ours. We therefore went out armed with a pamphlet titled "17 Points Of The True Church" which listed ways in which our sectarian investigators could be shown their church was doing it all wrong while ours was doing it right. Number 6 on that list was this one:
The true church must have no paid ministry (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
You can't underestimate the effect these bible "proofs" had on a good number of investigators. These people sat in their own church meetings week after week as their deacons "passed the plate" down the aisle. Every member of the congregation was expected to contribute cash toward the support of their pastor, and frankly, some of these investigators were tired of the incessant guilting.

Introducing these people to passages from the bible proving that ministers who asked for money were operating contrary to God's will had an immediate effect.  The "unpaid ministry" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a highly effective selling point. We Mormons took particular pride in the fact that, unlike other churches, our leaders volunteer their time for free. Join our church, Mr. Brown, and you won't be taking food out of the mouths of your children in order to feed some preacher's kid.  Our church is an all-volunteer church.  Step right up to the baptismal font, and no crowding, please.

This was the pitch Derek Cuthbert was selling in conference when he assured the saints -and anyone else who might be listening- why our church was different from every other:
"Over the years of my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have greatly appreciated the opportunities for service, for there is no paid ministry." (What's The Difference?" October conference 1985)
Elder Cuthbert looked straight into the camera and delivered those words all the while knowing he was drawing a pretty cushy salary at the time he uttered them.

In his six-volume Answers To Gospel Questions, future Church president Joseph Fielding Smith answered a query from a member regarding whether Church leaders got paid for their service. Here's how he fudged his answer:
"[T]he General Authorities of the Church are in no way paid out of the tithing of the Latter-day Saints." (Answers To Gospel Questions, Vol 3, pg 79)
And he was telling the truth. But what Brother Smith did not say was that the general authorities do get salaries; they just don't come out of the member's tithing money. Those salaries are paid out of investments that have been derived from the member's tithing. The billions in tithing are used as capital to invest in projects of the leader's choosing, after which the leaders live quite well off the millions of dollars in interest derived from those investments, with plenty more interest left over to reinvest in other schemes.

(You're not supposed to ask why the member's tithes are "invested" in the first place when God's law requires them to be immediately disbursed.)

Elder Smith continues:
"Unfortunately there are those who seem to take delight in offering criticism and in finding fault without knowing the true conditions…It can be said also that the officers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who labor without salaries coming out of the pockets of the members,[wink, wink], are just as spiritually minded, have just as good judgment and wisdom in directing the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of the people, as are any of the ministers who spend their entire time in what may be called spiritual counsel. For instance, the bishops of our wards and the presidents of our stakes and other officers give their time freely without any monetary compensation paid by members of the Church."
Did you notice the pivot? Joseph Fielding started out claiming the officers in our church -the general authorities- who "labor without salaries coming out of the pockets of the members," are every bit as qualified as the ministers of other churches who get paid for their ministries. But then something magical happens. In the very next sentence, he is comparing those fat-cat ministers of other churches to our bishops and stake presidents, who we know work for free. He has flipped the argument, directing the reader's focus away from himself and the other general authorities, and onto our local leaders.

Thus, the original question, the one about whether the top officers of the LDS Church get paid, is lost in the fog of words. Because face it: that is a question no one in the Church hierarchy wants any of the members down below to dwell on. So the subject deftly switches to our actual unpaid clergy. And we get even further from the original question as Elder Smith next rhapsodizes about how our wonderful missionary program puts the money-grubbing ministers of the sectarian churches to shame:
"It is equally true that the young men and women who are distributed over the face of the earth as missionaries of the Church pay their own way, or their parents do. We do not have a paid ministry, yet these brethren put in as much time in spiritual and Church duties, as do ministers of other denominations who devote their entire time, and in addition, they are under the necessity of earning their own living by their daily employment in industry. They do this because they have an abiding testimony of the divinity of the work the Church requires of them."*
*"When Joseph Fielding Smith died at age ninety-five in 1972, he had worked nearly all his adult life at LDS Church headquarters, first as a paid employee in the Historian's Office and then as a general authority with a church living allowance. At his death, President Smith had $245,000 in bank deposits, $120,000 in cash, $120,574 in stocks/bonds, and $10,688 in uncashed checks (including Deseret Book royalties of $9,636.00). Even twenty-five years after his death, few rank-and-file Mormons have such 'modest' amounts of cash and liquid assets available to them in old age." (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, pg 211) 

What Exactly Is the Job Of The Twelve Apostles, Anyway?
This brings us full circle. You'll note that Joseph Fielding Smith just got through telling us that missionaries pay their own way "because they have an abiding testimony of the divinity of the work the Church requires of them."

Yet isn't it true that the Twelve Apostles are called to be the missionaries for the whole church? If so, then why are they helping themselves to a salary from the Church treasury?

It's because they're being disobedient. That's why.

Readers of my previous blog post will recall that the Twelve apostles never had the authority to take charge and control the government of the Church. Until only a few years ago, we did not have access to the documents that refuted their claims to power. We had relied primarily on the faulty memory of Wilford Woodruff who asserted, forty years after Joseph's death, that before he died Joseph Smith had ordained the Twelve apostles and given them his complete authority to run the church.

Even though that claim ran counter to the divine revelation given in D&C 107, and even if Joseph Smith had wanted to pass on his authority to the Twelve, he would have been acting contrary to the word of God, that unsupported claim has become the narrative the modern Quorum of the Twelve relies on for its authority to this day.

But because we now have the minutes of the meetings of the Council of Fifty, we can see that Brigham Young explicitly denied that any ordination giving the twelve apostles "the keys of the kingdom" had ever taken place.

From here on I'm going to confine this discussion about financial compensation to the twelve apostles of the church. Why? Because for one thing, the Lord tells us in D&C 119 that one of the reasons we are tithed is to pay the debts of the presidency of the Church. You may argue that verse 2 was referring only to the debts incurred by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon at that particular time, and was not intended to furnish a regular salary to Thomas Monson and his counselors. And you may be right.  But I'm not going niggle about that because that argument doesn't interest me.

If the Saints were okay with giving President Kimball a decent house to live in, I won't quibble. And if the only pay stubs we saw of Henry Eyring had been those reflecting wages he receives today as counselor to the president of the Church, I wouldn't be holding this conversation; because like I said, it's possible members of the First Presidency are entitled to dip into the treasury for their support.

The thing that concerns me about Eyring's pay stubs from the year 2000 is they reflect payments he received as an ostensible Apostle of the Lord, and it is the propriety of salaries paid to apostles that we should be mainly concerned about, because any payment to the Twelve violates the direct instruction God gave to those men.

Therefore, the only question I wish to entertain today is this one: Should members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles be paid a regular salary out of the treasury of the church?

My answer to that question is no. But it may surprise you to learn that I strongly believe the Twelve have every expectation of being supported financially by the church.  They just shouldn't be paid. And I'll explain what I mean by that in a minute.

By the way, did you ever wonder why, whenever someone accuses the Brethren of extravagant living, Church PR trots out a picture of President Kimball's modest-looking house in an attempt to refute the charge?

President Kimball died way back in 1985, so why bring up his living quarters? Why aren't we shown pictures of the homes of the modern apostles, those undeniably posh ones located within exclusive gated communities? And how about all those vacation homes the Church provides its apostles at no cost in Utah's resort areas? Or the downtown condos? Why does the PR department of the Church keep quiet about all those?

This is Spencer Kimball's modest house. He was president of the church.
This is the entrance to the driveway of Boyd K. Packer's Home. He was only an apostle.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people accumulating nice homes and nice things. I'm a free market advocate, so I believe anyone has the right to become as rich as he wants to. I intended to become wealthy myself; I just took a wrong turn somewhere.

So I want it known that I'm not coming from a place of jealousy or envy here. I'm interested strictly in the doctrines of the church as promulgated by Jesus Christ, and whether those doctrines are being properly adhered to by our leaders.

By This You May Know My Disciples

Let's think back to the founding of the quorum. A year before the church itself was organized, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were directed by revelation to seek out twelve good men to be the Lord's modern apostles, special witnesses of Jesus Christ who were to go out into all the world just as the ancient apostles had done, and testify of Him. (D&C 18)

The word "apostle" is derived from a combination of Greek words meaning "a messenger sent forth." It was six years after that revelation before the apostles were formally organized into a quorum of twelve, but in the meantime, missionaries had been sent forth from Kirtland to surrounding communities. In a revelation given in 1832, the Lord claimed these men as His apostles and friends, standing in the place of His apostles of old. It was a singular honor to be called an apostle, but it wasn't going to be a walk in the park. These newly minted apostles would not only have to learn to walk by faith, but to live by faith as well. In other words, they would become virtual beggars:
"Therefore, let no man among you (for this commandment is unto all the faithful who are called of God in the church unto the ministry), from this hour take purse or scrip, that goeth forth to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom. Behold, I send you out to reprove the world of all their unrighteous deeds, and to teach them of a judgment which is to come. And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. Whoso receiveth you receiveth me; and the same will feed you, and clothe you, and give you money." (D&C 84)
So the apostles weren't guaranteed any kind of salary, but they were promised that while they were engaged in the work Jesus sent them forth to do, they would be given food, clothes, and money.  They just didn't know where it would come from, when it would come, or how much it would be.

That's called "living by faith."  It's certainly much nicer if you know how much you actually have coming in each month. At least you know how much money you'll have to live on.  So it's easy to understand how it came to be that at some point in their history, our modern apostles decided to pay themselves a set base salary out of the treasury of the Church. Helps take the stress off.

But that doesn't seem to be the system God prefers to work in. He seems to prefer the element of surprise when it comes to the support of those serving Him.  When you read the accounts of the early apostles, you find, again and again, examples of God placing a prompting on the hearts of strangers who came to the financial aid of His messengers, often just in the nick of time.  The early Saints who toiled in God's vineyard never got rich, but they somehow received sufficient for their needs.

Why does God require that kind of faith from some people and not from others? I really couldn't tell you. But I can state from first hand experience that living by faith can be utterly terrifying. At first, anyway. Maybe He requires it because He just wants us to learn to trust Him, as the initial fear and terror we feel from the insecurity of not knowing eventually gives way to the firm knowledge that God is in control.

That revelation in section 84 is chockfull of information as to the duties of the apostles. When you read it you'll probably be struck by how different the role of the apostles in the early church seems from the functions the Twelve perform in the church today. Could those differences have anything to do with the fact that the apostles today are not forced to live by faith?

According to the charge the early apostles were given, they were not to have anything to do with managing, governing, or running the church. Except for brief periods, they weren't even supposed to be anywhere near church headquarters. As Oliver Cowdery explained, these apostles had been given tremendous power, privilege, and authority, but that authority was limited to areas outside the Church's central headquarters:
"They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of Traveling high council, who are to preside over all the churches over the Saints among the Gentiles, where there is no presidency established, and they are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews.  They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the kingdom of heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority, and virtue of their apostleship." (Kirtland Council Minute Book, pg 86)
When the Twelve were formally organized in 1835, the first edition of the Doctrine & Covenants outlined their place within the church:
"The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling...The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews." (Doctrine & Covenants [1835] 3:11-12)

A recent history of the twelve apostles describes a "grand council" held on May 2, 1835. Along with other business, the prophet Joseph cautioned the apostles not to overstep their commission:
The prophet told them they were forbidden from entering any of the stakes of Zion, from serving in any stake capacities, and from regulating the affairs of the high councils. Conversely, he said, the standing high councils would have no authority over the Twelve outside of the stakes. (Shepard and Marquardt, Lost Apostles, pg 85) 
The minutes of the meeting record the prophet's warning thus:
"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 duties relative to the different branches of the church. When the Twelve are together, or a quorum of them in any church, they will have to do business by the voice of the Church." (Kirtland High Council Minute Book, pg 112)
But just as the Twelve were prohibited from exercising power within the Church, so was the governing body of the Church, the High Council, prohibited from usurping authority belonging to the Twelve:
"No standing high council has authority to go into the churches abroad and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No High Council will ever be established, only in Zion or one of its stakes." (ibid)
Things sure have changed. We shouldn't wonder where the Twelve got the chutzpah to pay themselves comfortable salaries out of the Church's coffers; after all, who's going to stand in their way? There is no High Council at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City asking the twelve apostles, "What the hell are you guys doing here?"

(Brigham Young's maneuvering to weaken the high council to the point where that governing body was abandoned entirely is a story for another time. Suffice to say that after the prophet's death, everything about succession revolved around polygamy. The high council at Nauvoo stood in the way of those to whom polygamy was the essential doctrine of the Church, and Brigham saw that body as a threat. The result today is glaring: there is no standing High Council at Church headquarters. The proper governing body for the church no longer exists.)

What's So Bad About A Paid Ministry?
If you happen to be a Baptist, Methodist, or Episcopalian, I suppose there's nothing wrong with paying the guy who does your preaching for you, because to the best of my knowledge the Lord has never told the leaders in those denominations they shouldn't be doing that.  But in our church, the Twelve Apostles were specifically instructed by God essentially to do two things:

1. Go forth away from the headquarters of the church, and preach His gospel,
2. Do so without any expectation of getting paid.

God never changed his mind about this. If he had, there would have been another revelation rescinding or amending the earlier ones. In the event we seem unable to take God at his word when he gives a simple instruction, such as the one he gave to the Twelve apostles (both ancient and modern) regarding how and from where they were to draw their support, we can look to the scriptures and see if His rules follow a particular pattern.  The rules of government for the church are always laid down in scripture:
"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; And he that doeth according to these things shall be saved, and he that doeth them not shall be damned if he so continue." (D&C 42:59-60)
You may well ask, "Rock, are you saying the Twelve Apostles will be damned simply for paying themselves a modest stipend out of the windfall their investments have garnered over the years due to their careful management of Church finances?"

Well, that does seem kind of harsh.  So no, I'm not sayin' nothin'. It just seems to me that two elements are in play in those two verses. First, the leaders of the church are to govern themselves according to scripture; and second, if they govern themselves in some manner other than the way scripture dictates, it could be a problem for them.

And I just thought of a third: it's possible that if the members continue to support and sustain the leaders when they are acting contrary to scripture, they may be heaping condemnation on their own heads as well.

Could be. I don't really know.

What I do know is that God's people are easily deceived. And God knows his people are easily deceived. So he gives them a pattern to go by to keep them from departing from the rules of government he has set down for the church to abide by. "I will give unto you a pattern in all things," he tells us, "that ye may not be deceived." (D&C 52:14) 

So let's take a quick look at the pattern the Lord has set out regarding the financial support of those charged with preaching His gospel:

In Mosiah 2:14, we learn that King Benjamin preached to the people and served them, requiring no payment at their hands.  Alma later shows the method by which those in authority in the Church went about their sacerdotal duties:
"When the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner." (Alma 1:12)
Alma was motivated to bring this up because some guy named Nehor had come on the scene convincing a good many members of the church that those who held rank as priests and teachers ought to get paid for their trouble. He also said the people ought to treat these priests and teachers like celebrities. (Alma Chapter 1)

We are told Nehor was an antichrist, which is one of the meanest things you can say about a person. Yet when we look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, it would appear Nehor's proposals have been widely adopted. The leaders of the LDS Church do get paid, and the members treat them like celebrities.

In the New Testament we see that when Jesus sent his apostles out to preach, he instructed them to take with them no food, no money, no knapsack -not even an extra pair of shoes. They could take along a walking stick if they wanted, but that was about it. (Mark 6:8 and Luke 10:4)

This pattern continued when Jesus called his modern apostles, instructing them to go forth without a bag, or money, and not even to take an extra coat. And get this: unlike the apostles of old, these guys weren't even allowed to take along their walking sticks. (D&C 24:18)

So with no food or money, what were they supposed to live on? "You shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God," Jesus told them, which they probably didn't think was very funny at the time.

But the Lord told them not to worry because people along the way "will feed you, and clothe you, and give you money." And look, here's something interesting the Lord says in section 24, verse 18:
"The church shall give unto thee in the very hour what thou needest for food and for raiment, and for shoes and for money, and for scrip."
The church will give them what they need? Does this mean it's okay for the Twelve Apostles to get paid out of the treasury of the church after all?

Well, no. Let's not forget that the Lord's definition of "the church" differs markedly from the way we tend to bruit that word about in our day. Jesus said whoever repents and comes unto him, those people are His church. (D&C 10:67)

It is perfectly appropriate for God's people to support the apostles in their legitimate labors. This is in keeping with the requirement that the apostles live by faith. Because although some members of the church (not all) may have the burden placed on their hearts by God to lend support to the Twelve in their labors, the Twelve would have no way of knowing from month to month exactly who would be contributing, or precisely how much.

Although the apostles should expect to be supported by "the church," (i.e. the members), they are decidedly not authorized to pay themselves out of the treasury; and they certainly aren't authorized to award themselves a set, guaranteed salary, complete with cost-of-living increases.  Again, if it was okay for the apostles to be paid out of the treasury, the Lord would have told them directly, and instructed the members to see it got done.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us
Let's not forget that the letter to Bruce Porter informing him of the raise he and his fellow general authorities would be getting refers only to their base pay. We don't even know what additional perks are awarded our dear leaders in addition to that base. Certainly we know that in addition to their base salary, the corporate Church(TM) provides them with nice homes, nice second homes, nice cars, chauffeurs on call for the top 15, and many other amenities. They are also provided first class travel accommodations, including airfare and hotels wherever they go.

The Twelve Apostles have personal use of Church credit cards which they use for restaurant meals, and who knows what else, because confidential sources within the bowels of the Church Office Building have claimed the GAs have unlimited use of those cards with no auditing or supervision.

The reality is we simply don't know what we should know about the perks enjoyed by the leaders of the church because they have not given an accounting to the members since 1958.  We don't know what benefits of office they enjoy, because they have chosen to withhold that information from the members whose duty it is to approve every expenditure that comes out of the treasury. (D&C 26:2 and 104:71)

There is one thing all members can be thankful for now that we know what the leader's base pay is. Since tithing to the Church is to be paid from the surplus remaining after one's basic needs are met, many members are not confident in their ability to figure out exactly how much is a reasonable amount of money to claim for basic necessities. They want the Church to tell them.

This letter from the Presiding Bishopric seems to answer that question. Church leaders apparently feel it requires a minimum of $120,000.00 a year to cover a family's basic needs. So now you know that anything you might earn over the amount our leaders have established as the minimum would be the money you would pay your tithing on.