Friday, December 9, 2011

Infallible Authority, Chapter Eight

A Visit to the Prophet
by J.J. Dewey
(To read the previous entry, click here. To start this series at the beginning, click here.)

After my excommunication I received a letter that merely stated that I was being excommunicated for “apostasy.” They did not explain what the apostasy was.

After Curtis’s trial I checked the scriptures to see what the procedure was if one was dissatisfied with the results of a church court and here is what I found:
“It shall be the duty of said council to transmit, immediately, a copy of their proceedings, with a full statement of the testimony accompanying their decision, to the high council of the seat of the First Presidency of the Church.
 “Should the parties or either of them be dissatisfied with the decision of said council, they may appeal to the high council of the seat of the First Presidency of the Church, and have a re-hearing, which case shall there be conducted, according to the former pattern written, as though no such decision had been made.” (D&C 102:26-27)
This was interesting. We were both dissatisfied with the results of our trials and this seemed to be a fair method of obtaining a rehearing to set things straight. There was only one problem. The scripture says that we were to appeal to the “high council of the seat of the First Presidency” and it was no longer in existence.

In the early days this was called the “Standing High Council.” The Reorganized LDS Church still has such a council, but it seemed that the Utah church feels it was not needed. Could it be that they do not want to have any such council to hear appeals in order to silence those who are “put out of the synagogue?”

We decided to appeal through standard channels and we wrote a letter to his Stake President (and later to mine) requesting a rehearing and rehearsing the scripture in D&C 102.

Curtis received his response first. The Stake President sent a short note saying that the authorities had reviewed the trial and decided the judgement was just and had decided that they stand by their decision.
My despondent Nephew was outraged. Was this the church’s idea of giving a new trial as if the first trial had not even been held?” We both thought it was ridiculous, but I suspected correctly that I would receive a similar response.

Then Curtis’ face brightened up and he said. “If the stake president will not hear our case let us go directly to the prophet.”

“You mean write the prophet a letter?” I said. “We’ll probably get a similar response.”

“No,” he said. “Let us make a trip to Salt Lake and see him.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” I said. “I’ve heard of people waiting six months to see him and even then it has to be something he is willing to listen to. Our chances are pretty slim.”

“I don’t care,” he said. “They don’t have a right to kick us out this way. Let us take a trip down there and see if we can get in.”

“The chances are slim,” I said, “but if you have your heart set on it I will go with you.”

A few days later we journeyed to Salt Lake to make an attempt to have an audience with President Spencer W. Kimball, the President of the church at that time.

We walked into the church office building and told the clerk we wanted to see President Kimball. He told us that the president was busy but perhaps we could talk with his secretary, a Brother Watson.

We were fortunate that Watson had a few moments free and were escorted into his office.

We explained to him that we were dissatisfied with the results of our church court and wanted another trial. We said that we had requested one and all Curtis received is a letter and showed it to him.

He looked over the letter and said: “It looks like you have had a second hearing.”

“What do you mean?” we asked.

“This letter is your second trial.”

“Do you call this piece of paper a second hearing?”

“Yes, this is the procedure we have followed for many years.”

“Let me read you a scripture,” I said and pulled out a D&C and read him section 102:26-27, as quoted earlier. “Now the scripture says that if either party is dissatisfied then we may request a new trial and that the new trial will be held as if the original decision had not been made. Do you call this piece of paper a new trial?

“Well, yes. That’s the way it’s done today.”

The scripture also says we can appeal to the council at the seat of the first presidency. Does such a council exist today?”

“No. It has not existed for some time?”

“Then does it bother you that the church is not obeying the directive of the scriptures in this area?”
“No, not in the least.”

“Why not?”

“I am sure the Brethren have received a revelation changing the procedure,” he said with a straight face.

“Where is this revelation?” I asked. “I know the church has not published one.”

“I’m sure it is in the archives.”

“Have you seen it?”

“No, but I am sure the Brethren have received a revelation on it.”

“You have no evidence, but you’re sure it happened.”

He had nothing more to say on this subject so we pressed him for a meeting with President Kimball.
To our surprise he told us that he was sure the President would be happy to see us, but said that only Curtis would be allowed in since I had not yet received the results of my “second trial.” He asked Curtis if he was free in two weeks and Curtis told him that he would make sure he was. The meeting was thus set and we returned to our separate homes.

A week later, I called Curtis and told him that I thought that making this appointment was just too easy and was very suspicious of it – that somehow they would not honor it. Since he had to make a long trip and miss some work, that he should call Watson and make sure the appointment is still on. He thought this was a good idea and called Watson’s office.

He was assured that the appointment was still on as scheduled. Curtis reminded him that he had to make a long trip at great inconvenience to go there and he wanted assurance that his appointment would not be cancelled.

Again he was assured that the appointment was on. Curtis called me back and related the dialog, but I still had a gnawing uneasiness about it.

Time passed and Curtis made the trip to Salt Lake and entered the Church offices. His appointment was for 2:00 PM and he arrived about 1:30 PM. He approached the clerk just to make sure the appointment was on schedule. The clerk spent a moment looking up and down the schedule and finally said: “Nope. Your name is not here.”

“What do you mean my name is not there?” he said in exasperation. “Check for 2:00 PM. That is when my appointment is.”

The clerk dryly replied: “You are not here for 2:00 PM. A young married couple who are having marital problems are scheduled to see the Prophet at that time.”

Curtis raised his voice: “I made an appointment with Watson two weeks ago and to make sure the appointment was on schedule I made a call last week to verify it and was assured that if I traveled 300 miles to see President Kimball that I would see him. Now I want my appointment! Work me in there somewhere.”

“I’m sorry sir, but the President is completely booked. You’ll have to schedule another appointment.”

Curtis stood his ground and insisted that he be let in. Just when it got to the point that the clerk was about to call security, he received a phone call. After the clerk talked a moment on the phone Curtis was curious and asked what the conversation was about.

“That was the couple who have the two o’clock appointment. They can’t make it.”

Curtis’ eyes brightened up and he demanded: “Then phone President Kimball and tell him that I am here for our scheduled appointment.”

The clerk seemed reluctant, but Curtis insisted and he finally made the call. He talked to President Kimball a couple moments and hung up.

“So what did he say? Can I go up and see him?” pressed Curtis.

“I’m afraid not,” said the clerk, “But he did give me a message to give to you.”

“And what is that?”

The clerk somberly replied: “He said he reviewed the minutes of your trial and he concurs with the decision of the court. This is as far as your second trial goes. There is no more.”

There was no more that Curtis could do and he somberly left the building, went outside and looked up at the many windows in the towering structure, wondering which one Kimball was in. He visualized him cowering behind his giant desk for the next half hour with no one to see, alone, afraid to talk to a lowly ex-Elder who had faithfully served his cause for many years.

When Curtis related his experience to me I felt for him because I knew he had his heart set on meeting the President and presenting his case to him. The rejection reminded me a little of President Van Buren refusing to hear the grievances of the early saints when he said: “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.” President Kimball refused to even recognize that our cause was just.

As we contemplated these events, something very curious happened a couple days later. In the paper I read that President Kimball suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and had to have several operations on his brain. Apparently, his meeting with Curtis was the last one he ever cancelled for he was never able to work or even speak coherently again for the rest of his life.

Was this a coincidence that this tragedy happened at this time? We wondered.
Copyright J.J. Dewey, used with permission.
(To continue on to chapter nine, click here.)

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


C. L. Hanson said...

The Reorganized LDS Church still has such a council, but it seemed that the Utah church feels it was not needed.

So, did he then go join the RLDS? Seems like the obvious solution.

Zo-ma-rah said...

These guys actually thought the church would follow the direction in the scriptures! Ha. Everyone knows that scriptures are just around for good stories. Real direction from the Lord comes from the Handbook of Instruction that was put together by various committees. Duh.

Silly people, scriptures are for kids.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

C.L. Hanson,
Per your question about Dewey, I have been asked, since I've expressed dissatisfaction with the modern LDS church, why don't I just join the Reorgs?

The problem is, both outfits have a hierarchy which lays claim to having some special "authority" requiring obedience from their members. I maintain that no ecclesiastical body has authority over me. The "church" consists of the people as a community of equals. We are to be led by the Holy Ghost, not by some self-appointed leaders.

I can't speak for Dewey, but my guess is that after they booted him out, he realized he had no need to attach himself to another faction. It is the restoration of the gospel that matters, not the faction claiming superiority.

By the way, I'm happy where I am because I was baptized into the church of Jesus Christ, not the corporation of the President.

Anonymous said...

The "appeal" reminded me of this exchange from The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson:

Synthetic female voice: Thank you for calling the parking violations bureau. To plead "not guilty," press "one" now.
[Homer dials "one"]
Synthetic voice: Thank you. Your plea has been...
Rough male voice: Rejected.
Synthetic voice: You will be assessed the full fine plus a small...
Rough male voice: Large lateness fee.
Synthetic voice: Please wait by your vehicle between 9 AM and 5 PM for parking officer Steve...
Rough male voice: Grabowski.

Anonymous said...

While you are posting these writings by Dewey, you should be aware that he is deep into the occult - accepting the teachings of Blavatsky/Bailey and many New Age ideas.
Generally, what you are posting is good and shows his experience of dissatisfaction with what the church has become. But you need to be aware of where his journey led him.
There are many things esoteric in nature that have yet to be revealed, but what JJ Dewey now teaches is definitely incompatible with Mormonism. And Rock, if you (like I) seek a 'Pure Mormonism', you can't let the wolf fool you as a sheep.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

It doesn't bother me one bit how "out there" some of a man's beliefs may be, if I happen to find some areas of agreement with him.

I don't reject everything written by St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, simply because he happened to be Catholic and some of his teachings don't comport with my current beliefs.

I don't have to accept or give credence to everything a man believes in order to see the wisdom and validity in some of it. In my opinion, Dewey's take on the prophesied falling away of the latter-day Saints (which is an essential theme of our scriptures, after all) and his experiences as a member of the church, are of great merit. These are lessons we can benefit from.

Assuming that we have to agree with everything that comes from a particular source is the fallacy that trips up many members when they assert that "the Church is either all true, or it's all false."

Even Church leaders concede that some LDS teachings handed down through the church are now considered to be decidedly false, yet that couplet continues to play in the minds of many.

The reality is that, like most things, some of it is true, and some of it is false. The same could be said of the beliefs of any man.

I hold to the admonition of Paul, that we should prove (investigate) all things, and hold fast to that which is true. I therefore glean from Dewey and others that which rings true for me, and let the rest go.

Cap'n Moroni said...

As someone who is quite familiar with J.J. Dewey's other works, I have to object to Anonymous' description of them as "occult".

That is a loaded word, and when people read it they often think it refers to the dark arts.

"Occult" merely means "hidden". That's all it means. We Mormons often balk when others use that word to describe our temple ordinances, but it is apt. The fact is, one must be initiated in order to receive the occult (previously hidden or unrevealed) teachings in the temple.

Nevertheless , no one I know would ever think to describe Dewey's teachings as occult, precisely because that word has come to mean the opposite of what Dewey shares. The word "occult" would no sooner apply when reading Dewey as it would when reading Hugh Nibley.

Likewise, describing Dewey's teachings as "New Age" is deceptive, as there is really no adequate definition of the term. New Age is in the eye of the beholder, and is sometimes used pejoratively as Anonymous has done, in order to allow the reader to inject whatever negative connotations or misunderstandings he or she may hold about whatever it is "New Age" means.

Many protestants consider Joseph Smith's teachings to be New Age, and indeed there are similarities to what some new agers believe. But so what? Are we to reject the teachings of Joseph Smith because some of them seem new and unfamiliar?

Comparing Dewey's beliefs to others who may or may not hold somewhat comparable beliefs, as Anonymous has done regarding Blavatsky/Bailey, implies that whatever views those professors hold are also Dewey's. Good or bad, that is an attempt to imply guilt by association. Just as Rock can embrace many of the teachings of St. Thomas of Aquinas, that doesn't make him a Catholic.

I also take issue with the writer's inference that Dewey is a wolf in sheep's clothing. That term, as famously used by President Benson, implies people in leadership positions in the church who would subtly lead the people AWAY from the true path by dint of their title, office, and claim to authority. J.J. Dewey makes no such pretensions, and certainly does not want to be anyone's guru. His works (and again, I am familiar with most of them) all serve to point people to Christ.

When Anonymous writes that Dewey's teachings are not compatible with Mormonism, he merely reveals that those teachings are not compatible with HIS understanding of Mormonism. I find nothing in Dewey's writings that contradict LDS scripture or the teachings of Joseph Smith. Rather, they enhance them.

Even though Dewey's writings are directed at a general (non-Mormon) readership, (and yes, that includes New Agers), through J.J. Dewey's writings I have come to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the "greater things" that God revealed through Joseph Smith.

J.J. Dewey is the Sunday School teacher I could have only hoped for.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have done as directed and read the account of the attempt at an appeal of this case. I had no idea this occured so long ago.
However, to me the account is a lot of "he said, she said" and illustrates nothing substantial. The exchange with the receptionist appears remarkably detailed considering no recording device was used!
The way to appeal a case to the First Presidency is not to visit Salt Lake City on the off-chance he may be at his desk. The way is through the stake presidency. You inform the SP you wish to appeal the case to the FP and that is arranged.
It seems to me that, for someone who is a stickler for following the scriptures to the letter, just turning up in SLC and asking to see the prophet is just, well............. bizarre.
The standing high council my have gone, but the First Presidency hasn't, so the words hairs and splitting come to mind in this regard.

Steak Presedent said...

They DID go through the Stake Presidency, but they didn't listen to them:

"We decided to appeal through standard channels and we wrote a letter to his Stake President (and later to mine) requesting a rehearing and rehearsing the scripture in D&C 102.

Curtis received his response first. The Stake President sent a short note saying that the authorities had reviewed the trial and decided the judgement was just and had decided that they stand by their decision."

That's why they went to see the Prophet.

R. Metz said...

If this story went as described here - and I see no reason to doubt it - it is a disgraceful way to treat a person, no matter his beliefs; no matter what.
It is shocking, and it reminds us not to make joke with this God; He is terrible