Saturday, December 10, 2011

Infallible Authority, Chapter Nine

An Encounter with Authority
by J.J. Dewey
(To read the previous entry, click here. To start this series at the beginning, click here.)

A short time after Curtis’ attempted appointment with President Kimball, I received a similar letter stating tersely that the minutes of my trial had been reviewed and the excommunication would stand as is. This was my trial by mail.

The great benefit I now had of being out of the church was that I could now write or speak anything I wanted and I began writing some papers expressing my views. Curtis and I talked openly with members we encountered about any unorthodox beliefs as we felt like. This new freedom was so sweet that we wouldn’t have gone back into the church where we had to censor our speech and thoughts again if they begged us.

Meanwhile my wife (now ex-wife) was very upset about my excommunication and took the brethren who excommunicated me at their word that I would be worked with and loved back into the church. After the trial I told her this would not happen and that not a single person would show up at our door to befriend me.

After a period of time I reminded her of this - that not one person had made any attempt to show the hand of fellowship or visit us. She said, “You’re right and I’m going to do something about it!”

I wondered what she would or could do, but soon found out. In the next testimony meeting she stood up and called the whole congregation hypocrites for not making even one attempt to befriend me. She lashed
out at them for about ten minutes while they slouched down in their seats with shame. I wasn’t going to church any more so I missed this choice experience. Had they not felt so guilty she may have been reprimanded herself, but everyone avoided eye contact with her for a while.

The funny thing is that I guess they did not feel guilty enough for I still didn’t hear a peep out of any of them. I figured they were scared to death that talking to me for a few minutes would put their eternal salvation at risk.

This shunning was expected and did not bother me, but my wife was very upset by it. She felt that some miracle would happen that would eventually bring me back into the church and nothing seemed to be developing. Finally she came up with another idea. She decided to write a letter to the Prophet requesting that he personally visit with me to show me the error of my ways. I kind of smiled at this attempt and did not expect much of it, but I did not take into account what a good letter writer she was.

A few weeks later she received a letter from the Apostle Mark E. Peterson. He told her that Spencer W. Kimball was ill and could not respond so he was doing it on his behalf. He said that he would “be happy to see your husband” and set a date.

I was stunned by this for I felt that none of the Apostles would have seen me if I had written the letter, but I guess they could not ignore the plea of a faithful female member in distress. I told Curtis about the appointment and he was thrilled and said he wanted to go with me. I told him that the appointment was just for me, but would see if they would let him in also.

A couple weeks later we were off to Salt Lake again to visit Church Headquarters. This time the appointment was honored and we were escorted into Mark E. Peterson’s office. To my surprise no one seemed to object to Curtis being with me. As we entered into the large office and pulled up a couple chairs across from Elder Peterson’s desk we noticed off to the side sitting in a chair with pen and legal pad in hand was none other than Bruce R.. McConkie. Now that President Kimball was incapacitated these were the two most powerful men in the church. We wondered why they thought us significant enough to draw these two powerful figures in a room together with us.

After we exchanged some small talk and shook hands we found ourselves looking at Elder Peterson across his large desk. To my surprise I noticed that he had what appeared to be every paper I had written on Mormon doctrine sitting in front of him. He picked the top one off the pile and asked, “Which one of you is Joe Dewey?”

I admitted that was me.

He waved the manuscript at me and said: “Are you the one who wrote this piece of filth?”

“Yes,” I said, surprised at the immediate attack.

“This, writing, this pornography, this … this…” he was searching for words strong enough to portray his wrath, “this filth belongs in Playboy!” he said as he waived it at me.

What he was referring to was a story I had written and passed around. The first half was true and was about Curtis’s trial. The second half was fiction and was a representation of what would happen to the Mormons if there was an economic collapse. They think they will be safe because of their year’s supply, but in the story their storage backfires on them and Mormons are hunted down because they have food.

As I was considering Peterson’s statement my mind reflected on what was pornographic about it. I mentally concluded that it was the part where one of the characters has his house attacked because he is a Mormon with food and his wife is raped and killed by the mob. I gave just enough details to make the point, but there was nothing carnal about it. I figured that for him to call this pornographic that he must have lived a sheltered life. I concluded that what really made his temperature rise was that the story starkly exposed the flaw in the Mormon system of “family preparedness,” that the LDS were, in reality, less prepared for a real crisis than were the non members.

Then, I’m sure he was upset at the way I exposed the injustice of Curtis’s trial. I decided to write about his trial for I thought it would have more credibility than writing about my own.

After this reflection I responded, “Actually the story illustrates the fact that the church is not prepared for a major calamity,” I said. “If a disaster were to occur that the church has been preparing for all these years then those who are hungry would take the food of their neighbor Mormons by force. The only way to prevent this is to obey the scriptures on the gathering that was given by Joseph Smith.

“But we have a modern day prophet, “said Peterson, “and if we follow him we shall be protected.”
“But how will an isolated Mormon with food be protected from a hungry mob with no food?” I replied.

“All the members need to know is that there is a Living Prophet and if they follow him all will be well,” he insisted.

Elder McConkie spoke up, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” he said quoting I Cor 14:32. “This tells us that the members are to subject their spirits to the Prophet and all will be well. The next verse says that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. By following the brethren there will be order and peace in the church. You two are spreading confusion and are not subject to the prophets.”

Curtis spoke up: “Elder McConkie, you are distorting this scripture. The prophets, who are supposed to be you and any one else who has a testimony of Jesus, are to be subject to the prophets who have written inspired scripture. For us this would then be Joseph Smith and his writings. Tell me… Are your spirits subject to the scriptures and writings of Joseph Smith?

McConkie looked slightly ruffled. “Joseph Smith is a dead prophet. We are subject to the living prophet..”
I thought to myself that this was an interesting statement since Spencer W. Kimball was too ill to lead anyone, but felt it would be indiscreet to say anything. “So what do you think of the writings of Joseph Smith?” I asked,  “Are they true or not? Should we follow them or not?”

“That’s not the question to ask,” said McConkie. “If we follow the living prophet then everything else will fall in place and be as it should be.”

Peterson looked a little uneasy. He said: “I understand you two have some kind of message you want to deliver to us. What is your message?”

I found this to be a curious statement, for my wife’s letter made no mention of us having a message, but merely a plea to help her wayward husband back into the church. Actually we did have a message to deliver and I was pleasantly surprised he asked for it.

“When members go through the temple they make a covenant to obey the scriptures as the law of the church. Unfortunately there are a number of commandments from the scriptures the church is ignoring and not following,” I said.

“So what are we not following?”

“The Tenth Article of Faith, for one,” I said. It says that we believe in the literal gathering of Israel, but in this day you are only teaching a figurative gathering.”

“We have literally gathered here in Salt Lake and other cities,” said Peterson. We have fulfilled the gathering and today the Saints are to build up the areas in which they now live.”

I pulled out my scriptures and said, “In speaking of Zion the Lord said: ‘And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs FLEE TO ZION FOR SAFETY. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.’” (D&C 45: 68-69)

“As my story illustrated, there is no place of safety for the righteous to flee to if there is a calamity. One of the main purposes of a literal gathering was to create a place of refuge in times of trouble. Now that the church has ceased to obey this commandment they are even more vulnerable to a calamity than the non members – for everyone knows Mormons store food and they would go after them when the hunger pains begin. The scripture says the tribulations will begin upon the Lord’s own house and this is one of the main reasons for this.

“I thought you had a real message,” said Peterson. “Now just tell us what your message is.”

“I am telling you the message, if you’ll just listen,” and I read another scripture:

“Therefore I will unfold unto them this great mystery; For behold I will gather them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, IF THEY WILL NOT HARDEN THEIR HEARTS.” -D&C 10:64-65

“The gathering has been discontinued,” I said, “because you have hardened your hearts . Now let me read one more scripture.”

“We’ve read all those scriptures,” said McConkie,  “and know what they say. Now you claim to have some kind of message… Just tell us what it is!”

“I am telling you.” I said with some exasperation. Now let me read one more scripture. I began to read and explain to them the meaning of the parable of the disobedient servants who ceased to gather the saints (see D&C 101:47-54) and Peterson stood up and demanded with a raised voice: “Cease reading those scriptures. We know the scriptures and don’t need you to read them to us. You say you have a message – now just tell us in plain English what it is!”

During this exchange my nephew was squirming in his seat and hearing this latest interruption could no longer constrain himself, rose up and exclaimed:

“I’ll tell you what the message is. Repent or you’re going to go to hell! That’s the message.”

At least this was language they could understand and were silent for a moment.. I guess they were a little stunned at such plain speech. After a pause Curtis looked towards McConkie and said, “Brother McConkie, I have an important question I want to ask you and if you answer I will be satisfied. I am not just asking it for myself, but for my parents. You see, my parents are faithful members of the church and do all in their power to honor its precepts and look upon the words of brethren such as yourself almost as the voice of God. I want to ask you this question and then go home and tell them what you gave as the answer.”

“What’s your question?” said McConkie looking somewhat uncomfortable. Both of us counted ourselves as fortunate that we were still there. I was beginning to sense that they really wanted us gone.

“Here’s my question,” said Curtis. “Do you, Bruce R. McConkie, believe in the scriptures given by Joseph Smith, as well as his teachings?”

McConkie stared back and said: “Today, we have a living prophet. All you need to know is that there is a prophet on the earth and we should follow him.”

“That’s not what I asked,” said Curtis. “Now I will make this easy for you. A simple yes or no will do. Do you believe in the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith?”

McConkie looked growingly impatient as he slightly raised his voice and emphatically said: “All you need to know is that there is a living prophet!”

“You’re still not answering my question. Please. Give me a simple yes or no. Let me repeat – yes or no! Do you believe in the writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith?”

McConkie stood up and raised his voice about double volume: “All you need to know is that there is a living prophet!!!”

“I’ll take that as a No,” said Curtis.

Then it appeared to me that McConkie was struck with a twinge of guilt as he almost whispered in an afterthought, “of course we believe in all those things,” then raised his voice again – “but all you need to know is that there is a living prophet.”

“If you really believe in the scriptures then you should give us both a new trial as we have requested and supported by the scriptures. Curtis took McConkie’s scriptures off his chair and opened them to D&C 102:26-27 and read:
“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.”
 “Why have you refused to obey this commandment?”

“We follow the living prophet and this policy you speak of has been changed years ago,” he said.
Then Curtis read:
“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
“What does it say here will happen if you do not follow your own scriptures?”

Elder Peterson then authoritatively raised himself up from his chair and declared: “Gentlemen. This meeting is over.”

Both of them walked to the door, indicating by their body language that we were to go and that no customary handshake was in order. We walked out without another word being spoken.

We exited the building and walked a distance and looked back at the tall office building and I said: “I have a feeling they have never been talked to the way we just did.”

“No,” said Curtis. “I don’t think they have. This seemed to be a new experience for them.”

“I think most members and ex-members cower before their authority,” I said.

“I’m not sure we reached them.” he said. “It’s too bad there’s not more we can do. I doubt if we’ll ever get invited back here again.”

“There is one more thing we can do,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“What the scriptures say.”

“And that would be…”

I responded, “We are told that when a message from the Spirit is rejected that we are to dust our feet off on them in the name of the Lord and this will commit them to the justice of God.”

“And how do you propose we do this?” he said.

“Let’s go over by those bushes next to the Church Office Building and do it right there right now while this experience is fresh in their minds.”

We walked over by some bushes where we had reasonable privacy and sat down, took off our shoes and dusted them off on McConkie and Peterson in the name of the Lord.

Suddenly something quite unexpected happened. The Spirit of God descended on both of us at the same instant as if it were a consuming fire. We looked at each other and asked: “Are you feeling what I am feeling?”

We both agreed we were both feeling something quite extraordinary.

“I’m not sure what is going to happen,” I said. “All I know is that they are definitely delivered to the hands of God and I would not want to be in their shoes.”

“Nor would I,” said Curtis. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were struck by lightening or spontaneously combusted.”

“I do know one thing,” I said. “At this time, at this moment, they both are feeling something stirring within their souls and it is very disturbing to them. Whether something destructive happens to them, I know not, but they have received a witness of our of message from the Eternal God and it will be a dark day for them if they deny it.”

For the next few days I followed the news quite carefully on the chance that there would be some news story about these two men as happened with President Kimball. After that powerful witness I wouldn’t have been surprised to read a headline something like “Peterson and McConkie both struck by lightening,” but there was nothing unusual reported.

I was particularly interested in seeing these two men in the next General Conference and watched it on television. I was almost surprised to see that they both looked perfectly normal and spoke in their usual manner.

There was only one odd thing. McConkie’s address testified to the greatness of the Prophet Joseph Smith and he gave a most fervent and supportive speech about the prophet. There was nothing in his speech to indicate his “forget Joseph Smith” attitude and no calling him a “dead prophet.” He couldn’t seem to say enough about the guy and the importance of his teachings.

I mentioned this to Curtis and we both wondered if he gave such a speech to redeem himself after the witness when the Spirit descended. But we both felt the Spirit wanted more than words, that in the end it was actions that counted the most.

Several additional conferences passed and finally approximately two years had passed. I do not remember the exact time period. Then one day I did notice something that caught my attention in an obscure article in the Church News about McConkie and Peterson. It said that they had both had cancer over the past couple years and had been undergoing tremendous suffering, but had courageously been making the best of it to the extent that few had even known that they were ill. It seemed to indicate that time was short for both of them. (Both men died shortly thereafter.)

As I read this I was struck by how the beginnings of their cancer seemed to coincide with the time of our visit and I had the feeling that they would both be willing to talk with us again if by some chance we could get in to see them. Because of our powerful witness we were both convinced that even if the cancer had nothing to do with our visit that they were both visited and reprimanded by the Spirit of the Lord. They both met their Maker knowing that they had indeed rejected two messengers bearing a most important message from the Spirit.

The Spirit has testified to me that its visitation of the Spirit to the General Authorities did not end here, that I, and perhaps Curtis or others who bear the Spirit are to visit them again with a message which will require acceptance or rejection. When this time will come, I know not, but it will come. I was told that it is the Will of God that every single General Authority be given the opportunity to be visited by messengers who are full of the Spirit of God.

Many there are who think they have the Spirit and are caught up in their own emotion. These deluded ones who seek to correct would only make things worse. Many there are who think they are mighty and strong when they are nothing. Instead, it is written: “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh.” -D&C 1:19

Only those who realize their weaknesses and can allow the Spirit to be the One Mighty and Strong can participate in the great work to come which shall humble those who think they are the great ones.

God chooses the servants who allow themselves to be chosen, allow themselves to be used according to the Will of God and not their own little wills, and let the eternal words of the Most High flow forth unto salvation or judgement.
Copyright J.J. Dewey, used with permission.

[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]


Steven Lester said...

Now I know that the Church is completely doomed. Even magical stuff occurring during Conference on worldwide television wouldn't be enough to break the grip of power that deluded, arrogant, and evil men have over It, as long as the Lord allowed them to continue living. Sad. Sad. Sad!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I hear ya, Steven. I already knew Bruce McConkie was arrogant and full of himself, but this episode confirmed it. The guy was seriously jacked up.

Zo-ma-rah said...

Wow. Just Wow. I'm shaking after reading that. Holy Cow. It makes me wonder if I would have the same courage to speak up if I were in the same situation. I imagine I would be more like Dewey than his Nephew.

That is so awesome that he couldn't get a Yes or No out of Bruce. He wrangled him into a corner and Bruce refused to admit there was a corner.

I find myself squirming in my seat everytime someone quotes Bruce during church meetings.

Jon said...

Interesting stuff. I don't think I'm in the same place as you guys, I still have a hard taking this all in and still question, if Dewey is totally sincere. Regardless, I will be studying many of the scriptures he has given in previous chapters. Don't get me wrong, it's believable, just if it is true, it is truly sad.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Your reluctance is perfectly understandable, Jon. The difference between the average member and those like me and Zomarah who nod our heads and say "yup" when we see this kind of thing, is that some of us have experienced this kind of unrighteous dominion first hand.

But then it shouldn't surprise, as D&C 121 affirms, "it is the nature and disposition of ALMOST ALL men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."

By the way, somewhere online I've seen tale after tale of members with first hand stories of encounters with Bruce McConkie. He is not known to be pleasant or forgiving. For a guy famous for his series on "The Immortal Christ," McConkie was sadly lacking in Christlike attributes himself.

Rico said...

When did Dewey write these things? He mentions of an economic collapse, but it seems that during those days when both McConkie and Peterson were yet alive, an economic collapse in the US was a rather far-fetched idea. These days, it isn't anymore.

Tyler said...

Dewey says he was excommunicated in 1979. While some people don not classify 1980-82 as a recession due to the strict definition of a recession, it was an economically turbulent time period.

1974 was an official recession I believe as it had multiple quarters of GDP decline, but from 75-79 GDP growth had been quite significant.

80 to 82 However had some real ups and downs. Quarterly GDP growth movement fluctuated wildly.

Due to the nature of any economy, I think anyone who has been part of the work force for more then 5 years begins to have a natural fear of economic collapse. Regardless if the economy is strong or not. Food storage provides a sort of security that savings cannot.

Dewey's assertions that the Church was putting its non-gathered members in danger should scare people, because lets be honest, member or not, a few days of not being able to put food on the table for your family and you will start to re-evaluate what you are willing to do to feed yourself and the ones you love.

However, there is a simple fix. Arm yourself, as per your constitutional right.

Zo-ma-rah said...

Tyler another simple fix is...Gather to Zion!

Ok maybe it's not quite that simple. But that is why Dewey was writing about that. Defending the food and resources of an entire city against marauders would be easier than a single isolated family doing the same.

Gary said...

You would be surprised at what one honest person can do. Zion starts in the heart and spreads from there. First and foremost for me is my family and I will defend them by all means, not just with faith. That includes my firearms.

Jon said...

Not sure if it is a good idea to use arms to defend yourself in this manner. Per D&C 45:

"And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a bland of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.

And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.

And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy."

I would rather share my food, unless my family is in immediate danger for other reasons besides me not willing to share my food. I often think this is part of the reason that we are taught to have a year supply, so that we can share with our neighbors in a Christ like manner.

Jon said...

So what of this scripture that says we should wait until God tells us to gather to Zion?

D&C 42:

And from this place ye shall go forth into the regions westward; and inasmuch as ye shall find them that will receive you ye shall build up my church in every region— Until the time shall come when it shall be revealed unto you from on high, when the city of the New Jerusalem shall be prepared, that ye may be gathered in one, that ye may be my people and I will be your God.

Gary said...


Until there is a place of refuge I will use any means necessary. I understand what you are saying but I believe God expects me to defend myself and until there is a New Jerusalem to flee to I must look at all my options.

Tyler said...


Gathering would only be any good if we could arm all of those who are gathered to defending against said marauders.

Gathering and being unarmed would just mean we could be bullet fodder.

Jon said...

The scripture I posted says it all. If one is killing ones neighbors because they are hungry then I would be asking myself who I was following. God will protect us because we will be "terrible" in the eyes of the world. Take it as you will. Not saying you can't defend your family, just make sure that reason is just before God.

Tyler said...

So what does that mean concerning the parable of the 10 virgins?

Matthew 25:1-13

Zo-ma-rah said...

You have an excellent point Jon. But at least for me, I'm not picturing a hungry neighbor coming over to my house and wanting to share my food. I most certainly would not turn away such a person. Rather when I'm talking about defending my family I'm referring to violent gangs rampaging through a neighborhood killing the men, stealing the food, and raping the women.

While these people are my neighbors, I would not hesitate to defend myself and my family from them. I would rather have an entire city at my side rather them me and my lone .45 XD.

Remember where not just talking about New Jerusalem. We also have the twelve stakes of Zion which must be build before New Jerusalem. Also the charge to fill the world with Cities of Zion after the New Jerusalem is built.

Jon said...

I think I would bug out if there were mobs going around like that. Or organize a neighborhood organization to defend. But my first choice would be to bug out, to New Jerusalem, preferably. So I agree with your point Zo-ma-rah. I don't own a gun so I wouldn't be able to help out much on that side. It's on my to do list, one day. First, I want to read some books on homeschooling!

Brokenbyclouds said...

What? I'm sorry but this guy lost all credibility with me for this episode. I know bashing on McConkie is a favorite past time for a lot of folks but he comes out of this completely spotless.

If some guy I don't know is coming into my office with an unannounced stranger to try and get his membership re-evaluated but instead he proceeds to lecture me about the scriptures that I personally wrote chapter summaries for and ignores the -years- of speaking and writing I've done on Joseph Smith and his teachings and his only point ultimately is that I'm going to hell...

Sorry, that guy dropped the ball majorly. The fault cannot be laid at the feet of the authorities in this situation. You don't go into a scenario like this with the approach he did and expect anyone to give you the time of day.

And wow, that was the biggest leap of logic ever when he supposed that the cancer of two old men had anything to do with him or one instance where he rubbed his shoes two years previously.

I don't like having to defend the big shots downtown and I'm disappointed that this guy used the meeting his wife worked hard to get for him to get on a soapbox and rant.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a load of falsehood. Why would you publish this crap?

Anonymous said...


Is D&C 42 the source people use to justify waiting for the president of the LDS churh to lead them to Zion? If so, then it is a pretty simple misunderstanding. 42 was given in Ohio in February of 1831. It says to flee to the west and it will be made known. Well four months later in section 57 the location of Zion in Independence, MO was given. Missouri is three states west.

It already happened. We are without excuse to go and gather and build the city.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Bashing on McConkie is indeed a favorite pastime for a lot of folks, me included. But I have my reasons. I am quite unhappy with the damage McConkie did to my church during his lifetime, and the betray of trust he represented.

He was an arrogant, demanding corporate climber who did more to derail the church of Jesus Christ in the 20th century than anyone since, save Boyd K. Packer.

If David O. Mckay had a reputation for being humble and Christlike, McConkie was his mirror opposite, demanding obsequious recognition of the lowly rank and file members over his every utterance. Even many of his scripture headings, which you cite favorably, are distortions of the actual scriptures that follow them. Based on McConkie's notorious hubris, I find Dewey's story completely credible.

I tell the story of McKay's famous clash with McConkie here:

Brokenbyclouds said...

I didn't mean to make a value judgement for or against McConkie's chapter summaries. I have issues with them myself actually. What I meant to highlight was actually Dewey's own hubris here.

His approach was to go in to this meeting and read scriptures to people who had essentially made their living reading scriptures and then get surprised when they didn't agree with him or his interpretations.

The crux of it is that he didn't respect his opponent and because of that, he lost the opportunity to do or say anything truly meaningful.

Was Bruce McConkie an arrogant man not afraid of using his office to bludgeon people over the head if they disagreed with him? Well duh, right? But in this particular instance that doesn't matter much.

Let me try to illustrate where I'm coming from a different way.

Suppose I worked as an official in the cabinet of George Dubya Bush. I get fired for constantly fighting the policies and decisions being made by the President. I certainly feel I have good reason to and I'm sure many would agree. I keep trying to get a meeting with Dubya so I can maybe get my job back but when I'm finally given that meeting I just waltz in and start telling him how stupid he is and then I'm baffled as to why I get thrown out of the office.

Is Bush an idiot in power who doesn't have nearly enough people telling him so? Yeah, he is.

But, what good have I done with my approach? Well I've done nothing. Nothing at all.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I don't read it that way. Remember, all these guys wanted was for their Stake presidents to follow Church law and give them their right to appeal what they considered an unjust ruling.

When that didn't happen, they appealed to Church headquarters. It's akin to requesting a higher court to remand a case back to the lower court for a do-over according to law.

That attempt to died. Dewey pretty much resigns himself to the fact that there will be no justice. Then Dewey's wife writes letters resulting in an audience with Salt Lake. Curtis is stoked at the opportunity, but Dewey sees that the GA's have no interest in following church protocol and ordering a new hearing either.

Peterson and McConkie keep demanding to know what "message" Dewey and Curtis have for them, even though Dewey tells us they had no intention of delivering any message, they just wanted a new hearing. They just wanted the higher-ups to order the high council to follow the rules.

The GAs ignore the purpose of the meeting, and it is Curtis who finally blurts out a warning to repent. It shakes up the GA's because they are not accustomed to being called to repentance, but what did they expect? They granted a meeting, then did not show any interest in the grievances of the parties present, or even in the subject of the meeting. It was the GAs who kept demanding something that was not even on the agenda. Dewey says his wife's letters did not include a "message" Dewey intended to deliver. I think the GAs were baiting them.

I think Dewey's and Curtis' grievances were valid. And I don't care if, after the second trial, the excommunications were affirmed. But "the question on appeal" is twofold:

1. Are local Church leaders required to follow the procedure laid out in Doctrine and Covenants regarding excommunications, or are they allowed to just make up the rules of procedure as they wish?

2. When local leaders fail to follow church law, is it not the role of the hierarchy to remand back and order them to follow proper procedure?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm going by memory here, but I think "Infallible Authority" was written in the late 1990's or early 2000s. This incident takes place in 1979, and I can attest to a mean recession taking place around that time. My father's real estate empire in Anaheim all but collapsed by 1982 from the fallout.

Rico said...

Dewey's mention of a possible economic collapse made this article sound to me like a fairly recent one. But other things he mentioned made it also sound dated. That's why I wondered.

Speaking of economic collapses, food storage, and guns to protect one's food storage... I think the real threat is not from roving mobs threatening to steal your food and commit bodily harm against you.

The real threat is a govt that enacts laws in secret declaring it an act of terrorism to store food and have guns to protect that food. They don't need search or arrest warrants. They don't need courts to find out if you're guilty. All they need is some dungeon where they can detain you indefinitely.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You got that right, Rico. The recent passage of S. 1867 has killed the fourth amendment with nary a whimper of a cry from the public:

Carl Youngblood said...

Dewey makes some great points, but his approach is also very naive. I think he is correct as he points out the many scriptural and modern-day references to the church's potential to fall and rejects the Woodruff doctrine. But he is just plain stupid when he treats Joseph's revelations as if they were immutable and not subject to revision. Joseph Smith himself changed things all the time, and by the time he died, the church and doctrine were nothing like they were in the beginning. His successors merely carried on his tradition of constant revision and adaptation, albeit without much of his charisma and inspiration. So the implication that JS was some privileged oracle whose prophecies are immutable and infallible is to commit the very crime he's accusing McConkie et al of doing.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

As a prophet, Joseph Smith had the right to edit, improve, and clarify his own words when he saw fit. No one else had the right to edit his words, only their own.

Remember, Brigham young admitted that he was "not a prophet like Brother Joseph." What right did he have to impel others to change and doctor Joseph Smith's personal journals?

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, you're misunderstanding me. In the same way that Joseph changed doctrine and practices all the time, his successors are also carrying on this tradition.

I'm not even saying that all these changes are good. I'm just saying that the notion that the doctrines and practices should all be confined to the way they were during JS lifetime betrays an ignorance of how malleable they were during his lifetime and how much they continue to be so today.

Claiming they should be like they were "back then" basically reveals an ignorance of history, harking back to an era that never was. This is the fundamental problem with fundamentalism. Complete ignorance of history. Nobody ever lived in the past. To the contemporaries of historical eras, everything was in flux and uncertain in the same way it is to us today. It is only in distant retrospect that primitivists can even have the benefit of hindsight required to carry on their revisionism.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I don't entirely disagree with you, Carl. Yes, the church evolved during Joseph Smith's lifetime. It is a church guided by revelation, after all.

I can't speak for J.J. Dewey, but here is where I'm coming from: Since Joseph Smith was the founder of this religion, his teachings are the foundational teachings, and if we wish to understand "Mormonism" we need to look at his positions and beliefs. Any modern policies or teachings that contradict with those of the founder are policies and teachings that I question.

There is nothing wrong with building on the foundation introduced by Joseph Smith. After all, we claim to be guided by continuous revelation. But, just as we look to the Federalist Papers for an understanding of the intent of the founders of our government, so should we look to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the actual words of Joseph Smith for an understanding of the intent of the founder of our faith.

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, I wholeheartedly agree that we should look to JS and other leaders' teachings to inform our concept of Mormonism today. I am very frustrated at Mormons' general lack of awareness of their own history. But I'm equally frustrated with revisionists who mistakenly value a certain era's wisdom or insight extremely higher than another's, or who attribute to certain eras a legitimacy and authority that they never had, or that they had, but for entirely different reasons than the revisionists claim they had. There is too much hero worship in the Church and in our country, both for the current regime and for past ones. And there is too much ignorance about what past figures actually did and believed. We need to start rising up to our own true capabilities and stop living on borrowed light.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Agreed, Carl. I certainly don't advocate hero worship of Joseph Smith (who readily admitted his failings and published rebukings he got from God). Mormonism was admittedly in its infancy and by no means fully formed, but at the same time it must be admitted that Brigham Young did reverse some of the teachings of Joseph Smith (institutionalizing plural marriage, where Joseph opposed it, and ignoring Joseph's equal treatment of blacks, to cite two examples).

Joseph made it clear that when the people saw anything taught that was contrary to what he had already introduced, they would know that man was an impostor.

Although Joseph Smith did not reveal everything that there was to be known, anything in the modern church that directly contradicts his teachings should be suspect. The modern bent toward authoritarianism and following the prophet appear to contradict Joseph's core fundamentals of taking correct principles and then governing ourselves.

Since we teach a belief in continuous revelation, it would be helpful if we ever actually got any that built or expanded on those core fundamentals. Because we don't, many members are "stuck" in their Mormonism, not able to move either forward or backward. As a result, so many of our people "know without a shadow of a doubt that this Church is true," but they can't really articulate what they even mean by that.

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, I mostly agree but I think the problem is more profound than that. Joseph Smith contradicted himself. If JS actually taught that ("when the people saw anything taught that was contrary to what he had already introduced, they would know that man was an impostor"), then to some extent he has condemned himself, because he contradicted many of his prior teachings as time went on. He also applied different standards to others than he did to himself. The Hiram Page incident is a good example of that.

For me, this does not mean JS did not accomplish some amazing things, nor that he was not an admirable man in many ways. But we shouldn't hold his successors to a standard by which he himself would also be condemned.

My takeaway from these recognitions is just that every leader needs to be considered from his own unique context. I don't think that it's automatically wrong for a successor to repudiate or contradict something that JS taught, but I also don't think anyone gets a free ride. Their decisions need to be considered carefully according to the specific situations they are confronted with. And the decisions should at a bare minimum be made with an awareness of history and the past decisions of others in their position.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm not aware of any instances where Joseph contradicted himself. He produced revelations that added to earlier ones, but I don't see him saying one thing and then reversing himself.

When he was vigorously denouncing polygamy, that was when he declared that anyone teaching contrary to what he was declaring could be easily recognized as an impostor. Therefore it doesn't matter that Brigham Young claimed "Joseph Smith taught me these things. Joseph had already prepared the members to recognize that anyone who taught anything opposite of what Joseph Smith openly TAUGHT was to be easily spotted as a fraud.

The modern corporate church with its prominent teaching that the only safe guide is to follow the leaders stands in open contradiction to the teachings of Joseph Smith. This is not building on the early doctrines, it's reversing them.

Hiram Page was using a seer stone and claiming to have received revelations for the whole church, contrary to some of Joseph's own teachings. Joseph had no objection to Page seeking revelation of his own, but he was presenting commandments that he insisted others must obey.

I would be interested in seeing what you consider examples of Joseph Smith contradicting himself, because I can't think of anything of import.

Carl Youngblood said...

Joseph Smith at one point early on in his ministry denounced the doctrine of transmigration of souls, but later on is purported to have taught it to Joseph Robinson and Eliza Snow. He changed the church's name from the Church of Christ to the Church of the Latter-day Saints (contrary to the teachings in 3 Ne 27, over which some members protested and apostatized) and then changed it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The D&C is ample evidence of doctrinal development and change. JS' behavior in regards to polygamy is also good evidence for his willingness to prevaricate to suit his personal interests. After first being declined by Zina Huntington Jacobs, JS puts spiritual pressure on her by claiming that an angel with a drawn sword forced him to marry her. I am convinced that God does not work this way and that JS was taking advantage of his spiritual position in this case. These are not all examples of contradiction but they show in various ways how Joseph used his position and authority opportunistically at times. There are other examples but I do not have them all memorized. Read Rough Stone Rolling and the JS papers for more details. A close examination of his life shows a man who changed significantly throughout his life and was much less orthodox of a Christian near the end of his life than he was at the beginning. This transformation in itself is ample evidence of contradiction, in my opinion, which I think is a good thing, not a bad thing. A good reference for this is "The Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism" by Don Bradley

Regardless of whether or not Hiram Page was wrong to do what he did, there was nothing inherently different in the way JS and he approached revelation. They both claimed to have received revelations that applied to the whole world. The primary difference is that JS was already the de facto leader of a fledgling church and Page was not. Perhaps it was necessary for Joseph to put him in his place for his own plans to be able to succeed, but JS was essentially doing the same thing Page was doing.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I guess we aren't talking about the same thing here, Carl. I thought your hypothesis was that later revelations received through Joseph Smith were directly contradicted by earlier ones. I don't fault a man for having a reversal of his own opinions. That is a sign of growth.

As you probably know, I reject the widely held belief that Joseph Smith secretly practiced polygamy while publicly denouncing it, since we have no evidence that he did anything of the kind. What do we have other than rumor and gossip regarding the ridiculous story of the angel with a flaming sword threatening Joseph if he refused to take additional wives? You are quite right that God does not work that way; it would be a complete reversal of Joseph Smith's free agency, and would reveal God to be a tyrant. It would have turned every teaching of the Restoration on its head, and the Church would have changed from a libertarian society to an authoritarian one. Which, by the way, it seems to have done in our day, but not due to any teaching introduced by Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith made no such claim that he was threatened by an angel; others made that claim after he was dead and unable to denounce such nonsense. Still, his wife, who WAS still living and supposedly a subject of that dubious "revelation" was in a position to affirm or deny it, and she vigorously denied it.

In my opinion, the other examples you give are examples of spiritual growth and evolution over time, not contradictions. And of course, I don't much care if Joseph Smith's personal opinions changed over time. My own views have changed radically over time, and I'm darn glad for that. What matters is whether the revelations he received from God contradict earlier revelations from God, not whether he reversed himself on his previous unenlightened opinions. He never presented himself as an infallible man, just a vessel through which God could provide pertinent information to others.

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, have you read Rough Stone Rolling? There are numerous documented cases of Joseph's polygamy and that he concealed at least some of these relationships from his wife. I think the historical record is quite clear on this. I think it's possible to believe Joseph was a prophet and yet that his implementation of polygamy was flawed and even sinful. It's not necessary, in my opinion, to accept everything he did as right just because he was a prophet.

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, you should also check out "In Sacred Loneliness" about the plural wives of JS. It is meticulously researched and well-written history. This site has some of the main references and citations about JS' wives: Much of that information is quite reliable and told firsthand by the women who were sealed to him. The consensus among both faithful and non-mormon historians is that JS was both sealed to plural wives and had conjugal relations with some of them. There is plenty of evidence for this. That you claim there is none makes me wonder if you have are even very familiar with the research that has been done on this topic.

Carl Youngblood said...

One more thing. I wouldn't draw such a strong distinction between JS' opinions and revelations. Revelation is a cooperative process. Many of JS' teachings and even journal entries were later canonized as revelations. If you accept that he changed his mind about things over the course of his life, then the inevitable conclusion is that the revelations would be subject to modification also. It's not like God just takes over the prophet's body and causes him to say stuff against his will.

Brigham Young put it in an interesting way: "Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings. If the people are stiff-necked, the Lord can tell them but little."

Carl Youngblood said...

By the way, the specific information about the angel with the drawn sword comes from Zina Jacob's own journal, not from some other person's testimony after Joseph's death.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

As much as I admire Bushman's book, he relies, like those before him, on dubious sources regarding the reality of Joseph and plural marriage.

Follow the footnotes. They lead to hearsay and gossip from people who had a motive to claim Joseph's involvement, and most don't surface until decades after Joseph's death.

I think anyone attempting to show that Joseph Smith did indeed practice polygamy needs to first read Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy and then refute or overcome that research. The evidence all leans in favor of Joseph Smith vigorously opposing it, with nothing to prove otherwise.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Of course I'm familiar with Compton's book. Again, follow the footnotes and see where they lead.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

And why would you feel we should take Zina Jacob's word on such a fantastic story? When did she write it? Who was she married to at the time she wrote that journal entry? What motivation would she have to come up with something of this importance that we can't find in any of the writings of Joseph Smith?

An event so profound as an angel appearing to Joseph Smith threatening him with a flaming sword represents a complete reversal of Joseph's Free Agency. You would think he might have mentioned it somewhere.

Have you read my follow up piece on polygamy yet? It only scratches the surface, but I think it demonstrates how unreliable the testimonies of women who, out of nowhere and decades later, suddenly "remembered" they had once been married to the prophet.

The first thing the historian would ask about such remembrances is "what motive did they have for coming up with this stuff?"

It was the visit of Joseph Smith's sons to Utah, now grown and come to persuade the members that the people's leaders had been lying to them about their father.

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, I just don't think that your categorical rejection of all the references to JS's polygamy are plausible, considering the variety of different contexts and references to it. Nor do I think that your logic that "God would never do that" somehow vindicates Joseph. There are many other more plausible possibilities. It is certainly possible that JS was simply manipulating Zina J. This is a very plausible explanation.

I respect your position, but I believe it is too dismissive of too many different pieces of evidence. Thanks for discussing it though.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I don't think I've ever said or implied that "God would never do that" -in fact, I'm not clear on what "that" is you're referring to, Carl.

Anyway, I don't categorically reject all the references to Joseph Smith's polygamy. On the contrary, I encourage others to examine closely these references and see if they lead to anything of substance. Nothing I have found is traceable to a contemporary source. Women claim to have been married to him who had made no mention it in any document prior to around 1878.

My relationship to Mormonism is grounded in the actual statements of Joseph Smith. That is the foundation we should rely on for every point of doctrine. Sure doctrines evolve, but the organic statements of Joseph Smith on polygamy are clearly opposed to it. Any changes to that opposition should at least appear somewhere in his handwriting. Or, if not in his handwriting, in the handwriting of one of his scribes while he was still living.

It seems to me that those who are being dismissive of the many pieces of evidence are those who choose to ignore Joseph's frequent and adamant denunciations of the practice. When I encourage an examination of the footnotes, I don't consider that being dismissive of the evidence, I consider it a call for meticulously examining the evidence.

Anyhooo... I'm done with this topic if you are, Carl. It wears me out. Thanks back to you for being willing to discuss it also.

Carl Youngblood said...

Sorry if I wasn't clear on my quote. When I said "God would never do that" I'm referring to where you said "You are quite right that God does not work that way; it would be a complete reversal of Joseph Smith's free agency, and would reveal God to be a tyrant." I was just saying that it's possible that JS did say such things but they were not God's will.

Thanks for sharing your opinion. I hope we can at least agree that your view is in the minority among those who are currently active in Mormon Studies. Just about everyone I've talked to or read who is interested in this subject accepts the view that JS practiced polygamy.

Anonymous said...

This is one man's experience, and only he knows whether or not it happened or if it happened like this.

Long ago I determined that each person, whatever his/her religion or whatever his/her position within that religion, would answer to his/her Creator at some point.

We (speaking collectively but cautiously) take other people entirely too seriously when we (again collectivizing) should be looking to the Creator of heaven and earth.

But, I don't find this impossible to believe. Horror stories about McConkie abound. Poor man. I find it easier to pity him that those who perished under his tongue.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience having moved from Northern California to Southern Utah to take a teaching job there. My Home Teacher gave me a YEAR. It took three years. I thought I was in an insane asylum. It nearly drove me to suicide, the inconsistencies... finally, I just grabbed my Standard Works and have held on to those ever since. While not an official member of the Corporation of the Bishopric, I am a member of the Lord's Church as He defines His Church in D&C 10:67. I am happy still being a Mormon, keeping all the "standards" because they work for me and studying the Standard Works and teaching from them as the occasion arises. I feel FREE and it feels great to be FREE.. no "fear" of any COB officer or one of their delegates calling me in as in the old days and grilling me because I don't believe in the "Orthodox Religion" (weren't we warned about that? Oh, that's right.. that's been removed.. so no longer applicable") I still love the Church, but to actually attend and listen to the heresies and the false doctrine (based on an even simple reading of the Standard Works) is more than I can bear... so, we have HOME Church, Dad presiding and kids participating.. Sacrament and all... but we have no Manuals... just the Standard Works.... imagine that!!!

Anon 23 said...

Thanks awesome Anonymous 9:52! My hat is off to you for figuring it out and distancing yourself. I believe 'Home Church' with like minded family & friends is the best way to protect our families from all the falsehoods, IF we have the Spirit ourselves to know and teach truth from error.

Anonymous said...

I find this whole story to be suspiciously fantastic and ultimately taking away from the previous discussion on infallibility. To imply that these two brothers, Dewey and Curtis, were involved in the Lord rebuking and ultimately killing Kimball, Petersen, and McConkie, is quite a claim! A couple things strike me as odd.

One, if this is true, ironically, wouldn't it argue against the first chapters of this whole saga somewhat? If true, apparently the Lord won’t allow the leaders to go too far astray. This would suggest he is concerned with and involved in the leadership of the church.

Two, the church is pretty big. I find it a bold claim that the supposedly wrongful excommunication of two members through some sort of bureaucratic malfeasance warrants bolts of lightning in the context of all the decisions these men (the church leaders) have to make and all the good that the church does. Dewey seems to think quite highly of himself that he even would consider that his experience was this important. I also identify another irony in that during his excommunication he mentions a Taliban-esque member who suggested he (Dewey) deserved the death penalty. If true that’s quite a statement on the part of this member. But then here is Dewey who seems to openly enjoy the thought that God punished Kimball, Petersen, and McConkie with DEATH. Even if it were true, other than stroking his own ego, I don’t see what this fantastic speculation brings to the discussion at all.

Three, what really makes me suspicious though is the nature of the discussion between Dewey, Curtis, Petersen, and McConkie. I find it frankly weird and illogical that Dewey/Curtis would take the approach of accusing the church of sin and threatening apostles with hell. I thought the goal was to have another trial and to plead the case that the excommunication was wrongful?

As told I am shocked by what McConkie supposedly said in response to the question about the scriptures, but what the heck is all this talk about the literal gathering of Israel and the church being wrong to not tell everybody to move to Utah? Huh? Seriously, this is what they had to say? The weirdness of this aside, I would think they’d be arguing that everybody is entitled to receive revelation, after all this is the whole point of the gospel, and that the doctrines of the gospel are quite loose and intentionally open to interpretation. To me it was wrong that you should be excommunicated for having unorthodox beliefs.

Who cares if somebody thinks the flood and story of Noah was a global event, a local event, or just a fictional but inspired allegory to teach a spiritual principle. If you can genuinely sustain your leaders, you should be able to keep your temple recommend. If you can’t sustain them, you should be able to at least keep your membership. People shouldn't be getting excommunicated over the belief that the leaders of the church aren't infallible. Good grief, most members don’t think they are. To be perfectly frank I’m suspicious that this is all there was to it. After being granted an audience with the first presidency they choose to go on the offensive rather than showing respect for the priesthood office these men held. The fallibility of these men doesn’t change the truthfulness of their priesthood stewardship. It’s not appropriate to come into their office and start barking at them like teenagers. Granted, if true, Petersen’s opening statement wasn’t very charitable either. Two wrongs don’t make a right though. I would have known exactly what I wanted to talk about long before going to a meeting like this, and Dewey wanted to talk about food storage? Forgive me while I take a moment to laugh out loud.

Anonymous said...

A better question for Curtis to have asked McConkie is “is the president of the church infallible?” and “what is the definition of infallible?” You could also ask, “is every single word uttered in general conference 100% true and inspired revelation that members should consider as coming straight from the Lord Himself?” He could have also asked for a definition of “revelation” and “official doctrine”. Instead they accuse them of leading the church astray for not telling people to move to Utah. I for one don’t even agree with this. If church leaders came and told me I needed to move to Utah I’d respond to that quite incredulously and start asking questions about unrighteous dominion. So they’re barking at the church leaders for overstepping their authority by not engaging in activity which is overstepping their authority? Huh? I’m actually really confused.

Regarding the infallibility though, with the recent essay on the priesthood it seems the church is openly acknowledging this now or is at the least heading in that direction of changing the culture to put things in a more realistic context.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I get a different reading from this than you did.

First off, they had already been denied their right to appeal (this was covered in previous chapters), so Salt Lake had violated church law by denying them. This audience with Peterson and McConkie was finally given at the behest of one of the men's wives. What they wanted was their appeal, but it was clear they were not going to get it.

If the discussion went off the rails, it was because McConkie answered every question with "the only thing you need to know is that we have a living prophet."

Secondly, I think the reason Dewey gave the example of the leaders violating scripture was not that he felt everyone should move to Utah. It was that in recent decades the leaders have discouraged members from gathering to Zion (call it Utah if you want, but I think the Lord meant America) and have told members in other countries to stay where they are. This is antithetical to the command of the Lord that all his people should gather, and this was Dewey's point. There has been a deliberate reversal of that commandment.

In reading this account, I didn't take away anything of the sort to indicate that Dewey thought the Lord killed Peterson, McConkie, or Kimball for going against Dewey. But do believe our dispositions can affect our health.

By all accounts, Bruce McConkie was a sour and bitter man, constantly annoyed with those who did not see things the way he did. I feel it's very possible a lifetime of bitterness could have had a negative effect on his pancreas. Many medical experts would agree that a lifetime of negativity can have an effect on certain organs.

I do think it ironic that Kimball, supposedly the mouthpiece of the Lord, would lose his voice and be unable to speak. It does give one pause.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you as far as how they were dealt with in their disciplinary councils, as portrayed. My point is that Dewey's depiction of how the whole showdown with Petersen and McConkie went down strongly suggests (to me) that perhaps their excommunication wasn't as unjust as it's made out to be. It makes me think there are details missing. I really would love to hear the perspective from someone who was on the disciplinary council. What in your opinion is sufficient grounds for excommunication? In my mind it's not just for huge sins like raping the bishops wife. There is a priesthood organization. Even if one agrees 100% with all the scriptural interpretations of their leaders, they can still be guilty of murmuring, inciting contention, and ultimately leading people astray in rebellion. For example, what if Dewey were to proclaim that he should be the president of the church?

Dewey complains about members never showing up to "love him" after his excommunication. Perhaps that's true, but where was he? By the sound of it he wasn't trying to extend any olive branches either. But instead he predicts "watch, they won't do anything," so he starts out with a negative attitude about others, and then seems to act in a manner designed to fulfill his prophecy. Where was his love for them? I would have kept going to church and spoke at every available opportunity. I'd get up in testimony meeting and bear my testimony of the savior. Instead he sulks at home and does nothing but blame others.

Where is his personal responsibility? Perhaps his excommunication was unjust. Perhaps being denied a proper retrial was also unjust. Perhaps McConkie was a real jerk. But Dewey and Curtis didn't seem to do themselves any favors. Unreasonable people are going to be dealt with unreasonably. Maybe McConkie is a big jerk, but I still would have gone into that meeting with my hat in my hand. I would have made it clear from the start that I sustained them as priesthood authorities. In a very humble way, I would have expressed that I can answer all the temple recommend questions appropriately. And that being the case, how can my excommunication be just?

Perhaps I don't interpret a particular scripture in the same manner than you [McConkie] do, but that's not grounds for excommunication. In fact, we're supposed to interpret the scriptures on our own, this is the whole point of the Holy Ghost and personal revelation. And to be frank I have a hard time believing this is something McConkie would disagree with. I've read a lot of his writings, and I agree, he did tend to be a bit forceful, perhaps even an A-hole, but I've read where he himself acknowledges that the prophet isn't infallible. For he's said much along these lines about Brigham Young and the Adam-God stuff. He regarded BY an inspired prophet, but said he was wrong about Adam-God, and that this wasn't revelation but his personal opinions/speculations, which were wrong.

So if he thinks that way about BY, it raises all sorts of questions about the nature of revelation and doctrine. When should the words of the president of the church be considered revelation? And this is the discussion Dewey engages in for the first several chapters, which I agree with him on. He makes very good points. I agree wholeheartedly that the cultural myth of the infallibility of the prophet is bunk.

I have a real hard time believing though that he was excommunicated for saying this. Perhaps the culture has changed since Dewey's time, I wasn't even alive when he was having his fights with McConkie. But I openly speak out against the myths of leadership infallibility ALL THE TIME and nobody has threatened to bring me before a disciplinary council.

Anonymous said...

But the priesthood organization still has the stewardship to do things the way they see fit. While I may not agree with the manner in which a particular leader operates, I would never presume to usurp his responsibility. On my mission I had an experience where one of my companions was sent home. He was new and I was his trainer. I had a new mission president and the decision was made to send him home. I expressed disagreement with my mission president over this decision. And it's a decision I don't think my previous mission president would have made. The new mission president basically encouraged him to leave and made the decision for him. It felt unloving to me. My companion was a bit depressed, homesick, that sort of thing, but I thought he was a great guy and would man up. He had a lot of potential. Sending him home so early really seemed premature to me. Give him a chance was my attitude. So I got pretty mad about the whole thing. And then my mission president got upset with me. In our discussion though when he pushed back at me I told him that I respected his authority and stewardship and that I would do whatever he wanted. I wasn't refusing to take his orders on the matter, I was simply expressing my thoughts on the decision. I didn't agree with it, but I would do it anyway. He got this huge grin on his face and told me that was all he needed to know about me and that this spoke volumes about my character. My mission president is now one of the top leaders in the church.

Nowhere in Dewey's story does he in any way describe an attitude of respect for the priesthood organization. I get the sense that he was stirring up contention, openly challenging the authority of leadership. And this is something that in my mind does warrant excommunication, or disfellowship. Something. And then when granted a opportunity to defend themselves, they tell Elder Petersen and McConkie they are going to hell? LOL.

And where is Dewey now? Kimball, McConkie, and Petersen are long gone. New leadership now. By Dewey's account perhaps these men were appropriately removed. So how is the leadership now? Was the problem Dewey identified corrected by the Lord? Has Dewey tried to come back into the church and have his blessings restored? I suspect the answer to that is NO. And why not?

Unknown said...

For the record, I'm anonymous here.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You ask "Where is J.J. Dewey now?"

Here's what he has been up to since he was given the boot:

Like other devoted Mormon theologians like Paul Toscano and Denver Snuffer, Dewey's excommunication provided him the liberty to speak out freely in a way that Church membership may not have permitted.

I had read all four books in the Immortal series before I had any clue about Dewey's background in the LDS church. All I knew was that the things taught in that book resonated with me and were entirely consistent with early LDS doctrine.

Most importantly, Dewey's writings have been embraced mostly by those outside of the LDS church, most of whom would not have lent an ear for even a moment had these things come from someone identified as LDS.

One of the things that makes me smile is when I hear of the Church excommunicating someone for "being out of harmony with the Church."

Who would want to be in harmony with an organization that has veered so sharply from its roots and core doctrines? I would rather be in harmony with God.