An Encounter with Authority
by J.J. Dewey
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 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.
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