Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Oaks & Ballard Old-Time Vaudeville Revue

Previously: Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover

The way things are going lately, I may have to start each post with a disclaimer just to inform new readers they haven't landed on an anti-Mormon site. Maybe something like this:

The proprietor of this blog is a devout believer in the Book of Mormon, Divine Revelation, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, he has little respect for impostors in high office who claim divine appointments they have not received and spiritual gifts they never demonstrate.

Which brings us to this four-minute train wreck currently blowing up the Bloggernacle:

UPDATE, NOV 7, 2017: 
I am shocked, SHOCKED! that Church headquarters felt it necessary -for some unimaginable reason- to have this video removed from Youtube a mere two days after I went to the trouble of sharing it here! 
Unfortunately, now if you hope to have any chance to watch our venerable senior apostles nudge and snicker together incessantly, you'll have to go to the trouble of clicking on The Official Church Website Here.
Those ninny-nanny spoilsports in Salt Lake City don't seem to realize that once something is put up on the internet, it tends gain a life eternal, so some mischievous scamp reposted an abridged version mixed with the sounds of a studio audience so Oaks & Ballard won't have to giggle their way through it all alone:

What I'm reviewing here is the original four minute video, so you may want to watch that one on before reading further. This video is a short advertisement of sorts for an upcoming "Face to Face" video stream with two Senior Apostles of the Church, wherein they are preparing to answer questions sent in by teen and young adult members.

"About time!" you say. Finally, the tough questions about the way our religion is presently governed will at long last be answered by two senior apostles with a direct line to heaven; men who claim to be prophets, seers, and revelators -the same gifts Joseph Smith repeatedly demonstrated in his day.

No such luck. As a teaser for what is to come, Dallin Oaks starts off by talking about how excited he is about all the questions coming in. "I'm astonished at the places they come from!" he exclaims in wondering awe, "Here's one from Albania! Another from Australia! There's one from Texas and other foreign countries. Like Canada, and Zimbabwe, and uh, oh, let's see...Massachusetts!"

I guess no one has informed Dallin Oaks yet that this is a world-wide Church. Because like wow, you know? Massachusetts!

"The questions," Dallin exclaims with that wide-eyed manner of feigned excitement frequently seen when adults are addressing Primary children, "are coming in from all over the place!"

Russell Ballard chimes in: "And they're in-depth questions. They're questions that matter a lot in the lives of our young single adults around the world." They both chuckle merrily for no apparent reason as Ballard turns to Oaks and says mischievously, "It'll be good to see what answers you've got for all these questions."

"Get yourself ready," Oaks retorts with more laughter, as he glances down at the pile of questions in front of him, "I don't have answers for a question like 'How do I repent?' "

Wait a minute! Hold the curtain! Did he just say what I think he said?

Thank Heaven For Older Men...
I don't fault these two jokers for trying to convey a more relaxed side of themselves. They are, after all, addressing an audience of young people who they are trying desperately to get in good with. The LDS Church is losing Millenials at an unprecedented rate, as an increasing number of young people are admitting the Church simply fails to hold their interest.  This upcoming live stream project is one of many attempts to convince the rising generation that the Church is still relevant. Hence the folksy attempt by the leaders to convey a casual, down-home side of themselves to the dwindling pool of young singles who have not yet joined the exodus.

But there's a fine line between "folksy" and "cringeworthy. " This video is guaranteed to make the most orthodox Brethrenites squirm in their seats.

What I can't for the life of me understand is how a purported servant of the Lord, a man who holds one of the highest offices in "The Only True Church On The Face Of The Earth," could publicly admit he doesn't know how to teach repentance!  That was the softball question to end all softball questions, and he doesn't know how to answer it?

Not only that, but he actually laughs at the idea that someone would ask him how to repent.

Dallin Oaks uses the word "astonished" quite early in the video clip. That is the same word I've been hearing again and again from people who have watched this video.  They are astonished. The entire thing was so astonishing, one person said, that she couldn't look away.

What's truly astonishing about Elder Oaks' shocking admission is that teaching people how to repent is really Dallin Oaks' only job. "Preach nothing but repentance," The Lord repeatedly admonished the early leaders of the church in D&C 6:9, 11:9, 14:8, and 19:21.  The men given that charge were the very leaders whose mantle Dallin Oaks claims to have inherited. And yet he admits to not knowing how to teach it.

I'll make it easy for you, Dallin. In a nutshell, repentance is accomplished when a person stops doing those things that takes him further from Christ, and starts doing those things that bring him closer.

Apologizing to those we have hurt is central to repenting, but Dallin Oaks doesn't believe in apologies."The history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," he declared in 2015. So, of course he doesn't know how to teach repentance. He doesn't know the first thing about it.

My friend Pepper pointed out in a Facebook post that repentance is a very basic tenet of all scripture, and has helpfully outlined the process in six steps below. Anyone reading this (other than a modern-day apostle) can readily see that apologizing is central to the entire process: we are required to apologize to God, and apologize to those we have injured. But Dallin Oaks, having been trained as a lawyer, knows how to weasel out of that obligation. In a follow-up interview, he explained that he does not find the word "apologize" in the scriptures.  Elder Oaks, as one of the governors of the Church, therefore does not recognize any need to apologize for anything he or any other Church leader has ever done wrong.

Here is what the scriptures teach about the process of repenting:
1. Acknowledge you did sin (confess to the Lord and to the person you sinned against).
2. Plead with the lord to forgive you by humbling yourself before him and confess his  grace and need for Him.
3. Forsake the sin.
4 Make restitution as much as is possible for the sin to those who you hurt by the sin.
5. Forgive others of their trespasses against you.
6. Continue in prayer, service, humility, forsaking and endure to the end.
Let me offer another suggestion: someone should point Brother Oaks to a conference talk given by a general authority in Conference of October of 2003. It was titled "Repentance and Change" and the speaker was...Apostle Dallin H. Oaks.

This is what comes of our general authorities giving conference talks that have been ghost-written in advance by their staffs, then read off a teleprompter from the pulpit. They don't always recall what was in the sermons they preached.

...They Spout Off In The Most Delightful Ways
So, if these venerable Church Fathers don't know how to answer a simple doctrinal question like "how do I repent?" then what kind of questions are they preparing to answer on the big broadcast coming up on November 19th? Well, that's easy. "Decision making for this age group is critical," Oaks informs us with serious emphasis, while Russell Ballard nods his agreement, "Whether it comes to choosing an eternal partner, or choosing a major, or choosing a place to live..."

I suddenly can't tell if these two clowns are religious leaders or high school guidance counselors.

Update, November 10th, 2017:
At a recent talk given by Junior Apostle David Bednar at Utah Valley LDS Institute Building, Bednar had this to say, as reported by blogger Khaden Pettingill:
"Bednar continued his answer by explaining that we don’t ask ‘who should I marry’, ‘what career should I follow’, or ‘what we are supposed to do’"
Sounds like someone needs to clue Junior Bednar into the fact that he needs to get with the program; he's been contradicting his bosses higher up in the Quorum.

Ballard and Oaks spend another half minute spouting bromides about young people needing to stay focused on what really matters in life, and wouldn't you know it: nothing whatsoever is said about Jesus Christ mattering above everything else. In fact, no mention of the Savior shows up here at all; these "servants of the Lord" don't even pay the Lord lip service. The thing that Ballard & Oaks believe really matters for these kids guessed it: The Church.

As Russell Ballard puts it, "They really need to stay focused on what really matters in life, because we expect them to rise up and take over and direct the affairs of the Church in the future."

Well then, these kids had better choose college majors in Business Management, because twenty years from now the religion part of the Corporation of the President may be only one small subsidiary of a larger conglomerate of Investment & Finance.

Avoiding The Important Questions
Here comes the best part of this video. This is where Russell Ballard goes off script:
"I think we'd have to be honest. There may be some of these questions that there are no answers to." 
And then he gives away the entire plot:
"I think those'll be the ones we avoid."
Russell Ballard's Patron Saint.
Uh Oh. Russell Ballard just stepped in it.

Ballard gives a little awkward chuckle and throws a quick grin to the camera in that special way Michael Scott used to do on The Office when he suspected maybe he'd crossed a line.  There's a short intake of breath from Dallin Oaks as his jaw drops for the briefest of moments. Oaks quickly does his best to save the fumble, but he struggles with it as his fingers fidget nervously with the papers in front of him.

"I, uh, I gave a talk on, uh, on the plan of salvation at, at conference, and I tried to stay away from the questions we don't have answers to because the Lord hasn't revealed a lot of that." Both men chuckle nervously as Oaks finishes his thought, "But He's given us enough to go on!" A little more laughter at a joke that isn't there, and they change the subject to something else.

Okay, fair enough. I'll agree the Lord has given us enough to go on regarding that particular point of doctrine. Most of us don't need a lot more detail on the plan of salvation. We get it.

But here's the thing: that conference talk Elder Oaks gave on the subject didn't tell us anything the scriptures didn't already contain, so why bother having a leading member of the hierarchy give a talk on it in the first place? If he really is, as he claims, a prophet, seer, and revelator, why did he give a talk on a well-known topic without revealing anything new?  These guys hint that they have an audience with the Savior on a regular basis, so how come Oaks didn't just ask Jesus for a little help preparing that upcoming conference talk?

I've never heard of anyone having difficulty understanding the plan of salvation. The outline is pretty clear; seems to me the Lord has given us most of what we need on that front. So the very fact that Dallin Oaks brought that up feels like a distraction. That is not one of those hard questions that has elements within it that would need to be avoided. None that I can think of.

What concerns me is that the hard questions these days have little to do with doctrine and a lot to do with things the Church has been deliberately fudging on or covering up for the past several decades. Foremost in my mind are questions the Brethren can easily answer if they wanted to.

Let's start with asking them to be honest about their authority, gifts, and abilities. All fifteen apostles claim to have the same authority and spiritual gifts that Joseph Smith had. They continue to claim they operate through revelations from God all the time, yet they never want to tell us what is in those revelations.

They are required to take any revelations they receive for the church and convey them to the church.  That means they're supposed to publish those revelations word-for-word as they received them from the mouth of the Lord, just as Joseph Smith did, so the members can take those words to the Lord in prayer and receive a witness through the Holy Ghost that those words did indeed come from the mind and voice of the Lord. But the leaders today give us nothing. They say they receive revelations, but they never show those chimerical revelations to anybody.

How about just one revelation every six months at conference time? Granted, the putative prophet is mostly incapacitated right now, but couldn't one of his counselors read one of these revelations out loud over the pulpit?

Just off the top of my head, here is a list of questions I would ask if I had an audience with an apostle or two. If these same questions were submitted to for consideration by some of the youth of the Church, I'll bet money none of them would make it onto the air. The problem is not that the answers are particularly difficult; each of them could be answered honestly, even if the answer is "I don't know." The problem is these are questions no one in leadership ever wants asked.

Here goes:
1. You claim to have been ordained by the Lord as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Can you please tell us the date that ordination took place? 
2. We have numerous revelations from the Lord informing us that Joseph Smith was anointed a prophet, seer, and revelator. Can you show us the revelation where Thomas Monson received a similar anointing? On what date and under what circumstances did this anointing take place? 
3. Since it has now been proven from the minutes of the Council of Fifty that Joseph Smith never actually gave the Twelve Apostles authority to run the church in his absence as has been claimed, by what authority do you base your claim that authority has been passed down to you? 
4. Since Brigham Young denied he was a prophet like Joseph Smith, and also denied that he was Joseph's legal successor; and since we know Brigham Young was only elected president of the Church and the people at that time never considered him to be their prophet, where did subsequent presidents of the Church obtain the authority to be called a prophet? 
5. Joseph Smith declared that the Church, and the Kingdom of God on Earth, are two distinct and separate entities. Yet Church leaders in recent years speak of them as though they are one and the same. Can you demonstrate that you know the difference between the two? What is the role of the Church? What is the role of the Kingdom of God? 
6. Since Joseph Smith was adamant in declaring that the Presiding Patriarch is the highest office in the church, why has that office been abolished? What office in the Church do you consider to be the highest one today? Can you give us scriptural citations to back up your assertion? 
7. On September 30, 1978, during the church's 148th Semiannual General Conference, the following was presented by N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency:
"In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church." 
May we please read that revelation? 
8. May we also read the revelation purportedly given to Brigham Young where the Lord originally prohibited men of African descent from holding the priesthood? 
9. Since there are abundant contemporary accounts showing Joseph Smith vigorously denouncing the growing epidemic of plural marriage in Nauvoo while he was alive, and there is nothing but hearsay and rumor promulgated by practitioners after his death who claimed he did participate in the practice, why is the Church so willing to throw him under the bus when it makes more sense to investigate the provenance of the rumors?  
10. President Woodruff said "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray." Since this statement contradicts scripture and the teachings of Joseph Smith, would you please provide a copy of the revelation upon which President Woodruff relied for that statement? 
11. In Teachings of the Living Prophets the student manual distributed to Seminary and Institutes throughout the Church, we read, "The Lord will never permit the living prophet to lead the Church astray." That same manual quotes Gordon Hinckley as saying, "Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his Church be led astray." So now we have at minimum three separate statements making different claims. We are told the Lord will not let the president lead the church astray; we are also told the Lord will not let the prophet lead the church astray (they are not the same office, nor necessarily the same person); and we are now told that God will not let His work be led astray as long as we follow the leadership of the Church. 
So my question is: Which is it? The president, the prophet, or the leaders all together? And where are the revelations from God that give us these assurances?
12. Elder Oaks, you are on record as saying "it's wrong to criticize leaders of the Church even when the criticism is true." Can you please cite a scriptural source for that assertion?  If you obtained that doctrine through revelation, would you please provide a copy of the revelation so that the members can take it to the Lord in prayer and receive a confirmation that it is true?
13. For the first fifty years of this church's existence, members and leaders all routinely submitted themselves for rebaptism at least annually as a sign of their commitment to Christ. Yet today if a member of the LDS Church desires to be rebaptized for the same reason, they face excommunication from the church. Can you please tell us who changed the doctrine, the reasoning behind the change, and provide the revelation authorizing the change? 
You've Got Questions, We Ain't Got Answers 
Well, that's a baker's dozen, and you people know I could go on and on. I think it would be an interesting exercise if some of my readers suggested questions of their own in the comment section below. If you care to do so, please place your questions in quotes so we can tell the difference between your suggested questions and any regular comments you may wish to make.

Of course, none of these questions will be submitted to Elders Oaks and Ballard; I don't know if the cut-off date for questions has passed, but it won't matter anyway, because the questions that count, the questions only Church leaders know the answers to, will be vetted and discarded well before air time.

You might also be interested to know that our friend Radio Free Mormon, author of the past two posts in this space, has already created an audio review of this sneak peak in which he skewers it better than I did.

And don't forget to tune in to on November 19th for the live stream of the Oaks & Ballard Show. I doubt anything productive will come of it, but I still wouldn't miss it for the world.