Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mormons Should Stop Identifying As Republicans

Previously: On Hiatus

That's what I said.  Mormons should stop identifying as Republicans.

Wait, come back here! I'm not finished.

I was about to say Mormons should stop identifying as Democrats, as well. (And yes, there are plenty of Mormon Democrats. They just tend to remain out of sight these days.)

It's a very easy thing to assume the politics you identify with are consistent with your religious values. More often than not, they are -if we are discussing the values of conservatives and liberals, and not Republicans and Democrats. Conservative and liberal values tend to remain somewhat consistent. Republican and Democrat values, on the other hand, have proven to be wildly erratic, and have even shifted over time to where it's been hard to tell who stood for what.

Both conservative and liberal values can be found in the gospel of Christ, and in the U.S. Constitution.  Democrat and Republican values? Not so much.

I bring all this up because even though we just got through another election period -a time when historically the political vitriol finally tends to settle down- Americans are still divided against each other more viciously than I've ever seen in my life.  This is by design, because even though all of us-particularly those who claim to follow Jesus Christ- should be infused with both conservative and liberal values, we have been manipulated into thinking we have to choose a side.

But when you choose one political team over another, you close yourself off from receiving information you need to make informed choices. You won't notice (or you won't want to notice) when your team is behaving badly, because the spokesmen for your team frequently omit some of the facts you need to know.  To politicians, there is nothing more important than winning, therefore politics always devolves into a game of lies.  One side may be more straightforward than the other at any given time, but neither party has ever been honest and forthcoming all the time. Not by a long shot.

Conservative Vs. Liberal
Let's set aside for a moment the idea that being conservative or liberal has anything to do with politics. Put that out of your mind for a moment and just consider what those words actually mean. Because you doubtless possess both conservative and liberal characteristics. At least you do if you are a well-balanced person. Some people are more conservative than others, and some people are more liberal. The trick is to find a balance between the two. Otherwise you could become a zealot, and zealots don't get along with anybody.
Generally speaking, a Conservative is a person who is rooted in tradition. He or she prefers to be cautious, and is not inclined to act rashly.  
A Liberal (again, speaking generally) is a person who is open to new ideas. Sometimes a liberal acts rashly without first weighing the consequences of those actions.
Notice anything about those two definitions? In the first place they sometimes do describe political tendencies, and in the second place both sets of characteristics have both advantages and disadvantages to the person tied to those characteristics. If you have traditionally conservative tendencies, you might at times be too cautious, resulting in your missing out on romance, or what could have been a life-changing business opportunity.

Conversely, a liberal might act too impetuously and not only mess up his own life, but the lives of others. Actions entered into with radical aplomb can leave behind a trail of broken hearts and broke investors.

America's Political Legacy is Both Conservative And Liberal
One reason tradition has served us well for so long is because on the whole, tradition works. Long-standing traditions have often been beneficial to mankind. But tradition alone can sometimes be based on a faulty premise. For centuries the British people believed that their long line of kings had a "divine right" to rule over them, which meant that they believed the king was on the throne because God Himself willed it so. Whatever the king decided was the will of God.

Then along came John Locke (1632-1704) who argued there was no such thing as the divine right of kings. Locke was a key philosopher of the Enlightenment period, and came to be known as the Father of Liberalism. His writings were well-known among America's founders.

Still, the great majority of Americans were reluctant to break with the king. In fact, they didn't so much think of themselves as "Americans" as they did British subjects living in America. As subjects of the crown, they were entitled to the protection of English common law, a set of open laws developed over centuries and rooted in biblical law that protected the rights of the people. Never mind that King George hadn't recognized the people's rights for quite some time. Those living in the colonies remained reluctant to act rashly by kicking the king's soldiers out of their country and ignoring the king's unlawful decrees. They held out hope that the king would come to his senses and go back to honoring their rights under English common law.

Then in 1776, Thomas Paine, an English corset maker who had immigrated to America just two years previous,  published a pamphlet titled Common Sense, in which he argued that separation from the king was really the only reasonable option the colonists had left. Paine's argument persuaded the colonists to let go of their faulty tradition of devotion to a king. They became open to the new idea that common law rights were universal; they had every right to govern themselves under the protection of the common law, and they didn't need any king's permission to do so. They had a God-given right to live as they pleased. Paine's pamphlet was, in my view, the most cogent and effective liberal argument of all time, and it turned the tide of sentiment toward independence from England.

When you read the U.S. Constitution, you'll notice that document has both conservative and liberal elements to it. It is conservative in that it carefully and narrowly defines the roles that public officials are bound to abide by. That document is also conservative in that it is concerned only with the behavior of public servants. It does not apply to the rest of us. You don't have to obey the constitution, they do. That's why every public servant, upon being hired, is required to swear an oath to protect and defend the constitution. I've heard people say the constitution was a contract involving people long dead, that no one in this generation ever signed it, so what use is it?

Well. You and I don't have to sign the contract between the government and the people, but the contract is renewed every single time a government official swears that oath. That is what keeps the contract alive; if they don't want to enter into the contract, they don't get to govern. The rights of public officials to act are narrowly defined, which is the opposite of liberally defined and interpreted.

So where is the "liberal" section of the Constitution? That's in those ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. Every one of those amendments guarantees that the people's rights are to be liberally construed. As long as we do no harm to others, you and I are free to live our lives as liberally as we like, even if we don't always make the wisest choices.

Not so our servants in government. The constitution restricts them in their actions, because if it didn't they might very well get into mischief. There are few things as dangerous as a politician who believes his position gives him liberal carte blanche to rule over the people.

So How Did We Get Into This Mess?
The 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume came up with some brilliant political ideas, but he had one that was a clunker.  Just as John Locke is considered a liberal, Hume is considered a conservative, and as a conservative he proposed that the mass of people are nearly always motivated by passion rather than reason, and so are incapable of intelligently ruling themselves. Therefore, Hume proposed, there needs to be an elite class to rule over the people -so long as the people give their consent to be ruled.

Well, he got that first part right; most people are not capable of ruling themselves. But it doesn't follow that they need anyone to rule over them. The American founders went to a great deal of trouble to guarantee that the people's elected representatives did not rule over the people, but instead were to serve under them. If some Americans were unable to properly govern themselves, well then, so what? We all make dumb mistakes. God expects us to learn from our mistakes and continue on making even dumber ones. Your mistakes are yours to learn from. Just because some people happen to be chronically stupid doesn't mean anybody else is entitled to impose their will upon them, or on the rest of us, either.

Speaking of passion, David be rockin' that shower cap.

Little by little, and barely perceptible over time, the liberality of the government bequeathed to us by the Founders began to give way to Hume's safer, more conservative philosophy of government by the elite.  Today many Americans believe that when they go to the polls on election day, they are choosing people to be their rulers. The problem with this belief system is that when some people end up with a master other than the one they had hoped would be ruling them, they react like petulant children.

On of my favorite conservatives.

Well, that isn't the way our government was designed to work. The most important elected officials, and the ones you should be closely monitoring, are your state and local Representatives. Why? Because those are the only persons in government you elected to represent you, and they are the ones most likely to screw up your life.

Next up the chain is your state Senator, whose job is primarily to make sure we haven't talked our representatives into passing laws that would restrict the freedoms of any of our fellow citizens. The majority will always try to impose its will on the minority if given half a chance, so a salient duty of the Senate is to nip majority rule in the bud when it gets out of hand.

My U-Haul Experience
This seems like a good place for a digression.

Sometime in the first year of our marriage, circa 1980, Connie and I rented a U-Haul truck for our move from Provo to Salt Lake City. But when I drove the truck, I was chagrined to find the thing wouldn't go faster than 55 miles an hour, which was the federally imposed speed limit back then. No matter how hard I floored that pedal, the truck wouldn't go faster than 55.

I learned that the good folks at U-Haul had installed a mechanical device called a "governor," the purpose of which was to make certain the truck never went faster than it was supposed to. At the time I thought that was a strange name for a piece of machinery, but I understand its meaning now. I could have all the "Adventures In Moving" I wanted, but I couldn't have an adventure that took me as fast as I wanted to go. There was a device installed under the hood of the truck that was there to temper any liberal urge I had toward behaving rashly.

So it is in the political sphere. In a state government, as in the federal, the House of Representatives is the "liberal" branch, so to speak. It exists to enact the will of the people. If the members of the house understand their limitations, they won't pass harmful laws. But when they do pass a bill, it gets kicked up to the Senate for approval, where the Senators are expected to determine whether or not that law would be detrimental to the state. If the Senate passes it, the bill goes to the Governor.

This is where the conservative aspect of state government kicks in. The governor's responsibility is much like the governor on that U-Haul truck. His job is to slow the process down, because sometimes bills are passed while everyone is in a high emotional state. Conservatism, by it's very nature, is careful and deliberate. Conservatism says, "now slow down a minute; let's think this through," and if the governor determines the law would be harmful to the rights of the people, he is supposed to put the brakes on it.

The president's role is similar to a governor in that respect. That's the veto power.

Does it always work that way? Heck no. Politicians are ever seeking ways to increase State power and decrease the rights of the individual. Nevertheless, the liberal-conservative dichotomy in government was the intent of the founders.

Okay, that's the end of this digression.

We Return You Now To The Rules Of Federal Procedure
If the Senate approves of a bill passed by the House of Representatives, they vote to enact it into law, and then the President looks it over to make sure sure it passes muster. And if he feels it does, he signs it into law. If he feels it restricts the rights of any individuals as secured by the constitution, he can and should veto that law.

That's how government is supposed to work. The elected officials had one salient responsibility: don't pass any laws that would infringe on the rights of any of the people. If an unconstitutional law still gets enacted, a person with standing (which means someone who has potentially been harmed by the law) can still bring it before the Supreme Court for relief.

That's why I've found it amusing that so many Americans seem to think the current president has been elected as some crazy kind of Emperor. Why else would there be so many people coming completely unglued over his election?

Remember when Obama was elected? A lot of people celebrated the crowning of Barach Obama as if he were some benevolent new king. Some even thought he was going to pay their bills for them! And now there are an equal number of crazies who think the election of Donald Trump is going to mean the end of America. (Kinda makes you wonder if these aren't all the same people.)

Never mind that Trump doesn't have the power to destroy the nation. It takes money to run a country into the ground. The president can only operate on the money given to him by the House of Representatives. He doesn't control the purse strings, and neither does the Senate. No president has the power to send you to war, or enact healthcare, or build any kind of wall unless you tell your Representative that's what you want and how you want your tax money spent.

Recently an online friend reposted something I wrote on Facebook the day after Donald Trump was elected president. I think it's worth sharing again here as a reminder that one man with limited authority is not about to take us over the precipice:
My goodness, there are some heated responses here over a post that I expected others would find as entertaining as I did. Perhaps you've missed the scenes with protesters angrily taking to the streets declaring "Donald Trump Does NOT represent me!" and "Donald Trump is not MY president!"
Well, of course he isn't. He will be the president of the United States, not the president of the people. His job is not to preside over the people, nor to represent the people, and he certainly hasn't been given the job of "running the country." 
These crowds of idiots in the streets appear to believe some kind of king or dictator has taken control of America; that he can wave his hand and issue decrees at whim. And it's fun to watch because they are panicking over nothing. 
I found it vastly entertaining to watch these people freaking out because they fully believed their lives would somehow be upended after the election of a mere figurehead. If they want to whine about a politician representing them, they should have given more thought to their actual REPRESENTATIVES, because some of THEM are the ones involved in upending their lives. I can't see what good it does to howl about some guy whose jurisdiction extends only to one branch of government in an area that doesn't reach outside of the ten square miles of the District of Columbia. Perhaps a re-reading of the Hooven doctrine might get them to loosen up and relax (Hooven & Allison Co. vs Evatt, 324 U.S. 652 (1945) These poor saps are clearly confusing the "states united" with the United States. What the president has been elected to preside over is a corporation, not a country. 
I got a particular kick out of seeing Miley Cyrus tearfully and reluctantly looking into the camera and telling Donald Trump that despite her misgivings, she accepts him as her president. 
Why? Donald Trump is NOT "her" president! He's not my president either, any more than any president before him was my president. 
Let me repeat this as many times as needed: The president of the United States is not the president of the states, or anyone living within the boundaries of a state. He is not in charge of me, you, or the country itself, and he certainly does not represent the people of the united states. None of that is in his job description. Miley Cyrus, you are completely free of his influence on you. Donald Trump is not your president. You do not have to accept him as your master. 
The president is called the president because he "presides." And what he presides over is NOT the people living within the various states. He presides ONLY over the executive branch of the federal government; he is powerless to dictate his will to any citizen living within the boundaries of any state. So if you are a citizen of a state within the contiguous united states, trust me: you are safe from Donald Trump. He is powerless to enter your home if you don't want him there. You DO have the power not to let him enter. And if he tries to come in anyway, you can call your county sheriff and the sheriff is obligated by his oath of office to have the President of the United States arrested and taken off to jail.
That is a stone cold fact. 
May I remind those currently panicking over all this that the president's job is not to MAKE law, or issue royal decrees, but merely to implement the laws that have been made BY THE PEOPLE themselves via the instructions THEY gave to their local representatives? 
This is not to say that an unchecked president cannot cause a certain amount of mischief. Bill Clinton did, George Bush II certainly did, because the congress lacked the backbone to restrict him in his unconstitutional and immoral wars of aggression. And Barack Obama did his share of overstepping. But again, that was with the collusion of the congress that the people SHOULD HAVE kept in check. These men succeeded in causing trouble only because both houses of congress neglected to keep these men confined to their narrowly defined cages. Thanks to the division this election has caused, it's likely the presidency of Donald Trump will be kept on a shorter leash than we've seen of any president in decades. And that won't be a bad thing.
None of these former presidents had the power to fly over America destroying cities with their heat vision and leaving destruction in their wake. They may think they're important, but that's mainly because everybody keeps telling them they are "the leader of the free world," a nonsensical, empty, and meaningless phrase if ever there was one. 
If you're concerned about keeping your individual rights and freedoms, keep an eye on the house of representatives. That is the ONLY branch of government that represents the interests of the people, and they are the only branch with the power to furnish ANY money to the president, and to withhold the money he might require to implement his schemes. The president can express all the grandiose plans he wants to, but if he is given no money by those holding the purse strings, he will be sitting on his hands for the next four years, and occasionally entertaining foreign dignitaries for photo ops. 
The two main reasons the United States Government even HAS a president is because 1). Someone was needed to veto any unconstitutional bills that might have made it through the first two houses of congress, and 2). SOMEBODY had to be available to meet with foreign dignitaries from time to time. The Founders were really stuck on that one for days while they were hammering out the constitution. Clearly, SOMEONE in government would have to be available to meet with the President of France. But who? It wasn't feasible for all 535 members of congress to make that lunch date. So they settled on the idea that it should be the same guy who vetoed the bad laws -because they had already figured out that congress should not be in the business of enforcing its own laws. 
So they gave a sort of "figurehead" status to the guy who would be charged with enforcing the laws, so that same guy could represent the government (not the people) when foreign heads of state came a'calling.  At first the Founders debated whether it should be three co-presidents, because there was some concern that if there was one man in that office some Americans might one day think of that man as the king of America. Then they realized Americans would never get to be THAT stupid, so they went ahead with the one guy, and just gave him very little authority to do anything. 
I ask you to indulge me for a moment, seeing as I have emerged as a true prophet in my last blog post. I predict with certainty that Donald Trump will not be deporting many illegal immigrants who are here already, with the exception of those who have been duly convicted of crimes on our shores.  He will not be building a wall between here and Mexico. He will not magically invalidate same sex marriages anywhere in the country. (For one thing, he has vowed to protect the rights of all LGBTQ people in the country, and for another thing, he has no power to invalidate laws already in effect within the states.)
Our rights and freedoms are not threatened by the guy in the white house. We lose our freedoms because they are LEGISLATED away by the congress, and because we don't keep on eye on the district courts, the ones depriving us of more rights every month than the Supreme Court would ever attempt to do in a year. 
So to those who can't help but take to the streets crying and blubbering and shaking and quaking with fear just because some blowhard was elected to the LEAST powerful office in the land, I say keep it up! I know I'm not being Christlike when I laugh at dumb people doing dumb things, but heaven help me, I can't help but be entertained by your antics.
         (End of Facebook post, November 2016.)

Our Enemy The State
The biggest problem I have with Democrats and Republicans is that both parties represent and promote Statism. Instead of constantly quarreling over which party should have dominance over the other, why not recognize that both parties are hell-bent on dominating us?

Statism is the belief that the state (i.e. the government) should have control over the economic and social affairs of the people. This is antithetical to the Christian creed, as well as every principle this country was founded on. Yet it's undeniable that both major parties are now engaged in a fight to the death over who will rule the people.  Why are we helping either party engineer our destruction? Why aren't we all resisting them both?

Imposing your will on another person against his will is immoral. Using the power of the State to impose your will on others is immoral to the umpteenth degree. I don't know how any believing Latter-day Saint thinks he or she will be able to skate past the judgment bar trailing that obvious sin stuck to their shoe.

"The true individualist must regard power over others as preeminently something to be loathed and shunned," wrote Albert Jay Nock.  Back in 1935, Nock wrote a book titled Our Enemy, The State, in which he warned against the very out-of-control leviathan that's trying to smother us today. Only these days we ourselves are helping to forge our own chains by taking sides against each other rather than resisting incursion from the real enemy. Said Nock:
"Here is the Golden Rule of sound citizenship, the first and greatest lesson in the study of politics: you get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it the equivalent power to do things to you."
In The Federalist no. 10, James Madison warned against what in those days were called "factions" and which today we call political parties. The Founders understood that it was human nature to combine together in groups or tribes with common interests, but they warned that a corrupt government would take advantage of such tendencies to the detriment of the people as a whole. As John Adams maintained,
"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." 
We're going to have to wake up and recognize that our neighbor is not the enemy, but that The Powers That Be thrive on the hope that we will keep fighting each other. This infighting is important to them; it keeps us from casting a skeptical gaze in their direction.

This isn't to say that we should not call our neighbor out when they make unfounded allegations. I do this on Facebook all the time when someone accuses me of being a racist or a misogynist. I simply ask them to provide some evidence. What I usually get back is a splatter of meaningless words boorishly strung together implying that I'm partisan toward Trump.

Well, that's the problem, isn't it? People are so divided against one another that you can't even ask a person to provide reasoned evidence to support their accusations without it being assumed you're siding with the enemy.

I have my own problems with Donald Trump, but they aren't the petty and uncorroborated concerns I see coming from so many political partisans.  I wonder why very few people have noted Donald Trump is as culpable of murder and robbery as those presidents who came before him? Here's Michael Rozeff pointing out the obvious:
Obama the murderer has been replaced by Trump the murderer. Whom has Donald Trump murdered? One example only: He could have ended American bombing raids in Syria. Instead, he made more: “The US-led anti-IS coalition acknowledged carrying out over 100 air strikes in Syria between October 28 and November 3.” These killed numerous Syrian civilians. The latest report says at least 80. 
Obama’s robberies have given way to Trump’s. One example only: Trump has robbed Maine lobstermen. Tariffs on Maine lobster exports to China have directly robbed hard-working fishermen. Maine Senator Susan Collins should have extracted a tariff exemption for her vote on Kavanaugh. After all, he can be replaced easily with better candidates. He didn’t own the position, but Maine lobstermen do own their capital and goodwill built up painstakingly over years. Trump robbed them for no good end.
How about instead of bruiting about all those silly and unfounded allegations of racism, we engage in a bit of critical thinking for a change? 

If you don't know what that means, you're not alone. Critical thinking refers to the ability we should all foster of taking a step back and analyzing our own thought processes. It's the capacity for asking yourself the hard questions, such as "why do I believe this? Have I thought it through, or am I simply echoing what I've heard others say? What are my sources of information that helped me form these beliefs? Can I trust those sources? How do I know I can trust them? Am I able to articulate a reasoned, logical basis for my argument? Do I even know how to make an argument? Can I provide evidence that would back up my assertions, or am I just spouting empty platitudes?"

No one likes to be told they are poor critical thinkers. (Trust me. I've tried it and people get very offended.) Yet very few people know how to think critically;  most don't even know what critical thinking means. It isn't taught in schools, so how would they know?

Happily there are a great many books, seminars, and even Youtube videos that can teach you how to think critically. There's even a Critical Thinking Skills for Dummies book, which you have to agree is the most paradoxical title for a Dummies guide ever.

Just reading the title made my brain explode.

If you have any hope of persuading anyone to accept your point of view, you must periodically question your own assumptions. It can be a painfully revealing way to learn about yourself, which is why most people don't do it. Everybody wants to think they're right, but few people are willing to consider the possibility they might be wrong.

Yet, if you don't engage in that one simple exercise, the downside is that every time you open your mouth everyone will know you aren't capable of thinking for yourself. You're just repeating some other person's empty-headed bromides.

Was Joseph Smith a Conservative or a Liberal?
Well, of course he was both liberal and conservative, depending on the circumstances. That's as it should be with all of us. But he was clearly liberal-minded.

Am I saying the prophet's beliefs were compatible in any way with modern-day liberalism?


Few political philosophies could be more illiberal than modern-day liberalism. Liberals in Joseph Smith's day were open-minded, tolerant advocates for freedom. Liberals today, as typified by the leaders (and many supporters) of the Democratic party, are closed-minded, intolerant, and tyrannical. If you happen to consider yourself a liberal but don't agree with that assessment, then congratulations: you can still call yourself a liberal, but your party has left without you.

Back in Joseph's day, pretty much anyone who held views compatible with America's founders thought of themselves as liberal. We can tell Joseph Smith was a liberal from the things he wrote and spoke about. His political views came right out of the Founding Father's Playbook.

If you were to refer to yourself as a liberal today, your views would be misconstrued, so unfortunately we have to modify that label and refer to old-timey liberals as "Classical Liberals" in order to differentiate them from those who have co-opted the label in our day but rejected liberal openness. Here's a quick two-and-a-half minute video describing what a liberal was in Joseph Smith's era, and what a liberal should be today:

If any of this sounds like libertarian philosophy, well yes. It's close. Kind of.

Once the label "liberal" was hijacked by the intolerant Left, those who advocated for freedom felt they needed to come up with something that didn't carry all that Leftist baggage. "Libertarian" seemed a close enough variation on "liberal" since they both meant someone who advocated for liberty. The problem was that "libertarian" was originally used to describe communist anarchists.

So that label was never ideal.

Then there's the growing problem of people who have taken to calling themselves libertarians, yet are anything but. The label is now virtually indefinable. In the first place, "Libertarian" has become, in some people's minds, synonymous with a political party. It is that, but primarily it is a philosophy of freedom independent of parties. Distilled to its essence, that philosophy says "you shouldn't hurt people and you shouldn't take their stuff."  And since it's immoral for you or I to hurt people and it's immoral for us to take their stuff, it's also immoral to support politicians who hurt people and take their stuff -even if they claim to be doing it for the people's "greater good."

Yep. There's already a book about that.

Secondly, as Lauren Southern aptly points out in this eleven minute clip, modern Libertarianism has been shipwrecked:

The Prophet's Liberal Views
If you study a replica of the tract entitled General Smith's Views on the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States, published not seventy years after the appearance of the Declaration of Independence, you'll see that Joseph Smith was right in line with the Founders (some of whom were still alive when Joseph was in his teens). Which is to say Joseph's liberal thinking, and that of the Founders, meshed rather well.  In that tract Joseph uses the word "liberal" to describe our form of government, because that was the word used in those days to describe a political system founded on liberty. But he decries the millions of souls held in slavery for life, and insists that the main efforts of government officers, "who are nothing more than servants of the people, ought to be directed to ameliorate the condition of all, black or white, bond and free."

And as if he could see into our own day, Joseph's ire was directed toward "the silly moves of persons and parties to foment discord in order to ride into power on the current of popular excitement." As evidence of his frustration with the factions of his day, he said this:
"We have had Democrat Presidents, Whig Presidents, a pseudo-Democratic-Whig President, and now it's time to have a President of the United States. (Emphasis in the original.)"
Joseph said America should "abolish the cruel custom of prisons, penitentiaries, court-martials for desertion; and let reason and friendship reign over the ruins of ignorance."

These are all positions any American liberal would have recognized not that long ago. I can recall in the 1960's and 70's that "conservatives" (like myself at the time) were more often than not advocating for locking certain defendants up without a trial and throwing away the key. The liberal position, conversely, was that an accusation did not equal guilt, that everyone was entitled to due process, and that America's prison system desperately needed reforming.

My, how times have changed. Today many in the Democratic hierarchy have shown themselves adamantly in favor of convicting people without due process, and are "totally fine with the incarceration rate" because there is money to be made off the suffering of others.

Joseph's liberalism was not confined to the political sphere, of course. He often butted heads with  traditionalists in the fledgling church who were not open to new ideas. Particularly set in their ways were some of the earliest converts like Sidney Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt, who came to Mormonism from the Campbellite tradition and were slow to accept ideas that were foreign to their expectations.
"I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God," the prophet lamented, "but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions." (Emphasis mine.)
He found the Saints simply not willing to consider ideas that were unfamiliar to them.
“There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. 
Of course, we're all familiar with this statement of Joseph's, which is as pertinent to politicians as it is to church leaders:
"We have learned by sad experience that 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."
Unrighteous Dominion Under Color Of Law
It's well documented that blacks in the deep South were, to put a polite spin on it, "discouraged" from voting. Any black person who merely tried to register was met with so many obstacles in the form of "literacy tests" and other ploys that it was easier to just give up and let the white man remain dominant. The question arises then, "why would anyone stand in the way of another person's right to vote?"

The answer is simple: Tradition.

Tradition in the deep South dictated that the black race was inferior, therefore a black man must never be permitted to be treated as equal under the law. It was Democrats who enacted the infamous Jim Crow laws, laws which actually made it illegal for a business to cater to Negroes even if the proprietor of a particular business wanted to. Whites and blacks weren't even allowed to play cards, dice, dominoes, or checkers together. It was actually against the law, and that sort of thing could land you both in jail.

The movement for racial separation moved far beyond the South. In the 1950's "Whites Only" businesses and housing developments could be found as far West as Los Angeles.

These "conservative" laws, intended to "conserve" tradition, were passed and enforced by prominent members of the Democratic party. In that era it was the democrats who considered theirs the conservative party; it was the Democrats who resisted new ideas. And that included Democrats in the North, who refused to challenge the Southern Democrats because the Southern Democrats virtually controlled the party.  Southern Democrats were known to resort to anything, including murder, to keep themselves in power. What finally ended that wicked culture of false traditions was a more liberal tradition that superceded it: the superior tradition of the common law, which declares that all men are to be treated equal under the law. When mere statute law gets into a staring contest with the common law in America, the statute always blinks.  In America the common law is the higher law.

Here is what the United States Supreme Court said:
“The common law is the real law, the Supreme Law of the land; the codes, rules, regulations, policy, and statutes are “not the law”. - Self v. Rhay, 61 Wn (2d) 261.
“There, every man is independent of all laws, except those prescribed by nature. He is not bound by any institutions formed by his fellowman without his consent." - Cruden v. Neale, 2 N.C. 338 (1796) 2 S.E. 

This is worth remembering: We the People consent to legislated law only as we defined it in the Constitution for the United States of America.

Something else worth remembering: Politics will not save us. Picking one party and claiming it is the "right" one will not save us. In fact, siding with one party over another is a fool's errand. We can all take a lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King, who stands as an example of a man intensely interested in social and political reform, yet who was wise enough to recognize that "picking a side" was not the way to effect real change. He could see that both parties, even fifty years ago, were ripe with corruption. “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God, nor is the Democratic party," he once said. "They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.”

To his everlasting credit, King was not known to have supported or voted for any politician.  Still, his niece, Alveda King, insisted he was registered as a Republican. That makes sense, because if he was going to at least register, what was he going to do, register as a Democrat? The Democrats were the ones who were lynching his people.

Why Donald Trump Got Elected And A Classical Liberal Got The Shaft
Donald Trump was not the first person to recognize that some news is "fake news."

Nor did Donald Trump ever claim the mainstream media was all fake news or that the press was the enemy of the people. He has rightly pointed out what everyone already knows; that essential information is sometimes altered or withheld from the public by those very persons the public relies upon for accurate reporting.  Pretty much everyone except Trump's harshest critics was aware of this long before Donald Trump came on the scene.

I think we can all agree that Americans should be able to rely on the news media to provide the information they need in order to make informed decisions. "Fake News" occurs when reporters deliberately fail in that responsibility by twisting or omitting essential facts.

Jon Stewart used to point this stuff out all the time. That was what used to make The Daily Show worth watching: Stewart and his writers made a career out of exposing the hypocrisy of  pompous politicians and the lying press on both the left and the right. There was no shortage of material to draw from, either.  Here is how Jon Stewart exposed the granddaddy of all fake news stories, brought to you by one of the last honest liberals on TV:

So how did Donald Trump win the presidency while a classical liberal like Ron Paul couldn't get arrested? The answer is simple: the establishment media was not afraid of Donald Trump.

But they were terrified of Ron Paul. They knew that if  enough voters were exposed to the ideas espoused by Paul -ideas that were essentially Classical Liberal ideas- this reasonable, anti-establishment candidate could possibly win the presidency. So they decided to just ignore Ron Paul's phenomenal surge in popularity and just pretend it wasn't happening.

They had no such fears about Donald Trump, a somewhat crass hotelier, former Democrat, and reality show star. Him, they treated as a joke, thus giving him loads of free coverage every single day. They ridiculed that guy right into the White House.

There is some truth to the accusation Ted Cruz made during the primaries that Donald Trump is a New York Liberal. In fact, Trump's liberal bona fides may even be the reason so many on the radical left have such blind hatred toward him; his brand of liberalism represents a liberalism that is no longer found among establishment Democrats. It shows them up as hypocrites and traitors to the very causes they used to champion.

Exhibit A: Back in January, Trump said he was open to signing legislation that might provide a path to citizenship for young people brought into the country illegally as children. (USA Today,"Trump Team Unveils Immigration Framework With Path to Citizenship for DREAMers.) That is a decidedly "liberal" position that for some reason has not been widely reported by most of the media. It contradicts the narrative they're pushing that Trump hates immigrants because he is a racist. Yet Trump has repeatedly refuted accusations that he is anti-immigration, pointing out that he is all for the orderly, lawful process that has always allowed for immigrants to enter our country legally. He has even denounced the laws passed by congress under Obama that forced the executive to separate children from their parents at the border, and signed an order of his own reversing that practice.

Exhibit B: Trump's attempts to get congress to pass a comprehensive bill that would reform the criminal justice system. That, too, is the kind of plan that used to be proposed by liberals but is not anymore. This bill would result in the release of thousands of people -mostly minorities- who have been unjustly imprisoned for life for relatively minor infractions. The passage of this iniquitous law can be traced to Bill Clinton, who pushed congress to provide "throw away the key" legislation that would convince the voters that he, Bill Clinton, was tough on crime.

As Lindsey Graham reflected, "wouldn't it be ironic if Trump fixed the problems caused by the 'Three Strikes' law passed by Clinton?"

Yes, it would. And yet we're supposed to believe that the guy wanting to release blacks and Hispanics from the gulag is a racist, while the guy who got them locked up in the first place is a great humanitarian.

If you make the choice not to be a political partisan, you'll be less inclined to fall for nonsense like that.

Reader Rob Nielson just sent me this short article   It''s well worth reading, and will save you a lot less time and effort than reading my own.

I'm Liberal and Conservative (And So Are You)

And if you're of the opinion that liberals and leftists are essentially the same, they are most certainly not; Leftism is the antithesis of liberalism. You deserve to know the difference:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

On Hiatus

Previously: The Church Ain't The Kingdom, Part 3

I've been receiving inquiries from readers of this blog who are wondering where I went, as the last entry on this forum was way back on July 8th. I usually make it a habit to post something every month, and since so many people are writing and calling asking what happened to me, I felt I'd answer that question here once rather than try to tell the story dozens of individual times.

The simple explanation why I'm AWOL: I'm just too tired to write. Here's why:

Back in August the unthinkable happened. My lovely bride Connie tripped and fell down in the hallway. Forward, right on her knees. It was a real struggle to help her get up and into her wheelchair, but together we eventually succeeded in getting her up off the floor. Since Connie is already seriously disabled, any kind of fall is cause for concern, and this time it was clear she was in real trouble. Like Samuel L. Jackson's character, Mr. Glass, Connie's bones are pretty fragile. She already had to have both hips and a shoulder replaced. When we got her to the hospital, X-rays showed she had fractured both her knees at the tibial plateau.

Yeah, I didn't know what that meant either. Turns out it's not good news.

For those of you with little interest in hearing about other people's infirmities, you can skip this next part.

You Can Skip This Next Part
As it happens, the tibial plateau is the place where the shinbone meets the knee bone,
and it's one of the body's critical load-bearing areas.
Yikes. This can't be good.
The problem is, if you want that fracture to heal, the last thing you want to do is put any more load-bearing weight on it. But the unfortunate reality is this: there's just no way to avoid continuing to put load-bearing weight on one knee or the other, fracture or no fracture.

Connie normally gets around with either a walker or a wheelchair. Well, now the walker is out, but it still requires a fair amount of standing to get her from the bed onto the wheelchair. That places her weight directly onto the fractures for a few moments every time we do that maneuver, which involves some turning and a little twisting that can't be avoided. The best I can do is grab her under her arms and lift in hopes of taking some of the pressure off her knees. But that doesn't help much, and it's still extremely agonizing for Connie to go through this time after time. Then I have to take her in the wheelchair to the bathroom, at which time I have to help lift her onto the toilet several times during the day and night.

Connie takes a boatload of medications, including pain pills, but she also has a pain pump embedded under the skin of her belly. This pump injects minute amounts of Fentanyl, along with a numbing agent, directly into her spine via a tube that has also been embedded under her flesh. This pump is refilled monthly by injection at the local pain clinic. But in order for this medication to have any effect, she can't be lying down in bed when it's operated. She has to be sitting up in a straight-back chair. That means lifting Connie into the wheelchair and then into another chair every time that bolus is due, which is every hour and a half, except for a six or seven hour period beginning after midnight.  This is when we are permitted a few hours of blessed sleep -until Connie has to go to the bathroom.

Connie clearly has it worse than me. All I lose is sleep. Connie loses sleep AND she's miserable. I'm up during the night when she needs me, so the sleep deprivation is real enough for both of us. The kicker for me is that sometimes after I've gotten Connie to the bathroom (and also gone myself) my asthma requires attention, so it's twenty more minutes sitting up with the nebulizer machine. If you know anything about this misty medicine, it gives you an adrenaline boost so although your body is exhausted, it won't let you fall asleep easily. The only reason I'm not dead yet is because our daughter Amy comes by most evenings and looks after her mother for a few hours so I can rest. So though my sleep is often disturbed in the night, I can sometimes get six hours total. That's enough to keep me alive, but not enough to make me smart.

And that's where this blog comes in. I haven't been writing any pieces here because I'm simply too mentally exhausted to be up to the task.

Man, Am I Ever Tired
You wouldn't know it, but sometimes this blog requires a fair amount of research in order to make certain my facts are correct before I post something. It also helps to have all cognitive functions firing.  I had intended in my next entry to discuss the anomalies in the various versions of Joseph Smith's First Vision, but in order to do that, I've got to review materials I haven't read in years, and my tiny dinosaur brain is just not up to absorbing, sorting through, and reporting on all that information. So I think it may be a couple more months before I attack that project.

But I'll give you a spoiler ahead of time if you like. When some folks read the early account Joseph Smith wrote by his own hand in 1832, then compare it with the one that was placed in our scriptures years later, they have mistakenly concluded that the prophet himself embellished his story the second time. What I intend to show is that the version most of us are familiar with was very likely not written by Joseph Smith, but was ghost-written before being sent on to the Chicago Democrat for publication. Unfortunately, that ghosted version ended up in our scriptures decades after Joseph's death (and obviously without his approval), while the accurate version was locked up in the vault of the First Presidency for decades in order to keep its existence a secret.

I'll go into greater detail when I get around to writing that piece, giving what I consider obvious clues that Joseph was not the author of what we think of as the "official" version, along with suggestions as to who might have written it. But all that is for another day.

Obviously, since I'm only half awake these days, I'm not perusing heavy academic materials. What I'm doing instead is going through fribble I bought many years ago but never got around to reading. For instance, yesterday I decided to catch up with what's happened to Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane since last I checked in on her back in 1968. Did you know Clark Kent married Lois Lane and admitted to her he's secretly Superman? I had no idea.

You think I'm kidding.

Miraculous Update: 
I stepped away from this post after writing the above words a couple of weeks ago, and I'm happy to report since then that Connie's most recent X-rays show both tibia are actually healing! This is completely unexpected, because we were both resigned to the very real possibility that from here on out our lives were very likely going to remain in this limbo with no hope of improvement. We can only attribute this good news to the prayers of many of our friends, because if you were here and a part of this, you would know there was no way those bones were ever going to get the chance to heal.  So we praise God, Comfrey, and CBD oils that were provided by generous friends, and look forward to the day when Connie can hobble to the bathroom again all by herself.

We're nowhere close to being out of the woods yet, of course, because Connie's intense pain remains and it doesn't feel to her like there's been any improvement. But assuming both X-rays are reliable, things are moving back to whatever it was that we used to consider "normal" around here.

Stuff You Might Find Interesting:
I may as well fill out this page by sharing a few things I liked from some people I know and admire.

The blog, Seeking Further Light And Knowledge is always informative, and the most recent post is a discussion centered around how the LDS Church today is now frequently enforcing the commandments of men in the name of Jesus Christ.

In light of the controversy surrounding Sam Young, who was recently excommunicated for nothing more than asking the leadership of the Church to stop conducting damaging "worthiness interviews" with minors, Steven Retz over at Seeking YHWH explains what it really means for a bishop to be a judge in Israel and how bishops in this church routinely disregard their assigned role in favor of something they were never authorized by God to do. Even Brigham Young understood that bishops had no role in hearing confessions from the members.

For an even more detailed exegesis on the heresy of bishops seeing themselves as empowered to hear confessions, see also "The Law Governing Confession" at LDS Anarchy.

The podcasts over at Radio Free Mormon continue to be both informative and entertaining. His latest is a dissection of Elder Quentin Cook's 'Face to Face' wherein he promised to be honest and forthcoming about Church history, and then turned out to be anything but. I hesitate to recommend one RFM podcast over another, since they are all incredibly eye-opening, but I would not want you to miss the one where he proves, using Church leader's own words during just one weekend of General Conference, that they all know they no longer have any priesthood power, and they as much as admit to it, as you'll see. You'll find this in podcast 37, General Conference Death March.

I began listening to Denver Snuffer's multi-part series on the temple, and it's amazing what obvious things I hadn't realized were revealed in scripture until this great gospel scholar pointed them out. For instance, did you know that when God rent the veil of the temple following Jesus' crucifixion, he did not do it out of anger?  There was a reason for that action, and it's obvious when you understand what the scriptures say. Connie's ahead of me in listening to this series, but she tells me that by about part four Denver discusses the corruptions of the temple ceremony introduced by Brigham Young. I'm looking forward to learning about that. The Temple podcasts and several more can be found by clicking here.

My precocious grandson, Nate, eight years old, is devouring Connor Boyack's series of Books featuring the Tuttle Twins. This is an excellent introduction to your children on the principles of liberty. Connor has adapted some of the classic treatises on free market economics and made those concepts accessible to children. Your children need to read these books in order inoculate them against the propaganda that will be forced on them as they get older. Extra Bonus: these books are illustrated by another good friend, the inimitable Elijah Stanfield!

Another friend who I discovered is also a writer of children's books is my old pal Mike Agrelius. Mike and I haven't seen each other since we were both single and doing stand-up comedy in the late 1970's. Now that we've reconnected, I can tell that Mike is still the funny one. You can find his latest book by clicking here. You can even watch a lady read it to you out loud if you want; just click on the video you'll find on that page.

Where Did All These Idiots Come From?
In light of current events, this might be a good time to recommend a post I wrote six years ago entitled "What Is The Law Of The Land?" I don't know how long it will be before I can get around to writing that piece about the first vision controversy; it could be I'll need to gear up until winter when hopefully I'm less enervated and ready to go forward. But I will tell you this: I'm sorely tempted to write a piece in support of due process, because it's clear from some of the things I'm reading on Facebook that a lot of people don't understand the need for it.

We'll see. I may need to take some time, because if you've been following some of the opinions I have posted on my Facebook page these past couple weeks, you've noticed that some of the comments show the respondents lack -what's a nice way of putting this?- any capacity whatsoever for rational thought. All this sleep deprivation I've endured has left me decidedly cranky and impatient when dealing with numbskulls, so rather than respond as I should with Christlike patience, I have, of late, been more apt to lash out to these imbeciles with insults about their low IQs.

So I may have to give myself enough time to cool off about this and choose my words carefully because let's face it, some of these people are really dumb.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Church Ain't The Kingdom, Part Four

This is the concluding entry in my series on the Kingdom of God. Please click on the following links to read  the previous entries: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

When Joseph and Hyrum Smith were unexpectedly murdered on June 27th, 1844, the church lost the one man who held the highest office in the church -Joseph's brother, Hyrum. The Lord had previously appointed Hyrum Smith to be prophet, seer, and revelator, and Hyrum already held the office of patriarch, which Joseph declared was the highest office in the church. It was certainly more important than the office of president, which was the office Joseph held.

Had Hyrum not been killed the same time Joseph was, there is little question that the patriarch would have been elected president by the people to replace Joseph, and had their brother Samuel not died mysteriously[1] the following month, the mantle of patriarch would have fallen on Samuel, who also would have certainly been elected to preside.
[1]There were many in the church at the time who believed to their dying day that Samuel Smith had been deliberately poisoned to prevent him from succeeding his brothers in office. See "Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover."

All of this was moot, however, because in Joseph's opinion the church no longer needed a leader. We now had the Book of Mormon and modern revelations; members ought to be able to govern themselves from here on out with the help of those tools, as long as they did not forget to seek continuous, personal revelation from the Lord.

Joseph Smith had been trying to step back from governing of the church ever since Hyrum was appointed patriarch, since that was really the only office of the priesthood necessary now that there was sufficient scripture to guide the church. If additional revelations were necessary, Hyrum had been anointed to receive them. Still, the people wouldn't leave Joseph alone. They couldn't seem to help looking to him for leadership, even when he told them that their dependence on the prophet was keeping them darkened in their minds. Once he was gone, his assertion that he wasn't really needed was actually proven by the experience of those members who chose to stay behind after Brigham and the others removed themselves to the Rockies.

Of the estimated twenty thousand members of the church in 1844, only about half of them chose to move to the Rockies.  It was too dangerous for any Mormons to remain in Nauvoo, so they scattered and settled elsewhere; some relocated to other parts of Illinois, others to Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and around the Great Lakes area.

With a few exceptions [2], these "Plains Mormons" as they came to be known, didn't have a particular leader, nor did they feel they needed one. Most did not think of themselves as a break-off of the main body of the church the way we who are descended from the Utah Church tend to think of them; they saw themselves as separate branches of the same church, and they thought of the church in Utah as just another branch of the church they all belonged to. When missionaries from Utah came through on their way to serve missions in the British Isles, they were welcomed, fed, and put up by these plains Mormons just as though they were all of the same denomination.
[2] Most notably the Cutlerites in Iowa, the Strangites in Michigan, and the Wightites in Texas.

The schism between the Utah Mormons and the Plains Mormons did not really take hold until years later, when Joseph's son and Hyrum's son rose to adulthood and began feuding with each other over which of them held the proper "authority" from God to lead. That was also about the time most of these plains Mormons incorporated under the umbrella of the newly formed Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I think was a mistake. The "Josephite" church was now no more legitimate than the "Brighamite" wing. Both had become incorporated entities, the members of both churches subjugating their dependence upon the Lord in exchange for dependence upon their respective "churches" instead.

Joseph Steps Away
Earlier, during the Kirtland/Missouri/Nauvoo period, Mormons did not think of the church as a monolithic institution as we do today. When Joseph spoke of the church, he was referring to the members, not to an organized hierarchy the way we think of "The Church" in modern times. The Lord defined His church as "whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me," and that is the definition understood by the early saints. The church was the members. It existed independent of any leader or group of leaders.

What leadership bodies the Lord had formed in Joseph's day were strictly delineated in their roles so that each would be a check against the other in the event one body might attempt to arrogate authority that rightly belonged to another.  Each quorum was equal in authority; there was no top-down hierarchy as we have today with the president at the top of the pecking order. The First Presidency had very limited authority to preside (over the priesthood, not over the members), the High Council existed to settle disputes between members, The Seventy were independent of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Quorum of the Twelve's authority existed only outside the existing church boundaries. The Twelve Apostles had no authority whatsoever to govern in any capacity within the church.

There were two other bodies, but neither had governing authority within the church, either. One was the Quorum of the Anointed, which was presided over by both Joseph and his wife, Emma who had authority equal to her husband. This was not an administrative body of any kind, it was more of a place where spiritual and religious matters were discussed between those who were interested in discussing such matters.

The remaining body was the Council of Fifty. Most members of the church had no idea this council even existed, as its very existence was a closely kept secret, for reasons discussed in part two of this series. Joseph Smith assembled this council, gave the men their instructions, then handed it off to them to accomplish the purposes to which the council was established. He fully expected them to follow through with the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. Whether Joseph knew he was not long for this earth or not, it's clear he wanted no presiding role in the kingdom, as the kingdom was to have no leaders of any kind.

Benjamin Franklin Johnson, at age 24 one of the youngest members of that council, left us a description of Joseph's hand-off to the council in his autobiography:
"At one of the last meetings of the Council of Fifty after all had been completed and the keys of power committed, and in the presence of the Quorum of the Twelve and others who were encircled around him, he [Joseph Smith] arose, gave a review of his life and sufferings, and of the testimonies he had borne, and said that the Lord had now accepted his labors and sacrifices, and did not require him longer to carry the responsibilities and burden and bearing of this kingdom, and turning to those around him, including the 12, he said "And in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I now place it upon you my brethren of this council, and I shake my skirts[3] clear of all responsibility from this time forth,' springing from the floor and shaking his skirt at the same time." (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review, pg 89, as quoted in Rogers, The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, pg 41, emphasis mine.)
[3] This was a fairly common idiom in 19th century America. Joseph's "Skirts" would have been a reference to the lower and loose part of his coat that hung below his waist, and to clear one's skirts meant "to avoid any blame; to absolve (someone) from taint or suspicion; to wash one's hands." (See A Dictionary of American English, Vol IV pg 2135, University of Chicago Press, 1942)

Johnson's description of that event is important, because as we shall see, in the retelling of this incident by others over time, small but important details were changed or omitted in order to give the impression that this event took place within a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles and not during a meeting of the Council of Fifty. As discussed in part one of this series, the Council of Fifty was separate and distinct from the church, as was the proposed Kingdom of God, and Joseph Smith was adamant in making that distinction stick. Where the Quorum of the Twelve consisted exclusively of men who were members of the church, the Council of Fifty was made up of both members and non-members. It was decidedly not an organ of the LDS church, but was to operate independent of and separate from the church.

B.F. Johnson died in 1905, and it would appear that his autobiography was not published until 1947, long after his passing.  Historian Michael Quinn notes that the published version dropped Johnson's references to the Council of Fifty, "thus giving the impression that Joseph Smith gave the instructions exclusively to the Quorum of the Twelve." (Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, pg 412, note 33) Quinn also observes:
A recent publication of Johnson's manuscript statement subtly reverses his emphasis that smith spoke to "one of the last meetings of the Council of the presence of the Quorum of the Twelve." E Dale Lebaron, "Benjamin Franklin Johnson in Nauvoo: Friend, Confidant, and Defender of the Prophet," Brigham Young University Studies 32 (Winter/Spring 1992):186, deletes that phrase and substitutes this introduction: "Joseph made an unusual presentation to the Quorum of the Twelve and some of the Council of Fifty." That magnifies the role of the apostles and reverses the priority Johnson's original quote gave to the Fifty. 
If you're wondering why these Church sources found it necessary to alter Johnson's wording in order to change the reader's perception about who was being addressed, we need to recall the turmoil taking place in Nauvoo immediately following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum.

I have little doubt that at the time, Brigham Young felt the immediate need to step up the program Joseph had charged the Council with initiating. The enemies of the Mormons did not seem to have their bloodlust palliated by the murders of the president and the patriarch; they wanted to drive all the Mormons out of the state for good. And although Brigham's later actions in Utah proved him to be an autocratic ruler, in August of 1844 he displayed no such characteristics. He did not propose himself as president at that time, but suggested the Twelve as a body would be better candidates than Sidney Rigdon to help organize the saints to prepare to leave Nauvoo. That was really the extent of the controversy in the weeks following Joseph's assassination. It had little to do with who would replace Joseph Smith as ecclesiastical leader, but more to do with who was better fit to help organize the saints to prepare to leave Nauvoo.

We tend to think that following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, the saints in Nauvoo packed up and left almost immediately. They did not. They didn't leave until the winter of 1846, a year and a half later. And even then they just crossed the river into Iowa and built another settlement of tents and log cabins where they remained for another year.  Brigham Young and most of the members of the Council of Fifty continued to meet regularly, and they seem to have had every intention of building up the kingdom of God once they got to their destination. Unfortunately they lacked one essential element. They forgot what Joseph had told them was necessary in order for the kingdom of God to exist: oracles. Said Joseph,
"Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives his oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles are not, there the kingdom of God is not." (Documentary History of the Church, Volume V, pg 257)
As pointed out previously in "Where Did The Oracles Go?" we learn that the word oracle as understood by Joseph Smith was not the same as we often think of an oracle in modern times. These days when we think of an oracle we often have in mind a person or a prophet, whereas when Joseph Smith used that term, he was referring to the message that was conveyed through a prophet. The word refers to the message; an oracle is the communicated message that comes from the Lord, through His prophet. The prophet is not the oracle. The message is the oracle.

Hence, without communication from the king, there can be no kingdom. Where the oracles (messages) are not, there the kingdom of God is not. That makes perfect sense, because it would not be an easy thing to reside in a kingdom where you never had any communication from your king.

I think it's a pretty simple thing to figure out why God withheld his oracles from the Mormons following the deaths of his servants Joseph and Hyrum. In order for revelation to flow from God to man, man has to be obedient to God. By the time the apostles fully took over the church, the saints were anything but obedient.

Whatever reasons Brigham Young had for ignoring God's commandments, whether he did so out of blind ambition or simply because he felt it would be more expedient under the circumstances, there is no denying that Brigham and the Twelve consistently flouted the very protocols set up by God for the governing of His people, instead instituting their own ways of doing things.  And most of these usurpations took place before the saints ever left Nauvoo. These arrogations of authority are documented on the Radio Free Mormon site, as a two-part audio presentation titled "Apostolic Coup d'etat: How the Twelve Apostles, in a Breathtaking Power Grab, Assumed Absolute and Complete Control Over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." You can read the transcripts of both episodes by clicking here, and here.

The Kingdom Of God Slips Into Second Place
After the saints had been in Utah for awhile, this whole idea of establishing a kingdom of God on earth was put on the back burner, until it was eventually forgotten entirely. By the time of Brigham Young's death in 1877, he had become the richest man west of the Mississippi, richer than any baron in San Francisco, and his riches were obtained in no small part from trafficking in liquor and tobacco.

The Mormon "kingdom of God" had become Brigham's personal fiefdom, more comparable to that of the Book of Mormon's wicked King Noah than the Kingdom of God. Rather than a kingdom where the people ruled themselves under God's perfect law of liberty, the Emperor of Deseret  had come to rule his people with an iron hand while many below him suffered immensely.

Joseph Smith's grand vision given him by God to lay the foundation of the kingdom of God on earth was abandoned by the very men he had entrusted to establish it. In time it was dead and all but forgotten by succeeding generations.

But there was a problem that kept this idea of a kingdom from expiring fully. During the 1970s, historians were given freer access to the Church archives. They began combing through diaries, documents, and other sources no one had seen for generations. Hyrum L. Andrus is said to have  opened crates of records that had been nailed shut since the pioneers loaded them on wagons before leaving Nauvoo. Rumors and brief mentions were scattered among these documents that hinted of an unknown episode in church history when Joseph Smith hand-selected a group of fifty trusted men with the object of launching something that would exist entirely separate from the church; something these scattered documents were calling "The Kingdom of God." How to reconcile these rumors of an unfulfilled kingdom of God on earth with the already established church that existed in the here and now?

Well, one way is to spin the narrative -change the story so the curious are convinced that the kingdom of God Joseph Smith spoke of establishing was the church itself, and not something separate and distinct from the church. And also change the story so this mysterious "Council of Fifty" isn't even in the picture when you have this church/kingdom thing being spoken of by Joseph; you make it appear to be all about Joseph Smith passing on his authority to the Twelve Apostles, giving the Twelve authority to run the church after he was gone.

Wilford Woodruff Mis-Remembers
In 1897, when Wilford Woodruff was 90 years old, and believed he had outlived every other person who had been present that day in the council who might contradict his version of the story, he told it one more time, leaving out for the umpteenth telling anything that would indicate the meeting involved anyone other than just the Twelve Apostles. Woodruff's testimony differs a bit from the first person account in B.F. Johnson's autobiography, but Woodruff throws in a supernatural bonus about the color of Joseph's glowing face, which is kind of a nice touch no one else ever thought to mention about that experience:
"I bear my testimony that in the early spring of 1844, in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith called the Twelve Apostles together and he delivered unto them the ordinances of the church and kingdom of God; and all the keys and powers that God had bestowed upon him, he sealed upon our heads, and he told us that we must round up our shoulders and bear off this kingdom, or we would be damned. I am the only man now living in the flesh who heard that testimony from his mouth, and I know that it was true by the power of God manifest to him. At that meeting he stood on his feet for about three hours and taught us the things of the kingdom. His face was as clear as amber, and he was covered with a power that I had never seen in any man in the flesh before."
But there was someone else still living who recalled being in that room the same day as Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff must have forgotten Benjamin F. Johnson was still alive and that he had also been in attendance at that meeting long ago. Johnson happened to recall things a little differently than Woodruff had. For one thing, there had been at least 38 other men at that meeting in addition to those twelve apostles. Johnson outlived Wilford Woodruff by seven years, and in 1903 he wrote a letter to George Gibbs that was consistent with the account in his autobiography, with the added benefit of some details Woodruff had neglected to mention in his account:
"It was at Nauvoo early in 1844 in an assembly room common to the meeting of a Council or Select Circle of the prophet's most trusted friends, including all the Twelve, but not all the constituted authorities of the church, for Presidents Rigdon, Law, or Marks, the High Council, nor President of quorums were not members of that council, which at times would exceed fifty in number. Its sittings were always strictly private, and all its rules were carefully & promptly observed and although its meetings were at times oftener than monthly and my home at Ramus [Illinois] over twenty miles distant, I was present at every session, and being about the youngest member of the council, I was deeply impressed with all that transpired, or was taught by the Prophet....
"And now returning to the council and the 'last charge.' Let us remember that by revelation he had reorganized the Holy Priesthood, and by command of the Lord had taken from the First Presidency his brother Hyrum to hold a patriarch...All these keys he held, and under these then existing conditions he stood before that association of his select friends including all of the Twelve, and with great feeling and animation he graphically reviewed his life of persecution, labor and sacrifice for the church and kingdom of God, both of which he declared were now organized upon the earth. The burden of which had become too great for him longer to carry; that he was weary and tired with the weight he so long had borne and then he said, with great vehemence: "And in the name of the Lord, I now shake from my shoulders the responsibilities of bearing off the Kingdom of God to all the world, and here and now I place that responsibility, with all the keys, powers and privileges pertaining thereto, upon the shoulders of you the Twelve Apostles, in connection with this council; and if you will accept this, to do it, God shall bless you mightily and shall open your way; and if you do it not you will be damned. I am henceforth free from this responsibility and I now shake my garments clear and free from the blood of this generation and of all men," and shaking his skirt with great vehemence he raised himself from the floor while the spirit that accompanied his words thrilled every heart as with a feeling that boded bereavement and sorrow.
"And now, my dear brother, after 60 years have passed, at 85 years in age, I bear to you and to all the world a solemn testimony of the truth and veracity of what I have written above, for although so many years have intervened, they are still in my mind, as fresh as when they occurred; no doubt as a part of fulfillment of a prediction by the prophet relating 'testimonies I should bear of his teachings, after I had become hoary with age.' " (Benjamin F. Johnson Letter To George F. Gibbs, quoted in Rogers, The Council of Fifty, ibid. Emphasis mine.)
Regardless of how Johnson's biography was later doctored by others prior to publication so it would fall more in line with President Woodruff's recollections, we can see from Johnson's letter to George Gibbs that his memory of the events remained essentially the same as in his earlier manuscript. The notable difference between Johnson's version of the event and Woodruffs is that Johnson recalled that the entire Council of Fifty were present at the time, whereas Woodruff's recollection mentions only the Twelve Apostles, of which he himself was a member. And although Woodruff makes mention of "the church and kingdom of God," only Johnson bothers to point out that Joseph had drawn a clear distinction between the the two as separate and distinct entities. (see Rogers, ibid, footnote pg 43.)

Benjamin Johnson's memory was by no means flawless. He seems to have forgotten that Sidney Rigdon and William Marks were indeed members of the Council of Fifty, but given he was describing a body that had ceased to exist for more than half a century, we can forgive him that oversight. Those small details are insignificant compared to Wilford Woodruff's selective memory of the event, which has contributed over time to the myth that Joseph Smith had ordained, and set apart the Twelve Apostles prior to his passing and given them authority to govern the Church in his absence.

The problem with Woodruff's interpretation is that if Joseph had done any such thing, it would have been in direct contradiction to the Lord's instructions given by revelation to the Twelve outlining their specific and very limited responsibilities. It would also constitute a complete reversal of the warnings Joseph had given to the Twelve on multiple occasions where he reminded them they were to have no role whatsoever in governing the Church. Now that we finally have access to the minutes of the Council of Fifty, we can see that Joseph gave the Twelve no such charge. If he addressed the Twelve specifically in that meeting, it was to emphasize they had been given the responsibility for "bearing off the kingdom to all the world," which would have been consistent with their duty to go into all the world and preach the gospel. That instruction is quite different from "I hereby authorize you to stay home and manage the Church from your comfy executive chairs at Church headquarters."

Wilford Woodruff was not the first to get it wrong. Less than a year after that memorable meeting with Joseph Smith before the Council of Fifty, Orson Pratt had somehow got it in his head that Joseph had been talking exclusively to him and the other eleven apostles. Pratt was corrected in that mistaken assumption by, of all people, Brigham Young.

I reported on this incident in greater detail in a prior post I titled "Did The Lord Choose Not To Anoint The Lord's Anointed?" I hope you'll go back and review that one because it contains essential excerpts from the minutes which effectively put this controversy to bed.  However, I'll briefly summarize that episode here.

The Rigdon Rivalry Results In Revilement
Seven months after the prophet's death, there was still a bit of controversy over who should be leading the church. The controversy eventually shook out to a choice between the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles. One faction favored Sidney Rigdon, since he was the only remaining member of the First Presidency. Rigdon proposed to direct the saints to leave Nauvoo and remove themselves to Pennsylvania.

Those opposing Rigdon were led by the Twelve apostles, who proposed that rather than being led by one man, the church was better served in the hands of twelve men operating as a body. The proposal of the Twelve was that the saints leave Nauvoo and remove themselves far away from the United States, over the Rocky Mountains, to settle either in Oregon or California.

As part of an effort to discredit Sidney Rigdon, apostle Orson Pratt was preparing to publish a pamphlet he titled "A Farewell to Rigdonism" in which Pratt planned to describe how Joseph had met with the Twelve prior to his death and appointed the Twelve to take responsibility for leading the church.  So at a meeting of the Council of Fifty on March 25th, 1845, Orson Pratt wants to know how many apostles would be willing to sign on as witnesses that Joseph had anointed the apostles with authority to lead the church.

Brigham Young, chairman of the Council, gently reminded Elder Pratt that no such ordination of authority had ever taken place. He told Pratt to go ahead with his pamphlet if he wanted, but to leave the Twelve out of it, and reminded Pratt that Joseph had not been speaking to a meeting of the Twelve at the time Pratt was thinking of, but he was speaking to this body, the one they were meeting with right now, the Council of Fifty.[4]
[4] You can read the record of the actual exchange between Orson and Brigham in the Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes pages 378-380. See also my earlier piece featuring this subject, "Did The Lord Choose Not Anoint the Lord's Anointed?" for excerpts.

That put the matter to rest, and Orson Pratt dropped it. We don't know whether he ever published that pamphlet or not, because no copies seem to have survived. But what we learn from the minutes of the Council of Fifty on March 25th of 1845 is that Brigham Young reminded Pratt that there was no “anointing” of the Twelve by Joseph Smith in any earlier meeting, and the “keys of the kingdom” had not been given to the Twelve.  Instead it was, as Brigham reminded those present, “this council of fifty which had to bear the responsibility,” meaning that there was nothing uniquely given by Joseph Smith to the Twelve, that Joseph was addressing the entire council, Mormon and non-Mormon alike. Elder Pratt seems to have forgotten that non-Mormons were present, so Joseph was not likely to ordain everyone in the room to be a servant to the Church. Pratt was mistaken if he thought Joseph Smith had passed his ecclesiastical authority on to that body.

Print The Legend
Largely because the minutes of the Council of Fifty have been locked away in the vault of the Church for so long, the myth promoted by Wilford Woodruff and others has gained prominence for the past century and a half, along with the false teaching that the Church and the Kingdom of God were one and the same. There are at least two tragedies that have resulted from this misunderstanding. First, we have all been raised to believe that it's perfectly normal for the apostles to govern the Church, even though they were specifically prohibited from doing so by revelation from the Lord, as well as by repeated warnings from Joseph Smith.

The second tragedy is that all efforts to establish the kingdom of God on earth were ultimately abandoned because, let's face it, the apostles found it much easier to stay close to home and build up the Church than it would have been for them to go out into the world and bear off the kingdom. As Denver Snuffer wrote,
"They neglected the 'kingdom of God' because they were preoccupied with acquiring complete, unfettered control to dictate over the church and hold at defiance any who dared to challenge them. They reign over the Seventies and stake high councils with impunity. Their autocratic control holds the approximate 30% of those who remain nominally active in the church in complete submission. [4]
"They have the 'keys of the kingdom'–which kingdom has lapsed into complete oblivion. But they’ve parlayed that into dictatorship over the other organization, the Church."
[4]According to a recent estimate I have seen, total number of members who remain in attendance are now down to 25%.

Paul Toscano reminds us how much better things would be for the church if the apostles were to take seriously the duties assigned them by the Lord:
"I have said this directly to at least two of the Twelve, and I will say it here again: The apostles need to get out of town, permanently. 
They need to travel somewhere like China and preach the gospel that Jesus preached and perhaps become martyrs there for Christ's sake -since some of them are so keen to make martyrs of others. At least they need to stop inducing comas with their conference addresses. And, they need to get out of the real estate business. They need to think much less about the temporal and much more about the eternal -they really do- not because I say so, but because Mormon scripture says so." (Mormonism In Crisis: A Critique and a Defense, pg 10.)
A constant drumbeat of mine on this forum is that we Mormons, as a people, have neglected to accomplish the purposes God put us here for. And why have we neglected those purposes?  Primarily because we have been waiting on the leaders of the Church to do it for us.

Well, how is that working out so far? How far along are we in accomplishing the purpose of the Lord?  We were supposed to have established a Zion refuge long before this, but that never happened because we were waiting on the leaders to tell us how to set it up. The kingdom of God never materialized because the leaders have insisted it's already here, in the very organization they happen to have taken over management of.  As far as they're concerned, this Church they manage is the kingdom of God, so what more needs to be done besides getting your friends to take the missionary lessons?

All this in spite of the fact that our founding prophet made it very clear that the church is decidedly not the kingdom, and that our efforts should be focused on building up the kingdom, not in building up the Church.

Daniel's prophecy of the kingdom of God remains unfulfilled, largely because we have no oracles. And why are there no oracles? Because members of the Church keep waiting on their leaders to convey those oracles to them, instead of seeking personal oracles from God for themselves.

Church leaders tell us we should keep our eyes riveted on them, that our salvation depends upon our obedience to their decrees. Yet how much closer to Zion have we gotten by waiting on them to receive revelations to guide us? Joseph Smith told the Saints in his day that they were becoming darkened in their minds because they were depending too much on the prophet and not on their own ability to receive personal revelation from God in their lives. He said that every man should stand for himself and depend on no man or men in that inevitable state of corruption that religions always devolve into.

Do you recall not long ago when church membership was growing literally by the millions? Church leaders were quick to point to that as proof that the Church is the Kingdom of God on earth, rapidly fulfilling their warped interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel in the belief that this "Church" would grow and grow until it soon filled all the earth. Remember that?  We don't hear that boast anymore now that convert baptisms have shrunk to almost nothing, do we? 

When are we going to see the kingdom of God established on the earth? Are we supposed to just wait for the leaders to figure out that the kingdom is something distinctly different from the Church? How long do you think that will take? When are the leaders of the Church going to put the establishment of the kingdom back on their list of priorities?  How is Zion ever going to come to pass if the leaders don't get started on it? Who the heck is in charge here, anyway?

You are.


Related Sources
The Church Ain't The Kingdom (Part One)

The Church Ain't The Kingdom, Part Two

The Church Ain't The Kingdom, Part Three

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

How Jesus Christ Was Ousted As Head Of The Church Of Jesus Christ

Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover

King Brigham

Where Did The Oracles Go?

Joseph Smith's Last Dream (Whiteboard Presentation)