Saturday, June 28, 2014

Remembering Joseph

In the opening chapter of the book of Exodus an interesting statement is made "Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." Just giving some background to this story, the Joseph mentioned was the 11th son of Jacob (also known as Israel). He was sold into Egypt by his brothers due to their jealousy over his preferred status by his father, as well as his divine gift of seership, or his ability to to see into and reveal the future. Later they were able to reconcile, and Joseph was able to save his family's life in Egypt and preserve them from famine.

For those who believe in the record of ancient scripture known to the world as "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ" (as I do), we know that not all the sayings of Joseph are recorded in the Bible. Thankfully, Lehi was able to leave some of them behind in the Book of Mormon. From this record we learn that Joseph was able to see the day when a descendant of his would do great and mighty works. Here is what he says:

"Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.

And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.

And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.

And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation."

In plain and simple language Joseph the Seer tells that another like unto himself will come in the latter-days, that he will bring the House of Israel to remember the covenants that God made anciently with their forefathers, that he would be the Moses of his generation, and that his name will be Joseph.

This person spoken of is the Prophet Joseph Smith. This mighty prophet in less than 20 years brought forth 3 volumes of scripture, recorded many revelations, built temples, and restored the fullness of the gospel to the Earth. Jesus Christ himself excepted, no man did greater work and no man deserves more reverence, the Savior himself excepted.

However, as the Pharaoh of Egypt, most members of the church "Know not Joseph". The average church member has not studied his life in detail, know nothing of his original teachings, and ignore his warnings. He is hardly mentioned in the teachings of modern authorities. His name is hardly mentioned in testimony meetings. Worse than this, they mark other men who have not done any where near the caliber of work he did as his equal. Disgusting.

No man is Joseph's equal. True, some men hold the same office, but there are not his equal. Those who believe that would have to say that Caiphas was Moses' equal.

In two sections the Lord makes Joseph's role to us clear : "This generation (you and I) shall have my word through you" (D&C 5:10) and "thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory" (D&C 21:4-6)
Those scriptures apply to the Prophet Joseph, and to him alone. Those who apply them to anyone else are taking scripture out of context and do not understand the Prophet or his mission.

For those persons who have forgotten Joseph, may I invite you to learn more of the mighty Prophet of the Restoration. All members should treat Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (or Words of Joseph Smith, if you can find it) as next to scripture. All should have a copy and study it regularly along with the scriptures as part of their scripture study. Also, learn all you can about his life. There are many good books available, but I recommend Joseph Smith : The Choice Seer by Joseph Fielding McConkie/Robert Millet and Joseph Smith the Prophet by Truman G. Madsen for beginners.

May I close with a word of testimony. If I am sure of anything, I am sure that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, and the Joseph Smith was and is his prophet. One can not truly say that he truly knows one and deny the other. Not only was Joseph Smith a prophet, but he was the greatest of the prophets. No man has or will do a greater work than he, Jesus of Nazareth himself excepted.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Blacks and the Priesthood

            When criticisms are generally made against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are always two that never seem to go away. The first is the issue of polygamy; the other is black people and the priesthood. This is not much of a surprise, as people are often more interested in the controversial and the negative, rather than what the church and it’s doctrines really teach.
            In response to this, in 2013 the church released an article entitled “Race and the Priesthood”.  No one is exactly sure who wrote the article, as no name is on it. All that is known is that is linked to the churches official website, so the brethren have approved it. It basically rehashes the same history that anyone familiar with this issue already knows: Joseph Smith ordained blacks and allowed them to be ordained, during Brigham Young’s presidency blacks stopped being ordained (for reasons no one is sure of), in 1978 a revelation came allowing black men to receive the priesthood and temple blessings, and finally that the church condemns racism past and present.
            There are several problems with this article. The first is that the article does not say whether the practice of racial restriction was right or wrong; it merely states that it started under Brigham Young. It is surprising because this is really the only question left with this issue, was it right or wrong? And there really is no way to be neutral about this: Either the Lord commanded Brigham Young and others to restrict blacks from holding the priesthood, or faithful, deserving people were denied the greatest blessings available to men in mortality for prejudicial reasons. It really is that simple.
            Considering that Brigham Young never said he received revelation to institute the practice, we will assume that such was not the case. None of the early brethren said that was the case, and Joseph F.  Smith argued against the idea often as an apostle. The reasons for the restriction under Brigham Young were stated by himself when he said “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother.  Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings.  This was not to be, and the Lord put a   mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin[1].” He then remarked that Cain’s descendants could not hold the priesthood. This idea in reality was not Mormon, it was a continuation of a protestant belief that Young and the early leaders would have heard about being Protestants themselves before converting. A perfect example of mixing the gospel with the philosophies of men.
The article points this out but also says that Brigham Young also said the day would come when blacks would receive all the blessings available to others. However they don’t use the full quote. It goes thus “How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion."[2]
In this discourse President Young was talking about Abel, the son of Adam who Cain slew. He said until Abel was resurrected and had posterity who enjoyed the blessings of the priesthood, blacks would never hold it. The problem is simple: Abel has not done that, and yet blacks hold the priesthood. Clearly Mr. Young was in error. He also said that if the church gave priesthood to blacks before this time, the church would lose all priesthood.
So, we have two options: Brigham was right, or we no longer have priesthood. If we don’t, we need to get all of our missionaries out of the field because neither they nor us have the authority to baptize and have it recognized by deity. Of course, we all know that cannot be the case, but for some reason the article does not condemn Brigham Young for preaching something that was clearly false and having generations today still believe it.
And Brigham was not the only president of the church who thought that the priesthood ban was inspired. In an official statement made in general conference President George Albert Smith said, “The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”[3]
David O. McKay complicated matters further when he said that the practice was policy, and not doctrine. McKay was a counselor to President Smith when the former declaration came, so apparently there was not unity in the belief, which is a very scary thought for the first presidency to not be in unity on such an important issue.
For some reason, the church still tries to remain neutral (which it accused blacks of being in pre-mortality) on this issue rather than just doing the right thing of saying that the practice was immoral and wrong. Perhaps that reason is because of a belief that a prophet can never lead the church astray, which is something that Joseph Smith said could happen more than once. For more on that, I refer the reader to Ezekiel 14
I am not sure what the point of this article was for. It didn’t answer any questions; it just gave new life to the old ones. Perhaps some white people will feel better about what was written, but this will not help blacks come into the church. What needs to happen is simple: The President of the church should give an official apology, renounce the false claims that were made, and let it go to rest. Until then, the problem is still here.

I would like to say however, that this does not excuse any black person from joining the church. It is true that past leaders were racist and prejudiced, but that does not make their message false. Regardless of what happened, God still lives, Jesus is still the Christ, Joseph Smith was still a mighty and great prophet, the Book of Mormon is still true, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still what it proposes itself to be, and you still need to join it to be truly happy in this life and in the life to come. All the blessings of heaven are open to you; don’t reject them because of past mistakes. Of this I bear witness.
.[1] Journal of Discourses
[2] Journal Of Discourses 7:282
[3] Mormon America. pp. 101–102.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Missionary Position: The Trial of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin

Earlier this week, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article that informed the general public that Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly and Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin have received letters indicating that there will be a church court hearing to determine whether or not they will maintain their membership. Both have been charged with apostasy, which is an excommunicatable offense.

Apostasy, as defined by Elder Bruce R. McConkie is his classic book Mormon Doctrine is "Forsaking of true principles" (MD, pg. 43) So the question is this: What true principles have these two people forsaken? In the case of Mr. Dehlin, he doesn't believe in anything; his blog states that he does not believe in any of the foundational teachings of Mormonism, so he is not really a Mormon anyway. Rather, he is an opportunist and a propagandist who is milking the Saints by saying he is being objective. He has the spirit of Nehor and Korihor written all over him, and he should be avoided like the plague. He says he stays in the Church because he likes what it stands for (except LBGT rights), but I am firmly convinced there is no room for "Cultural Mormons" in the Church. They are dead weight and poison.

In the case of Mrs. Kelly, I see nothing in her or her actions that say she is in anyway an apostate. She is active in the church, believes in the foundational teachings, and is really not advocating anything really new. She has not abandoned any principle, and seems to be a nice lady. I firmly disagree with her organization, but she has not broken any covenants or violated any laws. I think she should be able to remain in full fellowship.

The real problem here is this: Is it wrong to openly disagree with a church leader or a church postion? The answer is no. The Prophet Joseph Smith said "I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine" (Words of Joseph Smith)

In the early days of the Church, it was not uncommon for one apostle to openly disagree with another. In the 1960's and 1970's, President Hugh. B. Brown openly called for the renunciation of the Negro Doctrine, and he stood alone. It is the right of the Saints to openly believe and think what they want, as long as they are not leading to anthers damnation or their own.

Some will say that these people have crossed a line by starting organizations. I would agree that the organization is silly, and should be treated with contempt. But the church has had repeated opportunity to dismantle it, and gave it new life by pandering to it in conference addresses and in the temple videos. Sadly, there is not a man of the stature of Elder Bruce R. McConkie in the current leadership of the Church, who would have openly gone against Ordain Women to the point that there would be no room for doubt.

In the case of these two people, we should note that they are not in the same boat, One is a believer, one is not. One is advocating for change, one is just running his mouth. However, they are not apostates (in the case of Dehlin, that would be impossible since there is no God). The brethren should remember what the Prophet taught, and let these two alone. Their work will come to naught anyway.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Seeking the Second Comforter

A few months ago, I wrote a post about what I though some of the most important things in the temple endowment were, namely remembering your own part in the ceremony as a patron and that the ceremony itself is to prepare you for a personal audience with the Savior while in the flesh.

I got some disagreements about this from other faithful well meaning members, some saying that seeing him while in the flesh will not happen for the average Latter-day Saint, others saying that "seeing" was symbolic of meaning that we would see the hand of the Lord more in our lives after we had received the temple ordinances.

I have to respectfully disagree. At the last supper the Lord himself said "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you" (John 14:18). Clearly, the Savior plans to come to us when we are down and console us, which is why another of his many titles is "The Second Comforter".

While giving a discourse in Nauvoo on the above verse, the Prophet Joseph Smith said "When any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend to him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 150)

One of the key doctrines that was lost to the world during the apostasy was the doctrine of the Father. It was restored to the Earth through the Prophet Joseph, and not only can we have the direct living experience of seeing the Christ, but if we continue to press forward he will reveal the Father to us as well.

The temple plays a central role in making these blessings possible. After officiating in the first presentation of the endowment to seven faithful brethren, the Prophet Joseph said " I have just taught you everything that is necessary for you to enter into the presence of God" (Joseph Smith the Prophet, Truman G. Madsen)

I bear testimony that seeing the Lord while in mortality is possible. Nephi, Jacob, the Brother of Jared, and others in the Book of Mormon were just like you, normal people who were believers. And if we do what they did and believe as they believed, the Lord, who is no respecter of persons, will visit us and comfort us. I look forward to seeing him in the flesh