There are 73 thoughts on “Dissenters: Portraying the Church as Wrong So They can be Right Without It”.

  1. I have to say that I found the article compelling and personally instructive. I believe that Brian Hales has illustrated in very laymen words and simple terms the conditions by which dissension occurs. It seems that those who have an agenda, will always have an agenda and though the forces of reason and spiritual intellect attempt to lead them back home, as long as they hold onto their preconceived notions, that return will be difficult.

    That being said, I love how in the comment section, Brother Hales consistently extends the hand of fellowship again and again with peaceable terms and inviting discourse. From my perspective, in many ways the comment section is nearly as instructive as is the original article. I found much to ponder and think about in both sections.

    As an example of the kind consideration shown: in one particular episode, Dwight Rogers in question-and-answer format answered someone with an inciteful predicate. He said, “I don’t know you so I am not saying that this does or doesn’t apply to you…” and then continued from there. I was extremely impressed with the kindness extended by both Brother Rogers and Brother Hales in not bogging down in accusations, but instead by consistently commenting upon and answering with exceedingly considerate responses.

    Everyone knows someone who apparently enjoys the particular gift of the Spirit commensurate with receiving visions or visitations. Through the indicated path found in the main article, Brother Hales describes how many of these individuals end up leaving the church, but far more importantly, he then describes (especially in the comment section) how many faithful members receive the exact same and yet maintain their faith in and testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. This to me is quite significant, and one that I would whole-heartedly ascribe as being a far more correct indicator, ignored by many who leave.

    Finally, as per the accusations made by those who feel the Church is under condemnation or has strayed I can only say that as for me and my house, we follow the Lord, and we do so through the medium of extending respect and obeisance to the Lord’s fully-authorized and commissioned anointed. To slip and follow any other path seems far more likely to lead to apostasy than any other reasoning, no matter how sincerely presented.

    If you believe in the Book of Mormon, then you believe in the rod of iron. If you believe in the rod of iron, then you must believe that there are those who fall away by letting go. These sad individuals, no matter how sincere, do not lost their path by maintaining their grip, but instead by releasing and following unknown paths. From personal experience, it is my chosen desire to maintain that firm, sure grip, and I only know one way to ensure that, and it is by following steadfastly the oracles of God.

  2. Hi Again,

    I see Dwight has made some very good points, but perhaps I can add a something more.

    Brother Pulsipher wrote: “the church is accomodating more and more Bablylon rather than acting to establish Zion.” How curious. It seems the LDS Church is more and more alone in its stand regarding same-sex-marriage. Is that “accommodating Babylon”? There are many more examples in its interactions with the world, society, and the government.

    Sure there are members who are not perfect (I am one of them). But many of us are trying—I bet some are trying even as hard as you are to keep the commandments. Are you unable to see this? It isn’t hard to detect. I know several individuals I would classify as “holy men” and “holy women.” Ironically, they don’t go around criticizing the Church or its members, they diligently seek to keep their priesthood covenants and serve others. Their efforts may not be on the front page, but God knows them.

    It seems that many dissenters are worried that the Church and many of its members are prospering. Since early Saints were in poverty, they seem to equate poverty with holiness or righteousness. It isn’t. Joseph Smith had the nicest home in Nauvoo (the Mansion) and he was seeking to build even a nicer building (the Nauvoo House) so he could entertain visitors in style and impress them. Wait! Isn’t that worldly? Hmmm. You can talk to Joseph about it.

    In fact, the rich as a group are not condemned in Joseph’s revelations:

    “Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!

    “Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!” (D&C 56:16-17.)

    The condemnation is for the rich who DO NOT SHARE THEIR SUBSTANCE. The Church facilitates this sharing as members pay tithes and a generous fast offering. God has promised those who are righteous: “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:20). Sure many LDS are not righteous, but many are striving very diligently. Their prosperity (and tithes/offerings) is needed to build temples and send missionaries and to build meetinghouses so the Saints can fulfill God’s command: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (D&C 59:9) and “Hearken, O ye elders of my church whom I have called, behold I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall assemble yourselves together to agree upon my word” (D&C 41:2).

    I love Wilford Woodruff’s recollection:

    “The Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland. … That was the first time I ever saw Oliver Cowdery, or heard him speak; the first time I ever saw Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, and the two Pratts [Orson and Parley], and Orson Hyde and many others. There were no Apostles in the Church then except Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. Those that I have named spoke, and a good many that I have not named, bore their testimonies. When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.’ I was rather surprised. He said ‘it is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.’”



  3. Mr. Hales,

    I notice you address Mormon 8:32-33, which you correctly identify as “churches”. You do not, however, address Mormon 8:35-41, which asks “why have ye polluted the holy church of God?” (v. 38) BYU Religion Professor George Pace asserted the “holy church of God” as apostate Christianity. BYU Professon Hugh Nibley, on the other hand, asserted this nailed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’m curious as to why you didn’t address this VERY direct scripture in you analysis above.

    Further, you note changes in the temple endowment and how you think those are permissible given Isaiah’s condemnation of changing the everlasting ordinances. You fail to mention the most obvious change in ordinances, which was when Heber J. Grant changed the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from wine to water. When responding, please keep in mind that D&C 27 only “commanded” Joseph not to buy wine from his enemies. (In response, Joseph reportedly concocted a grape substitute…) When the Savior deliverately asks for and uses only wine for the Sacrament in both the New Testament and in the BoM, how is this change justified in light of the repeal of Prohibition?

    Respectfully submitted,

    • These are interesting questions. I know you have directed your question to Mr. Hales and I don’t pretend to answer for him. However, I hope you won’t mind if I respond.

      In regards to wine I see several things to consider.

      First, section 27 does not “only ‘command’ Joseph not to buy wine from his enemies.” In addition the Lord also says: “For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” (D&C 27:2)

      So it wasn’t only about not buying wine from enemies but it also clarified that anything – within reason I imagine – can be used to represent the body and blood of the Savior.

      Second, the Church is guided by ongoing revelation. If past revelations were enough there would be no need for additional revelation to the Church. The Lord has changed some things over time and he does direct some prophets to do some things differently than other prophets..

      Noah (but no other prophet) was to build an Ark (Genesis 6:14)

      Moses implemented the Passover, which was hitherto unknown (Exodus 3:12-28)

      Jesus revoked the celebration of Passover, and modified the ordinance and its performance at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19)

      Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3)

      The Law of Moses was added when most of Israel could not abide a higher law. (Acts 13:39; Heb 7:19; Gal. 3:24). Then the Law of Moses was fulfilled and no longer observed (See Acts 13:39; Heb. 7:19; Ga. 3:24 See also Heb. 7:6-8, 12-13).

      The Gospel was first taken only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24) and then later to the Gentiles (Acts chapter 10)

      So a change from wine to water seems rather like a change from wearing blue socks to black socks. The important thing is to wear socks. With the sacrament the ordinance and covenants didn’t change so what matters remains the same.

      Third, the Bible seems to give rather strong counsel against the drinking of wine. (See Isaiah 24:9; Isaiah 28:7; Judges 13:4,14; Proverbs 20:1; Leviticus 10:9; 1 Samuel 1:15; Luke 1:15). Yet the Lord used wine for the sacrament. Perhaps that will bother some people but it seems to me that the Lord, being God, can do whatever He wants.

      Fourth, in some places the Bible seems to make a distinction between wine and new wine. (For instance see Hosea 4:11). Historically the term wine has been used to refer to unfermented grape juice or the fermented type. The Bible seems to be talking about these two types of wine in various places. Commandment to avoid wine is often associated with the phrase “and strong drink” which seems to be a qualifying phrase indicating which type of wine to avoid. Therefore, it is not clear whether the wine used by the Savior was fermented or not.

      • Fact of the matter is, Joseph never used water in the sacrament…even in the situation recorded in D&C 27. Jesus never used water in the sacrament, both in the Old World and in the New. I agree that under special circumstances descibed in Section 27, reasonable substitutes can be made. However, the Savior specifically requested wine of the disciples in 3 Nephi even though it could well be presumed water would be more readily available and obviously cheaper than wine.

        The Church used wine until the presidency of Heber J. Grant, who was a life insurance salesman and avid prohibitionist. There is no revelation on record changing the wine mentioned in D&C 20 nor in Moroni 5 from wine to water. I’m presuming that there wasn’t even a sustaining vote taken when the change was made, according to D&C 26 and 107.

        I was one of the first missionaries in Spain during the 1970’s when there were hardly any members there. I used many of the points you mention in your response to try to persuade Catholic Spaniards that Jesus did not drink alcoholic wine, and they shouldn’t either. It was a huge stumblingblock because my contention simply wasn’t credible. Grape juice without preservatives and/or refrigeration quickly becomes wine, as any chemistry student could relate. As a missionary, I was woefully prepared to deal reasonably with a culture where table wine was served to children and adults at almost every meal.

        Respectfully submitted

        • Good points. I would add that the revelation we have already discussed, that is section 27, already gives authorization to use something other than wine or grape juice. President Grant didn’t need any new revelation.

          The Church is guided by the Lord Himself through revelation to current prophets. If the Lord didn’t like President Grant’s decision to use water He would have given direction to his living prophets to correct that. When people act as if only an action or policy from a past prophet is valid it makes me wonder whether that person understands that the Lord is in charge of His church now through living prophets. That is often the real problem in cases like this. If one knows that the church is currently lead by the Lord through prophets then things like this are not an issue. I don’t know you so I am not saying that this does or doesn’t apply to you.

          I was a missionary in New York City and I taught an Italian family who drank wine with every meal. Dealing with that was not so hard. My companion and I taught the principles of the restored gospel and it was up to the family to accept or reject. We didn’t modify the Lord’s standard because of someone else’s tradition or interpretation or even by what was done in the past. Are we all supposed to marry prostitutes because Hosea did? Instead, how about let’s do what the Lord tells us through his current prophets.

          Also submitted respectfully.

    • The teaching of the temple centers on Jesus Christ. The truths and covenants taught there have not changed. The method of delivery has been modified over time. The fact that the method of teaching the truths and covenants of the temple has been modified over time has been acknowledged by the Church. It is no secret that these changes have occurred. When the principles were first restored to Joseph Smith it came line upon line and precept upon precept, not all at once. The first temple instructions were conducted by living persons in rudimentary surroundings with makeshift accessories. Over time, the delivery of the teachings were refined and the use of modern facilities and modern technology was employed and, in some cases, some of the unnecessary drama was removed to streamline the teaching process. However, the teachings and covenants remain the same. Joseph Fielding Smith noted — the “work of salvation for the dead came to the Prophet [Joseph Smith] like every other doctrine — piecemeal. It was not revealed all at once (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 168. ISBN 0884940411)

      On 4 May 1842, after President Joseph Smith gave the first Nauvoo-era endowment to a small group of Latter-day Saints he told apostle Brigham Young that because of their limited circumstances the overall experience was “not arranged perfectly” and he wanted Brigham to “organize and systematize” the ceremonies. This indicates there were some presentational modifications allowable in the rites while still preserving the core elements of the experience.

      Harold B. Lee emphasized that the means by which the endowment and its message are presented are subject to modification:

      “Now, you think for a moment—in the upper office over [Joseph Smith’s] store, with no equipment like we have in our temples today, the endowment had to be given by lecture. The Prophet Joseph Smith through these, his counselors, and others as you heard their names, attended to the matters that we now have given in various ways. Sometimes our people who go through the temples are a bit startled because of the varied ways in which the endowment is presented. Perhaps, as under inspiration they studied the nature of the endowment, they thought to make it a little more meaningful to the patrons who would come: part by dramatization, part by question and answer, part by lecture, part by picturization on the walls of some of the temples. We have artists who have tried to put those who go through the temple in the mood of the lesson to be taught as they proceed through the temple.

      “But it is the same message that was given by lecture by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his office over [his] store. Now, when we have that in mind, we will see why the Prophet, in the beginning of this dispensation, gave certain instructions to have the brethren stimulated in their thinking.” (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 578)

      That the temple ceremonies have undergone occasional changes, improvements, and refinements in the delivery method does not constitute a change to the teachings themselves and is no cause for concern and does not bother anybody except the critics who are simply looking for a reason to criticize. Critics have repeatedly demonstrated that they comb through LDS records and historical sources and bend over backwards to ignore the main points of history and doctrine and practice of the LDS Church. Instead they bend over backwards to find and cherry-pick out of context third-hand information in order to sensationalize it into a criticism of the Church. This is not good honest scholarship and the critics themselves and the people who fall for the arguments made by critics only hurt their own credibility by doing so.

      • In the above, folks have mentioned that although the methods used in the presentation of the endowment have change the message or the covenants have not. It seems to me that at least in the case of our being invited to enter the presence of the Lord, by responding to certain questions, important enough that if needed the person being presented was prompted in the exactness of the answers. And those responses were not just a presentation form, but part of the actual ordinance and the process required in order to be invited into His presence. That very process has been completely removed. It doesn’t seem a trivial matter in this case.

    • Regarding the critical Mormon 8:38 question of what exactly is the “holy church of God” which was polluted, it should be noted that Professor Nibley was never considered a “dissident” of the church. Matter of fact, he was one of the foremost apologists in behalf of the church.

      In “Approaching Zion” and “The Prophetic Book of Mormon”, Nibley repeatedly cites Mormon 8:38 in the context that the church is accomodating more and more Bablylon rather than acting to establish Zion. In several of his sermons (for example, see Ensign, July 1976 first presidency message), President Kimball alluded to Mormon chapter 8 (though he doesn’t elaborate on verse 38) as indication that as a church, we have a long way to go. Again, I would hardly consider Professor Nibley nor President Kimball to be dissidents.

      Respectfully submitted.

    • Hi Brother Pulsipher,

      I appreciate the comments.

      Thanks for quoting Hugh Nibley, but I think you actually misrepresent what he was saying. You wrote: “BYU Professon Hugh Nibley, on the other hand, asserted this nailed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

      Here’s one reference from Nibley that it is very good:

      “It is important to note that these people are church builders (the unbelievers are addressed in the next chapter), and that they include the members of the true church: ‘O ye . . . who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?’ (Mormon 8:38). The apostate churches were already pointed out in the earlier period (Mormon 8:32-33) along with their wresting of the Bible (Mormon 8:33). After the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, moreover, there is only one ‘holy Church of God’ (1 Nephi 14:10). The expression here, moreover, cannot refer to the primitive church, of which these latter-day Christians know nothing–they are not in a position to pollute it, and pollution is necessarily an inside job. And why should the true Church be any more immune to the blandishments of money and fine clothes and beautiful churches today than it was in the days of the Nephites?”

      The important point is that Nibley was not saying the entire Church would apostatize, thus creating the need for a remnant of dissenters to save the day. He was telling us that being a member doesn’t make us immune to pride and the other problems. In fact, being a dissenter doesn’t either. I worry about the superiority complex I sense in modern polygamists over LDS monogamists.

      Nowhere in Nibley’s teachings does he speak of the Church going into apostasy. Church members may apostatize, but the Church and its leaders will ever retain the keys needed to perform saving ordinances. If you believe Nibley taught otherwise, then please show me.

      Your comment about the sacrament is curious because D&C 27:2 states: “For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory.” If I understand you correctly, you disagree and believe that it does matter—that we must drink wine and not water.



  4. Brian,

    The Lord’s work requires no money. No buildings. No tithing. Just faith. Belief. Knowledge of Him. Consecration. Look at Helaman 5. Nephi and Lehi–two authorized messengers who had communed with the Lord became agents in the conversion of the 300 Lamanites (including dissenters). Look at what they experienced: Hearing the voice of the Lord, the ministering of angels, the voice of the Father, and probably more. They then converted the whole nation and they handed back the land they had taken by the shedding of much blood. The Lord does not need 80,000 missionaries–he just let’s them grow and learn by helping.

    The scriptures define and illustrate the fullness as coming into the presence of the Lord. Where the presence of the Lord is, there is fullness. Clearly the temple illustrates a process intended to occur in this life. The moment we are prepared for the Lord’s presence, he will reveal Himself to us. If we leave this life unready to be in His presence, we will not somehow be made ready in the next life.

    The Lectures on Faith are clear about what we can and must seek in order to be saved:

    “2:55 Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to. behold him face to face.

    “56 We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based, which excited the inquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints, to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God: and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this inquiry, in the first instance in their minds–it was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers–this testimony having aroused their minds to inquire after the knowledge of God, the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated, when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries, and eternal certainty.”

    7:18 “These sayings put together, show the Apostle’s views, most clearly, so as to admit of no mistake on the mind of any individual. He says that all things that pertain to life and godliness were given unto them through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And if the question is asked, how were they to obtain the knowledge of God? (for there is a great difference between believing in God and knowing him: knowledge implies more than faith. Anal notice, that all things that pertain to life and godliness, were given through the knowledge of God;) the anser is given, through faith they were to obtain this knowledge; and having power by faith to obtain the knowledge of God, they could with it obtain all other things which pertain to life and godliness.”

    It is one thing to have spiritual experiences. Many faithful people in and out of the church do. It is another to converse with the Lord through the veil and know Him.

    Believing in this doctrine and observing that it is not understood, preached, believed in, experienced in the church is less about trying to make the church look bad and finding cover for exiting the church and more about taking the Lord at His word. The Book of Mormon does not tolerate a Correlated version of the Gospel, but roundly condemns it as “false and vain and foolish doctrine” and “the precepts of men”.

    You’re going to have to choose between a Correlated Gospel and the doctrine of Christ. Hence the sacrifice described below:

    Lectures 6:5 “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.”

    By the way, thanks so much for your Mormon Stories response to Grant Palmer’s accusations against Joseph Smith. What a wonderful and needed contribution your research on polygamy is!

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comments and the compliment.

      You present a very interesting idea that: “The Lord’s work requires no money. No buildings. No tithing.” It seem you disbelieve Joseph Smith’s teachings. Tithing is commanded (D&C 119:3). Also, building are required. Joseph taught:

      “The Saints to Come up as Saviors on mount Zion but how are they to become Saviors on Mount Zion[?] by building thair temples[,] erecting their Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, Confirmations, washings anointings ordinations & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may Come forth in the first resurrection & be exhalted to thrones of glory with us, & here in is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the Children, & the Children to the Fathers which fulfills the mission of Elijah. (Scott G. Kenny, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, typescript, 9 vols., Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983-85, 2:341-42, January 21, 1844.)”

      In April 1843, the Prophet taught, “There are certain ordinances and principles that when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.” While still awaiting the completion of the Nauvoo temple, he lamented, “We need the temple more than anything else.”

      The scriptures too speak of the need for ordinances to enjoy the “power of godliness” (D&C 84:19). Joseph couldn’t have been any clearer when he said that “godhood” required obedience and an eternal sealing ordinance. Without genuine authority, there is no valid sealing and no exaltation (D&C 132:18-20). These ordinances require a temple.

      Joseph Smith taught of the need for ordinances like sacrament (and a building to offer them in) and endowment and sealings (requiring temples). These cost money. Missionary work today requires resources. Most countries will not allow missionary work “without purse or scrip.” God could destroy those governments and open up the way for missionary work “without purse or scrip,” or He could render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (D&C 63:26) and allow the Church members to prosper so they can pay tithes and offerings.

      I worry that some dissenters think they can gain exaltation by having some spiritual experience. I can’t tell you how many dissenters I have known or researched who have claimed communion with dead prophets or Christ. Joseph Smith warned: “there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.”

      But how can we know? Well, those with the truth will have Joseph’s ordinances and his authority. Twice in D&C 132 the Lord tells us “My house is a house of order” (vv. 8, 18). (And BTW, plural marriage is not an ordinance.)

      In Joseph’s theology, the Church is needed with its temples Churches, missionaries, leaders, and officiators, if valid exalting ordinances are to be performed to those who are worthy.


  5. Brian,

    So one line of thinking is that nothing moved in terms of FULLNESS since Joseph as lost. What of the church’s prosperity (a word with some decidedly anti-Zion connotations)? Nibley points to 4 Nephi 27-28 as evidence a church’s growth in the world should probably be seen as a red flag, not a sign of truthfulness. The stone rolling forth stuff is not about quantity, but quality. Who will do this if not the church, you ask? God will. He has not given His power to man. He does His own work. Nibley also acknowledged the fullness is not among us. Christ is the fullness–His presence–and also the list of things Joseph provided in the Lectures on Faith 7:20. So when a people lay hold on this kind of faith by picking up the Restoration where Joseph left off and attaining the presence of the Lord and access to the heavens–“that every man might speak in the name of the God the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (D&C 1:20), THEN the outreach to the remnant begins again. Joseph attempted it, but it has stalled since then because a possessor of the fullness is necessary to offer fullness to the remnant. And God is not dealing in “false and vain and foolish doctrine”–he is offering, as Joseph taught in Lectures 2:55, that “like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power to behold him face to face.”

    • Hi Dave,

      I don’t wish to misrepresent your position, but it seems you are willing to let God fulfill his promises except He can’t do it by having a prosperous Church. The Lord told Joseph, “I, the Lord, render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (D&C 63:26). For example, in early days, sending missionaries “without purse or scrip” was standard (D&C 24:18 ). Such behavior is against the law in most nations today and would result in missionary incarcerations. The Lord could destroy the governments to open the way, or He could help His followers on earth to prosper and then tithe them to support the missionary efforts.

      Similarly, meetinghouses cost money and so do temples. God, who controls the elements, could conjure up such edifices through miracles, or he could allow His followers to flourish and then used their offerings.

      There are many who are willing to claim to “pick up the Restoration where Joseph left off.” I’m curious how they are going to fulfill the prophesies to fill the whole earth while defying the governments of the day? Sure God can destroy them to make way for His kingdom, but He might also plan to work for a time rendering to Caesar what Caesar has claimed, which requires resources and a level of prosperity.

      Perhaps most importantly is that I have known many fundamentalists and modern polygamists in the past twenty-five years since I started studying this topic. There are many good people among them.

      It is also true that Sunday attendance among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is probably around 50-60%. Among the attenders are some who are not converted spiritually, but attend for social reasons. Another subgroup are those with temple recommends. Among them are a smaller number who are truly converted, who are faithful and faith-filled, who experience the miracles and the power of valid covenants in their lives, even a fullness of the promised blessings. They are humble, often quiet, not always in leadership positions (although they usually have had such experiences).

      This subset of Latter-day Saints is more numerous than all dissenters and polygamists put together and constitute more than enough righteous adherents to allow God’s work to move forward according to the Lord’s timetable.

      Dissenters seem to want to ignore the faithful LDS and instead focus on the less faithful and then imply all members are less faithful. It just isn’t true. There are many who are fulfilling Joseph’s prophesies and there is no need for anyone to “pick up the Restoration where Joseph left off” because a smaller number of Church members have been advancing it throughout their lives and ever since the restoration began.

      Take Care,


  6. Hey Brian,
    Thanks for this article (I realize I’m a little late in the game). I am probably what you might consider a dissenter, but I appreciate the straightforward and scriptural arguments that you have put forward.

    I harbor no ill will toward the church. I serve as an active member. My views just aren’t quite mainstream. Anyway, thanks again for this. I don’t care about being right. I only look for truth, so I like looking at issues from all sides.

    PS Your work on polyandry was very insightful for me.

    • Hi Tanner,

      Thanks for the comments.

      I’m not the judge of any person. My only advice would be to make valid covenants and keep them as you try to maintain as much faith as possible.

      Take Care,


  7. Brian,
    Whew. I don’t know how you do it. It’s exhausting to see all the watchers for iniquity, the sheer mountain of ideas and opinions, the friendly torpedoes of love, ugh! I struggle with my own trials, but I’ve got to say, yowsers! Thanks for your efforts. With articles like yours I’ve a renewed confidence in reading the scriptures for answers. I’ve enjoyed finding glimpses of what our father is like nestled inside of them. Sincere thanks.

    – an LDS member

  8. One point of clarification: my comment about redefining LDS scriptures and reshaping the religion was aimed at socially progressive Mormons and Mormon groups (such as Ordain Women and Mormon Stories), not the leaders.

  9. Hi Matthew,

    I appreciate your discussion of condemnation and forgiveness.

    Let me try to make a couple of observations. First, since the Lord can’t look upon sin with “the least degree of allowance,” (D&C 1:31), then every member is under some level of condemnation. Even Joseph Smith acknowledged in 1842: “Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing; the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault.” Just weeks before the martyrdom he confessed: “I never told you I was perfect… Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught?” Joseph was not perfect, but he was still able to lead the Church. In other words, he was under some condemnation, but that didn’t prevent him (and members in similar situations), but accomplishing what the Lord required. God didn’t need to go looking for someone closer to perfection.

    Second, it seems you want to label all members together as under the same condemnations collectively and individually. I don’t want to create a “straw man” argument by misrepresenting your position, but if the whole “Church” has to be “forgiven” together to remove the condemnation, then holiness (and the accompanying blessings) could not be attained by any Church member individually. I think this is problematic. Last night my wife and I did a sealing session in the Bountiful Temple. The Spirit was strong and the sealer struck me as a holy man.

    You offer evidences of the condemnation of the Church. I’m not sure what you mean by “the loss of doctrine since the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day.” Perhaps you can be more specific.

    I think your reference to a “shifting nature of the temple endowment” is quite problematic. The temple endowment is a set of ordinances, covenants, and teachings. They were given in different forms in Nauvoo (see Andrew Ehat’s thesis). They were further modified to accommodate the Nauvoo Temple (see Heber C. Kimball Temple Journal kept by William Clayton December 1845). They have had other modifications since that time. I believe the core teachings and the accompanying covenants and ordinances have not changed. That is, the covenants we make in temples today are exactly the same as those administered in Nauvoo. And those covenants God does honor if we keep our parts. Obviously we can’t discuss this here so I guess we’ll need to just embrace differing opinions.

    My concern for you is your willingness to criticize the Church and its leaders. The statement regarding the alleged effort “to redefine LDS scriptures and reshape the religion to be more harmonious with popular ideological trends” is an example. It seems there is no way to interpret your remarks except to believe you are speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed. George Q. Cannon observed: “There is one thing that the Lord has warned us about from the beginning and that is not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. He has told us that any member of the Church who indulged in this is liable to lose the Spirit of God and go into darkness.”

    When I encounter such criticisms (and they are common in dissenters, but also in others), I wonder what the critic thinks about the priesthood keys. Are they lost? Are they still in the Church? Can they exist outside of the Church (with or without keys inside as well)? I’d be interested in your responses. I’m speaking specifically about the priesthood keys mentioned in D&C 132:7; (see also 13:1, 27:6, 9, 13; 35:25; 42:69; 65:2; 68:18; 81:2; 107:16 etc.).

    I believe Brigham Young:

    “The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.”

    If we see imperfections in Church members and even leaders, it seems the best way we can help ourselves is to build up the Church the best way we can and leave the rest to the Lord. I like John Taylor’s counsel:

    “Suppose a corrupt man is presiding in a certain place, his corruptions are soon known. People need not strive to turn good into evil because they think that some man does wrong. They need not turn calumniators and defamers, for all will come right in its turn. Then attend to your own business, work the works of righteousness, sustain the constituted authorities of the Church until God removes them, and he will do it in his own time. Bishops, be after such men as speak against the Lord’s anointed.”

    I believe the saving ordinances are only in the Church and there we can individually work for perfection while we strengthen our brethren and sisters in their individual quests.

    Take Care!


    • Actually LDS church members have a right to criticize all leaders from the First Presidency down to Ward level.
      During Joseph Smith time the members were encouraged to do so with love, not anger, and all were to work on the problems together until resolved. The early members (1830s) had a right to not sustain leaders and openly oppose and their concerns were addressed. Today it’s a formality that no longer matters or means anything.

      Now today it’s……YOU CAN’T criticize any church leader ….you are an apostate if you do etc etc etc

      We stand when leaders enter a room, we can’t speak to them, they make no effort to connect to the little people, but they have time to rub elbows with the rich and famous quite frequently. And do special favors for famous and wealthy members.

      So yes we do have a right to criticize. The Salt Lake leaders are thin skinned. As are people in Stake and Ward leadership.

      The church was put under condemnation during President Benson’s time and that condemnation has not been lifted. The Salt Lake leaders have gone far away from what Joseph Smith taught.

  10. Brother Hales,

    Sorry for the lateness of this reply. I wanted to take the time to write out a well-cited, detailed reply, which took more time than I’ve had until this morning. What follows is how I see the nature of condemnation vs. forgiveness. I believe that, through explaining the difference, the importance of the condemnation will become apparent. If it hasn’t been lifted by now, we’re in an awful situation.

    Condemnation is the opposite of being forgiven. Forgiveness is the act of “giving as before” and cancelling a debt or punishment owed, thereby restoring the status of the offender to what it was before the offense occurred (D&C 58:42). Condemnation is the lack of forgiveness. Both are general states of being before God (Luke 6:37, D&C 64:9).

    Being forgiven is connected with the privilege of receiving more light and truth from God through the mediums of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost (D&C 39:6, Moroni 10:5). Whenever a covenant people of the Lord abide in His love and forgiveness by keeping the commandments, it is their right to receive the blessings and knowledge of God.

    People come under condemnation because of a refusal to receive the light that is offered to them (D&C 93:31-32). The way to remove the condemnation is to repent (D&C 58:42), otherwise there is a punishment that must be inflicted on the condemned person (2 Nephi 9:25). The way to remove condemnation that was brought about by refusing light and truth is to repent and accept the light and truth originally offered. A person is not condemned for not having received a fullness of the glory of God (or receiving all light and truth), but is only condemned for refusing light and truth that is specifically offered to them (2 Nephi 9:25, 27).

    The results of condemnation and forgiveness are the opposite. Condemnation (‘condemn’ has its roots in the latin ‘damnere’, which means to ‘inflict loss on’) results of a loss of light and truth. A person under condemnation is disobedient to God’s commandments, and as a result of that disobedience Satan “taketh away light and truth” (D&C 93:39). Unless the person repents, he will eventually lose so much light and truth that he will be taken captive by Satan. Conversely, someone who continues to repent will receive more light and truth until he knows the mysteries of God “in full” (Alma 12:10-11).

    The Lord is merciful and loving, and prefers to forgive us insead of condemn us. We are not condemned for our weaknesses or imperfections, but only for our sins (D&C 9:12).

    These are all principles upon which individual souls operate, and the Church operates by similar principles. It is the “body of Christ” and is led by the principle of common consent. Therefore if the whole church is under condemnation then the Church, as a whole, will continue to lose light and truth until it, as an institution, is taken captive by the devil (or Babylon, the world).

    The Church is in the process of losing light, truth, and knowledge, as evidenced by the narrowing and loss of doctrine since the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day and the shifting nature of the temple endowment. There are currently two distinct trends in the Church: one is seeking to reestablish the religion that Joseph Smith restored by repenting and truly following the teachings restored through him. The other prefers to become more like the world, more like mainstream Christianity, and is glad to jettison the doctrines, ordinances, and policies that made Mormonism “peculiar”. This second thread seeks to redefine LDS scriptures and reshape the religion to be more harmonious with popular ideological trends. The Lord promised that there was a needed cleansing that would befall the whole world, and that it would begin with the Church (D&C 112:23-26).

    The condemnation the Lord declared the Church was under in 1832 was significant. It resulted from rejecting the message of both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s other teachings. Essentially, it resulted from rejecting what the Lord *really* wanted the early Church members to believe and do. President Benson’s entire presidency was marked by warning us to beware of pride (what kind of pride is more dangerous than religious pride, wrought by false traditions of our fathers that we are a chosen, righteous, and blessed people?) and remembering the Book of Mormon in an attempt to finally get out from under the condemnation. Because no church president since then has contradicted those messages, if we are to honor and follow the living prophets we must conclude that the condemnation still exists.

    I believe there is some progress being made in really remembering the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s teachings and removing the condemnation among the Church members, but that “movement”, if you will, hasn’t reached full maturity yet.

    • That the temple ceremonies have undergone occasional changes, improvements, and refinements, should cause no concern since — as Joseph Fielding Smith noted — the “work of salvation for the dead came to the Prophet [Joseph Smith] like every other doctrine — piecemeal. It was not revealed all at once.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 168. ISBN 0884940411)

      On 4 May 1842, after President Joseph Smith gave the first Nauvoo-era endowment to a small group of Latter-day Saints he told apostle Brigham Young that because of their limited spacial circumstances the overall experience was “not arranged perfectly” and he wanted Brigham to “organize and systematize” the ceremonies. This indicates there were some presentational modifications allowable in the rites while still preserving the core elements of the experience.

      Harold B. Lee emphasized that the means by which the endowment and its message are presented are subject to modification

      “Now, you think for a moment—in the upper office over [Joseph Smith’s] store, with no equipment like we have in our temples today, the endowment had to be given by lecture. The Prophet Joseph Smith through these, his counselors, and others as you heard their names, attended to the matters that we now have given in various ways. Sometimes our people who go through the temples are a bit startled because of the varied ways in which the endowment is presented. Perhaps, as under inspiration they studied the nature of the endowment, they thought to make it a little more meaningful to the patrons who would come: part by dramatization, part by question and answer, part by lecture, part by picturization on the walls of some of the temples. We have artists who have tried to put those who go through the temple in the mood of the lesson to be taught as they proceed through the temple.

      But it is the same message that was given by lecture by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his office over [his] store. Now, when we have that in mind, we will see why the Prophet, in the beginning of this dispensation, gave certain instructions to have the brethren stimulated in their thinking.” (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 578)

    • The first temple instructions were conducted by living persons in rudimentary surroundings with makeshift accessories. Over time, the delivery of the teachings were refined and the use of modern facilities and modern technology was employed and, in some cases, some of the unnecessary drama was removed to streamline the teaching process. However, the teachings and covenants remain the same.

      The history of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is one of ongoing revelations to prophets and Apostles. God directed His work and some things were changed over time according to God’s will.

      Noah (but no other prophet) was to build an Ark (Genesis 6:14)

      Moses implemented the Passover, which was hitherto unknown (Exodus 3:12-28)

      Jesus revoked the celebration of Passover, and modified the ordinance and its performance at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19)

      Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3)

      First the Higher law was given in the bible.

      Then the Law of Moses: It was added to the higher laws of God because of the stubbornness of the children of Israel. Later, the law of Moses was fulfilled by Christ and no longer observed and the higher law was reinstated. (See Acts 13:39; Heb. 7:19; Ga. 3:24).

      He gave “a better covenant” (Heb. 7:6), and spoke of “the first covenant” (Heb. 7:7), and “a new covenant” (Heb 7:8,13). And we also read where the God instituted “a change also of the law” (Heb 7:12), and He said: “For verily there is a disannulling of the commandment going before” (Heb. 7:18). It is clear that God can change his laws, or the way his gospel is administered, as he pleases.

      The Priesthood

      God gave the Aaronic Priesthood to only one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Exo. 28:1-4; Num, 23:5-13; Num 8:5-26’ Num ch 17; Num. 18:6-8; Num. 27: 18-23).

      Uzza was severely punished for exercising a priesthood function when he did not hold the priesthood (1 Chr. 13:9-10).

      God destroyed Korah, Dathan, Abiram and 250 rebel leaders for seeking priestly offices when they were not authorized to do so (See Numbers chapter 16).

      The Aaronic Priesthood was given to the tribe of Levi as “an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations” (Ex. 40:15) and those who could not prove their Levitical lineage were “polluted, put from the priesthood.” (Ezra 2:6-26).

      God changed this later when priests from tribes other than the tribe of Levi were allowed to have the priesthood. (Heb. 7:11-12).

      Gospel taken Only to Jew – Later to Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24; (Acts 10) This came by revelation to the man who was the prophet at the time – Peter.

      Clearly, God does change some of the things he requires of his people over time. He did so throughout the Bible and it was always done through a prophet or Apostle of God. God can do whatever He wants within the framework of eternal law. God can change whatever He wants. If not He wouldn’t be God.

  11. Brother Hales-

    I appreciate the vigor of your reply, but the presiding authorities of the Church disagree with your assessment. President Benson was adamant that the Church needed to re-enthrone the Book of Mormon because the 1832 condemnation was still in effect.

    Per Elder Oaks (
    “In that temple meeting, President Benson reread [D&C 84:49-58] and declared, ‘This condemnation has not been lifted, nor will it be until we repent’ (remarks by President Ezra Taft Benson, General Authority Temple Meeting, Thursday, 5 March 1987). He also repeated his declaration of a year earlier that, in our day, the Lord has inspired his servant to reemphasize the Book of Mormon to get the Church out from under condemnation (see Ensign, May 1986, p. 78).”

    If the condemnation was ever lifted, that reprieve was only temporary. Because the last official word from the Brethren was that the condemnation was still in effect, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it hasn’t been removed.

    God bless you,

    • Hi Matthew,

      I’ve posted an addendum above, but I’m trying to understand the significance that your conclusion has on the role of the Church.

      It seems dissenters want the Church to be (at least) partially in apostasy in order to justify their estrangement.

      If you see the “condemnation” as continuing, what are the consequences to the Church members and leaders that result?



  12. Hi!

    I believe the condemnation given in 1832 mentioned in D&C 84:56-58 was conditional. Just two verses later the Lord explained:

    “Verily, verily, I say unto you who now hear my words, which are my voice, blessed are ye inasmuch as you receive these things; For I WILL FORGIVE YOU OF YOUR SINS with this commandment–that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you.” (D&C 84:60–61; emphasis mine.)

    Among the many evidences that Joseph and the Church were approved of the Lord thereafter are the revelations given to members. On June 4, 1833, John Johnson was told that his “offering I have accepted” (D&C 96:6). Weeks later, Zion’s “offering” was accepted (D&C 97:27).

    Perhaps the most impressive evidences occurred at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Many of the Saints heard and saw extra-worldly things. Importantly, the Lord appeared to Joseph and Oliver telling them: “Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice” (D&C 110:5). Then the admonition to rejoice was expanded: “Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name. For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (vv. 6-7).

    In Nauvoo, Joseph taught the temple endowment and eternal marriage ceremonies were performed. The Lord told Joseph there: “Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac” (D&C 132:50).

    As I said in the article, on his way to Carthage and to martyrdom, Joseph paused when they got to the Temple, and looked with admiration first on that, and then on the city, and remarked, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them” (TPJS 379).

    Please don’t partake of false teachings from individuals who see themselves as offering something better or more true than the teachings and ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ID&C 84:61 specifies that to avoid condemnation, Church members need to be “steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, IN BEARING TESTIMONY TO ALL THE WORLD of those things which are communicated unto you.” Missionary work in any meaningful way has not been a focus of dissenters, but it has always been a primary duty of the Church president and Church members.

    Take Care,


    • I agree that the Church and its members are under condemnation because any person who is not perfect is under some level of condemnations for their imperfections. “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31).

      Joseph Smith taught: “And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation” (D&C 93:32). Any person who has not yet received ALL light is under some level of condemnation. Earlier in the same revelation Joseph explained: “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28). Stated another way, we are all under some level of condemnation until we receive all light and truth and are perfected. If Church members were perfect (under NO condemnation), they would be translated as the City of Enoch.

      However, for those people who seem to relish this reality, let me make a couple of observations. First, there is enough righteousness in the Church to fulfill its mission. As I said in the article, perfection is not necessary. Second and perhaps most important, I have known many dissenters and cannot detect any higher levels of righteousness (and consequently lower levels of condemnation) than what I see in devout Church members. To believe they are not under the same condemnation for their imperfections and members is not believable to me. They differ in that they are willing to separate themselves physically and/or intellectually from the Church and to criticize it.

      I long for the day when they set aside their criticisms and humbly submit to the Church’s leadership and lend their talents and gifts to building up God’s Kingdom instead of criticizing or holding out in the shadow lands and margins.

  13. Brother Hales-

    Is it your opinion that the condemnation of the early Church, recorded in D&C 84:54-57, was lifted? You imply that it has been by saying that “[m]ultiple evidences demonstrate that the Lord accepted his church in 1838, well after the conditional condemnation of section 84 was issued.”

  14. I was in the Tabernacle when Elder Maxwell gave his first conference address after being called to the Q12. I had just returned from my mission. I heard him say that he had seen the Lord at a time when I didn’t think that was such a controversial thing for an apostle to say or not say. I always remembered that; it had such a great influence on me. Then, decades later, I pulled that address to find it; it wasn’t there where I expected it to be or anywhere else. Had I really heard it? Had it been removed? I’ll never know.

    • This is very interesting. I worry that those that demand that the Apostles relate to their audiences exactly when and where they saw the Savior, are in fact, seeking for a sign (by proxy). Of course sign seeking is condemned (Matthew 12:39). I see plenty of evidences that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fulfilling the prophesies. That is a “sign” for me.

      There are individuals claiming their own conversations with Christ. Since I believe He is guiding this Church through our leaders, if He appeared to someone else, it would be to help them personally, but also to encourage them in supporting the role of the Church in these latter days.

      While researching Mormon fundamentalism I compiled a list of dozens of men who claimed to have seen heavenly messengers, hence I’m a little jaded to such claims from people who have left the Church.

      I guess I’m wandering here. Sorry.

  15. “Fourth, the fullness of the gospel has already been taken from the “gentile” nation of North America and given to the “house of Israel” as the majority of the population of Latter-day Saints live outside of North America and the most popular language spoken in the church is Spanish— not English.”

    Do you have a source for your statement that Spanish is the most popular language spoken in the Church?

  16. Hello!

    I loved the article! I was wondering what you thought about this experience:
    “Hugh B. Brown, who had served as President McKay’s first counselor, resumed his seat as an apostle. A few months later he would confide in his nephew, N. Eldon Tanner, that he missed the intense involvement of the First Presidency. In failing health, he could attend meetings of the Twelve only infrequently, so Eldon became one of his few regular contacts with General Authorities. Following one visit, President Tanner wrote in his diary, “I am sure it is difficult to adjust after being in the First Presidency.” He added an experience related by his uncle that had helped President Brown adjust to these years of declining responsibility.

    “He said it was not a vision, but the Lord appeared to him, very informal, the same as I was sitting talking to him. The Lord said, ‘You have had some difficult times in your life.’ Uncle Hugh responded, ‘Yes, and your life was more difficult than any of us have had.’ In the conversation Uncle Hugh asked when he would be finished here, and the Lord said, ‘I don’t know and I wouldn’t tell you if I did.’ Then He said, ‘Remain faithful to the end, and everything will be all right.’”

    [Pp. 254–56 in Durham, G. Homer. 1982. N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.]

    I was just wondering that in light of the discussion about our habitations are known and the Lord can know or does know when and where we’ll pass away-Thank you!

    • What an interesting quote. I was not familiar with it. Honestly I don’t know what to say. It does seem to contradict scriptures that describe God as omniscience. Here’s a favorite of mine: “Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes” (D&C 38:1-2).

      • One thing I was thinking is that Pres. Brown related this experience to Pres. Tanner who related this to Elder G. Homer Durham, and who knows when it was related to Elder Durham so maybe the story picked up some steam as it went along. I think it was Elder Maxwell who said if God knows the end from the beginning surely he knows the middle so I am leaning towards the idea that Jesus knows all the twists and turns in our life.

    • Cameron

      I think we need to make a distinction between what Jesus knows and what the Father knows. God the father truly is omniscient, but Jesus may not be. He even somewhat said so: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

        • Well, I can only guess what Jesus knows now. I am not sure what you mean by mortal and eternal undertanding. If you are asking if I think it is possible that the Father knows things that Jesus does not know, even now, then I would have to answer yes. If you are asking if I believe that Jesus’ knowledge is stuck at the same level as when he was a mortal, then I would need to say no.

  17. Hi Brett,

    Thanks for the heartfelt comments. I think you raise an important question, “What qualities might be manifested by someone who has dissented from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

    The theology restored by Joseph Smith is interesting because it establishes, in effect, two pathways to know God and to know about God. In 1830 the Prophet organized a Church that has two primary purposes: to teach the truth about God to believers and nonbelievers and to administer the saving priesthood ordinances that make us candidates for exaltation.

    The second pathway is direct to God. “And seek the face of the Lord always” (D&C 101:38) taught Joseph. The admonition wasn’t, “go get the Bishop to okay your efforts to seek the face of the Lord.” Instead, through and personal study and prayer, Joseph encouraged members to approach God directly (D&C 88:68, 67:10, 93:1) to have our calling and election made sure.

    For me, one way to help discern the source of a person’s supernatural experience is by determining how they feel toward the Church after they receive it. We can haggle about whether the Church is true, but we should agree it is the only candidate fulfilling the prophecies Joseph Smith made concerning missionary work and expansion in the last days (see quotes in article). Also, it is my conviction that, while Church members could always do better, the leaders are led by Christ and the Church leaders are doing His will.

    For me, a dissenter would be someone who receives an extra-worldly manifestation and interprets it as being from God, but thereafter feels the Church organization is superfluous to them or “out of order.” Feelings of superiority may emerge. They may criticize the Lord’s anointed and doubt the teachings and testimonies of Church leaders. I conclude they are deceived (see D&C 50:2).

    I realize that this won’t help because the Church’s correctness is already an issue. However, I wonder if you have entertained the possibility that one spirit is telling you the Church is in error (even if only a little) and another Spirit is guiding the Brethren (and me as I pray and learn the Church is not in error)?

    During my twenty-five years studying fundamentalism, I have identified dozens of men and women who have experienced this. They all claim special visitations of angelic messengers and even deity. This is why I included Brigham Young’s comment at the end of the article. Such claims of extra-worldly experiences are not uncommon.

    You also pose second interesting question regarding a person who does not believe the Prophet is guided by God, but still outwardly complies with the covenants and expectations of the Church. I don’t know how God will deal with them. I know a couple of my colleagues (in medicine) who have confided in me that they like the social aspects of the Church, but are inwardly atheists. They go through the motions of obedience, but primarily for social reasons. How will God judge? I have no idea.

    If we are to have an exchange, I would ask a few questions. Where, in your opinion, are keys of the priesthood restored to Joseph Smith (D&C 13, 27, 110)? Can ordinances be performed without them? If the LDS Church isn’t fulfilling the prophesies (rolling forth, sweeping the earth, etc.), who is or who is going to?

    God Bless,

    Brian Hales

    • Brian,

      I’d like to ask a question, so that this dialogue can continue with openness and understanding. Can you use a scripture that defines what a priesthood key is? Not a scripture that claims they were given to Joseph, etc… but a scripture that actually explains what a priesthood key is.

      Also, I’d like to ask you about 3 Nephi 16:10. You are quite confident that this scripture does not refer to the LDS church. However, if you read to verse 15, you can see that the Savior calls these Gentiles salt that has lost its savor. In D&C 101:39-40 we read that those who are called to the everlasting gospel and “covenant” with an “everlasting covenant,” are accounted as the salt of the earth. They are the ones who are called to be the salt of the earth, but if it loses its savor, it is good for nothing.

      Who exactly are these Gentiles, if not the LDS? If you are right, then please explain what specific covenant these Gentiles made that can be considered an “everlasting covenant,” and to which everlasting gospel were they called, so that they could be accounted as the salt of the earth. Clearly you cannot be be accounted as salt that has lost its savor if you were never salt to begin with.

      • Hi Frederick,

        Thanks for the comment.

        As I discuss in the essay, many dissenters hope that 3 Nephi 16:10 refers to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to justify their estrangement from the Church.

        I disagree with their assessment beliving the “gentiles” are the North Americans living at the time the Book of Mormon came forth. That it could not be the Church today is supported by 2 Nephi 10:18:

        “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.”

        The “gentiles” will be “numbered among the house of Israel.” These are the believing gentiles. Those who join the Church would no longer we numbered with the “gentiles.” Those “gentiles-now-numbered-among-the-house- of-Israel” would not be the “gentiles” referred to in 3 Nephi 16:10 (see also v. 8).

        I hope that helps.


        • Although “Gentiles” are adopted into the House of Israel it doesn’t change the fact that they are still Gentiles. Sure they are now numbered among the seed of Abraham but Joseph Smith clearly states in D&C 109:60 that the “us” present during the temple dedication are identified with the Gentiles. If that were the case he would have referred to themselves as the House of Israel.

      • Hi Again Frederick,

        You bring up a good point. The “gentiles” that are condemned in 3 Nephi 16:10 have received the fulness of the gospel, or the “everlasting covenant.” The question is whether this is referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 21st century or to some other group? You and many others wish to charge the Church as those condemned “gentiles,” but the scriptures are plain in several points:

        First, Christ established the “everlasting covenant” in His day. Paul explained: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20). That that church fell into apostasy is not disputed. Nephi saw:

        “And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church. And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches. . . Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel. . . in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb–I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.” (1 Nephi 13:4-5, 34.)

        The Lord here states that “I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day.” That “day” is when the gospel is restored. Prior to that “day”, the “gentiles” that “do stumble exceedingly” (1 Ne. 13:34) are those who are described in 3rd Nephi as being “lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations” (3 Ne. 16:10). Why? “Because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church” (1 Ne. 13:34). The restoration restores those lost “plain and precious parts.”

        Second, the Book of Mormon explains that the “house of Israel” and the believing “gentiles” combine together: “For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2).

        “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.” (2 Nephi 10:18; italics added; see also 3 Ne. 16:13).

        Similarly, in September, 1830, Joseph Smith revealed: “I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them” (D&C 28:8). The result is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized in 1830 (D&C 20:1) a year of the publishing of the Book of Mormon and given its full name in 1838 (D&C 115:4).

        Today, the Church membership of individuals with Lamanite ancestry tops several million. According to Book of Mormon terminology, they are the “house of Israel.” The remaining members are also the “covenant people” and are “numbered among the house of Israel.” Referring to this combined group as “gentiles” would be inconsistent and inaccurate.

        In contrast, Nephi refers the Church in the last days as the “Church of the Lamb of God”: “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations” (1 Nephi 14:10).

        Third, there are promises to the “house of Israel”:

        “Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.
        Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. . .
        And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.” (1 Nephi 22:11-12, 14.)

        Other similar prophesies exist and there is no hint of apostasy to befall the “house of Israel” in the last days in any of them. Are we to believe that the “house of Israel,” who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are to “be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer” just as Church members of non-Lamanite ancestry are to fall into apostasy?

        Fourth, the Lord clarifies in verse 8 to whom He is speaking in verse 10: “But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles” (3 Nephi 16:8). The “unbelieving of the gentiles” are those who have not been “numbered among the house of Israel,” those who have not joined the Church and obeyed the teachings of the restored gospel.

        I don’t expect you convince you. It is the Church is not perfect and members generally live below our privileges. But I believe we are doing the Lord’s work and Christ is guiding this Church.

        One last thought, I have known many dissenters and fundamentalists. I have the highest respect for many of them. However, my impression is that they are no more righteous than that portion of Church members who are diligently striving to keep all the commandments and fulfill the promises. (Some do partake of a “superiority complex.”) The difference is that the dissenters are willing to be critical of the Church, which brings a dark spirit.

        God Bless,

        Brian Hales

        • Brian,

          This analysis of what is meant by the “gentiles” in the BOM is spot on. This was the first thing that I started investigating when I read things that Snuffer and some of his supporters were claiming, and it gave me a really bad taste in my mouth from the very start. It seems that a lot of the justification for their estrangement and harsh criticism stems from their interpretation of the “Gentile Church.” Something else I would like to add about 3 Nephi 16:

          Vs. 8 Indicates that these Gentiles have scattered “my people who are of the house of Israel” and that they have been “cast out from among them” and “trodden under feet by them.” So at what point have the Mormons, or at what point will we, treat Native Americans or Jews in this way?

          Vs. 9 “9 And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become bhated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them—”
          Does this really describe the LDS people? Slayings, afflictions, smitten, casting Indians/Jews out, hating them, becoming a hiss and byword?

          Vs. 10 This is where it really falls apart when you take the whole verse into consideration. Do I find it conceivable that our pride will rise above the pride of all nations and the whole earth, that we will be filled with lyings, etc? And murders and priestcrafts and whoredoms? No, I do not. We are indeed an imperfect people, but that does not describe the people in my ward, nor does it describe me.

          These verses are obviously in reference to the apostasy between the time of Christ’s church and the Restoration. The language is also somewhat similar to what God said to Joseph during the First Vision.

          This kind of thing gives me an uneasy feeling about several of the neo-fundamentalist Mormon bloggers. It is a clear falsehood when you harmonize it with all scriptures and context.

  18. Brian,

    Thank you for taking the time to make these arguments. I see many around me leaving the church over doctrine. I see apostles addressing faith and dissent in general conference. I think this is an important topic, one in which our very salvation hinges.

    You state “Multiple revelations and statements from Joseph Smith support that the church he established will persist to the millennium.” It is certainly true that as a people we have assumed that the statements of The Lord to Joseph Smith apply to us. Over six hundred groups or churches that have arisen from the foundations that Joseph laid could make the same fatal assumptions.

    If you look at the verses you used as ‘support’ for your conclusion that “the church he established will persist to the millennium” you will notice that the revelations and statements make no reference to ‘church’. It is the ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘the gospel’ which roll forth until it fills the whole earth. In Joseph’s day the kingdom was one thing. The church was another. Only since Utah were to two conflated.

    Let’s take your statement at face value. Let’s say that The Lord in his revelations was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would remain uncorrupted until the millennium. If that were true then this statement by The Lord about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a mere bluff.

    But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 124:32)

    And this statement of Joseph’s about the saints just another bluff.

    if Zion, will not purify herself so as to be approved of in all things in his sight he will seek another people, for his work will go on untill Isreal is gathered & they who will not hear his voice must expect to feel his wrath.” Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:357

    Among the highest leadership of the church is the understanding that the church is in drift. Two statements will suffice.

    “In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we are losing the ability to correct the course of the church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman. Both Alma and Helaman told the church in their day. They warned about [1] fast growth, the [2] desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about [3] prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the church has drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the church today. Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur in the space of not many years. In one instance it took only six years.” . (Helaman 6:32; 7:6; 11:26) (“Let Them Govern Themselves,” Reg. Rep. Seminar, March 30, 1990)

    “It is a very apparent fact that we have traveled far and wide in the past 20 years. What the future will bring I do not know. But if we drift as far afield from fundamental things in the next 20 years, what will be left of the foundation laid by the Prophet Joseph Smith? It is easy for one who observes to see how the apostasy came about in the primitive church of Christ. Are we not traveling the same road?”
    (Joseph Fielding Smith Journal, 28 December 1938)

    But more authoritative are the numerous prophecies about our church in the Book of Mormon, prophecies about “all have gone astray except a few..(who ) are led to err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”

    It is a precept of men that this ship can’t sink.


  19. What do you mean precisely when you say these types of dissenters are in apostasy?

    I ask because you would probably call me one of these “dissenters.” I believe in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. In fact, I spend a good amount of time trying to persuade New Order Mormon-types “NOMs” to come back to church. I even responded publicly to the infamous “CES Letter.”

    So you could call me a “dissenter” but I’d love it if all those who could call themselves Mormons would still associate with each other.

    What do you mean that I am in apostasy? Ever since I came to believe that one ought to have their calling and election made sure and receive the Second Comforter in this life I have sought more diligently to make that happen.

    I have sought harder to establish a relationship with the Lord. I am more mindful of Him. My prayers are deeper. I have spent hours out alone in the forest praying. I seek people to help whom I’m not assigned. I am more patient and loving than ever in my life. I am at peace within. I have had more promptings by the Spirit. I read and study the scriptures far more than I did before. I get more out of them than I did before. I am seeking literally the things we believe. I seek angels from heaven, I seek literally the face of God. I want to return to Him IN THIS LIFE.

    I go to church. I watch conference. I associate with members, I have a calling.

    I’m uncomfortable listing all this, but I ask, in what way am I in apostasy? Simply because I BELIEVE Thomas Monson does not speak face to face with Jesus Christ? Do I have any reason to believe that? Has he EVER said that he has? If he hasn’t, but he’s still “inspired” how is he more inspired than the Pope? Or a baptist preacher? Do you not believe their prayers are answered when they seek to minister to their congregations?

    So what is the impact of one like me being in apostasy? Do you believe my standing before God is different than how I perceive it?

    As I associate with more and more dissenters, I find that they have had these spiritual experiences. I know more than ten people who have been ministered to by angels. I know nearly ten people who have been ministered to by Christ. I do not know ANYONE who has seen and angel or Christ that you wouldn’t call a dissenter. What use do I have for your definition of apostasy when Christ associates personally with these people?

    They could be lying or deceived, but these people are doing missions in African and serving people in ways I dont see others serving, in ways I am not capable of serving. They do not seek things of this world and are not wealthy. I dont understand what motivations they would have to lie. Their family and friends reject them. They gain nothing i can see from their viewpoint, other than belief that the Lord is please with them.

    My brother read “The Second Comforter” a year after I did, and then all of Denver’s books. He was skeptical at first. It took me a year to get him to read it. 6 months ago he was ministered to by an angel. (He’s far more valiant than I.) I dont think he’s deceived. I dont think he’s lied. He’s an active, temple-recommend holding member who watches conferences not believing most of them have seen Christ.

    Personally, I actually believe one of the 12 has seen Christ, but I could be wrong.

    I’ve asked a lot of questions, but the only ones I really am interested in being answered is, “In your view, is a person like me (or my brother) in apostasy? And what do you mean by that? And what is the consequence?” I have a thick skin. Please dont avoid the question by saying you dont want to judge me. Judge the idea of me. What would you have to say about a dissenter like me?

    What consequence is it to be a “dissenter in apostasy” when they are anxiously engaged in seeking a relationship with God?

    • Brett, why do you feel that you and Denver Snuffer would be entitled to see the the face of God but not President Monson?

      • LukeAir, I identify with Brett’s line of questioning and believe it is a question worthy of response. I believe Brett’s answer to your question would be, “I believe President Monsen IS entitled to see Christ, as are we all”.

  20. Brian, thanks for your article. I appreciated the depth of research that led to your article, and I especially enjoyed studying the many scripture references you provided.

  21. Great article, I totally disagree with you, but I really enjoy your work. I think the dissenters have some valid points, although I do agree with you that most are utterly ridiculous.
    I have a question, why do modern day church leaders say that they have had experiences too sacred to share? Joseph Smith didn’t seem to have any problems sharing his spiritual experiences that included all sorts of visitations.

    • This is a good question. Paul, (1 Cor. 9:7), Peter (1 Pet. 2:2), and Joseph Smith (D&C 19:22) discuss the need to keep meat from those who need gospel meat. However, the secret things are usually secret because they are sacred. Here’s a few scriptures and teachings of JS & BY:

      9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. (Alma 12:9.)

      64 Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation. (D&C 63:64.)

      Joseph Smith:
      The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them; we do not keep our own secrets, but reveal our difficulties to the world, even to our enemies, then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep a secret till Doomsday. (December 19, 1841.) HC 4:478 479.

      JD 4:371 372 Brigham Young June 28, 1857 SLC
      There is one principle that I wish the people would understand and lay to heart. Just as fast as you will prove before your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to call them so, of the kingdom of heaven ── that you are full of confidence in God ── that you will never betray a thing that God tells you that you will never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, as quick as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity of them to bestow upon you. Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves, to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak, what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord. And just as fast as you prove to Him that you will preserve everything secret that ought to be ── that you will deal out to your neighbors all which you ought, and no more, and learn how to dispense your knowledge to your families, friends, neighbors, and brethren, the Lord will bestow upon you, and give to you, and bestow upon you, until finally he will say to you, “You shall never fall; your salvation is sealed unto you; you are sealed up unto eternal life and salvation, through your integrity.”

      JD 4:288 Brigham Young March 25, 1857 SLC
      Now I want to tell you that which, perhaps, many of you do not know. Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons.

  22. Brian. Again let me say that your article was excellent. And, you receive comments graciously. I just reviewed your article for the 17 times that you mention the name of the church, and as far as I can see you spelled it correctly in all instances. So, I am not sure what the prior comment by Bob references.

      • You’re not an offender for a word; you’re an offender for a letter. More specifically, for a letter-case. Personally, I didn’t think it really detracted from your argument, but if your trying to find the mote, there’s one inconsistency in your article: The church’s name is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” as opposed to “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” You often get it correct, but there were a few times that I saw where you could replace a lowercase “t” with an uppercase “T.”

        * Second sentence, first paragraph.
        * The end of page 80.
        * The end of page 100.
        * The beginning of page 105.
        * The end of page 112.
        * The beginning of page 114.
        * The final sentence.

        That’s the only thing I could find that might be “the name that is in error.” I hope it helps.

        • Wow great pick up! I am aware of the LDS Church’s Style Guide recommendations. I guess that means the rest of the article is correctly edited? That would be great. Glad to know there aren’t content issues that are problematic. Thanks! Brian

        • And when minor typos are the great offense, we’re all offenders. I of course meant “if *you’re* trying to find…” not “if your trying to find…” (I have no delusions that you are the possessor of “trying to find”). On the bright side, you can still remove any typos from your article; there doesn’t appear to be a way to edit out typos from comments.

  23. Another typo – I have no idea what word I intended when I wrote that reading your post “enlightened and deified” me, but I guess knowing the truth can indeed bring one to a state of being prepared to be like God so “deified” fits as well as whatever word it was I intended when autocorrect took over. 🙂 Cheers.

  24. Hi Brother Hales. I have no words of wisdom to add and no points of contention to bring up for discussion . I want nothing more than to say thank you for your many hours of obvious devoted research to a pertinent subject to the saints today. I have been enlightened and deified by the research and words you have shared. Thank you and God bless you for your diligent efforts.

  25. Thank you very much for the essay. I found it enlightening, informative and will prove useful when answering sincere doctrinal questions and counseling concerned members. Your use of references are contextually correct when applied to the principle at hand and I appreciate it.

  26. Brian, I enjoyed your article. At one point you state, “To ancient Israel, his hands remained “stretched out still” (2 Ne. 19:12, 17), despite their unrighteousness.” I believe that this probably should be phrased “because of their unrighteousness.” There seems to be a prevailing idea with members of the church that the Lord’s stretched out hand is a good thing. This idea is even reinforced by comments in some church-produced manuals (see Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual). However, a careful analysis of the phrases “stretched out” or “stretched forth” hand in the Bible and Book of Mormon (when speaking about God) clearly shows that this is a warning of imminent destruction. On the other hand (no pun intended), when God stretches out his arm to us, that is a good thing and is generally indicative of his mercy and salvation. David Calabro wrote a very informative article that discusses this usage for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Here is the link:

    • Why cannot God’s hand be stretched out in wrath and mercy simultaneously? The same Hand may be perceived differently according to a person’s willingness to repent.

      • Clinton, it is not so much that God cannot “stretch out” his hand in mercy, but the scriptures consistently use this term to indicate pending destruction. For example, “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting” (Jeremiah 15:6). It is difficult to perceive any mercy in the use of the stretched out hand in this passage.

        However, having said that, the purpose of the stretched out hand is to convince God’s people to repent of their evil ways. In Jeremiah 18:8, the Lord tells us that he is willing to remove the threat of destruction, but only if we repent. “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.”

        God wants to be merciful, of course, but the outstretched hand is definitely not a symbol of that mercy. His mercy is depicted by the extending of the arm. “Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Ne 9:14).

        • These comments have been very enlightening (and the links). I had always pictured Jehovah of Isaiah as having arms outreached like a parent to a errant child. Sounds like I should have used Jacob 6:4 instead: “And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” Thanks for the information!

  27. Just a minor quibble with Brian’s essay. The phrase or term “free agency” is in effect a tautology. “Agency” is sufficient. *No* LDS scripture uses the term “free agency”, and if you doubt me, Google it using LDS scriptures.

    Whether this can be considered a “hit” for Joseph, well I guess that’s a “subjective opinion”. Even Bruce McConkie used this incorrect term, even though Joseph never did.

    • Interesting critique; I’m not quite sure how to respond. I am aware the scriptures do not use the term “free agency,” instead “moral agency” (D&C 101:78). However,references to “free agency” can be found in discourses of a number of prominent Church authorities like Brigham Young, (JD 15:143, 18:234, 20:173, etc.), John Taylor (JD 19:159, 22:302, 23:63, etc.), and Joseph F. Smith (CR April 1904, 74; April 1907, 4; Oct. 1914, 8, etc.). I think its meaning is fairly unambiguous. Anyway, thanks for the observation.

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