Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grounds for Excommunication

"True to the Faith," a book of short topical entries published by the church has the following definition for apostasy: "When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy" (source). Though the scriptures do not define the term, most would agree that the subject from which apostates turn is God himself, and that this is done by denying his teachings.

Here are two examples from the Book of Mormon about apostates who are excommunicated:

Q: What was Sherem's crime?
A: He declared that "there should be no Christ" (Jacob 7:2). He flattered the people by telling them their sins were no sin. He attempted to overthrow "the doctrine of Christ." This presumably refers to the doctrine Nephi had preached: faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost, and seeking the face of Christ until you obtain it (see 2 Nephi 32).

Q: How did Jacob know what Sherem taught was false doctrine?
A: Jacob had "many revelations" and he had seen much "concerning these things." He had "seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word [not feelings], from time to time;" (Jacob 7:5)

Q: What authority did Sherem claim?
A: He said that Jacob and others were not keeping "the law of Moses" and that they had committed blasphemy by, as Nephi taught, following the personal law given them by the Holy Ghost.

Q: Who was Korihor?
A: "But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla, and he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ." (Alma 30:6)

Q: What were the grounds for his "excommunication"?
A: He preached that there was no Christ, no atonement, that you could do as you please independent of God's law, and he preached contrary to what the scriptures said. He spoke against visions and revelation.

Q: What happened?
A: Korihor asked Alma for a sign, and he was struck dumb and was killed shortly thereafter.

In both cases, the crime of these individuals was to preach that there would be no Christ. They preached against "the doctrine of Christ," which Nephi taught was faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost, and seeking the face of Christ until you obtain it (see 2 Nephi 32).

Note that Sherem said he believed the scriptures. Jacob told him "Then ye do not understand them." Here we have Sherem, who had no interaction with heaven yet was sure in his interpretation of the scripture, and Jacob, whose interpretation differed from Sherem's and was vindicated by the interaction with heaven that Jacob experienced. (How asinine of Sherem to claim that Jacob was wrong, when Jacob was receiving the promised blessings of the scripture in response to how he read it, and Sherem had received nothing. This is like two gardeners arguing over gardening methods. One has a withered, dead plant, the other has a fruitful field. The former has nothing to stand on. God always vindicates true messengers with signs that follow them who believe.

There is another type for excommunication in the scriptures. This is the false type of excommunication, otherwise known as the stoning of the prophets. Many righteous men were subjected to this treatment, so many that Joseph Smith said:

“The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth’ [see Hebrews 11:38], and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” (History of the Church 4:574)

While the public-facing definition of apostasy given in"True to the Faith" is a match to what we find in the scriptures for excommunication, the definition given in in Handbook 1, the portion of the handbook available to only Bishops or higher leaders, defines apostasy differently:

"As used here, apostasy refers to members who:
1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
4. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings." (CHI, Book 1, 2010)

Here, agreement with God is supplanted by agreement with the church. However, it is more pernicious in practice. It has been said that official church doctrine is what is written in the standard works. However many LDS practices are contrary to what is written in scripture, and if you practice the scripture rather than the LDS policy, you will be ex'd. It has been said that individuals, even members of the 12, cannot unilaterally dictate doctrine. However, if you disagree with any of the brethren, you will be ex'd.

Now, consider the following examples of the excommunication of righteous individuals, and what side of the issue the church would have taken:

Q: What was the crime of Jesus?
A: He spoke the truth. This infuriated people. "Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23) "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." (John 18:37) His purported offenses were found to be groundless in the eyes of Pilate, the civil ruler. His charges and punishment were the result of the religious leadership, who were offended at his citation of scripture, which he used specifically to identify their deviation from God's word.

Q: Did the religious leaders try him according to the law, which he was on trial for breaking?
A: No. According to the law, they needed two corroborating witnesses of the charge. However, they had none. Unable to find them, the high priest, infuriated with Jesus' comments, said, "what further need have we of witnesses?" (Matthew 26:65) The rulers decided that, in trying Jesus for breaking the law, they themselves could break the law, thus committing high hypocrisy (ironically, one of the iniquities Jesus accused them of). Unjust trials always consist of plenty of pious hypocrisy.

Q: What were the things Jesus said that infuriated the leadership so?
A: He called their sacrosanct traditions sin. Examples include their manner of temple worship, which he called robbery, their manner of donating property to the priests, which he called an abomination, he called their Sabbath worship misguided, he put to shame their idea of worthiness. In short, he told them "Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." (Mark 7:9). He told them they considered the commandments of men from their leaders to be greater than revealed commandments, and were thus wicked.

Those who crucified God were the children of the devil, yet they truly believed they were doing God service. What was the root of their error? They trusted in men (the traditions handed to them from their fathers) rather than in God (personal revelation).  "19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John 3:19-21)

The church leaders of Christ's day were the Sanhedrin. They cast him out for blasphemy and had him crucified---the highest ecclesiastical punishment they could render.

Q: What was Abinadi's crime?
A: 1) He followed the Spirit, even when it contradicted King Noah's commands. He spoke the words the Lord commanded him to speak. "Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me..." (Mosiah 11:20)
2) He quoted scripture which indicated that the people and the leadership had deviated from the word of God.

Q: Why did the leaders put Abinadi on trial? Was it for the welfare of the people, as in the case of Korihor and Sherem?
A: No. Although Noah claimed that Abinadi was trying to "stir up [his] people to anger one with another" (Mosiah 11:28), the real reason was that he was personally offended by his words, and scared that Abinadi's accusations would weaken his authoritarian grip on the people. It was because the leaders sought to cover their sins, gratify their pride and their vain ambition, and exercise control and dominion upon the children of men (see D&C 121:37). He pointed out their wickedness, and the wicked take the truth to be hard. Now, in the defense of Noah and his priests: They were dully appointed. They had authority. Someone with authority laid hands on their heads. Noah knew his father. His whole youth he grew up watching his father be the theocratic king. That was his window of experience. He did not grow up among the Nephites, but among this branch that never knew the Nephites. His lens on religion was fully informed by his father's actions, not his father's experiences. His father had been among the Nephites, but was a deviation from them. Noah and his priests thought they were right. They thought that building towers were important, so they thought the taxes they levied were important. They thought they were chosen and special, and therefore deserved the buildings bought by the people on their behalf. Being the duly appointed spiritual leaders of their people, they overlaid their own lack of spiritual experience into their interpretation of the scripture. "It can't possibly mean what it says, because we are the spiritual leaders and we do not experience these things. Therefore, it means this instead, which fits our experience."

Q: Were the charges against Abinadi justified? Is quoting scripture---even when it implicates leadership---apostasy? Does truth cease to be truth when it implicates leadership?
A: Abinadi did not commit apostasy. Since the leaders had deviated from God's word, it was them who were in apostasy. The leaders' ignorance of their own condemnation did not change the truth of the situation.

Q: What method did Abinadi use?
A: He quoted the very scripture that the priests and King Noah claimed to believe.

Q: Did Abinadi have a different interpretation of the scripture?
A: Clearly. In fact, he exposed the fact that despite their full-time priestcraft, the priests had no idea what the scriptures meant. "Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean?" (Mosiah 12:25)

Q: Was Abinadi given a way to avoid punishment?
A: He was. The workaround tells us much about the real reason Noah wanted to punish him. It had nothing to do with the people's welfare at all. "unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people." (Mosiah 17:8). Gratify my pride or suffer the full extent of my authority! Abinadi's response is the response of the righteous in every instance: "Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true..." (Mosiah 17:9) Abinadi simply says, "what I have said is true, and I will not recant." For Noah, and for all children of the devil, the question is whether or not his words are offensive. For Abinadi, and all servants of God, the question is whether or not what they say is true.

Some takeaways:

1) Noah, his priests, and his people had no idea they were in apostasy. "I And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?" (Mosiah 12:13). It took a full generation after Noah for the people to realize that they (the older ones) and their fathers (for the youth) had practiced iniquity. "And also that king Noah and his priests had caused the people to commit so many sins and iniquities against God;" (Mosiah 21:30)

2) Noah and his priests thought they were doing God service by casting out (and killing) the messenger he sent to help them realize their error. Remember that the Lord, through Abinadi, explicitly made mention of the "iniquities and abominations" of the leadership (Mosiah 12:7). Yet, they and the people probably saw the fancy buildings and tower and temple as signs they were blessed from God. They probably saw these "iniquities and abominations" as progress. This is the danger of trusting in the arm of the flesh instead of God's word.

We could also add Stephen, Paul, Jeremiah, Zacharias, Isaiah, and many others who were cast out by the religious powers of their day.

The LDS church not only targets modern day Abinadi's, but has an apostle-led committee called the Strengthening the Members committee comprised of full-time employees who spend their days combing the internet, books, and newspapers for those who dare to challenge the brethren or "church doctrine." They submit files on targets to the individual's stake presidents. Their victims have included:

  • D. Michael Quinn, emminent mormon historian, for writing "Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power," a footnote-filled book that, at its time and still arguably today is the best resource for mormon history.
  • Denver Snuffer, a blogger who writes about the reality of a living Christ and how to get to know him, for writing a book quoting church leaders suggesting an alternate view of the Nauvoo settlement and related claims of the church.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hastening the Work

The Scriptures:

Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope; That say: Let him make speed, hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it. (2 Nephi 15:18-19)

Joseph Smith:

"On the subject of ordination, a few words are necessary. In many instances there has been too much haste in this thing, and the admonition of Paul has been too slightingly passed over, which says, 'Lay hands suddenly upon no man.' Some have been ordained to the ministry, and have never acted in that capacity, or magnified their calling at all. Such may expect to lose their appointment, except they awake and magnify their office. Let the Elders abroad be exceedingly careful upon this subject, and when they ordain a man to the holy ministry, let him be a faithful man, who is able to teach others also; that the cause of Christ suffer not. It is not the multitude of preachers that is to bring about the glorious millennium! but it is those who are 'called, chosen, and faithful.' .... Be careful about sending boys to preach the Gospel to the world..." (Joseph Smith, TPJS p42-43)

Modern Mormonism:

"My message this afternoon is that the Lord is hastening His work." (Elder M. Russell Ballard, "Put Your Trust in the Lord," General Conference Oct 2013)

"In a move to expand the opportunities for young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve full-time missions, Church President Thomas S. Monson announced today that, effective immediately, men may now begin serving at age 18 and women at age 19." (LDS Newsroom, link)

“God is hastening His work. And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world.”  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, link)


Friday, August 8, 2014


1: How is tithing calculated

The Lord: 

36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.
 37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;
 38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.
 39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need. (JST Gen 14)

Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. (Deuteronomy 14:22)

At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: (Deuteronomy 14:28)

 1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,
 2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.
 3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.
 4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.
 5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.
 6 And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you.
 7 And this shall be an ensample unto all the stakes of Zion. Even so. Amen. (D&C 119)

"And again, let the bishop appoint a storehouse unto this church; and let all things both in money and in meat, which are more than is needful for the wants of this people, be kept in the hands of the bishop."
(D&C 51:13)

"Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins." (Mormon 8:32)

Joseph Smith wrote, "The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for to give the Bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the Bishop's judgment, is giving the Bishop more power than a king has; and, upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the Bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the Bishop. The fact is, there must be a balance or equilibrium of power, between the Bishop and the people; and thus harmony and good-will may be preserved among you." (TPJS p23)

"The celestial law requires one-tenth part of all a man's substance which he possesses at the time he comes into the church (See D&C 119:1), and one-tenth part of his annual increase ever after(See D&C 119:4). If it requires all man can earn to support himself and his family, he is not tithed at all. The celestial law does not take the mother's and children's bread, neither ought else which they really need for their comfort. The poor that have not of this world's good to spare, but serve and honor God according to the best of their abilities in every other way, shall have a celestial crown in the Eternal Kingdom of our Father." (The Millenial Star, 1847. Orson Hyde, editor)

"If a man gives for the benefit of the Church, it is considered a voluntary offering. Yet the law requires or enjoins a consecration of the overplus, after reserving for himself and family to carry on his business." (John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Latter Day Saints, p 45)

Definition of surplus - an amount of something left over when requirements have been met; an excess of production or supply over demand.

Webster 1828 definition of increase -  Increment; profit; interest; that which is added to the original stock.

Bottom line: The Lord's law of tithing is 10% of what you have left over after you subtract what you need.

The Modern Church:

"Pay it first, even when you think you do not have enough money to meet your other needs." (https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/tithes-and-offerings?lang=eng)

“If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.” (Aaron West, Ensign 2012)

2: What is tithing to be spent on

The Lord:

"When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:" (Deuteronomy 26:12-13)

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,
 2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.
 3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. (D&C 119)

"They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up." (2 Nephi 28:13)

The Modern Church:

"These sacred funds are used in a rapidly growing church to spiritually bless individuals and families by constructing and maintaining temples and houses of worship, supporting missionary work, translating and publishing scriptures, fostering family history research, funding schools and religious education, and accomplishing many other Church purposes as directed by the Lord’s ordained servants." (David Bednar, "Windows of Heaven," Oct 2013 Gen. Conf.)

 228,000 acres (923 km²) in Nebraska
51,600 acres in Oklahoma
Over 312,000 acres in Florida (0.7% of the state)

Further reading:

All is Well in Zion

The Lord:
"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell." (2 Nephi 28:21)

 26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
 27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
 28 Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.
 29 O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light? (Helaman 13)

The Modern Church:

"As I speak to you today, most members of the Church, regardless of where you live, can hear me. It is a miracle. Who in the earlier days could have dreamed of this season of opportunity in which we live?

We now have strong congregations in every state of the United States and in every province of Canada. We have such in every state of Mexico, in every nation of Central America, and throughout the nations of South America. We have strong congregations in Australia and New Zealand and the isles of the Pacific. We are well established in the nations of the Orient. We are in every nation of Western Europe and in much of Eastern Europe, and we are firmly established in Africa.

We are being recognized for the tremendous virtues of our programs and the vast good which they do." (Gordon B. Hinckley, "The State of the Church," 2003 Oct Conference).

Priesthood Purpose

The Lord:
 34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
 36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
 37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
 38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
 39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; (D&C 121)

Joseph Smith:
John Taylor, the third President of the Church, reported: “Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’" (John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339)

The Modern Church (From Handbook 2):
2.1.1 Priesthood Keys Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth. The exercise of priesthood authority is governed by those who hold its keys (see D&C 65:2; 81:2; 124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction.