One of the unique things about Mormonism that distinguishes us from protestants is the concept of needing priesthood authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel.
A huge emphasis is put on the importance of priesthood authority and how the saving ordinances of the gospel must be performed by one who has been properly ordained by the living God. Furthermore, LDS teachings often emphasis that once God ordains someone to the priesthood, all other priesthood ordinations must come through that person or someone that person has ordained. In other words once the priesthood is restored in a dispensation through a mortal man or men, all other ordinations must be able to trace their ordinations back to the originating man or men that were originally ordained.
I believe there is a priesthood authority that is required to administer the ordinances of the Gospel and I believe the scriptures make this abundantly clear.
There are, however, some teachings that I consider to be heresies about priesthood exclusivity that have entered into the Church.
Only One Person on the Earth at a Time?
One of them, in my opinion, originates from passages in section 132 verses 5-7
“And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God. And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”
The above mentioned passages would have us believe that there is only one person on the earth at a time that has the priesthood keys through which others may be ordained to be able to administer the saving ordinances… in fact those passages can even be interpreted to be saying that only one particular designated person can actually seal another person up to eternal life, etc.
I have already briefly addressed this issue before, including the false definition of “New and Everlasting Covenant” that is introduced in section 132, however today I want to go into more detail about the false notion of priesthood is always controlled by an exclusive franchise by the first person or group to be ordained, or that there is always just one person holding these keys, etc. (see analysis of Section 132)
I have pointed out previously that God called and endorsed two separate ministries at the same time during the ministry of Joseph Smith.
God was working a work through the ministry of Sidney Rigdon, the Lords Spokesman in Kirtland which involved baptising people ( see D&C 35:4) while at the same time he was working a work through the ministry of Joseph Smith, the Lords Seer, in New York.
Sidney had been inspired of God to do a work independent of the calling and ministry that Joseph was currently involved in. It appears that particular work was able to be done via the lineal patriarchal priesthood that Sidney had inherited.
Again, Sidney and his ministry had been called independently of Joseph and his ministry stewardship.
I have also pointed out previously how God had Joseph and Hyrum jointly hold the keys for a brief time in Nauvoo..
These are difficult concepts for many of us Mormons to wrap our minds around because we have been so indoctrinated to think that God ALWAYS only works through one main person… and all others that are called of God must be called and ordained through that particular person… we have been led to believe that God will never call and ordain two separate people and associated ministries, independently, at the same time.
Of course anyone familiar with the Old Testament realizes that it was not uncommon for God to be working through multiple prophets at a time, independently.
I would suggest the apostle Paul provides us with another great example of how God sometimes works independently in calling prophets and apostles.
The apostle Paul was never a member of the “quorum” of the 12 apostles the Peter, James and John were members of.
Paul was never ordained to be an apostle by Peter James and John.
In fact, he was never ordained by a human being. He was ordained directly by God, even though the Church of Christ had been established and was on the earth at the time, and priesthood keys were held by Peter, James and John.
Here are Paul’s own words as contained in his epistle to the Galations,
“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead)”
Paul never even met Peter and James until after his conversion on the road to Damascus and his subsequent first mission to the gentiles.
It was not until after the apostle Paul went on a three year mission to the Gentiles that the Lord commanded him to travel to Jerusalem and finally meet Peter and James for the first time!
It was not Peter that received the revelation for the meeting to take place, it was Paul.
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he didn’t humbly submit himself to Peter and ask for his marching orders. He considered himself equal with the other apostles.. on one occasion he chastised Peter in front of others for hypocrisy,
“I said unto Peter before them all, if thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest the the Gentiles to live as the Jews?”
Peter, James and John and their brethren of the twelve apostles were currently ministering to the Jews (circumcised) at the time that Paul had been called by God to minister to the Gentiles (uncircumcised).
If the First Elders were Apostles, Why Were the Twelve Called?
Understanding that Paul’s calling to the apostleship differed both in the focus of his ministry and in the procedure in which he was called and ordained to be an apostle, gives greater significances to what the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer,
“And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.
I would submit that the three witnesses and the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon were called primarily to labor initially to the Gentiles during the second watch. It is interesting to see how many of them fell away from the church after the Kirtland apostasy and the sending of the preparatory gospel to the nations of the earth.
Oliver and David were commanded to call and ordain twelve OTHER apostles who would not go forth on a foreign mission to the scattered Jews and remnants of Israel until AFTER the gentiles in America had rejected the fulness of the gospel.
Are we seeing a type here?
This is a typological clue to understanding the difference between the apostleship calling and ministry that David and Oliver and others of the first elders had, compared to the apostleship that Marsh, Patten, Young, Kimball and other members of the “quorum” of the twelve had.
Interesting how the 1st watch “quorum” of the twelve were called to preach to the “Jews” first, then Paul was ordained, and eventually the twelve were also called to go to the scattered gentiles.
Conversely, the 2nd watch apostles to the Gentiles were first called to take the gospel to the gentiles, then the “quorum” of the twelve were also called to take the gospel to the Gentiles first and then to the Jews and other remnants of Israel scattered among foreign nations.
Notice what Joseph said in an1835 sermon where he expains the difference between the newly called “traveling” quorum of apostles and those already called such as David and Oliver,
“After which the following quotation was prepared by President Smith (viz.:) What importance is there attached to the calling of these Twelve Apostles different from the other callings or offices of the Church? After some discussion of Elders [David W.] Patten, [Brigham] Young, Wm. Smith & [Wm. E.] McLellin, President Smith gave the following discussion. They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of Traveling High Council, who are to preside over all the churches of the Saints among the Gentiles, where there is no presidency established, and they are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews. They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the kingdom of heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority and virtue of their apostleship.”
This new quorum of the twelve was to first preach among the gentiles UNTIL the Lord shall call them to go to the Jews!
Joseph was simply reiterating what the Lord has said several times in modern revelation,
“The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.”
I have previously postulated in other posts that when the Lord said the Lord needed to do something NEW for the salvation of the church that it was the sending of the twelve apostles to the foreign nations with the gospel of Abraham, as a result of the keys that were given in the Kirtland Temple. I have further postulated that this is the event mentioned in the allegory that keeps the things alive until the third watch. I have suggested that this event constituted sending the preparatory gospel to the Jews. The above statement from Joseph and associated scriptures actually verifies that the twelve were to be taking the gospel to the Jews after they had taken it to the Gentiles!
“the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
It is important to understand that both the 1st and the 2nd watch had two categories of apostles and that each category had a different calling to minister to a different branch of Israel initially.
This provides another testimony that the gentiles very quickly rejected the fulness of the gospel BEFORE the gospel was taken to the Jews and other remnants of scattered Israel… just as the 1st watch Jews very quickly rejected the gospel followed by the gospel going to the scattered gentiles.
It is incredibly important to understand just how completely and quickly the rejection of the gospel by the gentiles took place… I feel that if you don’t understand this, you will remain conflicted in your mind about the truth pertaining to many historical events and many doctrinal and priesthood related issues.
There was only One Falling Away.. and it was In Kirtland
Those who believe there was a falling away during the Kirtland years and also another one after the Saints arrived in Utah are quite conflicted in their minds because on the one hand they acknowledge that the gospel appears to have been preached and rejected by the gentiles during or before 1834 (with and extension and grace period of redeeming Zion by September 11 1836), yet they continue to assume that the keys of the priesthood had remained in the church and they continue to consider the teachings in the journal of discourses as a credible source of gospel study.
They assume that those who had rejected the fulness of the gospel and eventually went to Utah still spoke with authority and credibility… and that their polygamous lifestyles were an indication of their righteousness instead of a sign of their darkened minds and state of apostasy.
They seem to think that after the Saints rejected the fulness of the Gospel as contained in section 42, in Kirtland, somehow God mystically continued to shower the Saints with even greater knowledge, ordinances and spiritual endowments.
Two Types of LDS Fundamentalists
Please understand that there are two types of LDS fundamentalists.
The most common type of fundamentalists are those who assume that the main 2nd watch apostasy took place AFTER the death of Brigham Young. These folks believe that polygamy and the replacement of spiritual endowments with ritualistic masonic endowments are celestial principles that are congruent with the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second (and authentic) type of LDS fundamentalists are those who realize that the apostasy was completed by September 11th 1836. These folks realize that the fulness of the Gospel and all necessary ordinances thereof were on the earth by the time that the special conference at the Morley Farm was completed in 1831.. all other strange doctrines and practices that entered into the church after the Kirtland apostasy are highly suspect, particularly when they are not congruent with the holy word of God.
If you believe the falling away took place in Kirtland yet you continue to believe that the keys of the kingdom went with the Saints to Utah and that polygamy is a celestial principle, then you will be conflicted in your mind until you finally come to the truth.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you
than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
Let me just point out in case I have failed to do so in previous posts, that the new doctrines, definitions, practices, rituals and ordinances that crept into the church AFTER September 11 1836 came as a direct result of the rejecting of the fulness of the gospel.
THEY WERE INTRODUCED INTO THE CHURCH BECAUSE THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL HAD BEEN REJECTED!
These new doctrines, practices, rituals and ordinances that were prevalent among the Saints by the time they fled Kirtland, and shortly after, in Nauvoo, are what the Lord was referring to in section 124,
“And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
Clearly, the church was in apostasy before the arrived in Nauvoo, as had been declared in section 112. The strange follies and abominations that entered into the church after they fled Kirtland were the fulfillment of Gods warning back in 1829 that if the Saints hardened their hearts, he would turn them over to Satan.
There is a reason why many beliefs and practices that were not allowed to creep into the church in Kirtland later became embraced after the Saints left Kirtland. Here are a few of the beliefs and practices that crept in,
- During the first six years that the fulness of the Gospel was being offered to the Gentiles, the church did not participate in the creation of banks and currency because a consecrated society does not need paper money and the inherent class distinction that accompanies it. The Saints had been commanded to be equal and that one man should not excel above another.
- During the first six years that the fulness of the Gospel was being offered to the Gentiles, the church did not create or participate in secret combinations such as the Danites and masonry (with secret hand shakes, secret blood oaths and swearing by the throat) because a sanctified people do not participate in the key components of the endowment that Satan and Cain introduced into this world.
- During the first six years that the fulness of the Gospel was being offered to the Gentiles, the church did not tolerate the practice plural marriage because the law of the Gospel as contained in section 42 (and reiterated as a second and third witness in section 49 and the article on Marriage) forbids it.
Those that insist on knowing the truth and our current state as a church must come to grips with when the falling away (from the fulness of the gospel) took place, how total and complete it was and how serious the consequences were that followed. Yes, it is true that the preparatory gospel of carnal commandments as administered in the Gospel of Abraham was sent to the Jews by the twelve after the Kirtland apostasy, but that is a lesser, gospel.
This is why the simple but eternally profound act of believing in Jesus Christ takes on even more significance during our current time of darkness.
If in fact the fulness of the gospel is not on the earth and we are waiting for God’s servants to return with priesthood authority to administer the ordinances, the most important single thing we can emphasize at this particular time is to BELIEVE IN CHRIST, followed by the desire to partake of his love and then show forth the love of God to our fellow men. We are informed by modern revelation that we can still be led by and filled with the Spirit of Christ which is always available to mankind even during times when the fulness of the gospel is not on the earth.
Seventeen Points to the True Church
Years ago while serving a mission in the Bible Belt I was armed by the church with an audio tape called “the 17 Points of the True Church”.
It was a recording of a fireside talk by Floyd Weston, a convert to the church.
According to his presentation,
“Near the outset of World War II, five college friends determined to search for the Lord’s true church. One of the group compiled a list of seventeen characteristics and key doctrines of the church Christ established. He suggested that Christ’s church today should include them all and that they should try to find such a church. The five friends began talking to priests and ministers, comparing the structure and doctrines of various churches with the list. None matched more than half of the requirements.
The five friends parted, and it was years before they met again. Individually, they had found and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, finding it to be the only church on the earth that encompassed all seventeen evidences.” (This inspiring story, told with power and conviction, was calculated to add strength and resiliency to the testimony of the missionaries that were using it as a teaching tool.A list of the seventeen evidences is included with the and also below.)”
17 Points of the True Church of Christ
- Christ organized the Church (Eph 4:11-14)
- The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ (Eph 5:23)
- The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets (Eph 2:19-20)
- The true church must have the same organization as Christ’s Church (Eph 4:11-14)
- The true church must claim divine authority (Heb 5:4-10)
- The true church must have no paid ministry (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
- The true church must baptize by immersion (Matt 3:13-16)
- The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17)
- The true church must practice divine healing (Mark 3:14-15)
- The true church must teach that God and Jesus are separate and distinct individuals (John 17:11; 20:17)
- The true church must teach that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone (Luke 23:36-39; Acts 1:9-11; Heb 1:1-3)
- The officers must be called by God (Heb 4:4; Ex 28:1; 40:13-16)
- The true church must claim revelation from God (Amos 3:7)
- The true church must be a missionary church (Matt 28:19-20)
- The true church must be a restored church (Acts 3:19-20)
- The true church must practice baptism for the dead (1 Cor 15:16&29)
- “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt 7:20)
Unfortunately, years later someone began researching people and events mentioned in the story on the tape… it appears that his story had been fabricated.
Apparently brother Weston suffered from the “Paul Dunn” syndrome of feeling that it is ok to tell a fictional story as if it is true as long as the intentions are good and the end result of gaining converts is a good cause.
The truth of the matter is that the presentation in the tape was a very compelling one to many people and it did in fact have a powerful influence on certain types of people.
It is unfortunate that the story line was fabricated because it has no doubt caused some people to question the doctrinal claims presented.
But frankly, even the doctrinal claims need to be critically analyzed.
Although I think there is some value in evaluating what a persons doctrinal research claims are, regarding the outline contained in the scriptures for identifying what God’s true church looks like and believes, it is still very subjective and it focuses on belief and practices of the true church rather than on the actual POWER and FRUITS that the church should have.
The fact that the story line was a fabrication is not the main point I want to make, the main point I want to make is that the mentality of Mormons and those who convert to Mormonism is often a very intellectual, philosophical, logical mentality… rather than one of actually requiring the true church they are seeking to have the exact same power and fruits that are so vividly depicted in the Bible and Book of Mormon.
After reviewing the seventeen scriptural points contained in the presentation, (35 years after my mission) it occurs to me that most of the points are referring to doctrines and practices and organizational structure. Things that any group could imitate.
What is wrong with simply requiring the exact same power and fruits that the original church had?
As a case in point, I think of Peter being asked for a temporal handout by a crippled person. His response was as follows,
“Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
How is that for identifying a sign of the true church? What was it that Peter had as a true member of the true Church?
“And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God..”
How is that for a vivid example of the power and fruits that are supposed to be found in the true church?
How is it that modern apostles get a way with giving “blessings of comfort and inspiration” to someone who is dying from disease or physical affliction instead of simply healing them?
Is it really that important that a person have a feeling of peace as they are dying? Is that the power and fruit of the gospel documented in the holy and infallible word of God?
Why don’t modern apostles boldly heal the crippled and raise the dead?
It occurs to me that along with noticing the scriptural profile of how the church should be organized and what their ordinances should be and what they should believe, the most important things we should be looking for are the fruits and powers that are ALWAYS associated with the true and living church.
Seven Points of the True Church
Interestingly, Christ actually gave such a list of how we can recognize the true church.
His list was a little shorter than brother Westons.
It contained 7 points instead of 17.
It focused on fruits and power.
He gives this list three times in the scriptures.
First He gave it to the New Testament Saints so that they could easily identify who the true believers of Christ’s church were. (Mark 16)
Secondly, He gave it to the Nephites so that they could identify who the true believers in Christ really were. (3rd Nephi)
Finally, He gave it to the Saints in modern revelation so that we who are waiting for the messengers to return in the 3rd watch will know how to identify the true believers in Christ. (Section 84)
In all three passages referenced above in the Bible, Book of Mormon and D&C he begins by commanding his servants to take and preach the gospel into all the world. (probably a veiled reference to the fact that all three groups of apostles will be returning in the 3rd watch to literally fulfill the commandment to take the gospel into ALL THE WORLD)
Here are the points contained in his list that identifies how to identify the true followers of Christ that constitute the true and living church,
- They believe
- They are baptized
- They cast out devils
- They speak with new tongues
- They take up serpents with out getting hurt
- They drink any deadly thing without getting hurt
- They lay hands on the sick and they recover
In giving us the points by which we might identify the true and living church, Christ was focusing not just on the primary belief in Christ and the primary ordinance of the gospel, but also on the associated POWER and FRUITS that always accompany the fulness of the Gospel.
Notice that 5 of the 7 points had to do with POWER over devils, poison and, sickness.
(please note that the command to swear by ones neck in an endowment ritual and the need to take lots of wives are missing from the above list.. was that an oversight?)
In matt 7 and the Book of Mormon the Lord reminds us that even those who show forth powerful signs may be wolves in sheeps clothing.
Shortly after warning about the false prophets that would arise in the last days the following warning and clarification is given-
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Belief in Christ
Having reviewed the fact that we live during dark times and don’t have the fulness of priesthood, ordinances and gospel, AND that God can work independently of any of his church organizations any time he wants to, regardless of whether they are in apostasy or not, I want to encourage you to view a ten part video series of a mans testimony that claims to have had a miraculous conversion.
He had been an atheist his entire life with virtually no exposure to the scriptures. he had been living an extremely ungodly lifestyle when an event changed his life forever.
Unlike many “life after death” or “near death” testimonies, this man documents everything he learned and experienced from the scriptures.
At first it may be disconcerting to you that God did not tell him to run to the Mormon Church to get baptized.. and for that matter it may be disconcerting that he was not told about the upcoming marvelous work and many other mysteries, however I challenge you to watch with an open mind.. then discern if you think his experience was authentic… or whether he was deceived, or whether he is a deceiver, then, if you feel it was authentic, ponder just how important belief in Jesus Christ really is. That has always been the central theme of the gospel from which all else springs forth.
It is the essence of the gospel of salvation. Everything else grows out of it.
If this person really did experience what he claims he did, and if he really has met the Savior, the only important thing for him right now is accepting the grace and love of Jesus Christ and then sharing that love and testimony with others… and he will accept the servants and the fulness of the gospel in the due time of the Lord when the kingdom begins to roll forth for the last time…
You need to listen to all ten parts of his testimony to get the full impact of what he experienced in his attempt to avoid death, along with and the forgiveness of others and the ineffable love of God that he finally experienced during his journey of being spiritually born again..
I am not saying his experience was or was not authentic.. I am throwing his story out for people to consider..
For now, the elect of God who are on earth during this time of hidden darkness need to get back to the basics of belief in God and his holy word.
Once the 3rd watch begins, and the servants of the Lord return to the vineyard, additional records will come forth to try the faith of those professing to be disciples of Christ.
The true doctrines of Biblical Christianity that were taught at the beginning of the LDS restoration and then rejected, will be taught again.
And the seven signs that accompany those who accept the fulness of the gospel, as mentioned in all three cannons of scripture, will once again return to the true church.
Another great article Watcher.
After viewing the videos I was impressed by how he referenced each part of his experience with scriptural references. Of course he used only the Bible but it shows even if the Bible is missing some key parts the basic principles of the Gospel are still there in its simplicity if you look for it.
The other thing that impressed me was the idea of death bed repentance. I never could understand how God could forgive someone with a whole life of wrongdoing if they came to him right before they died. The thought came to me that it’s not my place to choose who God forgives. All I know is I’m required to forgive all men.
I have to agree with you on the point of the signs of the true church. Even Jesus said in third nephi there should be no disputations among you concerning doctrine. The Fruits and Power are the way we know not by the Specific doctrine. Doctrine can be changed with the ideas of man as can be seen throughout all of religion including the LDS church.
Thank you for sharing your observations. I had very similar thoughts as you as I listened to him.
As a point of interest, a friend of my just sent me an email telling me that he went to Ian’s website and among other things, Ian says,
“…there are new Apostles coming with the heart of David… You’ve got to find them; you’ve got to help anoint them… you’ve got to pray for them; you’ve got to stand in the gap for them because they will actually help usher in something new in the Spirit… They are also going to really help cover the prophetic people.”
I thought those were very interesting statements for a born again Christian to be making.
It sounds as if he is anticipating messengers with apostolic authority to return to usher in something NEW.
Great article Watcher! The videos touched me and my teen age daughter who has been struggling with “the gospel”. I told her to watch this and see how many churches he names in order to be saved. The Lord knows our hearts and those who ask for forgiveness. A couple of other questions off this topic. Have you or any of the other readers took the time to read the Mentinah writings? http://mentinah.com/main/about-the-records/books-online/english_translations/ I respect your opinion and others and if this is something I should not waste my time pursuing then I would rather put my efforts somewhere else. Also have you read “The Revelation Revisions” by Jack Raveill? I can’t find a copy. Wondered if it was worth and the changes made to the DC in 1835. What do you think of changing Divining Rod to Aaron in regards to Oliver’s gift? Sounds pretty occultic.
I also had some of my kids watch the videos and they were very edified by it.
I have visited the mentinah site a few times over the years but it has been quite a while since I have reviewed some of the translations.
It is interesting how one’s perception of things changes over time depending on where one is on the gospel learning curve since everything we evaluate is viewed through the lens of the current context that we have.
There are several things mentioned on the website that I find disturbing. But they are not worth addressing right now.
I remember reading the following statement from the website years ago,
“Pres. Young informed them, however, that they would have to remain but for a little while longer. His words to them, “for we have not wherewith to translate these records,” are still repeated today by certain of their descendants.”
I guess that response from Brother Brigham must have come before the church started sustaining him as a prophet seer and revelator. LOL
I don’t think my gut reaction was a good one when I perused the translations years ago, but again, perhaps my paradigm has changed since then..
But I don’t think you should put any stock in what I think. As my good friend Tom always says,
“My advice and 50 cents will get you a coke if you are at the right soda dispenser”
Or as old Brother Cox used to say,
“I am a poor excuse for the Holy Ghost”.
Regarding the book by Jack Raveill, I am not familiar with that book. It looks mildly interesting depending on what your interest in it is.
If you are interested in the historical background pertaining to the changes that were made in the relations at the transition between the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants, I highly recommend the six volume work by Robert J. Woodford that I have referred to in some of my posts.
If you are simply interested in comparing the changes, there are a few sites on the internet that actually allow you to compare the textual changes side by side with color coded changes.
The following site is a good example,
I have been pretty intrigued with “Olivers Gift” and have toyed with the idea of doing a post on it.
One of the things that the sanitized history of the Church has really played down is the spiritual gifts that others enjoyed besides JS.
Oliver is one of these very spiritually gifted ones who was promised that he would be able to help translate future records that would come forth.
It is interesting to note that the two revelations that were mass copied and carried around by the first elders of the church for the first several years were sections 20 and 42.
Those two sections were considered to constitute the articles and commandments of the church.
Few people realized that section 20 was received by Oliver. The current D&C erroneously gives credit to JS for this revelation when in fact there is only one verse in it that he added after Oliver received the revelation.
Thanks for visiting
I’ve wandered around conflicted for a few days now after watching this series of videos, Watcher.
While I found myself wanting to believe what Mr. McCormack was describing, I was not touched in the same way that some of the other posters have been. I don’t refute that people have have such experiences, nor do I subscribe to the idea that there is only one “prophet” on the earth at a time (in fact, I think the idea is absurd and have never understood the ideology); however, although Mr. McCormack told a very compelling story that, at times, made me “feel good”, I did not have the spiritual tendencies I am accustomed to having when stumbling upon a hidden treasure. Ironically, I am leaning toward a Paul H. Dunn theory, which you rightly warned against in the article.
Why? At the risk of sounding trite, I see too many discrepancies between his interpretation of scripture and what JS cleared up for us. For instance, Mr. McCormack was not able to “see the face of God” because “no man can see the face of God and live.” I think we’re all versed enough in the JST and PoGP to realize there might be something awry here. I’ve tried to explain this away, but I haven’t been able to do it–in his state before God, Mr. McCormack had no physical body and would not have required any transfiguration, but even if he were “in the body”, then IMO a transfiguration would be necessary to stand in the presence of God as he was doing, therefore, he would have been able to behold the “face of God.”
I make the disclaimer that I may be completely wrong, and Mr. McCormack might have seen all that he claims, and maybe he is waiting for the true servants to return, but it seemed more likely to me that Mr. McCormack has become an excellent study of scripture and has tried to frame a vivid story to match his interpretation of scripture. This is naive of me, and extremely cynical, but does Mr. McCormack profit monetarily from his “testimony”?
Thank you for sharing your observations NEPT.
I think it is very important to be a critical thinker.
I think I am one of the most skeptical people there is.. which is probably not very surprising to anyone familiar with my contrary way of looking at the scriptures and the gospel.
I usually find myself rejecting these types of stories for numerous doctrinal reasons as well as just not feeling the right spirit as I listen to the various stories but for some reason this testimony affected me differently.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I know for certain that he had an authentic experience with Christ, I don’t know that to be the case at all.
That is why I referred to the experience in the context of “IF”,
“…If this person really did experience what he claims he did, and if he really has met the Savior..”
Nevertheless, I am optimistic about the possibility that it was very possibly authentic.
I find it interesting that you picked up on the doctrine of seeing the face of God,
“Mr. McCormack was not able to “see the face of God” because “no man can see the face of God and live.”
that also bothered me at first until I pondered it a little while..
It has actually strengthened the credibility of his testimony in my mind.
It appears to me, if he was telling the truth, that he had his experience BEFORE having read the Bible and becoming familiar with the scriptures.
Hence, after being converted, he went into the ministry and the scriptures to see if he could validate his experience.
I realize that it may have seemed like he might have fabricated an experience based on what he saw in the scriptures, but it is also possible that he simply learned from the scriptures after the fact and felt a responsibility to document scripturally that what happened is consistent with Gods word.
I personally believe that after a person has a profound visitation from Christ, while it may have a great spiritual impact on them, it does not make them perfect, nor does it make them an infallible theologian.
Paul is the perfect example. He saw God and was called to be an Apostle yet we have the Lord correcting some of his teachings in the D&C. Why? Because he was still fallible.
Ian doesn’t have the advantage we have of modern revelation.. he was simply assuming the KJV was accurate so it made sense to him why he could not see the face of Christ according to his fallible interpretation of the imperfect Bible that is still a stumbling block to all Gentiles to this very day.
One of the things I learned from the Morley Farm series is that patriarchal priesthood or apostolic priesthood ordination opens the door to seeing the face of the Son upon righteousness, while Melchizedek priesthood ordination opens the door to seeing the Face of the Father.
Since Ian had not been ordained to either priesthood, and was probably functioning in an un-ordained Levitical level, it actually makes sense to me that he may have been been able to hear the voice of Christ and see parts of his body while not being able to see his face.
Another possible discrepancy in Ians testimony is when he said God the Father was a spirit and the Son was created in his image and was made flesh.
I find it interesting that Ian made it clear that it was the Son that he saw, not the Father.
He want on to say, if I recall correctly, that the Father is a spirit and the Son was created in the image of the Father and was made flesh.
At first blush we commonly think of the above statements as being very protestant and incorrect.
We LDS are more enlightened in knowing the the Father has a physical body,
At the risk of furthering my reputation as a heretic, I have questioned for a long time whether the following statements in section 130 that Brigham had inserted into the D&C are accurate,
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”
While I am open to the possibility that the above statement may be true, I have found a few reasons over the years to question that doctrine.
The KJ Bible says,
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Granted, the JST waters it down a little, but it does not correct the statement to mean the opposite, that he has a physical body either,
“And the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Notice what the Lectures on Faith taught which prepared some of the elders to actually see the Father and the Son,
The Lectures declared that “there are two personages who constitute the great matchless, governing and supreme power over all things-by whom all things were created and made.”
They are “the Father being a personage of spirit,” and “the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was, formed after his likeness, and in his image.”
Does the above description of the Father and the Son sound more like modern LDS theology or Biblical theology?
To me, it seems to be clarifying that the Father is a spiritual being and the Son is in the exact image and likeness but has a physical dimension as a result of condescending and taking on a tabernacle of flesh.
Furthermore, after being taught in the school of the prophets that God is a spirit, while Christ was created in his image and made flesh, some of the participants actually saw the Father and the Son and their descriptions seem indicate a distinct difference in spiritual dimension and glory.
It has always had a profound impact on me reading the testimony of Brother Coltrin because he seems to be making a clear distinction between the glory and appearance of these two beings..
“At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, [Spring 1833] when we were all together … a personage walked through the room from east to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did and Joseph answered that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother.
Another person came through; he was surrounded as with a flame of fire. He (Brother Coltrin) experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw Him. And the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones.”
The above testimony seems to me to be congruent with lectures on Faith and the Bible… saying that the Father was distinctly different in glory.
The Father was seen as a spiritual “Flame of fire” while the Son’s appearance was not.
For this reason, Ian’s statements about the Son and the Father were intriguing to me and frankly, seem to support the early teaching of the church as well as the Bible.
“I make the disclaimer that I may be completely wrong, and Mr. McCormack might have seen all that he claims”
I appreciate that. I make the same disclaimer for my self.
” it seemed more likely to me that Mr. McCormack has become an excellent study of scripture and has tried to frame a vivid story to match his interpretation of scripture. This is naive of me, and extremely cynical, but does Mr. McCormack profit monetarily from his “testimony”?”
It certainly is possible that he is a deceiver who took some time off from his atheistic and irresponsible lifestyle to become a theologian and then fabricated the whole story. We Mormons of all people know that it happens.
I guess I just didn’t feel that a con man was speaking as I was listening to him.
I felt his story was fundamentally different from most others and that surely he knew lots of people who would challenge his story.
Unlike Dunn and Weston, who were telling stories about way back when and therefore didn’t think anyone would ever check the details of the story, this is a person who apparently began testifying of his experience right after it happened.. exposing himself to the world since lots of people around him would have known if many of the details were true or not.
I guess we won’t know for sure until we get to the other side.
In the mean time, it provides food for thought and the opportunity to study out the doctrinal issues and to try to exercise discernment as best we can.
Thank you for sharing your observations and motivating us to question things a little deeper from a doctrinal perspective!
Just a quick rejoinder.
Are you suggesting now, Watcher, that the Father and Christ are inherently different after having gone through the trouble of saying exaclty the opposite in your essay “The Fulness of the Father”? If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father, no? Are we not to believe JS in his King Follet discourse that man is as God once was?? If Father was once like us, and like the Word made flesh, then why would he be different now??
Sorry Watcher, but I can’t swallow this one at the moment.
I would suggest that
a) the Father and the Son have the ability to manifest themselves in different ways for different reasons,
and, more importantly,
b) that the mortal and finite mind has difficulty comprehending and communicating infinite and eternal concepts.
I think there is a reason why the scriptures refer to the “mystery of Godliness”.
Indeed the nature of God is a mystery to mortal man.
A total understanding of the nature and character of God may not even be possible whilst in the mortal body.
I don’t think we will ever comprehend the full mystery and majesty of God in this life unless we receive a fulness of the spirit like Joseph and Sidney briefly did in section 76.. and Moses did when the spirit fell upon him and he comprehended every grain of sand on the sea shore, and even then, after the enlightenment experience is over, much of that comprehension leaves the mortal mind if the person returns to their mortal state.
Have I contradicted myself by saying that God the Father (the very first God) is a spirit while the Son was created in the exact same image but also condescended and take upon himself flesh?
On the surface it may appear that way, however, if Christ, in his spiritual resurrected body dwells in the bosom of the Father, and if the Father dwells in the physical embodiment of the Son, are they not one? Are they not exactly the same?
What if it was possible for each of them to co-exist in the other and yet have the ability to manifest themselves separately when desired? Would that oneness not make them identical in every way in the ultimate sense?
Is it possible that in the spiritual dimension in the celestial realm that there are laws and realities and spiritual physics that we simply don’t comprehend in this telestial world?
The article I did on the fulness of the Father was not my explanation of who and what God is from personal experience, it is and was my attempt to describe what I have found in the word of God and the teachings of the prophets pertaining to the topic.
I make no apologies for anything i said in that article because I was simply passing on the information that God has given us about himself.
The same is true regarding my previous remarks about the Father being a spirit and the Son being a spiritual being like the Father yet having a physical dimension at this time as well. I am simply passing on what appears to be credible information from the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
If there is a contradiction, then we need to question some of the information that we have been given.
Do those two concepts contradict each other?
Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, I am simply doing my best to make sense out of what has been revealed.
I personally don’t see the Father and Son as being inherently different because I don’t understand yet what the relationship between spirit and matter is or any of the other spiritual physics of eternity.
Fortunately, you do not need to swallow anything cause I am not trying to feed it to you.
I am simply sharing information that has been revealed and attempting to explain how I interpret it.
I don’t need or want you to agree with me or interpret the information the same way I do, I am happy for you to filter through the information and interpret it for yourself.. although I am interested in reviewing any credible information to the contrary that you might want to bring to the table for my consideration.
As always, I remind people to read my disclaimer on the side of the blog… don’t put any stock in my interpretations, because I am a fallible heretic, focus on the word of God.
I certainly may be wrong about the Father having a physical body. It is just my current feeling based on the “apparent discrepancy” that I have shown.
One question to be asked is, which Father was hJS speaking about in section 130?
It is possible that the supposed quote from Joseph Smith in section 130 was referring to the literal father above Christ in the progression of the Gods and not the very first creator of the universe. In which case that passage could be true and yet the concept of the first eternal creator being a spirit could also be true.
Frankly, it appears that one of the key issues has to do with whether or not there was a “first God of all other Gods” as apposed to whether there was no beginning to the creation of Gods in the universe.
My mortal mind cannot comprehend that there was no first God that had always existed… perhaps that is why I am interpreting things the way that I am.
If there was no beginning, and the process of becoming a God is the same for everyone, then I tend to agree with section 130, the Father, and his Father, and his Father throughout eternity must have obtained Godhood just like the Son and therefore they all have a physical body.
On the other hand, if in fact there was a first God that always existed, who decided to create a plan of progression so that other intelligences could receive a fulness of Joy, then in fact, it might make sense that the very first God was and is a spirit and never had to take upon himself a temporal body and progress through a probationary experience.
OK, Watcher. After a few days of meditation on the subject, and a battle with denial of my deep-rooted suspicion of the LOF “God is Spirit” statement, I can now honestly say I have no earthly idea what I believe, LOL!! It’s going to take a little while to for me to come to some opinion. One question though….what’s the background on D&C 130:22? You mentioned it was included by BY sometime after the fact. How long after the fact?
What a wonderful blessing NEPT!
It is usually the act of revisiting and questioning preconceived notions that paves the way for greater understanding!
It is often the false traditions of our fathers that creates stumbling blocks in receiving greater light and knowledge… (The above gem is in reference to my own experience)
In answer to your question, I quote from the Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants by Woodford,
“As with Section 130, [where we get the very questionable teaching that the Celestial Kingdom has three divisions in it] this revelation is a composite of instructions given by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In this case they were given on May 16 and 17 1843 during a time when the Prophet was traveling extensively to visit the saints in the vicinity of Nauvoo….
Section 131 was NEVER considered to be a formal revelation until Elder Orson Pratt extracted it from the history of the Church and included it in the 1876 edition of the D&C, this he did under the direction of Brigham Young.”
It is really quite interesting that NONE of the revelations that Joseph received ever taught that God the Father has a physical tangible body.
Additionally Joseph himself did not find it necessary to personally teach this doctrine publicly or include his pontifications in the D&C. (although the King Follett sermon can be interpreted as teaching this doctrine IF one assumes that there has never been a FIRST God.)
It is interesting that in section 93 the Lord makes the following statement,
“And it shall come to pass that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the record of John. I give you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.”
I suppose the above passages could be interpreted a couple ways. One is that the sayings contained in section 93 were being given so that we would understand how and what we worship OR it may be saying that we will not fully understand how and what we worship until we get the fullness of the record of John WHICH WE STILL DON’T HAVE!
I find a little irony in the fact that Brigham Young and Orson Pratt had a huge doctrinal disagreement as to whether we worship a “what” or a “who”.
One has to wonder if Brigham was rubbing it in Orson’s face to have him include the remarks contained in section 131 in the D&C.
We LDS have been conditioned to think in terms of the progression of the Gods where the Son is only doing what he has seen the Father do… as taught in the KF discourse.
The following quote by JS speaks about the eternity of mans spirit and likens a “ring” to the concept of no beginning and no end,
““The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost? Their friends and relatives are separated from their bodies for only a short season; their spirits existed coequal with God, and they now exist in a place where they converse together, the same as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. That is good logic. I want to reason further on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the spirit and body of man–on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement.”
The fact that there was never a beginning or an end to our spirits or to the existence of God does not mean that there was not a first God-creator that began the process of exaltation among eternal intelligences.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the fact that there is a progression of the Gods and that the Father of Jesus had a body and his Father had a body and so on…
While that makes sense, and I don’t have a problem with it, I still must ask, was there a first creator of all creators?
Which existed first, man or God?
If man, then man is the true divine creator that worked his way into Godhood initially without an atonement.
If God, then is it not possible that the first eternal God that has always existed as God is a spirit being that began creating other Gods in his own image and then dwelt in them and them in him?
Again, it may just be because I am mortal and living in time instead of eternity, but I find it hard to believe that there was never a beginning of the plan of salvation, created by the first Great God.
It seems possible to me that there was a first God who created and made possible what we now call the “Plan of progression” or the “plan of salvation” that enables eternal intelligences to become organized and go through two “estates” and eventually become exalted via the fullness of the gospel.
But IF there was a first creator God who has always existed, who began the process of enabling intelligences to gain a fullness of joy by receiving of his fullness, then we need to address the question, did that first God have a “physical body as tangible as mans” or was/is he a spirit.
Even if he did have a tangible body, he obviously could not have acquired it through the same process that the Gospel requires, as there would have been no previous Godhead, or atonement, etc.
It seems much more likely to me that the very first God was.. is… a spirit being who had a form/image.
With his infinite knowledge he devised a plan by which other independent intelligences could progress via his grace and mercy… etc.
This is the very reason that Brigham and Orson argued about whether we worship a “who” or a “what” a “power” or a “person”, etc…
It is very interesting that lectures on faith states that the holy spirit is the mind of God, particularly in light of the fact that it refers to the father and son as the Godhead, instead of the Father Son and Holy Ghost, as we normally have been taught.
Where does the trinity-Godhead doctrine originate from?
It is interesting to note that the NT only makes reference t the Godhead three times and none of those references stipulates that the godhead consists of father son and Holy Ghost as three separate entities.
If the holy ghost is the mind of God, it seems inconsistent to me that the holy ghost is the third member of the godhead… indeed, it would be the first member, as the first creator and captain of the ship!
The fact of the matter is that the terms “holy ghost” and “holy spirit” are used in different ways.
Some times they appear to be referring to a powerful essence that fills the immensity of space. Other times it is referred to as a personage.
In one account it is a specific person who makes an appearance and actually speaks to someone.
It does not always refer to the same being or essence.
There is reason to believe that the phrase sometime refers to light and intelligence, other times it appears to be referring to a specific spirit being that is directing exalted beings and at yet other times it appears to be a calling, which is subordinate to the Father and Son… go figure…
Is it possible that the primary Holy Spirit that constitutes the mind of all exalted beings is in fact the first creator who created the plan of salvation and who began the process of exalting intelligences?
Just a little food for thought…
I don’t pretend to know..
I’ll quit rambling now
Please find below, two items pertaining to the above topic. First a letter from Brigham Young and the brether scolding Orson Pratt for what he had taught about the nature of God. Secondly, a product review about a book by Bergara which provides some interesting perspectives on the doctrinal clashes between Brigham and Orson,
Proclamation of the First Presidency and Twelve, October 21, 1865
1865-October 21-MS October 21, 1865
See note for Message of January 29, 1860.
PROCLAMATION of The First Presidency and Twelve.
In an article entitled “The Holy Spirit,” published by brother Pratt in the Millennial Star of October 15th, and November 1, 1850, pages 305-309, and pages 325-328, it is stated, among other things, in relation to the Holy Spirit, that,
“Each part of this substance is all-wise and all-powerful, possessing the same knowledge and the same truth. The essence can be divided into parts like all other matter, but the truth which each part possesses is one truth, and is indivisible; and because of the oneness of the quality, all these parts are called but ONE God. There is a plurality of substance, but a unity of quality; and it is this unity which constitutes the one God which we worship. When we worship the Father, we do not worship merely his substance, but we worship the attributes of that substance; so likewise, when we worship the Son, we do not merely worship the essence or substance of the Son, but we worship because of his qualities or attributes; in like manner when we worship the Spirit, we do not merely worship a personal substance or a widely diffused substance, but we worship the attributes and qualities of this substance; it is not then the essence alone which is the object of worship, but it is the qualities of the essence. These attributes and qualities, unlike the essence, are undivided; they are whole and entire in every part. A truth is not two truths because it dwells in two or more beings, but we worship it as one truth wherever we find it. Hence, if the qualities and attributes are the principal cause of our worship, we worship them as one and the same, wherever they are found, whether in a million of substances or only in one. If these qualities and attributes dwell in all their fulness in every substance of the universe, then one and the same God would dwell in every substance, so far as the qualities are concerned. That the qualities are the real object of worship, and not the essence, is evident from the fact that all essences without their qualities, must be alike in nature, if not in form and magnitude. Therefore one essence without qualities has no more claim to our worship than another.”
And again he says:-
“We can form some conception of the extreme minuteness of these all-powerful and all-wise atoms of substance, when we reflect that they are capable of being in and through all things. Now there are many solids so dense, that many millions of millions of particles are collected in a space not larger than a grain of mustard seed; now the pores between these particles must be still more minute than the particles themselves; therefore, the particles of that all-wise substance, which is in and through all things, must be sufficiently minute to enter these extremely small pores, surrounding every atom, and pervading the whole mass, governing and controlling it according to fixed and definite laws.”
In a tract, bearing the same title as the article just quoted from, one of a series of eight tracts which brother Pratt published in England in the year 1856, in reasoning upon the difference between the Holy Spirit and the being known as the Holy Ghost, it is stated on page 51, par. 11, that
“On this occasion [the day of Pentecost,] portions of this Holy Fluid assumed the form of ‘Cloven Tongues like as of Fire.’ It is very doubtful whether a permanent personal spirit would dissolve its personality, and transform its parts into one hundred and twenty tongues, having the appearance of fire. But a living, self-moving fluid substance might transform itself into any shape it pleased, and render itself visible in the form of tongues, or in the form of a dove, or in a personal form, resembling the image of man.”
And further on page 53, par. 18, he says:-
“This boundless ocean of spirit possesses in every part, however minute, a will, a self-moving power, knowledge, wisdom, love, goodness, holiness, justice, mercy, and every intellectual and moral attribute possessed by the Father and the Son. Each particle of this Holy Spirit knows, every instant, how to act upon the other materials of nature with which it is immediately associated: it knows how to vary the gravitating tendency of a particle of matter, every moment, precisely in the inverse ratio of the square of its distance from every other particle in the universe. Where an infinite number of particles of matter are in motion, and every instant changing their relative distances from each other, it must require an overwhelming amount of discernment and knowledge, for each particle of the spirit to perceive every motion of every other particle, and every instant to know the relative positions and distances of every particle in the universe. And yet without such knowledge, the gravitating intensity could not be varied according to the strict law which is known to exist. For the Holy Spirit to move all the materials of nature, according to this one law, requires a wisdom and knowledge incomprehensible to mortal man.”
Again, on page 53, par. 20, it is stated that,
“Man has been accustomed to associate wisdom, knowledge, love, joy, and all the other faculties and passions, with an organized being or personality. Therefore, when he is informed that the Holy Spirit possesses all these attributes, he, from habit, supposes it to be a person; but there is no necessary connection between these attributes and a personality. Indeed, there is no reason why these attributes may not also belong to a fluid substance. We see life and voluntary motion exhibited by beings of every conceivable shape and magnitude, from man down through every grade of existence to the microscopic animalcules. Many of these inconceivably small beings appear to be merely minute globules or particles of living substance. Such being the case, why may not the still smaller particles of the Holy Spirit be alive also? and why may they not also possess all the elementary attributes of a spiritual personage or organization? Is there anything in the mere shape or magnitude of organized spirit-matter, that should cause it to differ in its elementary attributes from unorganized spirit-matter? Certainly not. Therefore, it is perfectly analogous with what we see in nature, to attribute life, voluntary motion, and numerous other attributes and qualities, to a fluid substance, or to each of its particles.”
And on page 55, par. 25, it is said that,
“By the power of Their [the Father and the Son] word the Spirit would set those worlds into harmonious motion; by the power of Their word the Spirit would move the particles in nature according to the law of gravitation; by Their word the Spirit would move every substance according to the varied laws which now exist. By the power of Their word the Spirit could suspend its operations in one way, and operate in another, directly opposite, causing what the world generally calls a miracle. Through the agency of such a universal Spirit, a person could exercise almighty power, throughout every department of nature. Particles, worlds and universes would obey, the Spirit being the great grand executor of all the sublime and majestic movements exhibited in boundless space.”
On the same page, par. 27, it reads,
“But if the body of each Saint is full of the Holy Ghost, it is evident that this holy substance dwelling in each temple, must assume the same shape and magnitude as the temple which it fills. If any one should, by vision, behold the tabernacle of man filled throughout with this substance, he would perceive it existing in a personal form of the same size and shape as the human spirit or tabernacle. And if he should behold a million of such bodily temples thus filled, he would see a million of personal beings called the Holy Ghost; but each one of these, though one with all the others in the attributes, would be distinct in substance from all the rest. They are distinct personal forms which the spiritual fluid assumes, upon entering human bodies, so as to accommodate itself to the size and form of the respective human temples which it inhabits.”
We have quoted some of the items which stand out most prominently in the publications referred to, and which strike us as being most objectionable. They are self-confounding and conflict one with another, and, to our minds, some of the statements, if pursued to their legitimate conclusion, would convey the idea that the physical and spiritual organization of a human being conferred no additional powers or benefits on the creature thus organized, but that any single atom of the “spiritual fluid,” however minute, possessed every attribute that an organized being could possess. Yet it will readily be perceived, upon reflection, that attributes never can be made manifest in any world except through organized beings.
There are great and important truths connected with the eternities of our God and with man’s existence past, present and future, which the Almighty, in his wisdom, sees fit to conceal from the children of men. The latter are evidently unprepared to receive them, and there could be no possible benefit accrue to them, at present, from their revelation. It is in this light that we view the points of doctrine which we have quoted. If they were true, we would think it unwise to have them made public as these have been. But the expounder of these points of doctrine acknowledges that he has not had any revelation from the heavens in relation to them, and we know that we have had no revelation from God respecting them, except to know that many of them are false, and that the publication of all of them is unwise and objectionable. They are mere hypotheses, and should be perused and accepted as such, and not as doctrines of the Church. Whenever brother Orson Pratt has written upon that which he knows, and has confined himself to doctrines which he understands, his arguments are convincing and unanswerable; but, when he has indulged in hypotheses and theories, he has launched forth on an endless sea of speculation to which there is no horizon. The last half of the tract entitled “The Holy Spirit,” contains excellent and conclusive arguments, and is all that could be wished; so also with many of his writings. But the Seer The Great First Cafe, the article in the Millennial Star of October 15th, and November 1, 1850, on the Holy Spirit, and the first half of the tract, also on the Holy Spirit, contain doctrines which we cannot sanction, and which we have felt impressed to disown, so that the Saints who now live, and who may live hereafter, may not be misled by our silence, or be left to misinterpret it. Where these objectionable works, or parts of works, are bound in volumes, or otherwise, they should be cut out and destroyed; with proper care this can be done without much, if any, injury to the volumes.
It ought to have been known, years ago, by every person in the Church-for ample teachings have been given on the point-that no member of the Church has the right to publish any doctrines, as the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, without first submitting them for examination and approval to the First Presidency and the Twelve. There is but one man upon the earth, at one time, who holds the keys to receive commandments and revelations for the Church, and who has the authority to write doctrines by way of commandment unto the Church. And any man who so far forgets the order instituted by the Lord as to write and publish what may be termed new doctrines, without consulting with the First Presidency of the Church respecting them, places himself in a false position, and exposes himself to the power of darkness by violating his Priesthood.
While upon this subject, we wish to warn all the Elders of the Church, and to have it clearly understood by the members, that, in the future, whoever publishes any new doctrines without first taking this course, will be liable to lose his Priesthood. BRIGHAM YOUNG, HEBER C. KIMBALL, ORSON HYDE, JOHN TAYLOR, WILFORD WOODRUFF, GEORGE A. SMITH, AMASA M. LYMAN, EZRA T. BENSON, CHARLES C. RICH, LORENZO SNOW, ERASTUS SNOW, FRANKLIN D. RICHARDS, GEORGE Q. CANNON.
TO THE SAINTS IN ALL THE WORLD.
DEAR BRETHREN,-Permit me to draw your attention to the proclamation of the First Presidency and Twelve, published in the DESERT NEWS, and copied into the MILLENNIAL STAR of the 21st inst., in which several publications that have issued from my pen are considered objectionable. I, therefore, embrace the present opportunity of publicly expressing my most sincere regret, that I have ever published the least thing which meets with the disapprobation of the highest authorities of the Church; and I do most cordially join with them in the request, that you should make such dispositions of the publications alluded to, as counselled in their proclamation.
London, Oct. 25, 1865 ORSON PRATT, Sen.
Historians of the American West who include the Mormon experience in their studies usually focus on settlement patterns, water rights, relationships with Native Americans, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, church and state conflicts, and plural marriage. Mormonism is depicted as a monolithic corporate structure that leaves little room for theological speculation and freedom of thought. Writers tend to believe that when the Lion of the Lord (Brigham Young) roared, all the thinking had been done and Utah grew silent. Only the sounds of church members rushing to fall into step filled the mountain air. Gary James Bergera relates a different story as he details the theological conflicts that raged between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt. Was Mormonism, according to Pratt’s argument, to become a religion primarily bound to scripture or would it continue to find its fundamental strength in the living oracles who led the church, the position espoused by Brigham Young? Church members were aware of many of these conflicts. Accounts were published in Mormon newspapers and church leaders addressed subjects regarding Pratt’s and Young’s disagreements in public meetings as well as in the private gatherings of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. At the time, more church members sided with Young than Pratt, but in the twentieth century, Mormon leaders found many of the theories of Pratt more acceptable than those of Young. As Bergera points out, “reliance on Pratt has continued to be pervasive and unmistakable in Mormonism to the present” (p. 282). Pratt’s difficulties with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young began in Kirtland, Ohio, where he and Joseph Smith argued over the pronunciation of a Hebrew word. They disagreed, too, over aspects of plural marriage and Pratt’s belief that Joseph Smith had “made advances towards apostles’ wives, including his own companion, Sarah” (p. 19). Pratt’s conflicts with Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, included disagreements over such theological issues as Young’s Adam-God doctrine, Young’s idea of the eternal progression of God, and on worshiping the attributes of deity. Bergera’s primary sources are minutes of meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, diary entries of participating parties in the conflicts, and the words of the combatants themselves. (Historians today are denied access to the minutes, an important trove of primary source material.) While Young clearly convinced other church leaders that even apostles were required to seek his approval before teaching or publishing new ideas, Pratt won the war of words. It can be effectively argued, as Bergera does, that today many of Pratt’s theological ideas are supported in the writings of Mormon apostles, while those espoused by Young are believed to be flawed. Those convinced that leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always been “monolithically unified” and afraid to speak their minds will find this book not only surprising but interesting as well. Bergera’s volume whets the appetite of those interested in Mormon doctrine and points to the need for someone to research and write a multivolume history of Latter-day Saint theology. There is, I believe, a trove of documents available to historians in Mormon archives to make such a study possible. “The field is white, ready to harvest,” to borrow a phrase often used in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book both Young and Pratt agreed was scripture. –Kenneth W. Godfrey, Western Historical Quarterly
The conflicts between Apostle Orson Pratt, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young revolve around the key concepts of apostolic authority, theological harmony, and the role of continuing revelation within the governing body of the LDS church. The Pratt-Smith conflict emerges with the introduction of plural marriage and an alleged illicit affair of Pratt’s wife Sarah in 1842. Bergera argues effectively that the 1842 allegation was a response to Sarah’s rejection of Joseph Smith’s advances. Pratt, his world shattered over the incident, voluntarily withdrew from the church for a time. This led to the misconception that he had been excommunicated. The alleged excommunication would provide Brigham Young with the legitimization needed to realign the governing body in 1875. The first major Pratt-Young conflict began in 1847 with the reorganization of the First Presidency. Pratt contended it was the right of the apostles to lead the church and not a separate quorum or individual. The debates continued for the next two decades over doctrinal issues. Bergera argues effectively that the heart of the conflict lay in Pratt’s intellectual reservations over Young’s consolidation of power and Young’s theological teachings. It was Pratt’s striving for a consistent, harmonizing, literal hermeneutic rather than blind acceptance of charismatic authority that led to the difficulties. Bergera’s work provides a valuable tool for researchers by including transcripts of previously unpublished apostolic council minutes surrounding the Pratt-Young conflicts. Bergera has made a welcome and significant contribution to the field of Mormon studies. –Kurt Widmer, Religious Studies Review
At a meeting of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve in 1860, one of the churchÂ’s senior apostles complained that “Brother Orson Pratt has withstood Joseph [Smith] and he has withstood Brother Brigham [Young] many times and he has done it tonight and it made my blood chill.”
Whenever the quorum discussed Elder PrattÂ’s controversial sermons and writings, the conversation could become heated. As documented by Gary James Bergera in a surprisingly suspenseful account, PrattÂ’s encounters with his brethren ultimately affected not only his seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve but also LDS doctrine, policy, and organizational structure.
“Despite being the more careful scriptorian, Orson Pratt was no match for Brigham Young in tactics and ability to persuade. The hapless Pratt was outmaneuvered time and again by the intimidating senior apostle–the latter convincing the churchÂ’s ruling quorum to side with him on crucial points of doctrine and practice. BergeraÂ’s careful scholarship–drawing on diaries, personal papers, and other extant documents–provides fresh insights into the attitudes and behavior of these two men.” –Newell G. Bringhurst, author, Brigham Young and the Expanding American Frontier
“Bergera confronts head-on one of the most pervasive and unnecessary myths in Mormon culture: that church leaders are monolithically unified. As he traces the ins and outs of PrattÂ’s and YoungÂ’s relationship in fascinating detail (a tragic story in PrattÂ’s case), larger issues in Mormonism are illuminated: the roots of anti-intellectualism and authoritarianism, the development of succession to the presidency, and the meaning and early impact of some of YoungÂ’s teachings which were quietly discarded at his death–all carefully and exhaustively traced.” –Todd Compton, author, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
I’m being lazy at the moment, so I’m not going to transcribe JS’s discourse found in TPJS, but take a look at pages 369-373 about the plurality of Gods. IMO, I think it gets to a “First God”.
With regard to the HG being a member of the Godhead, I think there are too many instances, at least in TPJS, where JS affirmed this notion.
For example (TPJS page 190)….
The Three Personages
Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abrahma’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator.–MSS.
But the question is valid….are the HG and the HS equivalent or different entities?
Yes I realize there are many passages that associate the Father, Son and Holy Ghost together in saving souls, etc, my point is that the scriptures never specifically define all three as the “Godhead”… which is interesting in light of the statement in Lectures that the Father and the Son constitute the Godhead.
NEPT thank you for pointing me to those words of JS tpjs.
That is the closest I can remember ever seeing the doctrine of the “first God” taught… although I am still not positive if the “Head God” is synonymous with the “very first God”.
Here is the exact wording in teachings,
“In the beginning the head of the Gods brought forth the Gods,” or, as others have translated it, “The head of the Gods called the Gods together.”
I wish he had used the phrase “first of all Gods” or “first God that created all other Gods” rather than “head of the Gods”, because in my mind, there could be lots of universes that have managerial Gods over a Group of other Gods, without being the very first God of all Gods.
Nevertheless, the head God that brought forth the Gods could very possibly be referring to the very first God of all Gods.
It is difficult to know if “bought forth” means “called together for a meeting” or “created” in the sense of enabling existing intelligences to become exalted.
There are some other comments that he makes in those pages that “appear” to be at odds with some of the statements in the scriptures… Perhaps I’ll address those some time.
Thanks again for the reference.
It is exciting to see a possible reference to a first God.. that might indicate that there was a beginning point and perhaps a distinction between the first God who has always been God and may well be a spirit, as opposed to those he created a plan of progression for that went through a probation, took on a physical body, became resurrected and became exalted via an atonement.
Just a possibility
cds- I’ve read much of the Mentinah writings. They are pretty well done. There were passages that moved me to tears (when Christ visits).
The doctrinal agenda is anti-polygamy, pro-native american healing, pro-native american culture/rituals (like sweat lodges), equality of the sexes and non-secrecy of temple rituals. So, it is very appealing and I’m sure resonates with a lot people.
I think it is worth a read if you have the time and don’t have anything else you’d rather be reading. Don’t read it thinking it is the actual “sealed portion.”
Thanks Watcher, I have read the first few chapters and felt the same way.
The only things that bothered me weren’t doctrinal. I’m a big believer in
the BOM in the Great Lakes area as JS made many hints to. And I need to
look at the statement in the BOM that they were never to see or hear from
Hagoth’s party again. Did that line up with the last visit to the south?
because as we know it teaches that they had many follow up contacts in the
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