(My backwards journey in “awakening” and loosing my “worldly innocence” about the current state of the church as I began to identify the four apostasies of the latter days)
Many years ago as I was struggling to keep my head above the water as a young married person with a few kids, a demanding job that required me to be on 24 hour call, and a calling in the bishopric.
I was blissfully unaware that there might be any problems in the only true church.
In my worldview, the church was a near-perfect institution that was the purveyor of the fullness of the Gospel.
Back during those years and also previously, during my mission, I had had some very profound spiritual experiences that I cannot begin to describe because they are ineffable and sacred to me. Suffice it to say, they had to do with an incredible burning within pertaining to the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the gospel.
I felt I had received the second part of baptism. I felt I had been “born again”. For that reason alone, the human foibles of others within the church was simply not an issue for me. Testimony was a personal thing, not a public thing.
My spiritual experiences at that level were not something I ever really spoke to anyone about. I realized it was just a personal thing. I suspected that not everyone I the church had experienced it but I suspected that many had.
It is not my intent to speak about it in depth in this article either, however I need to simply make mention of it because it relates to the story line of what I want to address in this article pertaining to the journey of awakening and the loss of naivete and innocence regarding the state of the Church.
Yes, I saw the obvious things going on in the church that were a little disconcerting, but hey, people are human! The church is an imperfect institution and that is really what makes it perfect in its role of perfecting the Saints!
My father who was extremely well connected to the current brethren by blood and by his callings as stake president, regional rep and mission president had warned me to never go to work for the church because I would lose my testimony if I ever got that close to the inner workings of the institution.
He counseled me to always separate how the outer church institution conducted business vs the inner spiritual truthfulness of the gospel as contained in the scriptures.
I suppose it was him that perhaps played a small role in my earlier, partial loss of naiveté regarding my fairytale religious worldview.
During that time in my life I got to know an elderly lady in my ward by the name of Clare Middlemiss.
She lived about three blocks from me.
This charming lady had lived an amazing life and was now nearing the end of it.
I am guessing she was in her 80’s or 90’s at the time.
She was very lonely and was pretty neglected. I don’t think she had many living relatives.
I think I initially met her because she was a “shut-it” that needed the sacrament taken to her home on Sundays and I was over the boys that needed to provide this service for her.
In a conversation with her one day she could see that I was fascinated with LDS Church history so she invited me over to her house to discuss it.
Initially I probably went over as a service project and possible to humor her, as I didn’t think she really had very much information that would be of interest to me.
I had heard that she had never been married which was intriguing to me. She was a beautiful woman and I couldn’t imagine how she had escaped the institution of marriage.
When I met with her I was blown away to find out that she had spent much if not most of her adult life working for the church… as the personal secretary of President David O McKay!
I was stunned.
As I recall, our first conversation was rather short. I think she was checking me out to see where I was coming from emotionally, spiritually and intellectually and how much raw information I could handle.
She obviously had a story to tell and she was looking for someone to tell it to.
She showed me a huge scrapbook regarding the life of McKay and many of the major events that took place in the church under his watch.
She invited me to return again sometime.
I later found out that she had over 130,000 pages consisting of diaries discourses and scrapbooks.
As I began to ask older people in the ward about her I found that she never married because she was 100% dedicated to her job… she was married to her job…. and , in a sense, she was married to McKay.
People would say under their breath, she was his second wife, or she chose to be married to the church instead of being married to a man, etc.
Some felt that she spent significantly more personal time with McKay than he did with his own wife.
When I say that some people perceived her to be McKays second wife, I am not implying that anything inappropriate ever took place. I am simply stating that she worshiped him and devoted her life to him and to the church. As a result, she spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in her job and she never had time for marriage.
She was passionate about her role. She took it very seriously. She was a strong personality who was no bodies fool. She could take a very high profile dignitary who came into her office demanding to see President McKay and send him on his way licking his wounds.
She considered McKay to be an endangered resource and she considered herself to be his protector and confidant.
She was largely the one who was chosen to discern who should warrant his time and his ear.
To many, she was an anomaly, and a dichotomy. She lived a very different life than the one the church teaches you should live, with a spouse and family, and yet she was, in many ways, helping to run the church.
Those of you who have been in sales are probably aware of the dreaded “gatekeeper” who you need to get past in order to pitch your product to the decision maker. Well, Middlemiss was the “middle man” so to speak… she was the grand and dreaded gatekeeper as far as access to McKay was concerned.
And she did her job well.
Many of the general authorities came to resent her for making it such a difficult and laborious task to gain access to the Lords anointed.
What many of them didn’t realize (and what many sales people don’t realize) is that the gatekeeper not only determines who gets to see the decision maker, they often also have a great deal of influence on the decisions he makes!
How you and your cause is perceived by the decision maker is often very much determined by the whispering of the gatekeeper.
The most balanced and perhaps fairest assessment of Clare Middlemiss came from Robert L Simpson who, as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, worked with her and McKay for nearly a decade;
“She believed implicitly that she had a responsibility to protect President McKay and to do everything she could to conserve his energy and strength, and give him peace of mind. And she did that to the very utmost of her ability.
I never saw one occasion when she did anything but when she thought it was for the benefit of the Church, and President McKay personally.
A lot of people were a little taken aback by her, because she held the line, but she had to , and in her mind she was doing what the Lord wanted her to do.
Even other members of the [First] Presidency or the Twelve that would try and make an end run – she just didn’t let that happen. And I think President McKay appreciated it…
He never wavered in his trust … I think Clare Middlemiss was meant to be for just exactly what she did, and the role she played.”
The above quote was taken from the book found here
As i recall, I think it was my second visit with Middlemiss when I completely lost my first stage of innocence and naiveté regarding the state of the church.
In that conversation she began speaking about McKay’s strong political views and his stance on communism and secret combinations and how his beliefs created a philosophical and religious split among many of the brethren.
It was very possibly McKay that fueled President Benson’s life-long passion to warn people about communism and secret combinations.
She shared with me how Ezra Taft Benson and Hugh B. Brown hated each other and tried to get each other disciplined, if not excommunicated.
Ezra was ultra conservative with ties to the John Birch Society. Hugh was an extremely liberal minded saint from Canada.
She showed me letters about and between the ongoing feuds between these two “apostles” that stood my hair on end.
She showed me many other things that shook my foundation regarding the state of the only true church.
Mind you, she was not trying to shake my testimony, she simply had a story to tell and she wanted to find someone to tell it to.
She wasn’t viewing these events through doctrinal eyes pertaining to the spiritual state of the Church, to her it was simply a study in human nature… she was simply passionate about her experience being in the nucleus of a rapidly expanding religious organization and the incredible social and political dynamics it went through. All of that was really the secondary part of her story. The main one had to do with the man she gave her complete loyalty to.
To be honest, although she provided me with one of my first significant epiphanies regarding the fact that the brethren were not always united in their religious views, and that all was not well in Zion, I was not ready or able assimilate the information she had to share with me.
It really kind of scared me.
I felt a little dirty and perhaps a little guilty after reading some of the letters she shared with me, that the brethren sent to each other and about each other. I felt like a voyeur of sorts peeking into people’s personal lives… people I have held in high esteem… people I have possibly worshiped?
In hindsight I deeply regret that I did not take better advantage of the tremendous opportunity that she was offering me… but I really wasn’t ready for it. I did want to better understand the state of the Church, but I wanted to do it my way and at my pace.
And I wanted the outcome of my research to in in an outcome that I could live with.
I was not ready to embark on the journey of discovery that has since taken up about 20 years of my life. So I kept going in the direction I had been going on and I simply shelved most of the information she shared with me.
I took from her and that experience the information that I could comprehend at the time and went my merry way down life’s path.
She died within a few years after I met her.
Oh how I would love to be able to go through the 130,000 pages. What a great reality TV series it would make!
Knowing what I now know, I wish I could turn back the clock and spend a few months extracting information from her and her historical documents. The context that I would view it in now would be quite different than how I viewed things back then.
My journey in waking up a little bit at a time, losing my innocence a little bit at a time, and discovering that all is not well in Zion probably started in a similar way that it happens to many.
It began by first assuming that all was well.
I then began seeing that the fruits that the church was producing were not the same fruits that the NT, BofM and restoration churches began producing.
Following that, I began to see some disturbing things in recent church history. In my case, much of that discovery began with Miss Middlemiss.
I therefore began my quest to understand the apostasy of the church at my own speed… my investigative research took place studying the history of the church while moving backwards in time just like most people do.
I studied the history of the church moving from the 1980’s towards the 1820’s instead of moving from the 1820’s towards the 1980’s.
The difference between me and many others who write about the apostasy of the church is that I did not end my investigative research once I got to the problems of the late 1800’s when the issue of discontinuing the practice of polygamy became a hot issue.
Somehow, by the grace of God, I was allowed to continue on my journey after spending considerable time studying the polygamy and related issues. I realize that it is only by the grace of God that I am not living in southern Utah with long sleeved garments and multiple wives and profusely quoting brother Brig.
Nevertheless, I truly wish I had begun this quest from the other end of LDS church history. I wish I had begun my investigative research at the beginning of the restoration movement working my way forward instead of working my way backwards in time. If I had done so, I could have bypassed all those years wasting my time pouring over the Journal of Discourses and trying to make sense out of things!
If only I would have spent more time in the four standard works and the early history of the LDS restoration movement I would have saved so many brain cells!
If only I would have worked my way forward in time rather than backwards in time, I could have avoided so much doctrinal, emotional and spiritual BULLSHIT.
That is the purpose of this multi-part series.
It is for those who have begun to awaken to the fact that all is not well in Zion and have begun their investigative research by moving backwards in time.
I am here to tell you that you can avoid a lot of wasted time getting caught up in the LDS fundamentalist quagmire- and get right to the crux of the matter if you will only start at the beginning instead of working backwards.
So, why am I working my way backwards on this topic in this article if I am suggesting that you do the opposite in your personal studies?
I am working backwards in this article because that is how I ended up working my way through the maze and that is how most people work their way through the maze.
My suggestion to you however is that in your quest for the truth, you would be wise to drop the JD and all other ancillary reading materials that you are currently ingesting and spend your time exclusively in the four standard works (including the jst) and the early history of the church that has to do with the time periods that the revelations in the D&C were given.
Once you gain an understanding and appreciation for what the fulness of the gospel is, you will be able to view all of the following events in the proper context.
I am not saying you shouldn’t be familiar with the other parts of LDS history. It is important to understand them for context, but you want to avoid getting stuck there and never learning about the true beginnings of the restoration movement.
Most LDS Fundamentalists are largely ignorant about the deeper aspects of the early history of the church and the revelations growing out of those periods. They can speak intelligently about section 132 and the JD but they get glassy eyed if you try to engage them in the really early parts of the restoration movement and associated scriptures.
If you begin studying history of the church from a strong and accurate foundation, everything else will fall into place.
In the following parts of this series I will continue providing a brief summary of what I learned in my quest to sort things out in my methodical backwards journey in time.
After I finish this segment pertaining to the “modern apostasy” of the church in Utah, our next stop will be the next major shaking up which took place shortly after the death of Brigham Young and taking us through the turn of the century.
I refer to this as the apostasy of the apostate church in Utah.
In that segment I will briefly share my experience and discovery pertaining to our fundamentalist friends and the “other gospel” they teach.
After discussing the two apostasies that took place in Utah, we shall address the apostasy of Nauvoo and then the apostasy of Kirtland…. we shall visit the rejection of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” when they failed to complete the Nauvoo Temple and became scattered abroad, as detailed in section 124 and the history of the Church.
After we review the apostasy that took place in Nauvoo, we will continue this unorthodox method of moving backwards in time and visit the very beginning of the restoration of the pure and simple Church of Christ and how it brought forth the Church of God complete with the fullness of the gospel and the baptism of fire and the holy ghost… even the church of the first born and the Melchizedek priesthood.
In the last segment we will review the first major “falling away” of the latter day restored church that was prophesied by Paul and verified by Joseph Smith.We shall address the prophesied time when the man of sin was revealed. It is the time Moses spoke of when the blessing and the cursing would be bestowed…
That was the first of the four apostasies that took place historically yet it will be the last apostasy that we will address in this article.
Clear as mud?
The seeds of the first apostasy began at the special conference at the Morley farm and was completed with the apostasy in Kirtland when the Saints were scattered from the holy place because they failed to obey the commandment to publish the fullness of the scriptures and redeem Zion.
The crowning achievement of this first apostasy was the defiling of the Kirtland Temple.
If you have begun to awaken to the serious state of the Church and you have begun to move backwards in time in your investigative research to better understand when and how the apostasy of the church took place, you might want to follow this series. It may save you a little heart ache, and save you a few brain cells, and negate the need for a harem.
to be continued…