First let me clarify that, in this series of posts, I am breaking the latter day apostasy into four separate and distinct time periods.
The truth is that the church has been in a state of apostasy ever since the very first apostasy that took place in Jackson and Kirtland, however, there were transitional changes and/or different degrees and flavors of apostasy that the church went through after that. At some times the church would self correct a little bit with regard to the false doctrines and or ordinances taught in it, as we shall see in this part of the series.
It is my intent to simply illustrate the four main periods of time and some of the associated events that many people get stuck on and focus on as I try to explain the process and stumbling blocks that many people go through and trip over as they work their way backwards in time trying to identify when and how things went wrong.
There are various times and events that different people focus on and identify as THE apostasy of the latter days, but all of these events have grown out of the first and most serious apostasy that took place in Kirtland.
It is not my intent to delve deeply into and document each of the four apostasies in this article, rather to do a general sweep of some of the main things that took place during each of the time periods from my perspective and a smattering of my experiences as I did my investigative research.-
[WARNING if you have not read every post on the threewatches blog and graduated from the three watches boot camp, please do yourself a favor and leave this post right now. It will not be an uplifting or edifying experience for you]
I do however want to illustrate that much of the reason that people focus on different time frames and events as being THE apostasy is because their investigative research is moving backwards in time, and whichever period they are focusing on stands out in their mind as the initial primary apostasy when the restored church became corrupted. Many people who discover a time of apostasy or an event that sticks out in their mind as a major departing of the church membership from the straight and narrow path, assume that that represents the beginning of apostasy so they quit moving backwards further in time looking for the apostasy because they assume they have found it.
Some people get stuck on the problems in the 4th period of apostasy which the modern church is currently in and therefore never keep searching back in time to uncover the third apostasy that took place at the turn of the century. Others get past the current apostasy and find the third apostasy, but they stop their search there, never uncovering the 1st and 2nd periods of apostasies during the Kirtland and Nauvoo periods.
I guess I am doing this series partly as therapy and for my own sanity, because it is quite frustrating that precious few people that visit my blogs seem to be able to wrap their minds around the fact that a complete apostasy had taken place in the first few years of the LDS restoration movement.
The historical and prophetic evidence for that is overwhelming.. once a person is ready to accept it.
One of the things that throw people off is that God often keeps laboring with his church and giving a few revelations even after they break the everlasting covenant. That is perhaps one of the main reasons people don’t get what happened in Kirtland. It is however truly amazing that the complete lack of direct published revelations during the last 100 years plus does not seem to concern people in the least.
Of those that do acknowledge an apostasy, it seems like there are so many people stuck in their paradigm of the 2nd 3rd or 4th apostasy periods and they simply cannot believe what really took place beginning at the special conference at the Morley Farm and culminating with the defiling of the Kirtland Temple and the expulsion of the Saints from Kirtland.
Ok, taking up where I left off in part one of this series about the first stage of losing naiveté as a result of realizing that the modern church is in trouble.
Regarding what I said about the tensions between Benson and Brown, it kind of typified a larger divide between the brethren on conservatism vs liberalism during that era.
One of the fascinating things about President McKay is that he had the ability to embrace and love both conservatives and liberals and in fact, he seems to vacillate between both paradigms himself. Many liberals considered him to be a liberal while conservatives considered him to be a conservative. (as opposed to President Benson whose uncompromising conservative views had a polarizing effect on members of the church)
I suspect that young apostle Benson felt that he and President McKay were on the same page politically and doctrinally and yet I suspect that Hugh Brown also felt that he and McKay were on the same page.
Articles on the internet provide some additional information concerning that era..
“In 1968, Ezra Taft Benson gave a BYU devotional talk where he promoted the radical anti-communistic John Birch Society, accused the U.S. Supreme Court of treason, and tried to claim the “civil rights” and “Black Power” movements were communist plots. Benson made references to “black Marxists” and “Black Power communist fanatics.” Benson didn’t hide his segregationist philosophy and desire to keep the races separate. An LDS Institute teacher (41 year Institute veteran) described Benson’s sermon as “spreading his hate and fear.”
About 10 days later, Hugh B. Brown (Counselor in the LDS First Presidency) went to BYU and gave an address stating, “At a time when radicals of right or left would inflame race against race, avoid those who preach evil doctrines of racism.” Many people recognized this statement as partially or fully aimed at Benson. Brown and Benson had many serious disagreements and President McKay had difficulty controlling the feud.
In Brown’s speech, he not only advised listeners to “avoid those who preach evil doctrines of racism” but also stated “beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others.” Without question, Brown’s speech was a direct attack against Benson’s sermon 10 days earlier.”
Other entries provide perspective about the enmity that existed among the brethren as follows,
“U.S. under-secretary of state W. Averill Harriman asked Hugh B. Brown how long Ezra Taft Benson would be on his European mission. Pres. Brown reportedly replied: “If I had my way, he’d never come back!” (Brown statement to Harriman and Richard D. Poll in Salt Lake City, 25 Oct. 1963, quoted in Poll’s letter to D. Michael Quinn, 13 Aug. 1992.)
“Joseph Fielding Smith identified Benson’s European mission as intentional exile. The Quorum of Twelve’s president wrote to Congressman Ralph R. Harding (Idaho) on 30 October: “I think it is time that Brother Benson forgot all about politics and settled down to his duties as a member of the Council of the Twelve.” JFS also said, “He (Benson) is going to take a mission to Europe in the near future and by the time he returns I hope he will get all of the political notions out of his system.” (Smith to Harding, 30 Oct. 1963, photocopy in folder 2, box 4, King Papers, and in folder 22, box 5, Buerger Papers.)
One of the directors of an LDS institute of religion wrote: “May a dumb spirit possess Bro. E.T.B.” (George T. Boyd, associate director of the LDS institute of religion in Los Angeles to “Dick” [Richard D. Poll], undated but written ca. 18 Oct. 1961 and answered 24 Oct)
Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “I am glad to report to you that it will be some time before we hear anything from Brother Benson, who is now on his way to Great Britain where I suppose he will be, at least for the next two years. When he returns I hope his blood will be purified.” (Wilkinson diary, 14 Dec. 1963; Joseph Fielding Smith to Congressman Ralph Harding, 23 Dec 1963)
Despite the lack of respect Benson got from some of his senior apostles, he out lived many of them and transitioned from being the whipping boy that was made fun of to the revered watchman on the tower once he became a senior apostle and eventually President of the Church.
During his presidency he gained a huge and very loyal following of conservative patriots that embraced his conservative views as he warned about secret combinations. Nevertheless, there was a liberal segment of the membership that did not resonate with his views.
Button button who has the button
When I was a child we had a game we would play where everyone got in a circle and a person in the middle would go around the circle of people with a button between his two hands sliding it between the hands of each person in the circle. He would discretely let the button slide out of his hands into the hands of one of the participants and everyone in the circle would try to guess which person the button had been transferred to.
Growing out of the initial loss of naiveté I experienced from the information I got from Clare Middlemiss and other events I don’t want to mention at this time, I slowly began to have a spiritual awaking about the current state of the church. I began comparing the doctrines taught in the New Testament and book of Mormon and LDS restoration churches to the current doctrines being taught in the Modern LDS church. Then I began to compare the priesthood power and associated spiritual gifts and miracles (or lack thereof).
At this point, I began searching for deeper answers.
During that time I began actively seeking out people who seemed to be knowledgeable and I met numerous people who all had strong and passionate views about the gospel. Some of them high profile, other very low profile. Some mainstream, other on the fringe.
I’ll mention just a few encounters just to give you an idea of my experiences.
During the earlier part of the 80’s I simply wanted to find out as much as I could about church history and doctrine. I devoured as much information as I could from wherever I could find it.
During that time I became a casual friend of Daniel Rector, the son of Harman Rector. Dan was involved over at Sunstone. The folks over at Sunstone had collected a huge amount of very interesting and controversial information over the years and I agreed to do some volunteer work for them in return for access to all of their files.
It was during my stint volunteering at Sunstone that I happened upon a folder that said “highly confidential” on it. In it was a copy of a letter from Bruce R McConkie to Professor Eugene England written in February of 1981. ( at the time it was an extremely confidential and sensitive document, although it has since found its way all over the internet.. my how the internet has changed the transmission of information!)
The letter itself also had stamped on it, “confidential”.
Eugene England had been speaking at firesides and teaching that Brigham Young had in fact taught the Adam God Doctrine and had also taught that, contrary to the scriptures, that God was always progressing in knowledge.
Brother McConkie had authoritative stated in his book Mormon Doctrine, that Brigham Young had not taught the Adam God doctrine. He referred to it as the Adam God Theory”. He suggested that either scribes had made mistakes in the transcription of one of his conference talks and/or that some people had misinterpreted what Brigham Young actually meant.
In the letter from McConkie to England he stated,
“Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel…. I think you can give me credit for having knowledge of the quotations from Brigham Young relative to Adam, and of knowing what he taught under the subject that has become known as the Adam God Theory.”
I was shocked at those statements for two reasons.
One was that McConkie was acknowledging that BY did teach the Adam God doctrine in a private letter even though in his book he was publicly denying it.
Furthermore, I was shocked to find an apostle being so blatantly critical of a President (Prophet?) of the Church.
McConkie was stating that Brigham Young had taught a false doctrine about who God really is!!!!!
I thought to myself, “If a prophet of God does not understand who God is, who does?”
McConkie continues in the letter,
“…President Joseph Fielding Smith said that Brigham Young will have to make his own explanations on the points there involved. I think you can also give me credit for knowing what Brigham Young said about God progressing. And again, that is something he will have to account for.”
McConkie then gave this blood chilling warning,
“If we choose to believe and teach the false portions of his doctrines, we are making an election that will damn us.”
Holy Moly! Now McConkie is quoting his father in law, Joseph Fielding Smith, as saying that Brigham Young will be accountable before God for teaching a false doctrine about the nature and character of God and also for teaching that God is not omniscient and is continually learning! He warned that if the Saints believe those particular false doctrines that Brigham Young taught, it will damn us in our progression.
He states that BY will have to be accountable before God for the false teachings that he taught!
In the letter McConkie doesn’t mention whether President Smith made those criticisms about Brigham Young before or after his father in law became President of the church.
The next statement in the letter that McConkie made that took me further into the twilight zone is as follows,
“Now you know that this does not mean that individuals should not do research and make discoveries and write articles. What it does mean is that what they write should be faith promoting and where doctrines are concerned, should be in harmony with that which comes from the head of the Church. And those at the head of the Church have the obligation to teach that which is in harmony with the Standard Works. If they err then be silent on the point and leave the event in the hands of the Lord. Some day all of us will stand before the judgment bar and be accountable for our teachings.”
Can you believe that?
If the head of the Church err’s in doctrine, we are to be silent and let the Lord work things out at the judgment bar, yet earlier in the letter he informs us that if anyone believes false doctrines that are taught by the head of the church we will be damned.
Ok, we don’t ever want to speak up if the president of the church teaches a false doctrine because this would embarrass the president of the church and would create contention, yet if we keep silent, those who end up believing the president of the church will be damned.
I guess we just need to be silent and watch as our fellow Saints are damned.
I began to wonder if McConkie was sane.
This letter was very difficult for me to read because I worshiped both Brigham Young and McConkie at the time.
I had read Mormon Doctrine during my mission and had been accused by my fellow elders of being a McConkie clone since I obnoxiously quoted him authoritatively on all issues. I quoted him profusely all the time. What he said was GOSPEL as far as I was concerned. And yet now I was reading a personal letter from him that was revealing things about the church and about Brigham Young and about himself that was shaking my foundations even more about the current state of the modern church…. Oh innocence, where art thou?
This letter really set me up for the next confidential envelop that I opened.
It was as copy of portions of President McKays personal diary at the time that Bruce McConkie had published the book Mormon doctrine.
That really blew me away!
I don’t want to take the time to get into detail or give exact quotes right now, but suffice it to say, President McKay was livid that McConkie wrote that book. He felt McConkie was unqualified to do so and was angry with McConkie for being presumptuous enough to write such a thing. McKay felt that only the President of the Church should write such a thesis about the approved doctrines of Mormonism. (McConkie was a Seventy at the time he wrote the book)
McKay had Mark E Peterson who was considered to be one of the leading doctrinal scholars among the general authorities at the time to head up a committee to review and critique the book and make a recommendation about what actions should be taken. He did so with Marion G. Romney.
Peterson claimed that he had found over 300 doctrinal errors in the book and that it should be taken out of circulation.
When asked if the church could simply make the corrections Peterson said no, it has too many mistakes, the whole thing needs to be rewritten!
The diary gave very sensitive details about the inner political dynamics and how President Joseph Fielding Smith and others were running interference for young McConkie and trying to salvage his future “career’ as a credible general authority, etc.
the long and short of it was that even though it was taken off the shelves for a time and several corrections were made, the book was allowed to continue being published and no significant discipline ever took place, although the brethren adopted a policy after that requiring that books written by GS’s must be reviewed by a committee and receive permission before publication could take place.
In additional historical documents and interviews I have since read and conducted, I have found that senior apostles used to make jokes about the book Mormon Doctrine. In fact, at one meeting among general authorities one of the senior apostles referred the book Mormon Doctrine as “McConkie Doctrine” in disgust.
Yet this book has become known as the “fifth standard work” by many people in the church.
I personally do not think there were as many errors in the book as Peterson claims. In fact, I consider McConkie to be a more accurate gospel scholar that Peterson, but seeing the disparity in their views of the gospel was a real wake up call to me and helped me realize that the brethren are anything but united in their interpretation of the gospel and we are each responsible for our own interpretation of the scriptures. We cannot categorically rely on the doctrinal commentary of any one of the modern leaders.
One day while pondering the inconsistencies I was seeing in the modern church during my journey of discovery, a beautiful new Mercedes Benz pulled up next to me at a stop light, when I glanced over at the driver I was surprised to see apostle Neal A Maxwell. I was a little taken back that a general authority found it necessary to travel from point a to point be in such opulence. When I passed this by my father he matter of factly explained that you cannot ask highly educated leaders in business, law and education to accept a life long calling in the church that would compensate them significantly less than what they can get in the open market. (I had no idea the CIA paid so well… LOL)
Having spent two years in the bible belt boasting that the true church did not have a paid ministry I just scratched my head and realized that it was not McConkie that was going insane, it must be me!
Other documents and events taking place at that time revealed how much the general authorities were being compensated. Compensation packages were significant. In addition to their salaries and perks, they were invited to sit on boards of church owned corporations and greatly increase their wealth by so doing. That way, the church could claim that the majority of their compensation was not coming out of the sacred tithing funds.
The more I began to learn about the state of the modern church and how it was being run and managed the more it began to feel and look much more like a corporate enterprise with inner political maneuverings than an inspired organized group of the humble followers of Christ. My fathers words kept ringing in my ears,” don’t get to close to the business end of the outer church you will lose your testimony!”
There are so many other interesting things that I found in the papers diaries journals books etc, etc at Sunstone that I was given access to at that time. Time just doesn’t permit me to get into them.
Needless to say, my innocence was diminishing rapidly.
Again, It is not my intent to try to provide a detailed study of all of the disconcerting things I found that robbed me of my naiveté, I simply want to give a smattering of what I found as I was tip toeing through the tulips trying to make sense of things.
The eighties was a very strange and fascinating time for me. I felt like I was playing button, button who has the button, trying to find where the real truth was.. where the real church was and where the real priesthood of God was.
It was only natural that as I began to have the rug pulled out from under me that I would begin to backtrack in time to see what went wrong and when.
I began to read Journal of Discourses and I was impressed by Brigham Youngs warning that if the church ever gave up the practices of celestial plural marriage and consecration it would go to hell.
That sent me down the LDS fundamentalism rabbit hole that most people go down once they realize that the modern church is “out of the way”.
Of course now, 30 years later I realize that Brigham Youngs statement presents a gospel dichotomy and a witness of his doctrinal ignorance as those two doctrines NEVER show up at the same time in the scriptures. Nor are the two doctrines at all congruent with each other. In fact inherent in the celestial doctrine of consecration as contained in section 42 MONOGAMY is a mandatory requirement of the gospel!
But I didn’t know that at the time so I wasted countless hours reading books and visiting the movers and shakers in the fundamentalist movement.
I got to know Ogden Kraut and had him over to my home. I critiqued a paper of his at a Sunstone Symposium.
I met with Owen Allred and visited his congregation several times.
I read the works of Wooley and Musser and most of the early fundamentalists.
I read and pondered the four unpublished revelation that John taylor and Wilford Woodruff had about the consequences of giving up polygamy.
I read “keys of the Priesthood” by Lynn L. and Steven L. Bishop. Then I met with one of them.
I read “The Notes” by Openshaw and corresponded in a written debate with him.
I read virtually everything else I could get my hands on having to do with Mormon Fundementalism.
The list of very interesting and colorful and passionate people I met with goes on and on.
I met an amazing Jewish person that I will not name in this article, who served at the White House for the secret security who eventually converted to the church. He became a veil worker in the SL Temple and then became converted to LDS Fundementalism and was excommunicated.
He then became instrumental in providing some of the wording for the temple ordinances to the Allred group when they started doing their own endowment houses. Eventually, while studying with me he realized the error he had made and he renounced his involvement with the Alred group but retained his three families.(something which is not always easy to do when you leave a cult so overrun with priestcraft)
He recently was instrumental as a private investigator, in helping a person win a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Allred Group which may end up bankrupting them.
Anyway, back during this time when I was investigating LDS fundamentalism my father began to realize that I was having concerns. I think he was concerned that I may become a fundamental so he looked for someone who was very knowledgeable on LDS fundamentalism. He set up a meeting for me to meet with a fellow by the last name of Anderson who had published a book on polygamy. It was an expose, largely dealing with the supposed all night meeting that John Taylor supposedly had with divine messengers, etc.
As I recall, this person’s family had been affected by fundamentalist teachings and he needed to find out about it to save members of his own family so he did an amazing amount of research on the topic.
Although I had already become wise to the follies of LDS fundamentalism by that time, I eagerly met with Anderson because I was hungry to find someone in the church who was a sound gospel scholar. I had other questions I wanted answered and I was assuming that he was well read in the scriptures as well.
After he finished his presentation on what he had learned about all of the problems and inconsistencies with LDS Fundamentalism I opened the following passages and asked him to tell me what they were talking about.
“I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”
As he read the above passages I could see that he was not familiar with them and he was confused.
After re-reading them several times, he finally acknowledge that he did not know what they were talking about.
I said to him something to the affect of “don’t they seem to be saying that Satan will prevail against the Saints and they will be in apostasy up until the time that Adam returns?”
He read the passage several more times and finally looked up with a very concerned look on his face and said something to the effect of “that is what it seems to be saying. it is a very disconcerting passage indeed!”
As Mrs Watcher and I drove away from his house I said to her, I hope I didn’t ruin his testimony of the church!
I must say that I although I was disappointed that his area of expertise was limited to the study of Mormon Fundementalism and he did not strike me as a very well read gospel scholar, I was really impressed with his honesty and integrity and his sincere desire to know the truth. Instead of trying to BS me or shame me for having an inquiring mind or feeling like he needed to defend the faith, he really just wanted to understand the scripture himself and know the truth. He was childlike and unpretentious in that respect.
One day my father called me and ask if it would affect my testimony if the brethren shortened the temple endowment. He had heard the scuttlebutt that the endowment was going to be changed and he wanted to prepare me for it.
My comment was that I had always felt the endowment was longer than necessary and I thought it would be a positive thing as long as the critical parts of the endowment were not changed.
The first time I went through the new and improved endowment and realized they had taken the five most critical parts of it out I was beside myself. I remember going into the mens room within the dressing room and looking into the mirror. I had an overwhelming desire to climb up on the sink and wash my feet in the sink as a testimony against the changing of the ordinance!
The words of Isaiah went through my mind “they have changed the ordinance”! I also recalled how Joseph Smith had taught that the true ordinances are never to be changed in any way.
Of course, I was assuming that the Masonic temple ritual was inspired of God to begin with so of course I assumed that an evil thing had taken place. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the church was beginning to self correct a little bit regarding a ritual that could be traced to witchcraft and masory.
It was during my magical mystery tour in the 80’s that I got a call from a Mr. J _ _ H _ _ _ _ _ who introduced himself as a friend of a person I had served in the mission field with.
He was in the process of leaving Odgen Utah and moving to Manti.
He had been raised in the LDS Church, but was in the process of breaking away from the Church, although he did not know it at the time. He was still in good standing in the church.. but he had a familiar spirit about him that was unmistakable.
As I spoke with him I got an extremely uncomfortable feeling. I felt very strongly that he was an accident waiting to happen. And sure enough, He did happen … big time…. Building his own kingdom, ruining countess lives and embezzling money from people, etc.
He and his wife had dedicated a special room in their home to carry out priesthood functions that are normally reserved for Holy Temples. In response to their prayers, they reported that the heavens were opened and they eventually received visits from divine messengers including the Father and the Son. Eventually JH announced that he was the reincarnation of Joseph Smith. I proudly accept credit for this innovation as I was the one that showed Him that Joseph Smith held the keys of the kingdom and would be returning in the flesh. JH realized that he needed to address that problem as he established his own kingdom so he became the reincarnation of brother Joseph.
He dropped by my house one day to show me pictures of the “rock art” he and his friend had discovered in southern Utah.
We got into a very deep doctrinal discussion and argument for about 8 hours.
Ultimately we discovered that two egos as big as ours were could not cohabitate in the same room.
He left and I never saw him again in person although people who would go to his “models” presentations would report back to me that he would frequently refer to me as a heretic. I always found it strange that he would spend so much time bad mouthing me. This seemed odd to me because, except for the individuals that I had personally met with, and a handful of firesides I had spoken at, very very few people had any idea who I was. I was a nobody. I was not a well known as a speaker. I was not well known for anything! I simply was not well known. People must have really been scratching their heads and wondering who this person was that JH was so angry with.
I bring up JH because one of the things I noticed about him before he went off the deep end is that he and his friends loved to dedicated rooms and mountain tops and hold priesthood prayer circles while reciting parts of the temple endowment.
As I began to connect the dots pertaining to Mormon fundamentalism and apostate groups in the LDS religious vertical, I began to realize that the Masonic priesthood ritual and associated prayer circles can directly be traced back to so many ugly beginnings…. And endings.
The Labarons and the Lafferties both had their roots in the temple rituals which inspired them to murder people by slitting their throats from neck to neck.
The Masonic temple ritual helps to connect the dots between delusional types like JH who claim to be visited by the angelic beings and militant fundementalists like the Labarrons and Laffertys and other unsavory types that protected church leaders in the early Utah years, that murder competing factions or disobedient followers by slitting their throats from ear to ear, as well as other ways of transferring people to their next assignment.
Another red flag that was raised in 1990 pertaining to questionable fruits coming from the Brigham Young- Albert Pike Masonic temple endowment turned up when an internal memo from Glenn L Pace was leaked to the general public. Pace was a general authority who had been interviewing members of the church who were involved in witchcraft and “Ritualistic Child Abuse.”
This memo also helps in connecting the dots between the “ceremonial endowment” and the questionable fruits inside and outside of the mainstream church.
One of the disturbing things he revealed is that many members of the church who had been abused as children in ritualistic ceremonies would block it out of their minds, yet when they entered the temple for the first time as adults, they would be reminded of what happened because the temple ceremony was so similar to the one they had been involved in when they had been abused.
The contents of the 12 page memo are absolutely bazaar and can be seen here for anyone who is interested.
As I began seeing the huge discrepancies between doctrinal teachings between various general authorities and also the changes that were taking place in the church regarding ordinances, I realized that I needed to revisit my own personal gospel foundation.
I needed a better way of personally discerning what truth is. I no longer felt like I could categorically rely on what Brighan Young said or what Bruce R McConkie said. I needed to come to terms with how I could determine once and for all how to discern the truth!
I am going to share something with you in the next post having to do with this.