One of my favorite quotes that has been attributed to Joseph Smith is as follows:
“If they will not accept our doctrine then let them accept our hospitality.”
I have seen a few variations of the above quote but the one above suits the purpose of this blog post.
Hospitality is one of the attributes that is expected of a bishop.
HOSPITAL’ITY, noun [Latin hospitalitas.] The act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.A bishop–must be given to hospitality 1 Timothy 3:2.
I want to begin this post by asking the two questions;
“Is the Bishop to extend hospitality to both members and non-members or just to non-members?”
“Is it possible for a bishop to extend hospitality to a member of the flock while at the same time withholding the hand of fellowship over a doctrinal disagreement?“
The context in which Joseph Smith’s declaration was given had to do with missionary work and the offer of hospitality was being directed towards non-members but I find it hard to believe that it should not apply to members and ex-members of the church. The definition in Websters would seem to indicate that hospitality is to be offered to all.
Another favorite quote from Joseph Smith has to do with an observation he made when an older member of the church was excommunicated for preaching false doctrine. Joseph Smith referred to the older High Priest as “one of the wisest old heads we have among us“.
Joseph noted that just because the fellow “preached about the beast” in the Book of Revelation and interpreted the prophecy in a supposed heretical way, “he was hauled up” before the “high c[ouncil]“.
” I never thought it was right to call up a man for erring in doctrine”
” [I] want the liberty of believing as I please..”
“[It] Dont prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine..”
Joseph considered the practice of doctrinal excommunication “to much like methodism not Latter Dayism”
I suspect that we all feel like Joseph Smith did.
We all want the liberty of believing as we please.
Do we relinquish our agency and conscience or responsibility and right to interpret scripture upon joining the church?
What would the church be like today if local and global leaders of the church agreed with Joseph Smith that one should not be cast out of the church for erring in doctrine?
What if they extended hospitality and the hand of fellowship to those members that struggle with official doctrine and believe differently with regard to the truth claims of the church?
What if everyone was allowed to fellowship and worship with the saints to whatever extent of activity and belief they wanted to, regardless of how much of the official doctrine of the church they accepted?
The Mexican Saints and the Third Convention
Many decades ago a large group of LDS Mexican Saints became estranged from the main body of the church and the leadership of the corporate church in Salt Lake City.
There were a series of events and issues that seemed to take root at the time of the Mexican Revolution and continued into the early 1930’s.
Included in these issues was the intense feeling of national pride and the perception of insensitivity toward the Mexican Saints on the part of the Anglo Latter-day Saints by a large number of central Mexican Saints.
Some of the Mexican Saints resented that fact that leadership positions among the Mexican saints, particularly that of Mission President, were always filled by Anglo Saints from outside of the community. Since there were no Stakes set up in Mexico at the time, the Mission President was essentially the president of the church in Mexico.
The feeling of being second class citizens in the kingdom of the saints is a long standing issue that members of the church of differing nationalities continue to feel to this day. The following observation was made by Hugo Olaiz who is a third-generation Mormon from Argentina
MY LIGHT-skinned dad, his brother, and his male cousins became stake presidents, mission presidents, and regional representatives, while my dark-skinned mom’s relatives became home teachers, branch secretaries, and Sunday School superintendents.
Another issue was related to the practice of polygamy which leaders of the church had secretly continued the practice in Mexico after assuring the federal government that they had officially stopped the practice.
Compounding these problems was the fact that a very highly educated and articulate Mexican by the name of Margarito Bautista rose up among the Mexican Saints and began expressing doctrinal issues with the church. Bautista was a gifted scholar and orator who had great influence among the Mexican saints.
Bautista was an ordained High Priest who had spent time in Salt Lake City doing temple work, genealogy work and observing how the church was run. He also taught the gospel doctrine class in his ward.
He had become good friends with Rey L. Pratt, one of the Anglo leaders in Mexico. Possibly with some guidance and encouragement from Pratt, Bautista concluded from his Book of Mormon studies that-
“the ‘chosen people’ were the Latin Americans, particularly the Mexicans. ‘Gentiles’- by which he meant those who were the House of Israel not be descent, but by adoption- were considered second-class.
Bautista argued that being a son or daughter of Israel by direct descent (which he interpreted as being of Native American lineage, however diluted) was decidedly better than being adopted (which he thought included most Anglo American members)”
Bautista proudly authored a book containing the above sentiments and presented the manuscript to the church authorities in Salt Lake City, expecting them to publish it and make him the new Mission President in Mexico.
Needless to say, the church leadership felt somewhat threatened and offended by the premise of the book and reviewed it with contempt.
Stunned by the rejection, Bautista took the manuscript back to Mexico and had it published by a Mexican member who owned a printing press.
The book became a best seller among the Mexican saints.
Some of the Mexican saints became passionate about the book and preferred to quote from the book instead of from scripture.
Church authorities in Mexico attempted to diffuse the books divisive influence by going on crusades to de-legitimize the book but the more they entered into discussions and debates with the passionate followers of Bautista, the more agitated people became. The controversy ultimately backfired and generated more interest in the book.
One lessen we learn from the Bautista experience that has repeated itself again and again in the many fringe groups that break away from the church, is that controversy sells books and publicizes new religious offshoots and ultimately results in additional converts to the cause.
Because of these dynamics and many more, a strain between a large portion of the Mexican saints and the rest of the church resulted in a breaking point and what seemed to be an irreversible schism.
This schism has become known as the “Third Convention” and it resulted in about 1/3 of the members of the church in Mexico leaving the main body of the LDS Church.
It is said that “relationships between members of the Church in Mexico and the dissident Conventionists were filled with suspicion, acrimony, and in many cases, a loathing reserved for only the very incarnation of evil”
The saints of the Third Convention demanded that they have their own Mexican leaders and their presumed leaders were demanding that polygamy and consecration be officially implemented among the Mexican saints.
Church leadership and this faction of the Mexican Saints were unable to resolve their differences.
“By May of 1937, .. the breach was absolute. with no possibility of reconciliation in sight, President David O. McKay, then a counselor to President Heber J. Grant, became uncharacteristically frustrated and urged that excommunication procedures against the Third Convention leaders begin.”
As a result, conventionist leaders were excommunicated from the LDS Church for rebellion and insubordination and failing to recognize the authority of the church leaders. Most of the Mexican brethren that were excommunicated did not even bother to attend their hearings as they considered them to be unrighteous and therefore null and void.
The leadership of the church probably assumed that the vast majority of the saints participating in the “third convention” would return to the church once their leaders were excommunicated.
Strangely, even though the body of the third convention saints ultimately parted ways with Bautista and his radical views that had in part been responsible for leading them down the path of dissaffection, they did not chose to reunite with the mother church. They remained separated from the main church.
Interestingly, the members of the third convention considered themselves to be doctrinally orthodox despite having some differing interpretations of scripture, and they simply organized their own priesthood auxiliaries and conducted their own Sunday schools and sacrament meetings just as they had been taught.
They continued to bless infants, baptize children and ordain men to the priesthood. They even sent out missionaries.
For them, it was business as usual.
During their estrangement from the mother church they constructed six new meeting houses in accordance with LDS custom and dedicated them to the Lord despite their estrangement from the main body of the church.
The bad feelings and the schism remained while this amazing and united group of saints held a separate but parallel existence to the maim church for ten years!
Finally the church leadership called a very remarkable man by the name of Arwell L. Pierce to be the president of the Mexican Mission. He was tasked with the responsibility to broker a reuniting of the dissaffected third convention saints and to “bring them back into a harmonious relationship with each other and with the [mainstream] Church”
A Process of Healing
Pierce was a very shrewd businessman, a skilled negotiator and master psychologist who understood how to read people and make deals. He and his associates used the “good cop, bad cop” routine on the Mexican dissenters to eventually get them to see the advantages of reuniting with the mother church. According to a popular paper written by an LDS author-
Arwell Pierce was a month short of being sixty years old when he entered mexico as mission president. Given his age some wondered if he would be up to the task of holding the church together in mexico, a challenge that had taxed a series of mission presidents beyond their capabilities.
Actually Pierces age may have worked in his favor. The problems in mexico called for someone with patience, wisdom, insight, and compassion; characteristics frequently associated with maturity and possessed in good measure by president pierce. He put these attributes and all his other skills to work to try to salvage the church in Mexico. He was an ecclesiastically experienced man, a diplomat,and a politically sensitive leader
Although David O. McKay had been the one who had pushed for extreme measures against the original leaders of the faction, he eventually softened towards those of the third convention that had refused to reunite with the church. His instructions to Pierce are really quite touching-
President David 0 Mckay had told him that ‘we dont have a divided mission we have a big family quarrel’, adding that ‘you are the Abraham Lincoln who must save this union’. Pierce got his inspiration not only from this mandate but also from the saviors sermon on the mount, ‘agree with thine adversary quickly’ (matt 525 3 ne 1225) and other scriptures that he cited often. For example, ‘and unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also’ (Luke 6:29) so he persuaded, loved, and gathered in the saints and former saints
There are many issues involved in this historical event that I don’t have time to mention in this post. There are undoubtedly differing views as to how and why a miracle took place, but suffice it to say, president Arwell Pierce was able to play a very significant part in reuniting the third convention saints with the main body of the church.
It is not the purpose of this post to dissect this historical event or to provide all of the details, rather, I want to simply note the fact that President Pierce patiently labored with the third convention saints and largely built trust and loved them back into the fold using a great deal of patience and diplomacy. By saying that, I don’t want to minimize the tremendous part that was played by the leaders of the third convention who also demonstrated great patience and mercy.
The truth of the matter is that the Mexican saints and their leaders convinced Arwell Pierce that church headquarters had mishandled the situation and that the third convention saints had been justified in what they had done.
The miracle that I spoke of earlier is not limited to the desire on the part of the Mexican saints to rejoin the mother church, I suspect that desire had laid latent in the Mexican Saints from the beginning of the breach. The miracle has to do with the problem of excommunication and re-baptism.
Church policy required the leadership of the third convention saints to be re-baptized into the church and to have all priesthood ordinations, and ordinances redone.
The response of the third convention saints to that proposal was not just “No”, it was “Hell no!”.
In their minds, they had not left the church, the church had left them.
Why should they be re-baptized?
Why should their priesthood and their priesthood ordinances be questioned?
Pierce could see that the last hurdle to overcome would be the necessity for excommunicated leaders to be be re-baptized before they could reunite with the church.
A long chain of other priesthood related events and ordinances would need to be revisited as well if re-baptism was required. A veritable Pandora’s box was being opened.
Pierce realized that hell would freeze over long before the third convention saints acquiesced to those humiliating demands of re-baptism.
Between the time that Pierce had been called to the be the Mission President in Mexico and the time of the mend, President Grant had died and President George Albert Smith became his successor and David O. McKay had become the president of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Under normal circumstances hell would also freeze over long before the church leadership would allow excommunicated members to return to the fold without re-baptism or offer any apology for mishandling the situation. Priesthood protocol required repentance, re-baptism, re-ordination to the priesthood and the redoing of priesthood ordinances.
Upon assessing the stalemate, President Pierce packed up his huge pair of diplomatic brass balls and headed for Salt Lake City.
He was going to conduct the greatest sales pitch of his life.
He was going to convince the first presidency of the church to reinstate the excommunicated Mexican saints back into the church without having to be re-baptized.
Perhaps Arwell Pierces crowning achievement was his initiation of an ecclesiastical review of conventionist leaders excommunications. He persuaded the first presidency to overturn the excommunications thereby nullifying the original disciplinary councils decisions in april 1946. The first presidency changed the excommunications to disfellowshipment.
Disfellowshipment a less severe sanction that made the conventionists reentry into the church much easier. This decision was no doubt influenced by the first presidencys view that the churchs trouble in mexico seemed more like a family quarrel than apostasy.
That decision on the part of the First Presidency may will be the closest thing to an apology that the a First Presidency of the church has ever proffered in modern times. (As emphasized in recent years, it is a policy of the First Presidency to NEVER apologize for anything. We can only assume that policy is somehow reflected in the principles of the gospel but I am not sure how.)
One of the things that becomes obvious as this historic event is analyzed is the fact that excommunication is not a valid priesthood procedure for negating past ordinances of salvation or for quenching any spiritual gifts enjoyed by the victim.
Excommunication is not a determination that is categorically ratified by God or the Holy Ghost, it is merely a unified decision made by mortal man or council of men to withdraw the hand of fellowship from someone they are censuring.
One of the most horrid and heretical practices of modern Mormonism is to teach that all spiritual blessings are removed through excommunication.
President Pierce was able to navigate around the sticky issue of excommunication.
Nothing but diplomacy was used by the leadership of the church in this delicate transition.
Even those baptized into the church by the third convention saints during the previous ten years were simply encouraged to get their baptisms “ratified” rather than being told that they their baptisms had not counted. This preserved their dignidad.
Can Lessons be Learned?
I believe there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the reunification of the third convention saints and they bring to mind some interesting what if’s.
What if the current First Presidency of the LDS church were to have their hearts softened towards members and ex-members of the church who do not agree on all points of official doctrine?
What if they considered them to be part of a family squabble instead of evil apostates?
What if they were to extend hospitality and the liberal hand of fellowship to everyone that wants to worship with the saints regardless of how many of the official truth claims of the church they agree with.
What if they created a new policy to reclassify all previous doctrinally related excommunications as disfellowships that had now expired with everyone involved being invited back into full fellowship. To do so would not be doing anything significantly different than what was done in the case of the excommunicated leaders of the third convention saints.
Being somewhat of a scriptural literalist and an otherwise black and white personality, I will be the first to admit that, in my opinion, the true doctrine of Christ and the fulness of the Gospel require a rigid allegiance to some foundational tenets, with little room for doctrinal gray area. However, we are clearly not living during a time when the fulness of the gospel is on the earth. We are living during the dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham. In short, we all sin cheaply during a time of hidden darkness, while telestial and terrestrial law secretly governs the church.
Things have changed during the last 180 years.
The truth of the matter is that many of the truth claims of the modern condemned church are simply not true.
Church authorities are not able to provide credible answers to perplexing problems having to do with doctrine and church history.
Because of this, people are justified in having questions and concerns.
Perhaps it is time for Church authorities to quit taking themselves quite so seriously and lighten up a little bit.
They need to repent and publicly confess that they are not literally acting as prophets seers and revelators. They simply preside over a faction of modern Israel. Getting rid of prophet worship and other forms of idolatry is of paramount importance.
They need to acknowledge that the restored church has long since lost its way and become condemned before the Lord. One of the first things that needs to be done is to get rid of the Satanic Masonic Temple covenant with hell.
Following that, the church needs to refocus on the true doctrine of Christ as taught in the scriptures. They need to recommit to their commission to take the knowledge of the gospel to the nations of the world.
They need to stop using God’s holy word as part of a bait and switch scheme to get people involved in latter day false prophet worship.
They should start extending mercy to those that experience a faith crisis and find themselves no longer able to blindly accept all of the doctrines and truth claims of the church.
By so doing, perhaps they would be creating fewer lifelong enemies and critics that extend precious little mercy to them and the church in return.
Does the Church Make Converts Into a Two Fold Child of Hell?
When Jesus was chastising the scribes and pharisees for their hypocrisy, he noted that they did missionary work that made their converts a twofold child of hell like unto themselves.
12 Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than he was before, like unto yourselves. JST 23:12
Note that the initial conversion is not the problem, it is AFTER the proselyte becomes converted where the problem arises.
I would suggest that it is what the hypocrites teach their new converts AFTER their conversion that makes them a twofold child of hell like unto the hypocrites.
Is this not what is taking place in the church today?
We send missionaries into the world presenting the Book of Mormon to investigators. The book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Gospel and the true doctrine of Christ.
As investigators read it, they feel the power of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the truth. Because of this, they join the church and receive the other scriptures brought forth through the prophet Joseph Smith.
They naively assume that the institution that brought the good news to them will properly guide them into further light and knowledge.
Once baptized, the new converts are taught another gospel than that one taught in the Book of Mormon.
New converts are introduced to a satanic temple ritual that cannot be found anywhere in the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants or the Inspired Version of the Bible that had been brought forth by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
New converts are taught to revere and blindly follow the leaders of church as prophets and seers even though the scriptures brought forth by Joseph Smith clearly teach that false seers and guides are to be discarded-
40 Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell.
41 For it is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
42 And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.
43 It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched.
44 Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.
45 Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive.
46 And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out.
47 It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
48 For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched. JST Mark 9:40-48
How sinister it is to use the holy word of God to convert people and then use the credibility of those scriptures to lure the unsuspecting convert into a covenant with hell, a gospel of dead works, and false prophet worship?
But enough with such harsh realities.
What if the modern corporate church were to repent and stop making false truth claims and stop making their converts a two fold child of hell?
What if the church were to sponsor an “If you cannot accept our doctrine accept our hospitality” convention followed by a huge banquet? This humongous feast cold rightly be financed as a missionary endevour from missionary funds. I think the Lord would see it as a more justified investment than a mall.
What if the high level apologists and authorities of the LDS church joined in with the local bishops to extend a heart-felt invitation to all of the antagonists to come to this friendship gathering? Imagine the surprise on the faces of all of the folks that they have entered into heated debates with harsh words over the years.
Imagine what it would look like to see high level church apologists and authorities supping with high level critics and antagonists of the church. Imagine these people exchanging niceties and sincerely asking each other about their health and other aspects of their personal lives and how their children and grand children are doing. Perhaps the conversations would begin to incorporate discussions on parts of the scriptures that they are in agreement on rather than on the difficult issues that have divided them.
Antagonists come in many flavors. You have everything from angry atheists that have totally lost faith in Christ, to those that simply want to get back to the pure fundamentals of Mormonism. Some antagonists have never been Mormons while others have been excommunicated. Some have been closet questioners who will love to come out and get a breath of fresh air.
All of them have one thing in common. They are all children of God who deeply care about searching out the truth the best they can.
Can you see folks like Ed Decker, Sandra Tanner, John Dehlin, Jeremy Runnells, Grant Palmer and Rock Waterman sitting at a table with people like Dan Peterson, William Hamblin, Louis Midgely, Dallin Oaks and Jeff Holland, laughing and sharing stories with each other while asking for the butter to be passed?
Readers of this blog may find this post to be confusing because they know that I have no interest in reuniting to membership or fellowship with the mother church. But I am not throwing out these what ifs for my benefit. I am throwing them out in behalf of those with doubts that would like to remain in the church and for those with doubts that would like to be treated with dignity instead of scorn.
I have noticed that the vast majority of people being pushed out of the church because of a faith crisis are loosing faith in Christ and becoming atheists and agnostics.
This is heartbreaking.
It causes me to wonder if these people would not be better off continuing in the fellowship of the saints on their own terms, while only believing as much as they can.
I believe the increasing flow of Mormons who are leaving and becoming atheists are fulfilling the prophecy in JST 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3, 7-9
Satan will cause a falling away or apostasy before the Lord returns. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled by letter, except ye receive it from us; neither by spirit, nor by word, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for there shall come a falling away first…Yea, the Lord, even Jesus, whose coming is not until after there cometh a falling away, by the working of Satan with all power, and signs and lying wonders..
Are we not seeing an increasing flow of God’s people Israel who are leaving the faith?
Is this not a fulfillment of prophecy that the return of the Lord back into the vineyard is near?
What are the brethren doing to stop the hemorrhaging that is taking place?
If I am a general authority and I honestly believe that I am going to be held accountable in my stewardship for how many sheep are lost, I think I would do everything in my power to find ways to keep people in the church, regardless of how much of the doctrine they can believe.
I would allow people the right to believe however they can and as much or as little as they can. I would want to provide a safe community for them and their families, not expel them from the fold.
Yes I realize that there needs to be rules of engagement that need to be followed in return for the privilege of fellowship.
The church does not need to allow angry critics to use the church as a platform to vent and pontificate their criticisms. Those that choose to continue participating despite their unanswered questions and unbelief need to be respectful of the community and keep any negative thoughts to themselves while participating in community meetings and classes and functions.
Those that choose to not participate and still take a high profile position against the church need to be treated with the same dignity and respect as the sheep that the church would be reclaiming back into fellowship. Everyone has a right to their opinion and they have a right to share it.
Many who are struggling to believe will not want to participate and that is fine, but for those that still want a safe community of faith for themselves and their kids, the option might be taken. In an ever increasingly dark world there might be something of value in a community that teaches morals and provides a social platform for interacting with people who generally desire to promote Christ-like teachings and attributes.
The truth is that the scenario I have just described already exists in the church to a lesser degree and it works well. There are many many many active and semi-active Mormons that don’t buy what the church is selling as truth claims but they keep it to themselves and quietly participate to whatever degree they choose.
These people are left alone because they don’t rock the boat.
Yes, they are secretly referred to or implied to be “luke warm” , in the ward council meetings but that needs to also change. Spiritual class distinction within the church needs to be eliminated.
The fact that some people choose to speak freely about their criticisms and doubts outside of church and even to ask some hard questions during gospel doctrine class is no reason for the church to proactively conduct witch hunts to expel these people as if they are some kind of cancer that will destroy the church. If the modern church needs to fear and tremble about anything, it is the truth.
The church needs to quit being fearful and threatened by people who have questions and concerns. They need to embrace diversity of thought to whatever extent that they are unable to provide real answers to real concerns.
The truth is that a critic that attends church and enjoys fellowship and friendship with the saints and is left unmolested for having differing views will do much less damage to the church than the critic who has been publicly humiliated and cast out of the fold.
It is no longer possible to prevent true believing members from finding out about difficult issues any longer. It is going to happen with increasing momentum from here on out no matter how hard you attempt to expel unbelievers.
Would I come to such a banquet if invited?
I seldom turn down a free meal.
I would love to get to know some of the folks I have had conversations with online. I love them for their passion and I respect their right to believe how they want.
Would I return to church?
But there there are probably many that would.
Ultimately, perhaps fewer sheep would be lost to atheism.
[some of the content regarding the Arwell Pierce story was taken from an article written by F. Lamond Tullis contained in the scholarsarchive link at byu found here It has been sanitized with regard to some historical issues but has some very interesting information in it.
I want to thank my sweet wife for taking the first draft of this post and mercilessly destroying it and causing me to rethink some of the propositions presented.]